Introduction

I served a great ruler, powerful beyond measure, the world his dominion.

Yet even he and his vast empire were destined to fall-to become one with oblivion. At the end of life’s journey…lies only death.

Amon – FFXIV: Endwalker

The Oathbreaker is a different kind of Paladin and it’s not for everyone, but in the right party it’s great. Particularly, if your party wants to make use of undead minions, this is a great way to support that as Hellish Knight with Skeletal Squires. Just take note that Oathbreakers are required to be Evil, which isn’t really a hindrance, but some people will believe it to be. So if you’re not opposed to using Evil powers and a Skeleton army to save the world, try the Oathbreaker.

Being Evil is a sticking point for many players and DMs, but it doesn’t have to be. Evil in terms of Alignment can be expressed as a Surplus of Greed and Deficit of Empathy, as explained by this video from RPG Philosophy. To paraphrase the explanation presented by Seth Skorkowsky in that video, the Evil hero is invested in what is theirs and pays no heed to what is not theirs.

To that end, “These are my friends. This is my city. Nobody hurts my friends. Nobody attacks my city.” is a pretty normal line of thinking that works for motivating both Good and Evil heroes. When played that way, Evil PCs are fine, and Oathbreakers are a fine way to be Evil. For more thoughts on alignment in roleplaying, listen to this episode with Dr. Terry MacMullin, department chair of philosophy at Eastern Washington University.

As mentioned above, the key to being the best Oathbreaker is to already have fellow PCs utilizing undead minions. This can include any Wizard or Cleric as well as a handful of other classes with specific subclasses that grant access to Animate Dead, such as Circle of Spores Druid or Divine Soul Sorcerer being able to pick Cleric spells. The example build below, Bones Malone and the Spooky Boys, will assume you’re using this kind of teamwork.

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.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

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

Oathbreaker Features

  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 unpredictable, even though it is an AoE.
    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 restrain 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 unless you’ve got plenty of Undead minions, but even if it only applies to you, you can get a bunch of extra damage on your melee 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.

    If you’re using this with a bunch of Animate Dead minions, the best option is Skeletons. Unlike Zombies, Skeletons are proficient with weapons, including Shortswords, which allows for Dual Wielding to get double the bonus out of the Aura. You’ll likely have to supply your Skele Squires with their weapons though. Skeletons can also wear armor, so if you can really spare the money, Scale Mail would boost them all up to 16 AC.

  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 Aspect for the ongoing damage.

Oathbreaker Ability Scores

If we’re stacking up minions, then leaning more towards Charisma is good, otherwise we can build like most other Paladins.

Str: We need this for attack rolls.

Dex: While finesse build is an option, it would cut off multiclassing options because of the Strength requirement.

Con: Keeps us alive.

Int: Doesn’t really do anything for us.

Wis: Wisdom saves are dangerous so this can be useful.

Cha: This boosts all our Save DCs and our Saving throws and gives us additional Melee damage. Such a great score to pump.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str1514 (15)
Dex812
Con1513
Int88
Wis810
Cha1515 (14)

Oathbreaker Races

For anything not mentioned below, check the Paladin Races Breakdown.

  • Kobold (MMoM)MMoM: The main problem with a skeleton army is a lack of scaling for their attack rolls, so being able to grant them all Advantage for the dogpile attack is a way to offset that problem. We have the option of a skill or Sorcerer Cantrip as well. Booming Blade is a good cantrip before we get Aura of Hate, but then the damage of two swings with the aura can edge it out, and once Improved Divine Smite comes online, you’ll easily outpace Booming Blade by making two attacks. Taking the Arcana skill would allow us the option of making scrolls during downtime, a good way to expand our limited slots.
  • Shadar-KaiMMoM: Thematically appropriate for an edgy undead-corralling Paladin of Darkness. Also the teleport is pretty good and the Necrotic damage resistance helps in those situations where bad undead show up and mooch off the Aura of Hate.

Oathbreaker Feats

Don’t forget to consult the Paladin Handbook.

  • Dual WielderPHB: The +1 to AC is good, and being able to use one-handed weapons instead of light weapons is a nice boost, but unless you’re using two lances while mounted (totally legal), this feat at most turns d6s into d8s. Not worth the investment when the majority of damage for this tactic comes from Aura of hate and Improved Divine Smite.
  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: The Aura of Hate applies damage to all attacks, so naturally dual wielding is a good option, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to take this for the TWF style. Even without adding Strength or Dexterity to the attacks, Aura of Hate and Improved Divine Smite would be providing enough damage to justify swinging an extra weapon as a bonus action.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Normally, -5 attack for +10 damage is ok, but with Aura of Hate and Improved Divine Smite, the DPR calculation leans towards not using Power Attack.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: Using this with a spear and the Dueling style provides more damage than taking the TWF style with FIghting Initiate, but we could still have just swung an off-hand weapon without the style and gotten our Aura and IDS damage anyway.
  • War CasterPHB: Being able to cast with our hands full is too good to pass up. The other features are also great if we take a weapon cantrip like Booming Blade or if we start Concentrating on spells.

