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When Xanathar’s Guide to Everything unveiled the new Paladin Oath of Conquest, I immediately noticed the concept was unique to D&D. No other class utilizes the Frightened condition like this subclass. For this reason, I reckon it’s worth writing about. I hope I convince you to try the character concept for yourself. I’ll begin with a fictional character that portrays the Oath of Conquest to me.
Example: Udō Jin-e
In my teenage years, I enjoyed Toonami on Cartoon Network in the evenings. One show that I enjoyed most was Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X). I enjoyed the creative variety of weapons and fighting styles in the series. One character possessed something of a supernatural power to paralyze foes with his glare alone, even paralyzing their lungs until they suffocate. His name was Udō Jin-e, the first real threat to the protagonist of the show. He also used an ultimate technique, hypnotizing himself into maximizing his potential as a swordsman.
You can read his bio in this Rurouni Kenshin fan wiki. The gist is that he’s a famous manslayer from a war that recently ended, leaving him with no real place in the world. Killing was his passion, and he enjoyed instilling fear in others, particularly as expressed on their faces before he slew them. He seeks powerful opponents, even manipulating their loved ones so he can force fierce opponents to fight at their full potential. Udō Jin-e’s power is described in this superpower wiki as “Hypnotic Combat” that combines hypnotic and combat fighting skill.
Class: Paladin of Conquest
Udō Jin-e exemplifies the tenants of the Oath of Conquest from the Paladin class in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:
“Douse the Flame of Hope. It is not enough to merely defeat an enemy in battle. Your victory must be so overwhelming that your enemies’ will to fight is shattered forever. A blade can end a life. Fear can end an empire.
Rule with an Iron Fist. Once you have conquered, tolerate no dissent. Your word is law. Those who obey it shall be favored. Those who defy it shall be punished as an example to all who might follow.
Strength Above All. You shall rule until a stronger one arises. Then you must grow mightier and meet the challenge, or fall to your own ruin.”
While Udō Jin-e is not portrayed as a political ruler or leader of soldiers, his ideologies match eerily well with the Paladin of Conquest. The kicker for me is how he uses fear, just like the Conquest Paladin’s Channel Divinity option, Conquering Presence, coupled with the Aura of Conquest. Under the aura, creatures frightened of you have their movement speed reduced to zero. This effect imitates Udō Jin-e’s paralyzing powers, including the lung paralysis resembling the psychic damage the aura deals, like a ticking clock as the victim slowly succumbs to the fear.
Paladins of Conquest also receive perfect Oath Spells for this concept: Command, Hold Person, Bestow Curse, Fear, Dominate Beast, and Dominate Person. Even Stoneskin and Armor of Agathys could be described as Udō Jin-e’s ultimate technique of self-hypnosis to realize his potential. Mechanically speaking, Paladin’s aren’t the strongest spellcasters, so I recommend beefing up the character’s Charisma score to raise the spells’ DC.
Scornful Rebuke is an interesting addition to Udō Jin-e’s abilities as he psychically punishes any who would attack him. His fighting spirit is so strong that it overwhelms the minds of other fighters. This is another fun reason to beef up your Charisma score; you’ll deal more damage with Scornful Rebuke.
The capstone level-twenty feature, Invincible Conqueror, is a perfect pay off to Udō Jin-e. He hypnotizes himself into believing he is invincible, shrugging off all damage as he believes himself to be impervious to it. His attacks become more ferocious and swift; his action economy increases while landing critical hits more easily.
The Paladin Oath of Conquest is just perfect for playing a character based on Udō Jin-e. It’s a unique character build that relies on fear effects unlike anything I’ve seen from other classes. I promise a mechanically unique experience while playing with this character concept.
I’ll give advice on optimal choices for creating your own Paladin of Conquest (departing from the example of Udō Jin-e). The stats to focus on are Strength (possible alternative with Dexterity), Constitution, and Charisma. Here are official playable races (as of April 2020) that I’d recommend due to their thematic fit and stat boost relevance.
- Aasimar: Scourge and Fallen Aasimar have strong stats for Paladin builds, and the Fallen Aasimar’s Necrotic Shroud sports a minor fear effect.
- Dragonborn: In addition to relevant stat boosts, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything added a racial feat for Dragonborn characters, called Dragon Fear. The feat allows a Dragonborn to use its Breath Weapon as a fear effect. It’s not very powerful, but if you want more fear options to play up the frightening theme, it fits. Plus, dragons typically have an imposing presence that causes fear, so a Dragonborn character that uses fear is thematically strong. I have an article where I rate all feats if you want to browse it and see my review of Dragon Fear (spoiler, it’s bad).
