5E Cleric vs Paladin: Concepts and Mechanical realisation

Coroc

Adventurer
....

For me:
The 2E AD&D PHB shaped my conception of D&D, even though I didn't play it much. I found it interesting that it specifically mentioned the Knights Templar were listed as inspirations for the Cleric, not the Paladin. And the 2E DMG mentioned that Paladins are too rare for organisations to exist bigger than the Knights of the Round table.
.....
Which is quite logic because historically:

Knight Templar were not necessarily Lawful good, they often did consist of second or third sons because only the firstborn noble would inherit. They were obviously also a strong financial organization with materialistic goals which is diametral to a classic paladin.
It is questionable if they even had some heretic beliefs, be it from advanced knowledge or to form a stronger bond of "initiated", so they would eventually go along not so well with official church.

From 2e game mechanic:

Rolling attributes was the standard method. Even if you used systems different to 6x3d6 in a row the minimum scores needed for a paladin were quite rare to achieve. I do not recall the absolute probability but it was less than 1 in 100 chance or so depending on rolling method.
The knight Templars were a big organization, certainly more than paladinsavailable in a equivalent game world.


Round table is an excellent example for paladins. Their quests were really for idealism and to honor chivalric code.


edit: Uups someone resurrected this nevertheless quite interesting thread a few pages before my post.
Wasn't me :p
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
This thread has me thinking ...

the best thing about thread necromancy is that people post their opinions, only to realize, hey, I already had an opinion!

....and sometimes, those opinions match. But it is so much more fun when they don't. :)


"Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?"
"Whaddya got?"
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
I always thought paladin was kind of a hybrid
Fighter/cleric class back in the day when humans could not multiclass. But it also filled the place to reward players trying to be a force for good and making the world a better place. Something most DM’s wish players would do. It’s much easier to get the Paladin to take the adventure hook and get the adventure started than some other character types.
 

Undrave

Adventurer
I don't think the distinction for the mechanics NEED to exist in the world. In 4e, for exemple, I had a Dragonborn Cleric who was, in story, a Paladin in the same order as the party's Paladin. He had, however, a different role, being a former drill sergeant who had escaped the destruction of the order's stronghold with a small group of rookies before rejoining the Paladin and a larger group of refugees. He also had that feat that gave him a once per encounter Divine Challenge for some marking.

I’ve no interest in ever playing any kind of Cleric, but every Cleric lover I know enjoys them in 5e, so...👍
I'm not a fan of the 5e Cleric. It's support aspect feels diluted and limited. There's no way for the Cleric to offer some type of support without a Spell Slot. And usually it's either a heal or Bless. Bless is good but also SUUUUPER boring. The Bard, for exemple, at least gets Vicious Mockery to offer some constant debuffs.

There's just not enough tactical levers for the Cleric to pull on.

All I'll say is this - clerics absolutely should have been conceptually reimagined in this edition much more than they were. This was a huge missed opportunity. They really were designed in a way that's too specific to a particular notion of what a cleric is and the concept should have been walked back into something more basic that could go in a lot more directions via subclasses.
Yes. I think the Cleric is too straight and basic for what it tries to be. The Melee Clerics don't get extra attack and Divine Strike only comes in later so from 5th to 8th level it's more efficient for them to be slinging Sacred Flame (and ONLY that because that's the only attack cantrip in the PHB) instead of using their Martial Weapons. Furthermore, the Domain entirely decides your play style.

I've been saying that the Cleric should have been more similar to the mix-and-match style of the Warlock where you pick your play style (melee or caster-blaster, maybe even adding a Divine Archer style later) and THEN pick your domain to add theming and flavour. I don't think the 5e Cleric is a BAD class, it's just not one I enjoy much and one I feel where they didn't push the design far enough.

So players are naturally a bit confused about the whole thing. People who want to play a "knight" tend to pick Paladin, whereas people who actually dig the priestly vibe go for Cleric but I think are actually often off-put by the heavy armour, shields and solid weaponry. An awful lot of players would rather play someone more magic-centered I think, in light or no armour, which 3E and 5E didn't really support and 4E only kinda did.
4e ended up with more support for the WIS Cleric than for the STR cleric (MAD Classes ended up a mistake in the long run really) but it also introduced the Invoker class, the robe-wearing Caster centric Divine Controller class for those who wanted to throw Divine Wrath and Radiant Lasers at enemies from a distance. Maybe 5e could have also split the warrior cleric and divine caster apart?

