At first glance, the cleric may seem a bit lackluster -- a mere healing machine whose medicinal spells provide vital party support, but not much excitement. First impressions often prove false, however, and dismissing the cleric as the character "someone" has to play is a big mistake. A well-constructed cleric, played with fervor and understanding is not only an asset to the party, but an immensely satisfying character as well.
The Pros and Cons of a Cleric
The cleric has a bit of everything -- decent combat skills, a wide range of spells, the ability to wear armor, and a few special powers. As such, clerics can play many roles in an adventuring group.
When you chose a cleric, you gain access to the all-important healing spells, but the class offers other potent spells and some useful powers as well. Below are several assets you have going for you when you play a cleric.
The cleric's many advantages come at a price. Here are a few of the disadvantages you should keep in mind if you're considering a cleric character.
Playing a Classy Cleric
Great clerics usually use the following techniques. So if you're playing a cleric, try to build your strategy around these concepts.
As a cleric, you have to make many of your most important decisions before an adventure begins. Your daily spell preparation has a big effect on how you play your character and what your party can expect to accomplish on any given day. Thanks to the wide selection of spells available to you, you can function as a detective (by loading up on divination spells), a medic (by loading up on healing spells), a combatant (by loading up on spells that enhance your fighting abilities), a ranged attacker (by loading up on combat spells), or a force multiplier (by loading up on spells that make your allies stronger). At higher levels, you may have enough spells available to fill two or more of these roles simultaneously.
When you choose spells, it pays to know what your party expects from you. You are among your party's most versatile members, and quite possibly the only one who can stand between a fellow party member and an untimely death. If your party expects you to play the role of combat medic and you're not prepared to do so, be sure to let the rest of the players know so that they can plan accordingly.
In any case, plan to stay close to the action so that you can intervene with a spell or physical attack when necessary. You're fairly hardy compared with other characters, and your group can easily go down to defeat if you're timid when the going gets tough. On the other hand, your healing ability makes you invaluable to the others, so don't be the first one to rush into danger, or even into potential danger.
Your Friends are Your Best Weapons
You can have a big impact on the game by working through others, so be prepared to lend your support whenever you can.
The Party's Main Fighter: Whoever has to stand in the front line and handle most of the fighting will look to you for healing and other kinds of cures from time to time. If you're stingy with your healing spells, the adventure could be over more quickly than you think. A single cure light wounds or cure moderate wounds spell can keep a fighting character going, ultimately dealing more damage to the enemy than any of your other spells can.
The Party's Scout: Stealthy characters such as rogues, rangers, and monks often get in over their heads, so plan to be part of the rescue party that moves in to save them. You're also the one who must piece the scout back together after a mishap involving a trap or some other unseen danger.
Other Spellcasters: You probably have more hit points and a better Armor Class than the other spellcasters in your group, so try to stay close to them so that you can protect them if a foe breaks through the front line.
Whenever possible, try to coordinate your daily spell choices with the other spellcasters in your group. Your spell selection is almost certainly broader than theirs, so be ready to fill any gaps. Useful spells such as detect magic and water breathing are probably best provided by you, especially if you're a good cleric, since you can swap them out for healing spells if they're not needed.
Be Your Own Best Friend
Your support functions make you useful to any group, but the game can become a drag if you always put others first. So don't let the other players push you around -- always insist on making decisions for yourself. Like any other character, you do need to put the group's survival first, but don't let the others dictate how you should do it.
Some Key Equipment
A cleric's gear is nearly as important to him as his spells, so don't neglect it. Below are some essential pieces to pack.
About the Author
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies, and he served as the sage of Dragon Magazine for eighteen years. Skip is a codesigner of the D&D 3rd edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.
©1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.