The DnD 5e Paladin Guide

Published on February 27, 2020, Last modified on October 24th, 2021

In this post, we will examine the different choices you will be presented with when leveling up your character. Everything from which ability scores to max out to which races will give you the best stats (and everything in-between) will be covered. For the time being, this guide will be focusing primarily on content from the Player’s Handbook and DM’s Guide.

What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e Paladin. For a quick overview on the Paladin Class, see our breakdown of the DnD 5e Classes. You can see the Paladin Class Features here.

The guide will color-code each separate item to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Paladin. This color-coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Get your smites on deck and let’s get into it!

Did you know?

D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.

D&D 5e Paladin Overview

Level Proficiency Bonus Features Spell Slots per Spell Level
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1st +2 Divine Sense, Lay on Hands
2nd +2 Fighting Style, Spellcasting, Divine Smite 2
3rd +2 Divine Health, Sacred Oath 3
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement 3
5th +3 Extra Attack 4 2
6th +3 Aura of Protection 4 2
7th +3 Sacred Oath feature 4 3
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement 4 3
9th +4 4 3 2
10th +4 Aura of Courage 4 3 2
11th +4 Improved Divine Smite 4 3 3
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3
13th +5 4 3 3 1
14th +5 Cleansing Touch 4 3 3 1
15th +5 Sacred Oath feature 4 3 3 2
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 2
17th +6 4 3 3 3 1
18th +6 Aura improvements 4 3 3 3 1
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 3 2
20th +6 Sacred Oath feature 4 3 3 3 2


The Paladin is a class known for its heavy armor, damage output, and roleplaying demands.

Righteous warriors on the path of the Paladin must dedicate themselves completely to an Oath devoted to certain ideals. Some examples are:

  • The Oath of Devotion is for the classic Paladin feel. They are typically lawful and the follower of some deity.
  • The Oath of the Ancients is cool if you want to ease up on the lawful good roleplaying. Protectors of sacred groves as well as innocents, Paladins of the Oath of the Ancients devote themselves to protecting the Light from the darkness of the world, which is a pretty vague mission and gives some room for flexibility.
  • The Oath of Vengeance is for people who want to go for a more Marvel’s Punisher vibe. This Oath is dedicated to the single-minded pursuit of the guilty at the cost of all else. Extremely mobile and terrifyingly efficient, Paladins of this Oath will never stop pursuing their prey.


Paladins are a great option for a tanky damage dealer. They are a semi-spellcaster, meaning they only learn up to 5th level spells and have a limited pool of spell slots to draw from.

Paladins are proficient in all weapons and armor, so they have their pick of the litter when it comes to how they want to outfit themselves for combat. This, on top of their extra damage from Divine Smites, makes them one of the highest damage dealers available.

Paladins have a unique ability to be a sort of battlefield medic. They can be in the thick of the fray without getting killed and have a pool of healing to draw from thanks to their Lay on Hands class feature. The Paladin’s spells also have a focus on healing and. When combined with their ability to buff party members through their Aura of Protection, allows for some powerful party support.


Paladins are known as one of the stronger DnD classes due to their damage output and versatility. Similar to Bards, Paladins are at their best when you are able to take advantage of what roleplaying and CHA can do for you. A Paladin’s Oath is what gives the class their holy butt-kicking powers and sticking to this oath is important to maintaining these powers.

The largest gaps in the Paladin’s arsenal are attacking at a distance and dealing area of effect damage. Their spells and class features mainly focus on dealing single target, melee damage. While they are great at what they do, Paladins can feel a bit out of their depth when having to deal with a ranged or highly mobile enemy.

Paladin Class Power Spikes

If you are jumping into a campaign at a specific level and you want a character that’s going to be really strong right away, this section of our guide will help you understand the points where the Paladin class is strongest.

As a class, the Paladin tends to perform best at the early stages of the games, especially after gaining access to their Spellcasting and Divine Smite abilities. However, the class remains a powerful damage dealer and tank at most stages of the game, while offering an overall utility that makes it one of the strongest class options in the 5e system.

The best levels to play the Paladin class are between 2nd and 5th Level, when you gain access to the powerful starting abilities and features of the Paladin class. At this stage of the game, your character will quite frankly outshine most other party members. 

Following 5th Level, the Paladin starts to plateau and will dip towards parity with other classes in the game. It has other major power spikes at 9th, 13th, and 17th level as it gains access to high-level spell slots, but nothing will feel quite as broken as that early game domination.

1st Level (Moderate Start)

The Paladin starts off with a moderate power level, since they are missing the Spellcasting and Sacred Oath features that will make this class into such a menace at later stages of the game. Playing a one-shot as a 1st Level Paladin may be underwhelming, although you do have access to the utility of Lay on Hands immediately.

2nd Level (First Power Spike)

2nd Level is the first major power spike for Paladin characters. At this level, you gain access to your 1st Level spells slots and basic class spells. In addition, you get to choose a Fighting Style, which is great for flavour and character direction, and you can start to use Divine Smite. 

3rd – 4th Level (First Plateau)

3rd Level is your second major power spike, when Paladins gain access to their Sacred Oath Feature and their specific Oath Spells. Although this feature does not add as much raw power as 2nd Level, it is a more satisfying threshold from a flavour perspective and another great point to play a Paladin character.

There is a lull on 4th level with no significant improvements, but it still feels very good to play a Paladin at this early stage in the game.

5th – 8th Level (Second Plateau)

5th Level is the third major power spike for Paladin characters, where they get access to their 2nd level Oath Spells and class spells. While this is significant, the biggest bump at 5th Level is the Extra Attack feature, which immediately ramps up a Paladin’s possible damage output.

After the massive spike at 5th Level, the following three levels offer relatively small improvements. This is still a decent level threshold to play a Paladin, but it’s mainly the carry-over effects of the massive spike at 5th Level. 

