One of my players was fairly new to the game back when he made his Paladin, and decided to emphasise heavily on Strength/Constitution. However it's now a bit later into the game and he has reached the level where normally a Paladin would gain spellcasting, but he can't because he has Wis (and Cha) at 10.

While he doesn't seem very bothered with it, I think it might be a nice kind of reward (for good service to his deity / good roleplaying) if there's something he can learn to do with his spellcasting, or if he can learn to cast spells despite his low scores in this area. It will also help set him apart more from the other (more experienced) player who runs a Fighter. He is currently overshadowed a bit and I think giving him some different options is better than going into an arms-race.

Things I'm interested in:

  • Balanced alternative class features to spellcasting (I'm willing to allow him to switch as a reward)
  • Items or Feats (that I can attach to items) that change the way his spellcasting works to trigger off of Str or Con
  • Something he can do with his spell-slots that doesn't require Wis > 10, such as burning them for extra melee damage or something

Things I'm not interested in:

  • Magic items that boost his Wis (I know these exist, but they aren't very interesting imho)

  • I have considered granting him natural Wis boosts not tied to a magic item, but that seems unfair to the other players. The market value of a +4 boost to a stat is higher than the entire party's worth combined.

  • Prestige classes (The player already found one he's trying to get into)

Some player stats:

5th level Dwarven Paladin, using heavy armor and a two-handed weapon, high str/con, low wis/cha. Stereotypical Dwarven warrior type and follower of Moradin.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Which prestige class is he interested in? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 11:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Something more Fighter than Paladin related. I will ask him saturday, I can't remember the name. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 11:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there are a few variants he could switch to that are non-spellcasting - which would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, those are also probably pretty heavily Cha-dependent, so you might have to fish around. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't you get stats points at lvl 4/8/...? He can put one of them in Wis to at least get lvl 1 spells. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 21:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Why are high ability scores required for spellcasting? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 5:20

6 Answers 6


According to the list of Alternative Class Features, there are two ACFs for the Paladin which replace Spellcasting. Furthermore, this answer by JohnP features a feat that fits what you want.

  • The Holy Warrior ACF from Complete Champion (p.49) grants bonus feats from a fixed list at 4th, 8th, 11th and 14th level. The list includes some basic combat feats, mounted combat feats, some turning and all [Divine] feats.

  • The Paladin without Spellcasting Variant class from Complete Warrior (p.13) grants the paladin some supernatural abilities, such as making every weapon be Good-aligned, or a 1 minute/lvl untyped +4 Bonus to Strength.

  • The feat Lost Traditions from the 3rd party book Bastards and Bloodlines allows you to change your casting stat for any one spellcasting class to any ability, including Strength or Constitution. While potentially very powerful, allowing this feat for this particular case should not produce too many problems, as Paladins do suffer from MADness and their spellcasting is a tertiary ability at best.

Of these three options, I'd personally lean towards Lost Traditions. Most of the Good [Divine] Feats require Charisma, which your Paladin doesn't have, and the spell-less variant is a bit lackluster in general. Seeing that you want to distance the Paladin player from the Fighter, letting him keep his spellcasting is the best way, as it allows for unique effects the fighter doesn't have access to.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting is that Erik stated that the prestige class is more fighter than paladin related, so the holy warrior might be the playstyle the player is going for. Also, Lost Traditions risks teaching a new player that it's perfectly okay to dumpstat important stats because third party feats exist to allow that kind of playstyle, which might not be the kind of thing you'd like a new player to think. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 12:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik Good points. I didn't take the PrC into account at all so far. In fact, Holy Warrior might get better, since choosing 4 good feats might be difficult, but choosing 1 or 2 is doable. I'll wait for the PrC name before I change my answer though. If it doesn't improve spellcasting, the variant classes do gain a lot of merit. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 12:31

Stereotypical Dwarven warrior type and follower of Moradin.

Paladin [...] Wis (and Cha) at 10

With those mental ability scores, Moradin isn’t doing much for this dwarf. Detect evil works, Aura of Courage applies, and Turn Undead functions but won’t work on anything meaningful. Smite evil adds a tiny damage bonus, and misses out on its most significant aspect. Divine Grace does nothing, Lay on Hands does nothing, spells do nothing.

