[GUIDE] My Word Is My Sword: The Paladin Guide

Gladius Legis

Explorer
My Word Is My Sword: The Paladin Guide

paladinguide.jpg

“It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.”
— Aeschylus


Guide linked on Google Docs, as well.

NOTE: This is an update of my old "Oathbound" guide, complete with SCAG material. I gave it a new name to distinguish it. I also got tired of waiting for control of my old guide so decided to make a new thread with a snappier new name.

Table of Contents:
I. Introduction
II. Proficiencies, Attributes, Backgrounds and Class Features
III. Oaths
IV. Races
V. Feats
VI. Spells
VII. Equipment
VIII. Multiclassing
IX. FAQ
X. Builds and Combos

This guide will use the following ratings:
Red is dead. A choice that either adds nothing of value to your character or might even actively hurt it.
Purple is a substandard choice. It might be useful in corner-case situations, but overall it's not worth the investment.
Black is average. You're not hurting your character by taking this, and it might even help in some situations, but there are better choices.
Blue is a good choice. It definitely helps your character in the majority of cases.
Sky Blue is a fantastic choice. An option you should strongly consider above most others.
Gold is mandatory. It's a rare rating that denotes something that is so good that you must take it, or you can't call yourself optimized.

This guide takes from the following sources:
PHB - Player’s Handbook
MM - Monster Manual
DMG - Dungeon Master’s Guide
EEPC - Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
SCAG - Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
VGM - Volo's Guide to Monsters
XGTE - Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
MTOF - Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
*** Note: Material from Unearthed Arcana is always considered playtest material and will not be rated in this guide. But feel free to discuss it in the thread.


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I. Introduction

What's a Paladin?

A question that became an unfortunate meme from the unfortunate ninth and final entry in the Ultima series.

The definition in D&D terms of a Paladin has changed over editions, but one constant that remains to this day is that they are warriors bound by divine rites to serve something greater than them, whether that is a god or a cause, and gain power beyond their martial training from the strength of their divinely manifested convictions.

It used to be that all Paladins had to be Lawful Good, period, end of sentence, or they would lose their divine powers. Mechanically, this sort of made sense in AD&D (1e and 2e) where Paladins were literally Fighters with extra stuff. But even back then, arguments arose at many a table over whether an individual act by a Paladin violated the nebulous concepts of "lawful" or "good," which often in the end would result in a Paladin falling and becoming a mere Fighter. Which at least wasn't that weak. But when 3rd Edition came about, Paladins couldn't even be considered "Fighter-plus" anymore. Yet 3e kept the Lawful Good restriction and the "falling" concept in place, and when Paladins fell in that edition, they were basically NPC Warriors with a d10 hit die, having none of the bonus feats the Fighter got. Furthermore, Paladins were one of the most mechanically inept classes in 3e even when they didn't fall.

4e, recognizing that, took the bold step of making it so that Paladins could no longer fall and lose their powers (although instead the DM was given free license to send constant disruptions to punish faithless Paladins). Furthermore, 4e codified, in core rules, the existence of Paladins who weren't Lawful Good for the first time. Instead, they matched the alignment of the god to whom they swore allegiance. The expansion of alignments Paladins could be in the core rules was a welcome change, although explicitly tying them to gods where they weren't before was arguably a step back.

Now with the coming of 5e, Paladins can once again suffer mechanical consequences for directly violating their oaths, but with some welcome twists. Now Paladins can only fall by directly violating the tenets of their oaths, rather than just some nebulous concept of "lawful" or "good." That also means that any justifications the player makes for his actions to the DM are compared to actual concrete tenets, and while this certainly won't halt player vs. DM debates altogether, it does more clearly define the battlefield on which those debates take place. And while the three oaths in the Player's Handbook can be more or less mapped to certain alignments (which thankfully are not restricted to Lawful Good), a Paladin's individual alignment need not necessarily match the oath's connotations. Also, as if continuing to recognize that fallen Paladins became mechanically incapable after AD&D, falling means either being forced to pick another class altogether or taking the Oathbreaker variant.

Paladins of this current edition hit that spot flavor-wise, finally becoming the divinely oath-bound warriors they were purported to be all along, without the annoying direct ties to alignment.

Mechanical overview

Paladins in 5e have returned back to their classic "half-caster" status that was the case in 1e-3e. However, unlike especially 3e, this isn't really a bad thing. Paladins start casting their spells at Lv. 2, making their spellcasting a vital and working part of the class. Furthermore, with the way casting Difficulty Classes scale now, based on proficiency bonus and casting stat, a spell cast by a Paladin is no less effective than that same spell cast by a Cleric or Wizard. Moreover, while Paladins only top out at Lv. 5 spells, they top out with the same number of slots from Lv. 1-4 as full casters do, and only one less Lv. 5 slot; plus with full casters' Lv. 6-9 slots coming at a premium in this edition, the truth is that Paladins, as concerns the number of spells they can cast per day, are not terribly far behind the full casters.

Paladins have traditionally been among the most multiple-attribute dependant (MAD) classes in D&D history. In 5e, that holds true to the extent of what MAD is in this edition, which simply means requiring a peak physical and mental stat to get the most out of the class, limiting the number of feats that the Paladin can reasonably take. Paladins in 5e want peak Strength (or Dexterity) and Charisma scores (with some Constitution), but that is a far better situation than in the past. Decoupling spellcasting from Wisdom (as it was in 3e) and attaching it to Charisma instead was a major boon for the class this time around; in fact, Paladins have no Wisdom-dependent abilities this time around (unlike 3e and 4e).

The abilities that Paladins get as they level in this edition are far, far more robust than in editions past. Aside from getting spellcasting earlier (and better spells along with that), they get several auras that benefit both them and their nearby allies, which include the classical Charisma bonus to all saving throws and even some straight-up immunities and resistances to some common effects and attacks. They can also smite a lot more often and for more damage, using their spell slots to power them, and thankfully this smiting is no longer alignment-restricted. Their Lay on Hands is still a solid source of healing and is also much more versatile this time around, being able to heal poisons and diseases as well.

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Very versatile class as far as physical combatants go. Can heal, protect, spike their damage, wear the best armor, and buff the entire party's combat abilities.
  • One Oath (Vengeance) is among the most damaging in the entire game against one powerful enemy every short rest.
  • The second-deadliest reaction attacks in the game, after the Rogue, thanks to Divine Smite, which can make the Paladin as effective as a 4e-style "Defender" can get.
  • High Charisma means solid social skills performance, and Paladins also get access to Persuasion and Intimidation on their class' list.
  • Immune to diseases as early as Lv. 3, and auras later on not only increase their saves and flat-out negate some of the most common and potentially deadly conditions, but extend that benefit to their allies.
  • Proficiency in Wisdom saves out of the box, the ability that some of the nastiest effects in the game target.

Weaknesses:

  • Weak in ranged combat. Most of a Paladin’s major combat features and spells are geared toward melee combat. Thus when forced into a ranged-heavy battle, Paladins function at a fraction of their offensive power.
  • Generally weak against hordes. This depends on the Oath (and one particular Oath is a major exception to this), but anti-horde spells and features are mostly either highly situational or lacking altogether.
  • While MAD isn't nearly the devastating weakness it was in editions past, it still means Paladins must limit the number of feats they take, and must pick wisely.
  • Reliant on spells (buffs or smites) for most of their big damage. Even with Improved Divine Smite from Lv. 11 on, the Paladin's base, unbuffed DPR isn't going to match a Fighter's after that level. That divide becomes more pronounced with magic weapons and feats like Great Weapon Master in the mix.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
II. Basics of the Class

Hit Die - d10: Only the Barbarian has it better than this. You’re on par with the Fighter and Ranger here, definitely suitable for being in the thick of a melee.

Proficiencies

Armor: All armor and shields is as good as it gets.
Weapons: All simple and martial weapons is as good as it gets.
Tools: None. If you get any proficiencies here, they'll likely be from your background. Also, at least you can actually spend money and downtime to pick up proficiencies in this category.

Saving Throws: Every class gets one "common" save (DEX, CON, WIS) and one "uncommon" save (STR, INT, CHA). Yours are Wisdom and Charisma. Wisdom is the target for some of the nastiest mind-effecting conditions in the game, so to have proficiency here is both thematic and very good in practice. And while Charisma saves are very rare, they mostly deal with banishment effects, so it’s sure nice to have around when something’s trying to send you to another plane.

Skills: Pick two from the following. (Your background will give you more skill proficiencies, which are not restricted to this list. Your race may also give you more chances to pick skill proficiencies, again not limited to this list.)

  • Athletics (STR): Mandatory if you’re a STR-attacker. Helps you climb, jump, and swim. More importantly, it can help you break out of grapples and resist shoves. And grappling and shoving become viable combat options for you. Shoving is especially important for any Paladin taking either Oath of Conquest or the Shield Master feat. DEX-attackers will favor Acrobatics, though this skill still isn't bad for them.
  • Insight (WIS): Good for countering against lies and attempts to deceive you, so it’s a fairly important skill. Taking proficiency in this helps make up for a likely average WIS.
  • Intimidation (CHA): One of the social skills you're bound to be good at with a high CHA. Whether you pick proficiency in this or Persuasion will largely depend on personality; if you want to be a mean Paladin, take this.
  • Medicine (WIS): Bleh. Your WIS will probably be average, and besides that, you throw around enough healing magic in various forms to where the need to mundanely stabilize someone or diagnose a disease are rare.
  • Persuasion (CHA): Another social skill, and while YMMV, probably comes up in more crucial gatherings, if not more often than Intimidation in a lot of cases. In any case, a prime pick.
  • Religion (INT): Uses the attribute that is very likely to be your dump stat, and even if it didn’t, it’s not exactly a useful skill to begin with. Do not waste your proficiency on this.

Non-class skills: You can’t get these with your class options, but you might get these from your background or race:

  • Perception (WIS): If you can get proficiency in this all-important skill somehow, do so. Group Perception checks are common when spotting enemies trying to ambush you, and you don’t want to be a liability.
  • Stealth (DEX): If you choose to attack using DEX instead of STR (a viable option for a Paladin this time around), you just might want proficiency here. Assassin allies will thank you for it.
  • Acrobatics (DEX): The DEX option for escaping from grapples and resisting shoves (but NOT for grappling or shoving yourself), and thus mandatory for DEX-Paladins. It can also do things like help you stay on your feet or on a tightrope. Not quite as important for STR-Paladins.
  • Survival (WIS): An all-around useful skill in the exploration tier when stuck in the wilderness.
  • Deception (CHA): You’ll certainly be good at it, and it can be useful if you need to work undercover, stay in disguise, and so forth. Out of character for Oath of Devotion, but others can appreciate it.
  • Animal Handling (WIS): You might consider this one if you plan on being mounted a lot.
  • Sleight of Hand (DEX): Shouldn’t be a priority, but not really a waste either if you get it from a background. Can come in handy.
  • Performance (CHA): Can be a solid source of income during downtime, if nothing else. Definitely not a priority, though.
  • Investigation (INT): The only remotely useful INT skill, but not good enough to want to invest in that attribute.
  • Arcana/History/Nature (INT): Like Religion, you won’t be any good at these, so don’t bother.


Attributes

In general, if you play a game that uses point buy, you'll definitely want to buy an array that starts with two 15s to put in your attack stat and Charisma. (e.g. 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8). Depending on your race and the attribute bonuses you get from your race, you might make a fine adjustment to 15, 14, 14, etc., or whatever.

The attributes in order of how you'll want to prioritize them:


  1. Strength OR Dexterity: Your attack attribute. You are a weapon-based combatant, first and foremost. You want to start at least a 16 after racial bonuses if at all possible, and you want to get it to the maximum 20 ASAP. (And yes, indeed, Paladins who attack with DEX using a finesse weapon are completely viable in this edition; they lose nothing out of their class features from doing so and carry with them their own advantages such as a higher Initiative, cheaper armor, a saving throw that is tested far moreso than Strength is, the ability to go stealthy, and better ranged weapon options.)
  2. Charisma: Every Paladin needs this. CHA does many things for this class. Arguably the most significant is the bonus to all of your saves (and nearby allies' saves) that gets applied starting at 6th level with Aura of Protection. Also of importance, your spell and Channel Divinity DC are based on CHA. And finally, it determines the amount of times per day you can use Divine Sense and, later, Cleansing Touch. Start this at 16 after racial bonuses if at all possible. Topping this out at 20 eventually (but only after Strength/Dexterity) should be a goal, but stopping at 18 in favor of a feat is acceptable for most. However, certain Oaths (Conquest and Redemption, in particular) might, in fact, want to prioritize this just as much or even more than their attack stat, since their playstyles rely even more heavily on their CHA-based abilities than others. A highly feat-intensive damage-focused build (e.g. Vengeance Polearm Master/Great Weapon Master/Sentinel) can justify leaving CHA at 16, but that’s about it.
  3. Constitution: Should definitely be your third-highest stat. More hit points is always good, for one. Constitution is also an attribute that, like Wisdom, gets targeted often and by some of the nastiest effects in the game. And finally, if you plan on casting Concentration spells in the middle of combat, you want a decent score here to maintain them when taking damage. You'll want this around 14-16 for most of your career; if you're playing in a game where feats aren't an option, definitely put any ability score increases after maxing out your attack stat and Charisma here.
  4. Wisdom: A stat you can be content to leave in the 10-12 range. It helps that the Paladin is proficient in Wisdom saves. Boost Charisma instead and let Aura of Protection take care of the rest. You do NOT want a penalty here, though; aside from it being a major save attribute, some very good skills are attached to this attribute.
  5. Dexterity OR Strength: Basically, whichever of the two you didn't take as your attack stat. You do NOT want a penalty in Dexterity if you’re attacking with Strength, however, since you don't want a penalty to initiative and to its oft-tested saving throw. Put a 10 there and be done with it. On the other hand, if you’re attacking with Dexterity, Strength is actually a viable dump stat IF you don’t plan to multiclass. (If you DO plan to multiclass, you’ll need STR 13 to qualify.)
  6. Intelligence: The "Paladunce" is alive and well. And for good reason, as INT is the least-tested saving throw, even less so than STR and CHA, is attached to skills you will likely never use, and helps none of your class features. Dump it. Hard.


Most common weapon setups

Since you’re primarily a combat-focused class that will use your Attack action most rounds, which weapon setup you want to use (sword-and-board, great weapon, etc.) will be one of your big early decisions. It affects what Fighting Style you’re going to take, what feats you’ll select, your battle strategy, and so forth.

One-handed + shield (a.k.a. Sword-and-Board): This is the supremely reliable, can’t-go-wrong setup for any Paladin. It works wonders for STR- and DEX-based Paladins alike. The +2 AC from a shield is always welcome, and most Paladins won’t even give up all that much offense vs. using a great weapon, since the class’ greatest damage boosts (e.g. Divine Smite, Improved Divine Smite, smite spells, Divine Favor, Crusader’s Mantle, Oathbreaker’s Aura of Hate, etc.) add the same amount of damage regardless of the weapon you’re using. It’s versatile, too, being compatible with two Fighting Styles (Dueling, Protection). An Athletics-proficient STR-Paladin can also just drop the shield and grapple if it feels the need to in any given fight.

Great weapon: Remember that most of the Paladin’s damage boosts are independent of the weapon you’re using, which means this setup takes A LOT of work if you’re going to make it worth picking over sword-and-board and forgoing the +2 AC. If your DM ignores Sage Advice for Great Weapon Fighting Style and applies it to Divine Smite, Improved Divine Smite, etc., then this does become more worthwhile. The chief damage boost from the great weapon, however, comes with the Great Weapon Master feat with its -5 hit/+10 damage trade, but to make that work for you, you DEFINITELY need some source of attack roll boosts, and preferably ways to get additional attacks, too. At the VERY least, you’d want to cast Bless before using the hit/damage trade. Devotion with CHA 18 or higher goes one better with Sacred Weapon. Vengeance with Vow of Enmity is better still, and at higher levels even better again with additional attacks from Haste and Soul of Vengeance. Party makeup is also a factor; again, this is more effective if your party is good at creating advantage for you.

