Last Updated: September 18, 2023
Paladins are the most durable, survivable, and self-sufficient class in the game. As such, they both make excellent solo characters and are excellent additions to nearly any party regardless of existing capabilities. In a party, they serve as a Defender, Face, and Striker. They do have some healing and utility options, but not enough to replace a full spellcaster in most parties. Your choice of subclass will influence which of those roles your character emphasizes, though typically it’s just a sliding scale between Defender 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. They also have nearly no options for fighting at range, which means that nearly every paladin is a heavily-armored melee monster.
Paladins are also one of the more complex classes to play. They have a long list of class features, touching on all of the game’s core mechanics. While this makes them challenging for new players, this also makes the Paladin a great introductory class because the player needs to learn so much to play it. This complexity phases in gradually over the first three class levels, which is a perfect trajectory for a new player to settle into the game and their character.
After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read our other supporting articles:
- Paladin Races Breakdown
- Paladin Subclasses Breakdown
- Paladin Spells Breakdown
- Oathtakers and Oathbreakers: How to RP Your Paladin’s Divine Duty
Table of Contents
- Paladin Class Features
- Paladin Ability Scores
- Paladin Races
- Paladin Skills
- Paladin Backgrounds
- Paladin Feats
- Paladin Weapons
- Paladin Armor
- Paladin Magic Items
- Example Paladin Build – Dragonborn Paladin (Oath of Devotion)
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.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we 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 are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
Paladin Class Features
Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.
: d10 hit points is standard for a martial fighter-equivalent class.
: 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. Even so, many paladin spells require Concentration, so consider Resilient (Constitution) or invest heavily in Constitution.
: All armor, all weapons, and two skills from a decent skill list which the Paladin actually has the ability scores to use effectively.
: Certainly better than relying on Insight.
: This is among the most efficient healing options in the game. Since it has such a deep pool and allows you to pick exactly how much you heal, it’s actually viable during combat (healing in combat is typically a poor tactical decision). With such a large pool you can easily bring many allies from 0 to nearly full health in a single Action, or you can spend 1 point to bring them back to consciousness long enough to finish a fight so that they can rest and spend Hit Dice.
: Paladins get a smaller list than Fighters, but your choice will frequently define how you approach combat.
- TCoE (Optional): This one is
hard. Blindsight, even at just 10-foot range, is extremely useful. It solves
issues of invisible enemies, it helps make up for lack of magical options
for Darkvision, and it addresses effects which block line of sight like fog,
magical darkness, or other stuff. But those effects don’t appear in most
encounters, so this is only situationally useful. When it works it’s great,
but the rest of the time it’s useless. Unless you have allies in the party
who plan to frequently use magical darkness or other options to obscure
vision I would skip this.
Races which suffer from Sunlight Sensitivity might consider this as a solution to their sunlight issues. If you don a blindfold (or close your eyes), your DM may allow you to overcome the effects of Sunlight Sensitivity by willingly blinding yourself. The text of Sunlight Sensitivity isn’t perfectly clear if it only applies to attacks which rely on sight, so this may not work RAW, but the idea makes sense.
- PHB: Not very exciting, but since AC scales so little in 5e a +1 can be a big difference.
- TCoE (Optional): Access to
cantrips allows the Paladin to build around spellcasting as their primary
combat option. Unlike the Ranger with Druidic Warrior and Shillelagh, this
doesn’t mean using a magically-enhanced weapon. Instead, it means switching
to offensive cantrips. I recommend Word of Radiance so that you can handle
crowds plus one offensive option with longer range and ideally a damage type
other than radiant (though Sacred Flame is a perfectly fine choice).
Unlike the Ranger’s Druidic Warrior, Blessed Warrior doesn’t have any effect on the Paladin’s armor choices. You’ll do just fine marching around in heavy armor, though you may want 15 Strength to avoid the 10 ft. speed penalty. It’s hard to run into melee to use Word of Radiance when you’re stuck at 20 ft. speed.
You might (and probably should) ask yourself: If I want to use Blessed Warrior, what am I getting mechanically that I couldn’t get from playing a cleric or a divine soul sorcererf instead? That’s a great question. The paladin has some unique defensive options like Aura of Protection, plus their subclasses are really neat. That might be enough. If it’s not, maybe stick to a full spellcasting class.
- PHB: 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).
- PHB: This adds just over 1 damage per attack on average, and even then only with a greatsword. If you’re using a greatsword, the average increase in damage per round is roughly equivalent to Archery, but if you plan to use two-handed weapons other than a greatsword, consider picking Defense instead to compensate for the alack of a shield. Note that the reroll does not apply to Smite damage dice.
