Introduction

The Paladin is one of the most MAD classes in the game, relying on Strength/Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. While they are primarily a martial class similar to the Fighter, some of their most powerful and interesting class features depend on Charisma, so it’s difficult to simply ignore them in order to simplify your ability score needs. Races which can get three ability score increases are often the Paladin’s best choice, though many paladins do just fine with only middling Charisma and thanks to Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior) you can also build around Constitution and Charisma and let your Strength/Dexterity remain low.

Paladins are already one of the most durable classes in the game, so while other classes often need to look for extra defenses from their race, paladins are often fine without them. Between Aura of Protection, various immunities, and Lay on Hands, paladins are perfectly capable of staying upright when things get tough. If you do explore additional defenses, be cautious about the “tank fallacy”, and expect to use a two-handed weapon.

Paladins get the typical 4 skills (2 from class, 2 from background), and since you’re dependent on Charisma you’re likely going to learn some Face skills. If you want to expand beyond Face skills, additional skill proficiencies from your race are a great idea.

Innate spellcasting is an interesting option for the Paladin. While you do have spell slots to re-cast spells, those slots are few in number and in many cases they’ll serve you better if you use them for smiting. If you do look for innate spellcasting, it may need to be spells that you only want to cast once or twice a day.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read our paladin handbook.

Table of Contents

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Paladin Races

Keep in mind that not all races will be available in every game. Consult your DM about which races are welcome in your game, as not all settings are appropriate to every setting or even to specific campaigns within a setting which might otherwise welcome any and all races.

AarakocraEEPC

UpdatedMMoM: The Aarakocra’s reduced speed and innate spellcasting don’t change any of their previous challenges.

Customized Origin: Your best bet is still a Blessed Warrior build, but since the Aarakocra can only fly in light armor, you’re going to have MAD issues. A Dexterity-based build faces similar problems, and flying into melee will frequently negate your race’s only noteworthy trait. If you want to fly in light armor, consider the Fairy or the Owlin. If you want fewer MAD issues, go for the Winged Tiefling.

Default Rules: Bonus Dexterity and flight in light armor are decent for a finesse-based Paladin, but that’s really all you get. You could build around Blessed Warrior and fight using cantrips, but that negates a lot of what makes the paladin useful. You’re essentially abandoning your role as a Defender to be a slightly more durable version of a cleric but with much worse leveled spells. It’s more likely that you’ll build around Dexterity and fly into melee, but that means that you’re frequently giving up your most noteworthy racial trait.

AasimarVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Thematically the Aasimar makes a lot of sense as a paladin. If you’re facing enemy clerics, paladins, or undead, the Aasimar’s damage resistances are great. The transformation options all work well for the Paladin, but I think Radiant Consumption is the best choice for the Paladin.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. The subraces are distinguished by their transformation, and that distinction makes a big difference in your tactics, but all three subraces remain effective choices for the Paladin.

  • Fallen: A fear effect is great crowd control for a class that’s not great at handling crowds. The save DC is Charisma-based, which works great for the Paladin.
  • Protector: Temporary flight when you need it, and no restriction on what armor you’re wearing.
  • Scourge: The Paladin has a good hit die and the ability to rapidly heal themselves, making the Scourge Aasimar’s Transformation a great way to quickly eliminate crowds at minimal cost and risk to yourself.

Default Rules: An obvious and fantastic choice for a Paladin. Two damage resistances, Darkvision, and some extra healing are a good mix of traits that complement the Paladin’s existing capabilities nicely.

  • Fallen: A fear effect is great crowd control for a class that’s not great at handling crowds. The save DC is Charisma-based, which works great for the Paladin.
  • Protector: Wisdom doesn’t do much for a paladin, but radiant soul is fantastic for temporary flight.
  • Scourge: The Paladin has a good hit die and the ability to rapidly heal themselves, making the Scourge Aasimar’s Transformation a great way to quickly eliminate crowds at minimal cost and risk to yourself.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. The innate spellcasting is a good complement to the Paladin’s limited spellcasting capabilities, and they’re a bit easier to manage then the standard Aasimar’s Transformation options, so you get the theme and the core benefits without the tactical complexity of Transformation.

Default Rules: Thematically this works great for a Blessed Warrior build, and the innate spellcasting offers some cleric-like options. Combined with the damage resistances, this leans really hard into the “trade cleric spellcasting for more durability” idea, but still doesn’t answer the question “why do this instead of playing a cleric”.

Air GenasiMMoM

Most of the Air Genasi’s power budget is tied up in their innate spellcasting, and the innate spellcasting isn’t very good. You won’t use Shocking Grasp or Levitate to any meaningful effect, and if you’re desperate for feather fall some levels in Sorcerer will solve that problem.

Bugbear

UpdatedMMoM: A Dexterity-based paladin build could work, but paladins never get more than two attacks unless you resort to two-weapon fighting. It works, but it’s not an especially powerful build.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Surprise Attack can be useful, but you may want to build around Dexterity so that your initiative will be reasonably high. Long-Limbed is helpful for attacking, but it adds very little to the Paladin’s role as a Striker.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: A Strength increase and reach are both nice, but you can do better with other races, and since paladins are typically a party’s Defender, you want to be adjacent to enemies rather than using Long-Limbed to keep enemies at a distance.

