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In Dungeons & Dragons, a cleric is not merely a vessel of divine power, but a complex individual shaped by unique experiences and unshakeable faith. From the whispered prayers of secluded monks to the fervent cries of fire-brandishing prophets, each cleric has a story, a purpose that defines their place in the big story of the adventure you're running. Sometimes this rich background can be lost in the flow of the events, but from time to time it's important to take a step back and ask:
"What the hell is a wandering priest doing passing through the Orc Mines of Bhogzar? What's that about?"
If we can find at least a modestly credible answer, then we can be on the road to a much richer and deeper character.
These backgrounds are not just starting points but the foundational pillars upon which your characters stand, infused with potential for great narratives and deep personal growth. Whether you are navigating the political machinations of a courtly divine envoy or bearing the weight of ancient secrets as a guardian of esoteric wisdom, your background will colour every spell you cast and every word you speak.
So, let us explore the gods and their earthly envoys. Choose a path that resonates with your spirit, and step into the sacred shoes of a cleric whose backstory is as rich and vibrant as the world they inhabit. Welcome to a new chapter of faith, where the echoes of your character's origins will ripple through every action and decision in the divine dance of destiny.
40 DND Cleric Backgrounds
1. Orphan of the Abbey:
Abandoned at the steps of an austere monastery, this cleric was raised on strict doctrine and divine liturgy. Amidst echoing chants and ancient tomes, they were steeped in sacred rituals and the mysteries of their faith. Though their spirit is imbued with unwavering devotion, it is the questions of their own origin that haunt them. Their sermons are heartfelt, and their prayers are fervent, seeking not only to serve their deity but to understand the divine plan for their orphaned life. With a soul touched by solitude and a mind sharpened by scholarly pursuit, they step out to spread their sacred words with a hope to find their place in the grand design.
2. Cursed Bloodline:
Descendant of a line cursed by a capricious deity, this cleric wields their ancestral burden as a testament to their resilience. Shunned and feared, they were driven by the weight of a legacy laced with misfortune. In seeking absolution, they have turned their curse into their calling—offering solace to those afflicted by the whims of the gods. Their understanding of curses brings a unique perspective to their worship, and their prayers often carry the weight of one who knows suffering all too well. With a resolve forged in the fires of ostracization, they confront their curse head-on, striving to lift it not only from themselves but from all who suffer under the gods’ disfavour.
3. Divine Visionary:
A life-changing vision bestowed by a deity transformed this ordinary being into a fervent cleric. Once a simple layperson, the vivid celestial encounter ignited an undying flame of devotion. They now tread the path of the divine with eyes wide open to the wonders and portents that guide them. As a visionary, their interpretations of divine signs shape their every action, and they are often seen as an eccentric by some, a prophet by others. Their every step is guided by this otherworldly guidance, leading them to not just preach the word of their god, but to enact it in the world.
4. Exorcist's Protégé:
Under the tutelage of a hallowed exorcist, this cleric was groomed to confront the most malevolent spirits. Their days and nights were filled with incantations and rituals, learning to unshackle souls from demonic grasps. They carry with them an aura of somber authority and a resolve as unyielding as their faith. Armed with holy symbols and sacred oils, they walk among the shadows to cast out darkness and bring relief to those haunted by the supernatural. Their background is not only one of battling evil spirits but also understanding the delicate balance between the material and the ethereal.
5. Wandering Missionary:
Driven by a celestial mandate, this cleric roams from one land to another, a tireless missionary of their faith. Their wanderlust is as much a part of their service as their prayers, finding divinity in the myriad faces and places they encounter. They subsist on the hospitality of strangers, imparting wisdom and healing in exchange for sustenance. The road is both their home and their congregation, and every encounter is a chance to witness the divine at work. With a humble heart and a backpack filled with relics and scriptures, they venture into the unknown, spreading the teachings of their deity with every step.
6. Heretical Inquisitor:
This cleric once sought to purify their faith, rooting out heresy with a zealous heart. Yet, in their pursuit, they uncovered questions that shook their own beliefs to the core. Now, as a heretical inquisitor, they search for a deeper truth, one that transcends the rigid doctrines they once enforced. Their journey is one of introspection and theological discovery, challenging dogmas and seeking a personal connection with the divine. They bring a critical eye to ancient traditions, daring to illuminate a path to the divine that is as complex and nuanced as their own transformation.
