Introduction

The Paladin’s subclass doesn’t do a lot to change the mechanics of the class, but it does a lot to define your theme. Your oaths, your spells, and your Channel Divinity options all have a significant effect on how your character presents themselves to the world.

Table of Contents

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.

Paladin Subclasses – Sacred Oaths

Oath of ConquestXGtE

Aside from the spell list, Oath of Conquest is excellent. It’s a fantastic mix of crowd control and offensive options, it provides meaningful improvements to the Paladin’s damage output, and it gives the Paladin several useful abilities for handling groups of foes which other paladins often struggle with. If anyone else in your party likes to cause fear (spells like Cause Fear and Fear are great), Oath of Conquest can be incredibly effective.

Oath of Conquest’s biggest difficulty is that is relies very heavily on Charisma. The spell list includes many spells which allow saving throws, as does Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence. Weirdly, nothing else about the subclass relies on weapon attacks until you get Invincible Conquerer at 20th level. As a result, Oath of Conquest is an excellent choice for Blessed Warrior builds.

  1. Oath Spells: The spells are good, but they’re mostly offensive spells that require saving throws. Unless you invest most of your Ability Score Increases in your Charisma (which you could do with a Blessed Warrior build), you won’t have the spell DC to make them reliable. And if you’re going to invest most of your resources in offensive spellcasting to use save-or-suck spells, why not play a Cleric or a Sorcerer?
    1. 3rd-Level: A warlock-exclusive is interesting. With a 1-hour duration, Armor of Agathys is a great buff to start before you go into a fight. Command is interesting, but you probably won’t have the DC to make it work reliably.
    2. 5th-Level: Spiritual Weapon is a great way for you to handle multiple foes, and since it’s cast as a bonus action it won’t cut into your attacks. It will still depend on your relatively poor spellcasting ability modifier, and since you don’t get full spellcasting progression you won’t be able to upcast it to keep the damage relevant. Hold Person is great, but it will be unreliable since you won’t have a spell DC high enough to compete with full casters.
    3. 9th-Level: Good offensive options, but you’re still handicapped by a relatively poor spell DC. Still, Fear is helpful for capitalizing on Aura of Conquest.
    4. 13th-Level: Stoneskin is an excellent buff for a front-line character like a Paladin, but the material component is very costly, so you don’t want to use it all the time.
    5. 17th-Level: Good offensive options, but you’re still handicapped by a relatively poor spell DC.
  2. Channel Divinity: Both options are excellent, and they’re usable and effective in almost any encounter.
    • Conquering Presence: Basically the Fear spell, but in a circular AOE rather than a cone. This is an excellent debuff in an encounter with numerous enemies, but since the DC is Charisma-based it won’t keep up with spellcasters unless you’re built around Blessed Warrior. Expect to use this in encounters with numerous weak foes, but otherwise the save DC won’t be reliable enough to justify the cost.
    • Guided Strike: Great for when you absolutely need to hit. If you use Great Weapon Master for extra damage, this can be a nice way to salvage a missed attack. However, Channel Divinity still only works once per short rest for the Paladin, so save this for when you really need it.

      This notably isn’t limited to weapon attacks, so if you have a spell attack from source, you could use Guided Strike with it.

  3. Aura of Conquest: Combined with Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence and the ability to cast Fear you have multiple ways to make enemies frightened (provided that your save DC is passable). If the enemy in question doesn’t have reach or ranged weapons, you can stand safely 10 feet away and hit them with reach weapons or just wait for them to die from the aura damage. Their speed is reduced to 0, so there’s very little that they can do about it. You can also Shove enemies prone, effectively performing the Grapple+Shove combo while using fear instead of grappling.
  4. Scornful Rebuke: Combine this with Compelled Duel, and consider foregoing a shield. You have plenty of healing capacity.
  5. Invincible Conqueror: Even with a 1-minute duration, this is fantastic. If you’re in a serious fight, turn this on and start killing stuff.

Oath of DevotionPHB

The “Vanilla” option, Oath of Devotion doesn’t really have a specific focus beyond “be a Paladin”. If you’re not sure what to pick, or if you’re new and trying to get a handle on the game, this is a fine option with a decent mix of abilities.