Paladin as a class fails to accurately portray this character, as is. This looks more like a warrior that Moradin has abandoned than Moradin’s chosen champion. You could use an Alternate Class Feature or an overpowered 3rd-party feat to salvage spellcasting, as others have recommended, but it does nothing for the smorgasbord of class features that do nothing with those mental ability scores.

There is a sad fact in 3.5, particularly in core, where the descriptions of classes are frequently not well supported by their actual class features. The text says that taking a particular class will make you into a certain kind of character, but the class doesn’t really do it. This is an excellent example. A new player reading the book gets the impression that if he wants to play a devout warrior, he has to pick paladin.

I think this player should consider retconning this character’s class

Obviously, with your permission, and in discussion with the entire group; retcons are big deals. But for a brand-new player to get to fix some of the issues with their character that largely stem from 3.5’s failures, to enjoy the game better, if done carefully it can dramatically improve the game. There are classes that better capture the “high concept” of this character, to steal a Fate term, than the paladin.

For example, even fighter would simply work better for this character, and fighters can pray just as hard as paladins if they want to. There is nothing stopping a fighter from believing that their strength and skills are divine gifts. It could even be true.

For that matter, historically and in folklore, most berserkers were believed to be divinely blessed with their frenzy – Cu Chulainn was “known for his terrifying battle frenzy, or ríastrad,” quoth Wikipedia, and many versions of the tale attribute this to the influence of his godly father, Lugh. Norse berserkers were “sometimes described as Odin’s special warriors,” again says Wikipedia. Thus barbarian could be an eminently appropriate class as well.

But the most appropriate class in 3.5 for this character is, without a doubt, the crusader from Tome of Battle. Written towards the end of the 3.5 lifecycle, Tome of Battle is far-and-away the most tightly-designed book for the system, and its three base classes are, in many ways, the paladin, monk, and fighter as they were meant to be. Those three core classes had serious design flaws from the very beginning, and with Tome of Battle Wizards offered better versions.

The crusader is inspired and inspirational, following his faith through every step of the battle, moving as his god wills it. He calls his allies to ever-greater heights of glory, and he just does not stop. His sublime martial maneuvers are perfected attacks and defenses, honed through centuries of development and years of training and prayer. The class does not get spells, gets only a few supernatural class features (though he does get smite), but his martial maneuvers, many of them supernatural, are potent and enjoyable abilities. He also gets Steely Resolve, which allows him to delay some damage for a round, and Furious Counterstrike, which improves his attack and damage when he does.

The three disciplines the crusader accesses are excellent: Devoted Spirit allows the crusader to heal allies as he attacks his foes, Stone Dragon allows him to push through any and all defenses while hardening himself to any retort, and White Raven organizes his allies into a cohesive whole.

And while the class has some use for Charisma (Cha to Will saves, smite), it is not nearly as crucial to the class as it is to the paladin. A crusader of Moradin has many gifts from his god, and they don’t rely on his sunny disposition.

But the best part of crusader is that it is one of the most new-player-friendly classes they ever wrote. Unlike feats and spells, which vary wildly in their power and are therefore very difficult to choose well, martial maneuvers are all pretty well designed and useful. A player can just pick what sounds cool, and rest assured that it will be. This is not something that can be claimed about any other set of options in the game.

And in combat, the crusader has a strange – but effective – system. He readies a certain number of maneuvers, 5 to begin with, but 3 of them (2 with a feat) are withheld from him, at random, and he gains access to one each round he continues fighting. In effect, he has a deck of cards, each one with a maneuver on it, and at the start of the fight, he draws 2. Each round, he draws another 1, until he goes to draw a card and there are none left. At that point, he reshuffles the deck and can draw 2 again, starting fresh – and each shuffle recovers his maneuvers, so he can use them again.

While this system may seem overly complicated, it does an excellent job of portraying random flashes of inspiration, and it is extremely simple in practice. It also is very effective, as the crusader never has to stop to recover maneuvers, as other initiators do. And Wizards even offers free Maneuver Cards for download, which makes it easy to turn this into an actual deck.

