Author Topic: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook  (Read 103496 times)

Offline Mooncrow

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The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« on: November 16, 2011, 12:57:49 AM »
AfterCrescent's 3.5 Cleric Handbook

Table of Contents

    Post 1: Introduction and Party Role
    Post 2: Attributes and Races
    Post 3: Class Features and Alternate Class Features
    Post 4: Feats and Skills/Skill Tricks
    Post 5: Spells
    Post 6: Equipment
    Post 7: Multiclassing, Dips, and Prestige Classes
    Post 8: Sample Builds
    Post 9: Debatable Tactics/Tricks

Introduction
Clerics are Wisdom based divine casters found in the 3.5 Player's Handbook.  The Cleric class is one of my favorite classes to play, and I always seem to have lots of ideas floating around in my head about different Cleric builds.  Clerics are one of the most versatile classes in the game, and if properly planned can fill almost any role.  So that basically sums up why I am writing this handbook.  Also, Skydragonknight told me I should, and I probably wouldn't have thought of it myself, so props to him.  Also, thanks to Dictum Mortuum for all his wonderful work revolutionizing handbooks.  Feel free to add any ideas/critiques and I'll try to keep this handbook updated; I'm a bit of a completionist, so I'm hoping this guide will stay updated.  I figured now would be the best time to write it, since nothing new for 3.5 will be coming out.  :D  Also, as an aside, let's keep it strictly cleric-focused here. I know that goes without saying, but just in case, let's avoid discussion of wizards/archivists/druids/etc unless used in combination for sample builds.  :)

Role in a Party
Like I mentioned above, clerics can, in my opinion, fill just about every role you could want. Obviously people have different preferences as to what class is best at what role, but that's neither here nor there.  This is just a rundown of some typical roles and what to focus on.
  • Primary Melee:
        A cleric focused on melee combat needs at least a couple standards. Power Attack is a staple feat for damage output. Strength arguably becomes more important than Wisdom for this build; mainly because your spells will be focusing on buffs and not anything that might require a save.  Divine Power and Righteous Might are two must have spells, as well.  If you can stack nightsticks (see the debatable tactics/tricks below), have an insane Charisma for some reason, or some form of extra feat system, Persist Spell becomes a very viable method of buffing at the beginning of the day.  Great Prestige Class options include the Ordained Champion (Complete Champion) and the Ruby Knight Vindicator (Tome of Battle).  Note: It is okay for melee clerics to lose caster levels due to multiclassing/prestige classes as long as they achieve 9th level spells. Miracle is an amazing buff spell.
  • Primary Ranged:
        A cleric focused on archery needs Zen Archery.  A vital tool in optimization is SAD (Single Attribute Dependency).  Clerics can, unfortunately, already be a bit MAD, and adding Dexterity as a necessity only makes it worse.  For the cost of one feat, clerics can eliminate one aspect of their attribute dependency and should do so.  I am of the opinion that clerics should use the best tools available to them, and that means heavy armor. The only exception to this is stealth based characters (see below).  The Elf Domain is also of use to a cleric, and depending on your DM may or may not require you to be an elf.  Certain viable prestige classes, such as Radiant Servant (Complete Divine) or Seeker of the Misty Isle (Complete Divine) grant you access to martial weapon proficiency, thus negating the need for the sub par War domain.  Also, invest in Raptor Arrows from the Magic Item Compendium.  Especially if you worship Ehlonna.  Finally, a one level dip into Prestige Ranger (Unearthed Arcana) could be useful as long as your DM doesn't rule out that you get Ranger spells.
  • Primary Skillmonkey/Stealth Expert:
        Small creatures and those with Dex bonuses often make the best 'stealthy' type characters.  It is only with a stealth-based cleric that I advise using anything other than the optimal armor granted to you by your class.  Light armor, or mithril medium, is your ideal choice here as long as you can eliminate ACP (Armor Check Penalty). There are plenty of valid choices for this role, as well. The Trickery Domain and the Luck Domain are solid choices.  Spells like Divine Agility are ideal. Always. This build cries out for the Cloistered Cleric ACF (Alternate Class Feature), too.  See Post 3 for more information on the Cloistered Cleric.
  • Primary Healer:
        This is the standard role that many people who play clerics feel pressured into.  There are two main approaches to this role: dedicated or not.  You can dedicate yourself to the healer role and focus all your spells/feats/PrC choices around healing your allies.  This is generally considered a bad idea.  On the other hand, you can not dedicate yourself to healing and just be damned good at it. There are strong PrC choices that benefit your healing ability without needing dedication to a poor concept.  I'm going to agree with Treantmonk's God threads on this point - The best way to handle damage is to avoid it. Either way, a common misconception is that to perform this role, you need to channel positive energy. That is not the case, as you will see below in the feat section.
  • Primary Buffer:
        Being a buffer is a great role and it's one of my favorite roles to play.  Two major ways to handle this are through either Persist Spell or Quicken Spell.  The first lets you take care of your buffing early in the day and allows you to focus on another role (see secondary roles below), while the latter can keep you busy in combat.  A majority of cleric spells are buff spells, and if you ignore them, you really are losing out.  D&D is a group game, remember that, because if you're the only one having fun, eventually no one will be gaming with you.  :(  Having Magic Vestment and Greater Magic Weapon means your party can better spend its resources.  Make sure everyone understands that.
  • Primary Caster:
        What exactly does 'Primary Caster' mean? On one hand it could mean you are a dedicated healer or buffer (see above), but it could also mean something else.  To save space, being a Primary Caster entails not being the party buffer or healer. You can accomplish it a number of ways. You could be a divine conjurer, using Summon Monster and Planar Binding to bring allies to the field.  These spells mesh well with prestige classes like Malconvoker (Complete Scoundrel) and Thaumaturgist (Dungeon Master's Guide).  You could also be an offensive caster, using Compulsions or Illusions to control the battlefield.  You could also be an offensive damage dealer. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your cleric.
  • Secondary Roles:
        D&D is a game of limits. You have limited feats. Limited skill points. Limited hit points. Everything has a limit, and while I agree that you never have enough of them, ;) clerics are not as needy in certain areas. Depending on your primary role, there may be a few feats you require, but all in all, you should have some open feats. These open feats, free spells, etc. allow you to have a secondary role by taking small, but key, portions of a second primary role (see above).  Remember: DON'T BE A ONE TRICK PONY!
  • Theme Roles:
        One of the things that is amazing about clerics is their overall thematic versatility. Through something as simple as their domain choices to the complex prestige class dipping combinations, clerics can vary drastically each time they are played. There are many themes for clerics, and I hope to keep this space reserved for links to thematic threads that at least touch on a cleric's role in that theme.
  • Necromancers:
           
