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D&D 5E [GUIDE] Oathbound: The Paladin Guide


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Oathbound: The Paladin Guide
By: GladiusLegis
As originally published on the Wizards of the Coast message board.
See also.

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

Table of Contents:
Proficiencies, Attributes, Backgrounds and Class Features
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
UA:X - Unearthed Arcana (title of article)
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 as-of-yet unreleased 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

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.

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, 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.

II. Proficiencies, Attributes, Backgrounds and Class Features


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): Helps you climb, jump, and swim. More importantly, it can help you break out of grapples and resist shoves. And, if you’re STR-based, grappling and shoving become viable combat options for you. In any case, a great pick. If the Shield Master feat is in your plans, this is mandatory because it governs how effective your shove is.
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): For DEX-based Paladins, this is often a substitute for Athletics. It’s the DEX option for escaping from grapples and resisting shoves (but NOT for grappling or shoving yourself), and it can also do things like help you stay on your feet or on a tightrope.
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, pretty much useless for you and not very useful skills regardless.


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:

Strength OR Dexterity: Your attack attribute. You are a weapon-based combatant, first and foremost, so you want this as your highest to start, and you want to get it to the maximum 20 as soon as possible. (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.)
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. This should be your second-highest attribute to start, and you'll eventually want to get this up to 20 as well (but not before your attack stat). If you really want some feats I could see topping this at an 18, but definitely no lower.
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.
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.
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.)
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.


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.

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.
Dueling: The best choice if you plan to primarily use a one-handed weapon, thanks to the flat damage bonus on each hit.
Great Weapon Fighting: Rerolling 1s and 2s on damage dice for an attack with a two-hander makes for a neat damage bonus. And since it applies to all dice rolled on an attack, this benefits stuff like Divine Smite, Improved Divine Smite, Divine Favor, Elemental Weapon, smite spells and what have you. A must for two-handed weapon users.
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.
Mariner (UA: Waterborne): You gain a swimming and climbing speed in light or medium armor and no shield, along with +1 AC. For DEX-Paladins who dual-wield, this is strictly better than Defense.

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. Fantastic ability to get at Lv. 3, especially.

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 your Concentration checks into auto-save territory, which is a godsend.

Lv. 10

Aura of Courage: Flat immunity to the frightened condition, also with the 10 feet range to extend to allies. A very good thing considering how many boss-type creatures look to have a fear power of some sort; as a melee combatant you'll need to get close, and avoiding disadvantage on attack rolls is also important.

Lv. 11

Improved Divine Smite: Your second-half source of extra damage; where Fighters get a third attack on their
Attack action, you get a flat 1d8 extra radiant damage to add to all melee attacks you make (but not ranged). While this doesn't quite match the potential of a third attack, and the damage bonuses from certain feats and magical weapons that accrue with more attacks, it is significant. And it does give you one key advantage: It makes any bonus action, reaction, or other such extra attacks you might get to make more threatening than the Fighter's (e.g. Polearm Master, dual-wielding, opportunity attacks, Sentinel, Haste, Commander’s Strike, etc.). This feature also makes you particularly effective against powerful undead creatures, many of whom have strong features that get disrupted 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.

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 if you can prove that someone's authority is not just then you have no obligation to follow their word.

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 Oaths by default. It does have a couple of really nice additions, however, namely Sanctuary and Freedom of Movement.
Aura of Devotion: Lv. 7. Straight-up immunity to charms, and the ability to spread it to allies within aura range. Don't have to explain why this is fantastic, do I?
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). The benefits of this will definitely be felt against hordes of weaker enemies of these types. On the other hand, high-CR bosses of these creature types will often have high enough attack bonuses to make disadvantage not such a big deal to them — unless you’re wearing +X armor/shield of some sort.
Holy Nimbus: Lv. 20 (1/day). 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 the most defensively inclined of the three, particularly against damaging magic. It's also easily the best Oath at dealing with hordes.

