Paladins in Dungeons & Dragons are often viewed as holy warriors who excel at protecting their allies and banishing evil. While their role as a supportive class cannot be denied, it's important to remember that Paladins are also capable of dishing out substantial damage in the right circumstances. In fact, they are among the most lethal of all 5th edition classes. So lets explore the hidden damage-dealing potential of Paladins and how you can unleash their full potential in combat.
The key to unlocking a Paladin's damage potential lies in their Divine Smite ability. This feature allows a Paladin to expend a spell slot when they hit with a melee weapon attack, adding radiant damage to the attack based on the level of the spell slot used. The potential for additional damage output is significant, especially against enemies vulnerable to radiant damage or against fiends and undead, against whom the Paladin deals additional damage. But this feature is extra special because it allows you to choose when to smite after you have hit. That means you can wait patiently for a critical hit and get double your value on the smite. What’s more, this can be performed on every attack you make, so effects that award additional attacks such as haste provide tremendous value. Advantage on your attacks is key, because that doubles your chance of getting a critical hit. With a little help from your friends, a paladin can go from dangerous to devastating through the use of Divine Smite alone.
Tip: As a Paladin, manage your spell slots carefully, and use your Divine Smite ability strategically. Focus on using it against enemies who are weak to radiant damage or are particularly threatening to your party.
Multiclassing can offer Paladins additional ways to increase their damage output. For example, a Paladin who multiclasses into Fighter can gain access to the Action Surge feature, and potentially a subclass that boosts their damage potential, such as the Battle Master or the Champion. Improving the threshold of one’s critical hits is particularly spicy for reasons mentioned earlier.
However, it is not only martial multiclasses that provide value. A paladin can use any spell slot they have to Divine Smite. This is particularly juicy if you pick up levels in Warlock, while already uses Charisma and whose spell slots are recovered on a short rest.
Tip: If you decide to multiclass, weigh the pros and cons of delaying your Paladin class features and spell progression. Determine which combination of class levels will best suit your playstyle and desired damage output.
Weapon Choices and Fighting Styles
Paladins have access to a wide range of weapons, and their choice of weapon can significantly impact their damage potential. Two-handed weapons, such as greatswords or mauls, offer high damage output, while versatile weapons like longswords or warhammers provide a balance between damage and the ability to use a shield.
Additionally, a Paladin's choice of Fighting Style can further enhance their damage-dealing capabilities. For example, the Great Weapon Fighting style allows for rerolling low damage dice when using a two-handed weapon, while Dueling grants a damage bonus when wielding a one-handed weapon. There is rarely a superior choice here, and we recommend basing your fighting style on what the party needs. Even a shield wielding paladin is still a force to be reckoned with, and the added defense can be well worth the sacrifice of some extra damage.
Tip: Consider the type of enemies you'll be facing and your party composition when selecting a weapon and Fighting Style. Opt for a setup that complements your allies and allows you to maximize your damage potential in combat.
Spell Selection and Buffs
While Paladins are not full spellcasters, they do have access to a selection of spells that can augment their damage output. Spells like Divine Favor, Crusader's Mantle, and Branding Smite can add extra damage to a Paladin's attacks, while other spells like Bless and Haste can indirectly improve their damage output by increasing their chance to hit or granting them additional attacks. These smite spells are tricky, as they take a bonus action to cast and require concentration. But its rare to have a use for your bonus action every turn, so with a little forethought you can ensure your next turn is absolutely brutal for those on the receiving end of your wrath.
Tip: Prioritize selecting spells that enhance your damage output and compliment your role in combat. Coordinate with your party members to ensure your spells and abilities work in tandem for maximum effectiveness.
So think of Paladins as more than just divine protectors; they possess the potential to become apex damage dealers on the battlefield. By understanding and leveraging their Smite mechanics, multiclassing options, weapon choices, and spell selection, you can transform your Paladin into a DPS juggernaut and surprise both your allies and enemies alike.