Dual-wielding: Even despite the lack of in-class access to Two-Weapon Fighting Style, dual-wielding is surprisingly good for Paladins; in fact, the Paladin is arguably the only class other than the Rogue for whom dual-wielding is worth it higher than Lv. 10. True, your base-line DPR won’t be all that much better (in some cases not at all), than one-handed + shield with Dueling Style, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that an off-hand attack gives you another chance every round to hit (and more importantly crit) and apply Divine Smite. Your off-hand attack also benefits from Improved Divine Smite from Lv. 11 on, which mostly makes up for not having the TWF style in-class. Damage-buff spells like Divine Favor and Crusader’s Mantle also apply to your off-hand. Of the Oaths, Vengeance makes the best use of dual-wielding, since getting advantage so easily also effectively doubles your chance to crit on that additional attack. Oathbreakers can also do especially well dual-wielding, since they add Aura of Hate damage to their off-hand, too.

Polearm: You DEFINITELY want the Polearm Master feat if you’re going to use this weapon; don’t bother otherwise. If you can squeeze in Great Weapon Master and/or Sentinel, it gets even better. With Polearm Master, this makes for what is essentially a better version of dual-wielding, with reach, that adds STR-modifier damage to the butt-end bonus-action attack and is fully compatible with the GWM hit/damage trade. This is an especially strong pick for Vengeance and Conquest Paladins. For Vengeance, specifically, a build that takes Polearm Master, GWM AND Sentinel is probably the ONLY Paladin build worth keeping Charisma at 16 for.


Backgrounds

You can customize your background with help from your DM, but here are the "official" backgrounds.

Also keep in mind that if a background gives you a skill you already had from your class or race, you get to pick any other skill to replace it (including a non-class skill). This is a good way to pick up something like Perception, Acrobatics or Stealth.

Acolyte: Thematically appropriate, for sure, but mechanically it leaves a lot to be desired. Insight is good; Religion, not so much. No tools proficiency, either; tools are generally a better proficiency to begin with than languages (although you can learn both anyway through downtime and money). At least the free healing and care from temples of your religion is nice?
Charlatan: Interesting dissonance in theme versus the typical Paladin, to say the least, but actually pretty solid for a DEX-Paladin. Deception’s good, Sleight of Hand is OK. Also nice tool proficiencies in disguise kit and forgery kit, and False Identity is a feature that can come in handy.
Criminal/Spy: Another dissonant theme (maybe less so if you say you're a Spy), but damn, it's a great pick for DEX-Paladins, especially if you want to go Stealth. You'll make great use of Deception as well, and proficiency in thieves' tools is icing on the cake. Having contacts is pretty nifty, too.
Entertainer/Gladiator: You'll certainly put Performance to good use, and if you're a DEX-Paladin, Acrobatics as well. Other than that, pretty average.
Folk Hero: Pretty average as well. Animal Handling is OK and Survival is solid, though.
Guild Artisan/Guild Merchant: Good skill proficiencies in Insight and Persuasion, with a set of artisan's tools (or navigator's if Merchant) as a proficiency. And guild membership's benefits are pretty nice.
Hermit: Nope. One marginal at best skill and another that's completely worthless to you.
Noble/Knight: Very thematically appropriate, but a mixed bag mechanically. Persuasion is awesome, but History is worthless. Position of Privilege or (if a Knight) Retainers are both nice features, though.
Outlander: Athletics is great, Survival is good, and the Wanderer feature's exploration benefits and free food and fresh water make for a solid background.
Sage: Worthless skills, and the feature isn't something a Paladin is likely to use either. Avoid.
Sailor/Pirate: Two winning skills in Athletics and Perception. Good tools proficiencies in navigator's tools and water vehicles, and both Ship's Passage and the Pirate's Bad Reputation certainly have their uses. A top background choice, for sure. (Pirate’s got some interesting dissonance, though.)
Soldier: Two skills right up a Paladin's alley in Athletics and Intimidation, land vehicles profieicncy and the potentially wonderful campaign benefits of Military Rank. Can't ask for much better than that. Thematically perfect for a classic Paladin, too.
Urchin: Much like Criminal/Spy, great for DEX-Paladins who want to go Stealth. You get Sleight of Hand, too, and also thieves' tools and disguise kit proficiencies. And City Secrets is great for navigation in urban areas.


City Watch: Two worthy skills in Athletics and Insight, and a solid urban benefit in Watcher’s Eye. Plus thematically appropriate for Oath of the Crown, in particular. The Investigator variant isn’t your thing, though, since it replaces Athletics with an INT-based skill.
Clan Crafter: The main draws are artisan tool proficiency and you have good relations with Dwarves. History as a skill is a waste for you, though.
Cloistered Scholar: Ah, no.
Courtier: Two good skills in Insight and Persuasion, two languages and a useful feature when dealing with nobility and government. Thematically appropriate for many Paladins, too.
Faction Agent: Always gets Insight as a skill, which is solid. However, most of the Forgotten Realms factions listed have their second skill as an INT-based knowledge skill, which isn’t so good. Safe Haven is a strong feature, though, considering the power these factions tend to have in the world. Zhentarim has Deception instead of a knowledge skill, which might be handy for a Paladin Oath that doesn’t necessarily object to using that skill.
Far Traveler: Perception is king, of course, and Insight is good, too. All Eyes on You can be beneficial in diplomatic settings, as well.
Inheritor: Survival is nice, but the INT-based knowledge skill not so much. The Inheritance feature can make for a neat story … or a powerful magic item down the line.
Knight of the Order: Similar to Faction Agent, except your universal skill is Persuasion, a staple for your class. Knowledge skill, again, isn’t the best, though Knightly Regard is strong as reflects the general power knightly orders have in the Realms.
Mercenary Veteran: Two very good Paladin skills in Athletics and Persuasion, and Mercenary Life lets you maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Solid choice.
Urban Bounty Hunter: You actually get to pick two from a list of four very good skills: Deception, Insight, Persuasion and Stealth. This background can thus fit a diverse set of Paladin builds very well. You can also get Thieves’ Tools proficiency, which is great. And Ear to the Ground lets you have contact with a variety of urban types, both high and low class.
Uthgardt Tribe Member: A bit out of character for a lot of Paladins, but there’s no denying the worthiness of the skills (Athletics, Survival), the enhanced survival benefits of Uthgardt Heritage and being allied with druids circles, Harpers, and the like.
Waterdhavian Noble: One good skill (Persuasion), one not so good (History). Besides that, you’re pretty much guaranteed to live comfortably. Eh.



Class Features

Lv. 1

Divine Sense: No longer the always-on evil radar that it was in editions past, you now have to be judicious about when to use this with its limited uses per day. The range is very limited on it, too (just 60 feet). It's probably most likely to be used in situations when you might suspect something is a fiend in disguise.

Lay on Hands: The classical Paladin healing ability, and this time around its versatility is greatly increased. Its raw healing numbers, which scale well with level, are solid for a power supplemental to your (or the Cleric's or Bard's) healing spells, but better still is the ability to neutralize poison and cure diseases with your touch (costing 5 HPs from the pool).


Lv. 2

Fighting Style: Choose one among the following.

  • Defense: Nothing wrong with it, per se, but an offensive style should be a higher priority. That said, this does make a fine second style if you get one from, say, a Fighter multiclass. It’s also pretty much your default choice if you want to dual-wield, since you don’t get in-class access to Two-Weapon Fighting Style.
  • Dueling: Don’t scoff at a flat +2 damage per hit. At early levels that amounts to well more than a 20% increase in damage done. That proportion decreases somewhat at higher levels, but it’s always going to be a noticeable boost to your offense with a one-handed weapon. Note that you CAN use a shield with this style (just not a second weapon).
  • Great Weapon Fighting: If your DM is going by the Sage Advice that says your damage rerolls of 1s and 2s are limited to just the weapon damage, then this style is merely average, though probably still your go-to if using a two-hander (since some damage boost is better than none). If your DM sticks to the book RAW here, and thus makes it apply to things like Divine Smite, Improved Divine Smite, and some of the Paladin’s damage buff spells, then the value of this jumps exponentially.
  • Protection: Again, I prefer offense, but this shield-exclusive style is good at what it does. With this, you’ll want to finish your movement for the round next to someone under duress when you need to protect them. Does lose its value if you plan to get other defender-style reactions like from the Sentinel feat or Oath of the Crown.


Spellcasting: Despite being only a half-caster, the Paladin’s spellcasting ability — which comes online earlier than ever before — is quite potent and is where much of the class’ power lies. And as far as spellcasting mechanics go, Paladins have it pretty damn good. They get immediate access to their class’ entire spell list as they hit the levels for new spells, and they prepare their spells (rather than learn a limited repertoire), giving them amazing day-to-day versatility. They use a holy symbol as their standard material component/focus, which is about the best type there is since it can either be worn as an amulet or embossed on their shield. Their spell list is pretty solid, too, full of some of the most staple combat buffs, quality healing spells and bonus-action smite spells that make them do a burst of extra damage and often a harsh status effect on a following weapon hit.

Divine Smite: The cornerstone of your burst damage ability. This one can especially become devastating on a critical hit, in which case the damage dice from this are doubled. (Incredible especially if you're attacking something under, say, a Hold Person/Monster spell!) Another key thing to remember about this is that it uses no action whatsoever, which means you can use it multiple times per round if you have additional attacks, can use it on the same turn you cast a bonus action spell (including stacking this on top of a smite spell!), and can use it on reaction attacks (making your Opportunity Attacks or attacks from the Sentinel feat especially threatening!). NOTE: The 5d8 cap means the maximum damage from this uses a 4th-level spell slot, so you get no benefit from blowing a 5th-level slot. This may need to be errata-ed to a 6d8 cap.


Lv. 3

Oaths will be described under their own section.

Divine Health: Immunity to diseases, straight up. Certainly nice when it comes up.


Lv. 4 (8, 12, 16, 19)

Ability Score Improvements: You get the standard 5 that everyone else who isn't the Fighter or Rogue gets. Because you want both a high physical attack stat (STR or DEX) and a high CHA, you're only going to have room for one or two feats if your game includes them.


Lv. 5

Extra Attack: Obviously great; at this level it literally doubles the power of your Attack action. Like every other major weapon-using class that isn't the Fighter, this caps at two attacks.


Lv. 6

Aura of Protection: Arguably the signature of the Paladin class, where you add your CHA modifier to all of your saving throws. And if allies are within 10 feet, they get that benefit, too. For you, this typically means a strong WIS save between proficiency there and letting CHA do the rest. Also, with a CON around a +2 or +3 modifier, add this on top of it and your CON saves will be at least passable for a few levels despite lack of proficiency; very important if you want to maintain Concentration spells. If you do somehow get CON save proficiency (such as from taking the Resilient feat), this feature can help push most of your Concentration checks into auto-save territory, which is a godsend.


Lv. 10

Aura of Courage: Frightened can be quite nasty for a melee combatant, which you are, because it not only invokes disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks, but it also prevents you from moving towards the source of the frightening. And more than a few of the more formidable entries in the Monster Manual have some sort of frightening effect. So, yes, being flat immune to this condition is a pretty big deal, and it's also nice that you get to extend it to your allies.


Lv. 11

Improved Divine Smite: A constant +1d8 extra radiant damage on all attacks with melee weapons (and note that unlike with Divine Smite, this DOES work with thrown melee weapons, a la javelins). This is your second-half boost to baseline damage, not as much as what a Fighter’s third attack is capable of, but still quite welcome to have around. And it does have its own advantages, namely applying to ALL attacks, including off-hand attacks (making dual-wielding quite viable), Polearm Master bonus attack, Sentinel’s attacks, Opportunity Attacks, Hasted attack, etc., making those more threatening in your hands than the Fighter’s. Having a constant source of radiant damage from this also makes fights easier against certain undead with powerful features that are shut down by radiant damage.


Lv. 14

Cleansing Touch: Negate a hostile spell on yourself or an ally with your action, with CHA-mod uses per day. Pretty neat ability, if not quite a flat-out gamechanger.


Lv. 18

Aura Improvements: All those lovely Auras you get (Protection, Courage, anything from your Oath) expand from 10 feet to 30 feet. Whereas before it was pretty situational that your allies got your Auras' benefits, now it's practically a sure thing.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
III. Oaths

Oaths are such a defining part of a Paladin that they get their own section. The choice of Oath you make at Lv. 3 will greatly affect the way your character not only plays, but their outlook and world view.


Oath of Devotion: This is the "Classical Lawful Good Paladin" Oath, with an overall balance between offense and defense mechanically. And something to be especially thankful for is the way the tenets are written; they essentially nip the "Lawful Stupid" trope right in the bud. For example, Courage includes the admonition "caution is wise," so, no, don't go charging ahead at that Ancient Red Dragon to your doom. Compassion, likewise, "Show mercy to your foes, but temper it with wisdom," because some enemies just might be too dangerous to leave alive (but give them a swift and clean death; do not torture). And Duty's, "obey those who have just authority over you," so, no, you have no obligation to obey a despot or usurper if they want you to do something evil.

  • Sacred Weapon: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). An action to add your CHA-modifier to attack rolls for a minute (10 rounds). Does not require Concentration to maintain (thus stacks with any other buffs) and does not count as a spell (which means you can cast a swift spell in the same round). Since it’s an action to activate, you’ll want to use this power a round or two before you anticipate the start of combat for best results. A very good ability for that climactic fight during that part of the day.
  • Turn the Unholy: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). The classical Paladin's Turn Undead ability, with the additional twist of turning fiends as well. Can't destroy them the way a Cleric does Undead, but making them run away is still pretty good. This one is definitely best used against a horde of such enemy types; obviously situational, but considering your class' overall weakness against hordes in general you take what you can get there.
  • Oath Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. This Oath has four spells already on the Paladin list, by far the most in that category, making it gain the lowest rating among the three original Oaths by default. It does have a couple of really nice additions, however, namely Sanctuary and Freedom of Movement.
  • Aura of Devotion: Lv. 7. Immunity to charm within Aura range, which means you and potentially the whole party are immune to spell lines like Suggestion, Dominate and Geas, as well as to equally nasty monster Charm abilities like those from vampires and succubi. These are some of the nastiest adventure-wrecking effects in the game, so even if they don’t come up very often, you’ll sure be glad you have this ability when and if they do.
  • Purity of Spirit: Lv. 15. Basically, this means aberrations, fiends, undead, fey, elementals and celestials will always attack you at disadvantage (and less importantly, they can't possess you). While not exactly an exhaustive list, many campaigns are bound to have at least one or two of these creature types. The benefits of this will definitely be felt against hordes of weaker enemies of these types. High-CR bosses of these types will probably still hit you fairly often (unless you have +X armor and shield of some sort), but even for them disadvantage means they're almost never going to get a crit on you.
  • Holy Nimbus: Lv. 20 (1/long rest). You’re only going to bust this capstone out in a fight involving multiple enemies, or better still a horde, in which case you can rack up the damage figures round-to-round with the auto damage out to 30 feet. Does not count as a spell, so feel free to cast a swift spell on the same turn.


Oath of the Ancients: This nature-themed Oath is most closely mapped to the Neutral Good alignment and even works in character with a Chaotic Good alignment. In quite a few ways, it evokes the spirit of the AD&D Ranger (which, if you recall, also required any Good alignment, but at least allowed Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic Good). Mechanically, this Oath is defensively inclined, particularly against damaging magic. It's also fairly good, as far as Paladins go, at dealing with hordes, though no longer the best at that.

  • Nature's Wrath: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Restraining is pretty nice, with speed reduction to 0, advantage on attacks against the enemy and disadvantage to the enemy’s attacks. Works on all enemies no matter their size, good for when grappling can’t do the trick. It does have a pretty sizeable weakness though, in that in addition to the initial STR/DEX save, it also allows those saves after all the enemy’s turns.
  • Turn the Faithless: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Like Devotion's Turn the Unholy, except replace the undead with fey (still turns fiends, too). Again, best used against hordes of those creature types, and at least gives you a situational anti-horde tool.
  • Oath Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. None of the spells on your list are stock Paladin spells, and there are definitely some quality additions from this Oath, such as Ensnaring Strike, Misty Step, Moonbeam, Protection from Energy, Ice Storm, Stoneskin and Tree Stride. Moonbeam and Ice Storm, in particular, are viable anti-horde tools.
  • Aura of Warding: Lv. 7. Cuts all magic damage against you and allies in your aura in half! This is pretty much this Oath’s defining feature. Do note, however, that it only protects against spells, so this doesn’t have any effect on a dragon’s breath, for example.
  • Undying Sentinel: Lv. 15. Almost like waking up every day with a free Death Ward cast on you. Well, except for the protection against instant death magic part, but this is still quite nice. And you’re immune to the effects of old age as an added bonus.
  • Elder Champion: Lv. 20 (1/long rest). This capstone essentially works out as a way to get regeneration for the battle and start it off with a control spell that’s harder to resist thanks to the disadvantage on the saving throws. Takes the action to cast, and then use the bonus action you gain that first round to cast your spell.