Oath of Devotion’s biggest challenge is that many of its features only work when facing fiends and undead. While these are great enemies for a good-aligned paladin, they’re a subset of the enemies that you’ll face. Oath of Devotion has enough other features that you’ll still be effective, but you won’t get to enjoy your subclass’s full capacity until fiends and undead show up.

  1. Oath Spells: A few gems, but much of the list is either situational or unnecessary.
    1. 3rd-Level: Sanctuary has a Bonus Action casting time, allowing you to quickly cast it on an ally who is in danger. Your save DC will be low compared to a full spellcaster, but combined with the target’s AC the additional layer of protection will frequently negate attacks. Protection from Evil and Good is a fantastic defensive buff at any level, and unlike Sanctuary the target can still attack while under its effects.
    2. 5th-Level: Both options are situational, and Lesser Restoration is partially redundant with Lay on Hands.
    3. 9th-Level: I would almost almost never use Beacon of Hope in combat (especially since you have Lay on Hands, which Beacon of Hope doesn’t affect) unless you need the Advantage portion of the spell. Paladins don’t have enough spell slots to spend them on Dispel Magic unless your party is truly desperate.
    4. 13th-Level: Freedom of Movement is situational but very powerful. Guardian of Faith is surprisingly good area control for a partial caster, but it’s a spell that you cast for the 8-hour duration, not for the pitiful amount of damage..
    5. 17th-Level: Commune is a very powerful divination if you’re clever enough to ask useful questions. Flame Strike gives Paladins a much-needed option for handling crowds of weak enemies, especially those which aren’t effected by Turn Whatever. However, at this level Flame Strike’s damage will be underwhelming and unless you’re built around Blessed Warrior your spell save DC will be probably be too low to make Flame Strike Reliable.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Sacred Weapon: A decent buff to your attacks. This works particularly well with the Great Weapon Master feat since it will offset most or all of the attack penalty. One minute should be enough to get through a typical fight, but remember that since Channel Divinity recharges on a Short Rest you’ll only be able to use this three times per day at most (assuming that your party is respecting the Adventuring Days rules).

      If you’re built around Blessed Warrior, this is a great way to make weapons viable for a brief period. A paladin with 20 Strength and 16 Charisma will have the same attack bonus as a paladin with 16 Strength and 20 Charisma, so you’re not losing much except for your damage bonus from Strength.

    • Turn the Unholy: A great way to handle crowds of foes, but it only affects two creature types so it’s situational by design.
  3. Aura of Devotion: Situational by design, but Charm effects are common and frequently dangerous.
  4. Purity of Spirit: Protection from Evil and Good is an ecxellent defensive buff, providing thorough defenses against 6 creatures types. Having it permanently running without needing to concentrate is spectacular.
  5. Holy Nimbus: 10 damage isn’t a lot at this level, but the area is big enough that you can clear whole rooms of enemies on your own with enough time. The defensive buffs are also helpful, though they’re situational due to the limits on affected creature types.

Oath of GloryMOoT / TCoE

A great concept with some challenges. The spell list is too reliant on Concentration, and while the Channel Divinity options are great, their effects won’t last long and you’ll need to look for other options. The rest of the subclass’s features are either excellent or very situational, so you’ll use some of the subclass’s features constantly while almost never using others.

The single best piece of advice I can give is to start with a Variant Human with the Resilient (Constitution) feat. Adding Constitution saving throw proficiency will make the spell list considerably more effective. The fact that the subclass’s spell list depends so heavily on Concentration is really frustrating for class which doesn’t get proficiency with Constitution saves and which already depends on Concentration for so many of its interesting spells (smite spells, buffs, etc.).