7. Survivor of Sacrilege:
Sole survivor of a vile cult's massacre, this cleric was bathed in blood and bereft of their congregation. They emerged from the tragedy with a heart hardened against evil and a soul inflamed with holy vengeance. Each prayer is a reminder of the lives lost, each ritual a defiance of the sacrilege they witnessed. They have become a guardian against darkness, their own survival a testament to their deity’s power and their unwavering faith. With eyes that have stared into the abyss, they vow to prevent such atrocities, wielding their divine gifts as both shield and sword.
8. Champion of the Sun:
Bathed in the golden light of a sun deity, this cleric is a beacon of hope and a warrior of light. Sworn to banish shadows and nurture life, they travel lands plagued by darkness, their very presence a repudiation of all that shuns the light. Their prayers summon the brilliance of the midday sun, and their touch can heal the wounds inflicted by the dark. As a champion, they carry the radiance of the sun in their heart and are relentless in their quest to bring a new dawn to places where hope has set.
9. Nature's Caretaker:
Appointed as the divine steward of nature’s temples, this cleric sees the sacred in every leaf and stream. They commune with the spirits of nature, blending ancient druidic rites with their divine worship. Their mission is to heal the scars left upon the earth by civilization and to remind humankind of the holiness found in the natural world. With hands that can soothe the most savage beast and calm the wildest storm, they tread softly upon the earth, a humble servant to the force of life itself.
10. Scholar of the Gods:
In hallowed halls lined with vellum and parchment, this cleric has devoted their life to the study of the divine. They seek to unravel the complexities of theology, dissecting sacred texts to extract hidden truths. Their knowledge of the gods is vast and deep, guiding their practice and their preaching. In a quest for enlightenment, they scour forgotten scriptures, seeking to bridge the gap between the known and the unknowable. With every word they write, they hope to uncover another piece of the divine puzzle, sharing their revelations with those who yearn for spiritual clarity.
11. Acolyte of Forgotten Rites:
This cleric bears the mantle of nearly extinct religious practices, keeping alive the rites of a deity long unspoken. They are a bridge between ages, reciting prayers that echo through time, and their presence is a whisper of ancient power. Draped in vestments of a bygone era, they blend into modern worship with an air of mystery. Their devotion is as much to history as it is to the divine, ensuring that their god's legacy endures through the ages. They walk a lonely path, but one filled with the weight and wisdom of antiquity.
12. Prophet of Doom:
Believing they have been shown a glimpse of an apocalyptic future, this cleric has become an urgent herald of impending cataclysm. Their sermons are laced with omens, and they plead with a fervour born of desperation to turn the tides of fate. They gather followers not through fear alone, but with the promise of salvation and renewal. Their burden is heavy, carrying the knowledge of potential ruin, yet they bear it with a solemn duty, hoping to steer the world away from the edge of destruction.
13. Keeper of Sacred Flames:
In an order that venerates the purifying aspect of flame, this cleric acts as both guardian and renewer. They tend sacred fires that are never allowed to dim, representing the light of their faith that burns away corruption. Their prayers invoke the warmth of divine presence, and their rituals symbolize rebirth from ashes. As a keeper of flames, they embody the resilience and eternal nature of their deity's power, igniting the spark of hope in the darkest of times.
14. Scribe of the Divine Word:
Tasked with transcribing the spoken word of their deity into text, this cleric is a living link between the divine voice and the written scripture. Their life is one of meticulous documentation, capturing revelations that shape their religion’s direction. Their quill is as sacred as any relic, and the scrolls they produce are treasured as conduits of divine wisdom. Through their work, they ensure that the messages from above are preserved for eternity.
15. Guardian of the Gate:
Standing watch at the threshold of their temple, this cleric is both sentinel and guide for souls seeking enlightenment. They are the first defence against those who would desecrate holy ground and the welcoming hand to pilgrims. Their vigil is eternal, their loyalty unyielding, and in their steady gaze lies the determination to protect the sanctity of their sacred charge.
16. Emissary of Peace:
Chosen to spread the tenets of reconciliation and harmony, this cleric travels to lands torn by conflict, offering divine mediation. Their words carry the weight of peace, and their interventions have halted wars. They are a beacon of tranquillity in a world rife with discord, and in their mission, they embody the hope for a unified future under the guidance of their deity’s compassionate gaze.
17. Ascetic of the High Order:
Forsaking material possessions and worldly pleasures, this cleric has embraced a life of asceticism to attain spiritual purity. Their path is one of self-denial, seeking to comprehend the divine through personal sacrifice. They are revered as holy personages, their mere presence an inspiration to those seeking a deeper connection with the divine.
