Ah, the Player’s Handbook. Home of the base rules, and where many players start their journeys into Dungeons & Dragons. For the Paladin, the Oath of Devotion is the most obvious option – and the most “Paladin” option – of the three that you start with. The Oath of Devotion are the loftiest Paladins, looking to Angels as their idols. They hold the entire world to the same perfect standard that they strive towards. These Paladins have to be good; no other options. So let’s see what the goody-two-shoes option gives your 5E Paladin.
Word of Perfect: The Oath of Devotion
The tenets of Devotion are your standard Paladin’s oath. You must be honest, courageous, show your compassion (wisely), bring honor to yourself, and perform your duties. This paladin is a paragon of the ideology of the Good Gods. You have faith in your overwatchers, and total trust in what you believe is right.
Mechanically, the Oath of Devotion suffers from trying to do too many things at once. This is great if you’re just trying out Paladin and want to see all that the class has to offer, but less fantastic if you’re specifically building to defend allies or deal damage. If your goal is to have a few basic solutions to any problem the battlefield throws at you – with a particular hatred of fiends and undead – then try this out.
The oath spells of Devotion follow the theme of your basic, all-rounder option for your Paladin. All of your spells are just okay, but the variety of options you have makes it a valid spell list.
Protection from Evil and Good is a situationally great spell. It’s specifically to defend yourself against a specific few types of creatures, but it does this rather well. It’s good for anti-martial and anti-mage, and you actually have a really wide range of types to work with. Sanctuary is a decent defensive spell, but suffers from ending the moment the target attacks. Not a bad idea to throw onto a non-combat NPC to keep them safe, but there’s few situations where you’d want this on yourself.
Lesser Restoration is wonderful to have when your allies get debuffed and a complete waste of a spell known otherwise… Also, you have Lay on Hands. Zone of Truth is a fine out-of-combat spell to get information with, but does next to nothing in combat. You’ll probably be leaning on your normal Paladin spells known at this spell level.
Beacon of Hope is a fine anti-caster spell, and boosts up the quality of healing spells. Wonderful! You don’t have too much concentration-based effects on this list, and this is far from bad. Plan this out well, and your Clerics will thank you. Dispel Magic should be used in last-case scenarios, since your spell slots are rather limited; your spellcasters will usually do this a little bit easier.
Freedom of Movement is either useless… Or makes an enemy useless. Not bad to have on your list. Guardian of Faith is either 60 damage or walls out a large area of a fight. Good area control, not a bad use of a spell slot.
Commune is a great information spell. Use it if you’re looking for information, but spend some time out-of-character talking about what questions to ask. Flame Strike is a passable area-of-effect spell; weaker than Fireball, but with better damage types. Considering Paladins are awful against crowds of enemies, you’ll be really happy with this.
All in all… Not amazing. You get a lot of options; Defensive, Healing, Out-of-Combat, Counterspelling, Damage, and Information. The problem is that the quality varies, and not every spell is a good solution for every situation.
Your channel options are both rather great. One is solid at any point, the other is an anti-Type ability.
Sacred Weapon. As an action, you can imbue one weapon that you are holding with positive energy, using your Channel Divinity. For 1 minute, you add your Charisma modifier to attack rolls made with that weapon (with a minimum bonus of +1). The weapon also emits bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light 20 feet beyond that. If the weapon is not already magical, it becomes magical for the duration.
You have to hold the weapon for the entire time. If you get K.O.’d, disarmed, or something like that, you lose it.
So, in the early game, this’ll probably be either +2 or +3. That’s a 10-15% boost to your accuracy for 10 rounds, which is far from nothing! Later on, a +5 gives you a +25% chance to hit a target… And you’ll make your fellow martials jealous with your +19 to attacks!
Obviously, if you have disadvantage or advantage, these percentages change a bit. Still, giving yourself a massive boost to your hit chance is essential for dangerous combats.