  1. Oath Spells: While many of the spells on the list are fantastic, many require Concentration. Aura of Protection helps, but the Paladin isn’t proficient in Constitution saving throws. If you plan to rely heavily on these spells, consider the Resilient feat or the War Caster feat to improve your success rate with Concentration checks.
    1. 3rd-Level: Guiding Bolt is hard because paladins generally can’t invest enough in Charisma to be good at spell attacks. Heroism is a great defensive option, but it also requires Concentration which can be hard to maintain as a front-line melee class without proficiency in Constitution saving throws.
    2. 5th-Level: Enhance Ability is just an all-around great spell, useful both in and out of combat, though your most likely use case in combat is for Strength, and you can use Peerless Athlete for that, so save Enahcne Ability for outside of combat when you need things like Advantage on Charisma checks in social situations. Magic Weapon is great, but requires Concentration.
    3. 9th-Level: Two fantastic buffs, but both require Concentration.
    4. 13th-Level: Freedom of Movement is great, but situational. Compulsion is bad and you’ll be bad at casting it.
    5. 17th-Level: A divination which everyone else has been casting for 8 levels. Flame Strike is helpful for handling crowds, but the damage is unremarkable at this level and your save DC is likely poor compared to a full spellcaster.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Peerless Athlete: Strength (Athletics) includes checks to Grapple and to Shove, both of which are staple tactical options for front-line melee classes like the Paladin. The fact that you can activate this as a Bonus Action makes it easy to use this without cutting into your attacks, and the 10-minute duration can last through several encounters if you move quickly. Using the classic Grapple+Shove combo is an easy way to provide Advantage for yourself your other melee allies, and so Peerless Athlete can be a great way to make that combo easier.
    • Inspiring Smite: A decent number of temporary hit points, and while usually you’ll horde them for yourself, the ability to share them with allies offers a fantastic tactical option. Keep in mind that you need to use Divine Smite before you can activate this, so be sure to keep a spell slot ready so that you can smite something and trigger Inspiring Smite.
  3. Aura of Alacrity: 10 ft. of extra speed is nice, but it’s difficult to make this affect allies reliably in combat. It works really well for mounts, but other players will likely be able to move further by positioning themselves well than by working to stay within the aura’s tiny radius.
  4. Glorious Defense: This is a fantastic defensive ability, combining the AC bonus of the spell Shield with a free counterattack. Be sure to grab a ranged weapon or a weapon with Reach to enjoy the effect to its fullest.
  5. Aura of Alacrity (improvement): The effect doesn’t improve. Just the radius. Tiny radius is the biggest problem with the base ability, but 10 feet still isn’t enough.
  6. Living Legend: The effects are all spectacular and broadly useful. Don’t be tempted to use this for Charisma checks in social situations; you can cast Enhance Ability for that.

Oath of RedemptionXGtE

Unlike other Paladins, the Oath of Redemption Paladin emphasizes nonviolent options. Expect to invest more in your Charisma than in your Strength/Constitution, and to rely more on spells and special abilities than on hitting stuff. It’s a weird, durable save-or-suck caster in a lot of ways.

The Oath of Redemption’s Oath Spells all allow saving throws, so you’ll need high Charisma to back them up, and taking Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior) is basically required. Be sure to invest in options that will keep you alive while you try to end combat nonlethally. Constitution, the Tough feat, the spell Heroism, heavy armor, a shield, and protective magic items if they’re available. Just keep in mind that no matter how high your AC is, Aura of the Guardian doesn’t care and you’re going to take some damage for your allies, so be sure to keep your hit point maximum high.

Despite the theme, it’s entirely possible to play Oath of Redemption like any other rip-and-tear paladin, and they’re surprisingly well-suited to it. Most of the spell list won’t be useful, but Channel Divinity: Rebuke the Violent, Aura of the Guardian, and Protective Spirit are all great for any Defender. Get in front of your allies and redeem some people with a sword in hand.

