Take a mystical sword of otherworldly power and give it to a character who is honorable and a devout worshiper to their god, a loyal follower to their king, or faithful to a strong bond or promise they formed years ago. This is the core recipe for a Hexblade Paladin, a playable Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition multiclass that combines the martial prowess of a Paladin with the magical powers of a Warlock.
Whether your Hexblade sits in a sheath like a normal sword, with only a slight glow to tell it apart, or if it retracts and expands from its hilt as pure energy, this guide will explore how to build and play your Hexblade Paladin character in D&D 5e. Without further ado, let’s get swinging.
Building a Hexblade Paladin
Choosing the best Race for a Hexblade Paladin build
Your Race is important as it gives inherent bonuses to your character before the game even starts. On top of this, your Race will also influence your backstory, how you view the world, and how others view you, all of which will have implications for you and your party. Additionally, your Race may have specific devotions that Paladins are likely to choose from.
For this guide, we recommend the Half-Elf as this Race possesses a balance of adaptability and charisma. The Charisma bonus is most important as it is a Hexblade Paladin’s primary stat, but the chance to choose your ability score increase also boosts the viability of playing a Half-Elf.
An alternate but still great choice is the Variant Human Race which offers a similar flexibility as the Half-Elf but with an extra feat taken at the start. Both the Half-Elf and Variant Human offer great choices to build a Hexblade Paladin, so it is up to you to choose if you want the added Charisma bonus or the extra feat at the start of the campaign.
Allocating Ability Scores
Your Ability Scores will determine the effectiveness of your attacks and skill checks, so it is important to boost the correct ones. Your best and first choice should be Charisma since a Hexblade Paladin primarily uses Charisma as their casting stat. Your spells will be more effective with a higher Charisma Ability Score.
The next stat to choose from is between Strength or Dexterity, depending on what type of weapons and attacks you plan on making during combat. Strength is best for melee weapons while Dexterity is best for ranged attacks, so plan ahead before continuing with your character build; however, you may want a Strength score of 15 to have decent melee attacks and allow access to Plate Armor.
Lastly, Constitution should get some investment, as it will increase your overall bulk through a higher Hit Point maximum.
While we are discussing a Hexblade Paladin, the idea and abilities that come from the Hexblade are actually from the Warlock class, meaning the Hexblade Paladin is a multiclass character. There are multiple ways to level your Hexblade Paladin, with the best route being a highly debated topic.
More or less, if you are interested in the highest damage output possible, then focus on Warlock levels, if you are interested in taking advantage of defensive benefits more, then focus on the Paladin class, and if you want a clear in-between, then you will need to find a balance between the two classes as you level up.
Regardless of which route you choose, you should start with Paladin level 1 to gain immediate access to heavy armor and weapon proficiencies.
- For a defensive Hexblade Paladin, you only need to take a Warlock level at Player Level 2 (Paladin Level 1 + Warlock Level 1 = Player Level 2), and again at Player Level 9 (Paladin Level 7 + Warlock Level 2 = Player Level 9). From here, you can take the rest of your levels in Paladin to reach a maximum of Paladin Level 18, but some may want to triple class and take the Player Levels 10-20 into Sorcerer, creating a breakdown of Paladin Level 7, Warlock Level 2, and Sorcerer Level 11 by Player Level 20. This becomes more of a Sorcerer build though, so while the spell slots and Sorcerer Points are nice, we will not focus on this aspect too much.
- For an offensive Hexblade Paladin, here is a handy chart to show when to take a level in which class:
|Player Level||Which Class to take|
Balanced or other build paths
The biggest difference between the two builds is that Hex Warrior works in tandem with Pact of the Blade, both of which are from the Warlock class.
A defensive Hexblade Paladin route only needs one level in Warlock if they plan to use a sword and shield, since the 1st level of Warlock grants access to Hex Warrior, allowing the use of Charisma for attack rolls.
However, an offensive build will want to wait for access to Pact of the Blade at Warlock Level 3 (Player Level 5 if following the chart above) so that they may give the Hex Warrior effect to a two-handed weapon.
If going for a middle-of-the-road build, or if you are going to triple class into something else but want the Hexblade Paladin benefits, take at least three levels of Warlock and two to three levels of Paladin before diverging into your personal character builds.
Oath is your Paladin subclass. Hexblade Paladins are required to take Hexblade from their Warlock multiclass, but their chosen Oath will round out the specific flavor players are looking for to play their Paladin.
Regardless of strengths or drawbacks, it is most important to take an Oath that fits the specific fantasy you want to build and play toward, as Dungeons and Dragons is a roleplaying game first and combat game second.
Offensive Hexblade Paladins looking to optimize themselves will want the Oath of Vengeance or Oath of Conquest subclasses.
Oath of Vengeance
Oath of Vengeance is a no-mercy approach to fighting your enemies. Players in this Oath vow to seek out the greatest evil and stop it while taking responsibility for failure to do so when others are hurt.
Oath of Vengeance grants new spells at Paladin Levels 3 – 17; two new Channel Divinity options, a core to Paladin players’ abilities; and Relentless Avenger, which allows you to move after landing an opportunity attack to close off an enemy’s retreat. If you follow the offensive chart above, you will max out your Oath of Vengeance here.
If you continue past Paladin Level 7, Soul of Vengeance at Paladin Level 15, which powers your Vow of Enmity and allows you to make melee weapon attacks as a reaction to a target’s own attack when under the effect of Vow of Enmity; Avenging Angel is not possible to reach as a Hexblade Paladin, as you get these feature at Paladin Level 20.
