Making Your Own Paladin Subclass

You may decide that you want to create your own paladin subclass that best fits your campaign. Before embarking on this task, you want to be sure that no existing paladin subclass meets your design goals. One of the greatest flexibilities offered in 5e class design is how open it is to reflavor the features. If there is a subclass that can meet your mechanical needs and stylistic vision, it is best to simply use that and save a lot of time in designing, writing, and playtesting.

If, however, you find that no existing subclass achieves the fantasy or has the mechanics to match your vision, this section will guide you toward making a paladin subclass that fits the 5e D&D model. The guidelines will help you create the features for your subclass and detail how you should balance the class to fit within the official options and those offered by Therin Creative and similar content creators.

Please note that despite the guidance offered herein, your subclass may need further tuning. Be certain to spend the time to playtest your subclass.

Class Chassis

The paladin is warrior with several features that is also a half spellcaster. It requires Charisma for its spellcasting and other features, but Strength for its weapons. Constitution is also desirable since most paladins choose to go into harm’s way. Given that the paladin seeks these three scores, you don’t want to introduce another ability score need to the class.

Hit Dice

The paladin has a d10 Hit Dice, and is only bested by the fighter and barbarian in raw ability to absorb damage when you factor its AC.


The paladin can use any weapon and armor, preferring heavy armor and strong weapons. It has minimal skill proficiencies, something that a subclass can expand.

Ability Score Improvement

The paladin uses standard progression for the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level). Paladins shouldn’t gain additional ASI features as that is the domain of the fighter and rogue classes and not something a subclass generally grants.


The paladin has the spellcasting feature and is a prepared spellcaster. The paladin spell list is replete with supportive and healing spells, as well as auxiliary damage through the smite spells. Each paladin subclass also grants the paladin extra spells it always has prepared, that when paired with the class’s ability to swap spells after every long rest, grant it a lot of flexibility in its spell choice.

Ribbon Features

The paladin doesn’t feature much in the way of ribbon features — its focus in on combat and recovery. Even paladin subclasses rarely expand on ribbon features, creating a sort of anti-niche for the class. It makes up for this via its spellcasting feature.

Lay on Hands

A classic feature of the paladin class, Lay on Hands provides it bonus healing capability which can recover hit points or even remove certain conditions and disease. Because of this, there is limited value in enhancing the paladin’s recovery options through its subclasses.

Aura Features

Fairly unique to the paladin class are auras. These are emanations from the paladin that bolster its allies or hinder its foes. Subclasses frequently add one additional aura, and all auras have a 10-foot reach until 18th level when they are boosted to 30 feet.

Oath Features

Sacred oaths grant features at 3rd, 7th, 15th, and 20th level. Take note that the paladin, unlike every other official class, gets its capstone (the 20th-level feature) from its subclass.

Paladins Have Divine Smite

The paladin class has the Divine Smite feature that allows it to transform each unused spell slot into a radiant damage rider on its attacks. For this reason, you don’t need to add damage spell options to the paladin class, especially instantaneous damage spells since they would compete with the class’s core kit, be generally unnecessary, and, in the case of area spells, explode paladin damage outside its intended range.

Building a Sacred Oath

Once you understand the class chassis, you’re one step closer to building a subclass. You’ll also want to review existing subclasses to get a feel for their design and balance. This section will aid you in understanding what your subclass features should accomplish.

Before starting on the formal work to build your subclass, devise its theme and role. What is your subclass’s purpose? What roles does it fill in an adventuring party? How are its mechanics interesting and unique? Why would a player choose your subclass?

Let’s start by looking at some existing sacred oaths.

Devotion. The exemplary paladin, the Oath of Devotion is the paladin sworn to the light and goodness. It serves as the champion of the weak and purges the darkness. Players choose this archetype because they want to be true paladin that upholds justice and who confronts evil in all of its forms.

Vengeance. The Oath of Vengeance is the oath for those that seek out its foes in the shadows they lurk. These paladins can be the burning light that incinerates evil or champions of revenge that opt to make others suffer equally for the suffering they have inflicted. Players choose this archetype to be sword to avenge just or seek revenge on a wrong, granting no quarry to the wicked.

