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5E How is the Cleric in Actual Play?

Burnside

Explorer
My experience with clerics:

In a campaign I'm DMing, one player has played a human life cleric through LMoP, several AL adventures, and now 2/3rds of Curse of Strahd and is now level 8. Very powerful character once he hit about level 5, always has something to do, certainly has never complained that the class feels weak. Has plate mail which is a difference maker as it's very hard for non-casters to do anything to him, plus has really high wisdom saves. His Achilles heel is a -1 dex modifier.

Another campaign I DMed, my wife played a water genasi storm cleric through all of Sunless Citadel, several one-shots and some homebrew stuff, and some material pulled from Out of the Abyss. By default, she was often the party's primary front-line warrior (rest of party was rogue, bard, wizard, ranger) and was excellent in that role. Class felt very strong, and especially through tier one felt effectively like a fighter who was also a full caster.

Currently, I'm playing a hill dwarf arcana cleric in a friend's homebrew campaign. With magic missle, spiritual weapon, two wizard cantrips and dwarf weapon training, the character has solid offense and is versatile with a lot of utility in and out of combat. Unlike the life and storm cleric, the arcana cleric's channel divinity is very situational (can turn a single fiend, celestial, elemental, fey, or abberration) and relies on the DM to give you the opportunity. Has a good AC and excellent hp so can tank but often doesn't because the party is in trouble if he does go down. This is a hard experience to judge because the DM has house rules that put a lot of pressure on the cleric (there is no healing on short rests, and getting knocked out can cause lingering injuries). I did not know about these house rules before making the character. If I had, I would have made a life cleric as magical healing is very important in this campaign a la 2E, except that in 5E magical healing can't keep pace with damage and isn't really meant to keep everybody on their feet - it's designed to keep them from dying. But certainly the class itself as designed isn't what I'm struggling with in that campaign.
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
I would say clerics are pretty solid. Currently running a nature cleric, only level 4, but I can outshine most of the melee in melee, since with spiritual weapon I get 2 attacks at 3rd level, while those martial chumps have to wait to lvl 5 :]
Their design overall is pretty nice, as you have many "archetypes" to choose from since level 1, you can change your spell selection every day to suit your current needs and are one of the few spell casters that gets to wear medium/heavy armor without having to invest feats into it.
 

Raunalyn

Explorer
It really depends on your party composition as certain domains have fantastic synergy with other classes.

For example, in my ToA campaign, we had a Grave cleric, a Rogue, and a Divination Wizard. The synergy was frikkin' amazing. They had more than one occasion that they used the Divination Wizard's portent with a roll of 20, then had the Grave Cleric use their Channel Divinity to grant an enemy Vulnerability, and then had the Rogue sneak attack that target for some obscene damage. Acerak did NOT like that!
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
Played a 5th level cleric of light in a party with a diviner wizard, bard, and monk and felt I was clearly the most effective PC, perhaps a bit OP. I had no weaknesses, which ought to be impossible in D&D. I had the best AC, fireball, spiritual weapon (1d8 + caster stat dmg atk as a bonus action for 10 rounds), healing, an AoE which only targets enemies, decent stealth due to medium armour and the most useful skill - perception.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
Clerics work rather well, as long as you accept what they are...

Keep in mind that:

1. Clerics are full casters, not melee or halfcaster classes.

2. Clerics are strong healers, regardless of domain, but Life Clerics become absolute beasts at healing, while others fall behind.

3. Clerics have only a 1d8 hit die, and can't Wildshape into high-hp animals like the Druid. Some Clerics gain armor proficiency to make up for this.

4. Many of the Cleric's abilities, other than spells, are single use per long or short rest only, it's probably best to use things like Channel Divinity at (at low levels, before you gain more uses) only when you absolutely need them.

5. If you're fighting Undead, Clerics are stronger than average in Melee, and if you're not fighting Undead, most Clerics are weaker than average in Melee.

6. War and Tempest Clerics are monsters in terms of damage output for a full caster, other Clerics may disappoint.

7. If you take two or three feats, Nature Clerics are probably the strongest Cleric available.
 

Mistwell

Adventurer
6. War and Tempest Clerics are monsters in terms of damage output for a full caster, other Clerics may disappoint.
This is, frankly, sheer nonsense. You just listed two of the weakest domains for actual damage output, and claimed they were the strongest. Have you actually played a Forge or Light domain cleric for example? I am betting you have not.
 

