Introduction

Do you want to tank? Do you want to fight? Do you want a class that can instill fright? Well strap on some plate and keep the bad guys in sight ‘cause they’re going to eat some Paladin SMITE. (Enormous praise and credit to Jocat)

This guide will surprise you not at all if you’ve been listening to the RPGBOT.podcast (available wherever fine podcasts are distributed). Oath of Conquest is an exciting Paladin subclass that can, with a bit of help, be an absolute terror in melee combat, pun mildly intended. This will also be exciting new ground for RPGBOT as this will be the first subclass handbook which features multiclassing in the example build.

This guide is specifically for the Oath of Conquest Paladin, and omits sections of typical class handbooks when those sections aren’t meaningfully different from other members of the class. For more information on the Paladin, see the Paladin Handbook. I also strongly recommend reading the Paladin Spell List Breakdown.

Disclaimer

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

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

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

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

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Table of Contents

Oath of Conquest Subclass Features

  • Expanded Spell List What a great list. Every level has something worthwhile to offer you, and the only issue is that, as a half caster, you’re getting access to these things later than members of the classes they were originally intended for.
    • 1st-Level Spells It’s Armor of Agathys, one of the single best defensive spells in the game for frontline characters. It protects you about the same amount as a Healing Word of the equivalent spell slot, does at least the same amount of damage back to attackers, and it’s temp hp so you can apply it before you take damage. Having Command always prepared is also a nice benefit.
    • 2nd-Level Spells Spiritual Weapon, the absolute king of spells that should be concentration but aren’t. You’ll have some things to do with your bonus action already, but once you’re out of things to shove, feel free to get one of these out and go to town. Hold Person is also there and can be put to some ok use before you turn on at level 9.
    • 3rd-Level Spells: Giving Fear to this subclass was someone’s idea of being sadistic to your DM. If positioned correctly, you can literally end a fight with several targets by yourself, assuming they fail wisdom saves. This level also gives you Bestow Curse if you’re fighting something immune to fear.
    • 4th-Level Spells: Stoneskin is an impressive defensive buff, and having resistance makes Armor of Agathys even better, but the material component is annoying. Dominate Beast is incredibly situational.
    • 5th-Level Spells Dominate Person, on the other hand, is useful nearly always. Cloudkill will finally get you some area-of-effect damage, though by this level it’s a bit of a moot point.
  • Channel Divinity Conquering presence won’t do you much good until level 7, and even then it will only be good for two levels, then situationally useful for another two levels, before becoming largely irrelevant thanks to Fear. Thankfully, it does have another use which is very good for our attack-focused Paladin.
  • Aura of Conquest This is the ability around which we define the build. From the basic rules, if you have a movement speed of 0, you cannot stand from prone. It is therefore our job to make everything prone and afraid of us.
  • Scornful Rebuke It’s literally just free damage when things attack you. It’s not a lot, especially at this level, but it’s always on and it’s better than nothing.
  • Invincible Conqueror Once per long rest, go to town on whatever fight seems difficult.

Abilities

Not substantially different from other Paladins, though you may want to focus on Charisma more than Constitution so that your saves for things like a critical Fear can be harder to pass. Also, given that we’re focused on Athletics, building around Dexterity instead of Strength doesn’t really work here.

Str Not only the driver for your melee attacks but powers Athletics as well, a core function of the example build.

Dex You’ll be wearing heavy armor and Shield Master adds a bonus to Dexterity saves, so you can afford dump Dexterity. However, Dexterity saves are still a great way for enemies to get around your other defenses, so high Dexterity saves can mitigate a common source of damage.

Con Third in importance. While you have many defensive capabilities, you are a front line combatant and need the hitpoints to match. You also have some concentration spells and will need the help with saves until Aura of Protection comes online.

Int Dump.

Wis Dump

Cha The Paladin’s spells and many class features are powered by Charisma.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str1515
Dex1010
Con1413
Int88
Wis812
Cha1514

Races

There is very little difference between what makes a generally good Paladin and what makes a good Oath of Conquest Paladin. Look for Strength and Charisma both, particularly if you plan to follow the example build at the end of this article.