Oath of Vengeance: Mapped mostly to the Neutral and Lawful Neutral alignments, you take this Oath for two reasons — (1) you don't mind getting dirty doing your divine work, and (2) you want to be the most effective at killing and killing quickly. This Oath is easily the most offensive of them; in fact, against one big enemy per short rest, you're among the best round-to-round damage dealers in the game. And while you don't get any real defensive options from this Oath, the core of the Paladin class has enough of those that it doesn't really matter. If you can be said to have a weakness, it's that you're even less effective in horde battles than Paladins of the other two Oaths, since you don't get any special horde-clearing abilities.

  • Abjure Enemy: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Has its uses, the big one being potentially keeping one melee-inclined enemy out of the fight while your party deals with its buddies, then saving that enemy for last. May also be useful when you need to capture someone alive and prevent them from escaping. However, if at all possible, you’ll typically want to save your Channel Divinity use for the Vengeance Paladin’s other option.
  • Vow of Enmity: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). When it's big and bad and positively needs to die, accept no substitute. This power, activated as a bonus action, gives you advantage, straight up and no strings attached, against the enemy you target. Obviously, you will ONLY use this against a boss enemy, but when you do, you have potential to be among the most damaging combatants round-to-round in the entire game.
  • Oath Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. Yup, your list is loaded. Hold Person, Misty Step, Haste, Dimension Door, Hold Monster ... all spells the default Paladin list doesn't get, and all to make you the coldest killer on the block.
  • Relentless Avenger: Lv. 7. Free movement without OAs after an opportunity attack helps you stay near your preferred target ready to strike. Not as good as the other Oaths’ Lv. 7 features, but can be helpful sometimes.
  • Soul of Vengeance: Lv. 15. An upgrade to your Vow of Enmity that makes it even more devastating, letting you make a reaction melee attack against your Vow target if they make an attack, against anyone. Even if that boss enemy has reach (likely at this level), if you ended your movement next to it and the enemy has to start its turn with you bearing down, it faces the choice between trying to get away from you (eating an Opportunity Attack if it can't teleport), attacking (eating the attack from this feature), or Disengaging (most likely not making an attack that turn). Also note the timing if it tries to attack you — since it's triggered on making an attack, and not when it hits or misses, you still get a whack in even if that attack happened to come with forced movement or inflict a condition that would've denied your ability to make reactions.
  • Avenging Angel: Lv. 20 (1/long rest). You get flight that doesn’t require concentration and can’t be dispelled. And it lasts for a full hour, unlike the other Oaths' capstones, which puts it a cut above those. The frightening aura is a nice bonus, too.


Oath of the Crown (SCAG): This Oath cares about the rule of law and civilization above all else. It’s a natural fit for the Lawful Neutral alignment, and it’s not particularly biased toward Good; in fact, a Paladin of this Oath could just as easily be Lawful Evil as Lawful Good. Mechanically, this Oath isn’t the most spectacular, centered around defensive abilities that don’t really stand out. However, one selling point is that a Lv. 9 or higher Paladin of this Oath is easily the best at dealing with horde battles thanks to getting Spirit Guardians as a 3rd-level Oath Spell.

  • Champion Challenge: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest): Bonus action (post-errata) for a mass-defending effect that's moderate at best. 30 feet allows enemies affected by this a lot of leeway, though it can be good at least for letting back-row allies stay out of your radius in relative safety in a horde battle.
  • Turn the Tide: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest): A bonus action mass heal that slightly edges out a 3rd-level Mass Healing Word numbers-wise, but is also more situational. Fair to have on hand for emergencies, if nothing else.
  • Oath Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. Two words: Spirit Guardians. That spell alone makes this a worthy list, even despite most of the rest of it being spells already on the Paladin list. Warding Bond as a 2nd-level spell is also a welcome addition (and comes with an interesting exploit, more on that in the Spells section). And it should be noted that even the redundant Paladin spells on this Oath list are still at least good or even great spells (e.g. Command, Aura of Vitality, Banishment).
  • Divine Allegiance: Lv. 7. Take all the damage in place of any friendly creature within 5 feet of you. Unfortunately, it can only be done once per round since it uses your reaction, making it sharply less effective in a fight with multiple enemies or against multiattacking bosses.
  • Unyielding Spirit: Lv. 15. Advantage on your saves against two of the most devastating conditions in the game, paralyzed and stunned. At this level it’s probably not much more than a safeguard considering your Aura of Protection and proficiency bonuses, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it, either.
  • Exalted Champion: Lv. 20 (1/long rest). Easily one of the better Paladin capstones, thanks first of all to it lasting a full hour. It comes with a host of strong effects, of which resistance to all nonmagical weapon damage is probably still the best overall (surprisingly good even at Lv. 20). Advantage on ally death saves and advantage on your and allies’ WIS saves are nice, too.


Oath of Conquest (XGTE): This Oath takes Lawfulness to the extreme, arguably to the point of tyranny. Your objectives are to conquer, break the enemy’s will to fight, rule with an iron fist and get stronger to stay in power. You may not be full-on Lawful Evil, necessarily, but you’re most likely not going to be a nice guy/gal, in any case. Mechanics-wise, this Oath seeks to rule the battlefield through fear, and it does a pretty good job of making the Paladin’s existing frightening spells and abilities even nastier, plus it comes with a few more such abilities on its own. Overall, this Oath is a lot more about control and lockdown than it is outright damage. Since making enemies frightened is such a huge part of this Oath’s battle strategy, Charisma is even more important for this subclass than for many other Paladins; in fact, it may be as high or even HIGHER a priority than Strength.

  • Conquering Presence: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Mass frightening ability, which obviously becomes even more important for you in a few levels. Good tool for controlling a horde of enemies. However, it unconditionally allows a save on each of the enemies’ turns, making this mass fear CD inferior to the Oathbreaker’s Dreadful Aspect.
  • Guided Strike: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Stolen from the War Cleric, +10 to a single attack roll. Mostly there for when you REALLY need to hit with an active Wrathful Smite on the first attack of combat, which can be a big deal in a few levels.
  • Oath Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. Definitely some strong additions to the Paladin arsenal here, including Armor of Agathys, Hold Person, Spiritual Weapon and Fear.
  • Aura of Conquest: Lv. 7. Easily this Oath’s signature ability, and one you really need to optimize around to get the most out of this Oath. The most important thing is to keep your arsenal loaded with frightening spells and abilities, and that means preparing the excellent Wrathful Smite (1st-level spell), keeping it prepared and using it against the most threatening single targets. When dealing with hordes, you have Conquering Presence and later Fear as an Oath spell. And then there's shoving a frightened enemy prone in this Aura, which means they're never getting back up. Or use a polearm and wail on an enemy 10 feet away, and if they have only a 5-foot reach, they're not hitting you back. Good times.
  • Scornful Rebuke: Lv. 15. Literally every time an enemy hits you with an attack, including ranged attacks, it takes your CHA-modifier in damage. Every single time. Every single enemy. Automatically. No reaction needed on your part. This can add up very quickly.
  • Invincible Conqueror: Lv. 20 (1/long rest). Lasts a minute and grants you a host of nice combat buffs including a third attack on your Attack action, expanded crit range and resistance to all damage. Solid capstone.


Oath of Redemption (XGTE): You know what they say about being a War Cleric, right? Play a Paladin instead? Well, this Oath is pretty much the inverse of that; play a Cleric instead. The pacifist tenets of this Oath make this particular Paladin EXTREMELY annoying to play in nearly all adventuring parties. Basically unless you’re fighting an evil outsider or undead, you’ll be opting to deliver knockout blows to everything you fight and probably pleading with other party members to do the same. And you’ll be MUCH more reliant on your spellcasting than all other Paladins. That’s just not a good place for a half-caster to be in, even if your Oath spells are really good. (So, yeah, play a Cleric.) If you insist on taking this Oath, CHA is definitely a higher priority than your attack stat. This Oath may be a bit less annoying and somewhat more valuable in a combat-light, high-roleplay campaign, since it can absolutely ace Persuasion checks.

  • Emissary of Peace: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). 10-minute long +5 bonus to Persuasion checks. Obviously good in the social pillar.
  • Rebuke the Violent: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Pretty much the absolute example of a situational ability. You will ONLY want to use it at all against an enemy with strong single attacks. It only works against attacks, too, so anything that requires a save instead (e.g. dragon’s breath) is a no-go. In all, you won’t be using this very often, although admittedly it’s nice when you do get a chance to use it and have it deal enough damage to be worth burning your Channel Divinity use.
  • Oath Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. The list itself is fantastic, no complaints there, which is good, because unfortunately you’re going to be a lot more reliant on spellcasting than all other Paladins. You’ll get a couple of useful levels out of Sleep, and then there’s the likes of Sanctuary, Hold Person, Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern and, at late levels, Wall of Force, all of them very good spells. And a few others on the list like Calm Emotions and Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere still have their uses.
  • Aura of the Guardian: Lv. 7. Remember Crown’s Divine Allegiance? Well, this one at least works in full Aura range. That means 10 feet most of your career and at 30 feet starting at Lv. 18. Unfortunately, other than the much better range, it shares all of Divine Allegiance’s other problems, such as using up your reaction, can only be done 1/round, and is sharply less effective vs. multiple enemies and multiattacking bosses.
  • Protective Spirit: Lv. 15. Comparable, and in fact slightly superior numbers-wise, to the Champion Fighter’s Lv. 18 feature Survivor, with its free healing when under half your total hit points. And you get it three levels earlier than the Champion Fighter does. Yay for that?
  • Emissary of Redemption: Lv. 20. Unique among Paladin capstones, this is a constant effect with two strong benefits — that run almost completely counter to the way you’ve been playing this Paladin for 19 levels. Resistance to all damage vs. all enemies, and auto-damage retaliation against enemies who hit you with attacks. These benefits end against any given enemy when you attack them, cast spells on them or damage them with anything but the auto-damage from this feature. Which means, to get the most out of this in a party setting, you will want to focus fire entirely on one enemy at a time — which is completely the opposite of what this Paladin has been doing for 19 levels. And there you see the problem with this capstone, and the way this Oath was designed in general.


Oathbreaker (DMG): Not an actual “Oath,” but rather the path a DM may let you take if you break your Oath unrepentantly and turn entirely over to the “dark side.” Becoming a full-blown evil Oathbreaker (or what was classically referred to as an Antipaladin or Blackguard) definitely has its perks gameplay-wise, mostly geared toward offense. It even has a pretty strong anti-horde debuff as a Channel Divinity power.

  • Control Undead: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). This one can get really, really powerful as you level. Pretty much any undead creature without Legendary Resistance that’s at least 1 CR lower than your level is fair game to be controlled for an entire day. Imagine yourself at Lv. 18 in full command of a Death Knight. Good times.
  • Dreadful Aspect: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). Mass frightening on everyone you choose within 30 feet of you for a full minute. This one is superior to Conquest’s Conquering Presence, since this only allows enemies to roll saves to end this once they’re more than 30 feet away from you.
  • Oathbreaker Spells (overall rating): Lv. 3. Unlike the Oath lists of the more righteous, the Oathbreaker spell list is very much a mixed bag. There are some real duds on this list (Hellish Rebuke, Inflict Wounds, Crown of Madness), but on the flip side, there are also some pretty good additions (Animate Dead, Confusion).
  • Aura of Hate: Lv. 7. The chief offense-boosting feature of the Oathbreaker with CHA-mod damage bonus to all of your melee attacks, plus the melee attacks of any undead and fiends. This aura has some wonderful synergy involving any undead creature on which you used Control Undead, as well as some undead foot soldiers you gained with your Animate Dead Oathbreaker spell (or better still, if you have a necromancer ally providing you with an Animate Dead army). Note, however, that this aura boosts enemy undead and fiends as well, so in fights against those creature types this ability becomes a double-edged sword. Hey, being evil had to come at a price, somehow.
  • Supernatural Resistance: Lv. 15. Resistance to all the usual weapon damage types from nonmagical weapons. You’d be surprised at just how many monsters that protects you from, even some legendary monsters with really high CRs. That includes all dragons and even the Tarrasque.
  • Dread Lord: Lv. 20 (1/long rest). One of the better Paladin capstones with a host of nice benefits, best cast in the next round after you used your Dreadful Aspect, in which case you can rack up some pretty serious auto-damage figures. The other really nice part includes forcing disadvantage on enemies’ attacks against you and any allies, and the bonus action melee spell attack is a neat side benefit if you weren’t already attacking consistently with a bonus action.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
IV. Races


Dwarf: +2 to CON is a big deal, along with advantage on saves vs. and resistance to poison, and Darkvision. Bonus proficiencies in an artisan's tools are a neat little bonus.

  • Mountain: +2 to STR makes this the obvious subrace of choice for a STR-Paladin.
  • Hill: Not bad for DEX-Paladins, with the extra hit point per level being quite nice, and the +1 WIS isn’t entirely a waste with the right configuration. STR-Paladins should definitely go Mountain, though.
  • Duergar (SCAG/MTOF): +1 STR, Superior Darkvision, advantage on saves against illusions, charm and paralysis, and free Enlarge and Invisibility. Not a bad package, although Sunlight Sensitivity is regrettably quite the pain.

Elf: All Elves get a +2 to DEX, so make that your attack stat. Immunity to magical sleep and advantage vs. charms are handy, as are Darkvision, Trance and automatic proficiency in the all-important skill Perception.

  • Wood: +1 WIS is fair, but the real perks are bonus to speed and Stealth in lightly obscured conditions.
  • Drow: Not much of a point to being a Drow Paladin, nowadays. Sure, you get the +1 to CHA, but you could’ve instead gone Half-Elf of Drow Lineage and gotten better overall stats along with that tasty CHA-based Drow Magic, not to mention not having to deal with the full Drow’s annoying Sunlight Sensitivity.
  • High: There are some quality options for a Wizard cantrip that are independent of your casting stat (e.g. Prestidigitation, Light, Mage Hand, and with SCAG and the War Caster feat in play, Booming Blade). The INT bonus is still useless, though. If the cantrip is the big draw for you, consider being a Half-Elf of Moon/Sun (High) Elf Lineage, instead.
  • Eladrin (MTOF): Now its own defined subrace instead of a DMG example, +1 CHA is a much better stat boost, and Fey Step 1/short rest is now its own thing altogether instead of simply being Misty Step (most notably, it works in an Antimagic Field). Fey Step also has a side effect depending on what season you are, which you can change any day you want. (Note that Winter is a frightening effect and is thus valuable for Conquest).
  • Sea (MTOF): +1 CON is alright, but swim speed and waterbreathing are only consistently useful in a sea-based campaign.
  • Shadar-kai (MTOF): +1 CON, necrotic resistance and, like the Eladrin, you have a 1/short rest teleport, but with the fixed aftereffect of resistance to all damage for a round. Pretty decent.

Halfling: +2 to DEX, so you know which route to go with your attack stat. Lucky is quite nice, protecting you from that dreaded natural 1, and moving through occupied spaces opens up a lot of options on the battlefield.

  • Lightfoot: Superior stats-wise with its +1 CHA, and if you’re somehow a stealthy type, hiding behind a Medium or larger ally is definitely useful.
  • Stout: The +1 CON of this subrace is still pretty good, and plucking the Dwarf's anti-poison defenses is useful to a wider range of builds.
  • Ghostwise (SCAG): +1 WIS is OK, but not quite as good as the other variants’ bonuses, and telepathy is a pretty gimmicky trait compared to the others’ more overall useful benefits.

Human: Meant to be the most versatile race. One particular variant delivers on that promise.

  • Default/Stock: +1 to all attributes is all they get. This effectively allows you to point buy an array such as 15, 15, 14, 9, 9, 8. The +1s will bump your fourth and fifth stats out of penalty territory, and since Paladins only have one real dump stat (INT), only one of those bonus points is truly wasted. Plus you wound up with a cool net gain on your tertiary. So, for that reason, the default Human isn’t the total waste like it is for some other classes; that said, it’s hardly inspiring.
  • Variant: For as MAD as the Paladin is, and as ASI/feat-starved as you are as a direct result, the bonus feat of the Variant Human is even bigger for you than it is for many other classes. +1s also to two other stats (should be STR/DEX and CHA), and a free skill of your choice (ahem, Perception) round out what really is very likely the best race for Paladins.

