[RPG] Differences Between Warpriest and Paladin


Both the Paladin and the Warpriest are combat-oriented divine casters, but what I want to know is, from an optimizer's perspective, what is the difference between the two classes in practice? What ways do the classes deal with challenges in-combat, and how do they deal with out-of-combat encounters? In asking this question, I am trying to determine the differences and merits associated with two classes that appear to be trying the fill the same niche in a way.

Best Answer

The warpriest gets higher-level spells, and is therefore better.

That’s really all it takes. That’s really all there is to say. Barring extremely weird cases where a spell list is very special (3.5’s healer and Pathfinder’s summoner come to mind), looking at the highest-level spell available to a class is a quick way to determine a class’s relative power. Magic is everything in this game.

Paladin rundown

The best thing about the paladin, from an optimizer’s perspective, is divine grace. That is very good. Might even be worth multiclassing for, in some cases (though probably not as a warpriest since Charisma would not be your first focus). But ultimately, “higher-level spells sooner” is a far more powerful class feature than anything the paladin has—including divine grace.

Beyond divine grace, lay on hands is OK, ish, but easily replaced by a wand of cure light wounds in most situations. In special situations, where the mercies become important, a wand of lesser restoration covers most of it; that’s pricier but will be used less often. These wands are ultimately not quite as good as lay on hands, but they’re close enough that lay on hands is a pretty low-value class feature.

Smite is decent in Pathfinder, but you get so few of them that I’m not super-excited about it. The fact that the warpriest gets several free quickenings a day from fervor easily outpaces smite—you get more uses of fervor, and you can buff yourself with things that lead to similar or better damage than smite does.

And the divine bond comes out to basically “pretty good, but nothing amazing.”

Warpriest rundown

On the warpriest side, you have better spells, and you have the ability to cast them quicker. Fervor is a very, very good class feature. Quicken Spell is a +4-spell-level metamagic for a reason. And the cleric spell list is extremely well-positioned to take advantage of that ability.

Throw in some bonus feats and some free money from the sacred weapon and armor, and you’re in a pretty good spot.

An exception, of sorts

Paladins are in a pretty good place to start working on some Charisma optimization, which is far more “open” to optimization than Wisdom. Divine grace is a big part of that. You can add to that with starknives, which can get Charisma added to attack and damage through Divine Fighting Technique. And there are a number of ways to get Charisma to AC. Having one ability cover attack, damage, AC, and all of your saves is really very nice, and I’m pretty sure you could not do the same with Wisdom.

But there’s a problem with this: that Divine Fighting Technique is associated, in Golarion, with Desna, a CG goddess. Divine Fighting Technique requires that you match your deity’s alignment, and a paladin cannot do that. So you can only do this if playing in a campaign that associates it with an LG deity, or else relaxes alignment requirements in general (e.g. allows a non-LG paladin or Divine Fighting Technique without a matching alignment).

And even when that happens, paladin provides only a foundation; you wouldn’t be staying with the class most likely. Instead, you would most likely be an “oradin” rather than a paladin: taking two levels of paladin for divine grace, and then switching to oracle for one of the Cha-to-AC mysteries and the far-superior spellcasting is strictly superior.

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