Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Very simply, an Oathbreaker Paladin is a paladin who has broken their oath. Paladins are dedicated to the vows they take when they choose an oath.
This makes the paladin class unique, with each subclass laying out tenets for your character to follow and uphold.
These tenets are guidelines for roleplay and make being a hero something that comes naturally.
In fact, third edition and earlier paladins had to be of the lawful good alignment or they would be stripped of their abilities.
That’s where the Oathbreaker breaks the mold.
An Oath of the Ancients paladin no longer shelters the light. She has seen that all things are destined for death and welcomes the darkness into her heart, and the world around her.
In seeking to punish evil-doers, an Oath of Vengeance paladin is carried away by his devotion to seek justice by any means necessary.
Enveloped in anger and revenge he slaughters a town of innocents like animals. Not just the men, but the women and children too.
A paladin once devoted to Moradin has embraced deceit, fear, and manipulation to serve their own needs, no longer beholden to a sense of duty. They still strike out against followers of Gruumsh, but without holy guidance, they take matters into their own hands.
Each of these paladins once held light in their hearts that burned with holy righteousness. Having taken the path of evil, all that is left is darkness. Hatred and suffering control the lives of these knights now.
The Oathbreaker Paladin’s Defining Abilities
The abilities of the Oathbreaker are naturally centered around darkness, fear, and hatred. The main theme of the abilities granted through this subclass are as follows:
- Gather undead minions
- Frighten your enemies
- Manipulate others
- Deal massive damage
The oathbreaker’s channel divinity options are incredibly different from any other paladin subclass, and immediately start to represent their villainous aspect. Control Undead is a hugely powerful ability that scales with your level.
If an undead target with a CR lower than your level fails a wisdom saving throw you gain control of that target for 24 hours, an entire day!
This ability surpasses the capstone ability of the School of Necromancy wizard in my opinion, mainly because you gain this at third level and not fourteenth.
The fact that this scales with level allows you to focus on achievable targets. It would be insane if you could control a Corpse Gatherer (CR19) at third level, but being able to overpower the will of a Shadow Witch (CR2) can give you some amazing abilities to harness.
You’re also going to pick up Animate Dead at ninth level, a spell that is very similar, but means that you’ll be creating zombies or skeletons as meat shields with a lot of your third-level spell slots, or I guess bone shields if you choose skeletons.
That army of zombies led by some undead creature you’re able to overcome might suggest that you essentially become a necromancy specialist, but that’s just the beginning of your abilities.
The other channel divinity option you gain is Dreadful Aspect, which frightens creatures of your choice when they fail a wisdom saving throw. The frightened condition imposes disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks while you’re in it’s line of sight, as well as the inability to move closer to you.
That alone is an impressive ability, allowing you to control the battlefield and essentially change forms for a minute, much like barbarian. Not only will you benefit from frightening your opponents, you also will be protecting your teammates.
The other tie-in to this fear concept is the capstone ability of Dread Lord, coming in all the way at level twenty. While you’re in your Dread Lord form, you create a 30 ft aura of darkness around you that turns bright light to dim light. Any frightened enemy takes a whopping 4d10 psychic damage when they start their turn in this aura.
Using your channel divinity to ramp up your damage output is an exciting venture and truly captures the spirit of the hell knight.
The Dread Lord also grants you the ability to make a bonus action attack with the shadows, as if you weren’t already making enough bonus actions with the undead you’re controlling.
More than just fear, your turn from an honorable paladin has led you to become a master of manipulation. Your oath spells grant you two charm enchantments with the ability to control others; Crown of Madness and Dominate Person.
These abilities mean that your target is now your enemies’ problem. Just remember, the stronger creatures tend to have the worse wisdom stats, so they’re gonna have a hard time making the saves.
Other spells like Confusion and Contagion might not grant you control over your opponent, but they are skills that can allow you to manipulate your opponents or hinder them greatly.
