The Cleric's Handbook

Attributes

Compared to most of the other caster classes, the Cleric has an interesting quirk: it doesn’t have access to an ability or cantrip that enables a member of the class to attack using his wisdom modifier. This means that a Cleric has to rely on weapons in order to deal damage and as a direct consequence, he has to choose strength or dexterity as a secondary attribute, depending on whether the weapon’s type is ranged or melee.

Strength

The blue rating for strength stands only if you pick it up as a secondary combat attribute. Generally, you’ll want this if your weapon of choice is a heavy high-damage weapon and if your domain offers access to heavy armor.

Besides constitution, which doesn’t have any skills related to it, strength is next in line, pumping only your athletics skill.

According to the saving throws statistical information, strength as a saving throw is the fourth best, appearing in player’s handbook a total of 26 times.

You can dump this attribute completely, or keep it at 10 if you don’t want negative saving throw modifiers or your dungeon master is strict with encumbrance.

Dexterity

This is the secondary combat attribute you’ll want to use in most cases, because dexterity is much more important than strength, as it provides bonuses to your armor class and initiative besides hit and damage, both useful when you don’t have access to heavy armor.

The best thing about dexterity is that you don’t have to limit yourself to ranged weapons, due to the way finesse weapons work. The weapon with the most damage is the rapier (1d8), but there’s also the whip which has reach.

Dexterity is related to the three ‘sneaky’ skills: acrobatics, sleight of hand and stealth, which aren’t that useful to a cleric.

According to the saving throws statistical information, dexterity is second to the first wisdom, appearing in the Player’s Handbook a total of 78 times, making it a good saving throw to keep high.

Constitution

According to the saving throws statistical information, constitution is the third best, appearing in the Player’s Handbook a total of 64 times; not only this means that it’s a good idea to get any bonus that you can from a moderate constitution score, but also the nature of the saving throw makes nasty things happen to you if you fail.

Besides saving throws and hit points, constitution isn’t that useful to anything else, but both areas are really important, so make sure to keep a score of 12-14 at minimum.

Intelligence

Intelligence is one of the attributes that you can truly dump, since the only thing it provides to a cleric build is a bonus to intelligence skills (arcana, history, investigation, nature and religion) and it appears only 6 times as a saving throw.

The only time that you should be considering raising it above 8-10 is if you want to multiclass to the wizard class, in which case you’ll have to spare a score of 13.

Wisdom

One of the many perks of choosing a class that benefits from a high wisdom is the fact that wisdom is a very good attribute by itself, boosting important skills like insight, medicine and perception, but also appearing as a saving throws a total of 85 times in the Player’s Handbook, more than any other attribute.

If you’re using point buy, you’ll want to spend 9 points to get a 15 here, pushing to an early 18 at level 4.

There’s a way to use your wisdom as a combat modifier, but it involves a druid cantrip (Shillelagh), which obviously calls for a specialized build. A cleric can access this cantrip with three ways: multiclassing, picking the Nature domain, or picking the Magic Initiate feat.

Charisma

As with intelligence, charisma is an attribute that you can dump, as it boosts social skills and charisma saving throws are slightly less rare compared to intelligence ones, appearing a total of 18 times in the Player’s Handbook.

Considering multiclassing, charisma opens up a lot more options compared to intelligence: Bard, Sorcerer and Warlock.

Races

The races that provide wisdom bonuses are quite rare and almost never by more than +1, which means that most of the times you will be able to max out your wisdom attribute by level 8, the earliest. In the sample point buy spreads that I’m providing, I regularly allocate a 15 to wisdom on races that don’t provide increases in that score, because I assume that one of your attribute score improvements will be spend on the Observant feat, which also provides a +1 to wisdom, so you’ll have 20 in your primary score by level 12. If your race doesn’t provide a +1 to wisdom, you’re not planning on getting the Observant feat, or you’re not thinking of increasing two ability scores by +1, then you’re better off keeping your wisdom score at 14 and spend the two points elsewhere. As a note, the only race that is able to begin with a wisdom score of 17 is a variant human that picks up the Observant feat as his bonus feat. Also note that this option isn’t the best.

Variant Human

The normal human race is a multiclassing expert, but the variant human is able to choose his unique ability, making him the king of utility - it’s only going to get better with every added sourcebook.

Heavy Armor Master is very good at low levels if you want to focus on strength; high armor, damage reduction plus some healing through the cleric class is going to make you very durable. As this feat requires heavy armor proficiency, this is only useful with Nature, Life, Tempest or War domain.

Magic Initiate gives you not one, but two cantrips from the spellcasting class that you select. This feat is golden with the druid class, which shares wisdom as a casting attribute: the best choice is Shillelagh, enabling you to completely disregard strength and dexterity as a combat attribute; additionally, you can also get Produce Flame as a means to get a ranged attack, albeit with a short range or Thorn Whip, which does a bit less damage, but gives you some crowd control ability, since you can drag large or smaller creatures towards you. You also get a single first level spell, which can be used on Animal Friendship (has 24 hour duration and gives you a free animal companion) or Goodberry (creates 10 berries that if consumed provide enough nourishment for the day).

By picking Observant you can start with a +2 on your wisdom attribute; currently, there’s no race that provides a +2 bonus to wisdom, so there’s some value in this feat based on this fact alone. The +5 to passive perception and passive investigation scores is also quite valuable.

