RPGBOT site logoRPG BOT{{(konamiCodeMode)?' - KONAMI CODE GO':''}}

{{ subtitle }}

Site Update: I recently began experimenting with ads on the site. If you want to know more about why I made this decision, please take a look at the RPGBOT Ad Policy for more information. If you would like to discuss this further, as always I encourage you to email me.

If you encounter any issues with the ads, such as weird ad placement, please try clearing your browser's cached files and refreshing the page. If you're not sure what to do, please email me and I'm happy to help.

DnD 5e - The Paladin Handbook

Last Updated: January 10th, 2019

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.

  • 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.

Temporary Note: I am currently waiting to include content from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron. According to Dragontalk (the official D&D podcast), it's in a semi-finished state and is still subject to change, which could mean that character options in the book will see major changes before final publication. Once the book is complete, physical copies will be released and I will update to address the new content.

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.

  • DefensePHB: Not very exciting, but since AC scales so little in 5e a +1 can be a big difference.
  • DuelingPHB: Note that this works while using a shield. 2 damage closes the damage gap between a longsword and a two-handed weapon (4.5->6.5 vs. 6.5/7).
  • Great Weapon FightingPHB: This adds an average of just over 1 damage per attack on average. Note that the reroll does not apply to Smite damage dice. If you plan to use two-handed weapons, consider picking Defense instead to compensate for lack of a shield.
  • ProtectionPHB: Tempting for Defender builds, but allies need to remain adjacent to you for this to work. Being adjacent to the front line Fighter is generally a bad place to be unless you can do so safely without someone defending you.

Spellcasting: Paladins get a nice mix of buffs and healing options, but they also get a set of mostly exclusive "smite" spells. Instead of relying solely on Divine Smite, they can cast various smite spells which deal damage and sometimes have rider effects, like Searing Smite.

