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DnD 5e - The Paladin Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

Introduction

Paladins are on the most durable, survivable, and self-sufficient class in the game. As such, they make excellent solo characters. In a party, they serve as a Defender, Face, and Striker.

Paladins are extremely durable and can survive a long hard day of adventuring, but none of their abilities (except Channel Divinity) recharge on a short rest, so you need to ration your resources more strictly than many classes.

Paladin Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard for a martial fighter-equivalent class.

Saves: The Paladin's saves will keep you from being charmed or mind controlled, but you'll have problems with Constitution saves, in which Barbarians and Fighters both get proficiency. When you pick up Aura of Protection, you suddenly get a huge boost to all of your saves, potentially giving you better saves than a Monk with Diamond Body.

Proficiencies: All armor, all weapons, and two skills from a decent skill list the Paladins actually have the abilities to use.

Divine Sense: Certainly better than relying on Insight.

Lay On Hands: This is among the most efficient healing options in the game. Since it has such a deep pool and allow you to pick exactly how much you heal, it's actually viable during combat. With such a large pool you can easily bring many allies from 0 to full health in a single Action.

Fighting Style: Paladins get a smaller list than Fighters, but your choice will frequently define how you approach combat.

Spellcasting:

Divine Smite: This will eat through your spell slots very quickly, but it's also the Paladin's greatest source of damage. When you get this at level 2, the base damage plus a longsword is enough to one-shot a decent chunk of the enemies your might encounter. However, you need to resist the tempation to feed all of your spell slots into Divine Smite as quickly as possible, or you will find yourself out of options at the end of the day.

Divine Health: Diseases can be very problematic, but you already have the ability to cure them with Lay On Hands, so this isn't terribly helpful.

Sacred Oath: See "Subclasses - Sacred Oaths", below.

Extra Attack: A second attack is a sharp increase in your damage output, but you're still reliant on Divine Smite to keep up with Barbarians and Fighters.

Aura of Protection: Better than proficiency in every save. You can potentially have +15 in a save before the possibility of magic items.

Aura of Courage: Fear effects generally won't kill you, but they're certainly inconvenient and it's nice to be able to ignore them.

Improved Divine Smite: Paladins don't get as many attacks as Fighters, but this will help with your damage output.

Cleansing Touch: Fantastic for removing pesky effects like paralysis or charm.

Subclasses - Sacred Oaths

Abilities

Paladins have three important stats, but also have three dump stats. That makes them a bit MAD, but as long as you're using point-buy ability generation it doesn't really matter. You don't even have to worry about saves much since you can rely on Aura of Protection to boost your weak saves.

Str: Paladins don't get access to any ranged combat styles, so Strength is typically a given. However, if you want to go for a Finesse build you can dump Strength.

Dex: Dump it and grab some Full Plate unless you want to go for a Finesse build.

Con: All martial characters need Constitution, but it's especially important for Paladins since they don't get proficiency with Constitution saves.

Int: Dump.

Wis: Dump unless you want a decent Insight score.

Cha: Charisma fuel's many of the Paladin's abilities, including their spellcasting, Aura of Protection, and several Paladin skills.

Strength-Based Dexterity-Based
Point Buy Standard Array Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 14

Races

Bonuses to the Paladin's three big ability scores are great, and fortunately you have plenty of options to choose from to get them, which really opens up a lot of fantastic build options.

AarakocraEEPC: Bonus Dexterity and flight are decent for a finesse-based Paladin, but that's really all you get.

Dwarf: Bonus consitution, and some other stuff which makes the Paladin even more durable.

DragonbornPHB: The ability scores are great, and energy resistance is excellent, but the Dragonborn's breath weapon is really weak.

ElfPHB: Dexterity works for a finesse build, and the Elf's other abilities are tangentially useful for Paladins. Unfortunately, none of the subraces are particularly good.

GenasiEEPC: Extra constitution is nice, but not terribly exciting, and none of the subraces work for the Paladin.

Gnome: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

GoliathEEPC: Good abilities, Athletics for free, and Stone's Endurance adds a bit of additional durability.

Half-Elf: Incomparably good. The Half-Elf is arguably the best race in the Player's Handbook, and they are practically tailor-made to be Paladins. You get bonuses to all three of the Paladin's important ability scores, two free skills to round out your selection of Face skills, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry adds another immunity to the Paladin's existing laundry list of immunities and resistances.

Half-OrcPHB: Good ability scores, a free Face skill, Darkvision, and a couple of fun abilities. Still not as good as the Half-Elf, but potentially a very fun option.

HalflingPHB: Dexterity is okay for a finesse build, and Lucky is always fantastic.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

Tiefling: A very rare +2 Charisma, and some excellent options from the race variants.

Skills

Background

Paladins make an excellent Face, but with only Persuasion on their skill list you will need to find Deception and Intimidation from your background. Bonus languages also help since Paladins can't cast Comprehend Languages or Tongues.

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Spells

This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.

1st-Level Spells

2nd-Level Spells

Multiclassing