Ah, the paladin. Covered in armor, swinging a giant sword, and even casting spells. There’s a lot to like about this class in the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, its subclass options may be the strongest top to bottom of any class. Below, we take a deep dive into the class, its subclass options, and how to optimize your paladin in the next campaign. Focus on your oath and step into our Paladin 5E Handbook!
Paladin 5E Guide
Paladins are the ultimate champion of righteousness. While it is common for paladins to be devout, they do not draw their power from their faith the way a cleric would. Instead, paladins find power in the oaths that they take. Similar to certain types of clerics, paladins manage to balance strong combat skills with potent spellcasting. In fact, they do it as well as any other class. While they don’t get magic until level 2 and have fewer slots overall, their spell options are potent.
Paladins are great given the range of roles they can play. There are several options to be DPS monsters, but they can also focus on defense, utility, and spellcasting. Don’t have a bard in your party to do the talking? There are plenty of paladin builds that can maximize your high charisma.
|1st||+2||Divine Sense, Lay on Hands||–||–||–||–||–|
|2nd||+2||Fighting Style, Spellcasting, Divine Smite||2||–||–||–||–|
|3rd||+2||Divine Health, Sacred Oath||3||–||–||–||–|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement||3||–||–||–||–|
|6th||+3||Aura of Protection||4||2||–||–||–|
|7th||+3||Sacred Oath feature||4||3||–||–||–|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement||4||3||–||–||–|
|10th||+4||Aura of Courage||4||3||2||–||–|
|11th||+4||Improved Divine Smite||4||3||3||–||–|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement||4||3||3||–||–|
|15th||+5||Sacred Oath feature||4||3||3||2||–|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement||4||3||3||2||–|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement||4||3||3||3||2|
|20th||+6||Sacred Oath feature||4||3||3||3||2|
These are the features that are common across the class. We will discuss the subclass features in another section.
Hit Dice: 1d10 per paladin level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
HP at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per paladin level after 1st
Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) a martial weapon and a shield or (b) two martial weapons
- (a) five javelins or (b) any simple melee weapon
- (a) a priest’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
- Chain mail and a holy symbol
Divine Sense (Level 1)
Divine Sense lets you use an action to detect powerful good or evil creatures in the vicinity. Specifically, it allows you to detect the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of you unless it is behind total cover. You can also identify the presence of consecrated or desecrated items. Divine Sense is available a number of times equal to 1 plus your charisma modifier after each long rest.
Lay on Hands (Level 1)
Lay on Hands is one of the best healing features around, and it scales well as you level up. For this feature, you can heal any creature using an action to touch a creature. You can then either heal up to 5 hit points per level of paladin, or you can spend five of the available hit points to cure a disease or poison.
This is great, as Lay on Hands gives you control over how many hit points you spend. It’s also a nice fix for irritating poisons or diseases your party wasn’t prepared for. Your hit points refresh after a long rest.
Fighting Style (Level 2)
At level 2, you get to select a fighting style. Some are more fitting than others. There were four options originally present in the PHB. However, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has added more. They include:
- Blessed Warrior: Blessed Warrior grants you access to two cleric cantrips of your choice. This is one of my favorite options, especially if you are looking for a paladin build with something more of a spellcasting design. There are plenty of good cantrips on the cleric list, too. Guidance is nice, especially if no one else in the party has it. Toll the Dead is a good option too, if you want to deal damage. I also like Spare the Dying. These options make Blessed Warrior the most customizable of the Paladin fighting styles.
- Blind Fighting: I want to get excited about Blind Fighting. As a concept, blind sense is cool and certainly has its uses. The reality is that getting the most out of this fighting style means more than just focusing your character build around spells like Darkness. Because of the way that spell can impact the rest of your party, everyone at the table will need to be optimized for this fighting style in order to get anything useful out of it. Blind fighting is probably not your best use of a fighting style, but your mileage may vary!
- Defense: This is a strong option, especially if you are not focused on melee damage or if you select the Oath of Redemption. You get +1 to AC when wearing armor, which is nice given how scaling your AC can be tough. For many paladin builds, a straight boost to your armor class is the best thing you can ask for out of a fighting style.
- Dueling: Dueling is arguably the best, assuming you use a single weapon. It works even if you wield a shield, and gives you +2 to damage rolls. The defense fighting style adds a flat +2 bonus to damage when wielding a single one-handed weapon. This boost is so strong that you will generally do more damage using a weapon one-handed than you would if you wielded it two-handed. All that, and you have a free hand to carry a shield? This fighting style is a great option for melee builds.
- Great Weapon Fighting: This style lets you re-roll damage rolls of 1 or 2 when you wield a weapon with both hands. It generally works out to a 1 damage increase per attack. There are probably better options unless you are set on a two-handed weapon anyway. That is the major reason why many players avoid this fighting style. Is an extra point of damage helpful? Sure. Does it compete against a +1 bonus to AC? It doe snot. Of course, there are loyal fans of Great Weapon Fighting that would disagree.
- Interception: The Interception fighting style has a lot in common with the Protection style. It is designed to defend nearby allies from an attack. Instead of giving an attack disadvantage, the Interception fighting style allows you to reduce damage taken by a nearby ally. The amount of damage reduced equals 1d10 plus your proficiency bonus. It is worth noting this bonus is great at low levels, but it doesn’t scale well. For example, mitigating up to 11 damage will cover the maximum amount of hit points for most characters at level one. However, at the highest levels, you are only able to mitigate up to 16 HP worth of damages. That isn’t a major impact when monsters are dishing out 100+ damage in a single round.
- Protection: If you are wielding a shield, you can give any hostile attacking a creature within 5 feet of you disadvantage on their attack roll. Cool but situational, albeit nice if you ride a mount. That said, you can probably find a better way to impose disadvantage on an enemy without burning the use of your fighting style.
Spellcasting (Level 2)
The paladin class can cast spells, and Charisma is your spellcasting ability. How many spell slots you have will depend entirely on the number of levels in Paladin your character has. All in all, spellcasting as a paladin is pretty balanced. You get a lot of nice buffs and healing spells, but you can also deal damage through an array of smite spells. However, your spell slots top out at 5th level, unlike full casters.
Paladins must prepare a list of spells in order to cast spells. The Paladin Table above highlights the number of spell slots available at each level. The paladin must select a number of spells equal to their charisma modifier plus half of their paladin level, rounded down. Your spells can a mix of any level you have access to, but you cannot use a lower-level spell slot to case a higher-level spell. You can change your list after a long rest.
All paladins use charisma as their spellcasting ability. This is due to their powers emanating from the strength of their convictions. Paladins rely on divine magic, as opposed to the arcane abilities used by wizards. You will use your charisma modifier for both spell attack rolls and to set your Paladin spell save DC.
You can use your holy symbol as a spellcasting focus for your paladin spells. In this way, a holy symbol is no different that a wand used by a wizard.
Divine Smite (Level 2)
Divine Smite is incredible – just resist the temptation to burn through your spell slots with this. This feature lets you expend a spell slot to deal radiant damage to a creature when you succeed with melee weapon strikes against it.
The extra damage added to your melee attack is 2d8 for a 1st-level spell slot, plus 1d8 for each spell level higher than 1st, to a maximum of 5d8. The damage increases by 1d8 if the target is an undead or a fiend, to a maximum of 6d8. This can result in major damage on a single attack, even at lower levels. You have to be careful not to blow through your spell slots, though.
Divine Health (Level 3)
Divine Health makes you permanently immune to disease. Pretty lackluster for a few reasons. First, diseases are uncommon in many campaigns. Second, you already have the ability to cure any disease with Lay on Hands.
Sacred Oath (Level 3)
At level three you will choose your sacred oath, which is the name of paladin subclasses. We go into detail on each sacred oath below. However, there are aspects of all subclasses that are important to understand.