18. Seer of the Endless Path:
Gifted with foresight, this cleric walks the fine line between destiny and free will. They are sought after for their prophecies, yet they understand the burden that knowledge of the future holds. Their guidance is often cloaked in riddles, for they know the peril of treading the threads of fate too boldly. As a seer, they navigate the endless path of possibilities with an open heart and a cautious mind.
19. Reclaimer of the Fallen:
Dedicated to redeeming those who have strayed from the light, this cleric sees the potential for salvation in even the darkest of souls. Their compassion is boundless, their forgiveness a reflection of the divine mercy they channel. They walk among the lost and the forsaken, offering a path back to grace, reclaiming the fallen one soul at a time.
20. Sage of Celestial Alignments:
This cleric studies the movements of the heavens, interpreting celestial events as messages from the gods. They understand the ebb and flow of divine power as it correlates with the stars and constellations. Their observatory is a place of prayer and calculation, and they are often consulted when the heavens suggest an auspicious or ominous time for both mundane and sacred undertakings.
21. Harbinger of the Tides:
Entrusted with the mysteries of the sea, this cleric interprets the will of their deity through the ebb and flow of waters. They preside over maritime rituals, seeking divine favour for sailors and invoking calm seas or favourable winds. Their connection to the ocean's depths affords them a unique understanding of the natural cycles of life and the ancient secrets that lie beneath the waves.
22. Voice of the Mountain:
In high-altitude monasteries, this cleric communes with their god through the whispers of the wind and the solidity of stone. They serve as intermediaries between the earth below and the skies above, their chants echoing across peaks and valleys. Their enduring spirit mirrors the timeless mountains they call home, and they offer guidance to those who seek the wisdom of the heights.
23. Warden of the Wild:
This cleric safeguards the balance of nature, serving a deity of the wilderness. They patrol the untamed lands, healing the scars of civilization and protecting against unnatural corruption. Their magic is interwoven with the patterns of life and growth, and they are as fierce in their guardianship as any beast of the forest.
24. Mystic of the Sands:
Roaming the vast deserts, this cleric finds solace in the endless dunes and the seclusion they offer for spiritual reflection. They are the caretakers of hidden oases, guiding lost travelers to safety. Their prayers call forth the desert’s wrath or bounty, showcasing their deity’s dominion over the harshest of landscapes.
25. Champion of the Hearth:
Focused on the protection and sanctity of home, this cleric blesses households and hears the prayers of the family unit. They stand as a bulwark against those forces that would disrupt domestic peace, their magic reinforcing the bonds of love and kinship. In every flame of the hearth, their deity’s presence is felt, a warm embrace in the cold night.
26. Oracle of the Ancestral Spirits:
This cleric channels the wisdom and power of ancestors, serving as a vessel for their continued influence in the mortal world. They conduct rituals that honour the past and seek to carry forth the legacy of those who have walked the path before. Their guidance is often sought in matters of familial importance and when making decisions that will echo through generations.
27. Caretaker of the Crossroads:
At the junction of important pathways, this cleric tends to the shrines and offers blessings to travellers. They are the keepers of the crossroads, recognizing the metaphorical and literal significance of the choices made by those who pass by. Their role is to provide guidance and safe passage, embodying their deity's role as a guide for those at life's many intersections.
28. Sentinel of the Forgotten:
Dedicated to the memory of lost civilizations and peoples, this cleric works to uncover and preserve the relics and stories left behind. They believe that in remembering the forgotten, the divine plan is revealed. They often find themselves in ancient ruins or sifting through the debris of history, a solemn guardian of the past.
29. Binder of the Cursed:
Tasked with containing and neutralizing cursed objects and individuals, this cleric serves as a barrier against dark forces seeking to wreak havoc. They are well-versed in the rituals of sealing and banishing, their prayers forming a bulwark against the encroaching shadows. With steadfast resolve, they face the manifestations of curses, ensuring that such afflictions are kept at bay.
30. Shepherd of the Stars:
Believing the destinies of individuals to be written in the night sky, this cleric acts as a shepherd, guiding the faithful by the stars' divine patterns. Their observatory is both a place of worship and a centre of astrological study, where they decipher the celestial messages woven into the tapestry of the cosmos. Their insights offer comfort and direction to those seeking their place in the grand scheme of existence.
31. Emissary of Endings:
Acting as a bridge between the living and the dead, this cleric serves a deity of death with solemn respect and quiet dignity. They not only comfort the dying and perform last rites but also guide lost souls, ensuring their safe passage to the afterlife. Through their work, they bring understanding that death is not an end to be feared but a part of life to be honoured as the final, peaceful step in the soul's journey. As a spiritual guide and a tender of final whispers, this cleric also delves into the mysteries of the afterlife, seeking to understand and articulate the intricate balance between life and death.