Centaur

UpdatedMMoM: The Centaur is primarily defined by Charge. Typically you lean into that with hit-and-run tactics, but you’ll need to take Mobile to make that work, and paladins have less room for feats than classes like the Fighter. The Centaur’s skill options are also poor for the Paladin.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and Fey creature type. The Centaur really shines with hit-and-run tactics and the Mobile feat, but that’s hard for the Paladin since you have less room for feats than the Fighter. Expect to rely primarily on your initial charge into melee to make a big impact.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: A good option for an aggressive melee build, but the Centaur is most effective when using hit-and-run tactics to repeatedly charge and get additional attacks on their Bonus Action, which is an unusual tactic for the Paladin. If your party doesn’t have another Defender, be very cautious about repeatedly moving out of melee with foes who would happy run past you to attack your more fragile allies.

Changeling

UpdatedMMoM: Two Face skills and Shapechanger make for an effective Face, but that’s about it. In a highly social campaign this could be great, but the Changeling adds nothing in combat.

Classic (Customized Origin)ERLW: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Shapechanger might work for a tricky, highly-social paladin, but that’s a pretty niche build. Consider a race which can cast Disguise Self as an innate spell like the Glasya Tiefling instead.

Classic (Default Rules)ERLW: A Charisma increase and a flexible ability increase are great for the Paladin, and two skill proficiencies in Face skills help you to serve as your party’s Face. However, unless you plan to frequently rely upon Shapechanger you’ll get more from the Half-Elf.

Deep GnomeMMoM

For a Dexterity-based build, Svirfneblin Camouflage is a passable replacement for Expertise in Stealth, allowing you to potentially serve as your party’s Scout. Gnome Magic Resistance, couple with Aura of Protection, makes you very resilient to spells (though not so much as the Yuan-Ti). You can recast the Deep Gnome’s innate spells, but that won’t be necessary most of the time.

DragonbornPHB

Chromatic: Line AOE’s are hard to use, and Chromatic Warding is nice but not essential. Consider the Dragon Fear feat if you want more uses from your breath weapon when lines are proving frustrating.

Gem: Better damage offensively, but worse defensively because the damage types are less common. Gem Flight is great, but not quite as useful for the paladin as it is for many other martial classes because you can use Find Greater Steed to get a flying mount, but that’s not available for most of your career.

Metallic: A conical AOE is frequently easier to use despite the limited range, and the additional breath weapon options make it easier to keep your breath weapon useful when your damage type is hitting resistance or immunity. Unfortunately, paladins rarely have the ASI’s to keep three ability scores high enough that your save DC will be reliable.

Customized Origin:

  • ClassicPHB: The perfect ability scores available from any race, the Dragonborn is basically just damage resistance and a mediocre breath weapon.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: Forceful Presence is neat since you’re likely going to be your party’s Face.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Vengeful Assault is a great option on any martial character.

Default Rules:

  • ClassicPHB: One of very few races with Strength/Charisma increases, making the Dragonborn one of the Paladin’s most obvious options if you’re not using the custom origin rules.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: The standard Dragonborn’s ability score increases work better for the Paladin, but the Ravenite can still make a fine paladin.

DuergarMMoM

Everything about the Duergar works for the Paladin. Enlarge/Reduce can enlarge you for a damage bonus in combat, as well as Advantage on Strength checks so that you can use the grapple/shove combo more easily. Invisibility is great for stealth, so even if you’re in full plate you can be somewhat sneaky. And, of course, you can re-cast both so they’re consistently available in any combat. Dwarven Resilience and Psionic Fortitude provide helpful defenses which nicely complement the Paladin’s class features, adding to the Paladin’s already excellent durability.

DwarfPHB

For the updated version of the Duergar, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second increase from your subrace, plus poison resilience and some weapon proficiencies that you can retrain into tool proficiencies.

  • DuergarSCAG: Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility can both be very effective on a paladin, but Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge pain so I wouldn’t risk this outside of a subterranean campaign.
  • HillPHB: Extra hit points never hurt.
  • MountainPHB: Two +2 increases is really good. Starting with two scores (probably Strength and Constitution) at 17 makes it easy to fit feats into your builds. You also get some more proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.

Default Rules: 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 a Strength-based Paladin’s strengths, and Sunlight Sensitivity really hurts.
  • HillPHB: The Wisdom is wasted, and the bonus hit points are probably unnecessary.
  • MountainPHB: Strength! Everything else is wasted.

Earth GenasiMMoM

Paladins are almost entirely locked into melee, so Earth Walk letting you walk through difficult terrain is great. Blade Ward as a Bonus Action is an excellent defense, making it easier to opt for two-handed weapons even when you’re outnumbered. Darkvision and Pass Without Trace compensate for the Paladin’s typically atrocious Stealth.

