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Is Paladins’ Divine Smite Overpowered?

Regular readers of this blog (hypothetical beings of extreme awesomeness) will know that I like to have a little bitch and moan about elements of the game that – in my gaming experience at least – have proved overpowered, creating imbalance in the gameplay.

Under my probing microscope I’ve analysed and dismantled the lucky feat and come up with ways of dealing with problematic spells like banishment and counterspell. In fact I’ve been so efficient in dealing with the peccadillos of 5th edition that I’m surprised Mr. Crawford hasn’t looked me up and offered me a job on the 6e team. It’s duncan@hipstersanddragons.com in case you’re trying to reach me Jeremy.

Today’s topic is a pet peeve of mine: Divine Smite.

I once made the mistake of asserting that the Paladin class is overpowered on a large Facebook forum and, whilst a few people heartily concurred with me, the majority shot me down with lots of assumptions about how I was playing the game all wrong, but little in the way of convincing argument. Since then I have detected a massive communal Paladin love-in with both players and game designers alike, which might account for why this class is the only one that has it all in their locker: fighting ability, spellcasting, some of the strongest features/powers in the game and – in the Divine Smite ability – the potential to do mega damage.

Every 5e Paladin ever… (Image from Orclabs.)

The Paladin class in general I’ll bitch about in a separate post, but let’s take a specific look at Divine Smite (p.85 Player’s Handbook). Using a 1st level spell slot you can 2d8 damage extra damage with a melee attack that hits, and an extra d8 on top of that for every spell slot above 1st you are willing to expend.

At first it doesn’t look outrageous. After all you have to sacrifice a spell slot, but why it turns out being too powerful is because it’s a melee attack and spell attack combined. It allows you to effectively cast a high damage spell without expending an extra action and with no saving throw, and in fact once the Paladin gets multiple attacks he can in effect have two melee attacks and cast the equivalent of two spells all in one round. The result is that a Paladin at 9th level attacking with a longsword can do a total of 10d8 damage (+ str modifier doubled) against a baddie in one round with no save (ie. two attacks at 1d8 [longsword] plus 4d8 [3rd level spell slot] each). If his opponent is undead – and who hasn’t fought in a campaigns where every foe was undead? – that goes up to 12d8 total. When the Paladin gets improved Divine Smite at 11th level he could deal 14d8 damage in one round to an undead foe. In all these cases he has to hit with both his melee attacks, but by 9th level that’s pretty likely against most monster ACs.

After that the 9th level Paladin can use up two of his 2nd level spell slots to do another 8d8 (10d8 if undead) the following round, and then back that up with another 7d8 (9d8) in the third round of combat, and then 6d8 (8d8) and still have a spell slot left. Which basically means that one character of the party gets to take down the biggest monster of the day every day, whilst the others twiddle their thumbs. Which is just a bit boring, if you’re not the one playing the Paladin.

The only thing vaguely comparable in the game is the Rogue’s sneak attack, but that can only be dealt once a round, even if the Rogue gets a second attack (which he might if they use their bonus action to attack with an off hand weapon), meaning at 9th level a Rogue is limited to 6d6 damage (1d6 shortsword + 5d6 bonus damage). Of course the Sneak Attack never runs out, unlike spell slots, but unlike smite it does rely on the right circumstances (having advantage, or an ally distracting the target) and is pretty much the only thing the Rogue has going for them vs. the Paladin’s durability and other divine powers and spellcasting options.

Maybe if your Dungeon & Dragoning only consists of waking up in the tavern and then fighting a large and unlikely succession of monsters on the road day after day (so DnD 1.0!) it might not prove to be too overpowered, as the spell slots would get burned up after one or two combats. But if you just fight two or three times in an adventuring day it basically means the Paladin in the party will be deciding the most important battle of the day with Divine Smite every time.

Hipster Rules Fix

Is there an easy fix? I would suggest two or three things that could easily reduce the impact of Divine Smite without Paladin PCs feeling they are getting nerfed.

The first would be limit its use to one time a round, like Sneak Attack. That means they can still do the same damage per spell slot expended but – in the case of fighting one big bad boss – not before at least some of the other PCs have a chance to contribute to the fight, as well as letting the big bad boss actually have a chance to show off his own abilities, making for a tenser, better fight.

It would also mean less dice rolling per round, something that has a negative effect on gameplay as others look at their watches while the Paladin PC finishes calculating the massive damage of their first smite of the round and then gathers up all the d8s on the table for the second… super tedious!

