Hey there everyone! I promised before that I’d take a look at the different classes in D&D 4E, and found myself slightly delayed in starting this series. Research is difficult as for a great majority of the classes I’ll be relying on theory as opposed to application, and even for the classes I have played I’ve only played them one way. Regardless I’ll try to rate classes on a few factors: Flavor (which those who play for combat can dismiss), Mechanics, and Difficulty. I can’t guarantee how often these articles will come out, but I’ll try to keep them consistent. Forgive me if they get a tad delayed for any reason. And now, onto the show! First up is my favorite D&D class: The Paladin!
I find simple to be more appealing when it comes to class flavor. Let individual players adjust the specifics of the role, and don’t pigeon hole them into a certain concept if it can be avoided. Aside from the few martial classes you don’t get much broader than “knight in shining armor” which is probably the most straightforward way to interpret the Paladin. Sure, there’s the religious aspect, but it’s honestly an underplayed part of the character in comparison to past editions where a Paladin had to be Lawful Good or his powers were immediately lost. Now Paladins can play around with morality as they wish, and feel free to worship the Goddesses of Knowledge, Trickery, and Death without any problem. The Paladin is still a very religious class, but gone is the day when a Paladin had to reprimand the thief for pick pocketing—well unless you DM houserules a new system in. Regardless that’s not the intention of the class anymore.
Paladins are a fun archetype. They’re the guys in the big shiny armor wielding overly ornate swords and who have a chip on their shoulder. They’re either rugged warriors of faith, or handsome missionaries, but they still retain their most appealing factor to me—nobility. A Paladin, regardless of deity, is a pious warrior devoted to his code and should do everything in his power to act on his deity’s behalf. That might be Paladin of Ioun questing into a library of demons to retrieve a tome of knowledge, or a much simpler Paladin of Bahamut who stands defiant as a horde of orcs approaches the tiny hamlet. This is why I prefer broad classes. If I want to play something simple, like a Paladin of Pelor who travels the land instilling hope and slaying demons, I easily can. If I decide to play a Paladin of Kord who quests across the land killing anything evil for the challenge, I easily can. And if I even want to play a Paladin of Erathis who quests not necessarily for good, but rather for justice and progress, I just as easily can. Sure some of the more unique gods like the Raven Queen and Sehanine require a bit of justifying for following, but it’s still possible without too much work.
In short the Paladin remains a stable in Dungeons & Dragons and Roleplaying Games alike. If you like to play “the good guy” the Paladin is a pretty solid class to go with, and fills the “combat oriented Divine class” quite well.
Unlike most classes the Paladin doesn’t have a Class Feature to choose that defines the build. All Paladins get access to plate mail and powers like Divine Mettle & Divine Strength, so the aspect of the class that separates the builds is their attribute scores. There are three basic builds that a Paladin can take: Strength-based Paladins focused on big damage and single target elimination (Straladins), Charisma-based Paladins focused on healing, buffing, and mass-marking (Chaladins), and Paladins focused on balancing the two attributes to be a Jack-of-All-Trades, but a Master of None (Baladins).
Now before I get into the strengths and weaknesses of these classes, allow me to explain the marking mechanic unique to the Paladin: Divine Challenge. Well, actually there are two: Divine Challenge and Divine Sanction. Divine Challenge is a power activated with a Minor action that marks the enemy. Should the enemy betray the mark and make an attack that doesn’t include you, then they take scaling (3/6/9) plus CHA-modifier damage under the requirement that you attacked the enemy the round before or ended adjacent to them. What’s nice about this mark is that unlike the Fighter and Warden, you don’t need to spend your Opportunity Action to do this attack, and there’s no attack roll. It might not be as big in terms of damage, but it is definite. Even dazed or stunned your mark will take effect. Even blinded your attack will hit. It’s a reliable threat that enemies always have to be on the lookout for. Divine Sanction is just another version of Divine Challenge that is inflicted via powers, and can often times multi-mark or mark for extended periods of time. Plus it doesn’t require you to engage the enemy, so it can benefit from the oh so beloved “mark and forget” mentality.
Alright, now that we’ve got your main ability straightened out, let’s attack these builds. Curiously enough that’s what Straladins do: Attack. Straladins are powerful characters who focus on dealing with one target at a time and dealing large damage. By taking the feat “Mighty Challenge” you can add your STR-modifier to your DC and DS. You still play like a Defender, and you aren’t as much of a sticky Defender as the Fighter, but you’re still a big threat on the field. You aren’t focused on healing, but Wisdom is a good secondary stat along with Constitution. Getting yourself a good weapon and powers to ensure your target stays with you is essential.
