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cleric monk multiclass guide for dnd 5e

Cleric Monk Multiclass Build for Dungeons and Dragons 5e

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Cleric Monk Multiclass

Sacred Fist

Monks are the pinnacles of discipline and martial technique that test the limits of humanoid capability. Clerics are the devout and pious chosen of the gods, blessed with divine power beyond that of mere mortals. Put them together and we have a holy martial artist, a perfect balance of the physical and the spiritual ready to carry out their deity’s will. Grab your holy icons and wrap your fists as we go through a complete guide to everything you need to know.

cleric monk multiclass guide for dnd 5e

Why Play a Cleric Monk Multiclass?

Cleric and monk work thematically as the spiritual classes but will take a bit of work to meld together mechanically. With a touch of cleric, we can add some magical oomph and utility to a typical monk playstyle, or with a touch of monk we can ratchet up the attacks for a melee cleric or be an even better heal bot. There isn’t a golden bullet combination here, but there are some solid builds that only require minor level dips. We don’t stretch on ability scores since Wisdom is already the monk’s secondary stat, and the end result can be more powerful than the sum of its parts.

What are the Downsides?

Heavy armor is one of the strongest things combat clerics have going for them, and monks simply can’t function with a slab of metal on their back. This unfortunately means we’re not multiclassing cleanly, and we can't get the most out of what would otherwise be great martial cleric options like war cleric.

Monks very heavily use their attack actions and bonus actions, which will squeeze our action economy since a lot of the better cleric options also want to utilize the bonus action.

Finally, as with every other multiclassing option, we’re going to be reaching our mid-tier class options later and not reaching high-level capstone features at all. This build isn’t too bad, but still expect to have a couple awkward early levels where the synergies haven’t really clicked yet and you lag behind your other party members that just use a base class.

 

When Does a Cleric / Monk “Kick In”?

We have a couple variations for this dual class, but most will rely on a core of at least 1 cleric level and at least 2 monk levels, and the earliest I’d call a cleric monk “kicked in” would be our 3rd class level. However, a lot of our strategies rely on getting to 3 monk levels for a monk subclass and at least 2nd level cleric spells, which will mean kicking in at our 5th character level.

 

What Class Features Do We Care About?

This is a very light dip-style multi class in most cases, but that dip can go either way and what features we care about will depend on if we go mostly cleric class or mostly monk class. Let’s go through each class feature that’ll apply to at least one of those builds. 

 

Significant Cleric Features

  • Spellcasting. Clerics are a fully prepared spellcasting class. This means you have access to the full cleric spell list; you just have to pick which spells you prepare each day. Access to cleric spells gets us good damage spells but you’ll likely get the most value out of their utility, buffing, and healing spells.
  • Channel Divinity. Clerics get a special divine resource in their uses of “channel divinity”. You first gain this feature with your 2nd cleric level, and you get one of these “uses” of channel divinity every short or long rest and more uses at your 6th cleric level. The base use of your channel divinity is “turn undead” which is unsurprisingly only useful if you’re running into undead monsters. All the cleric archetypes however provide us with much more interesting uses of our channel divinity power. Tasha’s also gave us another “base” use of our channel divinity power called “harness divine power” that lets us spend it to regain a lost spell slot. You can only do this once per long rest to stop us from farming spell slots, but you can do it more often at higher cleric levels.
  • Divine Domains. Clerics gain their archetypes at 1st level and more than most classes you’ll be getting most of your unique class features from your archetype. Since we can’t use armor as a monk, we sadly get a lot less value out of the cleric subclasses that grant proficiency in heavy armor such as Forge, Life, Nature, Order, Tempest, and War. Instead, we’re typically best off picking domains that provide spells or abilities at 1st level, such as Arcana, Death, Grave, Knowledge, Light, Peace, Trickery, or Twilight.

 

