5E Channel Divinity: Sacred Weapon - Does the action to activate it make it weak?

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
So Sacred Weapon is pretty cool, but you need to spend an action to activate it, and it only lasts a minute.

Put together, those things seem to make it more of a situational buff than a bread and butter ability.

Rarely do my PCs have a chance to pre-cast 1 minute duration effects. That's basically something you do before an ambush.
And if you haven't pre-activated the ability, you are giving up your Attack for the round in order to get ready to fight better later. An average meaningful fight is expected to take 3 rounds. Tougher fights can take longer (or they can just be rocket tag), but I expect it would take quite a few rounds for the potential damage gain to offset the potential damage lost from not just taking the Attack action on the first turn.

So, it looks to me like this ability is either for fights you expect are going to be really long, or for ambushes. Am I right here, or does it pay off a lot faster than the math would indicate?
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Not something that you'd need to do every fight, but very useful to have as an option. Boosting your attack with Charisma, particularly if you're using GWM feat is nice.
However the greatest benefit is probably that it renders your attack magical if it isn't already, giving you a way of hurting things that would be resistant to your attacks otherwise. In that situation even if you're already in melee , activating it can be well worth the action.
I'm aware that 3 rounds is viewed as the average length of a fight, however I'm not sure where it came from. I've generally found that our meaningful fights last a bit longer.
 

FarBeyondC

Explorer
It's a really dramatic fight opener, and potent/useful buff in the event you can't or don't want to meaningfully engage someone in the first round of combat.
 

MarkB

Hero
As you say, most combats only last 3 rounds, and this spell lasts 10 rounds. "Looks like we're going to be in a fight sometime in the next 42 seconds" isn't an utterly rare situation, unless your party is useless at sneaking.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
As you say, most combats only last 3 rounds, and this spell lasts 10 rounds. "Looks like we're going to be in a fight sometime in the next 42 seconds" isn't an utterly rare situation, unless your party is useless at sneaking.
Barring magic like Pass Without Trace sneaking is very hard for a party to do successfully. Even with that spell they still need to be unseen.

Sacred Weapon also emits light. Even if the enemy are surprised it's probably going to be your first action of the battle.

A major benefit (unless your game has a ton of magic items) is that it makes your weapon magical. Overcoming resistance is pretty good. It's also useful against high AC enemies that you may otherwise find hard to damage.

It's not the best Channel Divinity but that's okay. Not everything should be useful in all circumstances.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
So Sacred Weapon is pretty cool, but you need to spend an action to activate it, and it only lasts a minute.

Put together, those things seem to make it more of a situational buff than a bread and butter ability.

Rarely do my PCs have a chance to pre-cast 1 minute duration effects. That's basically something you do before an ambush.
And if you haven't pre-activated the ability, you are giving up your Attack for the round in order to get ready to fight better later. An average meaningful fight is expected to take 3 rounds. Tougher fights can take longer (or they can just be rocket tag), but I expect it would take quite a few rounds for the potential damage gain to offset the potential damage lost from not just taking the Attack action on the first turn.

So, it looks to me like this ability is either for fights you expect are going to be really long, or for ambushes. Am I right here, or does it pay off a lot faster than the math would indicate?
I've had no problem using it in various fights.

1. Since it lasts a minute, often pre-activation works. 1 minute, no concentration is pretty long in 5e.

2. It's a BIG buff. It works against all targets and stacks with avantage, which is not all that hard to come by. That's why I find the vengeance vow of enmity very good, but a bit overrated. With proper party synergy (Say a wolf barbarian or a fighter with shield master) you get advantage AND a +3 to +5 to hit.

3. Another often overlooked benefit - sacred weapon works on ranged weapons too, unlike vow of enmity. Strength paladins have a problem at range, sacred weapon can mitigate that to a degree. Dex paladins can actually be excellent at range, especially with sacred weapon up.
 
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FrogReaver

Adventurer
So Sacred Weapon is pretty cool, but you need to spend an action to activate it, and it only lasts a minute.

Put together, those things seem to make it more of a situational buff than a bread and butter ability.

Rarely do my PCs have a chance to pre-cast 1 minute duration effects. That's basically something you do before an ambush.
And if you haven't pre-activated the ability, you are giving up your Attack for the round in order to get ready to fight better later. An average meaningful fight is expected to take 3 rounds. Tougher fights can take longer (or they can just be rocket tag), but I expect it would take quite a few rounds for the potential damage gain to offset the potential damage lost from not just taking the Attack action on the first turn.

So, it looks to me like this ability is either for fights you expect are going to be really long, or for ambushes. Am I right here, or does it pay off a lot faster than the math would indicate?
It's almost never worth giving up an attack action in combat to cast a buff. That said it's a very strong buff. When you are able to prebuff with this it's a game changer.

Campaigns are ran very differently by different groups. Some groups get time to prebuff most fights. Others don't and tend to start fights close to enemies. So it's situational, but that situationalness is dictated by your campaign.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Okay, so I dug down into what's bothering me about it more, by looking at every published paladin subclass so far.

Some other subclasses have situational Channel Divinity features, but every other subclass has at least one non-situational, bread and butter ability you will be using regularly in the situation of "combat". Both of the Oath of Devotion's Channel Divinity features are situational.

