More and more Dungeons & Dragons players keep learning a secret: The paladin class rates as one of the game’s strongest. In past editions, the paladin class weighed players with a need to play a faultless, lawful do-gooder who gave away most of their treasure, so the designers made paladins powerful to compensate. Fifth edition frees players of those old restrictions, but the class gets as many powerful features as ever.
As good as the class rates, players look to improve their paladins through multiclassing. The recipe seems strong. Combine the paladin’s martial prowess, armor, and divine smites with a Charisma-based spellcasting class that gains more spell slots to fuel extra smites. Compared to a level-10 paladin, a 10th-level character who mixes 2 levels of paladin with 8 levels of sorcerer or bard gains 1 level-3 slot, 3 level-4 slots, and 1 level-5 slot. The combination yields 24d8 extra total smite damage per day. Plus sorcerers gain sorcery points they can trade for even more slots. Of course, such combinations lack a bounty of paladin features. More on that at the end.
What multiclass combinations work best with paladin?
Paladin + Sorcerer
Multiclass paladin/sorcerers live their dreams by casting a quickened hold person or monster to paralyze a foe, and then following with paladin smites that automatically score criticals for twice the damage dice. Still, the combination suffers drawbacks that careful choices can help offset.
Sorcerers only gain d6 hit dice, so a lack of hit points limits characters who need to melee to smite. To compensate, pick the Draconic Bloodline origin for an extra hp per level. Prepare the shield spell and, later, mirror image, which rates as the best defense spell that works without concentration.
While paladins can cast their paladin spells using a holy symbol emblazoned on a shield as a focus, sorcerers need a free hand for the components of sorcerer spells. You can avoid this by focusing on the Great Weapon Fighting style, but the lack of a shield diminishes AC. To equip a shield, take the War Caster feat so that you can cast spells while holding it. This brings the added advantage of granting advantage on the Constitution saves needed to maintain concentration.
This class combination never gets an extra attack unless you invest five levels in paladin. To compensate, choose either the booming blade or green-flame blade cantrip to add extra damage to a single attack.
The class combination relies on multiple ability scores. Draconic Bloodline sorcerers gain in armor class if they focus on Dexterity over Strength, plus a high Dexterity offers more benefits than Strength, but these characters still need a 13 Strength to become a multiclass paladin. That hurts enough for most of these characters to opt for Strength over Dexterity. Half-elves work especially well with this class combination because of their choice of ability score increases.
Paladin + Bard
Multiclass paladin/bards boast one edge: When you join the bard’s College of Swords at 3rd level, you gain features that work in melee. Bards in the college gain an extra attack at level 6. These characters can start with 2 levels of paladin for Divine Smite, switch to bard, and still gain an extra attack at level 8. Plus, these sword bards can use their weapon as an arcane focus. The Defensive Flourish option lets you add a Bardic Inspiration die to AC. Combined with a paladin’s armor, this can yield an untouchable AC, at least for a turn.
For this combination, opt for the paladin’s Defense fighting style and choose the Dueling style available to the College of Swords. Half-Elves make a good choice of race.
Compared to the sorcerer combination, the bard multiclass lacks spells that complement the fighting style. You want spells like shield, but you have to wait for the 10th-level bard’s Magical Secrets feature to gain them.
Paladin + Warlock
The hexblade patron makes warlock a strong combination with paladin for several reasons:
Warlocks who choose the Pact of the Blade feature and the Improved Pact Weapon invocation can use their pact weapon as a spellcasting focus.
Warlocks who choose the Pact of the Blade feature and the 5th-level Thirsting Blade invocation can attack with their pact weapon twice whenever they take an attack action.
Most paladins need a high Strength to power their attack and damage rolls. For a pact weapon or for any weapon that lacks the two-handed property, a hexblade warlock can use Charisma instead. This frees the character from needing a strength higher than 13, the prerequisite for multiclassing. You can focus ability score improvements on Charisma, Constitution, and the Resilient (Constitution) feat that you want to improve concentration.
Hexblades get spells like shield that prove particularly useful.
