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 email@example.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.
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 they will use Divine Smite should their attack hit and what spell slot they 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.
*UPDATE: Definitive Hipsters Rules Fix*
So, taking the cue from one of the commenters below and the already existing mechanics of the thunderous smite, searing smite and banishing smite spells – and gleefully ignoring all the paladin fanboys’ tantrums and tears – I’m turning Divine Smite into a spell, which is what it should have been all along.
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Duration: 1 minute
Appealing to your god’s anger, you channel their divine wrath into your weapon. The first time you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack during this spell’s duration your attack deals an extra 2d8 radiant damage to the target. The damage increases by 1d8 if the target is an undead or a fiend.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the extra damage dealt by the attack increases by 1d8 for each slot above 1st level.
So there you go, using WOTC mechanics to fix WOTC mechanics… this works in a way that is both balanced and familiar, and also means it’s occasionally worth actually using thunderous smite, which is a really fun and flavourful spell that never gets used normally.
UPDATE: A smart commenter has just pointed out that if Divine Smite requires concentration (as I had originally written), then a paladin can’t use many of their key buff spells… like bless and protection from evil. So I’ve taken away the concentration element, that the other smite spells require. Contrary to some readers belief, my goal is not to nerf the paladin, but to balance this one broken power that allows you to burn multiple spell slots in one turn (breaking the designers’ own code of action economy, which is crucial to the game’s balance!).
More Dungeons & Dragoning….
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!
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)
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).
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.
You forget the sorc gets to do this at range vs melee for the Paladin.
The magic missile also Always hits. A paladin has to hit first (which it prob will against most foes (but there are some foes with very high AC or shield reactions)
You got to way up the pros and cons for both.
A 9th level sorcerer casting magic missile with 5th level spell slot does 24.5 hp of damage. A 9th level paladin attacking with a longsword plus 3rd level divine smite does (5d8) 22.5+strength modifier per attack, and can attack twice. Plus an offhand weapon would be another 4d8 using an offhand weapon, with str modifier if they selected dual wielding feat. So another 18 damage + str.
That would be (with 16 strength) a total of 72 damage, almost three times as much as a sorcerer’s highest level spell slot (ok sorcerer I guess could use quicken and cast a cantrip as well to do another 10-15 damage).
It’s true that paladin can miss, but he doesn’t waste a spell slot when he misses, which is unfair. He could also crit (not possible with magic missile).
In general it’s hard to compare martial characters with casters, but the problem is that the paladin is a martial character, who outperforms other more specialist martial characters thanks to his divine smite PLUS is a caster, healer and tank.
Anyhow, the solution is simply to make using divine smite require a bonus action (see comments below) and that makes the game a lot more fair.
You forgot that a Sorcerer can also cast a cantrip, in addition to that magic missile. Again, another ranged! attack…
2d10 for Firebolt, 2d12 for Poison spray, and can add damage to it.
Or, ya know, how classes scale differently at different levels, and by 11th/13th level, pure-casters start to get ridiculous spells that put any combat class to shame, even a Paladin.
Or the fact that some spells can literally be a save or die, even in 5E, depending on circumstances. (Polymorph, Plane Shift, Control Gravity) etc.
Or, a Fighter can be a battlemaster and take Great Weapon Master, or Sharpshooter, and 3 attacks by lvl 11, + d10 damage, and an action surge for 3 more, and they regain it after a short rest.
You’re looking at, with a greataxe, 1d12 + 5, + 10, +d10, for average 29 damage, and they can do that 2 more times, then if they action surge, they’re looking at a lower average of 23. Still though, on a turn without action surge, that’s a total(if they hit with all 3), of 75 damage, and then if you count action surge, that’s potentially up to 69 additional damage, for a total of 144 damage in 1 ROUND!
Slightly less for a crossbow fighter, but it’s ranged.
Or you could play a samurai, for advantage on attacks, and can get a 4th attack instead.
Or look at a Warlock with Eldritch Blast and Agonizing Blast. Let alone if they multiclass.
Or look at how OP Circle Of The Moon Druids are, with their nearly unlimited hp pool, and they can change into something like a friggin Mammoth for insane damage output. (Knock Prone and Stomp as a Bonus Action, and then Gore).
Gore. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: (4d8 + 7) piercing damage.
Stomp. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one prone creature. Hit: (4d10 + 7) bludgeoning damage.
Or literally any control caster, making damage pointless, because you just press the WIN Button…
Plane Shift someone to Carcerii, even a caster with such a spell, better have permission from the ruler of the plane to leave, or you can’t, and they’re not inclined to ever give you it…
Or to the elemental plane of water, good luck breathing, and not being eaten by a Kraken.
Or Negative Energy Plane…
Or Mount Celestia(for evil creatures, which are instantly detected by extremely powerful beings like Devas, Solars, Planetars, etc), and promptly destroyed completely.
Or just the single spell in the entire game… ‘Polymorph’, which allows you to: explore, escape, spy, survive massive damage, fly, swim, climb, escape grapples, tank insane amounts of damage, acquire resistances, multiple attacks, high damage per round, or even can be used to instantly kill something… Polymorph a creature into a turtle, drop it from high up, it takes insane falling damage, which carries over to its natural form instantly, and they take like 100 damage.
From one spell.
You can also Polymorph + Disintegrate.
Or Polymorph + Power Word Kill.
Instantly kills you. (Checked with Sage Advice, the designers of the game, it works as a combo).
For you to be nerfing Paladins like you suggest, you’re shitting on a player’s fun, and you would have to re-work the entire balance of the Paladin class to work completely differently. Unless you’d be willing to give them full casting of a cleric, and rework them into a cleric subclass; what you’re suggesting is insane and unfair.
Mr. Invincible, a paladin, Mr. Average, a fighter and Mr. Occasionally Brilliant, but Always Squishy (known as Mr. Squishy), a caster, are on an adventure together when they encounter a dragon.
Mr. Invincible: I charge at the dragon…
DM: Ok first roll to see if you’re frightened.
Mr. Invincible: No need I’m immune to being frightened! I use my bonus action to channel divinity and use Vow of Enmity on the dragon. I now have advantage on all attack rolls. Then I attack twice with my greatsword. Since I have advantage and I just cast bless before combat I’ll use Greater Weapon Master Feat and still most likely hit… and do 2d6 + 4 (str) 1d8 (improved divine smite) + 10, + 4d8 divine smite = 43 damage with my first attack, and another 43 with my second attack. 86 damage total.
Mr. Average: I also charge at the dragon.
DM. Roll against being frightened.
Mr. Invincible: No need, just stand next to me, Mr. Invincible and you’ll also be immune.
Mr. Average: Thanks to not being frightened, and with some help from bless, I also do some insane damage using my action surge!
Mr. Squishy: I cast polymorph on the dragon. I’m going to turn him into a turtle and then throw him off a cliff.
DM: The dragon passes it saving throw. Plus you’re frightened by the way. Now it’s the dragon’s turn. Opening his huge maw he belches a cone of a furnace hot fire over all of you. You all take 63 damage, or half if you save.
Mr. Invincible: Remember thanks to me being invincible you get a +3 bonus to your save. I pass.
Mr. Average: Me too, thanks Mr. Invincible!
Mr. Squishy: I fail, I’m now dead.
Mr. Invincible: Wait, did you remember to add the d4 for bless, that I cast before combat?
Mr. Squishy: Shit, I forgot. Ok now I pass… I’m only nearly dead! Gee thanks Mr. Invincible!
Mr. Invincible: I do another 82 damage.
Mr. Average: I’ve used my action surge already, and I don’t have advantage like Mr. Invincible, so I miss with one attack. But I do around 40 damage.
Mr. Squishy: I cast polymorph on the dragon. I’m going to turn him into a turtle and then throw him off a cliff.
DM: The dragon fails its saving throw, but uses its legendary resistance. And now it smashes Mr. Invincible and Mr. Average with its claws and tail. You both take a tonne of damage.
Mr. Invincible and Mr. Average: We’ll survive.
(DM rolls dice behind screen)
DM: The dragon takes a big inhale. Looks like it might be ready to blast.
Mr. Invincible: I cast Misty Step and teleport onto the back of the dragon’s neck, so it can’t blast me. Then I do another 78 damage.
DM: Ok, Mr. Average, you’ll now have to roll against being frightened because you’re no longer standing next to Mr. Invincible.
Mr. Average: I fail, but I use my indomitable feature. Thanks to that and bless I pass. I do another 40 damage.
Mr. Squishy: I cast polymorph on the dragon. I’m going to turn him into a turtle and then throw him off a cliff.
DM: The dragon fails its saving throw… but uses its legendary resistance to pass instead. Now its his turn. The dragon blasts Mr. Average in the face with is fiery breath weapon. Since you’ll no longer standing next to Mr. Invincible, and don’t benefit from his aura of protection, and you fail your saving throw and now you’re toast I’m afraid.
Mr. Invincible: Don’t worry I’ve got this! With all these attacks with advantage I’ll get a crit sooner or later… natural 20! I deal 4d6 + 4 + 10 + 6d8 = 55 damage with my first attack.
DM: Congratulations you’ve just killed the dragon!
Mr. Invincible: I climb down from the severed neck of the dragon and then use Lay on Hands to bring back Mr. Average from the brink of death, and restore Mr. Squishy to respectable health too.
DM: Wow, great teamwork guys. That was an amazing encounter. Lucky we didn’t listen to Hipster & Dragons shitting on our fun with his insane and unfair suggestions…
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.
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
Hexblade D: 2d8 + 43 = 52
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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
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
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…
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
Arcane Archer: 4d8 + 20 = 38
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.
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
With magical secrets can do exactly as above.
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 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.
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.
A Real Player
I gotta say buddy, I think your annoying overanalyis is what made you lose interest in the game. You could just play a class you like for the roleplay and flavor aspects, but if all you want to do is power game and play “the best” class, stick with videogames.
I think that’s a needlessly pretentious comment. DnD is ultimately still a game with mechanics. You can role-play in any game and reflavour most things to be something else. I’d ultimately assume the reason you play DnD is to actually, I don’t know, use the system and its mechanics? Else why aren’t you playing free form roleplay?
If someone finds the mechanics dissatisfying then they have a problem with a core part of the system. To reduce tabletop RPGs to just Roleplay and Video Games to just mechanics is not only needlessly reductive but isn’t representative of either medium.
I tried recreating the math and I honestly cannot tell where paladins supposedly get +30 in flat bonuses that devotion paladin gets no matter whether it’s 2 greatsword attacks or 3 attacks with two weapon fighting(which isn’t on the paladin fighting style list) or some other flat bonuses aside from the conquest oath.
You also completely mishandle fighters, who get action surge and do not just 4 attacks per round, but 8 attacks per round. With advantage, or with battlemaster maneuvers and extremely likely with useful feats since fighters need only str and con and get 7 ability score increases/feats(realistically 4 ASIs and 3 feats).
Your Samurai GWF: 10d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 25 = 66.66…
With Action Surge: 2x 66.66.. = 133.333..
Samurai GWF and GWM: 8d6(d6 = 4.16…) + 20 + 40 = 92,28
With Action Surge 2×92,28 = 186,56
Battlemaster Fighter has 6 superiority dice(SD). GWF, take Fighting initiate: superior technique +1 SD and martial adept +1 SD.
Trip attack to add 1d12 to damage and knock enemy prone for advantage, then start using GWM.
Battlemaster GWF/GWM/Trip Attack: 8d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 4d12(d12 = 7,33…) + 20 + 30 = 112.6
With Action Surge(4x GWM use): 8d6 (d6 = 4.16…) + 4d12(d12 = 7,33…) + 20 + 40 =122,6
Battlemaster first turn using all 8 SD: 112,6+122,6 = 235,2
Looks to me like the only class you know how to play is Paladin, not that Paladin is broken.
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.