Significant Monk Features

  • Unarmored Defense. Monks get an armor class equal to 10 + Dexterity mod + Wisdom mod so long as they’re not wearing armor. This is one of the reasons we can’t really take advantage of many cleric’s heavy armor proficiency, but we’ll still end up with a decent AC.
  • Martial Arts. This is the core defining monk feature that improves our unarmed strikes and allows us to make an unarmed strike as a bonus action. Remember that this attack option is different from flurry of blows, and it’s basically the default “free” punch that we can make without spending ki or any other resource. The monk unarmed strike damage die is 1d4 instead of just a measly 1, and it improves that 1d4 damage with monk levels to 1d6, 1d8, and eventually 1d10. 
  • Ki. These are your mystical resources that you spend to fuel most of the monk’s abilities. Technically you gain a number of ki points as shown on the table, but it’s basically equal to your monk level starting at 2nd. And starting at 2nd, we get three abilities we can spend those monk points on. Flurry of Blows is the one we’ll be using most often, and it works exactly like our martial arts extra unarmed strike, but if we spend a ki point for flurry of blows, we make two extra unarmed strike attacks instead. Patient Defense lets us dodge as a bonus action at the cost of 1 ki point (which is situational but very useful). And finally Step of the Wind lets us dash or disengage as a bonus action for 1 ki, and also doubles our jumping distance for the turn. 
  • Unarmored Movement. Very simply monks get to move faster. When you first gain the feature with your 2nd monk level it’s 10 extra feet of movement and it improves to 15 feet at 6th level, 20 feet at 10th level, 25 feet at 14th level, and 30 feet at 18th level. 
  • Dedicated Weapon. In the optional rules monks got this new 2nd level feature that lets them turn any weapon into a monk weapon so long as it doesn’t have the heavy or special weapon properties. This lets us take advantage of the d10 versatile weapons and if we happen to find a particularly nice magic weapon that isn’t technically a monk weapon, we can still make use of it.
  • Ki-Fueled Attack. Also gained from the optional rules, monks gain this ability at 3rd level to spend a ki point not on unarmed strikes but on another attack with a monk weapon. Usually, we’re going to be better off with a flurry of blows instead but there are some situations where one bigger thwack will be better than two little ones.
  • Deflect Missiles. Starting at 3rd level we can use a reaction to reduce the damage taken by 1d10 + your monk level + your Dexterity modifier. You only have one reaction but it’s incredibly handy to essentially negate the odd arrow that flies at you.
  • Quickened Healing. Gained at 4th level, you can spend 2 ki points to heal a number of hit points equal to a roll of your martial arts die + your proficiency bonus. It’s not a huge amount of healing for the cost, but you regain ki on a short rest and that healing can come in clutch.
  • Focused Aim. Gained at 5th level, you can increase your attack roll by +2 for every ki point you spend, up to a max of +6. This means every time you’re pretty sure you were close to hitting you can bump it up after the roll to push the hit through. 
  • Extra Attack. Just like most martial classes monks gain an extra attack at 5th level. This means we can make two attacks with our primary weapon and make a bonus action unarmed attack using martial arts, or with a ki point a flurry of blows gives us a total of 4 attacks, 2 with our primary weapon and 2 unarmed strikes.
  • Stunning Strike. Also gained at 5th level, monks can spend a ki point after hitting with a melee attack to attempt a stunning strike. The target makes a Con save or they're stunned until the end of your next turn. Stunned is a NASTY condition, and a successful stunning strike can turn a whole battle.
  • Monastic Tradition. Generally, I'd recommend the open hand monk for the extra combat utility, but we'll get into some specific builds that will make use of certain traditions.
  • Evasion. Gained at 7th this lets us take half damage from failed Dex saves and no damage from passed Dex saves. A great feature that will make us more durable against breath weapons and the like, which are some of the most common damage sources that don’t use attacks.

 

Cleric / Monk Ability Scores

A cleric monk combination wants practically the same ability scores as a normal monk, but with a bit more emphasis on Wisdom.

Ideally, we want our Dexterity and Wisdom to be our highest scores, tied for 1st place as much as possible with Wisdom winning out if we’re leaning harder on cleric.

Next, we’ll be hitting the frontlines of combat which means our next priority should be Constitution, to keep our hit points as high as possible.

Beyond that, Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma don’t play much into the build at all and you’re free to use any or all of them as dump stats.


Cleric / Monk Equipment

The equipment is pretty simple for this build since we won’t be wearing a whole lot. We’ll be relying on unarmored defense, so we won’t be wearing any armor or shields.

For weaponry, we can take advantage of the loose requirements for “holy symbols” and dedicated weapon to grab a solid two-handed weapon and treat it as a monk weapon. If we don’t pick any of the cleric domains that grant access to martial weapons, I recommend the quarterstaff or the greatclub to get our attack into d8s. If we do pick up martial weapons, I recommend picking one of the d10 versatile weapons such as a battleaxe, longsword, or warhammer. 

And as for that holy symbol, we can slap that onto our weapon, or simply display it as a necklace, keeping our hands free for attacks.

 

Which Class Should I Start With?

The short answer is start with monk, but the difference is so minor you can really start with either. Starting with monk grants you an extra tool or instrument proficiency, but other than that you’re still getting the same number of skill proficiencies and one strong and one weak save proficiency either way.