Contagion is a particularly terrifying spell for this subclass because if you use it to inflict Blinding Sickness you’ll be imposing disadvantage on those wisdom checks needed to frighten or control others.
Just to clarify here, in RAW the blindness condition does not affect “line of sight” abilities, since “line of sight” is a game mechanic, not a literal representation of sight. Respect what your DM has to say if they choose to disagree, but be willing to have a discussion about it.
All of these abilities go towards the fact that this subclass is a damage-dealing powerhouse.
EVEN IF you couldn’t deal impressive amounts of damage on your own with spells, smites, and various subclass abilities. You can be controlling several entities at the same time, however many undead you’ve risen, an undead you’ve turned, and an actual enemy of any variety.
All of these creatures can act on your bonus action, and you could finish entire combats without having to lift a finger.
The Oathbreaker Paladin’s Limitations
Aura of Hate.
This ability can be extremely beneficial… to your opponents.
What this ability does is it gives you, fiends, and undead in a 10 ft (30 ft at 18th level) additional attack damage equal to your charisma modifier. The intent here is that any undead you’ve drafted deal dividends of damage directly to any foes you might be dealing with.
Luckily, it does that well.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for your allies if any undead or fiends you’re not in control of make it into your aura. Giving the enemy an edge is not the best move in any circumstance.
The only other real limitation of this subclass is that you have to be evil. Taking an evil alignment in a campaign where the rest of your party shares similar goals can be easy, but in a good-leaning party you might find some very real reasons to contend with your party members.
This limitation is circumstantial too because of the built-in ability for an Oathbreaker to atone for their sins and take an oath once more.
You can actually even atone once and then turn back down the path of evil once more for a rollercoaster of a roleplaying experience. As I’m writing this I’m realizing this is only a limitation if you make it one.
Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System
Color and Tier ranking is very helpful when you’re trying to digest a lot of information. 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. Solid but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or Green can be very good but only in very specific situations.
- Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective.
- Purple – S Tier. The top of our rankings. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are worth strongly 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.
Strength and Charisma are the stats that any paladin is looking for, with constitution a very close runner up, and Oathbreakers are no different. There are plenty of races that provide bonuses to either of these, so we’ll focus on the ones that offer the best combinations or racial features.
If you’re interested in learning more about these races, check out our race guides here.
+2 Charisma, +1 Strength. The Aasimar already offer plenty of synergy with the paladin class through Healing Hands ability and resistance to necrotic and radiant damage.
The Fallen subclass doubles down on the evil theme of the Oathbreaker, even offering a racial ability at 3rd level that frightens opponents and lets you deal necrotic damage. Sound familiar? This is an example of perfect synergy and I would give it a gold ranking if we went above purple.
Tiefling (*Bloodline of Zariel)
+2 Charisma, +1 Strength. The spells you gain from this bloodline provide you with a couple of smites to play with and free up some spell slots for you.
If that’s not your jazz you could also go variant and pick up the ability to fly while still picking up some great stat synergy.
*Zariel is the only bloodline that will offer you +1 Strength, but you could choose another bloodline that gives +1 to Constitution or Dexterity and still have a good build.
Charisma +2, +1 in two abilities of your choosing. Strength and Constitution are gonna be your choices for the extra ability increases.
Choosing a variant half-elf to gain a racial feat from your elf side, and having your elf side be Shadar-Kai to gain Blessing of the Raven Queen will give you some teleportation ability along with resistances when you use the feat, allowing you to move quickly if any creatures escape your Dread Lord aura.
Charisma +1, Strength +1, Constitution +1. The racial spells you’ll be gaining are not available to you as a paladin, so you’ll be able to do plenty of exciting things normally inaccessible to paladins. Additionally, a swim speed is always fun to have.
+2 Strength, +1 Charisma. So long as you don’t choose the dragonblood you’ll get these bonuses. Having a breath weapon is a fun addition to the gambit as well. The Ravenite variant even offers you a reaction attack when you take damage.