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

  • Oath of ConquestXGtE: Aside from the spell list, Oath of Conquest is spectacular. It's a fantastic mix of crowd control and offensive options, and provides meaningful improvements to the Paladin's damage output, and gives them several useful abilities for handling groups of foes which other paladins often struggle with.
    • Oath Spells: The spells are good, but they're mostly offensive spells that require saving throws. Unless you invest most of your Ability Score Increases in your Charisma, you won't have the spell DC to make them reliable. And if you're going to invest most of your resources in offensive spellcasting, why not play a Cleric or a Sorcerer?
      1. 3rd-Level: A warlock-exclusive is interesting. With a 1-hour duration Armor of Agathys is a great buff to start before you go into a fight. Command is interesting, but you probably won't have the DC to make it work reliably.
      2. 5th-Level: Spiritual Weapon is a great way for you to handle multiple foes, and since it's cast as a bonus action it won't cut into your attacks. Hold Person will still be unreliable since you won't have a spell DC high enough to compete with full casters.
      3. 9th-Level: Good offensive options, but you're still handicapped by a relatively poor spell DC. Still, Fear is essential to capitalizing on Aura of Conquest.
      4. 13th-Level: Stoneskin is an excellent buff for a front-line character like a Paladin, but the material component is very costly, so you don't want to use it all the time.
      5. 17th-Level: Good offensive options, but you're still handicapped by a relatively poor spell DC.
    • Channel Divinity: Both options are excellent, and they're usable and effective in almost any encounter.
      • Conquering Presence: An excellent debuff in an encounter with numerous enemies.
      • Guided Strike: Great for when you absolutely need to hit. If you use Great Weapon Master for extra damage, this can be a nice way to salvage a missed attack. However, Channel Divinity still only works once per short rest, so save this for when you really need it.
    • Aura of Conquest: Combined with Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence and the ability to cast Fear you have multiple ways to make enemies frightened. If the enemy in question doesn't have reach or ranged weapons, you can stand safely 10 feet away and hit them with reach weapons or just wait for them to die from the aura damage. Their speed is reduced to 0, so they're very little that they can do about it.
    • Scornful Rebuke: Combine this with Compel Duel, and consider foregoing a shield. You have plenty of healing capacity.
    • Invincible Conqueror: Even with a 1-minute duration, this is fantastic. If you're in a serious fight, turn this on and start killing stuff.
  • Oath of DevotionPHB: The "Vanilla" option, Oath of Devotion doesn't really have a specific focus beyond "be a Paladin". If you're not sure what to pick, or if you're new and trying to get a handle on the game, this is a fine option with a decent mix of abilities.
    • Oath Spells: A few gems, but much of the list is either situational or unnecessary.
      1. 3rd-Level: Sanctuary probably won't see much use, but Protection from Evil and Good is a fantastic buff.
      2. 5th-Level: Both options are situational, and Lesser Restoration is partially redundant with Lay on Hands.
      3. 9th-Level: I would almost never use Beacon of Hope in combat (especially since you have Lay on Hands, which Bean of Hope doesn't affect), and Paladins don't have enough spell slots to spend them on Dispel Magic.
      4. 13th-Level: Freedom of Movement is situational, but Guardian of Faith is surprisingly good area control for a partial caster.
      5. 17th-Level: Commune is a very powerful divination if you're clever enough to ask useful questions. Flame Strike gives Paladins a much-needed option for handling crowds of weak enemies, especially those which aren't effected by Turn Whatever.
    • Channel Divinity:
      • Sacred Weapon: A decent buff to your attacks. This works particularly well with the Great Weapon Master feat since it will offset most or all of the attack penalty. One minute should be enough to get through a typical fight, but remember that since Channel Divinity recharges on a Short Rest you'll only be able to use this three times per day at most.
      • Turn the Unholy: A great way to handle overwhelming crowds of foes.
    • Aura of Devotion: Situational, but Charm is a potent and dangerous status effect.
    • Purity of Spirit: Protection from Evil and Good is an amazing defensive buff, and having it permanently running without needing to concentrate is spectacular.
    • Holy Nimbus: 10 damage isn't a lot at this level, but this costs nothing but an Action to use, and it has a big enough area that you can clear whole rooms of enemies on your own. The defensive buffs are also great, especially since at this level the fiends and undead you'll be facing are typically powerful spellcasters.
  • Oath of RedemptionXGtE: Unlike other Paladins, the Oath of Redemption Paladin emphasizes nonviolent options. As, expect to invest more in your Charisma than in your Strength/Constitution, and to rely more on spells and special abilities than on hitting stuff. The Oath of Redemption's Oath Spells all offer saving throws, so you'll need high Charisma to back them up. Be sure to invest in options that will keep you alive while you try to end combat nonlethally. Heavy armor, a shield, the Defensive Fighting Style, and protective magic items if they're available.
    • Oath Spells: A lot of excellent spells. They all fit the theme, and nearly all of the options are great additions to your spellcasting options.
      1. 3rd-Level: Both great ways to discourage violence.