EladrinMMoM

Teleportation as a Bonus Action several times per day, and the rider effects are easy fits for the Paladin since the DC’s are Charisma-based.

ElfPHB

For the updated versions of the Eladrin, the Sea Elf, and the Shadar-Kai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill (which you should leave as Perception).

  • DrowPHB: The innate spellcasting is good and Charisma-based, which works well for the Paladin. Faerie Fire can even offset Sunlight Sensitivity (although only once per day). Still, I would reserve this for subterranean campaigns. If you want the spellcasting, consider the Drow Half-Elf.
  • EladrinMToF: Teleportation on a Short Rest cooldown with a Charisma-based rider effect.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Trade the standard Eladrin’s rider effect for four weapon proficiencies which you’ll trade for tool proficiencies.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming Blade is your best bet for the free cantrip.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The skill bonuses are neat, but don’t fit the Paladin’s ability scores particularly well. The innate spellcasting is rough. Sleep is obsolete the moment you can cast it, and invisibility is available from numerous other races with better innate spellcasting, such as the Glasya Tiefling.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: The teleportation is good, but less frequent than the Eladrin’s. In exchange you get resistance to necrotic damage and your teleportation briefly grants you resistance to all damage. It’s an interesting trade, but personally I prefer the more-frequent teleportation, especially since you can get so much out of the rider effect.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Unremarkable. If you want speed, play a centaur. If you want to be sneaky, play something that can cast Invisibility as an innate spell. If you want weapon proficiencies to trade for tool proficiencies, several other subraces will give them to you. The Wood Elf isn’t bad, but it’s not good at anything noteworthy and it simply can’t compete with the broad range of viable races when you’re using the Customizing You Origin optional rule.

Default Rules: 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.

  • DrowPHB: The Charisma is nice and the innate spellcasting can be helpful, but Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge problem in most games.
  • EladrinMToF: Charisma and free teleportation work great for the Paladin. The rider effects on the teleportation are Charisma-based, too.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Trade the standard Eladrin’s rider effect for four weapon proficiencies which you won’t benefit from.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming Blade is your best bet, but the Half High-Elf is a considerably better choice.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity and Constitution can work for a paladin, and teleportation is great. Resistance to necrotic damage is nice, too.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Nothing useful for the Paladin outside of the core racial traits.

FairyWBtW / MMoM

Being limited to light armor while flying is difficult, making a fairy paladin a difficult build. If you build around Dexterity to fix your AC, your spellcasting is weak and the Fairy’s innate spellcasting is weak as a result. If you build around Charisma using Blessed Warrior, your AC is poor and you’re basically a bad cleric. Enlarge/reduce could be useful for melee builds, but it’s difficult to find a build that can make effective use of both spells that couldn’t be done better by a cleric or a divine soul sorcerer.

Firbolg

UpdatedMMoM: The Firbolg’s innate spellcasting offers some capabilities normally not available to the Paladin, though not frequently useful. Speech of Beast and Leaf may be effective due to the Paladin’s need for Charisma. I could see an Oath of the Ancients paladin working very well thematically, but it’s not stunningly powerful.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, and some innate spellcasting. Unfortunately, the spellcasting won’t do much to help the Paladin. Hidden Step is good, but if you want invisibility there are several races which can do it better.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: A bit of Strength and some fun innate spellcasting, but it’s not stuff that the Paladin benefits from in any major way.

Fire GenasiMMoM

Darkvision, resistance to one of the most common damage types, and a couple decent offensive spellcasting options. Burning Hands, despite the Paladin’s limited spellcasting, is a decent area damage option. A chromatic dragonborn is likely more effective especially once the breath weapon damage scales.

GenasiEEPC

For the updated versions of the Air Genasi, the Earth Genasi, the Fire Genasi, and the the Water Genasi, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi’s traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Even without magic options to handle flight, Levitate isn’t great.
  • Earth: Earth Walk is neat and Merge With Stone suddenly makes you very good at stealth, but those effects are only situationally useful, so you’re mostly leaning on the same +2/+1 increases that nearly every race gets.
  • Fire: The fact that the Fire Genasi’s innate spellcasting is Constitution-based makes them a profoundly weird racial option, but if you’re increasing your Constitution regularly you may be able to rely on Produce Flame as a ranged attack option. You also get Darkvision and damage resistance, but if that’s all you want the Tiefling is a better choice.
  • Water: Fine, but I would only consider it in an aquatic campaign.

Default Rules: Extra constitution is great, but 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 other traits are very situational. Pass Without Trace looks tempting for heavily-armored character in sneaky parties, but if that’s a concern you should build around Dexterity instead.
  • Fire: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • Water: Nothing useful for the Paladin.

GithMToF

For the updated versions of the Githyanki, the Githzerai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: One skill and some armor and weapon proficiencies which you can trade for a total of 5 tool proficiencies. The innate spellcasting offers some utility options, including teleportation via Misty Step, but if you just want teleportation the Eladrin is a better choice.
  • Githzerai: Mental Discipline will provide additional protections against common status conditions, but the Githzerai’s innate spellcasting may be less useful for the Paladin than the Githyanki’s, and the Githzerai does nothing to expand your capabilities outside of combat like the Githyanki does.

