1st Ed AD&D: The Cleric


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The Cleric


What party is complete without a Cleric ready to Turn some undead creature and ready with a Cure Light Wounds spell to keep the Fighter juiced up and in combat.

The Cleric is the oft-used resource for the ‘quick’ Heal spell to provide a nourishing boost to the front-line characters.

The question must be asked though: Is that it? Is that all they are? The Cleric can be so much more, and with some creative playing it should be.

The purpose of this document is to try and take the common idea of the AD&D Cleric (somewhere between the armed Churchmen of the Dark Ages and the witch hunter from the 15th century) and allow the Character to blossom into a rounded story led Character.

When measuring the position of the Cleric, with the Fighter at one end and the Magic-user at the other, the Cleric sits firmly in the middle. This can strain a Players relationship with the Cleric, and many find such a jack-of-all-trades difficult to relate to.  Hopefully by using the rules as written, this guide can allow the class to be re-explored and be seen from a different viewpoint.




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The Mechanics  

First, a word about the Cleric class. The Cleric is a most needed class for a party; at lower Levels, the Cleric can potentially cast up to 3 Spells in a single day, healing wounded party members, and at higher levels raising fallen comrades from the dead.

Clerics increase Levels rather quickly and are second to the Thief as fastest progressing Character class. The Special Abilities of the Cleric are Spell Casting and Turning Undead; and though the Cleric has no limit on the armour list, the class does have limited access to the weapon closet.

For the purposes of this treatise, we are sticking with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1stEdition; which means that the three races available to the Cleric class are: Human, Half-orc, and Half-elf.

Of these races, only the Human has the capacity for Unlimited levels of advancement, and the Half-orc and Half-elf stopping at Levels 4 and 5 respectively.

The other races have Clerics within their species, the Players are unable to select those Classes. This would be for balance of play. A dwarven Cleric with a Dwarven god as the deity, could seriously unbalance the game. A cleric already is strong in combat, has solid Hit Points (HP), the Special Abilities coupled with the Dwarven abilities would make a mighty character. There is nothing to stop the DM from allowing it, but the pitfalls are many.


The part time Half-elf

The primary issue with the Half-elf race is they lack the dedication and concentration of their Human side and lack the long-lived outlook of the Elven side. The Half-elf child raised with Elves will soon stand out as they reach a maturity faster than the other Elven children, an Half-elf will hit Young Adult status by the mid-20s, the Elf reaches the same level after a century. Alternatively, the Half-elf in a Human environment will seem very immature (25 is the new 16 for the Half-elf) and after a century and a half, the Half-elf will be midway through life. It’s a hard task to settle down and lay roots knowing that one could outlive grandchildren, the Half-elf life is the life of the constant traveler.

The Half-elf Cleric is often mixed with another class. The limitation of the 5thLevel cap of the Cleric class all but demands to be multi-classed, and while 5thLevel allows for 3rdLevel spells and auto-Turn Skeletons, Zombies, and Ghouls, the Multiclass Cleric combined with Fighter or Ranger provides real punching power, or, mixed with the Magic-user class allows for some powerful spell combinations (all these additional classes have a 6th to 8th Level cap – dependent upon stat scores). The wandering nature and the limitation of Level advancement is what makes the Half-elf a poor Cleric (but an excellent Druid), and generally they lack the commitment to faith that a Human has.


The brutish Half-orc

The Half-orc suffers at the hands of society, the Orc (or orc-like) appearance is enough to remind everyone of the mixed blood. The Half-orc Cleric is limited to 4th Level and as such will never be without a multi-class option, the benefit of being a Half-orc Fighter is that the maximum Level is 10th Level regardless of Strength – coupled with any CON bonuses, this places the Half-orc Fighter/Cleric at the top of the choice list.

Even though it sits in another genre, the character Rev Bem from the TV Series:Andromeda, is a prime example of a Half-orc Fighter/Cleric (even though he is a Magog – an aggressive carnivorous race that breed by infesting victims with eggs – you take my meaning). As a reverend of his faith he serves society as a Wayist, Rev Bem meets fear, shame, revulsion, and hatred daily.

Cleric/Thief and Cleric/Assassin are the other multi-classed options for the Half-orc and provide solid ongoing HP. Though one does question the Deity whose Clerics are also Assassins – always check with the DM, if it fits, all good, otherwise, perhaps better left for the Villainous NPCs.