      2. 5th-Level: Calm Emotions is situational, but in fights where anger drives creatures to violence, it's a quick end to an encounter. However, in encounters with creatures fighting to defend their homes or their food or whatever, emotions aren't usually the problem. Hold Person is fine, but you're left without options to address most creature types.
      3. 9th-Level: If you can get Counterspell, you should get Counterspell. It's one of the most powerful spells in the game. However, it's also dependent on being cast at spell levels higher than the minimum, and you only go up to 5th-level spell slots and don't have a lot of spell slots to spend countering.
      4. 13th-Level: Resilient Sphere is wonderful offensively or defensively, and Stoneskin will help you to withstand attacks while you figure out how to end a fight.
      5. 17th-Level: More great ways to end a fight nonlethally.
    • Channel Divinity: Both options are excellent, and very easy to bring into play.
      • Emissary of Peace: Excellent for a face, and one of very few Channel Divinity options which works outside of combat.
      • Rebuke the Violent: Great for creatures with large single attacks, including spellcasters. Did a lich just disintegrate one of your party members? Hit it with this.
    • Aura of the Guardian: Don't try to combine this with the Protection fighting style. Both consume your Reaction, so you won't be able to use them together. You don't want to use this constantly, but when your allies start running short on hit points it's a good idea. Be sure to invest in your Constitution and consider the Tough feat. so that you have enough hit points to absorb damage for your allies.
    • Protective Spirit: This makes Aura of the Guardian much safer to use.
    • Emissary of Redemption: Expect to spend a lot of time grappling and tripping enemies while you try to talk them out of fighting you.
  • Oath of the AncientsPHB: The Druid of Paladins, Oath of the Ancients shares a lot of style and options with Rangers and Druids. It includes abilities to restrain and inhibit enemies, allowing you to keep them right where you want them during a fight.
    • Oath Spells: About half of the options on the list are bad, but you generally get one viable option from each pair spells.
      1. 3rd-Level: Speak With Animal is extremely situational, but Ensnaring Strike is a great option for a bunch of reasons. If you need to switch targets or go help an ally, spend your bonus action and an attack to ensare the target, then let them bleed out a bit while you're off dealing with more pressing issues. Note that after the initial save it's a Strength Check (not a Save), so even creatures proficient in Strength Saves will have trouble escaping.
      2. 5th-Level: Moonbeam is situational unless you can restrain a creature inside its effect long enough to justify the spell slot. Misty Step is a fantastic option and solves a lot of mobility issues, including pits, chasms, difficult terrain, walls of fire and other nasty materials, enemies, etc. Misty Step to the BBEG and wave your sword in his face.
      3. 9th-Level: Plant Growth is very situational, but Protection From Energy is a fantastic and very important defensive option.
      4. 13th-Level: Ice Storm is a decent AOE with a touch of area control, and Stone Skin is an extremely good buff. The 100gp component cost for Stone Skin may seem daunting, but by this level you likely have a mountain of gold and nothing to spend it on.
      5. 17th-Level: Commune With Nature is a useful divination, especially in unfamiliar areas, but Tree Stride is extremely situational and totally useless if you're not in a forest or jungle.
    • Channel Divinity:
      • Nature's Wrath: A fantastic way to disable a single foe.
      • Turn the Faithless: Fey aren't as common as Undead, but this is still useful occasionally.
    • Aura of Warding: Resistance to damage from spells will prevent a huge amount of damage.
    • Undying Sentinel: You shouldn't need this frequently, but it's a great fallback in case of a lucky crit or a big, unexpected attack.
    • Elder Champion: One minute per day isn't a lot, but for the brief duration this is very good.
  • Oath of the CrownSCAG: Crown is a fantastic Defender build. Between Compelled Duel and Champion Challenge you have two built-in taunt mechanics which will keep enemies focus on you instead of your squishy allies. The oath's other abilities allow you to take damage for your allies, reducing the need for your party to spend actions healing multiple characters in combat.
    • Oath Spells: A really mixed bag; some of the options are essentially required for a Paladin, but several are situational or outright bad.
      1. 3rd-Level: Compelled Duel is basically a requirement for Paladins, and Command can be very effective if you're clever. Note that Compelled Duel is somewhat redundant with Champion Challenge, but Compelled Duel only affects single targets, while Champion Challenge is an area effect.
      2. 5th-Level: Warding Bond is nice if you have another ally who is taking a lot of damage and you're sick of spending your turns healing them. Zone of Truth is very situational.
      3. 9th-Level: Aura of Vitality is an extremely efficient use of a spell slot as far as magical healing goes, but I wouldn't use it in combat because it requires Concentration and monopolizes your Bonus Action. Spirit Guardians is a much better option in combat, but you'll need to chase enemies around to force them to take damage since most taunt effects (Compelled Duel, etc.) allow enemies to remain up to 30 feet away.
      4. 13th-Level: Banishment is situational, but Guardian of Faith is great area control.
