Among the most solemn vows in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons are the sacred oaths sworn by paladins. These mighty warriors pledge themselves to lofty ideals and strict codes of conduct, gaining extraordinary divine powers in exchange for their commitment to upholding justice and righteousness.
But not all paladins walk the same path. There are a diverse range of oaths that paladins may take, each reflecting distinctive values and philosophies. Understanding these oaths is key to embodying the paladin's soul and bringing their ideals to life at the game table. This definitive guide will explore the most prominent paladin oaths in DnD 5th edition, from their solemn tenets to effective character builds.
The Pillars of Devotion
Paladins who take the Oath of Devotion embody the archetypal holy warrior, crusading for justice and goodness. Their oath binds them to the loftiest virtues – compassion, honor, duty, and justice.
The Tenets of Devotion
Paladins of Devotion must hold fast to these tenets:
- Honesty – Don't lie or cheat. Let your word be your promise.
- Courage – Never fear to act, though caution is wise.
- Compassion – Aid others, protect the weak, and punish those who threaten them. Show mercy to your foes when it is within your power.
- Honor – Treat others with fairness, and let your honorable deeds be an example to them. Do as much good as possible while causing the least amount of harm.
- Duty – Be responsible for your actions and their consequences. Protect those entrusted to your care. Obey those who have just authority over you.
These values uphold the paladin as a paragon of justice and virtue. While the tenets seem straightforward, living up to them in a chaotic world full of moral quandaries can prove challenging. A Devotion paladin must always strive to take the high road and serve as a beacon of light.
The Abilities of Devotion
To aid the Devotion paladin in their crusade for righteousness, their oath grants these key abilities:
- Aura of Devotion – This aura protects the paladin and allies within 10 feet from being charmed or frightened. The protection emanates from the paladin's strong conviction.
- Turn the Unholy – The paladin can use divine energy to turn away fiends and undead. Any such creature within 30 feet that can see or hear the paladin must make a Wisdom save or be turned for 1 minute or until the paladin is incapacitated. Turned creatures must spend their turns trying to move as far away from the paladin as possible, without willingly moving closer. They cannot willingly target the paladin with harmful abilities or attacks.
- Sacred Weapon – As a bonus action, the paladin can imbue their weapon with divine radiance. For 1 minute, the weapon gains a +5 bonus to attack rolls, emits bright light for 30 feet, and dim light for an additional 30 feet.
These powers amplify the Devotion paladin's capability to smite evil and protect the innocent. Their oath allows them to drive back the sinister forces of undeath and demonkind.
Playing a Devotion Paladin
When roleplaying a paladin of Devotion, these personality traits reflect their oath:
- I quote sacred texts and proverbs in conversation.
- I am tolerant and respectful of other faiths and cultures.
- I never make commitments lightly or break sworn oaths.
- I give generously to those in need. Charity is sacrosanct.
- My sword and armor are polished to a mirror sheen.
Devotion paladins often form strong bonds and ideals tied to their oaths:
- Bonds – I have sworn to protect the common folk from tyranny and evil. My family farm was destroyed by marauding orcs. I will avenge this wrong.
- Ideals – Hope. I believe that light and goodness will triumph over darkness. (Good)
- Flaws – I am inflexible and sometimes oblivious in social situations. I take honesty to an extreme.
In interactions with others, Devotion paladins are likely to:
- Resolve conflicts through mediation and nonviolence when possible. Talk before drawing swords.
- Encourage fair laws that protect the common citizenry.
- Prefer working with those committed to honor and justice.
- Avoid lies, tricks, and underhanded approaches during negotiations.
- Refuse to ignore injustice, even if following the law to the letter leads to an undesirable outcome.
By embracing these traits fully, you'll embody the Devotion paladin's mix of kindness, fairness, and commitment to their oath. Your character will serve as a moral compass for their adventuring party.
Playing an Effective Devotion Paladin
An effective Devotion paladin combines their oath features with class abilities to excel at fighting evil and protecting allies. Here are some recommendations:
- Maximize Charisma first to boost your spellcasting and lay on hands. High Charisma also expands your Aura of Devotion.
- Take the Protection fighting style to impose disadvantage on attacks against allies. You are their shield.
- Choose options like Shield Master and Inspiring Leader to improve defense and bolster your allies.
- Spells like protection from evil and daylight synergize extremely well with your oath.