Each sacred oath has its own list of oath spells. These come from lists other than the standard paladin spells, but they are divine magic when cast by paladins. These are different than normal paladin spells in that they are always prepared and do not count against your total prepared spell limit. These spells are always treated as paladin spells even if they don’t appear on the class spell list.
Like a cleric, you can channel divine energy for your own purposes. Every subclass has its own Channel Divinity ability. You can use Channel Divinity once, and it returns after a short or long rest.
Ability Score Improvement (Level 4)
At Paladin level four, you gain some flexibility with ability scores. You can improve one ability score by two points, or two abilities by one point each. You can increase your ability scores again at levels 8, 12, 16, and 19.
Extra Attack (Level 5)
When you hit level five, you can attack twice when making an attack action instead of once. Obviously, this is a huge boost to your ability to deal damage and your opportunity to couple a critical hit with divine smite.
Aura of Protection (Level 6)
Another excellent feature, Aura of Protection grants you or every friendly creature within 10 feet of you a saving throw bonus equal to your Charisma modifier. This is in addition to any other bonuses you might get from magical items. You do not have to take an action, and the Aura never needs to be recharged with a short or long rest. The only exception is if you are unconscious, as it will not work then.
Aura of Courage (Level 10)
You and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you cannot become frightened as long as you remain conscious. This aura extends to 30 feet at level 18. Situational, but a nice way to rid yourselves of a lingering annoyance in some fights.
Improved Divine Smite (Level 11)
You gain 1d8 radiant damage on top of all successful melee weapon attacks with Improved Divine Smite. This does not require a spell slot and stacks with regular Divine smite. Not bad at all.
Cleansing Touch (Level 14)
Using Cleansing Touch, you can remove the effects of one spell on one willing creature by touching them. You can do this once per the number of your charisma modifier. They all recharge per long rest.
Optional Class Features
Like with every class, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything offers optional class features for the Paladin. These optional features are intended to be in addition to the existing features unless noted otherwise.
Expanded Spell List
As is the case with all casters, Paladins added a few spells to their list. They include:
- Gentle Repose
- Prayer of Healing
- Warding Bond
- Spirit Shroud
- Summon Celestial
Fighting Style Options
the Paladin picks up three new fighting style options to choose from. These fighting types are described in more detail above They include:
- Blessed Warrior. With Blessed Warrior, you gain two cantrips with this fighting style, using Charisma as your spellcasting ability when one is called for.
- Blind Fighting. Using Blind Fighting, you gain 10 feet worth of blindsight. WIthin that range, you can “see” even if you are blinded or are in darkness.
- Interception. When a creature you see other hits a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use a reaction to reduce the damage taken by 1d10 + your proficiency bonus. You can only use this when wearing a shield or carrying martial weapon.
Harness Divine Power (Level 3)
Harness Divine Power lets you power spells with your Channel Divinity. As a bonus action, you regain an expended spell slot by using Channel Divinity. The level of spell you can recover is half your proficiency bonus, rounded up.
Martial Versatility (Level 4)
When you reach level 4, you can swap out one fighting style for another.
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Paladin Party Roles
Appropriate party roles have been a common topic since 4E. While an optimal adventuring party will have a wide range of abilities, the roles from previous editions of the game are antiquated. In fact, some of the newer, widely accepted party roles may not be as important as we think. The paladin excels at many things, but it is important to remember that you can build a well-rounded character that is optimized for various tasks both in and out of combat. Still, most players want their characters to serve a purpose. This section takes a look at some of the widely accepted party roles to determine if Paladins fit that mold well.
The Tank: Overrated?
If you ask most D&D players about the role of a defensive tank, most of them will point you to the paladin. And that’s fair! Paladins are usually sturdy and have some of the highest Hite Dice possible. Of the few tanking mechanics available in 5E, certain paladin oaths have some of them. The real question is: is tanking a thing in 5E at all? The reality is that even with something like the sentinel feat, there is very little you can do to prevent numerous enemies from waltzing past you and attacking your fellow adventurers. A paladin can easily be built around taking damage, but the options for taking that damage on behalf of party members remain pretty limited. It is fair to say that the paladin is one of the best tanks available in 5E. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.
Single-Target Damage: Smite Me, Baby
If the paladin excels at one thing, it is dealing high damage to a single target. The spell list for the paladin is perfectly tailored to delivering high level of damage to a single target. Spells like Staggering Smite not only tack on additional damage to a successful melee attack, but they also potentially have additional effects like giving the target a condition or disadvantage on attacks. A quick glance at this spell list tells the story. There are numerous spells on the paladin list with a casting time of 1 bonus action, and nearly all of them enhance an attack on a single target.
Your spells are not the only reason the paladin is a powerful option against a single target. Divine Smite is a critical feature of most paladin builds starting at level 2. In fact, Divine Smite has a lot in common with the various smite spells on the paladin list. You can expend a spell slot in order to deal additional radiant damage following a weapon attack. This damage scales as you level, making your smites one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. The paladin is at its best when it is focused on smiting one big bad to oblivion.
AOE Damage: Having a Blast
Where the paladin excels at dealing damage to a single target, it struggles at dishing out damage to numerous enemies. In fact, the base paladin spell list only has one option that deals damage across an area of effect when cast. Outside of Destructive Wave, paladin damage spells largely focus on boosting the output for melee attacks. The role of dealing with crowds of bad guys through damage is generally best left to other classes like the Wizard.
Healer: Useful in a Pinch
While most parties look to a cleric as their healer, the paladin is no slouch. Paladins get some staple healing spells like cure wounds, although the lack the full slate that clerics offer. They make up for it with Lay on Hands, an excellent ability that restores hit points and scales as you level.
If healing is your think, that’s excellent. I think it is worth keeping in mind, however, that paladins are capable of more. It’s also worth noting that in 5E, doing nothing but healing is pretty boring. This isn’t an MMO, where fast twitch healing reflexes are the difference between life and death. Most of the time, your healing spells are used out of combat or to bring someone back from unconsciousness. In other words, paladins make great healers even though I wouldn’t make that the sole focus of your character build.
The Party Face: Do You Even Need One?
Another common trope when it comes to party roles is the idea of a “party face.” This character is tasked with using their charisma to haggle for discounts with merchants or charm their way past guards. The use of Charisma for these purposes is great! Of course, there are some other things to think about before you build an entire character around this purpose. For starters, countless characters could excel at this role with little more than some skill points invested in Charisma and proficiency in Persuasion. Is serving as a party face a viable role for a paladin? Totally. Should this be an important focus for how you build your character? I don’t think so.
Oaths – Paladin Subclasses
For some classes, a series of strong subclass options adds a lot of depth and flavor to an already strong character option. For other classes – like the 5e monk – an otherwise fun class is largely bogged down by weak archetypes. The paladin definitely falls into the first group. In fact, there is not a bad option in the bunch. Below, we’ll review all of the best paladin oaths available.
Oath of Conquest
The Oath of Conquest was first introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. While the Oath Spells are weak, the rest of this subclass is great. These paladins are sworn to power and order, with many going so far as to worship archdevils of the Nine Hells. When it comes to their mechanics, they are capable at crowd control and deal strong damage.
- Oath Spells. The issue with these spells is not that they are bad, but that they are a bad fit. Most of them are offensive, and many require saving throws. Realistically, if you are investing enough ability points in charisma to make these spell DCs high, why not just be a full caster? Still, Armor of Agathys, Spiritual Weapon, and Stoneskin are all great fits.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Conquering Presence lets you frighten a creature for one minute if they fail a wisdom saving throw. Guided Strike
- Aura of Conquest (Level 7). This feature is great. All creatures that are frightened of you have their speed reduced to zero if they are within 10 feet of you and not behind full cover. Additionally, they suffer psychic damage equal to half your paladin level at the start of each turn. The range increases to 30 feet at Level 18.
