[RPG] How to optimize a Bard/Paladin as a supporter/healer


I have a 9th level tiefling Valor bard, who I think would be interesting as a bard/paladin. Her current spell list is action/advantage denial heavy with a few utility spells; I'd like to enhance her supporter role with better healing abilities and an improved ability to tank, since her party recently lost its only melee fighter.

Current stats:

  • STR 19 (with equipment, attuned)
  • DEX 14
  • CON 19
  • INT 12
  • WIS 9
  • CHA 18

My question:

From a mechanical standpoint, how many levels of paladin should I take, and when, in order to make the most of this combination?

Which oath is preferable, given a focus on protection and support and assuming that any of the three Oaths are viable from a roleplay perspective?
Is there a pressing reason not to take Great Weapon Fighting in favor of a different style?

I would also welcome answers along the lines of "This is a bad idea, and this is why." In that case, I would definitely welcome alternate ideas on how to build my bard into a support-focused caster with some melee ability.

Best Answer

I'll try to get the simpler issues done first - and the simplest one is Great Weapon Fighting. You should not take this. If you're using a spear, it is strictly inferior to the Duelling Fighting Style. See my answer here for the analysis. It's especially true for you because you want to tank, and for a quick and easy boost to your tankiness it's hard to go past a shield.

The next issue is how many levels of Paladin to take. This one gets a lot more complicated, but I'll start with the basics. When multiclassing in 5e, you want to take either 1 level or a number of levels that is a multiple of 4. This way, you don't lose any of the vitally important ability score increases.

The next thing to consider is what you actually want to get out of your Paladin levels, and what each number has to offer you. You also need to consider what Bard features you're missing out on by taking Paladin levels, but you've already got almost all the Bard features - from here on out your existing abilities mostly just get more powerful, rather than you gaining new things.

  • Paladin level 1: Gives basically nothing. You get the multiclassing proficiencies, Divine Sense, and Lay on Hands. Not a useful number.

  • Paladin level 4: Fighting Style, Divine Smite, Divine Health, and Channel Divinity. (And 1st-level Paladin spells, for what that's worth.) This is pretty good - a lot of the Paladin's core features for a minimal investment. If you're taking 4 levels, I'd recommend the Oath of Devotion, since (I think) it has the best Channel Divinity options.

  • Paladin level 8: All of the above, plus Extra Attack, Aura of Protection, and either Aura of Devotion or Aura of Warding. (Technically you could take Relentless Avenger, but it's not that great, especially for what you're trying to do.) Also 2nd-level Paladin spells, which is cool because one of them can be Find Steed, which is basically a class feature masquerading as a spell. This is a good place to finish taking Paladin levels because the next really good feature is at level 15. If you're going this far, the Oath of the Ancients starts looking as good as the Oath of Devotion, because Aura of Warding is so powerful.

I'd definitely recommend either 4 or 8 levels of Paladin if you're going to do this - 1 just seems like a waste of time. As for what order to take levels in, I'd actually suggest waiting till you've got your next ability score increase to do this, because doing it without War Caster might be a little awkward. Obviously, if you want to get better in melee sooner rather than later, you should start taking Paladin levels sooner rather than later, and you can work around the problems with casting your Bard spells with your hands full, it's just tricky.

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