D&D (2024) The Cleric should be retired

The cleric has three fundamental problems as a class. The first is that there are basically no fictional clerics outside near-explicit D&D fiction that match D&D clerics. The second is that their holy spellcaster schtick is pressed on from all sides by people who do it better. And the third is that thanks to the nature of prepared casting that their magic is very cookie cutter with, other than domain spells, all clerics being able to prepare the same spells.

There are between two and five archetypes for fictional divine casters, all of which are better filled by non-clerics because the cleric-exclusive combination of strong armour (at least medium + shield), divine magical healing, and turn undead is so rare.
  • The Final Fantasy White Mage - wears robes or cloth armour not solid armour, and is almost all about the magic. Possibly lives in a cloister. Far more a Divine Soul Sorcerer than a cleric.
  • The Holy Warrior with some magic. This is where the cleric started but hasn't really been the cleric since divine magic got jacked up by 3.0. And at least since 4e Essentials the Paladin has felt like a better fit here.
  • The Agent of the Divine. Generally low key magic and knowledge until they absolutely bring it. Frequently looks either like a humble priest or not a follower of the divine at all. The Celestial Warlock is both thematically and mechanically a better fit here.
  • The hermity wise man who lives in the middle of nowhere. This always feels more druidic (or even rangery) than clerical to me.

I'm not saying the cleric can't do any of these roles - but they are squeezed by classes that do it better.
 

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Mephista

Adventurer
I find it amusing that the White Mage is offered as an alternative to the cleric.... when its literally based on the cleric. The original final fantasy classes are based on D&D, after all.

The heavily armored cleric is a relic of early d&d, sure. But other than swapping out armor for robes... its almost always the same thing as the cleric. The Priest class in World of Warcraft. White Mage in Final Fantasy. Almost any organized religious figure in most fantasy stories. The only real difference is that these fantasy priests are wearing priestly smocks, nun habits, or monk robes in place of armor.

The cleric isn't squeezed out by anything. Its still the divine spellcaster with anti-undead magic. It has a definite role within modern stories and within many games.
 



Pedantic

Legend
I find it amusing that the White Mage is offered as an alternative to the cleric.... when its literally based on the cleric. The original final fantasy classes are based on D&D, after all.

The heavily armored cleric is a relic of early d&d, sure. But other than swapping out armor for robes... its almost always the same thing as the cleric. The Priest class in World of Warcraft. White Mage in Final Fantasy. Almost any organized religious figure in most fantasy stories. The only real difference is that these fantasy priests are wearing priestly smocks, nun habits, or monk robes in place of armor.

The cleric isn't squeezed out by anything. Its still the divine spellcaster with anti-undead magic. It has a definite role within modern stories and within many games.
I don't think that's quite true. the White Mage is explicitly bad with weaponry, and pretty exclusively casts spells, while the cleric has this "casts some spells, then uses a mace" thing going on, in addition to the armor point.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The cleric has three fundamental problems as a class. The first is that there are basically no fictional clerics outside near-explicit D&D fiction that match D&D clerics. The second is that their holy spellcaster schtick is pressed on from all sides by people who do it better. And the third is that thanks to the nature of prepared casting that their magic is very cookie cutter with, other than domain spells, all clerics being able to prepare the same spells.

There are between two and five archetypes for fictional divine casters, all of which are better filled by non-clerics because the cleric-exclusive combination of strong armour (at least medium + shield), divine magical healing, and turn undead is so rare.
  • The Final Fantasy White Mage - wears robes or cloth armour not solid armour, and is almost all about the magic. Possibly lives in a cloister. Far more a Divine Soul Sorcerer than a cleric.
  • The Holy Warrior with some magic. This is where the cleric started but hasn't really been the cleric since divine magic got jacked up by 3.0. And at least since 4e Essentials the Paladin has felt like a better fit here.
  • The Agent of the Divine. Generally low key magic and knowledge until they absolutely bring it. Frequently looks either like a humble priest or not a follower of the divine at all. The Celestial Warlock is both thematically and mechanically a better fit here.
  • The hermity wise man who lives in the middle of nowhere. This always feels more druidic (or even rangery) than clerical to me.

I'm not saying the cleric can't do any of these roles - but they are squeezed by classes that do it better.
I'd posit that this is backwards. Instead of getting rid of the cleric because of all of these other subclasses and specialties, we get rid of all of these and just one one single class that can cover these archetypes.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
IMO, there's nothing wrong with the cleric as-written. The number of mentions in popular fiction isn't a metric I'm interested in. The class features of other classes isn't the cleric's problem. And the reason clerics always prepare the same spells with rare exception is the same for all classes: bards, druids, wizards, etc., all have their must-have spells. If this is a problem, it's not unique to the cleric.
  • Clerics of the Life Domain are excellent "white mage" stand-ins, especially if I add the Acolyte background for that 'cloistered' feel. A divine soul sorcerer is also a good analog.
  • And I think clerics of the War Doman are excellent "holy warrior" stand-ins, as are paladins, divine soul sorcerers, and celestial warlocks. Whether or not they are 'better' than cleric is going to depend on the vibe of the campaign and the DM's style.
  • All clerics and paladins are de-facto "agents of the divine" characters, but I feel like divine soul sorcerers, celestial warlocks, evangelist bards, and any garden-variety cultist will fit the bill.
  • The description of "hermity wise man who lives in the woods" that you gave could be a druid, sure, but really this could apply to any character with the Hermit or Outlander background and a high Wisdom score.
IMO, the versatility of the different classes, and how they can all be modified and configured to look like whatever iconic character type you have in mind, is a feature of the system....not a problem with the cleric.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I don't think that's quite true. the White Mage is explicitly bad with weaponry, and pretty exclusively casts spells, while the cleric has this "casts some spells, then uses a mace" thing going on, in addition to the armor point.
Red Wizards are the gish then?
 


Clint_L

Hero
The cleric has three fundamental problems as a class. The first is that there are basically no fictional clerics outside near-explicit D&D fiction that match D&D clerics.
Not a problem. D&D is it's own thing.
The second is that their holy spellcaster schtick is pressed on from all sides by people who do it better.
Really? Clerics seem pretty powerful in D&D. Consistently ranked as an upper tier class. Lotsa folks playing them. Not seeing it. Evidence?
And the third is that thanks to the nature of prepared casting that their magic is very cookie cutter with, other than domain spells, all clerics being able to prepare the same spells.
So...they're a D&D spellcaster? Is that a problem? Given that the game is D&D? What about this issue makes you target clerics, specifically?

I don't think any of your premises hold much water, so...yeah, I'm gonna say that it's not time to "retire" clerics, like that was ever remotely on the table for OneD&D.
 

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