Clerics that somehow pick up Shillelagh will love the Polearm Master feat, because both abilities work with a quarterstaff. You can get both from level 1 if you selected the Nature domain. The feat not only enables you to get another attack as a bonus action, but also spend your reaction on opportunity attacks when a creature enters your reach (something that’s not normally possible).

Ritual Caster for the Wizard class (which has the highest number of [Ritual] spells), is also a good idea and since you will already have wisdom score of 13 or higher, you don’t need to boost your intelligence; [Ritual] spells generally don’t require saving throws that you’d care about. This is also a good way of acquiring the Find Familiar spell without multiclassing to the wizard class.

War Caster is useful if you want to keep a shield and you can cast a spell with your reaction; unfortunately the spell must target specifically the creature that provoked an opportunity attack from you, so you’ll have to memorize appropriate spells to set this up. This feat is very good if it’s combined with Polearm Master, because through that feat you get an additional method of receiving opportunity attacks.

Wood Elf

The wood elf is a very good fit if you want to play a dexterity focused cleric, as choosing this race increases your dexterity and wisdom scores. Wood elves are in many ways mechanically similar to hill dwarves, but with a dexterity focus instead of constitution.

As with high elves, getting Elf Weapon Training is going to be especially useful for clerics that do not choose Tempest or War as a domain and thus won’t receive martial weapon proficiencies.

Fleet of Foot is quite straightforward, but also note that it has the same results if you choose to wear heavy armor without meeting the strength requirement, thus bringing your walking speed to 25feet. As with dwarves, choosing a domain that gives you heavy armor proficiency and disregarding strength requirements could be an option.

Mask of the Wild is, unfortunately, a stealth buff, which isn’t going to be that useful to a cleric.

Hill Dwarf

Hill dwarves are one of the few races that grant a bonus to wisdom, which is a very good thing to a cleric. The core dwarf traits increase your constitution by two points and the subrace adds one more hit point per level; since constitution increases just saving throws and hit points, it’s safe to assume that the Hill Dwarf subrace almost provides +4 constitution and +1 wisdom, making it a very good defensive option.

Even though this subrace doesn’t offer a bonus to a combat attribute, you can almost dump constitution (probably keep it to a pre-racially modifier 10) and increase the attribute of your choice. In the case that you choose a domain that doesn’t offer proficiency with martial weapons, you can still go with strength as a combat stat, because the core dwarf traits offer proficiency with hammers and axes.

If you pick up the Life or the Nature domain, which offer heavy armor proficiency, remember that as a dwarf you don’t care about armor strength requirements - normally, if you don’t fulfill the requirement, that means that the armor imposes a 10ft speed reduction, but a dwarf’s speed isn’t reduced by wearing heavy armor. Multiclass spellcasters will benefit for this, as they can keep their armor class high while having low strength and dexterity scores in order to boost their mental stats.

With 24 points you can easily cover your combat attribute and max out your wisdom; keep the rest three points and spend them to dexterity, intelligence or charisma depending on what multiclass options you want to have open.

High Elf

The racial bonuses of the high elf aren’t the best for a cleric. Elf Weapon Training provides access to bows, which coupled with the dexterity bonus that all elves receive makes for a good combat setup; other subraces offer a similar weapon selection though.

The bonus cantrip may be a good option if more cantrips are introduced, but currently, due to the way spell attacks work, you won’t be able to use most of them reliably, unless you increase your intelligence. You’re better off choosing a cantrip that offers utility, but doing that isn’t going to give your character an important combat edge.

Pump both dexterity and wisdom to a pre-racial 15 in order to increase both at the earliest to an even number and then continue maxing out your wisdom (which will most probably happen at 12th level). Alternatively you can keep dexterity to 14 and select a feat that increases your wisdom score, like Observant.

Human

While other races have a big ability that make them appealing and unique, the human race offers a single point increase in all ability scores. This means that their unique ability is actually multiclassing, as they can spend their attribute points optimally in order to support different classes and weird builds.

You can spend your attribute points evenly and get five 13s and one 10, which will be increased to 14. Alternatively you can get a single 15 in wisdom, support three 13s and still have some leftover points.

If you don’t plan to multiclass to a class that has a strength requirement, like the fighter class and obviously you don’t want to go with strength as your secondary combat attribute, you can put any points left there - it’s the only attribute that gives you essential bonuses when it’s not even (it increases your carrying capacity).

Tiefling

Unfortunately, this race doesn’t have any selling points. Just compare them to the dragonborn, a race that’s already quite bad for a cleric, but does pump a combat attribute, gives you resistance to a form of elemental damage and also gives you an alternative way to deal damage - a breath weapon. By choosing tiefling as your race you just get resistance, the Thaumaturgy cantrip (which you can already get from cleric levels) and a couple of spells that will be quickly outleveled - Hellish Rebuke as a 2nd level spell and Darkness.

You could use the tiefling race if you wanted a weird multiclass combination that involved wizard and a charisma-based casting class, but this isn’t anything the human or half-elf race wouldn’t be able to handle.

Half-Elf

I view the half-elf race as a human subrace that trades some of its attribute bonuses for skill choices and minor goodies like darkvision. Since this race is similar to human, its primary function is multiclassing, albeit with a more specific focus to classes that have charisma requirements and/or benefit from charisma, like bard, sorcerer and warlock.

