We’ve had the Fighter & Wizard, now it’s the turn of the Cleric to take centre stage. As before we’re looking at how to create a simpler starting character using only the PHB and the design decisions evident in the D&D Essentials line. The end result should be a set of Archetypal characters which would serve to introduce any new player (or old player still unsure of 4e D&D) to the game.
The D&D Essential build of the Cleric is a Warpriest, a slightly more specialised man of god (any god, though only those with storm and sun domains are represented here) who focuses on battle and the domains of his deity. The PHB Cleric builds are more generalist in their Divine approach; they select a patron deity but it’s entirely optional whether they take Feats or Powers relating to their god. In contrast, the Warpriest gains Domain Features right from the start. These decide your Cleric’s starting At-will, Encounter and Utility Powers with only the Warpriest’s Daily Power being a player choice.
This is a Good Thing for new players to the game as it helps them build a Cleric tailored toward a specific deity quickly and easily, though a more experienced gamer will chaff at the narrow set of choices he can make. There’s nothing to say a Cleric has to be built this way, of course – if you want to play a Cleric there’s no shortage of ways to build one in 4e D&D. The Essentials line just provides one method, and it’s a darned fine one for new players at that.
The other differences between any other 4e Cleric and an Essentials Warpriest are that they gain proficiency in shields, +1 Fort and +1 Will rather than a straight +2 bonus to Will, but don’t appear to gain Divine Fortune, Healer’s Lore or Ritual Casting. That’s a fair swap out for their Domain Features (especially as they gain a Utility Power at 1st level), and reflects that they are geared more toward combat and less toward healing than your average cleric.
As with the other builds, creating a Cleric in a similar style using only the PHB means he has to be Human to account for the “new” features. Let’s create him as a Battle Cleric of Kord. He is a follower of D&D’s resident God of Storms and Battle, and an all round card carrying member of the Thor lookalike club. Oh yeah!
For his Trained skills we pick Diplomacy, Heal, History, Insight and Religion. I imagine he comes from the “he who shouts loudest shouts last” school of Diplomatic relations, and his knowledge of History comes from ancient Skald’s tales told late at night around a roaring fire. For his Feats we pick Kord’s Favour and Weapon Proficiency (Warhammer). I mentioned Thor, right?
When it comes to Powers, this is a Cleric who wades into battle alongside the Fighters rather than stand back and let his deity do all the work. With the Righteous Brand and Priest’s Shield At-wills, supplemented by the ever useful Lance of Faith (a bolt of single lightning from above) he is a worthy adversary on the battlefield. Add the Wrathful Thunder Encounter and Cascade of Light (a BIG lightning bolt!) Daily Powers and his image as a crusading follower of a storm god is sealed.
For his equipment we give him an Adventurer’s Kit, Chainmail armour, Ritualbook (a bag of runestones) and a Warhammer (which he wields two-handed). For his Rituals he has Gentle Repose and Brew
DO NOT MESS WITH BADASS CLERIC OF BADASS STORM GOD
What I’ve learned from creating these characters is that the D&D Essentials line is not 4.5e. It’s a fresh look at what we have now through gentler eyes. The rules are presented in a less Powers intensive manner and that helps the role-playing aspect of the game truly shine through. As I’ve said before, this is the same rules, writ better.
The builds for each character class are slightly more ambitious than the ones we have seen so far. Rather than say “take, this, this and that feature and you end up with this build” they explicitly swap out one or more class features for something else. That’s more akin to a 2nd Edition AD&D Kit, and a small evolutionary shift from what we’ve seen before in 4e but certainly nothing revolutionary or game-changing. The Essential Mage build of the Wizard can stand right aside any other Wizard in the game and be considered rules-equal. This is a direction I really like that they’ve taken and hope we see campaign-specific builds being created in the future. I’d love to see builds for Dark Sun Wizards, Eberron Wizards and a Forgotten Realms Wizard that all reflect their different styles in some minor way.
When you put together the build options (both these and the classic ones), Background Options, the freedom to choose your own Powers, multi-class Feats, the Hybrid classes and themes introduced with Dark Sun, Fourth Edition really is the best, most flexible version of D&D there is.
D&D Essentials is just one more player friendly step along the way.
Next: The “Essential” Rogue