9th -12th Level (Third Plateau)

9th Level is the next major power spike for Paladin characters, when they get access to their 3rd level Oath Spells and class spells. They also receive a nice little increase to their proficiency bonus. It is probably the weakest of the class’s power spikes on the way to 20.

11th Level is a secondary power spike in this plateau that will provide them with the Improved Divine Smite feature and access to a third 3rd Level spell slot. While not as significant as 9th level, it is another strong threshold to hit and a decent level to be playing at.

The other levels in this plateau do not offer any significant power spikes and these are not great levels to jump into Paladin play overall.

13th – 16th Level (Fourth Plateau)

13th Level is the second-to-last major power spike for Paladin characters, when they get access to their 4rd level Oath Spells and class spells. Again, they also receive an increase to their proficiency bonus. This is a very similar spike to the 9th Level, although you do get access to more powerful high-level spells.

At this plateau, Paladins begin to access some cool end-games features. This includes Cleansing Touch at 14th, which is a great utility feature, and the penultimate level of their Sacred Oath Feature at 15th Level. Both of these are nice thresholds and this is a better plateau overall for Paladin players.

17th – 20th Level (Final Plateau)

17th Level is the last major power spike for Paladin characters before 20, when they get access to their 5rd level Oath Spells and class spells. These are super powerful, end-game spells and this is a fairly satisfying threshold for Paladins.

The plateau between 17 and 20 is a lull spot for Paladin players, with no significant improvements for the class.

20th Level offers a final power spike to Paladin players, in the form of the ultimate Sacred Oath feature. Almost all of the Oaths offer amazing ultimate abilities that you’ll be excited to try out for the first time, although some are more awesome than others (I’m looking at you, Oath of Devotion). Not all classes offer huge payoff at Level 20, but Paladin is definitely up there with the best of them.

Before You Start

Standard Races

Dragonborn: +2 to STR and +1 to CHA make Dragonborn an ideal racial bonus for Paladins. Combine this with the breath weapon and damage reduction and you are looking at a very strong base build.

Dwarf: Dwarves are a great choice for all Paladin builds. They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison which is just gravy.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS isn’t going to help a ton but may be useful if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hit points are always welcome.
  • Mountain: Paladins builds will take bonuses to STR all day.

Elf: Elves get a bonus to DEX, free Perception proficiency, and darkvision. This is an alright start for a DEX-based Paladin, but doesn’t offer as much as a Halfling in that regard.

  • Wood Elf: Wood Elves get bonuses to WIS and some extra movement speed, neither of which are useful for Paladins.
  • High Elf: High Elves get bonuses to INT and a free Cantrip. No help for Paladins.
  • Drow: Bonuses to CHA and Superior Darkvision are great but sunlight sensitivity is too much of a disadvantage unless you will be primarily underground throughout the campaign.

Gnome: Gnomes get a bonus to INT and Gnome Cunning. Neither of these are helpful for Paladins.

  • Forest: Forest Gnomes get a DEX bonus and Minor Illusion. Nothing useful for Paladins.
  • Rock: Rock Gnomes get a bonus to CON which is nice but really doesn’t help further than that.

Half-Elf: Half-Elves get a buff to CHA and get two free Ability Score Increases (ASIs). This combined with darkvision and two free skills make Half-Elves one of the best races for Paladins.

Half-Orc: Half Orc’s get you a STR and CON bonus, both of which are perfect for Paladins. Dark-Vision is nice, proficiency in Intimidation will help you flex on other people, Relentless Endurance is a nice bonus, and Savage Attacks is just plain savage. This option would be on par, if not a slight bit worse than Half-Elf.

Halfling: Halflings get a bonus to DEX and Lucky, which is extremely helpful when you’re swinging as much as Paladins do. This is a great base for a DEX-build Paladin.

  • Lightfoot: The bonus to CHA here is great and seeing as you will likely be going for a stealthier build if you choose a Halfling, the ability to hide better helps.
  • Stout: Stout Halflings get a bonus to CON which is useful for any Paladin. They also get a resistance to poison which is a nice bonus.

Human: Humans are always a good pick.

  • Vanilla: Getting a bonus point to all of your ability scores is nice, but Paladins usually only need STR, CON, and some CHA.
  • Variant: Variant Humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice (STR and CON for Paladins) and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for Paladins. See the Feats section for suggestions on what to choose here.

Tiefling: Bonus to INT isn’t particularly helpful but the CHA, Darkvision, resistance to fire damage, and a couple spells are great.

Non-Standard Races

There are many non-standard races available, so we will only list those that are good options for this class. Keep in mind that these are typically limited by the setting and source material chosen by the DM. Check with your DM before selecting any of the races listed below.

Aasimar: +2 CHA, extra healing, a useful cantrip, and damage resistances.

  • Fallen: Possibly the absolute best race for a Paladin, the Fallen Aasimar comes with fantastic ASIs and a very powerful trait.
  • Scourge: More durability than the Fallen and a strong trait.

Bugbear: The STR bonus is useful and Paladins are classic Polearm/Sentinel Builds, making good use of Long-Limbed. The proficiency in stealth can help your disadvantage while wearing heavy armor.

Changeling: 2 CHA and your choice of either STR or DEX makes the Changeling quite flexible for any Paladin build. The traits combine very well with your CHA boost to make a great social skill character.


  • Ravenite: +2 to STR and +1 to CON make this an ideal race for Paladins. Breath weapon, damage reduction, and the extra attack are all amazing features to have as a Paladin.


  • Eladrin: DEX and CHA are nice for a DEX build. Free teleportation is really good especially when you hit 3rd level and the teleport gets an added effect.
  • Sea Elf: DEX and CON are good, but the racial traits are very situational.
  • Shadar-Kai: DEX and CON are good, damage resistance, and a teleport once per long rest.