Half-Orc

If you wish to play a strength focused cleric, half-orcs are quite possibly the best choice after the variant human, as they get strength and constitution bonuses. Relentless Endurance is nice to have as a cleric - if you are required to cure someone, it’s best if you can stay up to do so.

Savage Attacks is great with weapons that have a large damage dice, like d12, so make sure to get a domain that provides martial weapon proficiencies, like War or Tempest.

Rock Gnome

As with forest gnomes, this subrace doesn’t offer much to the cleric class and doesn’t even have a dexterity bonus, but a constitution one; at least dexterity-focused forest gnomes have the option to begin with a 16 in dexterity, but rock gnomes can’t do this.

I like the fluff that the Tinker ability has, but it doesn’t offer anything mechanically concrete.

Lightfoot Halfling

Halfling is another race which hints that your combat focus should be dexterity. Unfortunately they don’t get any racial proficiencies like elves do and instead receive a defensive ability (Brave) and Lucky.

Naturally Stealthy is a stealth buff and while it won’t be that useful to a cleric, you can use it regularly when you’re next to teammates; Halfling Nimbleness helps in that regard, too.

The charisma bonus could be useful, if you’re planning to multiclass to bard, sorcerer or warlock (more on this on the multiclassing session).

Dragonborn

Compared to other more common races, the Dragonborn seems to be a little luckluster: it boosts strength and charisma, but also gets Breath Weapon, which has a constitution based saving throw; this combined with the fact that you’ll want to max out your wisdom already makes you suffer from multiple attribute dependency, so it’s not going to work easily.

The only notable mention is that there’s some synergy with Tempest clerics and dragonborns with a lightning damage breath weapon, as they can maximize one breath attack per short rest and also benefit from the Tempest cleric’s martial weapon and heavy armor proficiencies, since they get a +2 strength bonus. This combination is ok during the low levels, but spells will quickly make the Breath Weapon obsolete and will be better candidates for Destructive Wrath.

Forest Gnome

There isn’t much synergy between forest gnomes and the cleric class besides the dexterity bonus that they receive and even then, there are better races if you want to focus on that as a combat attribute. Getting Minor Illusion for free unfortunately isn’t going to cut it.

At least Gnome Cunning is a nice ability to have, especially since you have proficiency in wisdom and charisma saving throws from the cleric class.

Drow

What I dislike most about this subrace is that’s the only one that actually has a built-in disadvantage on important rolls (attacks and perception); this isn’t balanced by the additional spells that drows receive via their Drow Magic ability, especially since they’re charisma-based.

This fact aside though, if you’re planning to create a dexterity-focused cleric and want to pick a domain that doesn’t offer martial weapon proficiency, drows can really work, as they get proficiency with rapiers and hand crossbows - the first is the highest damage finesse weapon and the latter is a light ranged weapon, usable in the offhand.

The charisma bonus could be useful, too, if you’re planning to multiclass to bard, sorcerer or warlock (more on this on the multiclassing session).

Mountain Dwarf

Mountain dwarves may not provide a bonus to wisdom, but they do offer a +2 increase to both strength and constitution. This almost guarantees that your combat attribute is going to be strength, especially if you combine it with the core dwarf trait ‘combat training’, which offers proficiency with hammers and axes.

Unfortunately, Dwarven Armor Training, which provides you with light and medium armor proficiency goes to waste, since clerics already have proficiency with those armor types.

Since you don’t receive a bonus to wisdom, you can go with a starting 14 and max it out at 12 level, or go with a 15 and choose a feat that increases your wisdom by 1 on one of your level-ups, like Observant, or take the +1/+1 attribute boost option.

Stout Halfling

This subrace gets a constitution increase and Stout Resilience, an ability that gives you advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance against poison damage, making them really similar to dwarves.
Lucky, the ability to reroll 1’s on attack rolls, ability checks or saving throws is a good enough reason to pick the halfling over a dwarf, if you don’t mind going with dexterity as a secondary attribute.

Class Features

A cleric’s playstyle depends a lot on the domain he is going to choose. Unfortunately, not all domains are equal in power; for instance, you could never go wrong if you picked Nature, War or Life as your domain, as they have straightforward abilities. Light, Knowledge and Tempest are weirder: Light is blasty, Knowledge has a couple of abilities that are useful out-of-combat and Tempest is some weird split between a blaster and a melee warrior. Trickery is the worst of them all without an argument.

Nature Domain

domain spells. Most of the options that the nature domain provides are taken from the ranger and druid lists, so your spell list is expanded quite well. Animal Friendship gets you a pet, Spike Growth has good synergy with the Thorn Whip cantrip and Plant Growth is a very good crowd-controlling tool making everyone caught in the area of effect effectively move no more than 5ft per round without a save.

acolyte of nature. Not only you can choose a druid cantrip, but you also have the option of choosing one skill of your choice from animal handling, nature or survival. The cantrip that you’re going to choose is most probably going to be Shillelagh, but Thorn Whip or Produce Flame can work, too.

bonus proficiency. Heavy armor proficiency is very nice to have. If you don’t go with strength as your combat ability (since you can use your wisdom modifier with Shillelagh), then make sure to be a dwarf or a wood elf to avoid or minimize, respectively, the fact that you lack the strength requirement of a heavy armor.
channel divinity: charm animals and plants. This is quite similar to the original turn undead feature, so it’s quite situational, but nice to have.

dampen elements. Grant to you or to a nearby ally resistance to elemental damage as a reaction; you have virtually unlimited uses of this ability, so it’s a very nice thing to possess.

divine strike. I view this ability as the domain’s way to advance your weapon damage in a way similar to the damage upgrade of cantrips at certain levels. Since you’ll most probably be using weapon attacks with this domain, as there aren’t any reliable cantrips available, this ability is very useful.

master of nature. This ability largely depends on how many animals or plants you’re facing, but it can be extremelly potent and single handedly turn a battle. It would be a lot better if you could get the same ability earlier, but, at least, you can affect creatures regardless of their challenge rating.

