Clerics are intermediaries between the mortal world and the distant planes of the gods. As varied as the gods they serve, clerics strive to embody the handiwork of their deities. No ordinary priest, a cleric is imbued with divine magic.
Not every acolyte or officiant at a temple or shrine is a cleric. Some priests are called to a simple life of temple service, carrying out their gods’ will through prayer and sacrifice, not by magic and strength of arms. In some cities, priesthood amounts to a political office, viewed as a stepping stone to higher positions of authority and involving no communion with a god at all. True clerics are rare in most hierarchies.
When a cleric takes up an adventuring life, it is usually because his or her god demands it. Pursuing the goals of the gods often involves braving dangers beyond the walls of civilization, smiting evil or seeking holy relics in ancient tombs. Many clerics are also expected to protect their deities’ worshipers, which can mean fighting rampaging orcs, negotiating peace between warring nations, or sealing a portal that would allow a demon prince to enter the world.
Most adventuring clerics maintain some connection to established temples and orders of their faiths. A temple might ask for a cleric’s aid, or a high priest might be in a position to demand it.