Default Rules: Nothing useful that you can’t get elsewhere.

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

GithyankiMMoM

Paladins are almost entirely locked into melee, so Jump and Misty Step are helpful mobility options. Astral Knowledge will help you to expand beyond Face skills. The Eladrin and the Shadar-Kai will be a better choice if you just want the teleportation, but Jump and the Githyanki’s extra skill may make up for less free teleportation per day depending on your needs.

GithzeraiMMoM

While paladins do get immunity to fear, they’re still vulnerable to charm effects, so Mental Discipline is helpful. They also have spell slots to support re-casting Shield, which can compensate for not using a shield if you want to use two-handed weapons, though be careful about burning through all of your spell slots quickly.

GnomePHB

For the updated version of the Deep Gnome, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning. Gnome Cunning coupled with Aura of Protection allows you to easily overcome spells which target your mental saving throws, protecting you from all manner of annoying nonsense.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Even though they don’t suffer Sunlight Sensivity like the Duergar or the Drow, I would still only consider the Svirfneblin in subterranean campaigns where you know that Stone Camouflage will be consistently useful, and you’ll want to build around Dexterity.
  • ForestPHB: As much as I like Minor Illusion, it doesn’t add a lot to the Paladin.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful. Tinker is a fun novelty, but it doesn’t actually make your character better.

Default Rules: Nothing useful for the Paladin except Gnome Cunning.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • ForestPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • RockPHB: Bad ability spread.

Goblin

UpdatedMMoM: Fury of the Small is a nice damage boost, but it won’t change your tactics. Nimble Escape is a weird choice for the Paladin since your party is probably relying on you to stand on the front lines and keep enemies at bay. Not bad, just weird.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Fury of the Small is a nice damage boost, but it won’t change your tactics. Nimble Escape is a weird choice for the Paladin since your party is probably relying on you to stand on the front lines and keep enemies at bay. Not bad, just weird.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: A perfectly fine option for a Dexterity-based build, but Nimble Escape is a weird choice for the Paladin. Not bad, just weird.

Goliath

UpdatedMMoM: Split your three increases across Str/Con/Cha and grab a two-handed weapon. You’re plenty durable thanks to Stone’s Endurance and damage resistance, but be careful of the “Tank Fallacy”.

Classic (Customized Origin)EEPC: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and damage resistance to cold. Stone’s Endurance is a great additional defense on top of the Paladin’s already impressive durability, but it brings you into “Tank Fallacy” territory where your only distinguishing feature is how hard it is to kill you.

Classic (Default Rules)EEPC: Good abilities, Athletics for free, and cold resistance and Stone’s Endurance adds a bit of additional durability.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. That’s already a great start for any paladin, and your subrace offers a lot of interesting options.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better options like the Locathah and the Triton.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: If you want the Drow’s innate spellcasting, this is the best way to get it. Faerie Fire is a great offensive option and Darkness is a great way to cover an escape. Even better, you don’t need to worry about Sunlight Sensitivity.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is your best bet.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two skills make it much easier to fill out the Face skills without locking you into only those skills.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Fleet of Foot is nice for getting into melee, but the other options won’t help you much, and if you want more speed you should try the Centaur.

Default Rules: Incomparably good. The Half-Elf is one of the best races 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 (regardless of whether you go for Strength or Dexterity), Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry adds another immunity to the Paladin’s existing laundry list of immunities and resistances.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The innate spellcasting includes some powerful options in Faerie Fire and Darkness, and the save DC is Charisma-based which can work very well for the Paladin.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is tempting, and its damage output can outpace your normal weapon attacks (see my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack). That may change if you’re relying on Divine Smite and Improved Divine Smite, but at least in the level range from 1 through 10, Booming Blade is a better source of damage than straight weapon attacks.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two skills make it much easier to fill out the Face skills without locking you into only those skills.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Fleet of Foot is nice for getting into melee, but the other options won’t help you much, and if you want more speed you should try the Centaur.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Rearranging your ability scores doesn’t change much for the Half-Orc. They remain an effective choice for aggressive builds, and if you grab a greataxe and reserve a spell slot for Divine Smite your critical hits are truly terrifying.

Default Rules: Good ability scores, a free Face skill, Darkvision, and a couple of fun abilities. Still not as good as the Half-Elf, but a good option that works really well for an aggressive build like Oath of Vengeance.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1). Rearranging your ability scores means that Brave and Lucky are the Halfling’s most defining traits, and paladins become immune to fear at level 10 so Lucky is the big draw here.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech isn’t especially helpful unless you’re built for stealth, and even then it’s not crucial.
  • LightfootPHB: Useless without a rogue dip, and even then you’re basically playing a rogue who’s trying not to rely on Sneak Attack for no readily apparent reason.
  • LotusdenEGtW: Rearranging the ability score increases doesn’t salvage the Lotusden Halfling. In fact, it will more likely make the innate spellcasting worse since you’ll likely move the ability increase away from Wisdom.
  • StoutPHB: Basically a short dwarf. Poison damage is common, so resistance to it will save you a lot of damage over your career.