War Domain

domain spells. For paladins that favor a more martial playstyle, this is a quite good selection of spells. Divine Favor, Magic Weapon and Crusader’s Mantle are paladin spells. Spiritual Weapon is plainly useful as it’s not a concentration spell and it’s always good to have it prepared.

bonus proficiencies. You receive proficiency with martial weapons and heavy armor, so there’s nothing more that you could ask for.

war priest. Get additional attacks as a bonus action, but limited to a number of times equal to your wisdom modifier. The extra attacks may be limited, but it’s always nice to have options with your bonus action when using the attack option, aside from spells. Based on the abilities of the domain, it’s a good idea to use a weapon with high damage dice in order to make the most out of this feature.

channel divinity: guided strike. Spend a Channel Divinity use in order to gain a +10 on an attack roll. This ability essentially enables you to turn an important attack that would normally miss into a successful one; remember that the attack roll need not be one made with a weapon - you can turn a missed spell attack into a hit!
channel divinity: war god’s blessing. Share your Guided Strike with your teammates.

divine strike. I view this ability as the domain’s way to advance your weapon damage in a way similar to the damage upgrade of cantrips at certain levels. Since you’ll most probably be using weapon attacks with this domain, as there aren’t any reliable cantrips available, this ability is very useful. This is the only Divine Strike feature that you can influence its damage type, as it depends on the weapon that you’re using.

avatar of battle. Getting resistance against bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage would be a very good deal, however, it only applies to nonmagical weapons.

Tempest Domain

domain spells. The bonus spells you receive have two functions: one, you receive spells that deal lightning or thunder damage (Thunderwave, Call Lightning, Destructive Wave), on which you can spend your Destructive Wrath ability and two, some utility or blasty spells that most are not on your spell list.

bonus proficiency. You receive proficiency with martial weapons and heavy armor, so there’s nothing more that you could ask for.

wrath of the storm. I’m kind of disappointed by this ability for a variety of reasons. First of all, the damage at low levels is quite good, but it doesn’t scale, so it will quickly not be that impressive; additionally it requires a dexterity saving throw and it can only be used against creatures that are within 5ft of you - using a reach weapon renders you immune to Wrath of the Storm. The thing that bugs me the most, however, is that you kinda have to keep your armor down on purpose; you will eventually get hit regardless of your AC and buffs, but the more that you optimize your defense, the less you will be able to use this. At least you can use this on your reaction, which is always good and is activated when you get hit, which normally doesn’t provoke an opportunity attack.

channel divinity: destructive wrath. Maximize one thunder or lightning damage roll per short rest. Your domain spells already provide some spells that deal that kind of damage and it also works on Wrath of the Storm.

thunderbolt strike. If you find a way to reliably deal lightning damage each round, then this is actually a pretty good crowd-controlling ability, as it doesn’t allow a save. It has good synergy with Polearm Master and a reach weapon, since the Tempest domain already provides martial weapon proficiency. You can trigger this with your Wrath of the Storm ability, but you can also activate it each round by somehow acquiring the Shocking Grasp cantrip.

divine strike. I view this ability as the domain’s way to advance your weapon damage in a way similar to the damage upgrade of cantrips at certain levels. Since you’ll most probably be using weapon attacks with this domain, as there aren’t any reliable cantrips available, this ability is very useful. Too bad that the extra damage that this ability provides is thunder and not lightning - that way you’d be able to activate Thunderbolt Strike on your hits.

stormborn. Get a flying speed whenever you’re not indoors or underground. Simple and nice to have, although I’m certain that there are ways of getting a fly speed earlier if need be.

Life Domain

domain spells. Nothing stands out here, since all the spells are already present in your spell list anyway; some of them you’d probably want memorized for the day, anyway, but a couple of options from another spell list would be more than welcome.
bonus proficiency. Heavy armor proficiency is very nice to have if you choose to use strength as a combat attribute, you’re a dwarf or you’re a wood elf.

disciple of life. Cure additional hit points equal to 2 + the spell’s level whenever you use a spell to cure; it’s good to heal an additional 3 hit points with a first level cure wounds spell, but it doesn’t scale that well, until you get mass cure wounds.

channel divinity: preserve life. Cure hit point damage with a use of your Channel Divinity. This is a good ability because not only it helps you to preserve your spell slots for something other than healing spells, but also you can quite possibly use it more than once per day, as you recover it on a short rest.

blessed healer. Another ability that preserves your spells; this isn’t extraordinarily good, but it can prove useful, especially in the middle of battle during low levels.

divine strike. I view this ability as the domain’s way to advance your weapon damage in a way similar to the damage upgrade of cantrips at certain levels. Since you’ll most probably be using weapon attacks with this domain, as there aren’t any reliable cantrips available, this ability is very useful.

supreme healing. Automatically maximize dice when healing. It’s a very good ability, but at this level I suspect that it will be trivially easy to restore hit points, with maximized dice or not.

