Why Play a Paladin in D&D?
Paladins. In the world of D&D they have always been a bit of an unusual class. As of yet, I am yet to meet a player who actually regularly plays a Paladin. As a class, they have a certain amount of stigma associated with them due to the old AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) rules of yore, where they had to be lawful good, and were restrained beyond belief. If someone wanted to play a Paladin then they would effectively be determining the characters of the entire group based on what would naturally go with that class. The answer was simple. Nothing. Nothing went with a Paladin back then. This was up to, but not including, Dungeons and Dragons v.4.
Instead, when the later editions of Dungeons and Dragons came out, Paladins received a lot of love. Their abilities became more helpful in a group setting, and they even became better fighters. What is more, the oaths that Paladins could then take opened them up, meaning there was a lot more scope for players to be able to play the character they wanted to play, rather than having their hands forced by the rules.
Why play a Paladin? Well, Version 5 Paladins are, for want of a better word, really fun characters to play, and also really kind of badass at the same time.
For The Light
At Level 1, the Paladin is a pretty good healer and they just get better and better as the game progresses. Unlike the Cleric, the Paladin doesn’t use magic to heal. Instead, they have a pool of healing points which is their Paladin level times five. They can divide these out as they want, using up five to cure a disease or a poison, or using them one HP at a time to heal teammates.
Where this is not necessarily as effective as curing wounds with a Cleric, the Paladin does mean it is not 100% necessary to have a Cleric in the party. If there is a Cleric, then the Paladin can free the Cleric up to take other spells if they want. They can take other spells such as Sanctuary or Command, whilst having Spare the Dying as a cantrip, just to save people the Paladin can’t get to in time.
Why is this useful? The ability that gives the Paladin the healing prowess (Lay on Hands) is an ability and not a spell. This means that, as the Paladin grows in level, as they gain spell slots at level 2, they do not need to use one of those slots to heal. Instead, those slots can be used either for stronger abilities, or for the incredibly awesome Divine Smite and one of the key reasons to play a Paladin.
“I’ll Smite Thee”
Divine Smite is a level 2 Paladin ability that is jaw-droppingly good at high levels. For the sake of using up one spell slot, a Paladin may channel the power of all that is good through their weapon, imbuing it with pure divinity. It adds 2D8 damage to the weapon for that smite, and +1D8 for each spell level higher than 1st whose slot is taken up. This tops off at a maximum of 5D8, with an extra 1D8 damage against undead or fiends. That’s a whopping 6D8.
But wait – once the Paladin gets to 11th level, they gain an additional 1D8 damage on top of their standard attack. This can be added to Divine Smite. So, for those counting, that’s a maximum of 7D8 additional damage against undead or fiend enemies, and 6D8 against everyone else.
What this suddenly means is that a Paladin, on a single hit, can wipe out most challenge rating 3 or 4 monsters, without applying any weapon specific effects, with one lucky hit. It means that they can effectively end a fight with something CR 6 before it ever really begins by reducing it down so far that the fight becomes pointless. It means that, if the Paladin uses two attacks then it can destroy almost anything within two or three turns. Brutal, and amazingly effective.
Swearing To Uphold The Good
Of course, like all classes, being a Paladin really has its benefits later on in the game. These include the Oath of Devotion, Oath of the Ancients, and Oath of Vengeance in the base Player’s Handbook depending on what it is exactly that you want to play. All of these are sworn to uphold the good and comes with its own abilities at higher levels. Oath of Devotion, for instance, comes with Sacred Weapon, which allows you to add your Charisma modifier to attack rolls. Oath of the Ancients has bonuses against Fey creatures, allowing you to turn those. Oath of Vengeance allows you to be a little more lax with your alignment, doing good by any means necessary.
Where Paladins really get kicked up a notch, however, comes in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the supplement for D&D Version 5. These give more options as to why play a Paladin, with two new Oaths – Oath of Conquest and Oath of Redemption. The two new oaths are polar opposites to one another, with Conquest allowing you to become the incarnation of the Angel of Death and Redemption allowing you to become almost entirely indestructible.
Redemption is particularly interesting, as it turns the gameplay of D&D on its head. This is a character class that is almost entirely pacifist, allowing it to be (kind of) classified as a bit of a fluffy class. That is until someone tries to hit a Paladin with the Oath of Redemption once they reach the higher levels. Then good luck to them. A large chunk of that damage comes right back on to them.
Why Play A Paladin? Because They’re Badass Incarnate
I saw an amazing meme the other day that said, and I quote, “Lawful Good does not always mean Lawful Nice” and this could not be truer than with the new Paladin and all that they can stand for. Gone are the days of rules and restrictions, and here is the age of glorious battle for the rule of good. Not only can they heal in a way that makes them useful to have around, but they can fight and stand their ground better than a lot of the other classes out there. They can be the angel of mercy, or they can be the angel of death. The choice is out of the hands of the rules, and into the hands of the player.
I think it is safe to say that Paladins have had a bit of a refresh in these later versions of Dungeons and Dragons. They are no longer a class of highly specialised and restricted fighters, but instead have a whole host of abilities (passive and active) that not only make them forces to reckon with in the D&D world, but also really fun to play.
So, the question – what do you think of Paladins? Have you ever played one or have the urge to play one? Or have you always left them by the wayside? Let me know in the comments below.