In D&D, the Paladin class is probably the most stereotyped and maligned class going. It’s a shame too because it’s a great class especially for solo (one player, one DM) play. After all, which other single class can heal like a Cleric, have great saves (thanks to Divine Grace), cast divine spells, turn Undead and still have the same combat skill as a Fighter? And they get a special Pokemon… I mean, Mount… too. “Black Beauty, I call you!”
The closest match to a Paladin would be a Fighter/Cleric, but then you’re missing out on a great trick. The Paladin class multi-classes brilliantly meaning you can have all that combat ability, divine magick and nifty shticks then add in another class to the mix. This works especially well if you use the Favoured Class for your chosen race to there’s no ugly XP penalty waiting to bite you on the neck further down the line.
The main restriction to multi-classing the Paladin is the rule that Paladins have to be Lawful Good. If you’ve a lenient DM (or a convincing backstory) that could be waived, but there’s also the possibility of creating a character with a less than noble history who turns to Lawful Good later in life. Alternatively, it’s possible to liberally interpret Lawful Good. After all, it’s arguably the alignment of Batman, James Bond, Aragorn and Van Helsing. All, incidentally, are perfect examples of multi-classed Paladins.
The rules set a particular restriction in that Paladins can multi-class, but cannot return to the class afterwards. This has never struck me as particularly logical (or forgiving!), and I’ve never enforced it. Also, there might be specialist groups (such as Church Inquisitors, see below) who explicitly require two classes to be developed in tandem.
In every case, you’re going to need a character with high ability scores for WIS and CHA to make the most of your Paladin abilities, and high STR, CON and DEX to help in combat. High INT would be good too, especially in the case of Rogue/Paladins. Heck. Aim high for every ability score! You’ll need them.
In all cases I suggest taking the Paladin class second (at 2nd level) then alternating between the two. Because of their low skill points there’s little to gain from taking the Paladin class first unless your character concept demands it.
Archetype: The Hulk
Technically, this can’t be done because of conflicting Alignment requirements, but a lenient DM might allow it. There’s also the possibility of playing some kind of reformed savage or noble warrior from an earlier age. By the rules a Barbarian who becomes Lawful loses the ability to Rage, and that’s too big a loss to contemplate. If there’s room in the game for a nonlawful Paladin (a Chaotic Good Paladin of Freedom, say), it’s well worth considering. Picture a Viking warrior dedicated to Thor who calls upon the fury of the storm to drive his actions in combat and you’ve got a Barbarian/Paladin.
Alternatively, imagine a character who becomes enraged when wrongs are committed, fixating on the cause of the problem in as direct a means as possible. “Hulk Smash!” indeed.
Archetype: Joan of Arc
Again there’s the Alignment thing. I’ve never understood why it’s a requirement for Bards to be nonlawful as there are plenty of examples of perfectly Lawful Bards, performers and the like both in history and fantasy fiction, from Heralds and Town Criers to Alan Adale and Blondin. Ditch the Bardic alignment restriction already!
If you want a character who can inspire crowds, sway the populace and lead a righteous revolt, play a Bard/Paladin. Take Perform (Oratory) and use it with your Bardic Music ability to aid your allies while you march alongside them into battle. This isn’t the class combo for shrinking violets or loners, and works at it’s best at the head of a huge army. The Mount just adds to the whole effect.
Archetype: Van Helsing
Want to fight Vampires? Want lots of divine spells, great saves and the ability to root out evil? Then the Cleric/Paladin is for you. This combo gets divine spells right from the start, and as the Paladin levels (from 4th onward) stack with the Clerics when it comes to Turn Undead checks, it’s a real powerhouse against Things That Should Be Dead. Add in Smite Evil and Remove Disease and you’ve got the perfect vampire or werewolf hunter. Just load silver tipped sharpened stakes into your repeater crossbow and add holy water to taste.
It’s also another great combo (alongside the high-skill Rogue/Paladin combo) for Church Inquisitors and Witchfinders for those characters who want to go in this direction with more spellcasting power under their belts.
Aragorn?! He was a Ranger, right?
Yes, but if the Ranger class didn’t exist, he’d be a Druid/Paladin. Think about it; he’s a master in the wilds, is noble born, wears leather armour and fights with a longsword. He knows nature magic and managed to keep Frodo alive long enough to get him to safety after the battle at Weathertop. Ergo, Druid/Paladin. Heck, the only thing he didn’t do was shapechange.
This is a great combo if you allow Lawful Neutral Paladins dedicated to maintaining the Balance of Nature. This is also the combo for Robin Hood, as “robbing from the rich to give to the poor” suits this ethos perfectly.
