I’ve been playing in +Rob Conley‘s Majestic Wilderlands game for a while now, and I’ve grown to like my character, Marcus.
Still, there have been issues with how the game feels to me playing fighter-types (this is true of Swords and Wizardry as well), but looking over a few things, I’ve decided that part of the problem, if not all of it, is me. In short, system mastery has long been part of the D&D experience, and 5e is no exception. Sure, the requirements for mastery are toned down over, say, Pathfinder . . . but they’re still there.
So let’s start. It would appear my errors lie in a poor appreciation for what I can do each turn, and the duration and power of my spellcasting. Still – always good to start with the foundation.
Marcus the Paladin: The Basics
Lets start with the relevant stats:
6th Level (+3 proficiency bonus)
STR 17 (+3); DEX 12 (+1); CON 16 (+3); INT 12 (+1); WIS 14 (+2); CHA 18 (+4)
Max HP: 55 (max possible at this level would be 78)
Oath of Devotion
His equipment is top-notch. Part of a prior adventuring loot haul was a full set of +2 Plate Armor, and a looser hand with magical items than the normal 5e game seems to encourage has left him with a +2 shield and a +2 longsword as well. That makes standing to face him in melee combat look like this:
1d20+8 to hit
1d8+5 (6-13) damage; 2d8+5 (7-21) on a critical.
2 attacks per turn, so net 12-26 damage, 14-42 on two crits.
He also carries a non-magical longbow; that comes in handy from some of the distances we encounter, and at 1d20+4 to hit and 1d8+1 damage, twice per turn, it’s not great but not awful, either.
So in a lone fight, bereft of magical abilities, he’s going to be tough to hit at all (a 1st level fighter with a STR 18 would roll 1d20+6, hitting Marcus only 15% of the time). You’ll need a 1d20+13 to hit him 50% of the time, or probably about 1d20+9 with advantage. Marcus is a tough nut to crack with AC this high.
By 6th level, there are things that just happen for me.
Divine Health makes Marcus immune to disease.
Aura of Protection gives me and any friendlies within 10′ of me +4 (thanks to my CHA) to saving throws.
Available Every Turn
One thing I don’t think I fully appreciated is exactly how to get maximum advantage over the things he can do routinely. This is foolish – abilities unused are basically ignoring the benefits of grabbing a niche (a class) to begin with.
Protection Fighting Style
This is something that doesn’t help me directly, but if a partner of mine – any friendly character – stands within five feet, I can give one attack per turn disadvantage against him by using my reaction. With a wise choice in partner (say, a rogue-type), this will make a usually lower-AC friend a lot harder to hit (non-magical studded leather tops out at AC17 if you have DEX 20).
Available Every Short Rest
A lot of my abilities can run out, but are replenished on a short rest, which means they’ll likely be available nearly every encounter, and multiple times per encounter at that.
These are the go-to abilities for each Oath type, with two abilities per Oath.
Sacred Weapon: This one’s pretty cool, and using it allows, for one minute, CHA bonus to be added to attack rolls with one specific weapon (you power-up the weapon, not the user). This does not, I don’t think, apply to damage, so much the pity. You also get 20′ radius light and the weapon counts as magical, so in the case you don’t manage to pick up a magical sword somewhere, you can still harm creatures only affected by magical weapons.
Turn the Unholy: This one has simply not come up yet in the Majestic Wilderlands. Wisdom saving throw for fiends or the undead, or they have to stay more than 30′ away from you and can’t use reactions.
Available Every Long Rest
Obviously the coolest stuff has more limits, and much of my oomph comes from things that require a night’s sleep or the equivalent to refresh. Some of them are limited in multiple ways, to boot (spell slots). Still, it’s a nifty list and bears thinking on.
Can be used 5 times in between each long rest (1+CHA modifier) and will tell me if there are celestials, fiends, or undead within 60′. Perhaps even more usefully, if an object has been consecrated or desecrated or otherwise hit with something like the hallow spell. Good for detecting the presence of things that will pose a more-than-physical challenge.
Lay on Hands
This is the prototypical Paladin ability to heal. I can heal 30 HP per day, equivalent to about 4 healing potions (2d4+2) in Rob’s game. 5 HP worth can also cure one disease or poison. It’s not huge healing, but it’s not bad, either.
This is an ability I’ve used a lot, but it’s tied to my spell slots, so is somewhat limited. Expending a 1st level spell slot adds 2d8 to my melee damage, and a 2nd level slot is 3d8, so that’s a nice adder. Fiends or undead take an extra 1d8. So twice per day I can land a single blow that’s 4d8+5, and four times per day it’ll be 3d8+5, with an extra d8 on a crit and another vs. particularly evil creatures. The down side here is that it drains spell slots.
My oath spells are always prepared, so they don’t count against my usual limit for how many spells I can know.
Protection from Good and Evil: I have to maintain concentration to keep this one up, but for 10 minutes, a single creature that I touch cannot be charmed, frightened, or possessed by aberrations, fey, celestials, fiends, and undead. Those critters also have disadvantage when attacking that one creature. I suppose I can cast this on me as well, but given that if I’m doing this I can be broken out of my concentration by getting hit, this seems a bit less useful than I’d like.
