D&D 5E As a DM cleric spells to watch out for in 5e?

Voadam

Legend
So I really like clerics thematically as buff, heal, divination, and some weird utility type spellcasters. Narratively I generally don't like clerical god laser blasting spells, though divine hammer flamestrike and holy word type things don't really rub me the wrong way. Generally I like zaps to be arcane and a lot of damage to come round to round from the martials. With the clerical daily access to anything on the spell list it is easy to find and load up on the rare spells that are arguably off theme or overpowered.

As a DM I have repeatedly been introduced to the PC cleric of my group's favorite 2nd 3rd level spell spirit guardians, the auto damage to enemies only in an area ongoing spell which is super effective. It seems to have significantly altered fights it gets deployed in, which is most of them. My games narratively rarely have large numbers of separate encounter fights per game day so it often gets deployed in combat.

My group is currently 5th level, any other clerical spells you think I should particularly be on the lookout for as he levels and I think about fight encounters? PHB, Xanathars, and Tashas are all books that I have.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
Just checking, Spirit Guardians is 3rd level, you mentioned 2nd so just confirming you knew that.

Frankly I am often underwhelmed by cleric spells in 5e. There are two cleric spells I consider "really good" in 5e, everything else is just okay.

  • Spirit Guardians: Already mentioned
  • Bless: Best buff in the game imo. There are very few things that buff attacks and ESPECIALLY saving throws, adding a +2.5 in a bounded accuracy game makes a huge difference.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Generally speaking, healing spells are suboptimal in combat, with one big exception:

Healing Word works great because going from 0 to single digits means a PC is 100% effective on his turn, and as a bonus action the cleric still gets a turn of actions (limited further with casting, but still lots of options).
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
General. Watch the ranges on heals. Different heals have different ranges. Be sure to enforce those. Any of the food & drink related spells destroy any hope of having meaningful wilderness exploration. Watch out for that. The Peace and Twilight domain clerics are ridiculously OP, to the point where even hardcore power gamers will admit that they're outlandish and should be nerfed or banned. Watch spell components, anything with a cost that says the spell consumes it destroys the component. It's one of the few balancing mechanics against casters in 5E, so be careful to enforce it. And casting times. For some reason...players always seem to think every spell is a 1 action cast...even the ones that take 1 hour.

Cantrips. Guidance is a monumental nuisance. Literally every action anyone takes...ever...the cleric will shout out "I cast guidance!" Better banned.

1st. Bless. It's a leveled spell so can't be spammed, but clerics love to cast it, players love to get it, and almost no one ever remembers to add the dice to their checks.

2nd. Prayer of Healing takes 10 minutes to cast. My cleric players really seem to think it's 1 action.

3rd. Spirit Guardians is really good, but not OP. Healing Spirit is wildly OP. It's easier to ban it than try to fix it. Glyph of Warding is good, but takes 1 hour to cast. Can be OP with a smart player.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
3rd. Spirit Guardians is really good, but not OP. Healing Spirit is wildly OP. It's easier to ban it than try to fix it. Glyph of Warding is good, but takes 1 hour to cast. Can be OP with a smart player.

Healing spirit has been HEAVILY nerfed. It now heals a maximum of 1+ spellcasting ability modifier so Max about 6d6 (total, not per person healed), still 1d6 at a time and still concentration. So it's barely useful, much less OP!
 


Honestly I think what DMs need to prepare for isn't anything Clerics do in combat, but all the divination and exploration oriented spells. You've got to be prepared for them to Zone of Truth npcs, speak with corpses, scry on people, send 25 word messages across the multiverse. Any of those things have a lot more potential to mess up a DMs plans or force them to make important story decisions on the spot than cheesing a combat ever will.

Wizards or memorized casters are unlikely to make the substantial investments to learn many of these sorts of spells and whatever they do take you will get used to them using at every opportunity. But any Cleric (or Druid) who has an inkling that such spells might come in handy on a given day might prepare them without the DM having any idea they're coming.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
So I really like clerics thematically as buff, heal, divination, and some weird utility type spellcasters. Narratively I generally don't like clerical god laser blasting spells, though divine hammer flamestrike and holy word type things don't really rub me the wrong way. Generally I like zaps to be arcane and a lot of damage to come round to round from the martials. With the clerical daily access to anything on the spell list it is easy to find and load up on the rare spells that are arguably off theme or overpowered.

I can't say about Tasha, but with PHB and Xanathar I don't feel like I have much to worry about.

I am also not a big fan of "blasting" Clerics, especially when their religion of choice does not have a matching theme, but instead of levelled spells the thing that can bother me most is the Sacred Flame cantrip. It's not about balance (damage is in line with others) but it's very much about the image: every cleric can get this cantrip, and at low levels, when spell slots are scarce, they're going to spam it left and right, and that pretty much creates the laser-zapper image which IMHO is quite inappropriate for almost every domain.

