Our last encounter was (apparently) 5 levels higher than us, and we killed it pretty quickly. That said, I took quite a chunk of damage (about half my health in one round), so I'm looking to tank up.

Our party just reached level 7 (currently leveling up to 7). I'm looking at the next few levels on the Paladin table, and they seem... kinda lackluster. Do I have any feat/spell/multiclass options?

Character-specific stuff:

  • Str 16, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 16
  • using shield + sword
  • I use the Smite Spells, but not often, and I tend not to use the status-effect generating ones
  • I've already spent a Feat on Inspiring Leader
  • splint armor + shield + magic items = 22 AC (this is my first 5e campaign, but I get the feeling our DM is being liberal with magic items)
  • half-orc (I never said I was good at being a paladin)
  • Oath of Ancients
  • Fighting Style: Protection

Our party tends to have enough battle-field control (wizard + druid + cleric). We also have enough healing between them and my Lay on Hands, but that doesn't necessarily help in-combat (no one wants to play the heal monkey).


3 Answers 3


Without throwing too much at you for the myriad multiclass options and builds...I am going to touch on tanking concepts and then how you might achieve them with your current character.

'Tanking' in 5E is a very relative term...and an even harder role to try and apply to tabletop rpg. A 'Tank' by the most widely used definition is a melee combatant that can A: soak up damage and B. Control threat / aggression or who is being attacked by what.

There are very few 'Taunt' like abilities available to classes in 5E...and you have the best one. Compelled Duel. It forces one creature to fight you in combat or otherwise suffer penalties to its attack. The Vengeance Paladin farther compounds upon this with its Divinity option, which you do not have access to.

So in the absence of aggro mitigating spells and abilities the only way to effectively'tank' in 5E is to apply the following.

  1. HP and high AC are your friends. Since you didnt choose the Armored fighting style that gives you +1 AC while wearing armor as to help be hit as less as possible if you are putting yourself out there as a juicy target; other armor investments are wise. A good feat is Heavy Armor Master which reduces non magical piercing, blunt, and slashing damage by a flat 3 ... which occurs after resistances are applied. A second feat integral to your HP is the Tough feat... which applies a retroactive +2 HP for every level you gained, and then +2 HP each time you level afterwards.

  2. Zone defense is the best defense. You want to put all that AC and HP in between the creatures and your less hardy friends. This means cleric and full casters to the back. Druid plays the whole field depending on Wild Shape choices. Melee to the front. Your job? Is melee or mid field. You want your Paladin to stop them from reaching the back lines; either through Feats like Sentinel which turns thier speed to 0 immediately...or through the fear of not wanting to risk an opportunity attack from the paladin if they most past you.

Your particular Oath is very magical resistant. You have an Aura that flat out grants resistance (1/2 damage) to incomming spells. Which will help you not have to break formation to go after the spell casters who would otherwise cause chaos.

Finally; if you can get your hands on the Cleric spell Warding Bond (Not sure if any of the paladin spell lists + Oath Spells have this) you can help tank indirectly and soak up damage for your friends with it as detailed here: Can you affect multiple targets with multiple Warding Bond casts?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's incorrect that Heavy Armor Master reduces damage by a flat 3 after resistances are applied. "Resistance and then vulnerability are applied after all other modifiers to damage. " (PH p. 192 / SRD p. 97) \$\endgroup\$
    – Sebkha
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 5:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sebkha Is it ? twitter.com/mikemearls/status/728625008210124800 because sources are not so sure in this particular instance of Specific <> General. Your quote deals with the order of resistance and then vulnerability given outside modifiers. In this case we 1. count all other modifiers to damage when the attack is made, then 2: something (such as a spell: Warding Bond , or natural ability: Rage) grants damage resistance, followed by 3: after it passes the resistance it then hits the feat for a flat - 3 non modified reduction to damage. Still await a final answer from Crawford. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I ought to add the a 7th level paladin really ought to be in plate \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2018 at 22:46

Well, you're already pretty tanky, but there's always more you can do.