      5. 17th-Level: Circle of Power is an excellent buff, especially with the Aura of Protection boosting all of your save bonuses. Geas is situational since most of the things on which you might cast Geas can be handled better by killing them.
    • Channel Divinity:
      • Champion Challenge: Taunt mechanics are few and far between, and this is a great way to keep entire encounters focused on you instead of your allies. The ability doesn't allow additional saves beyond the first, and doesn't list a duration, so you can technically keep enemies trapped within 30 feet of your forever. Enemies can escape by doing silly things like pushing or pulling each other out of the area, but if your DM tries that he is pulling some very serious metagame shenanigans.
      • Turn the Tide: It's like an AOE version of Healing Word. Not a ton of healing, but fantastic if you have one or more allies unconcious.
    • Divine Allegience: This is considerably better than the Protection combat style because it's 100% reliable. As a Paladin, you are the party's Defender, so sometimes tanking comes down to taking damage destined for your weaker allies.
    • Unyielding Spirit: Between this and Aura of Protection, you're basically unstoppable.
    • Exalted Champion: For one hour a day you and your allies are exceptionally difficult to kill.
  • Oath of VengeancePHB: Oath of Vengeance emphasizes the Paladin's abilities as a striker, seeking to kill enemies quickly rather than relying on defensive tactics.
    • Oath Spells: Most of the spells are absolutely fantastic, but a lot of them require Concentration, and the list starts to fall apart at high levels.
      1. 3rd-Level: Bane is a solid debuff that can significantly reduce the difficulty of an encounter, especially if there are a lot of enemies. Hunter's Mark is a nice damage boost against a single high-priority target, but its usefulness is limited by the Paladin's low number of attacks per round.
      2. 5th-Level: Paralysis is an off-switch for an enemy, so Hold Person is fantastic. Misty Step is a great way to get around the battlefield, especially since it's a Bonus Action to cast.
      3. 9th-Level: Haste and Protection From Energy are two of the most important buffs in the game.
      4. 13th-Level: Both situational options, and the appeal of Dimension Door is sligthly reduce because you already have Misty Step.
      5. 17th-Level: Hold Monster makes Hold Person redundant, but it's a significant improvement. Scrying is very situational, and your full caster allies have had it for a very long time by this level.
    • Channel Divinity:
      • Abjure Enemy: It's like turning enemies, but they can still stand there and cast spells and attack you, so actually it's a lot worse than turning enemies.
      • Vow of Enmity: One minute of guaranteed advantage against one target. Very helpful against powerful single foes. Use it early, use it often.
    • Relentless Avenger: Absolutely fantastic for a Defender build, especially if you also have Polarm Master.
    • Soul of Vengeance: An extra attack presents a potentially large boost to your damage output.
    • Avenging Angel: For one hour a day you can chase your terrified foes around and murder them. The move speed is great, which is important since you'll need it to chase down the room full of enemies who are now all running directly away from you.
  • OathbreakerDMG: A bit difficult to bring into many adventuring parties, but Oathbreaker has a lot of excellent options which make the Paladin difficult to defeat alone or in a party.
    • Oath Spells: Some of the options are outright terrible, but there are enough good options to make the spell list viable.
      1. 3rd-Level: Hellish Rebuke is fantastic for a Defender who spends a lot of time drawing fire. Inflict Wounds will almost never see use because your weapon plus Divine Smite with the same spell slot will do more damage.
      2. 5th-Level: Crown of Madness is difficult to use because it consumes your Action and only does anything if your target is adjacent to something which you want the target to attack at the beginning of their turn, and Darkness isn't very helpful since you can't see inside the area.
      3. 9th-Level: Animate Dead is always nice to have, and Bestow Curse has several excellent options. Consider combining the two by cursing your foe to give them disadvantage on Strength checks and saves, then have your undead pets grapple them and shove them to the ground.
      4. 13th-Level: Blight is decent single-target damage, especially against plants, but I have never liked Confusion because it's so unreliable compared to other single-target spells like Hold Person.
      5. 17th-Level: Contagion is incredibly powerful, especially if the foe fails their three saves. Slimy Doom will essentially end an encounter, especially if you can apply a damage over time effect. Dominate Person is a powerful way to temporarily gain an extra party member.
    • Channel Divinity:
      • Control Undead: If the undead is worth controlling, it's too dangerous to drag around behind you until the duration expires. If it's weak, use Animate Dead.
      • Dreadful Aspect: Considerably better than the Turn Whatever abilities other oaths get since it affects everything.
    • Aura of Hate: Not terribly helpful in an adventuring party, but even if it only applies to you, you can get a bunch of extra damage on your weapon attacks.
    • Supernatural Resistance: Permanent Stoneskin. This makes you very difficult to kill, especially in games with no magic items. However, in games where magic items are common or where the world is dominated by spellcasters this might be completely useless.
    • Dread Lord: Lots of damage, a good use for your Bonsu Action, and it makes it hard for enemies to see. Be sure that you have Darkvision so that you're not a victim of your own effect.

