The Paladin is normally the paragon of hope, the light for those who cannot fight back. But not this one. Deep within the folds of the Player’s Handbook comes an Oath against those who seek to harm. Rather than protecting the meek, these Paladins seek to end evil right at the source. They take up the Oath of Vengeance and become extremely efficient hunters, rivaling Rangers for their hatred of a single target of choice. Let’s take up this oath and figure out why it’s a particularly good one.
Make them Pay: Oath of Vengeance 5E
The Oath of Vengeance is centered around the idea of silencing evil wherever you go. You will fight those who are evil, but never show mercy to your sworn foes. If your enemies have caused pain and suffering, you must help those that caused them. Because you must sometimes circumvent goodness to defeat evil, you might become neutral… Although perhaps the “evils” you are sworn against are the forces of good.
Mechanically, the Vengeance Oath is centered around using your Channel Divinity to choose a single target. Then, when attacking that target, you get multiple bonuses, and they have a lot of trouble escaping. In terms of damage potential, you get a lot of accuracy and anti-escape tools, making the Vengeance Paladin one of the best boss killers in the game.
As a side note, this oath is actually based on the Dungeons & Dragons 4E’s Avenger class… Which was a really cool melee combatant. Love to see these nods to a less popular edition.
As expected from the introduction, the Oath of Vengeance’s spell list focuses on isolation and chase. It also has a few utility spells so that the 5E Paladin doesn’t die on it’s way there.
So, let’s talk about these spells, cause there’s good stuff here. Your most potent spells – albeit not overly useful for you – are the isolation spells; Hold Person, Banishment, Hold Monster. Both Hold Person and Hold Monster are incredibly good spells. Paralysis is such an effective way to tear a threat out of the fight for a long time, and it lets your allies beat the crud out of them. Alternatively, Banishment affects any target at a lower level, and completely pulls a target out of the fight. This will likely be easier to pull off, since the target only gets one save. And Charisma is also a slightly easier save to target. Take stock of the situation before using any of these.
Your chase spells are technically fourfold; Misty Step lets you get from place to place quite simply. Especially since you’re wearing heavy armor, you’ll want to use this to avoid dangerous athletics or acrobatics checks. Haste lets you keep up with enemies despite your slightly slow movement speed, and you can get the extreme flexibility of Haste’s bonus action. Usually, this will be for the Attack action, but the ability to get Dash or Disengage for free is far from useless. Haste is just so versatile, so it’s nice to see. Dimension Door isn’t as useful as Misty Step… But it’s there, if you need to chase something down.
Scrying isn’t really a chase spell… But, you can use it to find your sworn enemy and follow them. That’s fun! Bane and Protection from Energy are both pretty valid defensive spells. If enemies really like attack rolls, Bane can reduce their chance to hit by 20% on a lucky d4. Protection from Energy does even more against spellcasters!
Hunter’s Mark is a fantastic spell against a target of importance… But considering you can’t get Two-Weapon Fighting reliably, you might want to save your Concentration for something else. Still, d8 per swing is quite strong! And it gets more synergy later on. Really fun list, but hindered by how many concentration spells there are. Choose your spells wisely and you’ll be using these more often than your generic Paladin list.
Your Channel Divinity options are immensely important. You have two to choose from. The first;
Abjure Enemy. As an action, you present your holy symbol and speak a prayer of denunciation, using your Channel Divinity. Choose one creature within 60 feet of you that you can see. That creature must make a Wisdom saving throw, unless it is immune to being frightened. Fiends and undead have disadvantage on this saving throw.
On a failed save, the creature is frightened for 1 minute or until it takes any damage. While frightened, the creature’s speed is 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.
On a successful save, the creature’s speed is halved for 1 minute or until the creature takes any damage.
Okay, the other Channel Divinity option is immensely important. This is a Turn Monster that targets only a single monster, gives them a save, takes your action, and immobilizes them. The only time you’d use this is specifically to stop someone who’s desperately trying to run away. They can still cast spells at you, and the moment that they take damage they can just leave. It’s not a good use of your Channel.
Vow of Enmity. As a bonus action, you can utter a vow of enmity against a creature you can see within 10 feet of you, using your Channel Divinity. You gain advantage on attack rolls against the creature for 1 minute or until it drops to 0 hit points or falls unconscious.
Free Advantage might sound good, and that’s because it is. By giving yourself advantage on attack rolls, you can really efficiently decimate an enemy. Use this on an important target once every few fights, and watch as your Smites land constantly! And if that didn’t sound good enough, your future class abilities synergize with it even more. Alternatively, you could multiclass in D&D with Rogue and make Sneak Attack guaranteed whenever you want it. Maybe not your best use of time, but it’s worth consideration.
The Vengeance oath is rather selfish, so instead of your typical level 7 aura, you get something else.
