Last Updated on January 22, 2023
The Paladin is one of D&D 5e’s most powerful, self-sufficient, and durable classes. With a mixture of martial prowess, divine spellcasting, healing, social skills, and unique features, paladin’s are more capable of going solo than just about any other class.
This broad toolkit also means that there aren’t many parties (the infamous all-rogues party perhaps, although I’d be tempted thanks to the comedy value) that wouldn’t be thankful to count a paladin among their ranks.
For that reason, people playing other classes are often tempted to multiclass into paladin for a taste of some of the class’ powerful low level abilities (Divine Smite in particular).
At the same time, players focused mainly on being a paladin can also tweak, twist, and emphasize different elements of the paladin class to great effect by multiclassing down a different road.
Multiclassing is a process wherein a character of one class starts taking levels in one (or more – people can get a little nuts about this stuff) additional classes.
When you multiclass into a new class, you start at level one again and must work your way up towards level 20 from scratch.
Because different classes gain different features at different levels – and because some classes synergize better than others – there are some (like the paladin) that are better equipped for multiclassing either into a specific build or that can play nice with just about any other class.
For a full breakdown of some of the truly wild stuff you can achieve with multiclassing, check out our guide here for a general overview with some examples. With that in mind, welcome to our more focused guide to multiclassing the paladin.
Multiclass Builds: What makes a Good Multiclass Option for a Paladin
First of all, the paladin’s versatility comes at the cost of being pretty multi-ability dependent (MAD). They overwhelmingly rely on having a high Strength to be effective in combat, a high Charisma to power their spellcasting and social abilities, and need a good Constitution score, both for the hit points they need to be durable as a tanky frontliner and to pass more concentration saving throws (on which a lot of their spells rely).
The need to have a high score (14 being the absolute minimum, I’d say) in three abilities means that, unless the class you want to multiclass into is also dependent on one of those abilities, you’re going to find yourself spread too thin.
As such, when we look at the best options for multiclassing a paladin, we find that spellcasting classes that use Charisma, like the Warlock and Sorcerer, as well as classes that benefit from high Strength, like the Fighter, make the best pairings with a primarily paladin-based build.
Also, multiclass builds are rarely 50/50. It’s uncommon to take 10 levels of barbarian and then decide to start again at cleric from 1st level. A lot of classes unlock their core benefits somewhere between 1st and 3rd level, and the earlier a class “comes online”, the more of a viable multiclass option it is.
Another thing to consider is the fact that the paladin already has its own suite of powerful abilities.
Multiclassing (done right) doesn’t just give you a character that’s sort of good at two things; you want to pick a secondary class whose abilities and spells synergize with the core of your build.
Anything that can work well with the paladin’s core abilities, like Divine Smite and Channel Divinity, not to mention helps fix the paladin’s inherent limitations (limited resources, poor ranged options, lacklustre spellcasting) is going to be a good potential pairing for a multiclass build.
Lastly, consider the paladin itself. The Sacred Oath you swear at 3rd level does a lot to define the direction in which you take your paladin (both mechanically and in terms of roleplaying) so choosing a multiclass pairing that synergizes not just with paladins in general but with your specific oath (more on paladin oaths, here) is also going to be important. Not to mention picking the right subclass for your multiclass choice.
So, let’s dive into some of the classic Paladin+X pairings that engage with some (or all) of these considerations.
The “Sorc-adin” (Paladin + Sorcerer) Multiclass
- More Divine Smite
- One of the most survivable casters
- Doesn’t “come online” until 5th level
- Tankier than a sorcerer; squishier than a paladin
The sorcerer/paladin combo is widely regarded as one of the best multiclass pairings in the whole of D&D 5e. Sorcerers use Charisma as their primary spellcasting modifier, which means you don’t need to waste valuable ability score increases getting another one of your stats into the 14+ range. Good start.
Next, the paladin and sorcerer do a great job of compensating for one another’s weaknesses. Sorcerers (along with wizards) have the lowest hit dice in the game, and tend to struggle with survivability as a result.
Paladins wear heavy armor, carry shields, and have a d10 for their hit die. Problem solved. From the paladin’s point of view, one of the major drawbacks of being a martial spellcaster is that your magical abilities are never going to be as powerful as a full caster like a wizard or, say, a sorcerer.
Even at 20th level, you’re not going to be able to cast more than two 5th level spells per long rest. The fact that the sorcerer can cast two 5th level spells by 10th level shows the arcane imbalance between the classes. By multiclassing, you meet somewhere in the middle.
Also worth noting is the fact that the paladin’s (arguably) defining ability, Divine Smite, relies on burning spell slots. Having more high level spells is nice, but having a host of 1st level spell slots to fuel your smite attacks is going to pay big dividends.
As for what the sorcerer brings to the table, this class is absolutely defined by its Metamagic ability. Being able to apply effects like Quickened Spell to paladin spells like Wrathful Smite (or Banishing Smite) at later levels is a huge benefit (Quicken Spell + Extra Attack + Smite is just beautiful).
Just be careful you don’t run out of resources. The paladin and sorcerer both struggle with resource management, and now you have to divide precious spell slots between an even bigger list of options.
