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Thallin's Guide To Paladins (Optimization)


Advice

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Cheliax

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Masochism for Fun and Profit
A Paladin Optimization Guide

Introduction

Inspired by the excellent Treatmonk guidebooks, I decided to do one up for the front-line player in all of us. Like Treatmonk, I tend to play for high-power, and before Pathfinder Society you never would see me put out a guide for any melee class. Times have changed, the Paladin probably gained more than any other class in conversion over. Now, instead of being a bad secondary healer/tank, they are excellent and effective Masochist Tanks.

A few things to know about me

*I don't play past level 15, and recently past level 12. I am firmly a Living Campaign player; as you get older it just gets harder to keep a home campaign together and running consistently. Even back when I had the 13-year home campaigns running, we would stop somewhere in the 12-16 range... after that the game simply gets silly. Oh, I've had the odd 1-or-2 session campaign where we built the most powerful gods we could at high level just to strut our stuff, but that gets old quick for me. So high level content, if included at all, will be mentioned briefly and entirely theorized
*I generally play front line caster types, most notably druids and clerics; though recently I've expanded to bards and paladins because of their great PF upgrades. So while I have much appreciation for the Sorcerer or Wizard of the party, I'm not that guy.
*Like Treatmonk, I believe it to be the most fun to play a character who is good at his role. Most consider me a great role-player, but that's not what this is about; it's about making sure you can do what a paladin does best.

With all that said, on to the guide.

Masochist Tanking

So why is it masochist tanking? Well, generically, Paladins are able to take blows better than anyone; even a comparitvely same-level fighter. Why, you may ask? Simply put, they have the best saves in the game, and they have Lay on Hands, a power that has converted into the only combat healing that should ever be done.

See, like Treatmonk, I agree that the WAY overplayed healer is a total waste of the party resources. While the rare combat healing might be necessary, it's not going to outdo the damage that monsters are made to dish out. So everyone needs to be able to contribute their fair share.

So, with that said, unlike the regular fighter, you use this free healing and con as your secondary stat to get more damage through. Monsters see themselves hitting, so they target you more. Everyone is happy; you have effectively the most HP possible, and the best saving throws in the game, so the more you are hit the happier you are. Masochism indeed.

Your Role – and Roleplaying

Well, if you read a Treatmonk guide, you may be asking what role the paladin plays. You get to play the Big Stupid Fighter in spades, but you also to a lesser extent get to play the Fop. You don't have skill points to really spare (some builds may only get 1 skill point a level, thanks to the “Intelligence Dump Stat” syndrome), so you have to pick and choose what to play.

Now, with that said, we'll address something that must be talked about: Roleplaying a paladin. Usually this wouldn't come up in an optimization guide, but many people cringe at the idea of having a paladin in the party because of how people typically roleplay their restrictions. Paladins can be as if not more fun than any other class, and can be fun to have around and share ideas with. Here are the various potential Paladin roleplayings:

The Prick: Sadly, 90% of the Paladins I've seen are playing this role. You tell people they can't do things because it's a violation of your conduct. You try to force the lawful good values, and refuse to kill anyone who's surrendered to you, causing awkward attempts to take prisoners to jails they'll no doubt overpower and take over. At the most extreme, you enter booming a challenge at everyone and refuse to take advantage of the act of suprise (this is referred to affectionately as “Lawful Stupid). It's a terrible person to have in the party; it's both cumbersome (where do you keep all that rope?) and annoying. If you see party members starting to whisper behind your back and plan things without you because they don't want to argue every night, or if god forbid you start rolling initiative to see if someone gets killed (I've seen this on more than one occasion), than you are The Prick. Take a deep breath, and explore other options.

The Valkyrie (or Avenger): Think Judge Dread, or Avenging Angels, or Batman. You are here for a purpose, and you will not accept surrender as an option. You will let the party generally work in whatever parameters they want, including setting traps and taking the enemy by surprise, as long as they are brought to justice and no innocents are hurt. When you are talking with enemies, you don't talk nice, you strike PURE FEAR into their hearts (high skill:Intimidate). When you find their head, you will not accept surrender for the terrible deeds they have done.

The Valkyrie tends to push the bounds of Lawful Good; they are the purest form of Lawful, with a desire to bring back order to society. They will not compromise situations to hurt innocents, but by the same token they take a hard hand to enemies. The party will actually accept you into their plans; they aren't going to have to plan behind you in order to use poisons or traps or lying to get what they need from enemies.

The Innocent Idealist: Far from the Avenger, the innocent idealistic is the most gullible person on the planet. Always have a smile on your face, and believe everything told to you (and go out of your way to make it clear you will take anything said at face value). Talk in a Tiny Tim style accent if you can.

The Idealist embraces the low Wisdom expected of today's Paladin (yay dump stats) with the loveable, high charisma found within Paladins. People know they can get away with things, just by keeping you distracted or fooled; you'll never role Sense Motive on them. So again, you are kept within and people find you fun rather than a burden.

The Tai Master: Usually reserved for Monks and Clerics, the Tai master will never impose their harsh standards on anyone else. They will offer suggestions in the “How do you feel about this?” style (think “New Age” people). If the person decides for themselves to take the good path, give them a smile and small words to encourage them in the future. If not, say nothing negative at all... remember their path to enlightenment may be far away from yours.

The Tai Master works great for Lawful Good clerics, where I have played one successfully. Unlike the other roles, he is often able to get the group to gradually change to more good ways; it's human nature to like the encouragement given. The only reason I add caution to this is it is hard to justify with a low wisdom, and sadly dump stats are necessary for an effective paladin. But if you can deal with not quite playing your scores, or de-optimizing a bit for roleplaying purposes, the Master is a great choice that everyone will be able to get along with.

Various Roles For a Paladin:

So unlike most caster types, Paladins really do two things, and they do the very well: They take damage and dish it out. The more attacks you can get coming your way, the better off your party is. Your saves are LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than everyone elses; you have two good saves in the most important areas, and you get ~+3 (and after stat items +4-+6) to all saves. You have continual hp regeneration on tap (1d6 per 2 levels you've achieved; as a swift action). So really all that is left is to pick a way to make things WANT to attack you.

First, what is better left to others

You are not the AC fighter. Oh sure, you are proficient with heavy armor, and the archer build even has a pretty good dexterity. But they get all the armor optimizations that make this work well, and they have the feats to spare if they really want them to grab dodge and armor specialization and whatever to work with them.