Nature's Wrath: Lv. 3, Channel Divinity (1 total/short rest). An action to restrain an enemy within 10 feet. Requires a save to work, and does allow the enemy to try to save after every turn. Restraining is pretty nice, however, since it makes the enemy yield advantage to you and all your allies.
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 that no other Paladin gets.
Aura of Warding: Lv. 7. Cuts all magic damage against you and allies in your aura in half! Too good.
Undying Sentinel: Lv. 15. Once-per-day ability to stay upright at 1 hit point when you would be KO-ed, plus anti-aging stuff. Fair enough.
Elder Champion: Lv. 20 (1/day). 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 like 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 the three; 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. Good gods, is your list 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 after an opportunity attack helps you stay near your target ready to strike.
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/day). 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.

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. Doesn’t get much better than that.
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/day). 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.

IV. Races

Common 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.

Elf: All Elves get a +2 to DEX, so make that your attack stat. Immunity to magical sleep and advantage vs. charms are very good, 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: The best subrace stats-wise with its +1 to CHA, along with your Drow magic using CHA and being useful in your arsenal. However, Sunlight Sensitivity can be quite the inconvenience, but at least it requires direct sunlight to trigger, so it could've been worse.
High: Don’t even think about it. INT bonus is useless, as is the INT-based cantrip.
Eladrin (DMG example): Still with the worthless +1 INT, but at least Misty Step 1/short rest is worth something.

Halfling: +2 to DEX, so you know which route to go with your attack stat. Lucky is straight-up awesome, 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.

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: The Variant Human, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic, and in a game that uses feats, arguably the best race for this class considering its attribute needs. The bonus feat means you get a potentially build-making ability at Lv. 1 that other races have to wait until at least Lv. 4 to get, while being a full ASI ahead. That’s huge. And just having an extra feat on top of the other one, maybe two, you planned to take is also really beneficial. On top of that, you get two +1s you can put in any attributes you want (make those your attack stat and CHA), as well as a skill proficiency of your choice (ahem, Perception).

Uncommon Races

Aaracocra (EEPC): Yeah, this race is pretty unfair in general with its at-will flight from the start. 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.

Aasimar (DMG example): +2 CHA is nice, and even the +1 WIS isn’t a waste. Resistance to necrotic and radiant damage, Darkvision and a few handy racial spells that are actually all stat-independent round out a solid offering.

Changeling (UA: Eberron): Stat bonuses match up well for a DEX-Paladin (+1 DEX and CHA), you’ll definitely be good at Deception (out of character for Oath of Devotion though), and polymorph at-will into any humanoid is pretty neat. Not overly powerful, but definitely an interesting race to play.

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.

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.

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 (EEPC): +1 DEX and Superior Darkvision. Probably the best Gnome Paladin race by default (damning with faint praise much?), but still not enough for success.

Goliath (EEPC): +2 STR and +1 CON, automatic Athletics proficiency, reduce damage taken from something once per short rest and ability to carry and lift more stuff round out a pretty darn good race for STR-Paladins.

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). The immunity to magical sleep and advantage vs. charms that Elves get. And also two free skills of your choice (ahem, Perception).

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.

Minotaur (Krynn) (UA: Waterborne): Typically you’ll choose +2 STR. The big deal besides that is the free Charger-esque ability you get with your horns. Decent, but not spectacular.

Shifter (UA: Eberron): All Shifters get +1 to DEX, Darkvision, and a short-rest recharge Shifting power that gives them a solid amount of temp HPs plus a subrace-dependent benefit. Pretty solid.
Beasthide: +1 CON and extra AC when shifting. Good.
Cliffwalk: An extra +1 DEX and climbing speed when shifting. Decent, although Longstride is usually better for the same type of build.
Longstride: Extra +1 DEX and Dash as a bonus action while shifting. Overall the best subrace for a DEX-based Shifter Paladin.
Longtooth: +1 STR, but the bite attack while shifting is kinda weak. Pass.
Razorclaw: Extra +1 DEX and a bonus action slashing unarmed strike while shifting. Presumably, you can’t use a shield, a second weapon or a two-hander when making this attack, which really limits your build options. Unless you can kick, but then you probably can’t wear boots. Really depends on how your DM adjudicates this, but I’m going to err on the side of caution and recommend Longstride, instead.
Wildhunt: +1 WIS to round out an array, plus advantage on WIS checks and saves while shifting. Fair.

