Making Your Own Cleric Subclass

You may decide that you want to create your own cleric subclass that best fits your campaign. Before embarking on this task, you want to be sure that no existing cleric subclass meets your design goals. One of the greatest flexibilities offered in 5e class design is how easy it is to reflavor the features. If there is a subclass that can meet your mechanical needs and stylistic vision, it is best to simply use that and save a lot of time in designing, writing, and playtesting.

If, however, you find that no existing subclass achieves the fantasy or has the mechanics to match your vision, this section will guide you toward making a cleric subclass that fits the 5e D&D model. The guidelines will help you create the features for your subclass and detail how you should balance the class to fit within the official options and those offered by Therin Creative and similar content creators.

Please note that despite the guidance offered herein, your subclass may need further tuning. Be certain to spend the time to playtest your subclass.

Class Chassis

The cleric is a resilient spellcaster, with spells that mainly focus on recovery, defense, and bolstering allies. The cleric spell list has a range of options for combat and utility, and when spells fail, the average cleric is competent in fighting hand-to-hand and negotiations.

Hit Dice

The cleric uses a d8 for its Hit Dice, placing it in the middle of average hit points. Backed with decent armor, the cleric can stand its ground, but the cleric class is generally encouraged to also have decent Strength or Charisma, making Constitution a luxury at the expense of versatility. The cleric tends to be above rogue and monk in how well it can handle getting attacked, but well below the warrior classes. A cleric’s subclass can change this position drastically.


With proficiency in medium armors and shields, the cleric is well-rounded defensively. Simple weapons grant it a decent array of melee and ranged weapon options. Its subclass will expand these options or allow the cleric to focus on cantrips instead. Clerics only have the default two skill proficiencies, but subclasses may add to this.

Ability Score Improvement

The cleric uses standard progression for the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level). Sorcerers shouldn’t gain additional ASI features as that is the domain of the fighter and rogue classes and not something a subclass generally grants.


As a full spellcaster, the cleric has a lot of potential power. The cleric spell list is focused more on beneficial and deterrent effects, and less so on damage. This isn’t to say that clerics lack in damage output, as many of the spells they have are strong spells for damage under normal circumstances. A cleric is generally assumed to be concentrating on one spell each combat and may cast one instantaneous leveled spell in a combat, reserving more of its slots for recovery, exploration, or social interactions. A normal cleric fills most of its turns with attacks from weapons or cantrips.

Channel Divinity

The Channel Divinity feature is the hallmark of the cleric. The effects of the feature are as varied as the number of cleric subclasses, and when designing a Divine Domain, you need to create an appropriate option. By default, all clerics have Turn Undead, which is a powerful option in certain circumstances, which is a good guideline to target any new option.

Divine Domain Features

Divine Domains grant features at 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 17th level. This is the most irregular progression of subclass feature levels in the game, but it is because cleric subclass are the second most formulaic subclass in the core game. Your features at 2nd and 8th level, as well as the Domain Spells feature, are predetermined, and one of your 1st-level features should fit a certain model. You have more latitude on the features at 6th and 17th level.

Channel Divinity and Spellcasting

The cleric is a powerful spellcaster, providing it a superb long-rest resource. It also has a great short-rest resource through its Channel Divinity options. For this reason, you need to carefully add any power-enhancing features. Typically power is only added through domain spells, Channel Divinity, or the 1st-level Identity feature. Remember to factor in any spells granted by the subclass when you budget the cleric subclass’s power.

Building a Divine Domain

Once you understand the class chassis, you’re one step closer to building a subclass. You’ll also want to review existing subclasses to get a feel for their design and balance. This section will aid you in understanding what your subclass features should accomplish.

Before starting on the formal work to build your subclass, devise its theme and role. What is your subclass’s purpose? What roles does it fill in an adventuring party? How are its mechanics interesting and unique? Why would a player choose your subclass?

Let’s start by looking at some existing cleric subclasses.

Life Domain. This cleric domain is focused on recovery. It is durable, which allows it to better aid its allies and keep them in a fight. Most of its power boosts are applied to its healing, allowing it and its party members to stay in the fight. Players choose this divine domain to be the party’s healer, the one that pushes others to their best.

Light Domain. The Light Domain represents faiths centered on the sun or fire, among others. This cleric subclass is more of a blaster, gaining some strong damage spells and a kit that can harm or hinder foes. Players choose this divine domain because they desire to be the beacon of light to purge their foes with divine radiance or flame.