Goliath: Some Paladins do not want to pump their CHA as high as it can go for spellcasting, and will instead focus on STR for melee damage output while focusing on spells that don’t require CHA to be effective. In that case, Goliath Paladins are quite strong and will be effective tanks rivaling the other viable melee classes.

Half-Orc: Half Orc’s get you a STR and CON bonus, both of which are perfect for Paladins. Darkvision is useful, proficiency in Intimidation will help your face skills, Relentless Endurance is a nice bonus, and Savage Attacks is just plain savage with smite crits.


  • Mark of Passage: No CHA for heavy spellcasting but Mark of Passage could lay the groundwork for a really cool DEX Paladin.

Kobold: A simple DEX bonus is not quite enough for the Paladin to be optimized. If building around DEX, the character will function fine simply due to Pack Tactics.

Minotaur: Paladins are pretty multi-ability dependent, but STR and CON is a solid start. If you focus on CHA for spellcasting, Imposing Presence is a nice little bonus skill proficiency.

Orc: Paladins are a martial class that work very well with STR due to th ASI, Aggressive, and free skill proficiencies. Since they use CHA as their spellcasting modifier, you can pick up Intimidation skill proficiency with Primal Intuition for a nice and easy social skill.

Shifter: Beasthide and Longtooth Shifters will make for powerful STR Paladins. DEX-based Paladins can choose the Swiftstride Shifter for the DEX boost as well as CHA for their spellcasting. 

Tabaxi: Paladins are one of the better classes for a Tabaxi, as they love stacking AC and cast their spells with CHA. Pick up some STR for attacks and armor, CON for hit points and CON saves, and you have yourself a well-rounded Paladin.


  • Glasya: A great way to make a stealthy, DEX-based Paladin.
  • Levistus: Good ASI and powerful spells for a defensive build.
  • Winged: Having INT is kind of a bummer, but being able to fly is absolutely incredible. 

Tortle: The default build for a Paladin is to use STR. Without needing to pump DEX for AC, this greatly reduces the Paladin’s multi-ability dependency. A Tortle Paladin can comfortably increase their CHA for spellcasting while still having a respectable 17 AC (19 with a shield) right from the start.

Triton: STR, CON, and CHA are the exact three ASIs that most Paladins are looking for. Add to that some useful racial traits and some innate spells and Tritons make a really strong case for this class.

Warforged: Paladins care about STR, CON, and DEX, and many even want to boost their CHA to help their Spellcasting Modifier. It will be impossible to focus on everything when your biggest racial ASI is CON, but a Warforged Paladin will still perform very well as a frontline melee attacker and damage soaker.

Yuan-Ti Pureblood: INT is a waste, but having advantage on saving throws for all magical effects and immunity to poison does wonders for survivability.


For this section, due to the sheer number of backgrounds available, I am simply going to list the most useful Paladin Backgrounds.

  • Soldier: Proficiency with Athletics and Intimidation is certainly a good choice, especially because Intimidation can add to your utility for the party. Proficiency with the gaming set and land vehicles isn’t awesome but could be useful in certain circumstances.
  • Sailor/Pirate: Proficiency in Athletics and Perception are two great choices. Proficiency in water vehicles isn’t awesome but could be useful in certain circumstances.

Pretty much all of the other backgrounds give DEX, WIS, or INT-based Skills which aren’t worth it for Paladins. The only WIS-based skill that’s worth Proficiency is Perception because of how often it is used.

Ability Scores

Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.

STR: Most Paladins go with STR, as it lets them wear heavy armor and affects attack and damage rolls.

DEX: DEX is the most important skill to stack because of the sheer number of instances that a DEX save is required. Paladins can also be built for using DEX weapons, which would make DEX light blue.

CONEvery Paladin needs hit points.

INT: This is a big ol’ dump stat for Paladins. You don’t need to be smart if you’re righteous, right?

WIS: WIS is helpful for Perception (the most important skill in the game). This stat would be best left up to classes that need WIS for other class features (Rangers, Monks, etc) because Paladins are so dependent on their other stats.

CHA: The Paladin’s CHA score is a hotly debated topic. The arguments mainly revolve around the question, “do you want to max your damage output?”. If the answer to this question is “yes“, you can feel free to make CHA a lesser priority. If the answer to the question is, “I want to play a well-rounded character that can support my party and also provide help in social situations while being able to output solid damage“, then CHA is going to be really important.

CHA is used as the Paladin’s Spellcasting Modifier, the save DC for Channel Divinity, the bonus to your Aura of Protection, and affects how many spells you can prepare each day. If you want to get by on limited spells and just wade into a battle and smash people with smites then you likely can make CHA a secondary priority. Otherwise, you will be forgoing a maxed STR, CON, or DEX for CHA.

Paladin Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points and Hit Dice: d10 hit points is the second-best hit dice around. The only class that gets a higher one is the Barbarian. Combine this with a high CON score, Lay On Hands, and heavy armor, this means your Paladin will be hard to put down.

Saves: WIS and CHA are great saves to have proficiency in. WIS saves happen a fair bit and the failures usually have nasty effects. CHA saves can keep you from getting banished, but not much else.

Proficiencies: All armor, weapons, and shields? Yes, please. You don’t need to worry too much about utility skills like Stealth or Persuasion as the party’s enforcer.

Skills: Athletics (being the only STR-based skill) is a shoo-in for the Paladin’s most important skill. The rest of their skills aren’t going to be stellar for most Paladins as they are mostly INT, WIS, or CHA-based.

  • Athletics (STR)
  • Insight (WIS)
  • Intimidation (CHA)
  • Medicine (WIS)
  • Persuasion (CHA)
  • Religion (INT)

Divine Sense – Can prevent an ambush in very specific situations.

Lay on Hands – One of the best healing mechanisms in the game. Versatile enough to bring a party member up to full health or just give them enough healing to bring them out of Death Saves. Stacks with leveling up as well.