Tiefling: +2 to CHA is great, but the +1 INT is a waste. Besides that, there's the hilarious logistics behind trying to cast Hellish Rebuke if you're using a shield (since it has a somatic component). Overall, decent, but not great at Paladinhood.

Warforged (UA: Eberron): +1 STR and CON, free +1 to AC and no need to eat or breathe make for a solid STR-Paladin race.

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. A second feat (third if Variant Human) might be worth the sacrifice of a 20 CHA, at least, for a few builds.

Because feats are going to come at a premium for Paladins, it’s very important to pick wisely, and preferably with an eye toward the long term. Hence, only feats that Paladins conceivably would consider will be mentioned here.

If using a two-handed weapon:

Great Weapon Master: A bonus action attack whenever you kill an enemy essentially serves as overkill protection and is great in fights against multiple foes and hordes (again, your class' weakness). Getting that on a crit also makes it decent against a boss. As for the -5 to hit for +10 to damage per hit trade, you'll mainly be using that if you get your attack rolls buffed in some way (e.g. Advantage from Vow of Enmity, bonus from Sacred Weapon), in which case your damage potential climbs dramatically. If you’re Vengeance and using a greatsword, consider this mandatory, since between the Vow and your Oath spells you’ll be getting advantage and extra attacks often. If you’re using a polearm, Polearm Master is the higher priority, although the -5 hit /+10 damage trade from this certainly plays nice in addition on the butt-end attack from Polearm Master if you’re going for pure damage.

If using a glaive or halberd:

Polearm Master: Let’s face it, this feat is THE VERY REASON you’d want to use a glaive or halberd. Getting an extra trigger for an OA — when the enemy moves to your 10-foot reach — is huge, and a reliable source of reaction attacks. Bonus action is covered, too, with an attack with the butt end of your weapon that even adds your STR modifier (and plays very well with your Improved Divine Smite!). This feat combos very well with Sentinel, in which case your OAs upon approach stop your enemy dead in their tracks. That’s a combo worth sacrificing a 20 CHA for. Or if you just prefer raw damage, take Great Weapon Master for its -5 hit/+10 damage trade instead, which works its magic on the butt-end attack.

If using a shield:

Shield Master: Solid set of benefits, with some limitations on them all that keep this feat from true greatness. The bonus action to shove is great if you’re a STR-attacker with Athletics proficiency, creating free advantage for your ensuing Attack action if you choose the prone option — but remember that shove is limited to Large or smaller. Shield bonus to DEX save, likewise, great against single-target effects, but no use against area of effect abilities like a dragon’s breath. The last benefit gives you a partial Evasion-type effect when you make any DEX save (this one works against AoEs), using your reaction to take no damage; a DEX-attacker will actually benefit from this quite often with Aura of Protection in play, but STR-attackers not quite as much. Overall, still a very good pick, but just mind the limitations.

General options:

