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5 Questions Every Cleric Should Be Able to Answer

Last week we posted an article about 5 Questions Every Fighter Should Be Able to Answer. Well, we decided to make that into a series and share with you our thoughts on 5 Questions Every Cleric Should Be Able to Answer. Like last week, this series applies to any d20 fantasy-based game, such as Pathfinder, D&D 5e, 13th Age, or Swords and Wizardry.

Of the core four classes, clerics frequently get the least respect. In books and movies, they seldom have the spotlight. They can fight, but do not have the selection of weapons that a fighter possesses. They can cast spells but not as good as a wizard. In combat, they tend to have to drop what they are doing because the fighter has a boo-boo.

So why play one, other than the party needs a healer? Well, the role playing opportunities are excellent. The class itself is so full character and life that someone playing a cleric should just drink it up. To help you do this, here are 5 questions you should be able to answer when playing a cleric.

1) Why Did You Join This Church?

In all d20 fantasy games gods are as plentiful as puddles after a rain. So why did you join this church? Please note, this question is not, “Why did you join the clergy?” I’m just asking what got your foot in the door initially here. Was it because your parents are dead, and they took you in and raised you? Were you a merchant looking to make important business connections? Did you like the spectacle of their ritual sacrifices? Did a member of the church save you from an undead attack? Were you hedging your bets for the afterlife? Perhaps it was as pedestrian as, you grew up in a small town and it was the only religion in the area. All of these answers will help provide you with a solid foundation for your character.

2) What Made You Join the Clergy?

You could easily have been just a another member that listens to the cleric speak from time to time, made the occasional offering, and lived the rest of your life, but you didn’t. Why? Do you genuinely believe that the deity’s beliefs and methods are something you agree with, and you can see no other way for you to live your life? Do you have a need to tell everyone how much better their lives would be if they just did what your deity said. Were you in some kind of tragic accident/attack that killed everyone in your town/family/etc and the church is all you have left? Is it that you like to kill things, and this is one of the few socially acceptable ways of doing so in a civilized society. Do you crave the power to tell someone that follows the same faith as you what to do, and they do it, no matter what? How about this answer, its just a job. While we have trouble imagining that today, 500-1,000 years ago, being a priest was not a calling of faith but a way to provide a job to the fifth or eighth child of a land owner that didn’t want to split their territory. This is a defining moment in your character’s life, one that keeps you close to the deity’s power. This should not only color how you see the church but the world as well.

3) What Does Your Character Do To Have Fun?

Sure you can play a stereotypical cleric that loves singing the deity’s songs, reading the deity’s holy books, yet even real life clergy get tired of that from time to time. Heck, some even enjoy watching Family Guy. Not many, sure but still. They all have to kick back and relax. Not only that, some are naturally relaxed and can chill with no problem; others never seem to be comfortable having fun. Is your character socially awkward and makes noticeable but cute mistakes trying to fit in while drinking and playing cards? Are they an entertainer that missed their calling and are the life of the party by singing and juggling? Perhaps your character is more studious and is a voracious reader. This question adds a layer of complexity to the character and provides your character with more depth.

4) Where Do You And Your Deity Disagree?

The all to frequent answer to this is, “I don’t know. I never thought of that one before.” Before being asked that question, most players of clerics just substitute their deity’s beliefs for their own and call it a day. Remember, you are playing a person, not a bunch of talking points. Play someone with their own unique point of view. This can be technical, trivial point that no one outside the church’s clergy would care about or this can be as a serious fundamental point? Perhaps it is that you felt the deity should have acted to save someone from harm and the deity failed to do so. This sets up a conflict between the character and a major part of their life. If you want to explore this aspect, make sure you communicate this to your GM to build something with that in your game.

5) What Is Your Relationship To the Rest Of The Group?

Do you see your party as potential converts and are always telling them about why they should kneel before your god’s symbol? Do you see them as allies on a common mission. Are they just comrads in arms or are they friends? Like I said last time, you should definitely trust your party. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot have a complex relationship with them.