  • Domain Users:
           

Mooncrow's note: Please note that all the work for this guide was done by AfterCrescent.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 01:38:05 AM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2011, 12:58:11 AM »
Attributes
  • Str: Strength is an important stat for a cleric focusing on melee combat.  If you plan on going ranged or not being involved in the damage dealing of combat, this stat loses its importance.
  • Dex: As a cleric, you are proficient with heavy armor, which calls for you to wear at least full-plate.  Wearing something sub par is not optimizing.  Now, yes, there are builds that call for Dexterity, but those are few and far between, so in general, dump this one.
  • Con: Constitution gets a blue stat regardless of class. At higher levels, it's really your Constitution that determines hit points. Yes, the hit die plays a role, but a +8 Con is better than getting max hit points with a +0 Con.  You can see the simplicity in that.
  • Int: You get 2+Int skill points. Whooo! /sarcasm.  Intelligence is a dump. (Although Concentration and Spellcraft are worth those two points, so feel free to place a 10 in this score.)
  • Wis: Wisdom is arguably the most important stat for clerics. It determines your spellcasting, and as a full caster, is vital.  There are cleric builds where Wisdom as the second highest stat is viable, and this works for casting where you do not plan on using offensive spells. Even so, it determines bonus spells per day, so it is great to have.
  • Cha: Charisma powers your social skills, which you most likely won't have ranks for... It also powers your turn attempts which help in combat against undead... OR... Power Divine Metamagic (see the feat section). If you are for some reason avoiding Divine Metamagic, feel free to dump Charisma.

Races
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Templates

Many thanks to Tigurius for making and maintaining the Master Player Template List.  Templates, in general, make poor choices for casters due to the level adjustment. A few are worth it. A few more are worth it with level adjustment buy-off. And most are worth it if for some reason your alternative is to take racial HD. LA can be bought off, HD cannot.

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« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 01:14:43 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2011, 12:58:35 AM »
Main Class Features


   
  • Hit Die: D8s are good hit die, but not great.  You will be able to take a bigger hit than wizards or rogues, but the barbarians and warblades clearly outshine you. Not the most vital attribute, but a good one to have. Overall, your Con modifier will factor into your HP more than this will.
  • Skill: You are a wisdom based caster with all the fluff for rooting out the truth.  And yet you lack Sense Motive as a class skill.  That's just bad planning.  You don't have the skill points for it either. 2+Int is nothing special.  If you don't have a negative Int modifier your skills will most likely consist of Spellcraft and Concentration. Skills aren't too important for you, big guy.
  • Proficiencies: On the plus side you have access to heavy armor, which will help keep you alive. Equipment is one of your many decisions when optimizing and it should not be taken lightly.  You are also proficient with shields, so make sure to grab an animated one. They help both ranged and melee fighters.  The biggest downside is the simple weapon only clause, unless you take the War Domain. Best simple weapon for you is the MORNINGSTAR.
  • Aura: If you worship a deity you glow with its aura. If you have an alignment and don't worship a deity you glow with that aura. This has no benefit and merely helps reveal you to enemies. Especially Paladins that can detect evil/good at will.  You can mask it but that's just extra wasted resources. The only upside comes from being neutral and having an evil deity. Paladins waste their smite evil on you.  :D
  • Spells: Cleric spells are awesome. Vigor?! Righteous Might? Righteous Wrath?!  The list goes on.  While most of these spells are buffing/debuffing there are plenty of offensive spells out there, so you can pull whatever role you want.
  • Deity: Deities supply domains. In a campaign where you have to pick a deity this can be a boon or hindrance. It all depends on what your deity's domains and portfolio are.  There's a lot of good roleplay to be had through this, but then again anyone can worship a deity.  If you know what domains you want and there is a deity that supplies them, it really is a nice thing.
  • Domain Powers: These are some of the best things clerics have to offer. They are also the reason Cleric 1 is a great dip.  Most of the best powers come in the form of bonus feats or things like uncanny dodge. Whatever the case may be, you can do a lot with these powers, so make good use of them. One important note: Prestige classes that add domains should stack with cleric levels for the purpose of the domain ability, but that is your DM's call.
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  • Domain Spells: You have two domains (at least) and one domain spell for each level. Who doesn't like free extra spells? It's almost like a specialist wizard, except better.  The key thing to note is that you want to get access to solid spells that are not normally available to you. Mix these well with domain powers and you'll be happy.
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  • Spontaneous Casting: As a cleric, you can spontaneously cast either cure or inflict spells.  Generally speaking, sacrificing well prepared slots for spontaneous healing is not a good idea, but in a pinch, this ability can be useful to you.  Just remember, if you channel negative energy, get everyone to grab Tomb-Tainted Soul.
  • Alignment Restriction: This is probably one of the biggest setbacks for a cleric. You are not allowed to cast a spell with an alignment opposite of your own. If you are evil, you cannot cast Holy Word, etc. It's not too terrible, because there are not an insane number of aligned spells, but it is still an inconvenience. This reason alone is why I suggest playing a neutral cleric. You have access to everything, and lose nothing (Except, apparently, access to the Incarnum domain *rolls eyes)
  • Turn/Rebuke Undead: Amazing! Second best class feature. There is just so much you can do with turning attempts. Grab a domain with the ability to turn other subtypes and you can do even more. You can power Divine Metamagic. You can power all sorts of divine feats. You can turn undead or command them. An incredibly useful class feature; you'll be happy you have it.
  • Bonus Languages: You can take the religious (re: aligned outsider) languages as bonus languages. Meh. It does allow for some interesting language choices, but in reality there's no advantage or disadvantage to this feature. Warforged have no bonus languages, so this helps them, though.