Light Domain

domain spells. Now we’re talking! Light domain is the one you should choose if you want flashy, direct damage spells. Scorching Ray and Fireball are all very good at the level that you’re going to acquire them and they stay good for a few levels. Faerie Fire is just awesome, as advantage on attack rolls cannot be underestimated.

bonus cantrip. Gain the Light cantrip if you don’t already have it; good to have.
warding flare. Impose disadvantage as a reaction when an opponent you can see attack you. You have limited uses of this ability per day equal to your wisdom modifier, but using your reaction to activate it is quite nice, as clerics do not have much use for it, aside from opportunity attacks.

channel divinity: radiance of the dawn. This ability isn’t very exciting, but it’s useful during the low levels. It has a quite large area of effect and only targets hostile creatures. Note that it’s not actually a spell, so you can use this and also cast one that has a casting time of a bonus action.

improved flare. Chances are that you’re not going to be in the front line or at least in melee range, based on your class features; this improvement to the flare ability is quite good, since you can now protect teammates that need it more than you do.

potent spellcasting. Currently this is very bad, since the only cleric cantrip that deals damage is Sacred Flame, which does zero damage on a successful saving throw. It may become better as more sourcebooks are introduced, though.

corona of light. Impose disadvantage on saving throws against any spell that deals fire or radiant damage within a 60-foot radius. Considering that most of your bonus domain spells are going to benefit from this feature, this is quite good and it can also help your spellcaster teammates. The bad news are that you need to spend an action to activate this ability, so you’ll have to wait a round in order to cast anything offensive.

Knowledge Domain

domain spells. The spells added to your spell list are ok, but nothing special - it’s a mix of enchantment and divination spells.

Blessings of knowledge. Gain access to two additional languages and two knowledge skills of your choice for which you receive double your proficiency bonus.

channel divinity: knowledge of the ages. It seems to be a good ability if no one in your party has a certain skill or it’s a skill that’s only situationally useful. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use certain tools effectively, as the duration of this power is just 10 minutes.

channel divinity: read thoughts. This is an ability that you’d normally use outside of battle and its quite potent to read the surface thoughts of a target. You can also cast a suggestion spell for free on your affected target and he automatically fails his saving throw.

potent spellcasting. Currently this is very bad, since the only cleric cantrip that deals damage is Sacred Flame, which does zero damage on a successful saving throw. It may become better as more sourcebooks are introduced, though.

visions of the past. This is a quite feature, but it’s mostly fluff and completely depends on how your dungeon master handles abilities such as this.

Cleric

Channel Divinity: Turn Undead. This is quite a situational ability, but it’s nice to have, especially during the low levels. It affects all undead within 30ft of you and can possibly disable multiple enemies, preventing you and your friends from being overrun by hordes of undead. This ability is replenished after a short rest.

Destroy Undead. Destroy instead of turning undead creatures if their challenge rating is low enough, scaling according to your level. It’s a nice upgrade to your default Channel Divinity, but nothing special; it’s an ability that will make your life easier clearing large amounts of undead mooks.

Divine Intervention. Have you ever been in such a situation, either in- or out-of-combat that no matter what you did would make little difference? This is an ability for those times, giving you a last ditch effort for a deus ex machina to resolve the situation. The ability is vague on purpose, but unfortunately it has little chance of success (10% when you first acquire it) and for a good enough reason, otherwise it would be trivially used.

Trickery Domain

domain spells. The Trickery domain offers a good selection of utility and mobility spells.

blessing of the trickster. This is rather luckluster - you can’t use this ability on yourself, so you have to have an ally that favors stealth checks. Additionally, you can’t use this on multiple teammates, as if you reuse it previous blessings automatically stop. So you can bless a single ally to gain advantage on a single skill check, as many times as you wish in the day.

channel divinity: invoke duplicity. This could have been an interesting feature, but unfortunately it has two serious drawbacks; first, you have to use an action in order to activate it, so you can’t use it in order to further your reach; second, it eats up your concentration, which narrows down the spells that you can use. At least, if you and your illusion are next to the same creature, you’ve got advantage on attack rolls, which is something.

channel divinity: cloak of shadows. You can turn invisible by using your Channel Divinity; it would be a good ability to have if it wasn’t activated as an action - that way you could invoke the ability and immediately gain advantage on your attack rolls - now you’ll have to wait until your next turn.

divine strike. I view this ability as the domain’s way to advance your weapon damage in a way similar to the damage upgrade of cantrips at certain levels. Since you’ll most probably be using weapon attacks with this domain, as there aren’t any reliable cantrips available, this ability is very useful. Unfortunately, it’s not that good compared to the Divine Strike that other domains get because the damage type is poison, as one whole common race (dwarves) and a common subrace (stout halflings) are resistant against poison.

improved duplicity. Creating four instead of one duplicate would be awesome, but it will just increase your spell range, it won’t do anything more about receiving advantage on attack rolls. It would be a lot better if your teammates could receive the advantage on their attack rolls also - at level 17 it sounds like something that you’d be normally be able to do easily.

