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D&D 5E 'The Paladin as King': Cutting Through the Hype

Leugren

First Post

"The Paladin is King!"


I've seeing this expression pop up several times on different forums, but I'm not completely sold yet. Though I have read through the various paladin guides, I have not actually seen a paladin in action. I'm therefore curious to hear from people who have. What makes the paladin so great? Here is what I'm seeing superficially, without any actual play experience to back my observations up:


STRENGTHS:

1. Great burst damage with the ability to convert spell slots into Divine Smite. With the exception of rogues, paladins potentially have the best single attack damage in the game.
2. Paladin auras are really good.
3. Access to the best weapons and armor.
4. Decent HP and some self-healing via Lay on Hands and healing spells.
4. Access to some decent spells.

WEAKNESSES:

Paladins are MAD as hell, with most ASI's needed to bump up their main combat attribute (STR or DEX) and CHA. This has a couple of negative side effects:

1. The Paladin will have very few points left over for Constitution. They will likely lag behind other front-liners in terms of HP. Lay on Hands and access to healing spells help mitigate this, but LOH takes an action, so I speculate that a lot of Paladins will end up taking frequent dirt naps, especially if they are not maximizing their AC by going sword-and-board style. They just don't seem to have to durability of, say, a barbarian, so I'm just not sure how well equipped they are to stand on the front lines without significant support.

2. Lower Constitution, and lack of proficiency with Constitution saves suggests that maintaining Concentration will be a dicey proposition for paladins at best. As a front-liner, the Paladin will take a lot of hits every round, so I wouldn't expect a Concentration spell to last more than a round or two, given the law of averages. Since so many of the Paladin's best spells require Concentration, Resilient (Con) becomes a must, which uses up yet another ASI slot.

3. ASI's are at such a premium for Paladins that playing anything other than a Variant Human will render you a shackled runner, since you will have almost zero room to round out your build with some of the best feats in the game.

With all of that stated, I am really curious to hear from people who are actually playing paladins. How do you deal with these challenges in practice? Do paladins only shine when they have other strong front-liners to help shoulder the burden or am I overestimating their squishiness. Are paladins as challenged in the Concentration department as I'm guessing, or are you actually able to maintain, say, a bless spell over the course of an entire combat while getting pummeled repeatedly on the front line? If the former, then do you compensate by steering clear of Concentration spells? Do you use most of your spell slots on Divine Smite, and if so, do you find it hard to budget them? What do you love the most about your paladin?

Disclaimer: The intent of this thread is to talk about paladin mechanics. If you want to touch on topics other than mechanics, please start a different thread. Thank you!
 

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Logain08

First Post
I have played an Oath of Vengeance paladin in homebrew setting and I loved that class so much, that I'm playing the same class again in a new campaign, this time set in Eberron. I can tell you a bit of my experience playing a paladin.

What you say is true, the paladin class is extremely MAD, since both strength/dexterity and charisma are extremely important for a paladin. But both my paladins are half-elves, not variant humans, since I like their extra skills and the bonuses to attributes they give. Darkvision is also pretty nice to have. So I don't think that variant humans are the only viable option for paladins, not even close.

In my experience, paladins offer a lot to an adventuring group. You have good AC and hit points, and when it counts you can hit like a truck. It's also a fun class to play, for me, in terms of resource management: how much LoH do I use at any given moment (based on what type and how many more encounters you expect), do I smite now or do I save my slots for a possible boss encounter, or do I want to cast a certain spell to give my team some advantages? I really like this aspect of playing a paladin. You can do a lot of stuff relatively well, and based on your chosen Oath you can provide some nice defensive benefits to your team or be quite possibly the best boss killer in the game.
My brother is my DM and he said he thought my character was the most difficult to deal with: good damage that trivializes his boss encounters, immunity to disease, lay on hands to counter poisons, and great saving throws that in his opinion made the paladin too strong. I disagree with him as I don't think the paladin as a class is overpowered, but it is very powerful and versatile.

That said, I do find that the class has some glaring weaknesses. Ranged combat is a struggle for me, always. Javelins are a sucky ranged option (I play a strength paladin) and the class itself offers nothing in terms of increased mobility or other options to deal with ranged threats. So I really have to rely on my team members to deal with those, or close the distance, but suck up the hits whilst doing so.

Another weakness, in my experience, is that the paladin itself is not really good in large encounters. You really shine against strong foes (bosses) and big threats. But if you're surrounded by a lot of enemies, a paladin doesn't really have any option but to take them down one by one. Destructive Wave is a very cool spell, but I doubt I will ever see it in actual play, since it comes so late in a paladin's career.

