How To Build A Strength Domain Cleric In DND

For as long as spellcasters have existed in Dungeons & Dragons there have been people asking “can I do that while also still flexing massive muscles and doing kung fu poses?” In Fifth Edition the Bladesinger Wizard answers the Kung Fu question, and the muscles are provided by the Strength Domain Cleric.


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As it was initially published for the Planeshift crossover with Magic: The Gathering, the Strength Domain won’t be legal at all tables. It may be better to view it as a type of Official Homebrew with all the considerations that come with that. Ask your DM for permission and be prepared to negotiate balance changes.


What Are The Best Species For A Strength Domain Cleric?

Minotaur standing with a menacing pose in DND
Minotaur Shaman via Wizards of the Coast

The Amonkhet setting runs a restricted set of playable species, some of which are incompatible with the core features of a Strength Domain Cleric. As long as you avoid those ‘trap’ options you should be able to build a powerful Strength Cleric.

Species

Traits

Viability

Notes

Human

A feat at first level


Bonus skill

Strong

Unchanged from the variant human available in other books, a starting feat gives you a broad swathe of customisation options.

Minotaur

Can survive a fatal blow on 1hp


Natural weapons


Bonus damage on critical hits


Bonus skill

Strong

Minotaurs are the most archetypically suited for a strength cleric and this is reflected in the traits they are given. They’re hard to kill, hit hard back and are proficient in intimidation. Most GMs will allow a justified use of strength for intimidation skill checks, and minotaurs are self-justifying in this regard.

Naga

Immunity to poison


Natural weapons


Bonus tool

Medium

The snakelike Naga have comparable natural weapons to the minotaur, and a damage immunity that in most comparable species would only be a resistance. You pay for this by giving up the ability to walk, and having to overstate your sibilant sounds in roleplaying.

Aven (Hawk Headed)

Flying


Bonus skill


Ignores long ranged penalties on weapons

Weak

Aven fill a similar niche to the Aarakocra in other settings: They have a flight speed from first level but are unable to fly if wearing medium or heavy armour. That makes them challenging to use for a cleric that wants to wear heavy armour and wade around in melee combat.


Their Hawkeyed feature helps them with using long ranged weapons that a strength cleric is unlikely to use often. It can technically be used with thrown ranged weapons that do utilise strength, but they typically have very short ranges to begin with.

Aven (Ibis headed)

Flying


Bonus to intelligence checks

Weak

The Ibis headed Aven faces the same issues as the hawk headed aven: They lose their flight when wearing armour. They can add half their proficiency bonus to intelligence skill checks but only when they aren’t already proficient in the skill. History and religion are the two main skills that benefit from this and a cleric can be proficient in both at first level.

Outside the Amonket setting your options open considerably but the same general considerations apply:

  • Don’t choose a species that requires light armour to make use of their features, such as fairy or Aarakocra.
  • Access to traits that improve mobility, such as a Centaur’s base speed, an Eladrin’s Fey Step, or a Dhampir’s Spider Climb will help you in melee and with solving environmental challenges.

What Are The Best Ability Scores For A Strength Domain Cleric?

A Dwarf Cleric Wields A Warhammer
The Cleric Class from The Player’s Handbook via Wizards Of The Coast

There is a slightly disappointing moment when going through the Strength Domain features and realising that Strength is optional to the class.

The Acolyte Of Strength feature at first level gives you a druid cantrip of your choice, including the Shillelagh cantrip that allows you to use your Wisdom modifier with strength based weapons.

Despite that, most people drawn to the strength domain will still want the fantasy of being absolutely ripped, and your ability scores should reflect this:

Ability Score

Recommended Dosage

Benefits

Wisdom

As much as you can carry

Wisdom empowers your spells (and with Shillelagh your melee power as well). If you plan to focus on spells that don’t utilise your wisdom score (such as shield of faith and haste) you can lower this to prioritise strength, but you’ll ideally want both.

