D&D 5E Playing non-healer clerics

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
Gone are the days where you need to spend half your spell slots on heals, especially with short rest healing, but you should still consider having some for emergencies to keep people in the running.
I always prepare cure wounds at lower level and hope to not have to use it
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Personally, my PCs are never really healers per se. I will pick up healing word and aid for bringing back downed party members during combat in a pinch, and I will keep revify on hand as long as the party pitches in for the diamond. But I am not going to top you up between combats because that is generally not the character I like to play
I've been doing that since 2e.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Gone are the days where you need to spend half your spell slots on heals, especially with short rest healing, but you should still consider having some for emergencies to keep people in the running.
All that said, there isn't much that beats the healing power of a life cleric with the Goodberry spell :)
 


Since each class has it's "thing" that it's sort of expected to do, like fight monsters or bypass traps, it's natural for players to go "ah! you can heal us, that's your thing! do that!".

But healing is a thankless job. Most of your spells are woefully inefficient compared to anything else you could be doing. Much of the time, you're expected to save other players from their own lapses in judgement. Be it the Barbarian using Reckless Attack too much, or a dual-wielding Rogue bellying up to a powerful melee enemy.

"Oh it's fine, the Cleric will heal us!"

Except the Cleric will run out of spell slots fast that way, while many other classes can keep doing their thing all day long as long as they have hit points. And it's not very fun, either- even just using Healing Word every turn to pop up characters relegates you to nothing more interesting than cantrip spam.

Cure Wounds isn't even twice as good as Healing Word, and requires you to run up and touch a guy to heal him. It's just not a battle you can win.
If only we could design a game where providing support to your allies was actively fun in and of itself, and where the tools and resources for providing healing were reliable, effective, and an expected part of play.

But surely such a game is impossible.

(Just to be clear, you are not the target of my sarcasm here. You just provided the jumping-off point.)
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
If only we could design a game where providing support to your allies was actively fun in and of itself, and where the tools and resources for providing healing were reliable, effective, and an expected part of play.

But surely such a game is impossible.

(Just to be clear, you are not the target of my sarcasm here. You just provided the jumping-off point.)
Oh no, I get it. And it's really easy, you know? You could create spells or abilities that let you attack or do things, and hand out good healing or buffs to allies simultaneously, so you're contributing to situations both directly and indirectly.

But some people don't like that sort of thing, because that's not how D&D was played for 30+ years or whatever.
 


But some people don't like that sort of thing, because that's not how D&D was played for 30+ years or whatever.
Sure. That means they don't want to play characters designed to do support.

"There are people who don't want to support others, they want to be directly active themselves" is a GREAT reason to design the core type of character options (for D&D, that type is "classes") so that some do that and others don't. It is a TERRIBLE reason to decide that support should suck and be generally ineffective and uninteresting.
 

aco175

Legend
5e changed some of the cleric schtick in that there are bonus action healing spells, that allow clerics to do something and heal where needed. Kind of like how 3e allowed you to take spells other than healing and convert them if needed. 5e tries to make cleric a healer and allow you to do other things like fireball or such.

When your party only has 4-5 people filling roles, you want to fill them with people who can do their job. The problem is that in the game we have players and characters. Everyone wants to let players play to PC they want to play instead of having the leader of the party sitting at the tavern and interview characters for the mission.

"Hi, I'm Bob the 4th, and I'm putting a band together to raid the goblin tombs."
"I'm Pyrro the fire cleric. I do not cast healing and like to cast area fire spells."
"We already have a fire mage that has all the fire spells."
"But, I'm a cleric."

So we let the player play the PC they made to have fun for everyone and then hope/blame the DM for not adjusting or giving out more healing or places to rest. Then the player tells the others to spend their 4th level feat to take the one that lets you cast a single 1st level spell if you want more.
 

ECMO3

Hero
If only we could design a game where providing support to your allies was actively fun in and of itself, and where the tools and resources for providing healing were reliable, effective, and an expected part of play.

But surely such a game is impossible.

(Just to be clear, you are not the target of my sarcasm here. You just provided the jumping-off point.)

Well each to his own. I get what you are saying and some players have fun that way, but that role should not be forced on me just because the top of my character sheet says "Cleric". If you really think the party NEEDS a healer, then play a healer.

Also to pull on another comment, Fighters should not be expected to melee either. Someone used the example of Rogues and opening locks, but there is not really a resource or play style cost to that. Anyone with proficiency in thieves tools will generally do this and Rogues always have that proficiency. In that respect I think you can expect Rogues to TRY to open locks, but I don't think you should expect them to invest in dexterity or expertise to be good at it and if the Warlock took the Urchin background, you should expect him to try to open locks too.
 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Sure. That means they don't want to play characters designed to do support.

"There are people who don't want to support others, they want to be directly active themselves" is a GREAT reason to design the core type of character options (for D&D, that type is "classes") so that some do that and others don't. It is a TERRIBLE reason to decide that support should suck and be generally ineffective and uninteresting.
Here's the thing though. The game currently can't handle good support.