32. Guardian of the Seals:
Entrusted with the sacred duty of protecting divine seals and esoteric texts, this cleric is a sentinel over ancient wisdom. They serve as a bulwark against those who crave such forbidden power for selfish means, ensuring that such potent and arcane lore is utilized with the utmost reverence and discretion. With a steadfast heart and an unyielding will, they stand guard over secrets that could unravel the fabric of reality if wielded imprudently, affirming their deity’s command over hidden truths and sacred rites.
33. Seeker of the Lost Light:
Embarking on pilgrimages to the far corners of the world, this cleric of enlightenment chases the fragments of ancient wisdom, unearthing hidden truths, and recovering the remnants of forgotten philosophies. With each revelation, they shed luminance upon ignorance and misunderstanding, acting as a beacon for those who wander in metaphorical darkness. Their divine mission is one of illumination, bringing the divine spark to shadowed minds and hearts in need of enlightenment.
34. Cleric of the Shattered Realm:
In the aftermath of cataclysm and upheaval, this cleric dedicates their life to aiding those ravaged by war or natural disaster. As a humble servant of a deity that watches over the broken and the bereft, they offer not just solace but also practical aid in the monumental task of reconstruction. Their presence brings hope to desolate places, sowing seeds of resilience and unity among those who have lost everything.
35. Prophet of the Flame:
As an intermediary for a deity that speaks through fire, this cleric is bestowed with searing visions and prophecies. Their fervent oratory can stir the hearts of the faithful like a conflagration, urging them towards action and renewal. The flames they kindle are not only of the hearth but of the spirit, marking moments of divine revelation and transformative truth.
36. Custodian of the Depths:
Within the earth’s silent embrace, this cleric stands vigilant over holy undercrofts and sanctuaries buried beneath the world’s surface. Their communion with the subterranean mysteries grants them insight into the earth’s ancient tales and the sacred relics hidden away from the eyes of the surface dwellers. They balance their duties to the surface world with a deep commitment to the enigmatic entities and forces that reside in the depths below.
37. Ambassador of Festivals:
This cleric is the personification of their deity’s love for festivity, communal joy, and celebration. They are the orchestrators of holy days, the officiants of sacred rites, and the heart of religious feasts. With every festival they organize, they weave the fabric of community tighter, spreading a contagious exuberance and ensuring that the divine blessings of mirth and fellowship enrich the lives of all who partake.
38. Monk of the Silent Order:
In the deep sanctuary of silence, this cleric forges a profound connection with their deity of the unspoken and the unseen. Their silent prayers are heavy with meaning, and their meditative practice is a testament to the power that lies in quietude. Through their wordless rituals and soundless sermons, they demonstrate that silence can resonate louder than any spoken truth, offering solace and strength in the calm.
39. Hermit of the Divine Paradox:
Withdrawn from the clamour of society, this cleric contemplates the divine enigma, seeking understanding in a deity that embodies dualities and contradictions. Their ascetic life is a canvas for the exploration of life's complex tapestry, and their insights delve into the coexistence of light and dark, creation and destruction, chaos and order. In their solitude, they find unity in disparity, piecing together the fragmented aspects of the divine into a harmonious whole.
40. Visionary of the Cosmic Dance:
This cleric perceives the universe as an intricate tapestry woven by the movements of celestial beings in a vast, divine dance. They look to the constellations for enlightenment, seeking to comprehend the rhythm and pattern of the cosmos as dictated by their deity. As part philosopher and part astrologer, they strive to interpret the celestial script, finding within it the choreography of fate and the cadence of divine will that moves all things.
Given the many possibilities that D&D offers, the cleric stands as a testament to the game's depth and the personal stories that can be told. We have traversed a realm of origins, from the serene halls of contemplative healers to the battle cries of zealous crusaders. These 40 cleric backgrounds offer a tapestry of spiritual odysseys, each thread a narrative ready to be woven into your game.
As you bring your cleric to life, remember that their background is a compass to their soul, guiding their divine mission and shaping their interactions with the world around them. These backgrounds are but a prelude to the epic saga that awaits you. They set the stage for the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that your cleric will encounter, moulding them into the heroes or prophets they are destined to become.