By specializing in these areas, you'll embody the ultimate protector and become a bastion of hope against the encroaching darkness.
Spirits of the Ancients
Where Devotion paladins represent the bright light of hope and justice, paladins who swear the Oath of the Ancients instead draw power from the mysterious essence of nature itself. They are blessed by the untamed magic of the wilderness.
The Tenets of the Ancients
Paladins who swear this oath commit to these ideals:
- Kindling the Light – Ignite the joy and beauty of life within yourself and help others do the same. Find happiness through freedom and wanderlust.
- Shelter the Light – Protect beauty wherever you find it. Stand vigilant against forces that would corrupt the light. Lead by inspiration, not tyranny.
- Preserve Your Own Light – Delight in life's simple pleasures. Do not lose yourself to cynicism or despair.
- Be the Light – Be a glorious beacon for all who live in despair. Let the light you cultivate within uplift others through your presence and courage.
This oath values the wonder of the natural world and draws strength from its fierce, primal magic. Ancients paladins defend life and light against the encroaching darkness.
The Abilities of the Ancients
The Ancients oath grants these key powers:
- Aura of Warding – The paladin gains resistance to damage from spells, extending 10 feet to protect allies. This embodies the wild magic now a part of them.
- Turn the Faithless – As an action, the paladin forces fey or fiends within 30 feet to make a Wisdom save or be turned for 1 minute or until the paladin is incapacitated.Turned creatures must spend their turns trying to move away from the paladin and cannot willingly move closer or target them.
- Undying Sentinel – When the paladin is reduced to 0 hit points and is not killed outright, they can choose to drop to 1 hit point instead. This magical resilience can activate once per long rest.
These abilities allow Ancients paladins to draw on primal magic to protect themselves and channel that power against unnatural evil forces.
Playing an Ancients Paladin
Ancients paladins reflect nature's unpredictability in their personalities:
- I feel most at home far from civilization, under the open sky.
- I love exploring the wilds and discovering natural wonders.
- Pessimists and naysayers dampen my mood; I remain upbeat despite the circumstances.
- I bond easily with animals and nature spirits. I love their company.
- My armor is etched with motifs of leaves, vines, and flowers. I avoid unnecessary ostentation.
Their oaths likewise tie them to the wilderness:
- Bonds – So long as the mountains stand, I will protect my forest home from harm.
- Ideals – Freedom. All people should find joy and solace wandering the great forests and wilds. (Chaotic Good)
- Flaws – I'd risk my life to protect a sacred grove or ancient tree. My feelings overwhelm my judgment at times.
In social dynamics, Ancients paladins are prone to:
- Encourage others to find wonder and joy in nature's beauty. A gloomy tavern could use some fresh flowers.
- Speak out against practices that despoil the natural world. Those who destroy nature must be stopped.
- Prefer open sky to cramped dungeons and cities. Rough terrain invigorates me.
- Get restless spending too much time indoors. I need to roam free and far.
- React strongly to perceived threats toward sites or creatures of natural beauty that I care about. My passion to protect sanctified places of nature can override reason.
Playing an Effective Ancients Paladin
To maximize the capabilities of the Ancients oath, focus on these tactics:
- Boost Charisma to increase your spellcasting potency and the range of your protective auras.
- Pick up druid cantrips like shillelagh to wield as an enchanted weapon.
- Select options to raise your speed and mobility like the charger feat. Roam far and wide.
- Spells like lightning arrow and protection from energy harmonize with your primal magic.
- Prepare healing options to quickly revive allies protected by your auras. Keep them standing.
With these strategies, you'll become a dynamic champion of the wilds, channeling primal magic against civilization's destructive impulses. Your Ancients paladin will fight to preserve the sanctity of ancient forests and towering mountains.
The Vengeance Oath
For paladins who swear the Oath of Vengeance, their crusade against evil takes on dark and obsessive overtones. Vengeance paladins will stop at nothing to defeat wicked forces plaguing the world, even embracing disturbingly brutal methods.
The Tenets of Vengeance
Paladins who take the Oath of Vengeance abide by these tenets:
- Fight the Greater Evil – Focus on the most malevolent and destructive forces, rather than minor infractions. Do whatever it takes to defeat such threats.
- No Mercy for the Wicked – Give no quarter to sworn enemies. Show compassion to innocents, but unleash your wrath on the unjust.
