I was reading an issue of "& Magazine" recently (a good magazine. you should check it out) and I saw the discussion of how to play a cleric. It went by the old standby advice of essentially being a healbot because the Cleric isn't a front-line Fighter.
Personally, I disagree with this notion, but it is prevalent in the game and so I began to think about the question, "What do you do with a Cleric if you do not use it on the front lines?"
I like to do it this way;
The Cleric makes an excellent bodyguard for non-fighters like Magic Users and Illusionists. With first level spells like Light, Protection From Evil and Detect Evil, he or she most certainly fits in along the first line or just behind it.
Like I've said in earlier posts, the Cleric is not merely some churchy parish priest here, he is, a Hero scale "Dog of War" for his deity. There are "regular" priest types in every temple and church in every village, town and city you go into. The Cleric is an emissary from that deity itself. He over-rules any regular priest in a church.
Yes, the Cleric has numerous healing spells. That doesn't mean he has to be a walking Band Aid though.Healing is for the innocent or those who "earn" it with valor and heroic deeds. That's a valuable spell slot that could easily be used to defend the party or attack an evil enemy. Healing has to be warranted, not expected to be handed out like candy on Halloween.
While it's usually frowned upon to charge party members and team mates for healing, or the innocent bystanders, there is every reason to expect that "hey, through me, my deity has just expended some serious energy and maybe a minor miracle to help you out here." It's not unreasonable to ask for a tribute or small recognition to the deity that helped. Also, for bigger scale actions like restoration, resurrection, etc... we're gonna have a chat about conversion here soon. If not conversion, then maybe going on a quest or some such in the near future.
I have no problem seeing a Cleric leading a group of Paladins dedicated to the same deity into righteous battle (or, conquestive battle if this is an evil deity bent on conquest).
One of these days, I'm going to have a Cleric PC have some Paladin Henchmen and just go out and whoop the snot out of some wicked evil-doers. They'd be like the A-Team of that deity.