I also did math. Assuming you don't need the magical weapon element to overcome damage resistance (a pretty good assumption for a paladin in most campaigns starting somewhere around mid-level) it will take 4-5 rounds for the buff to pay off in damage output. Running into a fight that you can reliably predict will go 4-5 rounds 1/short rest is pretty situational in my experience.

The other situation is setting up ambushes. Again, this isn't something you can reliably assume you can pull off, especially with the Stealth Disadvantage you probably have from heavy armor, though at least if you fail to pull it off you don't blow your Channel Divinity. But while it isn't an oath violation, there is something thematically wrong about having a signature ability of the classic paladin most reliably trigger when ambushing foes.

Since it isn't a spell, you can still cast a bonus action spell when you use this. So I started looking at bonus action spells to see if there was anything that you would substantially benefit from casting on your first round. About the only one that I was seeing was compelled duel. Now, activating Sacred Weapon and casting compelled duel for your first round is pretty cool, no denying that. But it uses up a spell slot, requires committing to a certain strategy that you shouldn't have to commit to, and it's still situational.

So that's what it comes down to--they need a non-situational Channel Divinity feature to be on par with other paladins.

The obvious solution is to make Sacred Weapon a bonus action, and since (unless I'm mistaken), Oath of Devotion is generally considered the weakest PHB paladin subclass, I'll probably go with that. But I don't really like it because the paladin class in 5e is a strong class as it is and none of the subclasses need buffs, and because that makes it stronger than Oath of Enmity, which is otherwise similar.

Any obvious mistakes in that analysis? Any suggestions for better ways to fix the feature?
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
Some other subclasses have situational Channel Divinity features, but every other subclass has at least one non-situational, bread and butter ability you will be using regularly in the situation of "combat". Both of the Oath of Devotion's Channel Divinity features are situational.
Oath of Ancients has one blatantly situational CD feature and one that is easy for high-STR or high-DEX enemies to make a save against.

Oath of Vengeance has one situationally useful CD and one that is fantastic but only used against bosses.

Oath of the Crown has one situational CD and another that's pretty mediocre in general.

Oath of Conquest, OK, both are useful pretty often.

Oath of Redemption has two incredibly situational CDs that are moreso than Devotion on their worst day.

So, no, not every other subclass has "at least one non-situational, bread and butter ability."

The other situation is setting up ambushes. Again, this isn't something you can reliably assume you can pull off, especially with the Stealth Disadvantage you probably have from heavy armor, though at least if you fail to pull it off you don't blow your Channel Divinity. But while it isn't an oath violation, there is something thematically wrong about having a signature ability of the classic paladin most reliably trigger when ambushing foes.
As several posters above have mentioned, it's not just for ambushes. The thing lasts 10 rounds. If you're in a situation where you expect combat to happen within the minute, which is pretty often, go ahead and pop it and you'll still get use out of it.

The obvious solution is to make Sacred Weapon a bonus action, and since (unless I'm mistaken), Oath of Devotion is generally considered the weakest PHB paladin subclass
You are mistaken. Redemption is the weakest, by far. And Crown is usually considered not much better; it's saved by one Oath spell from being at the very bottom. Devotion is average or slightly above average.

(Also somewhat of a tangent, I consider Ancients somewhat overrated by many. It's good, but many overlook that the aura which halves spell damage does not work against non-spell AoEs such as dragon's breath.)

Any obvious mistakes in that analysis? Any suggestions for better ways to fix the feature?
It doesn't need to be fixed.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
3. Another often overlooked benefit - sacred weapon works on ranged weapons too, unlike vow of enmity.
Actually, Vow of Enmity does work at range.

Vow's weakness vs. Sacred Weapon is that it only works on one enemy, and once it's dead, that's it. Sacred Weapon lasts against multiple foes.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I find pretty damn often that I can pop off something quick before initiative is rolled, or be the one causing init to be rolled by casting a combat buff.

Tangent, how is Crown weak? It’s got the most powerful CD option of all the Oaths.
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
Tangent, how is Crown weak? It’s got the most powerful CD option of all the Oaths.
Which one? Turn the Tide is only slightly better than a base Mass Healing Word in the best-case scenario. And Champion Challenge still allows the enemy a lot of movement, even within 30 feet of you. Especially if said enemy can still fly out of your reach.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Which one? Turn the Tide is only slightly better than a base Mass Healing Word in the best-case scenario. And Champion Challenge still allows the enemy a lot of movement, even within 30 feet of you.
Mass Healing Word is 3rd level.

Paladins get 3rd level spells at level 9, but they don’t ever get Mass Healing Word.

It’s much stronger than any other option. Getting an improved version of an incredibly clutch third level spell that you’d never otherwise get, at level 3, is, to coin a phrase, baller extreme.

Edit: btw that’s 2 levels earlier than the Cleric gets Mass Healing Word. And it doesn’t use a spell slot and refreshes with a short rest. It’s very very strong.
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
It’s much stronger than any other option. Getting an improved version of an incredibly clutch third level spell that you’d never otherwise get, at level 3, is, to coin a phrase, baller extreme.

Edit: btw that’s 2 levels earlier than the Cleric gets Mass Healing Word. And it doesn’t use a spell slot and refreshes with a short rest. It’s very very strong.
"Improved" is a bit of a stretch. It only works if the targets are below half hit points. It also doesn't work if they're unconscious/KO-ed, since they also have to hear you for it to work.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
My issue with sacred weapon proposal. It pretty much becomes the beat channel divinity in the game for any paladin if you make it a bonus action.
 

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