Best Paladin Races in D&D 5e

Published on April 26, 2024

Choose your Paladin’s origin wisely with our breakdown of playable races in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. Discover which races offer unique advantages and abilities tailored to your holy crusader.

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the best races for the 5e paladin. For the full overview of the paladin class, check out our paladin class guide.

To allow you to scan through the options quickly, 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

Best Races for Paladins

Embodied bastions of virtue and righteousness, paladins stand as paragons of honor and guardians of the divine. In Dungeons & Dragons, these holy warriors draw their strength from unwavering convictions and their sacred oaths, manifesting their devotion through righteous might and miraculous abilities.

Paladins are considered the most well-rounded martial class; they are imbued with divine magic which enables spellcasting, have solid damage output thanks to smite, can tank because of their d10 hit die and armor proficiencies, and have healing capabilities.

When selecting the race for your paladin character, you’ll need to consider both the thematic elements and the mechanical advantages. While any race can embody the ideals of a paladin, certain races offer better synergies than others. If you aren’t playing with races that provide any ability score increase (post Witchlight or Tasha’s Customizing Your Origin races), you’ll definitely want to stick to a race that increases your Charisma, Strength, and/or Constitution.

Otherwise, additional spellcasting can be helpful to fill out your paladin’s half-caster spell slots (which are mainly used for Divine Smites). You can also look for racial features that increase you ability to be the party’s social face, or deal more damage in combat.

Standard Races

  • Chromatic: Great option to make your paladin more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage. Unfortunately you only get one extra attack as a paladin and you'll be focused on landing your attack to make sure you can smite. Still, the option to use an AoE if your enemies are lined up properly is always a good choice to have in combat.
  • Metallic: Solid choice for paladins that have pumped their CON modifier. The breath weapon can help with AoE damage, something that paladins struggle with, and the Repulsion Breath could offer a chance to make an attack with advantage for extra smite potential.
  • Standard: +2 to STR and +1 to CHA make dragonborn an ideal race for paladins. Combine this with the Breath Weapon and damage reduction and you are looking at a very strong base build.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for a paladin. The extra attack from Vengeful Assault helps with dishing out more damage and landing smites.
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: Most paladins will take +2 bonuses to STR and CON all day.
Elf: You're likely not going to play an Elf as a Paladin. Elves get a bonus to DEX, free Perception proficiency, and Darkvision, all of which aren't very important for Paladins.
  • Eladrin: Interesting ASI array if you're going for a DEX-based paladin. Unfortunately, STR-based paladin's are usually too multi-ability dependant to give up a bonus to STR or CON just for misty step.
  • Mark of Shadow: No STR or CON, so paladins choosing the Mark of Shadow will likely be focusing on DEX fighting. While you may not be able to build a particularly tanky Mark of Shadow paladin, they will have tons of utility due to the extra spells and bonus to stealth.
Gnome: INT is useless for a paladin.
Half-Elf: Half-Elves get a buff to CHA and get two free Ability Score Increases (ASIs). This combined with Dark Vision and two free skills make Half-Elves one of the best races for Paladins.
Half-Orc: Half-orcs get you a STR and CON bonus, both of which are perfect for paladins. Darkvision is nice, proficiency in Intimidation will help your face skills, Relentless Endurance is a nice bonus, and Savage Attacks is just plain savage with smite crits.
Halfling: Paladins really want to be focusing more on STR, CON, and CHA more than the Halflings ASIs provide.
  • Mark of Passage: No CHA for spellcasting, but Mark of Passage could lay the groundwork for a really cool DEX paladin with plenty of movement options.
  • Mark of Sentinel: +2 CON is welcome, as is the extra spells granted by Spells of the Mark. A free casting of shield can go a long way to help paladins hold onto spell slots for Divine Smites and the ability to swap with an attacked party member will help them tank. All around a great choice, even though the ASIs aren't on point.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for paladins.
Tiefling: Paladins are right at home with CHA bonuses. STR and DEX subraces will determine weapon and armor choices.
  • Bloodline of Dispater: DEX and CHA is a good combination, and spells will work well for a sneaky character.
  • Bloodline of Glasya: DEX and CHA is a good combination, and spells will work well for a sneaky character.
  • Bloodline of Levistus: CHA, CON, and some great defensive options for a tank paladin.
  • Bloodline of Mephistopheles: +2 CHA, good spells, and useful racial traits.
  • Bloodline of Zariel: STR and CHA is perfect for a paladin, and free smite spells is the cherry on top.
  • Variant – Devil’s Tongue: Useful spells that expand on what the paladin can do for the party, especially vicious mockery.
  • Variant – Feral: This is a great option if you want to lose out on some spellcasting with CHA to go all-in on a DEX build.
  • Variant – Hellfire: Replacing hellish rebuke with burning hands is personal preference, so this subrace is just as good as the Asmodeus.
  • Variant – Winged: Combined with Feral this could make a very interesting DEX-based paladin that can fly around.