Dungeons & Deserters
You can say the same thing about Barbarians and Fighters.
“(Barbarians and Fighters) against destroying single targets? (Good, not anywhere near as great as Paladins.) Against groups? Not so great.
(Barbarians and Fighters) helping the group solve puzzles/non-combat encounters? Mediocre.”
“(Barbarians and Fighters) are just one character in a party. They can do things (good) that (one other class can do great) and they can’t do things that other characters can do great.”
Yeah, I definitely don’t see a problem here.
Not a Paladin Fanboy
Paladins have a pretty high cost for that perceived super damage output – there’s a visible anti-Paladin bias in a lot of these posts.
Paladins fall off hard; especially against the stronger monsters that start coming in in higher levels.
Unless the DM is very greatful with items, the Paladin has a really hard time surviving all those rounds up in the enemy face – that early 18AC doesn’t really hold against enemy multi-attack +9s chopping him down.
Also, unless the Paladin has meta-knowledge, they’ll get absolutely obliterated by INT saves a lot of the time.
The Paladin might have good smite DMG on paper but let’s be honest…he’s there more for the buffs than anything else. The smites just make Paladin feeeel relevant while the Wizard controls the entire map; the Sorceror, Fighter, and Rogue lay down massive damage; the cleric just laughs at everyone because CLERIC…and the Warlock and Barbarian are basically just doing what the Paladin is doing…wishing they picked something else.
Oh yeah and the Ranger 1.0 is shooting arrows and stuff.
Rory A Madden
It’s interesting you mention saves because at least the Paladin gets a big bonus to all their saves, so they will never truly be obliterated by Int saves, which while nasty aren’t super common anyway. So yeah, they have weaknesses like literally every other class, but this is one where they are stronger than others AND they help shore up their allies weaknesses in these areas.
Your assertion that the Fighter and Rogue (and Ranger?) will be laying down massive damage is not supported by facts. In single target burst damage, which is often vital in D&D, the Paladin vastly outperforms these other classes. In fact, they are arguably better at doing single target damage than pure spellcasters throughout most of the game.
Now, you are correct that generally speaking all pure spellcasters knock the socks off all non-pure spellcasters at higher levels. Not sure why you don’t include Warlocks in that assessment though. 2-3 max level spells every short rest is usually enough to do the job.
So it’s a weird scenario; Paladins are almost certainly overpowered, and that unbalance shows itself pretty clearly somewhere between levels 5-7, but also all pure spellcasters are even more overpowered compared to Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, and Rogue. Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of boosting the power of the less powerful classes (though most could probably use a boost), as D&D already runs into issues where it’s tough to really challenge a party at higher levels without obvious brute force solutions like massive first strikes or laser focusing on specific weaknesses and tactics, which cuts out like 80% of monsters in the monster manual as really viable threats.
I agree Paladin is the undisputed king of saves, and I’d much rather be proficient in Wisdom and Charisma saves than any others. Spells that target Wisdom and Charisma are both common and debilitating. If you fail a Con or Dex save you often just end up taking more damage which you can handle anyway. Int saves are extremely rare in my experience.
People talk a lot about the damage output of fighters and barbarians but this damage is usually only achieved with feats. Feats which the paladin can access too! Smack Vow of Enmity and Great Weapon Master together and then add Divine Smite on top… the other martial classes will not keep up.
A Real Player
This guy gets it. 👌👌
You’re ignoring the fact that with more attacks, magical equipment becomes more effective (fighters), and barbarians get the most hp, resistances, and reckless attacks. For example, if a magic sword adds 2d8 fire damage on hit, fighter will do 4d8 extra damage a round more than a paladin can, which puts them up to 18 more damage. Fighters will also do more damage with increased strength. You are also cherry picking your data. Where is the action surging?
For example a battle master at 20th level can do
Eight attacks with a greatsword, six battle maneuvers.
4.16 * 16 + 20 + 6 * 7.33 = 130.54 damage.
Now if both a paladin and the battle master have a +3 weapon, the paladin gets +6 damage while the battle master gets +24 damage. That puts the new damage to 154.54 damage. Perhaps they have a flame tongue enchant, the paladin gets 4d8 = 21 extra damage while the battle master gets 16d8 = 84 extra damage. That is 63 damage difference. That puts the new damage to 193.54 for the battle master and 187 for the best paladin build you have. Thus fighters are overpowered right?
Dragons can… fly out of the paladin’s range
Why play anything besides a Paladin? How about the fact the game is suppose to be a role playing game, not a game of crunching numbers and outputting the most dps. That’s what makes the game fun, and why watching Matt Mercer and the Mighty Nien is so awesome. I enjoy Jester b/c she’s silly and sweet and doesn’t heal much…as a Cleric, I enjoy Caleb b/c he’s always on edge and socially awkward, not b/c he can cast fireball. If all you care about is killing things and leveling and doing the most dps then go play 4E. And when discussing combat, you can still have really cool stuff besides just going in and divine smiting everything. I enjoy personally using my protection spells and compel duel, ect to try and protect those I care about rather then always trying to destroy my foe in hopes i can do that before it kills my friends.
I don’t agree that this is game breaking. After the paladin does this nova damage, they are useless. At high levels, they are boss killers and 1/2 of a fighter. That’s about it.
Add a fight with a hp tanky damage sponge and a hard-to-hit glass cannon in one fight and the paladin becomes a liability. Nothing broken about it compared to the monk that can stun lock dragons or the sorc that just wills more spell slots back, or the fighter that just keeps attacking until its not funny anymore, or the short rest warlock that fills literally ANY roll.
Being a boss killer is quite a superpower. One that makes the game worse for everyone who isn’t.
For me the game breaks down at 15th level tops. I’m not really interested in high level campaigns nor trying to balance the clearly broken powers accessible at 20th level. For me the game is just mental masturbation at that point.
Fighters have far more damage than a paladin past level 11 or so, so maybe play at those higher levels? Also, paladin’s only melee restriction makes poison practically impossible to use for them, which makes them lose out in a ton of damage through things like purple worm poison. Yes paladin is strong, but not unbeatable and certainly not the strongest class in the game. After all, wizard with the shapechange spell and some abuse can easily get almost every monster ability in the game, and permanently
Also.. Sneak attack is per turn, not per round. AFAIK it’s always been this way (in 5e) too.
Thanks John, you’re right of course!
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.
They are almost interchangeable, but not quite. Going back to the Rogue’s Sneak Attack, they can do it once per turn, which sometimes means they can do it more than once per round… for example when they get an attack of opportunity as a reaction, and they have advantage etc. on that attack, they could get their SA damage again because then they are acting during someone else’s turn.
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.
Yes I watched the Lost City of Omu too! (I wrote this post thanks to it: https://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.
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!
I’m writing House Rules for an upcoming campaign and I’m just wondering if you think that changing the mechanics for “spell kickers” so they must be declared before attack would change the balance of the game too much. https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/79324/can-you-wait-to-add-optional-damage-dice-such-as-divine-smite-until-after-seei
Replied on the stack.
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.
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!).
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.
My house rule is just to remove Divine Smite as a class feature for Paladins. They’re already a good class without Divine Smite, and they can still use their spell slots to, you know, cast actual smites which seem reasonably balanced. I still allow the +1d8 for Improved Divine Smite though. I’m struck by how the class still seems pretty solid even with this super powerful feature removed, though I haven’t crunched all the numbers to see how to compares in terms of damage to other options.
Honestly though, I’d rather run or play in a game without Paladins than one where Divine Smite works as written.
Hi Rory, good to hear from someone who’s had the same experience as me. You’re right, even without smite a paladin can still hold their own easily, and in fact is still more powerful than most classes IMO. I think what makes smite so powerful is that you can do it as a free action on the back of a melee attack, and there’s no save. Being able to cut foes down so quickly renders the rest of the party as spectators all too often.
Your blog is great by the way! Gonna take me a while to go through it properly, but was impressed that you were amongst the alpha testers of the Monster Manual!
Rory A Madden
Yeah, I totally agree. Smites just weirdly bypass the normal ways things are balanced in d&d 5e:
-Don’t require an action or bonus action to use
-Can be used multiple times a round
-You get to decide whether to activate AFTER you hit
-No Saving Throw
-No need to maintain concentration like you would with a heavy hitting spell of a similar power level
-Allow ridiculous Nova damage that is heads and shoulders above other classes.
I like messing around with damage optimization and min/maxing classes for different roles, but it’s depressing when Paladins get to have the highest damage by far and are still great tanks, decent healers, and provide a lot of other benefits (such as bonus to saves, some utility spells, etc.).
I also wonder at what kind of games people are running where they don’t notice this disparity; I think it’s possible that a lot of people playing Paladins actually don’t realize HOW insane the damage output can be and only occasionally use their divine smite.
Glad you like Blogofholding! Honestly, my friend Paul has done the vast majority of contributions, especially these days, including a recent super useful article breaking down the actual math that is used to create monsters in 5e. But I’m pretty happy with a number of the articles I did at the start of 5e and much of the general theory-crafting stuff.
Yeah, playtesting early 5e was super fun! Kind of crazy how much the game changed from the early playtests; I am super impressed with how much they were willing to adapt and change. And it’s really neat to see my name listed in the playtester credits for Monster Manual and DMG.
Cool, I will definitely dip into the Blogofholding some more when I get a moment, as I only had a chance to peruse a few articles!
One final thing on Divine Smite, I did like the comment on this post by Val (not sure if you saw it), who said that it should require the use of a bonus action. That solves a lot of the problems with it in one go!
Cheers for now.
I’ve noticed at my tables that Paladin players NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) cast their spells. In over 30 sessions worth of play between two groups and 3 paladin players, I don’t remember ever seeing a Paladin use their spell slots for anything besides juice for Divine Smite. I think simply banning the ability is balanced, but unfun for potential paladin players. I like the suggestion that it costs a Bonus Action.
Strange if they’re not utilizing one of the best buffs in the game: Bless.
I play a Paladin, disagree with this article and often cast Bless before a fight.
Isn’t the core problem that the game is designed for ~6 combat encounters per long rest? If that’s impractical, then you’re right that long rest characters like the paladin (and wizard, sorcerer, etc) need to be nerfed so they don’t overshadow short rest characters like the fighter and warlock.
yes, I think that is a major contributor to the problem. But unless you’re in a dungeon, I don’t really understand the 6 encounters per day structure. How many fights do you fit in a day? You would have to a party of instigating-type murder-hobos to get in 6 fights a day, it seems to me!
Rory A Madden
Even in a dungeon where you do fit in 6 fights, I have to imagine that most of those aren’t really designed to be super challenging, but more to put a light to moderate drain on the parties resources. So really, it still comes down to 1-2 fights that really put the party to the test. I am not sure if others feel differently, but that’s how it’s always felt when I’ve run encounters where I intentionally throw a lot at the party before they rest.
I also think it’s worth noting that other spell casters don’t seem to have quite the same problem. For example, a well built wizard can do some pretty incredible things, but even going full force, they still struggle to put out the kind of single target damage an optimized Fighter or Barbarian can dish out (area attacks are another matter of course), not to mention it’s still useful to have these characters in the front lines tanking. But a Paladin beats them soundly at their own game.
So while I agree that if every day had 6 rounds of combat, this would be somewhat less significant of a problem, I don’t think it’s a case of “D&D is balanced if you play how the designers intended”.
Spellcasters are far more effective against groups, though. Nothing a martial character can do can match the efficiency of a fireball on a swarm of enemies. Not everyone fights the party one at a time.
You’re assuming encounter = fight. It doesn’t. There’s lots of different kinds of encounters. Anything that can drain players’ resources is an encounter.
I find it more fun to find interesting challenges to the players abilities, not remove them outright.
I agree in principle, but that philosophy doesn’t work if one PC has much stronger attributes than the others, rendering them as sidekicks.
