Whether you’re gearing up to take on a rampant Chromatic Dragon, delve into a winding, trap-filled tomb, or cause some of your trouble and instigate a riot against an oppressive governor, you will inevitably find yourself needing some form of healing to avoid those potentially adventure-ending death saves.
But, like everything in DnD, the breadth and depth of choice can be a little daunting, so we’ve put together some quick advice to help you figure out some of the key differences between different healer classes in Dungeons and Dragons to help you choose.
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What powers does a healer have?
Healers are typically support classes that possess a range of diverse abilities from allowing them to restore hit points to removing conditions from their allies. When it comes to healing spells, some good early-level healing spells are:
- Cure Wounds
- Healing Word
- Prayer of Healing
Which ones you can choose will depend on your class, and your spellcasting ability, but more on that later.
In terms of other powers to support your party there are spells such as Lesser Restoration or Bless. Lesser Restoration allows you to remove a disease or condition afflicting them from the conditions blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned. Bless, however, allows you to buff three of your allies. This makes it so that when the affected creatures have to make an attack roll or a saving throw, they can add a d4 to the number rolled over the duration of the spell.
It is important to remember that a healer doesn’t solely have the ability to heal – they could have access to various other utility and offensive abilities depending on the chosen class. For example, Clerics have plenty of protective abilities as well as ways to deal damage when not healing whereas Druids can use Wild Shape to transform into a beast, soaking up large amounts of damage.
Can healers heal themselves in DnD?
Yes! Healers can heal themselves in DnD. Most healing spells can heal the caster as well as other creatures. For example, the level one spells Cure Wounds or Healing Word can be used to heal creatures within the range of either spell which includes the caster themselves. In the case of ‘Cure Wounds’, it specifies creatures that you touch, meaning you can do so as long as the creature is within reach (including yourself!).
When it comes to other ways to heal yourself in DnD, you can use various items. Healing potions are of course an obvious and common choice, but creative adventurers can always put tools such as the Healer’s Kit to good use.
Some features can also heal players, such as a Fighter’s Second Wind or a Paladin’s Lay on Hands.
Different healing classes and their strengths
Clerics are widely regarded as the best healers in Dungeons and Dragons. This is due to their proficiency with various weapons and offensive skillset, meaning they are not limited to healing and support. This can make them formidable combatants on the battlefield. Some of the most interesting and iconic characters I’ve witnessed and played alongside have been Clerics.
Naturally, Clerics possess exceptional support, utility, and divination capabilities, and have access to several healing spells which lean on the ability score of Wisdom. Some of these spells can provide buffs to allies in both attacks and defences, as well as debuffs and negative effects on enemies.
For example, Bless can be a game-changer in early levels, as it can mean the difference between winning or losing a fight. Even at higher levels, adding 1d4 to attack rolls enhances your party’s overall damage output. If your party includes Fighters, Warlocks, or characters with Two-Weapon Fighting, or feats such as Polearm Master, it can be an incredibly valuable asset providing a significant advantage in combat.
Aid is another relatively low-level spell you’ll want to cast most days! This buff has an 8-hour duration and the ability to affect three targets. It provides temporary hit points but also increases the target’s maximum hit points, making it a valuable addition to any Cleric’s repertoire. It can even be cast during combat, which presents an interesting tactical option.
However, a Cleric’s strength lies in the Channel Divinity which is available to Clerics at level two. Depending on the type of cleric you’re playing, Channel Divinity has different effects from dealing vast amounts of damage to healing up your entire party in a single action.
Druids also have a large range of spells that provide support, protection, and healing to a party. When it comes to their healing ability, Druids have all the normal healing spells such as Cure Wounds, but can also access a class-specific spell, Goodberry.
The Goodberry spell is a bit different from other healing spells as it allows for the caster to create up to ten magical berries. Then a player can simply eat a Goodberry to regain 1 hit point. Plus, they also have enough nourishment to sustain a creature for an entire day. Druids can distribute berries to their party so they can heal others with them, which can help to get your party out of tricky situations, especially at an early level.
Ultimately, Druids are known as the second-best healer class in DnD behind Clerics because of another spell they have access to at level 3, alongside Rangers: Healing Spirit. It only requires a bonus action to be cast and in 5e restores hit points for up to a minute for any creature which enters the Healing Spirit space.
When it was first introduced, the spell was considered broken and unfair. Some players even theorised that a party could create a circular conga line and rotate through the Healing Spirit’s space to provide 120d6 of healing, which was far too OP. Wizards of the Coast eventually added a limitation: “The spirit can heal a number of times equal to 1 + your spellcasting ability modifier (minimum of twice). After healing that number of times, the spirit disappears.”
Goodberries: The tasty snack that also heals you
Paladins and Clerics have similar magic, some of which cross over, though Paladins get fewer spells and spell slots, and use Charisma as their spellcasting ability. They use their spells not only to buff their allies and debuff their enemies but can also make themselves stronger in combat.