Aaracocra (EEPC): At-will flight is always going to count for a lot, even with its light armor restriction. It can be campaign-breaking, potentially. Stats-wise, its +2 DEX is great for DEX-Paladins and the +1 WIS can at least round out an array. The introductory paragraph pretty much leaves it up to the DM whether or not to even allow you to play this race, and for good reason.

Dragonborn: +2 to STR and +1 to CHA matches up great stat-wise. Resistance to one energy type is solid, and since you're likely to have a decent CON score if you're a Paladin, you'll be able to use the Breath Weapon decently under bounded accuracy. Breath helps make up for the Paladin's general weakness against hordes. Better for Conquest, with access to the Dragon Fear feat that gives you another frightening power.

Genasi (EEPC): All Genasi get a +2 to CON, a solid stat bonus for all characters. All subraces get a 1/day free spell with no material components.

  • Air: +1 DEX, hold your breath forever as long as you’re not incapacitated, and Levitate as the racial spell. Pretty nice.
  • Earth: +1 STR, ignore some difficult terrain, and the very useful Pass Without Trace as the racial spell. Good.
  • Fire: +1 INT is a waste. making this the worst subrace for Paladins. Darkvision and fire resistance aren’t bad, though.
  • Water: +1 WIS has its uses, and breathing air and water and having a real swim speed can come in handy in campaigns with a lot of water.


Gith (MTOF): Compulsory +1 INT ensures this race choice will always make a suboptimal Paladin.

  • Githyanki: +2 STR and you eventually get 1/long rest Misty Step. Meh. The Eladrin is teleporting once every short rest.
  • Githzerai: +2 WIS, and 1/long rest for Shield isn’t enough to make a substantial difference. Avoid.


Gnome: Generally not a good race for the Paladin, thanks to +2 to INT being such a waste. Advantage on all mental stat saving throws vs. magic is about the only real positive. Stick to Halfling if you want to be small.

  • Forest: +1 DEX, a cantrip that’ll be useless without a good INT score, and a cute talk to small animals ability. Can’t say this appeals to Paladins.
  • Rock: Nope. +1 CON is OK, but Paladins have no use for tech knowledge.
  • Deep (SCAG/MTOF): +1 DEX and Superior Darkvision. Probably the best Gnome Paladin race by default (damning with faint praise much?), but still not enough for success.


Half-Elf: A legit contender vis-a-vis the Variant Human as the best Paladin race. +2 CHA and +1 to two other stats (make those your attack stat and CON). Also Darkvision, and the immunity to magical sleep and advantage vs. charms that Elves get, plus another potentially strong benefit (choose from below):

  • Skill Versatility (PHB default): The default Half-Elf gets two skills of their choice, and I’d strongly suggest Perception for one of them. Overall, this is the can’t-go-wrong option and still the best pick for most builds.
  • Keen Senses (SCAG): Obviously, whoever wrote the sidebar in the SCAG completely forgot that Skill Versatility gives you proficiency in two skills when they listed this as an option. You LITERALLY lose an entire skill taking this, for absolutely nothing in return. So never, and I mean NEVER take this.
  • Wood Elf Descent (SCAG): Fleet of Foot for some extra speed isn’t bad. Or if you prefer better stealth capacity, Mask of the Wild is also an option.
  • Moon/Sun (High) Elf Descent (SCAG): As mentioned under the High Elf entry, some quality options for a Wizard cantrip that are independent of your casting stat include Prestidigitation, Light, Mage Hand, and with SCAG and the War Caster feat in play, Booming Blade. And you get the Half-Elf’s better stats.
  • Drow Descent (SCAG): Drow Magic (which includes the lovely Faerie Fire) without the full Drow’s annoying Sunlight Sensitivity. Plus with the Half-Elf’s better stats. Good deal.
  • Aquatic Descent (SCAG): 30-foot swim speed. Obviously better in a campaign that involves sea travel, but too situational otherwise compared to Skill Versatility or other lineages.


Half-Orc: +2 to STR and +1 to CON are solid, along with a bunch of neat abilities like staying upright on a would-be KO once a day and adding an extra weapon die to a crit. Darkvision and free proficiency in Intimidation round out a worthy pick.

Tiefling: All (OK, most) Tieflings get +2 CHA, Darkvision and fire resistance, which are all pretty useful. Depending on subrace options, they’ll have another +1 to something else and a suite of spells of varying degrees of usefulness.

  • PHB default/Infernal Legacy/Asmodeus: The default Tiefling just doesn’t cut it nowadays. +1 INT is worthless, as is the Infernal Legacy spell suite. Hellish Rebuke has the hilariously clumsy logistics of casting it as a reaction fully armed and shielded, having a somatic component.
SCAG variants:

  • Feral: Replaces the CHA bonus with +2 DEX, which will suit a DEX-Paladin well, obviously. Still has the useless INT bonus, though.
  • Devil’s Tongue: Replaces Infernal Legacy with an INFINITELY better suite of spells, namely Vicious Mockery, Charm Person and Enthrall. Vicious Mockery gives you a CHA-based at-will ranged attack. (Note that Devil’s Tongue, Hellfire and Winged are all mutually exclusive.)
  • Hellfire: Replaces Hellish Rebuke with Burning Hands, which is a good deal, since you’re replacing a reaction spell with rather difficult logistics for a Paladin to cast, with just a straight-up AoE spell that helps cover for the class’ general weakness in that area. Although, overall, I’d still say Devil’s Tongue is the superior choice.
  • Winged: Wings and a 30-foot flying speed (post-errata NOT in heavy armor anymore) instead of Infernal Legacy’s spells. A good choice if you’re going DEX-Paladin, in particular. As usual with a potentially campaign-breaking at-will flight option, consult your DM.
MTOF variants:

  • Zariel: +1 STR, and you get a free 1/long rest casting of a couple of Smite spells. While no Paladin should ever actually prepare Searing Smite, you’re getting a casting of it for free (and as a 2nd-level spell at that), which is actually good for throwing out there to get some nice extra damage on an important nova turn. And same deal later with Branding Smite.
  • Levistus: +1 CON, with the very useful Ray of Frost cantrip and Armor of Agathys.
  • Glasya: +1 DEX, good for Paladins who attack with that stat. Oh, and the Minor Illusion cantrip, which is awesome. Invisibility is pretty nice, too.
  • Fierna: Suggestion alone makes this at least worth a look. +1 WIS is OK for rounding an array.
  • Dispater: +1 DEX, but much less useful spell suite than Glasya.
  • Baalzebul/Mammon/Mephistopheles: These all add +1 INT and should be avoided.

Aasimar: Hey, I hear you want more Paladin with your Paladin. And indeed this reimagined version of the race does possess several Paladin-like features all on its own. All Aasimar have the important +2 CHA, Darkvision, resistance to necrotic and radiant damage, free Light cantrip and a long-rest recharge, scaled-back version of Lay on Hands that means you can conserve some of your actual Lay on Hands. Not surprisingly, easily a top-tier Paladin race.

  • Protector: +1 WIS rounds out an array, and the long-rest recharge power gives you flight and a little extra radiant damage on one attack every one of your turns. Pretty good.
  • Scourge: This subrace is for those who want more damage in the climactic fights, with its long-rest recharge power not only causing some radiant auto-damage within 10 feet to enemies (and also yourself and allies, so beware) but adding more extra radiant damage on one attack on each of your turns. Also comes with +1 CON, always a good bonus to have.
  • Fallen: Explicitly for evil Aasimar only. Especially good for Conquest thanks to its frightening power (though it’s long-rest recharge). +1 STR, too, making it good statwise for Paladins in general. (Though, again, evil, so really just compatible with Oathbreaker, Conquest, and maybe Crown or Vengeance.)


Firbolg: +2 WIS and +1 STR; WIS is still not something you want to dump so the bonus there frees up some array points, at least. Other than that, short-rest recharge Disguise Self and Detect Magic (WIS-based), short-rest recharge round of invisibility and talking to animals and plants. An interesting race, though not remarkable.

Goliath: +2 STR and +1 CON, automatic Athletics proficiency, short-rest recharge reduction of damage you take and extra carrying/lifting capability. Solid Paladin race all around.

Kenku: +2 DEX and +1 WIS, with racial abilities more suited to Rogues than anything else. Eh.

Lizardfolk: +2 CON, +1 WIS, a bite that means you’re always armed, swim speed, hold breath for a long time, natural armor that’s better than the standard light armor, 2 free skills from a list that includes the all-important Perception and Stealth, and a short-rest recharge bonus-action attack. Pretty decent, particularly for DEX-Paladins.

Tabaxi: +2 DEX and +1 CHA good for DEX-Paladins, plus Darkvision, an ability to move double your usual speed (which you must make up for later by not moving at all to recharge), climb speed, natural weapons, and free Perception and Stealth proficiency. Good one.

Triton: +1 to the three most important Paladin stats (STR, CHA, CON), swim speed, breathe water and air, some free CHA-based racial spells that are pretty good (Fog Cloud, Gust of Wind, Wall of Water), talk to water creatures, and cold resistance. Good all around.

Subject to DM approval, so consult with your DM first before playing one of these.

Bugbear: The highlight is the extra 5 feet of reach when you make a melee attack (but only on your turn). +2 STR and +1 DEX means it fits both STR- and DEX-Paladins. Also gets Darkvision, free Stealth proficiency and 2d6 extra damage when attacking from surprise. Good one, for sure.

Goblin: Small size, but 30 feet speed. +2 DEX and +1 CON, Darkvision, short-rest recharge extra damage against something bigger than you, and Disengage or Hide as a bonus action (effectively 2/3rd of the Rogue’s Cunning Action) make this quite nice for sword-and-board DEX-Paladins. Weave through enemy traffic with no fear of OAs, and even use Stealth if you need to.

Hobgoblin: +2 CON, +1 INT (the latter’s a waste), Darkvision, and short-rest recharge power that lets you add up to +5 (or less depending on number of allies you have) to a failed attack, save or ability check. Decent.

Kobold: -2 STR, but you get +2 DEX, so that’s the route to go. The signature ability is Pack Tactics, giving you some sweet advantage practically every round as long as an ally is next to your target. That’s pretty nice, though Sunlight Sensitivity is always a drawback to consider; if it’s not much of a factor in your campaign then this race definitely gets better.

Orc: +2 STR and +1 CON at the expense of -2 INT, which doesn’t hurt you too much since you don’t care about INT. Bonus-action movement of your full speed helps close to melee range quickly, always a plus for Paladins. Also get Darkvision and free Intimidation proficiency. Pretty solid, actually.

Yuan-ti Pureblood: +2 CHA is great (+1 INT not so much). Oh, what, you get the awesome Suggestion as a racial spell, and it’s CHA-based? Lovely. So too are Magic Resistance (advantage on saves vs. spells and other magical effects) and poison immunity, and Darkvision. Very good.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
V. Feats


Again, with the Paladin demanding intensive attention both on a physical stat (STR or DEX) and on CHA, the opportunities to take feats are very limited. A typical Paladin with at least +2 worth of bonuses in relevant stats and a 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8 point buy can take only one feat (two if a Variant Human) if they want 20s in both their attack stat and CHA. Some Paladins can justify taking more feats at the expense of leaving their CHA at 18 or even 16, but they’d better make sure that trade-off is worth it (and again, Variant Human helps).

Because feats are going to come at a premium for most Paladins, it’s very important to pick wisely, and preferably with an eye toward the long term. Hence, you’ll see a lot of feats rated lower than you might expect, otherwise, many of them red, even.

Great Weapon Master: If you use a great weapon, this is mandatory; don’t bother otherwise. If you don’t take this feat, you might as well just go sword-and-board, because the -5 hit/+10 damage trade makes up pretty much the entire reason a Paladin would even want to consider a great weapon. To make that trade work out, you at the very least need to cast Bless or have it cast on you. Devotion can go one better with Sacred Weapon and a good Charisma, and Vengeance does another better still with Vow of Enmity, and later Haste and Soul of Vengeance for additional attacks. Having a party that can consistently set you up with advantage is also highly beneficial to making this work out for you. Also, while the bonus-action attacks on crits and death blows are not the headline of this feat, they’re certainly valuable against bosses and hordes alike. It’s also terrific for glaives and halberds, but Polearm Master is the higher priority there.

Inspiring Leader: Someone in the party really ought to take this, and it’s very possible that someone will be you. The amount of temporary hit points for the whole party every short rest is just way too good. If someone else has it covered instead (likely a Bard, Sorcerer or Warlock), then you don’t need to worry about it.

Polearm Master: Mandatory if you’re going to use a polearm as a main weapon; no need to bother if you’re not. This feat effectively makes for a better version of dual-wielding, with the butt-end attack adding your STR-modifier and also compatible with Great Weapon Master’s hit/damage trade if you have room for that feat in your build. Also getting another trigger for Opportunity Attacks is great, which leads to the particularly vicious synergy this feat has against approaching foes with Sentinel, again if you have room for that feat after.

Resilient (CON): Ranges from a very good idea to outright mandatory depending on how often you plan on using spells that require Concentration. Great Weapon Vengeance Paladins who want to use Haste to its fullest potential are the most likely to consider this mandatory. Conquest and Redemption Paladins who rely on control spells that need concentration to maintain are also likely to consider this mandatory. Aura of Protection + CON save proficiency + decent CON can get those vital Concentration saves into auto-success territory vs. DC 10, and even vs. higher DCs than that at higher levels and with more CHA bumps. And CON save proficiency in general is very good to have, as it protects against a lot of incapacitating and stunning sort of effects. And on top of this you even get a +1 to CON to bump up an odd score to the next modifier, or allow you to start with an odd score if planning your build ahead for this feat.

Sentinel: Reminiscent of the 4e Fighter’s two main defender abilities, this feat can do wonders in locking down an enemy up front. More opportunities to make attack rolls, and thus crit and attach a doubled Divine Smite, are always a good thing, and this feat provides them big-time with allowing Opportunity Attacks against Disengaging enemies and reaction attacks to punish enemies for attacking your allies. At Lv. 11 with Improved Divine Smite, you’re better still at taking advantage of this. Even better if your DM uses the Marking rule (DMG p. 271), or if you took Polearm Master.

Alert: +5 to initiative is generally useful, and that’s no exception for you. If a Wizard casts Hold Person/Monster, it sure is nice to be as high up in the initiative order as possible so you can get those auto-crit Smites.

Defensive Duelist: Good for DEX-Paladins to very possibly turn a melee attack hit into a miss against them every round. Don’t need to consider taking it until Lv. 8 or higher, though, when you have a higher proficiency bonus.

Heavy Armor Master: Fantastic at early levels (ESPECIALLY if a Variant Human takes it at Lv. 1). The damage reduction’s impact lessens somewhat as you get higher level, but it’s never a waste even then. You also get +1 STR.

Magic Initiate: 2 cantrips and a 1st-level spell 1/long rest from a full caster class. Several good options for this one. Wizard for Find Familiar and some stat-independent cantrips (e.g. Prestidigitation, Light, Mage Hand, Booming Blade (SCAG)). Or either Sorcerer or Warlock for cantrips that actually are compatible with your casting stat, including some ranged attack options like Eldritch Blast (Warlock) or Fire Bolt and/or Ray of Frost (Sorcerer). Green-Flame Blade is also an option if you pick one those two CHA-casting classes, and Booming Blade is, too. Though Sorcerer and Warlock 1st-level spell options aren’t so great (things like Shield, Absorb Elements and Hex are far less useful when limited to 1/long rest).

Shield Master: One of the more controversial feats recently. The newest Sage Advice isn’t perfectly clear, either, but it at least seems to allow for you to bonus-action shove after making one attack with your action (and thus committing to taking an Attack action), and then making your other attack(s) after. Which makes this pretty good from Lv. 5 onward, as you can at least get one attack with advantage after shoving prone. Becomes even better if your DM rules that you can shove before all your attacks as long as you declare you’re taking the Attack action. Becomes rather third-rate if your DM rules you can only shove after making all attacks of your Attack action. The two DEX-save benefits are pretty nice, too, but let’s face it, that’s not what you’re really here for.

Lucky: Basically THE can’t-go-wrong feat of the game. Good for whenever you have nothing else to take, but that probably won’t be you.