Oathbreaker Weapons and Armor

For Armor, just wear heavy things like Plate or Chain Mail. You could wear a shield or you could dual wield.

You could use weapons typical of a Paladin as seen in the Paladin Handbook or you could grab a pair of Shortswords and blend in with the Skelemen army. Nobody will ever suspect it.

Oathbreaker Multiclassing

  • Hexblade Warlock: There’s no denying the benefits of attacking with Charisma and then adding Charisma to damage twice (or thrice if you do 12 Hexblade and 8 Oathbreaker to get both Aura of Hate and Lifedrinker). The only drawback is that there is no Dual Wielding option for Hex Weapons.

Example Oathbreaker Paladin Build – Bones Malone and the Spooky Boys

Rattle ‘Em Boys!

Bones Malone

The Oathbreaker has a lot of fun toys and we’ll be leveraging some of those to support a party using Undead minions while also dishing out our own damage. We’re not saying you can’t play an Oathbreaker without this kind of party synergy, but this build very much prioritizes that kind of support.

Abilities

We’re putting points into Strength, Constitution, and Charisma. As a MMoM Kobold we can take the +1/+1/+1 option for adjusting stats.

BaseIncreasedLevel 20
Str151620
Dex888
Con151616
Int888
Wis888
Cha151620

Race

We’re using the MMoM Kobold because we’re supporting a pile of Skelemen, so being able to give them all Advantage when something with high AC needs to get dogpiled is great. We can also either take a Sorcerer cantrip or a skill proficiency. We’ll be taking the Arcana skill because it will allow us to scribe scrolls. Yes, Paladins can do that. Every caster can do that if they have Arcana skill.

Background

We’re making a customized background so that we can grab Deception and Performance. Technically the Grinner background from Wildmount has the skills we want but we avoid using Campaign-specific backgrounds in our articles. We’re also taking tool proficiencies in Horn (Doot Doot) and Vehicles (Water) so we can have a Spooky Scary Skeleton Pirate Crew. If we want to be at sea.

Skills and Tools

For skills we’ll end up with Arcana, Athletics, Deception, Intimidation, and Performance. For tools we’ll have Horn and Vehicles (Water). With Deception and Performance we can blend in among the Skeleton Crew. We chose Vehicles (Water) for fun but you could easily swap that out for a Disguise kit to further blend in with the Spooky Boys.

Feats

At fourth level, we’ll be taking War Caster. This will allow us to cast with our hands full, and that’s important. It also gives us Advantage on our Concentration saves, which is good now, and even better when we start adding Charisma to every save.

At eighth level, we’ll be taking an ASI. Which we take here depends on our party. If other people are bringing in Skeletons and Summon Undead we can push Charisma here and do Strength at twelfth. If nobody else has brought compatible minions, then Strength now and Charisma next.

At twelfth level, take an ASI for Strength or Charisma, whichever you didn’t take at Eighth.

At sixteenth level, we take an ASI for +2 Charisma.

At nineteenth level, we take an ASI for +2 Strength.

My Party Isn’t Made of Necromancers

Well that’s okay, but then we have to make some changes. Kobold was chosen to grant Advantage to the Skelebros, but instead something medium like Shadar-Kai or maybe VHumans or Custom Lineage could take advantage of heavy weapons and Polearm Master. That’s right we’d be dropping War Caster to pick up PAM, paired with a Halberd or Glaive. We’d then push Strength before touching Charisma to focus on our own attacks.

Levels

LevelsFeats and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1Divine Sense
Lay on Hands

Skills
-Arcana
-Athletics
-Deception
-Intimidation
-Performance

Tools
-Horn
-Vehicles (Water)
We’re starting like any other Paladin, except we’re Evil. So instead of a Longsword like a normal Paladin, get an Evil weapon like a Battleaxe. For now we’re best off using a Shield with that.We will transition to a Two-Weapon Fighting style later when we get our Aura, but for now we’ll stick with this.
2Divine Smite

Spellcasting
-1st-level Spells

Fighting Style: Blind Fighting
Divine Smite is great for doing burst damage.

For spells, good options include Divine Favor and Bless. While we also have access to Hellish Rebuke, we can only use it after taking Damage.

Because Paladins don’t have access to Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting) (Unless you ask your DM really nicely.), Blind Fighting is the way to go as far as being generally useful. Alternatively, Defense can give us +1 AC if we want that instead. If you’re worried about foes at range, Blessed Warrior can give us a Cantrip like Sacred Flame, but it wont benefit from Aura of Hate and we also need to be in close to boost our minions.
3Divine Health

Sacred Oath
-Oathbreaker

Channel Divinity
-Control Undead
-Dreadful Aspect
Immune to Disease is nice. Mummy Rot is a real problem in our profession. Well, it used to be long ago but it’s a curse in 5e instead of a disease. But we’re still Immune to other diseases.