- TCoE (Optional): Conceptually similar to Protection, but there’s no nuance in how the two styles protect your target. Protection imposes Disadvantage, so if there’s a good chance that the attack would miss it’s the better choice. Interception reduces the damage, so it always worksuse but for big attacks it won’t negate the whole attack. The decision between the two comes down to who you’re going to be protecting. If you’re protecting other allies with decent AC (a melee cleric or rogue, for example), go for Protection. If you’re protecting allies with awful AC (most wizards), Disadvantage won’t help much so go for Interception.
- PHB: Tempting for Defender builds, but allies need to remain adjacent to you for this to work. Being adjacent to the front line tank is generally a bad place to be unless you can do so safely without someone defending you. This also appeals to mounted combat builds because you can use it oato compensate for your mount’s relative fragility.
: 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.
: 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 you might encounter. However, you need to resist the temptation 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.
You should also consider the utility of smite spells. Searing Smite, Thunderous Smite, and Wrathful Smite can do comparable damage with helpful rider effects which may be more appealing than the small amount of extra damage that Divine Smite provides. The biggest appeal of Divine Smite over those spells is that you can choose to use it after you’ve rolled a critical hit, guaranteeing that you’ll double the additional damage dice and therefore getting considerably more out of your spell slot than you might
: 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: Paladin subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Paladin Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.
- Oath of Conquest: Use crowd control and defensive options to crush your foes in combat.
- Oath of Devotion: The iconic paladin, Oath of Devotion provides a diverse mix of options to heal, to defend yourself and your allies, and to smite your foes.
- Oath of Glory: Strive for perfection and glory, making yourself the greatest hero and athlete that you can be.
- Oath of Redemption: Focused on nonviolent solutions to problems, Oath of Redemption adds spells and abilities to protect yourself and your allies, and to inhibit enemies without harming them.
- Oath of the Ancients: Use the power of nature to ensnare and restrain your foes.
- Oath of the Crown: An excellent Defender, Oath of the Crown offers new ways to defend your allies, including forcing foes to attack you instead of your allies.
- Oath of the Watchers: Guard the material world against extraplanar foes like elementals, fey, and fiends.
- Oath of Vengeance: Focused primarily on Offense, Oath of Vengeance adds powerful new ways to boost your damage output and destroy your foes through force of arms.
- Oathbreaker: A paladin who has broken their oath, the Oathbreaker gainsa evil abilities to harm their foes and to fight alongside undead and fiends.
: 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.
: Better than proficiency in every save. You can potentially have +15 in a save before the possibility of magic items.
It won’t benefit you directly, but your allies can apply this bonus to death saves if they’re within the area. Even though they’re not tied to an ability score, they’re still a saving throw, and accordrating to Jeremy Crawford, “If all saves are affected by a thing, death saves are affected.”
: Fear effects generally won’t kill you, but they’re certainly inconvenient and it’s nice to be able to ignore them.
: Paladins don’t get as many attacks as Fighters, but this will help with your damage output.
: Fantastic for removing pesky effects like paralysis or charm.
Optional Class Features
Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.
Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.
(Addition): Few in number, but some interesting options mostly borrowed from the Cleric’s spell list.
I recommend allowing the expanded spell list on all paladins. The Paladin gets just 5 new spells, few of which are truly fantastic for the Paladin. Warding Bond is the only spell which I would rush to suggest, but the other spell options do have some niche use cases. There’s nothing here that’s going to unbalance the game, and the fact that Warding Bond wasn’t already on the Paladin’s spell list feels like an oversight.
(Addition): Exciting new options. Blessed Warrior is notably exclusive to the paladin, allowing players to explore a more casting-focused paladin and potentially build around Charisma rather than Strength or Dexterity. The new options are all interesting new build concepts, though they’re no more powerful than those which are already available.
I recommend allowing the new Fighting Style options on all paladins. I don’t expect the new options to supplant existing options as the best options for the Paladin, but the new options introduce exciting new build possibilities. Plus, paladins still only get one unless they spend a feat or multiclass.
(Addition): For paladin subclasses with poor or situational Channel Divinity options, this offers a great way to make use of a resource which might otherwise be ignored for several sessions at a time. It also helps stretch the Paladin’s extremely limited number of spell slots.
I recommend allowing Harness Divine Power on all paladins who take oaths which I have ratedor lower. It’s a great way to round out subclasses which are generally good but fall short with their Channel Divinity options.