 

Cleric / Monk Multiclass Builds

Let’s go through some potential options for the monk cleric multiclass.


Peace Guru

With this build we’re going to become a frontline heal bot, able to fight alongside your allies while keeping the team constantly topped up and healthy.

To start with we want to take 3 levels of monk selecting the way of mercy, and 2 levels of cleric selecting the peace domain. For later levels, I'd recommend taking cleric levels for more spell slots we can use for healing.

Way of mercy lets us turn one of our extra attacks using flurry of blows into healing equal to our martial arts die + our Wisdom modifier at the cost of a ki point.

Peace domain cleric is honestly a busted cleric subclass. Firstly, we get the subclass feature emboldening bond. As an action we can buff up a number of creatures equal to our proficiency bonus for 10 minutes. While buffed and within 30 feet of each other, they can add 1d4 to any attack, check, or save they make once per turn. This is basically a free bless spell that also stacks with bless, meaning you can be adding a whopping 2d4 to practically your whole team’s actions.

Next, what we really want to take advantage of is the channel divinity option balm of peace. We can activate balm of peace as an action, and then move up to our considerable speed without provoking opportunity attacks. On this run, any of our allies we move past heals for 2d6 + our Wisdom modifier. This is already strong, but with our monk levels and improved speed, we should always be able to rush past and heal our whole party. 

Finally, for our cleric spells we want to make sure and pick the old cleric spellcaster standbys cure wounds and healing word.

So, let’s put this all together. We can buff ourselves and our party using both bless and emboldening bond, getting a bonus 1d4 on all our attacks and 2d4 on our single attack with our weapon. That adds up to a decent 13 (1d8 + 1d4 + 6) damage with just the martial arts bonus action attack, and 19 (1d8 + 2d4 + 9) when we flurry of blows. 

But the damage isn’t the point here, it’s the healing potential. While we stand alongside our allies, we can sub any of those unarmed strikes for healing a nearby ally at the cost of a ki point. We’ve got multiple spell slots to spend on cure wounds or healing word, and once per short rest we get to massively heal our whole team using balm of peace without even taking reaction attacks. Assuming we have let’s say 4 teammates, and can get within 5 feet of each of them, a use of balm of peace can heal for a massive 44 (8d6 + 16) hit points, spread across the team. Between all your healing, you’ll practically have 1-2 extra players worth of hit points for the enemies to fight through!

 

Stand Bomb

Our central idea here is to dive into a mob of enemies before exploding with our astral stand and blinding light for maximum nova radiant damage before punching the survivors to death.

 

To accomplish this, we’ll need 3 levels of monk taking the way of the astral self, and 2 levels of cleric dips taking the light domain. For later levels, I'd recommend pushing monk levels so we can scale up our damage progression.

The way of the astral self is a bizarre archetype. At the cost of a bonus action and 1 ki point, we explosively summon the arms of an anime style “stand”, projections of our astral self we can use for punching with spiritual rather than physical power. Mechanically this allows us to make our unarmed strikes using Wisdom instead of Dexterity and grants them an extra 5 feet of reach for good measure. However, it’s that explosive opening that matters to us, as we emit a burst of 2d4 force damage for 10 feet around us when we summon them that even avoids hitting allies.

Next, the light domain grants us warding flare which is a strong defensive ability. As a reaction we get to impose disadvantage on an attack against us. The wording is a bit vague on when we can do this exactly, but the consensus seems to be that it is used after your DM has rolled and said the number result, but not yet said if it hits or misses.

The thing we actually care about though is the channel divinity feature radiance of the dawn. Radiance of the dawn dispels all darkness and blasts your enemies within 30 feet for 2d10 + cleric level radiant damage. Normally blasts like this can be tricky with allies around, but it conveniently only hits hostile creatures, letting you blast radiant damage with impunity.

So how does this work? Whenever combat starts, you simply sprint into the thickest patch of enemies and use your bonus action to summon your arms, dealing 2d4 in a 10-foot radius, then use your action for radiance of the dawn for 2d10 + 2 in a 30-foot radius. A 10-foot radius is a lot more area than you may think. Let’s say you can manage to get 4 baddies into that footprint. The damage averages are nuts and for one turn you’ll be dealing a hefty 72 (8d4 + 8d10 + 8) damage across them! And after your human fireball goes off, you can use warding flare to guard against any survivors before giving them an astral arm beatdown. It’s also worth noting that rules as written, there’s nothing to stop you from “summoning” the arms even while you already have them summoned. That 2d4 burst is nasty extra damage output for the low cost of a ki point and a bonus action.

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