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

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Resilient (CON):

You are right. Furthermore, I think Resilient is stronger on later levels, when the proficiency bonus that is added, is higher. I even might find out that there is no need for resilient, because the Aura of Protection (adding CHA mod. to all my saves) might be enough.


Dumping DEX:

If I see it right, dumping DEX doesn't make sense without Resilient, because there are no stats to put these points in, are there? In addition, I think DEX 10 is not the worst choice, because it's an important saving throw + gives a bonus initiative.

STR 15+1 | DEX 10 | CON 14 | WIS 10 | INT 8 | CHA 14+2


Feats:

Isn't it important to get a good use for my Bonus Action and Reaction? Polearm Master and Shield Master both offer good opportunities for that.

Polearm Master offers a Reaction attack + Bonus attack.
Shield Master offer Shove as a Bonus Action + Advantage for subsequent attacks.

If I see it right, this pretty much exceeds +1 STR mod, doesn't it?
I didn't say not to take any, just not to take both.

(And dumping DEX was just if you wanted to get your CON to an odd score.)

Though if you really want to work your Oath of Conquest powers it's very tempting to boost your CHR because of how many ways it helps you.

Here's a breakdown in the early levels of 5+. At later levels you can have the feats you want AND high ability scores. So the decision point is if you want to take your feats early or late.

Polearm Mastery
I've played a polearm master Paladin and enjoyed it, but here's a breakdown (at level 5+), comparing vs. a Greatsword to have another two handed weapon. (If you go spear + sheild this differs again).

Non damage factors Polearm + Polearm Mastery
PRO: Increased chance of reaction attack. 10' reach. Can spend slots on Divine Smite faster (though same total damage at end of day).
CON: Uses your bonus action which has other uses (Smite spells with good riders, Healing Word to stand fallen ally, etc.)

DPR
Polearm + Mastery: 2x (d10+3) + (d4+3) = avg 22.5 all hit, 60% change to hit = 13.56 DPR
Greatsword + STR ASI: 2x (2d6+4) = avg 22 all hit, 65% chance to hit = 14.3
(Didn't factor in crits to keep math simple.)

Conclusion
So using your bonus action (which also means you won't have it for other options, such as casting a Smite spell) just to use it needs to be considered. When I played a Polearm Mastery paladin I was able to make the reach and occasional reaction attack make up for the lower damage and bad bonus action economy, but that's table/DM dependent if you can set it up.

Shield Master
The latest Sage Advice reverses when bonus actions come in, has to be after the trigger. So Shield Master's prone chance comes after your attacks. It's good for helping teammates, but really never adds to your attacks since they can get up from prone before you attack again.
 
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lkwpeter

Villager
Thanks for your great answer! Your argumentation is very thorough!

You are totally right with Shield Master. Thought it was DM-depended (as written in this guide), but Jeremy made that quite clear. So, Shield Master is out then.


Polearm Master

Concerning Bonus Action you compared 2H-fighting (Greatsword vs. 2H Polearm). Actually, I was thinking about using a Shield + Spear, because our DM announced that our new compaign "would be deadlier than the last one". So, I though that some extra armor from a shield wouln't be a bad choice.

I was aiming for some reaction attacks, when enemies enter my reach + a use for my bonus action, whenever I don't cast something. Because, at my current level I don't have any utilization (except casting) and I think the Paladin class doesn't add anything for that, right?

When I played a Polearm Mastery paladin I was able to make the reach and occasional reaction attack make up for the lower damage and bad bonus action economy, but that's table/DM dependent if you can set it up.
Unfortunately, I didn't understand the last part. Did it work fine or not? Would it be worth be 1H-Spear, too?


Weapon choice

As I said, I decided for Shield&Board for being more tanky. I found out, that I also could pick the Protection Fighting Style on level 2 for a +1 AC bonus and go for Polearm or even Two-Weapon-Fighting.

Polearm gives reaction attack in trade of -1AC (compared to shield), TWF gives bonus attack and same AC with Feat (compared to shield). Both lack of +2 extra damage compared to Dueling Fighting Style. Unfortunately, I am not quite good in game maths, so I don't know if this is a considerable option.