(Addition): Being locked into your choice of Fighting Style at level 2 gives you very little time to decide on how your paladin is going to fight. The ability to change styles occasionally makes that decision less permanent, and allows you to change styles if something happens like you find a cool weapon or you need to switch roles within the party.
I recommend allowing Martial Versatility on all paladins. Like with other retraining mechanics, players still can’t have more options at the same time than they could get if they didn’t retrain, so players will be more satisfied with their character but won’t actually be any stronger than they could be.
Paladin Ability Scores
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.
: 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. If you’re building around Charisma, you may still want the 15 Strength required to avoid a speed penalty from heavy armor.
: Dump it and grab some Full Plate unless you want to go for a Finesse build.
: All martial characters need Constitution, but it’s especially important for Paladins since they don’t get proficiency with Constitution saves.
: Dump unless you want a decent Insight score.
: Charisma fuels many of the Paladin’s abilities, including their spellcasting, Aura of Protection, and several Paladin skills. If you choose Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior), you may also use it as your primary offensive ability.
|Point Buy||Standard Array||Point Buy||Standard Array||Point Buy||Standard Array|
|Str: 15||Str: 15||Str: 8||Str: 8||Str: 15||Str: 14|
|Dex: 8||Dex: 8||Dex: 15||Dex: 15||Dex: 8||Dex: 8|
|Con: 15||Con: 13||Con: 15||Con: 13||Con: 15||Con: 13|
|Int: 8||Int: 10||Int: 8||Int: 10||Int: 8||Int: 10|
|Wis: 8||Wis: 12||Wis: 8||Wis: 12||Wis: 8||Wis: 12|
|Cha: 15||Cha: 14||Cha: 15||Cha: 14||Cha: 15||Cha: 15|
Bonuses to the Paladin’s three big ability scores are important since the Paladin is so MAD. You can get by on increases to two, especially with a Blessed Warrior build, but three is ideal. More durability is certainly tempting, but beware of the tank fallacy.
For help selecting a race, see our Paladin Races Breakdown.
For a classic paladin feel, consider the Half-Elf, which meets yourhe ability score needs and gives you two extra skills even if you’re using the classic PHB version. For a durable build, consider the Dwarf, the Goliath, or the Warforged. For an aggressive build, consider the Eladrin, the Orc, or the Shadar-Kai.
- (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.
- (Wis): Helpful for a Face, but you may not have enough Wisdom to back it up.
- (Cha): Important for any Face.
- (Wis): This skill is useless. Medicine is best done magically.
- (Cha): The king of Face skills.
- (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills, but you probably dumped Intelligence.
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.
If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:
- PHB: Two skills from the Paladin list and two languages, but neither of the skills fit the Paladin’s ability scores particularly well.
- SCAG: Athletics and Insight are both fine choices, and two languages are great.
- SCAG: 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.
- SCAG: 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.
- SCAG: Insight and Perception are both great skills, but Paladins frequently dump Wisdom. The bonus languages are also nice.
- PHB: Two Face skills, but they’re the two that are already on the Paladin’s skill list.
- SCAG: Half of the benefits are mostly wasted, but you get Persuasion and a free language.
- SCAG: Athletics and Persuasion are both great, but they’re already on the Paladin skill list. The gaming set and vehicle proficiencies are situational.
- PHB: Athletics is helpful, 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 guaranteed to be useful.
- SCAG: The skill options are great, and Thieves’ Tools might work for a finesse build.
- SCAG: Athletics and a language aren’t terrible, but they’re also not great.
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 feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.
- PHB: Going first isn’t terribly important for the Paladin.
- PHB: Awful.
- PHB: Acting and infiltration don’t really fit the Paladin’s skillset.
- PHB: 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.
- TCoE: The issue isn’t that Chef is bad. It’s a good feat with good benefits for the Paladin and many other characters. The issue is that Inspiring Leader is a much better fit for the Paladin, providing considerably more total temporary hit points with less time and effort, and removing the need to constantly eat snacks in combat.
- PHB: Paladins are terrible at ranged combat.
- TCoE: Without a way to improve your chance of scoring a critical hit, you’re primarily taking this for the ability to reposition enemies once per turn. If you’re going that route, consider if Shove would be a suitable replacement.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: 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.
If you’re considering two-weapon fighting, be sure to consider taking Fighting Initiate for Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting). The numeric bonus to damage is more effective offensively than upgrading from d6 to d8 damage dice, though you do lose the AC bonus.
- PHB: Paladins have neither the skills nor the abilities to back this up.
- PHB: Paladins have plenty of healing options.