- Scornful Rebuke (Level 15). Characters that strike you suffer psychic damage equal to your charisma modifier.
- Invincible Conqueror (Level 20). Become an avatar of conquest! For one minute, you get resistance to all damage, an additional attack, and critical hits on a roll of 19 for melee attacks.
Oath of Devotion
See Our Oath of Devotion 5E Guide
Considered the “Vanilla option” by some, the Oath of Devotion is essentially a subclass that merely enhances the class traits of a paladin. While not a bad option, it is arguably the least interesting.
- Oath Spells. Outside of a few gems, there is not much to get excited about here. Protection from Evil and Good and Flame Strike are great, but other options are pretty situational. Zone of Truth and Sanctuary don’t have a lot of uses, while dispel magic is not a great use of limited spell slots.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Two nice options. Sacred Weapon adds your charisma modifier to attack rolls made with a chosen weapon for one minute. This can offset the penalty from great weapon master nicely. Turn the Unholy lets you turn fiends or undead upon a wisdom saving throw.
- Aura of Devotion (Level 7). This prevents hostiles from charming you or friends within 10 feet. At level 18, this protection reaches 30 feet.
- Purity of Spirit (Level 15). With Purity of Spirit, you get a permanent benefit of Protection from Evil and Good. Getting this benefit permanently is amazing.
- Holy Nimbus (Level 20). This lets you emanate sunlight in a 60-foot radius. The light is dim in the outer 30 feet. The bright light deals 10 radiant damage at the start of each hostile creature’s turn. You also get advantage on saving throws against spells cast by undead or fiends.
Oath of Glory
See Our Oath of Glory 5E Guide
The Oath of Glory is straight out of Mythic Odyssey of Theros. It fits well thematically with the Theros book given that the concept centers on Epic heroism in the line of Hercules. This subclass has some decent options, but they either rely heavily on Concentration or don’t stand out compared to other subclasses.
- Oath Spells. Some good options here, but half of them require concentration. That can be tough for paladins that are wading into battle and don’t have a great CON modifier.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). You get two options here, Peerless Athlete and Inspiring Smite. Peerless Athlete gives you 10 minutes of advantage on strength or dexterity checks plus boosts to carrying weight and jump distance. Inspiring Smite gives allies temporary hit points after using Divine Smite.
- Aura of Alacrity (Level 7). This boosts your walking speed and the speed of allies that start their turns within 5 feet of you by 10. It increases again at Level 18. The radius is too small to be that useful.
- Glorious Defense (Level 15). This is one of my favorite defender features. You can add your Charisma modified to the AC of any creature within 10 feet of you that is hit with an attack, potentially causing it to miss. Great stuff.
- Living Legend (Level 20). As a bonus action, you get one minute of bonus to charisma checks, causing a missed attack to hit once per turn, and using your reaction to reroll a saving throw. These are all great, but 1 minute isn’t a lot of time.
Oath of Redemption
See our Oath of Redemption Guide
The Oath of Redemption provides one of the best role-playing options in 5E. True pacifists, the subclass eschews offense for utility spells and options for preventing violence. A lot of fun, if you can stay alive.
- Oath spells. Redemption paladins have a lot of strong spell options. Sleep, hold person, and counterspell are all strong options that fit the theme.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Emissary of Peace gives you +5 to persuasion checks for a 10 minute span. Rebuke the Violent can be used any time a creature deals damage to someone other than you within 30 feet of you. You can make the attacker face a wisdom saving throw; a failure means they take the same mount of radiant damage they just dealt. A successful throw halves the damages.
- Aura of the Guardian (Level 7). You can absorb damage meant for any creature within 10 feet of you as a reaction. You can’t reduce the damage, and effects that come with it cannot be reduced in any way. The aura increases to 30 feet at level 18.
- Protective Spirit (Level 15). At the end of each turn that you have less than half of your hit points and are not incapacitated, you will gain 1d6 plus half your paladin level in HP.
- Emissary of Redemption (Level 20). Become an avatar of peace! You get resistance to all damage, and creatures that damage you get that same amount of damage back as radiant damage.
Oath of the Ancients
See Our Oath of the Ancients 5E Guide
This is essentially a paladin-druid hybrid. So-called “green knights” side with the light due to their love all things natural. All things considered, this is one of the weaker subclasses due to sub-optimal oath spells and some situational features.
- Oath Spells. Speak with Animals, Moonbeam, and Plant Growth are as situational as it gets. Many spells like Tree Stride are useless in campaigns that situated outside of forests or jungles. There are some nice options though, especially with Ensnaring Strike.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Nature’s Wrath lets you restrain a foe within 10 feet with spectral vines unless they pass a dexterity or strength saving throw. Turn the Faithless allows you to turn a fey or fiend within 30 feet if they fail a wisdom saving throw. Nature’s Wrath is nice, but is limited to a single foe.
- Aura of Warding (Level 7). The highlight of the subclass by far. In heavy-magic campaigns, this is extremely powerful. It gives you and friends within 10 feet resistance to damage from all spells. The aura increases to 30 feet at level 18.
- Undying Sentinel (Level 15). When you fall to 0 hits points but are not dead, you can choose to drop to 1 HP instead. This is available once per long rest. You also don’t age, which is cool flavor but fairly meaningless in game.
- Elder Champion (Level 20). For one minute per day you become an elder champion. You can take the appearance of any natural force. During this minute, you regain 10 HP at the start of each turn. You also can cast a paladin spell with a casting time of 1 action as a bonus action instead. Also, Enemies within 10 feet get disadvantage against your paladin spells and channel divinity options. Super powerful, but shortlived.
Oath of the Crown
See our Oath of the Crown 5E Guide
The ultimate tank paladin. This oath is for paladins that believe in law and order, and it centers around not only soaking up damage but forcing enemies to target instead of your allies. If the rest of your build isn’t optimized for tanking, you’re going to have a bad time, though.
- Oath spells. Not a bad list of spells, although several are situational. Compelled Duel is a great fit, except it’s redundant with Champion Challenge to a degree. Guardian of Faith and Circle of Power are also great.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Champion Challenge really makes this subclass, as it allows you to force any creature within 30 feet to make a wisdom saving throw. If they fail, they cannot move more than 30 feet away from you. Turn the Tide lets you give a small HP boost to any creature that can hear you if they are below half of their hit points.
- Divine Allegiance (Level 7). This allows you to use a reaction and take the damage that was meant for an ally within 5 feet of you. Very useful, but only for other frontline fighters.
- Unyielding Saint (Level 15). You get advantage on all saving throws for being stunned or paralyzed. This is situational but strong, especially coupled with Aura of Protection.
- Exalted Champion (Level 20). For one hour, you get several great battlefield buffs. They include resistance to bludgeoning, pricing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons. What’s more, your friends get advantage one death saving throws if within 30 feet. Finally, you and your allies get advantage on wisdom saving throws.
Oath of Vengeance
See our Oath of the Ancients 5E Guide
The Oath of Vengeance exists to punish an evil force that has committed a grievous sin. This subclass is great at dealing damage, particularly against a single powerful enemy.
- Oath Spells. The oath spells for Vengeance paladins are strong, especially at lower levels. Bane can turn the tide on a fight, and you get some classic buffs like Haste and Protection from Energy. Higher level spells are somewhat situational, though.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Abjure Enemy frightens enemies within 60 feet if they fail a wisdom saving throw. Vow of Enmity is much stronger in boss fights, as it gives you a minute of guaranteed advantage against a single target.
- Relentless Avenger (Level 7). When you hit a retreating enemy with an opportunity attack, you can move half your speed as part of that reaction. This movement also doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
- Soul of Vengeance (Level 15). This gives you a free reaction attack against an enemy that you are targeting with Vow of Enmity. It is available any time the enemy makes an attack.