(I’ve just considered the possibility of a Paladin using an off hand weapon as a bonus action and getting a third smite per round… *shudder!*).

I would also suggest that a Paladin should only be able to use a maximum of half their spell slots of any given level to deal Divine Smites, rounding up. So a 9th level Paladin could do 2 x 1st level smites, 2 x 2nd level smites and 1 x 3rd level smite. This has the added benefit of forcing the Paladin PC to be more interesting and use some of their actual spells rather than just turning into a damage dealing machine.

Also you should definitely rule that Divine Smite can only be invoked using Paladin spell slots, something that is not clear from the Player’s Handbook. Unless you’re trying to break the game that is a no brainer, as how could you channel divine power via picking up a spot of sorcery?

I’ve also seen a lot of people on forums mention that they always wait until this score a critical hit to use their smites. As a DM I would rule that Divine Smite damage doesn’t double up on crits… scoring a critical hit is a physical thing, striking the enemy in just the right place at just the right time, and it doesn’t make sense that divine energy would in anyway be reliant on that. In my imagination at least the righteous power of the god is summoned and flows through the Paladin’s weapon in relation to the Paladin’s spiritual power (ie. what spell slot he extended) and it flows in the same strength no matter how sweetly or not the blade strikes. But maybe that’s just me being a spoilsport.

Alternatively you could rule that the PC has to declare if he will use Divine Smite should his attack hit and what spell slot he will expend in that case. This would rule out cynical attempts to do insane damage, but still allow for the fun of a mega critical hit.

Ok hopefully these fixes help balance the game, whilst still keeping your Paladin PC more than potent enough to wreak havoc in the next session.

While you’re here did you check out my post on phobias? It’s a fun way to add some flavour to your PC! And don’t forget never to do these 11 irritating thing as a D&D player!

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19 Comments

  1. Talis Mithrane

    Sorcerers can do 13d4 + 14 by level 9 without anyone rolling at all (Magic Missile Quickened). Just guaranteed.
    Or a Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer can do 22d6 (+ CHA Mod x 11)
    then 20d6 (+ CHA Mod x 10)
    then 16d6 (+ CHA Mod x 8)

    (Scorching Ray Quickened)

    • duncan

      Hi Talis

      I am not too familiar with sorcerers, however as I understand quickened spells allow you to cast a spell that takes an action as a bonus action instead, however you can still only cast one spell a round (plus a cantrip).

      https://www.sageadvice.eu/2014/05/22/quickened-spell/

      So a 9th level sorcerer could cast magic missile with a 5th level slot and do 7d4+7 damage.

      Using scorching ray it could use its 5th level spell slot to do 12d6 + Charisma modifier, if it succeeded on all six spell attack rolls. (The Elemental Affinity allows you to add your Charisma modifier to ONE damage roll of that spell). They would then have another three 4th level spell slots and therefore could do another 10d6 + Charisma modifier damage per round for three rounds (if successful on 5 spell attack rolls), so still pretty good.

      Overall sorcerers are very good at dealing damage as well, but the Paladin is equally as good, and also performs the roles of tank, buffer/healer, and has channel divinity powers, making it an overpowered class IMO.

      Cheers!

  2. Dungeons & Deserters

    I agree. I actually made a damage table comparing the maximum damage output of various classes, subclasses, and multiclasses, and even Matt Mercer’s Blood Hunter class. The Paladin clearly needs to be nerfed, and severely. Unfortunately, WotC seem to really like the OP Paladin, as Xanathar’s Guide actually makes their insanely high damage output more sustainable. I’ve lost most of my interest in playing Dungeons and Dragons because of this one class. Why play anything other than a Paladin, right? Well, I’m not interested.

    • duncan

      hey there, that’s a shame! Couldn’t you just reach an agreement with your group to choose other classes, or implement some rules changes? I would be interested to see your table btw.

      • Dungeons & Deserters

        Oh, I still play with my groups. My DM’s are reasonable. But, you know, the core game of DnD 5e just doesn’t interest me anymore. I was really into it until I realized that this one class, according to the RAW, outshines all the others by a huge margin, at least in a melee. And that WotC, with the release of Xanathar’s Guide, only made its damage output crazier with the Conquest Paladin (You’re worried about a third Smite with an offhand weapon? How about a third Smite with the main-hand weapon?!) and significantly more sustainable with the Holy Weapon spell. Also the fact that the only solution people seem to put forward is making the party battle 6-8 encounters per day, which is really a crap solution if you play for more than just combat.