Round table is an excellent example for paladins. Their quests were really for idealism and to honor chivalric code.
Kaamelott trumpets intensify
 
Last edited:

Ashrym

Hero
The Bard, for exemple, at least gets Vicious Mockery to offer some constant debuffs.

Lol, I skip vicious mockery a lot. It whiffs too often for it's effect due to low DC's at low levels to want it over utility like mage hand or minor illusion, and at higher levels spell alots are better.
 

Undrave

Adventurer
Lol, I skip vicious mockery a lot. It whiffs too often for it's effect due to low DC's at low levels to want it over utility like mage hand or minor illusion, and at higher levels spell alots are better.
It's the only Attack Cantrip the Bard gets in the PHB. It at least has an effect that matters.
 

Ashrym

Hero
It's the only Attack Cantrip the Bard gets in the PHB. It at least has an effect that matters.
True, but my attack cantrip tends to require two hands and has the loading property. It hits just as often at those levels but for 3 times the damage and frees up one of my two cantrips. ;)

Vicious mockery can be a lot of fun but the effectiveness has left me feeling underwhelmed.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
True, but my attack cantrip tends to require two hands and has the loading property. It hits just as often at those levels but for 3 times the damage and frees up one of my two cantrips. ;)

Vicious mockery can be a lot of fun but the effectiveness has left me feeling underwhelmed.
handy in those situations when you want out of melee and their is a nasty barbarian tanking for you. But in general yes, use a weapon if you can.
 
Knight Templar were not necessarily Lawful good, they often did consist of second or third sons because only the firstborn noble would inherit. They were obviously also a strong financial organization with materialistic goals which is diametral to a classic paladin.
Individual members of the order couldn't own property, but the order itself could, as an organisation. I believe this was the case with all medieval monastic orders.

This is similar to the classic D&D paladin. While the paladin cannot own much property, the church or order with which they may be associated can, and could potentially become extremely wealthy as a result.

Paladins will never be allowed to possess more than four magical items, excluding the armor, shield and up to four weapons they normally use. They will give away all treasure that they win, save that which is necessary to maintain themselves, their men, and a modest castle. Gifts must be to the poor or to charitable or religious institutions, i.e. not to some other character played in the game. - OD&D Book IV Greyhawk (1975)​

It's true that there is a tension between the templar knight/paladin's poverty and the order/church's wealth, but that tension, or contradiction, exists in both D&D world and our own history.

There's also an, in my view, fatal contradiction between the classic D&D paladin and XP for gold, unless the aim is to present the paladin as a hypocrite. The game compels the supposedly anti-materialist and virtuous paladin not only to constantly seek out riches, but to steal and murder in order to acquire them.
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
I’m surprised. I find that the 5e Paladin is really really good at reflecting a Paladin in the mechanics.
Howso? Keep in mind that, if I'm being perfectly honest, I loathe spellcasting Paladins. Paladins are not, and should not ever be, "spellcasters" in my not-so-humble opinion. So...if your reasons the into the spells or the Smites that expend them (another mechanic I strongly dislike and which sounds not the least bit Paladinly to my ears), be prepared for that response.
The 5e Paladin is a damn sight better at reflecting "Paladin mechanics" than 4e's was. I recall the Paladin in 4e being a poorly designed mess with pretty much no gameplay identity whatsoever and being the weakest class by far mechanically in the PHB1.
So you're telling me that a mere pool of HP is more Paladin flavor than literally sacrificing your own vigor to heal others? Note that I am NOT saying that the 4e Paladin was mechanically stronger than the 5e Paladin is within each respective edition. It's pretty trivial to show that the 4e version was slightly mechanically flawed (hence the improvements in Divine Power), and likewise that the 5e Paladin is among the strongest non-full-caster classes in the game. But I specifically said that the 5e Paladin was "really good," as in mechanically very solid. But for me, the 5e Paladin is almost totally wedded to spellcasting, and I am utterly opposed to Paladins being mystic handjive performers. (Plus I REALLY hate it when designers turn important class features into elective spells; the Ranger is even worse for that than the Paladin, which is saying something.)
 
The classic cleric has three sources:
1) Medieval legends of blunt weapon-wielding martial clergy, such as Bishop Odo at the battle of Hastings.
2) The Hammer Horror version of Professor Van Helsing.
3) Spells derived from Bible stories, such as Raise Dead, Plague of Flies, Sticks to Snakes, and Tongues. This article argues, I think persuasively, that Gary used the Sunday School versions.

