© Wizards of the Coast by Donato Giancola

Oath of the Ancients Paladin 5e Guide: The Green Knight

This guide is intended to give you a deeper understanding of one of Dungeons & Dragons 5e’s most underrated and thematically interesting subclasses: The Oath of the Ancients Paladin.

To help you get to grips with the unique advantages of this nature-themed martial spellcasting subclass, we’ve broken down some of the key features and abilities that make the Ancients Paladin a powerful addition to any adventuring party.

No class (no matter what Hexblade Warlock players tell you) is perfect, however, and the Oath of the Ancients Paladin is no exception. We’ll also be taking a look at some of the drawbacks inherent to this subclass, and how you can compensate for these shortcomings as your character progresses.

Since Paladins are one of the most commonly-used classes in D&D for multiclass builds, we’ve also taken a look at some of the classes that synergize best with the Oath of the Ancients. 

Next, this guide goes into the features that define the Oath of the Ancients Paladin in detail, and tackles the basics, like ability scores, races, backgrounds, and skills, so you’ll know how to get the most out of the class right from level one.

We follow this up by covering the basics, like Hit Points, Proficiencies, Equipment, and any Class-specific skills. Then we go through what you’ll get at each level as you progress your character.

We’ll also be taking a look at Feats. Feats are an optional part of 5e that a lot of people tend to skip in favor of a few extra ability points.If you’re interested in feats and how they can transform your Oath of the Ancients build, we’ve also broken down some of the ones that synergize best with this subclass.

Lastly, we’ve put together a progression section, which shows you how to build an Oath of the Ancients Paladin from level 1 to 20.

You can jump to any of these topics below using the table of contents below.

Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System

In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:

  • Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful, and might make for an interesting narrative choice, but are largely less effective than other tiers.
  • Green – B Tier. A solid choice, but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or can be very good but only situationally.  
  • Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. 
  • Purple – S Tier. The best of the best. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are definitely worth considering when you create your character.

Our goal here is to provide scannable, but comprehensive guides for you as you develop your character.

While we might sometimes make reference to unofficial or homebrew content to illustrate a point (or just because it’s too cool not to talk about) every option we suggest is legal in the official rules for D&D 5e as published by Wizards of the Coast.

What is an Oath of the Ancients Paladin? 

Each Paladin is defined by the sacred oath that they swear, the sacred bond that binds them to a list of ideals and grants them the powers that make them such a force to be reckoned with in battle.

The sacred oath by which a Paladin lives is the source of their power, allowing them to sniff out evil, turn back devils and otherworldly threats with blasts of holy light, and smite the unholy with the evergreen combination of a flaming sword and extreme prejudice. 

Speaking of evergreen, Paladins who swear the Oath of the Ancients bind themselves inseparably with the natural world. This oath is tied to the half-forgotten magic of the elves and druids, and their connection to the faerie realm of the Feywild.

These stalwart bastions, known as Green Knights, fey knights, or horned knights, have thrown in with the side of light in an eternal cosmic struggle against the forces of darkness and corruption. They have an enduring love for natural beauty, culture, and harmony. 

These guardians of the wild parts of the world swear to protect the natural order of things, committing to a life of unceasing vigilance at the borders of forests or sacred groves.

Mechanically, the Oath of Ancients Paladin gives players a decidedly unique way to reflavor the classic concept of the Paladin as a pious avenger and scourge of the undead.

Ancients Paladins are mechanically less suited to the classic high-damage striker role, leaning more towards being a battlefield controller and implacable tank.

Their access to several spells from the Druid and Ranger spell lists makes them a powerful (if somewhat situationally effective) spellcaster. Lastly, their Aura of Warding, is one of the most unique and powerful passive abilities in the whole game. 

Let’s dive into some of the features, abilities, and traits that set an Oath of Ancients Paladin apart. 

The Oath of the Ancients’ Defining Abilities 

  • One of the best aura effects in the game
  • Unstoppable mage slayer 
  • High survivability 

Channel Divinity

When you take this Oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

Nature’s Wrath. You can use your Channel Divinity to invoke primeval forces to ensnare a foe. As an action, you can cause spectral vines to spring up and reach for a creature within 10 feet of you that you can see. The creature must succeed on a Strength or Dexterity saving throw (its choice) or be restrained. While restrained by the vines, the creature repeats the saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a success, it frees itself and the vines vanish.

Turn the Faithless. You can use your Channel Divinity to utter ancient words that are painful for fey and fiends to hear. As an action, you present your holy symbol, and each fey or fiend within 30 feet of you that can hear you must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is turned for 1 minute or until it takes damage.

A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. It also can’t take reactions.

For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.

If the creature’s true form is concealed by an illusion, shapeshifting, or other effect, that form is revealed while it is turned.

Aura of Warding

Beginning at 7th level, ancient magic lies so heavily upon you that it forms an eldritch ward. You and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you have resistance to damage from spells.

At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.

