Vengeance Paladin 5e Guide
Published on February 1, 2022, Last modified on November 10th, 2022
In this guide, we’ll be covering all the aspects of the Oath of Vengeance Paladins in D&D 5e. The pros and cons of each ability, the best races that fit the class, and everything else.
Jason Chan - Wizards of the Coast - Puresteel Paladin
What is this guide?
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Oath of Vengeance Paladin subclass. For a full overview of the paladin class, check out our paladin 5e Guide.
For our full class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
- 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
For our subclass guides, we focus mainly on the Blue and Sky Blue options, because the other options are discussed in the parent guide or other subclass guides. We also discuss options that normally would be good for a typical build, but underperform when used in a subclass.
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.
What is a Vengeance Paladin?
Oath of Vengeance paladins are those who have taken that sacred commitment to punish the wicked. Or at least their idea of the wicked. They may toe the line between good and evil, depending on what they consider wicked.
Either way, they are a solid single-target half-caster martial class focusing on hunting down and destroying a single target through melee damage and movement speed tricks.
Oath of Vengeance paladins are excellent in single combat, thanks to their abilities that grant them advantage or extra attacks as reactions. They can dish out a lot of damage and quickly move around the battlefield to get to their desired target. Most of their spells revolve around locking down an enemy or getting to one quickly, so they can be reasonably mobile for a heavy armor class.
Any campaign where there are frequent boss fights, or at least formidable enemies, is where these paladins shine. They can quickly get an enemy in their sights and keep the beatdown coming for several turns. They also excel in smaller parties, where they can keep one brutal enemy held in place while everyone else gets in position to dish out some damage.
Because they’re so strong in single combat, these paladins lack any sort of crowd control or area of effect spells. It usually feels terrible to use powerful spells and abilities on weaker mobs, so encounters filled with excessive numbers will easily overwhelm these holy warriors.
Paladins of this oath are also basically only here for combat-focused players. All of their abilities (save one of their Channel Divinity options) are strictly combat only so that you won’t have as much advantage outside of bashing heads. Roleplayers will need to get by with the luck of the die, as they don’t offer anything for you.
They also have the typical Paladin problems of lacking ranged options and being an overall Multi-Ability Dependant (MAD) build.
Before You Start
Best Races for Vengeance Paladins
Oath of Vengeance Paladins are great at hitting things, so optimizing for a martial build is important. Vengeance paladins will always stack into STR or DEX for their attack modifiers and will distribute their remaining resources to CON or CHA. They are already fantastic with mobility, so you don’t need to worry about movement options unless you want to take it to the extreme.
Dragonborn: +2 to STR and +1 to CHA make Dragonborn an ideal racial bonus for Oath of Vengeance Paladins. Combine this with the breath weapon and damage reduction and you are looking at a very strong base build.
Mountain Dwarf: Moutain Dwarves are a great choice for Oath of Vengeance Paladin builds. They get+2 to CON and STR, which gives them a headstart on ASIs over most classes. The free resistance to poison is just gravy.
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 Oath of Vengeance Paladins.
Half-Orc: Half Orc’s get you a STR and CON bonus, both of which are perfect for Oath of Vengeance Paladins. Darkvision is always useful, 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.
Lightfoot 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 Oath of Vengeance Paladins.
Variant Human: Variant Humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice (STR and CON for most Paladins) and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for Paladins. See the Feats section for suggestions on what to choose here.
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: Aasimar make great paladins overall. The +2 CHA is no joke for your spell save DC, and Healing Hands will keep your allies alive in a pinch. Plus, each of the subraces all work well for Oath of Vengeance.
- Scourge Aasimar: Scourge Aasimar are the best Aasimar subrace because they add additional damage on top of +1 CON. The ability might deal minor damage to you, but it quickly adds up on a single foe.
Best Backgrounds for Vengeance Paladins
Since these paladins are pretty much focused only on combat, your background is the most significant part of your roleplay. Picking one that gives you the skills and roleplay options you want will be your best choice here. But when in doubt, prioritize CHA and STR.
Noble: Noble also fits pretty well, and you can use the vengeance as more of a noble cause than what the PHB describes it. Plus, having some retrainers could be handy in roleplay situations and downtime.
(Optionally, you can follow the Custom Backgrounds rule in the PHB p.125)
You gain Ability Score Increases at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.
As a frontline tank and damage dealer, you want to prioritize STR/DEX and then CON or CHA. When choosing between STR and DEX for your build, keep the following questions in mind:
- Are you looking to maximize your damage by using a greatsword + Great Weapon Master build? If so, you’ll need to go STR.
