Last Updated: November 20, 2022
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. It works equally well with weapon builds and Blessed Warriors builds, so there’s plenty of options here.
The question you need to ask yourself before playing Oath of the Ancients is “what do I want to do that won’t be done better by a druid or a ranger?” Generally the answer is “survive” thanks to the Paladin’s profound durability, but you might also want the improved healing options compared to the Ranger or your party might need a Face.
Like any paladin, Oath of the Ancients makes a fine Defender, Face, Healer, and Striker. Oath of the Ancients also adds some Controller options, though you can’t replace a full caster in that capacity.
Table of Contents
- Oath of the Ancients Features
- Oath of the Ancients Ability Scores
- Oath of the Ancients Races
- Oath of the Ancients Feats
- Oath of the Ancients Weapons
- Oath of the Ancients Armor
- Example Build – Celebrant Hunter
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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Oath of the Ancients Features
: About half of the options
on the list are bad, but you generally get one viable option from each pair
- : 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 ensnare 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.
- : Moonbeam is difficult to use unless you can restrain a creature inside its effect long enough to justify the spell slot (Grapple them, for instance), 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.
- : Plant Growth is weirdly effective area control, and Protection From Energy is a fantastic and very important defensive option.
- : 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.
- : 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.
: Neither option will be
consistently useful. Talk to your DM about using the Harness Divine Power
Optional Class Feature.
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.
: Basically just
Ensnaring 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 Ensnaring 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.
- : 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 situational option.
- : Basically just Ensnaring 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 Ensnaring 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.
- : 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 , especially with the recent move towards monsters having spell-like actions in Monsters of the Multiverse. This is good, but it’s only situationally useful unless you have allies who don’t care about friendly fire.
- : You shouldn’t need this frequently, but it’s a great fallback in case of a lucky crit or a big, unexpected attack. I’m not sure if “death of natural causes” counts as one of the “drawbacks of old age”, but this makes you immortal if it does.
- : One minute per day isn’t a lot, but, for that 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 things like Ice Storm and Death Ward, or hit enemies with Banishing Smite or Destructive Wave 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 Ancients Ability Scores
No different from other paladins.
Oath of the Ancients Races
No different from other paladins. If you plan to use your subclass features heavily, especially options like Nature’s Wrath, Charisma may be disproportionately important, so getting three +1’s in Str/Con/Cha or Dex/Con/Cha may be more crucial.
Oath of the Ancients Feats
No different from other paladins.
Oath of the Ancients Weapons
No different from other paladins.
Oath of the Ancients Armor
No different from other paladins.
This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.
No different from other paladins.
Example Build – Celebrant Hunter
Ah, another successful hunt! We should honor Balinor. How about another hunt?
This build is intentionally a bit odd because we’re trying to do something that’s arguably impossible to do well: We’re going to build a ranged paladin.
Building a ranged paladin is difficult because several of the Paladin’s offensive features only work with melee weapon attacks, namely Divine Smite and most of the Paladin’s smite spells (wrathful smite, etc.). This means giving up some of the Paladin’s built-in damage output in exchange for the benefits of range. Fighting at range means we’re less dependent on positioning. We can stay closer to other ranged allies to share our auras instead of needing to constantly chase our melee allies to keep them in the aura.
We’ll assume that all optional class features are available for this build.
We’re going to build around Dexterity primarily. Since we’re primarily fighting at range, we can afford to have fewer hit points. Instead, we’ll put those points into Strength to support our Athletics checks.
Because we’re building around Dexterity, we’re not going to get to 16 Constitution at level 1 like many other paladins do. Since we’re primarily fighting at range and we have Lay on Hands, we can afford to have fewer hit points. Instead, we’ll put those points into Strength to support our Athletics checks. We’ll put our racial +2/+1 into Dexterity and Charisma to get them both to 16 at level 1.
Giff. Giff gets us two things that we really want: guns and hippo build. Firearms Mastery is the important parts of the Gunner feat, allowing us to use firearms effectively and to use them in melee range if necessary. Hippo Build gives us a way to Shove enemies effectively despite mediocre Strength. Astral Spark doesn’t hurt, either.