Default Rules: Dexterity is okay for a finesse build, and Lucky is always fantastic. The Halfling racial feats in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything are both potentially good options for a Paladin.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Nothing useful for the paladin.
  • LightfootPHB: The Charisma is tempting, but Naturally Stealthy is worthless for a Paladin.
  • LotusdenEGtW: Nothing useful for the Paladin.
  • StoutPHB: Nice and durable.

HarengonWBtW / MMoM

An extra skill to expand beyond Face skills, and Lucky Footwork will stack with Aura of Defense to help protect you from troublesome area damage effects. The Harengon won’t help you do much offensively, but it’s a well-rounded option with some extra buttons to push.

Hobgoblin

UpdatedMMoM: Paladins are immune to fear, but Charm is still an issue, so Fey Ancestry is nice. Fey Gift provides a useful support option which fits nicely into the Paladin’s existing tactics.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and three proficiencies which you’ll trade for tool proficiencies. The Hobgoblin’s noteworthy feature is Saving Face. It provides a great way to turn near-miss failed rolls into successes, especially if you have numerous allies nearby. This provides great insurance against problematic saving throws.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules:

  • Standard: +1 to all of your ability scores can help create a well-rounded Paladin, but it’s not terribly interesting, and the Half-Elf will be consistently better.
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonuses to your Strength/Dexterity and Charisma, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. Resistance to psychic damage is nice, though psychic damage isn’t common. Dual mind helps with Wisdom saving throws, but between proficiency and Aura of Protection you don’t really need the help. Consider other options like the Verdan and the Yuan-Ti Pureblood instead.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

KenkuVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Two additional skills and Kenku Recall. Similar in many ways to the custom origin half-elf.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mimicry aren’t particularly impactful, so basically any other race with two skill proficiencies will be linearly better than the Kenku.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Paladins generally don’t handle stealth well, but with two skills and a Dexterity increase the Kenku makes that easily achievable.

Kobold

UpdatedMMoM: Paladins also don’t get as many attacks as fighters, so Kobold Legacy (Draconic Sorcery) to get Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade can be a significant boost to your damage output even once Extra Attack comes online. Crafty looks tempting, but the skill options don’t work well for most paladins. Draconic Cry is a great support option for a class that’s almost exclusively locked into melee.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 increase and Darkvision. The Customizing Your Origin optional rule does little to change the Kobold unless you’re dead set on a Strength-based build for some reason. Pack Tactics is still great, and Sunlight Sensitivity is still a pain, but Pack Tactics conveniently provides a way to negate it. The biggest problem for kobold paladins is that just one increase is a hard prospect for a MAD class.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Possible for a Dexterity-based paladin, and Pack Tactics is amazing, but that’s probably not enough. Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain, too.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roar provides a great crowd control effect, and since the DC is Constitution-based it should be reasonably reliable.

Default Rules: Strength and Constitution are great, and you can get Perception proficiency, and Daunting Roar is a great crowd control effect for a class which is frequently in the thick of things with few options for handling crowds.

Lizardfolk

UpdatedMMoM: The Lizardfolk’s most interesting traits are their natural armor (which will at best match full plate on a Dex-based build) and Hungry Jaws. Hungry Jaws is a nice source of temporary hit points, but you can already cast Heroism.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and natural armor. The Lizardfolk’s most interesting traits are their natural armor (which will at best match full plate on a Dex-based build) and Hungry Jaws. Hungry Jaws is a nice source of temporary hit points, but you can already cast Heroism.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: The ability increase don’t help the paladin much, and the other racial traits are largely redundant with paladin class features.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Leviathan Will. Among the better aquatic options, Leviathan Will provides a robust defense against a long list of harmful status conditions which any adventurer is sure to face. Combined with the Paladin’s high saving throws, you’re incredibly difficult to harm. However, beware the Tank Fallacy.

Default Rules: Strength increase, two great skills, and Leviathan Will. Leviathan Will offers protection from several status conditions not already covered by the Paladin’s class features, and combined with Aura of Protection you’ll be very difficult to incapacitate.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: The natural armor is useless for the Paladin, and half of Loxodon Serenity is obsolete when you become immune to fear. The Loxodon’s other racial traits are mostly novelties.

Default Rules: 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.

Minotaur

UpdatedMMoM: Goring Rush gets you the most important part of the Charger feat, and Hammering Horns gets you part of the Shield Master feat (but not the part that knocks things prone). A great choice for a Strength-based build, especially since the Paladin has relatively few options to use their Bonus Action.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Goring Rush gets you the most important part of the Charger feat, and Hammering Horns gets you part of the Shield Master feat (but not the part that knocks things prone). A great choice for a Strength-based build, especially since the Paladin has relatively few options to use their Bonus Action.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: 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.