You are not the two weapon fighter. Just way too many feats, and the payoff is very low. Without precision damage two-handed fighters just tend to do less than these guys; and getting two magical weapons is way too expensive for a melee type.

You are not the combat maneuver specialist. This role has really downgraded in PF to begin with (Trip and Grapple are nowhere close to what they used to be), and you certainly don't have the spare feats.

So what does that leave:

The archer. Archer paladins are surprisingly good. If you're not a Human you'll probably want to take 3rd level as a Fighter just so you have both Precise and Rapid Shot lined up by 3rd level; otherwise your effectiveness at low levels will drop. But this class eventually has the highest AC, and is not subject to having to close like most fighters; this means they get to full attack every round.

The charger. Want to be the charger? Here's a hint you'll learn from 3.5: Be a small character. You heard right, I'll talk more later, but Gnomes and Halflings make by far the best lance chargers. Why? Because Medium mounts are far easier to maneuver around in dungeons. The charger is great because of maneuverability; with high-speed full frontal attacks that can leave opponents prone and bleeding badly.

The two-handed swinger. Takes very few feats, and has great damage output. This class is great at getting into people's faces and making them deal with you, which makes it a default role. One of the issues is as a Paladin you really can't spread specialization, so it will be hard when fights go to range/flight. So at low and mid levels this class IS the best, but will find itself quickly outpaced by the other two roles.

Race Selection:

The Paladin is suprisingly diverse; each of the 3 roles has a very different race that it would like, and a few fine fallbacks if you want to play them for roleplaying purposes.

Human: +2 Strength (or Dex for the Archer) and a free much-needed feat make Humans an EXCELLENT choice for paladins. This is right after the Halfling for the best role for The Archer (and unlike Halfling doesn't need a level of fighter), and is the best two-handed swinger.

Half-Elf: Generally a little worse than a human because of being feat-starved, the Skill Focus makes it handy for those who want to be able to pick up UMD, but in general I would skip this.

Half-Orc: Orc Ferocity is better for you than anyone else; thanks to your ability to heal without pausing. And darkvision is awesome to have on tap. Again though, the feats are needed, so if you want +2 to any stat, I'd generally good human. Still, they are an excellent second option for two-handed swingers.

Gnomes: By far the best charger, the Gnome gives you 2 of your 3 excellent stats. Sadly they take a hit in Strength (which sucks hardcore; you'll be working hard to make up for that). But higher hp than anyone else and a nice Charisma bump makes them hold better; I give them the nod over

Halfling: My pick for best archers, they get the 2 most important stats, +1 to AC, and +1 to hit with those bows. The speed 15 is much less relevant for archers; and not much of a step-down from speed 20 anyway. Eventually you'll be in a Mithril Chain Shirt anyway; so you'll get a little back.

Dwarf: Just... no. I know they're good in WOW, but seriously, nothing going for them.

Class Features:

Not color coded unless you get a choice, usually with Paladins (unlike casters) you take what you can get.

Detect Evil at will: This is known in my campaigns as the “Paladar”. While it doesn't work in all situations, it often makes up for a lack of perception by being able to see through doors that bad guys are in position. Concentrate the 3 rounds, get their general positions, alert the party, and open up. Don't use this as a justification to kill things, but do use it to see whether an NPC generally can be trusted. After all, they don't know you're using it, and direct target takes only 1 round to get all the info.

Smite Evil: Oh god. This is the bread and butter of Paladins. +3-+6 to all attacks, add your level to damage (twice vs certain very powerful things... at mid to high levels evil outsiders are typical default adversaries). Nothing can take out BBEG quite like this, and now it works on your archery too. You'll do exactly what the Paladin is supposed to do, make the biggest threat focus fire on YOU. And you'll make the rest of the party look like chumps.

The ability to spend 2 Smites to call Alpha Strike for the party can be OK; it gets better as you have more party members focused on melee. In a general party build (Tank, Skill Guy, God, Divine Combatant/Pokemaster), you don't get quite as much use, though it's great to tell the God and Pokemaster to summon out d3+1 allies (a summon 2 levels lower) and give each of them +5 to hit and +11 damage on all attacks against BBEG,

Divine Grace – The primary reason The Masochist does so well. Other tanks are often removed from combat too easily by saves, but not you. Hello, free cloak of protection that stacks with other cloaks.

Lay on Hands – Read as “Fast Healing”. Ever using this on someone else is a waste of an action unless they are unable to take actions (and we'll be taking those that remove actions above the rest).

Aura of Courage / Immune to Disease / Eventually Aura of Resolve – Free immunities are always good, and while diseases are generally easily cured, it's nice to know you won't have the expense.

Mercys – Having accepted that healing someone else is generally a waste, we'll focus mostly on getting rid of things that hurt us

3rd level – Fatigued, Shaken, Sickened. Get what you want to cure off yourself for 9th level, both Fatigued and Sickened are good choices. Shaken you're immune to fear, and giving others a bonus, so ignore it.

6th level – Dazed, Diseased, Staggered – While Staggered comes up less often than Dazed, you can't cure yourself of Dazed. Still, Dazed isn't an awful decision; I'm fine with healing if someone else is missing an action and you feel their action is more important than yours.

9th level – Cursed, Exhausted, Frightened, Nauseated, Poisoned. Cursed and Poisoned are generally a waste (Poison it's too late; they already have the damage and ability damage). Frightened you are immune to; so take whatever is lined up with your 3rd level ability.

12th level – Paralyzed, Stunned, Deafened, Blinded – The ruling is unclear whether you can cure yourself of Paralyzed... it technically is only mental, but you have to have a hand on yourself at the time? Regardless, Paralyzed and Stunned are similar, and come up about as often; it really is your call. The other two are nice and can be self-cured, but ultimately you and others can operate with them up. Deafened is generally a waste to cure.

Channel Positive Energy – It's a lie. Don't believe it. Absolute emergency case, eats your action and 2 of your lay on hands.

Spells – You get none. Next

Oh, OK... they get spells, kinda. Their spell list is even less useful than the Rangers, the only reason you like it is after battle you can pick up wands of cure light wounds and Divine Favor. Treant's done a fine job of most spells, so I will give you some good choices, and talk about a few, and you can read his choice.