  1. Oath Spells: A lot of excellent spells. They all fit the theme, and nearly all of the options are great additions to your spellcasting options. However, many rely on saving throws so your Charisma needs to be high enough to make them reliable.
    1. 3rd-Level: Both great ways to discourage violence, but the hit point cap on Sleep makes it borderline useless for a half-caster.
    2. 5th-Level: Calm Emotions is great area control and doesn’t care about spell level. Hold Person is fine, but you’re left without options to address most creature types, and even against humanoids you’ll have trouble upcasting it to affect multiple targets.
    3. 9th-Level: If you can get Counterspell, you should get Counterspell. It’s one of the most powerful spells in the game. However, you have very few spell slots to spend it upon, and you only go up to 5th-level spell slots so you can’t rely on upcasting it to forcibly counter spells without an ability check.
    4. 13th-Level: Resilient Sphere is wonderful offensively or defensively, and Stoneskin will help you to withstand attacks while you figure out how to end a fight, but the material cost may be prohibitive.
    5. 17th-Level: More great ways to end a fight nonlethally, but Hold Monster on a single creature may not feel satisfying at this level compared to what full casters can do.
  2. Channel Divinity: Both options are excellent, and very easy to bring into play.
    • Emissary of Peace: Excellent for a face, and one of very few Channel Divinity options which is meaningfully useful outside of combat.
    • Rebuke the Violent: Great for creatures with large single attacks or after an ally suffers a big critical hit.
  3. Aura of the Guardian: Don’t try to combine this with the Protection fighting style. Both consume your Reaction, so you won’t be able to use them together. You don’t want to use this constantly, but when your allies start running short on hit points it’s a good idea. Be sure to invest in your Constitution and consider the Tough feat so that you have enough hit points to absorb damage for your allies.
  4. Protective Spirit: This makes Aura of the Guardian much safer to use.
  5. Emissary of Redemption: Expect to spend a lot of time grappling and tripping enemies while you try to talk them out of fighting you. You can’t even use Rebuke the Violent without negating this feature for that creature for the day.

    Note that the damage which you deal to other creatures is half of what you take after applying resistances, so if a creature deals 4 damage, you take 2 and they take 1. That’s not going to kill anything in a hurry, but it might be abough to scare them off. If you have enough hit points, you could risk walking around unarmored and let people beat you until they get tired of taking radiant damage. Protective Spirit is healing you for 16+10 every turn when you’re below half hp, so you can afford to do this somewhat safely depending on your enemies’ damage output.

Oath of the AncientsPHB

The Ranger of Paladins, Oath of the Ancients shares a lot of style and options with Rangers and Druids. It includes magical options for crowd control and area control which most paladins can’t match, as well as access to Misty Step so that you can move about unhindered.

Oath of Ancients is a reasonably easy subclass to play, and isn’t so devoted to smiting fiends as Oath of Devotion, so it may be a better go-to option for new players than many other paladin subclasseas. You won’t need to learn anything more complex than the core paladin class features, and Oath of Ancients offers some useful tactical options that you can opt into when you feel ready to handle them.

  1. Oath Spells: About half of the options on the list are bad, but you generally get one viable option from each pair spells.
    1. 3rd-Level: Speak With Animals is only situationally useful and becomes less useful as you gain levels, but Ensnaring Strike is a great option for a bunch of reasons. If you need to switch targets or go help an ally, spend your bonus action and an attack to ensare the target, then let them bleed out a bit while you’re off dealing with more pressing issues. Note that after the initial save it’s a Strength Check (not a Save), so even creatures proficient in Strength Saves will have trouble escaping. Even better, the damage scales linearly with spell level so it remains an excellent go-to use for a spell slot for your whole career.
    2. 5th-Level: Moonbeam is difficult to use unless you can restrain a creature inside its effect long enough to justify the spell slot (Grapple them), and even then it’s better left to full spellcasters. Misty Step is a fantastic option and solves a lot of mobility issues, including pits, chasms, difficult terrain, walls of fire and other nasty materials, enemies, etc. Misty Step to the BBEG and wave your sword in their face.
    3. 9th-Level: Plant Growth is weirdly effective area control, and Protection From Energy is a fantastic and very important defensive option.
    4. 13th-Level: Ice Storm is a frustrating combination of not enough damage and too little area control. Stone Skin is an extremely good buff, but the 100gp component cost can add up quickly so you don’t want to cast it constantly.
    5. 17th-Level: Commune With Nature is a useful divination, especially in unfamiliar areas, but Tree Stride is extremely situational and totally useless if you’re not in a forest or jungle.
  2. Channel Divinity: Neither option will be consistently useful. Talk to your DM about using the Harness Divine Power Optional Class Feature.
    • Nature’s Wrath: Basically just Ensaring Strike but worse. Nature’s Wrath allows the target to choose either Strength or Dexterity for its save, while Ensnaring Strike forces them to use Strength. Nature’s Wrath allows the target to repeat the save each turn for free, while Ensaring Strike requires them to spend an Action to make a Strength check to escape (ability checks will typically be worse than saves because you don’t get to add a Proficiency Bonus). Ensnaring Strike does damage every turn, and Nature’s Wrath doesn’t do damage at all. Nature’s Wrath takes an Action, while Ensnaring Strike takes your Bonus Action and waits for you to successfully hit with an attack. Ensnaring Strike’s effects improve with spell level, while Nature’s Wrath will never improve in any way.

