10 Best Cleric Backgrounds, Photo Sketch of a Robed Person Entering a Doorway

Top 10 Cleric Backgrounds for 5e

Playing a Cleric in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition gives you a wealth of options in creating the type of character you want. That wealth of options translates to the background you choose.

Many backgrounds in D&D 5e work well for the Cleric. But, some work better than others.

Here is a list of the best Cleric backgrounds in D&D 5e.

Now, this list, as with many other lists, is fairly subjective and depends almost entirely on how you want to play your Cleric. That said, some backgrounds give you better skill proficiencies than others for what Clerics are typically good at.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at 10 of the top backgrounds for Clerics in 5e.

1. Acolyte

Cleric Backgrounds, Photo Sketch of a Robed Man Holding a Walking Staff

The Acolyte background is possibly the best background for Clerics in D&D 5e. Your skill proficiencies, extra languages, and background feature all work extremely well with the theming of the class.

First off, the Acolyte background grants you character proficiency in the Insight and Religion skills. Getting these from your background means freeing up your choices in skills from your class. That said, while Religion is thematically relevant, it doesn’t quite work well with the Cleric’s dependency on Wisdom as the skill uses Intelligence.

Another benefit of the Acolyte background is your character gains two more languages of your choice. While Clerics don’t need a high Charisma stat, this helps during social encounters.

This background also gives you a Holy Symbol which you Cleric may use as a spellcasting focus. Meaning you’ll have two, assuming you took the default Cleric equipment.

Shelter of the Faithful is the Acolyte’s background feature. Basically, it means you always have a relatively safe place to retreat to where non-player characters do what they can to help. You also may request free healing from NPCs (assuming those services are available) which is great for when your adventuring party comes home beaten and bloody.

Choose the Acolyte background for your Cleric if you want to play the classic version of the holy person adventurer.

Source: Player’s Handbook

2. Hermit

Photo Sketch of a Robed Person Looking at a Flying Bird Over a Creek

The Hermit background is a fun choice for Clerics who spent most of their time as a recluse from society. The skill proficiencies you receive work well for healer-type Clerics and the other things you get serve to create a thematic character.

This background gives you a couple skills that sort of reflect a character who reached enlightenment away from civilization. While one is fairly standard for a Cleric in understanding the cosmos from a religious perspective, the other is good for maintaining their and their allies’ health. While it might not be the most useful skill, it comes in handy when you’re low on spell slots and need to stabilize a creature.

You also get proficiency with the Herbalism Kit. Now, the usefulness of this depends on your game and how you play your Cleric. But, if able, you can use this to create potions of healing.

The Hermit background gives your character another language too. Not as useful as two, but the tool proficiency kind of balances this out.

Now, the background feature for the Hermit isn’t terribly helpful. It can be great for roleplaying opportunities if you work with your GM and how your knowledge works into the plot of the game. But, it doesn’t do much aside from that.

Choose the Hermit background for your Cleric if you like the idea of playing a holy person, recluse who discovered a terrible secret.

Source: Player’s Handbook

3. Faction Agent

Photo Sketch of a Robed Woman in a Study

The Faction Agent background is a great option for Clerics in 5e. This background gives you some flexibility in skill proficiencies, extra languages, and has a pretty good background feature thematic to Clerics.

Your skill proficiencies from this background gives you a bit of room to customize your character. First, you get one skill which helps in tense social encounters. But, after that, you have a choice in mental skills, making this background a bit more customizable than others.

You also get a couple more languages. More languages helps in preparing for potential social encounters you may run across during your game.

Finally, the Faction Agent’s background feature basically gives your character a safe place to return to. You also have connections to NPCs a part of your chosen faction.

Choose the Faction Agent background for your Cleric if you want your character to be a part of a religious faction but not necessarily tied to a church or temple.

Source: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

4. Far Traveler

Photo Sketch of a Robed Person With a Celestial Avatar Behind Them

The Far Traveler background is a pretty good choice for 5e Clerics. You get a couple skill proficiencies which play into the Cleric’s strengths, an extra language, and the background feature may lead to interesting roleplaying opportunities.

This background gives your character proficiency in two Wisdom-based skills; one to help in understanding another creature’s emotional state or intentions and the other for staying aware of their surroundings. Since Clerics rely so heavily on Wisdom for their spells and class features, these skills work quite well with the class and opens up your skill choices from the Cleric’s options.

You also get a tool or musical instrument proficiency tied to your native homeland. These often see little play, but are fun for fleshing out your character.

Far Traveler also grants you an extra language your character knows. More languages are always good for potential roleplay and social encounters.

Now, the background feature is interesting. Basically, since your character hails from some foreign land, you catch the eye of other NPCs in your game. As a Cleric, you may present this as the unusual (to the setting) ceremonial garments or ornamental accessories you wear.

Choose the Far Traveler background for your Cleric is you want to play a sort of missionary or emissary-type character from a foreign land.

Source: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

5. City Watch

Photo Sketch of a Robed Man in Profile

The City Watch background is a decent option for Clerics who want to play a more martially-focused character. One of your skill proficiencies may seem a bit unusual, but works well for the theme as well as a useful social skill.

Your character gains both a physical and mental skill proficiency from this background. The first one is for your character’s physical fitness, great for Clerics who don’t rely solely on their magic. Meanwhile, the other skill is good for reading people to understand their intent.

This background also gives you two extra languages which may help during social encounters.

