Review of Unearthed Arcana: Evil Paladins
The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
Review of Unearthed Arcana Article “Paladin” accessed here: https://media.wizards.com/2016/dnd/downloads/UAPaladin_SO_20161219_1.pdf
Paladins are one of the iconic RPG classes. Paragons of justice and righteousness they appear on the covers of rulebooks with bright shinny armor wielding magical hammers and swords smiting the enemies of good people everywhere. Paladins in 5e are very well done and I like the transition to oaths instead of mirroring the behavior of the gods they worship. But what about paladins who aren’t so inclined to be forces for good? Dread knights and blackguards abound in the DnD world, so why not be able to play one and take an oath of brutality and power?
The oath of conquest favors subjugation and enslavement of those who dare to oppose the paladin and gives several abilities that aid in the destruction of an enemy’s will. The tenets of his oath are to destroy the enemy’s will to fight, to rule with an iron fist, and that strength above all is the most important quality of a conqueror. I don’t know about you but reading that just got me very excited.
Conquest spells include a good selection of well thought out spells that fit the oath: command, hold person, bestow curse, fear, dominate beast/person, etc. Their channel divinity options are “conquering strike” where you can make your target frightened after a failed wisdom saving throw and “guided strike” which gives +10 to an attack roll and interestingly enough comes from the war domain for clerics. At 7th level the paladin receives “Aura of Conquest” which gives targets within range disadvantage on saving throws against being frightened and at 15 they can no longer be charmed. All of these are good solid abilities befitting this oath, but the best ability comes at 20. At this level the paladin becomes an avatar of conquest, gaining resistance to all damage, an additional attack, and a crit roll of 19- 20. I know level 20 characters are extremely powerful, but this is a strong ability. It really turns the paladin into a champion of destruction and is the cherry on top of this wonderful evil oath.
Next we have the oath of treachery. This oath can be a standalone option for chaotic or selfish paladins or as an alternative to the oathbreaker paladin as mentioned in the DMG. And I have to add, I really don’t like the oathbreaker option in the books as it seems really weak for what it is. This may be intentional as the god’s have forsaken the paladin and cursed him with weakness but somehow that doesn’t feel right and I believe it is more likely this option is not balanced properly. Anyway, the oath of treachery is a fantastic option for evil armor wearing villains. Due to the nature of this “oath” there….aren’t actually any oaths here. The Tenets of Treachery call for this so-called paladin to abandon all oaths and instead serve their own interests. That’s cool and all but I feel this really removes what makes a paladin a paladin. They should have some code they live by even if it is evil and self-serving. So for this oath I suggest to DMs to either save this for NPC/Villains controlled by you, or assign the player some oaths that fit your scenario, like “I will serve my master’s will, the great commander of death army” etc. That way they have some semblance of order to follow and aren’t just chaotic evil and impossible to roleplay in a group.
The spells given to this paladin are a nice mix of dominating will spells and sneaky escape ones like charm person, expeditious retreat, invisibility, mirror image, gaseous form, dominate person, confusion, and a few others. This is a fantastic list of spells and I’ve seen a similar repertoire on a lot of “control” wizards like enchanters or illusionists. For their channel divinity they get “conjure duplicate” which creates an illusory duplicate of yourself within 30ft, and also “poison strike” which deals 2d10 plus level or 20 plus level if you have advantage on the attack. Now THAT is a powerful channel divinity. I honestly believe poison strikes should be more prevalent given the idea that assassins and warmasters will poison their blades and I think that fits in perfectly to a treacherous paladin. At 7 they receive their aura, the aura of treachery, and it is amazing. It gives you advantage on melee rolls against creatures that have allies within 5 ft and also “treacherous strike” where you can turn an unsuccessful hit against you into a hit against your target’s allies. That is quite a dubious ability. It is so good I can’t believe this doesn’t show up elsewhere. I wish it was a feat I could add to any character it is that good.
Level 15 grants “blackguard’s escape” where you can use your reaction after being attacked to turn invisible and teleport 60 feet away. That is another extremely good ability and I’m starting to get the feeling this oath is overpowered just a tad bit. Their final ability is to become the avatar of deceit where you can become invisible, you can control the next action of an attacker against you who fails a wisdom saving throw, and if you have advantage on a roll you gain a bonus to your damage roll equal to your level (which would be 20 in this case). Again this is the perfect cap to what is an amazing option for paladins. Everything about them fits the idea of a selfish, treacherous person it’s absolutely delicious.
I want to stress again that an oath of treachery paladin should probably be saved for an NPC villain or some limitation by the DM if a player insists on using one. It contains a lot of very strong combat abilities and the roleplay aspect of it tends toward chaotic evil, an alignment I don’t like having my PCs use as they are essentially so chaotic they can’t be trusted around other players and might as well be controlled by the DM.