We tend to choose these based on our highest stats, but choosing a different route based on how you want to roleplay isn’t a bad idea, especially since adding your proficiency bonus might compensate for a not-so-good ability modifier.
The paladin class is given the ability to choose two skills from Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion.
Athletics (STR): Your high strength means being able to heavily rely on this skill.
Insight (WIS): This is a good skill for someone in the party to have, but it doesn’t have to be you.
Intimidation (CHA): Intimidation and persuasion are the two “I’m going to get my way” abilities you have the option to choose between, but you should choose one. Realistically, Intimidation is more fitting for a character that thrives on striking fear.
Medicine (WIS): You can literally heal people with your hands already. Okay?
Persuasion (CHA): Intimidation and persuasion are the two “I’m going to get my way” abilities you have the option to choose between, but you should choose one.
Religion (CHA): While you might have some experience of religion in your time as a holy knight, you probably don’t care for it at this point, nor do you have the intelligence to back it up.
When we look for a background we want to find some skills that synergize well with our ability scores, but that’s not all.
Backgrounds let you explore who your character has been, what led them to the path of adventuring, and gives you built-in ways that the world interacts with you.
Here are some of our top choices for an Oathbreaker’s background.
Variant Sailor (Pirate)
Sailors get Athletics and Perception, one skill from your class, and one skill that is always useful. And what is a pirate, if not a sailor who has broken their oath. Well, fearsome that’s what.
Pirates gain the Bad Reputation feature, a feature that means people are afraid of you. A civilized town will know your name and your deeds, and won’t put up a fight if you commit some minor criminal offenses; we’re talking misdemeanors here, not felonies.
Soldiers offer up Athletics and Intimidation, which means only having to choose from four class options, the other side of the charisma coin.
An excellent option that provides a great deal of (potentially tragic) backstory and the ability to assert your military rank.
Variant Noble (Knight)
This is the PHB suggestion, or at least the Noble background is. You’re still benefiting from a proficiency in Persuasion, and History is a nice bonus on occasion.
The Knight replaces a privilege-based feature with a bit more utilitarian Retainers feature. This lets you boss people around to do your bidding while you’re out pursuing your evil ends.
Honorable mentions go to the Boros Legionnaire from the Ravnica setting, essentially a more world-based soldier, and the Mercenary Veteran from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide for having a great skill set and fitting theme.
Oathbreaker Paladin Progression
Features that you automatically obtain through the Paladin class will appear in Orange and features that you gain through the Oathbreaker subclass will appear in Pink.
Filling out the Character Sheet (Level 0)
Hit Dice: 1d10 per paladin level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per paladin level after 1st
Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) a martial weapon and a shield or (b) two martial weapons
- (a) five javelins or (b) any simple melee weapon
- (a) a priest’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
- Chain mail and a holy symbol
This allows you to sense the location of celestials, fiends, or undead within 60 feet of you and to know what they are. You might be able to sense a vampire, but not know that it’s Count Chocula.
Knowing the location of undead 60 feet near you can become pretty important for this class once you start being able to control them. This is definitely more helpful in this subclass than some others.
Lay on Hands
The ability to heal with your touch seems a little out of place for this paladin subclass, but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly useful. A pool of 5 times your paladin level means a lot of healing from the beginning and a beautiful scaling system are at your disposal.
Choose from Defensive, Dueling, Great Weapon Fighting, and Protection. There is also Blessed Warrior, Blind Fighting and Interception from TCoE.
- Defensive: +1 bonus to AC while wearing armor.
- Dueling: +2 to damage rolls if you’re only using a single one handed weapon.
- Great Weapon Fighting: Two-handed and versatile weapons let you reroll 1’s and 2’s on damage dies.
- Protection: You can use a shield to impose disadvantage on an attack headed for a creature within 5 feet of you.
