Is Cleric Or Paladin Better In DND?

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  • Gameplay Differences Between Paladin And Cleric
  • Differences In Roleplaying Paladins And Clerics

Religion can be a deeply personal aspect of someone’s life. Especially in Dungeons and Dragons, where believing in your god hard enough will give you magical abilities. The two classes that make the most use of their faith are paladins and clerics. Because they’re both ways to build a character that’s dedicated their life in service of a deity, you can be forgiven for mixing up the two.




Dungeons & Dragons: All Cleric Subclasses, Ranked

Not all clerics are created equal, so we’ve ranked all the cleric subclasses in the Player’s Handbook and subsequent sourcebooks.

However, there are several core differences, both in terms of combat and roleplaying, that set the two classes apart. Depending on what role you want to play in your party and the kind of relationship you’d like to have with your deity, you might end up preferring one over the other.

Gameplay Differences Between Paladin And Cleric

Two artworks. On the right is an orc paladin on a horse, on the left is a halfling cleric with a missing hand causing books to float
Art via Wizards of the Coast

The key difference between clerics and paladins in terms of gameplay is that clerics are geared toward being healers and magic users, while paladins are geared towards being front-line fighters and tanks.

While you can make a paladin built around using magic and a cleric built around frontline combat, it’s not always efficient.

Paladins have access to fighting styles, which gives them certain bonuses depending on what they’re holding, such as increasing their AC while wearing armor or allowing them to impose disadvantage on enemy attack rolls while holding a shield.

Clerics get nothing of the sort aside from their basic proficiency in simple weapons and light and medium armor and can’t be holding anything in their hands if they want to cast a spell with a somatic component.

Proficiency with light and medium armor does let them wear it while casting spells; however, it doesn’t give them as much of an AC boost as paladins wearing heavy armor.

Paladins also get Divine Smite, allowing them to use a paladin spell slot to add Radiant damage to their melee attacks. This gives you options to use your strength on enemies that are normally immune to non-magical attacks.

If you need to know what type of damage you should be using, Divine Sense will allow you to tell if any fiends, celestials, or undead are nearby and also if certain spells have been cast on objects, but only until the end of your turn.

Both paladins and clerics can cast spells. However, paladins are half-casters, meaning they do not get cantrips and don’t get higher-level spell slots. Paladins also use Charisma for spellcasting, while clerics use Wisdom.

While the paladin and cleric spell lists do overlap, clerics get more and better healing spells by default. However, both get access to spells via their subclass that can mitigate this.

These are Oath Spells for paladins and Domain Spells for clerics.

When it comes to healing, clerics rely on their spells, giving them more options and allowing them to heal a greater amount of HP, whereas paladins have Lay on Hands.

Paladin vs. Cleric Healing



  • Lay on Hands: A set pool of HP equal to paladin level times five. This pool replenishes every long rest.
  • Uses an action.
  • Amount able to heal diminishes over time as the resource is used up.
  • Still have a few healing spells they can use.
  • Multiple healing spells that can be cast at different levels.
  • Can heal with action or bonus action.
  • Rolls a new number of HP every time a spell is cast.

Finally, both have access to Channel Divinity, letting them call upon their deity for a certain effect that changes depending on your subclass.

Channel Divinity In Paladins And Clerics



  • Gained at third level.
  • All subclasses give you two options.
  • Even split between improving combat and healing or support.
  • Gained at second level.
  • All clerics receive Turn Undead.
  • Most Channel Divinity Effects are geared towards healing or support.
  • Subclasses either give you one or two options.

Turn Undead, the Channel Divinity option shared by all clerics, also has the ability to straight-up vaporize weaker undead once a cleric hits fifth level, up to instantly destroying enemies of challenge rating four once you hit level 17.

This makes clerics intensely useful, specifically if you’re fighting a lot of undead at higher levels, as while a paladin’s Divine Smite can deal a lot of damage, it’ll only do it to one enemy at a time.

Traditionally, fighting undead will be one of the main times your clerics are really, REALLY, good at regular combat as opposed to just healing or casting spells to support.

Otherwise, the fact that they have fewer hit dice compared to Paladins and lack proficiency with shields and heavy armor means they have a harder time surviving direct hits and should avoid intense combat.

Clerics still do have decent damage-dealing options, armor options, and survivability. You don’t need to avoid combat outright, especially depending on your choice of subclass.

Differences In Roleplaying Paladins And Clerics

Two artworks. On the left is a human cleric healing an ally, on the right is a dragonborn cleric brandishing a sword
Art via Wizards of the Coast

Beyond combat, you should play paladins and clerics differently. Yes, they both dedicate their lives to the service of their respective deities. However, a key difference is that paladins have the threat of failure.

The main thing separating a paladin’s Sacred Oath from a cleric’s domain (and other types of subclasses) is that when you take an oath, it comes with Tenets that you have to adhere to. If you fail to fulfill your oath or stand by your principles, you become an Oathbreaker paladin, mechanically affecting how they play.

Paladins ask for the help of their god for power and, in exchange, make an oath. If that oath is broken or those principles are betrayed, they cannot continue in service to their god in good faith.

Clerics, on the other hand, tend to be assigned missions by their deities. Rather than asking their god for powers, they are told what to do. Though they can fail to ask their god for help, they are not given a specific ideal they have to strive to uphold and won’t get mechanically punished for failing.

You can play either class however you want, but like with combat, mechanically, they’re each geared towards a certain type of interpretation.

Cleric’s Domains simply define the type of abilities you can get, they don’t impose any limitations on roleplay.

If you’re interested in working through some deeply complicated religious feelings or concepts like redemption, then paladin will give you more to work with in terms of mechanics.

If you’re looking to play a dedicated healer who can still hold their own in combat and specialize in several different aspects, the cleric is the perfect option.


Dungeons & Dragons: All Official Paladin Subclasses, Ranked

Here are all the official Paladin Oaths available in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, ranked by playstyle and usefulness to the party.

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