Backgrounds

Only one skill is really critical to the build and that’s Athletics. Paladins already get Athletics as a skill choice so your background can be pretty flexible. With that said, we would also like Persuasion and Intimidation (and perhaps even Deception) to capitalize on our impressive Charisma. Look for some combination of these.

If your DM will let you take Boros Legionnaire (or if you happen to be in a Ravnica campaign) even better. The expanded Spell list doesn’t actually get you the Cantrips (since it just adds them to your class list but no Paladin feature ever lets you learn Cantrips from your list) but it does get you more things known which is always nice.

Feats

In general, this build wants too many ASIs to bother with many feats. With that said, Shield Master is critical to the example build, and therefore should be taken ASAP, preferably at level 1.

If you are strictly against multiclassing, you can achieve some of the same benefit by taking Martial Adept and picking up Menacing Attack. This choice does let you focus solely on Strength but, honestly, it’s just shooting you in the foot.

Weapons

You start with a longsword, you end with a longsword. Given that you need a shield for Shield Master to capitalize on Aura of Conquest, a longsword is going to be the go-to unless you find a magic one-handed weapon that’s better.

One interesting option if you’re willing to give up a bit of damage is a whip. The reach means that you would actually be able to maintain someone in an attack/fear lock even from 10 feet away which could be beneficial if you get something without reach on the ground and need to back away because it’s scarier than you are.

For ranged options, javelins are the go-to Strength-based option, but the range is poor compared to weapons like the longbow, so once you have the gold you might buy a bow for situations where a javelin can’t reach.

Apart from that, there’s functionally no reason to choose any melee weapon over any other melee weapon for this build except for whatever does best damage or has neat magical abilities.

Armor

  • You’ll start with Chain Mail until you get the gold to upgrade it to Full Plate
  • Shield: Just tape it to your arm. It shouldn’t ever be off.

Oath of Conquest Paladin Spells

With the exception of the spells noted above in the Class Features description, nothing is particularly different for an Oath of Conquest Paladin as compared to other Paladins.

Multiclassing

While Warlock has been an enormously popular choice for Paladins for a long time, this build finally has an actually interesting reason beyond smiting to do it. Paladins multiclassing into Hexblade Warlocks are a dime a dozen because it lets you run everything off Charisma while still getting the short-rest-recovery spell slots to power smite the combo is known for. But that’s boring.

Added in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, Undead patron Warlocks combine with Oath of Conquest Paladins in a delicious harmony of scary. What Oath of Conquest has been lacking since its introduction in Xanathar’s was a way to consistently make something afraid of it. The Undead patron’s Form of Dread ability is exactly that, and its uses per day scales based on proficiency which will continue increasing as the character progresses, even with just a one or two level dip into Warlock.

If Warlock doesn’t excite you or you are very interested in playing a Paladin that doesn’t focus on Charisma, you can take 3 levels of Fighter instead to get the Battlemaster archetype and take Menacing attack. I really wouldn’t recommend this, but it’s an option.

Example Build – Variant Human Paladin

This world lacks purpose. I will be the one to unify it because I am the only one with the strength to do it right. But even my strength will fail as I age. Perhaps the secrets of undeath will be able to keep me strong forever…

I beg you Bane, show me the way.

Abilities

We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above.

BaseIncreased
Str1516
Dex1010
Con1414
Int88
Wis88
Cha1516

Race

Variant human. While we don’t have Aura of Conquest yet, Shield Master is still immensely powerful both to give us something to do with our bonus actions and for defensive purposes. We take Variant human so we can walk out with it at level 1 and round our two odd scores up to 16s. Custom Lineage would work almost as well, but you’d have Strength or Charisma one point short of where we start now until level 4 when you would split the ASI to balance them both out instead of putting both points into Strength.

Skills and Tools

Take Intimidation and Persuasion

Background

Take Smuggler to get Athletics and Deception, completing the complement of Charisma-based Face skills.

