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Of the Oath of Vengeance paladin's four tenets in the PHB, two mention the phrase "sworn foe/enemy":

  • "Faced with a choice of fighting my sworn foes or combating a lesser evil, I choose the greater evil."
  • "Ordinary foes might win my mercy, but my sworn enemies do not."

Does that imply that a player making a vengeance paladin has to pick a "sworn foe" in particular, like a kind of enemy (e.g., goblins or dragons) or is it any enemy that you are facing in battle right now?

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Nowhere in the Oath of Vengeance (or any Oath, actually) does the character have to pick a sworn foe. Mechanically, there is no effect whatsoever. You can contrast this to the Ranger's Favored Enemy feature, which clearly states that the Ranger has to choose enemies.

However, for role-playing reasons, a character might swear an oath against an enemy (there is no restriction, one of my players even swore an oath of vengeance against Demogorgon) and base some in-game decisions on the oath. It's good role-play, and Inspiration-worthy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My favorite Oath. I built my paladin Oath and tenets into his story. He became a Paladin and took an Oath to no god or goddess..but to himself; swearing an oath of vengeance against the undead that desecrated his troops and city; strictly so he could hunt them down. It was consistently inspiration worthy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Nov 19, 2016 at 3:53

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