I’ve been hearing something disappointing lately; many players don’t enjoy playing a cleric. Clerics seem to be viewed as a necessary part of a group, but they are deemed by some as being an inferior class. The argument goes that their magic skills aren’t as powerful as a wizard and their fighting skills aren’t as good as a paladin. I have even heard of groups that completely eliminate the class altogether. Why bother including them when some healing potions can easily replace them? This is a shame since playing a cleric can be a lot of fun. I would even go as far to say that they are one of my favorite classes. I believe that building a cleric allows the player to flesh out a character’s personality much more than a class such as a fighter or a paladin. All the player has to do is ask themselves some questions about the cleric they are creating.
What Kind Of Healer Am I?
It could be argued that a cleric’s main service to an adventuring party is healing magic. This doesn’t have to be as simple as skulking around during throwing out Cure Light Wounds spells to keep the fighters from dying. While healing is a duty of a cleric it allows for multiple possibilities for what kind of a healer the cleric will be. The cleric’s bedside manner can range from Florence Nightingale who went above and beyond her duties to ensure for the care and well-being of her patients to a World War II battlefield medic who made quick determinations of a patient’s survival chances and only treated those who were worth the effort. Where your cleric falls on this spectrum is going to have an impact on how the adventure plays out. For instance, a cleric who falls more toward the battlefield medic end would reserve their healing spells until they are absolutely needed. This decision will impact how aggressive the rest of the party is in combat. The Florence Nightingale cleric may tend to sick villagers instead of drinking in the tavern thus having a positive effect on the party’s NPC interactions.
What Is My Relationship With My god?
Clerical magic is derived from the character having a close relationship with their god and that god bestowing their blessings on the cleric. But, the player can determine just how strong that relationship is with the most devout being a zealot. The zealot cleric falls more in line with how most people play a paladin, but with more potential for fun. They are the holy light of their god made into flesh. This cleric will spend time preaching about their beliefs to anyone who will listen and even those who don’t want to. They may even undermine the rest of the party if the group’s actions don’t fall into the criteria of what their god deems appropriate. Where this is more fun than a paladin is the ability of a cleric to be any alignment. Since a cleric can worship a god who is good, evil or neutral there is more opportunity for a zealot character to seriously affect the direction of the adventure. An evil zealot will definitely not find much appreciation from villagers, but they may be useful for dealing with evil NPCs. The neutral zealot may be overly concerned with leaving things up to chance and refuse to interfere in some events.
Unfortunately, the zealot cleric probably isn’t going to be welcome for very long in most adventuring parties. Most clerics should be built a few notches down from this extreme, but what if you build one even further down? It is possible to build a cleric who is a doubter. This cleric still has a relationship with their god, but they are entertaining serious questions about their future in the order. Maybe they are out in the world adventuring to get answers. There are two ways to go when developing this character. The first way is for the cleric to experience enough out in the world, good triumphing over evil, sunsets over mountains, etc., to regain their faith and continue on as a cleric. The second way is for the cleric to experience more things that shake the foundation of their faith even more at which point they abandon their god completely. This fallen cleric could then be converted to a fighter.
How Do I View The Undead?
Another set of abilities that the cleric brings to the table is their powers concerning the undead. Clerics of all levels are able to attempt to turn undead and higher level clerics can even dispel the undead. The how doesn’t have much impact on your character, but the why does. This comes down to how your cleric views the different types of undead. You could build a cleric who absolutely abhors all forms of undead and sees themselves as a holy avenger purging the world of an evil. This character will actively seek out undead just for the purpose of destroying them. Another possible way for a cleric to view the undead is as individuals who were once alive, but are now cursed to walk the earth. This cleric will look on these creatures with pity and turn or dispel them in order to ease their suffering. The character may not seek out these undead to destroy instead expending their energy trying to destroy the source of their curse. A third possibility for handling undead is for the cleric to view them as a curiosity. Players who chose this route will build a cleric who is interested in studying the undead to learn more about them. They may choose to observe these creatures and only destroy them as a last resort. This trait can be merged with the first two methods also with the former studying the undead to learn better ways to destroy them and the latter seeking out possible ways to cure the creatures.
What Kind of a Warrior Am I?
The one thing that puts clerics above wizards, especially at low levels, is the cleric’s ability to wear armor and wield normal weapons. No wimpy daggers or staves for the cleric. They are more durable than the wizard and can get in there and mix it up in melee combat. While it is nice to have another weapon in the fray the player should decide when they build their cleric just what kind of a warrior they are going to be. The player may decide that they want their character to be a battle cleric which is essentially a weak paladin with slightly better magic. This choice will warrant the player tailoring some aspects of their character to be in line with this. If the cleric plans to smash heads with their mace and wear plate mail, they should select combat appropriate spells such as Barkskin. Another way to go when making your cleric is to build them so their role in combat is to defend rather than attack. This type of cleric has the tools to fight in melee combat, but instead chooses to aid the battle with magic that buffs the other characters. Their fighting skills may still be needed when the cleric finds themselves as the last barrier between the advancing monsters and the party’s wizard or other characters that are too wounded to fight.
As you can see a cleric can have a lot more character depth than a boring old paladin or wizard character. Working out the answers to all of these questions when building your cleric can transform them from a walking healing potion to a vital and interesting part of the adventuring party.