I’ve played various editions of D&D throughout various stages of my life now. Up until 5th edition, though, paladins have generally been framed as the “good guys” of D&D. Even still, paladins have carried this expectation over even though mechanically they are not tied to a specific alignment.
Oath of Conquest from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything caught my eye because of its flavor. Oath of Conquest Paladins intimidate their enemies either by magical means or by a show of force. These paladins are made to break this stereotype of the “goodie-two-shoes” paladin.
When I played this character in a one-shot I made her a power-hungry evil character and it worked quite well. However, like any character in D&D alignment isn’t tied to a class, subclass, etc.
Goals of this Build
Heavy-Hitting Single Target Damage
The paladin class at its core is notoriously excellent at providing some hefty burst damage thanks to Divine Smite. While it requires you to use up one of your precious spell slots, it’s oftentimes worthwhile. Generally speaking, it’s usually worth it to use Divine Smite often and with gusto.
The trade-off, of course, is that you’ll be less able to provide utility and crowd control the more you choose to smite. But, spellcasting is all about making choices anyway so this is nothing new.
We’re going to throw caution to the wind and ditch the shield with this build. Instead, we’ll wield something that can make use of Great Weapon Master so we can choose to gamble for some even more burst damage.
Crowd Control Galore
I’m a huge fan of crowd control-focused characters. I love playing spellcasters like clerics and sorcerers as support/crowd control heavy characters.
Paladins, though, are not traditionally focused on crowd control. They bring plenty of utility and support to the party, but usually, they are more focused on decimating their foes than preventing them from doing anything.
Oath of Conquest Paladins, however, have quite a few spells and features to subjugate their enemies. Their spell list is full of spells like Hold Person that prevent creatures from acting. They also have Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence to unleash an AoE fear upon their foes.
Books Needed for this Build
Optional Books for Races
Note: We’re doing another mono-class build this time. You can easily multiclass a paladin build with a few levels of sorcerer or a dip into hexblade warlock, but honestly, it’s solid as hell on its own and I don’t think we need to give up anything to meet our initial goals for this build.
Note: Choose your background based on flavor. You can switch out the two skill proficiencies or even the feature per the book.
Race: tiefling (Zariel), variant human, dragonborn, fallen aasimar, or half-orc
Note: Dragonborn has the most ideal ASI pair for our build, but I prefer the Descendent of Zariel Tiefling’s features and additional spells so I’ll be using them. Any race with bonuses to Strength & Charisma or Strength & Constitution (with solid racial features) will be great for this build.
Ability Scores: This was done using point buy. Check out this article for more info on point buy!
STR: 16 (+3) – +1 from Descendent of Zariel Tiefling
DEX: 10 (+0)
CON: 14 (+2)
INT: 8 (-1)
WIS: 10 (+0)
CHA: 16 (+3) – + 2 from Descendent of Zariel Tiefling
Note: Even though we’re using heavy armor, there are a plethora of reasons that I would not want to dump Dexterity. Strength, Charisma, and Constitution will be our primary focuses.
Skills: Athletics and Intimidation (Background); Persuasion and Insight (Class)
Note: Our Charisma is going to be one of our two highest ability scores. We’ll do well to be the face or one of the faces of the party. Insight is always helpful for a conversationalist as you can utilize it to see what the person’s true intentions or thoughts are.
Post Level 1
Ability Score Increases (ASIs)
There are a total of 5 ASIs on our journey from level 1 to 20 paladin. Let’s talk about how we should use them all!
Ability Score Priorities
Strength >> Charisma > Constitution > Dexterity > Wisdom > Intelligence
Strength is key. We need it to deal massive amounts of weapon damage and wear heavy armor. It’ll also be useful for grappling and escaping from grapples.
Constitution keeps us in the fight and aids us in maintaining concentration, but I’d say that despite being a frontline character it’s still not as important as Charisma for this build. Oath of Conquest Paladins have many crowd control spells. They’ll need a high Spell Save DC to ensure these spells’ success.
Unfortunately for Intelligence, it’s going to suffer in the name of optimization. There’s not much that we need from it and it’s better to just rely on another party member to pick up the Intelligence skill checks.