The background feature for the City Watch background is a bit strange and fits a very specific character theme for Clerics. Essentially, your time in the watch or guard gives you an idea of where to find other peacekeepers as well as hubs of criminal activity. As a Cleric, this might mean seeking out to rehabilitate criminals or bring peace to the other residents.

The City Watch background works great for Order or War Domain Clerics.

Choose the City Watch background for your Cleric if you want to play a Cleric who isn’t afraid to engage in physical activity and may even enjoy getting into the odd scrap.

Source: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

6. Courtier

Photo Sketch of a Woman With a Sword Standing in a Great Hall

The Courtier background is a good choice for Clerics with a more refined backstory. Your skill proficiencies focus on social encounters and you get an idea of how to navigate noble courts and etiquette.

Basically, the two skills you get from the Courtier background help your character in social encounters. One helps you understand how a person feels or reacts to a given situation while the other aids you in cordial conversation.

This background also gives you two additional languages as you’ve dealt with various visitors to the estate in which you served.

Now, the Courtier’s background feature may help in securing favors from individuals as you know how to navigate bureaucracy and noble houses. That is to say, leveraging your position as a noble court’s Cleric to get what you need.

Choose the Courtier background for your Cleric if you want to play a character who served as a sort of court or noble house holy person.

Source: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

7. Folk Hero

Photo Sketch of a Knight Standing on a Bridge in Front of a Stone Building

The Folk Hero background is an okay choice for Clerics in 5e. It gives you a couple skill proficiencies Clerics should be good in which may help in their adventuring, and the rest of the features work surprisingly well.

You gain proficiency in Animal Handling and Survival from this background. Now, these aren’t necessarily thematic to the Cleric. But, as Wisdom-based skills, your character will already be pretty good with them. Also, these skills, particularly Survival, will probably come in handy during your character’s adventures.

Now, you gain proficiency in a set of Artisan’s Tools of your choice and land vehicles. The tools are probably not gonna come into play, so it’s a bit of a waste. But, proficiency in land vehicles may be situationally helpful, especially during travel between points.

The Folk Hero’s background feature is Rustic Hospitality. As a hero of the common folk, your character has an easier time connecting with commoners who, in turn, may provide you with shelter or a hiding place.

Choose the Folk Hero background for your Cleric if you want to play an adventuring holy person who seeks out evil to put a stop to it.

Source: Player’s Handbook

8. Guild Artisan

Photo Sketch of a Blacksmith Working on a Metal Pipe

The Guild Artisan background isn’t a bad option for Clerics. This background gives you a couple solid skill proficiencies and a language, but the rest of the features aren’t terribly useful for a Cleric.

Your character gains a couple skill proficiencies from the Guild Artisan background that are actually pretty good for Clerics. One helps you get a sense of a creature’s intentions or emotions. Meanwhile, the other skill helps in convincing NPCs to help you or believe you in some way.

Now, you get a tool proficiency in one set of Artisan’s Tools from this background. But, that’s not really important for Clerics, so it will most likely go unused unless you’re playing a specific way.

Guild Artisan also gives your character a language. An extra language is always good for potential social encounters.

Finally, the Guild Artisan’s background feature works in much the same way as others. You basically have a network of friendly or otherwise non-hostile NPCs willing to help your character. The upside is you also have the reputation of your guild supporting you as well.

Personally, this background probably works best for Clerics of the Forge Domain as that subclass focuses on the creation of items.

Choose the Guild Artisan background for your Cleric if you want to play a character that goes a little against type with ties to merchants and craftspeople.

Source: Player’s Handbook

9. Cloistered Scholar

Photo Sketch of a Sitting Person Reading a Tome in Profile

The Cloistered Scholar background is an okay choice for Clerics who want a more intellectual character. The biggest drawback is none of your skill proficiencies use Wisdom, but the extra languages and background feature make for a unique take on the Cleric class.

Your skill proficiencies from the Cloistered Scholar background are all Intelligence-based. So, your Cleric probably won’t be as good in them as your Wisdom-based ones. But, you may want to play a more intellectually-focused Cleric. In which case, this background is a pretty good choice.

That said, you do get a couple extra languages. So, your character is at least a little better prepared for more social encounters.

Now, the biggest benefit of this background is the feature. Essentially, you have greater access to your specific cloister’s library whereas outsiders would have more limited freedom. So, you’ll have an easier time finding information your party may need.

This background works well, as far as theme goes, for Knowledge Domain Clerics.

Choose the Cloistered Scholar background for your Cleric if you want to play a more intellectually-focused character with an almost reverence for knowledge or you like the theming of European medieval monks, cataloguing knowledge and information.

Source: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

10. Haunted One

Photo Sketch of a Robed Woman in a Field Looking at a Spectral Face

The Haunted One background is an alright option for Clerics, especially if you like the theme of "troubled holy person". The skill proficiencies lean more towards intellectual characters, but are fun for theme, and the background feature is an interesting twist on seeking aid.

This background gives you an option to pick two skills from a list of four. Most of theme are Intelligence skills helping in understanding magic or investigating for clues. But, one of them is a Wisdom-based skill pretty useful during travel.

You also get two languages from this background. Now, you have a list of options to choose from for one of your choices, but the second is up to you.

The Haunted One’s background feature works like many others, giving your character a way of finding aid in NPCs. The twist is people understand your character has encountered or currently grapples with a darkness which follows them.

Clerics of the Grave Domain would mesh well with the theming of the Haunted One background.

Choose the Haunted One background for your Cleric if you want to play an eerie holy person or possibly an exorcist-type character troubled by what they’ve seen.

Source: Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

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