Short-term: If your splint armour is not magical you should definitely try to upgrade to plate if you can. It doesn't cost anything but gold, and unless your DM allows you to buy magic items there's just not that much use for gold. You can try to persuade your party members to help you out here, since they have even less things to spend gold on.

Also in the short-term, while your AC is already huge, you can still improve it. There's a 1st-level Paladin spell called Shield of Faith which is worth casting if you think you're getting into a tough fight. It raises your AC by 2 as long as you can maintain concentration.

Finally, in short-term solutions, think about how often you've been using your Protection Fighting Style. If you've been using it a lot, great! If not, it might be worth asking the DM if you can change it to the Defense Fighting Style. "I've hardly ever used it" is an argument I think most DMs will be OK with, so it's worth thinking about.

Level 7: You should definitely not multiclass at this level, since you're about to get resistance to all damage from spells. This is just about as tanky as it's possible to be as far as spells are concerned. You don't get much else at this level but this feature is huge.

Level 8: You probably don't want to multiclass at this level either. Ability score increases/feats are really important, and you won't get one if you mlticlass. The big decision here becomes what you should do with your ability score increase/feat. You've got a lot of options.

Upgrading your Strength increases your damage, which doesn't directly make you tankier, but killing things completely stops them from damaging you, so in a sense it's the best way to tank.

Upgrading your Charisma boosts all your saving throws, which will make you a bit tankier. It's also nice for your allies, and any spells you use that involve the enemy making a saving throw.

Upgrading your Constitution gives you an extra 8 hp and makes it easier to maintain concentration. Definitely a solid option, but nothing flashy.

For feats, there are even more options. Heavy Armour Master is a great feat at low levels, but at level 8 it's not looking that good. 3 damage is not a large amount at this point, and more importantly, less and less of the damage you're tanking is non-magical.

Tough is a straightforward +16 to your HP - worth considering, but it's better to avoid damage than take more of it, and you should have around 68 already.

Resilient and War Caster both make it easier to maintain concentration, but don't do much else for you. If your Constitution was an odd number I'd recommend Resilient for sure, but as it is I'm not sure it's worth it for you.

Level 9: It's definitely worth thinking about multiclassing - you've got most of the Paladin's features and from here on out they mostly improve rather than getting new ones.

So, staying with Paladin - definitely still a good option. There are some nice goodies coming up, and your spells will steadily improve, so don't dismiss it just because there's nothing as big as the feature you got at level 7. That's just because that's such a good feature, not because the other features are bad.

Barbarian: Probably not. Rage is nice but it's tricky when you have spells to consider, and Unarmoured Defense just doesn't work for you.

Bard or Sorcerer: compatible stats-wise, but just don't offer you that much beyond more spell slots to smite with.

Cleric, Druid, or Wizard: Incompatible stats and doesn't really offer you anything except more spell slots.

Fighter: Another Fighting Style, which is nice, especially if you can't or don't want to talk your DM into letting you change the one you've got. Action Surge at level 2 is great as well, after that it tapers off in usefulness as far as you're concerned.

Monk: No. Nothing here is good for you.

Ranger: Another Fighting Style at level 2, but if you want that, it's probably better to get it from Fighter.

Rogue: There's not much here for you without serious investment. 3 levels can get you Assassinate, which vastly increases your damage if you can set it up, but it doesn't make you any tankier till level 5.

Warlock: Definitely saving the best till last. 3 levels of Warlock gets you the Darkness + Devil's Sight combo, which effectively gives you advantage all the time and your enemies disadvantage all the time. 3 levels is a serious investment, though, so think carefully before you do this.

So overall, consider 1 or 2 levels of Fighter (or 4 to maintain ability score increases), 3 levels of Warlock (or 4 to maintain ability score increases, or just sticking it out as a Paladin.