Alternate Class Features


   
  • Blasphemous Incantation - Exemplars of Evil: Lose Rebuke Undead (A great class feature) to sicken good creatures (not good at all).
  • Champion Cleric - Unearthed Arcana: Sacrifice Turn Undead for Aura of courage and a Paladin's smite. It is a bad move.
  • Divine Counterspell - Complete Mage: You lose turn undead, which is bad. You gain the ability to counterspell using ONLY your cleric level, not your caster level. Terrible option.
  • Positive Healing - Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: You lose a domain granted power, which is bad, but not a horrible loss. In return all you gain is 10HP over 5 rounds? And that costs you a turn attempt. Two losses does not equal a win.
  • True Daylight - Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Like Positive Healing except instead of healing, you can cast Daylight... Who thinks up these things? Even in an undead heavy campaign this is terrible.
  • Pool of Healing - Complete Champion: Trade one fourth level spell for a variant Lay on Hands ability. This actually isn't a terrible ability and could be really useful. The problem is that you're usually hitting a PrC by 7th level, so this won't see much air time.
  • Dragonscale Husk - Dragon Magic: For a Vow of Poverty build, this ACF is good. Otherwise it's not worth it.  Even then, you may just end up using Greater Luminous Armor.
  • Drow Cleric - Drow of the Underdark/Rebuke Dragons - Dragon Magic: If your campaign is going to have a lot of vermin or dragons, this could be useful. It still counts as turn undead for the purpose of divine feats, which is nice. It all depends on your campaign and DM, really. These could be useful or useless.
  • Destroy Undead - Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: In a campaign with powerful undead, or if you just want to use your turning as a backup, you trade the ability to make undead cower for the ability to damage them for 1d6/cleric level. The save for half sucks, but otherwise this is a decent choice, as long as you can still use your turn attempts to power divine feats, that is.
  • Divine Magician - Complete Mage: It's the "Make your own Domain" ACF. Instead of a power, you get to add a wizard spell at each level of spell. Not the greatest schools, but solid choices for what you're giving up. Nice if you have to choose a deity and there's not two good domain choices. PhaedrusXY has a rework of good spells to choose from here.
  • Divine Restoration - Dungeonscape: You lose a granted power from one of your domains (nice if you picked a domain just for the spells and it has a terrible power) and gain the ability to spontaneously cast restoration spells.  I could see a use for this, especially with a Hellfire Warlock/Eldritch Disciple.
  • Cloistered Cleric - Unearthed Arcana: You get bardic lore, knowledge domain as a bonus, Bucket o' Skill Points, extra spells. You lose BAB which Divine Power makes up for and Armor proficiencies. Let's face it. This ACF is ideal for a lot of cleric builds. The biggest downside is one less average HP, and there are a lot of ways to counteract that.  An ideal ACF for ranged, skill monkeys, stealth, etc.
  • Spontaneous Domain - Player's Handbook II: Instead of spontaneously casting Cure/Inflict, you spontaneously cast Domain spells. Granted, it is only one domain, but it's still awesome. If you have a domain with solid spell choices that you'll use most of the time, this feature is amazing.
  • Substitute Domain - Complete Champion: While not actually an alternate class feature, this spell allows you to swap a domain you have for another one of your deity's for 1 day/level. It allows for flexibility and versatility without commitment. It is especially evident if you need access to a certain spell for a certain objective or a domain power for a short time.  It takes some planning to determine what you will need more often, the domain power or a certain spell, but when you need to switch, this spell is great. It can also be dismissed, so there's no worry that you will be stuck with a terrible domain for too long.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 12:55:54 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2011, 12:59:03 AM »
Feats