Divine Favor – Take it, live it, love it. Even with your reduced caster level, an easy-to-stack bonus to attack AND damage, key for the paladin.
Bless Weapon – While confirming crits automatically can be fine, it's generally not worth passing up Divine Favor for. This is handy for facing demons when you don't want to Smite, but by then you should have a holy weapon around (or be able to pull one up)

Shield Other – Be careful with this one, but it is handy, lasts forever, and lets you heal up. I like this as an archer, since you might not have as much of an opportunity to soak damage for some of the squishier types

Resist Energy – Good thing to randomly keep around

By the time you can cast 2nd level spells you should have at least a +2 or +4 stat item, so Bull's Strength/Eagle's Splendor aren't as exciting.

3rd level is almost a total waste for paladin. Take a few utility spells, GMW should be left to the cleric because it is highly level dependent.

I've never seen 4th level spells from Pallys in play, but I know Dispel Evil/Chaos are always nice.

Divine Bond

Here you've got an interesting choice. For low-level campaigns, I recommend the animal companion; if you're going to be going high, the Mercy is handy. Animal companions with intelligence are great, and a horse's attack actually does a fair bit of damage. If possible, request the exotics like a tiger at level 7; Pounce AND it looks way cool to ride a tiger (you see it on fantasy covers all the time) Your small sized companion can take a dog; which is handy for riding through dungeons.

At high is when the weapon would truly shine. At level 12, a Pally with a friendly cleric casting GMW can effectively have a +9 weapon.

That's base (+1 Holy) – 18,000 GP, easily afforded
GMW - +3 Holy for 12 hours (+5 Weapon, worth 50K)
+3 Holy Flaming Merciful Keen (+8 weapon worth 128,000 GP) 3 times / day for 12 minutes/use

So you can see it adds to his damage output significantly. Still, animal companions offer you a far higher movement; and if you are in an awkward situation for them to move (tunnels, for instance) you can unsummon and resummon them with no worries. Note this is also a handy way to cure them, making them more useful than the druid's animal companion.

I won't go into the high level stuff, though DR is always nice at 17th. Still DR 5 doesn't seem really worth anything by then.

Stat Blocks

Halfling Archer: Str: 12 (5 pt) Int 7 (-4 Pt) Wis 7 (-4 Pt) Dex: 19 (13 pt) Con: 14 (5 pt) Chr: 16 (5 points). While you lose out a little bit on strength bows, +1 to hit is very nice, and eventually you'll make it up. All bumps go to Dex. Because it is readily active, and because you can't fight alongside the animal companion, I am generally going to recommend the take the Divine Bond. That damage boost is nice when you can use it every round multiple times. +1 = Mercy (even as a killer, it's a d6 untyped damage) +2 = Mercy Flaming, +3 = Mercy Holy (or Axiomatic, or Mercy Flaming Burst; as appropriate). Your generic bow should be +1 (then +1 Shocking, then +1 Shocking Frost), as you want the damage bonuses at all times.
Feats to 12: 1st: Point Blank 3rd (Fighter Level): Precise Shot, Rapid Shot 6th level – Deadly Aim 9th – Weapon Focus (Composite Short Bow) 12th – Improved Precise Shot

Wish List (in order): Belt of Dex, Headband of Charisma, A Magic Bow, + Resistance Item, Gloves of Archery when they become affordable or you find some. Eventually get around to that Magical Mithral Armor if it's around and spare, otherwise just run around in Full plate and be happy (just because you can't apply your dex bonus doesn't mean you have to wine about it; you still get it with your bow).

Gnome Charger: Str: 15 (13 points) Int 7 (-4 Points) Wis 7 (-4 Points) Dex 10 (0 Points) Con: 16 (5 Points) Chr 18 (10 points). Sucks to see that 15 for 13 points doesn't it? Well, don't sweat it; being able to lance through dungeons because your mount is small more than makes up for it. Add to the fact that your mount can trip opponents and you have a nasty little combination. Larger chargers ARE better in outdoor-only settings, but being able to transverse dungeons makes up for damage. And as far as damage output, these guys charge in with their lance and triple up damage, which can be great.

Necessary Skills: Handle Animal, Ride. Yes, because of our intelligence, this means you are going to not get the free hp every level; but the Con makes up for that; and it is a cheaper buy than keeping int at 10. All boosts go to Str

Feats: 1st – Power Attack 3rd – Spirited Charge k 6th – Vital Strike (yay more multipliers) 9th – Ride-By Attack 12th – Improved Toughness

Just make sure your party knows to leave you a charge line, it can be trickier in dungeon settings, but again with a medium base it's not so bad.

Wish List: Headband of Strength, Magic Lance, Headband of Charisma, Cloak of Resistance, Magic Barding for Animal Companion, Magical Amulet for companion

Human Two-Hander: Str: 19 (13 pts) Int: 7 Wis: 7 Dex: 10 (You have HP For that) Con: 14 (5) Chr: 16 (10).

I still recommend the animal companion, though don't ride the thing; ask for the recommended Boar or better still, a Lion; and go Druid on the opponents. Even Horses can give flank and output some damage. This is certainly the most debatable one though; big damage keywords can be nice too.

Feats: 1st – Power Attack 3rd – Weapon Focus (Greatsword) 6th – Vital Strike 9th – Improved Critical – GreatSword 12th – BlindFighting (you start needing this here).

Wish List: Headband of Strength, Big, Powerful Sword, Headband of Charisma, Cloak of Resistance, maybe some armor one day.

So there you are, my justice loving friend. Go out there and show them the new power of the most improved class in Pathfinder.


Thalin wrote:

Gnome Charger: Str: 15 (13 points) Int 7 (-4 Points) Wis 7 (-4 Points) Dex 10 (0 Points) Con: 16 (5 Points) Chr 18 (10 points). Sucks to see that 15 for 13 points doesn't it? Well, don't sweat it; being able to lance through dungeons because your mount is small more than makes up for it. Add to the fact that your mount can trip opponents and you have a nasty little combination. Larger chargers ARE better in outdoor-only settings, but being able to transverse dungeons makes up for damage. And as far as damage output, these guys charge in with their lance and triple up damage, which can be great.

