The Cleric class is often considered the healer of any DnD group. Their all-important Cure Wounds Spell can be the difference between life and death, but there is so much more to them. Let’s take a closer look at one of the most customizable and versatile classes with our guide to DnD Cleric 5e.
I’m not a praying man or a pious man. I’d rather trust to the steel at my belt than divine intervention. The gods are too big for me and I’m too small for them, and that’s just the way I like it.
Not everyone is like that, though. We were dispatched on loan to a small task force outside the city. There were reports of a rogue wizard fancying himself a necromancer and the temple wanted some muscle to help… and the Watch always answers the call.
We found a small graveyard that had been severely looted. The graves were all dug up and we found our budding necromancer. He actually managed to raise a fair amount of zombies, nasty business.
The watch went to work with clubs and flails, but that’s when what I thought was a priest stepped up. He simply raised his hands and whispered some prayer. The zombies simply fell to the ground no longer animated.
We made quick work of the necromancer after that. That priest then spent the next day reburying every single corpse that was defiled. I can’t explain the power he had, but it worked better than any club.
—From the journal of Captain Vyes 3rd precinct, city watch, 11th of Marpenoth, 1379
Read our detailed class guide to DnD Cleric 5e below.
Overview of 5e Cleric
Clerics are holy warriors. They’re just as comfortable being in a temple as they are on the battlefield swinging a mace.
Clerics gain their magic ability through faith and worship of a deity. You won’t find a temple filled with magic users ready to cast down holy bolts of light. True clerics are rarer than your average priest or priestess. They’re valuable assets of the temples and of the gods themselves and are tasked accordingly.
Clerics can be devout believers, forced to do the bidding of a god, champions of the church, or reluctantly tolerated. It’s the best healer class in 5e, and they make decent magic users and fighters especially when it comes to the undead.
Notable Clerics in DnD
Pike isn’t from an official DnD world, but one of the main characters of Vox Machina, the most successful DnD streaming show to date.
Pike is known for her complicated relationship with her deity where her questionable actions at times have isolated her from her powers and through repentance and hard work she regains her strength and is empowered further by her deity and even given the ability to manifest at the side of her friends when their need is greatest.
5e Cleric Class Features and Abilities
Clerics don’t have a lot of specific class abilities. Their Channel Divinity can be a major boon when asking for divine intervention, but most of the abilities and customization come from their subclass.
Hit Dice d8
Cleric Domains 5e
The Cleric class is probably more intertwined with their subclass than most of the other 5e classes. These come in the form of their Divine Domain. The Cleric’s chosen Domain usually relates to a particular faith and for RP purposes focuses on the worship of one particular deity. Who the deity is, is up to the player.
The Player’s Handbook has 7 different options right from the start, and supplemental DnD 5e books add a lot more to choose from. It can be overwhelming the first time you see the list, so it might be better for newer players to pick from the original 7.
Each Domain grants specific spells and abilities that the Cleric will have access to. Each Domain grants different options on Channel Divinity and access to different spells.
Clerics approach magic differently than the big 3 (Sorcerer, Warlock, & Wizard). They prepare spells the same way that Paladins do. They don’t have to relearn spells. Once a Cleric learns a spell, they learn it forever. It’s always in their repertoire, but they’ll only be able to cast spells that they’ve prepared. After each long rest, the Cleric can change up the spells that they’ve prepared.
The number of spells that Cleric can prepare is equal to their Cleric level + Wisdom Modifier. A level 1 Cleric with a Wisdom modifier of +2 would be able to prepare 3 different spells per long rest.
Another interesting aspect to their magic spells are the Domain Spells. If a Cleric Domain specifically grants a spell to the Cleric that isn’t on the normal spell list in the Player’s handbook, it’s still considered a Cleric spell to them.
The defining feature of the Cleric class is their relationship with their deity. The Cleric can use the powers granted by their chosen deity to perform magical abilities that grow stronger as the Cleric gains levels.
All clerics gain the ability to Turn Undead and one extra ability granted by their Domain. Despite the wording, Turn Undead DOES NOT MEAN YOU TURN INTO A ZOMBIE. Turn Undead forces any undead to make a Wisdom Save, and if they fail, they turn tail and run as fast as they can away. It’s poorly worded and confuses new players a lot, but it’s tradition at this point.
Players will also receive a bonus ability granted to them by their chosen Domain. For example, the Life Domain lets the Cleric use their Channel Divinity to heal a character, the Knowledge Domain lets the player become proficient at a chosen skill for a short amount of time, etc. Each Domain is different, but they’re all useful.
The Cleric can only use their Channel Divinity ability once per long or short rest. This improves at 6th level with 2 uses, and again at 18th level to 3 uses.