Undying Sentinel

Starting at 15th level, when you are reduced to 0 hit points and are not killed outright, you can choose to drop to 1 hit point instead. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Additionally, you suffer none of the drawbacks of old age, and you can’t be aged magically.

Elder Champion

At 20th level, you can assume the form of an ancient force of nature, taking on an appearance you choose. For example, your skin might turn green or take on a bark-like texture, your hair might become leafy or moss-like, or you might sprout antlers or a lion-like mane.

Using your action, you undergo a transformation. For 1 minute, you gain the following benefits:

  • At the start of each of your turns, you regain 10 hit points.
  • Whenever you cast a paladin spell that has a casting time of 1 action, you can cast it using a bonus action instead.
  • Enemy creatures within 10 feet of you have disadvantage on saving throws against your paladin spells and Channel Divinity options.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

All Paladin subclasses really hit their stride at level 7 when they unlock a unique aura effect. Some auras synergize really well with their subclass’ other abilities, some provide useful – if situational – buffs to the Paladin and their allies.

The Aura of Warding that the Oath of Ancients is granted at level 7 is hands down one of the best passive abilities in the game, granting you and any ally within 10ft (the effect extends to 30ft at level 18) resistance to all magical damage. It’s hard to overstate just how good this is.

There are plenty of defensive spells and abilities in 5e that grant resistance to one form of damage or another.

However, there are very few that grant resistance to all types of magical damage – in fact, the only other subclass that has access to blanket magic damage resistance is the School of Abjuration wizard, and they can’t even hit people with giant swords set alight with holy fire, so why even bother? 

In combination with some of the Oath Spells you get at later levels (like Stoneskin and Protection From Energy), as well as your Undying Sentinel ability, which lets you remain at 1 hit point when an attack would otherwise knock you unconscious, and the Oath of the Ancients Paladin takes shape as a formidably survivable warrior. 

The wide range of anti-magic abilities that the Oath of the Ancients has access to makes them into proficient mage slayers.

Restraining spellcasters using your Channel Divinity ability Nature’s Wrath, reducing their damage output with your Aura of Warding, and access to the spell Misty Step at 5th level makes you ideally suited to closing the gap between you and any wizard, warlock, or necromancer you would like to delete from the game in a single turn. You can further accentuate this style of play with the Mage Slayer Feat

However, a word of warning is warranted here. Further specializing this already somewhat situationally effective class can leave you feeling pretty useless if your campaign ends up putting you into situations where your abilities don’t apply. On that note… 

The Oath of the Ancients’ Limitations 

  • Situationally powerful, generally underwhelming spell list
  • Turn the Faithless is less useful than other “turn” abilities 
  • No social abilities (at least, none that work on people)

Aside from the universally excellent Aura of Warding, there’s a lot about the Oath of the Ancients’ portfolio of abilities that makes them feel nigh-unstoppable in some situations and kind of underwhelming in others.

This is especially true when you hold the Ancients Paladin up to their closest relative: the Druid. 

First up, let’s look at your two Channel Divinity abilities, Nature’s Wrath and Turn the Faithless. Nature’s Wrath is a great single-target control ability, but doesn’t give you the area control that a Druid gets from Entangle – which can affect multiple targets within a greater range.

Nature’s Wrath can be immensely powerful if you need to lock down a single opponent, but feels pretty weak if you’re trying to keep multiple enemies from breaking through to your back line.

Turn the Faithless, which forces Fiends and Fey to make a Wisdom saving throw or spend their turns trying to get as far away from you as possible.

It’s an interesting reflavoring of the Oath of Devotion’s Turn the Unholy ability, but ends up being far less useful mechanically; both can affect Fiends, but Turn the Unholy can target Undead instead of Fey, which is a far, far more common type of enemy to encounter. 

Add a somewhat mediocre list of Oath spells, and a distinct lack of abilities that are useful in social encounters (unless that encounter happens to be with, say, a particularly suspicious squirrel), and you have a subclass that’s highly effective against solo magic users, fiends, and the fey folk, but will struggle to keep up with its fellow party members in other situations.

This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but I’d recommend talking to your Dungeon Master about the type of campaign they want to run before you commit to an Oath of the Ancients Paladin. 

Expecting to be delving deep within the wilderness, hunting giant beasts, or tracking down rogue necromancers? Oath of the Ancients sounds like a great pick to me. 

Playing in a highly political urban campaign, wading through hordes of undead, or leading armies in battle? Probably not a great fit. 

Multiclassing 

Paladins are one of the most frequently-multiclassed types of character in D&D 5e. The Oath of the Ancients has enough drawbacks here and there that dipping into another class can be a great way to make yourself either more generally effective, or double down (and then double down again) on a particular specialization.

That being said, when it comes to multiclassing, the Paladin usually gets the short end of the Holy Avenger. Because Paladins get a whole bunch of extra proficiencies (of the martial and heavy armor variety) out of the gate, dipping into Paladin for access to platemail is more common than a Paladin dipping into Sorcerer for a firebolt.

