The standard idea of a Paladin is a powerful, lawful good being who obeys the rules. They might be strict or mean, but they are all about sticking to order and decency. That’s just the standard Paladin, and no Paladin needs to strictly adhere to this stereotype. However, in order to become a Freedom-loving soul, you’re going to need to come in with a completely different mindset. The Oath of the Open Sea embraces free will and the need to explore. They are almost pirates in a way, at least close enough to work on a pirate crew without problem. So, if you want help with this build, our Oath of the Open Sea guide will guide you to port!
Freedom and Mystery: Open Sea Oath 5E
The Oath of the Open Sea is a utility-focused Paladin. It focuses on creating a very unique and special interaction with the Paladin mechanics; typical of Matt Mercer! The Open Sea Oath is a defensive build which controls combat by allowing the paladin to push and knock prone enemies. It also has minor utility for escaping bad situations. Great tank option for really weird situations!
Before you choose this oath, please ask your DM! This is not an official archetype, and is a creation of Matt Mercer. It’s well-balanced, but it is homebrew for all intents and purposes.
The Tenets of the Open Sea are all about the standard pirate oaths. You must live free, and those who oppress others should face your steel. You should listen to nature; a breeze or a rumbling of a storm might lead you to great adventures. Nature is pretty old, after all! The Open Sea Paladin should also be able to adapt to any situation and embrace the fluidity of a river. Finally, they should always be ready to explore an uncharted location, no matter how dark or scary it might seem at the outset.
The Oath Spells for the Open Sea are as unique and interesting as the oath idea. It has a focus on defensive and utility spells, though it’s not without a bit of a bite.
|3rd||Create or Destroy Water, Expeditious Retreat|
|5th||Augury, Misty Step|
|9th||Call Lightning, Tidal Wave|
|13th||Control Water, Freedom of Movement|
|17th||Commune with Nature, Maelstrom|
Create or Destroy Water is probably not a spell that you need to have prepared at all times. It’s strong, but it requires water to be a significant obstacle or a legitimate choice for progress. Expeditious Retreat is super fun, but it rarely comes into play. If you desperately need to run for your life, there are probably better and more efficient spells.
Augury is a rarely useful spell, since the DM is allowed to be incredibly vague about it. Misty Step, on the other hand, is incredible. Teleporting such a long distance as a bonus action is more than just useful; it’s downright busted! Your second level spells might be spent on something other than smiting, but boy is it worth it!
Call Lightning is fine. It does damage at a long range while being a somewhat good use of a spell slot. However, the damage it deals is slow and methodical, which might not be the best for combat. Tidal Wave is a weird but cool area of effect spell that deals passable damage while knocking enemies prone. Honestly, very fun and a reasonable replacement for Tidal Wave.
Control Water is like Create or Destroy Water, but slightly more limited. It almost requires water to be specifically an obstacle, which cannot be guaranteed. It’s at least a reasonable utility spell. Freedom of Movement sounds wonderful, but by the time you get this magic, you have a natural aura that does much of the same thing. This spell basically counters Paralysis; useful, but very situational.
Commune with Nature is a significantly stronger Augury, which is wonderful. It’s a fine spell to learn the location of a specific clue, which the party may or may not need. Maelstrom is an okay spell for controlling a specific area, and deals surprisingly good damage in an area of effect. At this point, it might be hard to place Maelstrom in a way to stop all enemies, since Flight is more common.
Overall, this spell list has stellar flavor but not overly strong spells in all situations. That doesn’t really matter, since Smite is such a strong use of spell slots.
Like all Paladins, the Oath of the Open Sea gets two different ways to spend Channel Divinity at level 3.
Marine Layer. As an action you can channel the sea to create a thick cloud of fog that surrounds you and heavily obscures the area for 20 feet in all directions, following you as you move. You and all creatures within 5 feet of you instead treat this fog as lightly obscured. This fog lasts for 10 minutes, spreads around corners and cannot be dispersed.
This is… really weird. So, you create a layer of fog, and then you can see through it relatively well. That’s pretty good! Especially for a ranged build, you can use this fog as a defensive tool.
What might be a little harder to use this with is as a melee build. The issue with the fog is that your allies don’t get to treat it as lightly obscured. So, that means when you close into melee, you actually are keeping your allies from casting spells or getting good shots on the enemy. You might be lessening damage by quite a bit by using this. And the 20 ft radius on this thing is big. You could obstruct an entire combat with it!
Good defensive tool. But, it will be hard to use without either having your allies find magical ways to negate it or having your allies constantly be right next to you.
Fury of the Tides. As a bonus action, you can channel the powerful might of the waves to bolster your attacks for 1 minute. Once per turn for the duration, when you hit a creature with weapon attack, you can choose to push the target 10 feet away from you. If the target is pushed into an obstacle or another creature, they take additional bludgeoning damage equal to your Charisma modifier.
Alright. You can deal a bit of extra damage with each Attack action, assuming your enemy hits the wall. Otherwise, why would you ever want to push a creature away from you? You want to keep them in Opportunity Attack range, don’t you?
Well, in the cases where pushing them back is important – such as with a ranged build! – this can deal Charisma bonus damage, on top of the 1d6 for bumping a wall. That’s actually pretty nice! Consider it a small damage boost for a full minute, and the only cost was Channel Divinity.
This is the easier option to use of the two Channel Divinity options, and can end up increasing your damage output. Try to find a good place to use this, such as bringing an enemy right against the wall and keeping them there.