Because it lasts 10 rounds, you’ll probably want to try and use this ability right before a combat that you’re worried about – You don’t want to spend an action buffing if you can avoid it! Of course, if an enemy with surprising AC comes in, it might be worth the action to ensure your hits land.
Your other option is a Turn effect. “Turn the Unholy” targets fiends and undead within 30 ft of you. They make a Wisdom save, or become Turned. This lasts for 1 minute, or until they take damage;
A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. It also can’t take reactions. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.
The great part of this ability is that Turned is one of the most devastating debuffs in the game. It locks out actions, forces movement into a specific direction, and lasts for 1 minute without bonus saves. Dealing damage does stop it, but you can wait until your whole party is ready to lay the smackdown before starting.
The downside is that it only targets fiends and undead. These are two of the most common enemy types in the game, and they’ll be relevant CRs all the time, so that’s great! The problem is… sometimes a Fiend is surrounded by human cultists, or a Necromancer is in control of the Undead. You won’t scare the humanoids with this effect. You have to make a good judgement call on whether or not you want to push away the enemies, or save your Channel – either for a different chance to Turn, or a bonus to attack rolls.
Turn is at it’s best when you’re getting all, or most, of an encounter with the fear effect. In dungeons or areas with a significant population of Fiends or Undead, save your Channels for Turn the Unholy. Otherwise, a boost to your weapon attack rolls will probably serve your party better.
Aura of Devotion
At level 7, the Paladin tends to get an aura, or something that benefits their allies. The Devotion Paladin isn’t different… But…
Starting at 7th level, you and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you can’t be charmed while you are conscious.
At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.
Okay, so this isn’t bad. The Charmed status effect does two things;
- A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.
- The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature.
We care mostly about the first effect. A boss who charms your Wizard is immune to all of the Wizard’s spells. By simply stepping next to them, you unlock your Wizard’s ability to destroy them with magic. That’s significant! It saves a Cleric spell slot, it gives you a constant option against an alright status debuff, and you let your allies target the most important enemy in an encounter.
In social situations, you can use this ability to quickly snuff out any charm effects happening around you. If the host of the gala was charmed by the nearby vampire, your Aura of Devotion just quickly solved the mystery. Charm is one of the sneakiest mental effects, so your ability to find it consistently and without using resources will be important in some campaigns.
And hey, you might prevent a Deception or Intimidation check against PCs… So that’s nice?
Obviously, you aren’t super happy with this ability. Charmed isn’t a bad status effect to get immunity to, but it’s not great. And the number of effects that apply Charmed are somewhat limited.
This is fine, but you have other reasons to take this archetype.
Purity of Spirit
Unfortunately, the following ability isn’t the reason either.
Beginning at 15th level, you are always under the effects of a Protection from Evil and Good spell.
Your level 1 spells are crying.
Permanency of any spell is really good, don’t get me wrong. But this is a level 1 spell. The Oathbreaker gets permanent Stoneskin, and this Paladin only gets… Protection from Evil and Good?
Okay, let’s talk about your new benefits. Aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead have disadvantage to attack you and can’t hit you with mental effects. That’s a lot of types! And they’re all really good enemies. Do you know what isn’t affected, however?
Beasts, Constructs, Dragons, Elementals, Giants, Humanoids, Monstrosities, Oozes, and Plants. None of those care about your level 15 ability. Yowch.
What does that mean for this subclass? It means that, if you want to maximize your potential, you should be consistently fighting fiends and undead. You have a Turn effect for them, and now they have disadvantage to hit you. And you can’t even be affected by three of the most devastating effects they can throw at you. That’s significant!
In late-game campaigns concerned with fiends, undead, or even fighting good creatures, this is a nice permanent spell to have on you. In most other circumstances, this’ll make you either much harder to deal with, or do absolutely nothing.