The classic paladin derives from:
1) Three Hearts and Three Lions, which is partly based on the legend of one of Charlemagne's paladins, Ogier the Dane.
2) Arthurian legend, particularly Sir Galahad.
3) The Bible (or Sunday School again) for lay on hands.
4) The D&D cleric, for turn undead and spellcasting (both present in AD&D 1e but not the original OD&D Greyhawk version).

What really stands out about these sources is the one unifying factor - Christianity. In Three Hearts and Three Lions, Law, which the hero champions, subsumes Christianity and Islam, against the pagan/communist forces of Chaos.

This is rather at odds with D&D's supposed polytheism but D&D isn't really polytheistic imo. Despite the 9-alignment system, D&D is a dualistic universe. The major conflict in default D&D is good vs evil - good gods vs evil gods, good or neutral PCs vs evil monsters. The good gods are analogous to Christianity, and the evil gods are Christianity's enemies. As with Three Hearts, the dualistic Cold War, preceded by the equally dualistic WWII, was no doubt a seedbed for the idea of D&D's world structure.
 
Last edited:
Another source for D&D's dualism is Chainmail and the inspiration for its fantasy supplement, a Tolkien wargame created by Leonard Patt. Chainmail's fantasy supplement contains many Tolkien references, as does OD&D.

Wargames are inherently strongly dualistic. Lord of the Rings presents a conflict between good and evil, powerfully informed by its author's Catholic beliefs.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Howso? Keep in mind that, if I'm being perfectly honest, I loathe spellcasting Paladins. Paladins are not, and should not ever be, "spellcasters" in my not-so-humble opinion. So...if your reasons the into the spells or the Smites that expend them (another mechanic I strongly dislike and which sounds not the least bit Paladinly to my ears), be prepared for that response.

So you're telling me that a mere pool of HP is more Paladin flavor than literally sacrificing your own vigor to heal others? Note that I am NOT saying that the 4e Paladin was mechanically stronger than the 5e Paladin is within each respective edition. It's pretty trivial to show that the 4e version was slightly mechanically flawed (hence the improvements in Divine Power), and likewise that the 5e Paladin is among the strongest non-full-caster classes in the game. But I specifically said that the 5e Paladin was "really good," as in mechanically very solid. But for me, the 5e Paladin is almost totally wedded to spellcasting, and I am utterly opposed to Paladins being mystic handjive performers. (Plus I REALLY hate it when designers turn important class features into elective spells; the Ranger is even worse for that than the Paladin, which is saying something.)
Lol honestly with a preliminary response like that, I’m not interested in further discussion. Have a good one.
 
But for me, the 5e Paladin is almost totally wedded to spellcasting, and I am utterly opposed to Paladins being mystic handjive performers. (Plus I REALLY hate it when designers turn important class features into elective spells; the Ranger is even worse for that than the Paladin, which is saying something.)
(Yeah, that's a little weak.) But, a Paladin can just reserve all his slots for Smite and be as DPR-focused as the fighter - until a given spell is just too useful to ignore. When they do, you can try to picture it more as prayer than casting.
 
The classic cleric has three sources:
1) Medieval legends of blunt weapon-wielding martial clergy, such as Bishop Odo at the battle of Hastings.
Wow, that's an historical figure, who necessarily didn't cast spells, because, y'know, magic isn't real, and was depicted holding a 'club' (rod? scepter?) on the Bayeux tapestry, which noted, in Latin, that he didn't actually fight...

...heck, he was a Lazylord. ;P

2) The Hammer Horror version of Victor Van Helsing.
That's according to D&D history, fast becoming D&D legend, yes.

3) Spells derived from Bible stories, such as Raise Dead, Plague of Flies, Sticks to Snakes, and Tongues. This article argues, I think persuasively, that Gary used the Sunday School versions.
Part Water, Create Food & Drink, etc...
...criticized, by those not too busy crying "Satanism," and more cogently than them, too, as trivializing Biblical miracles.

The classic paladin derives from:
2) Arthurian myth, particularly Sir Galahad.
And Lancelot, the archetypal fallen Paladin.

1) Three Hearts and Three Lions, which is partly based on the legend of one of Charlemagne's paladins, Ogier the Dane.
Well, and the name 'Paladin.'