Runa Cloudsoles is our signature dwarven cleric. Her clan worshipped Marduk and joining the clergy was her dream. She seldom had time for fun, working the cloud silver mines to help her family earn a living. Now that she lives on the ground, she is free to seek adventure. While Marduk believes justice should involve an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, she shows mercy more often than others of her order would otherwise be. She sees her fellow adventurers as friends that work towards similar goals: justice, adventure and wealth. Runa, however, wants to use her wealth to talk to her family and find out if they want to live on the ground with her and make a safe and stable place for them. Read more about Runa here.

Pathfinder player? Give your cleric a celtic flare and download Book of the Faithful: Celtic Subdomains today. Do you prefer Fifth Edition? Check out the Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1, which includes the cloud dwarf subrace which Runa is one of.

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5e: My Top 5 Cleric Domains

This past weekend at Origins Game Fair, my daughter and I played D&D Adventurers League, including the D&D Open, and in one day our characters jumped from 1st to 4th level. This being her first character, she went with a fighter. Me, I played a cleric.

Gunther Runehammer of clan Runehammer upholds the clan’s proud tradition of serving both his deity and the cause of justice while helping his fellow adventurers. He’s a War domain cleric, which means he had the highest armor class of anyone in the group over the weekend. Add to the fact that he just got a viscous weapon means he’s going to be delivering the hurt to his enemies.

This isn’t the first cleric I made so I would like to share with you my personal favorites for the domains in the core Player’s Handbook.

5) Tempest

First off, let me admit, I never played a Tempest cleric. My wife, however, played one and I get to see it up close. A storm themed cleric is a solid choice, one that Durkon from the Order of the Stick would definitely approve of this cleric domain. I’m putting this one at 5 since I wasn’t the one that actually played it and cannot give it an actual play experience recommendation, but from seeing it in action, it seemed fun.

4) Life

I played this one at the launch of the Basic rules, before my PHB arrived. When it comes to being the party healer, you can’t beat the Life domain. Between never needing to pray for cure wounds, to healing more when you do cast it, to using your channel divinity ability to heal, and the ability to heal yourself, this one is a solid choice for being the party healer. Having said that, that is what you are: the party healer. You won’t be getting any class abilities that diversity the character in any way. As such, I only now use the Life domain cleric for a DM PC when no one in the group has the ability to heal.

3) Nature

When I want to blur the lines between druid and cleric, I take a nature domain cleric. Between domain spells that theme your magic to plants, animals, and the elements, a channel divinity that makes plant and animals your friends, and being able to use a reaction to grant resistance to acid, cold, fire, lightning, and thunder damage. This is a pretty sweet set of abilities that make the Nature domain stand out among its piers.

2) War

When you want to get your hands dirty with your enemy’s blood, the War domain is your domain. Between a serious armor class and martial weapon proficiencies, you can go toe-to-toe with the worst monsters out there. Add to that your channel divinity ability to add +10 to a roll makes sure you hit when the roll is bad and your domain ability to make another attack as a bonus action and you can stand next to the party fighter. Considering I was playing with my daughter among a group I just met, that was the reason I made that character, and it was fun to boot. A solid recommendation from me.

1) Light

A cleric that throws fireball, is there anything more you need to say about that? While cleric spells are typically defensive in nature, the Light domain adds to it a number of common wizard offensive spells to shake up the feel of the class.

This, like all the other domains (except Life, obviously) shake up the feel of the class. They add a new flavor to what can quickly be a one note class. This, more than anything else, should be guiding light to any 5e designer looking to write new class abilities, and the cleric class exemplifies this better than any other.

Pair these cleric domains with an awesome race. Download the Book of Heroic Races Player Races 2 for your Fifth Edition game at the JBE Shop. This book is also available at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, the OpenGamingStore and Paizo.com.