As a side note, it is kinda weird that they also gain resistances against good creatures. Sure, the spell wouldn’t be as good… But why are you so good at fighting angels now?
The Paladin’s level 20 ability gives them a temporary benefit that refreshes on long rests. The Devotion Paladin gives them three perks, activated as an action and lasting one minute.
- For 1 minute, bright light shines from you in a 30-foot radius, and dim light shines 30 feet beyond that.
- Whenever an enemy creature starts its turn in the bright light, the creature takes 10 radiant damage.
- In addition, for the duration, you have advantage on saving throws against spells cast by fiends or undead.
Sweet… You’re a fancy flashlight.
The first benefit is slightly brighter than your average torch. This is mostly cosmetic, but by being so bright, most unholy creatures will probably want you dead. That center-of-attention attitude is exactly what you want as a Paladin. Otherwise… You’ll be better off with a torch sconce on your shield or something.
You’re also a 30 ft area of effect. 10 radiant damage per round isn’t much, but they are guaranteed to take it, and all enemies within 30 ft are taking it. This helps out your Area of Effect problems, and keeps them from ever getting a save to halve it. Perfect!
The additional effect is pretty overkill for anti-fiend and undead. You’re already immune to mental effects, and you already have a (probably) +5 to your saves. Rolling twice is obviously extremely nice, especially since you’re not likely to have proficiency in Dexterity saves. And while you’re immune to mental effects, you’re not immune to the Lich casting Disintegrate, or Fireball. This is just a nice cherry on top, making you an incredible anti-Undead option.
It’s a shame that this only lasts for a minute. Save it for the last encounter in the dungeon. You know the one. Where the Dracolich is summoning an army of evil skeleton servants to destroy you. And then you walk towards it, valiantly brandishing your weapon, damaging them all as you approach, immune to it’s spells. The fear in their vacant eye sockets as you stand tall, the incandescent beacon of hope in the darkness.
That’s a pretty good time for this.
Best Race for Devotion Oath Paladins
The Devotion Paladin has relatively little to do with Charisma. Your Channel effects really benefit from it, as do your spells. But that’s it. If you plan on being a melee combatant, consider prioritizing either Strength or Dexterity, and then Constitution. If you don’t mind being a bit squishier for Sacred Weapon – or you’re playing the rare Ranged Paladin – then Charisma can be a bit higher than Constitution.
The Variant human is the most basic option you could take. It also happens to be fantastic. For example, for the Great Weapon build, take +1 Strength, +1 Constitution, and take Great Weapon Master. Used with Sacred Weapon, you can negate your penalty on attack rolls to boost up your damage. And, if you down an opponent, you get bonus swings with your not-oft-used bonus action. You’d have to be a bit more creative with a Dexterity build, but… That bonus action could be used with Crossbow Mastery, if you’re enough of a madman to do so.
Eberron: Rising from the Last War is a pretty great book with some spectacular racial options. The Shifter are a race of weretouched beings with the ability to shapeshift into a more lycanthropic form. The Beasthide shifter has perfect stats for a Paladin; +2 Constitution, +1 to Strength, and fantastic tanking with their Shifting Feature. The Longtooth Paladin is better for an aggressive buildpath, and you get a pseudo-Monk Bite attack as a bonus option, making good use of your bonus action. Really fantastic usage of your bonus action! Though the flavor of a shifter working to be a paragon of the gods may be a bit off.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Devotion Oath Paladin
The Devotion Oath Paladin is a perfectly reasonable subclass that excels against standard fiend/undead enemies. If your campaign is going to have those enemy types, then the Devotion Oath will perform exceedingly well against them. In other campaigns, the Devotion’s good spell list, reasonable channel options, and fine aura all make for a “strong enough” subclass. If you are told you’ll be fighting fiends and undead, and might be running until your characters are level 15, then you can’t get much better than this! Otherwise, this is a fantastic place to start your Paladin journey, but consider a more focused oath if you feel confident in yourself.