   
  • Augment HealingCD - Not worth a feat. You should only take this if you are trying to optimize your healing potential to be a "healstick." If that's the case, you really have no idea what a cleric is capable of when properly utilized.
  • Combat CastingPHB - It's a trap! The limitations imposed on this feat make it terrible. You are much better off taking Skill Focus (Concentration). In fact, if you are going to take Shielded Casting (Races of Stone), try to get your DM to allow Skill Focus in place of this feat.
  • Combat ReflexesPHB - You're dumping Dexterity most of the time. Odds are that this feat will grant you little to no benefit.
  • Domain FocusCD - There are few domains with more than one spell that you'd take this for. You're really better off getting spell focus for an increase in caster level here.
  • Enlarge/Maximize/Silent/Still/WidenPHB - These are the rejects of the core Metamagic feats. The level adjustment compared to the benefit is just not worth it for these feats.  Don't waste you precious feat slots here.
  • Eyes in the Back of Your HeadCW - You might think you're safe because this feat takes away a +2 to hit you, but you can still be sneak attacked. Plus, arguably, Darkstalker from Lords of Madness allows someone to get the bonus for flanking you... Just be careful with how your DM rules that.
  • Imbued HealingCC - You need to heal (1), have access to the right domain (2) and get a sub par ability that lasts for one minute (3). Yup. Three strikes your out. This feat is too complicated and not worth the benefit it grants.
  • Improved CounterspellPHB - Omen of Peace has a very informative Dispelling & Counterspelling Compilation. I suggest you read it if you were thinking about this feat. (Yes, his guide says its an outdated option)
  • Improved TurningPHB - Even when optimizing your turning efficiency, you'll likely avoid this feat. The +1 to turning level can be handled many other ways. If you have all of those and still want more, then you might want to consider this, but why waste a feat when you just spend a little money instead?
  • Martial Weapon ProficiencyPHB - As you are only proficient with simple weapons, this may seem like a worthy investment. It's not. Don't let it fool you. You'll only get 1 proficiency. You are better off dipping into a class that grants you proficiency.  Or take the war domain and go Ordained Champion. Hell, you can even be an outsider and just have proficiency naturally. No matter what you do, there's no reason to take this feat. If you need a weapon, take Exotic Weapon Proficiency before you take this feat. PS: Never take Exotic Weapon Proficiency.
  • Quicken TurningCD - If you're going the optimized turning route, this becomes an okay feat, but even then it's not really that great.
  • Spiritual CounterCC - Just remember: If you are readying an action, you've already failed. Actions are important, use them wisely. It's better to kill an enemy before it gets the chance to cast a spell than to wait and counterspell it.
  • Spring AttackPHB tree - Unless a stealth-based cleric, do not try to use this tree. Even stealth based, you're better off without this tree, although Dodge will have its uses. Anything beyond dodge is a no-no.
  • Able LearnerRoD - For skill monkey clerics, this feat is useful. The downside is you have to be a human or changeling. The upside is that both of those races are awesome. Big Grin. A good choice for Cloistered Cleric builds.
  • Chain SpellCAr - The key thing to note here is that it has to specify a target, and most rays don't. However, if you can get a touch spell that specifies a target, find a way to give it a range (Reach Spell or Ocular Spell), you can Chain it. Some may argue that Chain only applies to a spell that has an original range of greater than touch, but that's a DM's call right there.
  • Craft WondrousPHB - Most Item Creation feats are sub par at best.  If you are considering Item Creation, this feat is all you need. You have Greater Magic Weapon and Magic Vestment to cover the others you might be thinking about.  Really, Warlocks & Artificers do this job better, but to each his own, I guess.
  • Disciple of the SunCD - By spending an extra turn attempt you gain the ability of the Sun Domain.
  • Earth SenseRoS - This feat is okay at best. The real reason you'd take this feat is because it is required for Earth Spell. There's nothing spectacular about this feat, but you're most likely better off doing something else.
  • Empower SpellPHB - One of the two mediocre metamagic feats in core. Good for offensive spells.
  • Empower TurningCD - If you're using your turn attempts to power other things, pass on it. Being able to turn more creatures is nice.  Being able to turn creatures with more HD would be better.
  • Exalted TurningBoED - If you are using the turning variant where you deal damage or the ACF that deals 1d6/cleric level, an additional 3d6 is pretty nice. In that way, it's like Improved Turning but 3 levels instead of 1. A much better deal if you look at it that way.
  • Extend SpellPHB - One of the two mediocre metamagic feats in core. Good for a lot of spells, especially defensive ones.  Also, it is a requirement for the greatest feat for clerics -> Persist Spell
  • Point Blank ShotPHB - This feat is required to get Precise Shot, which is essential for a ranged combat build. As such, it's not a great feat, but its importance as a requirement is noted. The +1 attack/damage is untyped, so I guess that's something minor to note.
  • Rapid SpellCD - For summoning-type clerics, this feat is almost necessary. A good solid choice when going Malconvoker.
  • Retrieve SpellCC - The requirements are harsh, but the ability is solid.  Getting back spells is awesome. If you have methods of getting lots of turning attempts and won't use them all, this can be useful. It's not amazing, though.
  • Transdimensional SpellCAr - A decent feat. One of those feats that, depending on the campaign and DM, may be of more use or less use.
  • Vow of XBoED - Most of these vows are situational and, while okay, are not amazing.  A few of them can be really annoying for your party though, so take with caution.
  • Ancestral KnowledgeRoS - You have to be a dwarf, but that's not a bad thing. Especially if you take the right subrace. Using your wisdom in place of intelligence for knowledge checks is great for a Knowledge Devotion using cleric.  It further helps alleviate MAD issues. You still need a 10 in Int so as not to lose skill points.
  • Earth SpellRoS - A very useful feat, and one of the key ingredients for an optimized Shadowcraft Mage. Clerics using DMM Heighten or entering Shadowcraft Mage will find this feat amazingly useful.
  • Heighten SpellPHB - Heighten Spell does a lot of interesting things, the least of which is increasing the save DC for the spell. Depending on interpretations, you could even heighten a shadow spell to qualify for Shadowcraft Mage (although there are other, less shaky, ways).