If you want to multiclass your Paladin, a lot of conventional wisdom suggests that you abandon the class altogether at 2nd level, before you even swear your Sacred Oath. 

Here are some of the best multiclass synergies that work with a Paladin that has chosen to progress far enough to at least hit 3rd level and choose the Oath of the Ancients. 

Barbarian

The Barbarian class gets a lot of fantastic abilities at low levels, but the class can feel like it drops off later in the game.

By mixing an Oath of the Ancients Paladin with a Barbarian (after you get your second attack at level 5), you get access to reckless attack at level 2, which gives you advantage on an attack if you want to make sure your next Smite lands. Your rage also gives you some handy physical resistance, which stacks nicely with all the other ways the Oath of the Ancients Paladin already has to cut down incoming damage.

It’s worth noting, however, that Barbarians and heavy armor don’t really mix all that well. This build synergizes best with a Dexterity-based Paladin so you can make use of the Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense.    

Druid 

This is a thematically interesting combination which is held back mostly by the fact you now have to prioritize three ability scores (Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma) to be effective.

Also, as a Druid, your Strength score will typically be replaced with that of your chosen Wild Shape animal form.

All these inefficiencies aside, however, the fact that your auras (and, most importantly, Smite) work while you’re in beast form mean that taking seven levels of Oath of the Ancient Paladin and fourteen levels of druid will make you a wholly frightening force to be reckoned with. 

Sorcerer

Easily the most popular Paladin multiclass pairing. The Paladin’s extra hit points help to compensate for the Sorcerer’s natural squishiness. There are a number of combinations you can pull off between a Paladin and Sorcerer that turn you into a force to be reckoned with in combat.

Once your Paladin has access to Smite, you can use the Sorcerer’s magic to gain access to more higher level spell slots earlier on. 

Warlock

This multiclass build almost exclusively goes down the route of the Hexblade Warlock. 

Choosing a Hexblade patron basically lets you abandon all your other stats in favor of Charisma, which becomes your attack and damage bonus, and spellcasting ability.

Combine this with Pact of the Blade at 3rd level and you can start manifesting pact weapons and using them to smite your foes with extreme prejudice. 

Getting Started

Ability Scores 

  • Primary: Charisma, Strength 
  • Tier II: Constitution 
  • Tier III: Dexterity, Wisdom
  • Absolute Dump Tier: Intelligence 

Strength: As a Paladin, your heavy armor and ability to swing a martial weapon depend upon your Strength. There are some great Dexterity-based Paladin builds, but nine times out of ten, you’re going to want to prioritize your Strength. 

Dexterity: If you want to play a ranged weapon-focused Paladin, or one that uses finesse weapons, a Dexterity based build that forgoes traditional plate for medium armor can make good use of Dexterity. Ironically, this also makes you better suited to dip into Barbarian later on. Otherwise, this ability is highly situational and can be ignored in favor of more useful abilities. 

Constitution: More hit points are never, ever going to be a bad thing. As a tanky frontline fighter, you need to be tanky, and a good Constitution score is absolutely key. 

Intelligence: Intelligence doesn’t really intersect with any of your key abilities and, while it might be useful to boost skills like History or Arcana, there are going to be other characters in your party that do these things better. Leave the thinking to the nerds hiding behind you in the back line. 

Wisdom: This ability also doesn’t really synergize with anything that’s core to the Oath of the Ancients Paladin build. However, Wisdom is still tied to Perception, which is easily one of the more useful skills in the game, and makes this stat worth prioritizing over Intelligence.

Also, if you want to go down the multiclass route into Druid, you’re going to need a bump to your Wisdom to be effective. 

Charisma: As a Paladin, your spellcasting modifier is your Charisma, which is also impactful in social situations and should be one of your main priorities when assigning ability scores. Also, if you take a dip into Hexblade Warlock, your Charisma is also going to become your attack and damage modifier, and is therefore essential. 

Races

As an Oath of the Ancients Paladin, you’re going to be prioritizing Strength (for hitting stuff), Constitution (for when you get hit), and Charisma (for other, non-hitting activities like magic). Therefore, any race that gives you a boost to one (or even two) of these abilities is going to be a great fit. 

We’ve chosen three possible races that make for a good basis when building an Oath of the Ancients Paladin. The Variant Human and the Mountain Dwarf are available in the D&D 5e Basic Rules found in the Player’s Handbook.

The for playing a Warforged are found in Eberron: Rising From the Last War.

Variant Human 

Humans are known throughout D&D for their versatility, and the Variant Human is no exception. A +1 bonus to two ability scores of your choice (choose Strength and Charisma), and a Feat at level one (like Great Weapon Master, Resilient, or even Telekinetic – more on Feats below) are a great place to start. 

