Ok, this is going to be a rather lengthy argument why I think paladins don't deserve to be in the same tier as the monk, the expert and the soulknife. I'll give first the definition of tier 5, then I'll go into some arguments presented some hours ago when I made a start with this argument in the 'Tier System for Classes' thread, then I'll discuss the description of the paladin in this thread, then I'll give some more observations of my own on the class.
First, the definition as been given at the beginning of this thread:
Tier 5: Capable of doing only one thing, and not necessarily all that well, or so unfocused that they have trouble mastering anything, and in many types of encounters the character cannot contribute. In some cases, can do one thing very well, but that one thing is very often not needed. Has trouble shining in any encounter unless the rest of the party is weak in that situation and the encounter matches their strengths. DMs may have to work to avoid the player feeling that their character is worthless unless the entire party is Tier 4 and below. Characters in this tier will often feel like one trick ponies if they do well, or just feel like they have no tricks at all if they build the class poorly.
I'll try to work from here.
What I posted earlier and reactions I got, are:
What I'm curious about:
First off, remember that Warlocks don't get that creation ability until level 12. The majority of games are actually played below level 10 (according to various surveys I've seen online) which means that most Warlock players will never even get Imbue Item, so it's weighted a bit less for that reason.
JaronK, if this is weighted, then what does the paladin do in tier 5? Because of course, at the high levels it won't be able to compete with high level spells, but especially at lower and mid levels (definitivly up to lvl 12) it is perfectly capable of fulfilling several roles (face, damage dealer, tank, healer, buffs, debuffs & utility), also several within 1 build. I think this http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=10057.0
shows several builds that are capable of that, also with moderate optimization. If it's easier, I can post in the 'why tier 5 are in tier 5' thread a more extensive argument.
Note that "weighted a bit less" isn't the same as not weighted... it's a factor that's considered, but generally speaking I consider 6-15 to be the most important levels to look at (1-5 is most played but the balance differences are also less noticeable in general, while 16+ seems very rarely played). The lower levels of that (6-10) are weighted highest... but I find Paladins have a lot of trouble even relatively early on. They're not great as healers, as their in combat heals are too little to matter and deny them actions, while their out of combat healing is inefficient (especially compared to folks like Binders, Crusaders, Dread Necromancers, etc). MAD is a serious problem for them as well, which reduces their ability to be a face (they need lots of different stats which tends to leave only Dex and Int dumpable... denying them the skill points they'd generally want. Diplomacy is nice but it's likely all they get). As a tank, again that MAD issue makes them worse at this than other high HD heavy armor classes. And there's no way they're going to be able to buff, debuff, and heal on the same character with their limited spell selection, especially in the lower levels, at least not without being very weak in those roles.
In the end, it's hard not to compare the Paladin to the Crusader and see a dramatic difference. Remember that being one Tier apart means the two should still be able to play together well without one completely overwhelming the other. The Crusader, however, will usually make the Pally look pretty silly. Obviously optimization can change this (Battle Blessing is pretty freaking sweet, and Serenity helps a lot) but optimization can pump up the Crusader nicely too. And putting a Crusader in a party with a Paladin is much like having an Unarmed Swordsage with a Monk.
But from level 5/6 is where the paladin starts getting crazy multipliers on charge attacks, as well as either the horsy or the charging smite acf. I don't agree with you that crusader and paladin differ that much, against evil opponents the paladin easily outdamages the crusader, even when the latter uses that crazy 8d8 lvl 4 maneuver. Also, I when you compare paladin to monk... they are really in a different level. Monk can do 1 thing and do it badly (combat), paladin can do combat quite good, and as well a bit of other stuff mentioned above. On 'face' role: they have access to diplomacy, gather information, sense motive, as well as some usefull spells annd detect evil. Simply making a paladin that isn't mounted or with a little higher ability score in int., you can make a very good face, especially for a cha based class.
But I'll post later today something in the tier 5 thread.
There's no denying the sheer damage output of the Core combat whores. The math's been done; on a round-per-round basis, an optimized Monk, Barbarian, Fighter, Rogue, and Paladin can all outdamage the Crusader, Warblade, and Swordsage. While the latter three can access similar tricks, the former has more support in splats, and inevitably the sheer numbers add up.
The reason they still rank so low is that's (usually) all they are good at: Dealing damage. The Bo9S 3 are capable of doing things that make the whores cry (Teleportation at will, constant fly speed, jumping Xty feet as a swift action, giving other characters extra turns, etc).
