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Creative Class Constructs: Clerics

Written by Paul Rehac - Published on December 23, 2013

Let’s say you have a player who is new to fantasy tabletops, but is familiar with video games/books/movies in the genre. They know the stereotypes — a back-stabbing kleptomaniac rogue, a hardy fighter wielding a big sword, a pious cleric with so many heal spells he could be named “Band-aid” and a wizard who bends the laws of the universe, yet only casts fireballs/lightning bolts. What exactly is there to draw rookie players into the characters they’re about to play, if all they seem to be a copy of these tropes? And what’s going to keep veteran players coming back if the details change, yet the actual roles of their characters still stay the same?

This article is going to address the issue of these class stereotypes, and different ways we can fix them — having them remain functional but interesting. Just now I listed four main stereotypes of classes, but there are many more, so I’m going to turn this into a series. The first class I intend to break down is the Cleric — aka, Healbot.

Clerics are a diverse bunch. With creative players, and those that can properly roleplay mixed alignments, there could be a whole party made up entirely of clerics — one to heal, one to tank, one for support, and one as a blaster. It would run pretty smoothly (until they run into a locked door). So why is it that the majority of clerics have the same procedure; do a booster, then throw a buff spell, wait until someone gets hurt, throw another heal, cast a bless, repeat. Here are some ways to hep your players break the mold.

The Battlepriest is an age-old concept; it shows up both in fantasy as well as history. There’s nothing to not like about them — Clerics can wear heavy armor, carry shields, and wield heavy weapons.  They can take a beating, dish out a beating and all those buffing spells can’t hurt either. A battlepriest is a healthy mix of tank and dps, who works as a proactive healer, as opposed to a reactive healer — that’s to say, they prevent damage before it can happen, instead of scrambling to fix a problem that’s already occurred. A Battlepriest focuses more on combat than healing, but can still bust out the classic Cure Serious when someone’s getting low. Alternative healing sources are recommended however, as a Battlepriest can’t focus on healing all the time.  That’d defeat the point.

Then there’s the Slayer — a cleric of any alignment who focuses all their energy into eliminating their foes as quickly and efficiently as possible. This practice could hail from religious, personal, or social beliefs; whatever fits! With spells ranging from Searing Light to Inflict Serious Wounds (for the evil-inclined) clerics can pack a nasty punch. In 3.5e there’s even a metamagic feat that will let you cast touch-range damaging spells as 30 foot rays! All in all a Slayer is a nasty foe, and a useful ally. Like a Battlepriest they work on the proactive front: They can’t kill you if they can’t breathe. Slayers work best as neutral or evil priests, giving them access to Inflict spells and the like.

Finally there is one of my roles: Crowd Control. Clerics are well known for their buffing and debuffing capabilities, and in most systems are given a great deal of spells that allow them to mold the battlefield in their favor (Glyph of Warding, Wind Wall, Darkness, and Sound Burst to name a few). Playing a Controller cleric can be not only fun, but extremely rewarding. The ability to bend the battlefield in favor of the party can make any fight that much easier, and will allow your allies to take less grief than they’re dishing out, leaving you with more spell slots open for the spells you’d rather be casting.

If you like where I’m headed with this, have any ideas for cleric alternatives I didn’t cover, or if there’s a class you next want me to explore, please leave comments! I’d love to hear them.

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Written by Paul Rehac

Paul Rehac

Hey! Paul here. I’m a writer and a gamer — have been for almost ten years now! As a dungeonmaster I focus primarily on storytelling and immersion, and do my best to make every game as captivating as possible. As a player I’m all about the character and the roleplay, and I’m more than content to never roll a die.

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2 Responses to “Creative Class Constructs: Clerics”
  1. LonePaladin says:

    I’d like to point out that a Slayer can prepare Inflict X Wounds spells regardless of alignment, so it’s possible to play a good-aligned Slayer cleric.

  2. Drakkan says:

    In 4th edition we have the Devoted Cleric, the Battle Cleric, the Warpriest and the Templar, which fill all the described niches above and more.

    A Devoted Cleric can heal and debuff (a Pacifist does this and more), whereas a Warpriest can give a good smack in melee and do some healing at the same time,

    IMHO, whoever said that the tropes exploded in 4th edition hasn’t given it a serious look past 2010 ;)

    Cheers !

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