D&D 5e: Oath of Vengeance Paladin Guide
D&D 5e: Oath of Vengeance Paladin Guide
Role in the Party
The rampaging orc warlord. The thief steals a family’s last coppers. The corrupt king whose rulership impacts all under him. All are evil. All deserve just and righteous punishment.
Paladins of the Oath of Vengeance swear themselves to the ideals of justice, no matter how difficult that may be. No act is not permitted. Nothing which cannot be done. Not while the guilty still walk the world, inflicting suffering on those around them.
Indomitable warriors who are capable of inflicting terrifying amounts of damage on their foes, while still supporting their fellow party members, this guide breaks down the Vengeance Paladin, subclass abilities, build considerations, and more.
The Oath of Vengeance Paladin subclass is found in the Player’s Handbook. Click here to pick up your own copy of the Player’s Handbook!
Oath of Vengeance Features
Oath Spells: All Paladin Oaths provide bonus spells at the levels shown below. These are always available and don’t take up any of the Paladin’s spells known.
The list is fine, with some incredibly effective spells that the character will use often, and some absolute duds that you might never cast.
Bane: This isn’t a bad spell, but your save DCs are likely to be lower than average, and you’re probably better off hitting things.
Hunter’s Mark: Bonus action casting, extra damage, and help to track your enemies. All things the character loves.
Hold Person: A limited target selection, but anyone that fails their save against this against a prepared party might as well be dead.
Misty Step: Bonus action teleportation is an exceptional use of a spell slot. This spell has so many uses.
Haste: Haste is a fantastic spell, but not for a front-line melee character. Leave this to the full casters.
Protection from Energy: Always having this prepared means opening the door into an Elemental swarm is far less dangerous than it otherwise would.
Banishment: This can eliminate an enemy from a fight, or send a demon permanently back where it came from. This is a niche spell, but worth casting.
Dimension Door: Another teleport is a slightly odd choice, but this has a long range, and you can bring along a friend.
Hold Monster: This is a straight upgrade over Hold Person. Anything that fails its save is probably dead, and this is a great way to open combat.
Scrying: Honestly, it’s hard to see why this is on the list. While the spell can be useful, this eats one of your incredibly valuable 5th level spell slots. Would you rather use this, or another fully powered smite?
Channel Divinity: From 3rd level, the Vengeance Paladin gains a pair of Channel Divinity options, either of which can be freely chosen between and used once per rest.
Abjure Enemy: Pick an enemy within 60ft. It takes a WIS save unless it can’t be frightened. (Which a surprising amount of enemies are.) Also, fiends and undead have Disadvantage on the save.
If it fails its save, it’s Frightened of you and has a speed of 0 for 1 minute, or until it takes damage.
Even if it passes, its speed is halved for 1 minute, or until it takes damage.
This is a deceptively strong single target debuff. It can utterly disable one enemy, leaving them shivering in the corner unable to act effectively or move around. And if you have the space and party to play the mobility game, cutting an enemy’s speed in half and dancing with it while you defeat its allies is also a solid strategy that literally cannot fail.
Vow of Enmity: As a bonus action, the Paladin can pronounce a vow of enmity against an enemy within 10ft.
This gives the Paladin outright Advantage on all attack rolls against that creature until one of you is unconscious or dead, or somehow a minute passes without that happening.
This is a fantastically powerful ability, which should always be available to trigger on the biggest, scariest thing that wants you dead. It’s a huge boost in damage and makes crit fishing for smites much more reliable.
Relentless Avenger: At 7th level, whenever the Vengeance Paladin hits an enemy with an opportunity attack, they can move up to half their speed without provoking opportunity attacks.
The obvious intent of this ability is to chase after enemies that flee from you, and that’s all well and good, but nothing stops you from using this to reposition, especially if you also take the Sentinel feat, which prevents enemies from Disengaging from you, and reduces the speed of anyone you op. attack to 0.
