Oathbreaker Paladin 5E Guide | Rules, Tips, Builds, and More

Oathbreaker Paladin


The Dungeon Master’s Guide is a place with a bunch of additional rules and advice for DMs. But, did you know, there are also a few evil classes in there? With GM permission, you can use the “evil” subclasses within the DMG’s pages for your characters. The Oathbreaker is a Paladin with no moral compass, and is thus not beholden to any creed. You’re a rogue warrior, and you’ve done bad things in the past. However, some divine power is left in you… Typically from evil sources. Let’s see what this power grants you in our Oathbreaker Paladin Guide.

Turn your Back: Oathbreaker Paladin

The Oathbreaker is a ruthlessly aggressive paladin 5e subclass with few downsides. You don’t have much utility, but it’s hard to beat an Oathbreaker in terms of damage or durability. Because you are so focused on damage, your spell list is rather lackluster. The bright side, however, is that your abilities are crazily good.

Oath Spells

The Oathbreaker’s magic is not the reason to take this archetype. Even so, you get a few options that you’ll be more than happy to spend spell slots on.

Oathbreaker Paladin Spells
  • 3rd Level – Hellish Rebuke, Inflict Wounds
  • 5th Level – Crown of Madness, Darkness
  • 9th Level – Animate Dead, Bestow Curse
  • 13th Level – Blight, Confusion
  • 17th Level – Contagion, Dominate Person

The Paladin’s reaction options are few and far between, so having a ranged damage infliction option could be useful. Hellish Rebuke covers that. Just… Try to not take Protection as your fighting style, since you’d much rather use your reaction to damage those who harmed you. Inflict Wounds is a basic burst option that scales well – Good for fighting things with a Necrotic weakness, but Divine Smite is almost always better.

Against creatures with pitiful Wisdom Saves, Crown of Madness could become something powerful. However, since they attack and then they can move away from people… You won’t find much use out of it. Darkness is only good as an escape option, since you can’t see in the magical darkness either. Not that having an escape option is a bad thing, but you could do better.

Animate Dead is a wonderful flavor spell, and synergizes well with the abilities of the subclass. Bestow Curse can make powerful opponents complete laughingstocks, and make them more liable to being crowd controlled. Try to use this in combination with other spellcasters, or your own spell list.

Blight has decent damage numbers; another good option for those weak to necrotic damage… And particularly menacing ficuses. Confusion isn’t a bad choice, if you can land it on more than one person. In 5e, Confusion has a 20% chance of failing, a 70% chance of either dealing damage to something nearby or doing nothing, and a 10% chance of causing fleeing. If an 80% chance of not hitting your party sounds good in a situation, toss out a Confusion. Otherwise, you probably have better options.

Finally, Contagion and Dominate Person both have the potential to single-handedly (or… single-spelledly?) end a fight, if someone fails their saves. Combine these with Bestow Curse to either nearly guarantee a death, or a new ally. There are some diamonds in the rough here, but you’ll probably find yourself looking to the Paladin spell list more often than not. Still, certainly don’t forget about Hellish Rebuke, Animate Dead, and Bestow Curse.

Channel Divinity

You have two Channel Divinity options… Technically. You basically only have one.

Control Undead. As an action, you target one undead creature you can see within 30 feet of you. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target must obey your commands for the next 24 hours, or until you use this Channel Divinity option again. An undead whose challenge rating is equal to or greater than your paladin level is immune to this effect.

At least it’s not Turn…?

Okay, so this isn’t all bad. You have a guaranteed 24 hours to drag this undead around, and they only get 1 save to negate it. That’s a pretty good deal, and if their CR is 1 lower than your level, it’s not going to be useless. It’ll be a valuable party member, and a very expendable one.

The problems are twofold. First of all, if the undead is that strong, then you risk your party’s life carrying it around. A necromancer, or an Undead with Dispel Magic, could free it in the middle of the night and wipe the party. That chance alone means you probably shouldn’t get the 24 hour period out of it. If it’s a weak creature, then it might make a good scout… If you don’t have a Rogue or Familiar. Once you get to level 9, you should just use Animate Dead instead.

The other problem is that it does nothing in non-Undead encounters. A little obvious, but… If there’s no zombies to grab, this can’t grab any zombies. Nothing wrong with having a situational ability, as long as there’s another option.

Dreadful Aspect. As an action, you channel the darkest emotions and focus them into a burst of magical menace. Each creature of your choice within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw if it can see you. On a failed save, the target is frightened of you for 1 minute. If a creature frightened by this effect ends its turn more than 30 feet away from you, it can attempt another Wisdom saving throw to end the effect on it.

This is a pretty great Turn effect!

The Turn Channel Divinities tend to be weak just because they’re so focused on one or two targets. This let’s you cause anything to be frightened – And frighten is far from a bad debuff. And, unlike other Turns, this has a distance caveat, rather than the damage one. Thankfully, Paladins tend to be melee focused, so you can just keep chasing them down. Or you can have your allies block them off.

Because they can’t run towards you, you can use this to form a wall between Martial enemies with low Wisdom and your caster backline. And then you can keep pushing them back as your ranged allies harry them with projectiles. It’s a great ability with a lot of tactical use… Thank goodness you choose who’s affected!

Aura of Hate

We’ve been talking about pretty good things so far… And when it comes to “pretty good” this ability stretches the definition.

Starting at 7th level you, as well any fiends and undead within 10 feet of you, gain a bonus to melee weapon damage rolls equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of +1). A creature can benefit from this feature from only one paladin at a time.

At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.

Hilariously, this is the only ability I can think of that scales negatively.