Mountain Dwarf 

Hands down one of the strangest races in the game, the Mountain Dwarf is one of the few races in D&D to get a +2 bonus to two ability scores. To make things even better, those scores are Strength and Constitution.

Also, starting out with some beefy stats means you’ll have more freedom to choose a Feat at level four if you so choose – although it’s probably wiser to round up any even numbered scores and grab your Feat at level 8. Dwarves are hardy, ornery folk, and make for great Paladins.

A dwarven holy knight protector beneath the mountain is a really interesting spin on the classic woodland warden. Perhaps you’re a guardian of a gate between the surface world and the perilous Underdark, with curling ram’s horns jutting from your helmet and a greataxe wreathed in cold blue fire.

As a Dwarf, your movement speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor (which almost makes up for the fact that your stubby little legs don’t go so fast to begin with). 

Warforged 

The biomechanical war machines of the Eberron setting make for great Paladins. They naturally lean towards lawful alignments, get a +2 bonus to Constitution, and their jack-of-all trades ability to boost another stat by 1 lets you take the race in any direction you choose.

Also, from a thematic point of view, an unstoppable metal warrior that doesn’t need to sleep or eat, marching across the battlefield with sword drawn is deeply frightening and gives off serious Terminator vibes.

“Hasta la vista, baby.” *Smite*

On a slightly less James Cameron note, because Warforged are technically only native to the Eberron setting (but most DMs allow them anywhere) you have a great deal of leeway when coming up with an origin for your own metal man.

A once-mindless automaton, lying broken on the battlefield where it fell, imbued with new life and purpose by an archdruid, is a wholly awesome concept. 

Backgrounds

Backgrounds are both a great way to help flesh out your character’s personal history, and your primary source of skills.

Each background also has its own special feature – something which I maintain remains a woefully underused aspect of D&D; take the Criminal’s natural ability to draw upon a network of contacts for information, leads and jobs, or the fact that the Sage’s Researcher feature means that, even if they can’t recall a piece of lore, they know exactly where to go to get it.

Background features are a fantastic way to make your character feel competent within the environment in which they live, as well as help the DM flesh out the world around you. 

Backgrounds also give you access to new languages, tool proficiencies and, most importantly, skills. As a Paladin with Charisma and Strength as your Primary Attributes, choosing backgrounds that grant you access to skills that use those abilities can be a good way to go.

The Soldier background is the only one in the Player’s Handbook that gives you access to Charisma (Intimidation) and Strength (Athletics) based skills, which is great.

While the Soldier background doesn’t necessarily fit easily into the Oath of the Ancients’ overall style, reflavoring the army you fought in as a cadre of demon-slaying elven warriors, or a vast natural uprising wherein the forest – including trees, animals, and the elven druids who awakened them – rose up to crush a neighboring kingdom with an overly ambitious logging trade, isn’t too hard.

Also, many Paladins live some kind of life before they swear their sacred oath (including levels 1 and 2, technically speaking) so an ex soldier who lay dying from her wounds, only to be healed by a nature spirit in exchange for swearing an undying oath to watch over its forest is a perfectly acceptable way to go. 

The same is true of the Faction Agent background. I think that, while the authorial intent behind this background is to position you as an urban agent of a guild or criminal cartel, this is once again something you can reflavor without much trouble.

Perhaps you are one of an order of questing knights in service to a circle of druids, or even a powerful archfey. Maybe you’re one of the warriors sworn to protect a guild of psychic beekeepers, who weave strange magics through the art of swarmcraft.

You could serve as a warden for a great interdimensional faerie prison, dispatched on missions throughout the planes to track down errant fey (something something blink dog the bounty hunter something…).

The Faction Agent gets access to Insight and then any one Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma-based skill of your choice, which is a great way to round out just about any build or backstory you have in mind.

You also get a couple of languages, and access to the Safe Haven feature, which means that members of your chosen faction will offer you access to safe houses and hideaways, as well as other forms of assistance. 

Lastly, the Far Traveler is a great thematic and mechanical fit for an Oath of the Ancients Paladin. They’re wanderers from unimaginably distant lands, friends of the elves, or born into ancient and powerful city states ruled by conclaves of archmages.

Picking out or making up a distant homeland for yourself is a great foundation for an Ancients Paladin. You get access to Perception (hands down one of the game’s most useful skills) and Insight, as well as the ability to leverage your exotic strangeness into an audience with local nobles or NPCs.

If you want to play a slightly alien curiosity, a stranger in a strange land, then this is a great background for you. 

In order to get hold of the Faction Agent and Far Traveler backgrounds discussed here, you’re going to need to grab a copy of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Skills

The Paladin’s starting skill list isn’t actually all that amazing, as many of them rely on Intelligence or Wisdom – stats you have little use for otherwise. 

When you create your character, choose two from Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion

Athletics: A great addition to any high-Strength character. 

Insight: Useful for reading someone who’s acting suspiciously, but you’re probably better off intimidating them into giving up their secrets instead. 

