Paladin Class Preview

Monday, May 7, 2018

All it takes is a cursory browse of the Paizo forums to see that paladins are not just the most contentious class in Pathfinder, they are the most contentious conversation topic. Weeks before we previewed the class, multiple threads with thousands of posts arose in advance, filled with passionate fans with many different opinions and plenty of good ideas. Turns out, the Paizo office isn't too different.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Early last year, I went on a sacred quest through the office and surveyed all the different opinions out there about paladins. Turns out, almost everyone had slightly different thoughts. But there was one element in common: whether they wanted paladins of all alignments, paladins of the four extreme alignments, lawful good paladins and chaotic evil antipaladins, lawful evil tyrant antipaladins, or even just lawful good paladins alone, everyone was interested in robust support for the idea that paladins should be champions of their deity and alignment. That is to say, whatever alignments paladins have, they should have an array of abilities deeply tied into that alignment.

Since that was the aspect of the paladin that everyone agreed upon, that's what we wanted to make sure we got right in the playtest. But given the limited space for the playtest, we chose to focus on getting that aspect fine-tuned for one alignment, and so in this book we're presenting only lawful good paladins. That doesn't mean antipaladins and tyrants are gone (there's even an antipaladin foe in one of the adventures!) or that the door is closed to other sorts of paladins down the road. We'll have a playtest survey on the matter, we're open to more opinions, and even among the four designers we have different ideas. But we want to focus the playtest on getting lawful good paladins right, first and foremost. If or when we do make more paladins and antipaladins, having constructed a solid foundation for how an alignment-driven champion functions will be a crucial step to making all of them engaging and different in play.

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

The Code

Tell me if you've heard this one before: My paladin was brought to a court where she was forced to testify under oath to tell the whole truth, by a legitimate authority, about the whereabouts of certain innocent witnesses, but she knows that if she answers the questions, a villain is going to use that information to track down and harm the innocents. It's the "Inquiring Murderer" quandary from moral philosophy set in a way that manages to pin you between not just two but three different restrictions in the old paladin code. Sure, I can beg and plead with the judge that the information, if released, would harm innocents, but ultimately if the judge persists, I'm in trouble. These sorts of situations are some of the most common paladin threads on the forums, and they're never easy.

With the playtest presenting the opportunity, I wanted to analyze the paladin's code down to basic principles and keep all the important roleplaying aspects that make paladins the trustworthy champions of law and good we've come to expect while drastically reducing, and hopefully eliminating, the no-win situations. Here's what it looks like at the moment.

Code of Conduct

Paladins are divine champions of a deity. You must be lawful good and worship a deity that allows lawful good clerics. Actions fundamentally opposed to your deity's alignment or ideals are anathema to your faith. A few examples of acts that would be considered anathema appear in each deity's entry. You and your GM will determine whether other acts count as anathema.

In addition, you must follow the paladin's code below. Deities often add additional strictures for their own paladins (for instance, Shelyn's paladins never attack first except to protect an innocent, and they choose and perfect an art).

If you stray from lawful good, perform acts anathema to your deity, or violate your code of conduct, you lose your Spell Point pool and righteous ally class feature (which we talk more about below) until you demonstrate your repentance by conducting an atone ritual, but you keep any other paladin abilities that don't require those class features.

The Paladin's Code

The following is the fundamental code all paladins follow. The tenets are listed in order of importance, starting with the most important. If a situation places two tenets in conflict, you aren't in a no-win situation; instead, follow the most important tenet. For instance, if an evil king asked you if innocent lawbreakers were hiding in your church so he could execute them, you could lie to him, since the tenet forbidding you to lie is less important than the tenet prohibiting the harm of an innocent. An attempt to subvert the paladin code by engineering a situation allowing you to use a higher tenet to ignore a lower tenet (telling someone that you won't respect lawful authorities so that the tenet of not lying supersedes the tenet of respecting lawful authorities, for example) is a violation of the paladin code.