Alert: +5 to initiative is good for just about everyone, and you’re no exception. Getting to act at least before the enemy gets to take a turn can be pretty huge. And, you know, if your Wizard ally gets off a Hold Monster, it’d be nice if you got in your auto-crit smites before the enemy got a chance to save, eh?
Defensive Duelist: Worthy pick for DEX-Paladins with a finesse weapon, who stand a pretty good chance of turning a hit against them into a miss every round. Does use your reaction to do that, though.
Heavy Armor Master: Absolutely fantastic for a 1st-level Variant Human, when the 3-point damage reduction vs. nonmagical weapons will be of the highest benefit (plus with the +1 STR attached to this feat, it's a way for a Variant Human to start with effectively a +2 STR bonus). The benefit does taper off at higher levels vs. harder-hitting enemies or enemies who have some sort of magical weapons, but even then it’s still a neat boost to overall survivability numbers, particularly against enemies with Multiattack.
Inspiring Leader: You’ll certainly qualify for it, and if you’re expected to play more of a leadership/support role, this is easily a top-tier choice. Between short rests you grant yourself and all allies in a typical party an amount of temporary hit points not much less than a Cleric’s Mass Cure Wounds spell can heal.
Lucky: Hardly a character-defining feat like others on the list, but its 3 per-day rerolls of a d20 is a solid enough benefit to be mentioned here.
Mounted Combatant: All Paladins get easy access to a mount via their 2nd-level spell Find Steed. With that in mind, this one is fantastic in a mounted combat-friendly campaign (i.e. ones that take place more outdoors than in dungeons or buildings). Aside from the constant advantage on attacks vs. enemies smaller than your mount, the largest benefit is the ability to take the hits for attacks targeted at your mount. Giving your mount an Evasion-type effect on DEX saves can also be a real mount-saver, particularly working with your Aura of Protection.
Resilient (Constitution): Getting proficiency in CON saves, along with a +1 to CON itself, is as good a pick as any for you. CON is targeted often and by some of the nastiest stuff in the game. And then there's Concentration checks so you can keep your buff and smite spells alive when taking damage; in fact, combined with Aura of Protection and a decent CON bonus (+2 or +3) you can get Concentration checks into auto-save territory against most typical instances of monster damage. (e.g. Lv. 9 Paladin with CHA 16, CON 14, and Resilient = +3 CHA +2 CON +4 proficiency = auto-save on DC 10 checks.)
Sentinel: If you played the Fighter in 4th Edition, this will look very familiar; it pretty much gives you that Fighter’s two main Defender mechanics used to punish an enemy and/or keep them stuck next to you. This feat becomes MUCH more effective if your DM has marking in effect (DMG p. 271), in which case you’ll be able to get those speed-sapping OAs against more than just one enemy every round. The other case in which this feat becomes much more valuable, as mentioned before, is with Polearm Master.
War Caster: A nigh-mandatory pick for arcane gish-types, but for you … not nearly so. That’s because of the beauty of holy symbols that can be inlaid on your shield, taking care of the requirements to cast V,S,M spells even fully armed and shielded. As for V,S spells, just cast them before you draw your weapon. If you’re using a two-hander, or otherwise don’t use a shield, you’re golden for both V,S,M and V,S spells fully armed with a holy symbol worn as an amulet. In any event, Resilient (CON) is a much higher-priority choice for Paladins, by far. On the other hand, if you’re multiclassing with an arcane caster somehow, then this feat starts looking appealing again.

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.

Lv. 1 Spells (Paladin Lv. 2)

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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Divine Favor: 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration. Adds 1d4 radiant damage to all your hits, which averages to 2.5. Keep in mind that a 1st-level Divine Smite adds 2d8 (average 9). Assume a 65% hit rate: 9/(.65*2.5) = 5.54, which means on average, you’ll need to attack 6 times before you’re expected to surpass the damage contribution a 1st-level Smite gives you. As you can see, that’s pretty inefficient, especially when it’s very possible at early levels that you’ll lose Concentration before you even get to 6 attacks for a fight. The only battles where this is really worth casting in melee are against hordes of CR 1/4 or 1/2 mooks, in which case the extra 1-4 points of damage can spell the difference between living or dead enemy on a successful hit. Of course, this also becomes worthwhile when you’re stuck in an entirely ranged battle, since Divine Smite only works in melee.
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. Can come in handy in fights against strong multiple foes, one of the few tools in the box for these types of fights for Vengeance Paladins.
Hunter's Mark: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. Well, you get to steal the Ranger’s staple spell for boosting single-target DPR. But how good is it for you? Well, compared to a 1st-level Divine Smite (2d8 = 9), assuming 65% hit rate, 1d6 = 3.5 damage per hit: 9/(.65*3.5) = 3.96. So an average of attacking 4 times before you match a 1st-level Smite in damage contribution. Moreover, unlike even Divine Favor, it’s rather inefficient against hordes of mooks, since selecting a new target always takes another bonus action. On the plus side, it can last up to an hour (or 8 hours with a 3rd-level slot, or an entire day with a 5th) … but unless you can get Concentration checks into auto-save territory vs. DC 10, at least, you can’t count on maintaining it nearly that long. So, basically, it’s really not worth casting at Lv. 1-5. At Lv. 6 or higher, with Aura of Protection in play and preferably also with the feat Resilient (CON), this spell looks a lot more attractive and has a much better chance of being the efficient long-term DPR boost it’s meant to be.