Intimidation: Speak softly and carry a very, very big sword. Your high Charisma is going to make you a very scary person indeed. I’m not suggesting you use this skill for all of your social interactions, but it will probably get you through most awkward chats with shopkeepers.

Medicine: This is easily the worst skill in the game, and rendered even less useful by your Lay on Hands ability, which is basically what Medicine would look like if it actually worked. 

Persuasion: Another great pickup that synergizes with your high Charisma. 

Religion: A good narrative choice, as a lot of Paladins tend to fall under some sort of quasi-religious association, but not that mechanically good. 

Progression

Let’s take a look at the unique features that carry an Oath of the Ancients Paladin from level 1 to level 20. Note that we won’t be covering the features that are universal to all Paladins. However, due to how downright useful it is, here’s a quick note about Divine Smite. 

Divine Smite: starting at level 2, burn a spell slot to add 2d8 radiant damage to your attack damage. The attack also becomes magical. This ability is the core of any Paladin build, and scales really well with more damage as you pick up higher level spell slots.

For each spell slot level above one that you use to cast your Divine Smite, add a d8 of radiant damage. Also, if you roll a critical, your divine smite damage is also doubled. This is what makes the Paladin capable of absolutely deleting troublesome enemies from the map with a single blow. Smite on, baby. 

Now, on to the Oath of the Ancient’s unique features. 

1st & 2nd Level 

1st level is a rough time for Paladins, and the Oath of Ancient is no exception. First of all, you haven’t sworn your oath yet, and your core competencies like spellcasting, Divine Smite, and Fighting Style don’t come online until level two. Basically, you’re kind of stuck playing a bad fighter. Hang in there, baby. 

At 2nd level, you get access to some of your core abilities, like spellcasting, Divine Smite, and your Fighting style. Paladins only get access to four fighting styles, although a forgiving DM might let you branch out, in which case you should absolutely pick up Superior Technique, which gives you a Superiority Die and a Battlemaster Maneuver.

You can also replicate this effect with the Martial Adept Feat, which we’ll look at later. 

Within the rules as written, you get to choose between…  

Defense: a perfectly useful flat +1 buff to your AC while wearing armor. 

Dueling: get +2 damage when wielding a single one-handed weapon. This is a genuinely great, as flat damage buffs really mount up over time, and should usually be favored over a similar spread from a damage die size increase. For example, let’s say you have a Strength bonus of +3.

If you’re using a Longsword, which can be used one-handed for a d8 slashing damage or two-handed for a d10 slashing damage, you actually deal more damage using the weapon one handed (1d8 + 5) than two-handed (1d10+3) because you’re applying the difference between the two dice as a flat bonus every time you hit. And you still get to use a shield in your other hand. 

Great Weapon Fighting: reroll ones and twos on damage rolls with two-handed weapons, which is pretty good, although you’ll probably get more raw damage over time from Dueling. I’d advise pairing this style with a weapon that deals 2d6 like a Greatsword rather than 1d12 like a Greataxe so you get to reroll more often. 

Protection: easily the worst of the four; there are loads of other ways to impose disadvantage on your enemies, and forcing your wizard to stand right next to you as opposed to staying safely on the other side of the room to gain the benefits feels counterintuitive. Pass. 

3rd Level

This is where you choose your Oath of the Ancients and unlock some of its core features. 

Oath Spells: you gain access to ensnaring strike, which is a really useful battlefield control spell, and speak with animals, which might be narratively useful if you need to interrogate a local racoon, but is honestly a bit underwhelming.

Channel Divinity: like we mentioned before, your Channel Divinity abilities are kind of a mixed bag in terms of their usefulness. Nature’s Wrath is a solid disable, but the fact that it’s single target makes it significantly less useful than a Druid’s Entangle.

Turn the Faithless is very powerful, assuming you end up fighting demons or fey – which, again, are much less common than Undead, which the Oath of Devotion can target with its turn ability. 

5th Level 

Oath Spells: At 5th level you pick up misty step, which is a fantastic positioning ability that lets you teleport up to 30ft as a Bonus action – which means that, if you spend your turn dashing, your speed starts to get into Monk territory.

You also get moonbeam, which is situationally ok, but there are plenty of better options for a radiant damage dealing area of effect spell. 

7th Level 

Aura of Warding: Hands down one of the best auras in the game. Resistance to all types of magical damage for you and all allies within 10ft is going to put the survivability of your party through the roof. 

9th Level 

Oath Spells: At 9th level, you pick up plant growth and protection from energy. Again, the Oath of the Ancients’ spell list hands you one useful spell and one that’s basically just for narrative flavor.

Still, the extra damage resistance for either yourself or an ally to either acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage is definitely a nice thing to have. 

13th Level 

Oath Spells: Easily the best pair of Oath Spells, at 13th Level you gain access to ice storm, which is a great area of effect damage spell that also makes it hard for enemies to break out of its radius, and stoneskin, which can add physical resistance on top of your Aura of Warding, meaning that you can go ahead and half all incoming damage while it’s active. 