This makes them great healers who can keep themselves as well as their party alive. Spells like Shield of Faith can make a Paladin almost impossible to hit early on and their Smite spells can increase damage.
When it comes to their unique healing ability, Lay on Hands is the feature that Paladins are blessed with. This allows the Paladin to directly heal a creature for an exact amount of health, no dice roll required, and no spell slot spent. This can be extremely useful if you need to heal multiple party members by different amounts. Lay on Hands also has the added benefit of being able to Cure Disease if you expend 5 charges. This is equivalent to one of the uses of the spell Lesser Restoration, which allows you to cure disease for the price of a level 2 spell slot!
Although Paladins do have access to spells, that is not where their main strengths lie. Paladins excel in staying in the fight to the bitter end due to their unique blend of combat prowess and divine magic. Their abilities to heal themselves only add to their overall tankiness. All of this on top of their generally good martial prowess makes them a force to be reckoned with.
Despite being one of the least popular classes to play, Bards are a pretty unique support class in DnD and can use their musical ability to heal players – think of it like a somatic therapist of sorts! That said, Bards don’t have specific healing powers but they do possess more spell slots than Paladins; spell slots that can be used to cast the Cure Wounds spell and heal your allies. Bards also have the Feature Song of Rest which states the following: “Beginning at 2nd level, you can use soothing music or oration to help revitalize your wounded allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures who can hear your performance regain hit points at the end of the short rest by spending one or more Hit Dice, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points. The extra Hit Points increase when you reach certain levels in this class: to 1d8 at 9th level, to 1d10 at 13th level, and to 1d12 at 17th level.”
This is an incredibly useful healing feature for any dungeon-crawling party, but as stated earlier, every party is different and so it’s worth speaking to your DM about the type of game they are running and seeing if it’s worth playing a Bard.
Some other top-tier healing classes and subclasses include Rangers and Divine Soul Sorcerers. Rangers are Hunters but they also have access to nature magic similar to Druids, just more limited. They can use basic healing magic and can support the party in combat. Divine Soul Sorcerers are Sorcerers who have access to the Cleric spell list. This can be very strong because of Metamagic for Sorcerers, though it does mean you’re not particularly tanky due to low AC and HP.
How to choose the best Healing Class for your DnD 5e campaign
Before deciding which Healer Class you would like to choose (if you’re not simply choosing your favourite one, which is extremely valid!), you should consider the play style of the party. The best healer in your DnD campaign would depend on your party’s needs and the kind of campaign that you are playing in.
For example, if you’re likely to be the only one Healing, you may want to choose to be a Cleric or Druid, these are specialist healers with great potential for keeping your party on their feet. If you’re looking for a little more flexibility, or there are going to be other sources of healing in the party, you could try a Bard, Paladin, or Ranger.
The best healing subclasses in 5e
Generally, the best healer in DnD is one based on the specific needs of your party, the campaign itself, and your preferred playstyle. While DnD has several subclasses dedicated to healing, many of them are designed for classes that already possess healing abilities. However, there are a handful of classes in the game that are not traditionally healers, but can still access potent healing abilities via subclasses. The two I will mention here are:
- Celestial Warlocks
- Monk: Way of Mercy
What is a Celestial Warlock?
Originally a homebrew subclass that was eventually adopted in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Celestial Warlocks make formidable healers. Celestial Warlocks have pacts with angels or similar creatures that provide them with numerous defining characteristics and spells.
For instance, they can cast Cure Wounds like Clerics but also have access at 1st level to a feature called Healing Light. This allows them to heal a creature using dice from a pool. Paladin players may recognise this, as it is similar to Lay on Hands. Other spells in a Celestial Warlocks healing arsenal include Revivify and Greater Restoration.
What is a Monk: Way of Mercy?
If you’re looking to play a hybrid between a badass fighter and a wandering physician/plague doctor then Monk: Way of Mercy is for you!
Normally, Monks are very melee-focused fighters who use quick attacks and a flurry of punches to deal damage. But since Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, players can now choose the subclass Monk: Way of Mercy for additional healing capability.
This subclass gives players the option to play as a healing monk by using Ki to heal allies instead of damaging enemies. They can also revive the dead or remove negative status effects.
Being Monks, they can also manoeuvre quickly around a battlefield. This not only makes them excellent healer party members, but it means they can easily get to players to deliver that last-minute heal.
Sometimes Monks take a brief break from punching things in order to unpunch their allies. Sometimes.
The best way to find out is to try!
While there are numerous options for different healing classes in DnD, if raw healing power is your primary concern, then a safe bet is to choose a Cleric. However, the best way to truly understand each class’s interactions, abilities, and potential is through experience. We recommend trying out each class at least once to gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses. Play and experiment with the different options if you can. One-shot campaigns are a great way to playtest a character.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of which Healer Class to select for your next DnD campaign. Now get out there and start healing!