My players' characters are level 5 and about to catch up with Chapter 6 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and start gaining levels again. Their party consists of

  • a Forest Gnome Rogue Assassin with Talon*
  • a Variant Human Life Cleric with no magical items currently as she came in a few chapter in to Tyranny of Dragons and after Lost Mines was already completed.
  • a Goliath Bear Totem Barbarian with Hew
  • a Rock Gnome Divination Wizard with a staff of defense, spider staff, and wand of magic missiles
  • a Variant Human Vengeance Paladin, the de facto leader of the group and the focus of my concern Stats: Str 18, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 16 (Found a Manual of Leadership during a session in between Lost Mines of Phandelver and the start of Tyranny of Dragons)

The Paladin has the Dragonguard Armor and the greatsword Lightbringer,‡ the Great Weapon Master feat, and the complementary fighting style. With the −5 to hit and +10 damage attack hitting most foes consistently at this level, and the ability to bonus action attack if any of his 2 attacks from Extra Attack kill something, he is a seemingly unstoppable force on the battlefield who is consistently pushing out far more damage even when not in Nova mode (Divine Smite) than the Rogue (whose job is high damage) and the Barbarian.

He will soon be considering some Warlock levels, which makes me concerned about his power spike even more.

My question, given the presented information: Will this Paladin always be the character with the highest AC and consistent damage output, or will they start to even out and feel more balanced as a group?

My players are starting to feel... slighted... but they have all played by Adventure League rules and done nothing outside the scope of the published Adventures they are running. I want them to feel fairly treated.

*†‡ Spoilers for magic items from published adventures:

* Talon is a +1 longsword with the Finesse weapon property that deals extra damage to beasts, found in the Lost Mine of Phandelver Adventure.
Hew is a +1 Battleaxe that deals maximum damage to plant creatures, found in the Lost Mine of Phandelver Adventure.
Lightbringer is a +1 Mace (That I mistakenly made a Greatsword because absolutely no one could use the 'meant for the pre made adventure cleric' item as is so bares some altering) that deals extra damage to undead and the Dragonguard is a +1 Breastplate that grants Advantage on saving throws against the Breath attacks of Dragons, both found in the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you homebrew/house-rule that Talon has the Finesse property and deals extra damage to beasts? Because in the adventure, it's mechanically just a +1 longsword. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 20:44

4 Answers 4


Short answer: No, that person won't.

Longer answer, how powerful your PC's feel will be entirely based on what the DM throws at them in any given encounter.

For example, your Paladin will not outshine the casters when dealing with flying enemies simply because a lot of the Paladin's damage potential comes from smiting.

Paladin's in 5e feel VERY strong early game because of the amount of damage they can dish out in a short period of time. You're playing Horde of the Dragon Queen, which caters to a Paladin as well due to the shortage of incidental encounters on the way.

If you want to make other people feel more useful, add in more encounters they can handle. The Paladin will need to be careful not to expend all of their smites, especially considering the overpowered nature of every boss in that particular campaign.

And if he does take some Warlock levels, remember that he's sacrificing progressing as a Paladin (which will eventually give him free smiting damage on every attack just because). Ultimately, it just gives him an on demand ranged weapon with Eldritch Blast.

We had a Paladin in my Horde campaign, and I balanced it by just increasing the number of encounters and having one or two enemies that were very obviously designed for him to attack and either one shot by smiting, or take hits from as he tried to tank them.


He will always be stronger, but that is fine

He can do 23.33 (8.33 + 4 + 1 + 10) damage per attack, twice per round, or three times if he is lucky. Even two of those is higher than what the Rogue can do on level 20 without a critical.

The Barbarian, lacking the fighting style, would do less damage even in rage, with the same weapon, with the same feat. But Barbarians, especially Bears are more Tanks than Strikers anyway.

Neither spellcaster will ever do as much damage with a cantrip as one hit from the Paladin. Of course no one should create a Life Cleric with the expectation to excel in combat.

3 hits from the Paladin is stronger than a Finger of Death, what the Wizard can cast on 13th level once per day.

So no one will ever come close to do the same damage at will.