Speaking as a DM: They’ll only become sidekicks if YOU let it happen.
So the Paladin can hit stuff Real Good (TM) a handful of times a day, at the cost of all their spellslots? Have them fight more things and they’ll have to decide when to use it.
Casters are often VERY careful with their spellslots. Past level 5, I rarely see PCs go below half their total, out of caution and a desire to still be prepared. This risk-reward calculation makes their class interesting.
Casters (even half-casters) are designed to shine in big, flashy ways, and Paladins get to have that moment.
Full-martial classes are designed to be consistent and resilient, and to always have their core features available to them regardless of current “resources”.
Sure, you CAN find plenty of workarounds to the problem of not having the intended 6 resource-draining encounters per day. But then you throw the system out of whack.
Don’t criticize the math if you’re not looking at the full formula.
I hear this argument all the time. “It’s your fault as the DM for not accounting for this, that, the other.”
Why should the onus be on the DM to fix everything? And if so, isn’t it better to fix one or two overpowered abilities, than change the whole way you want to play the game? So guess what, my other PCs don’t become sidekicks, because I changed the rules for Divine Smite. We are running our first campaign where a paladin has the same, and not more, power at the table as the other PCs.
As for the 6 encounter design that is looking more and more like a mistake by the designers, based on how people used to play D&D…. dungeon crawls, or walks through the wilderness where monsters lurk behind every bush, and not really how people play it now.
5e is designed a certain way, to make use of both short-rest and long-rest classes, so yes — if the DM wants to alter that playstyle, then the onus *IS* on the DM to do the work and change it.
I rarely, if ever, get to 6 encounters a day in my games. But I do try, because I like the resource-management aspect. I have 1 full caster, 2 half-casters, and 2 full-martial PCs. If I just had 1-2 encounters per day, the wizard might fireball everything and hog the spotlight. But he doesn’t, because there’s often the “threat” of the next fight. He gets a moment, but then it becomes someone else’s turn.
I’ve played alongside a paladin in 5e and watched him Divine Smite left and right. Sometimes he would crit for upwards of 60 damage. Not once did I feel like “a sidekick,” because that was his moment in the limelight. Paladins do burst damage really well, and it’s not a flaw in the system. But he couldn’t keep it up all day.
It’s okay to play the way you want, or even adopt some (or most!) of the game rules. 5e is really flexible. For what it’s worth, I think your proposed changes would be good *in the style of game you want to play*. But it’s not fair or reasonable to make a blanket claim that the paladin is broken. It functions exactly as intended, and has worked very well for me as both a PC ally and a DM.
Typical complaints; resulting from two major misunderstandings.
The first is building boss encounters purely around one strong monster, a fight paladins absolutely excel at. The second is letting players take long rests too often; this isn’t just for paladins but every single dedicated spellcasting class. In fact, it benefits paladins less. If you do the latter you’re going to have a very unbalanced time anyway. (I see at the top you complain about banishment – a spell that is not actually broken so much as excellent against specific encounters, the same ones Paladins are also excellent against).
Paladins have extremely limited spell slots, divine smites are powerful but it’s also just 2d8 unless they’re spending higher level spell slots. Paladins are also giving up the chance to use spells for that, which is a fairly big opportunity cost. One bless spell is often far more cost-effective than one first level smite, for instance, unless that smite slot was spent on a crit.
“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.”
I can answer that.
“(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!*).”
It’s because you apparently don’t know the first thing about the game. (I apologise for sounding so harsh, but if you’re going to toot your own horn so blatantly then this is one bubble I’m going to burst with no hesitation)
Even the most cursory look at two-weapon fighting shows that it’s absolutely pointless for most dedicated melee classes and absolutely worthless for the paladin in particular. Not only don’t they get the fighting style that is necessary to make it worthwhile, it requires them to:
1. give up their shield with holy emblem, thus making their spell casting much more complicated (greatweapon, the other style they could go for at least allows them to have a free hand for a emblem around their neck)
2. take a feat tax for the dual wielder feat, which is actually a pretty heavy deal for a fairly MAD class
and all that for having less AC than sword-and-board (or maybe on-par AC if they took armoured – which at least they can with relief since it’s the only style that benefits them at all – while sword-and-board can either still have one AC more, or have +2 damage or protection… well, protection isn’t great either), doing the same damage with their main hand and having a bonus-action taking second hand attack that does barely any damage, with the sword-and-board having an extra feat or more likely better charisma overall thanks to not requiring a feat.
Great weapon master is even more hilarious – they have two less AC, but trade it for an occasional bonus action attack worth a damn (and since it’s anti-horde it’s better for paladins than most classes, since Paladins suck at fighting those). They also have an at-will ability that does the same average damage as a 1-st level smite heavily compounded by their access to bless, which abrogates the to-hit penalty. So they benefit even more than usual from that.
Two-weapon fighting on the other hand, only serves to enhance their nova ability… something which they are already suited for. In return they massively hamper their at-will damage and their access to their other paladin abilities.
You are not, in fact, knowledgable about the “peccadillos” of fifth. You merely have fallen into the usual GM traps for 5th – very common and well known ones – and assume that it is in fact player options that are the problem.
Sigil, it seems you wouldn’t recognise sarcasm if it hit you in the face with a saucepan, on the bottom of which was etched S A R C A S M.
Obviously I’m not expecting a call from Mr. Crawford any time soon, but this post is for those who, like me have experienced problems with the Divine Smite ability.
The point I made about off hand weapons was made as an aside (I even put it in brackets!), so trying to pull that apart as if you’re some kind of D&D guru is hardly doing you any credit. It just shows you misunderstood the post.
Otherwise you make some good points, but please leave the swagger and the insults at the door next time.
I’m of the opinion that Paladins Divine Smite itself doesn’t need to be nerfed or Even Limited in any major way. I play a paladin, and yes can get some crazy burst damage, But I am far from the Damage Dealing Powerhouse of our group. Consistently our Rouge dealt more then comparable damage using their sneak attack, and the Barbarian/Fighter with the expanded critical range AND pole-arm master out doe’s us on damage consistently, from a round to round basis. The Rouge could deal their damage every turn, and the Barbarian has no resource to expend at all, And can hammer away until his arms fall off. Once I’m out of slots, they will easily outpace me.
The Paladin being able to Buff and Heal is also not as much a factor. They cannot Nova all their Spell slots and then buff an ally, unless its their lay on hands, which while a real nice single heal, when it comes to healing in DND its only really usefull once combat ends. Yes, Let me use my action to heal 10 Hp… that the orc is going to deal right away rendering my turn meaningless, when i could have just hit him and prevented that next hit anyway. Spell slots are either used for buffs and healing, or for damage, not at the same time. I also find that many buff spells are just not worth it in the game that we play, since so many buffs require concentration, and a Paladin should be in the fight, Possibly taking hits and risking losing that buff.
It comes down to the problem of the ‘5 minute adventuring day’. When your group gets a long rest between almost every fight, why wouldn’t they nova all the abilities and spells? Our DM did this.
Long Rest is not a Single nights Sleep. Its 24 hours of light activity/resting, and a short rest is the 8 hour sleep overnight. This absolutely shifted how I play. I used to Nova all my slots on only Divine smites just to keep up. Now that our slots are even more limited, they become even more valuable. I don’t smite every hit with my limited slot pool. I only really do so when i crit to make that slot worth spending. Otherwise, I’m now using spells i never anticipated using. Command. Locate Object. Aura of Vitality. Sanctuary. All spells that before I never used, and now make frequent use of because now I’m not using all my slots to smite.
Making Changes to it/Removing It as some people have suggested would be the same as removing a Barbarians Rage, because since they have a High AC (High Dex+High Con, Shield Etc.) They don’t need resistance to Melee Damage With all that HP, Or a Monks Flurry of Blows, because 4 attacks for a single ki point is just to many attacks at 5th lvl…
There is also the fact that not all encounters are created Equally. Think of the Action Economy. If you have a single big monster with no Backup, of course the group will destroy it in a round or two, Likely with the Paladin Using His Strongest Smites to help soften it up.
Paladins Kryptonite is going to be groups, and Especially Ranged Combatants.
This is, of course, just my take on things, and i fully understand we may continue to disagree.
Hi Tyler, thanks for the comment. Some very good points. Rogue Sneak Attack is for me a bit incongruous at times, and bloody annoying when used as a ranged attack. Polearm Master is probably the strongest feat in the game, so yes I can imagine if you play enough encounters in a day these two characters you mention could deal more damage than a Paladin overall. Maybe I didn’t state it clearly enough in this post, but the problem with the paladin is the speed of which they can do their damage, meaning they get to decide the boss fight every time.
Otherwise, some of your points need a counterpoint I feel…
With Lay on Hands you could equally heal 50 hit points in one go at 10th level. That’s a formidable pool of extra hp, and combined with the paladin’s AC, that makes them tougher to kill than a fighter. In comparison, how many spell slots of cure wounds is that the equivalent to? And you can do it all at once. Not to mention the handy remove effect property.
Fair point about buffs and concentration, although on top of Smite and spell options and lay on hands, you also have Channel Divinity, which also offers some really handy buffs, especially on the Oath of Vengeance if I recall correctly.
Regarding the Barbarian / Fighter with Polearm Master, there’s nothing stopping a paladin getting Polearm Master as well.
Interesting switch your DM has introduced… sounds like it might actually be making things more interesting for you!?
While sustained damage is useful, nova damage is worth far more than sustained damage. If the party is facing an ogre, 40 damage in one attack, combined with the rest of he party means a dead ogre. The ability to kill a monster in one hit is more valuable, since a dead monster cannot attack back.
Paladins only get to decide the boss fight every time if they’re allowed to reach the boss and duke it out before everyone else. Sure that’s fun and makes sense for fighting a dragon, but a Lich would send hordes of undead for the PCs to mow through before it ever took a hit. Same with a vampire, a mummy lord, even a tyrant king. Minions and lieutenants and other things to distract the PCs will make a boss fight much more dynamic.
The Monsters Know What They’re Doing is one of my favorite blogs and has really changed my view on encounter design, especially the “single powerful bad guy in a square room” problem I ran into a lot. Boss fights can be dynamic: the bosses can be super-mobile and able to outrun the melee paladin, they can hide behind minions or magic powers, the fight can be on-the-run, or any number of other strategies.
Depending on the creature in question, they may also be able to assess the situation and say “hey, this glowy guy REALLY HURTS, let’s focus on neutralizing/evading that threat”. Voila, there’s a new problem for the PCs to solve rather than combats becoming, as you said, boring slugfests.
Compared to how much damage a 9th-level wizard or sorc can do by expending spell slots and landing cloudkill, cone of cold, or fireball on a group of bads, the single-target damage a paladin can do by expending spell slots and smiting a bad seems reasonable to me. Divine smite is very good, but not so good that it completely overshadows the things other classes do well. If all your fights revolve around single-target damage, the paladin will seem OP. If all your fights are against mobs, the aoe casters will steal the show. As with all situational abilities in 5e, it’s important for the DM to be aware of what the party can do and design encounter variety into the game that balances the challenges and opportunities for each player to shine over the course of the game.
Rory A Madden
My objection to this line of thinking is that it leaves all the other non-spellcasters/spellcasting-light classes in the lurch. So sure, when it comes to AOE, other spell-casters can do some really impressive overall damage, but Barbarians, Fighters, Rangers, and Rogues lag really far behind what a Paladin can do.
At level 9, for example, a Paladin can lay down 9 Smites, choosing to space these out as needed or go absolutely Nova, potentially dropping an extra 11d8 damage to a target in one round. It’s really tough for a Fighter to keep up with that kind of damage (and they are probably the next most damaging for single target), even through multiple fights.
