Forge Domain Cleric 5e Guide
Published on January 5, 2021, Last modified on September 15th, 2021
In this post, we will examine the different choices you will be presented with when leveling up your Forge Domain Cleric in D&D 5e. We will be discussing everything from which ability scores to max out, to which races will give you the best stats (and everything in-between). This article will focus primarily on content from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook, but will also delve into some of the content in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
What is this guide?
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Cleric Subclass, the Forge Domain. You can find a full overview of the Cleric class here: DnD 5e Cleric.
For our full class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange is an OK option
- Green is a good option
- Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
- Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
For our Subclass Guides, we focus mainly on the Blue and Sky Blue options and options that are different from the parent class’ rating for races, backgrounds, and feats. This is to allow a streamlined view of the subclass’s features and because the other options are discussed in the 5e Cleric Guide or other Subclass Guides.
Did you know?
D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.
What is a Forge Domain Cleric?
Forge Domain Clerics, found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, are artisans that draw their power from a god of forging, metallurgy, and fire. Their expanded spell list and subclass features deal mainly with fire damage and metalworking.
Forge Domain Clerics gain access to heavy armor and some great damage-dealing spells. They are most comfortable going into battle with a hammer in one hand and a shield in the other, switching between dealing damage and supporting their party.
Because Forge Domain Clerics want high STR for heavy armor, attacks, and damage, high CON for tanking, and high WIS for spellcasting, they are seen as a very multi-ability dependent (MAD) build. Throw in the fact that these Forge Domain Clerics usually want at least one feat in War Caster, and you find yourself strapped for ability scores off the get-go.
In addition, Forge Domain Clerics rely on spells to keep up with other melee classes for damage output. That being said, they have access to Heat Metal, Spiritual Weapon, and Spirit Guardians, which are amazing multi-turn damage spells.
Before You Start
Check out our Guide to DnD Races for non-standard races. Keep in mind, most races and subraces are limited by the setting and source material chosen by the DM. Below are some of the best options for Forge Domain Clerics from the standard races.
Dwarf: Dwarves are a very synergistic Cleric race. Their CON boost and Darkvision are great starts and their subraces really bring it home.
- Hill: The WIS bonus here is great for any Cleric build.
- Mountain: The +2 STR bonus is helpful for a melee Cleric. Not many builds get to start with +4 ASIs, but melee Forge Domain Clerics certainly can make the most of this.
Half-Orc: +2 STR and +1 CON is a great start for melee Forge Domain Cleric builds. Relentless Endurance keeps you in the fight to save your friends. The lack of WIS hurts though.
Variant Human: Boosting your WIS/STR, or WIS/CON is where you want to be at the start. As mentioned previously, Forge Domain Clerics are at their best when they have the War Caster feat, so picking it up at 1st level is a huge boon.
Forge Domain Clerics are particularly inclined to buff their STR. This makes a background that provides Athletics as a skill proficiency a solid pick.
- Acolyte: Insight and Religion aren’t very exciting, but roleplaying wise this is a good pick.
- Pirate: This might be a harder one to sell roleplaying wise, but the Athletics and Perception proficiencies are worth it.
- Sailor: Same trouble with roleplay as the Pirate, same great benefits. If you can make it work, this is a great choice.
- Soldier: A Soldier background for a Forge Domain Cleric is certainly easier to believe than Pirate or Sailor. Athletics is a great pickup and Intimidation is a good social skill, just be sure to make good use of this in social encounters.
Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.
As mentioned before, Forge Domain Clerics suffer from being MAD as they have to focus on STR, CON, and WIS. Seeing as Clerics are a full caster, they need to be able to make full use of their spell slots so buffing WIS is the highest priority. From there, you need to make the decision to pump either CON or STR.
Because Forge Domain Clerics will likely be upfront and personal with enemies while concentrating on spells, CON is typically the better choice. Maintaining your concentration on Heat Metal or Spirit Guardians will be worth a lot more than the STR modifier bonus.
In summary, Forge Domain Clerics should prioritize WIS > CON > STR.
STR: This is your plus to hit and damage. Get this to at least 15 for plate armor.
DEX: Unfortunately, you don’t get to be stealthy or agile when wearing heavy armor.
CON: CON will mean more hitpoints and better concentration checks. This is extremely important for characters who will be in melee when buffing party members.