Dexterity will still be useful despite wearing heavy armor. We’ll still need it for saving throws, ranged weapon attacks, and initiative. We don’t need to focus as much on Wisdom, despite it being another common saving throw ability since paladins have proficiency in wisdom saving throws.
Great Weapon Master – Y’all know how much I like this feat. You get the choice to tack on -5/+10 to any of your weapon attacks that use a heavy weapon. Plus, you can get a bonus action when you crit or fell a creature using a melee weapon. Increasing your action economy is always a plus!
Heavy Armor Master – While it’s certainly not the strongest feat in this list, it’s not an awful pickup if you find yourself needing some additional survivability. Plus you still get +1 to Strength.
Lucky – Lucky is a great feat for any build.
Polearm Master – If you’re not feeling like wielding a big ass sword or axe you can always go the route of the polearm master. You’ll get a more consistent bonus action attack than what Great Weapon Master gives you, plus you’ll have an increased chance at making opportunity attacks.
Resilient (Constitution) – Many of our crowd control spells require us to maintain concentration. This gives us proficiency in Constitution saving throws to bolster our chances of passing concentration checks, and it’ll also give us proficiency in two of the big three saving throw abilities.
Sentinel – This is an exceptional feat to pair up with Polearm Master due to the increased frequency of opportunity attacks you’ll be able to make, but it will work well regardless. This feat gives you some crowd control options and additional openings for making opportunity attacks.
Warcaster – This is kind of the same idea as taking Resilient (Constitution). Honestly, I’d take Resilient before this, but it’s not a terrible option, particularly if you want to multiclass into a spellcaster class that has Cantrips.
Paladins get a ton of features from their base class, but their subclasses have plenty to offer as well. Especially in terms of individual flavor for each oath a paladin takes.
Traditionally, paladins are holy warriors. Many serve gods or other deities still, but in 5e paladins take an oath instead of serving a god. Each oat the paladin takes is unique. Some oaths are about protecting others, upholding laws, obtaining power, etc. The only stipulation is that the paladin acts in a way that serves their oath.
Divine Sense – Level 1
Divine Sense allows you to detect creatures that are either celestial, fiend, or undead. You won’t know their identity, but you’ll know what they are at least which makes it handy to detect disguised creatures of those mentioned types.
You can also detect whether a place or object has been consecrated or desecrated, making this a useful feature for tracking said creature types if you’re looking for clues of their whereabouts!
I made a shout-out to this feature in my Gloom Stalker Ranger build because it felt like a much better version of Primeval Awareness.
Sure, the range isn’t all that great, being a total of 60 ft., but it’s at least has a unique amount of uses (1 + Charisma modifier) that aren’t tied to our limited number of spell slots. I mean, we need those for Divine Smite!
Also, creatures behind total cover aren’t detected by Divine Sense which sucks but is understandable.
Lay on Hands – Level 1+
Paladins bring a surprising amount of utility to the table despite all the memes about being Divine Smite bots. Lay on Hands is just one of the many fantastic utility features that you bring to the party.
Lay on Hands works as a pool of healing that you can draw from. That pool is calculated by taking your paladin levels and multiplying them by 5. So basically you can have between 5-100 total.
Using an action you can heal a target for up to the remaining healing you have in your pool. So, yes, you can immediately revive a downed ally with 1 hp of Lay on Hands healing without needing to use up a spell slot.
You can also expend 5hp worth of healing from the pool and cure a disease or poison from your target. You can even cure multiple diseases and poisons on a target at once by expending 5 x number of conditions and a single action.
Lay on Hands is both a versatile and efficient way to heal and cure your allies.
Fighting Style – Level 2
Like the fighter and most of the other martial classes, you too get to choose a Fighting Style at level 2.
For this build, we’re going to be taking Great Weapon Fighting. This allows us to reroll any 1’s or 2’s we roll on damage when we use a weapon with the two-handed or versatile properties. Considering that we’ll be using either a polearm or greatsword 99% of the time, we’ll almost always be able to make good use of this.
Spellcasting – Level 2+
Paladins are half-casters meaning that they’re a mix of martial combatants and divine spellcasters. They do not get cantrips like their full-caster cousins, but that is the price they pay for getting Extra Attack and other martial-fighting goodies.