Orc

UpdatedMMoM: Adrenaline Rush is excellent for the Paladin, both getting you into melee quickly and giving you a pad of temporary hit points without relying on a spell like Heroism. Relentless Endurance provides some helpful insurance, and being dropped to 1 hit point is a great time to spend all of your Lay on Hands points to quickly heal yourself.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Aggressive is the Orc’s signature trait, and while it’s nice, it’s not a huge improvement to your tactics.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: The Standard Half-Elf gets better ability scores plus two skills that aren’t restricted to a pre-defined list. Aggressive is nice, but probably not worth what you give up to get it.

OwlinSCoC

Owlin are stuck in light armor and locked into proficiency in Stealth, so you’re basically locked into a Dexterity-based build. You could build a sneaky paladin, but paladins struggle to fight at range so you’ll likely find yourself rushing into melee where your racial flight is largely negated.

Satyr

UpdatedMMoM: Magic Resistance and a helpful Face skill. If you expect enemy spellcasters to be a problem, this is a great fit. If you don’t need the extra skill, consider the Yuan-Ti instead.

Classic (Customized Origin)MOoT: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Fey creature type. Magic Resistance and the Fey creature type will protect you from problematic spells, though the spells that care if you’re humanoid (Hold Person, etc.) are hardly a threat between proficiency in Wisdom/Charisma saves, Aura of Protection, and Magic Resistance. If you just want durability I would consider the Yuan-Ti Pureblood first, but the Satyr’s additional skills offer some utility outside of combat that can be very helpful.

Classic (Default Rules)MOoT: Perfect for a Dexterity-based build, and with Magic Resistance and Aura of Protection you’re basically unstoppable, and you get two Charisma-based skills.

Sea ElfMMoM

Only noteworthy in an aquatic campaign, and the Triton is likely a better choice anyway.

Shadar-KaiMMoM

Teleportation as a Bonus Action and the damage resistance rider effect is a great choice for the Paladin, making it safer to dive into crowds of enemies.

Shifter

UpdatedMMoM: Beasthide and Longtooth are both great choices for the Paladin. If you go Beasthide, I recommend sticking to two-handed weapons to avoid the Tank Fallacy. The skill options aren’t amazing, but they do include Intimidation.

Customized OriginERLW: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), Darkvision, and one skill. The Shifter’s signature trait is Shifting, which is a Bonus Action combat buff which works great for most paladins since paladins often have few uses for their Bonus Action. It’s a decent buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: A bigger pool of temporary hit points and a modest AC bonus do a lot to complement the Paladin’s already impressive durability.
  • Longtooth: Paladins don’t have many uses for their Bonus Action, so adding the ability to make a bite attack with your Bonus Action is a significant increase to your damage output for Strength-based builds.
  • Swiftstride: The intent of this ability is to let you move away from enemies when they get into melee with you so that you don’t need to Disengage on your turn. Paladins rarely need that.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default RulesERLW: Darkvision is always great, and the Paladin doesn’t rely heavily upon their Bonus Action, so it’s easy to make time for Shifting.

  • Beasthide: Strength and Constitution are great, an extra skill that you want anyway, and extra Temporary Hit Points when you use Shifting.
  • Longtooth: While the Longtooth’s ability increases don’t line up quite as well as the Beasthide’s, their Shifting Feature is absolutely spectacular. With little use for your Bonus Action, a bite attack provides a great way to temporarily increase your damage output.
  • Swiftstride: The ability increases work fine for a Dexterity-based paladin, but the Shifting Feature won’t be reliably useful.
  • Wildhunt: Bad ability spread and the Shifting Feature doesn’t help the Paladin in any significant way.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Fantastic and versatile.

Tabaxi

UpdatedMMoM: The Tabaxi makes a good Dexterity-based paladin, but Perception is a hard skill for paladins because they’re already very MAD and typically need to dump Wisdom.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Feline Agility is the Tabaxi’s signature skill. It’s roughly equivalent to the Orc’s Aggressive, but it also allows you to run away (rather than only toward an enemy) and doesn’t eat your Bonus Action so it’s arguably a little better.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Excellent for a finesse build, and feline agility can help to quickly close to melee even if you’re in heavy armor.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and damage resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, which works really well for the Paladin. The Flames of Phlegethos racial feat is tempting if you really enjoy Searing Smite, but probably not worth the feat.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Hellish Rebuke and Darkness are both fine options for the Paladin. Thaumaturgy is neat, but not especially useful.
  • BaalzebulMToF: If anyone is going to use this, the Paladin is a fine choice. But Ray of Sickness isn’t great, and Crown of Madness is outright bad, so this is a difficult choice at best.
  • DispaterMToF: Situational utility options.
  • FiernaMToF: Good magical complements to your Face skills.
  • GlasyaMToF: Introduce some trickery to the Paladin.
  • LevistusMToF: Roughly equivalent to the Asmoedues Tiefling. Armor of Agathys won’t last long, but Ray of Frost gives you an easy ranged attack option which should remain reasonably effective.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Flame Blade is garbage.
  • ZarielMToF: Two free smite spells play perfectly to the Paladin’s Strengths, but they don’t add any new capabilities or solve any problems for you.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: A good mix of offensive and utility options.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Roughly equivalent to the Asmodeus Tiefling. Burning Hands is a decent option for handling crowds, but as you gain levels you may find that spending the Action to cast Burning Hands loses its appeal. By comparison, Hellish Rebuke is an easier action cost.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight in up to medium armor, which is unqiue among the flying race options. Medium armor reduces your MAD issues since you don’t need to keep Dexterity high to have decent AC. A Blessed Warrior build is likely your best bet, but Dexterity-based builds work as well for the Winged Tiefling as they do for other flying races.