INT: No benefit for a Forge Domain Cleric.
WIS: Your spellcasting modifier is always your most important ability score when you are a full caster. This means more damage, healing, and higher save DCs for all of your lovely spells.
CHA: Dump and focus on other stats.
Forge Domain Cleric Class Progression
Hit Points: A d8 hit dice for a melee character is pretty rough, luckily your high AC, buff spells, and heal spells help to make up for it.
Saves: Wisdom and Charisma are not what you are looking for in a melee spellcaster. The lack of CON saves here makes picking up feats like Resilient (CON) and War Caster a necessity.
Proficiencies: Light armor, medium armor, and shields are a good start, but being able to pick up heavy armor at 1st level through your domain bonus proficiencies is amazing.
Skills: Refer to the 5e Cleric Guide.
Spellcasting: Refer to the 5e Cleric Guide.
Divine Domain: Forge Domain
Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
- Identify: However flavorful this spell is to the Forge Domain, it sucks. Magic items can be identified during a short rest, so burning a spell slot on this spell is usually unnecessary.
- Searing Smite: Unfortunately this is the worst smite in the game. Mediocre damage, common damage type for resistances, common save proficiency for ending the effect, and when it’s upcast only the initial damage is increased. Boo.
Bonus Proficiencies: Proficiency with heavy armor is amazing for any class. This huge boost to AC allows you to head into battle without the fear of being shredded to pieces. While tool proficiencies aren’t used very well in the 5e system, smith’s tools are among the best tools to have.
Blessing of the Forge: Getting a +1 magic weapon from 1st level is absolutely stellar. Being able to switch it to armor or a shield based on the items you collect throughout the campaign is a nice way to make it always meaningful.
- Turn Undead: This is a great anti-undead feature that is made even better by the Forge Domains proclivity for melee combat.
- Artisan’s Blessing: While this may not seem like an overly exciting ability, you’d be surprised how many times being able to create any object that has metal in it, under 100gp, can be useful.
- Heat Metal: No save and consistent, stellar damage. You can also cause an enemy to attack with disadvantage if they want to keep using their weapon. It also scales quite well at higher levels.
- Magic Weapon: There are usually better options for your concentration slot than an extra +1 to damage and attacks, especially if your weapon is already magic from Blessing of the Forge.
Destroy Undead: This gets a slightly higher ranking here than in our 5e Cleric Guide because Forge Domain Clerics like to be on the frontlines, which will likely increase the number of undead you can catch.
- Elemental Weapon: Good for targeting a specific weakness, but there is no way you use this over the Spirit Guardians spell in your concentration slot.
- Protection from Energy: Granting resistance to a specific damage type is situational but could save a life or enable taking a path that may not be otherwise traversable.
Soul of the Forge: Damage resistances are great, especially when the damage type is as common as fire is. The +1 to AC while wearing heavy armor is another huge plus because of the lack of AC scaling in 5e. At this point, you can easily have 21 AC with plate and a shield. Add Shield of Faith and another +1 from Blessing of the Forge and you could have a pretty consistent 24 AC at 6th level. Awesome!
- Fabricate: Situational, but is truly only limited by your imagination.
- Wall of Fire: One of the better battlefield control options. If used correctly, Wall of Fire is pretty devastating.
Divine Strike: An extra d8 of damage once per turn is always nice. As mentioned before, fire damage is a common resistance, but not common enough to make this undesirable. The increase at 14th level is a great way to keep your melee damage scaling.
- Animate Objects: Animate Objects is really, really good. A 5th level spell that allows you to make 10 attacks with a +8 to hit and 1d4+4 damage as a bonus action is insane, even if it requires concentration.
- Creation: This, unfortunately, is a bit of an underwhelming spell. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where this may be useful.
Divine Intervention: Refer to the 5e Cleric Guide.
Saint of Forge and Fire: Immunity to fire damage is absolutely stellar. The resistance to slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning from non-magical attacks is great but will be skirted around a lot by this late in a campaign.
Forge Clerics are pretty Multi-Ability Dependant (MAD) builds because they will need WIS for spellcasting, STR for heavy armor and melee attacks, and CON for survivability. Also, if you plan on running a front-line caster build, you will absolutely need the War Caster feat. Combine these two issues with the fact that Clerics don’t get a whole lot of ASIs and you will realize that you don’t have the luxury to take a bunch of cool feats. The following feats (except for War Caster) are great “half-feats” that will allow you to pump an ability score while also picking up a cool feature. If you end up with an odd STR or CON score after character creation, the following feats are a great pickup.