Turning now to feats: I completely agree with you. There are so many great feats for paladins and Resilient (constitution) seems nigh mandatory if you ever want to cast a concentration spell, such as bless (or haste as a higher level Oath of Vengeance paladin). Deciding on an attribute increase or a feat is extremely difficult and I'm currently doubting whether I should take GWM at level 4 or just increase my strength. Very difficult choices for a paladin... But yes, the MAD nature of paladins doesn't help, but maybe it helps balancing out the versatile strengths of the paladin class.

Sorry for the long post, I hope it was a little bit helpful.

TL;DR Paladins are awesome IMHO, but they do have their weaknesses. That's also what makes them so fun to play in my experience! :)
 

Leugren

First Post
Sorry for the long post, I hope it was a little bit helpful.

TL;DR Paladins are awesome IMHO, but they do have their weaknesses. That's also what makes them so fun to play in my experience! :)

Thank you very much for the long post. This is exactly the sort of information I was looking for. I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind. I am assuming that, as you are wielding a two-handed weapon of some sort, your armor class can't be very high. Is this true? What is your Constitution score? Has survivability ever become a big concern for you? If not, what are you doing to counter your relative squishiness? Do you have another front-liner in your party who helps you spread the damage around, or are you drawing most of the damage yourself? I am currently playing a GWF barbarian in a party where the only other character who ventures into melee is a life cleric. I get hit a lot, and I can't imagine how I would survive without damage resistance, unless I had a really high armor class from going sword-and-board.
 

Logain08

First Post
No problem, happy to answer your questions. I wield a greatsword with my paladins, although at low levels I used a shield + longsword for extra AC (and thus survivability).

In my first campaign, I have an AC of 19 (plate + ring of protection), we're at level 9 now. Same AC as the dexterity-based fighter (AC of 19 as well, but with a shield: 12+5 dex, +2 shield) in our party. In our new campaign, I'm the only front-liner so I tend to get hit more, but I play more defensively there (the dodge action helps, while our monk deals some pretty good damage actually). The second campaign has only just started, and my AC there is 18 (chain mail + shield), best in our group (monk, light cleric and wizard).

Both my paladins have 14 constitution. I don't think it will ever be more than that, since - as you said - bumping strength and charisma are so important. I don't really understand why you think paladins are squishy. They can wear the best armor in the game and they can use shields. Same as fighters. A d10 hit die is also very nice, since only the barbarian outperforms the warrior classes in this respect. So if anything, I tend to be the most survivable party member of the group, and I have had to revive my comrades on more than one occasion with LoH. Sure, I get hit, but paladins can take a punch and after combat you can always heal yourself with LoH or depend on the healing capacities of others in your group.

So hit points have never been an issue for me, low constitution saving throws have, especially for concentrating on spells. I have learned to only use concentration-based spells when I consciously make the choice of playing the support role in a certain combat. For example, if we face a lot of ranged enemies, I tend to use bless to buff the warlock and fighter of our group, while I stay back a bit in order to not get hit as often. Dodging helps. I have lost concentration on more than one occasion, so most of the time my slots are used for smiting whenever we face something that needs to die as fast as possible.

What I tend to do is the following: during most of the battles, I play defensively, even with GWF, and I use a shield and longsword. This means I underperform damage-wise, but I save my resources. I let other party members (a fighter in one group, a monk in the other) do the damage. I'm just there to draw attention and soak up damage. But then when we face something big and bad, I take out my greatsword, go in and use Oath of Enmity. Then it's time for me to shine: smiting left and right and trying to drop the thing before it does too much damage. Doesn't work all of the time (terrain has been an issue sometimes, and I remember one Aboleth fight that was a huge PITA), but it does work fairly well most of the time and when it does it's glorious. Like I said, playing a paladin for me has been very fun! You can support your team in multiple ways and you can have your own moments to shine. Very satisfying.
 

Leugren

First Post
Great, response! Thanks. I especially like the idea of switching from sword-and-board to GWF depending on circumstances. Is there anything you plan to do differently with your new paladin (i.e. lessons learned)? Is there a particular Fighting Style you favor? How have you used your ASI's for your level 9 paladin?

BTW: My perception of paladin squishiness is no doubt colored by my experiences with damage resistance and d12 HD's from playing a barbarian.
 
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Logain08

First Post
For my level 9 paladin, I raised my strength to 20 with my two ABIs. Rather boring, I know, but effective.

I favor GWF, not for wielding the greatsword as such, but for rerollling 1s and 2s when I smite. When I attack normally with my level 9 paladin, I do about the same damage as the rapier-wielding fighter in our group with the dueling style. So for me the value of GWF is mostly in extra smiting damage.

