The Default. Hard to argue with.
I like the idea of a charlatan who is so good that he’s been sent visions for a Trickery Deity (Loki, Brandobaris, Garl Glittergood) and has become a full invested cleric of the faith. As a charlatan cleric you carry around dozens of holy symbols, use them to convince anyone you’re a priest of anything, and then use the advantages that comes with to go anywhere, do anything, and generally cause a ruckus.
The clichés here are the thief who was rescued by the church, or the follower of the god of Thievery, but I more like the idea of a lawful good rogue who was raised to be a cat-burglar, hated it, and decided to use his skills for good. So he’s joined the church of some really Lawful Good deity and plies his trade breaking into enemy temples to relieve them of their ill-gotten gains and cursed magic items.
Falwell. Oral Roberts. Jimmy Graham. Jim Baker. Step up to the podium and give the crowd a show. Like the bard acolyte the inclination here is to make the character a scam artist, but I think the character’s much more interesting if he’s a true believer. And lo and behold, your Cure Light Wounds actually works! Give him a high charisma and let the followers flock to him.
Cleric Folk Hero
Does Friar Tuck count? Or is he a monk? Either way, be the priest who stands up to the man, takes out tyrants by preaching at them really loudly, and then actually helping the people of the local villages. You know, like the Tyrant was supposed to do before he became evil. It’s because he doesn’t go to Temple on Saturdays. Be sure to work that into your sermons.
Cleric Guild Artisan
Clerical work means paperwork, and, well, you’re a cleric! Book-binding, scribing, scribing scriptures…I think in the grand scheme of things the Guild Artisan Cleric is the guy who puts together all his religion’s bibles and “donates” them to others, somehow for a profit. You could be running that printing press, or more accurately, a group of priests who are doing all that work by hand.
You’ve left the confines of the temple in order to commune with your God in private. And he’s told you some things. Some things that other people aren’t going to like when you tell them. Gird your loins before you start spouting the truths.
According to the landed gentry of medieval Europe, that pattern is the first born inherits the estate and enters politics, the second joins the army, the third goes into law, and the fourth joins the clergy. So you get three older brothers, who were probably jerks to you, so you’re probably happy to get as far away from them as possible. Heathens. Also, you get to travel the world if you leave town, so go, be free, young noble priest.
Think Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. I’m just assuming he was some kind of Cleric. Which way is East? Cause I need to pray in that direction, but I don’t understand the strange customs of your land, and how can you tell which way is East with all these trees?
Like Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci Code, be the priest who has read everything, and I mean everything, about your God, your religion, and your Temple. Be the guy who has found a secret embedded in the scriptures of your faith, and is now secretly worried that someone higher up on the food chain is going to kill you for having this secret knowledge. Just get a better haircut than the one Tom’s sporting in that first movie.
The Gods of the Sea are fickle and annoying, and are as likely to tip your boat over to watch sharks and giant octopi and half-shark/half-octopus creatures eat you as they are to let you safely arrive on the other side of the world so you can trade bananas for tobacco leaves. And because of that, it’s important to have at least one sailor on board who knows how to pray to Poseidon or Neptune, or whatever lunatic God is running the ocean today.
Father Mulcahy? Medic! Not “God of War” soldiers (although, that’s also a thing), I’m more thinking the guy who goes out there to read the last rites, because we know for sure a large number of these soldiers are going to die. So you survive, you’ve seen the horrors of war, and now you’re going to do anything your faith will allow to keep that war from coming to the homes of your congregation.
If you live on the streets and have nowhere else to turn the church might take you in. Give you some food. Give you a place to sleep. And then, because they need somebody to do some dangerous work for them, they might guilt you into doing some adventuring. Taking out enemy priests, stealing artifacts from enemy temples, or generally disrupting another church’s daily business. And you’re good at it. Cause you’ve got nothing to lose.
There you have it. 13 backgrounds, one class, a bunch of (hopefully useful) ideas. Now go out there and spread the word.