Hit chance

The Paladin’s only limiting factor is the ability to hit. His attack bonus is +8  (4 Str, 3 prof, +1 magic) with -5, he has to roll a 12 to hit a goblin, that is less than 1 in two (45%). 20 percent to hit a Helmed Horror.

Vow of Enmity helps, but it is only usable against one enemy per short rest, so about one fifth of the enemies.

Do not bring flyers

If the Paladin takes levels in Warlock, he will have the best ranged cantrip in the game, so you will just hurt the Barbarian.
Even if you disregard the Barbarian, bringing a disproportionate number of flyers will just feel like unrealistic harassment.

The same goes for archers on balconies all the time.

This is a group game

Everyone is needed. In 4e it was much clearer, the Controller weakened the enemy, the Leader buffed the party, the Defender protected them, and the Striker delivered the punch. But everyone knew he could not do it on his own.

So the Cleric should cast Bless for 1d4 on attacks, and the Wizard Hold Person for Advantage, to make sure the Paladin actually hits.
When the enemy is finished, they should celebrate together the job well done.


Looking at that party, I expected the problem to be the Rogue with the finesse longsword. With a +1 1d10 weapon and sneak attack, they should be out-damaging everyone, even with one attack per round.


This player has spent feats and abilities to make their character a melee expert. However, they are not the combat monster they seem, and will be less so as levels increase (level 5 is a really big power spike for martial classes).

Rough Analysis

A couple of my players have the -5/+10 feats and they use them a lot. They also miss a lot. I don't think the extra damage makes up for it.

That 5th level paladin has an Attack Bonus of around 6 (+3 level, +2 attribute, +1 magical weapon). Against AC 15, their normal hit chance is 55%. With the -5, their hit chance is 30%. They will be hitting around one-third the time, down from better than half. Average damage is roughly 13, so they are not really gaining anything.

As an aside, the +10 bonus does not get doubled on a critical. If you are doing that, stop. :-)

Note: I assumed STR 14 or 15 for the Paladin, since I think it is a good assumption for a multi-attribute dependent class like Paladin (especially when the player is talking about multiclassing). The most an AL-legal character can get at level 5 is 19, but this is a variant human with Great Weapon Master, so the max possible is 18, for +4 attack and damage. In this case, average damage is roughly 15, making "hitting less often in order to do 10 damage" even less attractive.


A Paladin's role is smacking down enemies. This player has chosen to spend a feat to do that very well. Don't take that away from them. Instead, give them plenty of opportunity to mow through hordes of enemies, feeling badass.

The -5/+10 is best used on hordes of low-health, easy-to-hit minions. The sort of foes that the Paladin has to wade through before getting to the boss.


On the other hand, they also need to be challenged where they are weak. For a Paladin, that is ranged enemies. Archers on ledges or behind the front ranks. Flying foes. Hiding foes (Goblins with Cunning Action Hide then move). And, of course, the heavily armoured champions protecting the final boss.

  • \$\begingroup\$ -1. If you do the math, Rogues do not come close to GWM in damage output, except for unusually high ACs. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 16:16

No, the Paladin will not always be more powerful

Every character has strengths and weaknesses. If one character appears to outshine the others in every encounter, the underlying problem is often that the DM is most comfortable planning and running the type of encounters where that character shines. So the solution is to mix in a variety of encounters, accounting for the strengths of the other characters.

Anecdotally, I ran Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat for a group consisting of a paladin, rogue, monk, and druid - and the paladin felt useless most of the time. The culprit was a long series of encounters spread out over a large area, with opponents that were more than happy to keep distance between themselves and the paladin. The rogue was highly effective at range, and the monk could close to melee twice as fast as the paladin (towards the end). The druid was effective at range and could close to melee a lot faster than the paladin. Often, when the paladin finally got into the fray, she'd find herself forced to just heal herself through the rest of the fight.

It's also worth noting that paladins are particularly ineffective against dragons - some of the primary antagonists in this campaign. In addition to the mobility advantage that dragons have over any melee class, paladins tend to have a particularly hard time withstanding breath attacks - while our monk and rogue never took damage from dragon breath.

It's not a contest

As others have noted, D&D isn't a competition. The important metric isn't how much damage each character is doing - it's how much fun each player is having. As long as every character can contribute meaningfully, it should be a good time for all.


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