Oathbreakers: Paladins Who Fell From Grace

The Paladin, a stalwart defender of justice and righteousness, is a cornerstone of many fantasy RPGs.  Clad in shining armor and wielding potent magic, they stand as a beacon of hope against the encroaching darkness.  But what happens when a Paladin strays from their oath? What becomes of their divine power when their heart succumbs to darkness? 

 This is where the Oathbreaker Paladin emerges, a once-noble warrior twisted by ambition, despair, or exposure to corrupting forces.

From Oath to Oblivion: The Fall of an Oathbreaker

Paladins dedicate themselves to sacred oaths, wielding their power for the greater good.  However, various events can lead a Paladin down a dark path, causing them to break their oath and become an Oathbreaker:

Temptation of Power: The allure of immense strength or forbidden magic can be too much to resist for some Paladins.  They may make pacts with dark entities or delve into forbidden knowledge, forever tainting their souls.

Loss and Despair: The horrors of war, the betrayal of loved ones, or the crushing weight of failure can shatter a Paladin’s faith.  Consumed by despair, they may abandon their ideals and embrace vengeance or cynicism.

Twisted Duty:  A Paladin’s devotion to their oath can become warped by circumstance.  They may believe their actions, however horrific, are necessary for a “greater good” only they perceive.

A Shadow of Their Former Glory: Oathbreaker Abilities

The fall from grace doesn’t diminish an Oathbreaker’s martial prowess.  They retain their combat skills and heavy armor proficiency, making them formidable foes.  However, their connection to divine magic is replaced by a dark and corrupting power:

Aura of Hate:  An Oathbreaker radiates an aura of despair, weakening and frightening nearby enemies.

Necromantic Power:  They can channel necrotic energy, inflicting grievous wounds and even commanding undead creatures.

Spiteful Suffering:  Their attacks inflict lingering pain and weakness on their foes.

Control Undead:  Oathbreakers can bend the will of lesser undead to their service, creating a horrifying retinue of dark servants.

Dreadful Aspect:  Some Oathbreakers become monstrous parodies of their former selves, gaining terrifying physical mutations that reflect their corrupted souls.

Oathbreakers in Your Campaign (For Dungeon Masters)

Oathbreakers can be compelling antagonists in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Here are some ways to incorporate them into your world:

Fallen Champions:  A once-noble Paladin who succumbed to darkness can become a powerful enemy lieutenant or even the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) of a campaign.

Renegade Orders:  An entire order of Paladins could have been corrupted, turning them into a dangerous and fanatical force.

Moral Complexity:  Not all Oathbreakers are purely evil.  Some may be conflicted, clinging to remnants of their former ideals while struggling with their dark urges.  This creates opportunities for redemption arcs or morally ambiguous encounters.

Playing an Oathbreaker (For Players)

If your Dungeon Master allows it, playing an Oathbreaker Paladin can be a unique and challenging experience. Here are some things to consider:

Motivation:  Flesh out your character’s backstory and the reasons for their fall from grace.  What was their oath? How did they break it?

Roleplaying the Darkness:  Oathbreakers grapple with inner turmoil.  Do they embrace their darkness or fight against it?  How does their corruption manifest in their personality and interactions with others?

Mechanical Considerations:  Oathbreaker abilities are geared towards inflicting pain and controlling undead.  Build your character with feats and spells that complement this playstyle.

Remember, Oathbreakers are not simply evil Paladins.  They are complex characters with a tragic past and a powerful connection to the darkness.  Whether as an antagonist or a player character, the Oathbreaker represents a cautionary tale – a reminder of the potential for even the most virtuous to fall from grace.


The Oathbreaker Paladin is a powerful, but morally complex subclass in Dungeons & Dragons.  They are paladins who have strayed from their sacred oaths, wielding dark power in exchange for martial prowess.  This FAQ delves into the depths of this intriguing subclass, answering the questions that have oathbreakers brooding by the campfire.

What is an Oathbreaker Paladin?

An Oathbreaker Paladin is a fallen paladin who has broken their sacred oath. This transgression can be a single, momentous betrayal or a gradual descent into darkness. Regardless of the path, their connection to the divine light is severed, replaced by a shadowy power that grants them immense strength.

Why would a Paladin become an Oathbreaker?

There are many reasons a paladin might break their oath:

Despair: Witnessing horrific events or suffering immense personal loss can lead a paladin to question their faith and embrace darkness.

Temptation: Powerful entities may offer forbidden power in exchange for service.

Pragmatism: The harsh realities of the world might convince a paladin that a darker path is necessary to achieve their goals.

What are the hallmarks of an Oathbreaker Paladin?

Dreadful Aspect: They can unleash a terrifying aura that frightens enemies.

Aura of Hate: Their presence weakens and demoralizes foes.

Control Undead: They can bend undead creatures to their will.

Necrotic Strike: Their attacks deal necrotic damage, fueled by the power of death.

Is an Oathbreaker Paladin a villain?

Not necessarily. While they wield dark power, Oathbreakers can still strive for a twisted sense of justice or pursue their own goals, even if those goals are morally ambiguous. They can be compelling anti-heroes or even tragic figures.

How do I play an Oathbreaker Paladin effectively?

Embrace the Darkness: Don’t shy away from the dark aspects of the subclass. Lean into the intimidation factor and relish the necromantic power.

Roleplay the Fall: Develop a backstory for your oathbreaking. Why did your paladin fall? How does it affect them?

Find Your Moral Compass: Even in darkness, there can be a guiding principle. Is your Oathbreaker a reluctant villain or a champion of a darker order?

Party Dynamics: Discuss your character concept with your party beforehand. An Oathbreaker can be an interesting addition, but make sure they complement the group’s goals.

Resources for the Fallen:

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook: The official rules for the Oathbreaker Paladin subclass.

Dungeon Dudes Oathbreaker Guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQYKEmUEn1M

Oathbreaker Paladin Builds: https://www.dndbeyond.com/forums/d-d-beyond-general/bugs-support/31996-cant-find-the-option-for-the-oathbreaker-paladin

Remember: Oathbreaker Paladins are a complex and versatile subclass. Embrace the darkness, explore the moral ambiguity, and create a character that will leave a lasting impression at your gaming table.

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