Now, to be fair, WotC did throw the Paladin a nerf at level 11 so improved smite doesn’t add to smite damage anymore. That was nice, but it doesn’t really go far enough, as by level 5, the Paladin is pulling significantly ahead of the comparable non-spellcaster/spell-light classes.
Ultimately, I am surprised WotC choose a versatile tank type to ALSO be the top (by far) when it comes to single target damage. I would have thought they’d have given that honor to the Rogue, a fragile spellcaster such as the Warlock, or two-handed weapon focused Fighter.
I like the first solution; only using smite once per turn. But theres another feature of the high level Paladin that gets on my goat: Cleansing Touch at 14th level.
This feature allows them to touch a creature and end any magical effect on them. They can use this a number of times equal to their charisma modifer per long rest.
I don’t want to take anything away from paladins, but something like this is screamingg out for a house rule. I’d rule that Cleansing Touch requires the paladin roll an ability check against the spell. That way it becomes more like a touch version of Dispel Magic instead of a “lolnope” to any and all spell effects the DM chooses to throw at you.
The paladin is overpowered, which is one of the reasons I like it more than the fighter or barbarian. It is always dealing out good damage, and occasionally, game breaking damage. I normally run games with 1-3 party members, so the paladin is a good way to have the encounters balanced for the party members, instead of against them. I also do have a tendency to give very powerful encounters against the players, and the more damage the players can do, the better. I like paladins, especially because wizards in my opinion are way more overpowered at higher levels than the paladin is, based on spells like wish, or meteor swarm, or imprisonment, which can basically defeat any foe.
Harsh of Whitt Wülfszh
I can feel with that. It can be frustrated with a Paladin that kicks your (if you are DM at least) undeath asses very hard. However isn’t it the fantasy of the class? Like super powerfull against those not living beings. I find it pretty cool. Paladins are like 1/12 of (original) classes. So let them just kick those undeath asses.
Steven Victor Neiman
Honestly, the damage output of a paladin is high, but not ridiculous. A sorcerer can deal almost as much damage to everything in the room, and they can keep doing it a lot longer than the paladin can keep doing double-smites. The infamous sorcadin multiclass is where you start seeing real problems. 2 levels in Paladin to get DS and then 7 levels in Sorcerer, and you’ve got someone whose nova attack is Booming Blade-smite, quickened booming Blade-smite, using 4th-level slots at 9th level. That’s 14d8+2xStrMod at 9th level, plus another 4d8 if the enemy moves before their next turn. The fix for that is simple though. Just limit a paladin’s smite to the highest level slots they should have as a pure paladin at that level. So at second level they can smite with first tier spells to get +2d8, at sixth level second tier spells for +3d8, and so on.
As a clarification (which might have already been mentioned in earlier comments), there are no such thing as “Paladin spell slots”. You get one pool of spell slots between all of your spellcasting classes, and you can use them to cast the spells allowed by any of your casting classes, or any of your class-based features which require spending slots. The closest thing to an exception are warlock slots, which are based only on your warlock levels, but you can still use normal slots for warlock spells or pact slots for normal spells. Of note multiclassers can’t get spells of a higher level than they would have in their pure class, so they often end up with high-tier spells they can only use for upcasting. In 3.5, multiclassers got distinct spell pools for each of their casting classes, but that’s not how it works in 5e.
Honestly, if you think paladin smites make no sense to crit, then sneak attacks shouldn’t crit either. You are channeling an attack through a weapon, if the weapon hits a critical area why would the effect attached to the weapon not also do more damage?
And if you think Paladins need a nerf you aren’t paying attention to what really ends fights. Paladins are good at dealing hp damage to a single target yes, but that isn’t what ends most dnd fights.
Casters get –
Wall of Force, good luck dealing with that.
Mass suggestion? One save or a whole slew of monsters just leave the fight instantly with no recourse.
Counterspell? Hope you caster boss has a lot of spell lots because if one player has this he’s never casting anything.
Druids at level 20 have unlimited wild shapes, literally a new hp bar every round forever.
Warlocks and the darkness/devil’s sight combo? a minute of advantage on all attacks and disadvantage on anything attacking them? Totally immunity to reaction attacks when they move since you need sight on the enemy to attack them.
Casters get Polymorph. A sorcerer can turn two people into a freaking T-rex with over 100hp. He can add 200 hp to the party’s total and keep two giant monsters on your team. That’s okay but the paladin doing a bunch of single target damage isn’t?
What about Conjure woodland creatures? 8 wolves at level 5 will turn any fight into a wash in the party’s favor. Summon that on top of any enemy caster and it’s game over.
Fireball? At level 5 this is an average of 24 damage, but it can hit a slew of creatures. I’ve had players nuke six or seven guys with this spell for a total of over 100 damage in one round at level 5 but smiting is the problem?
Dude I hate to say it but if you think paladins are OP but don’t have a problem with the other casters you’re not the guy who should be giving advice. Casters being crazy strong are the problem and saying the paladin is the best melee class is like saying they are the strongest of the cleanup crew, they still can’t hold a candle to a divination wizard who can autofail a save.
The problem is ALL casters are way stronger than ALL the non-casting classes, and while paladins are the strongest melee hands down they still aren’t as strong as any cleric or wizard of the same level when it comes to ending an encounter.
Rory A Madden
I’ll just note I think Paladin Divine Smite is Overpowered AND casters are Overpowered. Basically, an ideal party would be something like 2 Paladins and 3 Wizards (or some combination of pure spellcaster).
Mainly, it’s frustrating because Paladin’s encroach pretty heavily on other melee classes, doing most of what they do a lot better, able to fill in for traditional “tank rolls” and being the masters of single target damage, while also providing crazy perks like bonuses to all saves. Without Paladins in the game, it’s already a stretch to justify playing a Fighter or Barbarian (because all spellcasters are OP), but with them, you just feel kind of silly. And of course Rogues and Rangers are already notably under-powered so that’s a shame, I guess.
As for the spells you mention, I think the worst offenders are Wall of Force and Fireball, as they create a spell package that can take on most threats the DM can come up with (i.e. Wall of Force deals with most bosses, while Fireball sweeps the room and both these spells can be gotten at mid-levels).
If I were to seriously approach balancing D&D, I would nerf Paladin divine smite, look at significantly limiting the number of spells each pure spellcaster can cast a day, and nerf some of the worst offending spells. It really is striking how difficult D&D is to run as something other than a storytelling game once you hit level 7 or so.
This strikes me a bit as looking at the big numbers and going “Ooh, shiny” then calling it OP without considering the rest of the game.
Paladins burn long rest resources to smite against ONE enemy. Single target burst is their thing. Put a paladin in a room full of enemies? Great, watch the ranger, fighter and casters excel in doing their thing as the paladin wastes a resource on mooks. Place down a high DPS enemy and watch the Barbarian eat hits as the paladin has to get back to heal. Place an enemy at a range and watch as the Paladin can do approximately f*ck all compared to even the barbarian who still synergises with thrown weapons somewhat.
I mean, compare it to sneak attack. Which is completely limitless. And works at range. 1d8 (rapier or light crossbow rather shortsword) +5d6 (10th level) potentially every turn adds up, but people don’t notice because it’s not done all at once. Hell, at level 5 Warlocks can casually do 2d10 + 2(CHA) +2d6 every turn with a single a spell slot (Hex). That hex lasts up to an entire day if you hold concentration, and comes back on a short rest if you don’t, while eldritch blast never runs out.
Take a rogue who you say a rogue has nothing else but that’s fundamentally untrue. Ignoring the fact that cunning action allows the rogue to slip in and out of battle like a paladin never could and assassins show paladins what nova really means , they have metric tons of out of combat utility. Initiative ends and the paladin casts find steed I guess? With another resource gone? While the rogue is unlocking doors, steamrolling social encounters with the bard and their expertise, noticing everything as inquisitive, charming people as swashbuckler or using invisible mage hand.
There’s more to DnD than the entire party vs 1 big enemy once a day, and nerfing a core class feature doesn’t just doesn’t aid anything else. I’ve played a paladin a couple of times before and actually intend to play one again in a one shot soon, but I was getting out DPS’d by rangers and even monks at lower levels (4) because I Nova’d a couple of times and they could just keep going with consistent damage against multiple enemies. Paladins are undoubtedly on the stronger side of things, but are from OP if you consider them within the context of the actual game.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this. You reeeeaaally don’t seem to understand 5e, the action economy, or (and this is what’s cutting you off at the knees) how to pace encounters. I’m sorry that you have such a hard time getting your head around this (and more sorry you want to mangle an entire class for it) but… at some point, you’re going to have to acknowledge that this is you failing as a DM, not the system.
Paladin is not broken and you’re not the first DM to have problems with min-max paladins. Knowing that, what’s next?
Like a poster above said, go look at “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing” and try to be a better DM. If you let a member of your party run riot over you, the party will become imbalanced. This is not unique to paladins. I won’t get into the myriad ways you could address this without neutering a class you don’t like, but the brilliant folks who designed this system don’t need your mediocre ‘help’ breaking it.
Take this as a fun challenge! Learn how to make a more interesting world (beyond boss in square room gets smote). Improve how you direct the build-up (maybe split the party or try more r-o-l-e-p-l-a-y-i-n-g). Manage pace better in your PC encounters (fight a handful of hordes back to back and then two beefy bosses in one square room!).
Most importantly, shut down the table-talk whining instead of encouraging it. You’re not making a better game, you’re creating entitled players. Whether you whinge your way through reinventing the (shittier) wheel or choose to be better than your own failings is up to you.
I can’t speak for Duncan’s experience with the game, but as someone who has been running D&D games across multiple editions for over 20 years and who often takes deep dives into the math behind the mechanics of the game and how they play out in actual sessions, I agree with his criticisms. When I see a response that boils down to “you are running the game wrong”, I have to wonder, how bad would the math have to be for you to acknowledge a problem? If the Paladin did twice as much damage with each smite, would you admit that WotC made a mistake with the design of the class then?
The Paladin vastly outdamages other melee classes both in terms of number crunching and actual experience during play, while trading little in utility. The best criticism you can really make is that spellcasters are also overpowered which… yep, that is also a big problem with the game at higher levels.
Can these design issues be dealt with through clever encounter design? Yes, but it puts a strain on the DM, and it’s a lot of work. And it certainly doesn’t mesh with the preferred play styles of a lot of D&D players.
For example, against a high nova melee damage class, I would tend to rely on the following types of encounter/adventure design:
-Throw a lot of flying creatures at that that use ranged attacks, thus making it harder to engage in melee. Or alternatively, present challenging terrain to make it hard to engage ranged attackers
-Throw a TON of encounters at the players before they can take a long rest to drain their resources. So maybe 10+ medium to challenging encounters.
-Of course, there is always the old stand by, throw an encounter so challenging at the party that they NEED to go all out in order to even survive
The problem with all of these solutions is that in some cases, such as flying encounters, they leave other primarily melee classes, such as the fighter, behind. So sure, use every tool in your toolbox, but it doesn’t really fix the disparity. The issue with extending the number of encounters per long rest is that, in my experience, it really does need to be in the neighborhood of 8-10+ fairly challenging encounters to really drain the party resources (they can’t be easy or they will be bypassed with no serious expenditure of resources), which is pretty onerous and unfun for most groups of players. And even depleted of all smites, the Paladin is still a pretty solid fighter… this isn’t like a wizard falling back on cantrips.
In short, it’s fun when classes are strong in different areas, and you CAN deal with these strengths and weaknesses through encounter design, but the power level disparity of the Paladin versus other melee classes is high enough that it hurts the game and makes designing a variety of fun and interesting encounters more onerous than it should be.
thanks Rory… by the way, I updated the article with a new ‘definitive’ fix. Would be interested to hear your thoughts.
Rory A Madden
Yeah, I think your fix is pretty solid and elegant. I will probably end up using it in my games!