- Blessed Warrior: You learn two cleric cantrips, which you cast with your charisma like your paladin spells.
- Blind Fighting: You gain 10ft of blindsight, the ability to see anything regardless of darkness or anything that could impede your vision.
- Interception: You can block 1d10 + your proficiency bonus worth of damage being dealt to a creature within 5 ft of you so long as you are wielding a weapon or a shield.
Your fighting style depends on how you want to play, and each of these can be equally beneficial to the subclass.
Paladins use charisma as their spellcasting ability, so your spell save DC is 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier and your spell attack modifier is your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier.
Paladins can prepare their spells from their list of available paladin spells when they finish a long rest. Their list of prepared spells is equal to their Charisma modifier + half their paladin level, rounded down.
You have the ability to expend a spell slot to deal radiant damage whenever you land a hit with a melee attack. Would be nice if this themed in with your subclass and you could utilize a necrotic smite, but we can dream.
This is possibly where you become an oathbreaker. Although as the name implies, you can choose another oath for a few levels and then break it when you’re ready to revel in the evilness.
The first two spells you gain are Hellish Rebuke and Inflict Wounds, two hugely powerful damage-dealing spells for 1st level spell slots. Oath spells do not count towards your prepared spells.
Here we gain Control Undead and Dreadful Aspect which we’ve discussed the benefits of above. Together, they are your bread and butter, respectfully.
Control Undead lets you take control of an undead target with a CR lower than your level for 24 hours if it fails a wisdom saving throw against you.
Dreadful Aspect allows you to frighten creatures within 30 feet of you on a failed wisdom saving throw.
You can either increase one ability by 2 points or two abilities by 1. Alternatively, you can choose a feature. If you already have great stats, this is a great choice.
You can now attack twice in your Attack action.
Crown of Madness stops an opposing creature from attacking your allies and turns them into your weapon, an excellent choice. Darkness creates magical darkness which fits wonderfully into the theme of your character.
Aura of Protection
Friendly creatures get a bonus on saving throws equal to your Charisma modifier while they are within 10 ft of you and you are conscious.
Aura of Hate
You and any fiends and undead within 10 feet of you gain a bonus to melee weapon damage rolls equal to your Charisma modifier. Hopefully, this only bolsters the small group of undead you lead into battle.
We’ve mentioned how useful Animate Dead is, and you’re going to love creating all of your undead meat shields. Bestow Curse gives you multiple options of curses to inflict, and each of them benefits this class hugely.
Aura of Courage
You protect yourself and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you from being frightened while you are conscious.
Improved Divine Smite
All of your melee attacks deal an extra 1d8 of damage now. You are basically infused with divine energy, which again, you should totally talk to your DM about theming to necrotic.
Not changing this aspect of the class inside of the subclass was a huge oversight on WotC part.
Blight and Confusion mix in well to the spell list you’ve collected up to this point. Blight is a powerhouse of a necrotic damage dealer, and Confusion basically incapacitates an enemy. That’s right Pokémon fans, you too can become a Zubat.
You can end spells with a touch on an action. This is available to you a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier.
You gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons. Very straightforward, very beneficial.
Your final round of oath spells brings you Contagion and Dominate Person, both of which are genuinely terrifying. Contagion can last up to seven days!
Not to mention the disease options each debilitate one of the six abilities. And Dominate Person does just what it says, giving you complete control of a foe.
All of your auras are increased to 30 feet.
You envelop yourself with an aura of gloom in a 30-foot radius that lasts for 1 minute that reduces bright light to dim light. Enemies frightened by you take 4d10 psychic damage if they start their turn in this aura.
Creatures that rely on sight have disadvantage on you and any creatures of your choosing within the aura that you choose to drape in shadow.
You can use the shadows to make a melee spell attack for necrotic damage equal to 3d10 + your charisma modifier as a bonus action.
After activating the aura, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.
This capstone ability is incredibly powerful and well worth the wait. 4d10 means an average of 22 damage for starting their turn near you.