Backgrounds

The cleric class enables you to choose two skills from the following list: History, Insight, Medicine, Persuation and Religion. It’s important to note that in the beginning of the chapter, where the backgrounds are explained, it’s mentioned that if you’d gain the same proficiency from two different sources, you can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (meaning tool or skill) instead. Arguably the best background is the alternative Guild Artisan, the Merchant: just choose Insight and Persuation as your two skills and then choose whatever two skills you like best, probably Perception and something else. They are probably the only background that receives two languages and proficiency in some kind of tool - navigator’s tools. If you want to dump charisma, you could do the same thing with the Acolyte background, but you’d lose the tool proficiency, the cart and the mule.

Guild Artisan

Insight and Persuation are both very good skills and if you already picked them up from your cleric skill list you are free to choose any two skills that you want. You gain access to artisan’s tools and a language, but the merchant variant gives you an additional language, navigator’s tools, a mule and a cart, which is a superior option.

Acolyte

This background offers skill proficiencies in Insight and Religion that you can already pick up from your class skill list, so if you’ve already picked them up you have the choice of receiving two skills of your choice. The two bonus languages are a very nice addition, but this background doesn’t have any tool proficiencies.

Sailor

At last a background that offers proficiency in the perception skill! Athletics is good to have, too, especially if you have high strength. The tools are not that interesting.

Criminal

You gain proficiency in thieves’ tools, Stealth and Deception. This is a good option if you want to act as the party’s rogue, as both of the offered skills are good to have and you also gain a good tool proficiency.

Sage

Get proficiency in Arcana and History; you could pick them up from your cleric skill list and choose any two other skills, but Arcana and History aren’t the best skills anyway, so you’re better off staying away from this background. Aside from this, the two bonus languages are great.

Soldier

Proficiency with Atheltics, Intimidation and land vehicles.

Hermit

Religion and Medicine aren’t the best skills to get proficiency with, but as they appear in your cleric skill list, if you already picked them up from your cleric skill list you are free to choose any two skills that you want. Herbalist kit mentions that you can use it to create potions of healing and you also receive a bonus language of your choice.

Folk Hero

There is nothing much going on for a cleric here - the two skills are related to wisdom, but generally you wouldn’t care for proficiency in them and the tool proficiencies are rather uninteresting.

Charlatan

You gain proficiency with Deception and Sleight of Hand; Deception is quite good, but Sleight of Hand and the two tool proficiencies aren’t that hot.

Urchin

Proficiency with Sleight of Hand, Stealth and thieves’ tools are the highest points of this background. It’s funny that you get a pet mouse in the equipment section.

Outlander

You get proficiency with Athletics and Survival; there is no skill or tool proficiency overlap, so this isn’t the best background, but it work if you’re using strength as a combat attribute. Since Survival is related to wisdom, however, I’d prefer to not have proficiency in it and instead rely on my wisdom modifier.

Entertainer

The only reason that you’d want this is for Acrobatics.

Noble

Persuation is good and History isn’t that important, but as they appear in your cleric skill list, if you already picked them up from your cleric skill list you are free to choose any two skills that you want. The extra language is always welcome.

Feats

Resilient

As with Observant, get this in order to start with a +2 to wisdom with a variant human, or in order to even out your wisdom score if you started with a score of 15.

You can also use this on constitution, in order to gain proficiency with constitution saves, which is going to help a lot for your concentration spells. Alternatively, if you’re planning to multiclass, it’s good to start your build with a class that grants constitution save proficiency and then get Resilient on Wisdom.

War Caster

You are most probably going to be a frontline caster and all of these abilities are very useful to those that want to cast in melee range. The first ability is perfect, since most of your good buffs are going to be concentration; if you manage to get proficiency in constitution saves somehow, this is going to be even better. The second ability is useful to those that are not going to go with the rules clarification presented by the designers and affix the divine focus on your shield and want to have both hands full with something; this is also the go-to feat to take if you want to play a cleric that dual-wields weapons. Finally, the last ability enables you to forgo your attack of opportunity in order to cast a spell on that creature; this ability needs some setup, as you have to memorize offensive spells that meet certain criteria (single target and casting time of 1 action), but considering that you’re a full caster, your spells will generally have a greater impact than a single attack of opportunity.

Polearm Master

Clerics that somehow pick up Shillelagh will love the Polearm Master feat, because both abilities work with a quarterstaff. You can get both from level 1 if you selected the Nature domain. The feat not only enables you to get another attack as a bonus action, but also spend your reaction on opportunity attacks when a creature enters your reach (something that’s not normally possible).

I would rate this feat navy, if it wasn’t for its dependency on Shillelagh.

Magic Initiate

This gives you not one, but two cantrips from the spellcasting class that you select. This feat is golden with the druid class, which shares wisdom as a casting attribute: the best choice is Shillelagh, enabling you to completely disregard strength and dexterity as a combat attribute; additionally, you can also get Produce Flame as a means to get a ranged attack, albeit with a short range or Thorn Whip, which does a bit less damage, but gives you some crowd control ability, since you can drag large or smaller creatures towards you. You also get a single first level spell, which can be used on Animal Friendship (has 24 hour duration and gives you a free animal companion) or Goodberry (creates 10 berries that if consumed provide enough nourishment for the day).

Lucky

Getting advantage on rolls, even three times per long rest, can be very potent when you absolutely need it.