It’s precisely my understanding of the action economy that lets me know this feature is broken. It effectively allows a player to cast a spell per melee attack it has in a single round… at 5th level, that could be three attacks + three spells in one round.
Of course if you’re so concerned about the paladin being nerfed by my suggestions then you could always try some r-o-l-e-p-l-a-y-i-n-g.
In all fairness, assuming three attacks with 3 sites at 5th level that’s:
2d6 + 2*mod + 1d6 + 6d8
Which is a lot but that’s HALF of the paladins main resource gone in one turn. They don’t get that back until another long rest, so assuming they’re going nova in the first 2 or 3 rounds they lost all their possible smites for the other 4 to 7 fights of the day and lose all their out of combat utility.
Comparing this to another high dps class, sorcerer, let’s say red dragon or phoenix using common spells:
Quickened fireball + firebolt gives
8d6 + 2d10 +2*mod
With a single spell slot (they have more than a paladin and can replenish them with lower slots) and some sorcery points, granted 3rd level spells take a lot to create at 5th level so they can do this maybe 2 more times. But this is AOE, they can capture the big bad AND his mooks with this damage, something the paladin can’t do, so this really adds up. They also still keep some of their OoC utility.
Hell at this level Warlocks can use a single spell slot to do:
2d10 + 2*mod + 2d6
Pretty much every turn all day, considering they can cast hex for 8 hours twice per short rest, which the game is balanced around getting ~2 of. This is extremely consistent DPS.
I’m not trying to say these classes are OP, I’m just suggesting that by looking at the paladin in vacuum you’re overstating its power a bit.
Maybe, but I’m not sure comparing other overpowered abilities (fireball is basically a mistake that stuck around) is proof that divine smite is not overpowered.
The design flaw of 5e, for me at least, is that the best options are so much better than the middle options. Thus rendering so many middling options pointless. (Cue a ridiculous “why don’t you try roleplaying” argument from somebody deliberately try to miss the point).
I’ve been playing D&D since 1989 (admittedly with a 20 year break between 96 and 2016) and there are dozens of low level spells in the Player’s Handbook that I’ve never seen cast at the table by a PC.
The fact that most paladins only use their slots to smite is proof that its an overpowered ability… if it was balanced they would use other spell options as well.
Note, there’s a difference between being overpowered and breaking the game.
Btw, your examples don’t really include some other factors. Casting fireball is often impossible because of allies being in combat, and importantly enemies get a saving throw. Also fireball can be counterspelled, and fire damage is not as handy as radiant damage.
I don’t know the warlock class well, and not sure what spell combo you’re referring to. With scorching ray, a warlock can do that twice a combat and (maybe less if they don’t get to rest) and has to roll to hit… so does a paladin but they can choose to use a spell slot only after they have hit. That’s a massive difference.
Finally, yes, casters can do a lot of damage. They are also squishy. Paladins are the second best tank in the game, thanks to their high ac and lay on hands (which in my experience they usually use on themselves, not the lowly and the downtrodden!).
If divine smite was all a paladin could do I wouldn’t complain about it. But with their saving throw bonuses, tankiness, healing powers, channel divinity and spell versatility (which they don’t use, but hey, it’s there!), it too much to have them as the best nova damage dealers. I actually don’t understand why others can’t see what I’ve seen and experienced in every campaign i’ve played. Pretty much the only time I’ve seen a paladin upstaged is by another paladin! (At higher levels of course the casters get insane, but tbh I don’t take the game seriously after 14th level or so… the game breaks pretty badly and is just ego tripping by then).
I think I see your point but I’m not 100% with you on it.
Firstly, yeah fireball is on the overtuned side, but the general effect and damage can be achieved with any AOE spell. Yeah you can hit allies, but with a little common sense and communication you can avoid that. Evocation wizards avoid that and people with monks, rogues, tieflings and bear totem barbarians don’t have to worry about that. You hit that group of goblins and their leader and you’ve already guaranteed out damaged the paladin and even if they save, the damage is guaranteed even if it’s half. Paladins still have to actually hit or they do zilch. You can get counterspelled but there goes the enemy reaction. Counter spell their counter spell and they achieve nothing. Yeah radiant damage is pretty useful but most casters can change their damage on the fly anyway and manipulate weaknesses as they please.
The warlock combo is the spell hex and the cantrip eldritch blast with the agonising blast invocation. This takes one spell slot and the warlock keeps it going all day so long as they stay out of trouble/make decent concentration saves. Can’t be counterspelled (or can, but the enemy caster really shouldn’t be counterspelling cantrips) and uses the best (least resistances and immunities by a large margin) damage type in the game.
I think it’s rather odd you mention fireball’s weaknesses but not smites. It’s only ever single target, uses a far more limited number of spell slots than a full caster’s spells (if using the three attacks as you suggested before, they’re blowing half their resources at level 5, on a maximum of 3 enemies, they’re going to be in about 6 more fights that day. They’re going to be long out of tricks by then), requires a successful attack (they still need to make the hit) and has absolutely 0 range.
Have you ever considered that the reason paladins use so few other spells is because they’re not that good? Paladins get a limited spell list of rather ‘meh’ spells and considering smite is a class feature that they’re built around, it makes sense that it gets the most used. The other smite spells (with exceptions) are considered weak spells in general and I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen Paladins make good use of command, misty step and thunderous smite. It’s almost like saying all rangers cast is hunter’s mark, even though the most recent UA shows it’s meant to be their ‘thing’ or all warlocks cast eldritch blast all the time.
Paladins do a fair amount of things pretty well (support with saving throw bonuses and auras, damage with smite, tanking with heavy armour, healing) but they’re outshined in these things by classes actually specialised in them (barring nova). I remember one campaign I played as a Paladin and even though everyone was impressed with my nova because it was flashy, we worked out my damage wasn’t at all consistent and I didn’t do the most on days when we faced groups or had multiple fights.
Duncan, when are you going to accept that you just don’t like playing 5e?
I’ve read all of your comments in this thread, as well as many of your other posts. There are certain aspects that you really object to (especially the flashy, powerful spells and abilities, Fireball, etc), and whenever you don’t like something, you have flatly rejected the notion that the designers actually intended it that way.
Game design is a difficult process and I’m not claiming they “balanced” 5e perfectly (as if such a thing will ever be possible in a tabletop RPG), but they struck a good balance with all of the classes, and everyone gets to shine in different ways. Multiple people have told you this, and you consistently nitpick about the differences of a few d6s’ worth of damage rather than, in my opinion, seeing the forest for the trees.
I have never played a paladin, but I’ve both played alongside them and have run games for them. Do you know what happens at my table when someone Smites? Everyone goes “whoa, that was awesome,” and the paladin has a big flashy moment in the spotlight. And then, next turn, the Cleric does something cool. Or the Fighter. Or the Rogue.
Have you considered that vanilla 5e just isn’t the game for you? I’m seeing a common thread in all of your logic, where you seem to dislike *key aspects* of this edition, and it’s causing you grief when people who don’t see a problem offer their feedback. You’re not speaking the same language because you have different priorities. All your proposals to “fix” divine smite or other mechanics are probably good for your own table, but *definitely* not good as blanket rules changes, and you should stop pushing them as such.
Also: you’ve started very productive conversations with these comment threads, so kudos for that. Trying to get the final word by making an edit about “gleefully ignoring paladin fanboys’ tantrums and tears” is immature, and beneath you.
Look, I’m a big fan of 5e obviously. I love its emphasis on story telling, building in depth characters, its inclusiveness, its relative simplicity and the fact that is captures the essence of early D&D. And it is mostly balanced… but as I have said many times, having unbalanced options (options which too many players are drawn to, too often) means that too often a tonne of great flavourful features, classes, races, spells don’t get used. So in effect the designers are throwing away their own work.
Why are you, and other commentators, so offended when I criticise or attempt to fix things I don’t like about the game? I am not enforcing them at your table. Yes I argue my case as strongly as possible, but it’s for you to take or leave my suggestions…
I was going to continue by saying that the Players Handbook is not the bible… but in many ways actually they are quite similar. Written by mortal men, but held up as divine and unassailable by their fanatics and worshippers.
D&D has always been a game that encourages DMs and players to house rule, invent, fix, remodel etc. Do you think if the game designers were rewriting the rules now, they’d not change anything!?!?!?
I believe divine smite is one thing they’d seriously consider changing. I’ve said why, and I think I’ve made a strong case. You may not agree, and that’s fine.
But honestly I could do without the accusations and assumptions.
I thought for a long time over how to word my comment so it only addressed your stated opinions rather than any assumptions — if any still came through, I apologize. The only accusation I intended to level was against your “fanboys” comment, which I felt was both incorrect and uncalled-for.
As to why so many people have engaged with you on this: the article has gotten lots of attention. I found it while searching for something tangential, and that means other people will. On the off-chance that some beginning DMs (who have none of the experience or context that you or I have) come across this article, I wanted to add my voice as a counterpoint.
I can see a fresh DM reading this article, getting very scared that Paladins will outshine all their other players, and banning the class or nerfing Divine Smite without first experiencing the game in its vanilla form.
You are pretty keyed-in to your own table, and you’ve offered lots of rules-fixes on this blog that have worked for your group. I respect your head for numbers and the skill with which you homebrew your rules-changes — you’re right, by the way: being able to adapt the game is an absolute necessity for any group — but I didn’t think they would be good fixes for every table, for the reasons I’ve stated in comments above.
Your gaming philosophy seems to differ from the majority of 5e players and DMs, and I felt addressing the difference might cut through some of the talking-in-circles: there was maybe more “agree to disagree” present than otherwise seemed. I probably dipped too far into being adversarial in my response, and I’m sorry for that.
Fair play, and a fair criticism… but I do like to have some attitude in my writing. I can appreciate it might seem antagonistic, but an opinion blog should be opinionated… in my opinion. This is my hobby and my forum, and I like to write with flair, where I can, and sometimes with a provocative sense of humour.
I would say you’ve achieved you goal of providing a solid and intelligent counterpoint. I’d urge all starting DMs to play with the rules as written for a good year or so, before making any changes.
Also players typically feel very down if you nerf them mid campaign. Unless something is proving incredibly disruptive, it’s best to discuss any major rules changes before a new adventure. As other commentators have pointed out – usually calling me a terrible DM into the bargain – you can plan encounters that will ensure that divine smite won’t shine too brightly in the mean time. Hordes being a good example.
Thanks for contributing to the discussion. No apology required. I’m getting a thick skin!
Haha good point about mid-campaign changes, and also good point about thick skin — this is the internet, after all!
Thanks for enagaging so thoroughly! Really appreciated the discussion.
That’s fair enough, and I (pretty much) agree with everything you say, but regarding damage I bet your paladin decided the most important fights against the big bosses.
And I can’t really agree that that should be one classes’ role.
For me it makes D&D less fun, as those are supposed to be a shared dramatic moment at the climax of an adventure / campaign.
And that’s why I’ve suggested my rules fix. To use or ignore as you please!
Ps. I don’t allow counterspell to be countered… I actually think it’s against the rules too, as you’deffectively be casting two spells in one turn, because your reaction would a reaction to a reaction taking place in your turn. See comments here for some discussion on that.
You make a good point about counterspell, I completely forgot about the one levelled spell a turn rule!