  • You must never willingly commit an evil act, such as murder, torture, or casting an evil spell.
  • You must not take actions that you know will harm an innocent, or through inaction cause an innocent to come to immediate harm when you knew your action could reasonably prevent it. This tenet doesn't force you to take action against possible harm to innocents or to sacrifice your life and future potential in an attempt to protect an innocent.
  • You must act with honor, never cheating, lying, or taking advantage of others.
  • You must respect the lawful authority of the legitimate ruler or leadership in whichever land you may be, following their laws unless they violate a higher tenet.

So let's break down what's the same and what's different. We still have all the basic tenets of the paladin from Pathfinder First Edition, with one exception: we've removed poison from the tenet of acting with honor. While there are certainly dishonorable ways to use poison, poisoning a weapon and using it in an honorable combat that allows enhanced weaponry doesn't seem much different than lighting the weapon on fire. However, by ordering the tenets and allowing the paladin to prioritize the most important tenets in the event of a conflict, we've cut down on the no-win situations. And of course, this opens a design space to play around with the tenets themselves, something we've done by incorporating one of the most popular non-core aspects for paladins...

Oaths

Oaths allow you to play around with the tenets of your code while also gaining mechanical advantages. For instance, the Fiendsbane Oath allows you to dish out near-constant retribution against fiends and eventually block their dimensional travel with an Anchoring Aura. Unlike in Pathfinder First Edition, oaths are feats, and you don't need an archetype to gain one.

Paladin Features

As many of you guessed when Jason mentioned it, paladin was the mystery class that gains the highest heavy armor proficiency, eventually reaching legendary proficiency in armor and master proficiency in weapons, as opposed to fighters, who gain the reverse. At 1st level, you also gain the Retributive Strike reaction, allowing you to counterattack and enfeeble any foe that hits one of your allies (Shelyn save those who strike your storm druid ally). You also get lay on hands, a single-action healing spell that not only heals the target but also raises their AC for a round to help prevent future damage. Combine that effect used on yourself with a raised shield, and you can make it pretty hard for a foe to hit you, and it helps recovering allies avoid another beating.

Lay on hands is the first of a paladin's champion powers, which include a whole bunch of elective options via feats. One of my favorites, gained automatically at 19th level, is hero's defiance, which makes a paladin incredibly difficult to take down. It lets you keep standing when you fall to 0 HP, gives you a big boost of Hit Points, and doesn't even use up your reaction! Leading up to that, you gain a bunch of fun smite-related boosts, including the righteous ally class feature that you saw mentioned in the code. This is a 3rd-level ability that lets you house a holy spirit in a weapon or a steed, much like before, but also in a shield, like the fan-favorite sacred shield archetype!

Paladin Feats

In addition to the oath feats I mentioned when talking about the code, paladins have feats customized to work with the various righteous ally options, like Second Ally, a level 8 feat that lets you gain a second righteous ally. There are also a variety of auras that you can gain to improve yourself and your allies, from the humble 4th-level Aura of Courage, which reduces the frightened condition for you when you gain it and at the end of your turn for you and your allies, to the mighty 14th-level Aura of Righteousness, which gives you and your allies resistance to evil damage. Feats that improve or alter your lay on hands include mercy feats, which allow you to remove harmful conditions and afflictions with lay on hands, up to and including death itself with Ultimate Mercy. And we can't forget potent additional reactions like Divine Grace, granting you a saving throw boost at 2nd level, and Attack of Opportunity at 6th level.

To close out, I'll tell you about one more popular non-core paladin ability we brought in, a special type of power called...

Litanies

Following their mold from Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Combat, litanies are single-action Verbal Casting spells that last 1 round and create various effects. For instance, litany of righteousness makes an enemy weak to your allies' attacks, and litany against sloth slows down an enemy, costing it reactions and potentially actions as well. One of the coolest story features of the litanies against sins is that they now explicitly work better against creatures strongly aligned with their sin, so a dretch (a.k.a. a sloth demon) or a sloth sinspawn treats its saving throw outcome for litany against sloth as one degree worse!

