Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition): How to Build a Paladin – A Combat Guide

Do you want to play a paladin? Check out our combat oriented build guide down below.

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Dungeons and Dragons is taking the world by storm once again. While the famous role-playing game has been around since the mid-1970s, D&D just recently experienced another big resurgence. Now hoards of new players are banding together to learn how to play this unique game. With that in mind, we have compiled a detailed guide for how to build one of the game’s top tier classes.


When it comes to Dungeons and Dragons, there is no wrong way to play. Some players enjoy the role-playing aspect of D&D, while others are more interested in raiding dungeons and fighting bizarre creatures. This guide is for those that gravitate towards the combat of Dungeons and Dragons.

If you would like to learn how to build a different top tier D&D class, check out one of our guides down below.








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The paladin is a soldier of faith. To that end, the paladin’s ability to drive fear into the heart of their enemy is something worth your divine faith.

The paladin is a rather unique class. The paladin can reach a quite impressive damage output. Beyond that, the paladin is hearty enough to sustain itself in combat. What really separates the paladin from the pack, however, is the paladin’s ability to protect their allies through a bevy of great spells.

To that end, this build is going to be focused on damage output, sustain and in-combat spell utility.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Race: Human (Variant)This race offers an additional feat at level one, which will prove to be an incredible racial bonus.
Sacred Oath:Oath of TreacheryThis archetype offers some great bonus spells, while the “Poison Strike” ability is capable of dealing devastating damage. If your DM does not approve of Unearthed Arcana sub-classes, consider the Oath of Conquest.
Feat #1:War CasterThis feat will make greatly improve your concentration checks, which is incredibly useful when casting mirror image or any of the smite spells.
Feat #2:Pole arm MasterThis feat will give you a third attack, which will prove useful once you begin using your smite spells.
Feat #3:SentinelThis feat will allow you to increase pressure even further against enemies in melee.
Ability Score Improvement #1: +2 Strength You will want to boost your strength score so that you can increase your attack bonus and your attack damage.
Ability Score Improvement #1:+2 StrengthYou will want to boost your strength score so that you can increase your attack bonus and your attack damage.
Feat #Mage SlayerThis feat will allow you to apply some serious pressure to enemy spellcasters when engaging them in melee.

When it comes to this build, the feats above are all dedicated to improving damage output and pressure against enemies engaged in melee with you. Through this build, you can focus the enemy’s spellcasters by engaging them in melee. Your high damage output will then allow you to make short work of these constitutionally weaker characters. The Pole arm Master feat is best utilized by using your smite spells to significantly boost your damage per attack.

Meanwhile, the paladin still has a broad list of healing and damage dealing spells that can be used to turn the tide of battle when necessary.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Weapon:HalberdThis heavy, reach pole arm will allow you to take full advantage of your Sentinel and Pole arm Master feats.
Armor:Full PlateThere is no need for a hefty dexterity bonus when you have a hearty set of Full Plate on your hands. This will ensure you have a formidable armor class.
Skill Proficiencies:Insight and ReligionReligion will provide a unique utility to the party, as not many characters are often proficient with the skill. Insight, meanwhile, is an incredibly useful skill that will find a use in almost every single game.

Most of the paladin’s damage is going to be coming from the class’s smite spells. Consequently, it is best to simply use a pole arm so that you can utilize the extra attack offered by the Pole arm Master feat. However, you can use the greatsword if you want to use a two-hand melee weapon. Simply change out “Pole arm Master” for “Great Weapon Master” if you decide to change out the weapons. You will have one less attack per turn, but it’s your choice.

AbilityAbility Point AllocationDescription
Strength:20 (15+5)This is your most important ability, as it will determine your attack bonus and will add to your melee damage. Note that this score has been boosted by a +1 racial bonus and two different +2 ASIs.
Dexterity:12This ability is not paramount for this build.
Constitution:14 (13+1)It is always nice to have a high constitution score. That being said, strength and charisma take precedent for this build. Note that this ability was boosted by a +1 racial bonus.
Intelligence:8Intelligence is a dump stat for this character.
Wisdom:10This is a dump stat for this build.
Charisma:14Charisma is going to determine the effectiveness of your spellcasting. Consequently, this ability is quite important for this build.

Warning: Concerning your ability scores, the graph above is using the standard 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 ability allocation that players can use if they do not wish to roll their stats. That being said, your dungeon master will likely have you role for your stats rather than allocate your ability points manually. 

The most important ability score for this build is strength. Charisma is a close second and constitution is a near third. The real benefit of this build is that the paladin can dish out significant damage while also not being too vulnerable in combat. When necessary, the paladin can also use a bevy of great spells to boost its prowess in combat or to help out an ally.

While this graph does not contain every spell you should choose as a paladin, this graph does contain a series of useful spells that will be incredibly useful in combat.

Mirror Image:This spell will make it much harder for enemies to it you, therefore increasing your sustain.
Banishing Smite:This spell will account for a majority of your melee damage, while also providing some unique crowd control.
Command:This spell allows you to apply crowd control on a single enemy.
Cure Wounds:This spell allows you to heal allies as necessary.
Compelled Duel:This spell allows you to draw aggro from a single enemy.

For all your D&D needs, check out Dungeons and Dragons Guides Portal – Anything and Everything D&D.

Hunter Boyce is a writer, which probably seems pretty obvious with "author" prominently displayed. He mostly writes about video games. However, he was previously a mixed martial arts news writer. When not writing about people pelting each other in the face or about leveling up in the latest RPG, he tends to spend his time as a web producer in Atlanta. You can shout all of your MMA and video game related quandaries at him at @SomthinClever on Twitter. Feel free to make your demands to him in ALL CAPS. He loves that.


  1. Josh Medin

    So… Half-Orc paladin for the Str bonus. Okay. Could see Dragonborn. Since you’re willing to use Unearthered Arcana material fairly casually, could see Zariel Tiefling. Or Half-Elf. Why? Well, Cha bonuses are pretty darned useful for Paladins. But Half-Orcs do have some nice boosts.

    But why do you say Half-Orc *AND* then go Dex Paladin? Wouldn’t you want a race that has a Dex bonus, if you’re playing a Dex Paladin? You say Dex and Cha are your best stats, so why didn’t you make the character a Lightfoot Halfing, a Half-Elf, a Tabaxi?

    I don’t think this article is well-organized; you should be consistent with yourself, at the very least.

  2. I mean thats one way to build a paladin, but its certainly not one I would recommend to anyone looking to focus on combat. Your build implies that you will have a 15 and 14 in your so called primary and secondary stat for the entire build which is not great. Spells and melee attacks need to hit to do damage which isn’t going to happen as often which those stats. Honestly it reads as though you have a fundamental lack of knowledge on the class and D&D in general and I think your guide could benefit from more in depth research.

  3. Stephen Mosiello Jr

    A few things:

    1) war caster can not be chosen at level 1. The prerequisite to this feat is the ability to cast spells, which a level 1 Paladin can not do.

    2) feats aren’t so essential for a great Paladin. I’d recommend half elf (+1 STR, +1 CON, +2 CHA is perfect for a Paladin).

    No matter what race you choose, ending your 20 level career with a 14 CHA is shameful. Get that number up!