I would be interested to see how the D&D Next Cleric plays, having used the class many times over in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.
In a nutshell, a cleric is a priest who serves a god, pantheon of gods, or a philosophy. They devote themselves to the will of their god and in return, they are granted a measure of power in order that they might further the cause of their faith.
They are passable warriors, but their strength mainly lies in their ability to tap into the divine power of their god and perform miracles, healing the injured and strengthening allies. While many individuals make up the priesthood of the church, the cleric is a servant who was specifically called into service by his god.
Mighty Man of God?
One major sticking point for most players of D&D 3.5 was the power level of the cleric which was considered too high. Having glanced through the playtest materials, it seems like the developers have taken note and reduced the cleric’s physical combat capabilities accordingly.
That said, mid level clerics have the ability to infuse their weapons with holy (or unholy) power, so a creature hit by the cleric would still know about it.
Chapter and Verse
Probably the most recognised ability of a cleric is his ability to use ‘divine magic’ – prayers that produce tangible effects in the campaign world.
A cleric’s defining attribute is his wisdom and this directly affects the potency of his spells. When he begins service as a cleric, he is granted a few minor gifts that he can use at will. These gifts continue to be useful throughout his career, so the cleric can still contribute once his spells are exhausted.
All the spells that we know and love are still there, but in an attempt to control the power level of the cleric, spells that improve your combat capabilities typically require concentration. As a result, only one such spell can be in effect at any one time. The good news is that these spells can be cast quickly.
Losing My Religion
A prospective cleric who wishes to serve a god must show more than lukewarm faith and not be ‘in it for the power’. A cleric is expected to live and breathe the tenets of his faith.
In past editions, falling short of your god’s standards will cut you off from your source of divine power until you redeem yourself, typically by performing a service for your deity. There’s no mention of this in the playtest, though that is not to say it won’t be in the final print…
Wing and a Prayer
Looking through the spell list, it seems the miracle spell is nowhere to be found. Instead, there is a class feature that serves a similar function.
If you find yourself in a bind, you can petition your deity for assistance and there is a small chance that your god will intervene. The more devoted and favoured you are, the higher the chance, but success is not guaranteed and the chances of it happening is still far less than assured.
The effect of this intervention is up to the DM, but usually consists of replicating an existing spell effect.
Practise What You Preach
Two clerics of the same god could choose to express their faith in different ways. For example, one priest might be interested in furthering Pelor’s desire to heal the sick while another believes in the life giving sustenance of light. They are aspects of the same god and are referred to as domains.
The domain you select influences what gifts are granted to you in addition to the divine power granted to all clerics. Only three domains have been released so far, but I imagine more will be added when the game is finally released.
On top of this, all clerics have the ability to channel the power of their gods. This ability varies depending on the domain chosen by the cleric and includes things like turning undead (available to all clerics), empowered healing and enhanced martial prowess.
Each domain grants other benefits besides divine magic, such as advanced martial training or the ability to momentarily blind your opponent and make it more difficult for him to hit you.
Once you establish yourself as a shining example of your faith, you gain a capstone ability related to your domain.
A Broad Church
If you’ve played D&D (any edition) before and were allowed to make one change to the class, what would you change? Do you like what you’ve read about the cleric or would you prefer not to fix what is not broken?
Edit: The newest edition of D&D is finally out and I created my own cleric character using those rules. I also intend to commission a digital 3D artist to build a 3D model that can be used to produce my own physical, 3D printed bespoke Dungeons and Dragons miniature. If you are interested in checking it out, please click here.