The “Hex-adin” (Paladin + Hexblade Warlock) Multiclass
- Fixes MAD issues
- Eldritch Blast (and invocations) fix your ranged woes
- More critical hits with Hexblade’s Curse
- Never enough spell slots to go round
- Never get access to super high level Warlock spells through Mystic Arcanum
- Oath of Vengeance 6/Hexblade 14: The High Tier God
- Oath of Vengeance 17/Hexblade 3: The Low/Mid-tier Powerhouse
- Oath of Conquest 7/Hexblade 13: The Crowd Controller
Here we have my absolute favorite multiclass build of all time. The combination of Hexblade Warlock and paladin (I like either the Oath of Vengeance or the Oath of Conquest) solves so many of the paladin’s problems and elevates both classes in new and exciting ways.
With just two levels in paladin, you’re giving the almost incurably squishy warlock heavy armor proficiency, Divine Sense, a fighting style, Lay on Hands, more spellcasting, and Smite – which is a huge improvement over the Hexblade’s concentration-based smiting spells.
The hexblade’s Hex Warrior feature means you can now use Charisma as your attack and damage modifier when wielding your pact weapons, which takes the Paladin from MAD to almost SAD (single-ability dependent).
Also, pick up the Improved Pact Weapons invocation in order to be able to manifest two-handed pact weapons, which pairs great with the paladin’s Great Weapon Fighting style if you choose to go down that route.
The major drawback here is the warlock’s almost total lack of spell slots, but the paladin’s own reserves of magic certainly help to bolster that a bit.
Also, warlocks get a lot done with cantrips anyway (especially their excellent Eldritch Blase) which can certainly go a long way towards solving the problem of paladins being absolute trash outside of melee.
The Palabard (Oath of Redemption Paladin + Bard)
- God-tier social abilities
- Boundless utility
- Too squishy to use Aura of the Guardian effectively
- Redemption Paladin 6 / College of Eloquence Bard 13
The Oath of Redemption Paladin is an undeniably novel take on the class to begin with, focusing on extreme pacifism and social skills in order to de-escalate conflicts before they begin.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, this style of play builds into a bard multiclass very well. Bards get more spells, and the College of Eloquence abilities are all perfectly suited to debuffing enemies and buffing your allies (not to mention bardic inspiration).
You’re going to end up with a character who is perhaps even more of a pacifist than a straight-up Redemption Paladin, but is even more capable of encouraging and empowering their allies as well.
Drawbacks of Multiclassing (and how to fix them)
Multiclassing is all about opportunity cost. For every level in something else you take, you’re giving up abilities, hit points, spells – you name it – from your own.
As fun as it is to theory craft new and exciting combinations of abilities and class features, there are definitely some serious issues with multiclassing which definitely apply to paladin/X builds as well.
First of all, for the sake of completeness, I’ve provided recommended ratios for building all 20 levels of a paladin multiclass combo.
The reality is that, in 99.9% of cases, D&D campaigns never make it past 15th level. Beyond that point, character power levels are so unbelievably high that the threats you face need to be correspondingly apocalyptic.
Things also start to get kind of silly and tedious in equal measure as the fighter takes more than five attacks per round, the wizard casts the Wish spell, and people spend more time poring over huge spell lists and calculating damage rolls than they do having fun.
If you’re looking to multiclass your paladin, you should be of the mind that (unless you’re positive your game is going from 1st to 20th level – possibly over the course of several years) you’re probably looking to split up the first 10 levels to have as much fun as possible.
In my current campaign, we’ve been playing once a week (ish) for a year and the players’ characters are only just hitting 5th level. If you’re thinking about a multiclass build that only “comes online” around 8th level, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time feeling useless before things get good.
The way I fixed this in my campaign was to give the ranger (who was thinking of multiclassing into warlock) the option to put on a cursed necklace.
If they did it, they got a free level in warlock – with the promise of more if they completed their new demonic patron’s tasks – at the cost of now being beholden to a very, very scary demon who wants them to do increasingly shady stuff.
The Paladin “Dip”
This is why I’m a fan of the “dip” method.
Play the class you want to play but, when you reach a suitable divergence point, take between one and three levels in another class to give you access to its basic abilities without dramatically holding up your main class’ progression.
Paladins have good “jumping off points” after they hit level 2 (when you get Divine Smite), 3 (your Sacred Oath), 5 (your second attack), 6 (amazing aura), 7 (your Sacred Oath aura, which is usually more situational), and 11 (your Improved Divine Smite).
When you hit any of these levels, consider yourself free to dip into another class for as many levels as it takes to get what you want.
If you want to dip into warlock, even one level of Hexblade is going to get you Hex Warrior, Hexblade’s Curse, and a few new spells. Take that to 3rd level and you get to take the Pact of the blade, which is also great.
Sorcerers (not to mention most other multiclass builds for that matter) should actually focus on their own class rather than a paladin. Start out with two levels of paladin (for heavy armor and divine smite), maybe a third for the oath, and then devote yourself fully to the other class.
There are a million ways to multiclass, but the most important thing is that you’re playing a character that feels fun and does awesome stuff.
If that’s your goal, then starting out with a paladin ensures it’s hard to get it wrong.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.