Conquest. Short of the antipaladin Oathbreaker blackguard, the Oath of Conquest is seen as the evil playable paladin with its focus on domination, often through violence. However, conquest can also be used as a tool to vanquish evil and autocracy. Players choose this archetype because they want to vanquish their foes in absolute certainty and to rule over others.

Glory. The Oath of Glory aims to be the hero of legend that accomplishes the labors set before it. This oath is often regarded s the most athletic of sacred oaths. Players choose this archetype as it aspires to become a living legend through noble deed and tenacity.

Inspiration. The cheerleader of paladins, the Oath of Inspiration fills a sort of middle ground between paladin and bard, offering features that enhance its party. Players choose this archetype because they want to be the beacon of hope that inspires their fellows and lift up the downtrodden.

Each paladin subclass encapsulates a certain theme, but at its core, each is a paladin, leveraging its class kit to serve its oath.

Building the Subclass

This guide covers building a sacred oath consistent with official published material. Each oath clearly identifies its theme. The oath features should help to establish and, more importantly, enable this theme.

Subclass features are granted at 3rd, 7th, 15th, and 20th level. Unlike most other classes, sacred oath features are fairly formulaic, which can make it one of the easier subclasses to design. Except for 3rd level, each Sacred Oath feature should only grant one subclass feature. Consult the Paladin Subclass Features table for when you should grant features.

There are exceptions for the rule of only granting a single subclass feature:

  • Ribbon features are frequently weak on their own, so in certain cases you may grant a second, minor feature, which could be another ribbon feature.
  • The feature has some complex interactions that are much clearer when separated. Often this is indication that something should be cut, but in rare cases, it makes sense to split a feature for comprehension.
  • You are expanding an existing feature in a minor way. Sometimes it’s better to include the enhancement in the core feature, and at other times it could be a note in another feature.

While not a feature, since it has no gameplay mechanic, the tenets of a Sacred Oath are vital for the paladin subclass. Its tenets set its theme, identifying what personalities and ambitions of paladins would choose it. You should begin with the tenets of your subclass, and aim for at least three unique tenets, but ideally four or even five.

After drafting your tenets, compare them to existing sacred oaths, and if you find any overlap, you should rethink your concept. You want to carve out a new niche for the class that takes it in a new direction. If you find there is thematic alliance, such as how the Oaths of Devotion, Inspiration, and Redemption all seem to seek common cause, that is alright, as long as your oath focuses on one aspect of that cause. As an example of the above case, the Oath of Devotion protects, the Oath of Inspiration uplifts, and the Oath of Redemption saves and atones.

Paladin Subclass Features

Paladin LevelFeature
3rdOath Spells, Channel Divinity Options
7thAura Feature
15thDefensive Feature
20thForm Feature

Oaths Spells

3rd-level [Your Paladin Subclass] feature

All paladins gain additional spells upon taking their Sacred Oath. Choose two spells each from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level. The spell can come from any list, including the paladin list, and the spells should match the theme of the oath. This feature should ensure the Sacred Oath has the spells of its tenets always ready; this feature isn’t an excuse to grant the paladin the best spells from other classes, and you will likely choose some spells from the paladin list.

If you include spells from sources other than the Player’s Handbook, you want to indicate those sources. If you are sharing the subclass, you can’t reprint content that is not provided by the publishing license you are using (for instance, don’t reprint a spell description from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything).

If you do include spells outside the Player’s Handbook, it is recommended that you offer alternative spells from it so groups without the referenced book can utilize your content without additional work on the DM’s part. If the spell is one you created for the subclass, include its description after the subclass (or an appropriate section for a compendium of content).

The Oath of the Ardent is an Exception

As a psychic class, the Oath of the Ardent doesn’t have the Oath Spells feature. Instead, it has the Power Manifesting features that enable the subclass to manifest psionic powers with its spell slots. If you make a subclass that utilizes a similar alternate mechanic to spells, you will likely also want to replace the Oath Spells feature similarly. Any replacement should expend spell slots in ways that take the same action interactions as spells do — mainly actions, with some bonus action and reaction options, with many requiring concentration.