We could accomplish the same build with either Custom Origin or with Variant Human, trading Darkvision or proficiency in one skill for Hippo Build and Astral Spark. This would largely remove Shove from our tactical options, which might be fine for your purposes. You technically don’t need to use guns for this build, either, so you might grab Sharpshooter instead.
Outlander. It’s basically all of the useful parts of Survival for free with no checks. In fact, let’s trade proficiency in Survival for literally anything else. Out of combat paladins are frequently the party’s Face, so let’s take Insight to compensate for our dumped Wisdom.
Skills and Tools
Outlander gets us Athletics, Insight (remember that we traded away Survival), and we’ll take Persuasion and Religion from our Paladin skills. If anyone else in the party can cover Religion, take Perception from our background and Insight from our Paladin skills.
Feats are a difficult prospect for the Paladin because the class is so MAD, and this build certainly doesn’t change that. Still, there are some very tempting feat options.
Sharpshooter is a good damage boost for any ranged weapon build, but the Paladin notably doesn’t get Fighting Style (Archery) as an option, so Sharpshooter can be difficult to use reliably.
Fighting Initiate for Fighting Style (Archery) is great for this build, but it’s likely more important to improve our ability scores.
Skill Expert for expertise in Athletics may look tempting for this build, but I think that’s overkill since Shove isn’t our go-to tactic.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
Lay on Hands
|For your starting gear, take two martial weapons. If your DM allows it, get two muskets. Sell one. Your DM will then say “I have changed my mind” because they accidentally let you start with 1,000gp worth of firearms.|
Instead, take a heavy crossbow and a rapier for your two martial weapons. Grab a light crossbow with the javelins/simple weapon choice. Either pack is fine. We’re locked into chain mail because WotC really did not expect Dexterity-based paladins, so get that, sell the chain mail and the light crossbow, and buy studded leather and a shield.
We’re basically a weird fighter at this level, but fortunately level 1 is brief. We can use either rapier+shield or our crossbow with equal effectiveness.
|2||Fighting Style (Protection)|
|We don’t get Fighting Style (Archery) as a paladin, unfortunately, unless we ask our DM very nicely. We’ll take Protection to protect your party’s back line better. (Interception works, too. It’s mostly personal preference.) You might also select Blind Fighting so that you can locate invisible enemies and eventually hit them with Branding Smite, but that will require diving into melee range.|
Divine Smite won’t matter much for this build. You can still run into melee with a rapier and use Divine Smite if you need to, but the action cost to don a shield means that you’re running a relatively low AC compared to comparable melee paladins, so that’s not where you actually want to be.
We won’t get much out of our spellcasting at this level, but you can throw buffs like Shield of Faith on your party’s front line and maintain Concentration from a safe distance while you shoot stuff.
Sacred Oath (Ancients)
– Nature’s Wrath
– Turn the Faithless
Harness Divine Power (Optional) 1/day
|This is where our ranged tactics start to take off. Ensnaring Strike is our defining offensive option. It works much like the Paladin’s smite spells: 1-minute duration, Concentration, and the effect applies on a successful weapon attack. Notably, it doesn’t require a melee weapon attack.|
Our go-to tactic is to shoot something with Ensnaring Strike, then have our party focus on that target to eliminate them before they can escape. The target gets an initial Strength save, so against high-Strength enemies, you’ll need to try something else. Once you’ve ensnared a target, they have Disadvantage on Strength/Dexterity saves and their speed is 0, so if your party can cast spells like Create Bonfire, you can stack inexpensive ongoing damage and attack from safety to minimize risk to the party.
Channel Divinity will rarely be helpful. Turn the Faithless applies to very few creatures, but it’s a win condition when it does apply. Nature’s Wrath is just outright worse than Ensnaring Strike. Instead, use Harness Divine Power to get an extra spell slot that you can use Ensnaring Strike some more.
|4||Feat: Fighting Initiate (Archery)||Fighting Style (Archery) provides a smaller DPR improvement than a Dexterity increase, but not enough that we actually care. What we want is the improved likelihood of delivering Ensnaring Strike because applying that earlier in a fight means more total damage output from our whole party.|
You can reasonably afford a pistol at this level, but it’s not better than a heavy crossbow, and we want to save every coin we can for a musket.
|This is the first level that you can reasonably afford to spend 500gp to purchase a musket, which is great because we can drop our heavy crossbow and upgrade to a boom stick. Extra Attack doubles our likelihood of scoring at least one hit to apply Ensnaring Strike, after which point we can pump out damage by making repeated attacks at Advantage.|
We also get 2nd-level spells at this level. Be sure to use Find Steed to get something cool. An elk feels thematically appropriate, and when you don’t need to ride it (most of the time), you can use it like a combat summon.