- Avenging Angel (Level 20). This allows you to assume the form of an angelic avenger as an action. It lasts one hour. During that time, you sprout wings and can fly. You also emanate a 30-foot aura. Creatures that enter that aura or start their turn there must make a wisdom saving throw or become frightened.
See Our Oathbreaker Paladin 5E Guide
The Oathbreaker is a very cool subclass that deals a ton of damage. It will stick out like a sore thumb in many campaigns given its ties to the undead.
- Oath spells. There’s a lot of weak options here. Inflict Wounds is weaker than a normal attack plus smite, so why use it? Darkness isn’t ideal since you likely can’t see in the darkness. There are still enough spells worth having like Blight, Animate Dead, and Contagion.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Control Undead let’s you command an undead creature for 24 hours if it fails wisdom saving throw. Dreadful Aspect lets you frighten any creature of your choice within 30 feet if they fail a wisdom saving throw. This lasts for one minute.
- Aura of Hate (Level 7). Aura of Hate gives you a bonus to melee weapon damage equal to your charisma modifier. This applies to simple melee weapons as well as martial weapons. This bonus also applies to any fiends or undead within 10 feet of you. The bonus does not stack from more than one Oathbreaker paladin.
- Supernatural Resistance (Level 15). This gives you resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.
- Dread Lord (Level 20). This power goes you an aura of gloom for one minute. This aura reduces bright light to dim light within 30 feet. Any creature that is frightened by you that starts its turn in this sphere takes 4d10 psychic damage. Also any creatures you choose that rely on sight are at disadvantage on attack rolls. Finally, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with these shadows. If your spell attack hits it deals 3d10 + your charisma modifier in necrotic damage.
Oath of the Watchers
See Our Oath of the Watchers 5E Guide
The Oath of the Watchers is an interesting concept. This archetype is based on protecting the realm from extraplanar creatures like celestials or fey. While there are some positives, much of this subclass is limited to these specific types of creatures.
- Oath Spells. The spell list for this subclass is pretty strong. There are several good buff spells that allow a paladin to offer more utility to the party than normal. Most of these spells are not limited to impacting extraplanar creatures, which is nice.
- Channel Divinity (Level 3). Abjure the Extraplanar lets you turn extraplanar creatures, which is very situational. Watcher’s Will is nice as you can give allies advantage on intelligence, wisdom, or charisma saves.
- Aura of the Sentinel (Level 7). All allies within 10 feet gain the value of your proficiency bonus added to initiative rolls. This is one of the highlights of the class.
- Vigilant Rebuke (Level 15). Each time a creature you can see within 30 feet of you succeeds on an intelligence, wisdom, or charisma saving throw, you can use your reaction to hit them with 2d8 + your charisma modifier in force damage.
- Mortal Bulwark (Level 20). there is a lot happening here. You get truesight out to 120 feet, and you get advantage on attacks against extraplanar creatures. When you deal damage, you can also use this ability to banish the extraplanar creature back to their home plane of existence.
Fleshing Out your Paladin
Ultimately, the way you play your paladin is up to you. For some, just optimizing your character is enough to get you started. However, we have accumulated a few tips that can help you flesh out your paladin beyond its spells and abilities.
Gods and Religion
The term paladin has religious connotations, but it is important to remember you are not required to follow one. After all, your paladin draws his power from their commitment to their oath, not to a particular god. Still, it is not unusual for paladins to also worship a god that fits with their oath. Below are some suggested Forgotten Realms gods for each Oath:
- Ancients: Ehlonna, Eldath, Mielikki
- Conquest: Bel, Bane, Trithereon
- Crown: Bane, Erathis, Tyr
- Devotion: Trithereon, Ilmater
- Redemption: Ilmater, Lathander, Torm
- Vengeance: Bahamut, Helm, Torm, Kelemvor
Unlike previous versions, the Fifth Edition of D&D does not require that your paladin either follow a god or hold a lawful good alignment. This is awesome, as it provides you freedom in pursuing your character.
Just like with clerics and their gods, you might find internal or intraparty conflict due to your oath. Redemption paladins should have a lot to deal with if their party keeps slaughtering people, for instance.
The important thing to remember is having fun. Even if you have to put in some effort to address your character’s oath in relations to your party’s actions, it is an opportunity for storytelling and adding layers to your character.
Paladin 5E Optimization Tips
For some of us, squeezing every bit of advantage out of our characters is part of the fun. To that end, we have put together a comprehensive guide for optimizing your paladin in 5E.
One of the biggest drawbacks with paladins is that they require higher abilities than most other classes. Strength and Constitution are vital for a frontline character, and Charisma fuels your spells. While you can, in theory, dump dexterity, intelligence, and wisdom, you risk a lot of problematic saving throws when you do.
As is the case with most classes, the exact ability spread will depend on what you want to accomplish. If you plan to hack away with your sword and ask questions later, strength is vitally important to your build. If you see yourself casting spells more often than stabbing your enemies, Charisma suddenly becomes more important. This can be further complicated if you go for something out of the ordinary, like a dexterity build.
|Less Important||Dexterity, Wisdom|
Unless you plan a finesse weapon, dexterity-based paladin then strength should be your top priority. Your strength ability powers your melee attacks and determines the type of armor you are able to wear. If you are a strength-focused paladin, try to begin with at least a score of 16. Your first goal when leveling should be to get your strength up to 20. If you are going for a dexterity base, strength is less important. It is worth maintaining at least a 13. At this level, you can multiclass to other strength-based classes and wear anything other than plate armor. If you don’t care about either of those things and are not relying on strength-based attack rolls, you could get away with dumping strength. I would suggest keeping at least a 10 in strength to avoid negative modifiers on saving throws.
Unless you have a specific finesse build in mind, largely ignore dexterity and protect yourself with full plate armor. It is recommended to keep at least a score of 10 in dexterity for the benefit of saving throws. If you are going for a dexterity build, maximizing this ability should be a top priority. Your armor class will be reliant on dexterity, as will the other benefits of a “Dexadin” build like high initiative rolls.
Every single character can benefit from a high constitution score. As a paladin, this ability is important for two reasons. Not only does a high constitution provide you with additional hit points, but it also gives you a better chance to maintain concentration when casting spells. Unfortunately, the paladin is MAD (Multiple Ability-score Dependent.) Given how important strength and charisma are to your build, it is difficult to dedicate as much as you might like to constitution. Still, this should be your second-highest priority behind strength and charisma in most builds.
In a perfect world, there are no dump stats. Well: we don’t live in a perfect world. If you care about optimizing your character, the reality is that you have no use for intelligence as a paladin character. If a higher intelligence score makes sense for your character, or if you intend to multiclass, dropping some points here is fine. Otherwise, there are better uses for your ability points.
For most paladin builds, wisdom is an afterthought. Unless you multiclass, it will have no impact on the way you cast spells or deal damage. It is worth maintaining a few points in wisdom when you can, however. Wisdom saving throws are common, and perception is one of the skills that you are most likely going to use in a campaign.
Charisma is your second-highest priority, as it powers your spellcasting. If you intend to sling more spells and abilities than actual weapons, you might make this your top priority. Charisma is also important in that it powers certain subclass options, and it is also useful in social situations where Persuasion rolls come into play. If you are primarily basing your paladin on strength, charisma becomes less important. In fact, if you care little about spellcasting you could get by with a low charisma score. For example, you can get the maximum use out of features like Lay on Hands even if you dump charisma completely.
Best Races for Paladin in 5E
Like with all classes, the reality is there are no truly bad options for a paladin. As you level your character, any race can will work. There are some options that work better that others, of course. What we look for are races that have complimentary bonuses ability scores and racial features.