Feats

As mentioned above, walk out with Shield Master at level 1. Level 4 will get your Strength to 18, and level 8 will get your Charisma there as well. Unfortunately we then fall behind on ASIs due to multiclassing. You won’t get Charisma to 20 until 14 and finally cap Strength to 20 at level 18.

Levels

1 – Paladin 1
  • Divine Sense
  • Lay on Hands

For your starting equipment, take the default starting gear. I recommend the 5 javelins if you want a Strength-based ranged option, but a crossbow is a simple weapon and has better range so that’s also an option. Attach your holy symbol to said shield so it can be your focus. Use the bonus action from Shield Master basically as often as possible. If you knock something prone it has to spend half it’s speed to stand up, making it far less likely it’ll be able to get past you to your backline. It will also grant Advantage on melee attacks, which your hypothetical Rogue will love. Do note that it grants Disadvantage on ranged attacks against the target so if you have a ranged-heavy party, be aware of when you use it on what targets.

Your AC is a comforting 18, and you have Lay on Hands and Shield Master to help keep you up. With that said, as your LoH pool grows, it can be tempting to dump all of it into healing when the need arises. I would recommend always leaving yourself a pool of 2 no matter what level you are you you can bring the divine caster in your party back to consciousness twice if need be. You’ll want a Longbow or Crossbow or some javelins for a ranged weapon until you pick up some cantrips.

2 – Paladin 2
  • Fighting Style: Dueling
  • New Spells Prepared:
    • Compelled Duel
    • Shield of Faith
    • Cure Wounds
We’re going to be making a lot of one-handed melee attacks, so adding 2 damage to them is a great idea. While Blessed Warrior is tempting with our high Charisma, none of the base Cleric cantrips require an attack roll which means they don’t work with Form of Dread. Since we’re not a ritual caster, we leave the very good detect spells to other people. Our Charisma starts out as high as a full caster so we can make good use of Compelled Duel. Shield of Faith helps push our AC to even higher levels, and Cure Wounds helps round out our capabilities. With that said, you only get two slots per day so you need to use them wisely.
3 – Paladin 3
  • Divine Health
  • Sacred Oath: Oath of Conquest
  • Channel Divinity:
    • Conquering Presence
    • Guided Strike
  • New Spells prepared:
    • Armor of Agathys
    • Command
Conquering Presence doesn’t have a lot of value right now because there’s rarely a time when spending your Action to make things afraid is better than just hitting them with a sword. It’s nice that it’s an AOE, but your longsword is already doing 1d8+5. Just keep the channel for when you roll badly on an attack and want it to connect. You gain one extra spell slot but more importantly Armor of Agathys which is nearly always the best defensive option if you’re in melee combat.
4 – Paladin 4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 16 -> 18)
  • New Spells Prepared:
    • Thunderous Smite
    • Any
Thunderous Smite is the highest-damage spell at this level and, when combined with a Divine Smite, can result in a single Attack doing enormous damage. The Str save will often be resisted but that’s fine. The problem with any of the Smite spells, as well as most of the 1st-level paladin list, is that they’re often Concentration spells. While the idea behind the Smite spells being Concentration is good by itself (make sure you get the effect even if you miss the first attack with it charged), it does mean you can’t use them while also running any Concentration buff like Heroism, Divine Favor, Shield of Faith, etc.
5 – Paladin 5
  • Extra Attack
  • New Spells Prepared:
    • Find Steed
    • Magic Weapon
    • Lesser Restoration

Drop Cure Wounds, Shield of Faith, and the 2nd spell you prepared at level 4 for the ones listed. We have enough Lay on Hands at this point that we don’t need Cure anymore.

Lesser Restoration is a little bit redundant with Lay on Hands but our pool of both is so limited right now that the backup is welcome. You have now doubled the damage output of your attack action. Go nuts. Unfortunately, you can’t use your bonus action after the first attack to gain advantage on the second attack by making them prone per Jeremy Crawford. I find that really dumb though given that you can sprint a whole 30 feet between attacks so maybe you can convince your DM otherwise.