- TCoE: Misty Step is great and isn’t available to most paladins. The 1st-level
spells are hard for the Paladin. Bless is a solid buff, but without
proficiency in Constitution saves it can be hard to maintain Concentration,
though Aura of Protection helps a lot. Hex is a good offensive option, but
with only two attacks it may not be especially helpful.
For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- TCoE: Paladins already get a Fighting Style, but more certainly won’t hurt, and the Fighter gets more options than the Paladin. This likely won’t be as impactful as something like Polearm Master, but it can still be very effective.
- FToD: Chromatic Infusion is a nice damage boost once you pick up Extra Attack, and Reactive Resistance will reduce damage from effects which don’t care about your high AC.
- FToD: Telekinetic Reprisal is good, the ability score increase can only go into mental stats. Blessed Warrior builds can use this easily, but other paladins should probably wait until you’ve raised your Strength or Dexterity to 20.
- FToD: Protective Wings is really nice as a substitute for Shield, but if you want to protect an ally, take Fighting Style (Protection) or (Interception).
- PHB: Just a terrible feat in general. You don’t need it to grapple successfully.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Paladins have plenty of magical options for healing.
- PHB: If you find that you’re drawing fire effectively but can’t keep your hit points up, Heavy Armor Master is an excellent choice.
- PHB: Temporary hit points are great, and you have the Charisma to back this up.
- PHB: Awful.
- PHB: Use magic.
- PHB: Good on anyone.
- PHB: Too situational.
- PHB: 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. If you want to rely more directly on cantrips, consider Fighting
Style (Blessed Warrior) instead.
For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
- PHB: Paladins do heavy armor or light armor; never medium.
- TCoE: Powerful, but the Paladin doesn’t get enough spellcasting to make this an easy choice. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
- PHB: Running away isn’t typically something a Paladin does.
- PHB: Paladins have exclusive access to the Find Steed spell, granting them
access to a magical mount. However, this mount is little better than a
mundane horse, and making the mount intelligent may actually make 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.m
If that sounds too frustrating, 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. Big 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, which is a constant problem since your mount’s stats never improve (at least until you get Find Greater Steed).
Regardless of how you handle your mount, be sure to read my Practical Guide to Mounted Combat.
- PHB: Paladins don’t have the abilities to back this up.
- TCoE: The damage reroll mechanic notably applies to the bonus damage dice applied by Divine Smite, allowing you to boost your damage by rerolling the lowest die. This synergizes well with Polearm Master, but remember that the spear’s d6 damage die isn’t going to do much so you may want to drop your shield and grab a pike for the d10 damage die. You also get a +1 Strength or Dexterity increase, which makes this easy to fit into your build.
- PHB: 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 except for smite spells which consume your extremely limited spell slots. This is especially useful once youf 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. You can even get away with using a quarterstaff or spear and a shield (spear was added in errata in 2018).
- PHB: Paladins don’t get proficiency in Constitution saves, and while Aura of Protection is typically sufficient you may still want extra protection. Many of the Paladin’s spells require Concentration, and without proficiency in Constitution saving throws it’s really easy to lose one of your extremely limited spell slots since you’re on the front lines drawing attacks.
- PHB: Leave this for full casters if you can.
- PHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn. Your best bet is to use it when you crit and use divine smite to toll a big pile of dice, but even then it’s a tiny amount of damage.
- PHB: 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.
- TCoE: False Life and Invisibility might be worthwhile, but there are few
options here which work well for the Paladin.
For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: Paladins are terrible at ranged combat.
- PHB: 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.
- TCoE: There aren’t any skill combinations which are as obviously effective as they are for other classes like the Fighter. Face skills like Persuasion are safe choices, but it may be more effective to spend your Ability Score Increases to increase the Paladin’s multiple important ability scores.
- PHB: You can get all the skills you need from your race, class, and background.
- PHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
- TCoE: The speed reduction is a great way to keep enemies from escaping you. The critical hit benefit is great, too, but you can’t count on critical hits so you need to consider the ability increase and the speed reduction as the core of the feat. Like Sentinel, this is a great way to address the “Tank Fallacy” because it makes it so much more difficult for enemies to simply ignore you and walk past you to attack your allies.
- PHB: Leave grappling for people with more attacks.
- PHB: With numerous healing options readily available, Paladins don’t need to dump a ton of resources into hit points.
- PHB: Paladins don’t have spells to use with War Caster’s reaction mechanic. Advantage on your save to maintain Concentration is a solid bonus for Paladins since many very effective buffs require Concentration, but I would consider Resilient before you consider this. If you can pick up a Cantrip like Booming Blade or Word of Radiance, this becomes considerably more interesting.
- : Want reach? Get a polearm.