There have been recent changes To the rules of D&D (some variant, some not) that also largely make this point moot. In Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, variant options are presented that give DMs the chance to let their players assign their own ability score bonuses. By removing the hardwired ability score bonuses from races, you are free to build any character you want without worrying about optimizing your race.
WOTC has gone further with this approach in releases like Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. In Spelljammer, none of the racial options like the Giff have fixed ability score modifiers. This approach makes the race-specific traits far more important, as you are able to make an optimal ability score spread with any of these new races.
Please note that there are many options available for races in 5E, and those options grow with every official WOTC release. Instead of providing an exhaustive list, we have chosen to hit some highlights on the best options while mentioning a few we generally avoid. When possible, we will highlight the race and subrace we like best. Remember: any of these races is great if it makes sense for the character you have in mind.
These are some of my favorite options when rolling new paladin characters. I considered the following criteria when selecting these options. First, I looked at the bonuses to ability scores offered by each race and subrace. Next, I considered racial features that were complimentary to the paladin’s features. For example, I gave weight to racial features that enhance the paladin’s Divine Smite. Finally, I looked at general benefits that are useful regardless of your chosen class. These are things like additional languages or darkvision. While I don’t consider these extras heavily, I do note when there are numerous universally good options as opposed to one or two.
The Aasimar 5E race is easily one of the best starting points for this class. Starting off with +2 to Charisma is excellent, and you could also pick up +1 to strength if you select the Fallen Aasimar subrace. The strength of this option goes well beyond the ability scores, however. As a paladin, you already gain some inherent healing ability with Lay on Hands. Your Aasimar ability Healing Hands packs on even more healing power on top of that. You also gain the light cantrip, resistance to necrotic and radiant damage, and darkvision. That is a lot of beneficial stuff packed into a single character, and that says nothing of potentially gaining flying speed depending on your subrace choice.
The half-orc is not just a great option for a paladin; it’s a fun option as well. My favorite aspect of a half-orc is the Savage Attacks feature. When you score a critical hit with a melee weapon, you can add an additional damage dice. The paladin already excels at high damage against single targets, so throwing even more dice on a critical in addition to a smite is nasty.
The ability score bonus is solid, with a +2 for strength and a +1 for constitution. This is the perfect option for a melee-centric paladin, and meshes well with the Savage Attacks feature.
When it comes to a dexterity-based paladin build, you will be hard-pressed to do worse than this D&D bunny race. The harengon are a newer release, during a time where WOTC has moved away from fixed ability score bonuses. Because you have the opportunity to choose your stats, you can pick the optimal mix for your build. Hare Trigger gives you a boost to initiative, you get an extra 1d4 on dexterity saves, and you can hop into or out of combat with a single jump.
Released with Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, the Hexblood is more of a lineage than an actual race. Despite the lore, the Hexblood is a nice option for a paladin. You get your choice of ability score bonuses, which is a great starting point. This hag-themed lineage grants you the ability to cast Hex without a spell slot, which is a nice boost of damage on top of Divine Smite. The other options, including casting Disguise Self, darkvision, and a limited form of telepathic communication are a nice bonus.
Mountain dwarves are unique when it comes to ability score bonuses. You get a rare +2 to two different abilities. The fact that these bonuses are for constitution and strength is even better news. This leaves you without a bonus to charisma, which is a small price to pay unless you planned on primarily playing as a caster. You also get all of the standard dwarf bonuses, including darkvision and resistance against poison damage.
That extra bonus to strength or constitution could open up doors for picking a feat later. Playing the long game on acquiring a feat by bumping up your important stats to even numbers could be a better option, though.
Topaz Gem Dragonborn
Gem Dragonborn of all types make strong paladins, but I especially like the topaz gem dragonborn. You get your choice of ability scores, and the topaz ancestry offers resistance to necrotic damage. With the option to choose your abilities, this subrace is a good option for both strength and dexterity paladins.
There are two features that really make the Gem Dragonborn stand out here, though. The first is Gem Flight. While you don’t gain this option right away, at level five you get 1 minute of flying speed. That’s not a lot, but for a single battle having the option to flit around the battlefield is exceptional. This also fills the gap when it comes to fighting flying monsters until you can get your Greater Steed.
The second fun option is Psionic Mind. Telepathy is immensely useful, and this allows you to communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet. There are not a lot of options for paladins to secure telepathy, so this is a good reason to select the Gem Dragonborn subrace.
I also love the Triton for a paladin build. With the triton, you pick up a +1 bonus to strength, constitution, and charisma. It’s hard to find a better way to split bonuses across three abilities for a paladin. This race offers a few bits that are helpful at various times like resistance to cold, darkvision, and breathing underwater. You also get some innate spellcasting, which relies on charisma for your spellcasting bonus. Not only is this convenient, but spells like Fog Cloud and Wall of Water are viable regardless of your charisma bonus. This makes them useful spells even if you dump charisma to focus on a strength build.
Variant human is a nice option for a paladin for the same reason it is viable for any class: the ability to take a feat. There are countless feats that are great with this class, and we cover them extensively later on in this post. The option to boost two abilities of your choice is icing on the cake.
- Goliath. Nice abilities and Stone Endurance make this a good fit.
- Tabaxi. Not strong for a traditional paladin, but excellent if you are going for a dexterity-based build.
- Tortle. excels in the early game thanks to natural armor. However, this option lags at higher levels when magical plate armor becomes available.
What Background is Best for a Paladin?
For a paladin, your background will not make or break your character. The tools rarely make a difference, but additional languages and proficiencies are nice. The best choices involve additional skills that rely on your strongest abilities. For the most part, you will benefit from picking backgrounds that provide you with Charisma-based skills. There are some exceptions, especially those backgrounds that grant you a 5E feat. Here are a few good options
- City Watch. Athletics and Insight are always helpful even though they are not Charisma-based, plus you get two languages. This is a great option.
- Courtier. A good choice if you plan to lean into being the voice of your party. Persuasion is a great skill, and you get two additional languages.
- Faction Agent. This gets you insight plus a mental skill of your choice. Throw in two languages and you have an ideal background. The faction you are an agent for could be based on your Oath as well.
- Soldier. This gives you athletics plus a face skill, which is great. Intimidation is a perfect skill choice for a paladin. Whether or not your vehicle or dice set are useful depends on the campaign.
- Astral Drifter. The astral drifter background is specific to Spelljammer, but it is a fitting option for a paladin. Unlike most backgrounds, you pick up a feat as an astral drifter. You get the Magic Initiative feat, plus proficiency in Insight which is always useful. The proficiency in Religion is mostly wasted on you.
Every class has the option to take a feat instead of the increase to ability scores. Taking a feat is your decision to make, although for this class in particular it is often not the optimal choice. Paladins are plagued with MAD, and bumping up all of those important stats really ats up the ability score increases. That said, there are some feats that are just plain fun and others that are necessary for a specific build. In this section, we take a look at some of the best options for Paladin feats.
The obvious downside to taking a feat is missing out on increasing an ability score. Given how often your abilities come into play, a +1 to your most important abilities usually has a much larger effect on your character than even the best feats. That said, if you are content with your current ability score level, here are some of the feats we recommend for paladins.
Alert is one of those feats that is helpful for any class. The big highlight is that it gives you +5 to your initiative roll, which helps you get into the fight much faster. It also has some other nice bits that prevent you from being surprised and prevent creatures you can’t see from getting advantage on attacks against you. All in all, this is good stuff for any character.
That being said, it is an especially nice option for paladins. Unless you go with a dexterity build, you can count on usually ending up towards the bottom of the initiative order. The Alert feat lets you make up for some of that by giving you a solid boost with every initiative roll.
When it comes to feats, Crusher is one of the newer options for 5E. It is one of the best feat options available from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, especially if you are playing a martial class like the paladin. In some situations, this feat is a perfect option for your for Ability Score Improvement. If you are playing a dexterity paladin, you can skip this one. You will need to wield a weapon that does bludgeoning damage to get the most out of this feat. The Slasher and Pierer feats are similar if you rely on those types of weapons.