      Sure, you need to hit with an attack to apply Ensnaring Strike, but hitting with attacks is your go-to move in combat. Ensnaring Strike’s biggest weakness compared to Nature’s Wrath is that it requires Concentration, but even that isn’t enough to make Nature’s Wrath good by comparison.

    • Turn the Faithless: Situational by design. It’s no worse than Turn Undead or something similar, but without another good way to use Channel Divinity it’s rough to have such a situatinal option.
  3. Aura of Warding: Resistance to damage from spells will prevent a huge amount of damage, but spellcasters are a minority of enemies that you’ll face in most games. This is good, but it’s only situationally useful unless you have allies who don’t care about friendly fire.
  4. Undying Sentinel: You shouldn’t need this frequently, but it’s a great fallback in case of a lucky crit or a big, unexpected attack.
  5. Elder Champion: One minute per day isn’t a lot, but for the brief duration this is very good. The ability to cast spells as a Bonus Action makes it easy to fit spells into your turn, so cast thinks like Ice Storm and Death Ward, or hit enemies with Banishing Smite to capitalize on Disadvantage on saves against your spells. Activating this does take an Action, but you can still fit a spell into the same turn. Just remember that your spell slots are limited, and burning both your capstone feature and all of your spell slots will put you in a bad position to face the rest of the day.

Oath of the CrownSCAG

Oath of the Crown is a fantastic Defender build. Between Compelled Duel and Champion Challenge you have two built-in mechanics which will keep enemies focused on you instead of your squishy allies. The oath’s other abilities allow you to take damage for your allies, reducing the need for your party to spend actions and resources healing multiple characters in combat.

With no reliance on weapon attacks beyond Divine Smite, Oath of the Crown is a good candidate for Blessed Warrior builds. Building around Charisma makes spells like Compelled Duel, Spirit Guardians, and Banishment (all from Oath of the Crown’s spell list) more reliable, allowing you to complement the other subclass features with robust spellcasting.

  1. Oath Spells: A really mixed bag; some of the options are essentially required for a Paladin and you do get some gems from other spell lists, but several are situational or outright bad.
    1. 3rd-Level: Compelled Duel is basically a requirement for Paladins, and Command can be very effective if you’re clever. Note that Compelled Duel is somewhat redundant with Champion Challenge, but Compelled Duel only affects single targets, while Champion Challenge is an area effect. Also remember that your spell save DC won’t be as high as a full spellcaster’s (unless you build around Blessed Warrior), which can make both of these spells somewhat unreliable.
    2. 5th-Level: Warding Bond is nice if you have another ally who is taking a lot of damage and you’re sick of spending your turns healing them. Zone of Truth is very situational.
    3. 9th-Level: Aura of Vitality is an extremely efficient use of a spell slot as far as magical healing goes, but I wouldn’t use it in combat because it requires Concentration and monopolizes your Bonus Action which you might need for things like smite spells, and outside of combat you should try to rely on short rests as much as you can. Spirit Guardians is a much better option in combat, turning you into the center of a magical blender that deals radiant damage. You’ll still need to chase enemies around to force them to take damage since Champion Challenge still allows enemies to remain up to 30 feet away, but in close quarters Spirit Guardians is exceptionally powerful.
    4. 13th-Level: Banishment is situational and can be difficult due to the Paladin’s comparably poor spell save DC, but many extraplanar enemies have poor Charisma saves so you may be able to use it successfully against some enemies. Guardian of Faith is really only notable for its 8-hour duration.
    5. 17th-Level: Circle of Power is an excellent buff when facing enemy spellcasters, especially with the Aura of Protection boosting all of your save bonuses. Geas is situational since most of the things on which you might cast Geas can be handled better by killing them.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Champion Challenge: This is a great way to keep enemies where you want them, especially in open areas outside of the confines of a dungeon. 30 feet is close enough for most characters to get into melee without Dashing (halflings and dwarves may need a reach weapon to compensate), so even if enemies try to run they can’t get far enough that you need to go to great lengths to chase them. If you position yourself correctly, you may also be able to keep enemies away from your allies, allowing your allies to attack at range while your enemies either struggle at the edge of your 30-foot radius or resign themselves to fighting you.