Non-Standard Races

Aarakocra: Paladins will want to be on the ground and tanking. Plus, their ranged options are awful.
Aasimar: This is THE Paladin race. +2 CHA, extra healing, a useful cantrip, and damage resistances.
Air Genasi: The additional spells and spell slots will go a way to boost the half-caster paladin's spellcasting effectiveness. The extra movement speed, Darkvision, and damage resistance are all additional benefits.
Astral Elf: Because of your high CHA, sacred flame offers an effective ranged option. The mobility offered by Starlight Step will allow you to navigate the battlefield and get to where your smites can make the biggest difference.
Auto Gnome: Paladins rarely stack into DEX, which makes the auto gnome's natural armor a less tempting option than simply throwing on some heavy armor. Beyond this, the healing, extra survivability, and d4 to attack rolls are all tempting, but there are better options for paladins out there.
Bugbear: The STR bonus is useful and paladins are classic Polearm Master/Sentinel candidates, making good use of Long-Limbed. The proficiency in Stealth can help your disadvantage while wearing heavy armor.
  • Updated: DEX-based paladins could be a reasonable option, though they only get one Extra Attack.
Centaur: The +2 to STR and the Charge ability are perfect for paladins.
  • Updated: With flexible ASIs, the centaur is great for just about any melee paladin build.
Changeling: CHA is perfect for spellcasting and combines nicely with the free skill proficiencies from Changeling Instincts.
  • Updated: Not much changes for the paladin with the updated changeling as they will still likely take some combination of CHA, STR, and DEX.
Deep Gnome: Because of your Aura of Protection, you already have access to the best thing the deep gnome race offers. Of course, you could always double down and likely never fail a INT, WIS, or CHA save against an enemy's spell but, there are more exciting options out there. They also can't wield heavy weapons, which limits their effectiveness from a pure damage perspective.
Duergar: As a paladin, you won't be doing a ton of sneaking. But, when you do, the improved Darkvision and free casting of invisibility can give you the upperhand. You'll also love the ability to cast enlarge/reduce for a bit of extra damage on your hits, as well as the damage resistances. Overall, a really solid race for paladins.
Earth Genasi: A solid option for paladin who want to increase their survivability, movement options, and out-of-combat utility.
Eladrin: Paladins love the ability to misty step in battle. Whether they need to close in with an enemy or get out of the thick of it to be healed, a bonus action teleport is extraordinarily useful. Now, stack on the different rider effects from the Fey Step's seasons and it's even better. Obviously the paladin's favorite will be the Summer ability because they're most likely to teleport into a large group of enemy to maximize the damage they put out. That said, the Winter ability would also be nice as it will allow them to focus fire on an enemy without risking too much incursion. On top of this, the passive abilities of the eladrin are nice to have, especially Fey Ancestry which can help resist nasty mind-control effects. Some paladin subclasses get access to misty step, but with their lack of spell slots most paladins will appreciate the free added mobility so they can focus on smiting instead.
Fairy: Unfortunately, fairies just don't work as paladins. Their heavy armor restricts flight, they can't use heavy weapons without popping their once-a-day enlarge/reduce, and they don't really have any ranged options that make the exclusion of those two things worthwhile.
Firbolg: The +2 to WIS is going to be wasted, except for when you cast your Firbolg Magic spells. The +1 to STR and Powerful Build is nice. Being able to go invisible and cast some limited spells can improve your utility to your party.
  • Updated: With the freedom to choose STR, DEX, and CHA, the firbolg becomes a more attractive choice for a paladin. The spells and effects here are nice, especially invisibility, as paladins typically can't get access to that. Disguise self and Speech of Beast and Leaf can be useful given a higher CHA score.
Fire Genasi: Some nice damage spells that paladins don't normally learn, plus a common damage resistance is enough to make the fire genasi worthwhile. Keep in mind that you can't use extra attacks with flame blade, so it's better to attack with your mundane weapon most of the time.
  • Earth: The earth genasi provides great ability score increases for a STR paladin, improved movement options, and a reliable way to be stealthy as a paladin, even in heavy armor.
Giff: Some extra force damage to boost your damage output and advantage on STR checks and saving throws are solid boons for a paladin.
Gith: INT is useless for a paladin.
  • Githyanki: STR is good for paladins, but they are too multi-ability dependent to waste an ability score increase on INT. Nothing besides the STR on the githyanki is interesting for a paladin.
Goblin: Because paladins rely on several ability scores, a lack of both STR and CHA is not ideal. Despite this, DEX and CON are still useful and the goblin’s racial traits add extra movement options and boosted damage.
  • Updated: Paladins do get the boosted damage from Fury of the Small, but hiding and disengaging isn't typically what they want to be doing.
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.
  • Updated: An excellent choice for any tanking paladin. Stone's Endurance will keep you on your feet much longer, allowing you to heal and assist your allies as they deal big damage.
Hadozee: Damage reduction and a couple movement options is an alright start for fighters.
Harengon: Going higher in initiative, getting a bit of extra perception, avoiding AoE damage, and some extra movement options are all things a paladin can work with.