Forge Domain. With a focus on the tools of war, this domain can double as a warrior or a supporter, granting their blessing to an ally or keeping it for themselves. It is hardier than other clerics. Players choose this divine domain because they like the theme of forging armor and weapons, and blessing them with enchantments, while also being a cleric capable of staying in the thick of the fight alongside the party’s fighters or barbarians.

Order Domain. A leadership or tactical domain, this cleric aims to direct its allies and enchant its foes. Players choose this divine domain to deter unnecessary fights, and to guide their allies to victory when combat becomes necessary.

Sacrifice Domain. This divine domain encompasses the fantasy of sacrifice to gain a boon. This cleric primarily supports its allies, while acting as a skirmisher to harry its foes when the opportunity is present. Players choose this divine domain because they are willing to become martyrs for their party’s success and to bleed their opponents dry.

Each cleric subclass adopts a certain outlook, pursues a unique ideology, while keeping to a path that is deeply rooted in the cleric kit; at its core, each is a cleric, tapping divine power to support its allies and keep its faith.

Building the Subclass

This guide covers building a divine domain consistent with official published material. A Divine Domain enhances the cleric class in a particular fashion that is thematic to the domain. Each is backed by the core kit of the cleric.

Subclass features are granted at 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 17th level. Each Divine Domain feature level should generally only grant one subclass feature, except 1st level, which should grant three features. Consult the Cleric Subclass Features table for when you should grant features.

There are exceptions for the rule of only granting a single subclass feature:

  • Ribbon features are frequently weak on their own, so in certain cases you may grant a second, minor feature, which could be another ribbon feature.
  • The feature has some complex interactions that are much clearer when separated. Often this is indication that something should be cut, but in rare cases, it makes sense to split a feature for comprehension.
  • You are expanding an existing feature in a minor way. Sometimes it’s better to include the enhancement in the core feature, and at other times it could be a note in another feature.
Cleric Subclass Features
Cleric LevelFeature
1stIdentity Feature, Bonus Feature, Domain Spells
2ndChannel Divinity Option
6thCleric Pool Feature I
8thDivine Strike or Potent Spellcasting
17thCleric Pool Feature II

Identity Feature

1st-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

The identity feature is designed to grant the subclass some unique piece of kit that captures the theme of the domain. The Identity feature doesn’t introduce a new mechanic, but instead leverages existing mechanical systems. Many of the cleric subclass Identity features use limited uses determined by its Wisdom modifier.

This feature is flexible in what it can accomplish. It can add damage power, grant the character a new utility function, or otherwise expand upon the options this particular cleric subclass has.

Bonus Feature

1st-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

This feature should grant the cleric one cantrip or proficiency, including heavy armor or martial weapons. It is acceptable to offer both heavy armor and martial weapons if it makes sense for the domain’s theme, but you aren’t required. Classic clerics used warhammers and flails, so martial weapon proficiency isn’t abnormal for the class.

You should never give the cleric access to the eldritch blast or similar multi-attack cantrip if it has the Potent Spellcasting feature, as such spells interact in an unintended way with the feature.

Generally, this feature shouldn’t grant more than proficiencies or cantrips. In the case where you decide the subclass needs a ribbon or a minor effect that isn’t likely to come into play that has a thematic tie to a bonus proficiency or cantrip, you can combine it with this feature. The Grave Domain does this with its Circle of Mortality feature.

In certain cases, this feature will be folded into the Identity feature. Do this when the Identity feature directly interacts with the bonus proficiencies or spells. The Knowledge Domain is an example of this. The Trickery Domain serves as a different example where the benefit of the Identity feature overlaps with what a bonus proficiency might do.

Domain Spells

1st-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

Each domain has a list of extra spells that it always has prepared. Each of the spells should tie into the Divine Domain’s theme. You also want to ensure the spell picks are relevant for the average character of the subclass, such that a ranged-focused subclass isn’t loaded with melee reach spells.

Choose two spells for each spell level from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level. The spell can come from any list, including the cleric list. Domain spells are intended to give the character spells it should have available always, not just to expand its list of options.

If you include spells from sources other than the Player’s Handbook, you want to indicate those sources. If you are sharing the subclass, you can’t reprint content that is not provided by the publishing license you are using (i.e. don’t reprint a spell description from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything).

If you do include spells outside the Player’s Handbook, it is recommended that you offer alternative spells from it so groups without the referenced book can utilize your content without additional work on the DM’s part. If the spell is one you created for the subclass, include its description after the subclass (or an appropriate section for a compendium of content).