Cantrips. Guidance is a monumental nuisance. Literally every action anyone takes...ever...the cleric will shout out "I cast guidance!" Better banned.

It is indeed... Guidance and the dumb "Druid will not use wooden armor and shield" are the only 2 things in 5e that I really believe were done wrong, and I have been saying that since 2014.

I do not ban Guidance, but adjudicate it non-applicable for activities that either require more time than the cantrip duration or that are spread over time (e.g. extended social interaction or information gathering), that assume repeated/continuous attempts (e.g. passive perception) or that represent the result of something done in the past (e.g. knowledge), none of which are specified how to deal with by the RAW of the cantrips. If I still ever get the feeling than a player is overexploiting the cantrip, I reduce the need for ability checks in the first place in the game.
 

S'mon

Legend
Spirit guardians combined with spiritual weapon is a favorite. Makes a melee focused cleric a bit of a nightmare.

Those two plus a good AC (eg Forge Cleric) & the Dodge action works really well. But I see plenty of Clerics waste Spirit Guardians by getting hit on the first enemy's turn and failing their CON save. It takes some effort to use it effectively.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Another important part of balance is concentration. Yes, the Spirit Guardians spell is powerful, but it requires concentration--which means that they cannot cast other good Cleric spells like Bless, Shield of Faith, Silence, Hold Person, Protection from Energy, etc. Certain magic items might also require concentration to use.
 

In combat, the cleric isn't something that going to be a major encounter breaker. There's a few tricks they've got going for them, but having both played and DMed them, this isn't a class you need to worry about.

Outside of combat they can be a pain in the #@^ if the player decides to spam divination. Augury is primarily useful to let them know if they're going down the wrong path, but Divination and then Communion can be repeatedly used to try and get more information than the DM is ready to give out. I've found it's best to work with the player to have the spells provide the necessary information, but have their deity not appreciate constant "phone calls."

Oh, and be careful with Zone of Truth, which is can be a nightmare if you're not prepared. Make sure your mooks don't know everything, and the leaders be willing to die before giving up certain information. Otherwise, the players might simply hold someone captive until they fail the save, then tell them to answer or die, once again putting more information available than you're ready. Oh, and one loophole to the spell is that it's based on what the target believes, so they can "lie" if they think the lie is true.

Another important part of balance is concentration. Yes, the Spirit Guardians spell is powerful, but it requires concentration--which means that they cannot cast other good Cleric spells like Bless, Shield of Faith, Silence, Hold Person, Protection from Energy, etc. Certain magic items might also require concentration to use.
IME, Spirit Guardians ends due to a failed concentration save most combats. The cleric is going to be fairly close, almost certainly in melee range, and this spell draws aggro like crazy. My dwarf cleric took Resilient (Con) with an 18 Con to make sure this didn't happen very often, but even with Plate armor I still took the Dodge action quite a bit!
 

aco175

Legend
Do you let the players take spells from anywhere, or just core, or just PHB? I limit the the choice to PHB and then I fill in from there. I use it a bit like wizards and spellbooks where a cleric could find a book with prayers in it. Some may be new spells that are in another source that they can study and now choose from when they pray in the morning. The counter argument is that god knows all these spells already, so why would he hold them back from his faithful doing his business. I like to think that spells get passed down and some fall out of use and others become more prevalent. There is also research into new spells that may not have spread out from the source. I also may restrict spells to certain gods and only followers of that god may get it.

This may help control any power spells in your game to some degree.
 



Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Moonbeam was the all-star cleric combat spell in the 5e game I've been running (currently at 5th level). Essentially no targeting problems.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
You don’t need to worry that much about speak with dead, divination, or the like. Information is the fuel of investigation. It keeps the engine running. Interpreting the information properly is where things get sticky.

 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Honestly I think what DMs need to prepare for isn't anything Clerics do in combat, but all the divination and exploration oriented spells. You've got to be prepared for them to Zone of Truth npcs, speak with corpses, scry on people, send 25 word messages across the multiverse. Any of those things have a lot more potential to mess up a DMs plans or force them to make important story decisions on the spot than cheesing a combat ever will.
I am more of a mind that "surveillance technologies" exist, and the DM needs to accept that as the reality of how the world works. And do adventures accordingly.

By the way, I created a cheap equipment item called "holy salt" to pour a sealed circle of salt that has planar blocking effect (compare Magic Circle) and that also blocks divination within the salt barrier. I use it if I need to block out a room for whatever reason. But in fact, I rarely ever need it.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I am more of a mind that "surveillance technologies" exist, and the DM needs to accept that as the reality of how the world works. And do adventures accordingly.

By the way, I created a cheap equipment item called "holy salt" to pour a sealed circle of salt that has planar blocking effect (compare Magic Circle) and that also blocks divination within the salt barrier. I use it if I need to block out a room for whatever reason. But in fact, I rarely ever need it.

Agreed. Too many adventures take the step of nerfing divination as "too easy" where they should just be rolling with it.
 

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