        As for the damage table, sure, here it is. All of it is RAW.

        Level 20 maximum average non-critical damage per turn using mundane weapons against random enemy with no resistances, immunities, or vulnerabilities assuming all attacks hit.

        D = Dueling fighting style
        TWF = Two-Weapon Fighting fighting style
        GWF = Great Weapon Fighting fighting style
        … = trailing decimals

        Berserker: 6d6 + 33 = 54
        Berserker D: 3d8 + 33 = 46.5
        Berserker GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 27 = 52
        Ancestral Guardian: 8d6 + 22 = 50
        Ancestral Guardian D: 2d8 + 4d6 + 22 = 45
        Ancestral Guardian GWF: 8d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 18 = 51.33…
        Storm Herald: 8d6 + 22 = 50
        Zealot: 5d6 + 32 = 49.5
        Zealot D: 2d8 + 1d6 + 31 = 43.5
        Zealot GWF: 5d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 27 = 47.83…
        Monk: 4d10 + 20 = 42
        Open Hand: (42 + 10d10) / 2 = 48.5
        Kensei D: 2d8 + 3d10 + 20 = 45.5
        Kensei TWF: 3d8 + 1d10 + 24 = 43
        Hunter D: 2d8 + 1d8 + 2d6 + 19 = 39.5
        Hunter TWF: 3d6 + 1d8 + 3d6 + 20 = 45.5
        Monster Slayer D: 1d8 + 2d6 + 12 = 23.5
        Monster Slayer TWF: 5d6 + 15 = 32.5
        Kensei/Hunter D: 3d8 + 3d10 + 2d6 + 30 = 67
        Kensei/Hunter TWF: 4d8 + 3d6 + 1d10 + 24 = 58
        Kensei/Monster Slayer D: 2d8 + 3d10 + 3d6 + 30 = 66
        Kensei/Monster Slayer TWF: 3d8 + 1d10 + 4d6 + 24 = 57
        Kensei/Rogue D: 5d8 + 3d6 + 30 = 63
        Kensei/Rogue TWF: 4d8 + 3d6 + 24 = 52.5
        Hunter/Kensei/Rogue D: 3d8 + 8d6 + 24 = 65.5
        Hunter/Kensei/Rogue TWF: 4d8 + 7d6 + 15 = 57.5
        Monster Slayer/Kensei/Rogue D: 2d8 + 9d6 + 24 = 64.5
        Monster Slayer/Kensei/Rogue TWF: 3d8 + 8d6 + 15 = 56.5
        Mystic D: 3d8 + 7d10 + 7 = 59
        Mystic GWF: 2d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 7d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 2d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 5 = 67.93…
        Soul Knife: 3d8 + 7d10 + 9 = 61
        Rogue D: 1d8 + 10d6 + 7 = 46.5
        Rogue TWF: 2d6 + 10d6 + 10 = 52

        [One critical hit on a surprised enemy only]
        Assassin D: ((1d8 + 10d6) x 2 + 7) x 2 = 172

        [1st, 2nd, and 3rd turns only]
        Samurai D: 5d8 + 35 = 57.5
        Samurai TWF: 6d6 + 30 = 51
        Samurai GWF: 10d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 25 = 66.66…
        [4th turn and thereafter]
        Samurai D: 4d8 + 28 = 46
        Samurai TWF: 5d6 + 25 = 42.5
        Samurai GWF: 8d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 20 = 53.33…

        [1st and 2nd turns only]
        Arcane Archer: 4d8 + 4d6 + 20 = 52
        [3rd turn and thereafter]
        Arcane Archer: 4d8 + 20 = 38

        [2 turns only]
        Hexblade D: 8d8 + 5d10 + 38 = 101.5
        [Thereafter]
        Hexblade D: 2d8 + 43 = 52

        [1st turn]
        Devotion Paladin D: 2d8 + 12d8 + 5d10 + 34 = 124.5
        Devotion Paladin TWF: 3d6 + 18d8 + 5d10 + 30 = 149
        Devotion Paladin GWF: 4d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 12d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 5d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 30 = 141.16…
        [2nd turn]
        Devotion Paladin D: 2d8 + 11d8 + 4d8 + 34 = 110.5
        Devotion Paladin TWF: 3d6 + 15d8 + 6d8 + 30 = 135
        Devotion Paladin GWF: 4d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 11d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 4d8 (d = 5.25) + 30 = 125.416…
        [3rd turn]
        Devotion Paladin D: 2d8 + 10d8 + 4d8 + 34 = 106
        Devotion Paladin TWF: 3d6 + 12d8 + 6d8 + 30 = 121.5
        Devotion Paladin GWF: 4d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 10d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 4d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 30 = 120.16…

