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I'm rolling a Paladin for a campaign some friends and I are about to start. The Paladin class section defines the starting gear as follows:

  • (a) a martial weapon and a shield or (b) two martial weapons
  • (a) five javelins or (b) any simple melee weapon
  • (a) a priest's pack or (b) an explorer's pack
  • Chain mail and a holy symbol

My question revolves around the first two bullets. RAW, can someone choose to start with a halberd and a shield ("a martial weapon and a shield"), and a quarterstaff ("any simple melee weapon")? It's understood that the shield could not be used together with the halberd, but would be used with the single-handed quarterstaff.

Obviously the internal debate (more for the sake of principle, since players can alternatively just roll gold and buy whatever combinations of gear they choose) is whether the first bullet-point of the starting equipment list implies some sort of limitation for single-handed martial weapons only; i.e. that a player could choose either a or b option with single-handed martial weapons only (and if they wanted to choose a two-handed martial weapon, then they'd only get that single martial weapon to satisfy the whole of the first bullet).

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There are no restrictions beyond what is written.

Per bullet 1 you can choose any martial weapon and a shield. Or you could choose any two martial weapons.

Later, per bullet 2 you can choose five javelins. Or you could choose any simple melee weapon.

So your proposed starting equipment of halberd and shield (1a) and quarterstaff (2b) is perfectly legal. If the designers had wanted the starting equipment list to have any further restrictions they could have written those in explicitly; compare with druid, monk, rogue starting equipment, for example.

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