The Druid class gives the character an animal companion. Mix that in with the ability to shapechange and the Special Mount and you could have a character who is a wolf friend, can turn into a wolf, or call one to ride. She could be a force of nature or even animal spirit in humanoid form. Either way, it’s a very cool alternative to the Ranger class
Archetype: The Punisher
If you want to play a very hands-on hero then the Fighter/Paladin is the way to go. While this combo slows down access to the Paladin abilities, it gains loads of lovely Fighter feats along the way. This is great is you want to play a Paladin on the front line who believes that flexibility and prowess in combat is more important than access to magic and healing. On the flipside, the Paladin class provides much needed help with saves, and the ability to heal yourself and others means fewer trips to the Cleric to be patched up. Which means more time in combat
At later levels you get a Special Mount for free, so it’s worth spending some of those Fighter Feats on mounted combats tricks. Picture a mounted Fighter/Paladin charging a Dragon with a lance while his cohorts stand fast against Fear thanks to his Aura of Courage. That’s a Fighter/Paladin at work.
What’s to say? Terrific saves, AC bonus due to high WIS (which you’ll need for both classes), unarmed damage, healing, turn Undead, Evasion, speed bonus, ki strike, divine spells and much, much more. It’s a one man special rules factory, and great fun to play. According to the rules the Monk cannot re-enter this class if they multi-class out of it, but I’m sure that can be lifted if the Monk/Paladin adheres to certain restrictions set by their Divine Temple. Take Voluntary Poverty (from the Book of Exalted Deeds) and you’ll have a challenging character indeed.
Ask your DM if your Special Mount can be a small flying cloud and you’re there.
If you want to play a character who’s obsessive compulsive, pick this combo. Their abilities work well together with both Favoured Enemy and Smite Evil adding to the damage potential against their sworn foe and Endurance, Paladin healing and spells aiding their staying power. The Combat Styles give it a little extra prowess and the spell list complements the Paladin’s list neatly.
In many ways, playing a Ranger/Paladin is like playing a multi-class Fighter/Cleric/Druid/Rogue thanks to it’s combat skills, spells and skill list, so if you want a character that’s a jack of all trades this is it!
While it’s tempting to consider the Animal Companion and the Special Mount as the same creature, don’t. One of the coolest characters I’ve seen was a Halfling Ranger/Paladin who had a spirit wolf as her mount and it’s wolf-brother as companion. They made quite a team too.
Archetype: James Bond
This is my favourite multi-class in the entire game, bar none. Whether it’s a street thief turned good, a dashing swashbuckler or a church inquisitor, the Rogue/Paladin delivers the goods. It might be meta-gaming, but always take the Rogue class at first level for all those skill points. If you’re playing a low-level game (I start the game at 2nd level), take the Paladin at 2nd. What Rogue could resist having an Aura of Good (“Of course you can trust me!”), and access to the entire Martial Weapon Proficiency list at 2nd level is an extra boon. If you want a (non-elf) Rogue with a Longsword, this is the way to go. If you’ve got a high CHA and DEX you’ll have a positively obscene Reflex save by third level.
At higher levels your character advance the levels evenly. The Rogue gains the ability to heal and Turn Undead, knocking out the two biggest threats to the class: death and undeath. Most vitally, a well-timed Sneak Attack + Smite Evil can take out even the toughest of villains when they least expect it.
If you want to play a righteous assassin, this is the way to go. Alternatively, use the Rogue skill points on CHA- and WIS-based skills such as Gather Information, Sense Motive and Intimidate and you’ve a perfect Church Inquisitor or Witchfinder General style character.
This is a combo which kicks serious ass and seems to have it all. There’s combat ability, arcane magic, divine magic, great saves and more. The only price to be paid is the selection of armour as there’s a risk of Arcane Spell Failure for spells with Somatic components. At low levels, just use Masterwork Studded Leather – the 15% risk of failure is worth it. As both classes require high CHA, it’s a win-win situation too.
In my campaigns Sorcerers don’t gain “Summon Familiar” (why oh why isn’t is just a darned 1st level spell?) but gain the Eschew Materials feat instead for free. This means you can have a lightly armoured guy with some great spells up their sleeve, and not a spell pouch in sight. With the right spell selection she could be a noble enforcer, a dilettante, arcane assassin or whatever.
The Paladin class give the character more staying power as well as that all important healing. It’s a great combo class for elves who are close to their both their magical and life-loving heritage. If you want to play a D&D elf who’s closer to Tolkien than usual, this is the combo to aim for.
Archetype: Dr Strange
It’s said that with great power comes great responsibility, and no combo highlights this more than the Wizard/Paladin. This is the multi-class for those characters who act as arcane defenders using knowledge and spell ability to turn back the tide of evil. If your campaign has a God of Magic of any alignment perhaps he calls Wizard/Paladins to work as front-line defense against beings from other Realms. In this case, consider replacing the Paladin’s ability to Turn Undead with one to Turn Outsiders instead.
Specialist Wizards add another dimension to this combo; an Evoker/Paladin would be very different (certainly more explosive!) to a contemplative Diviner/Paladin, for example.
Just don’t forget to pack your Eye of Agamoto.
There you go. Ten multi-classed Paladin ideas. And not a single boring two-dimensional knight in full plate in sight!