Just as a reminder to everyone, please be respectful to each other. Many of us have strong opinions about the paladin, and that's OK, even if we each have different feelings.

Mark Seifter
Designer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Paladins Pathfinder Playtest Seelah Wayne Reynolds
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CraziFuzzy wrote:
Vidmaster 1st edition wrote:
CraziFuzzy wrote:

I think to 'justify' why Paladin (the most armor focused class) should be lawful good only, a dev should describe how to build a proper Gorumite Iron Knight in PF2.

The LG Paladin should just be one flavor of Holy Warrior/Warpriest/Paragon. Devoting an entire class to what amounts to a specific archetype is a waste.

that would make sense if it wasn't for the fact its been its own class almost sense conception (granted at one point it was almost like a archetype for cavalier but I digress)
Legacy is not good game design. If we were trying to do things 'the same as before', why make PF2?

True, though revolution is also not good game design (as was proven).


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
thecursor wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
That doesn't mean antipaladins and tyrants are gone (there's even an antipaladin foe in one of the adventures!) or that the door is closed to other sorts of paladins down the road.

The mere possibility for a paladin of Cayden Cailean some time in the future already has me pretty excited over the 2nd Ed.

"I am *urp* the Hound of Justice, hero of the...*hick* downtrodden...prepare for my heavenly *hiccup* smite!"

I kind of need to see that now...

The later part of Thor: Ragnarok sort of has one in the making.


I agree with the sentiment that the "feats" is refered to as "talents" instead. Maybe it could make sense in the light of the full ruleset, but as of now it just sound like the talent system that rogues had in PF1.

Also why is it that the Paladin is the armored juggernaut? I do hope there is a fighter archtype that switch their weapon and armor prof around for a more defensive minded figther... plus it makes me somewhat concerned for what they will do with barbarian now...


Dracoknight wrote:

I agree with the sentiment that the "feats" is refered to as "talents" instead. Maybe it could make sense in the light of the full ruleset, but as of now it just sound like the talent system that rogues had in PF1.

Also why is it that the Paladin is the armored juggernaut? I do hope there is a fighter archtype that switch their weapon and armor prof around for a more defensive minded figther... plus it makes me somewhat concerned for what they will do with barbarian now...

Someone mentioned to me that it might be as easy as a feat to take to get legendary armor but I don't have much verification of that.

Yeah I'm real curious about the Barb too!

Shadow Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Not sure how i feel. The need for a code is what drives the alignmemt restriction. With the inclusion of anathema is the code really needed? Shouldnt the anathems define behaviour? This way paladins could be anu alignment, they function as holy knights of a god, bound by the tennets and anathema of that god. Clerics are the divine casters, paladins the divine hammers.


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Juda de Kerioth wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
Juda de Kerioth wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
Juda de Kerioth wrote:

ahhh nice!

I was affraid you were with paladins being of variant aligment.

I loved Oath from 5thE but oaths and lawful good should not be a separate thing

why? Why is good corrupted by law best good? Why are gods polluted b6 law the best gods?

Becaus if not aligment restriction on the most powerful class in the game, what is the difference between a mere Cleric, an Inquisitor or a Warpriest from a Paladin?

Clerics, ibquusitors and warpriest are more powerful than paladins.
sure if you made a cookie recipe for them from builds and guides, but as they are in the book paladins are the most powerful class of those mentioned above.

Care to elaborate why?

Quote:
And that´s not the case, the flavor of being the embodiness of righteoughness and the vivification of a good deity is a big deal at the time for roleplay a shining knight

So a completely different reason than the one you pulled from thin air before. The restriction is not because of power (otherwise Wizards would have more restrictions), but for flavor. That is different, and of course subjective. I'm not going to tell you you can't like vanilla, as long as you don't tell me I can't like passion fruit


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UnArcaneElection wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
thecursor wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
That doesn't mean antipaladins and tyrants are gone (there's even an antipaladin foe in one of the adventures!) or that the door is closed to other sorts of paladins down the road.