In our new campaign, I'm planning on taking GWM at level 4. I still think maxing your attack attribute (strength or dexterity) is more important, but I want something different this time around. And now we have a cleric to cast bless, which may offset my lower attack bonus and damage.

As for lessons learned:
- Bless is great, if you know when to use it. In our longest running campaign, I was the only one in the group who was able to cast it, but I often misjudged the need to cast it, wasting the slot.
- Wrathful Smite is an excellent level 1 spell. Great for taking out low-wisdom hard-hitting mobs, such as ogres and giants. If you succeed with wrathful smite, those type of monsters can basically do nothing to harm you for the rest of the fight. Fun stuff.
- Always keep some LoH on reserve, just in case you need to bring someone back during combat, or just after it.
- Abjure Enemy isn't as good as Oath of Enmity, but it has its uses, especially when you want to prevent an enemy from escaping or from closing the distance while you deal with other enemies.
- Relentless Avenger sucks. Especially compared to what Devotion or Ancient paladins get at that level. Moving 15 feet if you get an OA isn't all that great.
- I play the only character in our group that has a good strength score, don't underestimate the tactical options of shoving and knocking someone prone. You can contribute a lot to a group in that way. I want to use those options more in our new campaign.

I hope this is useful. But again, paladins are far from squishy. Sure, barbarians may be tougher, but I think they're supposed to be tougher anyway. Paladins are extremely versatile as far as warriors go: you can damage, take damage, support the party with spells, excellent burst damage, a pool of healing throughout the day whereby you can control (!) the amount you heal (so nothing is ever wasted!). So for me, depending on the encounter, there is always a useful way to contribute. I love the class!
 

Leugren

First Post
I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with me, Logain08! Your insights make me look forward to giving the paladin class a whirl.

Cheers!

Leugren
 

Logain08

First Post
You're very welcome Leugren, I hope it was useful and if you ever play a paladin, that you enjoy it as much as I do!

Cheers,
Logain
 

eafsaf2015

First Post

"The Paladin is King!"




Disclaimer: The intent of this thread is to talk about paladin mechanics. If you want to touch on topics other than mechanics, please start a different thread. Thank you!

Should this discussion be on this board? It's not about character build or optimization.... If you're looking to optimize for DPR you obviously go Veng with a 2 Handed Sword. Not sure why this is here? Moderator? EN falling off?
 

Are you interested in experiences with multiclass Paladins like Paladin 7/Wild Sorcerer 4? I've avoided pure Paladins because paladorcs are so obviously better.

Also, do you care about observations on feats?
 

Leugren

First Post
Are you interested in experiences with multiclass Paladins like Paladin 7/Wild Sorcerer 4? I've avoided pure Paladins because paladorcs are so obviously better.

Also, do you care about observations on feats?
Sure, I'd be interested, Hemlock. What's your level-to-level progression for this build? Why wild sorcerer as opposed to draconic? Have you found any hidden pain points in actual play? Any observations on feats would be welcome as well. Do you advocate picking up key feats early or maximizing your key ability scores first? Why?
 
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Leugren

First Post
Should this discussion be on this board? It's not about character build or optimization.... If you're looking to optimize for DPR you obviously go Veng with a 2 Handed Sword. Not sure why this is here? Moderator? EN falling off?

If getting the dirt on paladin mechanics from people who have actually played a paladin doesn't fall into your narrow definition of "Character Builds and Optimization", then I'm not sure what to say. I am skeptical of white-room theorycrafting, and seek to avoid traps that only manifest themselves in actual play. Anyone can read a few pages from a book and determine that a Vengeance Paladin with a Polearm (not a Greatsword) is going to have the highest DPR. I can do math without anyone's help. The real value of forums such as these is to learn from other peoples' actual play experiences.
 

mellored

Explorer
As mentioned, range is the biggest weakness of a paladin. Aura's are their biggest strength, but also keep people in fireball formation. Smiting is good, but they burn out fairly quickly.

So paladins are king...
of small room fights that happen 1/day.
 

RSIxidor

Adventurer
As mentioned, range is the biggest weakness of a paladin. Aura's are their biggest strength, but also keep people in fireball formation. Smiting is good, but they burn out fairly quickly.

So paladins are king...
of small room fights that happen 1/day.

I have seen Warlock+Paladins. Kind of tool-boxy with short-rest Smites, Hex, and Eldritch Blast as well as all the normal Paladin stuff.
 

