Nerdarchy set out to come up with the best races to play a paladin. We had to comb through all the current D&D books to find the answer to the question. The purpose of our discussion is to figure the optimal mechanical D&D race selection.
Disclaimer: Best is for the most part subjective. We are speaking purely from a mechanics stand point. Fun is a personal matter for each person to determine for themselves.
Below we’ve broken down our race selections based on different criteria. Those criteria are relevant ability score modifiers, racial traits, and thematic elements. In this case for the paladin we are looking at Charisma as the prime ability score, followed by strength. We also include a Charisma- and Dexterity-based build as well. Finally there is the concept of the unorthodox character build that doesn’t worry about ability score placement as heavily.
Best D&D race to play for the paladin
Next up we’ve got D&D race features.These are things lending themselves to being useful or thematic to the particular D&D character class. in this case those racial features lending themselves to being a paladin.
Below we’ll get into picking the best D&D race by the numbers to play a paladin.
Good for any D&D character class
These are races in 5E D&D with flexible ability score adjustments which make these good for any D&D character class.
- Half-elf — +2 Charisma and a +1 to any other two ability scores
- Human (standard) — +1 to every ability score
- Human (variant) — two +1s any two ability scores and the choice of a skill and a feat
Strength/Tank based paladin builds
These are all races with an ability score bonus to both Strength and Charisma.
- Aasimar — +2 Charisma, the scourge subrace gets +1 Constitution, the fallen subrace gets +1 Strength.
- Dragonborn — +1 Charisma and +2 Strength
- Tiefling (Zariel variant) — +2 Charisma and +1 Strength
- Triton — +1 Strength, +1 Constitution, and +1 Charisma
- Warforged — juggernaught subrace gets+1 Constitution and +2 Strength, envoy subrace gets +1 Constitution and +1 to any two ability scores
All of these races match up in Strength or Charisma, but not both.
- Kalashtar — +1 Charisma, +1 Wisdom, and +1 to any ability score
- Tielfling — +2 Charism, +1 Intelligence [NERDITOR’S NOTE: My first 5E D&D character was a tiefling paladin — tons of fun!]
- Warforged (juggernaught subrace) — +1 Constitution and +2 Strength
- Half-orc –+2 Strength and +1 Constitution
Dexterity-based paladin builds
This group of races get a bonus to both Dexterity and Charisma.
- Elf (drow subrace) — +1 Charisma and +2 Dexterity
- Halfling (lightfoot Subrace) — +1 Charisma and +2 Dexterity
- Tabaxi — +1 Charisma and +2 Dexterity
D&D race traits
These races have specific racial features lending themselves to being tanky holy warriors.
- Aasimar — Healing Hands: Adding extra healing complements the paladin’s ability to heal through spells and Lay on Hands
- Kalashtar — Dual Mind: It makes their mind as tanky as their bodies
- Half-orc — Savage Critical and Relentless Endurance: These two abilities make a melee
- Human (variant) — Feat: Allows you to focus on whatever part of being a paladin you want
- Halfling — Lucky: Being in the thick of combat gives a lot of chances to reroll those 1’s
- Tieflings — Hellish Rebuke or Smite Spells (branding smite and searing smite): Both abilities are useful for a tank — having access to extra smites is super useful for a paladin.
Plain and simple, these races feel like they should be paladins.
- Aasimar — literally touched by celestial beings like angels
- Triton — Their noble bearing screams paladin
- Tiefling — Perfect for telling a redemption story
Top D&D race picks
Here we finally get to our top pick for the best race to play a paladin.
- Aasimar (fallen and scourge) — Essentially an angelic race, how could we not put them on the list?
- Warforged (envoy) — Warforged are literally made for war and combat. Paladins make one of the best tanks in D&D. Combine the warforged racial traits with the flexibility of the envoy subrace and they make amazing paladins.
- Tiefling (Zariel variant) — Spawned of a fallen angel and infused with smite spellcasting abilities makes Zariel tieflings perfect for the redemption arc as characters who wish to fight against their heritage.
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My name is Dave Friant I’ve been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it’s always been a part of my life I’ve kept secret and hidden away. I’ve always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth.
Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I’m gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life.
Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG’s.