Mistwell

Adventurer
Played a 5th level cleric of light in a party with a diviner wizard, bard, and monk and felt I was clearly the most effective PC, perhaps a bit OP. I had no weaknesses, which ought to be impossible in D&D. I had the best AC, fireball, spiritual weapon (1d8 + caster stat dmg atk as a bonus action for 10 rounds), healing, an AoE which only targets enemies, decent stealth due to medium armour and the most useful skill - perception.
This is our experience as well.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
This is, frankly, sheer nonsense. You just listed two of the weakest domains for actual damage output, and claimed they were the strongest. Have you actually played a Forge or Light domain cleric for example? I am betting you have not.
Oh really? Well, I bow to sagacity embodied. Instead of illustrating your points with mathematical proofs or class builds, you can just deride me as a fool.

Also, If any domain is the weakest, it's Trickery or Forge. Forge Clerics don't deal much in terms of raw, by turn, damage, but they can last a long time.

Please use logic, rather than accusations. :cool:
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
My group is pretty meh to the cleric. They think the bard is amazing, the druid is solid, the wizard is awesome.
Odd, in our group clerics and wizards are great, druids are good, and we think bards suck. :)
Bards really were pretty awful for quite a while. They were darn near inaccessible in 1e and pretty sad in 2e and better than they looked (but still not competitive with other full casters) in 3e. And, all the while, they were saddled with this ridiculous high-CHA-yet-obnoxious minstrel stereotype (cf Elan). 4e, of course, compulsively balanced classes, so even the Bard was solid, and 5e, while restoring the status quo ante in most cases, somehow got the idea that the Bard should be a genuine 9-spell-levels full caster. Maybe it was powering back up casters with such a broad brush that the Bard just got caught up in it.


I think, though, a defining question for Bard preference (4e or 5e) is how your group reacts to the discovery of a cantrip called Vicious Mockery. If they're all like "I can INSULT people to death?!? Woo-hooo sign me up!" the Bard will go over well with them. If they're more like "that's just not realistic, even with magic, hit point damage must represent physical injury..." ..oh well.


But the cleric...on paper it just doesn't seem that strong.
On paper, it's always seemed kinda strong - casting /and/ full armor and d8 HD? And scare undead away? Kinda a big deal back in the day - until you factored out the 'healing burden,' at which point they were d8 HD 1 att/rnd mace-wielding fighters. 3e, of course, eliminated the healing burden thanks to WoCLW, and we got CoDzilla, Tier 1 on paper or off. (4e shifted to healing burden to surges so had the luxury of balancing the cleric). 5e, on paper, shifts healing burden back to the cleric (and several other classes), but also leaves between-combat healing to HD, so the cleric isn't as burdened as all that...


...but, the Cleric and Bard still tend to suffer from just rather limited, not broadly-appealing concepts. The pious healer and the magical minstrel just don't stand out in genre the way the heroic warrior archetypes do.
 
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Mistwell

Adventurer
Oh really? Well, I bow to sagacity embodied. Instead of illustrating your points with mathematical proofs or class builds, you can just deride me as a fool.

Also, If any domain is the weakest, it's Trickery or Forge. Forge Clerics don't deal much in terms of raw, by turn, damage, but they can last a long time.

Please use logic, rather than accusations. :cool:
Sure. Forge Cleric build.
Another good one: Trickery Cleric Build Part 1, and Trickery Cleric Build Part 2.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
Interesting how you just linked to Youtube videos that supported your ideas without linking to anything about tempest clerics or war clerics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDC45RVyzw8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J117cD-A8s

Now, I don't actually think that Youtube videos on class builds are always very accurate or helpful, but linking to the work of others doesn't prove anything.

Best regards.
 

Mistwell

Adventurer
Interesting how you just linked to Youtube videos that supported your ideas without linking to anything about tempest clerics or war clerics.
You are incorrect as he mentions other subclasses, but you would have no way to know that as I linked to 3 hours of videos and you replied within less than 5 minutes.

And Treantmonk is good by the way. And pretty well respected, going back to the 3e days, and on this board and the WOTC board, Reddit, and elsewhere. You're free of course to disagree with him and not everyone likes him, but at least bother to check it out before dismissing it?

BTW it's not that I think the two domains you mentioned are bad; it's that I think they're not necessary very strong for the thing you claimed they did, or your claim people will be disappointed with any other domain other than those two for damage dealing. I asked if you had played the others, and I note you didn't respond?
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
You are incorrect as he mentions other subclasses, but you would have no way to know that as I linked to 3 hours of videos and you replied within less than 5 minutes.

