Sidebar: Cleric Spells in D&D

It’s been a while since my last post. I haven’t had much bandwidth and I’ve been letting myself use the excuse of waiting for a play report from the last Malazan session, because I wasn’t there. I’m going to be running the next (third) session tomorrow, so there should be a report for that shortly thereafter.

I read a comment today lamenting that Cleric spells in 5e are “unevocative.” I do not know yet if the individual meant that as a general statement, or in relation to previous editions, but I remembered people having the same complaint about 3rd edition. I was never very familiar with 4th and I know it handled magic very differently (I was excited about that, but in my limited exposure to the system disappointed with the execution. I’ve never liked Vancian magic.) so that could well have never been a complaint by heavy 4e players, I just don’t know. But I remember the complaints about “having to play the cleric” when I played 3e a lot. Now, I have more of an affinity toward playing support roles than a lot of people I’ve gamed with, so maybe it’s that, but when I finally ended up playing the cleric I really enjoyed it. I found their spells made me get creative with how to use magic because there weren’t as many clear cut do this much damage, or add this bonus, etc spells as there are with Wizards and Sorcerers. To me, that made it more interesting. 3.0 was better at that than 3.5 (can’t cast create water inside a living creature? bah!)  and I haven’t spent a lot of time with the cleric spell list for 5e yet, so it seemed like a good exercise. I’m going to go through the spell list right now, probably up until the point that my wife wakes up, and share my thoughts on them.

0) Cantrips

The cantrips haven’t changed a whole lot from 3e. In general the spell lists look a lot like 3e. Sacred Flame is the Cleric’s damage cantrip, all the primary casters have one. It’s just a thematic swap on the same mechanic. Spare the Dying is tactically interesting, but, I’ll admit, not that exciting.

1) 1st level

Again, not much new. Some of these are interesting, though.

Command – I think it’s pretty interesting. It’s again tactically interesting with respect to combat, but also pretty cool with respect to roleplaying. I like to imagine the character using a booming, otherworldly voice. The one word bit makes it less exciting, but I think if the essence of the command is one word there’s no reason not to use more to get the same point across. It reminds me of Gandalf and the Balrog.

Create or Destroy Water – I had to know. It specifies “open container,” but doesn’t actually specify anymore that it can’t be inside a living creature. Now we just have to debate if lungs are a container. Containing is certainly one of their functions…

Healing Word – Ranged healing. Something we’ve all been asking for for a while, but not actually exciting. I mean healing is just what clerics do.

Sanctuary – Sanctuary can be pretty cool if you use it dramatically.

2) 2nd Level

Augury – Augury has the potential to be cool, but isn’t. Who has time to sit down and do a reading for what they might do for the next 30 minutes? Assuming the universe i.e. the DM doesn’t throw a wrench in their plans which s/he certainly will.

Prayer of Healing – Ranged, mass healing. Again things we want, but not actually exciting.

Warding Bond – this is pretty neat. I like the aspect of needing to stay in a certain range of the caster. I think it’s interesting tactically and roleplaying wise.

Zone of Truth – Zone of Truth can be cool. Especially if things are tense around some important story mystery.

And I’m going to stop there because life beckons. So far I’m tending to agree that cleric spells are rather dull. I’ll have to pay attention to that in my DMing. If this is interesting I can continue this exercise as I have time. Let me know!


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