First, you can improve either strength or constitution by one, up to a maximum of 20. If you ended up with an odd number for either of those scores after you created your character, this is a nice way to get a bump in your modifier.
The increase in your ability is only a small part of why crusher is a great feat. It has two other important pieces that are good news for paladins. First, you can move a creature you hit by five feet when you deal bludgeoning damage. This is fun, but a little situational. What is always useful is the second part of the feat. If you deal bludgeoning damage and score a critical hit, all attack rolls against that creature are made with advantage until the start of your next turn.
Great Weapon Master
Great weapon master gives you a choice: reduce your chance of hitting your opponent in exchange for a big boost in damage. Specifically, you shave off five from your attack role in exchange for a +10 to damage. The key is to find other ways to boost your attack bonus so that shaving off five from your roll doesn’t hurt too much. If that wasn’t enough, you could also get an extra attack using your bonus action after a critical hit.
As a paladin, you have a number of ways to boost your attack rolls. If melee attacks are your bread and butter, your top priority should have been to increase either Strength or Dexterity to 20. This additional damage and the potential for attacks with a bonus action is a match made in heaven for a paladin.
Lucky is very much one of those feats that is a great choice for any class. In fact, it is so good that some DMs ban it at their table. The lucky feat allows you to re-roll a d20 up to three times per day. This can be for attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks. What’s more, you can re-roll your own failed roll or make an enemy re-roll a success.
This is obviously nice in a variety of situations. Where luck really comes in handy for a paladin is when you are desperate to land a melee attack and fire off some of that sweet Divine Smite damage. With three chances to re-roll missed attacks per day, your odds of getting hits when it counts go up dramatically.
Polearm master is a great way to make a bunch of extra attacks, so long as you don’t mind wielding a weapon like a glaive or halberd. The feat does two things, and they are both great. First, you can use a bonus action to make an attack with the butt of your polearm. Second, you get an opportunity attack when a creature enters within the reach of your weapon. That’s a lot of extra attacks.
This feat is great for paladins for one clear reason: divine smite. Every time you get another chance to land an attack, you have another opportunity to smite your target. As you gain access to higher spell slots, a larger portion of the damage you deal will come with the use of Divine Smite or smite spells. Depending on the situation, you could use this feat to make attacks with your action, bonus action, and reaction in the same turn. You could use Divine Smite on any of those attacks if they are successful.
- Fighting Adept. Fighting adept gives you an extra fighting style, and you are not limited to those provided to the paladin class. This could open up several doors for you that would not otherwise be available.
- Inspiring Leader. This is a great temporary hit points buff, and most paladins have the charisma to make it worthwhile.
- Martial Adept. Similar to fighting adept. Instead of a fighting style, you get to pick up maneuvers similar to the Battlemaster fighter archetype.
Paladins are half-casters with access to some of the best spells available in D&D. of course, your choice of spells will depend entirely on your approach to casting. Many players look at their spell slots as little more than fuel for Divine Smite. If that accurately describes you, feel free to ignore this section. If you intend to make use of your ability to cast, the following spells are some of the best options available to your class.
Guidance is easily one of the best cantrips in the game. Of course, it should be noted your access to this (or any) cantrip is very limited. You must select the Blessed Warrior fighting type in order to add this spell to your repertoire. You could be glad you did, as adding 1d4 to virtually in skill check you make is a huge bonus – especially for a cantrip.
Bless (1st Level)
It is hard to find a support spell that is better than Bless. This option not only boosts your attacks and saves, but it can apply to a number of other members of your party as well. While concentration spells are always a risk for melee-centric characters, Bless could actually help you maintain concentration thanks to the boost to saving throws.
Cure Wounds (1st Level)
Cure Wounds is one of the most basic healing spells available in 5E. Even though you have Lay on Hands, having at least one healing spell in your back pocket is a good idea in cases where your allies have dropped to zero HP. Healing Word is the better option for that purpose, but it’s not on the Paladin spell list.
Protection from Good and Evil (1st Level)
Protection from Good and Evil offers excellent defensive buffs against aberrations, celestials, elements, fey, fiends, and undead. While this spell does not work against every possible target, the creature types this spell applies to often make up a large portion of the monsters in most campaigns. The benefits themselves are significant, which include giving monsters disadavantage on attacks, plus immunity to being charmed, frightened, or possessed. This spell is great.
Aid (2nd Level)
Aid is more than just a boost to temporary HP. Instead, Aid gives up to three creatures a boost their maximum of HP for up to 8 hours. This spell does not require concentration, and casting it at higher levels increases the HP boost. This spell allows a paladin to increase the durability of multiple party members.
Magic Weapon (2nd Level)
Magic Weapon is a decent option at lower levels. It essentially gives you (or an ally) a +1 magical weapon for up to an hour. This increase the chances of a successful attack, which also boosts the likelihood of a Divine Smite opportunity. This spell becomes less important as you level up, especially if you find a magical weapon of your own.
Blinding Smite (3rd Level)
All of the smite spells are fun, and each of them offers something more than just a little additional damage on top of a successful attack roll. Blinding smite is arguably the strongest, however, as blinding your opponent can have lasting impacts later on in a battle.
Find Greater Steed (4th level)
One of the major drawbacks of playing a paladin is that it can be difficult to deal with enemies that can fly. Sure, you have access to spells that could deal damage from a distance. But flying foes like dragons make it difficult for you to land your bread-and-butter melee attacks or use Divine Smite. Find Greater Steed gives you access to a number of powerful mounts, many of which can fly.
Paladin is one of the best classes available, meaning there is no need to multiclass if you don’t want to. Of course, this general advice only applies if you are focused on optimization. If the character you have in mind makes sense to have a little bard in them, don’t let us stop you! That said, there are a few other classes worth taking a dip into. Before diving into our recommendations, there are a few general points to consider:
- Other classes have ability prerequisites, and not all of them will mesh well with your Paladin ability spread. If your paladin follows the traditional Strength / Charisma build, adding levels in a class that has Intelligence requisites could leave you spread pretty thin, ability-wise.
- There are downsides to multiclassing, especially for paladins. Each level you multiclass limits your spellcasting as a Paladin. This is problematic since you are a half-caster. You also miss out on improvements to Lay on Hands, the benefits of which improve with every level of Paladin you gain.
- When you multiclass matters. Most players wait at least until after level three, so that they have spellcasting, smites, and their sacred oath. Multiclassing is also popular after level 5, where the paladin gets their Extra Attack.
- I suggest focusing on multiclassing when it enhances your paladin features or fills a void you lack. This could include improving your ranged attacks, picking up more utility spells, or increasing the likelihood of a critical hit. This last option is especially strong given that you can tack on a smite after a critical hit.
- If you play a martial paladin, taking one or more dips into casting classes means giving up those precious hit points. While dealing with a lower Hit Die for one level is minor, spending several levels on softer classes could add up.
Good Multiclassing Options for Paladin
The following are some of my favorite options for multiclassing.
This suggestion might seem strange at first. When you peel back the layers, the bard is a great multiclass option for a paladin if you are largely focusing on spellcasting. That part shouldn’t come as a surprise. Like the paladin, the bard is a charisma caster. Having access to the best bard spells is also a nice addition. A dip into bard also allows the paladin to expand their role in the party. This is useful for parties that do not have a rogue. Depending on how many levels you take, Jack of All Trades and Expertise are great for this. Three levels of bard seem like a lot for a Paladin multiclass, but if you go that far, the College of Swords Bard gives you a new fighting style.
The combination of paladin and fighter is surprisingly good, especially if you take two levels of fighter. While it might seem like these classes overlap, the reality is that what you pick up from a level or two of Fighter complements your Paladin skills well. This is due in part to some of the best aspects of the Fighter 5e class becoming available at early levels.