Necessary Skills: Handle Animal, Ride. Yes, because of our intelligence, this means you are going to not get the free hp every level; but the Con makes up for that; and it is a cheaper buy than keeping int at 10. All boosts go to Str

Feats: 1st – Power Attack 3rd – Spirited Charge k 6th – Vital Strike (yay more multipliers) 9th – Ride-By Attack 12th – Improved Toughness

Just make sure your party knows to leave you a charge line, it can be trickier in dungeon settings, but again with a medium base it's not so bad.

Wish List: Headband of Strength, Magic Lance, Headband of Charisma, Cloak of Resistance, Magic Barding for Animal Companion, Magical Amulet for companion

The only problem with your Gnome Charger is that you are missing required feats for Spirited Charge (and you are using the 3.5 feat progression per level).

I would go:
1st level - Mounted Combat
3rd level - Ride-By Attack
5th level - Spirited Charge
7th level - Power Attack


Good work.

Great catch on the shield other spell. You have the HP and insta healing to wear that nicely and the wizard or cleric or rogue will always have your buffs or 'loose treasure' ready in return for doubling their HPs methinks.

Cheliax

Good catch on the charger; sadly it doesn't seem to let me edit the post anymore :). I haven't actually played a Charger in PFS, but I used to play the Halfling Outrider in 3.5, and they are quite phenomenal. Of course, they get the one thing that this desperately needs (a turn in their charge), but I didn't get that till the very end of his play anyway. The biggest key is to just have a group smart enough to give you a charge line; after that, the way this builds out it actually seems stronger than my halfling outrider (who was 4 different classes by level 5, a la 3.5 nuttiness).

Osirion

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I noticed you did not address the twf with shield, that seems to be the 2nd most popular build I have seen on the boards behind the archer. Did this not past muster in your book for a solid build? You did address twf build, but the twf+shield I thought was a bit different.


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If you use complete adventurer and complete warrior your MOUNT can get 'fleet of foot' and then that other feat that allows one 90 degree turn per charge.

Its a cheap way to get a turn.

Cheliax

I avoided complete feats for a reason; again if you bring in "Splat Books" power levels rise in general; but one reason I like Pathfinder is it kinda put a reset to the game by eliminating those; plus it's the generic source. But for those who do use that source that is an excellent way to add a turn to your charge; I imagine it will be a feat at some point, given the generally weaker mounted styles (though hopefully now people will start mounting up Medium bases so the awesome X3 lancing will regain its glory :)).

I did address the standard "Paladin with Shield", though I refer to it as the "Armored Tank". It's a terrible mistake for Paladins, and sadly the most popular Paladin build. You get a decent armor class, but it won't scale with level; and you'll lower your damage AND increase the odds that monsters will leave you because you can't be hit. Not what any masochist would want; you want to be targeted, you want to be heavy damage output. Until the game comes up with a good way to "Threaten", or a better version of Standstill for stopping monsters just moving by you (ironically I think 4.0 handled this well), in order to do your job you have to let your AC slide a little lower and make certain you are registered as a damage output threat.

Think of it this way: you have 2 18 strength 2nd level pallys in full plate. One focused on AC, took dodge as a feat, and has a 13 dex + shield. He has AC 23, and hits you for d8+4 (if he kept his str up somehow). The other took power attack, and has AC 19. When he swings, he hits you for 2d6+9. Which one of these does a monster ignore and take the AOO to go hit the squishier, more damaging back line?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
redcelt32 wrote:
I noticed you did not address the twf with shield, that seems to be the 2nd most popular build I have seen on the boards behind the archer. Did this not past muster in your book for a solid build? You did address twf build, but the twf+shield I thought was a bit different.

The number of feats required to make a solid weapon+shield two-weapon fighter pretty much means that fighters and rangers will out-shine just about any other class using that option. However, an adequate two-weapon fighting paladin can be made as follows:

Human; 14 Str (5 pts), 16 Dex (5 pts, +2 racial bonus), 12 Con (2 pts), 8 Int (-2 pts), 10 Wis (0 pts), 14 Cha (5 pts); if you don't mind a slightly lower Will save and want an extra skill rank each level, go with 10 Int and 8 Wis; advances can be split between Dex and Cha (I recommend +1 Dex, with the remainder in Cha); with the Skilled racial trait, you can afford to use the favored class bonus to gain +1 hp/level; pick any two skills desired or suitable for the concept; initial feats are Improved Shield Bash and Two-Weapon Fighting, with Double Slice being a good 3rd level choice, Shield Slam at 7th level, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting at 9th level, and Shield Master at 11th level; the Smite Evil ability can compensate for the two-weapon fighting penalties at lower levels and the weapon bond version of Divine Bond will probably be more useful than a mount; use a spiked light shield until 11th level, at which point switch to a bashing heavy shield with shield spikes; also, since the point of this paladin is to cause a lot of smite damage because of the extra attacks, you will want the highest Cha-boosting item you can afford to maximize your hit chance.

Osirion

Thalin wrote:

Human Two-Hander: Str: 19 (13 pts) Int: 7 Wis: 7 Dex: 10 (You have HP For that) Con: 14 (5) Chr: 16 (10).

I still recommend the animal companion, though don't ride the thing; ask for the recommended Boar or better still, a Lion; and go Druid on the opponents. Even Horses can give flank and output some damage. This is certainly the most debatable one though; big damage keywords can be nice too.

Feats: 1st – Power Attack 3rd – Weapon Focus (Greatsword) 6th – Vital Strike 9th – Improved Critical – GreatSword 12th – BlindFighting (you start needing this here).

Wish List: Headband of Strength, Big, Powerful Sword, Headband of Charisma, Cloak of Resistance, maybe some armor one day.

Using Pathfinder feats with a human paladin, can you give me some idea of additional feats that would be good for this build? I came up with some possibilities, but wanted some insight from others here. My list included Step Up, Lunge, Toughness, or Cleave. The feat tree would look like:

1st - Power Attack, Weapon Focus (Greatsword)
3rd - Toughness ??
5th - Lunge or Step Up ??
7th - Vital Strike
9th - Improved Critical (Greatsword)
11th - Blindfighting

It would be great if someone could suggest the 3rd and 5th feats and/or comment on the value of the 4 mentioned above.


redcelt32 wrote:
5th - Lunge or Step Up ??