First off, wow, +3AC in magic items? Yeah, your DM is being VERY liberal with the magic items. (also, as an aside, how does Lay on Hands not help in combat? an action to heal up to 35hp in one go? that's amazing! that's like two-thirds of your max health!)

Assuming no utility magical items or enchanted weapons (other than the generic +1/+2/+3 or +fire/cold/etc...) here's what I have:

Note that without knowing the types of creatures you have been fighting / expect to be fighting (large groups vs single/pair; creatures vs humanoid; spellcasters vs martial opponents; social vs combat encounters), the answers may vary. I've tried to note what things each could be good for.

If you fight lots of spellcasters, and if your party has a few melee members, then 7th level of pali will be an excellent choice. Half damage vs spells for everyone w/i 10 ft? yes please. Follow up with ASI (see feat discussion below), 3rd level spells, and fear immunity (very useful vs large, scary creatures), and I'm sure exactly what you're looking for if these appear lackluster.

If you consistently fight groups of weaker foes, then multi classing into sorc or 'lock may give you some access to AoE spells, but only if you're willing to wait for 5 levels or so... still, if you find yourself wanting more spells, they may be the way to go.

If your DM emphasizes social encounters over combat, then bard may be useful. Most of their spells are control and social related tho, so if you've got control covered, might not be much to see here.

If you constantly fight single opponents, or small groups of more powerful opponents, then barbarian might be fun, especially given you're a half-orc. Won't help with your spellcasting, and in this case you won't get any benefit from unarmored defense, but it will give you some extra damage and damage resistance.

fighter could be useful for action surge, or if you really want another fighting style, but I don't know that more than a few levels would be that useful. Second wind doesn't do much vs your lay on hands, and even if multi-attacks stacked (they don't), you'd need to stick around through level 5...

I'd stay away from druids, monks, rogues, wizards, clerics, and rangers, since they will make your Character MAD as all get out.

as far as feats, consider the following:

Athlete, if often knocked prone

Charger, if you are often attacking ranged or spread out opponents

Durable, to get a little more HP

Great Weapon Master, if you use a heavy weapon

Heavy Armor Master, for a bit more HP (through the reduction of all incoming mundane weapon damage).

Lucky, because everyone could use a little more luck

Mage Slayer, if you're often fighting magic users

Martial Adept, if you'd like more utility in your sword play

Mobile, if you have a hard time reaching their back line (and often have to get there)

Resilient, if you want prof on Concentration checks (plus more hp)

Savage Attacker, if you feel you don't do enough damage

Sentinal, if you wanted a bit more crowd control, or if your opponents often disengage on you and/or fight in melee with you and another party member)

Shield Master, +2 to dex saves, plus rogues evasion if you make a save, and the ability to impose disadvantage with your reaction (not that useful since you already do that with the protection fighting style).

Tough, if you wanted more HP

War caster, Adv on conc checks, the rest probably don't do much... most pali spells are V only.

Of course an ASI is always good too, +1 to hit and damage if you pick STR, +1 to hit and Save DC if you do CHA, or +7 Hp if you do CON

  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting -- both Heavy Armor Master & Shield Master add some other crunch you may find useful. HAM gives 3 resistance to mundane pierce/slash/bludgeoning, so will give a bit more survivability that way. SM will let you use your reaction to impose disadvantage on targets within 5', keeping the party alive longer. \$\endgroup\$
    – UrhoKarila
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The term M.A.D. ? Someone please explain.... its a term I am ignorant of but I have been pen and papering it since like...1990....no idea what it means. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 22:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Airatome Multiple Ability Dependent. It's a descriptor for classes that rely on multiple ability scores (other than CON, which is useful for all classes) to be effective, like the paladin (STR/DEX, CHA) or Eldritch Knight (STR/DEX, INT). The flipside is SAD, or Single Ability Dependent, classes like the (non-arcane-trickster) rogue, which only relies on DEX and CON, and CON can be ignored to some degree. \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 22:41

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