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. Hot garbage. A normal attack plus just a 1st-level Divine Smite is going to do more damage every time.

Lv. 2 Spells (Paladin Lv. 5)

Find Steed: 10 minutes; V,S. If nothing else, keep this spell prepared just because a steed will greatly cut down on your travel times. And even if you do get caught in combat, the penalty for your steed getting whacked in combat 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.
Magic Weapon: 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration. Bless is still higher priority, mind, but if a Cleric has that covered this is easily a staple buff 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.
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.
Branding Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. The most important thing to note about this Smite spell is that, unlike most other Smite spells, this one works with a ranged attack. Just for that fact alone, it’s never a bad idea to prepare this. The extra damage (2d6 radiant) does scale when upcast, too. The usefulness of the invisibility prevention effect, on the other hand, is highly situational; if you are in melee it’s usually better to just save your 2nd-level spell slot for a Divine Smite.
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, 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 creatures, and will damage two adjacent enemies at once. Making this spell at least something to use against hordes. 2D10, with CON save for half, is respectable damage for this level, and it does scale with upcasting. Moving the beam can be worth using your action if clusters of enemies form.
Misty Step: 1 bonus action; V. A bonus action teleport! Teleporting is great to have 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. Needs no introduction. Enjoy your auto-crits and free double-powered Divine Smites on the poor humanoid sap afterwards.
Misty Step: 1 bonus action; V. Again, bonus action teleporting. Enough said.

Oathbreaker Spells

Darkness: 1 action; V,M; Concentration. Usefulness depends on if you have darkvision somehow (race, spell, item); if you do this can actually be pretty useful. If you don’t, you probably don’t want to cast this.
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.

Lv. 3 Spells (Paladin Lv. 9)

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 this. Consider this your staple heal to cast out of combat and keep prepared at all times.
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.
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.
Crusader's Mantle: 1 action; V; Concentration. This is a solid party-wide damage buff, but with some caveats. First, Bless is still higher priority, so make sure your party has that covered first before you cast this. Second, since this takes an action to cast, you ALWAYS want to cast this BEFORE the start of a combat, NOT in the first round, otherwise you’ll lose too much damage from simply not attacking when you could’ve (it lasts a full minute, or 10 rounds, which is a lot more than most combats take, so don't worry about wasting it). So assuming you’re casting this the right way, break down the math vs. a 3rd-level Smite (4d8 = avg. 18). Assuming the usual 65% chance to hit in melee, 18/(.65*2.5) = 11.08, so 12 attacks from the party to surpass the damage contribution from a 3rd-level Smite. A Fighter with Action Surge, over 3 rounds, will make 8 attacks at Lv. 9-10, and 12 attacks at Lv. 11+. Any other character with Extra Attack will make 6 attacks over the same 3 rounds. So that indicates that, for this spell to be worth a pre-battle cast, you want at least one Fighter in the party, and preferably also a third ally with Extra Attack besides you. If, in addition to that, you happen to have an ally with Conjure spells or a Necromancer’s army, or if you’re commanding an actual army, then this gets much better still.
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.
Create Food and Water: 1 action; V,S. A good spell to prepare during very long expeditions.
Daylight: 1 action; V,S. A source of bright light can be good sometimes. There’s just too many other good spells at this level, though.
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.
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.

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. If you can get Concentration checks into auto-save territory (take Resilient (CON) for that), this is as good as a Lv. 1-5 personal combat buff gets. Cast before you anticipate combat; it lasts 10 rounds, so don’t worry about “wasting” the first couple rounds of duration. The extra attack from this is obviously great, and against a Vow target can result in some of the gaudiest DPR numbers, not to mention giving you another chance to Divine Smite. The double speed can even let you melee attack an enemy you couldn’t reach otherwise that round. And the advantage on DEX saves and +2 to AC can’t be ignored, either. (If you didn’t take Resilient (CON) then this spell is much less attractive, and can become a double-edged sword).
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.