Find Steed is a complicated spell to handle. You may want to read the practical guide to mounted combat and listen to our podcast episode about mounted combat.

I don’t recommend this spell because I think you should be mounted; I recommend it because having a fiendish warhorse is neat and could very well be useful in a lot of ways. While you don’t need to cast the spell all that often, you do need to cast it when the horse dies. Given its AC of 11 and no save proficiencies, that will be somewhat more than you might like.

6 – Paladin 6
  • Aura of Protection
  • New Spell Prepared:
    • Any
Did you want a free +3 to all your saves? Hey, so did your party. It is worth noting that it doesn’t specify what saves it applies to, meaning it applies to all of them, including Death Saves. Stay near dying friends, even if you can’t spare the action to Lay on Hands them.
7 – Paladin 7
  • Aura of Conquest
Oh. Freakin. Boy. This is what we came for. You currently have no repeatable or long-term ways of making people afraid of you, but that will come soon. In the meantime, feel free to now use your Action to Channel Conquering Presence if you’re going to hit several targets.
8 – Paladin 8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 16 -> 18)
  • New Spell Prepared:
    • Any
Improve your spell DCs and your Save bonus from your aura. This will be used to power our fear effect at next level.
9 – Warlock 1
  • New Cantrips:
    • Eldritch Blast
    • Prestidigitation
  • Pact Magic
  • New Spells Known:
    • Cause Fear
    • Hellish Rebuke
  • Otherworldly Patron: The Undead
  • Form of Dread

Now the build turns on. Proficiency bonus is total-level-dependent, not class-level-dependent, meaning it is now +4. This means that you can use Form of Dread 4 times per day, which is the expected number of fights a party will have on a normal day of adventuring. That means your bonus action for the first round of combat is turning it on in every fight. Try to let the temp hp from the ability run out before casting Armor of Agathys if you’re going to cast it at all. While Form of Dread doesn’t specify what the DC of the Wisdom save is, we can assume it to be your spell save DC. With two attacks per turn you’re likely to hit at least once which will let you trigger the fear save and hold your priority target close to you.

On the next turn, you attack them again but this time use your bonus action to Shove them prone. Note that, because they are afraid of you, they will have disadvantage on the skill check to contest your athletics to Shove. Keep attacking them (now with advantage), keep fearing them, keep them on the ground for eternity. If you’re worried about them attacking you back even while on the ground, you can step back 5 feet from them and start Eldritch Blasting them (or attacking them with a whip). The wording on Form of Dread just requires you to hit with an attack roll to apply the fear effect and having two beams makes up somewhat for the disadvantage of attacking a prone figure.

Cause Fear can be used if you need another target afraid of you and therefore unable to run beyond the one you’re going to Attack-lock into oblivion. Hellish Rebuke is there to add injury to injury when someone attacks into your Armor of Agathys.

Prestidigitation is the most fun you can have with a Cantrip.


Pact Magic lets you use your Warlock slots to power Divine Smite. They never advance past 1st level but that’s still 2 extra smites per short rest.

10 – Warlock 2
  • Additional Spell Slot
  • New Spell Known:
    • Hex
  • Eldritch Invocations:
    • Agonizing Blast
    • Devil’s Sight

Hex is a great thing to use your Concentration on for big targets you want extra damage on. It also doesn’t allow a save, which makes its other ability crazy powerful if used correctly. If you can determine what type of spellcaster you’re fighting, for instance, you can Hex their casting stat which will give them disadvantage on Counterspell rolls even if they’re not currently afraid of you. If you can use its 90ft range to be a little surreptitious about it, you can maybe even use it in a social encounter to make someone less able to intuit that your party is lying to them, or to have them be less convincing in an argument.

Agonizing blast applies each time Eldritch Blast hits, which can already be twice and will be thrice per turn next level. Devil’s Sight is incredibly strong for a number of reasons. It’s double the range of normal Darkvision, it works in magical darkness equally well, and it says “you can see normally” which means you don’t take the regular disadvantage associated with Darkvision. With that said, your perception modifier is going to be -1 forever, so, if you don’t think you’ll need to see in the dark all that often, consider Grasp of Hadar or Eldritch Mind.