Along with imposing disadvantage against attacks towards your allies, this feature really brings the heat.
If you choose a feat in place of an ASI you are going to be able to build a very unique character with likely some very impressive abilities.
A paladin is just that, a martial class that casts spells. Being able to functionally do both without having to worry about any lag time caused by sheathing weapons is a must. You also are going to have a much better time holding your concentration while you’re controlling or charming others.
You’re going to use this to get a +1 in charisma, Invisibility, and a 1st-level necromancy spell, Cause Fear, so that you can still get a stat bonus and get two great spells. What’s more terrifying than a hell knight that can disappear on a whim?
While you’re out there fighting it might be nice to be able to do a little more than your average paladin. Using one of the best features of the fighter’s battlemaster subclass is an excellent way to improve your martial prowess.
Any martial or spell-based feat you pick up would also make a great choice. Check out our guide on paladin feats for more options.
Oathbreaker Paladin Builds
For the following example build we’ve used the standard set of scores provided in the PHB (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) when deciding ability scores.
The only levels mentioned for the purpose of these builds are those when you will have the opportunity to make a decision on how your adventurer grows.
Example Oathbreaker Build – Total Darkness
This is a purely Oathbreaker build. Whatever led you down the path of evil has already happened, and you embrace this wholly.
Race: Fallen Aasimar
Ability Scores: STR 16, DEX 8, CON 13, INT 10, WIS 12, CHA 16
Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Perception, intimidation, Persuasion
Language Proficiencies: Celestial, Common
Tool Proficiencies: Navigators tools, vehicles (water)
Equipment: A battleax, a longsword, five javelins, an explorer’s pack, chain mail, a holy symbol, a belaying pin (club), 50 feet of silk rope, a lucky charm such as a rabbit foot or a small stone with a hole in the center, a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 10gp.
You can prepare 4 spells at this time (Charisma modifier of +3, half of your paladin level rounded down is +1)
You gain access to 1st level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Command – Allows you to belay simple commands, capitalizing on the same wisdom saving throw you’ll use to strike fear. Useful in and out of combat.
- Wrathful Smite – A 1d6 psychic damage smite that also allows you to frighten a creature if they fail a wisdom saving throw.
- Searing Smite – Deals fire damage and has the ability to continue dealing fire damage until the creature succeeds on a saving throw… or dies I guess.
- Protection from Evil and Good – The bevy of creature types this allows protection from is worth it alone, as well as the fact that you’ll likely be near a good amount of undead.
- Compelled Duel – This is the “Come fight me bro!” of spells, and yet again we’re making creatures fail wisdom throws to get them to do what you want.
We’re gonna take Shadow Touched first, so that we can gain access to a few extra 1st level spells and boost our charisma up to 17.
You gain access to 2nd level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Magic Weapon – Make a nonmagical weapon magical, and give it a +1 to attack and damage rolls. Increases when cast at higher spell slots.
- Zone of Truth – While this might seem thematically silly, an evil character wouldn’t care about lies, this spell has such a high utility value it’s a must have.
- Branding Smite – We just really like smites okay. Good damage, and you’ll be able to un-invisible any opponents that try pulling a sneaky on you.
- Protection from Poison – Poison is just nasty okay. Having the ability to cure it and prevent it is something you might want to be ready for, especially if you know what situation you’re getting into.
Take +1 to Strength and +1 to Charisma. 17 Strength and 18 Charisma means we’re into the next wrung with our Charisma modifier. We’re now repping a +4, more spells, higher spell save DC, and better chances of success on our attacks.
You gain access to 3rd-level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Spirit Shrouds – You call forth spirits of the dead to help you hurt people. This is the necrotic smite I want but can never have, and it even prevents creatures damaged in this way from regaining health until your next turn.
- Revivify – While carrying diamonds around might be a burden, being able to save someone’s life can be a literal game changer.