Aura of Liberation
All Paladins get an aura at around level 7. The Open Sea Paladin gets a pretty cool one.
Starting at 7th level, you emanate an aura while you’re not incapacitated. You and any creature of your choice within 10 feet of you cannot be grappled or restrained, as well as ignore penalties on movement or attacks while underwater. Creatures that are already grappled or restrained when they enter the aura can spend 5 feet of movement to automatically escape nonmagical restraints.
When you reach 18th level in this class, the range of the aura increases to 30 feet.
This is one of the most and least potent auras in the game.
The ability to automatically escape grapples and non-magical restraints can trivialize some fights. Creatures who focus on grabbing and wringing the necks of your party members will cry when they see you come up. And some grapple-based monsters can be a death sentence, especially for Wizards or Sorcerers. You can save them effortlessly, and save spell slots as well as actions while doing so.
However, when fighting a creature without the ability to effectively grapple… Then, this aura is completely and utterly wasted. And while deadly, the grappling-based creature is a rare encounter. And vindictive DMs might choose to not send as many of these creatures at you, since you make them significantly easier to fight.
This aura also doesn’t stop all types of restraint. Paralysis is specifically countered by Freedom of Movement, but not this aura. You can stop a ton of other types of magical restraints, but not the one that you’d probably want to stop the most. Thankfully, Freedom of Movement is just 6 levels away… But that could be life or death. Make sure your Cleric is ready if you know about a paralysis-based creature that you’re about to fight!
You don’t get many upgrades to your Oath, until level 15.
At 15th level, you can call crashing waters around you as a reaction whenever a creature enters or exits your melee range. The creature takes 1d12 bludgeoning damage and must succeed a Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
This is… Interesting. You basically get a new way to make an Opportunity Attack.
Compared to Sentinel, this is significantly worse. 1d12 bludgeoning is probably less than your standard attack of opportunity. You also don’t guarantee that you can stop your opponent. Finally, it’s probably a little bit less accurate, since your Strength DC will probably be less than your attack roll.
However, you don’t need to spend a Feat slot on Sentinel anymore! This feat is able to knock enemies down, and you can knock them down as they move into range of you! That means you can knock them down before they can make a melee attack, effectively adding Disadvantage to the attack roll if they make a melee attack. If they moved far enough, then they might stay prone when your turn comes up… And that means you get advantage on your attacks!
This is where the Ranged Build starts to fall apart, since this is a legitimately good reaction for a melee build.
Finally, your level 20 ability is fairly typical for a Paladin… Well, typical in framing. Once per long rest, you may spend an Action to become a paragon of piracy for 1 minute. During that time, you gain some buffs.
- Climbing costs no additional movement, and you have advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks.
- If you are within 5 feet of a creature, and no other creatures are within 5 feet of you, you have advantage on your attacks against that creature.
- You can take the Dodge action as a bonus action.
- You have advantage on all Dexterity ability checks and Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see.
Let’s run through this.
There are plenty of magical means to climb without penalty, like Spider Climb… Or Fly. The advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks is kind of small, but it’s not bad. There aren’t too many ways to get this, so you have a means to do so relatively easily. Well, at level 20.
The second buff is probably the best one. This is a very consistent way to get advantage on attacks, which is a huge boon to your damage and accuracy. Paladins like that a lot, since they can use it in conjunction with Smite to get meaty critical hits! Just make sure you’re dueling someone or something. That’s a bit of a hard sell, but it’s possible to set up. You don’t even need to duel! Your ally can be on the other side of the enemy, flanking them, while you get advantage!
Paladins have fine Bonus Actions, but Dodge makes you extraordinarily tanky. If you have no other offensive or utility Bonus Actions to perform, then this is a fantastic one to default to. Though, you could also use Channel Divinity and get a similar result.
Finally, Dexterity checks are fairly common, though you probably shouldn’t pop this just to pick a lock. Dexterity Saving throws are extremely common; one of the most common saving throws in the game. This is a great defensive boon that can keep you alive for a lot longer.
Best Race for Open Sea Oath Paladins
Glory Oath Paladins need Strength or Dexterity to deal damage during combat. They also need Charisma to boost their saving throws and increase their damage with Fury of the Tides. If they’re in melee, you can replace Charisma with Constitution just fine.
The Dragonborn, introduced in the Player’s Companion, is really hard to use. However, this is one of the Paladins that Dragonborn can make work well. Your +2 Strength, +1 Charisma comes in handy here. You also can use your Breath Weapon to deal area of effect damage, which this paladin struggles with… Other than with Tidal Wave. Your Damage Resistance keeps you alive even longer on the frontlines, as long as you choose a common damage type like Fire or Cold.
The Tabaxi, from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, is a flawless Swashbuckler. You get massive movement speed, great dexterity and charisma, and even a backup weapon. Perhaps more important is the Perception and Stealth proficiencies. Stealth is really fun, since you have a method to guarantee at least Lightly Obscured. Darkvision is also nice! The only problem is the Climb Speed that you get from Cat’s Claws overlapping with your level 20 ability… But that’s not really anything to be concerned about. You probably won’t get to level 20 anyways! It’s very rare that a campaign does.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Open Sea Oath Paladin
The Open Sea Oath is one of the most well-balanced and interesting Paladins in 5E. Matt Mercer did a wonderful job when he made this archetype! See if your DM will allow it for a pirate with a heart of gold and a pair of sea legs!