As you conclude this celestial catalogue, take with you the inspiration to craft a cleric that is not just a conduit of divine power but a character with depth, conviction, and a past that informs their every choice. Work closely with your Dungeon Master to integrate your chosen background into the unfolding story, ensuring it contributes meaningfully to the campaign's narrative and enriches your collective gaming experience.
May your cleric's journey be as enlightening as it is entertaining, filled with moments that celebrate the intricate backstory you’ve chosen. Whether your path is one of redemption, conquest, or mystical intrigue, let your background be the guiding light in the undying legacy of your D&D adventures.
Cleric Character Building FAQs
FAQ: Crafting and Roleplaying Cleric Characters in D&D
Q1: How do I choose the best race for my cleric in Dungeons & Dragons?
A1: Consider a race with bonuses to ability scores that benefit cleric skills, like Wisdom. Some races also have unique abilities that complement divine magic, such as Darkvision or resistance to certain damages.
Q2: What are some good background choices for a cleric (other than the ones above)?
A2: Good backgrounds for clerics include Acolyte, which reflects a religious upbringing, and Sage background for those with knowledge skills. Guild Artisan can also be a good background, representing a craftsperson with a divine calling.
Q3: How do bonus actions work for clerics, especially at higher levels?
A3: Clerics can use bonus actions for abilities like Channel Divinity or to cast spells like Healing Word. At higher levels, you may get additional uses or new power that can be used as a bonus action.
Q4: What starting equipment should I choose for my cleric?
A4: Starting equipment for clerics typically includes a holy symbol, simple weapon, and an equipment package based on your character’s background. Heavier armor might be chosen if your cleric has proficiency.
Q5: How does a wealthy background influence a cleric's healing abilities?
A5: A wealthy background doesn't directly influence a cleric's healing abilities, as those are determined by class features and divine domains. However, it can affect their resources, such as the quality and availability of healing supplies or access to knowledge and facilities that could enhance their divine services.
Q6: What divine domains offer the best support for a party?
A6: Domains like Life for the best healers, Light for defence against darkness, or Grave domain for balancing the line between life and death, offer great support. Each domain grants unique abilities and spells to aid party members.
Q7: What skill proficiencies should I choose for my cleric?
A7: Choose skills of your class that complement your role in the party and your character’s background. Insight, Medicine, and Religion are common picks for a cleric's skill set.
Q8: How important are saving throws for clerics?
A8: Very important. Clerics often have good Wisdom saving throws, crucial for resisting spells and divine word effects. Some domains grant additional proficiencies in saving throws as well.
Q9: Are there any feats that work particularly well with clerics?
A9: Yes, feats like War Caster are great for clerics engaged in melee combat, while Magic Initiate can expand your cleric’s spell list with spells from different sources, like arcane arts.
Q10: How can I make use of Channel Divinity more effectively?
A10: Use Channel Divinity for key moments, like turning undead or invoking your divine domain's power. Some domains offer additional uses or divination options, so read your domain features carefully.
Q11: Is heavy armour or medium armour better for my cleric?
A11: It depends on your play style and the cleric’s spell list. Heavy armour offers better protection but may require higher Strength. Medium armour can be a good compromise for mobility and defence.
Q12: Can I use a disguise kit with my cleric?
A12: Yes, if your character proficiency includes it. It could be part of a spy or folk hero background, allowing for subterfuge and blending in with ordinary people.
Q13: How do I manage my cleric’s hit points and spell slots effectively?
A13: Prioritize spells that protect or heal to maintain hit points. Use spell slots strategically, saving higher-level slots for crucial moments or divine magic.
Q14: What personal characteristics should I consider for a cleric from a noble family?
A14: Traits like a prominent position in the church, a signet ring from a noble background, or a duty to the greater good would fit. Also, consider how their noble status affects their worldview.
Q15: What’s the most important question to ask when creating a cleric’s background?
A15: Ask how your cleric came to serve their deity and what event marked them as a chosen vessel for divine powers. This question can lead to important story cues and a solid foundation for your character.
Q16: Are there any optional rules that benefit clerics in D&D?
A16: Yes, the Dungeon Master may allow optional rules like extra languages, which can be beneficial for clerics who travel to foreign lands or deal with different proficiency in cultures.
Q17: How can a cleric’s background influence their role at the start of a campaign?
A17: A cleric's background can provide a starting point for their divine mission, offering features of a background such as starting gear or a set of common clothes that reflect their past, and guiding their goals and alliances.
Q18: Can a cleric from a thieves guild or guild artisan background still be a good guy?
A18: Absolutely. The background could represent a past life, with the cleric now using their skills for the greater good, reflecting a shift from personal gain to
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