You’re right about me having the big boss nova in that campaign, which is something I never really realised. Full disclosure, I played a paladin last week (and making the character is how I came across this article) and despite only having 5 paladin levels (10th level character) smite let me do so much damage at one point that I silenced my DM (I crit 3 times and that was when I realised being able to call a smite after the fact is… Interesting). That being said it also showed the weaknesses of paladins and relative class strength. We had a PvP section and I managed to beat the ranger by relying on non divine smite spells (misty Step to close distance and thunderous smite to knock them down) and lost to the rogue because I simply couldn’t beat +13 to stealth and had no AoE
Overall in a way I share your sentiment. Paladin nova is extremely strong and they shouldn’t have the monopoly on it. The issue isn’t the damage IMO, it’s s that the paladins can go full blast whenever. As in unlike say the rogue whose respectable nova required conditions, paladins decide at the drop of the hat. While I still believe other factors balance it out, a change I’d make is declaring a smite before a hit rather than after. Or add a bit more power to non divine smites (perhaps make them work like divine, but not stackable) so the paladin has more interesting and less directly damaging options
You’d have to reach lv 17 first before you can do 7d8 in one attack and you’d only be able to do that once and when you use multi attack would be 6d8 next turn 6d8 and then for your multi attack 3d8 my point is you’d only be able to high-ish damage once before it drops drastically and what are the chances of your character dying before they can even get to there but you wanna know what true power is try out delayed blast fireball it’s 12d6 as it’s base and raises by 2d6 at 9th level spell slot if you can stealth it and no enemies are fighting you or your allies after you end your turn it’s your turn again raising the damage by 1d6 every time you end your turn giving you 24d6 fire damage by the time the minute is up with a max damage of 144
I think a huge thing that hasn’t been brought up on this is the idea that a paladin will be spamming smites on every attack that hits. 5e is built around multiple combat encounters in an adventuring day. For the example of the 9th level paladin, they only have 10 spells per long, of which 2 are 3rd level. That’s 10 smites if they dont cast a single spell. With 2 attacks a round, that would be 5 rounds of combat (assuming they hit every time) and then they’re smited out. If they can smite a dragon 8 times (also, why would a dragon not fly out of reach to avoid?), then that should be plenty of combat where they didn’t smite anything. Paladins are heavy on resource management and risk/reward, as they have to be in melee for a smite. And like you said in your review, rogues only sneak attack once a round, but they never run out of sneak attack, and have multiple ways to get sneak attack, as the class is built with the assumption that they’ll get it every round. At higher levels they do gain improved smite, but as a class with no cantrips, a great sword pally would be 2d6+2d8 on a base attack, putting them around the same as a wizard using firebolt which caps at 4d10.
Sorry if this is somewhat rambling, but I felt I should add my piece.
I do agree, but what 5e was built around and how people play are quite different in my experience. Most games I play in only feature a couple of combats a day, and that seems normal in most streams I’ve watched etc.
In general there is no disadvantage in slowing down the paladin’s divine smite. In my revision, they still get it, they just can’t burn it up all at once… allowing others to affect the boss fight.
This is intriguing. But, rather than nerfing players, why wouldn’t a DM just beef up their monsters? The players don’t feel like they’ve lost anything, but the fights regain a little difficulty and duration. Its what my DM does, anyways, and it certainly works fine. Sure, it could mess up CR and XP values, but- Oh! Right! CR is garbage and doesn’t make sense anyways.
Because it’s just one player who is too powerful.
The rest are just sideshows.
This (exaggerated) comment explains my experience of virtually every boss fight that features a paladin:
Rory A Madden
a spoilsport, it really comes down to how overshadowed you want Barbarians, Fighters, Monks, Rangers, and Rogues to feel and how you want the flow of combat to generally go. These classes are all predominantly non-magical combatants, and with current rules, the Paladin makes them look pretty pathetic when it comes to doing single target damage in combat. So pumping up monsters doesn’t fix this disparity.
Of course, you could buff ALL of these classes to make up for this disparity, and maybe that’s not such a bad idea since spellcasters still generally have the edge over non-spellcasters anyway…
But also, doing this changes the tenor of fights since you aren’t buffing everyone’s hit points to compensate (unless you do that too, I guess). So fights become very initiative dependent, as everyone’s damage potential exceeds their ability to soak up damage/shenanigans from the other side.
Oh wow it’s almost like all of the other classes you mentioned have roles other than super-nova the bad guy. A barbarian will survive more than twice the damage a paladin does usually. A fighter can go much longer through combat with second wind and easy to grab feats. Monks are able to stun people constantly by 5th lvl granting their team advantage and skipping that enemy’s turn. Rangers raw are generally just garbage and are the weakest class anyway. Finally, Rogues get multiple expertise in skills making them great skill monkeys.
Strange if they’re not utilizing one of the best buffs in the game: Bless.
I play a Paladin, disagree with this article and often cast Bless before a fight.
My nerf would be to simply have the damage always be 2d8 even if they wasted bigger spell slots on it. The economy of spell slots then keeps it to being a sometimes thing at higher levels rather than an always thing. They still get to have their fun, they just don’t get to hog the show quite so much in the damage department.
Personally I wouldn’t nerf it though. All the classes have strengths. The power to do xd8 extra radiant damage is insignificant compared to the power of the spellweave.
I’ve said this very thing in your Lucky feat article. I think that the comments about the design of 5e being done around 6-8 combats per long rest is the most important thing when discussing this. But I also concur that that amount of encounters can prove difficult to adjust to the pacing of a lot of campaigns. Both are valid arguments, the Paladin class falls MUCH more into balance with the rest when you make the intended number of encounters per long rest occur. The key fact being it doesn’t need to be 6-8 encounters each day, but 6-8 encounters between long rests. I believe the best way to approach this is changing the rest mechanics to match your campaign pace. You like to have 2 encounters a day? Make long rests available only every 3 days, that way your narrative is untouched but the balance of Long Rest against Short Rest abilities is fixed. There are added benefits to this: suddenly CR rules to decide encounter difficulties are A LOT more logical, for example. And you can deal with things like the Lucky feat, the Diviner’s Portents, the Paladin’s Smite, the full caster highest level spells in a much more natural way. You create more instances of the players having to make very difficult decisions that may affect them later, giving them the feel of having more player agency, you create spaces for inter-party roleplaying and downtime activities during the extended periods of light activities needed to complete rests, you eliminate somewhat the feeling of a character growing from levels 1-8 in two weeks as time passes more consistently and you have the opportunity to create rest-interrupting scenarios more varied than “your camp is raided at 3am” and you could use the Arduous Rally optional rule to permit a short rest in a pinch, penalising the PC’s with something like an exhaustion level but creating a classic moment of the players pep-talking and bonding before a major battle.
I agree that making 6-8 encounters a day would work with very dungeon delving oriented campaigns only, but I feel the solution to every long rest dependant powerful feature is not nerf it but simply lower the frequency that it occurs, to better comply with the design intent clearly stated in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
The only problem I see with this is multi class dips, you can take two levels of paladin and go sorc the rest of the way and use 9th lvl slots for your smite which sort of defeats the purpose of cutting it down isn’t it? You’re doing 10d8+weapon damage.
At 9th lvl the damage you said the paladin could do really isn’t impressive. A hand xbow sharpshooter crossbow expert fighter does on average more damage then the paladin even without using action surge. Not only that but a bard or sorcerer or wizard can just cast animate objects and do more damage than the paladins first turn on average with just bonus actions for 1 minute.
I noticed a few people comparing Divine Smite damage output to those achieved with various feats… but that comparison doesn’t really make sense. Those feats are not tied to a particular class, and nearly everyone can access the feats, including paladins in many cases. Name another class feature that allows you to do an extra 11d8 (radiant) damage in one round at level 9? You could easily combine that with PAM and GWM feats too.
Spells wise and you’re right, Animate Objects can outperform DS… and 5e def. favours casters over melee classes. In general Animate Objects is not my favourite spell, nor DM David’s, it’s quite problematic… https://dmdavid.com/tag/what-the-players-handbook-should-have-explained-about-6-popular-dd-spells/
I would be tempted to ban it, or create a new table for the objects that sees them do less damage. On the other hand, it can be countered, or dispelled, or the caster can be mercilessly targeted until they lose concentration. Divine Smite is much harder to defend against.
I mean, if a 9th lvl Paladin sits around the entire day never smiting anything and saving all of their spell slots until the final battle and then blows everything in the first 3 turns of combat more power to them? Throughout the day a 9th lvl rogue did more damage through the day. If the party is only fighting 1 singular enemy a day that’s not the paladin’s fault that’s the DMs. Also, a fighter can grab feats way easier than a palidan can. Also also, GWM isn’t that good as a paladin.
Jonathan, I would be more sympathetic to your argument if the Paladin didn’t have their own host of super useful abilities. Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, Divine Health, and Aura of Courage are all pretty useful abilities that bring survivability and utility to the Paladin and the group. Aura of Courage in particular stands out as pretty game changing, giving the whole party a boost to resist nasty combat effects and damage.
And as with everything, it also boils down to the actual numbers and the effectiveness of the abilities we’re talking about. I asked this question once before, but if, say, the Paladin’s divine smite did TWICE as much damage, would that convince you it was overpowered?
To drill into specifics:
-Barbarians are super tanky, but their damage falls off pretty quickly past their height at 5th level (assuming they take advantage of GWM). So they end up in a spot where maybe they lock down 1-2 targets, but most intelligent enemies can afford to ignore them and focus on higher priority targets.
-Fighters just don’t have a lot more staying power than Paladins, who frankly, are totally fine at taking down standard encounters day in and day out. And I’d be more sympathetic to this argument if most adventuring days really did last 6+ encounters, but as discussed previously this is not the norm.
-Monk stunning blow would be SO much better if only it didn’t target Con, which is by far the most common save for monsters. And it’s kind of rough that they are borrowing their stunning blows from the same pool they use for flurry, so it directly hurts their damage potential to go all out with stunning blows every round. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice ability, just doesn’t hold a candle to the raw damage of Smite.
-Rangers, yeah, they have it rough
-Rogues: If only Bards didn’t exist, I’d be more excited by Rogue expertise as it least it would be a unique ability, but as discussed Paladins already have plenty of utility. And their damage potential is so low compared to Paladins, it’s depressing. Sadly, Rogues are the class with virtually no nova potential, it really hurts what they can do in combat. Again, maybe if most parties really did do 6+ fights a day, they’d catch up a little bit, but even I’d chose Paladin (or maybe Bard depending on party layout) every time from a mechanical standpoint.
Rag'n of the Red Roaches
It’s way less fun to take Paladin down a peg than to bring other classes and subclasses up. The smite is the defining feature of the Pali class and it would take a lot away from the feel of playing the class if it were nerfed. If you want to play a class or subclass that feels suboptimal (Champion Fighter or Thief Rogue for instance) talk to your DM and see how you could buff that subclass so that it plays better. My best friend and I are actually doing that with a ton of subclasses just for fun since we had such a good time doing it.
*side note: Mechanically, I actually love the nerf of the smite spell layed in in the OP except or the fact that it takes concentration which the Pali sorely needs in order to keep up the other more interesting buff spells at their disposal. I still feel like its easier and more fun to push balance changes up than down.
PS: Let me know if you want me to share our homebrew revisions, don’t want to waste forum space on personal stuff.
I totally agree with the principle, but Divine Smite is one ability that is so far beyond the norm (it effectively allows you to cast a spell, with no saving throw, every time you make a melee hit… obliterating the action economy of the game!), that it’s way easier to fix it, than bring up EVERY other class.
There’s a lot of substandard class abilities and spells that don’t get used that I would love to buff up a bit… was even toying with making that a feature of the blog!?
Very good pint about concentration! I have just updated the post, to remove that requirement from the spell, as you’re right, that would be too limiting for the paladin and take away a lot of the class’s classic buffs.
Strange that the other smite spells require it… renders them even more pointless in RAW!
You are very welcome to share your revisions here, or to email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer and I will check them out.
Duncan, with all due respect. You have no idea how an adventuring day is balanced.
Some classes (fighters, warlocks, monks) are dependant on short rests to get their main abilities back. Classes like paladins, however, are long-rest focused, meaning they’re supposed to get through the day by rationing their spell slots. Obviously if you don’t give them many successive fights, they will overshadow other classes (sorcerers are also obvious examples of long rest focused classes). If you only give your PCs a couple of encounters per long rest and not the ‘unlikely’ 6-8 encounter day (as recommended in the DMG), it’s a no brainer that divine smites seem OP.