2nd Level

Fighting Style: One of the Paladin’s iconic abilities, and a great reason to multiclass into a Paladin.

  • Defense: +1 to AC isn’t overly exciting but seeing as AC is hard to scale it can make a difference in the early and long game.
  • Dueling: Being able to wear a shield while dealing close to two-handed weapon damage is a very, very tempting option.
  • Great Weapon Fighting: Not an awesome option, only adds about 1 damage per attack. It would be better to pick up Defense to make up for the fact you aren’t wielding a shield.
  • Protection: Only being useful when within 5ft is a major disadvantage for this skill, especially if you’re the tank of your party as most of your party members will be staying back while you are up in the fray.

Spellcasting – Paladins get an interesting mix of healing and buff spells, as well as their signature smites. Most of these spell slots will be reserved for the good ol’ Divine Smite due to its propensity for damage and the ability to cast after hit and stack with crits.

Divine Smite – When playing a Paladin, you will notice that you often will be holding on to your meager spell slots for these sweet, sweet smites. Being able to activate the smite on hit, not taking up a bonus action or concentration like the other smites, allows for this to be a significant burst of damage when you want it.

Optional Class Feature: Additional Paladin Spells

Source: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

  • 2nd
    • Gentle repose: Very situational
    • Prayer of healing: Because of the long casting time, this is really only useful outside of combat and when you don’t have enough time to take a short rest.
    • Warding bond: Most casters don’t want to be taking damage when their warded fighter walks into battle. Because of the Paladin’s d10 hitdice, they can afford to take more damage to keep this spell active.
  • 3rd
    • Spirit shroud: This spell is absolutely bonkers. The extra damage on every attack is solid for a 3rd-level, bonus action, concentration spell. The fact that this scales 1d8 for each level of spell slot higher than 3rd makes this spell amazing.
  • 5th
    • Summon celestial: Easily the best summon spell from Tasha’s. The celestial you summon has flight, ranged and melee attacks, radiant damage, and healing abilities.

Optional Class Feature: Fighting Style Options

Source: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

This optional class feature adds to the list of available fighting style options:

  • Blessed Warrior: The best two Cleric cantrips to pick up here are Guidance and Toll the Dead. Guidance is amazing utility and Toll the Dead helps provide a ranged option outside of javelins.
  • Blind Fighting: Blindsight is a powerful ability, there is no doubt about that. If you are a Paladin, the reality is that you should be focusing on something that will allow you to hit people harder, or get hit harder without going down.
  • Interception: This is a very similar ability to the Protection fighting style. The same limitations apply (have to be within 5ft, uses your reaction), but you are able to use this ability if you are wielding a weapon or shield, not just a shield. The actual effect is kind of a toss-up when compared to Protection. If you are going to be fighting alongside another melee fighter that has a reasonable AC, the disadvantage granted by Protection is better. If you are going to be mainly defending casters with poor AC, Interception is better.

3rd Level

Divine Health – Very situational. Diseases can also be cured by expending 5hp from your Lay on Hands.

Optional Class Feature: Harness Divine Power

Source: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

This option offers a ton of versatility on a typical adventuring day. Sometimes you will need your channel divinity options more than spell slots but, when you don’t, you can always use this ability to bring some spells back online.

Sacred Oath: The Paladin’s Oath comes with a choice that is more impactful than almost any other class. As with every class’ archetype, the Paladin’s Sacred Oath offers customizability and unique features as you level up. Where the Paladin class differs, is in the tenets that the Paladin binds themselves to as they choose an Oath. While breaking the tenets don’t have any concrete, RAW consequences, Paladins that go against their oath can be presented consequences by their DM.

Oath of Conquest

Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

The Oath of Conquest Paladin is all about besting one’s opponents. Their spells and channel divinity options focus on subjection and domination of enemies in combat.

  • 3rd Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Armor of Agathys – Solid defensive and offensive spell. Doesn’t do a lot at 1st-level but upcasting this spell is quite good value.
      • Command – Versatile and powerful debuff that can lock down opponents, cause them to drop important items, and so on. Make sure the target can understand your language before casting.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Conquering Presence – 30ft radius frightened effect is amazing for Paladins who will likely be in the thick of combat.
      • Guided Strike – This can turn just about any miss into a hit. This is an amazing ability for Paladins because hitting means smites and smites mean damage. 
  • 5th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Hold Person: This can be encounter breaking against humanoids. Scales well with levels.
      • Spiritual Weapon: Spiritual Weapon is an amazing spell that can provide tons of damage and action economy over an encounter. The fact that the weapon sticks around without needing concentration, is a bonus action to summon, has an effective damage type, and scales with your spellcasting modifier make this an absolutely stellar spell.
  • 7th Level
    • Aura of Conquest – Give frightened creatures a speed of 0 and deal psychic damage equal to half your Paladin level at the start of each turn. While the radius is fairly small to start off with, this is a devilish ability when combined with Conquering Presence or Fear.  The only downside of this effect is that it doesn’t do anything to creatures not frightened by you so high WIS creatures or creatures immune to fear will be hard to pin down.
  • 9th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Bestow Curse: Concentration, saving throw that can completely nullify the spell, and touch range makes this spell not worth the fairly powerful debuff it provides.
      • Fear: Amazing crowd control spell. Particularly good because they don’t get to retry the save until they break line of sight.
  • 13th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Dominate Beast: Not many Beasts are going to be worth your 4th level spell to Dominate. If you’re fighting a CR8 T-Rex you’ll wish you had this spell.
      • Stone Skin: Effectively double your HP against creatures without magical weapons or spells for an hour. The biggest downside of this spell is Concentration as you will still be making CON save to keep the spell up every time you are hit.
  • 15th Level
    • Scornful Rebuke – Dishing damage equal to our CHA modifier every time you are hit is nice bonus damage. Even if you’ve maxed your CHA modifier by 15th level, 5 extra damage each time your hit is going to feel underwhelming against the tougher monsters you are fighting.
  • 17th Level
    • Oath Spells 
      • Cloudkill: Not great in an open field but if you can get the drop on an enemy or contain a group of enemies within the spell it can be very effective because it deals damage turn after turn, as long as the caster keeps concentration. It can also be effective to block off a vantage point used by ranged enemies.
      • Dominate Person: Amazing spell against humanoids. While spells like Hold Person can take an enemy of the fight, Dominate Person can make that enemy into an ally essentially creating a two for one. If you are fighting against humanoids a lot in the late game, this is a simply outstanding spell. 
  • 20th Level
    • Invincible Conqueror – Resistance to all damage, extra attack, and doubling your chance for a crit. If that isn’t a capstone ability I don’t know what is.