Mobile: Extra speed, Dash over difficult terrain and a limited Disengage-type benefit. Not awful, it helps make up for a Paladin’s generally mundane movement capabilities.

Mounted Combatant: You do have Find Steed to summon a mount for free. If you’re playing in a campaign conducive to mounted combat (e.g. war campaign, or any campaign taking place in mostly open areas), the advantage on attacks against anything Medium or smaller, taking all hits in place of your mount and effectively Evasion for the mount are all prime benefits.

Ritual Caster: The 13 INT or WIS requirement makes this rate lower for Paladins than for a lot of other classes, but if you happened to roll well enough to get one of those qualifying scores, this feat can come in quite handy. Learning rituals and casting them out of the book (no preparation required) is great for resource management.

War Caster: For most pure Paladins, Resilient (CON) is the preferred concentration boosting feat, since that feat can simply just put your concentration saves into auto-success territory in a lot of cases. Even if you use a shield, putting the holy symbol on your shield makes the somatic components benefit of this feat much less meaningful. V,S,M spells can be cast fully armed and shielded, and as for V,S, just cast those before drawing your weapon. However, this feat does become a lot more valuable for Paladins who somehow got Booming Blade and/or Green-Flame Blade (e.g. High Elf or Half Elf with High lineage, Magic Initiate feat) and would thus be able to cast those cantrips as especially devastating opportunity attacks. For them, this feat may very well be preferable to Resilient (CON). And if you’re sword-and-board and multiclassing Sorcerer and taking the likes of Shield and Absorb Elements, this becomes straight-up mandatory, as those are somatic spells that you can only cast on reaction.

Dual Wielder: Even dual-wielding Paladins typically have better things to take.

Healer: Good benefits for healing kit use, but this feat should typically be left to a Thief.

Mage Slayer: Effective if you fight a lot of spellcasters, but you’ll likely have higher priorities.

Skilled: 3 more skill (or tool) proficiencies is nice, but you're feat and ASI-starved. Just no room to make this a priority.

Tavern Brawler: +1 STR or CON, bonus-action grapple and better unarmed attacks. Interesting if you want to make a niche grappler build, but Paladin isn’t exactly the best class for that.

Athlete: +1 STR or DEX and a few benefits you don’t really need. Pass.

Actor: +1 CHA, but you’re not a Bard and Deception and Performance are likely not your thing. Pass.

Charger: You know, I’ll actually give it this much: Paladins are really about the only class that can actually do something with the attack from this, thanks to Divine Smite. And you know what? They STILL shouldn’t take this. That’s how bad this feat is, and how feat-starved Paladins are.

Crossbow Expert: Don’t bother. Paladin features are not geared toward ranged combat. Ranged is a last resort for you, and you should take feats for what you’re already good at, instead.

Dungeon Delver: Leave the trapfinding to the Rogue.

Durable: Just take +2 CON, or even Resilient (CON), instead.

Elemental Adept: You’re not a Wizard or Sorcerer (and it’s not all that great for them, either).

Grappler: Useless even for characters who actually grapple. Grapple + shove accomplishes everything this feat does but better. Pin is beyond worthless as written.

Heavily Armored/Lightly Armored/Moderately Armored/Weapon Master: You’re already proficient in all armor, shields, and weapons.

Keen Mind: Boosts a dump stat with marginal benefits attached.

Linguist: +1 INT, three languages and a secret writing code. Whatever.

Martial Adept: A single d6 Superiority Die is weak. Multiclass 3 Fighter levels if you want maneuvers that badly.

Medium Armor Master: A DEX-Paladin could get 1 more AC with this feat than from studded leather, but that’s hardly worth an entire feat.

Observant: Don’t bother.

Savage Attacker: Damage reroll only applies to the weapon dice, so no Smite damage rerolls for this one. Weaksauce.

Sharpshooter: Don’t bother with ranged feats.

Skulker: The first benefit post-errata is of questionable worth even for DEX-Paladins who care about Stealth. And the rest of it is isn’t much better.

Spell Sniper: Take Magic Initiate instead. This one sucks.

Tough: Just take +2 CON, instead. Or better yet, Resilient (CON) if it bumps up an odd CON score to the next modifier.



Racial Feats (XGTE)

A new concept introduced with the XGTE, Racial Feats can only be taken by characters of a certain race. To be honest, only a few of these are really worth taking in general, and especially for a feat-starved class like the Paladin.

Elven Accuracy (Elf or Half-Elf): One of the few racial feats that can genuinely be a good pick, especially tasty for Oath of Vengeance, and specifically if you attack with DEX. Or alternatively, if you’re going to take a Warlock (Hexblade) dip for full CHA-attacking. It gives you a sort of “super advantage” when you have advantage on attacks with those attributes. You also get +1 to DEX or CHA (or INT or WIS). STR-attackers, forget about it.

Fey Teleportation (High Elf): Misty Step 1/short rest, and also +1 CHA (or INT) and extra language. Not bad, actually.

Prodigy (Human or Half-Elf or Half-Orc): Free skill proficiency, tool proficiency, language and, the best part, Expertise of one skill. Can actually be a worthwhile pick if you want a more irresistible shove by Expertising Athletics (i.e. Oath of Conquest or Shield Master).

Bountiful Luck (Halfling): Basically extend your Lucky trait to an ally. Eh.

Dragon Fear (Dragonborn): Actually highly recommended for Oath of Conquest at Lv. 7+, giving you another nice mass fear power to work with your Aura of Conquest, and you also add +1 to STR, CHA or CON for your troubles. For everyone else, meh.

Dragon Hide (Dragonborn): Natural armor and natural weapons for unarmed strikes. Typically not worth it.

Drow High Magic (Drow): Detect Magic at will and Levitate and Dispel Magic (CHA-based) with 1/day slotless casting. Still not really worth a feat.

Infernal Constitution (Tiefling): Resistance to cold and poison damage and advantage on saves vs. poison. Still not really worth a precious feat slot. +1 CON, too, which is nice at least.

Orcish Fury (Half-Orc): 1/short rest modest damage boost and a highly conditional extra attack when you’re about to get KO-ed but use Relentless Endurance. Meh.

Second Chance (Halfling): 1/short rest make an enemy reroll an attack against you when you get hit. Again, not really worth a whole feat slot.

Squat Nimbleness (Dwarf or Small race): Faster walking speed to match other races, free Athletics or Acrobatics proficiency and easier grapple escapes. Not really inspiring.

Wood Elf Magic (Wood Elf): Free Druid cantrip and Longstrider and Pass Without Trace as slotless casts 1/long rest. Eh.

Dwarven Fortitude (Dwarf): A feat for some weak-ish healing. No.

Fade Away (Gnome): Doesn’t make Gnomes any more attractive as a Paladin race.

Flames of Phlegethos (Tiefling): You don’t have that many quality fire spells, or fire spells at all.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
VI. Spells


You are a class that prepares spells and has access to the whole list when you do prepare them, same as the Cleric, which gives you some degree of versatility and flexibility day to day. But with that said, it helps to know the best options so you can keep the mornings you prepare a new slate of spells to a minimum.

The number of spells you can prepare equals half your paladin level + CHA, which most of the time roughly works out between two and three spells per spell level, assuming you're equal between spell levels (that part may vary).

For your convenience, spells will have their components listed, along with their action type (action, reaction, bonus action) and if they require Concentration. An "M" with an asterisk (*) means that the material component has a cost and/or is consumed by the spell, which means you can't use your holy symbol to cast it.

Bless: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Keep prepared at all times. The +1d4 (average +2.5 bonus) to all attack rolls and saving throws makes this THE top-priority party-wide buffing spell for perhaps your entire career. Especially important if you’re the only divine caster in the party, but even if there is a Cleric around, keeping this prepared frees up the Cleric’s Concentration options (and vice versa; a Cleric with Bless opens up your options). Also interesting to note that if you Bless yourself, this spell is easier than others to make Concentration checks for, thanks to the saves buff. For the most efficient use of your actions, cast in a round before you anticipate combat, or in a round when you couldn’t make a melee attack, anyway.

Command: 1 action; V. A WIS-save spell that can result in a lovely barrage of OAs if you and your melee allies surround it on casting and you command it to flee. Otherwise, you can make the enemy waste its turn, amounting to a soft stun of sorts. Has some targeting limitations (ineffective vs. undead, those who don’t understand your language), but this will work in more than enough battles that you will want it prepared the vast majority of the time. If you’re Oath of the Crown, this is an Oath spell, so prepare something else.

Wrathful Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. 1d6 extra psychic damage, and the far more vital detail of making the enemy frightened of you if it fails a WIS save. Frightened means disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks, which is very potent. But the best part comes when it tries to end the spell early; you make the enemy waste an action to do so, and they have to make a WIS CHECK (NOT a save) to end it. Why is that a huge distinction? Because (a) even if they’re proficient in WIS saves, they can’t add their proficiency bonus, and (b) being frightened, they have disadvantage on the check to end it! This smite spell really takes a huge bite out of any physical attacker that isn’t immune to fear. The only knock against this spell is that the damage can’t scale with upcasting, but compared to how strong the effect is, who cares? For Oath of Conquest at Lv. 7+, this becomes mandatory, and your bread-and-butter when putting your Aura of Conquest to use on a single enemy.

Heroism: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Free temporary hit points every round and immunity to fear! Bless is still higher priority, but if a Cleric has that taken care of this one’s quite nice for the first nine levels of play, in particular (it tapers off Lv. 10 and beyond once you get Aura of Courage and 3rd-level spells). Other than you, only the Bard has this one on its list.

Compelled Duel: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. If you're familiar with the 4e Paladin, this is pretty much the analog to that Paladin's Divine Challenge, except without the radiant zap. This one requires a WIS save, but also makes the enemy attack everyone except you at disadvantage, typically a stronger penalty than the 4e mark was. It also keeps the enemy from escaping you unless it makes a WIS save. Decent one to keep on reserve against a boss. If you’re Crown, this is an Oath spell, so prepare something else.

Cure Wounds: 1 action; V,S. Your classic D&D healing spell, scalable with higher spell slots. It’s not a bad idea to keep this prepared early, but it’s quickly outclassed by the time you get 3rd-level spells.

Divine Favor: 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration. This damage buff of 1d4 extra radiant damage on all weapon hits varies wildly in its utility. Ranged weapons benefit, making it worthwhile if you’re forced into a ranged battle. And against hordes of CR 1/4 and 1/2 creatures, the extra damage from this can mean the difference between a living and a dead mook. However, against stronger enemies in melee, especially at earlier levels, using this can be a trap. Keep in mind that a 1st-level Divine Smite adds hit-confirmable 2d8 damage (average 9). You would need to hit with this spell active 4 times before you surpass the damage of a 1st-level Smite. If you’re hitting at a bog-standard 65% rate, it could be 6 rounds before you hit 4 times, and by that point the battle could either be over or you lose your concentration. tl;dr version: This is a decent spell to keep prepared, but knowing when it’s an optimal or efficient spell to cast is important.

Protection from Evil and Good: 1 action; V,S,M*; Concentration. This spell is on most full spellcasters' class lists, so while it is indeed good when anticipating fights against the listed enemies, it's probably best to leave this one to the full casters, so you can save your preparations for more offensive output. Devotion Paladins don't need to prepare this one at all, since it's on their Oath list.

Purify Food and Drink: 1 action; V,S. A good utility spell to prepare for social and exploration settings.

Shield of Faith: 1 bonus action; V,S,M; Concentration. +2 to AC is pretty decent, and it greatly helps that this is cast as a bonus action. Note you can cast this on yourself instead of an ally if you need to. A fair defensive pick if you're not the one needing to concentrate on Bless.

Thunderous Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. Quite good from Lv. 1-4. 2d6 extra thunder damage (nearly as strong as a Divine Smite for the same level) with push and prone as a nice little bonus. Stack a Divine Smite on top of this for a strong nova at early levels. Unfortunately, this spell does not do any more damage when upcast and quickly loses its luster from Lv. 5 onwards.

Ceremony (XGTE): 1 hour; V,S,M*. NPC-ish, corner-case utility spell you'll only prepare when the occasion arises. Even then, the Cleric does it better since they can cast it as a ritual.

Detect Magic: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. At least this one isn't redundant with Divine Sense, but still, there's better use of your preparations.

Detect Poison and Disease: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Meh. Might be used in uncharted wilderness or swamplands, or something, but again, your use of this is sporadic at best.

Detect Evil and Good: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. No reason to ever prepare this one when you have Divine Sense.

Searing Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. This smite spell should never see the light of day in your arsenal. The effect is nothing else other than damage, it’s strictly worse at that than Thunderous Smite with a 1st-level slot, and even if you upcast it, the damage doesn’t even come close to matching a same-level Divine Smite even if the enemy fails the first save for the ongoing damage.


Devotion Oath Spells

Sanctuary: 1 bonus action; V,S,M. A terrific protection spell to always have on tap; indeed one of the best. Especially since it’s a bonus action with no concentration required. Break this out if you need to protect an ally in danger and buy them a round to heal up, or even to cast an important spell (there’s plenty that don’t involve directly affecting an enemy). Also useful if you need to shield a non-combatant from harm.

Protection from Evil and Good is already on the Paladin list. You always have it prepared, being an Oath spell, so you might be expected to pitch in on castings of this.


Ancients Oath Spells

Ensnaring Strike: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. A solid "smite" spell when used against anything smaller than Large (and can be used at range as well!). Restraining means halted movement and, perhaps even more important, advantage on attacks against the target. Only allows a Strength save, so feel free to use this on a Roguish-type. They also take more damage round-to-round automatically while restrained and must blow their action to make a Strength check (NOT a save, so no proficiency bonus!) to escape.

Speak with Animals: 1 action; V,S. Allows you to do what its name says. When you need it, it's there.


Vengeance Oath Spells

Bane: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Pretty much the flip-side of Bless, letting you penalize enemy attack rolls and saves by an average of 2.5. Affects up to three enemies with a first-level slot, more if you upcast. Unlike Bless, this requires the enemy failing a save to work, so you’d only really want to cast this if you’re allied with a Cleric who already cast Bless. But cast alongside an ally’s Bless, this can flip the balance of a fight pretty strongly.

Hunter's Mark: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. Congratulations, you get to steal the Ranger’s staple DPR-boosting spell. Its 1d6 extra damage on all weapon hits is an upgrade over Divine Favor at first glance. But before you brag too loudly about this, there’s a few things you need to consider:
  • You have to use a bonus action to designate a new target every time after your current one dies. Do you already use your bonus actions plenty for things that have a direct impact on your DPR? (Shield Master shove, off-hand attack, Polearm Master attack, Great Weapon Master killing blows, etc.). Then Divine Favor is better for you, particularly in horde battles.
  • You have to hit 3 times with this spell active to exceed what a 1st-level Divine Smite will contribute. Which can take 4 or even 5 rounds to do at earlier levels. That’s somewhat better than Divine Favor, sure, but still pretty inefficient vs. stronger targets, especially at Lv. 1-4.
  • Perhaps the greatest selling point is the 1 hour duration (and much longer if upcast), versus the 10-round duration of Divine Favor. But unless you can get your CON saves for Concentration into auto-save territory vs. DC 10, at least, you can’t count on maintaining it nearly that long, especially since you’re a melee-focused class. And that's not going to happen before Lv. 6. From Lv. 6 on with Resilient (CON), and with Aura of Protection in play, this spell has a much better chance of being the long-term DPR boost it can be in theory.


Crown Oath Spells

Command and Compelled Duel are both already on the Paladin list.


Conquest Oath Spells

Armor of Agathys: 1 action; V,S,M. Some temp HPs and automatic cold damage against an enemy who hits you in melee. Scales nicely with higher slots, too.

Command is already on the Paladin list.


Redemption Oath Spells

Sanctuary: 1 bonus action; V,S,M. Just as with Devotion, a quality defensive spell.

Sleep: 1 action; V,S,M. You’ll get a couple levels of good use out of this one. Mostly useless past Lv. 5 or so, but it’ll always be great against low-level hordes.


Oathbreaker Spells

Hellish Rebuke: 1 reaction; V,S. A little bit of fire damage in retaliation to getting hurt out to 60 feet. Overall, typically not worth the spell slot, and depending on your DM there may be logistical concerns casting this fully armed and shielded.