The hexblade curse enables critical hits on 19-20, which doubles your chance of getting to roll twice as many damage dice on a divine smite. Plus you gain a damage bonus equal to your proficiency bonus. Plus when you kill your target, you regain hit points.
Warlocks regain spell slots after short rests. Often this provides more fuel for smites than comes from a full caster like a bard or sorcerer.
Warlock/paladin multiclass characters divide their loyalties between a sacred oath and, likely, a mysterious entity from the Shadowfell that manifests in sentient magic weapons carved from the stuff of shadow. To some players this presents a roleplaying challenge they feel eager to embrace.
Paladin + More Paladin
Paladin multiclass characters gain attention for racking heaps of smite damage and sometimes beating encounters single handed. A pure paladin can’t flash as often or as bright. Nonetheless, a pure paladin may lift a party’s strength more, creating a more powerful group.
Look at all the goodies a multi-class paladin may lose.
Characters who opt for just 2 levels of paladin never reach the ability score enhancement at level 4.
Those taking fewer than 5 levels never gain Extra Attack.
Quit before level 6 and you never gain that sweet, wonderful Aura of Protection that gives you and every ally within 10 feet a bonus to saving throws equal to your charisma bonus. That aura will make your paladin the party’s MVP of every single session.
The paladin’s benefits at level 7 and higher feel less essential, but multiclassers still miss some compelling features. At level 10, allies within 10 feet can’t be frightened. At level 11, all your melee attacks deal an extra 1d8 of damage. At 14, you can touch yourself and alies to remove spells. At 18, the range of your auras increases to 30 feet. Plus at level 7, if you follow the Path of the Ancients, you and allies in your aura gain resistance to spell damage.
All that, and unlike a 1st-edition paladin, you can keep all your magic items.
You cannot wield weapon/shield and cast shield because you need a free hand for the S component. See the Sage Advice Compendium.
The PHB says you can access a spell’s material components or hold a spellcasting focus in the same hand you use for somatic components. Sword bards can use swords as foci. Ergo, a paladin/sword bard can sword-and-board while casting spells.
If the spell requires material components, though, they probably need to drop something.
If a spell has no M component, you cannot cast a spell with S unless you have a free hand. Please see the Sage Advice Compendium, which addresses this explicitly.
1. WHICH Sage Advice? I’m not Googling your sources for you.
2. Direct PHB quote:
Nothing specifies that this rule only applies to spells with material components. AFAIK, the core rulebooks trump Sage Advice.
Also, the idea that you can use a hand holding an arcane focus to perform somatic components and grab material components, but can’t use that hand to do only one of those things, is inherently idiotic. Which is why I’m demanding you point me to the Sage Advice which says this.
“Another example: a cleric’s holy symbol is emblazoned on her shield. She likes to wade into melee combat with a mace in one hand and a shield in the other. She uses the holy symbol as her spellcasting focus, so she needs to have the shield in hand when she casts a cleric spell that has a material component. If the spell, such as aid, also has a somatic component, she can perform that component with the shield hand and keep holding the mace in the other.
“If the same cleric casts cure wounds, she needs to put the mace or the shield away, because that spell doesn’t have a material component but does have a somatic component. She’s going to need a free hand to make the spell’s gestures. If she had the War Caster feat, she could ignore this restriction.”
Note that in that last example, the cleric is unable to cast a spell while holding a weapon and shield / holy symbol / focus.
I still stand by my other points. The rule Sage seems to be citing doesn’t say what he says it does, and his claim that a hand can simultaneously hold a focus, grab material components, and perform somatic components, but can’t do one specific combination of two despite being able to perform either of the others is…um, dumb.
And the PHB doesn’t agree with him, except in the sense that it doesn’t go into enough detail to specifically refute him, so I’m sticking with the PHB’s statement.
p190 PHB discusses “Interacting with Objects Around You”:
“Here are a few examples of the sorts of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action:
– draw or sheathe a sword
– open or close a door
– withdraw a potion from your backpack
– pick up a dropped axe
p190 PHB defines “Reactions”:
“Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction.”
Since a reaction is an action, the PC can sheathe their weapon to cast shield with the free hand all within the limits of the reaction – per ‘Interacting with Objects Around You.’