Oath of Devotion

Source: Player’s Handbook

The Oath of Devotion Paladin is probably what most people think of when they think “Paladin”. Oath of Devotion Paladin’s protect the weak and uphold the justice of the land.

  • 3rd Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Protection from Evil and Good – Fantastic defensive buff. Requires concentration but you’ll be so hard to hit it doesn’t matter. One of the few spells you would conceivably use in place of Divine Smite.
      • Sanctuary – Likely won’t see much use unless you are escorting a non-combatant NPC or somebody from your party has gone down.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Sacred Weapon – Even Paladins that focus on STR/CON should think about getting their CHA to +3 for spellcasting and their aura abilities. +3 to weapon attacks for a full minute is an extremely solid buff, especially with no concentration requirement. If you can activate this before combat it will be even better because eating an entire round’s action to activate this ability hurts.
      • Turn the Unholy – Paladins don’t have a ton of ways to deal with crowds, they are usually best in 1-on-1 combat. This gives a nice, if seldom used utility feature against swarms of undead.
  • 5th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Lesser Restoration – Situational, but could be a real lifesaver as the conditions it heals are particularly nasty.
      • Zone of Truth – Again, situational. Can be very effective in social situations if used at the right time.
  • 7th Level
    • Aura of Devotion – Probably the worst Aura for the PHB subclasses. Not being able to be charmed is certainly a good effect, but it will come up a lot less than the Ancients and Vengeance Aura effects. Increases from 10ft to 30ft at 18th level.
  • 9th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Beacon of Hope – Could be a solid buff going into a real tough fight, especially if you have another healer in the party that doesn’t use Lay on Hands.
      • Dispel Magic – Hopefully by 9th level you have somebody else in the party that can use Dispel Magic, not something you want your Paladin using spells on.
  • 13th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Freedom of Movement – It’s nice to give extra movement options to allies, but there are better buff spells and this one is pretty situational.
      • Guardian of Faith – Great area control spell, especially for a Paladin where they are far and few between.
  • 15th Level
    • Purity of Spirit – Protection from Good and Evil is simply an amazing buff against a number of very common creature types. Having this spell active all the time, without having to worry about concentration, is an excellent buff.
  • 17th Level
    • Oath Spells 
      • Commune: A lot of this spell is left up to the DM’s interpretation and the deity’s specific knowledge. You can easily waste a 5th-level spell and come out without much to show for it.
      • Flame Strike – Not quite as good of a radius as Fireball, but similar damage. One of the only Paladin spells that can affect more than one creature at a time.
  • 20th Level
    • Holy Nimbus – Again, not as good as the other PHB subclasses. It is a nice AoE but the advantage on saving throws cast by fiends and undead is situational.

Oath of Glory

Source: Mythic Odysseys of Theros

The Oath of Glory Paladin believes that they are destined for greatness. These Paladins help others around them accomplish glorious deeds through buffs and supportive class features.

  • 3rd Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Guiding Bolt – Fantastic damage early on, and if the creature didn’t die the next attack against it gets advantage which should do the trick. This is especially great because most Paladins lack ranged attacks.
      • Heroism – Great buff effect, scales nicely as well.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Peerless Athlete – 10 minutes of advantage on Athletics and Acrobatics checks will certainly be useful in situational circumstances. It will be very rare to use this Channel Divinity feature over your Inspiring Smite.
      • Inspiring Smite – 2d8 + Paladin Level temp hitpoints to any creature within 30ft after smiting is amazing, especially because you can divide this between as many creatures as you want. Seeing as this isn’t a huge amount of healing, it’s best left for when your party members go down.
  • 5th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Enhance Ability  – Amazing spell that can provide a leg up in just about any situation.
      • Magic Weapon – Making your weapon magical is necessary against some enemy types and the bonus to attack/damage is useful. The main issue with this spell is that it requires Concentration.
  • 7th Level
    • Aura of Alacrity – Increasing walking speed 10ft is a decent ability that will certainly provide use over the course of a campaign. Increasing your ally’s walking speed if they start their turn within 5ft won’t necessarily provide a ton of value.  Increases from 5ft to 10ft at 18th level.
  • 9th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Haste – Haste is an absolutely amazing offensive buff. It provides extra attacks, extra AC, and bonuses to DEX saves as long as you can maintain concentration. Because you will likely cast this spell on yourself then wade into battle, you will want to consider picking up War Caster to get advantage on your concentration checks because you really don’t want to lose a turn if you drop concentration.
      • Protection from Energy – This is typically outshined by Absorb Elements except in the specific circumstances when you are constantly being subjected to a type of damage.
  • 13th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Freedom of Movement – Again, very situational but useful to have in your back pocket.
      • Compulsion: On a failed save you can move a creature slightly, but they can still take an action. Not great.
  • 15th Level
    • Purity of Spirit – This is an extremely good use of your reaction. Adding your CHA modifier (most like +5 at this point) as a reaction is what Shield, an amazing combat spell provides. Being able to make an attack against the attacker if their attack misses takes this ability to the next level because it can activate smites. The fact that this can be activated up to 5 times per long rest means that you will likely be able to use this once or twice an encounter, depending on your DM.  Once you get this ability, picking up a reach weapon like the glaive or halberd will provide a ton of value.
  • 17th Level
    • Oath Spells 
      • Commune: A lot of this spell is left up to the DM’s interpretation and the deity’s specific knowledge. You can easily waste a 5th-level spell and come out without much to show for it.
      • Flame Strike – Not quite as good of a radius as Fireball, but similar damage. One of the only Paladin spells that can affect more than one creature at a time.
  • 20th Level
    • Living Legend – Two out of three of this capstone’s features are incredibly strong. Being able to automatically hit at least once per round will mean consistent damage and access to smites for your high-level fights. The advantage on CHA checks may not mean much outside of combat and you definitely don’t want to expend a usage of this outside of combat when Enhance Ability could just as easily give you advantage on CHA checks. The last feature allows you to automatically gain advantage on all saving throws for 1 minute which, in addition to the first ability, makes this capstone feature absolutely amazing.