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.
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.

Lv. 4 Spells (Paladin Lv. 13)

Banishment: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Remove a strong enemy in a group from play, making the rest of the fight easier, or if it's a single boss, have the party prepare readied actions for when it reappears for a nice full-scale assault. Great either way. And if it's a creature non-native to the plane, even better, as you get rid of them permanently, if that's what you wanted. If you're Vengeance, 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.
Staggering Smite: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. The damage and effects aren’t bad — 4d6 extra psychic and on a failed WIS save the enemy can’t take reactions and has disadvantage on attacks and skill checks. These specific effects take place even if an enemy is specifically immune to, say, blind or fear. BUT the one big problem keeping this spell from greatness is the duration of the effects — it only lasts until the end of the enemy’s next turn FLAT. True, your party can still do a lot of damage during that time (IF the initiative order cooperates), but that’s a bit underwhelming for a 4th-level smite spell, don’t you think? It doesn’t hurt to prepare this one in case you run into enemies immune to blind or fear, but if those immunities aren’t a factor, Blinding Smite and Wrathful Smite are just better.
Locate Creature: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Prepare it when you need it. Definitely don’t prepare it full-time.

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. Pretty decent, particularly against multiple enemies.

Ancients Oath Spells

Ice Storm: 1 action; V,S,M. Hooray, a direct damage spell you can use to fight hordes and multiple enemies! Definitely an answer to the Paladin's overall weakness in those types of fights, and a pretty good one at that.
Stoneskin: 1 action; V,S,M*; Concentration. An old classic, and resistance to any nonmagical damage involving the usual weapon types is nice indeed. Cost is 100 gp per cast, not insignificant, but not a complete drain, either, if used judiciously.

Vengeance Oath Spells

Banishment is already on the Paladin list.
Dimension Door: 1 action; V. Teleport up to 500 feet, for the win. You can bring one ally with you, too.

Oathbreaker Spells

Confusion: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. A solid control effect against multiple enemies that has an 80 percent chance round to round of making the enemy a nonfactor against you.
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.

Lv. 5 Spells (Paladin Lv. 17)

Destructive Wave: 1 action; V. This is THE horde-clearing spell for the Paladin class in general. Too bad it comes really late in their career, but better late than never. 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. Strongly suggested that you keep this one prepared at all times, just in case.
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+).
Geas: 1 minute; V. Can definitely be useful if you need to compel some low-level NPC into doing your will.
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. Actually not that impressive in your case. This competes directly with Destructive Wave, which both does more damage and has a much larger area of effect, plus doesn't require somatic and material components unlike this one. It does have distance going for it, but even then it's only 60 feet, so I honestly can't think of many cases where casting this is preferable to Destructive Wave.

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. Again, needs no introduction. Enjoy your auto-crits and double-powered Divine Smites.
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.

Oathbreaker Spells

Contagion: 1 action; V,S. The effects of the disease have been clarified (by Jeremy Crawford here) to not kick in until 3 failed saves. Which is a good thing for the game, because it’d be hilariously broken otherwise. But in a pure combat situation, its utility is very limited. The only time you’d want to cast it in combat is if you’re facing a likely recurring adversary who likes to escape at the first sign of defeat; make them roll saving throws (or burn Legendary Resistances) as a parting gift.
Dominate Person: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Mind-controlling humanoids is fun, and useful.

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)
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.

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.)