- Crusader’s Mantle – Non-hostile creatures do an extra 1d4 radiant damage. That means even your zombies and undead.
- Blinding Smite – A crazy powerful smite that guess what! Blinds people!
Now that we’re casting some serious spells we’ll pick up War Caster.
You gain access to 4th level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Staggering Smite – Terrifying power in a smite, and it’s going to be another thing giving your opponents disadvantage. Even stops reaction attacks, which at this level you’’ be seeing a lot of.
- Death Ward – Stop a creature from dying! Hell, if they do die just reanimate them, it’s not that big of a deal.
- Banishment – Do you know how evil people deal with problems? We send them to the shadow realm (or technically any harmless demiplane, but shadow realm sounds cooler).
Let’s get +2 in Charisma to max out that stat at 20.
You gain access to 5th level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Raise Dead – Not animate dead, this brings a whole entity back to life, so long as the soul is willing. Now you’re a real necromancer.
- Summon Celestial – Ironically, this celestial will be an ally, so it just means another powerful creature at your control.
- Destructive Wave – Listen. Take this spell okay. Good. Just… Just read this.
The world’s your oyster at this point. We’ll take +1 in Strength and +1 in Constitution. 18 Strength and 14 Charisma means we’re into the next set of modifiers for both of these. Alternatively, you could choose a feat that excites you.
Breaking an Oath
If you want to wait to become an oathbreaker for some more satisfying storytelling, you should still be taking the feats and ASI increases that you want in the long run.
A fallen aasimar would be the only choice to steer away from, although you could choose a different subrace and “fall” when you break your oath.
If you plan on breaking an oath, try to do so at 5th or 9th level, two of the most pivotal levels for subclass growth. These levels are also early enough for you to decide to atone later on in the campaign.
Synergies and Multiclassing
Since this subclass has its capstone at 20th level, you really don’t want to multiclass unless you have a very specific build in mind.
You can also look into soft-multiclassing by choosing specific feats (such as the martial adept or eldritch adept) to gain certain class features of the class you’re interested in.
That being said, this class can be an interesting fit for a party. Just being evil alone means that some good-aligned characters will want to butt heads with you, and that can make for a hostile environment both in and out of character.
It’s best to avoid that and talk with your fellow players before bringing this character to your first session.
This character would naturally play well with a few specific subclasses, although a good group of players can make anything fit together.
Not only will you be able to protect your squishy friend as he struggles not to die in the first few levels of the campaign, but they will also be creating undead thralls to do their bidding.
The two of you can go on a shopping trip to the nearest graveyard and stock up on soldiers for whatever fight you’re preparing to get into.
Perhaps the rogue subclass most fitted do be on the evil side, this rogue will love that everyone is paying attention to you.
Your ability to strike fear and control the movements of creatures will set their sneak attacks up perfectly. Any rogue will do, but this one feels the most fitting to serve alongside you.
Circle of Spores Druid
If you’re not familiar with the Circle of Spores druid you should be. Part of what makes them so appealing is the fungus they produce can reanimate dead and possess others, making them very similar in passions to you.
Yes, we’re building a team that has an army of dead, and that’s okay.
Death Domain Cleric
From the same page in the DMG, this subclass is a terrifying force of death. They are made to be evil, worship a God of Death, and focuses on necrotic and necromantic spells. It’s a match made in the Nine Hells.
Beginners Guide to an Oathbreaker Paladin
Paladins are beings who have chosen the path of righteousness. The reason Paladin subclasses are called Oaths is that they vow to uphold the tenets of the path they’ve chosen.
Whether they live in service to a deity or to a monarch, to vengeance or to the light itself, Paladins are so truly devoted to their cause that they gain divine powers as a result.
A Light Extinguished
This subclass is not called the Oathless, they have broken their oath. Much like the path of Anakin Skywalker down the dark side, these Paladins have been tempted by evil forces, and have succumbed.