TL:DR You’re structuring your adventuring days in a way that specifically gives paladins an edge over other martial classes and you’re blaming the game.
Rory A Madden
The designers of the D&D are very clear they don’t RECOMMEND any number of encounters a day, though they do mention that as an assumption in some places in the DMG. The designers say they made the game so that it can work with any playstyle, though from a balance perspective that obviously isn’t true.
I am curious, do you run 6-8 encounters per day in your games? I think you will find the vast majority of DMs don’t. In my experience, plenty of DMs run literally 1-2 combat encounters a day. So there’s a question there of why the game is supposed to be balanced one way but the average DM runs D&D entirely differently.
Here’s my view on what’s going on:
-6-8 combat encounters actually take quite a while to resolve. You’re probably looking at a minimum of 2-4 game sessions to resolve a single game day, but potentially far more if your players spend a lot of time roleplaying and getting into wacky hijinks
-But also, 6-8 combat encounters usually means a lot of filler “average difficulty” encounters that are put in as small resource drains, but are not particularly difficult. This has certainly been my experience when running combat encounters. It’s just not possible to make all the fights really tough.
-My experience is that filler encounters are just that, fillers. So yeah, Paladins are maybe a little behind in these fights compared to a Fighters and Monks, but not like, a ton (they still get two solid attacks a turn, 3 with polearm master, and give the Saving Throw and get the extra 1d8 to all attacks at higher levels). So really they just wait for the 1-2 tough fights a day to use their Smites, and they totally own those fights; since those are the fights that really matter, it feels like a pretty good trade off! Really, it feels like the game just isn’t balanced that well to make Fighters, Monks, and Rogues shine compared to the Paladin. Warlocks are an exception, since casting 2 max level spells in a fight is great for tough fights (Warlocks belong to the category of spellcasters, which are all generally pretty OP).
-Is it possible to design encounters to really reward the likes of the Fighter and Monk (and god help us, the Rogue)? Eh, you could probably really work at it as a DM to offset the power balance somewhat, but I think it’s pretty tough, and it requires you to really incentivize your players to take the “correct” number of short and long rests. But gosh, when I look at the number of spell slots Paladins and Spellcasters get at high levels, it’s hard going. I think it’s really just an issue of Fighters, Monks, Rogues, Rangers, and to a lesser extend Barbarians being underpowered relative to Paladins and all the spellcasters.
The “adventuring day” being 6-8 encounters is far too many for most groups, for the reasons you cite. Players also like to be at full power, and many will try to take long rests as often as possible. Trying to curtail rest taking usually feels artificial, and throwing in random encounters takes table time and gets boring as its usually filler.
I would have much preferred a more uniform distribution of class resources to be on a per day basis, and an assumed balance of 2-3 encounters per day.
I mean, a lot of this is caused by the arbitrary dichotomy between short rest and long rest classes. The fix I suggest is to just multiply the uses of short-rest features by 3 and make them recharge on long rests. https://thinkdm.org/2018/09/01/agnostic-adventuring-day/#:~:text=The%20%E2%80%9Cstandard%20adventuring%20day%E2%80%9D%20is,don't%20follow%20this%20directive.
Just gotta remove the short rest-recharging features and make short rests (generally) just for restoring HP.
Based on how the action economy and bounded accuracy works, I would assume that 5th edition is meant to be designed with large numbers of enemies per combat, rather than just one or two bad guys. Although the paladin is obviously the most powerful class in terms of single-target damage, I think it’s important to keep in mind that the whole class has basically no options for multi-target attacks.
For instance, a 9th level wizard who hits 4 guys with his cone of cold does a maximum of 32d8 damage in a single action, provided that everyone fails their con saves. Alternatively, this is 32d6 with a fireball, which they get four levels earlier. At 9th level, a rogue will probably have a +13 bonus to stealth and/or thieves tools. When they are functioning in their niche, most of the classes are very effective.
Of course the paladin does fantastic single-target damage; I would just say that if you are DMing for a party with a paladin, build your encounters to have many bad guys so that everyone else can be effective as well. Besides, paladins don’t get a lot of outside combat abilities, whereas all of these other classes do.
Obviously the paladin still overshadows the fighter and the barbarian, as they are also optimized for tanking and single target damage. But I think accommodating the wishes of your players and changing the combats to suit the party is a more fun solution than outright banning many people’s favourite class. In my opinion, the problem is not as severe as you make it out to be.
Hi Marty, certainly not suggesting banning the paladin!
You’re right in that the class is fairly weak against hordes… but tbh, only really the wizard / sorcerer etc. is great at that. Clerics, druids, rogues, fighters and barbarians, and even rangers aren’t that great against multiple foes.
For me, when you have a paladin with divine smite, the rest of the party become their sidekicks while they take out the boss or major threat. That doesn’t sit too well with me.
I’m playing a Devotion paladin and we’re now playing almost a year of campaign with 1 session per week that last around 6-8 hours.
In my experience, I’m almost not casting smites. I’m always casting bless/protection from evil and good and warding bond.
I also reserve my spells for dispel and revivify.
I only use my divine smite once in a while and always use it when I crit. I have a moment where I shine, but the fighter and the casters take the limelight too.
The reason for this is we have encounters like 3-6 times before long rest. And the enemies are strong.
We really have spend our spell slots wisely and mostly for defense because we asked our DM to make our encounters deadly. We enjoy this kind of gameplay.
We also have fights that I cannot reach anyone because the enemies are flying. So I just support the team with healing, bless and warding bond.
From this kind of gameplay, I would say that everyone can shine. The fighters have a lot of damage all throughout the game. Casters shine with their AOE and battlefield controls. And paladins shine when we need damage on one big bad guy. The clerics too also deals crazy amount of damage.
I would mostly agree with you. Anything in 5e that breaks action economy to any significant degree (twin haste, animate objects, conjure spells and of course DS) tends to be pretty op. But if I was DMing a pally I would just design encounters for each member to shine. Let the pally 1v1 someone but at the same time give the rogue something the climb so he can snipe from the shadows and let the wizard rain fire on an army of henchmen. Id rather push people into the spotlight than pull others out of it
Your sentiment is not to be argued with. But when I played alongside a paladin he hogged the spotlight in 75% of encounters, despite being just 20-25% of the party.
I tend to have this same philosophical disagreement with a lot of a readers on a lot of posts who, more or less, state: “there are ways to design around this ability” and me who believes “I shouldn’t have to”.
There’s no right or wrong… I just prefer to change the one or two things that are unbalanced, than always have to bear in mind that A or B or C can derail an encounter very easily or make one PC over-powered vs the rest of the party, if not constantly monitored. Coming from 1e and 2e where we constantly made up and changed the rules I don’t treat the PH as any kind of bible.
With only 2-3 encounters at level 9 plus, of course Paladins are gonna be overpowered. All casters are gonna be op when they don’t have to worry about stretching their spell slots out, and Paladins have half as many spell slots as most casters and can use them 2-3 times as quickly.
Most of the classes are balanced around the notion that at that point you’re having 6-8 encounters a day, which hardly anyone actually does. Even with 4 I’ve seen Paladins dominate the first two encounters, use their last smite or two in the 3rd, and then be unprepared for a 4th encounter and spend it just swinging like an inferior version of the Fighter.
Oath of Redemption Paladin here – interesting discussions! I was reminded of the following Einstein quote:
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”
I don’t believe Divine Smite is overpowered and seems like a weaker use of a level 3 spell slot (vs Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern, upcasted Bless). I’ve observed that in larger party and encounter sizes, Bless and Aura of Protection are potentially far more powerful than Divine Smite in a damage measuring contest, with the proper accounting:
Tally up “Bless damage” as damage from those attacks rolls of the party that were too low to hit if not for Bless. Do the same for damage/status conditions prevented from passed saving throws, if not for Bless + Aura of Protection. With those numbers, consider how many lost turns were prevented and give credit to the Paladin responsible. Now compare that damage to the 4d8 from lvl3 Divine Smite.
I’d guess that empirically, Bless and Aura of Protection are far more influential with regards to damage, even worthy of being considered “overpowered” but far more fun for other party members.
Will playtest the following nerf in my group:
“After falling to 0 hit points and regaining hit points, the paladin can only use Divine Smite once per turn until it is no longer bloodied (below half its maximum hit points). ”
Not as big a nerf as full 1/turn limit, but still useful in higher level campaigns, making the paladin more hesitant to see itself dropped to 0 hp, and thus spending more resources for healing.
I’d be curious how people are playing Paladin, or what scenarios are coming up in campaigns to make Paladin seem broken. In my experience, Paladin’s balance is fine. Yeah, you can deal a lot of damage from a lot of divine smites. BUT – if you use that feature, you burn through the Paladin’s limited spell slots very very quickly and will soon find that you’re reduced to a secondary striker. (And no cantrips for Paladin).
So in that sense, the Paladin carries with it a constant need to economize. E.g. 12th level Paladin has 9 total spell slots, a figure that the Sorcerer, Druid, Cleric and Wizard all reach by level 6. And given how important some of Paladin’s buffs are – Shield of Faith, Aid, Bless – there’s a lot of things competing for the attention of the Paladin’s limited spell slots. (And no cantrips for Paladin).
So the Paladin is maybe half-caster at best – and it’s not like the Paladin is the strongest melee fighter out there, either. The Barbarian gets more hit points and tank abilities; the Fighter gets more extra attacks; and the way Fighter and Barbarian are designed, you can go all-in on Strength and Constitution, while the Paladin has to make more compromises to max out their Charisma.
Overall, it’s been my experience that the Paladin’s basically a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, and you have to approach the class’s abilities strategically with a lot less room for tactical improvisation than with other classes.
Sure, happy to give an example from a campaign I ran from a while back. Multiple times during the campaign, I would throw an encounter at the players with a “boss monster” who had a lot of HP and some nasty attacks. If this monster didn’t have flying (or did but landed to do melee attacks), the Paladin would go up to it, activate its Oath of Enmity (from Vengeance subclass), and then drop two smites a round for some massive damage bonuses. Or maybe if the fight otherwise looked to be a bit of a slog, they’d drop Haste (also from vengeance) and then nova off. The end result was that the boss would drop very very quickly and then the rest of the fight would be a bit of a mop up.
As a DM, I would often throw multiple fights at the PCs as a way of wearing down their resources, but typically only 1-2 of those were significantly life threatening (rather than a minor/moderate resource drain), and so the Paladin would pick those fights to nova off with Smite.
Contrary to your experience, it has been my experience that a properly played Paladin is the best single target damage class in the game. And on top of that, they offer massive utility through their aura and other abilities. That’s not to say there aren’t other OP classes in D&D, as most dedicated spellcasters are also pretty ridiculous past level 5-7 or so, but the Paladin definitely overperforms considerably compared to the Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger, and Rogue.
I’ve seen similar scenarios play out. I can’t speak to your experience, but from what I’ve experienced personally, if a Paladin is dominating the show like that, it’s usually because the game is overly centered around combat, which minimizes the need to economize.
So let’s say you’ve got a Level 10 Paladin. They should probably be casting Aid every chance they get, at the highest level possible. (Unless you have a Cleric doing that). And then Hunter’s Mark takes another slot in combat.
After that, if they cast two Divine Smites two rounds in a row, they’ve already gone through six of their spell slots, leaving them with three slots to do everything else:
-all the Bane/Bless/Compelled Duel/Shield of Faith/Crusader’s Mantle/Haste buffs
-all the Detect Magic/Remove Curse/Revivify stuff
-Misty Step/Find Steed/Hold Person/Command etc
Three spell slots for all of that.