The mere possibility for a paladin of Cayden Cailean some time in the future already has me pretty excited over the 2nd Ed.

"I am *urp* the Hound of Justice, hero of the...*hick* downtrodden...prepare for my heavenly *hiccup* smite!"

I kind of need to see that now...

The later part of Thor: Ragnarok sort of has one in the making.

Thor is a great CG paladin


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Cat-thulhu wrote:

Not sure how i feel. The need for a code is what drives the alignmemt restriction. With the inclusion of anathema is the code really needed? Shouldnt the anathems define behaviour? This way paladins could be anu alignment, they function as holy knights of a god, bound by the tennets and anathema of that god. Clerics are the divine casters, paladins the divine hammers.

It would seem like the obvious way to do it. You could even take it a little further and include 'Knights of Nature', with the same relation to Druids that 'Knights of a Faith' have to Clerics of that faith.

Fuzzypaws wrote:
I do find it amusing that after them saying repeatedly they want to try the more daring, broader approach for most things in the playtest, because it can be scaled back in editing if it doesn't work... They take the most timid, traditionalist option possible for the Paladin re alignment, and hamstring it for future options and archetypes compared to all the other classes with much more open flavor and design space.

If they really wanted to be traditional then the non-human Paladin would be (mostly) off the table. That's also traditional.


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Having the code ordered by importance is one thing I really like. Will cut down a lot of discussions about no-win scenarios.

But really disappointed they're still stick with LG only. I hope by the time the core book comes out there'll be different paragons/paladins and not just the LG variety.


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Alceste008 wrote:
this class design about being the one true way to behave is too reminiscent of dictatorial thinking patterns that cause heinous results. The holier than thou created by this design literally poisons table atmospheres. This poor class design encourages the paladin to believe that their character is "always right" because they are a "paladin" and there is one true path. The paladin player therefore feels entitled to tell others the way they should play their characters.

After my previous paladin player stopped playing due to time constraints I made it a house rule not to allow any more paladins at my tables outside PFS. Group atmosphere is so much better without one.

To me allowing a paladin again in a home game stands about the same chance as me allowing a drow noble in a home game. I'll only let it happen if the entire party and campaign are put together in a way to make it work.

Grand Lodge

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There are a lot of voices saying that they want expanded alignment for paladins, so I just want to say that I like that paladins are being kept as LG in the playtest.

I think there is something to be said for having paladins be beacons of good and law. I feel like as soon as you expand alignment, they're not really paladins anymore. But, if we are keeping them that way, there definitely need to be good alternative options for the tank/shield role in a party. In PF1 it feels like someone has to either be a paladin or barbarian, which I think is part of the push for paladin's to have more alignment. (I know there are also other good reasons.) Hopefully other classes like fighter and maybe monk will be able to take on the role successfully in PF2.

I do think that LE Tyrants, at least, should exist, but as either their own class or a non-core archetype for paladins. Tyrant feels like a better starting point for a Hellkinght than a generic fighter does. I don't like the existence of Antipaladins, as they've always felt like 'lets take all the paladin class features and completely invert them' which I personally find a bit silly. But if Antipaladins can be moved beyond that, they do have a place as well.

Dark Archive

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Wow! Smite and aura upgrades, that is exactly what I was hoping for! I strongly advocated something like it already 10 years ago for PF1, and I'm happy to see it finally (hopefully!) coming true! :)


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Laird IceCubez wrote:
If what Paizo said is accurate, they plan on re-releasing every class from PF1E, so Anti-Paladin will exist again.

Are you sure?

I thought they’d pretty much said they were probably not going to go that route. It sounded to me that PF2 was going to focus on customisable classes, rather than repeating PF1’s approach of a steadily increasing number of classes.