- : Likely your go-to ranged option.
- : The go-to two-handed options if you don’t need reach.
- : The go-to one-handed options.
- : Go-to option for finesse builds.
- : Go-to option for Polearm Master builds.
- : Starting armor.
- : 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.
- : Armor for finesse builds.
- : Nearly every Paladin’s best option.
This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.
- : As much as I would love to put Reckless Attack on a paladin, the Barbarian’s class features often don’t function in heavy armor and going for light or medium armor means that your paladin suddenly needs four high ability scores, which is simply unattainable in DnD 5e.
- : Fighters get better choices of Fighting Style, and a class dip is the Paladin’s only option for getting a second choice unless you can spare a feat for Fighting Initiate. 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. If you do go this route, consider starting with a level of fighter to get proficiency in Constitution saving throws.
- : 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. If you want offensive spellcasting, Divine Soul unfortunately doesn’t get you cleric cantrips, but you can still get options like Booming Blade and Sword Burst.
- According to Sage Advice. I wouldn’t go past 3rd level. 3rd level gets you Pact Boon, and if you
select Pact of the Blade you can retrain your Eldritch Invocation gained at
2nd level to get Improved Pact Weapon (+1 to attacks and damage!).
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 almost totally ignore your Strength and Dexterity in favor of your Charisma, though you’ll need Improved Pact Weapon if you want to use two-handed weapons.
: 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
Paladin Magic Items
Common Magic Items
- XGtE: This solves two problems for the martial characters. First, the sword glows almost as brightly as a torch, allowing you to see in dark places without devoting a hand to a torch and without asking your allies to cast light or something. Second, and more important, it allows you to overcome damage resistance to non-magic attacks. Resistances like this are common as you gain levels, and the Moon-Touched Sword is an inexpensive way to overcome them until a better weapon comes along.
- XGtE: Paladins can emblazon a holy symbol on a shield, which solves the same problem that Ruby of the War Mage solves.
- XGtE: Works as a quarterstaff, and it can overcome damage resistances to non-magical attacks. The actual magic stuff is amusing, but probably not important. Most melee fighters will prefer a Moon-Touched Sword, but for polearm masters this is your best bet at this rarity.
Uncommon Magic Items
- DMG: Curiously, due to the insanely high price of full plate and the inconsistent price of magic items, adamantine full plate can often be less expensive than regular full plate. Based on the expected gold awarded per level, most characters can’t afford full plate until around level 5 without borrowing from their party, while Uncommon magic items may be available several levels earlier. This mechanical oddity is a popular trick in Adventurer’s League.
- : +1 to spell attacks and save DC’s, and you get an extra use of Channel Divinity per day. If you’re using the Harness Divine Power Optional Class Feature, this effectively serves double duty as a spellcasting focus and as a Pearl of Power.
- DMG: Helpful for Strength-based builds that need an occasional ranged option, but javelins are cheaper and you won’t feel the need to rush to recover them.
- DMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn’t require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you’re using the item’s speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won’t make the broom move faster, and you can’t Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can’t justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
- DMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it’s not very interesting.
- DMG: Maybe helpful for Dexterity-based builds. If you dumped Strength to 8, going straight to 19 can be helpful. But at that point you’re mostly using it for saves and for Athletics checks.
- DMG: Crucial for races which don’t get Darkvision, especially if your party can’t cast the Darkvision spell for you.
- DMG: Similar to the Monk’s Deflect Missiles feature, this is an interesting defensive option for melee characters. However, ranged missile attacks are relatively rare since so many monsters can’t fight at range and many ranged enemies will be spellcasters, so this is situational by nature.
- : This can prevent a ton of damage to your party. Three times per day may not sound like much, but it’s still enough to make a huge impact.
- DMG: An excellent counter to invisible enemies for a class without a built-in way to handle them.
- GotG: Cold resistance and you can use your bonus Action to knock an enemy prone. If you’re not already leaning on your Bonus Action every turn, this is a great way to maximize your action economy.
- DMG: Negate the Disadvantage on stealth checks imposed by half plate. Just as effective as +1 Breastplate, and it’s one rarity lower.
- DMG: Get back a spell slot and turn it into another Divine Smite.
- DMG: Mounted combat is really hard because mounts tend to be frail, and without the Mounted Combatant feat they’re an easy target for your enemies. If you like to fight while mounted but can’t spare a feat, this is almost as good as Mounted Combatant.
- DMG: Going first isn’t critical for the Paladin, but Advantage on Perception and Initiative is still really good. Make sure you take proficiency in Perception if you can manage it without sacrificbing a Face skill.
- DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
- DMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks.
- DMG: A numeric bonus to attack and damage is hard to beat. As you gain levels,your weapons more interesting than a +X bonus to attack/damage may be more interesting and more effective, but at the Uncommon rarity nothing can compete with a +1 Weapon for your offensive needs.
- DMG: In heavy armor, winged boots are a safer choice than a Broom of Flying because they don’t have a weight cap. Lightly-armored paladins might still prefer a Broom of Flying.
Rare Magic Items
- DMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats.
- : +2 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s. See Amulet of the Devout under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
- DMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can’t perfectly predict what sort of damage you’ll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
- DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
- DMG: The fact that this item exists makes putting ability score increases into Strength feel a bit silly. Imagine rushing to get to 20 Strength then finding an item that raises your Strength to 21 (more with higher rarities). Still, if you can get one you absolutely should.
- DMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
- TCoE: The damage boost stacks with Divine Smite and Improved Divine Smite, and thematically it makes a lot of sense for the Paladin. However, a +2 weapon is the same rarity and will be considerably more effective. A +2 weapon will yield comparable improvements to damage output, and once you add Improved Divine Smite the extra reliability from the +2 attack bonus will yield more total damage output than the 1d8 damage from Devotee’s Censer. The healing effect may be helpful since paladins don’t have any group healing options, but the healing is slow so
- DMG: Unpredictable, but potentially very powerful. You’ll get an average of 4.5 beads, and the effectiveness of the item varies wildly depending on what you get. You can notably cast every spell from the beads as a Bonus Action (yes, including Planar Ally which normally has a 10-minute casting time), allowing you to quickly heal allies or get Bless running while leaving your Action for attacks or cantrips.
- DMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
- DMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you’re not built around Dexterity.
- DMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
- DMG: A fine item in a vacuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
- DMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset on almost any character.
- DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
- DMG: Basically a +2 rapier that deals radiant damage and does a bit more damage to undead. It’s not significantly better than a +2 rapier in the majority of cases. Radiant damage is great, but most creatures with resistance to weapon damage types are affected normally by magic weapons so the benefits of radiant damage compared to piercing or slashing damage from a magical we oapon are minor. It works, but I’m not certain that it’s worth Attunement compared to a +2 weapon unless you can expect to face fiends and undead with some regularity.
- DMG: Persistent damage that stacks with itself. It’s only 1d4 and only once per turn, but it stacks with itself and “once per turn” means that if you can attack again outside of your own turn (Opportunity Attacks, etc.) you can get additional dice very quickly.
- DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.
- DMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn’t require attunement.
Very Rare Magic Items
- TCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
- : +3 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s. See Amulet of the Devout under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
- DMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
- DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. If you plan to get full plate, get Dwarven Plate instead.
- GotG: A bunch of extra HP plus Beacon of Hope once per day. +2 armor will likely mitigate much more damage over an extended adventuring day. Beacon of Hope is neat, but it’s not consistently useful and you can already cast it.
- DMG: Much like a +X weapon, it’s hard to beat the math here. For a Strength-based character, raising your Strength above 20 is a massive benefit, and going up as high as 25 is spectacular. Add a +X weapon on top of that, and you hit so reliably that you almost can’t miss with your attacks.
- GotG: The Con bonus to damage can’t compete with the math of a +3 weapon. Invoking the rune on Bloodshed Blade lets you perform a once-per-day nuke which should nicely eliminate whatever thing to drop all of your hit dice on top of.
- DMG: A great way to spend yourfo Bonus Action if you don’t have many uses for it, but the sword only uses your attack and damage modifiers, so it can’t benefit from feats, class features, etc.
- DMG: Basically just +2 full plate but it can reduce forced movement a little bit.
- DMG: The pinnacle of thrown weapons, the Dwarven Thrower is an impressive weapon for several reasons, but it’s most noteworthy ability is that you can attack by throwing it and it immediately returns, never leaving you without a weapon in hand and saving you the trouble of carrying a stack of javelins or something.
- DMG: Less damage than the Flame Tongue, but higher rarity and it requires attunement. Yes, you get resistance to fire damage, but you can get that from dozens of other sources by this level.
- DMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
- DMG: Unless you are struggling with the cap on attuned items, a Belt of Giant Strength is a better choice.
- DMG: Spectacular for Dexterity-based builds.
- DMG: Among the best weapons to use with the Dueling style, you get two-weapon fighting action economy on a single weapon.
- DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
- DMG: A minor upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Spellguard Shield protects you not just from spells, but from all magical effects.