  • Holy WarriorCC - For melee and ranged clerics, this is a great feat. Depending on how you interpret it, Spontaneous Domain (War) would mean you +Highest level spell available to damage rolls. Not too shabby.  :D
  • Invisible SpellCity - Not only do you make visual effects of your spell invisible, but there are a lot of tricky things you can do with this. An Invisible Summon Monster is dirty. If you Shadowcraft Mage your cleric, invisible Silent Images are very disturbing.  My favorite? Invisible fog spells. Only see invisibility and True seeing will see these clouds, which actually is detrimental to a lot of creatures. Invisible fog cloud a deep dragon and it can't see you, but you can easily see it.  Your DM will most likely ban this use, but it's fun.
  • Leap AttackCAd - If you go the Power Attack route, Leap Attack is not a bad choice. You don't have jump as a class skill, so it'll be hard to pull off, but still a good feat if you can get it.
  • Mitigate SufferingCC - At first it sounds kind of crappy, because all you can do is alleviate some ability damage for a few minutes. But you can rinse and repeat as often as necessary, so you can keep the Hellfire Warlock at full Con until his Con heals normally. As long as you are paying attention, anyways.
  • Power AttackPHB - For melee combat oriented clerics, the Power attack route while wielding a two handed weapon is a staple. Add in an animated shield and you should be set. Just remember, Divine Power is your friend. It gives you full Base Attack Bonus, which can then be used to Power Attack.
  • Practiced SpellcasterCAr - If you multiclass or PrC and lose any caster levels, take this feat. Very, very important!
  • Precise ShotPHB - A -4 penalty is harsh. In d20, that's a 20% higher chance of missing. Precise shot is essential to ranged combat for that very reason. It's quite possible one of the only archery based feats you need for a ranged Cleric build.
  • Quicken SpellPHB - The +4 spell level may seem intense, but it is well worth the cost.  One of the first things I learned when I began optimizing is that the only economy more valuable than that of the gold piece is that of the action. You have swift actions. Use them efficiently.
  • Reach SpellCD - One of the few ways to make a touch spell have a range. When combined with chain spell, you have a great combo. The extra bonus is that this has a fixed range now. See the trick section for more info on it.
  • Sculpt SpellCitv - Area of Effect spell manipulation is great. It's just that simple.
  • Shielded CastingRoS - A good, solid feat. If your campaign is going to go into epic levels, there will be ways to make this feat null and void, but for the time being it's good. Sure, you can most likely invest in Concentration and make the casting defensively checks, but if you'd rather use your skill points more efficiently, this feat is a pretty good choice. As a cleric you should have the shield with you at all times, so it's not much of a requirement. The only counter-argument you may have is that an enemy could ready an action to disrupt your spell.  But that just means you've already won if the enemy can't do anything better than disrupt your casting.
  • Spontaneous DomainsCC - Similar to the ACF, except you trade a feat for the ability to spontaneously cast both domains. Although you can only use your domain slots. You win some, you lose some. If you have two very varied domains with good all around spells, this could be useful.
  • Twin SpellCAr - A great feat for Primary Casters. Being able to hit them with that save or X (suck, die, etc) twice in a row doubles the chance that they fail it. If you can throw in a quickened spell too, you're golden.
  • Vow of PovertyBoED - This Vow, however, can be optimized in a most interesting manner.  My favorite method of using Vow of Poverty involves a Warforged and the saint template. These three things together get some incredible bonuses and a lot of sickening immunities. A nice little combo, if I do say so.
  • Yondalla's SenseRotW - This is the Improved Initiative of Halflings. Halfling cleric with Improved Initiative and this may just beat your generic caster in initiative. And I think we've all realized that initiative is often what it comes down to when determining a victor.
  • Craft Contingent SpellCAr - You can make any spell you know the target of your contingency. That's borderline broken. Contingent Shapechange? Timestop? Yeah.  It's an amazing feat, but you're actually probably better off not taking it. You know your DM better, though.
  • DragonwroughtRotD - One feat can make a kobold gain a +3 to all mental stats. That's awesome. Plus having the dragon type is nice. One optimized race with one optimized feat. A good package together.
  • Extraordinary Spell AimCAd - Okay now say it with me. Extraordinary Spell Aim so that you are not affected by your Persistent AMF. Toss in Saint/VoP and a few other Persist Spells that make baby Pun-Pun cry... Also, expect the ban-hammer if you use it this way. This feat is just that good.
  • Persistent SpellCAr - This is THE feat for clerics.  Since a majority of your spells are buffs, if you can make your buffs last all day, you have that much more time to focus on your other areas of expertise.  Persistent Spell is not a broken feat. It is a powerful feat and well worth the +6 level adjustment needed to use it. This feat is how you manage to be a primary buffer and a primary whatever else you want to be.
  • Planar TouchstonePlH - The Catalogues of Enlightenment. When you are attuned to this location you gain the granted power of a cleric domain. After reading all those domains, you must have seen one you wanted but then didn't like the spells it gave you. Well here's the solution. Now you can grab a cleric domain power without having to take the actual domain. Not to mention the other abilities of the feat can be nifty.
  • Tomb-Tainted SoulLM - This feat is amazing for any cleric that channels negative energy. If you want to heal without being a goody-two shoes, get this feat and make your party members get this feat. A great little trick to have handy
  • Zen ArcheryCW - Like I said back in post one, this is the feat for ranged combat clerics. Don't make yourself MAD; take Zen Archery.
  • Divine MetamagicCD - This feat is amazing. A cleric without Divine Metamagic is like a druid without Natural Spell. It might as well be a part of the class features. Divine Metamagic, when chosen, can apply to any metamagic spell you have, which makes it the most versatile feat I know. Not to mention its power.  You do have to know the metamagic feat in question, but that's minor compared to what you can do with it. The safest option is to talk to your DM and determine what you can and cannot do with it and what limits, if any, your DM will place on methods to obtain extra turn attempts to fuel this feat. Take this at least once, possibly more than once, depending on the build.