And Treantmonk is good by the way. And pretty well respected, going back to the 3e days, and on this board and the WOTC board, Reddit, and elsewhere. You're free of course to disagree with him and not everyone likes him, but at least bother to check it out before dismissing it?
I have other things to do with my time than watch three hours of YouTube videos before I respond. If I have missed something, then I apologize.
 

Burnside

Explorer
Bards really were pretty awful for quite a while. They were darn near inaccessible in 1e and pretty sad in 2e and better than they looked (but still not competitive with other full casters) in 3e. And, all the while, they were saddled with this ridiculous high-CHA-yet-obnoxious minstrel stereotype (cf Elan). 4e, of course, compulsively balanced classes, so even the Bard was solid, and 5e, while restoring the status quo ante in most cases, somehow got the idea that the Bard should be a genuine 9-spell-levels full caster. Maybe it was powering back up casters with such a broad brush that the Bard just got caught up in it.


I think, though, a defining question for Bard preference (4e or 5e) is how your group reacts to the discovery of a cantrip called Vicious Mockery. If they're all like "I can INSULT people to death?!? Woo-hooo sign me up!" the Bard will go over well with them. If they're more like "that's just not realistic, even with magic, hit point damage must represent physical injury..." ..oh well.


On paper, it's always seemed kinda strong - casting /and/ full armor and d8 HD? And scare undead away? Kinda a big deal back in the day - until you factored out the 'healing burden,' at which point they were d8 HD 1 att/rnd mace-wielding fighters. 3e, of course, eliminated the healing burden thanks to WoCLW, and we got CoDzilla, Tier 1 on paper or off. (4e shifted to healing burden to surges so had the luxury of balancing the cleric). 5e, on paper, shifts healing burden back to the cleric (and several other classes), but also leaves between-combat healing to HD, so the cleric isn't as burdened as all that...


...but, the Cleric and Bard still tend to suffer from just rather limited, not broadly-appealing concepts. The pious healer and the magical minstrel just don't stand out in genre the way the heroic warrior archetypes do.
I played a 2E bard from levels 5-11ish and I thought the character was extremely powerful. 2E bards had access to all wizard spells, and could add found spells to their spellbooks. That was pretty huge. Agree that 3E bards are pretty terrible.

Currently playing a 5E lore bard through Tomb of Annihilation (currently level 8) and I'm loving it. Always have something to do in every round and every situation, and with magical secrets has at least some decent offense. In fact I'd say he feels OP in comparison to the party's scout rogue and fey pact tomelock - though he is not as powerful as the party's shepherd circle druid, which is an unbelievably strong class. There's no reason to play the stereotypical bard personality either. Mine is a bit like David Tennant's Doctor and a bit like Fitz from Agents of Shield.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I played a 2E bard from levels 5-11ish and I thought the character was extremely powerful. 2E bards had access to all wizard spells, and could add found spells to their spellbooks. That was pretty huge.
That is pretty huge, and I did not recall that part (I thought they had a more restricted list), I also seemed to recall, tough, that they 'only' got up to 6th level spells...? ...that they essentially ended up a bit like a Wizard/Thief?

Currently playing a 5E lore bard through Tomb of Annihilation (currently level 8) … I'd say he feels OP in comparison to the party's scout rogue and fey pact tomelock - though he is not as powerful as the party's shepherd circle druid...
I'm not surprised, the 5e Bard did get quite the upgrade.
 

Burnside

Explorer
That is pretty huge, and I did not recall that part (I thought they had a more restricted list), I also seemed to recall, tough, that they 'only' got up to 6th level spells...? ...that they essentially ended up a bit like a Wizard/Thief?
It's true - they do cap at 6th level spells and yes at levels 13+up 2E wizards were way better than bards, but then high-level 2E wizards were way better than any class in that game. But at low-to-mid level, 2E bards were actually a lot more effective than wizards, trailing only slightly behind wizards in spell progression & slots and with the ability to add ANY wizard spell to their spellbook. They also could use ANY weapon and ANY magic item. Plus they used the thief XP table for levels, so they were likely to hit level 7 when the wizard was level 5.
 
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Ashrym

Explorer
...so even the Bard was solid, and 5e, while restoring the status quo ante in most cases, somehow got the idea that the Bard should be a genuine 9-spell-levels full caster. Maybe it was powering back up casters with such a broad brush that the Bard just got caught up in it.
It's because multiclassing structure precludes a caster between 1/2 and full. During playtest we were giving feedback that bards were clearly much closer to full casters than rangers and paladins in every edition.

That was easy to back up with spells available and progression. 4E structured classes similarly and bards were flavored magical.