Sanctuary: Again, this impacts one creature. With a bonus action, for one minute my chosen target gets a bit of an out when attacked. The creature must make a Wisdom saving throw, and if it fails, he can’t attack my chosen subject with that power or ability or blow – he has to do something else. The down side is that if my chosen creature attacks or casts a harmful spell, the effects stop. So this allows a friend to . . . sit there and take it, assuming the foe continues to fail saving throws. Well, it is only a 1st level spell.
Lesser Restoration (2nd level): This one ends a condition: blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned. That’s a tough use for a 2nd level spell slot, but there you go. When you need it, you need it right then.
Zone of Truth (2nd level): Pretty much what it sounds like. Wisdom saving throw fails, and creatures within 15′ radius can’t lie. The good news is, if impacted creatures are affected by the spell, you know it. Dodging questions is possible even if you succeed, so this makes a nice interrogation aid without being an auto-win plot-breaker.
Honestly, it’s a good thing these are always prepared, because otherwise they’re kinda lame. Protection from good/evil would be rather more interesting if it were a radius spell.
Each day I can prepare 7 spells total (4 for CHA, 3 for half my Paladin level), and cast 4 1st level spells and 2 second level. Other than the four spells I have always prepared due to my paladin-ness, I would have to choose among 13 1st level spells, and six 2nd level spells.
Even though these are available every long rest (and are thus properly part of the prior section), I’m going to treat them differently. Each day, I have to pick about 35% of the possible list to memorize, and what I choose to do will depend on what threats and challenges I expect to find in a given day. Good luck guessing, but sometimes you can choose well.
1st Level Options
The following spells are basically buffs.
- Bless: Add +1d4 to any attack roll or saving throw for 10 rounds. Three targets.
- Divine Favor: +1d4 damage per hit for 10 rounds. Self.
- Heroism: One creature cannot be frightened and gains 4 temporary HP per turn for 10 rounds.
- Cure Wounds: 1d8+4. +1d8 for each extra level of spell slot.
- Detect Evil and Good: 10 minutes. Detects creatures (aberrations, fey, undead, etc.) within 30′.
- Detect Magic: 10 minutes. Detects critters or magical items within 30′.
- Detect Poison and Disease: 10 minutes. 30′. Does the obvious.
- Purify Food and Drink: Does the obvious within 5′ sphere.
- Command: Resisted by saving throw (Wisdom). Can’t be directly harmful to target. But Drop, Flee, Grovel, Halt, and Yield all work. More creatures at higher level.
- Compelled Duel: This is surprisingly useful. Disadvantage on attack rolls against everyone but me so long as the target is and stays within 30′. Even if they save, the disadvantage holds, and if they don’t, they have to move to me. The disadvantage even if they save is something I missed here.
- Searing Smite: +1d6 fire damage for the first blow, and the creature stays lit, taking 1d6 more fire damage per turn on a failed saving throw. This is for one creature, and it ends if someone puts out the flames.
- Shield of Faith: +2 to AC for 10 minutes.
- Thunderous Smite: On the first hit, does 2d6 thunder damage. Failed STR save means he’s knocked 10′ and prone.
- Wrathful Smite: One hit gives 1d6 psychic damage, and on a failed Wis save is frightened.
2nd Level Options
- Aid: Three targets get 5 HP and +5 HP max for 8 hours.
- Find Steed: This summons a paladin’s mount – a celestial warhorse. It’s affected by buffing spells in addition to me at the same level. Telepathic communication, and a warhorse is kinda badass.
- Magic Weapon: Makes a mundane weapon +1 for an hour.
- Locate Object: Does what it says if the object was seen in close quarters (within 30′) and is currently within 1,000′ of the caster. Lasts 10 minutes.
- Protection from Poison: For an hour, a targeted creature is cured of poison, has advantage on saving throws vs. poison, and is resistant to poison damage.
- Branding Smite: 2d6 radiant damage, one time. The target is made visible if it’s invisible, and glows with subtle light.
Again, this is compared to 3d8 for the same spell slot for Divine Smite.
I’d thought I’d been misinterpreting the spell options, but no, they’re pretty weak sauce on offense compared to Divine Smite. Given these options and seven slots (and that Rob provided me with a paladin’s mount without the spell), the 2nd level options are all lame (or highly specialized).
So, looks like mostly I’d be picking seven buffing or protection/healing spells. Mostly go-to would be
- Bless – three allies with better chances to hit? That’s good.
- Divine Favor – an average of 50 HP extra damage in a 10-round fight. That’s worth it.
- Command – not always effective, but a chance to get a foe to yield without a fight is sometimes a good thing.
- Compelled Duel – I didn’t realize that the disadvantage applies regardless.
- Detect Evil – always a nice ability
- Heroism – an extra 40 HP in a long fight makes for quite a boost; if there were another fighter in the party that would be a powerful buff.
- Searing Smite is kinda nice, in that you get repeated instances of the fire damage.
- Shield of Faith – not for me at AC 24, but for others. At only +2 AC, this is last priority.