Sentinel

Like Mage Slayer, this is a feat for melee clerics. The abilities granted by the feat are really solid and synergistic, for instance, it enables you to hit creatures with opportunity attacks, even if they used the disengage action and if you manage to hit them, they are unable to continue their movement. Sentinel has very good lockdown potential.

Ritual Caster

Ritual Caster for the Wizard class (which has the highest number of [Ritual] spells), is also a good idea and since you will already have wisdom score of 13 or higher, you don’t need to boost your intelligence; [Ritual] spells generally don’t require saving throws that you’d care about. This is also a good way of acquiring the Find Familiar spell without multiclassing to the wizard class.

Observant

As noted in the attributes section, get this to even out your wisdom score if you had the points to spend and started with a 15. Alternatively, it’s one of two ways to start with a +2 bonus to wisdom as a variant human.

Medium Armor Master

Basically, if your dexterity score is 16 or higher, you’ve got to spend a feat slot for +1 AC. If you are interested in stealth, you’re spending a feat slot for +2 AC. In both examples, compare the half-plate (15+dex AC, imposes disadvantage on stealth rolls) to breastplate (14+dex AC, no disadvantage).

Spell Sniper

Useful to Light domain clerics that regularly use Scorching Ray or to clerics that really like Guiding Bolt. The bonuses are solid, however due to the lack of spells in the cleric spell list that benefit from them, this isn’t very good.

This feat may prove to be better if you’re a multiclass character or just looking to use a different combat attribute from strength or dexterity, for instance picking Eldritch Blast for your cantrip and focusing on Charisma as a secondary combat stat seems to be ok.

Alert

Receive a quite large bonus to initiative and two situational abilities when you’re surprised. The thing here is that while the benefits are good, they are passive and you generally don’t care that much to begin your turn before your opponents, like Assassins do. If you’re thinking of acquiring this feat, do it after you’ve maxed out your main casting attribute.

Heavy Armor Master

A frontliner cleric of the War, Life, Nature or Tempest domain would benefit greatly from this feat during the early levels, especially against multiple enemies that do not deal heavy damage; the character can be exceptionally durable, since he has the ability to cure himself of damage, too.

The feat also increases your strength, providing extra melee synergy.

Great Weapon Fighter

This has great synergy with War clerics, because of their Channel Divinity special feature that gets them to add a +10 bonus - but after they’ve seen their die roll. As long as you’ve got Channel Divinity uses, then you can keep using the feat’s second option and benefit of a +10 damage bonus consistently.

The first ability doesn’t have exceptional synergy for a War cleric, but if it triggers it does save you War Priest uses per day, which is a good thing.

Most of the other domains wouldn’t benefit greatly from Great Weapon Master - they need to be using a heavy weapon and all of them are martial, so that leaves only multiclassing or the Tempest domain, not the most synergistic options.

Durable

This may be a good feat for other classes, but I wouldn’t bother picking it up for a cleric; you’ve got cure wounds in order to cover what this feat would give you and if you want to boost your constitution, you’re better off going with the +1/+1 attribute option.

Healer

You should only be considering this if you have to do a lot of healing at low levels and you don’t want to choose the Life domain, as 10 uses of a 1d6+4 hit point healing at only 5gp is great. As you get enough levels this feature will be horribly underwhelming.

Do note that the fact that each creature can only receive the benefit of the healer feat only once per long or short rest contributes greatly to the reduction of this feat’s potential.

Weapon Master

The cleric class already has two domains that grant proficiency with all martial weapons; in addition to that, there are certain races that grant weapon proficiencies, like dwarves and elves. If you’re considering getting this feat, then for some reason you have to avoid getting weapon proficiencies through your domain and race, but you also think that a certain weapon or two are absolutely integral to your character build; unfortunately no martial weapon is worth delaying the upgrade to your wisdom bonus and most of the times the difference in damage is about 2-3 points on average.

The boost to your strength or dexterity is a nice selling point, but there are feats that offer better abilities than some weapon proficiencies.

Tavern Brawler

Really useful if you want to make a grappler, this can work if you can cast spells while grappling. A grappled creature has effectively zero speed, which isn’t the best condition around, but it’s quite good if you want to keep an enemy in place. Do note that you’re probably have to get your strength score up and gain proficiency in athletics.

Skulker

Useful to sneaky characters; if you’re not going to use stealth, then the bonuses are going to be just situational.

Skilled

Nothing special here - you get proficiency with three skills of your choice; it’s considered to be an even trade for the two attribute points.

Shield Master

Great abilities, but the unfortunate thing of using shields is that you either have to not be wielding a weapon when casting spells with material components, unless you go with the rules clarification presented by the designers and affix the divine focus on your shield.

Martial Adept

The maneuvers are actually nice, however all of them require the expenditure of a superiority die; the fact that the feat provides you only one superiority die, which is recovered after a short or long rest makes it a kinda weak option.

Linguist

A little bit like the Keen Mind feat, getting three additional languages and a deciphering ability at the cost of an attribute point and a point in intelligence doesn’t seem like a fair trade.

Inspiring Leader

Since this feat provides temporary hit points that is based on your level plus your charisma modifier, it’s a quite good source of extra durability; you can use it after having a short rest, which makes the feat’s value even better.

The only problem is the charisma requirement, which, unless you’re a half-elf or a human, won’t be that easy to meet.