Inflict Wounds: 1 action; V,S. A waste for you. A normal attack plus just a 1st-level Divine Smite is going to do more damage every time.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
Find Steed: 10 minutes; V,S. If nothing else, keep this spell prepared just because (a) a steed will greatly cut down on your travel times, and (b) you’re almost guaranteed to ride into melee range at the start of combat (e.g. Warhorse’s 60-foot speed + mount’s Dash action + dismount + your remaining 15 feet of movement = 135 feet). And even if your steed does get whacked in combat, the penalty for that happening is nothing compared to what it was in editions past; it just disappears in a puff of mist, and just cast this spell again to bring it back fully healed. You really have nothing to lose from keeping this on hand and a lot to gain. If you DO plan on making your steed a main avenue of combat, then you'll want the Mounted Combatant feat, which lets you take all the hits for attacks targeted at your steed. Retire this once you get access to Find Greater Steed (XGTE).

Aid: 1 action; V,S,M. Up to three allies get 5 more maximum hit points for a full 8 hours (plus 5 more per each level you upcast). You can easily cast this at the start of every day. A solid no-concentration buff, for sure, although if a Cleric has this covered it’ll take the burden off you to prepare and cast this.

Magic Weapon: 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration. Bless is still a higher priority buff in most cases. But if a Cleric has that covered this is easily worth preparation all the way up until every main weapon-user has an actual magic weapon. If you have a magic weapon but the Fighter doesn’t, for example, cast this on the Fighter’s weapon. Retire this once/if everyone does have a magic weapon.

Branding Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. It works with a ranged attack, and that’s quite frankly this spell’s saving grace. The damage does upscale with higher slots, so that’s nice. The rider effect is highly situational, though.

Lesser Restoration: 1 action; V,S. Curing disease and poison is redundant with Lay on Hands, but curing blinded and deafened is not, so it's still worth considering. If you're Devotion, it's an Oath spell, so congrats, prepare something else.

Zone of Truth: 1 action; V,S. Very useful to prepare when you’re getting ready to conduct an interrogation. If you're Devotion or Crown, congrats, you always have it on tap since it's an Oath spell.

Protection from Poison: 1 action; V,S. With Lay on Hands in play, I can't really see preparing this one too often.

Locate Object: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. If you absolutely need to find an object and time isn’t of the essence, then here you go. Definitely not worth a full-time preparation, though.


Devotion Oath Spells

Lesser Restoration and Zone of Truth are both already on the Paladin list.


Ancients Oath Spells

Moonbeam: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. 5-foot radius = 10-foot diameter, so theoretically can affect up to four Medium creatures, but only if they’re clustered right next to each other. Making this spell at least something to use in a horde battle, even if the damage isn’t necessarily the best. Moving the beam can be worth using your action if more tight clusters of enemies form.

Misty Step: 1 bonus action; V. A bonus action 30-foot teleport! This is great for many reasons, and you still get your move and attacks afterwards with this.


Vengeance Oath Spells

Hold Person: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Paralysis is very, very good, which alone makes this a quality addition to your arsenal. It does come with some pretty sharp caveats, though. Such as the fact that it’s all-or-nothing (i.e. no effect if the enemy saves), even if targeting WIS saves tends to work out better than DEX or especially CON. It also allows a save every enemy turn, so if you thought you were going to do an automatic double-damage Divine Smite your next go-around, you’d better hope that enemy failed two saves.

Misty Step: 1 bonus action; V. Again, bonus action teleporting. Enough said.


Crown Oath Spells

Warding Bond: 1 action, V,S,M*. On its face, a solid defender spell to protect one ally, granting them resistance to all damage and a +1 bonus to AC and saves, in exchange for you taking the same damage your ally takes. And especially since it doesn’t use Concentration. Which leads to a RAW exploit (if your DM lets it happen): You can cast this spell on yourself, and it effectively divides the damage you take into two instances of it. That’s a big deal when you’re Concentrating on another spell, which means that even against a big single instance of damage, you’re making easier Concentration saves. Once you get that into auto-save territory against DC 10 via Aura of Protection + Resilient (CON) this gets really good. Of course, naturally, this is also good at protecting a Concentrating spellcaster ally.

Zone of Truth is already on the Paladin list.


Conquest Oath Spells

Hold Person: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. See notes under Vengeance. Same applies.

Spiritual Weapon: 1 bonus action; V,S. One of the Cleric’s top damage-buff spells is yours, and it’s glorious. Does not require Concentration and takes just a bonus action. Damage is cost-efficient vs. a 2nd-level Smite, too. With CHA 16 and 65% hit rate: 13.5/(.65*7.5) = 2.77, so you’ll make it worth the slot after 3 rounds.


Redemption Oath Spells

Calm Emotions: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Has its uses, namely suppressing charm and frighten can come in handy. And potentially turning a combat encounter into a social one can’t be ignored, either.

Hold Person: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. See notes under Vengeance. Same applies.


Oathbreaker Spells

Darkness: 1 action; V,M; Concentration. You probably won’t get much use out of this. You’d need something such as the Warlock’s Devil’s Sight, or some sort of blindsight, truesight or tremorsense to make this useful.

Crown of Madness: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. The effect sounds neat at first, until you realize that the enemy can only make the attack you coerce out of it before it moves, requiring some serendipitous positioning round to round. Add the fact you have to spend your actions to maintain this, PLUS your concentration, PLUS the fact the enemy can save against this after every one of its turns anyway, and this spell is a fail.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
Aura of Vitality: 1 action; V; Concentration. Throws out a total of 20d6 healing (avg. 70) for its duration partitioned among whomever needs it the most. One of the best healing spells from 1st-5th level in the whole game, and not even the Cleric gets it. Consider this your staple heal to cast out of combat and keep prepared at all times. If you’re Crown, this one is an Oath spell, which means you have this all-important spell always on tap and can prepare something else.

Revivify: 1 action; V,S,M*. Bring someone back to life if they just got killed within the last minute. Keep prepared at all times, even if there is a Cleric around but especially if there’s not.

Crusader's Mantle: 1 action; V; Concentration. To maximize the d4s of damage this spell can add, cast it in a battle where the Wizard/Sorcerer/Bard is casting Animate Objects, the Druid or Ranger is casting Conjure Animals, the Necromancer has an Animate Dead army, the Fighter is Action Surging, you’re commanding an actual army, etc. When you’ve got most of those things going on, this spell is a spectacular force multiplier. Becomes sharply less worthwhile if little to none of the aforementioned is happening; in that case, a Divine Smite with the same 3rd-level slot would be better, or even a 1st-level Bless. Note that you have to get 8 hits with this spell active to exceed the damage from a 3rd-level Smite.

Blinding Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. 3d8 extra radiant damage on the next hit + blind on a failed CON save. The damage is solid (but not scalable on upcasting), and blinding means advantage for you and disadvantage for them. This one can be a gamechanger against strong enemies reliant on physical attacks — just as long as they don’t have blindsight, truesight or tremorsense.

Elemental Weapon: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Like Magic Weapon before it, this is one you’d like to keep prepared up until the point every main weapon user has a magic weapon (retire this then). Along with the bonus to hit, this one also adds d4s to the damage, making it a step above Magic Weapon. It’s also very versatile with the damage types; choose the right one if you know what you’re about to be facing. A very good buff spell, to be sure, but the competition is just really stiff at this spell level.

Dispel Magic: 1 action; V,S. It’s definitely good for the times you come upon magic that needs dispelling, or especially in fights against spellcasters. How often those come up is the question, though. Have someone buff your Charisma ability checks (e.g. someone with a Guidance or Enhance Ability spell) and you stand a decent shot at dispelling even high-level magic. If you're Devotion, congrats, you have this always on tap, so prepare something else.

Create Food and Water: 1 action; V,S. Maybe worth a preparation in a survivalist campaign. Even then, probably not all the time.

Magic Circle: 1 minute; V,S,M*. Eh, if your party really needs to cast this spell, it's probably something best left to the Cleric or Wizard to do it. And even then the benefits aren't particularly great for the minute-long casting time and material cost.

Remove Curse: 1 action; V,S. Might need preparation every once in a while, but day-to-day this should generally be on the backburner.

Daylight: 1 action; V,S. Between torches being a thing and Light being a cantrip for many caster classes, no.


Devotion Oath Spells

Dispel Magic is already on the Paladin spell list. So you get to always be prepared for fights against spellcasters, which is very nice.

Beacon of Hope: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Advantage on WIS saves and death throws plus maximized healing rolls all out to 30 feet. Pretty solid defensive buff always on tap, but how often are you really going to concentrate on this one as opposed to Bless, Crusader’s Mantle, or a smite spell? Probably not very.


Ancients Oath Spells

Plant Growth: 1 action/8 hours; V,S. The 1-action version is good for hindering approaching enemies, and the 8-hour version is neat for gardening purposes.

Protection from Energy: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. A strong protection spell if you anticipate either combat against a certain type of enemy (e.g. some sort of elemental or dragon) or an area with elemental hazards around.


Vengeance Oath Spells

Haste: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. A Lv. 9 Vengeance Paladin’s keystone offensive buff. You really want to take Resilient (CON) by Lv. 8, though, if you plan on using this spell to its fullest potential. The consequences of losing concentration aren’t fun.

Protection from Energy: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Considering all your combat buffs that require Concentration, you're more likely to use this one for exploring a hazardous area. Good for that purpose.


Crown Oath Spells

Aura of Vitality is already on the Paladin spell list. Considering the caliber of this spell, I don’t think you’ll mind that fact.

Spirit Guardians: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. In short, this spell is exactly how Crown Paladins, starting at Lv. 9, become tops at dealing with horde battles. Substantial round-by-round AoE damage, still halved on save, that also happens to be ally-friendly. Doesn’t get any better, folks.


Conquest Oath Spells

Bestow Curse: 1 action; V,S; Concentration (no Concentration if upcast with 5th-level slot). Pretty nice choice of effects.

Fear: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. This is a top-tier AoE control spell for anyone, to begin with. For a Conquest Paladin, it’s a damn win button. Any enemy in your Aura of Conquest you catch with this will NEVER get another save to end it.


Redemption Oath Spells

Counterspell: 1 reaction; S. Cancel a magic-using enemy’s spellcasting on reaction. Yeah, this one’s good. Requires an ability check vs. higher-level magic than 3rd.

Hypnotic Pattern: 1 action; S,M; Concentration. Top-flight AoE disabling spell. As long as you don’t deal damage to affected enemies you can do just about anything else, like steal their stuff, strip them of their armor, tie rope around their ankles, etc.


Oathbreaker Spells

Animate Dead: 1 minute; V,S,M. Having an undead army is fun. Especially when they benefit from your Aura of Hate bonus. Only caveat is that your own Animate Dead army won’t be nearly as durable as a Necromancer’s.

Bestow Curse: 1 action; V,S; Concentration (no Concentration if upcast with 5th-level slot). Pretty nice choice of effects, one of which you can inflict on an enemy in melee touch range, including one that can even make your Control Undead feature easier to use.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
Find Greater Steed (XGTE): 10 minutes; V,S. You want either the Pegasus or the Griffin. Both can fly and both are tied for the most hit points out of the options on the list. The Pegasus has a faster fly speed (and much faster ground speed in case that’s relevant), but the Griffin gets Multiattack. Both are incredible upgrades over your old mount. Definitely keep this one prepared at all times and retire Find Steed when you get access to this one.

Banishment: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Removing an enemy from the battlefield for a while is a strong ability. This spell’s all-or-nothing quality holds it back a little, but it tests the Charisma save, which many enemies won’t be good at. If you're Vengeance or Crown, this is an Oath spell, so prepare something else.

Death Ward: 1 action; V,S. Can be quite literally a lifesaver. Protects someone against KO and instant death effects. It doesn’t require concentration, either, making this one of the better defensive buffs on the whole.

Aura of Life: 1 action; V; Concentration. I’m generally not the biggest fan of defensive concentration buffs, but this one is at least undeniably effective against enemies that can drain your hit point maximum, such as vampires. Also like Death Ward it protects against KO but for all allies in aura range.

Aura of Purity: 1 action; V; Concentration. Grants you and allies immunity to disease, resistance to poison damage and advantage on saves against most of the conditions you'll face. Again, not the biggest fan of defensive concentration buffs, but I can certainly imagine fights where this might be useful.

Locate Creature: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Prepare it when you need it. Definitely don’t prepare it full-time.

Staggering Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. You’d only ever cast this against enemies that can’t be blinded and frightened. Which certainly won’t be often enough to keep on your prepared list. The damage is bad for its level, too, and the effect only lasts one round flat.


Devotion Oath Spells

Freedom of Movement: 1 action; V,S,M. Easily one of the high points of the Devotion list. Ignoring difficult terrain is good, immunity to restrained is great, automatic escapes from grapples is excellent, and immunity to paralyzed is a damn lifesaver. A very strong defensive spell, especially since it doesn't even require Concentration.

Guardian of Faith: 1 action; V. Gives you a chance at inflicting a little auto-damage, up to 60 points' worth. It’s … something for Devotion Paladins to damage multiple foes with.


Ancients Oath Spells

Ice Storm: 1 action; V,S,M. It’s not a Wizard’s or Sorcerer’s AoE spell of choice, but hey, Paladins will take any AoE capability they can get, and so this is a solid addition to an Ancients Paladin’s arsenal.

Stoneskin: 1 action; V,S,M*; Concentration. An old classic, this time giving resistance to any nonmagical damage involving the usual weapon types. Cost is 100 gp per cast, though, which isn’t cheap.


Vengeance Oath Spells

Banishment is already on the Paladin list.

Dimension Door: 1 action; V. Teleport up to 500 feet. Fun stuff. You can bring one ally with you, too.


Crown Oath Spells

Banishment is already on the Paladin list.

Guardian of Faith: 1 action; V. Devotion Paladins care about this spell much more than you do. If you are at all capable of closing into melee against a horde, you should be casting Spirit Guardians, instead (upcasting it with a 4th-level slot even). If closing into melee just isn’t possible, then I suppose go ahead and cast this ...


Conquest Oath Spells

Dominate Beast: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Dominate is nice, but the spell’s valid target category is overly narrow.

Stoneskin: 1 action; V,S,M*; Concentration. See notes under Ancients, same applies.


Redemption Oath Spells

Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Remove a Large or smaller enemy from play for a minute, or alternatively cast this on an ally to protect them. Good one.

Stoneskin: 1 action; V,S,M*; Concentration. See notes under Ancients, same applies.


Oathbreaker Spells

Confusion: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Well, you get an AoE control spell. It’s one of the weaker ones, but Paladins don’t really get these on their regular class list, so it’s appreciated.

Blight: 1 action; V,S. Your normal attack routine plus one 4th-level Divine Smite will outdamage this spell by a mile, even against plant creatures and magical plants.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
Destructive Wave: 1 action; V. Still the best pure horde-clearing spell the Paladin gets. The damage is equivalent to a Fireball cast at 5th-level, it's friendly (i.e. you can exclude your allies from the burst), and the area of effect is enormous, being a 30-foot radius from you. And it's only a Verbal component, so you can bust this out fully armed and shielded, even.

Holy Weapon (XGTE): 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration. The +2d8 radiant damage on all weapon hits (works on ranged weapons, too, by the way) is quite cost-efficient. You only need to hit 3 times with this spell active to match what a Banishing Smite will add (27 average). With the standard Paladin 2/attacks per round and a “typical” 65% hit rate, you can usually expect to get that in two or three rounds. Plus it can last a full hour, so it’s good for multi-part battles or some other scenario where you could run into a succession of battles. Also, here's another sexy part: You can buff someone else's weapon, instead. So if one of your allies just so happens to be a Fighter with those 3 attacks/round, and said Fighter plans on Action Surging, cast this on the Fighter's weapon instead and watch the damage numbers explode in short order. It also comes with a bonus-action AoE attack with modest damage and chance to blind if you run into a horde, but that’s just a neat added bonus more than anything.

Banishing Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. Gets its mark for the extra damage it does alone; 5d10 is no joke, force is almost never resisted, and combined with a 4th-level Divine Smite results in a lovely damage spike against a boss (and if you crit, whoa). However, the banishment effect isn't really something you want to rely on or actively aim for, as it only goes into effect when you knock the enemy to less than 50 hit points with the hit. By then, it's about to die. If you DO happen to get that banishing effect, have everyone ready actions for when the enemy reappears and give it a swift end. NOTE: This Smite spell actually works with a ranged attack, too, so huzzah for that.