The Paladin's spells don't kick in until post-4th level (and at that point the spells he does get are fairly worthless). Meanwhile, the Crusader's been digging entire mines with the Mountain Hammer, healing like he was a Wand of Lesser Vigor, and taking it like a man. I won't deny that the Paladin can do some serious damage compared to the Crusader, but that's because maneuvers get out-tempoed very early on.
But that isn't what the Tiers system is based on. The Paladin has ONE option during combat (Mount up and Charge), while the Crusader has several different actions to work with (White Raven is nuts). The Paladin's healing abilities do not compare to a Crusader's. And never mind Turn Undead (seriously, it rarely works unless the DM sends a horde).
SiFir hit all the salient points. Except outliers like Battle Blessing, the Paladin spell list is pretty much junk compared to what other casters are pumping out at comparable ECL, and "I hit it with my Valorous Lance" as your only combat option worth mentioning gets dull as dirt for many of us pretty damned quickly. Crusaders have so much more to do, and do well.
In reply to both Sinfire and InnaBinder: I won't argue that a paladin will have more options in combat then a crusader... the maneuver system makes sure of that. But a paladin's option isn't just 'mount up and charge' and it's spells are, definitely when using spell compendium, far from worthless. Divine insight, for skillmonkey stuff. Benediction (CCh) for a reroll. Lesser restoration as 1st level spell. Find the gap, for 1 touch attack/round (pretty bloody powerful for a class that often only makes one attack/round, when mounted). Rhino rush, for double damage. Phantom charge and knight's move as (situation) teleportation effects. As for combat options: check out the builds people made in thread that I linked to, if you like. You'll find that there are plenty of options for a paladin in combat; there are charging paladins, indeed, but also archer paladins, paladins that rage and intimidate foes, paladins that drain energy (death devotion), paladins with a very high AC, paladins that use bardic music and fight unarmed, etc. Also, they can use the "sudden stunning" enchantment (phb2), only 2k gc, for a lot of stunning attempts/day that are cha-based.
My conclusion: spells don't suck that much at all, and they do have other combat options then CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGE! Btw, on turn undead: no, turning itself you won't find yourself doing a lot, but you can use it to power divine feats and, even more importently, the for a paladin very powerful devotion feats, since a pally prolly won't go DMM, you can use a devotion feat reather early 3-4 times/day.
But besides: even if paladins don't have many more combat options then charge, would that be too bad? Looking at the definition of tier 5, to belong in that tier a class should do 1 thing, and that rather poorly. One-shotting enemies every combat might be boring (I'd tend to agree on that), but it's hella effective, especially if you can have spells and feats that let you reposition or teleport to your target as a swift action. And, if having one effective trick is boring counts for being tier 5, what does the barbarian do in tier 4 then? Because it's doint exactly the same trick (chaaaaaaaaaarge), very effectively. Only without a special mount, without spells, without the social skills and the charisma of the paladin.
Ok, onwards we go: the descriptin this thread gives for the paladin (in spoiler in a vain attempt to keep this readable):
Cons: Paladins suck due to almost the same conditions that make a fighter suck. They are 1~2 trick ponys and every single one of those tricks is considerably lesser than what other classes can do.
First off a Paladin requires four abilities which leads them to having very low scores overall in point buy or to have poor scores in key abilities from low rolls. They have very little to offer skill wise outside of diplomacy, but to even take that a Paladin would require 12 int since their two skill points would be spent in Handle Animal and Ride.
As for their other abilities they are mostly flavorful. Detect Evil for example is pretty moot. If it's attacking then attack back. If it's an evil guy undercover then his alignment is likewise hidden for a handful of coin. Smite Evil is one of the Paladin's signature abilities it's per day usage renders it worthless. By the 20th level you can smite five times per day. Comparatively a Fist of Raziel gives five smites over a ten level period and Ordained Champion gives you 3 + cha mod on the first level. Secondly, the damage bonus isn't all that great. Most people tend to PrC out by the 6th level for better class abilities which means your smite damage is only a mere +6 bonus which is something you could dig up for less than 5k on magical items. Unlike a touch attack spell if you miss with smite it is still expended and don't expect to gain much of an attack bonus with that low charisma. Even new players will see how worthless Remove Disease is so I won't comment on that one. The Code of Conduct is mostly there for players to argue what is allowed or not.
The Charging Smite is a useful and fixes the miss problem with smite and helps them turn into an ubercharger but it costs the Paladin their other signature class ability. The mount. I consider the Mount to be the best Paladin class ability, which in a way tells you just how badly they suck. When you first get it at the 5th level all you can do is replicate a first level spell once per day. Later on it it's worse than the effect of a 3rd level spell called Phantom Steed. At least that steed won't impose a month long penalty to your combat when it gets fireballed.