I just wanted to bring this up at last. Do you think one or the other would be worth it going for (instead of Shield&Board)?


Kind regards!
 
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smbakeresq

Explorer
The changes to Shield Master did not make it into any official publication, just his twitter feed and a Sage Advice. I would not change it from how it was before, it just reduces options for the players, play it as JC intended and few people would take it.
 

smbakeresq

Explorer
Thanks for your great answer! Your argumentation is very thorough!

You are totally right with Shield Master. Thought it was DM-depended (as written in this guide), but Jeremy made that quite clear. So, Shield Master is out then.


Polearm Master

Concerning Bonus Action you compared 2H-fighting (Greatsword vs. 2H Polearm). Actually, I was thinking about using a Shield + Spear, because our DM announced that our new compaign "would be deadlier than the last one". So, I though that some extra armor from a shield wouln't be a bad choice.

I was aiming for some reaction attacks, when enemies enter my reach + a use for my bonus action, whenever I don't cast something. Because, at my current level I don't have any utilization (except casting) and I think the Paladin class doesn't add anything for that, right?


Unfortunately, I didn't understand the last part. Did it work fine or not? Would it be worth be 1H-Spear, too?


Weapon choice

As I said, I decided for Shield&Board for being more tanky. I found out, that I also could pick the Protection Fighting Style on level 2 for a +1 AC bonus and go for Polearm or even Two-Weapon-Fighting.

Polearm gives reaction attack in trade of -1AC (compared to shield), TWF gives bonus attack and same AC with Feat (compared to shield). Both lack of +2 extra damage compared to Dueling Fighting Style. Unfortunately, I am not quite good in game maths, so I don't know if this is a considerable option.

I just wanted to bring this up at last. Do you think one or the other would be worth it going for (instead of Shield&Board)?


Kind regards!
What he means is all reaction attacks require your DM to provoke the attack. Some won’t, they have their monsters somehow “know” you have a reach attack ready. This is less of an issue as you level up as more creatures will just be bigger then you and so won’t have to provoke an attack or just won’t care.


Protection style is less effective then just killing something faster. HP is a spendable resource, so spend it, a +1 AC won’t help as much when you already get plate armor and shield if you want.

Shield is +2 to defense, so pole-arm is -2 to AC compared to using a shield but you get a bonus action and expanded reaction trigger. If you take a shield you will also take dueling style, so don’t forget you would get +2 to damage there also. Make sure to include the whole style benefits like this:

So shield gets you +2 to AC, +2 to damage with d6 or d8 weapons (effectively making them a d10 or d12 weapon) and then Shield Mastery benefits from that feat, which you will take (defensive options and bonus action prone to pump your attacks.). It commits you to one feat, Shield Mastery, maybe two if you take Sentinel.

Going pole-arm is regular AC from armor, d8 or d10 weapon if you use a halberd, great weapon fighting (effectively an increase of one size for weapon damage due, so d10 or d12) a bonus attack and reaction trigger from pole-arm Master, and then a bonus attack trigger and greater damage from Great Weapon Mastery. Going pole-arm essentially commits you to 2 feats, or three if you choose Sentinel.

Dual weapon commits you to light weapons, so D6 weapons and -2 AC compared to Shield, but you get a bonus action attack with a d6 weapons. You get 1 AC back with dual wielded feat, and get a +1 to damage as you can increase weapon damage due from d6 to d8 by using larger weapons.


Personally, I use Shield Mastery the old way, it having no balance issues in a game compared to the other fighting options, and would let a creature with a natural attack like a Dragon Born with Dragon Hide feat use their claw as a bonus action offhand attack even if they used a full sized weapon like a long sword since they invested a feat into it.

Here is a better breakdown of the fighting styles, from my OneDrive, with full credit to the author:

https://1drv.ms/b/s!AtVzM7E-c0rph61NMMkxGZD9ojIyTw
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
[MENTION=6804713]lkwpeter[/MENTION], paladins unfortunately don't get the Two-Weapon Fighting fighting style. Both of your hands occupied with weapons would be comparable to a two handed weapon. Without a feat, it's 2x (d6+ability) + d6, 3d6+2x ability if all hit, vs. greatsword of 2x (2d6+ability) for 4d6 + 2x ability if all hit - TWF is inferior except if you are looking at dumping Divine Smites faster at the cost of damage and using your bonus action. That changes at 11th with Improved Divine Smite comes online, but it has the additional drawback of needing more magical weapons.