15th Level 

Undying Sentinel: This ability is yet another great boost to your survivability. If you drop to 0 hit points and are not killed outright, you can choose to drop to 1 hit point instead once per long rest.

This is a fantastic way to stay in the fight for just a little bit longer, hopefully giving you time to turn the tide in favor of your party. 

17th Level 

Oath Spells: Kind of a disappointing pair of spells that, yet again, feel like they’d be really useful maybe once or twice in a whole campaign.

Commune with nature lets you attune yourself to the surrounding area, which can be a huge benefit if you’re trying to investigate a mystery or find a monster’s lair, and tree stride is a pretty useful mobility spell.

However, unless you’ve multiclassed into a spellcasting class like Sorcerer, your pool of 5th level spell slots is extremely limited, and you’d be better off just saving that slot for a particularly spicy Divine Smite. 

18th Level 

Aura of Warding: Your Aura now extends for 30ft, meaning you can more consistently protect your allies. 

20th Level 

Elder Champion: This is a really great capstone ability. At 20th level, once per long rest, you can assume the form of an ancient avatar of nature, taking on an appearance you choose.

Your body might become overgrown with vines and moss, and your skin might take on a bark-like texture. Your hair might become leafy or moss-like, or you might sprout antlers or a lion-like mane. Pretty badass stuff. 

When you undergo this transformation, for one minute, you regain 10 hit points at the start of your turn, you can cast Paladin spells that require an action with a bonus action instead, and enemies within 10ft of you have disadvantage on saving throws against your paladin spells and Channel Divinity options. 

Feats

While a lot of DMs tend to ignore Feats (they’re a somewhat maligned element of 5e), if you’d rather get something a little more flavorful than an ability score bump, here are a few options that synergize well with an Oath of the Ancients Paladin. 

If you’re interested in Feats, one of the best races to play is a Variant Human. The +1 bonus you receive to two ability scores of your choice, and the free Feat at 1st level make for a really good start to the class, particularly if you pick one of the feats below.

Martial Adept: Since the launch of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything dramatically expanded the list of Maneuvers, the Martial Adept Feat has become a fantastic pickup for a bit of extra damage and battlefield control.

When you pick up this Feat, you learn two maneuvers of your choice from the Battle Master archetype, and you gain a d6 superiority die which resets on a short rest. 

There are a bunch of Maneuvers that can enhance your abilities in combat, but the one we’d recommend is Brace. When an enemy you can see moves within 5ft of you, you can use your reaction to expend one superiority die and make one weapon attack against that creature.

If the attack hits, add the superiority die to the attack’s damage roll. Now, throw a Divine Smite on top of that damage for good measure, and both your damage output and survivability (enemies can’t hit you if you’ve already melted their faces off with fire) go way up. 

Great Weapon Master: If the idea of swinging a giant flaming sword to smite your enemies as they stand transfixed with fear before you doesn’t sound appealing, then I don’t know if this class is for you – or if you’re capable of joy for that matter. 

Whenever you score a critical hit with a two-handed weapon or reduce a creature to 0 HP, you get to make another melee weapon attack as a bonus action. 

You can also choose to take a -5 penalty to hit in order to add +10 to the attack’s damage roll. 

Lucky: this is a great Feat on just about any class. Reroll a d20 (attack, check, or save), or force an enemy to reroll their attack 3 times per long rest. For a subclass that’s all about imposing disadvantage, it can never hurt to have more ways to make your enemies miss an attack.

 


Example Oath of the Ancients Paladin Build – Warden of the Underdark 

This build takes a hefty swing at the concept I touched on earlier, using a Mountain Dwarf as the basis for a slightly different Oath of the Ancients Paladin than the typical Green Knight archetype.

Our narrative concept is a Mountain Dwarf whose religious order worships the roots of a great tree that grow down from the surface and into their realm.

This dwarven order exists on the border between the surface world and the Underdark, and spend their lives locked in an unending struggle with the evil things that crawl out of the abyss below – drow raiding parties, the occasional rampaging bullette, and even demons from time to time.  

1st Level 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8

Ability Scores (standard array): Strength (14), Dexterity (10), Constitution (12), Intelligence (8), Wisdom (13), Charisma (15). 

Race: Mountain Dwarf 

Ability Score Increase: Strength +2 (16), Constitution +2 (14)

Languages: Common, Dwarvish

Dwarven Resilience: You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage. 

Tool Proficiency: Smith’s tools 

Background: Faction Agent 

Skills: Insight, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception 

Feature: Safe Haven – As a faction agent, you have access to a secret network of supporters and operatives who can provide assistance on your adventures. You know a set of secret signs and passwords you can use to identify such operatives, who can provide you with access to a hidden safe house, free room and board, or assistance in finding information. These agents never risk their lives for you or risk revealing their true identities.

