See, what I don't get is why people aren't ditching one of the Cleric or Paladin.
They are both priest-ish, one is a tiny bit more martial than the other.
I mean, 5e did an awesome job with the Paladin, but still.
Here's the way I see it.
Conceptually, clerics are priests. They are most likely to be found at an altar in a church addressing/blessing a congregation; or in the inner chambers of a temple performing rituals to please/appease a deity; or at a hidden holy site tending the sacred flame that protects the world from a great evil; etc.
I know, I know. That's rarely how they are described in a PHB
. But...this is where we have a pan-edition inconsistency. PHBs often describe them as warrior-priests, holy crusaders, or specially chosen individuals. But then
the same editions go on to use that very same class in adventures and campaign settings to represent those priests I just described. And contrary to the PHBs, not as the rare exception, but as the norm. Almost every religious location is presided over by clerics and manned with lower level cleric assistants. I choose to believe what they do
with the class over what they say
about the class.
Why? For the exact same reason they do it: the game needs a way of representing powerful supernatural priests
. The cleric works, so in D&D reality, it is the priest class. The idea that most priests lack magical powers, and only a few are actually clerics is a hassle that isn't natural to implement. They should just stop saying
that and have the book describe how the game is actually presented in the rest of the material.
Paladins are knights in shining armor. They are most likely to be found on horseback pursuing some mighty quest against evil; or at a church, temple, or shrine kneeling and being blessed by a cleric; or charging their horse with lance raised at a dragon or fiend. They are not priests.
Mechanically, clerics have traditionally been limited in their choice of weapons such that most can't wield a sword, the most iconic weapon of a paladin. Paladins always have hit dice and attack accuracy (in editions where this varied by class) comparable to a fighter, while clerics never have hit dice equal to a fighter. Clerics have always been major spellcasters, while paladins have always been minor ones, which is a huge indicator of where your class fits with regards to the others. That thing about which HD you have and how well you can hit, as well as weapon options is also traditionally a huge
definition of where your class fits with regard to other classes. Paladins have always been in the full warrior category, and clerics never have. As soon as paladins came into existence, any claim of clerics representing knight-crusaders rather than priests vanished in credibility.