 [Your Paladin Subclass] Spells
Paladin LevelSpell
3rd1st-level spell, 1st-level spell
5th2nd-level spell, 2nd-level spell
9th3rd-level spell, 3rd-level spell
13th4th-level spell, 4th-level spell
17th5th-level spell, 5th-level spell

Channel Divinity Options

3rd-level [Your Paladin Subclass] feature

This feature grants the paladin subclass two options to use its Channel Divinity feature. Without this feature, the paladin class can’t use one of its core features, so you must have this feature. The options must be thematic to the tenets and theme of the subclass. You want one to be useful in combat, increasing the paladin’s power in the short term. The other is well served to grant the paladin utility that the class and subclass kit generally lacks outside of spells, but this isn’t a rule. Make sure the options are likely to get used once per short rest; paladins are designed to consume the use of its Channel Divinity feature each rest.

Based on what the option does, choose an appropriate action cost. In-combat buffs should be bonus actions. Attack riders should be either reactions or require no action, the latter case especially if the effect is instantaneous. Out of combat or pre-combat effects should require an action, as should effects with a duration of 10 minutes or more. No option should require concentration.

Since paladins have a strong offensive baseline and should gain an offensive Channel Divinity option, you need to be careful with how big a boost your option gives. Assume the paladin uses it twice per adventuring day when budgeting (assume extra uses are on noncombat purposes).

Aura Feature

7th-level [Your Paladin Subclass] feature

Most Sacred Oaths offer a new aura for the paladin. This aura should feed into the theme of the class. It can be defensive or offensive based on the goals of the oath, and this is an area where you can see some damage bloat on your paladin subclass. For this reason, you need to carefully balance the aura’s effect since they are passive, and see how it impacts the full class budget. With defensive, or even utility, auras, you have a lot more leeway.

You don’t need to create an aura feature, and can replace this feature with an Expansion or Enhancement feature. This is a particularly useful trick if you want to create an offensive effect, but an aura is simply too powerful. You can also replace the aura nature of the feature if it would be redundant, such as with the Oath of Vengeance’s Relentless Avenger feature and many of the Sacred Oaths in this supplement that triggers on melee attacks (which presumptively would fall inside an aura).

Defensive Feature

15th-level [Your Paladin Subclass] feature

The Defensive feature for a sacred oath tends to be fairly versatile, and can include an offensive component that is triggered by getting attacked. It is important that you pick an option that is thematic to your Sacred Oath.

While most Sacred Oaths use a Defensive Expansion feature, that is one that adds something new to the class kit, you can choose to enhance another subclass feature. This is the case with the Oath of Vengeance; Soul of Vengeance grants the paladin a benefit against the target of its Vow of Enmity Channel Divinity.

Consult the Sacred Oath Defenses table to see how existing paladin subclasses utilized the Defensive feature.

Sacred Oath Defenses
Sacred OathDefense Example
Chivalrydamage resistance when injured
Conquestreprisal damage on getting hit
Crescent Lightresistance to target of Channel Divinity
Devotionalways under effects of protection from evil and good spell
GloryAC bonus on getting hit with possible counterattack
Inspirationinspiration on healing
Redemptionautomatically heal when injured
the Ancientssurvive death once per long rest and immune to aging
the Ardentmantle shroud (various effects)
the Soheideflect melee damage
the Watchersreprisal damage on successful save
Vengeancecounterattack target of Vow of Enmity

Form Feature

20th-level [Your Paladin Subclass] feature

The paladin capstone allows the paladin to temporarily gain great power. This can be a fun feature, but you want to be careful that you don’t go overboard with it. Enhance and expand the paladin’s potential only in the ways it needs to be. This feature can certainly be a power boost, but since it should only affect one combat for the entire adventuring day, it shouldn’t overpower your paladin subclass. If, during damage budgeting, you find yourself reducing other paladin features to accommodate this feature, you should switch tracks and redesign this feature to be less powerful. A capstone feature should be relevant and feel good to have, but can’t be allowed to collapse the entire class’s balance.