Chaladins play a tad bit differently in that they aren’t as focused on doing big damage. They still lay down the pain of course, but Chaladin’s get alternate roles. They dabble as an off-Leader with a plethora of abilities to throw out healing, temporary hit points, and saving throws. They also possess plenty of abilities to maximize their marking potential with mass marking abilities and other powers dedicated to punishing enemies who betray your mark (not having to spend an Opportunity to use your mark allows you to set up some pretty cool combos). Wisdom is still very important to these characters, and Constitution should be a focus as well (perhaps more if you’d rather be hardy than perceptive).
Baladins are a tough nut to crack. They get the best of both words as they can deal big damage and pick up healing powers as necessary, but the problem is Paladin powers are mostly strictly one way or the other. Either they use Charisma or Strength to attack, and thus you’ll be either taking a majority of powers from one class and thus performing as a slightly less effective version of the Straladin or Chaladin, or you take equal powers from both, but you’ll never reach the full potential of either play style.
The mechanics of the Paladin change radically depending on how you play them, but what I like most is that the Divine Challenge/Divine Sanction system feels unique. There’s a very specific difference between playing the Paladin and playing the Fighter just as there’s a big difference between playing the Straladin and Chaladin.
Okay, so managing Divine Challenge/Divine Sanction might be a bit more complicated than “I mark it, and if it does anything but attack me then I smash it”, but it’s still a fairly simple system once you realize that Divine Sanction is just a simpler version of Divine Challenge. Paladins start off easy to play. You get some of the highest HP totals to start, the highest amount of surges you can get, access to the best armor (Plate) right off the bat, access to military weapons right off the bat, and a class bonus +1 to all NADs. Oh, and real quick your NADs are your Non-AC Defenses (Will, Fortitude, and Reflex), so mind out of the gutter please. Essentially you get huge bonuses to your AC, Health, and Defenses that you don’t have to manage in the slightest. Whether you never get magic armor or take special feats your AC and health will remain high, and thus you make a good Defender.
Now I said before that a good Defender should appear vulnerable in some respect. This is dependent on your DM, but this isn’t something you really have to worry about. Your mass marking and powers will ensure that monsters go after you first without question, and then just watch as most attacks bounce right off your armor. Enjoy the sweet sound of your DM asking if 19 hits your AC at first level and responding with a satisfactory: “Nope”. Again, not much work needs to go into making sure this happens. Paladins are built right from the beginning to be walking tanks of pure holy ass-kicking.
Gameplay wise Chaladins are going to be a bit harder to play than Straladins. Understanding how to get the best out of mass marking powers can be tough, especially when a fantastic one is provided to you at level 1 (Valorous Smite). You might be paralyzed with fear to activate a move that will potentially turn every enemy’s attention to you, but remember that you are a Defender and that is the point of your job. Count on the party’s leader(s) to handle your damages, and worst case scenario you have plenty of health, a high AC, and healing of your own. This class isn’t fully self-sufficient, but truth be told a class with naturally high AC, high damage potential, and healing is about as close as you can get.
More advanced players can enjoy plenty of unique builds like those built around Radiant Abuse (my GOD is Bless Weapon a beastly power for those builds), and others will use a Half-Elf (perfect Chaladins by the way) to get an arcane power so they can abuse the White Lotus Line. Building a Paladin can be easy, but can just as easily be done wrong. The number one mistake first time players will make is to balance Strength and Charisma. Don’t. I know Baladin is a perfectly reasonable option, but it’s not for a first time player. If you’re playing a Paladin for your first character, or for your first Defender, choose Strength or Charisma and stick to it. Spend your other points on Wisdom and Constitution and maybe a few points in Charisma/Strength for Straladins/Chaladins respectively (no more than thirteen to qualify for feats later on). Dexterity is not a major point for you as your AC is already high enough. Intelligence is your dump stat. Sorry, but PALIDUN IS NOT TEH SMRT!
Gameplay wise you shouldn’t have too much trouble, and if you keep most of the tips above in mind you’ll build a fine Paladin. Like most of the Player’s Handbook 1 classes, the Paladin is a good beginner class.
I love the Paladin. They’re not too hard to play, and played correctly they can perfectly blend Defender with either Striker or Leader without sacrificing their major responsibility: taking the big hits. They’re self-sufficient, unique, but best of all, completely awesome. I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to be “the hero”, or for those that just like being a one man army badass.
Well that’s it for my first Class Review. Hopefully with this lesson you’ll understand the best way to play your champion of holy justice. Next time we get primal and take a look at everyone’s nature loving hippy spell caster: the Druid!
Until next time, Namaste!