D&D Next: The Iconic Cleric

Personally when I think of cleric I tend to almost reflexively envision an armored spellcaster, often with a holy symbol, and a lot of the time channeling divine energy as undead flee and/or disintegrate. Really though I think that a cleric class could have enough flexibility to wear heavy armor and emphasize melee, hang back and call down the wrath of her god, or something more in between. I guess I have just really never liked the idea that clerics all get heavy armor, a generally poor weapon selection, and either chase off or command undead.

As with my prior post on how I might do a wizard, here are some ideas I have been kicking around concerning the cleric.

No Turn Undead
I know that this is a staple of every basic cleric class, but it just does not make sense to give it to every cleric as not all gods really seem like they would care too much about undead critters. Instead it becomes a type of prayer (which I'll get to in a tick), perhaps limited to specific gods and/or requiring a feat.

Weapons and Armor
I like the idea of clerics sticking with weapons that their deity uses, so I would not restrict them. As for armor...well, I am on the fence here. One of the Legend & Lore or D&D Next articles mentioned a priest class as a more "wizardly" version of the cleric, and I kind of want them to have armor proficiencies based on their god as well. Like, I could see a cleric of Kord running around in heavy armor and a big sword, but I see a cleric of Ioun or Corellon as more lightly armored. I'd like to reflect that sort of thing, perhaps by letting them add Wisdom to AC or getting a flat AC bonus through some kind of arcane/faith shielding.

Almost every edition of D&D has included gods with associated domains, and it makes sense to keep them. The cleric chooses one of these domains (for now), perhaps gaining a benefit, but mainly determining the list of prayers and miracles that she can choose from, perhaps also proficiencies. A feat could let the cleric pick stuff from other domains, or she could just add more as she levels up. Depends on what they do and the initial power structure I want.

In books and movies priests brandish holy symbols, while reciting and/or repeating passages from holy scriptures in an attempt to ward away vampires, demons, and other monsters, to various degrees of efficacy. I could see clerics doing this to generate "aura" effects, similar to the skald subclass from Heroes of the Feywild. One could give an attack, damage, defense, skill, etc bonus, while others could do things like shed light and/or impose penalties to certain types of creatures. Another could boost healing or give damage resistances. Powerful prayers might be usable a limited number of times, or require a Standard action to maintain (like turn undead).

I would not want them to all necessarily be combat oriented, though I am having a hard time figuring out how to make it work otherwise. For example, a cleric devoted to a god of magic might be able to mutter a prayer while trying to identify a magic item, disable a ward, keep an arcane forge from exploding. Stuff like that. I just do not want it to happen all the time. I am thinking that some could be on a per-encounter basis like guidance, x times per day, or use some kind of other resource management system (who knows, could be points!).

It could be a general cleric feature, but only applicable to situations where it makes sense. Kind of how like in Exalted: Infernals you can use their excellencies on anything, but only when it fits the purview of whatever yozi you serve.

If you recall how sorcerers operated in 3rd Edition, this is where I am going with this one. The cleric has access to a group of powers related to her god, and can times per day call upon these when the situation arises. This is interpreted as the god intervening or answering a desperate plea for help. While this is very different from prior incarnations of the cleric, I like this because it is less the cleric pre-packing specific magic for later use, and more of the player taking narrative control when she thinks she really needs it.

Ideally I would like to incorporate some sort of mechanic where the cleric could regain the use of miracles over the course of a day, such as by tithing, performing ceremonies, converting followers, following her god's ideals, etc. I could also see clerics sacrificing defeated enemies and the corpses of creatures. At the very least it could be good for ritual purposes. Speaking of which...

Divine Rituals 
These basically work like the 4E stuff, except that they probably won't have as a diverse amount as wizards. I would still want to rely on specific types of ritual components, however; focuses like the bones of saints, burial shrouds, ashes, etc, and consumables like holy water, wafers, and incenses. Make it at least read differently.

So which--if any--of these ideas do you like? What would you change? What do you think a cleric needs to be "cleric-y" enough?


  1. I really do like the idea of having a lightarmored priest, blasting his foes with divine power vs the heavyarmored mace-wielder. Same with Turn Undead. It's one of the staple of DnD, just like the Critical Hit. So I can imagine that they keep it, but redesign its use. Prayers to me are what utility powers are now in general. Buffing powers, but perhaps also boons like visions and whatnot. Depending on what type of god you worship, as you point out.

  2. PS: Offtopic question: Do you plan on picking up on playing the rest of the previous editions? I really liked your first venturings into Ye Olde OD&D.

  3. I wanted to, but the rest of my group didn't want to spend more game nights doing that (especially since we stopped gaming on Sundays). :-/

  4. Cadderly Bonaduce (from Forgotten Realms) and Goldmoon (from Dragonlance) were both very light-armored priests, and I've always seen the Cleric shaped in this way.

    Also, in this way you can really make Paladins more important than they usually are.

  5. That is something I am trying to do: make the paladin something unique, as opposed to a fighter/cleric hybrid. One thing is that I would probably do away with prayers and rituals, giving them access to miracles and smite stuff.

    In the D&D hack my friends and I noodling about with, I've been presenting feat options to let characters easily pick up very basic things from other classes (rotes, prayers, etc), and I would preferably like to make it so that a fighter cannot just burn out some feats in order to effectively become a paladin.

  6. As a side note, as of this posting option 3 on the poll (the cleric should encompass both a mace-wielding, armor-wearing, undead turning warrior and a robe-wearing, divinely empowered spellcaster type) is leading pretty well over the option to make each their own class. Curious what people think and why.

  7. I like clerics as the catch-all class for any concept you can't get in the other classes. A scholar is a cleric of the god of knowledge, a gambler is a cleric of the god of luck, an executioner (if not a fighter) is a cleric of the god of death or justice, etc.

  8. I just want the ability for clerics belong to other gods to operate differently; I don't see a cleric dedicated to the god of thieves touring around in heavy armor clubbing things with a mace. I hope that they keep the favored weapon bit around so that clerics dedicated to Heironeous can easily and effectively use a sword.


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