Oath of Conquest
Oath of Conquest is all about conquering your enemy to the point they do not want to fight anymore. It is more than just killing a foe, it is about instilling fear such that the foe’s own allies will not challenge you further.
Paladins gain new Oath spells at levels 3 – 17; two new Channel Divinity options unique to the Oath of Conquest; and at Paladin Level 7 they gain Aura of Conquest, which creates a constant aura around you 10 feet long in every direction. Creatures in this aura have their movement reduced to 0 and take psychic damage equal to half your Paladin Level if they are frightened of you.
As with Oath of Vengeance, this is where you will cap out your Oath if you follow the Offensive Hexblade Paladin chart above. If you continue to Paladin Level 15, you gain Scornful Rebuke, which psychically damages your enemies equal to your Charisma modifier if they damage but do not incapacitate you.
This can be useful since Charisma is your main stat anyway. Invincible Conqueror is not attainable as a Hexblade Paladin, similar to Avenging Angel in Oath of Vengeance.
Oath of the Watchers
Defensive Hexblade Paladins will undoubtedly want the Oath of the Watchers for its watchful eye and protective nature. At Paladin Levels 3 – 17, you gain various Oath spells unique to the Oath of Watchers. At Paladin Level 3, you gain two new options for Channel Divinity that focus on protectively warding your allies and forcing enemies to move in the opposite direction of you for the duration.
At Paladin Level 7, you gain Aura of the Sentinel, which grants you and any creature of your choice within 10 feet a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your proficiency bonus. This extends to a 30-foot range if you reach Paladin Level 18. At Paladin Level 15, you learn Vigilant Rebuke which grants you the ability to deal 2d8 + Charisma Modifier in force damage to any creature that casts an ability that requires a saving throw.
When you or an ally you can see within range succeeds the saving throw, Vigilant Rebuke’s damage procs on the enemy. Vigilant Rebuke is the highest in the Oath a Hexblade Paladin can reach, as Mortal Bulwark is earned at Paladin Level 20, which is impossible for multiclasses without homebrew rules allowing one to exceed Player Level 20.
Exploring the Hexblade Paladin’s Build Abilities
At Warlock Level 1, the Hexblade Paladin takes up Hex Warrior, which allows them to use their Charisma Ability Score as their check for making weapon attacks, as opposed to Strength for melee or Dexterity for ranged. This is particularly useful as it changes the Hexblade Paladin from a Multiple Ability Score dependent class to a Single Ability Score dependent class, which is usually better on average.
Pact of the Blade
At Warlock Level 3, the Hexblade Paladin can take Pact of the Blade, which grants the Paladin the ability to create a pact weapon of any form, including two-handed weaponry.
The weapon counts as magical and disappears if it is more than 5 feet away from you for more than a minute, if you dismiss it, or if you die. You may also choose an already existing magic weapon, complete a ritual, and make it your pact weapon, granting the same effects as previously mentioned, but you may also send the weapon to an ethereal plane, where you can summon it at any time for use.
Pact of the Blade and Hex Warrior combo together to allow the use of Charisma as your attack stat for two-handed weapons, which tend to be stronger than single-handed weapons on average.
At Paladin Level 2, you may use Divine Smite. This allows you to spend a spell slot to deal extra radiant damage when you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, including your Hexblade. This provides a consistently high damage output for low-level spell slots that should only be used in this manner anyway.
Play Strategies for the Hexblade Paladin Build
Divine Smite and Hexblade’s Curse Synergy
Hexblade’s Curse allows you to curse a chosen enemy, granting a critical hit on a minimum of a natural 19 as opposed to a natural 20, a bonus to damage equal to proficiency bonus, and regained health when the cursed target dies. Divine Smite allows you to spend spell slots to deal additional radiant damage whenever you land an attack on a target. Combining these two will create devastating results for a relatively low barrier of entry in the class levels.
Exercise Smart Spellcasting
As a Hexblade Paladin, you have access to both the Paladin and Warlock spell lists. This list will grow quickly due to your two subclasses granting automatic spells with your levels, plus the ones you get to learn for taking a level into each of your classes. Choose spells that complement your playstyle and cover a variety of situations in which your party is weak.
Additionally, do not be afraid to spend your low-level spell slots on Divine Smite for damage, therefore opting for utility spells early on. Higher-level spell slots will be useful for your powerful Warlock spells, where the damage greatly scales beyond what Divine Smite is capable of. Simply put, do not let the large amount of spell options overwhelm you.
Play both Tank and Support
As a multiclass, you are able to play two roles as needed. Your high AC and armor proficiencies will keep you healthy enough to use spells and actions to support your teammates more than yourself.
This is especially true if taking the defensive Hexblade Paladin route. An offensive Hexblade Paladin can still utilize the same dual role capabilities, they just need to watch their health a bit more since their aggressiveness will likely lead to them being targeted more.
Roleplay, roleplay, roleplay
Embrace the thematic elements of your class. As a multiclass, you already get to fill a niche fictional creation that is entirely unique to your creative mind. As a Hexblade Paladin, you will waver between a character loyal to their cause but potentially morally gray due to the details underlying their pacts.
Interact with NPCs, explore character complexities, and develop your own perspective on the faith your character finds themselves entwined in.
Conclusion on Hexblade paladin builds in 5e
In this article, we covered the complex playable class that is the Hexblade Paladin. As a multiclass hybrid between the Warlock and Paladin character classes, players will find their footing based on the play style they prefer best between offense, defense, or balance, as well as in how they want to roleplay their reasoning for choosing two classes that, on paper, tend to be opposites to each other.
With the right decision-making, your Hexblade Paladin will bring the message of their faith to the campaign’s table, backed by the sheer might of their blade.