And, considering how pop-culture D&D was, I kinda think Have Gun, Will Travel was in there somewhere.

What really stands out about these sources is the one unifying factor - Christianity.
… I think that speaks more to the era & life experiences of the game's creators than anything else.
 

Gladius Legis

Adventurer
So you're telling me that a mere pool of HP is more Paladin flavor than literally sacrificing your own vigor to heal others?
I didn't specifically single out Lay on Hands. But, uh, 4e is the only version of Lay on Hands to do that sort of thing, so if you're going to rip 5e's Paladin LoH you have to rip all the earlier versions of the class, too. You know, the versions of the class that sort of established the whole Paladin identity to begin with.

And I didn't much care for LoH in 4e, by the way. At least 5e lets you cure status ailments.

But for me, the 5e Paladin is almost totally wedded to spellcasting, and I am utterly opposed to Paladins being mystic handjive performers. (Plus I REALLY hate it when designers turn important class features into elective spells; the Ranger is even worse for that than the Paladin, which is saying something.)
You do realize that literally every Paladin power in 4e was basically a spell, right?

Also 4e Paladins had at-will attacks using Charisma instead of Strength. That's as "mystic handjive performer" as it gets.
 
Last edited:
You do realize that literally every Paladin power in 4e was basically a spell, right?
Literally none of them were.
Technically all of them were Prayers.
In a practical sense, the Implement (holy symbol, typically) attacks were more spell-like.

Also 4e Paladins had at-will attacks using Charisma instead of Strength. That's as "mystic handjive performer" as it gets.
Using implements instead of weapons gets you to 'mystic handjive' I think. However fancy or glowy the holy sword, the pointy end still goes into the other guy.
The Paladin had exactly zero implement at-wills. (Again, 4e not really goin' in much for the ranged defender thing). It had a few (OK, 40, out of 250 is more than a few) implement encounters & dailies, though, so still had a sense of 'casting spells.'
A given paladin might not actually choose any of them, of course, it depends on how you envision the character.
 

Gladius Legis

Adventurer
Literally none of them were.
Technically all of them were Prayers.
In a practical sense, the Implement (holy symbol, typically) attacks were more spell-like.
So, as much of a spellcaster as the 4e Cleric was, then. Whatever, semantics.

Even the Paladin's weapon attacks had blatant magic to them.

Using implements instead of weapons gets you to 'mystic handjive' I think. However fancy or glowy the holy sword, the pointy end still goes into the other guy.
But when you use Charisma instead of something physical to stick the pointy end in, it's clearly not martial skill. It's magic.

A given paladin might not actually choose any of them, of course, it depends on how you envision the character.
Right, just like in 5e you can use your spell slots on nothing but Smites. And all the spells you prepare are Smite spells.
 
So, as much of a spellcaster as the 4e Cleric was, then. Whatever, semantics.
Not just semantics, keywords had definite meaning, and 'Implement' mapped to casting. And not as much an implement-user (caster). While the Cleric had more prayers than the Paladin, at almost 400, only had 50 or 60 that were weapon attacks, half of those in Divine Power.
(the Essentials War Priest about doubled that, again, though, being quite melee-oriented, another example of D&D blurring the lines between cleric & paladin, I suppose).

But when you use Charisma instead of something physical to stick the pointy end in, it's clearly not martial skill. It's magic.
Actually, it could just be a feat, 'Melee Training,' and a basic attack. Not Martial skill, since that's a Source, in it's own right, but mundane skill with a weapon.
Of course when a paladin mades a CHA attack using a weapon, it's probably a lot more about faith, and divine magic - but, it's still smiting the foes of his god with a weapon, not "mystic handjive" (and, really, that's pretty clearly S components). Besides, in 4e, how a power looked was explicitly left up to the player. You weren't getting away from the Divine keyword, for instance, and radiant damage'd still be radiant, but aside from provisos like that, your Paladin could run on sheer faith and not need be too overt about it.

Right, just like in 5e you can use your spell slots on nothing but Smites. And all the spells you prepare are Smite spells.
Not just like. In 4e, you could retrain a single prayer when you leveled up, so if you chose to be all-in weapon-using, you couldn't just back out of it one day. In 5e you can prep all different spells, every long rest and cast them or use them to smite, spontaneously - so you can 'break concept' at a day's notice, if not a moment's.
 

Advertisement

Top