        [1st turn]
        Oathbreaker Paladin D: 2d8 + 12d8 + 4d8 + 3d10 + 29 = 126.5
        Oathbreaker Paladin TWF: 3d6 + 18d8 + 5d10 + 30 = 149
        Oathbreaker Paladin GWF: 4d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 12d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 4d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 3d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 25 = 144.56…
        [2nd turn]
        Oathbreaker Paladin D: 2d8 + 12d8 + 4d8 + 3d10 + 29 = 126.5
        Oathbreaker Paladin TWF: 3d6 + 15d8 + 6d8 + 30 = 135
        Oathbreaker Paladin GWF: 4d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 12d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 4d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 3d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 25 = 144.56…
        [3rd turn]
        Oathbreaker Paladin D: 2d8 + 10d8 + 4d8 + 3d10 + 29 = 117.5
        Oathbreaker Paladin TWF: 3d6 + 12d8 + 6d8 + 30 = 121.5
        Oathbreaker Paladin GWF: 4d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 10d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 4d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 3d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 25 = 134.06…

        [1st turn]
        Conquest Paladin D: 3d8 + 18d8 + 5d10 + 21 = 143
        Conquest Paladin GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 18d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 5d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 15 = 166
        [2nd turn]
        Conquest Paladin D: 3d8 + 15d8 + 6d8 + 21 = 129
        Conquest Paladin GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 15d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 6d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 15 = 150.25
        [3rd turn]
        Conquest Paladin D: 3d8 + 12d8 + 6d8 + 21 = 115.5
        Conquest Paladin GWF: 6d6 (d6= 4.16…) + 12d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 6d8 (d8 = 5.25) + 15 = 134.5

        ___________________________________________

        BLOOD HUNTER VERSION 2.0

        [When Blood Hunter is at or above 1/4th CURRENT max HP]
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter D: 3d8 + 3d10 + 36 = 66
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 3d10 (d10 = 6.3) + 30 = 73.9

        [When Blood Hunter is below 1/4th CURRENT max HP]
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter D: 3d8 + 30 + 36 = 79.5
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 30 + 30 = 85

        ___________________________________________

        BLOOD HUNTER VERSION 1.2

        [When Blood Hunter is at or above 1/4th NATURAL max HP]
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter D: 3d8 + (3d12 + 15) x 2 + 21 = 103.5
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + (3d12 [d12 = 7.33…] + 15) x 2 + 15 = 114

        [When Blood Hunter is below 1/4th NATURAL max HP]
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter D: 3d8 + (36 + 15) x 2 + 21 = 136.5
        Ghostslayer Blood Hunter GWF: 6d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + (36 + 15) x 2 + 15 = 142

        • Dungeons & Deserters

          Clarification: The Arcane Archer and Samurai don’t need that higher damage output to be in their first 2 or 3 turns of combat. They can split it up, just like the Hexblade, but can do it for only 2 or 3 turns in any combat encounter. If I could edit my reply, I would rewrite it like this so that it’s understood just like the Hexblade:

          [3 turns only]
          Samurai D: 5d8 + 35 = 57.5
          Samurai TWF: 6d6 + 30 = 51
          Samurai GWF: 10d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 25 = 66.66…
          [Thereafter]
          Samurai D: 4d8 + 28 = 46
          Samurai TWF: 5d6 + 25 = 42.5
          Samurai GWF: 8d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 20 = 53.33…

          [2 turns only]
          Arcane Archer: 4d8 + 4d6 + 20 = 52
          [Thereafter]
          Arcane Archer: 4d8 + 20 = 38

          • TimingLight

            I’ve got some more classes for you, at level 20 for whatever reason, even though level 10 would be a better measure of where most people play.