Devotion FeatsCC
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Skills
Your skill list is not huge, but you don't have a great number of skill points, so it is fairly even.  It's important to note what skills you need both for in-game use and for requirements for prestige classes.

   
  • Concentration - A very important skill for any caster. It keeps you casting even when you get it. If you decide to go the Shielded Casting route, you may not need more than 5 ranks in this, depending on your campaign.
  • Craft - In general, it is useless. The only reason you'd use this is for the Bone Knight prestige class.
  • Diplomacy - If you go the route where you have a decent Charisma, think about investing in this skill if you have the excess points. Being a party face is effective and fun. Overall a good skill. Works better if you can get Sense Motive as a class skill, too, in my opinion.
  • Heal - You can cast healing spells. You can summon a creature to do what this skill does for a low level spell. There's almost no point to taking this skill.
  • Knowledge (Arcana) - Good for in game knowledge checks, even better with Knowledge Devotion.
  • Knowledge (History) - A worthless skill. Don't waste skill points here. Remember, if you need to know about the history of something, there's a divination spell for that.
  • Knowledge (Religion) - Thematically appropriate. Synergy helps your turning. Good for a lot of in-game knowledges. Even better with Knowledge Devotion. Take this skill if possible.
  • Knowledge (The Planes) - About on par with Arcana; a solid skill.
  • Profession - Much like craft, this is useless. The sad part is it can't even be used as often as craft can. Pass on this.
  • Spellcraft - Arguably the most important skill in D&D, and definitely the most important for clerics. This identifies spells and other magical effects. Always keep this skill maxed or close to.

Skill Tricks
Since you have such an incredibly low number of skill points per level (unless you are a cloistered cleric), you are most likely not taking a skill trick.  However, if you manage to get one or feel the urge to take a few, these are some of the useful ones for clerics.

   
  • Collector of Stories - It's debatable whether or not this works in conjunction with Knowledge Devotion, but even if it does not, it is still a viable trick.  Very useful for identifying monsters.
  • Swift Concentration - You don't have that many spells that require concentration, but when you cast one that does, you'll be glad to have this trick.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 03:46:03 AM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2011, 12:59:19 AM »
Spells
Considering how many different splat books are out there, you can imagine just how many cleric spells there are.  What follows is a small selection of some of the better Cleric spells. These are general spells that, if you prepare them on a generic adventuring day, will serve you well.
First Level
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Second Level
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Third Level
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Fourth Level
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Fifth Level
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Sixth Level
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Seventh Level
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Eighth Level
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Ninth Level
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Domain Spells
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« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 06:05:45 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2011, 12:59:32 AM »
Equipment
**NOTE: Magic Vestment and Greater Magic Weapon are amazing at saving clerics money for other, also amazing, items**

Armor
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Shield
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Weapon
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Arms
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Body
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Face
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Feet
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Hands
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Head
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Rings
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Shoulders
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Throat
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Torso
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Waist
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Relics
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Other
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For those of you who feel that you still don't have a high enough turning level, carnivore has a Comprehensive Guide to Turning over on WotC.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 06:24:04 PM by Mooncrow »

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2011, 12:59:52 AM »
Multi-classing

General Disclaimer: An optimization rule of thumb is that caster levels are superior to other abilities. Caster levels with extra abilities are superior to even that.  Basically, if at all possible, don't lose caster levels.  If you must lose caster levels, never lose more than 3 in a 20th level build, and make sure the benefits greatly outweigh what you are losing.

Clerics are unique in that you get all of your class abilities at the outset, so Prestige classing and Dipping into other classes is much more viable than in some other builds. That being said, the disclaimer about Caster Levels stands.  Another important thing to note is that if you plan on using turning for more than just Divine Metamagic, make sure your prestige classes advance turning much like cleric does. Not all of them do, and it is important to note the ones that do for this purpose.

The Soulknife-Soulbow Dip
   The standard idea with this build is to grab two levels of Soulknife for the throw mind blade class feature and then dip one level of Soulbow. The idea is that Soulbow allows you to apply your Wisdom modifier as damage to the Mind arrows you fire.  When in a null psionics field, you can attempt to use your mind arrows regardless. In a psionic-magic transparency game, this means you can manifest the mind arrow in an antimagic field.  This dip, while it may seem like it is okay for ranged clerics, is fairly bad.  If your DM reads the mind arrow ability to mean that you can make +2 mind arrows at character level 7, you're good, but most likely he'll read it as it was meant to and require multiple levels of soulbow for this purpose. You are better off getting Raptor Arrows and good bow.  Still, for a psionic flavor, there are many more worse options.
The Monk-Sacred Fist Dip
   The goal of this build is a monk/cleric "divine gish."  By taking one level of monk (two if you can't spare the feats needed), you then take cleric and Sacred Fist. This prestige class is viable up to two points, depending on your DM. If your DM rules in favor of text over table, take all 10 levels, because it is full casting. If he or she rules the table to be the authority, dip out at level 6. Either way, you'll want a Monk's Belt and something like either Bones of Li-Peng (WoL) or Gauntlets of the Talon (MIC). Skydragonknight has a good example of this combination in the sample builds below.
The Druid Variant Dip
   Unearthed Arcana has a druid variant that offers a monk's AC bonus, the Track feat, and one Favored Enemy as a one level dip.  For certain cleric builds, this could be a good choice. The Monk's AC bonus is always a nice boost, and a +2 favored enemy can be really useful for not too heavy of an investment. Probably the biggest boon of this dip is access to the druid's spell list. You can now activate spell completion items of druid only spells like Owl's Insight  :plotting.  Now if only there were divine runestaffs...   :bigeyes
The Classic Fighter Dip
   A pretty straight forward dip, one or two levels of fighter. Two levels can get you the Dungeoncrasher ACF, but it also costs you a second caster level. Depending on where you go with this, you can enter Ordained Champion fairly easily (take only 1 fighter level if any) or Bone Knight (you can get away with two here).  For the melee focused cleric, this dip is a decent, if archaic, choice.
The Crusader-Lockdown Dip
   Taking Crusader 1 costs you a caster level but nets you the prerequisites for taking Martial Stance (Thicket of Blades) as a feat.  If you want to mix all the wonders of a lockdown build with the power of a cleric, this is a decent method. You could accomplish this with a couple feats, but if those are limited in your design, this is a safe alternative. Another good pro for some people is that the pre-written flavor fits smoothly, too.
A Rogue Dip?
   Here our goal is multifaceted. Able learner combined with a level of rogue forever gives us the stealth based skills we need without resorting to our domain choices. The 1d6 sneak attack is a nice little boost, too. It's not the clear winner, but it opens up spells like grave strike as having a bit of potential.  The kick in power to your Reflex save also helps the one bad save you have.  Primarily for skillmonkey clerics, this dip can be worth it.
Dragonfire Adept Dip
   What the hell does a dragonfire adept have to do with cleric casting? Everything. No, not really. But I love the class, and it does make a surprisingly good dip.  You gain a breath weapon, which, while minimal in damage can be boosted with the ever amazing Entangling Breath feat. Also, the Dragontouched feat gives you the dragonblood subtype, which lets you grab some cool feats if that's your goal. The kick to your saves is like icing on the cake. The real winner, here, though, is that one single invocation. Draconic Knowledge is perfect for Knowledge Devotion builds.  +6 unnamed bonus to all Knowledge skills and Spellcraft, plus you can make checks even without ranks. That's useful for both regular and cloistered clerics.