Branding Smite is one of 2 actual smite spells that isn’t melee-only, and it’s arguably the Paladin’s best counter to invisible enemies. Like other smite spells, you can attack repeatedly and the spell will apply the first time you manage to hit and wil lthen last for the remainder of the 1-minute duration, so even if you can’t see it yet, you can flail wildly until you can.
Upcasting Ensnaring Strike to 2nd-level is an option. All it gets you is more ongoing damage, so it’s not a huge impact unless you’re expecting your fight to go for a long time against large single foes.
Our subclass spells give us Misty Step. If we ever find ourselves in a situation where we can’t shoot or Shove our way out (yes, even with Hippo Build), we can teleport out instead.
|6||Aura of Protection||+3 to all of our saving throws, and if we’re hanging out in the back of the party with the cool kids we can share our |
We’re still reasonably durable despite our focus on ranged combat. If you want to protect your melee allies, putting yourself 10 feet behind them both shares your aura and puts another body between your enemies and your party’s squishy back line.
|7||Aura of Warding|
Harness Divine Power (Optional) 2/day
|Aura of Warding’s resistance to damage from spells won’t come up all the time, but it’s great protection when you do face enemy spellcasters. If you’re hanging out at the back of the party with your party’s frail characters, you’re vulnerable to AOE damage from things like Fireball. Your auras will do a lot to mitigate that vulnerability.|
We can also use Harness Divine Power a second time for a total of 2 1st-level spell slots per day.
|8||Feat: Sharpshooter||We’re delaying increasing Dexterity yet again, which feels scary. Fighting Style (Archery) is keeping our accuracy on track with the Fundamental Math. Our strategy now becomes a rush to hit with Ensnaring Strike, then, on future turns, switch to Sharpshooter to gun down our target in a hurry.|
|9||3rd-level spells||Harness Divine Power can now restore a 2nd-level spell slot. We get access to some staple spells like Dispel Magic and Revivify. We also get Plant Growth, which is a handy way to turn a potted plant into massive area control.|
Our tactics don’t change.
|10||Aura of Courage||Fear never stops being a problem, so this is always great.|
|11||Improved Divine Smite||We will basically never benefit from this.|
|12||Ability Score Improvement (Dex 16 -> 18)||More accuracy, more AC, better Dexterity saves.|
|13||4th-level spells||Time to find a greater steed. The Pegasus is your go-to, keeping you (and potentially an ally riding with you) in the air and conveniently in your auras at all times. If you want your steed to be a combat pet, go for the Griffon. The Peryton is better in combat, but it seems very anathema to the tenets of Oath of the Ancients since perytons are chaotic evil.|
|14||Cleansing Touch||Debuffs begone!|
Harness Divine Power (Optional) 3/day
|Immortality maybe? If “death” counts as a drawback of old age, you stop aging and you’re immortal.|
|16||Ability Score Improvement (Dex 18 -> 20)||More accuracy, more AC, better Dexterity saves.|
|17||5th-level spells||Among other great 5th-level spells, Banishing Smite isn’t melee-only so you can smite stuff from afar if that seems like a better idea than our usual Ensnaring Strike strategy.|
Harness Divine Power can get us 3rd-level spell slots for a total of 3 3rd-level slots per day.
|18||Aura Improvement||Now we can more easily share our auras with our melee allies without being terrifyingly close to melee.|
|19||Ability Score Improvement (Cha 16 -> 18)||Finally a bit more on our save DC and our aura of protection.|
|20||Elder Champion||Cast spells like Banishment and Destructive Wave as a Bonus Action for the 1-minute duration. Just be mindful of your extremely limited pool of spell slots.|