Oath of the Ancients

The Oath of the Ancients focuses on upholding the laws of nature and life. These Fey Knights gain access to a number of nature-based spells and abilities usually reserved for Druids and Rangers.

  • 3rd Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Ensnaring Strike – Great 1st level spell to do some damage and restrain a creature. Dumped CHA might not matter as much at lower levels.
      • Speak With Animal – Likely won’t see much use but it has some fun RP purposes.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Nature’s Wrath – Great way to take a single enemy out of combat for a turn or two.
      • Turn the Faithless– Paladins don’t have a ton of ways to deal with crowds, they are usually best in 1-on-1 combat. This gives a nice, if seldom used utility feature against swarms of Fey or Fiends.
  • 5th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Misty Step  – One of the best movement options in the game, especially around this level.
      • Moonbeam – Moonbeam is a tough spell to justify. Only hitting one target and having to use your action each turn to move it makes it a clunky spell that might as well be spent on a Smite.
  • 7th Level
    • Aura of  Warding – This is a solid area buff for parties. This will come in handy less often than you may think because a lot of monsters have Abilities that cause AoE damage or use spells that don’t necessarily do damage. Increases from 10ft to 30ft at 18th level.
  • 9th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Plant Growth  – Good spell if you are being ambushed and need to slow some incoming enemies down while you deal with other ones.
      • Protection from Energy – Solid defensive buff option.
  • 13th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Ice Storm – Great spell for a Paladin’s lacking arsenal of AoE and Ranged attacks.
      • Stone Skin – Another great defensive buff for those slugfest combats.
  • 15th Level
    • Undying Sentinel – Pretty solid mechanic, especially with the Paladin’s ability to self-heal with Lay On Hands. Stack with the Half Orc’s Relentless Endurance feat and you will be hilariously hard to put down.
  • 17th Level
    • Oath Spells 
      • Commune with Nature – Great for RP and story progression, not so great for combat.
      • Tree Stride – A fun spell with a multitude of uses if you can get a bit creative. Without trees nearby you won’t be striding anywhere though.
  • 20th Level
    • Elder Champion – This is some good ol’ busted level 20 shenanigans. Being able to cast banishment while the target has disadvantage on a bonus action will make you a true force of nature.

Oath of Vengeance

  • 3rd Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Bane – Bless is considered a better spell, but Bane can certainly help make your friendlies harder to hit.
      • Hunter’s Mark – Just a great spell. Extra damage and can target multiple creatures over a long period of time (especially if it is upcast).
    • Channel Divinity
      • Abjure Enemy – The Frightened condition is a very strong mechanic. Great for boss fights and crowd control.
      • Vow of Enmity – Getting advantage on each attack roll is just nasty with a Paladin, not only will you be hitting more but you will be critting more. This allows you to double your smite damage with regularity.
  • 5th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Misty Step  – One of the best movement options in the game, especially around this level.
      • Hold Person – One of the strongest spells in the game against Humanoids. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
  • 7th Level
    • Relentless Avenger – Great movement option. Paired with Sentinel and Polearm Master it is insanely good. Increases from 10ft to 30ft at 18th level.
  • 9th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Protection from Energy – Solid defensive buff option.
      • Haste – Haste is an absolutely amazing offensive buff. It provides extra attacks, extra AC, and bonuses to DEX saves as long as you can maintain concentration. Because you will likely cast this spell on yourself then wade into battle, you will want to consider picking up War Caster to get advantage on your concentration checks because you really don’t want to lose a turn if you drop concentration.
  • 13th Level
    • Oath Spells
      • Banishment – Extremely good spell against single opponents. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
      • Dimension Door  – Another great movement option to get you and a teammate out of a sticky situation.
  • 15th Level
    • Soul of Vengeance – Great opportunity for extra attacks. Extra attacks = more crits which means double smite damage baby!
  • 17th Level
    • Oath Spells 
      • Hold Monster – Better version Hold Person. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
      • Scrying  – Pretty good RP ability.
  • 20th Level
    • Avenging Angel – Very good ability. Flight speed and an aura that can cause fear will make a great battlefield control.

4th Level

Optional Class Feature: Martial Versatility:

Source: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

This optional class feature allows Paladins to replace a Fighting Style whenever they are granted an ASI. This ability isn’t inherently strong or weak because it is difficult to make strategic changes according to what scenarios you will be facing. This optional feature is mainly here to change an aspect of your build that you don’t like without having to argue with a stubborn DM.

5th Level

Extra Attack: The bread and butter of martial classes.

6th Level

Aura of Protection – Giving team members a buff to ALL SAVING THROWS is just straight-up great.

Aura increases to 30ft at 18th level.

10th Level

Aura of Courage – Situational but a great effect nonetheless.

Aura increases to 30ft at 18th level.

