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Pathfinder - Paladin Oaths Breakdown

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2017


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Paladin Oaths are almost archetypes by themselves. They replace or modify one or more Paladin class features, and provide alternate features in much the same way as an archetype. As described in the Oathbound Paladin Archetype, these Oaths are made as a sacred pact with the Paladin's god or temple, and can be abandoned once their oath has been fulfilled. It stands to reason that the Paladin could also take new Oaths beyond character creation if it makes sense in the context of the campaign. Check with your GM to see if they will allow you take a new oath as a plot point.

Oath Against Corruption

If you expect to face Abberations instead of things which are miselaneously evil, the Oath Against Corruption is a must. Otherwise, it is totally useless.

Aura of Purity (Su): Very situational normally, but if you have this oath it can be assumed that you are fighting an unusually large number of abberations.

Cleansing Flame (Sp): The ability to smite evil is more effective than a small bonus to saves and attacks, especially if your party relies more on attacks than spells.

Cast into the Void (Su): Basically Holy Champion for Abberations instead of evil outsiders.

Oath Spells: Several interesting options, but none of them are particularly useful.

Replaced Features: Aura of Courage, Aura of Justice, Holy Champion

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Chastity, Fiends, Loyalty

Oath Against Fiends

Despite an excellent spell list, Oath Against Fiends is hard to justify even when you expect to face evil outsiders.

Anchoring Aura (Su): The aura version is rarely useful. For it to make sense, you need to be fighting several enemies who are actively teleporting throughout the fight. Expending a use of Smite Evil to use Dimensional Anchor is excellent, especially considering how early you get this ability.

Holy Vessel (Su): The ability to augment your armor and shield at the same time as your weapon is conceptually great, but in reality it's a waste of your limited enhancement bonus. Enchanting armor costs half as much as weapons, so you're already losing half of the value, and the list of abilities is pathetic.

Oath Spells: Several interesting options.

Replaced Features: Mercy (9th), Aura of Resolve

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Corruption, Savagery, Vengeance, Wyrm

Oath Against Savagery

If your campaign features frequent large groups of evil enemies, Oath Against Savagery makes the Paladin much better at handling mobs.

Holy Reach (Su): Reach is fantastic, but Divine Grace is one of the Paladin's best abilities, and spending Smite Evil attempts to improve your reach is very expensive. This makes the most sense when facing groups of enemies, while Smite Evil is typically best used for single opponents.

Hordebreaker (Su): The extra damage is nice, but the improvement to Holy Reach is the real draw. This effectively makes Holy Reach an on/off button for when you need to be an area control defender.

Oath Spells: Some absolutely fantastic buffs which aren't usually available to Paladins.

Replaced Features: Divine Grace, Aura of Justice

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Fiends, Loyalty, Wyrm

Oath Against Undeath

I can't think of a single non-evil undead. 3.5 had one or two in the Book of Exalted Deeds, but I chose to ignore them because they were ridiculous. Oath Against Undeath gives the Paladin some abilities to fight undead and protect himself from the abilities of Undead.

Detect Undead (Su): Detect Evil is considerably more versatile, and Detect Evil will detect undead, though it won't tell you if the creature is undead if you don't know already.

Ghost Touch Aura (Su): Incorporeal creatures are a pain to fight, and paying for Ghost Touch is an expensive investment which rarely pays off. Getting it for free will make you much less likely to die to incorporeal creatures.

Aura of Life (Su): Charms spells are uncommon and gentle, but negative levels can outright kill you.

Superior Channeler (Su): Channel Energy is hardly the best way for the Paladin to destroy the undead, but their uses per day scale as they level, which can mean that the Paladin has a big pile of AOE positive energy damage.

Oath Spells: Darkvision is the only good option, though Darkvision is pretty fantastic.

Replaced Features: Detect Evil, Mercy (3rd, 9th), Aura of Resolve, Aura of Justice

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Wyrm

Oath Against the Wyrm

If you fight a lot of dragons, this is fantastic. If you fight a lot of anything else, you are going to have problems. The spell list includes some fantastic buffs, but the abilities are almost entirely exclusive to fighting dragons.

Breath Evasion (Su): If you're fighting a lot of dragons this is fantastic, but otherwise its useless.

Divine Bond (Sp): Fantastic against Dragons, and the Mount version makes your Mount fearless, which is nice when a Dragon shows up.

Dragon-Slaying Strike (Su): This turns every hit into a save or die for Dragons.

Oath Spells: Several fantastic buffs that have nothing to do with dragons.

Replaced Features: Channel Positive Energy, Divine Bond, Holy Champion

Compatible Oaths: Chastity, Fiends, Loyalty, Savagery, Undeath

Oath of Charity

Oath of Charity is a great flavor for a Paladin, and can help the Paladin to step up as the party's primary healer.

Charitable Hands (Su): Using Lay on Hands on yourself is a Swift action, so you can afford to do it more frequently to compensate for the lost healing. The additional healing to allies can really help compensate if your party doesn't include a primary healer.

Charitable Mercy (Su): Divine Bond is an unfortunate loss, but this adds a lot of versatility to Lay on Hands. The ability to constantly retrain also means that you can have more high level mercies than normally possible.

Oath Spells: Magic Vestment will save you a fortune, but the other spells are useless.

Replaced Features: Lay on Hands, Divine Bond

Compatible Oaths: Chastity, Corruption, Fiends, Loyalty, Savagery, Undeath, Vengeance

Oath of Chastity

You simply don't get enough from Oath of Chastity to give up Divine Grace.

Pure of Mind (Su): Losing Divine Grace really hurts. You still get the bonus to Will saving throws, but the bonuses against Charm and Figments are nearly useless.

Pure of Body (Su): You already get a bonus against Charm effects, and 50% immunity to critical hits is quite a lot.

Oath Spells: Nothing that you really need, but some nice buffs at higher levels.

Replaced Features: Divine Grace, Aura of Resolve

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Corruption, Vengeance, Wyrm

Oath of Loyalty

Garbage. Totaly garbage. The signature ability, Loyalty Oath, would be nice if you could use it more than 3 times per day at very high level, and you have two bad options to end the effect prematurely.

Loyal Oath (Su): This is a really cool bodyguard ability, but it's not very exciting, and it won't win fights. Ending the ability when someone eventually gets past the bonus totally defeats the purpose of the ability because the bonus goes away.

Loyal Guardian (Su): That's nice of you to take the hit instead of your friend, but ending the buff is probably worse than just letting them take the hit.

Oath Spells: A couple of decent buffs, but a Cleric or a Bar will provide better bonuses of the same type.

Replaced Features: Smite Evil, Aura of Resolve

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Corruption, Savagery, Undeath, Vengeance, Wyrm

Oath of Vengeance

Do you like Smite Evil? Do you want to smite all of the evil forever? Take Oath of Vengeance, stop healing your friends, and start smiting things more.

Channel Wrath (Su): If your party already has enough healing available that you don't need to help out, this is a great way to continue fueling your Smite Evil throughout the day, especially at early levels when you only have a handful of Smite Evil attempts. It's also notably the only way to get additional uses of Smite Evil beyond what you get from your normal level progression.

Powerful Justice (Su): Giving up the additional bonus to attack and the ability to bypass DR is annoying, but your allies should be able to hit and damage things without your help. The bonus damage is still nice.

Oath Spells: A couple of decent buffs and couple of crappy damage spells.

Replaced Features: Channel Positive Energy, Aura of Justice

Compatible Oaths: Charity, Chastity, Fiends, Loyalty