Since little non-playable and joinable characters are as good in healing as Viconia is, you might end up creating your own cleric. Especially if you intend to play as a neutral or good party. Remember Viconia and Keldorn both at the same time in your party is asking for trouble: either one of the two will leave or they might even fight in later stages.
So, what’s the worst part about the cleric, in general? He can even wear full plate mail and equip quite a few damaging weapons (maces, flails and more). But yes, the cleric lacks overall melee skills: you can’t specialize as much in weapons as a fighter (obviously), you can’t effectively dual wield, etc. Dual classing the cleric is a popular solution, mostly fighter/cleric or cleric/fighter. But! If you dualclass your ranger very early into a cleric (I’m talking about lvl7), you have access to all divine spells ànd all high level ranger spells as your character progresses throughout the game. Woah. This may sound like a cheesy and dirty trick. In fact, it pretty much is, so if you don’t really like this, I suggest you still keep on reading and dual class your cleric with a class of your own choice.
The cleric/ranger combination actually works pretty well: high wisdom is needed for both classes to cast spells. Dex and Str are very useful, especially the first one. Don’t build it up to 18 wearing plate mail though as it dismisses your evade bonus completely. There are good leather armors later in the game (if you’ve installed Throne of Bhaal: the obvious dungeon & further upgrades)
Creating a ranger gives you the advantage to choose additional weapon specializations. In this guide, we are going to create a dual wielding mace/flail character. Don’t pick non-blunt weapons because the cleric cannot use any of those (sword, katana, … but also no (cross)bow). If you really really need to build a ranged weapon too, there’s nothing much left except the slingshot. Remember, we’ll have plenty of ranged attack spells so no worries here.
While playing the game, there is nothing much to follow or remember, just play it like you would play any regular cleric with a hybrid class. Dual class at level 7 to get the highest level spells as a cleric. You’ll automatically be able to cast all highest level druid spells thanks to the ranger class. Isn’t that amazing! Remember to heal regularly since your low level character will probably have some difficulties in the beginning of the game. Once you start gaining level 3⁄4 and up spells you’re powerful enough to take on most monsters with the help of your party members.
Which weapon should you use? There is more than enough choice for this class. Since most other party members use a different type of (melee or ranged) weapons, you have the freedom to fully claim all maces/flails and morning stars for yourself. Try to get the Flail of Ages as soon as possible to +3 since the extra elemental damage helps quite a lot to certain otherwise immune enemies. An undead crushing mace and a skull crusher are always handy, equip when needed. It’s generally not needed to grab your slingshot as a backup weapon: use buff spells or ranged magic.
If you’ve installed Throne of Bhaal or the bonus merchants, you can get your hands on a nice leather armor quite soon. Shadow armor is always good (AC -1) and still one of the best leather armors there are in the game. But most of the time your thief or another character will claim those equipment pieces. If you can’t find any decent set, temporary equip good plate mail. Remember to switch soon as it reduces your DEX bonus and completely nullifies your hard work to buff up the character.
Buy a frost belt/girdle from one of the bonus merchants or find one of the many available. It’ll help increase your damage output while swinging the dual maces or flails. If you plan on equipping another belt, you should have built your character different since 14 STR is not nearly enough. Of course, this build is quite melee minded, adjust as you see fit.
As a heavily melee oriented character, you’ll want to primary equip yourself with buff and shield spells. That does not mean other spells are less important, they’re just not as much used. You do have a backup mage or two as primary magic damage dealers, right? A typical encounter using your favorite cross-class (at low level): cast chant and/or bless, protection from evil (12’ radius), cast faith armor, use your draw upon holy might innate ability (if present) and rush into melee range to protect your weaker party members. If things get hot, pull back and start casting heal wounds to further support other members. The cleric/ranger can be used as a tank, but shouldn’t since he or she has powerful protective spells to help the party survive.
That being said, buffing also includes offensive buffs such as the high level Blade barrier. The spell Sanctuary renders you complete invisible and prevents enemies from targeting you. This gives you more than enough time to stay in melee range, damage enemies with your barrier ànd further support the party by healing/buffing/attacking. Your most important aid spells include Lesser/greater restoration against those annoying level draining vampires, mass heal obviously, defensive harmony, …
The druid divine spell picks are merged with the cleric’s. Luckily, as a cleric or divine spellcaster, you do not need to “pick” spells as you level up (like the Mage does). This means you have access to all spells of all levels once properly leveled up. The druid spells are mostly offensive (insect swarm) and summons (fire elementals, pixies, demons and more). Don’t forget to cast protection from evil first or the creature will turn hostile after a few rounds.