By 7th level, your supernatural focus helps you close off a foe’s retreat. When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, you can move up to half your speed immediately after the attack and as part of the same reaction. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
That’s… Pretty great! Opportunity attacks are pretty rare, but you get to quickly chase down enemies who are desperately running away. Alternatively, you might make an opportunity attack against someone, and then move towards your Vow of Enmity target. Since you don’t provoke either, you can very efficiently dash across the battlefield.
The problem, of course, is that it triggers on Opportunity Attacks. Most enemies just fight to the death, or use the Disengage Action, while in melee. Consider becoming a Polearm Master with a feat; that way, you get something to use your Bonus Action on, get better use of Hunter’s Mark, and have great access to Opportunity attacks. Sentinel also makes this feat slightly more viable, since it is so focused around making opportunity attacks.
Other than Polearm Master and Sentinel, you don’t have many options to get better Opportunity Attacks. Despite this, there will be times where you get Opportunity Attacks, and then you can boost around the battlefield. You don’t need to build for this, but it’s such a good ability that it’s worth the feat slot.
Soul of Vengeance
Okay, so, Relentless Avenger is a great usage of your reaction. But, what if you don’t get an Opportunity to use it?
Starting at 15th level, the authority with which you speak your Vow of Enmity gives you greater power over your foe. When a creature under the effect of your Vow of Enmity makes an attack, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature if it is within range
So, this ability lets you make the good-ol’ attack whenever they attack. That’s a rare ability for a reason; It’s basically guaranteed. So now you’ll get 3 attacks against your Vow of Enmity every round. And those attacks all have advantage. And if they – or any enemy – provokes, you can just keep chasing them down.
With the addition of Improved Divine Smite, your single melee attacks pump out huge numbers every round. Combine that with Hunter’s Mark, and you’ll actually be doing massive damage on each swing of your weapon. The only real problem is that it takes up your reaction, making Relentless Avenger a bit situational.
Just focus on getting to your Vow of Enmity Target, and staying next to them for as long as you possibly can. Since you are guaranteed to have advantage against your Soul of Vengeance target, it’s probably better to use this instead of Relentless Avenger.
The level 20 ability of the Paladin is your ascension ability, and… Well, if you’re doing a level 20 campaign, you might want to consider another option. As an action, you get these two perks for a hour.
- Wings sprout from your back and grant you a flying speed of 60 feet.
- You emanate an aura of menace in a 30-foot radius. The first time any enemy creature enters the aura or starts its turn there during a battle, the creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you for 1 minute or until it takes any damage. Attack rolls against the frightened creature have advantage.
And this refreshes on long rests. The Flight speed is faster than most spells or magic items, though not to a significant degree. It’s a decent source of Flight, but considering you only get 1 hour of it, you’ll still may want another way to fly.
The aura of fear is fantastic! Against a large group of enemies, or even against a single threat, having them save or become frightened every round can be hugely beneficial. They lose the Frightened condition when they take damage, but the free advantage on that attack roll that damages them is nice. Overall, this isn’t a fantastic source of frighten, even compared to your Channel option. At least this one is free.
The Flight is wonderful, and the Frighten aura can easily force enemy plans down the drain if they fail the saves. But, compared to other subclasses and their level 20 Ascension abilities… There’s some better options out there.
Best Race for Vengeance Oath Paladins
Vengeance Oath Paladins are one of the least reliant on Charisma. None of your abilities require it, and your spells with a DC are your Hold spells… Which you might want to leave for your more spellcasting-based allies. Focus on either Strength or Dexterity; both are valid options for chasing down and destroying your opponents. Constitution and Charisma are both incredibly important; if you really want to pin enemies down, Charisma is better. Otherwise, tanking hits will be better for you.
This subclass is an excellent chance to crack open the Volo’s Guide to Monsters and choose angry, monstrous races. One of which – the Goblin – has plenty of racial qualities to make use of! If you’re doing a Finesse Paladin build, a +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Constitution are exactly what you’re looking for. Darkvision is always useful, Fury of the Small is a helpful damage bonus, and you don’t have much else to use your Bonus Action for. The only problem is that you have to roleplay as a small green man, but trust me; It’s a lot of fun.
If you want to get Polearm Master or Sentinel early on… Human might be the most consistent way to do it. Get yourself a +1 in Strength and Constitution/Charisma, and then get your bonus feat to make your opportunity attacks more enticing. You’ll be building for a level 7 ability, but considering how useful Polearm Master is to begin with… It might be worth your while.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Vengeance Oath Paladin
The Vengeance Oath Paladin has a simple goal, simple class abilities, and a simple playstyle. Your goal is to defeat your sworn enemy and you’re given quite great tools to do so. Your level 20 abilities aren’t great… But, most campaigns don’t care about level 20 anyways. This is a fantastic subclass with a lot of aggressive utility. We highly recommend this for any team that needs a boss destroyer. Want more options? See our guide to the Best Paladin Oaths for our take on the strongest options.