Strength

20% by total mass

Strength lets you perform better in melee as well as move easily in heavy armour. Even if you use shillelagh you’ll want a high strength in order to carry your armour and use weapons that shillelagh doesn’t cover:


You can’t guarantee the availability of enchanted quarterstaves and clubs so being able to wield a mace you find will always be an asset.

Constitution

Your leftover point buy budget

Constitution is always good, especially when treading the line between melee and caster: It not only helps you survive more punishment but lets you maintain concentration on your spells.


The Strength Domain gains haste as a domain spell, which is disastrous to lose control of due to a failed constitution save.

Dexterity

Just a pinch

A dexterity below ten is never good, but strength clerics don’t gain anything from raising it. Leaving this at a low but non-negative value should suffice.

Charisma

To taste

Clerics in the Amonket setting subscribe to a more ‘blood and thunder’ warpriest religious doctrine than the more charismatic preachers of the Forgotten Realms. If ever there was a justification for running a cleric with poor social skills, this would be it.

Intelligence

To taste

Intelligence doesn’t build into any of your abilities, except for religion and history skill checks. It also has the fewest compatible multiclasses so can be safely left in last place unless you want to roleplay a more scholarly cleric.

What Are The Best Spells For A Strength Domain Cleric?

Dungeons & Dragons Alarielle Aasimar Cleric of Amaunator by Lily Abdullina.
Dungeons And Dragons Alarielle Aasimar Cleric of Amaunator by Lily Abdullina

The Strength Domain offers some great spells that clerics cannot normally access. The stars of the show are the third level spell Haste and the fifth level spell Destructive Wave. Haste is one of the strongest buffing spells in the game and will be taking up your concentration often once you have it. Destructive wave is similarly strong as a damage dealing spell without concentration and without friendly fire. As a prepared spellcaster you can choose freely between the other spells you have available at the start of a day, planning around upcoming encounters and not having to worry about taking a spell that will lose utility at higher levels.

Here are some staple spells to keep prepared for general use:

Spell

Effect

Notes

Healing Word

Heals at range for 1d4+Wisdom modifier

Most clerics use healing word from the back lines to prop up injured fighters without getting too close to the action. A Strength Domain cleric is already in the fighting but can use healing word to heal others without drawing opportunity attacks for leaving melee range.

Protection from Good and Evil

Prevents a target from being possessed, charmed or frightened by fey, celestials or other powerful magical creatures.

While it requires some foreknowledge about whether you’ll be facing any of the creatures this spell protects about, this spell is able to single-handedly save a group from being killed by their own mind controlled barbarian.


Knowing who is the most important person to protect with this spell can be a challenge but when in doubt cast it on yourself first.

Inflict Wounds

Deals 3d8 damage on a touch

Inflict wounds deals a lot of damage for a first level spell and is a useful trump card if you don’t need those spell slots for healing. At first level it deals more than as double what you can expect from your melee attacks.

Detect Magic

Lets you identify any creatures or items that carry a magical signature.

When not in combat this is a useful spell to concentrate on whenever possible, and as a ritual you can save spell slots from casting it normally. Spotting magic can let you deduce when there is a magical trap, an illusory wall or an enchanted or possessed NPC. It isn’t infallible as it only gives you partial information, but you can’t argue with free.

Sample Strength Cleric Stats

Minotaur art from the Monsters Manuel In Dungeons and Dragons
Minotaur Art via Wizards of the Coast

If you just want a quick list to copy down onto your character sheet, this example character should synthesise the main points for a first level character.

Species

Minotaur (+2 strength, +1 constitution)

Ability Scores (using point buy)

14 Strength (+2 from minotaur)


10 dexterity


15 constitution (+1 from minotaur)


8 Intelligence


15 wisdom


8 charisma

Starting Equipment

Chainmail (16 AC heavy armour)


Warhammer (Versatile strength weapon, 1d8 or 1d10)


Shield


Holy Symbol of Rhonas


Priests Pack (found in player’s handbook)

Starting hitpoints

10

Character Name

Drakmir

Spells prepared (can prepare three at level one)

Divine Favor (domain), Shield of Faith (domain),


Healing word, Detect Magic, Protection From Evil and Good

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