Grappler

Dungeon Delver

This feat isn’t average - the abilities provided are actually quite interesting, but the problem is that it’s quite situational and depends heavily on the type of the adventure your dungeon master is running. If you’re planning on being the party scout, then pick it, probably combined with a background that grants you access to thieves’ tools.

Charger

Use a bonus action to attack when you use your action to Dash. Useful to get into position and attack, too, but it’s not worth a feat.

Actor

Bonus to charisma and some charisma-related abilities; this isn’t helpful to a cleric.

Tough

Useful, but I’d prefer to get the +2 attribute bonus to constitution, which also helps constitution saving throws (and helps you avoid losing concentration spells).

Sharpshooter

The ranged counterpart to Great Weapon Master, this has great synergy with War clerics, because of their Channel Divinity special feature that gets them to add a +10 bonus - but after they’ve seen their die roll. As long as you’ve got Channel Divinity uses, then you can keep using the feat’s third option and benefit of a +10 damage bonus consistently.

If you’ve chosen to fight with dexterity, this is a very good pick, as it also removes the disadvantage that you normally get when firing shots at long range and you also ignore half cover and three-quarters cover. For longbow users, this means that you can start fighting at 600feet, which can be deadly - a theoretical opponent with 100ft speed equipped with a longbow has to spend 5 rounds to get close if he wants to fire shots without disadvantage.

Savage Attacker

This is like having advantage on weapon damage rolls alone. While it’s a neat ability to have, it doesn’t offer any solid results and it largely depends on the damage die of your chosen weapon: if it’s something like d8 or d6, then you should really don’t bother at all; however you can get more mileage from this if you get something like a maul (2d6) or battleaxe (d12).

Moderately Armored

You already have medium armor and shields proficiency; you’re better of getting the attribute boost.

Mobile

Basically it’s a “instead of using the disengage action, attack and receive the same benefit”, as long as you’re threatened by more than one opponent. It’s ok, especially if you consider the speed and the Dash action boosts, but it’s nothing special.

Mage Slayer

If you are going to be a melee combatant, the benefits granted by this feat are overall great - extra attack as a reaction, advantage on saving throws and chance to screw up opponent spellcasters’ concentration checks by imposing disadvantage on the rool.

It’s a pitty that these abilities work when the enemy spellcaster is within 5 feet of you and not within your reach - that way reach weapons could be a lot more useful.

Lightly Armored

You already have light armor proficiency.

Keen Mind

You probably don’t need the intelligence bump and even then, you are better off taking the +1/+1 increase over the situational abilities that Keen Mind provides.

Heavily Armored

If you want to play a cleric in heavy armor, there is a large number of domain options available, as this proficiency is provided by Nature, Life, War and Tempest domains. If you want to be a heavily armored member of Knowledge, Light or Trickery domain and you want to boost your strength instead of your dexterity score, then you can consider this feat, but it isn’t the greatest idea.

Elemental Adept

Light is the only domain that would benefit of picking up this feat, using the fire option; it enables your blasts to avoid minimum damage and ignore resistance.

It’s an option for clerics of the Tempest domain as well, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea; they have a dual element focus on lightning and thunder, and Tempest clerics tend to also use weapons in order to deal damage. Finally, this feat only works on spells and Tempests do have some special abilities that won’t benefit from this feat.

Dual Wielder

Two weapon fighting doesn’t have enough synergy with spellcasting classes. First of all, it eats up your bonus action, which can be used to cast spells (probably of the kind that enhances combat abilities) and use your normal action to attack or cast a cantrip. If you’ve got both of your hands full you will be unable hold on to material components or wield your deity’s holy symbol, so you won’t have the ability to cast spells with material components. Finally, if you use your action to cast a spell, dual wielding is almost useless, as you need to use the attack action in order to attack with your off-hand.

Defensive Duelist

Adding your proficiency bonus to your armor class against attacks is a pretty good ability - even from level 1, it’s like you’re wielding an additional shield and it gets better with levels. You’ve got unlimited uses, but the feat is kinda narrow, as you can only use it with finesse weapons, which means that you’re probably focusing on dexterity, and it applies only against melee attacks - you can’t dodge ranged attacks.

Crossbow Expert

Only useful for clerics that focus on dexterity; since you do not gain additional attacks on your attack action, the first ability isn’t that useful - you will only attack once with each hand crossbow - unless you have chosen the War domain. The second and third abilities are useful if you want to use a hand crossbow in the off-hand.

Athlete

The movement bonuses are great and you also get a bonus on your combat attribute, however you can live without them.

Posted by
On Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 5:50 AM

7 comments:

  1. Ahhh,I love to see this, Dictum! I follow your (hard) work on Handbooks since the 3.X era. I have to get used to the new format (and colors), but it will happen over time.

    After Cleric, do you have plans for new handbooks?

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    1. Hello Thiago,

      I'm planning to create a 'Multiclass Spellcaster' guide once I get acquainted with most spellcasting classes.
      I'm going to add a button to change between color schemes, as people on 5e boards had the same problem with you.

      Regards,
      Dictum Mortuum

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  2. Did Google break something, DM?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment. It seems that the google spreadsheet that I use changed its key somehow. I'll fix it as soon as I get back home.

      Delete
  3. I have problem to see the handbook. Looked like there is no handbook at all to me apparently.

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    Replies
    1. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/20183245/site/cleric3/index.html

      Please use this link until I resolve the issue.

      Delete