Paladin is an incredible class, possibly the most reliable all-rounder in D&D. Between their tankiness, damage output, healing output, magic steed, and sky-high Charisma, they’re an incredible choice for new and old players. When I GMed a solo adventure to introduce the system to my boyfriend, I knew Paladin was the best class to let him experience everything D&D has to offer.
But there’s one Paladin playstyle I don’t hear talked about often, and that’s the Dex Paladin. Normally, Paladins are the iconic Strength class, thanks to their heavy armor and predilection for melee combat. But I happen to believe that Dex Paladins bring a real level of versatility to the table; honestly, I think they’re better than Strength Paladins. Today, I wanted to go over some reasons you should try Dex Paladin (And some caveats to consider when you do.)
Reason #1: None of your class abilities specifically require Strength.
If you read through the Paladin’s many level-up abilities, you’ll notice that none of them callout Strength as the relevant ability. There’s nothing specifically stopping you from being a good Paladin if you dump Strength. This stands in stark contrast to the other Strength class, Barbarian, whose Rage specifically mentions Strength in several places. Barbarians need strength to play their class properly, while you really don’t.
Reason #2: Your ranged damage is way better.
Strength Paladins suffer heavily in the ranged damage category. Your class gets no/few ranged spells, meaning their main option is javelins. Which aren’t terrible, but they pale in comparison to longbows. Since ranged weapons use Dex for their attack and damage rolls, you can bring any type of bow/sword combo and excel at all ranges of combat. Plus, on the topic of melee…
Reason #3: You can still use Finesse weapons for damage.
Finesse weapons are those designed for nimble, precise attacks, and therefore rely on Dex instead of Strength. While this limits your weapon options considerably, there are still some great finesse weapons in there, especially the rapier. (If you’re willing to take a feat, the double-sided scimitar is an amazing finesse weapon for Paladins who build around it.) Thanks to finesse weapons, you can still lay down the melee damage while enjoying the other upsides on this list.
Reason #4: Your dex saves and initiative are way better.
Dex saves are among the most common saves in the game, tons of monster attacks make them. (As well as almost every AoE attack, nonmagical trap, or environmental hazard.) And higher initiative lets you move earlier in combat. Both of these come up constantly, so it’s a real boon to have a high Dex modifier in these extremely-common situations.
Reason #5: Your stealth is lightyears better.
Paladins are infamously unstealthy, practically the poster child for the clanky lumbering bastard in heavy armor. But the thing is, heavy armor requires high Strength to wear. Since you pumped Dex, the best you can do is Breastplate. And since breastplates don’t have stealth disadvantage, plus Stealth scales off Dex, you’re gonna be way more sneaky than most paladins. Trust me, your teammates will thank you the first time you all have to make a group Stealth check.
And now, to keep this article balanced, let’s cover the main downsides to Dex Paladins:
1) You’ll have lower AC. That’s probably the biggest drawback compared to Strength Paladins. But Breastplate+Shield is still 18AC, which is pretty decent. There’s also the “Defense” fighting style, though I personally think Duelist is better for more rapier damage. I won’t pretend the AC loss isn’t a big deal, but you’re still gonna be tanky, and I think the other upsides make up for this overall.
2) Your carrying capacity, jump distance/height, and door-battering will all suffer, since they scale off Strength. (That being said, I think your summonable magic warhorse can solve most of those situations for you.)
3) You will not be good at grappling. If you play Paladin to get your MMA on, do not pump Dex. (Luckily, you can still escape grapples perfectly well thanks to the rules letting you substitute acrobatics for athletics.)
4) No multiclassing. Paladins need 13 Strength to multiclass. I never multiclass personally, and I think Paladin already covers its own bases perfectly well, but I wouldn’t recommend Dex Paladin if you like making cool hybrid builds.
I’m not trying to say Strength Paladins suck and nobody should play them. As already mentioned, any Paladin’s gonna kick ass and be a huge credit to the team. Overall, Strength Paladins have higher AC and more versatile ways to deal damage. But there’s more to roleplaying than melee combat, and I think Dex Paladins bring a versatility to the table that’s worth considering. For a class already designed to excel across the board, it’s an elegant option for patching some weaknesses and opening new avenues in a well-rounded adventurer’s toolkit.