The Cleric is one of the most long standing playable character classes in many role-playing games. This role is also one of the most expansive and potentially powerful characters usable, depending on the edition of the game that one is playing.
Typical attributes of the Cleric have one well-skilled in both combat and the use of divine magic. They can also be quite powerful healing agents, due to the large number of healing magic which is available to them. Some version of the Cleric even have power over the dead, having the ability to either manipulate or repel the presence of the un-dead in the game. Owing to this, most campaigns are very well suited with having a Cleric in their presence.
Initially, Clerics were used almost as a combination of a soldier and a wizard, giving them both skills in combat as well as spell-casting power, although not that of a magician. The first edition version of the Cleric, however, was not a particularly exciting character and while most teams considered having a Cleric for the purposes of needing a healer on the team, most players did not find much excitement in being assigned this role. This was something which was addressed in later editions of role-playing games, however.
The second edition of the game gave the Cleric a bit more to fill out their characters, as anyone creating the character of a Cleric was required to choose a specific religion to which the Cleric belonged. This religion also influenced and governed the Cleric's powers, making the types of spells unique to the religion of which the Cleric was devoted.
Players could either be on the side of Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil, making the types of spells possible range between Death and Tyranny or Healing and Life. The power of the Clerics was a divine power, being drawn from the specific god or gods which the Cleric was devoted to, allowing a great number of different Clerics to populate any game.
In the third edition of these games, the idea of devotion was taken a step further and the Clerics were forced to choose a particular patron to devote themselves to before aligning themselves within one step of that devotion. For example, if a Cleric devoted themselves to a patron of Lawful Good, the Cleric themselves must either be affiliated with Lawful Good, Neutral Good, or Lawful Neutral.
This would direct the types of spells available to the Cleric into being even more specific and focused, making nearly each Cleric made individual and unique. This character class then becomes more useful and exciting to the members of a group compared to the first edition's simple task of being the requisite healer.
Players are more apt to become a cleric now, with so much detail and choice available to anyone who chooses to become a Cleric. In this manner, these games have only expanded on the richness that they provide their players and, when making each subsequent edition more rich, they will continue to keep and draw more fans in.