11 – Paladin 9
  • New Spells Prepared:
    • Fear
    • Bestow Curse
    • Revivify
    • Dispel Magic

Drop the spell you prepared at level 8 so you can have Revivify and Dispel Magic available.

Revivify and 300gp worth of diamond dust can be the difference between your actual healer staying dead and coming back to life. You should never be without either.

Dispel Magic is amazing and is tied straight to Charisma so the skill checks you’re making are only behind a full caster by 1 point.

Fear. It is the masterstroke of this build. They are afraid of you and have to use their action to Dash. But with a speed of 0 thanks to Aura of Conquest, they will never get away from you, meaning the condition for them getting another saving throw to end the spell never triggers. This is just a hard lock on anything that fails the save and isn’t immune to the condition. You’re generally going to want to open with this, hitting many things with the cone before running into the middle of them to apply the aura.

12 – Paladin 10
  • Aura of Courage
  • New Spell prepared:
    • Daylight
Our friends are now immune to our shenanigans, just in case we happen to fail a save vs mind control (highly unlikely given our bonuses against them, but still).
13 – Paladin 11
  • Improved Divine Smite
It’s free damage. Plus it means zombies always die when you kill them.
14 – Paladin 12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 18 -> 20)
  • New Spell prepared:
    • Any
Cap your Charisma to make sure the save vs. your fear is as hard to succed at as possible. Side benefits include better saves for you and your party, better social interactions when rolling Deception/Persuasion/Intimidation, and a higher likelihood of being hit on by townsfolk.
15 – Paladin 13
  • New Spells Prepared:
    • Find Greater Steed
    • Death Ward
    • Dominate Beast
    • Stoneskin

Replace Find Steed in your daily preparation with Find Greater Steed and replace whatever you prepared at 14 with Death Ward. Non-concentration and it lasts 8 hours which is functionally all day. Hopefully it’ll keep you alive back to your turn so you can dump all but 2 of your Lay on Hands back into yourself. You also get it for free on your Find Greater Steed mount when you cast it on yourself.

Find Greater Steed now lets you summon a Fiendish Pegasus which may be the most fun juxtaposition I’ve come across in 5e. They’re fast on the ground, they’re very fast in the air, and they’re smarter and wiser than you are. They also speak three languages you don’t and can communicate with you telepathically so expect to suddenly have a great translator.

16 – Paladin 14
  • Cleansing Touch
  • New Spell Prepared:
    • Banishment
This is an incredibly powerful ability that is also very situational. It only affects spells, not other conditions, and it requires you to touch them which you won’t often be wanting to do in combat. With that said, if you do find something to use it on, it is incredibly satisfying to just veto the enemy’s plan. Banishment targets a Charisma save which is highly unlikely to be resisted. This is much more reliable than targeting Wisdom for many creatures.
17 – Paladin 15
  • Scornful Rebuke
Between this, Armor of Agathys, and Hellish Rebuke you can deal 3 types of damage reactively. Combined with your Smites and Hex, you’re only missing Acid and Lightning. I’m not sure how this is useful, but it seemed like something to call out.
18 – Paladin 16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 18 -> 20)
  • New Spell Prepared:
    • Any
Cap Strength, making our melee Attacks and Athletics as good as it can get without magic items.
19 – Paladin 17
  • New Spells Prepared:
    • Holy Weapon
    • Destructive Wave
    • Dominate Person
    • Cloudkill
Replace the spell you started preparing last level with Holy Weapon because, well, Holy Weapon. If I did my math right you should have the preparation slot from 6th level still left free which we fill with Destructive Wave because knocking everything prone after making it afraid of you is hilarious.
20 – Paladin 18
  • Aura Improvements
The “Capstone” for this build is expanding the range on all your auras to 30 feet which, honestly, feels pretty dang satisfying as a capstone. It makes the “Fear cone into running in and standing in people” turn much easier to hit and makes you an incredibly effective Defender.