- Tiefling: Descendents of Zariel (reference Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) receive relevant Strength and Charisma bonuses, and additional smite spells. Descendents of Levistus and Glasya (for Dex-based character) will also do well.
Going back to the example of Udō Jin-e, character backgrounds that make sense to me are the Criminal (Hired Killer) and the Soldier (Infantry). The criminal makes sense because the character could be someone with a gift for killing that has ambition at her back. A soldier background could easily portray Udō Jin-e’s backstory of being comfortable as a government lackey with a license to kill in wartime, but now peace has rendered him obsolete and abandoned. I also imagine the background of Folk Hero could be twisted into something of an urban legend, telling tales of a psychotic killer that was never caught.
You don’t have to go the evil route with this type of character, but it easily lends itself to evil conceptually. If you want to pursue conquest for benevolent reasons, you can flavor the character concept to be misguided or brutal on the road to justice. Characters like Negan in the Walking Dead could fit this persona, appearing good to those he protects, while appearing evil to those he crushes. Negan definitely used fear as a weapon against the protagonists of the fictional zombie show/comic. Paladins of Conquest are likely to be foils or antiheroes, so have fun setting your character up for interesting roleplaying moments as they depart from the usual goody-two-shoes paladin posturing.
Your Paladin of Conquest will be most fun if you focus on melee combat due to the Aura of Conquest. I particularly recommend specialization with polearm weapons so you can keep enemies ten feet away while still attacking them with Reach weapons and keeping Frightened enemies within your aura. You want to keep Frightened creatures within your ten-foot aura because they will take psychic damage and have their speed dropped to zero, meaning they can’t get away from your Reach attacks. Enemies in this predicament will need to find other means to defend themselves. Remember they’ll also have disadvantage on attack rolls against you while Frightened.
Sources of the Frightened spell sometimes cause additional effects, such as the Fear spell forcing its victims to drop what they’re holding. If you cast Fear, allow enemies to run away from their weapons, then engage them in close quarters with your Aura of Conquest, you may find that you’ve successfully removed their weaponry or spellcasting focuses, and the fight is won. Study your spell options to best use fear effects so you can enjoy a character that uniquely wins encounters.
Scornful Rebuke is a powerful ability that may seem weak at first. It is not limited by range, and can be used without limit other than you being incapacitated. Psychic damage is premium as few creatures resist it. Scornful Rebuke effectively allows you to harm anyone that harms you with an attack, so don’t shy away from functioning as a tank in combat.
Feats that make sense include Heavy Armor Master, War Caster, Tough, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Martial Adept, Great Weapon Master, Inspiring Leader, Mobile, and Charger. My top picks will narrow it down for you since you’ll probably spend several of your ASI to boost your stats. Charisma is more important for this type of Paladin because you want to avoid enemies saving against your fear effects. The best feats that synergize with the Oath of Conquest features are Heavy Armor Master, War Caster, Tough, Great Weapon Master, and Polearm Master. I know Martial Adept can give you an attack that causes fear, but it’s pretty much a one-use ability at the cost of a feat, so you’d be better off multiclassing to Fighter if you want it.
Heavy Armor Master and Tough will make you tankier so you can use Scornful Rebuke on your enemies as you refuse to yield. Polearm Master empowers you to use polearms as mentioned earlier. Deal +10 damage with attacks using Great Weapon Master since you have the +10 Guided Strike Channel Divinity up your sleeve to make sure you land your brutal attacks. War Caster allows you to cast your spells without worrying about having your hands full with weapons and shields (depending on your build). Take these recommendations and decide for yourself what you want to prioritize to have fun with your conquesting Paladin.
Once you hit level twenty and can transform with Invincible Conqueror, you’ll truly punish any who oppose you as you rebuke their attacks with psychic damage while resisting all damage and reducing damage with Heavy Armor Master. I highly recommend specializing in this Paladin class without multiclassing unless you believe your campaign will end before you reach level 15, in which case you might multiclass to have some fun with the levels you have.
I hope I’ve convinced you to try this fun character concept. The Paladin Oath of Conquest has unique, powerful abilities and spells that will put a smile on your face. Just like Udō Jin-e, your fighting spirit and conquering destiny will supernaturally empower you on your rise to fame and legend.
That’s it for this article. Cast Message to tell me all about your character concepts you conjure up as you ponder this Paladin subclass. Thank you for reading; take luck in your adventures!
Find more ideas for your Paladin by re-flavoring at the Cleric Corner.