EDIT: Well, I guess I didn’t search well enough, because I found that Geek and Sundry actually had already posted a Beginner’s Guide for Clerics and my post was unnecessary. They just didn’t tag it the same way as the rest of their beginner’s guides so it didn’t appear on the page I linked below.
I created this guide as a way for new players to learn about the Cleric class in Dungeons and Dragons 5e. This is meant as a supplement to the information presented in the Player’s Handbook. I was inspired to do this for one of the new player’s I will be DMing for in the near future when I found that Geek and Sundry’s “Beginner’s Guide to Character Creation” didn’t have a Cleric article yet. If you are looking for another class, Geek and Sundry might actually have created a post for them already. They are a great way to introduce a new player to character creation and I highly recommend them.
What is a Cleric?
First it is important to understand that Clerics are not simply followers of a faith or god. They are the vessels through which a deity channels their power for various purposes. Clerics are a rarity, and as such, are often called upon by their god or their faith’s leaders to take up an adventuring life. This often means Clerics have set out on a holy quest with the purpose of vanquishing evil, uncovering lost religious artifacts, or protecting devout followers throughout the world.
Clerics are an extremely versatile class, in that they can fulfill a wide range of roles in an adventuring party depending on their skills, abilities, and Divine Domain. Some are potent healers, others are warriors clad in heavy armour, while some even take up the role of spellcasting damage dealers.
Divine Domains essentially differentiate the clerics of the world. Their domain is alligned closely with their chosen god or faith. This means that a follower of Sylvanus (god of wild nature) will belong to the Nature domain, and worshippers of Tempus (god of war) will belong to the War domain. Your domain as a cleric, grants you specific extra spells, called domain spells, and other features that increase in number as you level up
Here is a quick breakdown of the Domains in the Player’s Handbook:
Knowledge: Bonus to a lot of Non-Combat Skills and Spells such as the “Command” Spell and the “Read Thoughts” Channel Divinity ability
Life: These Clerics are extra good at healing and can wear heavy armour. This usually means they end up wading into the frontlines as a support system and are a constant lifeline for their party.
Light: Turn your Blasters to Kill! These clerics easily have the best damage domain spells and tend to do battle with them heavily.
Nature: With a proficiency in heavy armour and a number of nature domain spells, these spellcasters are like well-protected druids.
Tempest: Clerics of the Tempest Domain wield the power of the storm, and their Domain spells offer a good mix of utility and combat damage capabilities. These clerics also get to use any martial weapon and heavy armour.
Trickery: Really more of a thematic Domain, as it grants no extra weapon or armour proficiencies and it’s abilities are “meh!” That being said, if you want a Cleric that can cast “charm person” or “mirror image”, then go with this class.
War: If you want a cleric that is best at melee combat, this is the class for you. War Domain Clerics have access to Heavy Armour and Martial Weapons just like the Tempest Domain. They also have some really cool battle ready abilities.
No matter how you get your ability statistics (be it rolling dice, the point-buy system, or the standard array), you will want to assign these numbers to the abilities that best fit your character’s role. First take your highest number and use it for your Wisdom as this is your spellcasting ability. Then assign either Constitution (for Hit Points) or Strength/Dexterity (for attack) your next highest numbers. The reason this isn’t as straightforward as other classes is because it depends a great deal on the Domain you choose and the type of Cleric you want to be. Clerics are by nature very versatile and this means that you have a lot of options.
Wisdom > Constitution, Strength or Dexterity > Con, Str or Dex > Con, Str or Dex > Charisma > Intelligence
When you start your Cleric at Level 1, you will know 3 cantrips (that don’t change) and prepare a number of 1st Level Cleric Spells equal to your Wisdom Modifer + your cleric level each day. Let’s assume you get 6 spells total and we will discuss some of the best from the Cleric Spell List.
Guidance – This concentration Cantrip allows you to give another player a D4 to roll for an ability check of their choosing. They have to use it while you are still concentrating, but it’s a free boost to skills.
Sacred Flame – A damage Cantrip that you can cast from afar. 1D8 Radiant damage without having to make any rolls. It just works.
Light – You can make an object glow with this Cantrip. Pretty useful.
Cure Wounds – This is your Bread and Butter healing spell. At 1st level it heals a 1D8+Wisdom Modifier’s worth of damage. The only trick is that you have to be able to touch the person you want to heal.
Guiding Bolt – This is a great 1st level ranged damage spell, dealing 4D6 radiant damage and giving the next attack against that creature advantage within that round of combat.
Healing Word – When you can’t reach an injured character but want to heal them, this spell can remedy 1D4+Widsom modifer damage from up to 60 feet away. Oh yeah, it can be used as a Bonus Action too.
Find a Clerical error? Let me know in the comments.