Welcome back to the Zurn blog! As we continue in our D&D series, we come to the paladin: a holy warrior who channels divine power to accomplish the dictates of their order or creed. The paladin is an evocative class that has undergone changes with each edition, and in 5th Edition's move away from alignment the only real factor that distinguishes the paladin from the other martial classes is its use of divine smites, spells, and auras to aid the party in battle.
The term "paladin" in history is a French word meaning, "warrior," and it was used to designate one of twelve warriors of great skill that served the king, but over time it came to be used as a general term for a knight who upheld chivalry and heroism. In the roleplay community, the term has taken more of a "holy warrior" connotation, and thus it is not surprising that our subclass is a Templar-style warrior from the Legends of Zurn series: a knight from a religious order devoted to protecting the weak at all costs.
Sacred Grove Paladin: Theme and Inspiration
The Knights of the Order of the Sacred Grove are a religious military order: warrior monks (not "monks" within the context of D&D, mind you) that have devoted their lives to the relief of the poor in various ways, but in particular to the protection of the lower classes from oppression. It is common to see small bands of Sacred Grove knights (and sometimes even a lone knight) roam from village to village to insure that the people there are cared for and protected. It is also common to see lone knights or a small band of knights join up with adventurers on their quests to insure that the land is safe from harm.
The Knights of the Sacred Grove participate in conflicts, but not offensively: they defend villages from attack, and have even been known to join both sides of a conflict, guarding the hamlets of the region while the warlords fight over the castles and large cities. Because of this their name is well known throughout the land, and their symbol of a red tree on a white surcoat is found in many tapestries and tomes.
Sacred Grove knights are "Good" in their alignment - they protect the poor, preserve the helpless, and do so with selflessness. This does not make them "nice," though: all of them are ready and willing to shed blood, and bear the marks of past skirmishes and battles. They are a brutal enemy to face on the battlefield, swift and cold in their taking of lives that threaten their wards.
There are two great sins for a Sacred Grove knight: to flee your charge when they are in peril, and to show fear to your enemies in the face of danger. We tried to incorporate these in various ways as we built the class, rewarding you as you guard your charge and helping you to face death with valor when it comes.
All of this makes for a very evocative paladin, which we hope you enjoy.
Sacred Grove Paladin: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. When you first choose the oath, you gain two useful spells that will keep you and/or your party in the fight: Heroism and Shield of Faith. In addition, you gain your Channel Divinity, which will either reduce damage to your allies by a small amount, or instill fear in your foes.
As you progress you gain new benefits, but from an action economy perspective the most helpful enhancement happens at 5th level, as you gain the Extra Attack feature as a paladin, but you also gain access to the Spiritual Weapon spell. This means that, if you're willing to spend a 2nd (or later 4th) level spell slot on a magic cast, you can get 2 attacks from your Attack action and an attack with the Spiritual Weapon each turn, which increases your damage potential substantially.
Over time you gain immunity to the Frightened condition, and gain proficiency with Intelligence Saving Throws, making it harder for your enemies to get into your head (which is a nice boon for a paladin, as Intelligence is pretty low on your priority list). You also gain advantage on attacks when near someone who is unarmed (like an ally sorcerer) or bleeding (like a fellow frontline fighter), making you more effective as you hold the line against the enemy.
And by 20th level, you have fully embraced the Oath of the Sacred Grove, causing you and your allies to shrug off arrows and swords, push past curses and other negative effects, and remain unimpeded in your movements, making it easier to get to those that need your assistance.
All in all, it's a pretty straightforward subclass, centered around being the fearless bastion of the party, guarding everyone from danger on every side. It is not as good at killing foes as other subclasses, and it is constantly being challenged on the question of, "Do we use our spell slots to keep my party in the fight, or do I use them to smite the enemy?" You are never hurting for options when you take the Oath of the Sacred Grove, but that does not mean that it does not hurt in the moment.
While perhaps not as powerful as the Oath of Conquest paladin (which offers heavy battlefield control and saving throw assistance) or the Oath of Vengeance (which does a lot of damage coupled with good mobility), the Sacred Grove Paladin offers you a helpful suite of spells and auras that will keep your allies in the fight without a compromise in your damage potential. If this sounds exciting to you, check it out.
In our next post, we will be turning to the first of three (that's right - three) ranger subclasses, looking at the Vale Warden: a warrior who marries the use of ranged and melee weaponry in an interesting synergy, rewarding you for swapping weapons or picking different targets as the fight progresses.
Until next time,