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Pathfinder - The Paladin Handbook

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2017


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The Paladin is a divine-powered martial class. Similar to the Fighter, the Paladin makes and effective Defender and Striker, but the Paladin's other options also allow them to serve as a Face and as a Healer, though you'll need to take traits to get missing class skills to serve as a Face, and a Paladin can't match the healing capacity of a full caster like a Cleric.

Despite a fairly narrow set of roles, the Paladin's natural survivability and self-sufficiency make it an excellent choice for single-character campaigns.

Paladin Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard for martial classes.

Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.

Saves: Paladins have the best saves in the game without making any specific efforts to improve them. Good Fortitude and Will saves, and Divine Grace adds an enormous bonus that stacks with nearly everything else.

Proficiencies: Heavy armor, shields, and martial weapons.

Skills: 2+ skill ranks and a very sparse skill list.

Aura of Good (Ex): Almost never matters.

Detect Evil (Sp): Not always important, but I have seen plenty of Paladins walk into social situations with this running so that they know who they can trust, and who needs a good smiting.

Smite Evil (Sp): A fantastic offensive option.

Divine Grace (Su): One of the Paladin's best abilities, this adds a huge bonus to your saving throws.

Lay on Hands (Su): An excellent healing mechanic. Mercies allow you to remove harmful conditions, and you can use it on yourself as a swift action so that you don't have to cut into your full attack.

Aura of Courage (Su): Situational.

Divine Health (Ex): Diseases become more common at high levels, which can make this very useful.

Mercy (Su): Mercies offer the ability to heal conditions which normally require a Cleric. However, remember that your paladin spells can often handle the same conditions.

Channel Positive Energy (Su): Paladins aren't great at channeling energy, but if you need to heal more than two people in the party it's more efficient than use Lay on Hands on each of them. If you insist on using Channel Energy, see my Practical Guide to Channel Energy.

Spells: Paladins are 1/2 casters, and get very few spells per day from a limited spell list. However, their spell selection complements their other abilities really well. They get almost no utility options, but they get spells which help them serve as healers, strikers, and defenders. See the "Spells" section, below, for some notable spells.

Divine Bond (Sp): Both options are fantastic. The ability to enhance your weapon can solve a lot of problems, including DR, but a mount is an essential part of any mounted combat build. For help with the Paladins's Mount, see my Practical Guide to Animal Companions.

Spells: Paladins only go up to 4th-level spells, but what little spellcasting they get can be very effective is used carefully. Paladins cast spells at a caster level 3 lower than their class level, which seriously handicaps their spells, so consider the Magical Knack trait to boost your caster level.

Aura of Resolve (Su): Charm effects are very rare.

Aura of Justice (Su): Fantastic, but remember that allies must still use a swift action to activate Smite Good.

Aura of Faith (Su): Fantastic for combating evil-aligned outsiders, and saves you the trouble of casting Bless Weapon.

Aura of Righteousness (Su): DR 5/evil will protect you from everything except enemy divine spellcasters and evil outsiders like demons.

Holy Champion (Su): Good, but not great. The Banishment effect forcible ends your Smite even if it fails, and you can't choose to forego the effect. Personally I would rather outright kill the outsider so that it can't come back.


Paladin abilities look similar to any other melee martial character, but Divine Grace drastically reduces the need for Dexterity and Wisdom to fix bad saves.

Str: Paladins are almost exclusively melee characters, so Strength is essential.

Dex: In heavy armor and with Divine Grace, Dexterity isn't paticularly important. Take 12 at most, but you can survive with less.

Con: Essential for hit points, but Fortitude saves shouldn't be a problem.

Int: The Paladin's skill list is better than the Fighters, but 2+ skill ranks offer you very limited options.

Wis: With Divine Grace and good Will saves you can easily dump Wisdom to 8 without any problems.

Cha: Fuels the Paladin's spells and abilities.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 16
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 14


Bonuses to Strength of Charisma are nice, and medium size is nice if you plan to play a Defender so that you can be enlarged.

Dwarf: The Charisma penalty is annoying, but the Dwarf's other racial traits still make it a viable option. The bonuses to Constitution and Wisdom offset most of the lost bonus from Divine Grace, and the Dwarf's other abilities complement the Paladin's natural durability very well. Unfortunately the Dwarf favored class bonus adds to Concentration, which is nearly worthless for Paladins.

Elf: Nothing useful for the Paladin, and bonuses to two of the Paladin's least important abilities.

Gnome: Bonuses to Constitution and Charisma are enough to offset the penalty to Strength, making the Gnome a solid choice for small Paladins. This can be helpful for mounted combat builds because you can fit into spaces which are too small for horses. The Gnome favored class bonus improves the healing/damage provided by Lay on Hands.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus is nice, and the Half-Elf has some nice alternate racial features which can work well for the Paladin. The Half-Elf's favored class bonus expands the area of the Paladin's auras. Considering the Paladin has 5 auras (not counting Aura of Good), this can be a fantastic buff.

Half-Orc: Flexible ability bonus and some nice racial abilities which complement the Paladin well. Unfortunately, the Half-Orc favored class bonus is awful.

Halfling: A little less effective than the Gnome because the Dexterity bonus isn't as helpful.

Human: Always a good option, and the Human favored class bonus adds energy resistance to one type of energy. Pick up a few points in the four basic energy types (acid, cold, electricity, fire), but don't worry about sonic. Remember that this resistance stacks with magical energy resistance such as the Resist Energy spell.




Paladins fight much like a fighter with a similar combat strategy would, so your feats will frequently depend on your combat style. Instead or re-hashing an analysis of every combat feat available, this section will focus primarily on feats which cater specifically to the Paladin.



Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order. Magic armor is covered below in the Magic Items section.


This section won't address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options. For a complete list of spells, see the SRD Spell Index.

1st-Level Spells

2nd-Level Spells

3rd-Level Spells

4th-Level Spells

Magic Items






Wondrous Items

Permanent Spells