Lunge requires a BAB of +6, so that leaves Step Up :)

Cheliax

Step up is very solid; you have a difficult Combat Manuever to beat even if they have acrobatics, and your AOOs hurt a lot. Rather than Toughness per Cryptic's Paladin Guide I recommend Extra Lay on Hands (which I just found out existed, and actually agrees with me on a lot of the points here); it's not permanent HP, but it cures 3.5 HP / level per day (2 Lay on Hands, 7 HP every 2 levels). That is like gaining 4 levels of paladin worth of LoH, and again we expect to take a chunk of damage and need it, so it's a solid bet. Rest are as I would recommend them.


Thalin wrote:
Good catch on the charger; sadly it doesn't seem to let me edit the post anymore :).

I strongly recommend cutting and pasting this guide into a Google Doc, then repost with a link.

That will fix the problem as you can edit as needed.


Thalin wrote:
... Until the game comes up with a good way to "Threaten", or a better version of Standstill for stopping monsters just moving by you (ironically I think 4.0 handled this well), in order to do your job you have to let your AC slide a little lower and make certain you are registered as a damage output threat ...

I hate to have to bring this up, but counting on monsters to act in a different way because you don't have a shield doesn't hold. There is an aggro-mechanic and its the best one ever, its called a "DM". or "Decider for Monsters". For all intents and purposes, your paladin could be fighting in a leotard and the BBEG is still going to attempt to get to wizard/sorcerer first if they are the greatest threat. You might get lucky and get a "DM" who is roleplaying the monster's 6 intelligence, but don't count on it. Even in that case, he might rule that it goes after the shield wearing cleric, because its "shiny".

Cheliax

The argument here is threefold:

*First, you do extensively more damage without the shield (2d6+9 vs d8+6, power attack with 18 strength). So you're actually a valid threat there; in fact, you're probably the highest damage dealer in the party. The mage is out there making life difficult for the monsters, but at the end of the day you're the one mowing them down.

*Second, if the mage is angering a bad guy and he is smart enough to want to "get at" the mage, he's going to have to think a lot harder about that damage ratio. It's just harder to swallow the free whack when you're throwing out big numbers.

*Third, there really is a psychological effect. GMs to some degree think of their monsters as their vicarious PCs. As long as they see damage going around making it look difficult for the party, they are happier. If they run up against "the impenetrable wall of doom" they are going to try to find a squishier target.

So unless you have a mage-hating metagaming GM (and I have seen these; just try to get your free AOOs and kill the guy quicker and eventually get your Shield Other up to give the mage some free HP), you are offering him up a lot of reason to stick on you if you're dishing out 16 damage a hit and almost as easy to hit as the mage (he's gonna be 19-20 by level 4, which is around/about where you are... magic AC adjustments are higher on his "to buy" list, you just got your shiny new sword; or if you're lucky a Str stat item) and it's a lot easier to attack you (you're right there, no AOOs or anything). Sure you may have a smorgasboard of HP and 2d6 free healing every turn, but on paper it looks like he's doing a good thing.


Thalin wrote:

The argument here is threefold:

*First, you do extensively more damage without the shield (2d6+9 vs d8+6, power attack with 18 strength). So you're actually a valid threat there; in fact, you're probably the highest damage dealer in the party. The mage is out there making life difficult for the monsters, but at the end of the day you're the one mowing them down.

*Second, if the mage is angering a bad guy and he is smart enough to want to "get at" the mage, he's going to have to think a lot harder about that damage ratio. It's just harder to swallow the free whack when you're throwing out big numbers.

*Third, there really is a psychological effect. GMs to some degree think of their monsters as their vicarious PCs. As long as they see damage going around making it look difficult for the party, they are happier. If they run up against "the impenetrable wall of doom" they are going to try to find a squishier target.

So unless you have a mage-hating metagaming GM (and I have seen these; just try to get your free AOOs and kill the guy quicker and eventually get your Shield Other up to give the mage some free HP), you are offering him up a lot of reason to stick on you if you're dishing out 16 damage a hit and almost as easy to hit as the mage (he's gonna be 19-20 by level 4, which is around/about where you are... magic AC adjustments are higher on his "to buy" list, you just got your shiny new sword; or if you're lucky a Str stat item) and it's a lot easier to attack you (you're right there, no AOOs or anything). Sure you may have a smorgasboard of HP and 2d6 free healing every turn, but on paper it looks like he's doing a good thing.

While readily admit that the best defense is a good offense, the psychological argument is too soft, i think, to be counted on. DM's are there to challenge you, and they will do it any way they think is going to be fun, whether you have a shield or whether you don't.

Cheliax

Then counteract with this argument if it is generally what you see: in that GM scenario you try to present yourself as the best target; if you fail, your AC went infinite and you can swing hard and take your free attack of opportunities. You're still better off without the shield :).

Also, if you know your GM well enough to know that tanking is hard to pull off, you're best off playing a charger. Let the wolf try to trip them down and hit them hard and fast. As I stated above the two-handed swinger isn't my favorite pally; though he is very good.


Thalin wrote:

Then counteract with this argument if it is generally what you see: in that GM scenario you try to present yourself as the best target; if you fail, your AC went infinite and you can swing hard and take your free attack of opportunities. You're still better off without the shield :).

Also, if you know your GM well enough to know that tanking is hard to pull off, you're best off playing a charger. Let the wolf try to trip them down and hit them hard and fast. As I stated above the two-handed swinger isn't my favorite pally; though he is very good.

Sure: the GM goes after whoever he want to, and sometimes that's going to be the paladin. Since in-combat healing is, for the most part, always behind the incoming damage, characters generally have to provide for their own "healing", or in this case preventing damage.

Whether or not you use a shield has more to do with whether its better to survive vs put out more damage. And that can change from situation to situation. In general, I agree that doing more damage, in the end, is the best defense from a numbers perspective, the argument that not having a shield or a shield build because the DM won't attack you is not a given, and bound to bite you where your shield don't shine. You are better off bribing the DM with food. Its the more dignified and time tested method :D

Edit - in fact, for my DM, paladin's do have an aggro mechanic, and it has nothing to do with AC. Its an "aura of good", that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of demons, undead, and evil clerics.

Edit II - that said it has no real mechanical effect, other than making the paladin a slightly more attractive target.