- DMG: Great for Polearm Master builds, this is effectively a +2 quarterstaff with some active abilities. It’s more complicated than a +3 quarterstaff, but if you can make good use of the active abilities it’s worth the loss of a +1 bonus to attack and damage.
- DMG: Permanent Charisma bonus and raises your cap by 2. Increasing your Strength or Dexterity may be more important, but if you can get both you absolutely should.
- DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.
Legendary Magic Items
- DMG: Resistance (immunity sometimes) to non-magical damage may protect you from most weapon attacks. At high enough level that you might have this item there will definitely be enemies with access to magic attacks (spellcasters, magic weapons, natural weapons which count as magical, etc.), but in many encounters this will still provide a great deal of protection.
- DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math is good.
- DMG: As good as a +4 weapon for Strength-based character, and that doesn’t even consider Athletics checks or saves.
- TCoE: The first ability provides a great damage boost which also heals you, and since it’s “extra damage” the damage is multiplied on a critical hit. The second ability provides a way to counterattack using your Reaction, and with Advantage on that attack it’s an easy and reliable boost to your damage output.
- DMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell have Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
- DMG: Given the choice, I would trade this for a +2 weapon and a +2 shield and consider that a very good trade.
- DMG: Even at high levels fire damage is a frequent problem, so immunity is really nice, but the AC simply isn’t good enough.
- DMG: As good as a +3 weapon and a Mantle of Spell Resistance combined, plus bonus damage against fiends and undead and the resistance against spells works in an aura which matches your Aura of Protection, so even your allies will be excited for you to get this.
- DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. But Attunement is precious and you’ll probably only get one legendary item. You can get +1 to all saves and all ability checks with a Stone of Good Luck rather than just ones where you have proficiency, and they’re Uncommon so they should be easy to find by this level. This isn’t to say that Ioun Stone (Mastery) is bad; just that a Stone of Good Luck will be a better value for the Paladin.
- DMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). if it can’t cast Wish.
- DMG: Given the choice, I would much rather have a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to .
- DMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the
ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to
once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to
another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat
until the last charge is used.
For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.
- DMG: Allows you to easily change your weapon damage type, and provides three powerful offensive abilities which work in a variety of situations. Unfortunately all of the weapon types (with the exception of the Flametongue) aren’t appealing to Dexterity-based builds.
- DMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
- DMG: An Amulet of the Devout will be more broadly useful, but the unique ability to save-or-suck an evil is a great way to instantly defeat major enemies. You may also be able to weaponize the on-touch damage, but I think the intent is that the creature needs to willingly touch or try to pick up the talisman rather than being struck with it.
- DMG: Mostly useful as a +3 weapon. Paladins don’t get more than two attacks, and without something like Reckless Attack to provide guaranteed Advantage, rolling a natural 20 is infrequent.
Example Paladin Build – Dragonborn Paladin (Oath of Devotion)
Abrash Delmirev the Dragonborn Oath of Devotion Paladin
The play of sunlight over the dragonborn’s jet-black scales is the first thing you notice about the paladin standing before you, imposing in his height and heft, as well as the scrapes and scuffs on his warhammer and chain mail, signs of recent combat. Yet his eyes, a reptilian, slitted green, seem entirely incapable of embracing malice, an observation that is reinforced by the holy emblem displayed prominently on his burnished shield.
This is a “Staple Build”. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.
For a Paladin, this is a very simple build. I’ve left the spell preparation up to you, but the advice provided above should give you all the information you need.
We will assume the point buy abilities for a Strength-based Paladin suggested above. That gives us a character who excels at paladin things, but is otherwise very limited. If you’re willing to give up some Constitution, reduce your starting Strength and Constitution each to 14, and distribute those points elsewhere, and at 4th level put the full Ability Score Increase into Strength. Lay on Hands gives you a generous pool of hit points to fall back on, so you’re perfectly fine with 14 Constitution.
Classic Dragonborn. Strength and Charisma is a great ability score spread, and a breath weapon offers a good way for us to handle groups of enemies, which is typically a problem for paladins who lack options for handling crowds.
Skills and Tools
We have a lot of flexibility here. I definitely recommend Persuasion, but your other choices can be dependent on the makeup of your party. Religion is a good choice, but if you have a Cleric in the party you may not need it. Athletics is a great choice too because it makes grappling and shoving good options. If you’re the only Face in your party, you may want to pick up Intimidation.
Acolyte, Noble, and Soldier all work really well for this build.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
Lay on Hands
|For your starting equipment, take a warhammer, a longsword, or a
battleaxe, a shield, five javelins, and either pack. You’re locked
into Chain Mail, but with 8 Dexterity that’s what you want.|
At first level you’re very similar to the Fighter. Divine Sense gives you a taste of real divine power. It won’t be useful especially often, but it’s one of the paladin’s only ways to locate invisible creatures.