The spell list too limited to be useful and casting uses up the Paladin's standard action for a minor buff or a cure effect no one has any use for. There is a class substitution to replace the list with wizard spells. But a duskblade is a much, much better choice. So is a sorcerer/fighter/eldritch knight...
Finally anything a Paladin can do a Cleric can do better. Clerics are better at healing, turning, spell casting, summoning pets, and are not that far behind a Paladin combat wise. Divine Power quickly makes up for that. For an added insult there are PrCs that give full Paladin-like flavor and abilities in less levels. A Paladin's build choices are actually more limited than a fighters' who at least has thousands of feats to choose from and are all subpar in the same way JaronK says the fighter's abilities are.
Pros: The base class is quite lacking, but the variant Paladins can be quite useful. Paladin of Tyranny is an awesome 3 level dip, for example, and combined well with Hexblade 4 (with Dark Companion). Standard Paladin 2 is a lot of fun for Kobold Sorcerer gishes, who can take those levels and still have full caster progression (via Loredrake and the Greater Draconic Rite). Note that the PrC Paladin is far stronger than the regular Paladin, though that's partly because it gives all of the useful Paladin abilities in just three levels while losing you only one caster level. And Detect Evil at will can be very handy in some specific sorts of campaigns. -JaronK
I know it isn't a huge deal, but I believe the splat books and, specifically, the Spell Compendium added some noteworthy spells for Paladins. Some of them can be quite cool and useful. I'm not trying to say they bring the Paladin out o this tier, but I feel they are worth mentioning in the Pros section. -Optimator
I'm goint to discuss some of the arguments mentioned here.
They are 1~2 trick ponys and every single one of those tricks is considerably lesser than what other classes can do.
Disagree: I don't know any class that makes better mounted charging builds, and they also know other tricks (partly already mentioned in this post, but I'll come to this again in the conclusion)
First off a Paladin requires four abilities which leads them to having very low scores overall in point buy or to have poor scores in key abilities from low rolls.
As for paladins being MAD, it's truth. But there are two factors that mitigate this disadvantate.
1) there are ways around this! There are alternative class features that get rid of spellcasting, for example holy warrior in Complete Champion. There is also the serenity feat (dragon compendium), which makes all cha based abilities wis bases abilities.
2) All ability scores of a paladin are usefull. In most builds, a paladin has 4 scores that need to be high, and two that are nice to have high. That means that, a paladin gets much stronger in builds with a high point buy (or where you can roll a lot of dice for ability scores). While for example a wizard never will benefit from having 5 good ability scores (cause strength and charisma are negligible), a paladin gets a power boost and can do some skillmonkeying.
Which brings me to...
They have very little to offer skill wise outside of diplomacy, but to even take that a Paladin would require 12 int since their two skill points would be spent in Handle Animal and Ride.
Here I disagree. Having access to diplomacy, gather information and sense motive makes you already a good face/investigator, all skills work on abilities that a paladin has maxed out. Also very useful for that role: detect evil at will; discern lies; zone of truth. Optional: all wizard goodies with Sword of the Arcane order. Besides that: divine insight! Get a decent shot at any skill check that can be made untrained.
I also miss the ranks spent in handle animal: why? To teach tricks to you mount, that isn't an animal but a smart magical beast? Seems like a waste.
With all this, I think a standard human paladin with int 10 can be quite decent with skills.
Smite Evil is one of the Paladin's signature abilities it's per day usage renders it worthless. By the 20th level you can smite five times per day. Comparatively a Fist of Raziel gives five smites over a ten level period and Ordained Champion gives you 3 + cha mod on the first level. Secondly, the damage bonus isn't all that great. Most people tend to PrC out by the 6th level for better class abilities which means your smite damage is only a mere +6 bonus which is something you could dig up for less than 5k on magical items.
This comment disregards the fact that paladins very easily multiply damage. They have a spell for it, and get a mount, so using a lance is also rather basic. That's already a x3. Using corresponding feat (spirited charge) and items (valorous, riding boots), that's already x6... and this isn't hard core optmization, this aren't weird combo's, this is simple "hey, my class does X, are there feats, items or spells that make X better". So, at level 10, smite does +60. At level 15, the smite does +90. And that's just the smite. That's not a shitty amount of damage, even if it can be used only a few times/day that's powerful. Fist of raziel gives max +10 (without multipliers), unless paladin is used as base class. The smite from ordained champion has a heavy cost; every use takes up a turn attempt! Both clerics and paladins have plenty of other uses for those.