Potential Multiclass options:

Bard: Perfectly compatible stats qualifying-wise and spellcasting-wise (CHA 13). You get an extra skill of your choice when entering this, too, along with some extra spellcasting and leader-type stuff.
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.
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. Very robust level.
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, so it may be a bit surprising that it doesn't rank as highly as some other options. But that said, it can be viable. 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. The prize most Paladins will go for is at Lv. 6, with the Channel Divinity 2 times per short rest.
Lv. 1: Cantrips and your first Domain feature and pair of Domain spells. Life, in particular, is a really good Domain for a Paladin dipping Cleric levels to take, since none of its features or Channel Divinity options are WIS-dependent, and only one of its Domain spells has an attack roll or DC related to WIS. The Lv. 1 feature of Life powers up all healing spells, and not just Cleric ones, either. Heck, you even get Bless always on tap; how good is that!?
Lv. 6: Channel Divinity twice per short rest. The main reason a Paladin will “dip” Cleric levels. You also get another Domain feature, and Life’s, again, is pretty decent.

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: Your Fighter Archetype, and all three choices here have something to offer. Battle Master is the most consistently effective with the healthy short rest-recharge arsenal you gain (4 d8 Superiority Dice, 3 maneuvers). Champion has its points with its doubled crit range, which means a better chance of adding doubled Smite damage. Eldritch Knight is pretty pointless if a 3- or 4-level dip is all you want, but if you’re going further than that, it looks a lot more attractive thanks to the spell slot gain beyond your Paladin levels.
Lv. 11: 3 attacks per Attack action. With 9 Paladin levels, you still have 3rd-level spells, Aura of Protection, and the particularly strong Lv. 7 Oath feature. If you went Eldritch Knight, you’ll still have a fair number of spell slots to play with.

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-based Paladin of Vengeance somehow trained in Stealth (via race or background), in particular, this can be quite an effective option. The first two levels contain the goodness of Expertise and Cunning Action (plus a Sneak Attack die or two), and then the big prize of Assassinate at Lv. 3. 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 Thieves’ Tools proficiency as well.
Lv. 3: Assassin for Assassinate. This is why you want to be trained (and preferably even Expertised) in Stealth somehow, so you have a better chance to set up those surprise round auto-crits! And you can imagine how lovely those are going to get with a charged-up smite spell, Divine Smite and Extra Attack.

Sorcerer: Compatible qualifying and casting stat with CHA, so a very attractive option. 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: Favored Soul (UA: Class Design Variants) is overall the clear winner here, especially for a dip, with the free Cleric domain spells you get at just this level (and 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th if you go that far). And unlike with a Cleric MC, those spells will be Charisma-based! Draconic Bloodline can be good for DEX-Paladins with that free natural armor amounting to 1 AC better than studded leather, and looks more attractive if you’re going to take 6 or more Sorcerer levels. (Don’t take Wild Magic; it has nothing to offer you.)
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).
Lv. 6: A worthy level for Draconic Bloodline. Elemental Affinity goes very well with Elemental Weapon (extra CHA modifier to damage) and perhaps some of your smite spells. Or spend a sorcery point for resistance to your chosen damage type. For Favored Souls with more than 5 Paladin levels this is obviously a wasted level, since two instances of Extra Attack do not stack.
Lv. 9: 5th-level Sorcerer spells. Still allows room for the Paladin’s Improved Divine Smite.

Warlock: As with Sorcerer and Bard, a compatible qualifying and casting stat with CHA, makes for an especially attractive dipping option. 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 PHB release, and was reflected as such in the June 2015 errata.
Lv. 1: A first-level Patron feature (Dark One’s Blessing and Fey Presence are both pretty good), a couple of cantrips (ahem, Eldritch Blast) you can go nuts with since it uses CHA just like your own spells, and one recharging spell slot all make for a terrific one-level dip.
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 rechargeable Smites at maximum power. Still allows room for 4th-level Paladin spells at the end.
Lv. 9: 5th-level Warlock spells and slots. Still allows room for Improved Divine Smite.

Wizard: Requires heavy investment in what is typically the Paladin’s dump stat to enter (INT 13). There is one big draw that might make the extra MAD worthwhile, especially if you plan to break your Oath.
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.