When you take two levels into fighter, you gain a second Fighting Style which is always useful. What’s more, you pick up Action Surge and Second Wind, which are staples of the Fighter class that are plainly useful to a Paladin in combat. Whether or not giving up Paladin slots later to take these advantages early on is worth it is entirely up to you. I think this is a great multiclass option if you intend to run a paladin that is purely focused on melee combat.
It should come as no surprise that paladins and sorcerers are a great combination. Sorcerers are Charisma-based casters just like Paladins. What I love about this multiclass is that it’s not only good, but it’s good regardless of how you approach your Paladin. Primarily a spellcaster? Taking a dip into Sorcerer gives you more slots and access to arcane spells you otherwise could not cast. However, there is more to love about the Sorcadin than just spellcasting. If you are a melee character, you can eat up those sorcerer spell slots with Divine Smite. What’s more, you can also expend your Sorcery Points to buy more spell slots and – you guessed it – use them for Divine Smite.
You can get a lot out of this multiclass option, even if you are only taking one level. Sorcerers gain their subclass at level one, meaning you can get substantial boosts out of a single dip. There is a lot to like about this combination, which is why it is one of the most popular multiclasses out there.
There are few multiclassing combinations that are as delightful as Paladin-Warlock. In general, these two classes compliment each other well. They are both Charisma casters, but a few levels in Warlock gives a paladin substantially more magic at their disposal than they would normally have. Even a single level gives you some fun casting opportunities that you would not ordinarily have.
Where this combination really becomes powerful is when you select the Hexblade subclass. As a hexblade, you suddenly gain the ability to use Charisma for your attack roles. In other words, this multiclass is a solution to your MAD issues, as you can take just enough strength to wear the armor you prefer and then ignore it forever. A Bladelock Paladin can focus primarily on Charisma, have plenty of powerful casting options, and also be a monster in combat without spreading themselves thin ability-wise.
Decent Multiclassing Options
These options have some strong selling points. However, in my view, they generally do not amplify the paladin’s already strong features.
I originally rated barbarian lower for multiclassing with paladin. While there are some downsides, I have bumped it up a level after thinking it over. The obvious benefit to taking a level of paladin is the ability to rage. Rage is great for a melee build paladin, as you get the damage boost and resistance to nonmagical slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning damage. The extent of these benefits will depend entirely on how often you cast spells in combat, as rage will prevent you from doing so. However, it should be noted that the rules do not prevent you from expending spell slots for divine smite as you are not actually casting a spell.
Another downside to the barbarian is that Unarmored Defense is completely wasted here. As a paladin, your whole thing is heavy armor. Most paladins are Strength builds, making Unarmored defense particularly useless. Going for a Dexterity barbarian? This might be a better option, or you could just go with a barbarian build from the get-go. I would not go past a single dip to get Rage, but if you go for three levels of barbarian you have a few good subclass options. Zealot barbarians are great flavor-wise and give you a boost in damage.
If you are looking for multiclass options for your paladin, the rogue class might not immediately come to mind. In many situations, this is unlikely to be a great option. Your heavy armor is going to make any bonuses to sneaking around fairly pointless, and unless you are a dexterity build you are facing some notable MAD issues as well. However, sneak attack is another way to stack even more damage on a single target with a successful attack role. What’s not to love about that?
Depending on the makeup of your party, Expertise could also come in handy. Paladin characters are not known for their wide range of skills, but Expertise could come in handy in countless situations. This is especially true if you are doing the talking on behalf of your party more often than not. If you are looking for a rogue subclass, I like the Arcane Trickster for the addition of wizard spells to your arsenal.
Avoidable Multiclass Options
There are a few classes I would not bother multiclassing into as a paladin. There are edge cases for a few of these, but most of them are not optimal. In some cases, the issue is that you would become dependent on another ability. This is a problem as the paladin is already MAD. Another issue is that some classes substantially overlap with the paladin, and there is little reason to waste a level in another class for redundant features.
A dip into artificer isn’t all bad on the surface. Who doesn’t want to add some cantrips, utility magic, and potentially some artificer infusions? These additions would be great, but in my view, the cost is not worth it. In order for a paladin to multiclass into artificer, you’ll need a 13 in your Intelligence. If you intend to make use of artificer spells, Intelligence is also your spellcasting modifier.
Going with a level in artificer won’t cost you spell slots given the way the class ads spells. However, what you gain as a caster with a level of artificer likely doesn’t equal what you give up when you lose out on a level of paladin. What’s more, the best aspects of artificer aren’t available unless you get two or three levels. The biggest bonuses at level one are armor proficiencies you don’t need and a smattering of spells. You will only pick up infusions at level two, and the benefits of a subclass at level 3.
There is a lot of overlap between Paladins and Clerics. For that reason alone, this multiclass option usually does not make a lot of sense. As a paladin, you already get access to Channel Divinity. You also share many of the same spell options due to your divine spellcasting. If this overlap wasn’t enough, taking a level in Cleric could also further spread your ability scores. You have little use for Wisdom as a Charisma caster.
There are times when a dip might be worth it, though. Clerics gain their subclass at level one, and some of the 1st level subclass abilities are a nice fit. If you intend to focus on healing, a dip into Life Cleric is not a bad idea. Putting a level into Forge Cleric also gives you a +1 weapon, which is always nice for increasing the odds of a successful melee attack.
For many players, the Druid is the ultimate class. WildShape is a powerful option that allows you to absorb tremendous damage in combat, and the Druid Spells list is also excellent. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the most out of what makes a Druid great when playing a Paladin. WildShape is great, but it interferes with your ability to cast Paladin spells or land Divine Smite. What’s more, WildShape only becomes available at level 2, which means you’ll need to give up two levels in Paladin to get there.
There are other downsides for picking up a level or two in Druid, and that is true even if you are a big fan of the Druid spell list. Druids are wisdom casters, which does not square with the typical Paladin ability spread. In fact, paladins frequently treat Wisdom as a dump stat. If you plan on taking enough levels of Druid to pick up a subclass, the Circle of Stars is not a bad idea. You get Guidance as a cantrip without having to settle for Blessed Warrior, and you can use the Starry Form feature to cast healing spells as a bonus action.
Multiclassing a paladin with levels in Monk is a worst-case scenario from a MAD perspective. These issues are not just about optimization, as the ability requirements alone mean you need at least 13 points or more across four different abilities. This stat spread is as bad as it gets, potentially hampering you from ever maxing out your optimal abilities. The ability score spread alone is enough reason to avoid this combination unless roleplaying makes it worth it.
There are other downsides that come with multiclassing into Monk, though. Most Monk subclasses rely on the use of Ki points to really make your character shine. If you only take a level or two into Monk, you will hardly have any points to spare. If you go this route, I highly recommend looking at subclasses that have features that are not reliant on Ki points. One example is the Way of the Long Death monk, which lets you pick up temporary hit points when you reduce a creature near you to 0 hp.
Ranger is a poor multiclassing option for the same reason that Monk is. You are looking at a wide range of attributes in order to get much out of this class, and your efforts are likely better spent focusing on the ability scores that will power your paladin build. There are some benefits of going with the ranger, like picking up some spells and getting an additional Fighting Style. However, you will need to take two levels of Ranger to get these benefits. It is generally not going to be worth it.
There really is not a good reason to take a level in Wizard. It has a minimum Intelligence requirement that you might not meet if you dumped that stat. What’s more, your spellcasting ability is Intelligence, meaning a lot of the spells you would otherwise add do little for you because of your low modifier. You will also lose out on some potential HP, given that you are rolling with the smallest hit die available.