Cheliax

Well the mechanic is knowledge that at level 10 you should be able to smite-charge those deamons for 150ish damage; I would target the pally too :)

Andoran

Nice guide! I especially like the "judge dread" paladin...it always warms my heart when other people see paladins for the righteous hands of vengeance that they truly are :D


Small nitpick. Dwarves still make ok paladins. The move bonus helps and the con/wis bonus combined with the other save bonuses does as well. Of course the hit to Cha hurts but it's not so bad as all that, you get extra uses of the lay on hands simply by leveling, and while the slight hit to your save throws looks bad at first the dwarven bonuses to save quickly make up for it (and even dumping wisdom doesn't seem as bad when your minimum is a 9 instead of a 7 -- helps on those sense motive and perception check some).

For a mounted paladin not so great granted but for a two weapon fighter it doesn't hurt so badly.


For a paladin, don't use two weapons ever (or a heavy shield). It's a trap.

You need a hand free to use your swift action Lay On Hands on yourself. You can do this by taking a hand off your bow or two-handed weapon as a free action, then putting it back on; you can't do this with both hands full of individual weapons.

The swift action healing is made of sex and win and not worth giving up.


I've always prefered two-handed weapon paladins, specifically a bastard sword or greatsword.


Hey Thalin - nice guide. Let me chip in with some support for the two-hander Paladin:

It's really, really flexible. The thing that limits paladins is how few feats they get. It takes almost no feats to use two-handers optimally.

However, I think your build for two-handers is pretty weak. Vital Strike is a terrible feat (Woo, 7 more damage when you move and swing, that doesn't scale with level). Allow me to suggest an alternative:

Human Paladin:

1 - Weapon Focus, Power Attack
3 - Cleave
5 - Great Cleave
7 - Lunge
9 - Improved Critical

etc.

"Cross!", you say, "That's an awful lot of feat investment in cleave, great cleave, and lunge". Yeah, but here's the point: As a melee fighter in 3.5/PF, your #1 problem is not getting full attacks, all the time. If you get a full attack on somebody, you will be doing fine damage ; that much is practically guaranteed. So I think it's smarter, instead of trying to eek out a bit more damage on a full attack, to devote some feat resources to being awesome without a full attack.

With Lunge (an under-rated feat, I think), you effectively get a 10-foot step. If you want to full attack somebody who is 10 feet away, you lunge, 5 foot step, and full attack away. If this gets you an extra full attack once every 2 or 3 combats, it's doing its job.

Cleave and Great Cleave, combined with Lunge, are a poor man's Whirlwind....except that you can move up to a group, lunge, and get attacks on all of them. As a class for whom a single attack does a lot of damage, this is pretty terrific. Particular because your attack is at your highest bonus, which is almost guaranteed to hit. All of a sudden, not being able to get a full attack doesn't suck as much.

The downside to this? You take AC penalties. But, like you said, Paladins are masochist tanks.

Also, I have some commentary as far as spells go. First, let me state that there are really only two spells in the entire game that Paladins should cast during combat.

The first spell is Remove Paralysis. If somebody in your party is paralyzed, you can decide whether or not it's worth it to spend one of your actions to give them one. If multiple people in the party are paralyzed, you can potentially create many actions. This is a rare event, but it's worth memorizing Remove Paralysis for.

The second spell is Dispel Evil. This, again, is conditional...but automatically dispelling a spell, without having to beat a big, big caster level check (which you, the Paladin, suck at)...is awfully nice. in certain situations.

Nothing else is worth the economy of actions for a Paladin to do - including Divine Favor. Which means that you should load up on out of combat or situational spells. These are the best:

1 - Lesser Restoration
2 - Resist Energy, Remove Paralysis
3 - Magic Circle against Evil (Who's complaining about a 10 min/level buff with a number of sort of useful effects? Not the greatest, but 3rd level paladin spells are crap.)
4.) Restoration, Dispel Evil

My two (hundred?) cents!

-Cross


What about a two handed build taking Channel Smite?

Round 1 Smite evil on the undead, then charge.
Round 2 burn 2 charges of LoH to add channel damage on top of smite damage to your primary attack.

Take a level 10 pally swinging with 18 str, 16 cha and a greatsword with power attack. Give him a phylactery of positive channeling and a +3 greatsword. +10(BAB) +3(enhancement) +3(charisma) -3(power attack) +4(strength) +1(weapon focus) = +18 to hit for 2d6(greatsword) +3(enhancement)+6(strength) +9(power attack) +20(smite evil) +7d6(channel smite) = 69.5 damage on the first swing alone. The second swing is at +13 to hit for 45 damage on average.

Could be a lot of fun in an undead heavy campaign. Also, you could use this by itself when you don't want to waste smite evil uses.


I am playing a Half Orc Paladin right now, What I can really say is that using my Lay on Hands to channel smite seems like a huge waste of them. Lay on hands is probably one of my best abilities, combined with my Half orc last stand usually makes me the last person to drop even when I am surrounded by enemies.

One specific encounter I can think of is when we were on the road and got ambushed by a group of Ogres and trolls and just cause of the party lay out and poor rolls, I was surrounded by an Ogre Barbarian and 2 Trolls for almost 7 Rounds (I couldn't hit anything that day..I think my highest roll was a 6..it was awful) . But Lay oh hands kept me up and is way too important to waste on a channel smite.


Typelouder wrote:

I am playing a Half Orc Paladin right now, What I can really say is that using my Lay on Hands to channel smite seems like a huge waste of them. Lay on hands is probably one of my best abilities, combined with my Half orc last stand usually makes me the last person to drop even when I am surrounded by enemies.

One specific encounter I can think of is when we were on the road and got ambushed by a group of Ogres and trolls and just cause of the party lay out and poor rolls, I was surrounded by an Ogre Barbarian and 2 Trolls for almost 7 Rounds (I couldn't hit anything that day..I think my highest roll was a 6..it was awful) . But Lay oh hands kept me up and is way too important to waste on a channel smite.

Seeing how channel smite is only useful against Undead, I don't see how it would have changed anything in that fight.


Charender wrote:
Typelouder wrote:

I am playing a Half Orc Paladin right now, What I can really say is that using my Lay on Hands to channel smite seems like a huge waste of them. Lay on hands is probably one of my best abilities, combined with my Half orc last stand usually makes me the last person to drop even when I am surrounded by enemies.

One specific encounter I can think of is when we were on the road and got ambushed by a group of Ogres and trolls and just cause of the party lay out and poor rolls, I was surrounded by an Ogre Barbarian and 2 Trolls for almost 7 Rounds (I couldn't hit anything that day..I think my highest roll was a 6..it was awful) . But Lay oh hands kept me up and is way too important to waste on a channel smite.