Saving Throws

The following values make up a 1st  to 3rd Level Cleric Saving Throw matrix:

  • Paralysation, Poison, or Death Magic:  10
  • Petrification and Polymorph:   13
  • Rods, Staves, and Wands:   14
  • Breath Weapon:   16
  • Spells:    15


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The Cleric Deconstruction  


Possessing a high Wisdom score (13+) is important, first there is a 0% chance of spell failure, second the Wisdom score starts to provide bonus Spells. Possessing 13 WIS provides one additional spell, and 14 WIS will provide a second bonus spell; potentially, the Cleric can start with three 1stLevel Spells at creation.

This does bring up the question: What is Wisdom?

The Players Handbook begins with:Wisdom is a composite term for the characters’ enlightenment, judgement, wile, will power, and (to a certain extent) intuitiveness.

As Intelligence is about reasoning, problem solving, learning, and being a quick thinker, Wisdom provides the character the moral understanding, assist in decision making, and understand these same qualities in others.

An excellent detective would possess a good Intelligence and Wisdom score.

Common misconception 1:

The Cleric is unable to use edged weapons for religious reasons.

OK, not entirely untrue, but from a theme perspective the limitations on the weapon selections is more to do with: 1) the ease of using a weapon such as a club, mace, hammer, staff, or flail, and 2) the historical context from which the Cleric is generated (medieval and dark ages clerics were pictured with maces and clubs, and flails were often symbolic weapons representing the protection of the peasantry). These bashing and smashing weapons are easily taught, whereas the edged weapons thrust, stab, slash, and be used single or double handed. As a game mechanic, if the Cleric had open access to the weapons closet, we would question the Fighter’s position in the party.

For the poor Cleric who has spent most of the time learning philosophy and theology, adding swordplay into the mix is too much. There are some Deities who possess a strong combat focus, and the Clerics may have access to more weapons, or must only use the weapon of the Deity (more specifically – really, what Cleric of Thor would use anything other than a Hammer?).

From a mechanics point of view, a Cleric could always pick up another sort of weapon and use it with the non-proficiency penalty. Whether the Deity would see this as a transgression would be the question of the day. These limitations never stop a Cleric from carrying a dagger as a cutting implement.

Common misconception 2:

The Cleric is like a poor Fighter.

Rules as written, the Cleric armed with a wicked looking mace and suited up in Chainmail and Shield, makes the cleric look exactly like a Fighter with the same kit.

The Cleric uses d8 for Hit Points (HP) and the Fighter uses d10. This means that the average Fighter of 5 to 6 is similar enough to the Cleric on 4 to 5.

By comparison the sedentary Magic-user with d4 HP represents a person in prolonged study, and little physical activity; the Thief at d6 HP has more street smarts, stealth and guile, and all combined with some physical (including weapons) training; the Cleric with a mighty d8 HP per Level, places the Cleric in a special category as they are on equal footing with many monsters.

Why do they have access to the 8-sided Hit Die? To channel the energies of the Deity requires a healthy vessel, the Cleric is expected to live and work among the worshippers providing aid and leading by example. A good Cleric will feel at home in the fields assisting a farmer with a plough as participating in a discussion of theology with a Prince, all with the aim of increasing their own Deity’s influence.

About weaponry, the Mace has an average damage of 3 to 4 HP vs the Broad and Long sword’s 4 to 5 HP damage; particularly at 1stLevel (and Strength bonuses put to the side), the Cleric has the same ‘to hit’ vs. AC 0 value as a Fighter; the Cleric possesses two weapon proficiency slots and has a -3 modifier for non-Weapon Proficiency. It’s easy to see the reason that many Players view the Cleric as the slightly poorer Fighter.

Armed with the Special Abilities of Spells and Turning Undead, the Cleric’s first job is to spread the faith and act in accordance with the Chosen-Deity’s beliefs and philosophy. For many this takes place most easily on the field of battle. The Cleric providing Healing in the form of potions and spells, with very few components required and armed with a symbol of their Deity a Cleric can perform many acts of faith, that in the eyes of a wounded soldier being Healed or defended by the Cleric, will be nothing less than miraculous.

All of this adds up to having a strong body with a strong faith.


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Special Abilities  

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Clerics of Fact and Fiction  

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