      Enemies can escape by doing silly things like pushing or pulling each other out of the area, but if your DM tries that they are either pulling some very serious metagame shenanigans or the affected creatures have had time to experiment and figure out how this effect works.

      The ability doesn’t allow additional saves beyond the first, and doesn’t list a duration, so you can technically keep enemies trapped within 30 feet of your forever as long as you don’t do something to end the effect (like walking away from them) and no one else intervenes.

    • Turn the Tide: Basically Mass Healing Word, but with one extremely problematic limitation: The creatures need to be able to hear you. You can’t hear while unconscious, so you can’t use this to rescue dying allies which would be the best tactical use case for this ability. If this didn’t require that creatures could hear you, this would shoot straight up to blue, but the limitation really hurts.
  3. Divine Allegience: This is considerably better than the Protection combat style because it’s 100% reliable. As a Paladin, you are the party’s Defender, so sometimes tanking comes down to taking damage destined for your weaker allies. This is a lot like Warding Bond since it works against any damage source, but you are still limited by your Reaction so multiple hits to your allies may be a problem.
  4. Unyielding Spirit: Between this and Aura of Protection, you’re nearly immuned to paralyzed/stunned. But those conditions aren’t common, so this is only situationally useful.
  5. Exalted Champion: For one hour a day you and your allies are exceptionally difficult to kill. Most paladin capstones only last for one minute, so getting literally 60 times the duration is a massive improvement.

Oath of the WatchersTCoE

The Oath of the Watchers is good at what it does, but what it does is intentionally limited. In many campaigns, your paladin may go long periods of time without facing extraplanar enemies, in which case most of Oath of the Watcher’s features will be largely useless. In campaigns where extraplanar enemies are common (maybe there’s an extraplanar incursion or you’re traveling the planes), Oath of the Watchers is spectacular. But that is the nature of my orange ratings: it’s not bad, but it’s only great when the situation fits.

In most published campaigns, you may have an idea of what you’ll face. Out of the Abyss and Descent into Avernus both feature fiends, so those seem like great games to play an Oath of the Watchers Paladin. Curse of Strahd and Tyranny of Dragons feature undead and dragons in abundance, but none of the extraplanar threats which the Oath of the Watchers cares about, so you may find yourself less useful. In a homebrew campaign, you’ll need to check with your DM to see if the character makes sense, or if the DM can add story points to the campaign to cater to your character.

Beyond the situational nature of the subclass, there’s also an unusually heavy dependence on Charisma. Most paladins will rush Strength or Dexterity to 20 before even thinking about raising their Charisma from where it started at level 1. This would be an interesting subclass to use in conjunction with Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior) to create a Charisma-focused paladin that relied primary on cantrips in place of weapons. However, that is certainly not the only viable way to play the subclass, and disregarding the handful of offensive spells is likely more effective than disregarding weapons and the Paladin’s Divine Smite feature.

