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Due to plot reasons, I'm entering a Curse of Strahd Campaign where I know in advance that my Paladin will eventually be wielding the Sunsword.

The Sunsword is essentially a Sun Blade; a magic longsword with the Versatile and Finesse properties, and if the wielder is proficient with shortswords or longswords they are proficient with it.

The current party comprises of a front-lining Bear Totem Barbarian, a pacifist Cleric of the Life Domain, a Battlemaster Fighter (hand crossbow build), an Assassin Rogue, and a School of Divination Wizard (blasting/battlefield control, depending on the day).

How can I optimize my Paladin for optimal damage with the longsword/rapier over three combat encounters (each with five rounds), so that I can compete with the other min-maxers in my party?

Restrictions:

  • Starting ability scores determined by point buy.
  • All PHB races except Dragonborn and Tieflings are permitted.
  • The character must be a 10th level Paladin
  • Feats are permitted.
  • The character must primarily use a longsword or rapier.
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Oath of Conquest, v. human

In terms of consistent and reliable damage through encounters, with the option still remaining for nova damage, I think the best bet is Oath of Conquest.

The levers we have to control that are different are actually pretty small across the Oaths. So the ways to increase damage output are increase your modifiers and figure out a way to get more attacks and damage in the action economy.

With this build, I went with V. Human. Took the Sentinel feat and modifiers to STR and CHA.

ASIs all went to strength, giving you 20 STR at level 10, 14 CHA, and 14 CON. 10 DEX, 12 WIS, and 8 INT are the remaining stats.

Standard attack damage modifiers

As the weapon remains static in terms of damage, your modifiers will be:

  • +5 STR
  • +2 Dueling fighting style
  • Aura of Conquest (if fail save and are Frightened, they take 5 damage at start of turn in aura)

Bonus Action option

On top of that, you can also cast spiritual weapon as a non-concentration for additional damage via an attack roll as a bonus action. This provides a static bonus action attack option for damage (although limited by your spell slots and time...and the smaller to hit and damage modifier.) If you hit you can add an additional d8 damage die (scaling up if upcast) for +2.

Reaction option

The Sentinel feat won't trigger all the time, but when it does you can use your reaction to get an attack for more damage.

Conclusion

All in all, the Conquest Oath gets you a reliable means to generate a bonus action attack, a potential means to trigger a reaction attack, and the Dueling and STR investment increase your damage output.

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Oath of Conquest, just as Jack said, is the best subclass for sustained consistent damage. The aura synergises well with Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence. Use Channel Divinity to frighten the enemies, the aura's effect then prevents them from leaving it so they take damage every round.

If you are out of Channel Divinity uses, you can cast the Fear spell, which happens to be on the Conquest spell list. However, do note that

Oath of Conquest also gets access to some of the best spells in the game, such as Spiritual Weapon (bonus action damage every round, requires no concentration) and Armor of Agathys (enemies take cold damage when hitting you). It also synergises with the other features, as melee enemies in your aura will have their speed reduced to 0 and therefore won't have much choice when choosing targets. They attack you with disadvantage but when they do hit, they proc the cold damage.

Some other spells you can take:

Find Steed and Mounted Combatant feat. This will grant you advantage on attacks against enemies that are unmounted and smaller than the steed.

If we assume your chance to hit is 0.6, then advantage increases that chance to hit to 1 - (1-0.6)^2 = 0.84, which is a 40% increase in the DPR for your weapon attacks.

Advantage also increases your chance to crit from 5% to 9.75% (a 95% increase in crit chance) so you also have more opportunities to make the most out of smites.

However, Find Steed does cost a 2nd level spell slot, this combo might not be used often enough to justify taking the feat. Alternatively, if you are able to acquire a mount during the campaign (by buying or taming a mount), you can also pick the Mounted Combatant feat and forget Find Steed.

Spirit Shroud (takes concentration) adds an extra 1d8 damage to any attack you make, and that includes spell attacks from Spiritual Weapon. The speed reduction features of the spell are made somewhat redundant by your aura, but it does increase your damage by 3d8 (three attacks total, two from Extra Attack and one from Spiritual Weapon).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for pointing that out. Edited ! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there supposed to be something else after "However, do note that" or is the line break not supposed to be there? Also, your comment about the cost of Find Steed doesn't really make sense with the other part removed - since it lasts indefinitely, the spell slot isn't a meaningful cost in most cases (I'd certainly call it less of a cost than buying or taming a mount). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 22:19

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