The last time I played 3.5, I decided to make a total support Cleric. I used Divine Metamagic/Persist Spell, but only to cast buffs on my allies. I combed through the books, finding party buffs that I could legally use Persist Spell with, and kept a stack of note cards that I would hand out to my friends "hey, you get these benefits for the day".

At first, this was no big deal, a +1 here or there. And generally, having cast those buffs, all I really did for the rest of the session was heal or use my reserve feat, or maybe one of my cute little x/day magic items.

By level 9 though, the DM and I had this long talk. "I appreciate that you weren't trying to make some kind of Clericzilla and stealing the spotlight. You've been helping everyone else be stronger, and shoring up their weaknesses. But, well, last session you gave everyone something like +4 to attacks, saves, and AC, and another +2 to AC and saves, and a huge damage buff against large and larger enemies. And I can't keep up! The enemies you're supposed to be fighting for your level aren't built to handle these kinds of numbers! I tried using spellcasters of my own, but by the time I get the challenge back to where it should be, half the monsters are dead! And worse, you actually dispelled a major buff, and when I tried to have someone do the same to you, it failed because you actually invested in ways to prevent that.

I want to be clear on this- you did nothing wrong. You didn't cheat or use any option that you didn't clear with me first. But the game balance is totally busted and the only way I have to fix it is by being really unfair, with enemies specifically designed to counter you."

I came away from this with a realization.

The game has to be playable regardless of how you build and play your characters. No one wants to have an assigned role, that they have to fulfill. The game math has to work with a baseline.

Pathfinder 1e tried to "assume" certain buffs were up, but that ran into problems too; like, they assumed someone was always casting haste. But that isn't always the case, and you can't punish people for not playing optimally.

Buffs have to be mediocre, unfortunately, and support kind of has to as well, otherwise the whole premise of "play the character you want" falls apart.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Yeah, the action economy on healing word is so much more valuable than the extra 2 points/die of healing that cure wounds offers. Cure wounds is basically only good for using up spell slots before a long rest. And even then, it's barely better than healing word.

As I've argued elsewhere, I think healing word is totally broken and the most impactful spell in 5e. Combat would play totally differently if healing word wasn't a thing. It's why I introduced automatic critical wounds if a character goes to 0 HP - so there'll be some kind of consequences.
 

ECMO3

Hero
5e changed some of the cleric schtick in that there are bonus action healing spells, that allow clerics to do something and heal where needed. Kind of like how 3e allowed you to take spells other than healing and convert them if needed. 5e tries to make cleric a healer and allow you to do other things like fireball or such.

When your party only has 4-5 people filling roles, you want to fill them with people who can do their job. The problem is that in the game we have players and characters. Everyone wants to let players play to PC they want to play instead of having the leader of the party sitting at the tavern and interview characters for the mission.

"Hi, I'm Bob the 4th, and I'm putting a band together to raid the goblin tombs."
"I'm Pyrro the fire cleric. I do not cast healing and like to cast area fire spells."
"We already have a fire mage that has all the fire spells."
"But, I'm a cleric."

So we let the player play the PC they made to have fun for everyone and then hope/blame the DM for not adjusting or giving out more healing or places to rest. Then the player tells the others to spend their 4th level feat to take the one that lets you cast a single 1st level spell if you want more.

When I come to a campaign generally I have an idea what it is about thematically - Nautical (Saltmarsh), Jungle exploration (TOA), Fighting cults (POTA, HODQ). I pick a character that will be fun in that campaign based on what I would like to play as in that campaign. Generally it is a character I think will be effective in that campaign (sometimes I am wrong). I NEVER and I mean NEVER consider what other people at the table are playing. Some of the players in groups I played with do and will pick something for balance or to complement the other characters, and that is ok, but that is not something I do when choosing a class. When choosing spells and feats and stuff I do consider what the other party members bring to the table, but not when it comes to the character theme and base design.

While having a Pyro Cleric and a Pyro Wizard may bring some weaknesses to some situations, it also brings some strengths to others.

When I played Tomb of Annihilation it was in a 3-person party where no one had Thieves tools proficiency and no one was really designed to be a melee guy (we had a Dwarf Mood Druid, a Half-Elf Fiend Warlock and my character was a Dragonborn Fey Wanderer/Whispers Bard.

Same group of 3 played another campaign called Rise of Drow with a ranged Arcane Archer/Arcane Trickster, a Ranged Gloomstalker and Aberrent Mind Sorcerer. The DM made fun of us, and we missed a few things because of it, and some fights were unique trying to figure out how to all stay out of melee, but it was still completely playable and fun.
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
When I come to a campaign generally I have an idea what it is about thematically - Nautical (Saltmarsh), Jungle exploration (TOA), Fighting cults (POTA, HODQ). I pick a character that will be fun in that campaign based on what I would like to play as in that campaign. Generally it is a character I think will be effective in that campaign (sometimes I am wrong). I NEVER and I mean NEVER consider what other people at the table are playing. Some of the players in groups I played with do and will pick something for balance or to complement the other characters, and that is ok, but that is not something I do when choosing a class. When choosing spells and feats and stuff I do consider what the other party members bring to the table, but not when it comes to the character theme and base design.

