Welcome to another installment of the Play with Class series where we will give you solid steps to run each class for the world’s greatest roleplaying game! This week, we’re discussing the infamous “good boys” of the game: the paladin.
Paladins have been around for the majority of the game’s history. These holy warriors embody the knight in shining armor archetype. Paladins are an incredibly satisfying class to play because they deal massive amounts of damage without being too overwhelmingly complicated to play. Paladins also make an excellent choice for a new player because they can be straightforward in their motivations. It’s nice and simple to be the typical good guy. There are a couple of tricky things to remember when playing this class, but once you’ve got those internalized, you will shine bright like the holy diamond you are.
Role of the Paladin
Paladins at their core are damage dealers. With their ability to pile on smite damage to any hit, paladins and monks stand at the top of the dishing-out-pain pyramid. Paladin’s also make incredible tanks since they can wear the heaviest of armor and wield shields at the same time. And if all those armor proficiencies weren’t enough, they get incredible bonuses to saving throws and can even heal themselves in a pinch. Paladins are truly self-sustained fighting machines.
Reasons to Play a Paladin
- You dominate the battlefield.
- You feel very powerful but don’t have to keep track of a million different spells.
- You literally make everyone else better just by standing next to them. The bonuses everyone gets from your aura abilities are straight-up amazing.
Combat Crash Course
With killer AC and champion saving throws, paladins don’t have to spend too much time worrying about staying alive. All you have to worry about is how best to maximize your damage and how to position yourself in combat so everyone can benefit from your holy auras. Whether you choose to build a Strength-based Paladin or a Dexterity-based Paladin, you have to ensure that you can get into the center of the action as soon as possible and stay there. Once you’re in the thick of it, it’s time to start smacking away!
Spell Slot Economy
The trickiest thing about running a paladin is managing your spell slot economy. Paladins have fewer spell slots and fewer spell options than full-casting classes like the cleric. Your best paladin feature is your ability to smite, which burns up your precious few spell slots to add massive amounts of damage to your regular attacks. It is very important that you keep an eye on your spell slots and make sure you don’t burn them all before getting to smite the Big Bad. It can be tempting as a paladin to use your spell slots on some of the cool divine options out there, but I assure you, 9 times out of 10, you don’t want to use your spell slots for anything other than smiting. As a rule, it’s a good idea to hold back one slot at most in case you have to save the day with a heal or restoration, but that’s about it. Leave all the magic tasks to full casters. You are here to slay foes!
Invest in Charisma
Everyone jokes that Charisma is a dump stat. For you, you cannot afford to let that be true. While Charisma isn’t going to help you much with your spellcasting (remember, we mostly want to be smiting with spell slots), it will buff out your aura abilities down the line. Allies who stand close to you get all kinds of bonuses equal to your Charisma modifier. I cannot stress enough that this is one of the best benefits in the entire game, so don’t be a chump, be charismatic instead. Even better, you get the benefits of your own auras as well! Everyone wins when you invest in Charisma right from character creation, even if it feels like it’s not worth it at the moment.
Paladins are another class that scales pretty nicely just the way it is, so you don’t have to be super worried about picking the “wrong” options. That said, here are a few things to keep in mind as you level-up your shiny knight.
Find Something for Your Bonus Action
While paladin class abilities are extraordinary, they do leave one particular action economy blind spot: the bonus action. You must find something awesome to do with your bonus action as a paladin. This can come from a couple of different places, but you’re likely to get something useful by picking a great subclass or picking up a cool magic item. You might also want to consider multiclassing with a couple of levels of some other class. Whatever it is, make sure you keep your eye out for the best way to maximize your turns.
The second ability you need to get a leg up for is movement. From 1st level, you need to consider the best way to get to where you are needed in a hurry. Once again, choosing the right subclass or items could give you a way to do this. It’s a good idea to think about building your character to be effective at walking ahead of the party, so you are the first one into the fray. This might mean forsaking the heaviest armor for a less noisy option or investing in a great Stealth score. Think about how your character fits into the grand scheme of adventuring and make your build moves early.
- Consider mixing it up by being a stealthy paladin with the Oath of Thunder (see Deep Magic).
- Research some nonstandard fighting styles and see what interesting builds you can accomplish with feats. Paladins are one of the only classes that can pull off mounted combat, so give those weapons like lance a second look. Being made for combat doesn’t mean you have to be just hacking and slashing and repeating.