Prestige Class Options

Bone Knight5N
   As long as you are not barred from using Eberron books, this is one of the best cleric prestige classes around.  It is especially ideal for melee oriented clerics.  It is a 9/10 Casting class, meaning you only lose 1 caster level.  It meshes well with Ordained Champion (see below).  The skills are a bit tough to come across, since craft and ride are not traditionally of use to a cleric, but they are worth it for Bone Knights.  You are forced to Rebuke Undead for this class, but it is very much worth it. The class stacks with your cleric levels for turning level.  On top of all the casting, you gain a boatload of immunities that will make you a beast on the battlefield.
Church InquisitorCD
   Church inquisitor is one of the very few prestige classes that can be entered before having 5 base classes. Once you have 3 cleric levels, if you are non-evil and lawful, this prestige class is a good choice.  You gain an extra domain (Inquisition). The domain can be kept for a nice ability or traded for the Knowledge Devotion feat.  The mental immunities and auto saves against certain spells and effects are sweet.  The class is good for the first 5 levels. If you are worried about possession, level 8 make a second stopping point. The last two levels of the class really just aren't worth it.
ContemplativeCD
   You can't take this class until level 11, but it is well worth the wait.  At first level, you gain an extra domain and immunity to disease. That's beautiful.  Really, many cleric builds just take this one level.  If you are looking for more, then the second drop point is level six. At level 5, gaining immunity to poison is okay, but you get the second domain at level 6.
Divine OracleCD
   This is another full casting PrC. It has either 2, 6, or 10 levels. The Oracle domain is a fairly decent domain, but the second level is where things get nice. You gain an ability that functions as EVASION, but in ANY armor. Heavy armor clerics with evasion is quite sickening. Level six makes you unable to be flanked with Improved Uncanny Dodge. Level 10 is truly the cream of the crop, though.  Remember that whole thing about initiative? Well you always get to act in a surprise round, if there is one, so no one can get the drop on you. It take a while to get, but that reward is pretty sweet.
MalconvokerCS
   An 8/9 casting PrC focused on battlefield control via summons.  While it can be argued that wizards or druid do this class better, clerics make damned good Malconvokers. Add some Thaumaturgist on top of it and you're golden. Treantmonklvl20 has a wonderful guide to Mastering the Malconvoker.
Ordained ChampionCC
   3/5 casting means you can only lose one other casting level.  Another reason I suggest that this build be used in conjunction with the Bone Knight (see above). This class also advances turning. Yay! You gain a third (or fourth or fifth) domain upon entering this. If you don't have the war domain, you'll gain it instead.  This class basically forces Domain Spontaneity (War) on you as an ACF, but it is well worth it.  The abilities of this class are good for melee combatants.
Prestige PaladinUA
   This class only exists for a one level dip.  If it wasn't actually a prestige class, it would be up in the dip section. The important aspect of this class is that it puts all the paladin spells onto your cleric spell list.  In combination with Ordained Champion, A build utilizing this dip can be a powerhouse.
Radiant ServantCD
   The worst aspect of this class is the Sun domain requirement, but it fits and it actually makes it useful.  Extra Greater Turning is amazing. You could dip this PrC for 1 level or stick it through to ten. Level five is probably the best drop point as it nets you a bonus domain.  For a Neutral Good cleric, this domain is about as good as it gets.  I mean the class grants you weapon proficiencies. That alone is sweet.
Ruby Knight VindicatorToB
   Remember that crusader dip I mentioned up above? Here's how you make the most of it.  This build is often nicknamed the Ruby Knight "Win"dicator. Let me explain why.  Full BAB and 8/10 casting. You gain maneuvers and stances (not many, but they're useful in combat... especially since you don't have to spend a feat on Thicket of Blades now).  The "win" though? That's the 7th level ability, Divine Impetus. A Windicator breaks the action economy. As many turn attempts as you have, you can spend to gain swift actions. Travel Devotion lets you move your speed as a swift action. Battle Blessing lets you cast Paladin Spells as swift actions.  Quickened spells.  I think I've said enough.
Sacred ExorcistCD
   The best thing about this class is that it stacks with cleric for turn undead. It also has some useful abilities for undead or evil outsider heavy campaigns.  Full casting progression makes it a viable choice for certain prestige class hungry builds.
Sacred FistCD
   The text has to triumph over the table for this prestige class to work. By the rules, the text does, but if your DM is a douche, you may not be so lucky.  You'll want to take at least one Monk level, like I mentioned above, before taking this class, as it will fulfill the many feat requirements.  Stacking monk unarmed damage with full cleric casting makes for a powerful build.  See the sample build section for just how powerful.
Seeker of the Misty IsleCD
   Another issue of text over table. This class is also full casting by the table. Remember to point that out to your DM.  The race requirement is harsh, but if you ignored my advice and are playing an elf, the class gives you two solid domains.  This PrC meshes well with Cloistered Clerics for the whole skill-monkey cleric angle.
Sovereign SpeakerFoE
   Another one of those Eberron Cleric PrCs that works wonders.  The required feat actually isn't a terrible one. It can be useful for clerics, making you not dependent on your holy symbol. Even beyond the full casting this class gives, is the ability. You gain a new domain at every level. Granted you are limited to not taking too many domains of a certain deity, but you can get some of the best domains this way. Feel free to stop taking the class before you have to start taking any less optimal domains.
ThaumaturgistDMG
   Your HD in this class is pretty crappy, but the ability boosts of this 5 level PrC are fairly nice.  It really meshes well with Malconvoker and makes for a wicked Planar Binder.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 06:53:04 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2011, 01:00:10 AM »
Sample builds