If the Paladin isn’t having to economize at all – if they can just dish out divine smites left and right, round after round, without running short – then either:
(a) the Paladin isn’t contributing anything at all outside of combat – they’re basically just snoozing while the other players are carrying them, or
(b) there’s not enough going on outside of combat to make the Paladin tap into their full skillset, or
(c) it’s a very well-rounded group where multiple players are able to provide some of these skills that the Paladin can do, so the DM just needs to up the ante accordingly.
And that’s what I’m getting at. Overall, the Paladin is very, very powerful in many different ways, but they just don’t have the economy to be powerful in ALL those ways all at the same time. Between (1) the combat buffs, (2) the divine smites, and (3) the out-of-combat spells, a Paladin should be able to contribute either some of all three, or a lot of one or two, but not a lot of all three.
Thanks for these thoughts and suggestions Duncan.
I like the bonus action house rule, and will definitely suggest it next time I start a campaign. I’m running a game with a paladin at the moment, and we’ve at least said she has to declare the smite before rolling damage (which on one occasion meant she ‘wasted’ a smite because her damage roll was extremely high and she didn’t want to take any chances).
It seems to me that you want a house rule that at least has players *looking* at the other smites (which are actually pretty great in their own right), which this could do. As it is I’ve never seen anyone cast one.
I honestly don’t get defences that compare Paladins to spellcasters, which I don’t think is the relevant comparison. They need to be compared to other martial classes. A half caster that’s a better fighter than a fighter (as well as getting utility spell options AND single person 1-round healing greater than a cleric from level 3 or so onwards AND crazy auras AND very powerful channel divinity options AND high charisma for the social encounters!), is clearly a problem IMHO.
And really, there’s absolutely no reason to be rude to Duncan even if you disagree with his proposals.
Even a relatively simple fix like declaring a smite before damage (or preferably before attack roll!) can go a long way… I absolutely hate the idea that you can wait to crit and then decide to call upon your God. It’s pure metagaming, and overloads an already overpowered ability.
Agreed, we need to be comparing Paladins to Rangers, Fighters and Barbarians… and considering they have by far the best spells and abilities, they should be doing the least damage of that quartet. And maybe they do over a long adventuring day, but being able to smash the action economy that binds every other class for the clutch moments, in order to do insane damage, is just so obviously wrong to me!
Thanks for the comment
Oh, one small suggested fix to your fix! I think if it’s going to be a spell, you should say it’s always prepared and doesn’t count against the number of spells the paladin can prepare.
Based on your post and comments, I don’t get the impression you wanted your fix to reduce the number of spells a paladin can prepare – you’re just using the spell and bonus action mechanics to achieve your desired design changes.
Yes, I don’t state that, but that was my intention!
You have just make the divine smite even more powerful… pure paladin level 17th can cast a level 5 spell once, he will get 6d8 the way you write the spell plus the additionnal 1d8 from 11th level feature so 7d8. Not only that but instead of having the damage only 1 time you get it for a whole minute….. it’s like 10 level 5 spell slots with current system (impossible) in your system it consumes only 1 spell slot…not only that but you can add many paladin spells that gives additional Effect and damage on top of the divine smite.
So example you use Staggering Smite If the attack hits, deals an extra 4d6 pyschic damage and the target must succeed on a Wis. save or have a disadvantage .. for a 1 minute con spell that applies every attacks after that
So now you do 7d8 + 4d6 and have a chance to blind the creature on top of that…. for 2 spells only…. you get to do it over and over this way…..since you don’t burn spell slots for smite…
Now let’s talk about paladin 2 sorcerer 15th. For the same global level 17th. With your spell the character can cast the divine smite with a level 8 spell slots… giving 9d8 damage per attack for a total of 10 rounds… that’s just insane damage without concentration…
You quickened it get a second attack with booming blade for example.
Second round you can cast hold monster quickened spell. Then attack with booming blade that makes a 9d8 divine plus 3d8 booming blade and if the creature failed the save you double those dice…
I get it first round is a little less damage output. But to do that full damage output in the written rules you are burning a lot of spell slots and need to think when to use it….your way it’s a no brainer you use it every single time since you will still have spell slots available anyway
P.s I took level 17th so that numbers are more eye catching but same issue goes for lower level too…
Hi Steven, sorry it took me a while to approve your comment as I was on holiday for a bit.
Right, erm, I think there’s some confusion here… my version of Divine Smite specifies the first time you hit a target you deal the smite damage. So it’s a one time effect, and requires a bonus action to cast. So maximum you can smite is once a round.
I guess because I took away the concentration aspect of DS, it could stack with Staggering Smite… but only if for example you cast Staggering Smite in round 1, missed with all your melee attacks, didn’t lose concentration and then cast Divine Smite (my spell version) in round 2 and then unloaded both SS and DS on the same target.
Probably would be better to add concentration back to DS, so it works exactly like spells Staggering Smite etc.
https://nystulsmagicwebsite.wordpress.com/2022/03/15/basic-assumptions-of-gameplay/ A hand xbow fighter does much more damage than a paladin, and takes less if the paladin uses GWM+PAM. I encourage you to actually do math rather than go with what you feel.
Firstly you’ve linked to the wrong post, and secondly the post you’re trying to link to shows an outperformance in a rather select set of circumstances.
Thirdly the author ignores several important modifying factors (one example… fighter is shit against anything with resistances, until they get a magic weapon).
The whole article is deeply flawed in thinking, but if you were convinced by it then feel free to play a fighter in your next campaign.
Hello, author of that article here. Let me know the problems you had with it – I’m open to criticism of course. I’m a bit busy at the moment. As for what you brought up
First of all, fighters and paladins are both capable of dealing with resistances due to the existence of +1/+2/+3 magical weapons, which are extremely common in actual play. DMs generally give them out to help martials and halfcasters compete with casters, especially around the time where monster resistances become relevant.
Second of all, yes, we did try and show that fighters – one of the most bland and simple classes in the game (without a subclass even) has damage output comparable if not exceeding paladins if they are built competently. If you would like, I could also provide data on battlemasters too, to demonstrate that they absolutely obliterate paladins in terms of damage.
Thrid, we did use a very select set of circumstances. Notice that the title of the article was “Paladins as intended don’t work”. This is because we used the intended encounter design shown in the DMG. Naturally, most people do not use the intended encounter number, and that’s fine. In lower encounter games – what most people tend to play – paladins do just fine. I was very careful with my word choice there, but I really should have clarified more what I meant.
The core argument of the article is that in 6+ encounter days, where the game meta shifts to armored spellcasters, paladins lose the niche that they have in the “common” DnD game. This is why you see increasingly bizarre paladin multiclasses from us and TabletopBuilds, as we attempt to find a niche for paladins in this meta (I don’t think we did the best job, honestly.)
I would like to know what other “deeply flawed” ideals me and my team presented here. Hopefully I can clarify our intentions, as well as come to some kind of mutual understanding.
As a dm i completely agree with this post. I remember playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen in 2014; my first game of 5e and D&D. Party was level 6, i played a monk holding many foes in a pirate ship along with the party but the paladin, who charged the boss and single handely defeated him in 3 turns while the party were struggling with the minions. That was my first impression of the paladin.
Also, i noticed that you can get all the cool abilities of the paladin just hitting 10th level. Seriously, take a look at the paladin class table and see what you get beyond 10th… Practicaly a waste of levels. You get all the cool stuff throughout the first half of the class; Divine Smite, Lay on hands, Fighting style, Channel Divinity, Extra attack and both of those broken auras.
My paladin player just realized this and decided to multiclass into bard… Now he has tons of spell slots to smite all day and, of course, all the spells and abilities the bard can offer at certain level. At 12th level he deals around 110 dmg per turn while his 12th level sorceress partner deals 90 dmg spending her most powerfull spell slot along with a cantrip as bonus action.
At this point, my player’s paladin feels like a whole party himself; He can get up to 30 AC in a round (college of swords bard + shield spell), crit on 19 + prof dmg per attack (1 level dip into warlock), doesn’t even need advantage on attack rolls because he got +15 on hit (paladin sacred weapon Channel Div.), +5 on all saving throws for him and the party.
Deals tons of damage, tons of heals, got tons of HP, can even fly and eldritch blast foes from the skies because aasimar.
But after all, i don’t really have a problem with the paladin class. I also like to power game; having fun finding cool combos when multiclassing… But that damn Divine Smite is anything but balance.
Sorry for my english.
I do not personally think this is a well researched article as it leaves much to be desired in the scope of actual comparison to examples of other builds in the game:
the first most obvious example is based around the encounters you will se in a day, from the looks of this article you are probably assuming something along the lines of 1-2 encounters per day (here is a great article that goes over the issues of low encounter adventuring days https://formofdread.wordpress.com/2022/03/01/it-has-dungeons-in-the-name-why-you-need-the-full-adventuring-day/ … I will give you a hopefully topical tl:dr though)
if you dont have any significant length of adventuring day, frankly anyone who isnt a spellcaster struggles a lot more but paladin still doesnt compare to the full might of a full spellcaster:
a paladins spell split looks like: 4,3,2 (first second 3rd) if we convert that to smites:
8d8(36 damage) +9d8 (40.5)+ 8d8 (36) which all adds up to 112 total damage in reserve across a whole combat day
now if i put a baseline damage on a paladin (i am assuming PAM dueling vhuman paladin with maxed out str… GWM is a difference of about 2 dpr without accuracy boosts, if you want to add that just do the calculations for that and do it yourself… but a shield is a shield) the paladin will do ((1d6+5+2*) *3) *accuracy (i will be assuming accuracy will be .65 as that is what bounded accuracy is based around)
now to make an assumption, you will have 4 rounds of combat per encounter, and if you have more than 2 encounters you will have a short rest (assuming you continue on your adventuring day)
in a singular 4 encounter combat you will attack 12 times with an accuracy of .65 meaning you will hit 7.8 times (ill round it up for fun to 8), and you will probably crit twice (im just going to assume you are perfect and use both 3rd level slots when you crit)
that is 8*(1d6+ 7)+ 16d8(crit 3rd level is 72)+ 40.5 (second level slots) + 27 (first level slots) +2d6 (Extra crit damage) = 223.5 (223.5/4 = 55.875 dpr)
A shepards druid with 16 wolves deals 79.48 dpr, with velociraptors that number goes up to 111dpr…. with a singular spell slot and no other action cost… this druid can also sling cantrips, or throw out a leveled spell or two
another comparison could be a wizard who have some pretty decent damage spells in something like animate objects (granted damage is nonmagical which *can* be an issue) dealing 40.5 dpr before we account for wizards actions which could be casting spells such as tashas mind whip which will add 6-7 dpr along with great control
in multiple enemy combats: fireball (or synaptic static) becomes more and more of an enticing option dealing 23.7 dpr per enemy on average (as the enemy volume increases damage goes to: 47, 71, 94 dpr etc etc)… god forbid the wizard also casts a good concentration spell… and remember that a wizard at level 9 has 3 third level slots, 3 4th level slots, and a 5th level slots so even in a 2 encounter day the spell is possible for 7/8 rounds dealing slightly more damage as its upcasted (and arcane recovery also gets them more spells)
now it gets even worse for the paladin once we get into 2 combats a day, their damage looks like
16 hits ( i shall round up again to make my math a liiiiitle bit easier, and to be favourable to you) 4 crits
8*(1d6+7) + 4d6 (crit damage) + 16d8 (crit smite 3rd level) + 12d8 (crit smite second level) + 3d8 + 8d8 (you get all your first level slots as you get enough hits now)
= 273.5 (273.5/8 = 34.18)
34.18dpr compared to the druid and wizard using basically the same strategy with minimal damage decrease. in fact battlemasters can outdamage this expecting around 40 dpr at this level (https://formofdread.wordpress.com/2022/02/27/quantifying-martial-dpr-reference-sheet/ for math)
once you get into longer combat days these guys have done an analysis on that
if you have any comments or criticisms please respond, I would love to see what you think