- Are you looking to sacrifice some damage output for versatility outside of combat? If so, DEX is the way to go.
STR gives you the most bang for your buck when it comes to damage. DEX makes you able to stealth and use ranged weapons.
CHA is useful when you’re looking to play more of a support/tank. With Vengeance Paladins, the most optimal route is DPS/tank, which means stacking into CON over CHA. The Oath of Vengeance features are focused on one thing: obliterating single target enemies. You can excel at this without any CHA, just spend all of your spell slots on smites and use spells that aren’t affected by your spellcasting modifier. Luckily, even Vengeance Paladins are able to dedicate some resources to CHA, even after STR and CON are maxed out and feats are brought into the picture.
Long story short, Vengeance Paladins committed to dealing damage should focus on STR followed by CON and CHA.
STR: Your most important stat as a melee frontliner. This increases your damage the most, as Paladins don’t fare well as a DEX-based damage dealer.
DEX: While you can go for medium armor and DEX for a sort of duelist-style paladin, the damage output doesn’t compare against a STR build. Paladins with big two-handed weapons deal way more damage overall, and you’ll have better AC in heavy armor. DEX builds will, however, enjoy more options for stealth, range, and will have a better time succeeding in the all-important DEX saving throws.
CON: Since you’re mainly in the fray, you’ll want to have a high CON to stay alive. Most parties in my experience leave it all to the Paladin for tanking, so you’ll want to make sure you can survive the hits and dish them back out. Also important if you plan to concentrate on spells while in combat.
INT: Not really important at all for Paladins. Dump stat.
WIS: WIS doesn’t offer a lot for Paladins outside of saving throws and Perception checks, so it’s pretty much a dump stat.
CHA: Having a good CHA helps make sure your spells stick, mainly all single-target hold effects. It also helps with some other paladin abilities, such as Aura of Protection and Divine Sense.
Vengeance Paladin Class Progression
Hit Dice: You start with a d10 hit dice, which is great for all the tanking you will be doing.
Saves: Oath of Vengeance Paladins gain access to some very powerful concentration spells. Not having proficiency in CON saving throws is something that Oath of Vengeance builds will want to change with Feats.
Proficiencies: You have access to everything in the game that you can wear or swing, so you’re already set.
Skills: Because you’re much more combat-focused than other subclasses, this is your chance to pick up some relevant skills for RP. Refer to the 5e Paladin Guide.
Divine Sense: Refer to the 5e Paladin Guide.
Lay on Hands: Being the party’s tank, single target lockdown, and damage output make it difficult for Vengeance Paladins to heal while their party members are in the thick of combat. That being said, the Lay on Hands feature will still be massively beneficial if their health starts getting low or a teammate needs healing out of initiative.
Fighting Style: Refer to the 5e Paladin Guide to overview all of the Fighting Style options.
- Defense: Oath of Vengeance paladins love going for heavy weapon + Great Weapon Master builds. Defense helps make up for the lack of a shield.
- Dueling: For those who prefer to go sword-and-board. This option helps the more defense-oriented builds keep pace with heavy weapon builds.
- Great Weapon Fighting: At first glace, this looks like the best style for DPS. Though in reality, the effect is quite marginal and less effective than Defense.
- Blessed Warrior: For some decent cantrips and a ranged damage option, if you feel like switching it up.
Spellcasting: Oath of Vengeance will love their smites even more than oath Paladin builds, which will take up a lot of spell slots. The downside here is that the Oath of Vengeance’s spell list is one of the best out there. Vengeance Paladins will frequently find themselves debating how to best use their limited resources.
Divine Smite: Oath of Vengeance’s features focus a lot on granting more attacks and providing advantage on said attacks. This means more crits and more crits means more supernova smites.
Divine Health: Refer to the 5e Paladin Guide.
Sacred Oath: Oath of Vengeance
Channel Divinity: You get two pretty great Channel Divinities here, with one being the actual reason you pick this Oath.
- Abjure Enemy: The Frightened condition is a very strong mechanic. Great for boss fights and crowd control.
- Vow of Enmity: This is is your immediate go-to when you’re fighting a big baddie. Always-on advantage means you will rarely miss your target, and paired with Great Weapon Fighting, you can always keep that damage coming. Plus, getting advantage on each attack roll is just nasty with an Vengeance Paladin, not only will you be hitting more but you will be critting more. This allows you to double your smite damage with regularity.