- By Any Means Necessary – Use whatever tactics are necessary to defeat evil, so long as innocents are protected. Ignore meaningless codes of honor or social expectations in your quest.
- Restitution – Those who harm others must pay an eye for an eye. Make evildoers suffer as their victims have suffered.
As these tenets demonstrate, Vengeance paladins essentially adopt an “ends justify the means” philosophy in their crusade against evil. They willingly walk a dark path to destroy those they hate.
The Abilities of Vengeance
The Oath of Vengeance provides these key powers:
- Abjure Enemy – As an action, the paladin forces a creature within 60 feet that they can see to make a Wisdom saving throw. Fiends and undead have disadvantage on this save. If the creature fails, it is frightened and unable to move closer to the paladin for 1 minute or until incapacitated. Turned creatures can repeat this save at the end of each of their turns to end the effect.
- Vow of Enmity – As a bonus action, the paladin can mark a creature within 30 feet as their sworn enemy for 1 minute or until the creature drops to 0 HP. They gain advantage on attacks rolls against such creatures.
- Avenging Angel – When the paladin reaches 20th level, they gain a flying speed equal to their walking speed and can project spectral wings for 1 minute. This lasts until ended early or until they are incapacitated.
These abilities fuel the paladin's tireless crusade against their hated foes. They amplify the Vengeance paladin's capability to furiously smite down evildoers.
Playing a Vengeance Paladin
Vengeance paladins display these traits reflecting their oath:
- I get angry quickly when I see injustice and evil not being punished to the fullest extent.
- I rarely smile or laugh, instead bearing a grim and serious demeanor.
- I am utterly convinced of the righteousness of my cause against the forces of evil. Any means to destroy them is justified.
- I intimidate criminals into confessing and repenting their crimes through harsh words and threatening presence. Fear is a useful tool against the wicked.
- My dark armor and tabard displaying oath sigils startle most people I meet. I care little for putting others at ease.
Their bonds and flaws demonstrate the paladin's fixation on meting out vengeance:
- Bonds – I will not rest until the bloodthirsty marauders who killed my family are brought to justice.
- Ideals – Vengeance. The punishers must also face harsh justice for their evil acts. (Lawful Neutral)
- Flaws – Once I target someone as an enemy, I am incapable of seeing them as anything but a villain to be destroyed.
In interactions, Vengeance paladins often:
- Assume the worst about those they perceive as enemies, judging them harshly.
- Advocate for the harshest punishments legally allowable against criminals and evildoers.
- Have little patience for laws and codes that protect the rights of those they deem their enemies. Justice must be swift and painful.
- Ignore pleas for mercy or mitigating circumstances from enemies. To them, punishment should be absolute.
- Use intimidation liberally to coerce enemies into confessing their evil acts or revealing their accomplices. I must enact justice.
By fully immersing yourself in these personality traits, you'll embody how the endless pursuit of vengeance can corrupt paladins down a dark path. Your party members may be unsettled by your merciless attitude toward enemies. Leading with compassion to balance the darker parts of their oath is essential for Vengeance paladins in cooperative groups.
Playing an Effective Vengeance Paladin
Optimizing the Vengeance paladin involves amplifying their capabilities as a predator hunting the wicked:
- Max out Strength and Charisma. Strength fuels your weapon attacks while high Charisma expands your Vow of Enmity radius.
- Take Great Weapon Master to maximize your opportunity attack damage against fleeing enemies.
- Choose the Protection fighting style to impose disadvantage against your allies when needed.
- Prepare hunter's mark to boost your damage output against enemies trying to escape your wrath.
- Select Relentless Avenger to chase down fleeing foes and close distance on ranged enemies.
With these choices, you'll exemplify the Vengeance paladin's flavour as an unstoppable and merciless hunter of evil. Your sworn enemies will have nowhere to hide.
Tyrants of Conquest
In stark contrast to other paladin oaths stands the menacing Oath of Conquest, sworn only by those willing to crush their enemies underfoot and rule with an iron fist. Conquest paladins are simultaneously disciplined and terrifying, enforcing strict order by any means necessary.
The Tenets of Conquest
Dread and fear are the two weapons that paladins of Conquest ruthlessly employ to establish order and obedience. They adhere to these tenets:
- Rule with an Iron Fist – Your word is law; disobedience must be swiftly and harshly punished. Establish utmost discipline against chaos and wickedness.