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.

AasimarVGTM: An obvious and fantastic choice for a Paladin.

  • Fallen: Great for oathbrakers.
  • Protector: Wisdom doesn't do much for a paladin, but radiant soul is fantastic for temporary flight.
  • Scourge: Makes you nice and durable.

BugbearVGTM: A Strength increase and reach are both nice, but you can do better with other races.

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

  • DuergarSCAG: The magic options can be fun, but Invisibility doesn't really play to the Paladin's strengths.
  • HillPHB: The Wisdom is wasted, and the bonus hit points are probably unnecessary.
  • MountainPHB: Strength!

DragonbornPHB: The ability scores are great, and energy resistance is excellent, but the Dragonborn's breath weapon is really weak. The Dragon Fear racial feat works great for Paladins, especially Conquest Paladins once they pick up Aura of Conquest.

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.

  • Drow: The Charisma is nice, but Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge problem in most games.
  • EladrinMToF: Charisma and free teleportation work great for the Paladin.
  • High Elf: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity and Constitution can work for a paladin, and teleportation is great. Resistance to necrotic damage is nice, too.
  • Wood Elf: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

FirbolgVGTM: A but of Strength and some fun innate spellcasting.

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

  • Air: The Dexterity might be useful for a finesse-based Paladin, but Levitate is totally useless for a melee class.
  • Earth: A bit of Strength, but the abilities are very situational.
  • Fire: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • Water: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

Gith: Nothing useful that you can't get elsewhere.

  • GithyankiMToF: Strength is the only significant thing you get.
  • GithzeraiMToF: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

Gnome: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • ForestPHB: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

GoblinVGTM: Could be excellent for a finesse build, but goblin doesn't cater to paladins any better than it caters to a fighter.

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.

  • AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
  • DrowSCAG: The spells are great utility options, especially Faerie Fire, but giving up two skills means that you really need to get all of your Face skills from your class skills and background skills.
  • High/Moon/SunSCAG: Paladins can't get a lot out of Wizard cantrips.
  • Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
  • WoodSCAG: Fleet of Foot is nice for getting into melee, but the other options won't help you much.
  • VanillaPHB: Faces need quite a few skills, and two free skill choices gives you some flexibility to pick up a more interesting background or some non-Face skills.

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. The Halfling racial feats in Xanathar's Guide to Everything are both potential good options for a Paladin.

  • Ghostwise: Nothing useful for the paladin.
  • Lightfoot: The Charisma is tempting, but Naturally Stealthy is worthless for a Paladin.
  • Stout: Nice and durable.

HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Vanilla: +1 to all of your ability scores can help create a well-rounded Paladin, but it's not terribly interesting.
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonuses to your Strength and Charisma, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. If you're looking at the Skilled feat, consider a Half-Elf instead.

KenkuVGTM: Paladins generally don't handle stealth well.

KoboldVGTM: Possible for a finesse paladin, and Pack Tactics is amazing, but that's probably not enough.