The PC can draw their weapon at the beginning of their next turn in tandem with that action – effectively casting Shield without having to compromise the action economy.
That’s in the section “other activity on your turn.” It does not apply universally.
Technically it is in the section, “Movement and Position.”
Chapter 9: Combat, Movement and Position. Pg 190.
The specific wording reads, “…Here are a few examples of the sorts of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action.”
A reaction is a type of action – thus, a PC can sheath a sword in tandem with their reaction to cast Shield.
You’re referencing the first section, “Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move…or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.”
This isn’t a restrictive clause (‘Only these things can occur during your turn’); rather, it’s letting the player know that other activity can be taken in their turn.
There is not explicit phrasing that says:
1.) “The player can only draw or sheathe a weapon during their turn,” or
2.) “The player cannot draw or sheathe a weapon during their reaction”
Further it is implied that a reaction is within the scope of a player’s turn. Under p.190 “Reactions,” it reads:
“If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, the creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.”
A reaction is within the scope of a player’s turn – since it is an action that the player can use in combat, and since it can be used to interrupt another creature’s turn.
If it was not within the scope of the player’s turn, the player’s reaction would not have to interrupt the enemy’s turn – it would occur as a part of the enemy’s turn.
*It isn’t restrictive because the text reads, “You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during EITHER your move OR YOUR ACTION.”
The rules associate the process of sheathing a weapon with the process of an action; a reaction is an action – therefore, a weapon can be sheathed within the scope of a reaction. The Shield spell has a casting time of 1 reaction, “Which you take when you are hit by an attack or targeted by the magic missile spell.”
A reaction is a type of action; once the reaction is triggered, a player can sheath their weapon within the scope of the reaction used to cast Shield.
I have been recently asked by my players to run an adventure for an all-paladin party… I hope they have this in mind to bring some variety to the mix!
Paladin/Barbarian, as seen with Joe Manganiello’s Arkhan the Cruel, is just insane damage dealer. Divine Smite is not a spell, so it is not limited by Rage and with Reckless Attack, they get advantage on all attack rolls for higher chance of crit, which is when they’ll use all the spell slots for Divine Smite.
I’m playing a Conquest Paladin with one level of Hexblade Warlock. I’m finally at Paladin level 7. It is really, really good. Aura of Conquest synergies with Wrathful Smite, Conquering Presence, and the Fear spell. Eldritch Blast takes care of the Paladin’s long range short-comings. Hex adds extra damage. Conquest Paladin gets Spiritual Weapon. I could keep going.
It’s a great build and there’s a great guide of Giant in the Playground: https://forums.giantitp.com/showthread.php?543427-The-Wall-of-Fear-A-Complete-Guide-to-the-Oath-of-Conquest
The one small caveat here is that this build doesn’t get to leverage the Sorcerer’s Metamagic. Metamagic gives Quickened Spell, so it can be used to chain Hold Person for Auto-Crit setups (Like OP references).
Divine Smite can only be triggered with, “A melee weapon attack.”
While Spiritual Weapon cannot trigger Divine Smite (Since it is a melee ‘spell’ attack), a quickened Booming-Blade or Green-Flame Blade can, giving the Paladin access to potentially 3 attacks-per-turn where Divine Smite can trigger.
Pingback: 7 Best Classes to Add to Multiclass a Dungeons & Dragons Character | DMDavid
I need advice here I’m wanting to make my Paladin a oathbreaker
I am playing with Paladin/Hexblade/Wizard and it’s most powerful build I can imagine (Tradition of War Magic).
My suggestion to deal with hps being too low is an upcasted aid spell. It grants a higher HP maxium for 8 hours, heals damage and can be applied to multiple characters, and benefits from the extend spell metamagic if you go Sorcadin. IMHO I think Divine Soul Sorcerer is better for Sorcadins, Spirit Guardians, and other Cleric Spells.
Pingback: Fast, Unkillable, Deadly: The 7 Supreme D&D Character Builds for One Thing | DMDavid
what about paladin/fighter (unless you can already dual weild)