Oath of Vengeance Paladin — how to play in DnD 5E

Swear to uphold justice with an Oath of Vengeance Paladin in 5E.

© Dice Cove

Of the three Player’s Handbook Paladin subclasses, Vengeance is the most offensively oriented. A shining spear aimed at those who would harm the weak and defenseless, the Vengeance Paladin will be a force to be reckoned with. Don’t let the offensive leanings of the oath mislead you, your Oath of Vengeance Paladin is still a Paladin after all, meaning they have access to a number of support abilities. We’ll walk you through what separates the Vengeance Paladin from its Paladin peers, and offer a few builds that focus on the Oath of Vengeance.

Tools of Vengeance (Oath of Vengeance Features)

Including new Spells, the Oath of Vengeance brings new features to the table at levels 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, 15, 17 and 20. I’ll be discussing these in the order they are obtained.

Level Three

1st Level Oath Spells (Bane and Hunter’s Mark) – As soon as you take your Oath of Vengeance, you get to prepare Bane and Hunter’s Mark for free. They don’t count against the number of spells you can prepare, so you will always have access to these. Neither of these spells are all-stars, but keep them in mind for the situations where they’ll shine. Bane is best against a small group of enemies with dangerous attacks, and Hunter’s Mark will give you some endurance on longer days.

Channel Divinity: Abjure Enemy – This is the first of two Channel Divinity options for the Oath of Vengeance. You can use any Channel Divinity once per Short Rest, but you can’t use two (even different ones) without a rest. As an action you can attempt to make a creature you can see within 60 feet frightened. The creature resists with a Wisdom Saving Throw, which Fiends and Undead have disadvantage on. While that creature is frightened, its speed is locked at 0. The frightened condition lasts for 1 minute or until the creature takes damage. Even if the target succeeds on the Saving Throw, their speed will be halved for the same duration (1 minute or until they take damage). This is nice for a divide and conquer strategy, keeping one enemy out of effective range while you handle its companions. However, costing you your use of Vow of Emnity (we’re getting there) is a very steep price.

Channel Divinity: Vow of Emnity – As a Bonus Action, you can get advantage on all Attacks against one enemy within 10 feet for a minute. It uses your Channel Divinity, but this is a significant damage boost against a boss style encounter, and is the kind of feature that whole builds can be crafted around.

Level Five

2nd Level Oath Spells (Hold Person and Misty Step) – Situationally powerful spells are great to always have prepared. If you’re facing humanoids or need to teleport a short distance with low Action Economy cost, you’ll be happy to be a Vengeance Paladin.

Level Seven

Relentless Avenger – When you hit a creature with an Opportunity Attack, you can move up to half your speed as part of the same reaction, without provoking Opportunity Attacks yourself. On its face, this reads like an ability to help you chase retreating enemies, but I think you end up moving before the creature you hit commits to its movement. I’d ask my DM how they want to rule that. It’s still a nice ability, especially if you’re looking to slip past a front line to harry high priority backline targets.

Level Nine

3rd Level Oath Spells (Haste and Protection from Energy) – Haste on a Paladin is frankly amazing. It offers a mix of offense and defense unmatched by similar buffs, and you have your Aura of Protection to mitigate the chances of your Concentration dropping early. Protection from Energy usually won’t be worth your Concentration or Spell Slot, but it comes with Haste and might solve some niche problem occasionally. 

Level Thirteen

4th Level Oath Spells (Banishment and Dimension Door) – One’s a powerful debuff and the other is a super mobility spell, this is very similar to your 2nd level Oath Spells, only better. You probably want to save Banishment for those extraplanar foes that it simply removes. Dimension Door is notable for being the lowest level teleporting Spell that doesn’t require you to see your destination, which makes it a nice upgrade to Misty Step.

Level Fifteen

Soul of Vengeance – Whenever the target of your Vow of Emnity makes an attack, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against them if they’re within reach. Note that this isn’t an Opportunity Attack, so it won’t trigger Relentless Avenger, but it’s still a very nice damage bump when using your Vow of Emnity.

Level Seventeen

5th Level Oath Spells (Hold Monster and Scrying) – Hold Monster is a nice debuff, even coming online at the beginning of Tier 4. Scrying is a nice scouting tool if your team doesn’t include a full caster who can cast it. Note the expensive material component on Scrying. It probably won’t be a roadblock at level seventeen, but no one likes trying to cast a spell only to realize they needed to buy a crystal ball the last time they were in town.

Level Twenty

Avenging Angel – As an action you can gain the following benefits for an hour:

  • You gain a 60 foot flying speed.
  • You gain a 30 foot Aura. The first time an enemy enters or starts it’s turn in this Aura during battle, they must succeed on a Wisdom Saving Throw or become frightened of you for 1 minute or until they take damage. While frightened, all attacks against these creatures have advantage. A neat blending of Abjure Enemy and Vow of Emnity.