This is not the most game breaking ability on offer. But when it comes up the utility is decent, and you’ll use it often enough to be worthwhile.
Soul of Vengeance: From 15th level, the Paladin’s ability to punish evil grows stronger. Whenever an enemy under the Channel Divinity: Vow of Enmity makes an attack, you can spend your reaction to hit them.
This is a no nonsense source of basically free damage. You were already going to Enmity, the biggest enemy you fight every day. This just lets you hit them more often.
Avenging Angel: Like all Paladin, the Oath of Vengeance gains a big, powerful once-per-day transformation as their capstone.
The Vengeance Paladin’s transformation takes an action and lasts an hour. It grants two boons.
A 60ft fly speed, plus wings
A 30ft aura of fear.
The Oath of Vengeance doesn’t care about paltry things like debuffing the enemy or defending themselves. Why do you need to do those things when you’ve killed every possible threat to you and your party?
Vengeance Paladins are damage monsters. Everything they do is centered around stacking dice onto their foes as fast as possible; hitting harder, hitting more often, and making sure that nothing can get away from the constant onslaught of attacks.
That’s all backed up with a spell list that’s built around mobility and keeping enemies in one place so they can’t avoid the coming judgment, which works well alongside the traditional Paladin spells.
With this in mind, Vengeance Paladins should be built as one of the main sources of DPS for a party. Don’t be afraid to pick up the biggest weapon you can carry and just run at things. While they’re preoccupied with you, you’re buying time for your party to do their jobs.
The Paladin is also a surprisingly good class outside of combat, and while the Oath of Vengeance doesn’t specifically do anything to benefit that, it shouldn’t slow you down. Between taking one or two CHA based social skills, the plethora of healing options available to the class, and the (admittedly few) utility spells the Paladin has access to, you’ll be able to meaningfully contribute beyond stabbing things until they stop moving.
The Vengeance Paladin shares the traditional weaknesses of the Paladin class as a whole.
Firstly, resource management. While the base kit of the Paladin is reliable and efficient, it relies on consumable resources, mainly spell slots, to push its effectiveness up to the levels everyone expects from the class. And, once these resources are expended, it has no way to get them back besides taking a long rest, which isn’t often available when you’re halfway through a dungeon. Paying close attention to your resource pool, and not throwing all of your spell slots into one almighty turn of smites, is something many Paladins have to come to terms with.
Second, the class has very limited ranged options besides picking up a bow (which is bad,) spending spell slots (see above,) or finding a way to grab a damaging cantrip from somewhere (which takes feats or racial traits that could be spent on other things.)
Finally, you need to be careful about your obsession with vengeance and how you play. The rest of the party might take the opportunity to start insisting that your character speaks in a deep, gravelly voice about how “they are the night” and spends all their free time perched on the edge of buildings. While this isn’t going to hurt the character, the emotional damage to you is impossible to recover from.
Best Race Options
Scourge Aasimar: Great stats, plus the rest of the Aasimar package, including more healing, dual resistances, and the Light cantrip are solid racial traits.
The once-per-day Aasimar transformation, though, is why we’re here. Constant radiant damage to everything close, as well as a damage boost on your attacks, is just lovely, especially when paired with existing subclass abilities.
Shadar-Kai Elf: Perception, Darkvision, and Elven sleep trances are all decent, but the once-per-day teleport into damage resistance is just incredible on a front line brawler.
If your GM doesn’t let you choose this race or switch stats (they’re not great) then the Eladrin offers much of what makes this good, with some CHA thrown into the mix.
Half Orc: Darkvision, combat stats, Intimidation (a social, CHA based skill!) plus a whole mess of fighting buffs. Increased crit damage is excellent considering how often you’ll be attacking with Advantage, and refusing to die once per day is exceptional on a character that can just heal themselves.
Choosing the Right Skills
A Paladin’s skills should revolve around two things. Physical feats, and social ability.
With that in mind, Athletics is a good starting point. Most Paladins will have the high STR necessary to be good at it. Perception is also useful, and almost essential for every character.