Oath of Vengeance Spells: Most of these spells are for movement or stopping your target from moving. They’re much more combat-oriented than other spell lists, but you at least have a few options.
- Bane: Bless is considered a better spell, but Bane can certainly help make your friendlies harder to hit.
- Hunter’s Mark: Just like Rangers, this is a bread-and-butter spell to get the most out of your damage and probably one of the few spells you’ll cast in almost every combat.
- Misty Step: One of the best movement options in the game, especially around this level.It’s high mobility to get you as close as possible to your target and a bonus action so you can swing right after.
- Hold Person: One of the strongest spells in the game against Humanoids, but will only work on those.
- 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: Solid defensive buff option
- Banishment: Extremely good spell against single opponents. Could be hard to cast if you dump CHA.
- Dimension Door: Sure, Banishment is neat. However, Dimension Door can get you out of trouble quickly as well as getting up close and personal. I’ve seen and heard plenty of stories where casting Dimension Door saved someone’s bacon from getting fried.
- Hold Monster: Better version Hold Person. Keep in mind that the target will get two save attempts before you are able to hit them (assuming you’re not hasted).
- Scrying: Paladins don’t usually have this spell and it can have its uses, as situational as it may be.
Extra Attack: Action economy is critical, which means your DPS will effectively double from here on out. This makes all of your other combat tools even better since you’re hitting more often.
Aura of Protection: While it may seem like spells are your main reason to pump your CHA. This, in fact, is the real reason. Giving your allies within 10ft a bonus to their saving throws equal to your CHA modifier is absolutely massive.
Relentless Avenger: One of your crucial mobility options when you’re in combat. It allows you to zip around a battlefield without risking opportunity attacks and pairs well when you’re under the effects of Haste. This also pairs extremely well with two of the Oath of Vengeance’s favorite feats, Polearm Master and Sentinel.
Aura of Courage: Refer to the 5e Paladin Guide.
Improved Divine Smite: This is meant to help level out the damage output between Paladins and Fighters as Paladins don’t get as many attacks. This feature looks even better on Vengeance Paladins because they will have more opportunities to get advantage, thus a higher rate of connecting on their attacks. Hitting more frequently on your buffed-out strikes will allow your damage to outpace most martial builds. This class feature pairs well with Polearm Master and Sentinel as well.
Cleansing Touch: Refer to the 5e Paladin Guide.
Soul of Vengeance: This is the last power spike you’ll get as a Paladin, and boy is it a spike. This is where you’ll genuinely shine in combat and become a real force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. You’ll more than likely always use your reaction for this ability.
Avenging Angel: The iconic capstone of this subclass, offering you a considerable boost in movement as well as flight. The fright-provoking aura has a massive radius and any creatures that fail against the effect can’t move closer and have disadvantage on their attacks. The frightened condition ends if they take any damage but seeing as you’ll have advantage on your strike against them, at least you’ll make it count. The fact that this lasts for an hour means that you’ll be avenging for a pretty long time and dish out a lot of vengeance.
Best Feats for Vengeance Paladins
Everybody loves feats. They’re the best way to make your character truly custom to your playstyle. Since you’ll mainly be in melee for every combat, picking up feats that help you stay up close and personal are the best. There are quite a few feats that really synergize with the Oath of Vengeance playstyle. Your toughest job will be to chose which to pick up with your limited ASIs.
- Great Weapon Master: This pairs well with heavy weapons like two-handers, which I recommend for this build. It’s a mighty feat in early levels because if you manage to one-shot an enemy with the second ability, you’ll get to attack again with your bonus action. The penalty to the second ability is easily offset by your Vow of Enmity feature.
- Heavy Armor Master: The STR increase is excellent if you still need to squeeze out those last few points between ASI’s. Since you should be in heavy armor as soon as possible, the damage reduction can help in the early levels while you still have a low AC.
- Lucky: Just a straight-up, darn good feat for builds that will be swinging as much as Vengeance Paladins.
- Mage Slayer: This can be a great asset, depending on what campaign you’re playing in. If you know there are a lot of spellcasters you’re going to be dealing with; this lets you sneak in more attacks with your reaction. Since Vengeance Paladins don’t get much use of their reactions until 15th level, this can give you somewhat of an edge.
- Polearm Master: This is definitely one of the more busted feats for Vengeance Paladins. The number of opportunity attacks this will net you in a single encounter will be substantive. Plus, if you’re fishing for a smite and end up missing your initial attacks, you can use your bonus action to try to hit. Pair with Defense Fighting Style, Sentinel, and the Relentless Avenger feature for pure insanity.