SnakeEyes097

Villager
I play a Protection style paladin in our campaign, and it's probably saved my party members a few times so far. We have three front line party members (paladin, barbarian, rogue, warlock, cleric) and tend to clump up, so I use it almost every turn though. We're only level 3, going to hit 4 next session, so I don't know yet how well they do at higher levels. I don't have a problem keeping Bless up either, because I include myself in it so I get an extra d4 on my Con saves to keep it. I'm playing normal boring human, not variant, and my Con is 18 because we rolled our stats, and I put my highest (17) there so that probably has a lot to do with it too, since it got bumped to 18 by the blanket +1 ability increase of human.
 

mellored

Explorer
I have seen Warlock+Paladins. Kind of tool-boxy with short-rest Smites, Hex, and Eldritch Blast as well as all the normal Paladin stuff.
Warlock is a good way to fix the paladin's weaknesses.

Probably more optimal overall, though still not without trade-offs.
 

Kithas

First Post
Never played a paladin but I do plan to play a pal/sorc sometime in the future. (current characters son, dragon sorc/ancients Pal)
So no experience in the specific class but I will share this;
Remember your role in combat when you are picking your ability scores and equipment. If you are the frontline damage soak, your damage output is not all that important, and dueling helps bring that back up too! So no you won't out-damage the version of your pally that put his best stat into str and got it to 20 asap and is using that polearm. But your Aura of life concentrating sword and shield, 20 con paladin with a decent cha is going to keep you and your party alive sooo much longer.
Then again if your role is damage dealer, go for it, smash face. Try out Savage Attacker too! I know just by-the-averages it isnt that exciting. but it makes bad damage rolls for your smites almost not a thing.

tl/dr; Con can be more important than str based on your role in combat and I would say for paladins often IS more important.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
3. ASI's are at such a premium for Paladins that playing anything other than a Variant Human will render you a shackled runner, since you will have almost zero room to round out your build with some of the best feats in the game.

4th level variant human: +1 to two stats, +2 to a stat, 1 feat
4th level half-elf. +1 to two stats, +2 chr, 1 feat.

Looks pretty even if you would want to boost Chr as a paladin. Oh, but half elves also get darkvision, fey ancestry and two extra skills.

4th level variant human: +1 to two stats, +2 to a stat, 1 feat
4th level dragonborn: +2 str, +1 chr, 1 feat

So Dragonborn start 1 ability boost behind, but also gets a breath weapon (hordes being somethign paladins aren't good with) and damage resistance.

4th level variant human: +1 to two stats, +2 to a stat, 1 feat
4th level human: +1 to six stats, 1 feat

Not saying "+6 is better than +2", but as you pointed out paladins are MAD. At least three of those are good (Str/Dex, Con and Chr) and Wis is not bad. Plus dex if you're a str paladin for init and reflex saves. All in all, different but not weaker.

This is just three, there's a lot of viable paladin races. They are MAD, but that does make races that get more than +2 total racial ability bumps quite interesting.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Been running a half-elf Oath of Ancients paladin with polearm mastery quite effectively. 7th level now. Best AC and HPs in the group, give out +3 to all magic saves and resistance to magic damage within 10'. I burn though spells quickly smiting - rather save us healing and kill things fast instead of save and perhaps never use. (Which is the opposite of most casters I play.) I've found the cure disease/poison parts of Lay on Hands to be a hidden gem if not a common need.

My strength is a bit lower because of the feat, only 16. With a bless up (either from the cleric or myself) I don't have a problem hitting, and I have 3 attacks a round plus possible reaction attack from polearm master.

We have a barbarian who out-damages me (without smite) and has resistance while raging, everyone else is more support or artillery. I've let the sorcerer know it's just fine to rain fireballs down on my position if it'll get a lot of foes because I get +Chr to the save and resistance to the damage - I'm not that scared. (Plus both me and the barb will be twin hasted, so an extra +2 to reflex on top of it.) These synergies with the party really help us all do well.

One thing that helps overcome a weakness with the paladin is that I have an uncommon magic item: Winged Boots. Give me the ability to close across difficult terrain or flying opponents.
 

Leugren

First Post
I play a Protection style paladin in our campaign, and it's probably saved my party members a few times so far. We have three front line party members (paladin, barbarian, rogue, warlock, cleric) and tend to clump up, so I use it almost every turn though. We're only level 3, going to hit 4 next session, so I don't know yet how well they do at higher levels. I don't have a problem keeping Bless up either, because I include myself in it so I get an extra d4 on my Con saves to keep it. I'm playing normal boring human, not variant, and my Con is 18 because we rolled our stats, and I put my highest (17) there so that probably has a lot to do with it too, since it got bumped to 18 by the blanket +1 ability increase of human.
Rolling stats can clearly help mitigate MAD if you manage to roll above average. You made an uncommon decision in choosing to place your highest roll into Constitution. How are your Strength and Charisma scores? Have lower scores in Strength and Charisma affected you in practice?
 

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