That being said, compared to the ranger, paladins make out okay thanks to their ability to prepare spells. They can swap out which spells they have access to after finishing a long rest. These spells have to, of course, be from the paladin spell list.
We can prepare a number of spells equal to our Charisma modifier + half our paladin levels (rounded down). This is just one reason why Charisma is an important ability score for us to focus on. Trust me, there will be plenty of other features that draw upon our Charisma!
Spellcasting Ability Formulas
Spell save DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + Charisma modifier
Spell attack modifier = proficiency bonus + Charisma modifier
Divine Smite – Level 2
When you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack you can choose to Divine Smite them as well. This will deal bonus radiant damage in addition to your weapon’s regular damage.
To use Divine Smite, you need to expend a spell slot. A 1-st level spell slot will deal 2d8 radiant damage. Each higher-level spell slot adds 1d8 radiant damage into the mix, up to a maximum of 5d8 which comes from a 4th-level spell slot.
Divine Smite is often regaled as a crit fisher’s blessing. This is because you can choose to Divine Smite after your attack hits. Essentially, this ensures that you can save Divine Smite for a critical hit which then accounts for Divine Smite in the critical hit dice pool.
Now that you know this, you should always be ready to Divine Smite when you crit a creature that’s still got a lot of health left. You’ll get a ton of value out of Divine Smite if you can manage this. Of course, don’t save all your spell slots just for crits, but keep it in mind nonetheless.
Oh, keep in mind that if the target is a fiend or undead you’ll deal an additional 1d8 radiant damage when you use Divine Smite. Use Divine Sense to hunt them down, and Divine Smite to smack them down.
Divine Health – Level 3
Congrats! You’re now immune to all diseases!
This feature can vary from good to fantastic depending on how your DM utilizes diseases in their campaign. You may wind up getting a ton of mileage out of this feature, or it may just be a minor convenience. Either way, it doesn’t hurt.
Extra Attack – Level 5
Why hit once when you can hit twice?
Yes, you can now make two attacks when you take the Attack action. Keep in mind that this will only work during your turn so by RAW it won’t work when using a Ready action.
Aura of Protection – Level 6 and 18
The best part about much of the utility that paladins bring to the table is that a lot of it is passive and most of it doesn’t require you to expend any of your spell slots.
Aura of Protection is a fantastic utility feature that gives yourself and all friendly creatures within 10 ft. of you a bonus equal to your Charisma modifier to all saving throws. Yes, even death saving throws.
The only requirement for this is that you, the paladin, are conscious. Otherwise, it’s a free +1 to +5 to saving throws provided that your allies are in range.
All paladin auras grow to a range of 30 ft. at level 18 making this (and our other auras) even more powerful.
Aura of Courage – Level 10 and 18
Aura of Courage isn’t nearly as powerful as Aura of Protection, but to be fair, it’d be ridiculous if it was. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t a solid feature in its own right.
At level 10 you’ll exude an aura that ensures that you and your allies within 10 ft. of you cannot be frightened while you, the paladin, are conscious. This is certainly a nice bit of utility in that it completely negates one form of crowd control from your DM’s arsenal.
As with Aura of Protection, Aura of Courage’s range will also increase to 30 ft. at level 18.
Improved Divine Smite – level 11
The DM is probably sick of your Divine Smite bullshit by now. Well, if they haven’t been able to stop you by now they’re surely doomed for the rest of the campaign.
Now you just innately Divine Smite everything for a single 1d8 radiant damage on every hit. You can still choose to Divine Smite and add additional radiant damage to a hit, but you’ll need to add Improved Divine Smite’s 1d8 radiant damage to the total damage of Divine Smite.
What this means is that instead of needing to use a 4th-level spell slot to deal a max of 5d8 radiant damage, you’ll now use a 3rd-level spell slot.
Cleansing Touch – Level 14
You can use an action to end a single spell on either yourself or a willing creature. This is an extremely powerful feature as it’s a free mini Dispel Magic. Just keep in mind that you can’t use it to cleanse enemies of their buffs.
The amount of times you can use Cleansing Touch is based on your Charisma modifier. This feature, like all of your other features with unique resources, recharges after a long rest.
This is an excellent utility feature, especially for high-level play where powerful magic users will be cursing and debuffing your party left and right. Well, if Aura of Protection didn’t help you all avoid these effects, Cleaning Touch is here to save the day!