At 6th level, the Cleric can use their Channel Divinity twice, and at 18th level, they can use it 3 times before needing a long or short rest.
Cleric Ability Scores
Clerics gain 2 ability scores to add to their base stats at levels 4, 8, 12,16, and 19. They can split them up however they want or put both points into one stat.
By Level 5, the Cleric has quite a bit of experience dealing with the undead. When an undead creature fails a saving throw against the Cleric’s Turn Undead spell if their Challenge Rating (CR) is low enough the Cleric destroys them outright.
- Level 5: CR 1/2 or lower
- Level 8: CR 1 or lower
- Level 11: CR 2 or lower
- Level 14: CR 3 or lower
- Level 17: CR 4 or Lower
As you can see, the Cleric is never going to be able to just blast away a Lich with their Turn Undead, but a horde of zombies or skeletons will be turned to dust if they get in the way of a Cleric.
This is another incredible ability the Cleric has, but it does come with a bit of randomness.
At level 10, the Cleric can literally ask their god or deity for help. They won’t always answer, but it’s pretty cool when they do. Whether the deity actually intervenes depends on percentile dice. If the player rolls equal to or less than the Cleric’s level, the deity intervenes. The shape that Divine Intervention takes is completely up to the DM.
Divine Intervention can only be used once per long rest, and if the deity actually answers, then it can’t be used until after 7 in-game days.
At level 20, the Cleric has become a champion for their chosen deity, and their Divine Intervention always succeeds.
Cleric 5e Subclasses
As mentioned earlier Clerics have a lot of different subclasses to choose from.
Knowledge: Knowledge is power. The Knowledge Clerics treat the gathering of knowledge as a holy thing. Whether it’s practical or academic.
Life: The Life Clerics are among the best healers in all of DnD 5e. Their spells and abilities are all geared toward preserving life.
Light: These Clerics worship the light and their magical abilities allow them to call forth impressive light-based spells.
Nature: These clerics would get along well with Druids. Unlike Druids, the Nature Cleric follows a particular nature deity and can use powerful nature spells to protect natural areas or destroy those that anger their chosen deity.
Tempest: Tempest Clerics worship the primordial powers and gain access to powerful abilities that let them control the elements.
Trickery: In direct contrast with the Clerics of Order the Trickery Domain worships the chaos deities or tricksters. They sow chaos and disorder wherever they go.
War: War Clerics worship deities of war and do so by wading into battle with weapons in hand.
Dungeon Master’s Guide
Death: The Death Cleric, not to be confused with the Grave Cleric is what you’d end up with if you had a religious Necromancer. They deal necrotic damage and have an affinity for raising the dead.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Forge: Forge Clerics worship creation and are holy blacksmiths. They can create powerful weapons and the ability to wield them properly.
Grave: Death is neither good nor bad, it’s simply part of the process. Grave clerics treat death as part of the natural order and neither fear or worship it, but act as its guide. Imagine a character based on DEATH from the Discworld series.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Order: Clerics of Order take pleasure in destroying chaos and respecting the law and appropriate hierarchies. Their abilities allow them to restore control when chaos ensues.
Peace: The Clerics of Peace are excellent healers and do whatever they can to maintain it.
Twilight: The night may be dark and full of terrors, but the Twilight Clerics stand ready to oppose the creatures that go bump in the night.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Arcana: The Arcane Cleric takes focus on magical spells. They’re particularly potent damage-dealing spell casters.
The Amonkhet setting isn’t a collaboration between DnD and Magic the Gathering. The Amonkhet module adds rules for playing DnD within the Magic the Gathering setting of Amonkhet and offers some fun variants that still fit the theme.
The next two on this list are not official DnD modules, but they’re so popular and ingrained with the game that I think it would be a disservice to not mention them. Tal’Dorei is the setting for the show Critical Role and offers the homebrewed Blood Cleric. The Mind Cleric comes from the Eberron setting written by Keith Baker.
- Blood-Tal’Dorei Campaign Guide
- Mind-Exploring Eberron
Playing as a Cleric in 5e
Clerics have the all-important cure wounds spell and can turn undead. Yay…
If you’re playing your cleric as a spam bot for Cure Wounds you’re definitely doing it wrong.
Clerics have the most options for subclasses out of any of the other classes. Each one can play completely differently and they are very versatile. Their spell lists are second only to the Wizard but although the Wizard may have more spells, the Cleric’s spells are just as potent.
The Cleric also has some excellent options for dealing damage. Whether you want to build a holy warrior in plate mail, a spy that can disappear into the night, or a spellcaster that can call down the heavens to strike lightning at their foes, the Cleric has an option or subclass for almost everything.