11th Level

Improved Divine Smite – Helps level out the damage output between Paladins and Fighters as Paladins don’t get as many attacks.

14th Level

Cleansing Touch – There are some nasty spell effects when you get up to 14th level. An at-will, pseudo-Dispel Magic is an extremely good tool to keep in the pocket.


In this section, we will be focusing on feats that are applicable to the typical Paladin builds.

  • Crossbow Expert: You will likely not be a ranged build with Paladins.
  • Defensive Duelist: It is very unlikely that you will be wielding a finesse weapon as a Paladin.
  • Dual Wielder: Without access to Two-Weapon Fighting, the ceiling for this feat is quite low.
  • Durable: The amount of healing this provides in conjunction with an already high CON stat is an alright way to keep your Paladin on their feet throughout the day. Plus, it gives a +1 to CON. Great choice.
  • Grappler: I get that a Grapple build is a thing, but it is not a very strong option.
  • Great Weapon Master: This paired with a Vengeance Paladin for advantage on attacks would be amazing.
  • Heavy Armor Master: Damage reduction like this is a massive boost to being able to stay alive through fights, especially good on builds not looking to use a shield.
  • Inspiring Leader – Great feat if you can find time before a fight.
  • Lucky: Just a straight up, damn good feat.
  • Martial Adept: Don’t bother.
  • Mounted Combat: Decent option because Paladins have exclusive access to the Find Steed spell.
  • Polearm Master: This is definitely one of the more busted feats. The number of attacks this will net you in a single encounter will be substantive. Pair with Defense Fighting Style, Sentinel, and the Relentless Avenger Oath of Vengeance Feature for pure insanity.
  • Resilient: This is an alright option for becoming proficient in DEX saves.
  • Sentinel: Great feat all on it’s own to control the battlefield. Combine with Polearm Master for an insane combo.
  • Sharpshooter: Don’t bother with a Paladin.
  • Shield Master: This is a great option to use your bonus action if you don’t already have a use for it. Knocking a creature prone gives the rest of your party advantage, but keep in mind that this is only available after you have taken an attack action.
  • Tavern Brawler: Useful for grappler builds, which is to say not very useful. Otherwise, you can do without it.
  • Tough: Good option to boost your HP max if you are going for a super tank.
  • War Caster: Lots of the Paladin buffs require concentration and they are usually in the fray. This would be worth it for most Paladin builds.


For a full list of Paladin Spells click here.

1st-Level Spells

  • Bless: Solid 1st-level spell.
  • Command: Command is an extremely good 1st-level spell. Just based on the spell description provided in the PHB there is a ton of value available, let alone using command words that uniquely benefit your situation. The only issue with Command is the save DC. If your Paladin is pumping CON, STR, and CHA you likely won’t have a particularly good Spell Save DC which could lead to your spell being resisted and you losing a turn more often than not.
  • Compelled Duel: This can definitely turn the tides of the battle. Focusing on the party member with the most HP and highest AC will give squishier party members a chance to work their magic or sneak attack damage. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
  • Cure Wounds: Probably don’t need this because of Lay on Hands.
  • Divine Favor: Honestly, save it for a smite.
  • Heroism: Unable to be frightened is good and the temp hit points at the beginning of each turn is pretty solid.
  • Protection from Evil and Good: Imposing disadvantage on every attack is an amazing defensive buff.
  • Searing Smite: Could provide better damage than a Divine Smite but it’s a gamble.
  • Shield of Faith: +2 AC in a game where AC does not scale is a solid defensive buff.
  • Thunderous Smite: On average does slightly less damage than Divine Smite. Knocking an opponent prone could certainly be worth it depending on the battlefield and initiative.
  • Wrathful Smite: Good choice for some battlefield control.

2nd-Level Spells

  • Aid: Proactive healing rather than reactive healing and at a higher, guaranteed rate than Cure Wounds. 5 hit points can make a huge difference in keeping the party alive, and the spell doesn’t require concentration. Can be cast at higher levels.
  • Branding Smite: You need to be able to hit an invisible creature for this spell to be worth it.
  • Find Steed: Great for action economy because it provides another friendly in the Initiative.
  • Lesser Restoration: Not something you need but something you will wish you had when it comes up.
  • Magic Weapon: There is a strong chance you will get a magical weapon by level 5. If you don’t and are going to be fighting Ghosts, this is a take for sure.

3rd-Level Spells

  • Aura of Vitality: Great source of healing if a short rest isn’t available.
  • Blinding Smite: Bit of a gamble. If they save after only one round then Thunderous Smite is definitely the stronger option. If the creature you are attacking has low CON go for it.
  • Crusader’s Mantle: Decent option, gets better if you have a Fighter in the party that will be getting extra attacks and will also be in combat range.
  • Daylight: Situational but useful in certain circumstances. Stock before going into the Underdark.
  • Dispel Magic: Great spell but hopefully your party will have somebody else who can cast it.
  • Elemental Weapon: This would be a lot better if specific damage type vulnerabilities were more of a thing.
  • Revivify: Every party needs a party member with Revivify. The nature of D&D is such that PC deaths happen fairly easily, so your friends will be looking to you to save them from that fate.

4th-Level Spells

  • Aura of Life:  Protection from hit point maximum reduction is very situational, although resistance to necrotic damage is handy when facing the undead. Bringing up all downed allies within the radius at the start of their turn sounds useful, but you will need to maintain your concentration until then for this to have an effect.
  • Aura of Purity: Very niche spell. Could be worth it under the right circumstances.
  • Banishment: Insanely good spell for battlefield management. Be careful with concentration. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
  • Death Ward: This is a solid option if you are going into a day that will be particularly dangerous.
  • Find Greater Steed: Being able to summon a griffin or pegasus for a mount is an amazing tactical advantage. Great spell to cast at the end of an adventuring day if you have spells left over.
  • Staggering Smite: Decent damage but the effect is only really useful if you are retreating from combat.