LizardfolkVGTM: The ability increase don't help the paladin much, and the other racial traits are largely redundant with paladin class features.

OrcVGTM: Half-ircs are objectively better.

TabaxiVGTM: Excellent for a finesse build, and feline agility can help to quickly close to melee even if you're in heavy armor.

Tiefling: +2 Charisma, and some excellent options from the race variants. The Flames of Phlegethos racial feat is tempting if you really enjoy Searing Smite, but probably not worth the feat.

  • AsmodeusMToF: Charisma and good racial spells, but a front-line character like the paladin really needs a Strength or Dexterity increase.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • DispaterMToF: Disguises and the ability to detect thoughts may help you to locate and defeat enemies by more subtle means than a typical paladin.
  • FiernaMToF: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • GlasyaMToF: Interesting, but paladins aren't built to be tricky.
  • LevistusMToF: If you can handle the lack of a Strength/Dexterity increase at low levels, this is a fantastic option. Armor of Agathys is a great defensive buff, and Ray of Frost is a useful ranged option.
  • MammonMToF: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • ZarielMToF: Perfect ability spread, a great cantrip, and free smite spells.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Nothing good for the Paladin.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Vanilla with better spells. Charisma is already the Paladin's spellcasting ability, so you should already have a good ability to power these spells.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is a better option for the Paladin since you'll be drawing a lot of attacks.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight is absolutely fantastic, and permanently available flight will be a huge advantage at every level.

TortleTP: Strength and natural armor are great, but once you can afford full plate armor the Tortle will fall behind.

TritonVGTM: Increases to all of the paladin's important abilities, resistance to cold, and some innate spellcasting.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Magic resistance and immunity to poison make the pureblood exceptionally durable, though the race offers little to help the paladin's offensive capacity.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR: Very little which directly contributes to the Paladin, but still an excellent option for an aggresive melee build.

GoblinGGTR: See above.

LoxodonGGTR: With neither a Strength nor Charisma increase, the Loxodon has a lot of ground to make up before it can compete with other race options.

MinotaurGGTR: While the ability scores and other traits don't directly complement anything except the Paladin's martial capabilities, the Minotaur can still be a powerful and dangerous paladin.

Simic HybridGGTR: Fantastic and versatile.

VedalkenGGTR: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

Skills

  • Athletics (Str): Very tempting for Grapple and Shove, but Paladins don't have enough attacks in a round to make knocking enemies prone a particularly good option.
  • Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face, but you may not have enough Wisdom to back it up.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Important for any Face.
  • Medicine (Wis): Use magic.
  • Persuasion (Cha): The king of Face skills.
  • Religion (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills, but you probably dumped Intelligence.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

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

  • AcolytePHB: Two skills from the Paladin list and two languages, but neither of the skills fit the Paladin's ability scores particularly well.
  • City WatchSCAG: Athletics and Insight are both fine choices, and two languages are great.
  • CourtierSCAG: Two Face skills, but they're the two that are already on the Paladin's skill list. Better than Guild Artisan because you get a second language instead of artisan's tools.
  • Faction AgentSCAG: Insight, plus the mental skill of your choice allows you to pick up Deception or Intimidation, and you get two languages. I don't think it was the intent of the background, but I can't see a reason why your faction couldn't be a church or a knightly order of some sort.
  • Far TravelerSCAG: Insight and Perception are both great skills, but Paladins frequently dump Wisdom. The bonus languages are also nice.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Two Face skills, but they're the two that are already on the Paladin's skill list.
  • Knight of the OrderSCAG: Half of the benefits are mostly wasted, but you get Persuasion and a free language.
  • Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Athletics and Persuasion are both great, but they're already on the Paladin skill list. The gaming set and vehicle proficiencies are situational.
  • SoldierPHB: Athletics is helfpul, and you get one of the two Face skills missing from the Paladin skill list. The gaming set and land vehicles might matter depending on the style of your game, but they're not guranteed to be useful.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: The skill options are great, and Thieves' Tools might work for a finesse build.
  • Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: Athletics and a language aren't terrible, but they're also not great.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.

