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DnD 5e - Oath of the Open Sea Paladin Handbook

Last Updated: November 6th, 2020

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Disclaimer

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

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials or released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Introduction

The Oath of the Open Sea is an interesting take on the Paladin. Rather than focusing on doing the right thing, smiting the wicked, or working toward some ideological goal, Oath of the Open Sea compels the paladin to be flexible, adaptible, and free. It's basically a Chaotic-aligned, slightly nautical themed subclass.

Oath of the Open Sea

The Oath of the Open Sea paladin thrives in close combat. Aura of Liberation prevents them from being grappled, and Channel Divinity offers some buffs to help you handle combat situations which can't be handled by smiting stuff. The spell list is almost exclusively spells with rare situational uses, but the other features of the subclass are great additions to the Paladin in their role as a front line Defender.

  1. Oath Spells: Very few options that will be routinely worth spending a spell slot.
    1. 3rd-Level: Two situational options.
    2. 5th-Level: Augury is among my favorite divinations, and paladins have very few divination options. Misty Step is a profoundly useful tactical option, especially for a class which is typically locked into melee.
    3. 9th-Level: Call Lightning is a difficult damage option at the best of times, and getting it 4 levels behind the Druid with worse save DCs makes it borderline useless. Tidal Wave is neat crowd crontrol, but your save DC isn't high enough to make offensive spells viable.
    4. 13th-Level: Control Water is very situational. Freedom of Movement is an important buff, but it's almost totally redundant with Aura of Liberation.
    5. 17th-Level: Commune with Nature is only occasionally useful, but if you're in a seafaring campaign your might use it to gather information about unexplored shores or something. Maelstrom is surprisingly good crowd control despite the Paladin's comparably poor spell save DCs. While many creatures have very high Strength saves, the one with poor Strength saves tend to have modifiers close to +0, so even a mediocre spell save DC can still be effective against small enemies, enemy spellcasters, and enemies that rely more on Dexterity than Strength.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Marine Layer: Similar to Fog Cloud, but portable and you can see through it better than other creatures. Other creatures within 5 feet of you also treat the fog as a Lightly Obscured area, but keep in mind that this benefit isn't limited to allies so if enemies get into melee with you they're able to see just as well as you can.
    • Fury of the Tides: Situational. Pushing enemies away is dramatic and exciting, but paladins are built for melee so it usually just means chasing your target unless you knock them into a wall or another creature. The damage bonus for hitting an obstacle is nice, but not especially large. If nothing else, this is activated as a Bonus Action so it's easy to squeeze this in without cutting into your attacks.
  3. Aura of Liberation: Better than Freedom of Movement.
  4. Stormy Waters: You don't get to apply an ability modifier to the damage, so if all you need is damage try to make an Opportunity Attack instead. But knocking foes prone eats half of their movement, which can make it very hard for them to get away from you or might leave them prone at the end of their own turn.
  5. Mythic Swashbuckler: Advantage to attack a creature when fighting 1-on-1, Dodge as a Bonus Action, and Advantage on most Dexterity saving throws, Dexterity checks, and Strength (Athletics) checks. All told, you're both very difficult to kill and very effective at killing other creatures.