Sacred Oath – Oath of Conquest
Oath of Conquest Paladins lean towards dealing hefty damage and controlling their enemies with ample amounts of crowd control.
Thematically, they tend to use intimidation and shows of force to break the wills of their enemies. They control their foes by instilling fear in their hearts so that they can break them physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If they leave survivors, they leave them in a state that ensures that they cannot enact revenge upon the paladin, the party, or any of their loved ones.
Oath of Conquest Spells – Level 3, 5, 9, 13, and 17
At each of the levels listed above, you’ll learn two new spells. Once you gain these spells you’ll always have them prepared and they will not count against your total number of prepared spells. All of these spells also count as paladin spells, even if they aren’t already part of the paladin spell list.
3rd Level – Armor of Agathys, Command
5th Level – Hold Person, Spiritual Weapon
9th Level – Bestow Curse, Fear
13th Level – Dominate Beast, Stoneskin
17th Level – Cloudkill, Dominate Person
As I said earlier. Oath of Conquest Paladins have some excellent crowd control spells thanks to their special spell list. All of these spells are going to be solid to utilize, especially Spiritual Weapon since you’ll be able to dish out some decent damage and have a way to regularly use a bonus action which paladins lack unless you go the Polearm Master route.
This is easily one of my favorite paladin oath spell lists. There’s tons of control, some damage, and a bit of utility. It has a bit of something for everyone!
Channel Divinity – Level 3
Paladins’ Channel Divinity feature is different from the cleric’s version in a few ways. Most noticeably, both features come from the paladin’s subclass whereas the cleric gets Turn Undead and one from their subclass.
Oath of Conquest Paladins gets both an AoE crowd control and a single-target damage enhancement Channel Divinity. Keep in mind that you’ll only get one use of Channel Divinity per short or long rest so use your power wisely!
Conquering Presence is an AoE Channel Divinity that forces nearby creatures to make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for up to 1 minute. It’s got a decent range of 30 ft., but the best part about it is that you can choose what creatures have to make the saving throw. Plus, once you hit level 7 it synergizes very well with Aura of Conquest.
Guided Strike gives you bonus accuracy with an attack roll, gaining +10 to hit. You can choose to use this feature after you’ve seen the result of the roll which is fantastic. Pair it up with Great Weapon Master and Divine Strike and you can turn what could be a miss into a hit for devastating damage.
Both are strong options, but personally, Conquering Presence will probably see more use if your party frequently gets into fights with groups or hordes of creatures. There’s so much value in a freebie AoE fear, especially when you consider Aura of Conquest.
Aura of Conquest – Level 7 and 18
Initially you gain a short-range aura that reduces a creature’s speed to 0 if they are frightened of you. This is a very handy lock-down crowd control option, especially if you have a lot of squishy backline characters in your party that you don’t want the enemy charging towards.
This aura, like all of your other auras, extends to 30 ft. at level 18 making it considerably more useful. It will also match the range of Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence and Fear which is handy!
It’s some nice additional CC with no cost to your action economy. Perhaps it’s not the most consistently useful feature, but it’s reliable and strong when you need it to be!
Scornful Rebuke – Level 15
Now, speaking of consistently useful, who wants more damage? Oh, yep. All of us.
Scornful Rebuke forces a creature to take psychic damage whenever they hit you with an attack. Note that this does not require you to even use a reaction so this is action economy-free damage. It also doesn’t specify what type of attack. It could be a ranged, melee, or spell attack!
The damage is based on your Charisma modifier, and by level 15 this should probably be 18+ so it’s a free 4-5 psychic damage. Keep in mind as well that psychic damage is a very rare resistance for creatures to have so this is going to be consistent chip damage.
Scornful Rebuke isn’t flashy, but it’s reliable as hell.
Invincible Conqueror – Level 20
Paladin capstones are tied to their subclass which I’m a fan of. Mechanically it makes each paladin subclass diverse. Flavor-wise it makes sense as each oath is unique so it makes sense that the paladin’s epic power is going to be unique based on the oath they uphold.
The Oath of Conquest capstone is basically like you are temporarily a hasted, raging barbarian that’s dipped into champion fighter for a whole minute. Oh, and you can maintain concentration with your spells while you’re in this state.