We become an Oathbreaker by breaking an Oath that never existed. Because Evil I guess.

Control Undead is a good option to get something under our control. We might run into Skeletons or Zombies at this level.

Dreadful Aspect is a good way to impose Frightened on a lot of foes.
4Feat: War CasterWar Caster will let us cast spells with both hands occupied. And our hands will always be full, either with two weapons or with one of the pair swapped out for a shield.

Also helps us keep Concentration since our Constitution saves are not proficient.
5Extra Attack

Spellcasting
-2nd-level Spells
Swing Twice. Super nice.

We can cast Darkness and we do have Blind Fighting, so in a pinch this might be useful, but don’t Blind our allies in the process.

Either use these slots for Smites or Find Steed. Or upcasting.

This is also the earliest level where full casters in the party can cast Animate Dead to begin building our gang. Animate Dead allows the caster to control a limited number of undead, but they can create undead and let you take control of them with Channel Divinity (Control Undead), growing the number of skeletons that your party can haul around.

This includes Clerics, Wizards, Circle of Spores Druids and Divine Soul Sorcerers.
6Aura of ProtectionAnd now we and allies within 10 feet (including our skeletons) add our Charisma modifier to saves.
7Aura of HateAnd now we add our Charisma modifier to our Melee weapon damage. And Undead and Fiends within 10 feet, too.

At this point we can switch to a pair of Handaxes for Dual Wielding to double dip on the Aura damage if we choose.

Any allies using Animate Dead will get a boost to their minions at this level, too. I spell out the damage below when we also get that spell.
8ASI: +2 Charisma (16=>18) More Saves, More Save DCs, More Damage, More Skills. Best stat.
9Spellcasting
-3rd-level Spells
And now we, too, can cast Animate Dead. Building a platoon of Skelemen brings with it some important notes.

Controlling our Animated Dead in combat uses the Bonus Action, but only to change their orders. So for example we can start the fight by issuing a command to fight our foes and then use Bonus Actions on subsequent turns for TWF or casting BA spells.

Additionally, from the monster entry on Skeletons: “A skeleton can fight with weapons and wear armor.” (Monster Manual Page 272) So we can arm our Skeletons with whatever weapons and armor we want, but the best options will be handing each two Shortswords, because they’re light finesse and cheap, and Hide (cheap) or Scale Mail (durable).

A Skeleton wearing Scale and wielding two shortswords would have 16 AC and do two attacks: 1d6+6 from the main hand and 1d6+4 from the off-hand thanks to our Aura.

And if that’s not enough damage, we can also cast Crusader’s Mantle, adding +1d4 Radiant damage to ally weapon attacks. Remember, while we can make some Skeletons it’s far more efficient for our full caster allies to assemble those Bone Buddies.
10Aura of CourageImmune to Fear. We’re Spooky, we don’t get Spooked. And neither do our Skelemen, who were not already immune to Frightened.
11Improved Divine Smite+1d8 damage to all of our melee weapon attacks. It’s just more damage and another great reason to use TWF.
12ASI: +2 Strength (16=>18)We’ve been letting the Skeletons do a lot of the work, but we also need to land some attacks now and then.
13Spellcasting
-4th-level Spells
Find Greater Steed is probably the best 4th-level Paladin spell.

Death Ward can keep us alive in dire situations and can be shared with our Greater Steed.
14Cleansing TouchIt’s quite good, if a little limited because it only ends “spells” and not conditions or negative effects in general.
15Supernatural ResistancePlenty of things do non-magical BPS, like traps and most monsters.
16ASI: +2 Charisma (18=>20)Another point of damage times our total number of Spooky Boys (times two if they’re all using TWF).
17Spellcasting
-5th-level Spells
So most Paladins will want to use Holy Weapon, but we’ll still get more mileage out of putting Crusader’s Mantle onto the Bone Zone.

Instead, Destructive Wave is pretty amazing for us. It’s both friendly-fire safe, allowing us to choose to not hit our Skelemen, but also knocks targets prone, giving Advantage to those same Skelemen.
18Aura ImprovementsWider reach for the Aura of Hate to apply Bone-us damage, save bonuses, etc..
19ASI: +2 Strength (18=>20)A little bit more Strength. Yeah, it’s way later than most Paladins, but most Paladins don’t add their Charisma to the damage of some absurd number of Skeletal Squires.
20Dread LordThis Aura does a few things.

First it drops Bright Light to Dim Light, which mildly inconveniences anyone without Darkvision.

Then it allows us to impose Disadvantage to incoming attacks on us, our party, and our entire Spooky Squad.

Then it gives us a special Bonus Action attack which will do more than our off-hand weapon, so it might make sense to have a Shield out for the minute this is going on.