Circle of Power: 1 action; V; Concentration. Grants what basically amounts to spell resistance for you and all allies within 30 feet: Advantage on saves vs. spells and magic effects. An added bonus is an Evasion-like effect except for all saves. A powerful defensive spell, to be sure, but again, it’s concentration so it competes with your staple offensive buffs and smites. If you’re fortunate enough to wield a Holy Avenger, you already get the most meaningful part of this spell as a constant effect (and the same range, even, being Lv. 17+). If you’re Crown, this is an Oath spell.

Geas: 1 minute; V. Can definitely be useful if you need to compel some low-level NPC into doing your will. If you’re Crown, this is an Oath spell.

Dispel Evil and Good: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Basically a Protection from Evil and Good spell combined with either a very limited Banishment option or dispel of charm and fear and a possible exorcism. Considering its competition at this level, hard to recommend a full-time preparation. One better left to the Cleric if it must be cast.

Raise Dead: 1 hour; V,S,M*. The 10-day limit on this spell is, in most cases, liberal enough that you’ll only prepare this on a need basis. Revivify is typically enough.


Devotion Oath Spells

Commune: 1 minute; V,S,M. Asking a god for answers can come in pretty handy.

Flame Strike: 1 action; V,S,M. If at all possible, you should be using Destructive Wave as your AoE of choice at this level, instead, which deals more damage and has a MUCH larger area of effect. The only time I can imagine using this spell, instead, is if you’re forced entirely into a ranged combat situation where wading into the middle of the horde to set up Destructive Wave is not possible. In that type of battle, the 60 feet of range this spell has will help you.


Ancients Oath Spells

Commune with Nature: 1 minute; V,S. Solid exploration spell with a nice distance and some good knowledge gained.

Tree Stride: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Teleport between trees. That's handy at times.


Vengeance Oath Spells

Hold Monster: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Like Hold Person, except works on everything. Paralysis is an incredible status effect, but this spell isn’t quite as nice at Lv. 17, as not only does it have all the same issues Hold Person had early on (e.g. all-or-nothing quality, repeated saves, timing of said saves), but you’re also facing more and more enemies with Legendary Resistance at this level.

Scrying: 10 minutes; V,S,M*; Concentration. Spy on your quarry, even more effectively if you know them well or have a possession of theirs. Good for scouting.


Crown Oath Spells

Circle of Power and Geas are both already on the Paladin list.


Conquest Oath Spells

Cloudkill: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. A winner if you can trap your enemies in a small room. Otherwise, this is actually pretty bad.

Dominate Person: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Mind-controlling humanoids is fun, and sometimes useful. All-or-nothing, though.


Redemption Oath Spells

Hold Monster: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Like Hold Person, except works on everything. Same note as Vengeance.

Wall of Force: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Trap a bunch of enemies in a dome, cut an encounter into two manageable parts, or just drop the dome and mosey away. It just works, and it’s glorious.


Oathbreaker Spells

Dominate Person: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Mind-controlling humanoids is fun, and sometimes useful. All-or-nothing, though.

Contagion: 1 action; V,S. After the November 2018 errata, this spell now poisons the enemy, and if they fail three saves before succeeding on three saves, then they get afflicted by one of those lovely diseases on the list. Unfortunately, at Lv. 17, poisoned is a pretty weak condition to be inflicting all by itself with a spell slot in combat, and a lot of enemies you face at this level are also either (a) going to be immune to that condition, and/or (b) have Legendary Resistance to easily avoid getting your disease.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
VII. Equipment

The basics (STR-based):

  • Heavy armor (starting with chain at Lv. 1 typically, moving to plate as soon as can afford)
  • Shield (if going one-handed + shield)
  • Longsword, battleaxe or warhammer (if going one-handed + shield); glaive or halberd (if going Polearm Master); greatsword or maul (if going two-handed but not Polearm Master); 2 shortswords, scimitars or handaxes (if dual-wielding)
  • Javelins OR longbow
  • Holy symbol, for material component casting needs (on shield if using one; as an amulet if not)


The basics (DEX-based):

  • Studded leather armor
  • Shield (if going one-handed + shield)
  • Rapier (if going one-handed + shield); 2 shortswords or scimitars (if dual-wielding)
  • Longbow
  • Holy symbol (on shield if using one; as an amulet if not)


Noteworthy magic items

Remember that a character can only be attuned to three magic items at one time. If an item requires attunement, it will be noted, along with other important properties like rarity and types of armor/weapon.


Weapon +1/+2/+3: Uncommon/rare/very rare. In practice, the humble basic magic weapon will be your best option in a lot of cases. A weapon that gives a bonus to hit and damage will do more for your DPR figures than most other fancier magic weapons that do not have such bonuses (especially the hit bonus). That it doesn’t require attunement is an added plus.
Sunblade: Rare; Longsword; Attunement. It’s literally a lightsaber! It’s nominally a longsword, but it’s finesse, making it fair game for a DEX-attacker to use. +2 to hit and damage, plus 1d8 extra damage vs. undead.
Holy Avenger: Legendary; Any Sword; Attunement. Typically considered the Paladin class’ ultimate weapon, and it’s certainly worthy of that designation this go-around. +3 attack and damage, MASSIVE extra radiant damage against fiends and undead (+2d10), and the most meaningful benefit of the strong Circle of Power spell (the advantage on saves vs. spells and magic effects) as a constant effect for you and all allies in aura range. And the fact it can be ANY sword means that nearly all builds of the class can get theirs (rapier for DEX, greatsword for two-handers, longsword for most others). Only Polearm Masters seem to get left out (unless your DM counts the glaive as a sword?).

Shield +1/+2/+3: Uncommon/rare/very rare. More AC from your shield is good. Not requiring attunement is even better.
Armor +1/+2/+3: Rare/very rare/legendary; Any armor. The basic magic armor is as good as anything, straight plusses to AC being the most universally useful benefit. It doesn’t require attunement, either, leaving a slot open for something else.
Dwarven Plate: Very rare; Plate only. +2 to AC and reduction to forced movement, with no attunement required. Great if you get a set.

Amulet of Health: Rare; Attunement. Sets CON to 19. Good for you, as you’re not likely to boost your CON that high naturally.

Belt of Giant Strength: Rare/very rare/legendary; Attunement. Depending on the type of giant it’s based on, sets your STR from anywhere between 21 and 29. Definitely your overall preferred type of belt to wear, and should definitely be one of your three attuned items as soon as you get one. For STR-Paladins, this means you may be able to delay a natural 20 STR in favor of a 20 CHA or a feat you really, really want. For DEX-Paladins, consider this a boost to attack and damage rolls with more weapon options opened up to you.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
VIII. Multiclassing

Basics to remember:


  • You need to meet the attribute prerequisites of ALL your planned classes, including your initial class. So, to multiclass as a Paladin, you’ll always need at least STR 13 and CHA 13, in addition to the prerequisite of any other classes you want. Making it a little more difficult for Paladins to multiclass and limiting their class options.
  • Multiple instances of Extra Attack do not stack. Want three attacks? Take 11 Fighter levels. It’s the only way.
  • You do NOT get proficiency in heavy armor if you start as another class and multiclass into Paladin.
  • Ability Score Increases, and by extension feats, are considered class features at set levels like everything else. Which means in many cases, you may fall short of the five expected of most single-class characters’ progression. Sometimes being an ASI/feat short may be worth it, but more often it may not be. Being two or more ASI/feats short is almost never worth it. Consider the tradeoffs carefully, in any event.
  • You NEVER get the saving throw proficiencies of your new class. If you want another class’ save proficiencies to start, then you need to start as a member of that class.


Strive for 5:

A general look at all the classes will show you that the class’ 5th level is where a MASSIVE power jump occurs, particularly offensively. Warrior-type classes get their Extra Attack at that level. Full spellcaster classes get 3rd-level spells, the first real powerful level of spells. For Rogues, that’s when Sneak Attack really starts taking off. While all classes have their other major and significant levels, Lv. 5 is the first and most important of them all.

Ergo, if you’re going for a multiclass build of any sort, your first goal is to hit Lv. 5 in one class ASAP, likely your major. Pretty much without exception. Which means if you’re starting and majoring as a Paladin, you want to be a Paladin 5 and get Extra Attack before you even think of branching out.

If you started as Lv. 1 in another class (which does have its merits for some builds, notably Fighter and Rogue dips), then you need to take your next 5 levels in the Paladin class. Getting to Lv. 5 one level behind is probably tolerable, at worst you limit yourself to just one level of inadequacy. Falling two or more levels behind in that department, on the other hand, is a terrible idea.

Example of above: If dipping Fighter, starting as a Fighter gets automatic CON save proficiency without giving up anything else. That’s great! But your next 5 levels should be all Paladin. You’ll get Extra Attack at character Lv. 6, then, which is a level late, but probably tolerable for most. As tempting as Action Surge looks at Fighter 2, hold off on it until you took your 5 vital Paladin levels. (After all, Action Surge works much better with Extra Attack in play, anyway.)


What you give up:

When planning a multiclass build for the long term, all the way to Lv. 20, it’s important to look at your primary class’ last few features, counting backwards from Lv. 20, and compare them to the levels from your secondary class(es)’ to see if it’s a build worth pursuing.

  • Lv. 20 Paladin for Lv. 1 dip: You give up your Oath-based capstone power (and less significantly one spell preparation). Typically, the Oath capstone is fairly strong, but usually not a gamebreaker, so there are several cases in which a Lv. 1 dip of a class might be a fair trade for giving that up.
  • Lv. 19 Paladin for Lv. 2 dip: You give up your last ASI or feat and one 5th-level spell slot (if you don’t multiclass with another caster). That is pretty significant. You want to make sure that what you gain at Lv. 2 (or Lv. 3 if you’re going further in your dip) is worth this sacrifice. Fighter’s Action Surge? Yeah, I’d say that’s worth it. The Sorcerer’s Lv. 2? Not worth it unless you’re going for the real prize at Lv. 3. The Monk’s Lv. 2? Not worth it at all.
  • Lv. 18 Paladin for Lv. 3 dip: You give up your Auras’ expansions from 10 feet to 30 feet. That’s a pretty strong ability from a tactical standpoint, so you want to make sure that your dip’s Lv. 3 is at least competitive with that, or otherwise results in a strong central build concept.
  • Lv. 17 Paladin for Lv. 4 dip: Well, if you want to get back to your maximum number of ASIs/feats, here you go. Unfortunately, the price you pay for that is 5th-level Paladin spells, a few of which are pretty strong. It’s up to you to decide whether such a trade is worth it.
  • Lv. 16 Paladin for Lv. 5 dip: You give up another ASI/feat, knocking you back to one less than the maximum. This is not a level you want to give up lightly. Remember that Extra Attack from another class does not stack. And while a full caster’s 3rd-level spell list might look good, it’s probably not enough to consider taking Lv. 5 in that class unless you’re going for something else a few more levels into that class. Thus, if you’re going to stop at a Lv. 5 dip, that class needs to have a particularly appealing feature beyond a new spell level or Extra Attack (ex: Bard’s Font of Inspiration); otherwise, don’t bother.
  • Lv. 15 Paladin for Lv. 6 dip: You give up a 4th-level spell slot (if you don’t multiclass with another caster), which can hurt. You also give up your Oath’s Lv. 15 feature. For Devotion and Ancients Paladins, that’s solid but not a total gamechanger. For Vengeance, it’s pretty significant. For Oathbreakers, it’s very significant. In any case, you’ll want to make sure that Lv. 6 feature you’re chasing is worth the trade, or any levels beyond that are worth pursuing.
  • Lv. 14 Paladin for Lv. 7 dip: You give up Cleansing Touch. Not a hard sacrifice if you find the other class’ Lv. 7 gains attractive. (Warlock 7 is particularly appealing.)


Multiclass options:

Barbarian: A real mixed bag. CON-save proficiency if you start as a Barbarian is nice, as is Reckless Attack, but most Rage benefits require you to not be in heavy armor (and thus indirectly make you more MAD since you’ll need more DEX than most STR-based Paladins are willing to get). It can be an interesting choice, but in terms of pure functionality you’re better off dipping Fighter if anything at all.

  • Lv. 1: All of Rage’s key benefits require you to not be in heavy armor, and at this level you only get two of them per day. Eh.
  • Lv. 2: Reckless Attack’s advantage is great, though you’ll be quite vulnerable after you use it, with not enough Rages per day to justify putting yourself in that kind of danger consistently. Advantage on initiative is neat.
  • Lv. 3: Bear Totem’s resistance to all damage does work in heavy armor, so that’s good. (If you started as a Barbarian, however, you don’t have heavy armor proficiency … oops). You do get one more Rage per day, too.

Bard: Perfectly compatible stats qualifying-wise and spellcasting-wise (CHA 13), making this a solid MC option. You get an extra skill of your choice when entering this, too, along with some extra spellcasting and leader-type stuff. Cantrips and spell list overall not quite as good as the Sorcerer or Warlock, though, so it’s a bit behind those.

  • Lv. 1: A couple cantrips and four Bard spells known, which you can go nuts with since they use CHA just like you, and CHA-mod uses of Bardic Inspiration per day. A good dip level, though not as potent as the Sorcerer or Warlock.
  • Lv. 2: Jack of All Trades is a nice boost to your non-proficient skills (and initiative!), and Song of Rest is pretty good. You also end up one spellcaster “level” ahead of a straight Paladin of the same level.
  • Lv. 3: Expertise in two skills plus Bard College. Typically you go Lore for Cutting Words, which works well if you’re playing a Defender role to penalize an enemy’s attack roll as a reaction with your Inspiration dice.
  • Lv. 5: Your Inspiration uses all become short-rest recharge. Particularly nice if you have Cutting Words, although at this point you gave up 5th-level Paladin spells.

Cleric: Appropriate thematically and potentially effective, just mind the fact you need a WIS 13, so you'll be a bit more MAD than usual. And you'll want to pick a Domain with as few WIS-reliant features and spells as possible. (Life is particularly good here.)

  • Lv. 1: Life gives ALL of your healing spells, not just Cleric ones, a nice power-up independent of your WIS score. This is ESPECIALLY grand with Aura of Vitality, with the bonus being applied each time the healing kicks in! Having Bless always on tap as a domain spell is also pretty sweet. As for your two cantrips, Guidance obviously, and then probably either Light or Mending.
  • Lv. 6: Channel Divinity twice per short rest, a pretty good reward for dipping into Cleric this far.

Druid: Same WIS 13 requirement as the Cleric, and not nearly the rewards for the extra MAD. Avoid.

Fighter: If you plan a multi here, it’s pretty much strictly better to start as a Fighter. You give up no armor proficiencies by doing so, and you’d get Constitution as a save proficiency, the best “common” save to get. (That said, it wouldn’t hurt to take Resilient (WIS) later, anyway.) Easy as cake to enter with STR 13 prerequisite.

  • Lv. 1: A Fighting Style (Defense actually is a good pick if you’re going to get two styles), and Second Wind. Pretty decent, if all you wanted was to start as a Fighter for the CON proficiency.
  • Lv. 2: Action Surge, the premier nova ability. An extra action means double the number of attacks you can add Smites to, if there’s ever a fight where you just need to go ham.
  • Lv. 3: A few good picks for the Fighter archetype here. Battle Master with Riposte and Precision Attack maneuvers. Champion if you’re Oath of Vengeance and want to critfish for double-damage Smites. Eldritch Knight if you want cantrips, Shield, Absorb Elements and Find Familiar. Cavalier (XGTE) for extra skill, marking and STR-based punishment and a decent mounted ribbon that plays nice with Find Steed. Samurai (XGTE) for a turn of on-demand advantage when you Action Surge and an extra skill.

Monk: Uh, hells no. You’d need 13s in STR, DEX, WIS and CHA to even attempt this. And you get in return a Martial Arts ability that only works without armor and shield, and if you go for a few more levels, not enough ki to do anything worthwhile.

Ranger: Same ultra-MADness problem as the Monk makes this multiclass prohibitive for most. Unlike Monk, however, at least dipping Ranger has some things going for it that Paladins can use. Plus Ranger levels at least recoup spell slots that would otherwise be lost.

  • Lv. 1: Go further, or don’t bother.
  • Lv. 2: Another Fighting Style (probably Defense, though Two-Weapon Fighting is available for you dual-wielders), and some nice spell options. Absorb Elements (XGTE) and Goodberry come to mind. Or Hunter’s Mark if you’re not Vengeance.
  • Lv. 3: Gloom Stalker (XGTE) gives an extra attack on your first turn of combat, which is perfect for an alpha strike turn where you want to pour out Divine Smite damage.