The argument that most people tend to PrC out.... well, that's a bit of a circle redenation: paladin sucks because it has no good abilities, people get out of the class early, because people get out of the class early smite never becomes good, so it's a sucky class...
While smite DOES get powerful at the high levels, due to the multipliers it actually scales really well.
I consider the Mount to be the best Paladin class ability, which in a way tells you just how badly they suck. When you first get it at the 5th level all you can do is replicate a first level spell once per day. Later on it it's worse than the effect of a 3rd level spell called Phantom Steed. At least that steed won't impose a month long penalty to your combat when it gets fireballed.
Unlike a 1st level spell, the mount can do decent damage. When not being able to charge, standing in melee, it are quite some extra attacks. Plenty of paladin spells greatly improve the mount, it auto-shares your spells and it's not that easy to kill.
The spell list too limited to be useful and casting uses up the Paladin's standard action for a minor buff or a cure effect no one has any use for.
Accept that, as mentioned, there are plenty of good spells in later splatbooks. Plenty who cost only a swift action, also plenty with long durations (1 hour or 10 min/lvl, so no action loss during combat), so this is really too negative.
Finally anything a Paladin can do a Cleric can do better. Clerics are better at healing, turning, spell casting, summoning pets, and are not that far behind a Paladin combat wise. Divine Power quickly makes up for that. For an added insult there are PrCs that give full Paladin-like flavor and abilities in less levels. A Paladin's build choices are actually more limited than a fighters' who at least has thousands of feats to choose from....
As for the cleric doing everything better: maybe, but only with a lot of effort and building a character designed to do exactly paladin-like stuff... and then not untill quite some levels. The mounted charge route, primary way for paladins to do damage, isn't that easy to obtain for clerics. Of course, with DMM divine power, you'll have full BaB... but you also spent already 3 feats, to spent also you highest level spell to have a full bab at level 7, something a paladin has naturally. The mount: it will take some time before you can call a comparable creature to serve as a mount. The spirited charge line? Sub-par and too feat intensive for a cleric, in general. This also ignores the fact that several paladin abilities scale pretty nicely. The smite, as argued earlier. The spells, the ones I already mentioned stay good, and a lot aren't on the cleric spell list (though obtainable, with some effort, of course) - spells get also much better with the right feats, battle blessing and sword of the arcane order. And the mount of course.
In general, I see where the assesment of paladin as a suboptimal class is coming from, but the judgement 'tier 5' is too harsh. The paladin is neither 'so unfocused that they have trouble mastering anything', nor 'capable of doing only one thing, and not necessarily all that well'.
To mention some strong points of the class:
- turn undead. No, not the ability itself, but the possiblity to fuel divine feats and domain devotion feats! You're a cha based character, so you'll have a lot turn attempts.
- domain devotion feats: so many good ones for a paladin... death for very decent debuffing, travel to move and make a full attack or to position yourself for a charge, animal for access to flight and the strength boost, law for better to hit, extra damage (hi powerattack) or defense, whatever appropriate...
- divine feats: the combat oriented divine feats work on charisma also. The whole multiplier story I held earlier on the smite... also works with divine might.
- other feats: paladin has acces to both battle blessing (all spells as swift action) and sword of the arcane order (access to wizard spells). Both are Really Good. I know the tier system doesn't work in the way that it presumes a class to have it's best feats possible, but having these options as a class does make it more powerful. Especialy battle blessing seems to me the thing for the paladin what natural spell is for the druid.
- with battle blessing, even those sub-par core spells are suddenly a lot better... no, bless at level 7 isn't worth a standard action in combat... but as a swift action that otherwise would be unspent... well, not bad.
- a lot of magic items make the paladin a lot more powerful and/or versatile: riding boots, valorous enchantment, pearls of power, sudden stunning enhancement, nightsticks, reliquary holy symbol, metamagic rod (extend)....
So, next to being ok to very good in hitting things with a big stick (depending on the situation), a paladin can easily be the social character or have a detective like role. The class functions further fine as 2ndary skill monkey, healer, debuffing or buffer. That seems more like "Capable of doing one thing quite well, while still being useful when that one thing is inappropriate, or capable of doing all things, but not as well as classes that specialize in that area." or "Capable of doing one thing quite well, but often useless when encounters require other areas of expertise, or capable of doing many things to a reasonable degree of competance without truly shining". I'd probably go for the latter, since it does take some optimization to do the former.
Well... my 2 cents, hope somebody bothers to read