Default Rules: +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. You’ll want to find a subrace/variant that provides either a Strength increase or a Dexterity increase, but between the subraces and the feral variant you have several options. The Tiefling’s innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, which works great for the Paladin.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Charisma and good racial spells, but you’ll want to either use Blessed Warrior and build around Charisma or take the Feral variant and build around Dexterity.
  • 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, but these are situational options that may be hard to use consistently.
  • FiernaMToF: Workable for a Blessed Warrior build, and the spells suplement your Face skills nicely.
  • GlasyaMToF: An interesting option for a paladin that likes to be sneaky or otherwise tricky.
  • LevistusMToF: A good option for a Blessed Warrior build, Ray of Frost gives you a ranged cantrip option, allowing you much more flexibility with your two cleric cantrips from Blessed Warrior.
  • MammonMToF: A tough choice for Blessed Warrior builds since the spells are so situational.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Flame Blade is garbage.
  • ZarielMToF: Perfect ability spread, a utility cantrip, and free smite spells.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: A Dexterity-based paladin is absolutely viable, but several other Tiefling subraces offer ability increases which already work for the Paladin so you don’t always need to add Feral on top of it.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: A good option for a Blessed Warrior build, Vicious Mockery gives you a ranged cantrip option, allowing you much more flexibility with your two cleric cantrips from Blessed Warrior.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Roughly equivalent to the Asmodeus Tiefling.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Workable for Dexterity-based builds in light armor.

TortleTP / MMoM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and natural armor that you can exceed with heavy armor. So basically it’s just the +2/+1 and the skill. Consider how many races offer two skills, that’s a terrible choice.

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

Triton

UpdatedMMoM: Cold resistance and Darkvision are always great, Emissary of the Sea offers an additional way to solve problems using your ample social skills, and innate spellcasting offers some additional utility options, though the spells aren’t amazing. This is arguably your best option for an aquatic race in a non-aquatic campaign.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: Three +1 increases, Darkvision, amphibious, and some innate spellcasting. Like the half-elf, having three increases is great for the Paladin since they need three high ability scores. The innate spellcasting is situational, but it’s also Charisma-based, which is nice. In an aquatic campaign this is a great choice, but even on land it’s still a good option.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Increases to all of the paladin’s important abilities, resistance to cold, and some innate spellcasting.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, one tool. Vedalken Dispassion provides an additional layer of protection on mental saves, making you borderline immune to Wisdom and Charisma saving throws, and even decent at Intelligence saves once you add Aura of Protection. Your physical saves are still a problem, but that’s not new. It’s not totally clear how Tireless Precision works if you take a skill outside of the listed skills, but I think the bonus still applies so you can get a consistent +1d4 on Persuasion checks, making you an incredibly effective Face on top of your mental resilience.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Telepathic Insight combined with the Paladin’s save proficiencies and Aura of Protection makes you nearly immune to Wisdom and Charisma saves. But, while the Verdan does a great job supporting what the Paladin is already good at, it doesn’t expand your capabilities or address any vulnerabilities.

Default Rules: Constitution and Charisma are great for a Blessed Warrior build, and Telepathic Insight combined with the Paladin’s save proficiencies and Aura of Protection makes you nearly immune to Wisdom and Charisma saves.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Constitution, a flexible ability increase, a pile of useful resistances that cover things that front-lint martial characters frequently face, and a bonus to AC which puts you ahead of every other heavily-armored character in the game. A warforged paladin with full plate armor, a shield, and the Defensive fighting style sits at 22 AC without magic items or spells, making you very resilient. If you can force enemies to stay in melee with you (consider grappling), you’re a fantastic Defender. However, be careful of the tank fallacy.

Water GenasiMMoM

The innate spellcasting isn’t especially helpful, so it’s basically just Darkvision and damage resistance unless you’re in an aquatic campaign.

Yuan-Ti

UpdatedMMoM: Resistance to poison and Magic Resistance. The innate spellcasting isn’t especially useful.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, poison immunity, and Magic Resistance. Between Magic Resistance and Aura of Protection, it’s very difficult to harm you with spells. If you can keep your AC high, you’re extremely difficult to kill and can focus the rest of your resources on being an offensive threat. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, which is nice, but the spells are terrible.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Magic resistance and immunity to poison make the pureblood exceptionally durable, though you’ll need to rely on Blessed Warrior to avoid lagging offensively, and unfortunately the Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s terrible innate spellcasting won’t help.