For social encounters, you only really need one skill. Persuasion. Vengeance Paladins might also want to lean towards Intimidation, to browbeat friend and foe into giving up valuable information, but it’s not necessary, and neither is Deception. But take them if you incline because they’re both useful.
Great Weapon Master: The Oath of Vengeance is built around dealing damage. It also has a way to switch on Advantage against enemies. Both of these things work perfectly with the GWM feat, which can act as an astounding spike in DPS when the feat comes into play. If you’re using any kind of two-handed weapon, you should sincerely consider taking this.
Shield Master: If you’re not set on the whole ‘killing everything that moves’ life and want a little more defense, a shield is a good first step. This feat turns defense into offense, letting you shove enemies prone for even more Advantage, plus offers some extra protection against AOE attacks.
Inspiring Leader: Improve the resilience of yourself and the party with Inspiring Leader, handing out a chunk of temporary HP every morning, that can be refreshed when you short rest and scales with your naturally high CHA.
Courtier: Two social skills, and two languages. Hey, just because you’re a ball of simmering retribution doesn’t mean you have to be rude.
Guild Artisan: All the social skills you need to thrive, a language, and a set of Artisan’s Tools to keep your armor shiny.
Sailor: Perfect skills, as well as Navigators Tools and Water Vehicles. They might not come up, but if you’re playing a naval campaign, (or even if not) this is solid.
Hexblade Warlock: Hexblade as a subclass is incredibly front loaded with power, which is why it pops up on almost every multiclassing list ever written.
Unsurprisingly, it offers a significant buff to our build. One level lets the character attack and deal damage with one-handed weapons using their CHA modifier, helping fix the Paladin’s stat problems and almost turning them into a single-stat class. Access to the Warlock spell list also helps in ranged fights, considering you’re almost certainly going to take Eldritch Blast.
Two levels offer another spell slot to fuel smites, as well as Invocations, which can offer an absolute ton of flexible buffs. Most characters will stop here, but if you’re set on two handing something, three levels for the Blade Pact Boon lets you use any weapon with your CHA, plus upgrades those refreshing Warlock slots to level 2 spells for even more smite damage.
Champion Fighter: The Champion is a simple subclass, but what it offers is strong.
Another fighting style helps you slap even harder. Combine that with Action Surge, Vow of Enmity, and the Champion’s boosted critical threat range for a 40% chance to land a critical hit and blow an enemy in half in one ultra-powered smite.
That’s it. That’s what it does for you. Hit more often and hit harder. But that’s probably enough.
Shadow Sorcerer: Sorcerers and Paladins just go together, the peanut butter to the other’s jelly. One class wants spell slots to fuel its incredible killing power. The other has those in abundance but suffers from being incredibly squishy.
Combining the two is an obvious multiclass, but it’s a good one. Shadow Sorcerer offers that sweet, sweet spellcasting, including grabbing Sorcery points for even more spell slots, as well as metamagic for things like Quickened and Heightened spells.
Shadow Sorcerers in particular love the Oath of Vengeance. A toughness boost, Darkvision, and the Darkness spell are all great things to have. Going to at least level 6 lets the build summon a ghost hound to track down its opponents, conferring Disadvantage on all their spells, which is both thematically and mechanically fantastic.
Would I recommend playing an Oath of Vengeance Paladin?
The Oath of Vengeance is one of the simplest Paladin Oaths in how it works. But simple doesn’t mean bad. Far from it.
Everything the Oath of Vengeance does is strong. The subclass is designed to reward aggressive play, and create moments that your party will talk about for months after the fact. That by itself is reason enough to play the class. But sitting down at the table with this Oath, you’ll find a character that’s fun to play, easy to understand, and, when all of its abilities come together correctly, the capacity to be terrifyingly strong.
Now strap on your armor, pick up that sword, and think of a cool name for your party. The … Avengers? Pretty sure that one’s not been taken yet.