How to Hack the Paladin for 5e
The holy, justice seeking paladin is a heavily built class perfect for hacking. For this reason, it’s important to optimize them for your purposes. For example, paladins can operate as both a fighter and support, attack and defense.
In this article, I’ll go over a basic set up for your paladin and offer suggestions on multiclassing, feats, weapons, and armor. Then, I’ll show you the best subclasses for attack and defense builds.
Table of Contents
Before we get started, keep in mind that you should have fun playing your paladin and that these are suggestions, not absolute rules. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Setting Up Your Paladin
No matter the type of hack you want, you’ll need a proper set up, including stats, armor, and weapons. In general, if you want a paladin for attack, you’ll need to build for attack. Likewise, if you want a paladin for defense, you’ll need to build for defense.
Paladins can be based on either Strength or Dexterity. Both are great, but let’s focus on Strength based paladins.
When building a paladin for Strength, you’ll have to keep three main stats in mind: Strength, Constitution and Charisma. Strength will power up your melee attacks, Constitution ups your hit points, and Charisma is your spell casting modifier. Since paladins are capped at 5th level spellcasting, a high Charisma modifier is essential.
For example, if you were to do a point buy for your level 1 paladin, you might want to consider this layout: Str 15, Dex 8, Con 15, Int 8, Wis 8, and Cha 15. You can also raise your stats at level 4, 8, 12, 16 and 19 for a more balanced build.
Weapons and Armor
Once you have your stats ready, you’ll need to consider your armor and weapons. There are many options to choose from, but some are best for optimizing your defense and your attack.
First, get plate armor as soon as you can. This will give you a base 18 AC, and if you combine that with a shield, you’ll have 20 AC. As a matter of fact, this is the best armor a paladin can have, but it isn’t cheap so be ready to work for it.
You’ll also need to consider your preferred weapons and whether or not you want a shield. Your DM may enforce the rule that using a two-handed weapon removes a shield’s AC bonus, so keep that in mind.
Overall, the best weapon options for paladins depend on how you want to use them. You can choose to deal a lot of damage through two-handed weapons and polearms, or you can choose the one-handed option.
If you are choosing a two-handed weapon, the greatsword or maul would be the most powerful. On the other hand, if you want the reach of a polearm, then a halberd, pike, or glaive would be the best. Then again, if you wanted to choose a one-handed weapon, then a longsword, morningstar, or warhammer would pack a serious punch.
There are many multi-classing choices when building a paladin. But which ones are the best for hacking?
To begin, one of the best choices is warlock, especially once you reach 3rd level and take the Pact of the Blade. This offers several benefits to offensive paladins. Likewise, all spell slots recharge after a short rest.
Multiclassing into barbarian, rogue, or both will give you the opportunity to deal more damage. If you choose barbarian, aim for 3rd level and take the Path of the Berserker. This will grant you a weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns until your rage ends.
Moreover, if you multiclass into rogue, take the Assassin archetype at 3rd level. Now you have sneak attack damage, and you have advantage against enemies that haven’t taken a turn yet. Additionally, if you hit a surprised enemy it counts as a critical hit (couple this with the Great Weapon Master feat, and you’d also be able to make a melee weapon attack as a bonus action).
Overall, multiclassing can offer many benefits to characters, especially when you are hacking a specific class to maximize its potential. However, keep in mind that multiclassing takes time and you will need to discuss with your DM how they handle multiclassing at the table.
Similarly, feats offer many benefits to paladins of all levels and builds. What are some of the best ones? As mentioned before, Great Weapon Master is a fantastic feat for a two-handed weapon paladin.
Polearm Master is also a great choice if you want your weapon’s extra reach to have extra benefits. This couples well with Sentinel as they play off each other. For example, Polearm Master grants an opportunity attack when an enemy enters the reach of your weapon, and Sentinel reduces a creature’s speed to zero when you hit them with an opportunity attack.
Also, Heavy Armor Master is another great feat to have, even if you play an offensive paladin. This feat could mean taking less damage and having more time to heal your party members or destroy the enemy.
Here are some honorable mentions as well: Shield Master, Lucky, Resilient, and Inspiring Leader. Each of these feats have their purpose for a paladin, but you will have to choose between raising your stats or taking a feat, so choose wisely.
All in all, the most important thing to remember when building your paladin is what will be fun for you and what will be helpful to the party. Often, these questions can be answered with the type of paladin you want to play.
Best Paladin Subclasses
In general, there are some subclasses better for attack and defense hacks, but choose the subclass that best fits your goal.
Best Paladin Subclasses for Maximizing Attack
Hacking a paladin for attack means focusing on dealing the most damage possible and killing your enemies faster than they can kill you. To put it another way, you may not even have to use Lay on Hands for your party members if you slaughter every enemy in sight.
There are two subclasses that would be the best for this: Oath of Vengeance (Player’s Handbook) and Oath of Conquest (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything).
The Oath of Vengeance
The Oath of Vengeance is one of the best subclasses for this hack. These paladins want to punish those who have committed deep sin. Their own purity is nothing compared to delivering swift justice.
For one thing, this oath offers several damage boosts. For example, the spells Bane and Hunter’s Mark offer the most benefit. Bane can force enemies to subtract a d4 from their attack or saving throws, while Hunter’s Mark allows you to mark an enemy as your quarry, dealing an extra 1d6 damage with every weapon attack.