  1. Oath Spells: A good mix of utiliies and buffs which will help you resist effects common to Oath of the Watchers’ enemies. The spells (with some exceptions) work great against any creature, but this is clearly a toolkit designed to solve a specific set of problems.
    1. 3rd-Level: Two staple spells, but hopefully you have a ritual caster in the party so you don’t need to spend your precious few spell slots.
    2. 5th-Level: See Invisibility is absolutely crucial, and a great option for a martial character who can’t restort to AOE damage when they can’t see their enemies. Moonbeam is very situational, but it makes sense consider your intended foes. However, your save DC is likely poor so it won’t be reliable.
    3. 9th-Level: Counterspell is a fantastic spell, but unless you have the Charisma to back it up you’ll struggle with the ability check to counter things. Nondetection seems like an odd choice on a paladin, but many of the enemies which Oath of the Watchers cares about can cast spells, including divinations.
    4. 13th-Level: Aura of purity offers a lot of useful defenses, but it’s technically situational. Banishment is a staple a save-or-suck spell, but you may not have the Spell Save DC to back it up.
    5. 17th-Level: Hold Monster is a great save-or-suck spell, but you may struggle with a low save DC unless you’ve gotten your Charisma up to 20 by this level. Scrying is situational, so it’s annoying to have prepared every day, but it’s also not on the Paladin’s spell list so it’s nice that it’s available.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Watcher’s Will: Protection from mental saves for one minute. Note that you are not counted in the number of targets, so it’s you plus a number of creatures equal to your Charisma modifier. The duration is only one minute, but this is still a great buff when you face enemy spellcasters or enemies with charm or fear abilities (both of which are common). Enemy spellcasters they can often restort to AOE damage spells or spells which target your physical saves (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution) in many cases, but at least they’re not mind-controlling your party.
    • Abjure the Extraplanar: Technically situational, but between 5 creature types you have enough coverage to almost guarantee that this is useful in any campaign where it makes sense for an Oath of the Watchers Paladin to exist. Turning a foe takes them out of combat up a full minute unless you bother them, and in group encounters where you’ll use this you can greatly simplify an encounter by removing a portion of your opponents temporarily.
  3. Aura of the Sentinel: Keep your allies close. This bonus is significant. If you’re worried about being caught in an AOE, remember that Aura of Protection has the same 10-foot range. The range does eventually expand at the same time as your other auras (level 18), at which point you’re slightly less likely to have your entire party fireballed at the same time..
  4. Vigilant Rebuke: Situational. Against enemies that use these affects, this is very powerful especially when combined with Watcher’s Will. However, it’s absolutely useless against many enemies.
  5. Mortal Bulkwark: Truesight is a fantastic ability, but the rest only applies against suitable enemies. It also doesn’t include a way to keep enemies banished, and at this level many of the affected types of creatures can cast Plane Shift.

Oath of VengeancePHB

Oath of Vengeance emphasizes the Paladin’s abilities as a Striker, seeking to kill enemies quickly rather than relying on defensive tactics. Between the Paladin’s natural durability and Oath of Vengeance’s capacity for killing stuff, they’re a great standalone character. However, they also have no features beyond the Paladin’s core features to assist your allies, so your party may need a secondary Defender to fill in when you’re off smiting things.

Because Oath of Vengeance is so offense-focused, it can often encourage reckless tactics like charging into combat by yourself and focusing on the target of your Vow of Enmity while your party might need you elsewhere. To succeed with Oath of Vengeance, remember that you need to be a team player even if it means that you don’t always get to go solo the boss monster while your party mops up the minions. Apply your capabilities precisely and when it’s advantageous to do so, but don’t throw Oath of Enmity at every challenge and expect to always succeed.

  1. Oath Spells: Most of the spells are absolutely fantastic, but a lot of them require Concentration, and the list starts to fall apart at high levels.
    1. 3rd-Level: Bane is unreliable and rarely worth the spell slot. Hunter’s Mark is a nice damage boost against a single high-priority target, but its usefulness is limited by the Paladin’s low number of attacks per round. It can still yield considerably more damage than spending the same spell slot on Divine Smite, but only if you can maintain Concentration.
    2. 5th-Level: Paralysis is an off-switch for an enemy, but since your spell DC is low compared to a full spellcaster Hold Person is unrealiable. Misty Step is a great way to get around the battlefield, especially since it’s a Bonus Action to cast.
    3. 9th-Level: Haste and Protection From Energy are two of the most important buffs in the game.
    4. 13th-Level: Both situational options, and the appeal of Dimension Door is reduced because you already have Misty Step.
    5. 17th-Level: Hold Monster makes Hold Person redundant, but it’s a significant improvement. Unfortunately, your spell save DC is likely still behind full spellcasters. Scrying is very situational, and your full caster allies have had it for a very long time by this level.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Abjure Enemy: Similar in many ways to the spell Cause Feat, but the target doesn’t get additional saves and their speed is halved for the duration. This is especially useful against fiends and undead, but it works on anything that isn’t immune to fear.
    • Vow of Enmity: One minute of guaranteed Advantage against one target. Very helpful against powerful single foes. Use it early, use it often.
  3. Relentless Avenger: Absolutely fantastic for a Defender build, especially if you also have Polearm Master. Look for ways to boost you speed like magic items or spells like Haste and Longstrider so that moving half your speed may be enough to keep the target within your reach.
  4. Soul of Vengeance: An extra attack presents a 50% boost to your damage output (provided that you’re not using something like two-weapon fighting or Polearm Master).
  5. Avenging Angel: For one hour a day you can chase your terrified foes around and murder them. The move speed is great, allowing you to quickly close to melee and get enemies within the aura. Most paladin subclass capstone features only last one minute, so the fact that this lasts for a full hour is incredible.