3E had bard: caster levels as standard while rangers and paladins caster levels were at half level, bards had a large list and many spells, they went up to 8th level (releveled to 6th to meet bard spells), and more than enough magical songs to make up the difference. In the end, combining spells with songs into one mechanic is simpler and works better with the MC tables.

Whether casters were powered back up or not (we disagree on that) is irrelevant. Bards were fit into the mechanics adapted as best they could. They very near full casters by following full progression tables but not quite because they don't get abilities to improve spell casting like other spell casters do.

It was deliberate and I think well done.

I'm also never one to let flavor be imposed on my characters. That includes clerics and bards. They fit my concepts instead of dictating them.

I played a 2E bard from levels 5-11ish and I thought the character was extremely powerful. 2E bards had access to all wizard spells, and could add found spells to their spellbooks. That was pretty huge. Agree that 3E bards are pretty terrible
Bards were my favorite 3e class, lol. Sure, not CoDzilla but skills and spells and songs could definitely be strong, especially with PrC's 2e they were usually higher levels than the rest of the party based on the progression table and bonus XP system.

OT: It matters less what a person plays than how he or she plays it. I have joined groups and asked them what they want me to play and have fun with anything.

Cleric work fine for me. I prefer war, tempest, knowledge, and light. Spell-caster-in-a-can tends towards better durability at lower levels, healing technically isn't required but it is useful, and thete are plenty of wothwhile spells to work with.

I prefer better AC to shapeshift hp cushioning because I find the hit points can go too quickly without the armor, HAM can be applied, and beastform restricts spell casting.

Having domain spells added to spells prepped is a big advantage and works well with the way the class applies the ritual caster feat.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
It's because multiclassing structure precludes a caster between 1/2 and full.
I don't see how it does, actually. Any other ratio could have been used, or classes could have been given explicit 'caster levels.'

During playtest we were giving feedback that bards were clearly much closer to full casters than rangers and paladins in every edition. That was easy to back up with spells available and progression. 4E structured classes similarly and bards were flavored magical.
Not surprising, but the 3e bard was, as you point out, also technically a full caster, just one with a slower progression that only reached 6th level spells.

Whether casters were powered back up or not (we disagree on that) is irrelevant.
Oh, they have been, though you can debate to what degree.
And, I don't think it's irrelevant to the Bard's WotC-edition arc: from 3rd Tier compared to the Wizard's Tier 1 in 3e & the butt of jokes, to nominally balanced with everything from Wizard down to lowly fighter in 4e & rehabilitated as a 'leader,' to finally being the traditional Wizard's near-equal in 5e & kinda baddass.
The Bard's quite a success story.

And a pretty serious alternative to Cleric. (to nod towards the actual topic)


Bards were my favorite 3e class, lol. Sure, not CoDzilla but skills and spells and songs could definitely be strong, especially with PrC's 2e they were usually higher levels than the rest of the party based on the progression table and bonus XP system.
3e Bards were not a badly-designed class in 3e, and if you were willing to mess with their schtick, could be adapted to some quite interesting concepts. The Fighter & Sorcerer were better designs, in that they were more elegant, but the Bard wasn't far behind. One concept I never got to try in 3e was a Bard who's 'inspiration' took the form of unsolicited advice - a comical, yet useful, backseat adventurer (ironically, it worked even better as a warlord in 4e, and is out of bounds, again, in 5e).
If that latitude it was given with it's inspiration in 3.x had been more assertively put forth and/or broadly accepted, it might've been better received.
 
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Lichemaster

Registered User
The Cleric is :):):):):):) in my game!
Constantly using teleportation circle to drive the story by going to magical lands all over the globe, using revivify to bring characters back from the dead, healing the players during and after combat, using magic circle (arcana domain) in combat to give the monster disadvantage (when they can plan battles out) and then just using banishment on the most powerful piece to remove it from the fight till they clean everything else up. Dispel magic helps too as the group has no wizard, so yeah he's a dick and to powerful, make a monk for something?
 
Clerics aren't bad, I think people dislike the class because historically they have been expected to heal. They are not the best healers anymore, at least not for out of combat recovery, druids are. If you have a group that doesn't expect you to be a healbot and you know your spells, clerics are pretty good damage and support and are pretty sturdy. They can heal in combat fairly well when it becomes necessary... though in-combat healing is usually a bad option in this edition. If someone plays a life cleric and blasts all of their resources away on cure wounds, I can see how they might think the class is bad.

That said, as mentioned earlier, they are still good for other reasons. Spirit Guardians is a beast of a spell.
 

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