  • AlertPHB: Going first isn't terribly important for anyone but Rogues.
  • AthletePHB: Awful.
  • ActorPHB: Acting and infiltration don't really fit the Paladin's skillset.
  • ChargerPHB: Not a terrible option, but it's hard to bring into play more than once in a combat, and several Paladin Oaths get Misty Step, which allows you to cover the same distance and use your Action instead of making a single attack as a Bonus Action.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: Paladins are terrible at ranged combat.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Paladins don't have a lot of built-in abilities which rely on their reaction, but Defensive Duelist only prevents damage, and Paladins have plenty of ways to heal damage.
  • Dual WielderPHB: Improved Divine Smite applies to every attack, and TWF grants you an extra attack. Paladins do very little with their bonus action, so TWF might be a decent option. Unfortunately Paladins don't get the Two-Weapon Fighting style, so it's hard to justify investing heavily in TWF unless you take a class dip.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: Paladins have neither the skills nor the abilities to back this up.
  • DurablePHB: Paladins have plenty of healing options.
  • GrapplerPHB: if you have Athletics and can use it reliably, you can use Athletics to Shove your enemy prone and get Advantage without the use of a feat.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Paladins have several options for boosting their attack rolls, so you can find a way to offset the -5 penalty to attacks for that huge pile of extra damage.
  • HealerPHB: Paladins have plenty of magical options for healing.
  • Heavy Armor MasterPHB: If you find that you're drawing fire effectively but can't keep your hit points up, Heavy Armor Master is an excellent choice.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: Temporary hit points are great, and you have the Charisma to back this up.
  • Keen MindPHB: Awful.
  • LinguistPHB: Use magic.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: Paladins get a spell list which meets their needs very well, and there isn't much the Paladin gets from most cantrips. If you plan to pick up War Caster, Magic Initiate combines well if you pick up cantrips like Booming Blade.
  • Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: Paladins do heavy armor or light armor; never medium.
  • MobilePHB: Running away isn't typically something a Paladin does.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: Paladins have exclusive access to the Find Steed spell, granting them access to an magical mount. However, this mount is little better than a mundane horse, and making the mount intelligent actually makes it *less* useful in combat because it then acts as an independent creature, making it move on its own initiative and requiring a bunch of frustrating coordination between you and what is essentially an NPC. Ask your DM if they'll let you control your mount like a non-intelligent creature. Assuming that's not an issue. a medium player may be tempted to take this feat. Large sections of the monster manual are medium or smaller, so you have easy access to Advantage. The rest of the feat also makes it considerably easier to keep your mount alive.
  • ObservantPHB: Paladins don't have the abilities to back this up.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: A fantastic and popular option for Paladins. The ability to attack with the opposite end of the polearm adds an excellent readily-available use for your Bonus Action, and Paladins don't normally have a good go-to use for their Bonus Action. This is especially useful once your get Improved Divine Smite, or if you have options like Hunter's Quarry (see Oath of Vengeance) or Aura of Hate (see Oathbreaker). The ability to make Opportunity Attacks when enemies move into your reach gives you a good way to use your Reaction consistently, especially if you use things like Compelled Duel to motivate enemies to attack you.
  • ResilientPHB: If you were going to be good at a save, your class would have given it to you. If you depend heavily on Concentration spells, you might consider Resiliant (Constitution) to improve your saves to maintain Concentration, but you might get more mileage from War Caster.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: Leave this for full casters.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: Combines very well with Polearm Master, but I wouldn't take it unless I already had Polearm Master. The reaction option also makes things like Fighting Style: Protection redundant.
  • SharpshooterPHB: Paladins are terrible at ranged combat.
  • Shield MasterPHB: Sword-and-board is a good option for Paladins, and with high Strength and access to Athletics, shoving enemies with your shield is a great use of your Bonus Action.
  • SkilledPHB: You can get all the skills you need from your race, class, and background.
  • SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
  • Tavern BrawlerPHB: Leave grappling for people with more attacks.
  • ToughPHB: With numerous healing options readily available, Paladins don't need to dump a ton of resources into hit points.
  • War CasterPHB: Paladins don't have any good options to use with War Caster's reaction mechanic. However, Advantage on your save to maintain Concentration is a solid bonus for Paladins since many very effective buffs require Concentration. If you can pick up a Cantrip like Booming Blade, this becomes considerably more interesting.
  • Weapon MasterPHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.