            Wizard 20
            One 9th level spell
            Either meteor swarm for 40d6 (140 damage) HALF ON A SAVE, to like as many as many as 1650 people in one round
            If allies are in the way psychic scream 14d6 (49 damage) to ten people and they’re stunned, half on a save
            That means no attack roll to miss. If it hits all ten, and all ten SAVE they’re doing more damage than a paladin at 245 damage
            This spell hitting only 3 people can do as much as your paladin in a round
            8th level spell
            Sunburst for 12d6 (42 damage) on everyone in a 60 foot radius. Save for half. Beats your pally with 4 targets.
            7th level spells
            Delayed blast fireball for 12d6 damage (42 damage) in a 20 foot radius. Thats pleanty of space to get 4 targets. You could fit more than 20 in an area that big.
            He can get 2 of these per day
            6th level spells, 2 more
            Freezing sphere is 60 feet again, 10d6 (35 damage) save for half. He could be freezing hundreds
            If his friends are in the way than chain lightening same damage (35) but hits 4 targets who save for half. That’s a total of 140 for a 6th level spell, same as your level 20 paladin but the wizard can do it al level 11!
            that’s 6 entire rooms per day he can nuke from the door and hit everone at this point

            Bard 20
            With magical secrets can do exactly as above.

            Sorcerer 20
            Exact same as above but can empower to reroll 1s and 2s. He can careful it to save his allies or quicken it so he can toss in an extra 4d10 fire bolt.

            Warlock 20
            Warlock isn’t as good at direct damage, probably the weakest of the casters other than cleric who just cant. they’re better at “boring” things like dominate monster and true polymorph. They can still keep up with paladins though.
            Level 9 – psychic screams as above
            Level 8 – maddening darkness – 8d8 damage (36), half on failed save, 60 foot radius. Everyone round for ten minutes though.
            Level 7 – finger of death. 7d8+30 (63.5) single target,half on save
            I think crown of stars is better though. 4d12 as a bonus action 7 times. Not one big burst but it totals 182 average damage
            Level 6 – circle of death 8d6 (24 damage), half on save to everyone in 60 ft radius. Could hit more than a hundred people. Only needs to hit 10 to keep up with paladin even if every save is made. Alternately mass suggestion to suggest 12 people attack another 12 people for 24 hours gets the job done pretty well.

            Druid 20
            Level 9 – storm of vengence – it’s a little convoluted but first round is 2d6 save none, secound round 1d6 no save, third is 10d6 save half, more damage to come in subsequent rounds but lets ignore that. That’s about 40 damage to everyone in a 360 foot radius. That’s a army killer.
            Level 8 – sunburst as above, or tsunami if you like more convoluted druidy stuff
            Level 7- fire storm, 10-10ft cubes of 7d10 (38.5) save for half.
            Level 6 – wall of thorns is 7d6 (24.5 damage) save for half to people in a shapable 60 foot like and also again if they want to get through the wall. Only has to hit 5 people to keep up with paladin, but it’s got utility beyond that
            They can also be a bear and get seperate “bear hitpoints” infinite times per day thus making them unbeatable, because they can just be a new bear every round and get those hitpoints back. That’s why you don’t compare classes at level 20. So the druid can keep up with blasting but the paladin can only cry about his measly 100 lay on hands points.

            There’s nothing wrong with the paladin. They really tried to make caster martial disparity smaller this edition and the paladin was the greatest success on that front. Every class ive played has still been fun to play, and i’ve played most of them.

        • Pdgeorge

          This table is really impressive, but ultimately pointless.

          D&D is a game focused on a lot more than just combat, and even combat is focused on a lot more than “party versus one enemy” and there is also full utility to parties.

          Paladins against destroying single targets? GREAT! Against groups? Not so great.
          Paladins helping the group solve puzzles/non-combat encounters? Mediocre.

          Paladins are just one character in a party. They can do things great that other characters can’t do great and they can’t do things that other characters can do things great.

  3. John Marston

    Also.. Sneak attack is per turn, not per round. AFAIK it’s always been this way (in 5e) too.

    • duncan

      Thanks John, you’re right of course!

    • Brian

      Turn doesn’t have the same definition in 5e as it used to. Turn used to represent 10 6 second rounds in a combat encounter, but that language has been eliminated. A turn in 5e simply represents a players chance to do something within the round. So a round is 6 seconds, a turn is a portion of that up to 6 seconds in which that character acts. Really in 5e, the terms are almost interchangeable.

  4. Matt

    I’ve been watching the D&D promo story “The Lost City of Omu” and noticed that the Paladin in that group consistently deals far more damage than the other characters, as well as being better armored and having more HP. He does 50-60 damage per round consistently at level 6 or 7 while the other characters struggle to do more than 30-40.
    In 3.5, the Paladin would have to declare the smite before rolling to hit. I think I’m going to institute that house rule, as well as the one from 3.5 that doesn’t multiply the bonus damage dice, just the weapon damage dice.