Filled as needed


X. Builds and Combos

I. Variant Human, Oath of Devotion, Shield Master

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

Proficient skills: Persuasion (CHA), History (INT), Perception (WIS), Athletics (STR), Insight (WIS)
Proficient tools: Gaming set (one type)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Longsword
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, Shield Master
Lv. 4: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Shield Master
Lv. 8: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Shield Master
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Shield Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Shield Master, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 20, Shield Master, Resilient (CON)

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Dueling

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

II. Dragonborn, Oath of Devotion, Sentinel

Race: Dragonborn
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LG

Proficient skills: Athletics (STR), Intimidation (CHA), Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS)
Proficient tools: Gaming set (one type), vehicles (land)

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

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

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

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Dueling

Most oft-prepared spells (total 14 + Oath spells at Lv. 20):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite. Oath: Protection from Evil and Good, Sanctuary
2nd level: Find Steed, Magic Weapon. Oath: Lesser Restoration, Zone of Truth
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle, Elemental Weapon, Revivify. Oath: Beacon of Hope, Dispel Magic
4th level: Banishment, Death Ward. Oath: Freedom of Movement, Guardian of Faith
5th level: Banishing Smite, Destructive Wave. Oath: Commune, Flame Strike

III. Half-Elf, Oath of Ancients, Sentinel

Race: Half-Elf
Background: Outlander
Alignment: NG

Proficient skills: Athletics (STR), Survival (WIS), Perception (WIS), Acrobatics (DEX), Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS)
Proficient tools: Musical instrument (one type)

Armor: Studded leather, Shield
Weapon: Rapier
Other: Holy Symbol (Emblem, on Shield)

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

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 8, DEX 16, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 16
Lv. 4: STR 8, DEX 16, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 16, Sentinel
Lv. 8: STR 8, DEX 18, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 16, Sentinel
Lv. 12: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 16, Sentinel
Lv. 16: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 16, Sentinel, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 18, Sentinel, Resilient (CON)

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Dueling

Most oft-prepared spells (total 14 + Oath spells at Lv. 20):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite. Oath: Ensnaring Strike, Speak with Animals
2nd level: Find Steed, Magic Weapon. Oath: Moonbeam, Misty Step
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Crusader’s Mantle, Blinding Smite, Elemental Weapon, Revivify. Oath: Plant Growth, Protection from Energy
4th level: Banishment, Death Ward. Oath: Ice Storm, Stoneskin
5th level: Banishing Smite, Destructive Wave. Oath: Commune with Nature, Tree Stride

IV. Variant Human, Oath of Vengeance, Polearm Master/Sentinel

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

Proficient skills: Athletics (STR), Intimidation (CHA), Perception (WIS), Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS)
Proficient tools: Gaming set (one type), vehicles (land)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it)
Weapon: Glaive or Halberd
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, Sentinel
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Sentinel
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Sentinel
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 18, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Resilient (CON)

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Great Weapon Fighting

Most oft-prepared spells (total 14 + Oath spells at Lv. 20):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite. Oath: Bane, Hunter’s Mark
2nd level: Find Steed, Magic Weapon. Oath: Hold Person, Misty Step
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle, Elemental Weapon, Revivify. Oath: Haste, Protection from Energy
4th level: Death Ward. Oath: Banishment, Dimension Door
5th level: Banishing Smite, Circle of Power, Destructive Wave. Oath: Hold Monster, Scrying

V. Half-Orc, Oath of Vengeance, Great Weapon Master

Race: Half-Orc
Background: Pirate
Alignment: N

Proficient skills: Athletics (STR), Perception (WIS), Intimidation (CHA), Insight (WIS), Persuasion (CHA)
Proficient tools: Navigator’s tools, vehicles (water)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it)
Weapon: Greatsword or Maul
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 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Great Weapon Master
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 16, Great Weapon Master
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

Most oft-prepared spells (total 14 + Oath spells at Lv. 20):
1st level: Bless, Command, Wrathful Smite. Oath: Bane, Hunter’s Mark
2nd level: Find Steed, Magic Weapon. Oath: Hold Person, Misty Step
3rd level: Aura of Vitality, Blinding Smite, Crusader’s Mantle, Elemental Weapon, Revivify. Oath: Haste, Protection from Energy
4th level: Death Ward. Oath: Banishment, Dimension Door
5th level: Banishing Smite, Circle of Power, Destructive Wave. Oath: Hold Monster, Scrying

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