Heavy Armor Master: HAM is amazing for tanking at lower levels and, while it may taper off at higher levels, can certainly still help survivability.
Resilient: Cleric’s don’t have CON proficiencies which really hurts when trying to maintain concentration on spells. If you are planning on getting hit a lot, this is a solid pick.
War Caster: Advantage on CON saves and casting spells as opportunity attacks are both beneficial components of this feat. In addition, you won’t need a free hand to cast, meaning you can hold your shield or weapons in both hands. Overall a really solid choice for Forge Domain Clerics.
Refer to the 5e Cleric Guide.
Example Forge Domain Cleric Build
This build is the typical Forge Domain Cleric. You are going to be fighting with a hammer in one hand, a shield in the other, and bringing the wrath of a fire god down on your enemies.
Because of the low hit dice of the Cleric class, AC is our primary defensive concern. As for offense, we will be giving some focus to melee damage, but will also be relying on spells to dish out damage.
This tanky, solid damage-per-round build is rounded out with some buff, healing, and utility spells. Seeing as Clerics can prepare any spell from the Cleric spell list after a long rest, these are suggestions of some foundational spells to take. If you know you are going into a situation that will call for a different spell, feel free to switch them out at you see fit.
Spells marked with an asterisk (*) are domain spells and are always prepared.
- Race: Mountain Dwarf
- Background: Acolyte (Insight, Religion)
- Ability Scores (Point Buy): STR 15 (+2), DEX 10 (+0), CON 16 (+3), INT 10 (+0), WIS 15 (+2), CHA 10 (+0)
- Skill Proficiencies: Persuasion, History
- Equipment: War hammer, chain mail, hand axe, explorer’s pack, necklace (holy symbol)
- Divine Domain: Forge Domain
- Domain Spells
- Bonus Proficiencies
- Blessing of the Forge
- Cantrips: Guidance, Sacred Flame, Word of Radiance
- Add 1st Level: Bless, Cure Wounds, Healing Word, Shield of Faith, Identify*, Searing Smite*
- Channel Divinity (one use per short/long rest)
- Turn Undead
- Artisan’s Blessing
- Add 1st Level: Command
- Add 2nd Level: Heat Metal*, Magic Weapon*, Spiritual Weapon
- Feat instead of ASI: War Caster
- Add Cantrip: Mending
- Drop: Cure Wounds
- Add 2nd Level: Prayer of Healing
- Destroy Undead (CR 1/2)
- Add 3rd Level: Elemental Weapon*, Protection from Energy*, Spirit Guardians
- Channel Divinity (2/rest)
- Soul of the Forge
- Add 3rd Level: Revivify
- Add 4th Level: Banishment, Fabricate*, Wall of Fire*
- ASI: +2 WIS (WIS 17)
- Destroy Undead (CR 1)
- Divine Strike (1d8)
- Add 2nd Level: Blindness/Deafness, Enhance Ability
- Add 5th Level: Greater Restoration, Animate Objects*, Creation*
- Divine Intervention
- Add Cantrip: Toll the Dead
- Add 5th Level: Flame Strike
- Destroy Undead (CR 2)
- Add 6th Level: Heroes’ Feat
- ASI: +2 WIS (WIS 19)
- Add 5th Level: Mass Cure Wounds
- Add 6th Level: Heal
- Add 7th Level: Fire Storm
- Destroy Undead (CR 3)
- Divine Strike (2d8)
- Add 7th Level: Divine Word
- Add 8th Level: Holy Aura
- ASI: +1 WIS, +1 CON (WIS 20, CON 17)
- Add 3rd Level: Dispel Magic
- Add 5th Level: Raise Dead
- Destroy Undead (CR 4)
- Saint of Forge and Fire
- Add 9th Level: Mass Heal
- Channel Divinity (3/rest)
- Add 5th Level: Geas
- Feat instead of ASI: Resilient (CON)
- Add 7th Level: Conjure Celestial
- Divine Intervention Improvement
- Add 6th Level: Planar Ally
Hope you liked the guide! If you have any questions or feel like we missed something for the Forge Domain Cleric, go ahead and post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!