Lay on Hands is an excellent healing resource. It allows you to precisely apply healing without any of the randomness of hit dice or healing spells, so you can easily fill in the last two or three hit points to get someone to full health without the risk of running over and wasting limited resources. Try to keep 1 point on hand at all times in case you need to save a dying ally.
Despite your high AC from Chain Mail, I really recommend sticking to sword-and-board at first level rather than going for a 2-handed weapon. Even with Lay on Hands, 1st-level characters are frail and a single attack could take you from full hit points to 0. A shield goes a long way to make sure you reach 2nd level.
|2||Fighting Style (Any except GWF)|
|2nd level is where things really pick up for the paladin. Fighting
Style helps define your role in the party. I recommend anything except
Great Weapon Fighting. Even if you go for two-handed weapons, GWF
doesn’t pay off. If you want to use two-handed weapons, take Defense
to compensate for your lack of a shield.|
At this level, you have twice as many spells prepared as you have spell slots. I recommend preparing defensive buffs like Compel Duel and Shield of Faith, but it doesn’t hurt to bring some Smite spells. Often using a spell will have a bigger impact on a fight than burning the spell slot for Divine Smite, but sometimes you just need a little extra damage to kill something in a hurry.
Sacred Oath (Oath of Devotion)
– Sacred Weapon
– Turn the Unholy
|Divine Health is a good passive defense. Diseases can be really
nasty, and they’re commonly communicated through melee attacks from
things like demons and dire rats.|
Channel Divinity (Sacred Weapon) is an excellent buff. You already have 16 Charisma, and a +3 bonus to attacks is massive in 5e. The 1-minute duration means that it won’t last longer than a single fight, but if you can activate Sacred Weapon just before jumping into a fight you will start with a huge advantage.
|4||Ability Score Improvement (Strength 17 -> 18, Constitution 15 -> 16)||Since we have two important ability scores at odd numbers, we can split our Ability Score Increase to make them both even and increase both of their modifiers. This means better attack and damage bonuses, more hit points, and better saves. Don’t forget that increasing your Constitution modifier increases your hit points retroactively, so you get an extra hit point for every previous level, too!|
|5||Extra Attack||5th level is really fun. Not only do you get Extra Attack, you get your first 2nd-level spell slots. You’ll be able to prepare a total of just 5 spells at this level, so you’ll need to be very picky.|
|6||Aura of Protection||Aura of Protection is one of the best defensive class features in the game. You and any ally within 10 ft. gets +3 to all of their saving throws. This is a great reason to keep your allies close to you, but remember that you’re intended to draw attacks away from your allies so it may be safer for your allies to stay further away to avoid AOE damage.|
|7||Aura of Devotion||Immunity to Charm is more useful than it appears at first. Many spell effects won’t function if you’re immune to Charm.|
|8||Ability Score Improvement (Strength 18 -> 20)||Not very exciting, but more Strength is very important.|
|9||–||9th-level brings 3rd-level spells.|
|10||Aura of Courage||Fear becomes more common as you gain levels and encounter crazy things like ancient dragons and powerful undead.|
|11||Improved Divine Smite||A straight damage boost for your weapon attacks.|
|12||Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 16 -> 18)||An extra point of Charisma modifier means more prepared spells, better spell DCs, and a better bonus from Aura of Protection.|
|13||–||13th level brings 4th-level spells. Use Find Greater Steed as soon as possible to get yourself a cool new mount.|
|14||Cleansing Touch||Cleaning touch is really good for removing pesky debuffs and other ongoing spell effects that will be more common at this level.|
|15||Purity of Spirit||Purity of Spirit makes you much better at fighting foes of the affected types, but doesn’t require Concentration or a spell slot or anything so you’re always ready to go.|
|16||Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 18 -> 20)||An extra point of Charisma modifier means more prepared spells, better spell DCs, and a better bonus from Aura of Protection.|
|17||–||17th level brings 5th-level spells at long last.|
|18||Aura Improvements||At this level all of your 10 ft. auras expand to 30 ft., allowing your allies to remain at much greater distance from you while still benefit from your excellent protections.|
|19||Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)||This is basically an extra ASI. Spend it on whatever you want, but Constitution is a good choice.|
|20||Holy Nymbus||In a fight with several enemies, this will deal a ton of damage very quickly, but even against single foes it may be a good option to turn this on and focus on just staying alive while you wear down difficult foes.|