Let's Play...A Low Charisma Paladin
Several YouTubers have talked about character concepts where a particular class might not be strong in their "primary stat," and how this can be excellent for theme and archetype, but not necessarily good for the math. In a campaign where being good at the math may be necessary, though, how can you play that character concept without hurting the party?
That's what this series will be - ways that you can use a D&D class effectively when you have an 8 or lower in your critical stat. We will start by discussing the character concept that leads to a poor primary stat while being that class, and then talk about the critical decisions you make in how to play the class effectively to help the group.
I. Character Concept: Low Charisma Paladin
There are several ways you can play this character, but I'm going to go with a more generally applicable concept for ease of working through the mindset of the character. The character is a former soldier or thug who lived a vile life devoid of social skills and then "found God," turned his/her life around, and then swore an oath to follow a new power.
They are not naturally charismatic, and not even familiar with the deity for the purpose of channeling his/her power, so the character, thematically, should not have a good Charisma score.
So based on the background of the character, the person might be very strong, have high Constitution, great Dexterity, maybe even really good Intelligence or Wisdom (which are not typically high stats for Paladin). And since you don't need a high Charisma score, you can make two of these stats very strong, possibly three based on your system of determining stats.
This will also affect your skill choice selections, as you'd probably not want to take a proficiency in Persuasion, though Deception or Intimidation could work based on the character background, depending on what kind of low-life the person was.
So with this kind of character in mind, let's look at how to build the character in a way that aids the party effectively.
II. Character Build
Paladins fulfill three roles for a party: damage dealing, damage soaking, and some supporting magic. The Charisma plays little to no impact on the damage soaking ability of the class, and heavily affects your spell selection if you want to be effective with your limited spell slots. And in fact, since you won't have a high Charisma stat, there's a good chance your defenses and hit points will be higher than they would otherwise be.
Your ability to deal damage in close combat or at range is not affected by this build, assuming you don't get to add your Charisma to your martial abilities from your subclass. For your spell selection, you'll want to focus on spells that don't involve your Charisma modifier, which admittedly is a small list, but it's not as bad as it would be for a full caster.
Since you can use your spell slots for smites, you technically don't need many spells in your arsenal. We can use this to our advantage. The spells you'll want to focus on are Shield of Faith and Bless at 1st level, Find Steed at 2nd level, Crusader's Mantle and Revivify at 3rd level, Find Greater Steed at 4th level, and Banishing Smite and Holy Weapon at 5th level. Beyond that, just use smites.
None of these spells change based on your ability score, nor do they require a saving throw. Shield of Faith will improve your defense, Bless will make your party better at their offensive and defensive abilities, Crusader's Mantle, Banishing Smite, and Holy Weapon increase your damage, and the Steed spells are just nice all-around spells.
Most of your Sacred Oath abilities for paladin subclasses involve targets making a saving throw, so realize upfront that your Channel Divinity options are likely going to be hindered by your low Charisma. There's just nothing we can do about that...
BUT: not all of them are hurt by this! The Oath of Vengeance Paladin (probably the strongest paladin in the game) has an option that does not involve a saving throw or adding a bonus based on your Charisma: it gives you advantage on attacks against a target for 1 minute, which has nice synergies with the rest of the paladin build.
Also, if your DM is using Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, you can trade in your Channel Divinity uses for spell slots, so that's another attractive option. So if you don't want to play an Oath of Vengeance paladin, here's another option.
One of the aims of this series is that, if you're thinking about multiclassing with a given class and you haven't made their primary stat your primary stat, you have a few ideas on where to start and what to take to make yourself more effective. Each class has something useful to offer you, and it is our hope that you can make the most of those benefits without being disappointed in your performance.
In our next post we are looking at low-Dexterity rogues, which should be VERY INTERESTING.
Until next time,