Flowing with the miraculous power of the gods, clerics bless their allies, curing them of any wounds and supporting them in combat while harming and hindering their foes. They cover the support needs of a party with divine spells and prayers.
The cleric is a heavily religious class and often on the good side of the alignment chart. Their background reflects their skills and religious beliefs. Here are some great options listed from good-best:
Sages are highly intelligent masters of studies, studying old scripts and listening to the greatest of experts. A cleric can be a sage, studying the lore of their church, gods, and pantheon.
This background grants two intelligence skill proficiencies, history and arcana, and two chosen languages. Knowledge skills aren’t useful in most clerics since they don’t often have high intelligence scores, but for a knowledge domain cleric, these skill proficiencies are great. If you choose to have a knowledge domain cleric with a high intelligence score, with this background, you can have proficiency in history, arcana, and religion, all knowledge skills.
You also gain a feature the equipment of a sage, a bottle of ink, a quill, a small knife, a letter with an unanswered question, a set of common clothes, and 10 gold and the Researcher feature, which grants the sage the knowledge of where and how to obtain a piece of lore. The feature and the equipment are not good for most clerics, but once again, they are great for the knowledge domain cleric.
The sage background can work well, but it is most useful on specific, knowledge-based characters such as the knowledge domain cleric. On these specific characters, this background is amazing.
7. Cloistered Scholar
Cloistered scholar is almost identical to the sage. They differ slightly in backstory. As the name suggests, the cloistered scholar was taught or learned knowledge in an enclosed environment. The background grants proficiency in the History skill and a chosen skill from arcana, nature, and religion.
These skills are knowledge skills and don’t help the cleric much, but history and religion are part of the cleric’s skill list. You also gain two extra languages, scholar’s equipment, scholars’ robes, a writing kit, a borrowed book, and 10 gold coins. The feature gained by the cloistered scholar grants you access to most libraries without many requirements.
This background is heavily focused on knowledge and thus would be best utilized on a knowledge domain cleric. Its proficiencies are decent, and the feature benefits the scholar in many campaigns.
Coming from wealth and power is easy to work inside the backstory of a cleric. The church could be the reason for wealth or completely unrelated to it. Either way, the nobility can only benefit the cleric.
The noble background grants proficiency with history and persuasion, both skills from the cleric’s skill list. History is a knowledge skill and often goes wasted on a cleric, but persuasion in combination with a cleric’s high charisma is more than welcome. It also grants proficiency with a chosen gaming set and an extra language. The equipment of the noble is not very unique, but it is very shiny.
It includes a set of fine clothes, a signet ring, a scroll of pedigree, and a purse containing 25 gold coins. Similar to the far traveler’s feature, the noble’s feature, a Position of Privilege, allows you entry into high society and grants you some support from common folk as your name and nobility precede you. The noble is a simple and useful background that requires very little work to make sense, but it does not offer anything exceptional.
5. Guild Artisan
Part of the church could be an artisan guild in which you are a member, or before you joined the church, you were part of one of these guilds, either way, you have learned your skills from a master artisan and can now practice them in accordance to the church. Guild artisan offers two skill proficiencies with skills from the cleric’s skill list, insight, and persuasion.
These skills use the cleric’s primary ability scores, charisma, and wisdom, making them a good match for the cleric. You also gain proficiency with a chosen type of artisan’s tools. This is often wasted on clerics, but can be a great addition to a forge cleric. The background also offers an extra language and a set of guild equipment:
- The chosen set of artisan tools
- A letter of introduction from the guild
- A set of common clothes
- 15 gold coins
Aside from the artisan’s tools, the equipment isn’t particularly useful. The feature of the guild artisan, Guild Membership, works very similarly to the acolyte’s and faction agent’s features. Your guild will offer assistance whenever possible, but unlike the other features, you have to pay a price of 5 gold per month to remain part of the guild.
The price requirement could be ignored if the chosen guild is the church. Guild artisan is a good background, but it finds its best use under forge clerics. In most other cases, it is better to go with an acolyte or faction agent.