- Strength Above All – You must be a paragon of strength in mind, body, and conviction to lead. Never show weakness before your enemies.
- Suffer No Rival – Crush any who challenge or vex you with direct action. Those who impede your will must be intimidated into fealty or destroyed.
- Relentless Perseverance – Use unwavering discipline, ritual, and routine to sharpen yourself into an instrument of conquest. Never abandon this path and its duties.
These tenets shape tyrants, not benevolent rulers. However, paladins who follow them believe utter conquest and control are necessary to create enduring order.
The Abilities of Conquest
The menacing powers of the Conquest oath include:
- Conquering Presence – The paladin can invoke an intimidating aura as an action. Each creature of their choice within 30 feet must make a Wisdom saving throw against the paladin's spell save DC. On a failed save, creatures are frightened of the paladin for 1 minute. The creature can repeat this save at the end of each of their turns, ending the effect on a success.
- Aura of Conquest – The paladin's mere presence saps the will of their enemies. Creatures frightened by the paladin that begin their turns in the paladin's aura take psychic damage.
- Scornful Rebuke – When a creature dares to strike the paladin, they can use their reaction to retaliate with psychic damage.
These abilities compound on each other, creating feedback loops of domination and control against those who stand against the paladin's iron will.
Playing a Conquest Paladin
Conquest paladins reflect the following personality traits:
- I never take no for an answer; I achieve my goals through sheer force of will.
- I enjoy demonstrations of power, dominance, and physical might, whether my own or others.
- I react with contempt, mockery, and threats when facing defiance to my authority.
- My mask of confidence and disdain hides deep-seated insecurity and doubts about my right to rule.
- My ornate armor, tabard, banner, and weapons boldly announce my credentials as a conqueror.
Their bonds and flaws also stem from their desire to dominate:
- Bonds – I will reclaim my family's ancestral lands and castle, no matter who stands in my way.
- Ideals – Might. The strongest, most indomitable, destined to rule. (Lawful Evil)
- Flaws – I struggle to trust anyone, considering them either high-value followers or enemies to be crushed.
In interpersonal dealings, Conquest paladins often:
- Demand gestures of fealty, obedience, and respect from those they interact with.
- React with swift violence when directly defied or disobeyed. None should challenge their will.
- Use intimidation and coercion to impose their desires on others. Fear is the greatest motivator.
- Come across as aloof, arrogant, and dismissive toward perceived weaklings or rivals.
- Avoid showing mercy toward enemies, rivals, or rulebreakers. Such displays undermine authority.
By fully committing to these ruthless behaviors and philosophies, you'll capture the overwhelming menace and domineering presence of a properly villainous Conquest paladin.
Playing an Effective Conquest Paladin
To optimize a Conquest paladin, prioritize the following approaches:
- Max Charisma first to boost your frightening aura and spell save DC. This fuels your control capabilities.
- Choose spells that restrain enemies like hold person and create fear effects like phantasmal force. Hem them in with magic while attacking.
- Take Inspiring Leader to bolster minions and allies who can surround foes trapped by your auras.
- Use the protection fighting style to impose disadvantage against your frightened enemies as you close in for the kill.
- Equip heavy armor and weapons like greatswords or mauls to amplify your battlefield presence.
With these tactics, you'll exemplify the Conquest paladin's crushing might and tyrannical dominance over the battlefield. Enemies will cower and flee before your unbreakable iron will.
The Guiding Light of Paladin Oaths
The diverse oaths of paladins across the realm demonstrate the many paths one can walk in pursuing justice and order. While their philosophies and methods vary, all paladins are bound together by their sacred vows to a greater cause. These oaths empower them to carry out their ideals, no matter how bright or sinister.
But the true test of a paladin lies not just in the oath sworn, but in living up to it every day through word and deed. Their vows must guide their hand just as light from a lighthouse guides a ship through stormy seas and safely into harbor.
For the paladin, upholding their oath is less about gaining strength and more about retaining humanity. It is the lodestone that ransom them from losing their way as they traverse landscapes of moral complexity in the mortal realm and beyond.
So let the light of your chosen oath shine bright, illuminating your every step on the journey ahead. It will transform you from warrior to champion, judge to paragon, knight to legend. Bound by sacred oath, a paladin's light shines for all eternity!