Equipment: 

  • Maul (2d6 Bludgeoning, two-handed – reflavored as an unnecessarily large hammer)
  • Crossbow, Heavy (1d10 Piercing, ranged) 
  • Explorer’s Pack
  • 5x Javelins 
  • Chain Mail 
  • Holy Symbol 

Features: 

  • Divine Sense 
  • Lay on Hands 

2nd Level 

Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting (reroll 1-2 on damage dice while using a two-handed weapon). 

Divine Smite 

Spellcasting: you can prepare a number of spells equal to your Charisma modifier + half your Paladin level, rounded down (minimum of one spell).

This build can prepare three spells:  

  • Searing Smite  
  • Cure Wounds 
  • Shield of Faith 

3rd Level

Oath of the Ancients 

Channel Divinity: once per short or long rest. 

Nature’s Wrath: You can use your Channel Divinity to invoke primeval forces to ensnare a foe. As an action, you can cause spectral vines to spring up and reach for a creature within 10 feet of you that you can see.

The creature must succeed on a Strength or Dexterity saving throw (its choice) or be restrained. While restrained by the vines, the creature repeats the saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a success, it frees itself and the vines vanish.

Turn the Faithless: You can use your Channel Divinity to utter ancient words that are painful for fey and fiends to hear. As an action, you present your holy symbol, and each fey or fiend within 30 feet of you that can hear you must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is turned for 1 minute or until it takes damage.

A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. It also can’t take reactions. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.

If the creature’s true form is concealed by an illusion, shapeshifting, or other effect, that form is revealed while it is turned.

Spells: gain access to the Oath Spells ensnaring strike and speak with animals

4th Level 

Ability Score Increase:+1 Wisdom (14), +1 Charisma (15) 

Spells: you can now prepare six spells, in addition to your Oath Spells. 

  • Level 1
    • Cure Wounds
    • Wrathful Smite
    • Shield of Faith 
    • Searing Smite or Thunderous Smite
  • Level 2
    • Zone of Truth 
    • Lesser Restoration 

5th Level 

Spells: gain access to the Oath Spells misty step and moonbeam

6th Level

Aura of Protection: Whenever you or a friendly creature within 10 feet of you must make a saving throw, the creature gains a bonus to the saving throw equal to your Charisma modifier (with a minimum bonus of +1). You must be conscious to grant this bonus. 

7th Level

Aura of Warding 

8th Level

Ability Score Improvement: +2 to Strength (18)

Spells: you can now prepare 8 spells of 1st or 2nd Level. 

  • Add: Aid and Branding Smite 

9th Level 

Spells: you can now cast and prepare 3rd level spells. You also gain the Oath Spells plant growth and protection from energy.

  • Replace Thunderous Smite with Blinding Smite 
  • Replace Lesser Restoration with Revivify 

10th Level 

Spells: you can now prepare 9 spells.

  • Add: Crusader’s Mantle 

Aura of Courage: you and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you can’t be frightened while you are conscious. At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet. 

11th Level 

Improved Divine Smite: automatic extra radiant damage added to your attacks. 

12th Level

Spells: you can now prepare 10 spells. 

  • Add: Aura of Vitality 

Ability Score Improvement: +2 Constitution (16) 

13th Level 

Spells: gain the Oath Spells ice storm and stoneskin. You can also prepare and cast 4th level spells. 

  • Replace Aura of Vitality with Aura of Life  
  • Replace Searing Smite with Guardian of Faith 
  • Replace Wrathful Smite with Staggering Smite 

14th Level 

Cleansing Touch: Use your action to end one spell on yourself or on one willing creature that you touch. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain expended uses when you finish a Long Rest.

Spells: you can prepare 11 spells

  • Add: Banishment 

15th Level 

Undying Sentinel: Starting at 15th level, when you are reduced to 0 hit points and are not killed outright, you can choose to drop to 1 hit point instead. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest. Additionally, you suffer none of the drawbacks of old age, and you can’t be aged magically.

16th Level 

Ability Score Improvement: +2 Charisma (18)

Spells: you can prepare 12 spells

  • Add: whatever you want or feel like you need and be prepared to swap it out next level. 

17th Level 

Spells: gain the Oath Spells commune with nature and tree stride. You can now prepare and cast 5th level spells. 

  • Replace Banish with Banishing Smite
  • Replace whatever you want but also pick up Geas, Holy Weapon or Raise Dead between now and level 20. 

18th Level 

Your auras extend from 10ft to 30ft 

19th Level 

Ability Score Improvement: +2 Strength (20)

20th Level 

Elder Champion: At 20th level, you can assume the form of an ancient force of nature, taking on an appearance you choose. For example, your skin might turn green or take on a bark-like texture, your hair might become leafy or moss-like, or you might sprout antlers or a lion-like mane.