4. Far Traveler
The far traveler is similar to the hermit, but unlike the hermit, a far traveler travels with an end destination, not just to be secluded. This could be part of a religious mission, traveling to distant and foreign lands to spread the religion or further your own knowledge and faith.
The far traveler gains insight and perception skills through the travels. Both of these skills are wisdom skills, which the cleric often scores highly, giving them great use in many scenarios. Perception is especially useful in many adventures and not part of the cleric’s skill list. A chosen gaming set or musical instrument from your homeland is part of the proficiencies.
While not completely wasted, they don’t help the cleric in any way. It also grants an additional chosen language, an always welcome addition, and traveling equipment. That includes a set of traveler’s clothes, the chosen musical instrument or gaming set, poorly made maps of your homeland, a small piece of jewelry, 10 gold coins of your homeland, and five standard gold coins.
Your foreign origin can benefit you through the All Eyes on You feature, which allows you and your party access to unlikely places such as noble houses. Far traveler offers good proficiencies that match the ability scores of the cleric and are a very useful feature. Still, this background does require more specific backstories to make sense of a character.
This background works perfectly for clerics who have spent much time away from society as part of their religious journey, which is not uncommon for clerics and paladins.
The years in recluse grant the hermit with useful proficiencies. Proficiency in religion and medicine skills. Both are amazing for the support-centered cleric. Religion is a standard skill for any cleric.
Medicine further enhances the healing capabilities of the cleric, especially with the proficiency of the herbalism kit, which allows the creation of healing potions. Hermit also offers one extra language, which is useful. The equipment of a hermit includes a scroll case with prayers and notes, a winter blanket, a set of common clothes, a herbalism kit, and five gold.
These items are not anything special, but the herbalism kit is useful. The last part of the background is the Discovery feature. The feature grants the character a truth of the world or creation. While a unique and fun feature, it does not add anything to the cleric but can deepen the character.
Overall, the hermit offers good proficiencies and can help the cleric become an even better healer to the party even with the lack of a useful feature.
2. Faction Agent
The faction agent’s background is very similar to the acolyte, their primary difference being the faction. While the background does not state the faction to be religious, it does not restrict this, thus making it an alternative option to the acolyte background.
Much like the acolyte, the faction agent background grants proficiency in the insight skill, a great skill for clerics. It also grants a chosen skill proficiency from one of the mental skills (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma), allowing one to choose one of the other great skills not in the cleric’s skill list, such as perception. With these proficiencies, the faction agent background offers two extra languages for a low-level cleric.
The feature and equipment of the faction agent are almost identical to the acolyte except in flavor. The equipment includes a badge or emblem of the faction, in this case, a holy symbol and a copy of a seminal faction text or a book of prayer. The feature granted by the background is Safe Haven which acts like the shelter of the faithful background of the acolyte, allowing access to a network of supporters of your faction who will assist you.
The faction agent background provides great options for skill proficiencies and, with a little work, can work for a religion-based class like the cleric.
Clerics are, by all means, acolytes of their church, gods, and pantheon. This background can be chosen with no altering of the backstory and its benefits are perfect for the cleric, making it the default choice for many players.
The acolyte grants proficiency with insight and religion skills. Religion is a must-have for a cleric for their connection to the divine, even if many clerics lack high intelligence.
Proficiency in insight combined with the generally high wisdom most clerics possess will come in handy, especially with the cleric’s charisma, allowing for great roleplay scenarios. Both skills are already in the cleric’s skill list, allowing the cleric to choose two other great options, medicine, and persuasion.
Along with the two proficiencies, acolytes learn two extra languages. Clerics can benefit from these, considering they do not get the comprehend languages spell. The equipment and the background feature are already mostly part of the cleric class.
The equipment includes a holy symbol, a book of prayer, five sticks of incense, vestments, common clothes, and 15 gold coins. The feature allows the acolyte passage and helps from any temple or community that shares the same faith. This background is an all-around perfect fit for the cleric, in both theme and benefits.