Rogue: A little MAD, seeing as you still need to have STR and CHA at 13 while going for that score in DEX, too. But for a DEX-Paladin, a 3-level dip here can be quite effective, going either for Assassin and its auto-crits to guarantee doubling of Divine Smite damage, or Swashbuckler (SCAG) for its enhanced dual-wielding capability and mobility. There’s points to starting as either Paladin or Rogue here, so you could go either way. If you start as a Paladin you get WIS save proficiency, which is better than DEX since WIS deals with nastier conditions on the whole. On the other hand, starting as a Rogue gets you a net gain of one full skill proficiency and also free Thieves’ Tools proficiency.

  • Lv. 3: Either Assassin for the tasty nova potential from the auto-crits doubling Divine Smite, or Swashbuckler for the dual-wielding mobility, CHA bonus to initiative and face-to-face applications of Sneak Attack. If you go the Assassin route, you’ll want to get Stealth proficiency and Expertise, obviously, and also the Alert feat, for sure, since beating enemy initiative consistently is required for Assassinate to work its magic.

Sorcerer: One of the best Paladin MC options, complete with perfectly compatible casting stat. Aside from the cantrips and spells, the big draw is Font of Magic and Metamagic, which can either get you some extra spell slots or enhance your spellcasting economy when you need it most. If you're going DEX-based Paladin, definitely start Lv. 1 as a Sorcerer, since you'll get Constitution save proficiency that way and the loss of heavy armor isn't an issue in that case. For a STR-based build, the Lv. 1 choice might be more difficult.

  • Lv. 1: Four cantrips (the most of any caster class at 1st level) and two 1st-level spells. You’ll definitely want at least one ranged cantrip (either Ray of Frost or Fire Bolt). As for 1st-level spells, Shield and Absorb Elements (XGTE) are terrific (but if you’re sword-and-board you WILL need War Caster for those). If you do have to take War Caster, Booming Blade and/or Green-Flame Blade become good cantrip options. As for Origin, Divine Soul (XGTE) is easily the new darling for a dip, with the ability to pick Cleric spells (including cantrips, hello Guidance) and also gain a free known spell with your Affinity. (Free Bless if you go Law!) And also get a 2d4 buff per short rest to an attack or save.
  • Lv. 2: Go to Lv. 3 or don't bother.
  • Lv. 3: The big prize of two Metamagic options. You’ll want Quickened Spell for sure, since turning a 1 action buffing spell into a bonus action is huge in the right battle. For your second choice, I can see either going for Heightened Spell (a particularly nice one for smite spells with an effect that requires a save) or Twinned Spell (whenever you need to tag two creatures with a single-target spell).

Warlock: Another top Paladin MC option, and like the Sorcerer, CHA-casting for perfect compatibility. You can even use the short-rest recharge spell slots to power your Divine Smite, letting you Smite a lot more often, potentially (even if not for quite as much damage). NOTE: The“paladin spell slot” part of Divine Smite was confirmed to be a misprint soon after the initial PHB release, and was reflected as such in both the June 2015 errata and later PHB print runs.

  • Lv. 1: A first-level Patron feature, a couple of cantrips (ahem, Eldritch Blast) you can go nuts with since it uses CHA just like your own spells, and one short-rest spell slot all make for a terrific one-level dip. And then there’s the annoyingly, instantly ubiquitous Hexblade (XGTE), which lets you make all you attacks and weapon damage key off CHA, reducing your MAD at the cost of the Warlock level. (Some DMs may make you justify that Hexblade choice roleplay-wise against your Oath, however …)
  • Lv. 2: Your first pair of invocations. If you took Eldritch Blast, definitely take Agonizing Blast as one of them. Devil’s Sight is another good one. You also get your second Warlock spell slot for more short-rest recharge Smiting.
  • Lv. 3: Your Pact Boon. Tome is the most effective, overall, getting you three cantrips from any spell list (even opening up the possibility of CHA-based attacks if you take Shillelagh). Your spell slots also become 2nd-level, making your rechargeable Smites stronger.
  • Lv. 7: 4th-level Warlock spell slots, putting your short-rest Smites at maximum power. Still allows room for 4th-level Paladin spells at the end.

Wizard: Most Paladins shouldn’t even think about it. One interesting exception involves Paladins who plan to break their Oath, but they’d have to go all the way to Lv. 6 in this class (and still invest a 13 in what is usually their dump stat).

  • Lv. 6: School of Necromancy for Undead Thralls. The big prize for Oathbreakers, with the beefy extra hit points and damage on all undead you create. Combined with Aura of Hate, your undead army will be especially nasty.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
X. Builds and Combos


Starting with the classical, iconic Paladin. Goes sword-and-shield and works out to be a natural party leader up front. Being a Variant Human, has room for both Resilient (CON) to maintain the key buffing spells in the thick of combat and one other feat for the toolbox, while still reaching a 20 in both Strength and Charisma.

(This particular build takes Inspiring Leader, but if there’s another high-Charisma character such as a Bard who takes it instead, you can easily replace that with Sentinel to be that much more a front-line defender, or alternatively Shield Master if your DM rules it in a way that makes it worth taking.)

Race: Human (Variant)
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LG

Proficient Skills: Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS), Athletics (STR), Intimidation (CHA), Perception (WIS)
Proficient Tools: Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Longsword, javelins
Other: Holy Symbol (emblem on shield)

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Inspiring Leader
Lv. 4: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Inspiring Leader
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Inspiring Leader, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Inspiring Leader, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Inspiring Leader, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Inspiring Leader, Resilient (CON)

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Dueling

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 15 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor, Cure Wounds (Oath: Sanctuary, Protection from Evil and Good)
2nd level: Find Steed, Aid (Oath: Lesser Restoration, Zone of Truth)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Dispel Magic, Beacon of Hope)
4th level: Banishment, Death Ward (Oath: Freedom of Movement, Guardian of Faith)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite (Oath: Commune, Flame Strike)

Half-Elf is a little trickier if you’re working with point buy. Usually you’ll end up with a 12 on a quaternary stat. Which isn’t necessarily bad, though. Regardless, you can only take one feat if you still wish to have STR and CHA at 20.

This particular build foregoes Resilient (CON); Ancients is the Oath that seems to be the least reliant on Concentration checks, overall.

Race: Half-Elf (Skill Versatility)
Background: Outlander
Alignment: NG

Proficient Skills: Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS), Athletics (STR), Survival (WIS), Perception (WIS), Intimidation (CHA)
Proficient Tools: Musical Instrument (one)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Longsword, javelins
Other: Holy Symbol (emblem on shield)

Point buy array: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16
Lv. 4: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Sentinel
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Sentinel
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Sentinel
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Sentinel
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Sentinel

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Dueling

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 15 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor (Oath: Ensnaring Strike, Speak with Animals)
2nd level: Find Steed, Aid, Lesser Restoration (Oath: Moonbeam, Misty Step)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Plant Growth, Protection from Energy)
4th level: Banishment, Death Ward (Oath: Ice Storm, Stoneskin)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite (Oath: Commune with Nature, Tree Stride)

Big weapon, nasty crits, much pain. The preferred modus operandi of any Oath of Vengeance Paladin. Plus Resilient (CON) by Lv. 8 so he can be ready to play with Haste the level after.

Unfortunately, there’s pretty much no way with point buy for a Half-Orc to avoid an odd stat toward the end if they want any sort of a good Charisma. At least they’ll benefit from a +2 CON modifier their whole career?

Race: Half-Orc
Background: Far Traveler
Alignment: N

Proficient Skills: Athletics (STR), Persuasion (CHA), Perception (WIS), Insight (WIS), Intimidation (CHA)
Proficient Tools: Musical Instrument OR Gaming Set (one)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it)
Weapon: Greatsword OR maul, javelins
Other: Holy Symbol (amulet)

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 17, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 15
Lv. 4: STR 17, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 15, Great Weapon Master
Lv. 8: STR 17, DEX 10, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 15, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 12: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Great Weapon Fighting

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 14 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor (Oath: Bane, Hunter’s Mark)
2nd level: Find Steed, Aid, Branding Smite (Oath: Hold Person, Misty Step)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Haste, Protection from Energy)
4th level: Death Ward (Oath: Banishment, Dimension Door)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite (Oath: Hold Monster, Scrying)

Here it is, the most damaging representative of the Paladin class. Extremely feat intensive, to the point that only a Variant Human should attempt it, but the damage it puts out is delicious once all the pieces are in place. Needs to get Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master and Resilient (CON) by Lv. 8 (hence, again, Variant Human).

This build shoves in Sentinel at the end to exert control in addition to its massive destructive power, but if you feel getting that isn’t really worth it at Lv. 19, you can just as well take Charisma to 18.

Race: Human (Variant)
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LN

Proficient Skills: Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS), Athletics (STR), Intimidation (CHA), Perception (WIS)
Proficient Tools: Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it)
Weapon: Glaive OR halberd, javelins
Other: Holy Symbol (amulet)

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master
Lv. 4: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master
Lv. 8: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 12: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (CON), Sentinel

Fighting Style (Lv. 2)
: Great Weapon Fighting

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 13 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor (Oath: Bane, Hunter’s Mark)
2nd level: Find Steed, Aid (Oath: Hold Person, Misty Step)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Haste, Protection from Energy)
4th level: Death Ward (Oath: Banishment, Dimension Door)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite (Oath: Hold Monster, Scrying)

Turning his back on the divine admonition of both his race and his Oath, this evil Paladin takes full advantage of Aura of Hate with his dual-wielding prowess. Has turned to piracy for a living. Maxed-out Charisma is a must for this build.

Despite the Fallen Aasimar having a STR bonus, this Oathbreaker prefers to attack with DEX. It helps that DEX builds can dump STR entirely, which is not true vice-versa.

Race: Aasimar (Fallen)
Background: Pirate
Alignment: NE

Proficient Skills: Intimidation (CHA), Athletics (STR), Perception (WIS), Acrobatics (DEX) (free pick)
Proficient Tools: Navigator’s Tools, Vehicles (Water)

Armor: Studded leather
Weapon: Shortswords OR scimitars (x2), longbow
Other: Holy Symbol (amulet)

Point buy array: 15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 9, DEX 15, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 17
Lv. 4: STR 9, DEX 16, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18
Lv. 8: STR 9, DEX 18, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18
Lv. 12: STR 9, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18
Lv. 16: STR 9, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20
Lv. 19: STR 9, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Defensive Duelist

Fighting Style (Lv. 2)
: Defense

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 15 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor, Cure Wounds (Oath: Hellish Rebuke, Inflict Wounds)
2nd level: Find Steed, Aid (Oath: Darkness, Crown of Madness)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Animate Dead, Bestow Curse)
4th level: Banishment, Death Ward (Oath: Confusion, Blight)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite (Oath: Dominate Person, Contagion)

A fearsome presence on the battlefield who paralyzes his enemies with an array of frightening abilities, including one unique to his race. Likes shoving enemies prone caught in his aura for maximum lockdown.

Race: Dragonborn
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LN

Proficient Skills: Athletics (STR) (class skill), Intimidation (CHA) (class skill), Perception (WIS) (via Athletics background redundancy), Insight (WIS) (via Intimidation background redundancy)
Proficient Tools: Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Longsword, javelins
Other: Holy Symbol (emblem on shield)

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 17, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16
Lv. 4: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Dragon Fear (STR)
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Dragon Fear (STR), Resilient (CON)
Lv. 12: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Dragon Fear (STR), Resilient (CON)
Lv. 16: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Dragon Fear (STR), Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Dragon Fear (STR), Resilient (CON)


Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Dueling

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 15 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor, Cure Wounds (Oath: Armor of Agathys, Command)
2nd level: Aid (Oath: Hold Person, Spiritual Weapon)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Bestow Curse, Fear)
4th level: Find Greater Steed, Banishment, Death Ward (Oath: Dominate Beast, Stoneskin)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite, Holy Weapon (Oath: Cloudkill, Dominate Person)

[/sblock]

[sblock=VII. Half-Elf, Oath of Redemption]

Half-Elves are cast as natural diplomats in 5e, and coincidentally the Oath of Redemption prefers diplomacy. Oh, and Half-Elves can take the Prodigy feat to be the best diplomats in the game when you consider the Channel Divinity power Emissary of Peace on top of it all.

If battle must be joined, the Oath of Redemption is more reliant on spellcasting than most and has some of the crowd control greats in its Oath Spell list. As such, Charisma is top priority and attack stat is secondary, as you should be using physical combat only after debilitating your foes or if you're running low on spell slots. Resilient (CON) is a must.

Race: Half-Elf (Skill Versatility)
Background: Courtier
Alignment: NG

Proficient Skills: Persuasion (CHA) (class skill), Insight (WIS) (class skill), Perception (WIS) (via Persuasion background redundancy), Intimidation (CHA) (via Insight background redundancy), Athletics (STR) (race), Survival (WIS) (race), Deception (CHA) (Prodigy)
Proficient Tools: None

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Longsword, Javelins
Other: Holy Symbol (emblem on shield)

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 17
Lv. 4: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18
Lv. 8: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 12: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Resilient (CON), Prodigy (Expertise Persuasion)
Lv. 16: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Resilient (CON), Prodigy (Expertise Persuasion)
Lv. 19: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Resilient (CON), Prodigy (Expertise Persuasion), Inspiring Leader

Fighting Style (Lv. 2)
: Defense

Typically prepared spells (at Lv. 20, 15 + 10 Oath spells):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite, Divine Favor (Oath: Sanctuary, Sleep)
2nd level: Aid, Lesser Restoration (Oath: Calm Emotions, Hold Person)
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Revivify, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle (Oath: Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern)
4th level: Banishment, Death Ward, Find Greater Steed (Oath: Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere, Stoneskin)
5th level: Destructive Wave, Banishing Smite (Oath: Hold Monster, Wall of Force)
 
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Coyote81

Villager
I'm actually disappoitned that you put Minotaur below the Shifters. I believe most people find the Shifters to be some of the worst since you can only shift so often, and without shifting they are severely lacking. Minotaur's racial actions are rather good and useful on a combat character like a paladin.
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
I'm actually disappoitned that you put Minotaur below the Shifters. I believe most people find the Shifters to be some of the worst since you can only shift so often, and without shifting they are severely lacking. Minotaur's racial actions are rather good and useful on a combat character like a paladin.
The Minotaur's only real big thing is the horns, a weapon that isn't compatible with many Fighting Styles and feats. The only real special action with those horns worth mentioning is the Charger-type attack after a Dash. (Which I'll at least concede is a bit more useful on a Paladin than other classes, since you can Smite.) The shove feature doesn't let you shove prone, which makes it highly situational at best.

Shifters also have Darkvision; Minotaurs don't.
 

slaughterj

Villager
"Protection from Poison: 1 action; V,S. With Lay on Hands in play, I can't really see preparing this one too often."

Lay on Hands cures damage from poison or neutralizes a poison afterward, and takes an action to use. Protection from Poison will help you with saves and resistance on the front end, as well as neutralize a poison, and can be cast in advance and last for an hour for the save advantage and damage resistance, so it is quite useful for when going into a fight with a Green Dragon or other known poisonous foe. And practically speaking, there are very few useful second level spells for Paladins to take, so it is not so bad.
 

slaughterj

Villager
I see no mention of the Magic Initiate feat, but it is a great way to get a ranged attack by picking Warlock and getting Eldritch Blast, plus take the once a day use of Hex for added damage.
 

mellored

Explorer
"Protection from Poison: 1 action; V,S. With Lay on Hands in play, I can't really see preparing this one too often."

Lay on Hands cures damage from poison or neutralizes a poison afterward, and takes an action to use. Protection from Poison will help you with saves and resistance on the front end, as well as neutralize a poison, and can be cast in advance and last for an hour for the save advantage and damage resistance, so it is quite useful for when going into a fight with a Green Dragon or other known poisonous foe. And practically speaking, there are very few useful second level spells for Paladins to take, so it is not so bad.
Paladins can switch spells. So if you know your fighting a green dragon, then yes, you can prepare it for the day, but your likely going to drop it for the next.


And i agree that magic initiate (Eldirch blast, hex) is a pretty solid feat for paladins. They can use the ranged attack.
 

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