With spending a feat, Polearm Mastery beats Dual Wielder pretty seriously in terms of damage, though Dual Wielder does have the +1 AC.

But onto the meat of what you were talking about, Spear & Shield + Polearm mastery. There's a slight damage loss vs. a d8 weapon + Shield, averaging 1 point per hit or about 1.3 HP per round with extra attack and a 65% chance to hit. Not a big deal.

Without reach and without a way to disengage, I wouldn't assume to be able to force more than one extra reaction attack an encounter. That will offset the slight damage loss during normal attacks. Sometimes it will end up more, that's just gravy. :)

So you end up if you use your bonus actoin with three attacks (d6, d6, d4), all adding your STR. With a +4 STR that's about the same damage as two attacks with a d12 weapon with the added benefit of +2 AC and more chances for crits (which do double your Divine Smite dice). (+3 STR your damage is slightly less, but the +2 AC more than makes up for it in a dangerous game.) At 11th with Improved Divine Smite it gets even better.

Dueling will help your damage, Protection will add to your AC. Dueling is quite nice with the extra attack, boosting it above greatsword damage. On the other hand having a +3 total to AC is quite nice as well. I'd make that call based on the others in the party - if several focus around damage and they need a protector, got Protection. If they are more around buffs, debuffs, CC, healing and the like, go for the extra damage. I lean towards the damage - +2 AC from shield plus heavy armor ends up being good enough that an extra +1 is just nice, not spectacular

You do get the fun place where foes may not want to attack you with your high AC, but can't get past / away from you without triggering an OA.

Bonuses to STR will both add directly to damage, but also have a slight multiplicative effect as it also increases you chance to hit.

With shield, you CON drops a little in importance. It's still important for a front liner and for keeping your concentration spells, but say 6/10 instead of 7/10.

You CHR will be useful for your auras at 6th and your fear saves with Conquest / Fallen Aasimar combined with your aura at 7th. So that's useful but can be taken later.

I'd probably say out of your first three ASI/feats, I'd suggest spending at least two on ability scores.

Now, I want to take you in a tangential direction just to consider - back to reach specifically without polearm mastery (or not until way later). This isn't "better", this is just a different focus - you pick what you want. Also, it doesn't come online until 7th so depending on the level range you expect that may just be too late.

At 7th you get your Aura of Conquest, which can reduce Feared opponents to speed 0. You have a few ways to feat opponents, including your Fallen Aasimar ability. The most repeatable one is the Wrathful Smite 1st level paladin spell. Which is a bonus action to cast so it gets in the way of a Polearm Mastery bonus attack.

A frightened foe can still attack you (with disadvantage). Having reach means that unless they have reach they can't get to you in melee and you can just pound on them from safety. Perhaps while standing in a place that blocks others from getting to the rest of your party.

This can still work without reach with a Shield - they would get to attack, but disadvantage combined with a high AC makes it rare for them to hit. Though they still crit at the same rate.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
The changes to Shield Master did not make it into any official publication, just his twitter feed and a Sage Advice. I would not change it from how it was before, it just reduces options for the players, play it as JC intended and few people would take it.
From the official Sage Advice:

Shield Master
[NEW] The Shield Master feat lets you shove someone
as a bonus action if you take the Attack action. Can you
take that bonus action before the Attack action?
No. The
bonus action provided by the Shield Master feat has a pre-
condition: that you take the Attack action on your turn. In-
tending to take that action isn’t sufficient; you must actually
take it before you can take the bonus action. During your
turn, you do get to decide when to take the bonus action af-
ter you’ve taken the Attack action.
This sort of if-then setup appears in many of the game’s
rules. The “if” must be satisfied before the “then” comes
into play.
Also from the Sage Advice:

[NEW] Official Rulings
Official rulings on how to interpret rules are made here in
the Sage Advice Compendium by the game’s lead rules de-
signer, Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford on Twitter).
The public statements of the D&D team, or anyone else
at Wizards of the Coast, are not official rulings; they are
advice. Jeremy Crawford’s tweets are often a preview of rul-
ings that will appear here.
(So what's in the official SA is, in fact, considered official for the game, not just guiding.)
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Here is a better breakdown of the fighting styles, from my OneDrive, with full credit to the author:

https://1drv.ms/b/s!AtVzM7E-c0rph61NMMkxGZD9ojIyTw
That breakdown assumes the case of variant human, so it ignores all trade offs of Feat vs. ASI.