Dark Archive

Gorbacz wrote:
Meh, pass. Oh well, no Paladins at my table again :)

Oh, c'mon, Bagsy! Why so grumpy again? Do the dwarven nekkid beard dance and enjoy the previews! ;P

(Although nice to see some old...er, faces (?) still around here! :))


Also does anyone else think litanys sounds like more of a AP thing then a paladin thing?


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Also does anyone else think litanys sounds like more of a AP thing then a paladin thing?

I keep thinking of The Litany of Fear.


That last bit on how certain creatures' degree of success on their save vs. your Litany are treated as one lower...That could be a really cool universal mechanic; I hope it's not exclusive to Paladins, and then only to their Litanies. Like a Red Dragon being vulnerable to Cold could be reflected in this mechanic. That would be a really gratifying way to have the perfect spell prepared - now even if they critical succeed on the save, I still might do something with the spell, since their save is treated as only a standard success.


Steve Geddes wrote:
Laird IceCubez wrote:
If what Paizo said is accurate, they plan on re-releasing every class from PF1E, so Anti-Paladin will exist again.

Are you sure?

I thought they’d pretty much said they were probably not going to go that route. It sounded to me that PF2 was going to focus on customisable classes, rather than repeating PF1’s approach of a steadily increasing number of classes.

Can't comment for sure on all the classes coming back (and would hope not on some of them without major overhauls) but they have stated there will be an Antipaladin in the Playtest Module.


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This design diary is unfortunate. The fact that Paizo has decided that core rulebook paladins will essentially be Lawful Good locked is a pretty big sign that Pathfinder 2 will not be the game for me or my players.


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Aldarc wrote:
This design diary is unfortunate. The fact that Paizo has decided that core rulebook paladins will essentially be Lawful Good locked is a pretty big sign that Pathfinder 2 will not be the game for me or my players.

Which is odd to me that people feel that way since its pretty well status quo. Its like well you played PF1 with it that way so why is it staying the same the fact that makes you drop pathfinder. I get not being what you wanted but if it was a game breaker shouldn't it of been a game breaker in PF1 too?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like my paladins LG, but the update to the Paladin Code was with the ranking was really needed. I like the design-decision to make the Paladin the class with the best defense, apparently.

I don't really mind the concept of other-alignment divine warriors, but I'd like them to maybe be called differently. And have some pretty different class abilities.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Asgetrion wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Meh, pass. Oh well, no Paladins at my table again :)

Oh, c'mon, Bagsy! Why so grumpy again? Do the dwarven nekkid beard dance and enjoy the previews! ;P

(Although nice to see some old...er, faces (?) still around here! :))

I'm enjoying the previews and nekkid beard dwarven dances (wait wait what?) but I was kind of looking forward to a cheeky blog that features a Paladin of Ragathiel torching an orphanage so that none of those kids grows up to be evil.

I mean, Thanos is basically a Paladin. Show me a man of more noble intent and readiness to sacrifice what he loves in order to get done what everybody else is afraid to even think about. That's dedication. That's altruism. That's casting aside your ego, your ambition and your gluttony for power in order to pursue a higher goal. This is what Paladins are all about.


Gorbacz wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Meh, pass. Oh well, no Paladins at my table again :)

Oh, c'mon, Bagsy! Why so grumpy again? Do the dwarven nekkid beard dance and enjoy the previews! ;P

(Although nice to see some old...er, faces (?) still around here! :))

I'm enjoying the previews and nekkid beard dwarven dances (wait wait what?) but I was kind of looking forward to a cheeky blog that features a Paladin of Ragathiel torching an orphanage so that none of those kids grows up to be evil.

I mean, Thanos is basically a Paladin. Show me a man of more noble intent and readiness to sacrifice what he loves in order to get done what everybody else is afraid to even think about. That's dedication. That's altruism. That's casting aside your ego, your ambition and your gluttony for power in order to pursue a higher goal. This is what Paladins are all about.

.....!!!....