Mechanically speaking you gain resistance to damage. Yes, just damage. You can make an additional attack per turn, and your melee crits can be made on a 19 or 20. I mean, you’re a one-person army at this point.
Of course, this is super powerful so you can only use this once per long rest, but let’s be honest. You’re going to use this to march into the boss’ chambers and give them the holy one-two punch anyway so it won’t be difficult to decide when to use Invincible Conqueror.
Paladins, like most of the divine casters (sorry rangers!), can prepare their spell list when they take a long rest, meaning that they can effectively take whatever spell they choose in addition to their freebies from their race and subclass.
With that being said. I’m not going to go into detail for every single paladin spell. Instead, I’m going to showcase some of my personal favorites and talk about the ones that Oath of Conquest gets by default.
Just keep in mind that since you prepare your spells, you can always slot in a niche spell when you think you may have a situation that can make use of that spell!
Paladins don’t typically get Cantrips, but Legacy of Avernus gives us Thaumaturgy along with two additional smite spells.
Bless is a fantastic low-level utility spell that only requires your concentration to bolster the abilities of all (or most of) your allies. You’ll be preparing this less frequently as you level due to acquiring better spells to concentrate on, but cherish the time you have with it while it lasts.
Shield of Faith is another solid low-level utility spell. If one of your spellcasters is in a bit of a pinch you can always toss this on them and give them a bit more wiggle room. Plus, since it’s a bonus action you won’t be sacrificing much of your action economy to use it!
Wrathful Smite can work well with our build. Sure, you sacrifice a little bit of damage compared to just Divine Smiting your target. However, in return, the creature can be frightened by you, which of course reduces the creature’s movement to 0 thanks to Aura of Conquest.
Command is a decent utility feature that, with a bit of creativity, can come in handy for a face character such as yourself. Armor of Agathys, on the other hand, isn’t great for our build. It’s a nice warlock or Abjuration Wizard spell, but it’s not worth wasting a spell slot on in our situation.
We get one free use of Searing Smite per long rest from being a tiefling. It’s a decent freebie to give yourself some extra damage and potentially force an enemy to use an action to douse the fire.
Aid is another spell that’s decent at low levels, particularly if the rest of your party is comprised of spellcasters and other low-hp characters. It gives up to three of your party an additional 5 max HP for 8 hours. This doesn’t require concentration which is what makes it great for a low-level dungeon delve!
Magic Weapon is a nice spell to prepare if you know you’re going up against ghosts or other creatures with resistance/immunity to nonmagical weapons. It’s a free +1 weapon for up to an hour, so it’s got its perks despite requiring concentration.
Find Steed is surely one of the paladin’s most iconic spells. Summon a trusty, magical, and intelligent steed! You can use it for mounted combat, as a companion in battle, or a bit of both.
Branding Smite, like Searing Smite, is a freebie from our tiefling features. This is a bit more powerful in that it’s 2d6 damage, but it also marks the target and prevents them from going invisible. It’s useful in any combat scenario, but it’s a great boon against invisible targets.
Spiritual Weapon, while typically a cleric-only spell, somehow squeaked onto our spell list! This gives us regular use of our bonus action without requiring concentration. This is a fantastic spell that you’ll get plenty of mileage out of.
Hold Person is a low-level crowd control staple. Use it to stop a fleeing target, use it to give yourself and your allies advantage on attacks against a humanoid, or cast it at higher levels and crowd control a whole group of people! The options are endless!
If your party doesn’t have someone better-suited to cast Dispel Magic you should probably grab this one. While you can use Cleansing Touch at higher levels, Dispel Magic allows you to remove multiple spell effects from any target, not just allies. It’s an excellent spell to have available to you!
Just like with Dispel Magic, if no one else can revive a dead party member, it’s up to you to keep this one prepared when you know the party is going into a dangerous area.
Bestow Curse is a handy spell to use during a boss fight. It gives you some extra survivability and damage while being extremely difficult to remove. Seriously, curses are rough in 5e. Only a Remove Curse spell can do the trick!