What’s more, the major reason for taking a dip into Wizard—more spells—is better achieved with a different multiclass approach. Taking levels in Warlock or Sorcerer give you access to additional magic without going MAD. If you are set on taking levels in Wizard, be sure to make use of arcane recovery as it can greatly improve the number of times you use Divine Smite. An abjuration wizard is a fine subclass, as you could use Arcane Ward when casting Ceremony or Protection from Evil and Good.
Sample Paladin Build
As we have discussed previously, there are plenty of ways to build a paladin. In this sample build, we’ll give you our quick and easy take on a basic strength-based Paladin. We’ll use the Half-Orc as our race, and eventually we’ll pick up the Oath of Vengeance when it is time to pick a subclass.
Once we craft our starting paladin, we will take you through levels 1-20, highlighting the choices you have available to you. Of course, many of these options will depend on your choice of paladin oath. We’ll use Standard Array for building this character from the ground up. If you use a different method at your table, just remember to prioritize strength and charisma with this build.
|Levels||New Features||Choices to Make|
-Lay on Hands
|See the table above for our notes on starting race, ability scores, backgrounds, language, and equipment.|
-Fighting Style: Dueling
|at level two, it is time to pick your spells. You have two 1st level paladin spells at your disposal with this build. Shield of Faith is a strong defensive option, and cure wounds is always helpful. |
There are two fighting styles that make sense here, Dueling and Defense. Your decision boils down to whether you value a little extra damage or higher AC. I opted for Dueling since melee damage is central to the build.
|3||-Sacred Oath: Oath of Vengeance|
The Oath of Vengeance also comes with two oath spells: Bane and Hunter’s Mark. At level three, you also gain an additional spell to your prepared spell list. I usually add one of the smite spells.
|4||ASI||Add +2 to strength to improve your melee weapon damage. Your known spells list also increases to 4.|
|At level five, you gain two new oath spells: Hold Person and Misty Step. Hold person is a great spell, although with only +2 charisma the DC is fairly low. Misty Step is a great spell for a paladin, as it allows you to teleport around the battlefield, smiting your foes.|
You also gain second level spells at this level. Magic Weapon is useful, although Hunter’s Mark is often a better option. If you intend to fill some healing needs for the party, Lesser Restoration isn’t a bad option either. More likely than not, these slots are best used for Divine Smite.
|6||-Aura of Protection||At level 6, your list of known spells increases to 5.|
|7||-Relentless Avenger||No decisions at this level.|
|8||ASI||+1 strength, +1 charisma. This maxes your strength and starts the process of boosting your charisma to max. Your list of known spells increases to 6.|
|At level 9, you gain access to third level spells. Elemental Weapon becomes a strong option at this point. |
When it comes to oath spells, you gain Haste and Protection From Energy.
|10||-Aura of Courage||At level 10, your list of known spells increases to 7.|
|11||-Improved Divine Smite||No decisions at this level.|
|12||ASI||+2 Charisma. Your list of known spells increases to 9.|
|At level 13, you gain access to level 4 spells. Death Ward is a good option, but this slot is also great for Divine Smite.|
For your oath spells, you pick up Banishment and Dimension Door.
|14||-Cleansing Touch||At level 14, your list of known spells increases to 10.|
|15||-Soul of Vengeance||No decisions at this level.|
|16||ASI||+2 Charisma. Your list of known spells increases to 12.|
|At level 17, you gain access to level 5 spells. While using this level of spell for divine smite makes sense, the option of casting Summon Celestial is hard to beat. These celestial allies are very powerful, with flight, healing abilities, and the option to attack with melee or at range. Having a friend in battle to control can also address one of your major drawbacks, which is dealing with more than one enemy at once.|
For your oath spells, you gain Hold Monster and Scrying
|18||-Aura Improvements||Your list of known spells increases to 13.|
|19||ASI||+1 Charisma, +1 Constitution. Your list of known spells increases to 14.|
|20||-Avenging Angel||Your list of known spells increases to 15.|
Paladin 5E FAQ
Here you can find the answer to some of the most common questions about playing a Paladin in D&D 5E.
Do Paladins Need a God in 5E?
Paladins do not need to serve a specific god in 5E. This was the case in older editions of the game, but that is no longer the case. Instead, paladins swear a powerful oath to a specific ideal. It is the paladin’s own conviction that gives them strength. This can be confusing given some of the language used in the subclass. Paladins get Divine Sense and Divine Smite, even if they do not swear any allegiance to a specific deity. For many players, aligning their paladin with a certain deity is part of the fun. Just remember that this is not necessary mechanically. You are free to play the paladin character you want, whether your oath is sworn before a god’s altar or in a sacred glade before nature spirits.
Are Paladins a Good Class in 5E?
Paladins are a great class. While I’m of the belief that there are no bad classes only unoptimized builds, most players agree that the paladin is especially strong. You do a lot of things well with this class, starting with dealing a bunch of damage. With the right build, you can be especially durable while also offering utility through spellcasting. Your high Charisma score opens a lot of doors in the social aspects of the game, as well. A paladin excels at a lot of things and should never be a liability to any adventuring party.
What is the Best Stat for a Paladin in 5E?
Unlike other classes, it is difficult to build a paladin based on a single ability stat. However, which stat is most important will depend entirely on your build. If you want to play a paladin that is focused on spellcasting, Charisma is your top choice. If you are playing a martial character, you may rely more on either Strength and Dexterity. Paladins are reliant on multiple attributes, which is one of the few downsides to this class.
Can You Be a Good Oathbreaker Paladin?
Rules as written, you cannot be a good Oathbreaker paladin. According to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, this subclass is exclusive to evil-aligned characters. Of course, this is one of those things that your DM could potentially give you some wiggle room with. The importance of alignment in D&D continues to shrink, so playing an Oathbreaker might be an option at some tables. Ask your DM, but come up with a compelling backstory first.
Is Cleric or Paladin Better?
There are many similarities between Cleric and Paladin, but it is hard to say if one is better than the other. Both classes offer divine spellcasting and Channel Divinity. These classes have the potential to cast healing spells, and both have access to heavy armor. The major difference between the two involves melee attacks for spellcasting. Clerics have a more expansive spellcasting ability, whereas paladins have additional options that can stack up tremendous damage on top of their melee attacks. The overlap between these classes is significant, and they are both fun options.
Do Paladins Need Intelligence?
The paladin class does not need to rely on Intelligence in combat or for spellcasting. It is a dump stat in the truest sense, as paladin builds will focus on Charisma, Strength/Dexterity, and Constitution. While Intelligence is not a priority, the amount of points you put into it will depend largely on how determine your starting ability scores. If you use standard array, Intelligence should get the least number of points. However, you could invest a point or two with the Point Buy method to avoid a -1 modifier on Intelligence saving throws.
Can Paladins Get Married in DND?
There is nothing in the rules of D&D that prevent paladin characters from getting married. While some players might develop a backstory that results in a paladin sworn to celibacy, there is nothing in the rules that requires this approach. Feel free to marry off your paladin character to whoever you like!
Can a Paladin Be a Good Healer in 5E?
Paladins make for decent healers in 5E. As divine casters, they have access to all of the healing spells available in D&D. They also have the Lay on Hands ability, which gives them the option of healing without expending spell slots. These options make them capable healers, but a paladin’s spell slots are better used for things like Divine Smite. Healing magic is always good to have in a pinch, but as a half-caster paladins have fewer options compared to other classes like Clerics or Druids.
Concluding our Paladin 5E Guide
Playing a paladin is a noble journey, at least for most characters. While many players dedicate their paladins to specific deities, this class is truly focused on the oaths that they take. Living by these sacred oaths can go well beyond faith to a single deity. That wraps up our Paladin 5E Guide. The paladin class is a strong option for any campaign, and it offers lots of customization. We hope this has been helpful for you! If you are still uncertain on your next character, check out our Classes 5E Guide to get some ideas for character creation.