Furthermore, Relentless Avenger at 7th level lets you prevent your foes from escaping your wrath because you can move up to half your speed after an attack of opportunity (remember the feat Polearm Master!) As a bonus, your movement with this skill doesn’t provoke any attacks of opportunity against you, allowing you to target fleeing enemies.
Ultimately, when dealing massive amounts of damage through melee attacks and primarily using spells such as Hunter’s Mark, you’ll want your paladin to have high Strength and high Constitution. Your high Charisma score could be beneficial with spells later on, or if you multiclass into warlock. Until then, focus on dealing damage and sending hordes of enemies fleeing in terror.
The Oath of Conquest
The Oath of Conquest is also a good attack-based subclass. These paladins fight for glory, to crush the forces of chaos and to mock mercy as they destroy their enemies with their incredible might.
Each spell is a benefit to this subclass, but the most helpful would be Spiritual Weapon at 5th level. While you swing your mighty weapon down on a foe, you can use your bonus action to cast this spell and deal damage to creatures far away from you.
Additionally, the Channel Divinity options also add to this class’ usefulness by controlling the tide of battle and dealing damage. For example, if your DM sends a horde of goblins at you, use your Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence to force each enemy within 30 feet of you to make a Wisdom save. If they fail, they become frightened and run away from you, giving you and your party space to heal and regroup.
Likewise, at 7th level you emit an Aura of Conquest 10 feet from you in every direction. If a creature becomes frightened of you and they are in the aura, their speed drops to zero and they will take psychic damage equal to half your level. You can combine this with Conquering Presence or with the spell Fear to fully utilize its capabilities.
On the whole, there are more benefits at higher levels, such as Scornful Rebuke which punishes anyone that attacks you. Yet even at lower levels, this subclass not only allows a paladin to be a heavy hitter, but also allows them to control the flow of battle through the use of fear. Where most paladins would struggle with large groups of enemies, this paladin laughs in the face of adversity.
Best Paladin Subclasses for Maximizing Defense
Not all paladins need to destroy a battlefield and be soaked in blood. If you would prefer to protect your fellow party members while still being capable of dealing damage, then a defensive hack would be the best.
Oath of the Crown (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) and Oath of Redemption (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) are the two best subclasses for defending your fellow party members.
The Oath of the Crown
The Oath of the Crown is a great defensive option. These paladins believe in protecting and upholding the just laws of civilization. They are the guardians of cities and the knights against the chaotic tides threatening all that civilization has built.
Overall, the best spell this subclass offers is Compelled Duel at 3rd level. This forces an enemy to make a Wisdom saving throw, and if they fail, they have disadvantage on all attacks against anyone but you. Aura of Vitality is also good, but it may take a while to reach 9th level, taking away precious multiclassing time.
Of course, a benefit from this oath comes from their Channel Divinity, such as Champion Challenge. This forces all enemies that fail a wisdom saving throw to be focused on you compared to your squishy allies without expending a spell slot. This will allow your party vital time to heal, regroup, and attack the enemy.
By the same token, Divine Allegiance at 7th level is the main defensive ability of this oath. When a creature within 5 feet of you takes damage, you can transfer that damage to yourself. While you may not be able to reduce that damage in any way, you can save a party member’s life if you have the HP to spare.
Primarily, this oath is good for both attack and defense. You defend your party members, take damage for them, and defeat enemies all at once. As long as you have plate armor and a high Constitution, you should be fine.
The Oath of Redemption
The Oath of Redemption is another great defensive subclass, but these paladins use violence as a last resort. They want to turn evil creatures to the light, but they will fight if it means that violence saves lives.
There are many beneficial spells to this class, such as Counterspell一one of the strongest spells in DnD. However, Counterspell is gained at 9th level, and with paladins being capped at 5th level spellcasting, it loses some of its benefit against stronger spells.
In contrast, the spells Sleep and Sanctuary are gained at 3rd level and they have their benefits. Sleep can be used to peacefully resolve combat and escape without any lives being lost. Sanctuary can be used to protect an injured ally; however, the ally that is under Sanctuary cannot make any spells or attacks that will harm an enemy unless they want to end the spell early.
However, the best defensive option for this paladin comes from Channel Divinity: Rebuke the Violent. If an attacker within 30 feet of you deals damage to someone other than you, you can use your reaction to force them to make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the attacker takes radiant damage equal to what they just dealt.
Finally, Aura of the Guardian allows you to protect your party members from harm if they are within 10 feet of you at the sacrifice of your own health. This allows you to be a protective, powerful wall for your party members, capable of dealing damage but focusing on defense.
In the long run, as you steadily level-up, more and more benefits will become available to you and your mission to be the perfect shield for your allies. With plate armor, a shield, the Heavy Armor Master feat, and a high Constitution, you can withstand mass damage while slowly frustrating your DM and empowering your fellow players.
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Altogether, there are many possibilities when hacking the paladin. Remember to discuss with your party what they are playing, and consider building your paladin to help them. However, remember to have fun and to play what makes you happy.
If you are interested in learning more about the paladin subclasses and building your own hack, check out this helpful guide from DnDBeyond!
-Sarah Cooley, DnD enthusiast