Hobgoblin: Paladins are too multi-ability score dependent to choose a hobgoblin.
  • Updated: Paladins can do very well in a supporting role, and Fey Gift enhances this and is a powerful use of your bonus action when you don't need it to cast spells.
Kalashtar: Paladins are very multi-ability dependent, so not seeing STR, DEX, or CON and only have +1 CHA will not cut it.
Kender: Kender work surprising well for paladins because they normally stack into CHA and don't have a ton of bonus action options, so Taunt will work well. Unfortunately, you won't be able to wield a heavy weapon, which isn't the end of the world. Last but not least, your Fearless ability is very on brand for a heroic paladin.
Kenku: Paladins can be quite good when focused on DEX, although the WIS is largely wasted and would rather be seen in either CON or CHA.
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.
  • Updated: The updated kobold is really good for paladins. Draconic Cry will always be useful as you'll likely be in melee range, and paladins like to buff their allies. Draconic sorcery can get you booming blade or green-flame blade, opening up more combat options in battle and improving your damage beyond the few attacks and smites you can do each turn.
Leonin: Perfect ability score array, the bonus to your walking speed can help you close with enemies, and your Daunting Roar can provide a massive debuff to enemies you're in close quarters with.
  • Dhampir: Some extra movement is useful for closing with enemies and the Vampiric Bite will be at it's best with your pumped out CON modifier.
  • Hexblood: If your paladin doesn't already use a lot of concentration spells, hex is an insanely good value spell to help boost your damage. The utility from disguise self and the Eerie Token effects is a cherry on the cake.
Lizardfolk: WIS is basically pointless for paladins since they depend on several other ability scores. Hungry Jaws also doesn’t look too exciting as paladins are already experts at healing and self-preservation. A DEX-based paladin will work as they won’t depend on STR and heavy armor for AC.
Loxodon: Paladins need to focus on quite a few stats, and WIS isn’t one of them. However, a STR build could dump DEX and use Natural Armor, thereby freeing up enough stat points for STR and CHA.
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 work very well with STR due to the 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.
Plasmoid: Some defensive bonuses, some utility, and advantage on grappling are decent bonuses. But, your Amorphous ability will be hard to use if you're lugging around a greatsword and heavy armor.
Satyr: +2 CHA is a great start as it pumps your spellcasting ability modifier. Magic Resistance will be great for tanking and the extra movement can help you close the gap with enemies to unleash your smites.
Shadar-kai: The ability to use misty step in battle is highly valued by paladins, as it allows them to swiftly approach or retreat from enemies, as well as get a free Disengage when necessary. Additionally, the added benefit of damage resistance from Blessing of the Raven Queen, combined with the necrotic resistance it provides, creates a powerful combination of both mobility and survivability.
  • Beasthide Shifter: Excellent choice for a tanky frontline paladin.
  • Longtooth Shifter: Excellent choice for a damage dealing STR paladin.
  • Swiftstride Shifter: DEX-based paladins can choose the swiftstride shifter for the DEX boost as well as CHA for their spellcasting.
Simic Hybrid: Paladins can be built in many ways and are multi-ability dependent, so the flexible ability score can go to STR, DEX, or CHA. Keep in mind that Carapace won’t work with heavy armor.
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.
Thri-kreen: Wearing heavy armor will negate most of the benefits of Chameleon Carapace, but weilding a shortsword in your Secondary Arms allows you to offhand attack each turn while still toting a greatsword or other heavy weapon. This can amount to some solid extra damage, especially when combined with Improved Divine Smite, and the opportunity to land a smite if you missed with your other attacks.
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.
Vedalken: Paladins are very multi-ability dependent, so not seeing STR, DEX, CON, or CHA is bad news.
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.
Water Genasi: The damage resistance is nice to help you tank, but acid damage won't come up often.
Yuan-ti Pureblood: Although paladins really want some STR or DEX to go with their CHA, the yuan-ti offers a racial trait that is just too good to ignore. Without STR or DEX your paladin may not be the best at swinging a weapon, but they’ll excel at casting spells. Combining high AC, Magic Resistance, and Poison Immunity, a yuan-ti pureblood paladin will be really hard to take out of a fight.

Sources Used in This Guide

  • BR: Basic Rules
  • GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
  • SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
  • ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
  • EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  • FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
  • GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
  • MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
  • MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
  • MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
  • PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
  • PHB: Player's Handbook
  • SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
  • TTP: The Tortle Package
  • WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
  • VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Other Paladin Guides

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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