Fear is a fantastic and necessary part of our spell list as it’s one of our most reliable ways to get usage out of Aura of Conquest. It’s an AoE fear just like Conquering Presence, except you can cast it more than once per long rest at higher levels. Pair this with Aura of Courage to prevent your allies from being frightened as well!
Aura of Purity, while requiring concentration, gives you and your allies in a 30 ft. radius become immune to disease, get resistance to poison damage, and gain advantage on saving throws against effects that cause a laundry list of different conditions. It’s an excellent bit of anti-cc utility.
Banishment is a fantastic crowd control spell. You can pop a creature out of existence for up to 1 minute or permanently if they’re from a different plane of existence (and don’t have a way to get back).
Find Greater Steed is an upgraded version of Find Steed and an easy way to get yourself a free mount with flying speed.
Dominate Beast, while extremely situational, can come in clutch if you’re fighting some particularly nasty beasties. It’s a good spell in that it’s always prepared for free, otherwise, we probably wouldn’t bother with it outside of niche situations.
Stoneskin is pretty meh sure you gain resistance to bludgeoning piercing and slashing damage, but only if the damage is nonmagical. Oh, and you have to maintain concentration on it for a whole hour. And don’t forget that each cast costs 100 gp. Plus it’s a 4th-level spell. You might use it once in a while in a dire situation.
Dispel Evil and Good has a whole bunch of utility packed into a single 1-minute concentration spell. Creatures from other planes of existence have disadvantage on attacks against you for the duration. You can, however, end the spell early and either break an enchantment on a creature or you can use an action to banish a creature back to its plane of existence.
Holy Weapon is permanent smite for up to 1 hour if you can maintain concentration for the entire time. There’s even an option to dismiss the spell and deal some solid AoE radiant damage and potentially blind nearby creatures. Excellent spell.
Paladins don’t usually have much AoE damage. We don’t either, but Cloudkill is at least something! Give yourself some cover by obscuring the battlefield as you deal a nasty 5d8 poison damage to all creatures within the spell that need to breathe!
Dominate Person allows you to control a humanoid temporarily, but it’s more useful than Dominate Beast since you’re more likely to fight a powerful humanoid than you are a powerful beast. At least that’s been my experience thus far. Either way, it’s a nice offensive crowd control spell.
Strengths of this Build
The path of a paladin is not for the weak of heart, mind, or will. However, it’s sure as hell powerful in 5e!
We have plenty of utility, much of which has individual resource pools. Plus we have quite a few spells that we can prepare to give us additional utility if we need to.
Of course, we have tons of damage too! With Divine Smite, Great Weapon Master, and spells such as Holy Weapon we’ll deal some outrageous burst damage in combat. Not only that, but we have solid sustained damage thanks to Improved Divine Smite, Spiritual Weapon, and possibly Polearm Master.
Our crowd control and lockdown capabilities are infinite thanks to our spells and features that impose the frightened condition on our enemies. Pair that up with Aura of Conquest and you can ensure that no creature is moving without your say-so!
Not only that, but we still have spells such as Hold Person to impose classic crowd control on our enemies. The Sentinel feat also aids us in gaining battlefield control.
Oh, and thanks to our naturally high Charisma and some utility spells we’ll be exceptional face characters if the need arises!
Weaknesses of this Build
We’re not much for ranged fighting. Sure, we’ll probably lug around some javelins or maybe even a heavy crossbow, but it’s anything but our forte.
Also, good luck with dealing AoE damage. Large groups of enemies will be a nightmare for us to deal with promptly, but that’s why you keep around that weakling wizard, right?
We’re an alright off-tank, but 18 AC is our absolute maximum. We’ll need to seriously hinder our damage output by wielding a shield if we want to get it any higher than that.
Paladins are powerful! They hit hard, they talk good, and they have fountains of utility. Not only that, but the Oath of Conquest has some fantastic goodies in the form of reliable AoE crowd control that most other paladins don’t have.
While you could certainly take a level dip into Hexblade Warlock or even three levels into Champion Fighter to crit fish you don’t need to. Mono-class paladin is strong in its own right, plus you’d miss out on that sweet capstone feature!
Seriously, I’d love to break this build-out in a real campaign sometime. I played an evil one in a one-shot and had a blast. It’s fun and has a unique twist on roleplaying a paladin compared to your “typical” paladin.