 [Your Cleric Subclass] Spells
Cleric LevelSpell
1st1st-level spell, 1st-level spell
3rd2nd-level spell, 2nd-level spell
5th3rd-level spell, 3rd-level spell
7th4th-level spell, 4th-level spell
9th5th-level spell, 5th-level spell

Channel Divinity Option

2nd-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

The 2nd-level feature grants the cleric subclass a new way to use its Channel Divinity. This should be thematic to the domain. It doesn’t need to be combat-focused, but it often is. This option should be something that comes into play fairly often, but it should never be useful in every situation. You want to carve out a niche that allows it to be relevant throughout a campaign, but not always applicable. Consult the Channel Divinity table to see the niches of some other Divine Domains to understand the scope of this feature.

Channel Divinity
Cleric Domain2nd-level Channel Divinity Niche
DualityCast a spell with any scroll or manifest a power with a dorje
ForgeCraft a nonmagical item worth no more than 100 gp from materials
GraveBriefly curse one creature for combat
KnowledgeGain a skill or tool proficiency for 10 minutes
LifeHeal one or more creatures
LightBanish darkness and damage hostile creatures
NatureCharm beasts and plants
OrderCharm one creature, optionally disarm it as well
SacrificeTransfer one condition to another creature
TempestMaximize lightning and thunder damage you deal
TrickeryCreate illusory double that you can cast spells through
War+10 bonus on one weapon attack roll
WrathCurse target that has injured you or an ally

Most Channel Divinity options require an action, but in certain cases a reaction is more appropriate, such as when it modifies a roll. In rare cases, no action is required, such as adding a rider or tweaking an effect, as the Destructive Wrath option does.

Cleric Pool Feature I

6th-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

The features gained at 6th and 17th level aren’t especially limited, but they do fall under two primary types – Expansion features that add something new to the class kit and Enhancement features that either enhance part of the core class or the Channel Divinity feature. Typically with the 6th-level feature, you will want to choose an Expansion feature.

When the 6th-level feature is an Expansion feature, it will either offer a new Channel Divinity option or way to expend uses of the that feature, or it will add a defensive or traversal option. Defensive features are an explicit type of Expansion feature that adds a new layer of defense for the class. Traversal features are a subtype of Utility features that tend to have practical application in and out of combat by adding some new way to move around.

When the 6th-level feature is an Enhancement feature, it will either enhance the core cleric kit, such as make a subset of spells better, or will enhance the Identity feature to make it better or applicable in more circumstances.

You mostly want to avoid any damage increases here, although transferring damage from the cleric to a party member, as the War Domain does, is acceptable.

Divine Strike or Potent Spellcasting

8th-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

If your cleric subclass is melee-oriented, give it the Divine Strike feature. You can alter the damage type if it makes sense thematically, but should avoid bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage since the effect is magical. Force damage is also a generally poor choice since it tends to be universal.

If your cleric subclass is not melee-oriented, give it the Potent Spellcasting feature, adding its Wisdom modifier to the damage it deals with any cleric cantrip. Do not add this bonus to cantrips from other classes or leveled spells. The 8th-level feature boosts the cleric’s filler actions in combat.

In Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the Blessed Strikes optional feature can replace this if the DM chooses. Don’t make this choice for DMs.

Cleric Pool Feature II

17th-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

The features gained at 6th and 17th level aren’t especially limited, but they do fall under two primary types – Expansion features that add something new to the class kit and Enhancement features that either enhance part of the core class or the Channel Divinity feature. The 17th-level feature can be either type of feature.

For an Enhancement feature at 17th level, you mostly want to enhance part of the subclass’s kit, unless that kit is predominantly an enhancement to the core cleric kit, as in the case of the Life Domain. The Channel Divinity Option you introduced with the 2nd-level feature is a prime candidate for subclass kit to enhance.

If you opt with an Expansion feature, it is very appropriate to grant a Defensive or Traversal feature instead (these features are subtypes of the Expansion feature). Alternately, you may decide to go with a new part of the kit if that makes more thematic sense, such as with the Duality Domain and Light Domain.

Be very careful about adding damage to this feature. While it can be appropriate, you need to ensure it isn’t too much of a power bump. Contrast your subclass with stronger domains like Light Domain and Tempest Domain.

Prewritten Features

The Divine Strike and Potent Spellcasting text is provided for your convenience. For Divine Strike, you need to replace the bracketed elements with appropriate text and the damage type it deals.

Divine Strike

8th-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

You gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with [your flavor text]”. Once of each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 [type] damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Potent Spellcasting

8th-level [Your Cleric Subclass] feature

You add your Wisdom modifier to the damage you deal with any cleric cantrip.