Turning their backs on the tenets they once held above all else, these Paladins are so corrupted by the budding evil inside of them that their powers and abilities become deformed remnants of what they once were.
All that is left in these once holy knights is darkness.
Powers of Evil
No matter when your Paladin falls from grace, you lose all previous oath abilities and gain the abilities of the Oathbreaker subclass.
These abilities focus on striking fear into the hearts of your enemies, commanding undead forces to do your bidding, and controlling the minds and wills of any creatures that would oppose you.
Most Channel Divinity features of the other paladin subclasses have a focus on healing, or protecting others, with a few focusing more on the knight than the holy. This subclass flips the script and gives you a feature titled Control Undead, and a feature titled Dreadful Aspect.
Control Undead does exactly what you’d think it does. It allows you to control an undead creature with the only limitations being your level. As you grow in level, you can use this power to possess Vampires, Zombies, Armies of Darkness and so much more.
Your Dreadful Aspect is what strikes fear into the hearts of men (women and children too). This will frighten opponents, which means they have disadvantage on attacks against you, saving throws against your spells, and can’t come near you. You gain control of the battleground with fear.
The spells you’ll gain continue to feed into these themes. Animate Dead, Dominate Person, Bestow Curse, Contagion, and Hellish Rebuke are just a few of your oath-specific spells. The Paladin spells you have to choose from can also compliment these abilities nicely.
The final ability of this class comes all the way at level 20, and it is well worth the wait. At this point when other paladins are radiating light and going off to save the day like the angels they think themselves to be, you are radiating that which has festered inside of you this whole time. Darkness.
The Dread Lord ability allows you to use darkness as a weapon and as a tool, protecting your allies by shrouding them in darkness, and harming your foes with the very shadows. The amount of necrotic damage you’ll pump out from this is incredible.
Not Good Isn’t Always Great
In a game that’s mainly focused on being able to perform magical heroic acts that are out of our reach in daily life, it can be difficult to play an evil-aligned character.
Most builds, especially paladins and clerics, are made to be able to thwart forces of evil. This can put you in opposition with your fellow players, and your character in opposition with theirs.
It’s very important to discuss what type of a game you want to play when you start to put together a group. A session zero can be an excellent place to do just that. If you express what goals you have for your character it can clear up any confusion, and who knows, maybe your group will want to take the route of evil with you.
Not every circumstance will be as full of consideration though. So it’s important to remember that if a good-aligned character tries to stop you, it’s actually because it’s what their character would do.
Lean into the roleplay in these instances instead of trying to dissuade your friend from having a good time. Your character is evil after all, let them be.
Breaking an Oath and Atoning for your Sins
Speaking of roleplaying, let’s talk about one of the things that make this subclass so exciting. Until 2020, so recently at the time of writing this, with the publishing of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, this was the only class that gave you an option to switch subclasses.
By the nature of this subclasses name, you get here by breaking an oath. While you can always just include this in your tragic backstory, it is such an incredible roleplay experience to take this path once you’ve established your character as following an oath.
Your campaign will no doubt bring you to experiences where you’ll have to make hard decisions. This is an opportunity to have consequences for your decisions or react to trauma your character has undergone.
You can take this path at any time so long as your alignment is evil and you are level 3, so make it worth it. After all, this is a roleplaying game. It’s about telling a story.
The other option that might not get discussed as much is the ability to atone, and choose an oath to take once more. This is just as narratively pleasing and can be a great way to experience multiple oaths in a single campaign. You could even save this for the very end and see the light once more, going out in heroic glory.
This is an excellent class that provides a great experience for everyone at the table. While it can be difficult to incorporate a villainous character into a campaign, the benefits make it worth the effort.
You have the opportunity to play a sword-swinging, zombie summoning, and fear-invoking madman. You also have the opportunity for one of the widest character arcs available within the game, with the option to go from good to evil and back again.
Happy questing, now go have some fun with your bad self.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.