And that is why the class is so good for new players: their abilities are right there on cards in front of them. They draw from the deck, and they know exactly what their options are. They can turn a card over to show it’s been used. They always have a few options; they never have too many that will paralyze them.

I have recommended crusader to many new players, and that has gone very well for me. This character seems a perfect match for the class anyway, and I strongly recommend at least considering switching the player to it. Retconning a character’s class is a big deal, I realize, but the benefits here are immense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, but I'm worried the ToB class might end up putting the Paladin into that arms race with the PHB fighter that the OP was worried about. Remember that ToB classes are largely just better than their core counterparts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 5:59

There are already some really good suggestions, I'd like to add another one:

Just let him.

Just let him cast spells as if he had enough wisdom. Call it a favor from his god granted for good deeds he did. You said you wanted to reward him for good roleplaying and that is the easiest, most straightforward way.

You are the DM. You can grant a retcon or class change or feature change. Or you can just waive the requirement of a specific wisdom score for spellcasting for this character.

Normally, I'd be careful considering balance, but spellcasting for a 5th level paladin is not so great that it would unbalance anything.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Great suggestion. Even better, to make it feel more "real": attach some kind of non-egregious requirement. I.e. something that he must do every time he casts a spell, or "must not do" in order not to lose some spells temporarily, etc. Maybe his spell slots become available once he does something good, so everyday he must do something good in order to be able to cast? \$\endgroup\$
    – o0'.
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 14:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you might want to be very careful about doing this kind of thing with a new player. You're basically going to be teaching him that it is okay to min/max combat stats because the DM will handwave the other important stats away as not mattering anyway. Not particularly problematic with a paladin, but if he does this for every other class you're creating a munchkin supreme. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 8:23

Some ideas:

  • The rules allows for preparing lower level spells in higher level spell slots. The character still needs to have wisdom high enough to cast the spell. So, should the character have wisdom at least 11, he is allowed to memorize first level spells in any available spell slot.
  • Are there ways to change your primary spellcasting ability other than the feats in Legends of the Twins? mentions a feat, Lost Tradition (from the book Bastards and Bloodlines), that allows to change which ability score governs spellcasting with one selected spellcasting class. It's 3rd party and very strong.
  • Races of Stone, p.147 contains Earth Meditation substitution level (9). He can add his Constitution bonus to determine his bonus sorcerer spell slots. It's for dwarf sorcerer, but you can house rule to allow him to use it for his paladin as well, to help him. He still needs to look foward to this to his level 9.

There are acquired templates that you can give your player that gives him SLAs without having to resort to out of rules solutions.

There is a particular one that you can get level 6 called saint (BoED 185). It gives you tons of SLAs and some neat bonuses for LA +2. If your player has been good, you can reward him with that.

It even gives him +2 Wis so he can cast his regular spells and +4 Cha for his smite.

BoED 25 has details on becoming a saint.


Provide an item that grants +4 wisdom and +4 charisma (or +2/+2 for now). That would be enough that Paladin class features start working.

The item can be limited in any number of ways. It can be restricted to worshippers of Moradin for one thing (reducing its resale value). It could require following a code, or come with other requirements (maybe it is an intelligent item, and withdraws/reduces its benefits if you don't do what it wants).

The Greed of Moradin: This helmet grants the wearer a +1 enhancement bonus to will saving throws. In addition, if the wearer of this helmet has donated as much wealth to the Church of Moradin or other "worthy" task or organization for Moradin's goals as they retain possession of (not counting this helmet), they gain a +2 enhancement bonus to Charisma and Wisdom. If the amount they have donated exceeds ($ amount), the enhancement bonus to Charisma and Wisdom increases to +4 and will to +2, and at ($ amount) increases again to +6/+3. Treasure put aside for later donation can count. Dishonesty or trickery in these donations or reserving treasure results in the helmet no longer working for the wearer ever again. Some wearers of the helmet claim that they hear advice and whispers while wearing it, but this has not been substantiated.

This item is quite good (especially for the level), but comes at a steep price (half your treasure).


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