Also, I don't trust those numbers. For example under general two weapon fighting it has paladin above fighter at low levels, even though fighter has access to the fighting style and definitely would do more damage. It also doesn't show an increase for paladin at 11th when every attack would get an extra d8 worth of damage.

It looks pretty, but I'd want to see the numbers behind it.
 

lkwpeter

Villager
Your explanations are awesome! Thank you guys!

@Blue: I didn't get all your explanations. But if I understand you right, your advice is to stick to Sword-and-Board and get Polearm Master with a 1H-spear, right?

- high AC
- good average damage due to Duelist + reaction/bonus action attack
- more crits
- versatile in many situations (no loss of bonus action)

I would take it on level 4 and go for STR/CHR on level 8/12.

Is that correct?
 

smbakeresq

Explorer
That breakdown assumes the case of variant human, so it ignores all trade offs of Feat vs. ASI.

Also, I don't trust those numbers. For example under general two weapon fighting it has paladin above fighter at low levels, even though fighter has access to the fighting style and definitely would do more damage. It also doesn't show an increase for paladin at 11th when every attack would get an extra d8 worth of damage.

It looks pretty, but I'd want to see the numbers behind it.
Then contact the author, his name is in the document. I said it isn't mine, so don't complain to me!
 

smbakeresq

Explorer
Your explanations are awesome! Thank you guys!

@Blue: I didn't get all your explanations. But if I understand you right, your advice is to stick to Sword-and-Board and get Polearm Master with a 1H-spear, right?

- high AC
- good average damage due to Duelist + reaction/bonus action attack
- more crits
- versatile in many situations (no loss of bonus action)

I would take it on level 4 and go for STR/CHR on level 8/12.

Is that correct?
While that is RAW, I wouldn't allow a staff to be used one handed in game, its CHEESE factor is very high. If you allow that because its official, then you should also take your mount into every dungeon that has a large creature and use lance for d12 damage as has been suggested on the forums already :cool:
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
While that is RAW, I wouldn't allow a staff to be used one handed in game, its CHEESE factor is very high. If you allow that because its official, then you should also take your mount into every dungeon that has a large creature and use lance for d12 damage as has been suggested on the forums already :cool:
The errata has officially added the spear, a one handed weapon, to the Polearm Mastery list. No one is talking about the staff.
 

lkwpeter

Villager
Now, I want to take you in a tangential direction just to consider - back to reach specifically without polearm mastery (or not until way later). This isn't "better", this is just a different focus - you pick what you want. Also, it doesn't come online until 7th so depending on the level range you expect that may just be too late.

[...]
Ah, so you suggest the best way to be Polearm Mastery without shield for triggering most OA and stay out of melee range from foes, right?

Well, I guess I'm going to play my character until level 15 or so. So, this would make sense. But I also expect my DM to allow me switching fighting style on level 7, if I find a good RP argumentation (like retraining it, because I learned another technique at my Fraction, which is the Order of the Gauntlet).

So, if I get you right, you suggest 2H Polearm with Protection Fighting Style being the best option with Aura on level 7. And you suggest 1H Polearm + Shield with Dueling Fighting Style as second best (escpecially on low levels).

It seems like there are pretty good reasons to go for 1H Polearm and hope for switching fighting styles later on. In addition, I would pick +STR on level 8 and +CHR on level 12.

By the way: This guides always speaks of GWM being "mandatory" for Polearm Mastery. In my view, this is quite a boost, but it comes at the cost of a second feat, what is not viable for most classes that rely on ability scores as well. So, 2H Polearm with Mastery feat also brings a strong boost - maybe not as good as with GWM, but strong as well.
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I wasn't presenting anything as "the best", I was just presenting an alternate path. One of the nice things about 5e is that there are many paths to victory - you can have characters with different strengths and tricks and they all work.