I got nothing.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Aldarc wrote:
This design diary is unfortunate. The fact that Paizo has decided that core rulebook paladins will essentially be Lawful Good locked is a pretty big sign that Pathfinder 2 will not be the game for me or my players.
Which is odd to me that people feel that way since its pretty well status quo. Its like well you played PF1 with it that way so why is it staying the same the fact that makes you drop pathfinder. I get not being what you wanted but if it was a game breaker shouldn't it of been a game breaker in PF1 too?

In my case its because I started with 3rd, and Pathfinder was an easy transition. By sheer inertia, I put up with restrictions I don't personally care for. In a new system that is breaking that inertia, I re-evaluate how willing I am to put up with things I think are bad, again.

Its not the only thing. Honestly, ever since I saw a high level Fighter ability was "Shield bonus to Reflex saves!" I started slowly backing away. So many classes losing spells, especially Alchemist, is a problem as well. Paladins sticking to the "Lawful Good is Best" paradigm adds to the consternation. I really liked the Cleric though, so one out of five so far I think. I have gotten so used to ignoring the Rogue that it didn't matter, so its really been one out of four so far.


Xerres wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Aldarc wrote:
This design diary is unfortunate. The fact that Paizo has decided that core rulebook paladins will essentially be Lawful Good locked is a pretty big sign that Pathfinder 2 will not be the game for me or my players.
Which is odd to me that people feel that way since its pretty well status quo. Its like well you played PF1 with it that way so why is it staying the same the fact that makes you drop pathfinder. I get not being what you wanted but if it was a game breaker shouldn't it of been a game breaker in PF1 too?

In my case its because I started with 3rd, and Pathfinder was an easy transition. By sheer inertia, I put up with restrictions I don't personally care for. In a new system that is breaking that inertia, I re-evaluate how willing I am to put up with things I think are bad, again.

Its not the only thing. Honestly, ever since I saw a high level Fighter ability was "Shield bonus to Reflex saves!" I started slowly backing away. So many classes losing spells, especially Alchemist, is a problem as well. Paladins sticking to the "Lawful Good is Best" paradigm adds to the consternation. I really liked the Cleric though, so one out of five so far I think. I have gotten so used to ignoring the Rogue that it didn't matter, so its really been one out of four so far.

Some of the things your calling negatives are positives to me so it seems it might just be irreconcilable differences in taste.

In fact I am particularly happy about a lot of casters having fewer spells in total but spells of differing levels remaining potent I really like that myself.


I definitely don't consider unearthed to be official since it was all optional rules but that is just my opinion.

I guess we would have to define official.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

All alignments are equal! Some alignments are more equal than others!

Silver Crusade

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"lay on hands, a single-action healing spell that not only heals the target but also raises their AC for a round to help prevent future damage." Oh hi Uther. :D

Although on another note a bit sad that they kept them worshiping deities since it's more difficult to find the line between whats technically "a paladin" ands whats "a cleric". I would have liked it if they gained their power from something else such as some powerful planar artifact such as maybe "The well of goody-twoshoes (and it's cousins, chaotic goody, chaotic baddy, and evil two shoes) or hell maybe even from their own pure devotion to their "cause" (LG, CE, etc) although im not too bothered on that (same with alignment, having paladins of any alignment just sort of makes the distinction even more blurred if it isn't at least specific like that) besides that's what homebrew lore is for.


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So with the efforts to make "sword & board" more viable, will the requirements to use lay on hands be made more explicit? I know a couple GMs who say you can't use it if your hands are currently preoccupied (e.g. holding a weapon and a shield). This caused some players to come up with creative ways to drop and retrieve their weapon, or to just use a 2h weapon (which was often better anyway). But now that it costs actions to do this, it becomes even harder to use LoH in the middle of battle.

Thematically, S&B paladins have always been more appealing to me, and I'm hoping to them become more viable. The blog even mentions a case of a paladin using LoH on himself and raising a shield for even more AC. I'm hoping this is all doable without also dropping his sword.

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