- Resilient (CON): Resilient (CON) grants and +1 to CON and proficiency in CON saving throws. Vengeance Paladins want to be on the frontlines, so the extra CON will help with HP. The increased CON score and proficiency with CON saving throws will also be great for their concentration-heavy spellcasting.
- Slasher: If you choose to go this route, you should be using a greatsword or a two-handed ax. This feat allows you to keep enemies close to you and makes it harder for them to hit you back as a result.
- Sentinel: Because you’re going to be a heavy-armored, divine smiting, engine of death, your enemies will likely try to take out your allies first. This feature allows you to protect your weaker teammates and will help you land extra hits (that can trigger extra smites!). At 15th-level when you get Soul of Vengeance, this feat starts to feel a little redundant because you will have plenty of uses for your reaction. That said, it’s still far from useless. It can help if the target of your Vow of Enmity is out of range while you’re protecting a teammate. It can also help if your Vow’s target tries to hit you then run off.
- 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. This can combo extremely well if you’ve cast haste on yourself. First action: attack twice, bonus action: shield master shove, second action: attack with advantage, profit. All of that plus the defensive bonuses makes this a very tempting feat.
- War Caster: War Caster isn’t a required feat Paladins, even though they are some of the most prominent melee spellcasters. Typically, builds that use a sword and shield who want to cast spells will run into issues because they need a free hand for somatic and material components of those spells. Paladins have the ability to adorn their spellcasting focus on their shields. This means that they can cast spells that require somatic and non-costly materials without having to free up a hand. One of the biggest draws to picking up War Caster is the ability to perform somatic components of spells while you have a sword and shield in hand. That said, there is plenty of other value for War Caster, mainly that it grants advantage on CON checks made for retaining concentration. There are plenty of powerful Oath of Vengeance spells that require concentration, this feat helps you make sure you don’t lose concentration on spells while in combat. The ability to cast spells with a single target as an opportunity attack isn’t that appealing to paladins as they will want to use their weapon attack + smite instead.
Best Spells for Vengeance Paladins
Normally, we would walk you through the best spells to prepare for each level of spell available. In the Oath of Vengeance Paladin’s case, their Oath Spells are better than just about any vanilla Paladin spell available. This is compounded by the fact that Paladins, and specifically Oath of Vengeance Paladins, want to hang on to their spell slots as much as possible for smites means that spells don’t matter much to Vengeance Paladins.
The good news here is you don’t need to worry about which spells to prepare each day. Just make sure you have revivify and you’re good to go!
If you’d like to see which spells we recommend for a typical Oath of Vengeance build, check out the section below.
Example Vengeance Paladin Build
As mentioned before, the Oath of Vengeance Paladin is excellent for melee combat. Heavy armor and a giant two-handed weapon means you’ll be shaking off blows while dealing some pretty good hits back. You can get any two-handed slashing weapon you want, but you’ll need to upgrade to heavy armor as fast as you can. The Defense Fighting Style will help boost your AC because you’ll be too busy swinging your great weapon with both hands to wear a shield.
Starting out, you’ll want to go through and try to be as beefy as you can while using your spell slots for Divine Smite or hunter’s mark against more challenging foes. Because you have limited spell slots, you’re going to prioritize smites over spells in most cases.
We’re going to be going with a Half-Orc, as their racial stats are exactly what we want as a Paladin. Relentless Endurance is great for survivability and Savage Attack synergizes well with the advantage provided by Vow of Enmity.
The spells provided in the example below are a good baseline. Obviously your needs will change over the course of an adventuring day and spells should be changed out at the end of a long rest to best suit your current situation. Spells marked by an asterisk (*) are Oath Spells and are always prepared.
As for ability scores, this is where we need to make some tough choices. Paladins can certainly get by (and excel) without stacking into CHA. This means that spellcasting will become less of a focus due to poor spell save DC. This also means that your beautiful Aura of Protection feature won’t be as effective in the long run. With that in mind, this build allows you access to some amazing feats early on (Great Weapon Master and Heavy Armor Master) and allows you to max your STR and CON over the long run. I can guarantee you won’t be missing your utility spells when you’re cutting monsters in half with your greatsword + Vow of Enmity + GWM + Divine Smite.
Other Paladin Subclass Guides
Sources Used in This Guide
- Basic Rules
- Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
- Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
- Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
- Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
- Monsters of the Multiverse
- Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
- Mythic Odyessys of Theros
- Player's Handbook
- Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
- Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
- Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- The Tortle Package
- The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
- Volo's Guide to Monsters
- Xanathar’s Guide to Everything