Recently, I have been taking part in a play-by-post D&D campaign with some Discord friends, and decided to try something different for a character concept. I got the idea in a roundabout way from Lord of the Rings, namely a somewhat obscure character named Cirdan the Shipwright. It dawned on me that elves could forge things well, just like dwarves, even if their sense of style would be different. That led to Fenmaer Wasanthi, the high elf forge domain cleric, my PBP character.
For class-racial stats, high elves don’t make optimal clerics, but flavor-wise (and again borrowing from LoTR lore) it just made more sense than a wood elf forge cleric. High elves give off a vibe of cleverness, and crafting that wood elves don’t, so that seemed to mesh with the flavor of the forge cleric, even if I lose some stat benefits.
Still, how does one play a forge cleric? For the PBP campaign, we have an unusual composition in that we have wizard, druid and myself, the cleric. That means no melee fighters by default. It took me a session or two to realize that Fenmaer would be taking on the melee role while his partners would stay back and use magic. Because Forge Clerics get heavy armor proficiency by default, plus Blessing of the Forge to give my armor an extra +1, I could maintain a pretty high AC (19) easily enough. One would argue that Blessing of the Forge is one of the funnest reasons (besides good armor proficiency) to play a Forge Cleric. I have used it to give +1 to my weapon as well, and if we had a proper melee fighter, I could have easily just blessed their weapon instead.
However, the first couple Adventurer’s League modules that we played didn’t go particularly well. This was because I kept trying to play Fenmaer as an offensive cleric. I would cast Searing Smite (something that forge clerics get for free), whiff the attack and waste my spell slot (or it would hit and do middling damage). For Guiding Bolt, it was hard to cast because I would have disadvantage if the target was within 5ft, so I would have to risk backing up, and then it would still miss.
Later, it finally dawned on me that my Cleric abilities still worked better than my melee combat, but that I still need to stay on the front line. In other words a “tank cleric”: someone who can leverage cleric abilities while still absorbing potential attacks. So my strategy lately has been to:
- Using Bless to improve the team’s attack capabilities and saving throws. Since this persists for multiple rounds, I get more bang for my buck, my other cast partners get better hit %’s and I can still hit with my sword better. Win-win.
- For beefy attacks, using Inflict Wounds will work better than something like Guiding Bolt since I don’t have any disadvantage when I am up in an opponent’s face. With Bless in play, that also has a better chance to hit.
The gist here is that by focusing on buff spells, high AC, and clerical spells that require melee spell attacks, I get more bang for my buck on my limited spell slots, and provide more impact on the battlefield.
But the Forge Cleric gets noticeably better starting at 6th level onward: resistance (and then later full immunity) to fire, heavy armor gets additional AC benefits, etc. It kind of puts a Forge Cleric on a single development track (e.g. fire + heavy armor), but it makes sense flavor-wise, and like any good role-player, you play to your strengths rather than worrying about your weaknesses.
Speaking of fire, the emphasis on fire and metal makes for interesting flavor challenges for an elf. Normally, we associate elves with nature, greenery, etc, not fire and metal. However, there is a Forge domain deity for Elves named Darahl Firecloak (or Darahl Tilvenar in Elvish). He only gets a tiny mention in 5e’s Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, but older lore explains that Darahl is something of a black sheep in the Elvish pantheon due to a past tragedy he unwittingly committed, and his tendency to be more open to non-Elf converts. It makes for fun cleric role-playing: trying to revive Darahl’s religious community. Fenmaer’s backstory in particular is that he is from the community of Elventree near Mulmaster (where many D&D Adventurer’s League modules are based), and a small, diminishing community of high elves. Fenmaer’s motivation has been to revive the fortunes of his community and recover lost lore, forging methods, etc.
But also, going back to Tolkien, the high elves of D&D strongly correlate to the Noldor of the Silmarillion, due to their craftiness and emphasis on magic and forging artifacts (e.g. the Silmaril jewels), less so on nature. So, the idea of elves crafting is not as far-fetched as modern pop-culture would imply. This is one of the reasons I tend to play elves a lot in D&D: there’s a surprising variety of elf subtypes if you know your Tolkien. 😉
As for Forge Clerics, they have a clear track for development, and if you’re willing to play to its strengths, it’s a pretty fun interesting domain for clerics to explore, especially when you mix with interesting cultural interactions.
P.S. Briefly posted on another, experimental side-blog, decided to move here for consistency.