The reach plus the ability to reduce a foe's speed to zero while frightened with your Aura of Conquest is one nice combo. It's most likely trigger is the Wrathful Smite spell, which is a bonus action to cast so don't you won't get as much use out of polearm mastery (often no bonus action to make attacks, and foe not moving to trigger OAs), so you could delay that and take ASIs sooner.

But that only protects you from melee, non-reach foes that you have frightened and are exactly 10' from you. It's a tactical game. You might enjoy that. Also it only starts at 7th and I don't knwo the level range you are expecting to play.

On the other hand, with the DM warning you this will be tougher, great AC plus your 6th level +CHR to saves Aura makes a very robust character. For that weapon + shield is a great combonation. I would suggest Dueling fighting style - dead opponents is great defense and it pairs well with the bonus action attack from using a spear with PAM.

And there's no reason you can't also be flexible. Even if you have a spear and shield, carry a normal polearm for the times when you have only one opponent and can pull off the Conquest lock-down, even though it won't benefit from Duelist style. (Or even a whip - it still gets +2 Duelist so it's not as bad as it looks.)

As for GWM - I also disagree that it's "mandatory" with Polearm Mastery. The on-crit bonus attack is a slight upgrade in damage, but mostly wasted. And the -5/+10 working or not is dependant more on party buffs. (Oath of Vengeance paladins can make it work themselves for one target per short rest.) Frankly, without party support (bless, greater invisibility, etc.) for your build +1 STR (so hit and damage on three attacks) will probably be in the same neighborhood of damage as -5/+10, making the ASI better than the GWM in this particular case. (On the other hand, if you do have consistent party buffing, it's a great feat.)
 

lkwpeter

Villager
Thanks for your detailed answer again!

I played a couple of sessions with my Paladin (level 3) so far. I realized that there is really a lack of possibilities using the Bonus Action. I know that this might get better in further levels, but so far I have really few spell slots and almost all class features use an Action (instead of a Bonus Action). So, I end up wasting my Bonus Action almost 90% of the time (when not using it for smites).

Furthermore, Divine Smite almost always outdoes a Bonus Action smite spells. In addition, we are using the alternate rule that a long rest (resetting spell slots) takes about a week or an adventuring "milestone".

So, in conclusion: it seems almost a MUST to get a regular use for a Paladin's Bonus Action. Another attack means more hits (to apply Divine Smiites) and even more crits. So, I find Polearm Mastery almost perfect (maybe mandatory) to fill this hole.
 

smbakeresq

Explorer
Correct, you either go Polearm or Shield Mastery. Great Weapon Mastery gets you a bonus action sometimes, when you crit or kill something.

Bonus action attacks get the benefit of the LVL 11 feature that adds d8 radiant damage to attacks, so with PAM you get that d4 +d8 (radiant) + full ability modifier.
 

Paul Smart

Explorer
I am curious as to what the experts think about the Tortle race. Do they make good Paladins? If so why? If not, what classes would they be optimal for? Thanks.
 

Adamant

Explorer
I am curious as to what the experts think about the Tortle race. Do they make good Paladins? If so why? If not, what classes would they be optimal for? Thanks.
I have a tortle paladin I'm pretty happy with, +2 strength helps a lot because you can start with 17 strength and 15 charisma. That lets you use 1 ASI to catch up your charisma to the races with a boost at the same time as you boost strength to 18. The hardest part is getting a good constitution score, since they don't have a boost there. I started Fighter with 14 con, dumping dex and int, and am considering taking another fighter level for action surge at some point.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I am curious as to what the experts think about the Tortle race. Do they make good Paladins? If so why?
The fluff about them works fine for a paladin, which is backed up by the Alignment section. +2 STR +1 WIS is a pretty good fit though not perfect. Claws and hold breath are more of ribbon abilities - nice in the rare cases they come up. Natural armor is a benefit for first and second level paladins as it gets you to AC 17 sooner, but a detriment to higher level paladin, say 5th or higher, because it's lower than plate and you can't find magic armor. Shell Defense ... might be useful if you're about to drop and instead of attacking you want to try to preserve your auras.