Seeing how channel smite is only useful against Undead, I don't see how it would have changed anything in that fight.

Its not the fight specifically, its the idea that I think that its too valuable to keep you up rather then using 2 uses just for a big hit even against undead .


Typelouder wrote:
Charender wrote:
Typelouder wrote:

I am playing a Half Orc Paladin right now, What I can really say is that using my Lay on Hands to channel smite seems like a huge waste of them. Lay on hands is probably one of my best abilities, combined with my Half orc last stand usually makes me the last person to drop even when I am surrounded by enemies.

One specific encounter I can think of is when we were on the road and got ambushed by a group of Ogres and trolls and just cause of the party lay out and poor rolls, I was surrounded by an Ogre Barbarian and 2 Trolls for almost 7 Rounds (I couldn't hit anything that day..I think my highest roll was a 6..it was awful) . But Lay oh hands kept me up and is way too important to waste on a channel smite.

Seeing how channel smite is only useful against Undead, I don't see how it would have changed anything in that fight.
Its not the fight specifically, its the idea that I think that its too valuable to keep you up rather then using 2 uses just for a big hit even against undead .

Extra Channel would give you 2 extra uses of channel energy per day. You can use these with channel smite or as an after combat AoE heal.

Also, if you are fighting a lot of undead(think about a tomb dungeon crawl), channel smite gives you another way to boost damage without using smite evil.


I have a question about vital strike:

Does it multiply with spirited charge?


Cesare wrote:

I have a question about vital strike:

Does it multiply with spirited charge?

No extra damage dice are never multiplied.

So a spirited charge with a lance would look like:

1d8+3d8+(bonusesx3)

On a critical hit it would be:

1d8+5d8+(bonusesx5)

Taldor

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

One other thing to consider with the 'sword-and-board' paladin is that you will not be able to lay on hands (unless you are using a buckler) yourself, so the 'masochist tanking' goes right out the window. Per the PFRPG core you have to have a free hand...with a two-handed weapon it has been ruled that you can release/rearm as a free action.

Osirion

Just curious if there is any update to this guide now that the APG has been out a bit.

Cheliax

Debated it... The short answer is I was going to update this to use Google Docs anyway. The big issue is theory-craft, which is to say I simply haven't played or seen played the new Pallys, making it a lot of guesswork (I'm good at that, but the above is based on actual play or watching). I have little doubt this is true of most guidewriters.


I had already decided to go the light armor/ halberd route before I read this. Good stuff. There are some good feats for Pally's in the APG, but I think the coolest thing is the spell Grace- swift action, and you draw NO attacks of opportunity for movement the rest of the turn. Makes it the ultimate way to get up close to the BBEG and deliver the ass kicking he/she/it obviously deserves :) Then with Step Up, you stick to him like glue for as long as he is standing or you are. Fun stuff.

re: Later levels- One fo the great things about PF/DnD is that it is a team sport. If your mage begrudges you a Fly spell, get a new one. Airborne Pally, the new way to die :)

EDIT: ALso wanted to add- Elven Chainmail in the Specific Armors section- all of the protection of the medium armor, but acts in ALL ways like light armor. Same price as base mithril chainmail, but has that one special quality- only makes it a big deal for light armor only classes, but it also means you can get an armored kilt and stack that if you need that extra little bit of protection, while maintaining your 30' movement most of the time.


Thalin wrote:
Debated it... The short answer is I was going to update this to use Google Docs anyway. The big issue is theory-craft, which is to say I simply haven't played or seen played the new Pallys, making it a lot of guesswork (I'm good at that, but the above is based on actual play or watching). I have little doubt this is true of most guidewriters.

Noting that you were bemoaning the lack of a "threaten" mechanic in Pathfinder - the APG includes a couple of first level spells that either force or strongly encourage the bad guys to focus their attacks on you (challenge evil - you get +2 damage against target and they are sickened if they don't attack you for 1 min/level, Will negates; knight's calling - target must move toward you on next action and can only take move actions, you get AoO if they end their movement adjacent to you, Will negates), which might help. Actually, the APG got a ton of really awesome paladin spells, many of which play directly into the concept of the Cheerful Masochist.

Osirion

I was mostly hoping for an update of the feat lists for each of your character builds, and less an overview of the new archetypes and spells.

Osirion

I'm currently playing a shield and scimitar paladin. While I'm not making myself any illusions about my base damage output (I have a barbarian at my side...), I've so far liked playing the tank. I'm not being ignored by the enemy (in fact, I've dropped quite a few times), enemy hordes like to crowd me, and melee "boss" monsters still hit me painfully reliably, so I certainly don't feel like my AC is going to waste. I also realize my 16 Strength is sub-par for level 11 (curse you, 15 point buy and utter lack of shopping opportunities in LoF!), though I eat Bull's Strength from my wand like candy. And Smite is a thing of beauty, of course.

If I could respec my build, I'd probably drop the shield for a falchion. But then I might still have found that beautiful +1 fire-bane frost scimitar and reconsidered... ;) And finally, there's just the role-playing aspect of favoring the scimitar as a follower of Sarenrae. For similar reasons, I would certainly not go below the Wis 10 that I currently have, even with the hardships of 15 point buy... Int 7 Wis 7 are fit for a barbarian, not a divine role model. I realize this is an optimization guide, but still...!

Just out of interest, do you think it's worthwhile to drop my +3 shield bonus for an extra 4 points of damage with the scimitar (5 if with Bull's Strength)?

Andoran

Catharsis wrote:

I'm currently playing a shield and scimitar paladin. While I'm not making myself any illusions about my base damage output (I have a barbarian at my side...), I've so far liked playing the tank. I'm not being ignored by the enemy (in fact, I've dropped quite a few times), enemy hordes like to crowd me, and melee "boss" monsters still hit me painfully reliably, so I certainly don't feel like my AC is going to waste. I also realize my 16 Strength is sub-par for level 11 (curse you, 15 point buy and utter lack of shopping opportunities in LoF!), though I eat Bull's Strength from my wand like candy. And Smite is a thing of beauty, of course.