While having a Pyro Cleric and a Pyro Wizard may bring some weaknesses to some situations, it also brings some strengths to others.

When I played Tomb of Annihilation it was in a 3-person party where no one had Thieves tools proficiency and no one was really designed to be a melee guy (we had a Dwarf Mood Druid, a Half-Elf Fiend Warlock and my character was a Dragonborn Fey Wanderer/Whispers Bard.

Same group of 3 played another campaign called Rise of Drow with a ranged Arcane Archer/Arcane Trickster, a Ranged Gloomstalker and Aberrent Mind Sorcerer. The DM made fun of us, and we missed a few things because of it, and some fights were unique trying to figure out how to all stay out of melee, but it was still completely playable and fun.
We never feel bound by roles. Whatever happens, happens. Big fan of emergent play.

We have historically made sure to separate good and evil characters so that was the discussion.

If we are heroes we don’t talk about what we are taking. 30-40 years and a few editions—-never let us down.

I would guess the dm would say something if we all took a wizard or something but has not come up. We play what we want.

Whoever is dm-ing is probAbly pulling a few strings—-ways to buy potions—-if we don’t have healers.

But I cringe when I head “who is a tank or striker or support.” I am playing a warlock. Call him what you will…
 


Well each to his own. I get what you are saying and some players have fun that way, but that role should not be forced on me just because the top of my character sheet says "Cleric". If you really think the party NEEDS a healer, then play a healer.
Why not? If there's a "you are a holy warrior who kicks butt" class, why do you NEED to be a Cleric?

Also to pull on another comment, Fighters should not be expected to melee either
Why? If there is a class that does all the things you want to do as a ranged (or mixed ranged-and-melee) character, why does Fighter have to do that too?

Why do we need every class to be everything to everyone? More importantly, why do we need every class to be everything to everyone right away? If you can always build toward being really good at archery as a Fighter, even if it's not what you start off being good at or maybe even ignoring what you started out being good at...is that enough? If it isn't, why?
 
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ECMO3

Hero
We have historically made sure to separate good and evil characters so that was the discussion.

We have done this. Usually the DM kind of says - hey the story really requires good characters here.

Also although some have played evil characters, we don't do PvP.

But I cringe when I head “who is a tank or striker or support.” I am playing a warlock. Call him what you will…
me too!
 

ECMO3

Hero
Why not? If there's a "you are a holy warrior who kicks butt" class, why do you NEED to be a Cleric?

Because I am building and playing my character. This is player agency.

It is not up to the party what I play or how I play (with the exception of session 0 exclusions and such).

Why play a combat cleric instead of a Paladin? Becuase I don't want to fight by attacking with weapons. I want to use control spells and cantrips for that, or maybe I don't want to use weapons at all. I played a Dwarf Order Cleric with a 2-level Wizard dip and an 8 strength and 8 dex in plate. She was a tankish control caster, completed all of Call of Netherdeep without using a weapon a single time. Another cleric I played was a V Human tempest cleric who picked up booming blade, shocking grasp and Hex from Magic initiate. I wanted to be doing the holy warrior thing with thunder and lightning, not by banging with a sword.

I am playing a Paladin right now, but that character is more of a controler than a martial. She maxed Charisma at 8th level and almost never uses divine smite. She throws around frightened a lot either through cause fear (from Shadow Touched), Wrathful Smite or the Fear spell (from Conquest Paladin). She also uses command and hold person a lot. She does attack (usually from 10 feet away with a lance or whip), but that is not her main thing, her main thing is control. Both of the Clerics above were more front-line type tanky characters than she is, and to be honest with Lay on Hands she is more of a healer than they were.

There is nothing wrong with that.

Why? If there is a class that does all the things you want to do as a ranged (or mixed ranged-and-melee) character, why does Fighter have to do that too?

Because it is ME playing that and that is how I want to play that character.

To be honest when I want to play a character who is going to melee tank every single fight, I will usually play a Wizard. Bladesinger subclass, Blade cantrips, Protection from Evil and Good, Haste, Blur and use my high level slots for contingency and upcast false life. I will use very few offensive spells, when I do that. If you think we need a Wizard to throw around control spells or fireballs then you can play one.

That is how I like to melee, why should I be foreced into a Fighter, Barbarian or Paladin box to play a melee tank who wades into the thick of melee when the Wizard mechanics are more fun to me when playing that type of character?


Why do we need every class to be everything to everyone? More importantly, why do we need every class to be everything to everyone right away? If you can always build toward being really good at archery as a Fighter, even if it's not what you start off being good at or maybe even ignoring what you started out being good at...is that enough? If it isn't, why?


Player agency, that is why.

I should be allowed to play a character like I want to play a character and I should not be forced into a role because of my class. My character should not have a specific job just because of what is written on the top of my character sheet.

I also disagree with the idea that every class is everything. It is very hard to make a good melee sorcerer (I know I have tried to figure out how to do it and I can't) and it is also hard to make an effective dex-based Barbarian or a Barbarian that casts spells (even if you get them through race and feats, it is difficult to be effective using them).
 
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