OathbreakerDMG

Sometimes difficult to bring into many adventuring parties, but Oathbreaker has a lot of excellent options, including an AOE fear effect and options for animating and controlling undead creatures. Oathbreakers must be evil, which can be a problem, but in a non-good party that likes to do things like summoning fiends or command undead, the Oathbreaker can be a powerful asset on the party’s front line.

  1. Oath Spells: Some of the options are outright terrible, but there are enough good options to make the spell list viable.
    1. 3rd-Level: Hellish Rebuke is fantastic for a Defender who spends a lot of time drawing fire, and deals more damage as Divine Smite for the same spell slot (provided that the target fails the save, compare 2d8 from Divine Smite to 2d10 for Hellish Rebuke). Inflict Wounds will almost never see use because your weapon plus Divine Smite with the same spell slot will do as much or more damage (compare 1d8+3+2d8 to 3d10).
    2. 5th-Level: Crown of Madness is difficult to use because it consumes your Action and only does anything if your target is adjacent to something which you want the target to attack at the beginning of their turn, and Darkness isn’t very helpful since you can’t see inside the area.
    3. 9th-Level: Animate Dead is always nice to have, and Bestow Curse has several excellent options. Consider combining the two by cursing your foe to give them disadvantage on Strength checks and saves, then have your undead pets grapple them and shove them to the ground.
    4. 13th-Level: Blight is decent single-target damage, especially against plants, but your spell save DC won’t match a full spellcaster, and by this level the damage may feel underwhelming. Divine Smite does 5d8 damage for the same spell slot compared to Blight’s 8d8, and Divine Smite can be doubled on a critical hit and doesn’t allow a save for half. I have never liked Confusion because it’s so unreliable. Even though Confusion is an AOE I would much rather us a more predictable.
    5. 17th-Level: Contagion is great, but complicated, and relies on your hitting with a spell attack first Slimy Doom will essentially end an encounter, especially if you can apply a damage over time effect to keep them perpetually stunned. Dominate Person is a powerful way to temporarily gain an extra party member, but your save DC may not be high enough to make it reliable.
  2. Channel Divinity:
    • Control Undead: Save-or-suck an undead creature for up to 24 hours. Turn powerful undead into slaves. They must obey your commands, they don’t get additional saves, and they can’t break the effect by any means specified in the feature. Undead aren’t every creature, so this is technically situational, but they’re still a very common creature type in many games.

      If you’re worried about the creature’s behavior at the end of the duration and you think it might pass a save to renew the effect, you can command the creature to destroy itself right before the duration expires. But given enough time, you can restraing the creature while you rest, then you and your allies could hit the creature with effects which penalize saving throws (Bane, Mind Spike, Cutting Words, etc.), then you can re-use Control Undead to reset the duration.

    • Dreadful Aspect: Considerably better than the Turn Whatever abilities other oaths get since it affects everything. This is similar in many ways to the spell Fear, but Dreadful Aspect is a sphere rather than a cone, and creatures only get more saves if they move away from you. Conveniently, the feature doesn’t make foes run away, so they might be content to stay within 30 feet of you and struggle along in hopes that the fear with wear off.
  3. Aura of Hate: Not terribly helpful in an adventuring party, but even if it only applies to you, you can get a bunch of extra damage on your weapon attacks. Between Strength and Charisma, you can easily add +7 damage at this level, and with the right Ability Score Increases you can raise that to +10 total.
  4. Supernatural Resistance: Permanent Stoneskin. This makes you very difficult to kill, especially in games with no magic items. However, in games where magic items are common or where the world is dominated by spellcasters this might be completely useless.
  5. Dread Lord: Lots of damage, a good use for your Bonus Action, and it makes it hard for enemies to see. Be sure that you have Darkvision so that you’re not a victim of your own effect, and strongly consider using Channel Divinity: Dreadful Asepct for the ongoing damage.