If I could respec my build, I'd probably drop the shield for a falchion. But then I might still have found that beautiful +1 fire-bane frost scimitar and reconsidered... ;) And finally, there's just the role-playing aspect of favoring the scimitar as a follower of Sarenrae. For similar reasons, I would certainly not go below the Wis 10 that I currently have, even with the hardships of 15 point buy... Int 7 Wis 7 are fit for a barbarian, not a divine role model. I realize this is an optimization guide, but still...!

Just out of interest, do you think it's worthwhile to drop my +3 shield bonus for an extra 4 points of damage with the scimitar (5 if with Bull's Strength)?

Crunch-wise? Probably.

Fluff-wise? Hell no.


Catharsis wrote:

Int 7 Wis 7 are fit for a barbarian, not a divine role model. I realize this is an optimization guide, but still...!

I'm playing a female Paladin of Iomodea in a Kingmaker campaign with Int 7 and Wis 7. It has great role-playing possibilities as she is literally a dumb blond who has cha 18. So far she has been a hoot to role-play as I get to say the stupidest things I can possibly think of and continue to roleplay it out.

Cheliax

If you're wanting to have less dump stats, I've tended of late to use the 16/14/14/12/12/7 array for most characters (and give the 16 to the top stat to make an 18). Generally wisdom would be the best dump RP wise; often it's better the Pally didn't comprehend everything going on around them, and you have the Cha to make up the stats. If you really want a two hander or sword-and-boarder can dump Dex and maintain the intelligent air, but this would be far less optimal. Pallys (especially human Pallys) have no real gain from the extra skill points. Optionally, if you really can't dump go 18 str 14 con 14 chr 10 rest... it costs you a little, but not so much that you care (the archer suffers the most from doing this).

As to dropping the shield > almost certainly. You can take the damage, and this will up your damage output by about 35% after you take the sciniatar's 18-20 threat into consideration.

Osirion

Thalin wrote:
If you're wanting to have less dump stats, I've tended of late to use the 16/14/14/12/12/7 array for most characters (and give the 16 to the top stat to make an 18). Generally wisdom would be the best dump RP wise; often it's better the Pally didn't comprehend everything going on around them, and you have the Cha to make up the stats. If you really want a two hander or sword-and-boarder can dump Dex and maintain the intelligent air, but this would be far less optimal. Pallys (especially human Pallys) have no real gain from the extra skill points. Optionally, if you really can't dump go 18 str 14 con 14 chr 10 rest... it costs you a little, but not so much that you care (the archer suffers the most from doing this).

I think dumping Int is favorable for a paladin over dumping Wis. Having high Will saves is a must (and they are never high enough!). The lack of precise understanding what is going on around you can be ascribed to low Int, whereas low Wis just clashes with the responsible behavior expected from paladins.

Quote:
As to dropping the shield > almost certainly. You can take the damage, and this will up your damage output by about 35% after you take the sciniatar's 18-20 threat into consideration.

15-20, as it happens. >:) My base damage is an average 13.5 + 3.5 cold in the worst case, and would become 17.5 + 3.5 cold with two hands. I guess that's worthwhile. You can assume that I'll almost always have Bull's Strength on, though, and of course Smite or +1 Holy from the Divine Bond changes a lot too.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Coriat wrote:

For a paladin, don't use two weapons ever (or a heavy shield). It's a trap.

You need a hand free to use your swift action Lay On Hands on yourself. You can do this by taking a hand off your bow or two-handed weapon as a free action, then putting it back on; you can't do this with both hands full of individual weapons.

The swift action healing is made of sex and win and not worth giving up.

I actually house rule that the swift action only requires a verbal invocation and that's not contradicted by anything that the Paizo folks have said. I believe Jacobs had said that the swift action was not meant to close off the classic sword and shield Pally.

Cheliax

From an optimization standpoint you should actually dump int and wis; I was merely responding from the perspective of someone worrying about the non-smart champion. Few others can dump Wis; both because Perception is such a good skill and because Will saves are important; but making Cha 16 makes all saves better, and you probably want a diplomatic skill as your one skill.

Osirion

Would love to see an update of this to include APG material. For example, several of the spells are quite viable. Hero's Defiance (1st level) and Paladin's Sacrifice (2nd level) have quickly become my favorites.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Remember that you can use a Scimitar with two hands if you are so inclined, and get the extra Str dmg. You are effectively only giving up 2.5 dmg from the greater base of a TH weapon, but you have the option of gaining up to +7 AC at any time, which a THW wielder does not have...and if you get TWF and Shield Mastery, a +7/+7 weapon in your off hand which accumulates nicely with smites.

I'm not saying take the whole TWF tree, but the combination and alternatives of being able to drop the shield and take it back up for higher AC and/or more attacks is much better then just having a big sword.

==Aelryinth

Silver Crusade

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Well. Looking at my build for Asherick Whiteplume... this character {click on my Avatar to look at him}. I violated ALL your adages! lol. I have NO throw away stats, I have gone with sword and shield and HIGH AC, I can shoot a bow but without PB Shot or Precise Shot, and his personality as I play him does not fit into any of your conventions! :)

I'm still having fun and killing evil monsters like they are going out of style!

Ah well to each his own! :)


Plenty of people LOVE the idea of a sword and shield Paladin. If you want to do it (but don't want to be human or spend ALL your feats, get a Quickdraw lightshield.

Build likea 2 handed fighter. Take quickdraw.
Wield a light Quickdraw Shield.Getting said shield out and putting away is a free action.

So: Start a around with sword and shield. Enemies attack you, vs your AC+shield. Your turn, free action sheathe it, then take your attack 2handed, when you finish-get your sheild out again :)

(Your AOO'S will be one handed though)


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I'd expect that many "heavy" shields are actually held via several straps; releasing one so you can put a hand on yourself should be possible without releasing the shield altogether.

It might not be 101% accurate, but I'd say sword & shield paladins are iconic enough to merit not being screwed by a minor game mechanic.


Yeah, i agree. Heavy shields should stop you from lay on hands. NOT raw though. The Quickdraw Shield trick works and let's you fight two handed though foronly 1 point of AC less. (Large shields can't be Quickdraw shields)


STR Ranger wrote:
Heavy shields should stop you from lay on hands. NOT raw though.

I think I didn't express myself right. In fact, I think that heavy shields shouldn't interfere with the LoH, especially if the paladin uses it on him/herself. You are penalizing a player for choosing an armament combination that is fairly common in the archetype the class is based on.

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