D&D 5E Need tips for my Paladin



I am creating a Paladin for the first time and need some help. First of all:
  • In all that years, I learned that I really need a character that is versatile in combat and has good damage output.
  • I like min-maxing.
  • Realistically, I am planning to play this character until level ~12-15.
  • We are using almost all optional rule books that are reasonable for Faerûn.

Considering options:
  1. How to early get a use for my Bonus Action? And should I play with Polearm Mastery?
    I noticed, this seems really critical, as the Paladin doesn't have much options for his Bonus Action (BA). So, Polearm Mastery (PM) comes into play.

  2. Should I use a shield or a 2H-Polearm for reach?
    • I could go for a Spear + Shield + Dueling Style
      • Pros: +2 Armor, +2 Dmg.
      • Cons: No reach to trigger a lot of reaction attacks
    • or use a 2H-Polearm + GWF or Defense
      • Pros: Reach to trigger reaction attacks w ith PA(!), higher Damage
      • Cons: -1/-2 armor compared to 1H/Shield (depending of the chosen Fighting Style).
  3. Which race: Human (Variant) vs. Aasimar?
    • Human: Extra Feat, worse stats (2x +1), extra skill
    • Aasimar: No Feat, but better stats (+2/+1), Darkvision, Celestial Resistances, Healing Hands, Clestial Revelation

(My) Conclusion:

Finally, I am always ending up with these "rough character sketches" of an early level 5 character:

Build 1: Aasimar, 2H Polearm Master
  • STR 15+1, DEX 10, CON 14, WIS 10, CHA 14+2
  • Race: Darkvision, Celestial Resistances, Healing Hands, Clestial Revelation
  • Fighting Style: Defensive Style (+1 Armor)
  • ASI: Polearm Mastery (for Bonus Action + Reach)

Build 2: Human (Variant), 2H Polearm Master
  • STR 15+1, DEX 10, CON 13(ASI: +1), WIS 10, CHA 15+1
  • Race Feat: Polearm-Mastery (for Bonus Action + Reach)
  • Fighting Style: Defensive Style (+1 Armor)
  • ASI: Resilient CON

Build 3: Aasimar, 1H-Polearm Duelist
  • STR 15+1, DEX 10, CON 14, WIS 10, CHA 14+2
  • Race: Darkvision, Celestial Resistances, Healing Hands, Clestial Revelation
  • Fighting Style: Dueling (+2 Damage)
  • ASI: Polearm Mastery (for Bonus Action, but no reach!)

My Questions:
  1. Did I forget to take anything into account?
  2. What would you prefer/recommend and why?
  3. Which Oath would you go for?

Thanks in advance!
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I recommend variant human. If you are using Tasha's Fey Touched feat was worthwhile to misty step into the middle of the bad guys or out of harms way. Only played low levels for that character but at low levels sleep was really good too. If they are low enough to put to sleep, an attack from you when they are incapacitated has a decent chance to kill them.

I'll push back a little on the idea that Paladins lack options for bonus actions. Technically speaking they can activate all the Smite spells, which unfortunately are cumbersome and risky compared to just using Divine Smite. Paladins actually have the most bonus action casting heavy spell list in the game, it's just also heavy on crap you'll never use.

More importantly, your Paladin Oath may involve heavy use of bonus action. Oath of Vengence, in particular, gets both the bonus action using and reusing Hunter's Mark spell and the bonus action using Vow of Enmity ability. Will these things use the bonus action literally every turn? No. Will they use it enough that investing in a feat to weaponize your bonus action starts to feel disappointing? Possibly.

My advice on a levels 1-12 campaign is to limit your expectations with a weapon specific feat like PAM, figure out the DM's approach to magic items, and/or clarify what the feat respec options are at your table.

It is without doubt a powerful feat in first tier play. In fact the weaponized bonus action feats are the only ones I'd generally take a variant human or custom race to get. Two attacks when everyone else is making one is simply fantastic. But you are married to a narrow range of weapons, and if you are then taking a fighting style that narrows you down to just glaive or halberd, or just spear (or quarterstaff, but that might not fit your aesthetic) to use your fighting style, then in higher level play when more interesting specimens of weaponry begin to show up, you may find yourself having to pass them up with longing.

My own Polearm master experience was with a Fighter/Barbarian in a published module where the DM was basically not adding any magic weapons. While I did by chance get a swell magic spear, and using PAM to weaponize bonus actions was great for 2 or 3 levels (and took the sting away from having to wait and extra level for extra attack due to my multiclass), I eventually got a longsword that was better than the spear, and that someone had to wield for macguffin reasons, and ended up taking the feat to dual-wield them, at which point the PAM feat's primary value was reduced to some opportunity attacks when enemies approached me.

I feel like if you marry yourself specifically to a spear or specifically to a reach polearm then while there are few tables where you won't get a cool one at some point, you might be waiting a longish while. Meanwhile the DM is probably throwing another cool strength based weapon or two at the party. Maybe it's in a published module, maybe they roll random loot, maybe they give enemies magic weapons according to their needs rather than the group's, or maybe they want to throw some items in not intended for any particular player to see what the party does with them. Unless you have a DM who only ever includes magic weapons specifically to fit a specific PC's needs you are probably going to see cool weapons a Paladin could use that don't jive with your particular feat/fighting style combo go by before you get a polearm upgrade.

Which is not to say PAM is bad, just to say, that in a 12-15 level campaign a lot of stuff you didn't plan for will happen and hyper-weapon-specific builds have a major drawback.

If you're doing PAM I would go Variant Human to get it as soon as possible. It's particularly powerful before level 5. This goes double if you are playing with a not well-established group, because whatever the ambitions of the campaign, they fizzle relatively early as often as they make through a full 12-15 level zero to hero experience.

Alternatively I would go with Aasimar with vague plans of being a Polearm Master someday maybe, and let the game progress as it will.

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
For me the first question you should ask is which Oath you are going to take. On a purely mechanical basis, it determines which extra spells you will have available and (more important, for me) which aura you get at level 7. The auras at levels 6 and 7 completely change play not just for you but for the whole party. (Oath also affects your channel divinity options, which include which creatures you can turn. Look particularly to Watchers Devotion and Ancients to find what you feel will be right for the campaign. (It helps, eg. to know if you are going up against undead or whatever).

It's good that you want to find a use for your bonus action. Shield Master and Telekinesis feats also are useful for this (if you are a minotaur, you don't need to spend a feat!). It's not damage, but pushing people around is always fun. Depending on your intention for weapons: you are more likely to find magical one-handed weapons in most campaigns, and so sword-and-board is worth considering (it also lets you have your holy symbol on it, saving you from worrying about free interactions). That then lets you not worry about the defensive style but instead duelling or blind fighting ('cause it's cool), or (if you want to be a team player) interception. On feats, Fey touched has been mentioned and it is pretty great.

I myself would not be looking at PAM. It gives you the extra attack, but if I wanted to do damage, I'd focus on getting smites.

Skills: You will want proficiency in Athletics.

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