This is a fun and flashy ability for those that have gone the distance in the Oath of Vengeance Paladin. As far as 5E capstones go, this one is good, but that phrase has an important qualifier. Use it when it feels fun if you get it.

The Revengers (Sample Builds) 

The Vengeful Hexblade (Half-Elf Hexblade 1/Paladin 19)

Here is a suggested Ability Score Array for this build using the point buy method, before applying racial ability score increases:

Str 13 Dex 13 Con 12 Int 8 Wis 12 Cha 15

Your Half-Elf floating points will go into Dex and Con, bringing them to 14 and 13 respectively. This build is a crit-fishing, self-buffing, boss shredding machine. Any opponent you can get under the effects of your Hexblade’s Curse and Vow of Emnity simultaneously will shortly be in a world of hurt. 

Key Levels

1-4: Start Hexblade to use Charisma for attacks from the beginning. Eldritch Blast won’t be amazing without Agonizing Blast, but it’s still a better ranged attack than most Paladins get, so grab that and probably Minor Illusion for your cantrips. Armor of Agathys and Hellish Rebuke are fun Warlock spells you won’t otherwise get. Hex might be nice at first, but Hunter’s Mark will mostly replace it and you won’t be able to change your Warlock spells known, so choose wisely. Use medium armor, a shield and whatever 1d8 1-handed weapon tickles your fancy. At level 2 you’ll be starting your trip to Paladin 20. I’d take Dueling Fighting Style to increase your consistent damage. You’ll get Vow of Emnity at level 4, which combines nicely with Hexblade’s Curse for crit fishing on a boss.

5-10: Use your first ASI to grab the Elvish Accuracy feat, boosting your Charisma to 18. Now when you attack with Advantage, you get to roll 3 dice and use the best one. Since your Hexblade’s Curse lets you crit on a 19, this is even more efficient than usual in fishing for those crits to use your smite slots on. At level 9, you’ll gain your second ASI. Either bring your Charisma to 20, or grab Resilient (Constitution) so you really won’t lose concentration on Haste.

11-15: You’ll get another ASI at level 13, do whatever you didn’t do at level 9 (Charisma to 20 or Resilient (Constitution)). You’re getting to have quite a few spell slots, so don’t hold back on smiting to keep your damage up. Improved Divine Smite, which you’ll get in this range, will also help you maintain a consistent baseline damage.

16-20: You’ll get two more ASIs here, and you have your main bases covered. Medium Armor Master and +2 Dexterity will help your AC and Stealth. Alert and Lucky are fantastic for your survivability, and Lucky can even help you crit fish if you want. Just improving your Constitution is also a fine choice, there are few defenses as effective as a giant pile of Hit Points.

Avenging Sorcadin (Variant Human Paladin 8/Divine Soul Sorcerer 12)

Here is a suggested Ability Score Array for this build using the point buy method, before applying racial ability score increases:

Str 15 Dex 10 Con 14 Int 8 Wis 8 Cha 15

Use your floating Ability Score Increases to start with 16s in both Strength and Charisma. Take Warcaster to help with Concentration saves, give your Opportunity Attack some extra bite, and make sure you can cast with your hands full. This is a more sustained version of the Vengeance Paladin. It won’t have the boss slaying burst damage, but it will deal great damage over a longer day.

Key Levels

1-4: Start Paladin to get Heavy Armor proficiency, and grab the Defense Fighting Style for even more AC. You’ll be staying in Paladin until level 8, so you’ll get an ASI at level 4. Use it on your Strength, to bring it to 18.

5-10: You’re going to get Extra Attack followed by Aura of Protection, a potent pair of levels to be sure. Your Aura isn’t as good as some Paladins at this level, but +3 to saves is still an amazing buff. At level 8, go ahead and bring your Strength up to 20. Level 9 will be your first level of Sorcerer and you’ll be taking the Divine Soul subclass. Focus on buffing and utility spells, since your Charisma is under par and you have Attacking for damage dealing. Maybe grab Firebolt to have a better ranged option than Javelins.

11-15: Quicken and Twin are probably your best choices for Metamagic. Quickening allows you to cast a Spell and Attack in the same round, while Twin will let you share some of your buffs (like Haste) with an ally. Your level 12 ASI (Sorcerer 4) will bring your Charisma up to 18, improving your Aura and Spells. Continue to focus on Buffs and Utility spells, but it’s probably worth picking up something like Hypnotic Pattern to have a Crowd Control option when you need it.

16-20: You’ll finally get your Charisma to 20 here, making you a frightening Gish. Your bread and butter will still be Attacking and Smiting, but feel free to learn some offensive spells as well if you’d like. Your capstone is any feat you want to take. Ritual Caster (Wizard) can be great if you reach this level and know you’ll be able to fill your book. Other choices could be Tough for more Hit Points or Fighting Initiate to pick up the Blind Fighting or Dueling Styles.