Using your action, you undergo a transformation. For 1 minute, you gain the following benefits:

  • At the start of each of your turns, you regain 10 hit points.
  • Whenever you cast a paladin spell that has a casting time of 1 action, you can cast it using a bonus action instead.
  • Enemy creatures within 10 feet of you have disadvantage on saving throws against your paladin spells and Channel Divinity options.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Oath of the Ancients 

The Oath of the Ancients Paladin is a stalwart protector of the natural world, an ageless sentinel, or a wandering agent of some great fey power.

They’re known as green knights, grail knights, or wardens, and their defensively focused abilities reflect their protective leanings. 

Paladins who swear the Oath of the Ancients walk hand in hand with the otherworldly power of the fey folk, sworn to guard the light of life and creation from the forces of destruction, corruption, and death. 

When you choose the subclass at 3rd Level, you swear your sacred oath to live by the following tenets. 

The tenets of the Oath of the Ancients have been preserved for uncounted centuries. This oath emphasizes the principles of good above any concerns of law or chaos. Its four central principles are simple.

Kindle the Light. Through your acts of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness, kindle the light of hope in the world, beating back despair.

Shelter the Light. Where there is good, beauty, love, and laughter in the world, stand against the wickedness that would swallow it. Where life flourishes, stand against the forces that would render it barren.

Preserve Your Own Light. Delight in song and laughter, in beauty and art. If you allow the light to die in your own heart, you can’t preserve it in the world.

Be the Light. Be a glorious beacon for all who live in despair. Let the light of your joy and courage shine forth in all your deeds.

Because of their status as natural protectors, Oath of the Ancients Paladins naturally tend towards a very sedentary existence – sometimes literally.

An Ancients Paladin might remain at their post for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, resolutely barring the entryway to a sacred forest or holy site, their body overgrown with moss and ivy, or intertwined within the roots of a sacred tree.

Obviously, this is somewhat at odds with the itinerant adventuring lifestyle around which D&D (particularly at lower levels) tends to revolve. This dissonance, however, makes for a compelling core to the way you choose to roleplay your Paladin.

Has some ancient evil awakened deep within the forest that you must roam far and wide to find a way to defeat? Was the sacred oak at the heart of your forest burned by marauding hobgoblins, leading you to seek revenge for the death of the forest (that might be a concept that fits better with an Oath of Vengeance, but you could make it work)? Do you seek enlightenment from archdruids in all corners of the world?

The possibilities are broad and exciting. 

Whereas most Paladins are inclined towards a lawful alignment, devoting themselves to the destruction of all things chaotic, the fey knights rise above such petty concerns.

This oath ignores the dichotomy between Law and Chaos in favor of the far more important battle between Good and Evil, and its tenets reflect this fact. 

Paladin who choose to swear the Oath of the Ancients make excellent demon hunters, mage slayers, and cult breakers.

While their spellcasting abilities focus more on exploration and (usually animal-based) social interaction, their ability to Divine Smite will typically function as your most efficient source of damage, leaving you with room to play when it comes to utility, healing, and defense. 

While we’re talking about killing demons, your ability Turn the Faithless makes you especially effective against both fiends and fey – which is a mechanically inferior, but way more narratively compelling version of the Oath of Devotion’s Turn the Unholy ability.

Unleash the ancient magics of the forest and burn a demonic incursion away like a red hot blade cauterizes a wound. 

One of the defining characteristics of all Paladins is their Oath-specific aura. The Oath of the Ancients Paladin’s Aura of Warding is, hands down, the most powerful aura of any subclass – it’s even arguably the best passive effect available to any player class at any level.

From 7th Level, your Aura of Warding is going to give both you and your allies within 10ft (the range extends to 30ft at 18th Level) resistance to all forms of magical damage.

This effect, twinned with several other prominent features from the Oath of the Ancients’ spell list, like Stoneskin or Protection from Energy, and their other abilities, like Undying Sentinel, make you one of the most survivable subclasses in the game. 

While you might not do quite as much damage as, say, an Oath of Vengeance Paladin, your nigh-unkillable levels of survivability doesn’t mean you’ll be sacrificing your offensive capabilities.

Your Divine Smite, in combination with positioning spells like Misty Step, or battlefield controller abilities like Nature’s Wrath, lets you lock down enemies, outmaneuver them by teleporting around the battlefield, and deliver a fistful of d8s as radiant damage when you really, really want someone dead. 

All told, while the Oath of the Ancients Paladin is unquestionably a powerful melee combatant, a solid utility spellcaster, and the absolute scourge of evil wizards everywhere, you’re probably not going to grab this subclass unless you’re in love with its aesthetic and narrative components as well.

If you’re considering a character that’s in tune with the natural order of things, or maybe just love the aesthetic of the Arthurian myths, in my humble opinion, the Oath of the Ancients’ best features exist outside of the class’ mechanics.

From a narrative point of view, the concept for this subclass is so compelling that, despite a kind of wobbly spell list and a slightly crummy Channel Divinity, I’m still excited to play it.