Weapons

  • Halberd /Glaive / Pike: Want reach? Get a polearm.
  • Greatsword / Maul: The go-to two-handed options if you don't need reach.
  • Longsword / Morningstar / Warhammer: The go-to one-handed options.
  • Rapier: Go-to option for finesse builds.

Armor

  • Chain Mail: Starting armor.
  • Shield: Unless you want the Great Weapon Master feat, you're going to be using a one-handed weapon with the Dueling style, so a shield is a given.
  • Studded Leather: Armor for finesse builds.
  • Full Plate: Neartly every Paladin's best option.

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

  • BlessPHB: If you don't have something else on which to use your Concentration, use Bless. +1d4 to attack rolls is huge in 5e.
  • Compelled DuelPHB: Forcing a foe into single-combat with you is extremely helpful. You are your party's Defender, and while much of the time that only requires you to stand in the right place, sometimes you will need to actively force enemies to attack you instead of your allies.

2nd-Level Spells

  • Find SteedPHB: Exclusive to the Paladin spell list, Find Steed gives you a magical horse. While this steed doesn't get anything to make it more durable than a normal horse, it's smarter than a typical animal and has some cool abilities.

4th-Level Spells

  • Find Greater SteedXGtE: A linear improvement to Find Steed, cast this on a day when you're not adventuring and get an awesome new mount. Flight is a massive tactical advantage, so unfortunately cool options like dire wolf and rhinocerous aren't a good idea unless you spend most of your time riding around in dungeons with weirdly wide rooms but low ceilings.

5th-Level Spells

  • Holy WeaponXGtE: This spell is amazing. +2d8 radiant damage on hit means that you're doing as much damage as you would do by burning a low-level spell slot to use Holy Smite. Your weapon becomes a magic weapon so you can bypass many creatures' damage reduction, and you get all of this for an hour with Concentration, and you can cast it as a Bonus Action. You can also dismiss the spell for a cool burst of damage, but that's probably not going to see a lot of use unless the duration happens to run out while you're fighting.

Multiclassing

  • Fighter: Fighters get better choices of Fighting Style, and a class dip is the Paladin's only option for getting a second choice. Still, you don't need Second Wind, and you already get all of the proficiencies granted by multiclassing into Fighter. I'm not sure that Fighting Style is worth a level.
  • Sorcerer: If you want more spell slots to fuel your smites, Sorcerer isn't a terrible choice. It will advance your spellcasting twice as fast as Paladin levels, and a single level gets you cantrips and access to the 1st-level abilities of a sorcerous origin. Dexterity-based paladins may enjoy the Draconic origin for Draconic Resilience's AC, while other paladins may like Wild Magic for Tides of Chaos.
  • Warlock: A common, popular, and effective option. The Warlock's spell slots recharge on a short rest, giving you a reliable way to fuel Divine Smite. And yes, Divine Smite can definitely use Warlock spell slots According to Sage Advice. I wouldn't go past second level. 3rd level gets you Pact Boon, but none of the pacts are particularly useful for you. Blade pact would be fun conceptually, but it's little better than using a real weapon and certainly not good enough to justify giving up another level of Paladin. Though other patrons have plenty to offer, Hexblade is simply too good to pass up. Hexblade's Curse is a fantastic offensive option for paladins, and Hex Warrior allows you to totally ignore your Strength and Dexterity in favor of your Charisma.