5th-Level Spells

  • Banishing Smite: No save to the banishment (as long as their HP is low enough) and, on average, similar damage to a level 5 smite. This is the best smite in the game.
  • Circle of Power: This could completely break an encounter against a spellcaster. Don’t take this if you are an Oath of Ancients Paladin and have access to Aura of Warding.
  • Destructive Wave: Great AoE spell from a class that doesn’t get many.
  • Dispel Evil and Good: This could break encounters with a number of common enemy types.
  • Geas: Mainly useful as an RP spell because of the long casting time. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
  • Holy Weapon: Doing a 1st levels worth of smite damage every time you hit is pretty great. Being able to do AoE damage and Blind as a bonus action at the end of the spell is gravy.
  • Raise Dead: Hopefully you have access to this through other spellcasters already. Even so, it is worth it to take.

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

20 thoughts on “The DnD 5e Paladin Guide

    1. Hey Lewis!
      I have added a quick write-up for Command into the article 🙂 Here it is for reference:

      Command (green): Command is an extremely good first level spell. Just based on the spell description provided in the PHB there is a ton of value available, let alone using command words that uniquely benefit your situation. The only issue with Command is the save DC. If your Paladin is pumping CON, STR, and CHA you likely won’t have a particularly good Spell Save DC which could lead to your spell being resisted and you losing a turn more often than not.

    1. Oath of Vengeance is probably the strongest 1v1 fighter out of any other class combination in 5e. If you want to slay baddies, that is the way to go.

  1. At Polearm Mastery you recommend Defense Fighting Style for an insane Combo. Excuse me, but wouldnt Tunnel Fighter be better?
    For your bonus action, you enter a defensive stance until your next turns start. During the stance, you make opportunity attacks without using the reaction, and use the reaction to make a melee weapon attack against any creature that moves more than 5 ft within your reach.
    I just imagine standing there and attacking everything dumb enough to come into reach…

    1. Hey Merlin! At the time of writing, this guide primarily covers the DMG and PHB. You’re definitely right that the Tunnel Fighter combination is extraordinarily strong; this is probably why it is still only playtest content (Unearthed Arcana) and will probably always stay there. In our experience, most tables don’t use UA, so we don’t find it very productive to mention that content in our guides. That being said, if your group has agreed to allow UA content, go for it! ????

  2. I wouldn’t suggest dumping CHA as a paladin, especially if you are a Devotion Paladin. The aura of protection scales on CHA and is one of the most broken feature of a Paladin. When comparing this to STR as a Devotion Paladin in particular, the channel divinity giving a bonus to hit equal to CHA makes it so that increasing CHA does everything STR does except for one damage per attack, which is nothing compared to +1 on saving throws and +1 to spell save DC.

    1. Thanks Evan, you’re right “dumping CHA” was the wrong term, I have fixed that and increased the rating on the Devotion’s Sacred Weapon from green to blue. I agree that pumping CHA enough for spellcasting and aura of protection is important, but after getting CHA to around +3 you have to make a hard decision of whether to invest further or focus on STR/CON.

  3. Is Word of Radiance a descent choice for Blessed Warrior fighting style. I thought that the an AoE cantrip might prove useful.

    1. Certainly useful if you are going to be in the thick of the battle! Hitting 3 or more creatures with this could outpace damage done by attacking, especially if you’ve invested more in CHA than STR.

  4. I feel like the feats description is geared towards Oath of Vengeance, but I am building a Nasty Ravenite Dragonborn Tanky Oath of Conquest Paladin, and I chose to get the dragon Hide for my first feat, I like the bonuses for incase of broken armor and dropped weapon, and still being able to hold a shield for the bonuses, I was thinking of getting Dragon Fear next as it kind of meshes with Conquest oath, then maybe Durable, maybe getting Durable second and dragon fear third… what are your thoughts on such a build?

    1. Thanks for writing in Michael, the build sounds really cool! I absolutely love Dragon Fear for an Oath of Conquest but I’m not a huge fan of Dragon Hide to be honest. I think there aren’t enough mechanics in 5e (besides Rust Monsters) that can destroy weapons or armor to make this feat beneficial to a Paladin.

  5. Hello, I was reading your guides and I think they are awesome. I was wondering if you could add your review of the Paladin: Oath of Heroism found in Unearthed Arcana 62 – Bard and Paladin. It seems to have some similarities to the Oath of Glory, but has some note worthy differenes.

    I think it would be a great addition to this section.


    1. Hi Juan! While we love the Unearthed Arcana content, our main focus for the time being is to review everything from official sources first. We think this will be more valuable to our readers, but we hope to get around to reviewing Unearthed Arcana content in the future for those players who love to experiment!

  6. If you have time, I think it would be worthwhile to add a section for Non-Standard races to the other classes too. It makes no sense to me that the Paladin guide has a section about them and others don’t…

  7. Hey Mark!
    I am new to DnD and I wanted to make a great frog folk paladin build with a lance and shield, is this possible and how could I make this work? Your guide is amazing and extremely detailed which is great for me with much to learn.

    1. Hey Justin! I’m not sure if there is a specific “frogfolk” race but you could reskin another race to be frogfolk (with your DM’s permission of course). I think a decent option for the reskin would be the Harengon race (

      As for a knight with a lance and shield, you could choose a halberd or glaive and pick up the Polearm Master and Sentinel feats for an extremely potent combo. This combo works because the halberd gives you a 10ft reach, you get opportunity attacks whenever creatures enter your 10ft reach, then, if you hit them with the attack they cannot move forward into melee range. This doesn’t work with a shield but it provides a similar aesthetic and is a very powerful deterrent.

      If you are dead set on using a shield, then choose a spear and the Polearm Master feat as it will still provide tons of value.

      Hope you have fun!

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