They make perfectly serviceable paladins, but not perfect ones. Which is fine.

If not, what classes would they be optimal for? Thanks.
STR-based rangers. Or if you use an alternative version with a beast companion that doesn't use your actions then Shell defense lets you turtle up (okay, I admit it, pun intended) when hurt while your companion still goes to town.

Barbarian - great AC, STR, what's not to like. Sure, CON would be better than WIS, but WIS never sucks.

Clerics that don't get heavy armor but do extra weapon damage at 8th. Few +2 WIS races, +1 with some extra goodies isn't a bad fit.

Actually, Druids might be better than clerics - with the metal restriction they normally have to deal with Tortles will get a better AC then most druids, even better then if they had the barkskin spell up. +1 WIS still good. +2 STR is not useful for them with Shillelagh, but can be flavorful in terms of a druid with athletics being unusual. Moon druids could like having a high AC when not in wildshape, other druids could like it all the time.

Monks, for a better AC until your unarmored AC bypasses it. But mostly so you can name yourself after a Renaissance painter and wear a brightly colored mask. Okay, I'll show myself out. :) Actually, if you don't need DEX for AC, all Martial Arts does work fine off STR. So it's actually a reasonable if unusual build. Go Kensei (XGtE) and a d10 Versatile weapon and it's like you maxed your Martial Arts die.

Hmm, the AC might be of interest to wizards and sorcerers even if the ability scores don't line up. Being armed for OAs while not having to carry a weapon so you have a free hand for casting is nice too. I think I'm just stretching now.
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
Snap judgment of Oath of Heroism from the new UA.

Overall rating, blue. Doesn't quite reach the heights of Vengeance but definitely quite solid.

Oath spells: Worthwhile list overall. Haste is the highlight, and just like Vengeance this Oath has a Channel Divinity that synergizes well with it. Compulsion can also be effective with all the OAs you can trigger. Guiding Bolt (early levels), Enhance Ability, Freedom of Movement, Conjure Volley, all good. Only bad spell on this list is Enthrall.

CD: Peerless Athlete: Your preferred CD option if you're going to grapple a lot. Be a race that can take Prodigy and Expertise Athletics with it, take Tavern Brawler as well, and you're a bona-fide grappling build as a Paladin.

CD: Legendary Strike: 19-20 crits. Your preferred CD if you intend to do more critfishing with this Oath than grappling. You want to make as many attack rolls as you possibly can, so this works wonders with Polearm Master or even dual-wielding, casting Haste and such. If your allies set up advantage a lot, even better.

Mighty Deed: Free THPs or some frightened enemies whenever you crit or KO an enemy. Obviously not as reliable as other Oaths' auras, but the range of effect is better than those auras at all levels before 18 which you may not ever get to. So it's alright.

Glorious Defense: Reaction AC boost and a free counterattack if you make the enemy miss? Yeah, this one's awesome. Extra attacks = more chances to crit = more chances to double up a Smite. Too bad you have to wait until Lv. 15 to get this.

Living Myth: Guarantee a hit every round and possibly a successful save as well? AND this is activated with a bonus-action (unlike many other capstone powers which use an action) and lasts 10 minutes (many other capstones last just 1 minute)? Win.
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Snap judgment of Oath of Heroism from the new UA.
Expeditious Retreat work nicely with Find Steed.

Conjure Volley, while not gotten until 17th, is a DEX save vs. your CHR-based DC, it does not need DEX or attack rolls.

Mighty Deed: Free THPs or some frightened enemies whenever you crit or KO an enemy. Obviously not as reliable as other Oaths' auras, but the range of effect is better than those auras at all levels before 18 which you may not ever get to. So it's alright.
To me the fact that this can happen every round you meet the conditions with no per-rest limit, and is affecting CHR creatures, so probably 3-4 when you get it up to 5 later on. That's pretty amazing. Paladins don't have a lot to deal with hordes, but the benefit off a horde is that you can drop someone every turn. So this helps them shine in what is traditionally a place they are only so-so. And it's useful to some degree the rest of the time.

Plus it has synergy with the CD for an extended crit range.

 

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