First thing’s first, this is an absolutely massive bonus to weapon damage rolls. In a system where the best damage boost (+10) gives you a -5 penalty to hit, a +5 to damage for free is rather fantastic. And you don’t have to worry about it being necrotic damage or anything like that. Unfortunately, because it’s only melee damage rolls, that does limit any fun ranged build options that you could use this in.

Which is sad, because… Well, there’s another problematic thing, and it has to do with the word “any.” You’re buffing all fiends and undead that are closeby… And eventually, in a 30 ft radius around you. Your Charisma will likely be at +5 by level 20, so you’ve just made any fiend or undead combat hit a lot harder. For an evil campaign (where you, the player, are evil), this will be a significantly more useful ability. And hey, you can buff your undead army made from Animate Dead and Control Undead. So, that’s nice! 

Hopefully, you won’t be fighting many fiends or undead with multiattack… Or else you’ll make your party feel this hateful aura in real life!

Supernatural Resistance

At 15th level, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.

Straight, simple, and to the point. Also pretty great. In non-magical campaigns, or against certain encounters, you’ll find yourself easily able to take on the planet. Resistance to essentially all physical damage is pretty great at any point in the game, since that means you’ll take half damage from a lot of things.

Obviously, nonmagical is limited in some campaigns. Sometimes, your GM will be more than happy to make all your enemies rich, and load them up with magical items. Or maybe most encounters use spellcasters to deal damage. In those cases… Well, this ends up being a useless ability. But, against most Beasts, creatures with natural attacks, and in campaigns where your GM doesn’t hand out magical weapons to all the bad little boys and girls… You’ll be an unstoppable wall.

Dread Lord

The Dread Lord ability is a rather complex capstone for Oathbreaker Paladin. As such, we’ll split it into two separate categories, seeing that they don’t actually have much synergy between each other.

At 20th level, you can, as an action, surround yourself with an aura of gloom that lasts for 1 minute. The aura reduces any bright light in a 30-foot radius around you to dim light. Whenever an enemy that is frightened by you starts its turn in the aura, it takes 4d10 psychic damage. Additionally, you and any creatures of your choosing in the aura are draped in deeper shadow. Creatures that rely on sight have disadvantage on attack rolls against creatures draped in this shadow.

Quick stop!

So, this right here does three things. Lowering the light level isn’t exactly a game-breaking, level 20 mechanic… But in certain situations, you could limit the options of your enemies. Keep in mind what the light level is like in the encounter. Oh, and have Darkvision. Darkvision’s pretty important here.

The 4d10 damage while in the aura is… Situational. You either need to expend your Channel Divinity – an entirely separate action – or have someone else use a Frighten effect. However, adding an average of 22 damage onto an already potent debuff is rather fantastic, and turns your Channel Divinity into a potent area of effect.

The disadvantage on attack rolls is a nice Blink effect; You cloak yourself and any allies in shadow and most enemies will have additional trouble landing hits. However, considering you want to Frighten your enemies… This actually does less than it seems. Great for encounters with high Wisdom saves, but eyesight reliant!

While the aura lasts, you can use a bonus action on your turn to cause the shadows in the aura to attack one creature. Make a melee spell attack against the target. If the attack hits, the target takes necrotic damage equal to 3d10 + your Charisma modifier.

This is much better! Paladins don’t have access to many free bonus actions, so you can constantly be dealing damage to targets within your aura. It’s not exactly huge damage, and it doesn’t get your Aura of Hate applied to it, but… C’mon. That’s 22 average damage per round as a bonus action. That’s great!

This cloak is only once per day, however. It’s best used either in horribly dangerous encounters for the defensive effects and area of effect damage, or to deal a lot of damage to a boss.

Overall, a rather impressive ability. Not the strongest capstone… But you’ll feel like you’re the star (or, I guess, the black hole) of the show for 1 full minute

Best Race for The Oathbreaker Paladins

The Oathbreaker Paladin is a weapon-based brawler, focusing mostly on dealing damage. Strength or Dexterity will be your priority. However, you’ve got a problem; Bestow Curse, your Channel Divinity options, and Aura of Hate rely on Charisma. That does mean you can’t invest as heavily in Constitution, but you get too big of a benefit out of your Charisma for any other option to be realistic.

The options listed focus on Strength builds. The Oathbreaker can use finesse weapons just fine, but they tend to synergize worse with the Paladin’s abilities.

Aasimar

Volo’s Guide to Monsters adore their strong races with darkvision. Well… Here’s the Aasimar! In terms of Strength, you’ll be slightly behind on damage until later on. That being said, Fallen Aasimar still gain a +1 to it. You’ll get the Charisma boost to make your abilities threatening, great damage resistances, some utility abilities, and Darkvision, letting you see through your own Dread Lord more easily. A fantastic choice for most paladin oaths, and with flawless flavor.

Goliath

These members of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion are huge. They get boosts to Strength and Constitution, letting you become a frontline bruiser that’s hard to stop. Similarly, your Natural Athlete and Stone’s Endurance features will let you barrel through enemies with ease. Your race tends to be a recluse, so it might make sense that you broke an oath and then disappeared from your tribe. And now you’re here to adventure and destroy planets.

Conclusion – Our Take on the Oathbreaker Paladin

The Oathbreaker Paladin is possibly one of the best DPS options for the Paladin class. Admittedly, it’s going to be hard to fit one into a campaign… And if you end up fighting dangerous undead, you aren’t making many friends. That being said, if your GM lets you in, and the party doesn’t seem too anti-undead, then you’ll be a dangerous melee combatant with some fantastic defensive abilities… And alright utility options.

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