Dragonmarks

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: Interesting for a Dexterity-based build, Mage Armor closes the AC gap between light and heavy armor, and the bonus with Thieves’ Tools offers an additional way to put your high Dexterity to use. Most of the spells are situational utilities, but Armor of Agathys is a fantastic buff for a front-line class like the Paladin.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread, and the spells aren’t good enough to make up the difference.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: Considering that stealth and subterfuge are generally far outside of the Paladin’s skillset, Mark of Shadow is surprisingly good. A Dexterity-based build will be the most effective use of Mark of Shadow, but Mark of Shadow can even offset trying to be sneaky in heavy armor between the Stealth bonus and Pass Without Trace.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: Considering that stealth and subterfuge are generally far outside of the Paladin’s skillset, Mark of Shadow is surprisingly good. A Dexterity-based paladin could make great use of the ability score increases, and the spellcasting adds several interesting options that no other paladin has access to.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: Comprehend Languages can help in your capacity as a Face, but that’s basically the only thing here that’s useful.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread, and very little else contributes to the Paladin.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: Some interesting utility options, but they’re mostly situational and may be hard to justify spending your limited spell slots to cast.
  • Mark of Storm: The spellcasting is bad and the skill bonuses are too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: Giving up the Half-elf’s Charisma increase is hard, and while you can make use of Mark of Detection’s new capabilities they’re not as good as the vanilla Half-elf’s fantastic ability score increases.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability score increases are great for a Dexterity-based paladin, and none of the spells are on the Paladin’s spell list so you get to enjoy a long list of new options across the Paladin’s full range of spell levels.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: 2/+1 increases and Darkvision. A bit like a class dip into ranger, you get Hunter’s Mark once per day and bonuses to some Wisdom-based skills. You get some good low-level spells including Faerie Fire and Longstrider, and at higher levels you add some useful divination options. It’s a good mix of offense and utility.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: You gain essentially nothing except the innate spellcasting. If that’s all that you want, consider the Variant Aasimar instead.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The skill bonus with Persuasion is nice, but the spellcasting is mostly situational utility options.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: An interesting possibility for a Dexterity-based paladin who wants to do more healing than the average paladin. Mark of Healing expands your spell options to include Healing Word, Mass Healing Word, and Greater Restoration. However, if you’re looking to invest your limited spell slots in additional healing options you’ll likely have better results playing a cleric.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Dexterity and Charisma increases, and most of the added spellcasting includes new options for the Paladin. For a Dexterity-based paladin this is a viable option.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: The Wisdom-based innate spellcasting is neither useful nor reliable, and the dragonmark spells are not even remotely appealing since the Paladin is only a half-caster and gets the spells way too late in their careeer for them to be relevant.
  • Mark of Making: Magic Weapon is a great buff, but it’s basically the only new thing that you get.
  • Mark of Passage: Misty Step for free once per day, access to teleportation spells, and Pass Without Trace. It’s a good mix of useful options that the Paladin typically can’t match.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Most of the spells here are already on the Paladin’s spell list.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Bad ability spread.
  • Mark of Making: The flexible ability increase is enough to get by, and many of the spells can be very useful for the Paladin.
  • Mark of Passage: Most paladins can’t teleport at all, and access to that capability offers numerous tactical options. The ability score increases work great for any Dexterity-based build, and the spell options complement the Paladin’s existing capabilities nicely.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Most of the spells here are already on the Paladin’s spell list, and the ability score increases are difficult.

Lineages

Published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and beyond, no Lineage exists prior to the introduction of the Customizing Your Origin rules, and as such each lineage has flexible ability score increases. Every Lineage has the choice of +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases except for the Custom Lineage which only receives a single +2 increase.

Lineages are applied on top of a base race. While the Custom Lineage isn’t affected by your base race, the three lineages published in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (Dhampir, Hexblade, and Reborn) borrow from your base race thanks to the Ancestral Legacy trait. Despite selecting a base race, you do not count as a member of your race for the purposes of any other effect, such as qualifying for feats or using magic items.

Custom LineageTCoE

A single +2 increase and a feat is great, but the Variant Human’s ability to split their increases means starting with two of the Paladin’s three key ability scores at 16 which may be preferable. You can still pick a feat which provides another +1 increase, of course, so there are numerous ways to make the Custom Lineage extremely effective.

DhampirVGTR

Vampiric Bite allows you to build around Constitution and Charisma without sacrificing Divine Smite like a Blessed Warrior build would. Because the Dhampir’s bite counts as a weapon, it qualifies for Divine Smite so you’re free to perform divine bites. You can get access to flight thanks to Ancestral Legacy, but you’ll be limited to medium armor at best, which reintroduces some MAD issues, but getting 14 Dexterity is easily achieved without cutting into Constitution or Charisma.

HexbloodVGTR

Hex is an interesting choice for the Paladin, providing a helpful damage boost as well as potentially making you a very effective grappler if you choose to give the target Disadvantage on Strength checks. Ancestral Legacy can get you flight, but if you want to stay in heavy armor you’ll likely take the skills instead.

RebornVGTR

Some additional resistances on top of the Paladin’s already exceptional durability, plus Ancestral Legacy.