The Sacred Warfist by SkyDragonKnight
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Cleric 20 by carnivore
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Elf Versatility 1 by carnivore
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Elf Versatility 2 by carnivore
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Cleric Monk by carnivore
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The Healing Machine by carnivore
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Super Holy Warrior by carnivore
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« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 07:00:33 PM by Mooncrow »

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2011, 01:00:30 AM »
Debatable Tactics and Tricks
The purpose of this section is to take a look at some of the tactics and tricks that Clerics may or may not be able to use.  I will have the title of the ability/trick/etc in bold and a summary of the arguments for or against it in a spoiler block below that. I do not want this thread to turn into a debate over which one actually works. Both methods are at least somewhat plausible by a strict reading of the rules, but it is truly up to your DM to decide what he or she will allow. If you have a tactic that may be debatable or an argument stance that is not expressed here, feel free to explain it and I will add it to the section, so there will be a complete, unbiased point of view. Once again, please do not turn this into a debate thread.  Take your rules discussions elsewhere ;)

Greater Consumptive Field {Spell}
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Nightsticks
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Reach Spell/Persist Spell
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Dragonborn, Warforged, Saint, and Vow of Poverty
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Imbued Healing/Aura of Chaos: Infinite Damage
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Alternate Fuel for Divine Feats
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The Bloodtouched Rite
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« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 07:04:52 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2011, 01:02:24 AM »
reserved - any additions, extra comments

reservations ended - comment away^^

That should be the majority of it - still a few more formatting things to do in Equipment, but everything else should be good.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 07:05:49 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline nijineko

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2011, 08:01:00 PM »

The Soulknife-Soulbow Dip
   The standard idea with this build is to grab two levels of Soulknife for the throw mind blade class feature and then dip one level of Soulbow. The idea is that Soulbow allows you to apply your Wisdom modifier as damage to the Mind arrows you fire.  When in a null psionics field, you can attempt to use your mind arrows regardless. In a psionic-magic transparency game, this means you can manifest the mind arrow in an antimagic field.  This dip, while it may seem like it is okay for ranged clerics, is fairly bad.  If your DM reads the mind arrow ability to mean that you can make +2 mind arrows at character level 7, you're good, but most likely he'll read it as it was meant to and require multiple levels of soulbow for this purpose. You are better off getting Raptor Arrows and good bow.  Still, for a psionic flavor, there are many more worse options.

some notes on this option:

1) there is a feat called "practiced mind blade"which boosts your mindblade by four effective soulknife levels for the purpose of enhancement bonus, and abilities (ie, the weapon enhancements, not psychic strike, etc.); but not a total effective soulknife level above your HD.  (dragon 341, p86) note that this feat is fully compatible with soulbows as well.

2) the athas.org material is jointly owned by athas and wotc, and is 100% official material as per wotc. there is a soulknife prestige released by athas which is a full bab prestige, granting both mind blade and throw mind blade at 1st level, reducing the recommended dip by 1 level to only 2 levels total. this has obvious benefits for multi-classing.
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https://www.box.com/s/du6s5uysdwfony9dfd3p  The Official Complete Psionic Errata.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/dbmkg8efcbn4eak/AABSjyTbZIEDdIWm0I_uVFkpa?dl=0 The Archive.

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2011, 09:44:34 AM »
Well, right now, aside from correcting a couple typos, I'm going to leave the guide as-is I think.  Once the handbooks are all transferred, I may re-visit that position. 

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2011, 10:58:06 AM »
fair enough. and thanks for your hard work. =D
http://crystalballsoft.com/cblite.html  The best dice roller on the planet, bar none. Read the FAQ to see why.

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Offline Maat Mons

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2012, 05:43:10 PM »
If you get around to updates, the doomdreamer prestige class (Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, p162) gives an ability that doubles your effective turning level for rebuking and commanding undead.  Doomdreamer fully advances cleric casting but, annoyingly, doesn't stack for turning level.  It's possible to get the doubling with just one level, but that requires int 20+. 

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2012, 09:07:04 PM »
Edit: Never mind...
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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2013, 08:52:12 PM »
Always found it odd that the Extra Turning feat was never listed or evaluated.  Is it a good choice or are there a lot more other things that offer more?

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The 3.5 Cleric Handbook
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2013, 03:11:21 AM »
Always found it odd that the Extra Turning feat was never listed or evaluated.  Is it a good choice or are there a lot more other things that offer more?

Generally speaking, feats are really tight as a cleric, so it's much more valuable to pick up extra turning attempts from items rather than spending a feat slot on it.