D&D 5E Are Paladins Merely Mediocre Multiclass Fighter/Clerics?

I was reading the D&D Beyond article "The 10 Best Spells for the 2014 Paladin" this morning. As a player who has long favored paladins, I dove into the article with gusto.

And now it has left me wondering if paladins are really that great of a choice from a purely game mechanics perspective if your goal is play an effective, frontlines, holy warrior. Is, perhaps, a war domain cleric a better choice? (For purposes of this post, I'm not considering narrative reasons to play one class over another. That's an entirely different conversation.)

Paladins are behind the level curve in terms of when they receive channel divinity (level 3 vs a cleric's level 2) and when they receive spells levels (2nd-level slot at 5th level vs a cleric's 3rd level, 3rd-level slots at 9th level vs a cleric's 5th level, 4th level slots at 13th level vs a cleric's 7th level, etc.), they never gain 6th or higher level spells slots, etc.

When I started examining what each of the "10 best spells" did vs. the level the paladin receives the spell, it just felt unimpressive in general to me.

I tend to run long campaigns that span the level range, but when you consider that according to D&D Beyond data the average campaign ends by 7th level one wonders if paladins ever get much chance to shine. Well, I'm not sure if one wonders, but I sure do. B-)
 

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hgjertsen

Explorer
Paladins have unmatched single-target "nova" damage and are extremely overpowered at tables that don't run 6-8 encounter days. They can also self heal, heal teammates, play as both melee characters and half casters. I don't think they are weak at all under the right circumstances but they can be meh if you run as many encounters per day as the DMG recommends, which I have found to be pretty uncommon.
 



hgjertsen

Explorer
If spell casting is important to you, play a full caster.

However, the Paladin is often seen as one of the best classes in 5e. Their capacity to nova damage (vai smite) and protect the party (via saving throw boost) is quite significant.
Aura is pretty nutty as far as party resilience goes, can mean the difference between taking massive damage or just a little bit, or the difference between taking a little bit of a beating and getting pulled off the deck of a ship.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Story-wise they're just Fighter-Clerics, yes. Mechanically they are much better than that. I do think that they barely have an identity of their own, though. An honor code and smites is not much of an identity (Lay-on-Hands is just Cure Wounds by a different name).
 

aco175

Legend
I have felt that paladin spells are more powerful than cleric spells on a level-by-level basis. A 2nd level paladin spell is about a 3-4th level cleric spell.

A lot also depends on the combat like what @hgjertsen said above about being able to go nova. I tend to see most paladins using their spell slots to power attacks.
 

hgjertsen

Explorer
Story-wise they're just Fighter-Clerics, yes. Mechanically they are much better than that. I do think that they barely have an identity of their own, though. An honor code and smites is not much of an identity (Lay-on-Hands is just Cure Wounds by a different name).
I think both the 5E ranger and the 5E paladin suffer from similar issues in that they are both casters with a strong melee focus who have barely any identity beyond being slightly magical fighters with abilities cribbed from other classes. If it were up to me and I were the badwrongfun .evil guy designing 6th edition, I would axe both of them and keep Paladin as a subclass for Fighter or maybe Cleric, and Ranger as a subclass for Fighter or Druid
 

jgsugden

Legend
I've built a Human Variant War Cleric 1 / Fighter X (Eldritch Knight) build and quite enjoyed it. I went to Fighter 13 and then added more cleric levels. It ended soon after that point.

In the low levels, being able to Bless before combat and then Make 2 attacks a round for a few rounds in key battles was huge. Between the War Domain Ability and Great Weapon Master I was getting to attack as a bonus action most of the time - which increased to essentially all the time when I added Polearm Master.

However, having played several paladins as well, I will say that they are generally stronger in several ways. The cleric/fighter was stronger in the first round of key combats at lower levels, but the paladins soon had far more resources to smite enemies. Thus, they outlasted the cleric/fighter's best rounds and they also could end up doing a lot more versatile things.

Neither is a bad choice - but the paladin is definitely not weaker than the fighter / cleric ... and articles from 2014 are usually not that great when applying them to the current meta.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I think both the 5E ranger and the 5E paladin suffer from similar issues in that they are both casters with a strong melee focus who have barely any identity beyond being slightly magical fighters with abilities cribbed from other classes. If it were up to me and I were the badwrongfun .evil guy designing 6th edition, I would axe both of them and keep Paladin as a subclass for Fighter or maybe Cleric, and Ranger as a subclass for Fighter or Druid
You have a point. It's not like a Paladin as a Subclass would be all that different from an Eldritch Knight with Cleric-like instead of Wizard-like abilities. If anything, I think a well-made Gish class has more room for variety than the Paladin has (as far as its own Subclasses go). Paladin subclasses show the narrow focus of the class, in that they're essentially "I'm the devout one; I'm the mean one, I'm the arrogant one," etc. Essentially alignment changes.
 
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