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I'm new to D&D and started with 5e. I was reading through the cleric class and it says that it's main purpose is to heal the party, but they also that they are chosen by a deity or god or they choose to follow a deity or god themselves.

My question: Does a cleric's (and to certain extent, paladin's) magic come from the gods or from themselves? Can a cleric have an evil god as their patron? If so, and if the magic the cleric has comes from its patron, should they still be able to heal or should they have a different spell list?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the title to be a question; please feel free to change it if you don't think it reflects your intentions. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Jun 3 '17 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ related rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/91793 \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jun 4 '17 at 9:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I know that Forgotten Realms books are not really sources for D&D information, but can't help to quote a relevant excerpt of The Silent Blade: "Rai'gy's eyes widened with surprise. "I am to pray to Lady Lolth for spells with which to heal a halfling?" he asked incredulously. "And you believe that she will grant me such spells, given that intent?" Jarlaxle, supremely confident, nodded. "She will, because bestowing such spells shall further the cause of her drow," he explained." \$\endgroup\$ – svavil Jun 4 '17 at 12:41
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All clerics can use healing magic.

Per the descriptions in the Player's Handbook, a cleric's magic comes from their deity:

Divine magic, as the name suggests, is the power of the gods, flowing from them into the world. Clerics are conduits for that power, manifesting it as miraculous effects.

(PHB, p. 56)

Clerics can serve an evil god. Whether a player character cleric can serve a particular evil god is up to the DM to decide; some evil gods may not require all of the their servants to be evil, or to do evil deeds.

All clerics, regardless of the alignment of their deity, use the same basic spell list, which includes a number of healing spells. Each cleric chooses a divine domain which is related to their deity; this will give them additional spells and abilities. The DMG provides rules for an additional domain (Death, on p.96), which may be appropriate for clerics of some evil deities.

Note that there's no reason that a cleric of an evil god shouldn't be able to use healing spells. The cleric, their allies, minions, and followers, can all benefit from healing, and healing their servants may be entirely in the interests of an evil god.

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Clerics can serve evil deities and still use healing spells

You have a variety of elements to your question, and I'll try to cover them all.

Clerics and Paladins use divine magic, so both are divine casters

The spells of clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers are called divine magic. These spell casters' access to the weave is mediated by divine power -- gods, divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath. (PHB. 205)

Unlike the sorcerer, the source of a cleric's magic is not "themselves" but is rather a divine source.

Divine magic, as the name suggests, is the power of the gods flowing from them into the world. Clerics are conduits for that power ...(PHB p. 56)

  1. A cleric can indeed serve an evil deity. Regardless of the deity served, the healing spells remain as a choice to prepare from the cleric spell list. Note: A "patron" is more typically associated in technical terms with a Warlock.
  2. The alignment of the god isn't relevant, in terms of "can a cleric heal". The spells available to choose from include healing spells. (PHB p. 207-208). That said, the PHB indicates that a cleric cannot choose the Life Domain (PHB p. 60-61) if the god being served is Evil.

    As described in the chapter 3, through, the Life domain is incredibly broad, and a cleric of any non-evil deity can choose it. (p. 293)

    Further that point (PHB p. 60) "almost any non-evil deity can claim influence over this domain" is rules text that suggests that some non-evil deities have no influence over the life domain. (Check with your DM for your world).

  3. Cleric's "main purpose is to heal" is a class archetype that goes back to the original game (released in 1974) but has seen some variation over the editions in terms of emphasis. A cleric can choose to prepare spells that do not include healing. You could, for example, play a Trickery Domain (PHB p. 63) cleric who never chooses a healing spell.

  4. The PHB (p. 56) refers to clerics as "divine agents," however see notes below2.
  5. The general case is as servant of a deity.

    As you create a cleric, the most important question to consider is which deity to serve and which principles you want your character to embody. (PHB. 57){snip} The power of your spells comes from your devotion to your deity (PHB. p. 58)

  6. To be a Death Domain cleric, it appears that the cleric must have an evil alignment (DMG. p 96) based on the class being specifically tailored for evil clerics.

    The Death Domain is an additional domain choice for evil clerics1 ...

    That cleric can still choose a healing spell from the spell list, however.


1 The cleric's alignment and the deity's alignment do not have to match perfectly.
2 While the general case is service to a deity, DMG provides two exceptions: on p. 10 the Dark Sun setting is provided as an example of absent gods where clerics rely on elemental powers for their magic, and on p. 13 in Forces and Philosophies the option is presented where a cleric devotes themselves to an ideal rather than to a deity. That is entirely within the authority of the DM to establish if the DM so chooses.

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Healing is not a good-only thing. The only potential obstacle the choice of deity could have is that they might frown on such a thing... but I am unaware of any deities that don't like their clerics to cast healing spells. Certainly this is not something typical of evil deities.

But even if a cleric did worship such a deity, they could still cast healing spells anyways, so long as they don't upset their deity to the point where they get their powers revoked.

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