    • duncan

      Hi Matt

      Yes I watched the Lost City of Omu too! (I wrote this post thanks to it: http://www.hipstersanddragons.com/matthew-mercer-dungeon-master-tips/ that you might enjoy!)

      You’re right Arkhan the Paladin does the most damage, and whilst the game is written around 6 encounters a day that never happens, meaning a Paladin can do Divine Smite more often than not in combat.

      I never played 3.5… I was on a 20 year D&D hiatus between ’96 and 2016! So if the Paladin calls it and misses do they still burn a spell slot then?

      I didn’t understand this point ‘as well as the one from 3.5 that doesn’t multiply the bonus damage dice, just the weapon damage dice.’ Can you explain?

      Thanks to smite Paladins lead Barbarians in doing damage, and thanks to Lay on Hands they lead Fighters in durability. Given that Paladins also have spellcasting and other special abilities that frustrates me quite a lot.

      Cheers

      d

      • Matt

        3.5 Smite Evil
        “Once per day, a paladin may attempt to smite evil with one normal melee attack. She adds her Charisma bonus (if any) to her attack roll and deals 1 extra point of damage per paladin level. If the paladin accidentally smites a creature that is not evil, the smite has no effect, but the ability is still used up for that day. At 5th level, and at every five levels thereafter, the paladin may smite evil one additional time per day, as indicated on Table: The Paladin, to a maximum of five times per day at 20th level.”

        As you can see, in 3.5 a level 6 paladin is only going to be able to smite evil 3 times a day. It can’t be used against anything and everything, and must be declared before rolling. In 3.5, the Paladin is also a good class – it has full base attack bonus, a d10 HD, the ability to use most weapons and heavy armor and innate resistances or immunities to diseases and fear effects. If the Paladin misses though, they used their smite attempt up. No take-backs.

        As far as the multiplier point: In 3.5/Pathfinder, on a critical hit, EVERYTHING except bonus damage dice are multiplied. In 5e, the bonus damage is not multiplied, but the bonus dice are, meaning that the Paladin can wait for a critical hit, then apply smite and roll 6d8 while using a second level spell slot. The ability to wait until a hit or critical hit before choosing to apply the smite damage makes it far more potent than it should be.

        Granted, Paladins in 5e have limited spell slots, but most classes with spells don’t get to wait and see if their spell hits before deciding to use its slot. Imagine if the wizard could wait and see if the target of his spell failed their save before spending the spell slot!

  5. Val

    This would be a really easy issue to fix and does not require any new mechanics. Just add in a requirement that divine smite requires a bonus action. The fact that it can be applied after the to hit and it scales with higher level slots is balanced payoff for requiring both the bonus action and to burn a spell. This ability would then match very well with sneak attack which doesn’t have the spell requirement but is situational yet is still once per turn.

    • duncan

      I like that A LOT! It’s crazy that it’s currently a free action that can be done multiple times a round. This solves everything in one go, and also stops the Paladin’s round taking forever (a problem we had at our table given that our Paladin would cast a spell with his bonus action, use multiple smites – millions of d8s and maths – and probably attempt a free action as well!).

  6. MaesterOlorin

    Paladins have always been M.A.D. which was only part of their drawbacks. In the past Barbarian, Monks, Druids, Paladins, Rangers, and Clerics were made to be a sacrifice for a gain. This is not a MOBA or MMO, combat is not everything; you were not and should not be trying to balance every caster, skill, or combat class. In my experience, in the past you knew what you were getting into. You want to be a druid; then you have a code to live by and that was part of the bargain. The idea that every class will do the roughly the same damage in combat is both boring and immersion breaking. The wizard should be bending reality, the paladin should have to live by the laws of heaven in order to gain the favor of Heaven, the Fighter should be the stalwart soldier, and it was fun. The only people I saw complaining back then were the ones who wanted to get out of paying the price for power, usually they went wizard afterward. Back then a paladin was meant to roleplay himself to death rather than dying from being overwhelmed; dying because it was a fight he had to fight rather than one he was too stupid to turn down. With the search of the dollar and the attempt to “broaden the appeal” they are losing what made D&D different. They are trying to equalize everything; a tyranny of the vulgarization, and creates compressed and let’s say “streamlined” game; nevertheless, the game was not meant to be recoloring a few basic archetypes, even if that is what they seem to be trying to do now, it wasn’t always that way. That is why I play the old kinds when I can.

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