Paladins are state-sanctioned spiritual warriors who can smack foes across the head with either sword or scripture depending on what the situation demands. They tend to be unbearably smug about it.
- HOLY HANDS: Starts the dungeon session with the HALPMEH glyph, regains +1 HP/level using Halpmeh glyph.
- HOLY WORK: Cannot switch religions, god boons cost 20% less and gods will not punish for piety dropping to 0
- HOLY SHIELD: Physical resistance starts at +25%
Holy Work is the Paladin's defining double-edged class feature, which balances the inability to convert against lower piety costs and an immunity to punishment. Being unable to convert forces the Paladin to use deities monotheistically, which means that deities which normally rely on conversion need to be used differently. However, the Paladin's immunity to punishment compensates for this in two ways, firstly, you don't get punished for angering gods at 0 piety, which means that a Paladin does not need to worry about getting locked out of piety gain (especially relevant with Binlor and Earthmother) and can take actions most classes would need indulgences for. Secondly, any piety lost when a Paladin is at 0 piety effectively isn't lost, which can radically increase your overall piety gain with some gods. Lastly, the lower piety cost of boons allows you to get more stat-boosting boons or to get major boons faster, as well as to store up more one-off boons for use against bosses. While the Paladin's other traits primarily encourage his use as a melee fighter, Holy Work makes him more or less as versatile as your proficiency with the gods and understanding of piety gain and loss will allow.
Holy Hands both starts the Paladin with HALPMEH and lets him restore 1 extra HP/level with it. This complements his physical resistance and encourages regen-fighting, as he gets more usefulness (against non-magical monsters) from each HP restored by it than a character without resistances would. It also lets the Paladin effectively regen-fight against poisonous monsters such as the Serpent without needing to level up to clear poison afterwards, as well as letting him return to full health without using as much black space as most classes would. Holy Shield gives the Paladin 25% physical resistance, which makes the Paladin generally favour physical attackers (for instance, snakes or medusas) over magical ones (such as warlocks or wraiths), and also encourages the Paladin to be careful about racking up an unclearable number of layers of Curse.
While the most obvious locker item for a Paladin is the Dragon Shield, since it boosts his resistances substantially and complements the resistance building several deities offer him, specific god strategies reward a variety of preps. Binlor Paladins can get a lot of use out of the Rock Heart (to effectively convert piety to health and mana), Dracul Paladins out of the Vampiric Blade and GG Paladins out of the Fire Heart. EM Paladins can get some mileage out of the Platemail combined with Vine Form. If focussing on HALPMEH, the paladin benefits enormously from the Soul Orb to grant immunity to mana burn. Non-human paladins will generally prefer the attack booster preparation to increase their attack damage. Paladins tend to favour more balanced builds than other melee characters, juggling resistances, mana, health and damage bonuses as well as piety gain and boon use.
Due to his inability to convert and other religion-focused class features, the Paladin plays very differently based on which deity he chooses to worship.
The Glowing Guardian is one of the strongest deity choices for a Paladin for a plethora of reasons. Item conversion can fuel early-game absolutions, which benefit enormously from the favorable rounding of the reduced piety cost. A GG Paladin does not need to worry about his crippling punishment and can use health and mana potions after consuming all his piety, HALPMEH allows you to deliberately poison yourself for extra piety gain and an early enlightenment can really add to the Paladin's strength. He also avoids the usual problem worshipers of the Glowing Guardian face, overshooting the 100 piety for Enlightenment and wasting much of their piety gain. With a cost of 80, this is unlikely to happen to the Paladin. Cleansing is superb for physically-driven Paladins, allowing him to break through enemies with physical resistance or clear unwanted debuffs after fighting Corrosive or Weakening foes. The use of poison effects, lifesteal, or BLUDTUPOWA hit your piety reserves much too hard, and you should avoid using them even with your protection from punishment.
The Dracul Paladin has similar advantages to Glowing Guardian, in that he can combine Blood Swells, Bloodpools and even Lifesteal with healing potions and HALPMEH that are normally despised by this deity. The Dracul Paladin has a harder early game, since his piety gain is scarcer and sanguine in particular can really hurt your max HP. His late game is comparably strong, with his +15/15 resistances complimenting the Paladin's natural physical resistance, over-heal to circumvent lower max health and the ton of extra health offered by sanguine and repeated bloodswells. Taking out undead (especially in the late game) in rounds after using up your piety is very helpful for avoiding piety loss. Bringing in a Vampiric Blade can help with Dracul's low early piety gain.
Tikki Tooki also offers very useful boons throughout the game and the Paladin benefits substantially from not having to risk his often unmanageable punishments through carelessness. The main issue with TT and particularly a prepped TT is that an incautious Paladin can hemorrhage piety in the mid-game, which will hurt their net piety gain, especially if the Paladin wants to leverage their physical resistances or save up for fairly high-cost second ranks of boons.
Paladins of Taurog are unable to convert out, which makes Taurog's function as a piety farm irrelevant if not paired with the Pactmaker, but compensate for this with a very strong early game on account of how quickly the -20% piety cost lets them rack up Taurog's gear, and the fact that with good timing they can combine spellcasting with high-damage attacks in the early game. The +15/15% resistances from Taurog complement the Paladin's own, and that of any gear he may find or prep, and the +20% damage bonus from Taurog's boons is very useful for a melee class without any built-in damage bonus. Taurog Paladins are not punished for converting Taurog's gear. While this should be avoided until you've definitely used every death protection you can, in an absolutely desperate case it can push you over a conversion threshold, which might clinch a very close game. The Paladin can get more death protections than any other Taurog user for a massive end game spike.
Mystera Annur is one of the most disappointing choices for a Paladin, since she offers no obvious synergy with his class features, and her piety gain is generous enough that he'll rarely get to or need to leverage Holy Work. Getting refreshment early is nice, but since HALPMEH already costs 5 mana he gets no particular value out of mystic balance and flames works completely counter to his usual approach.
The Earthmother is a tricky but rewarding deity for a Paladin to use, since his reduced piety cost interacts well with Vine Form and Clearance, and she offers a lot of extra XP over the game. However, plant generation can create serious mobility problems, especially when Earthmother is prepped. Using the Paladin's immunity to punishment to completely clear out plants when your piety runs low is an excellent approach. As with Binlor and Taurog, other classes tend to favour using EM as part of a conversion strategy, but unlike Binlor and Taurog her synergies with the paladin are not so immediately obvious. Three things to note are that a prepped soul orb allows a paladin to clear out almost all plants effortlessly, using early vine form and greenbloods will give you a major leg up and that an Earthmother Paladin can liberally use IMAWAL followed by Entanglement midfight as a reliable slow for the cost of five piety and an extra wall in the dungeon when other classes would be more worried about blocking themselves in. The key to effective Earthmother Paladin use is well-timed gardening and generating piety a little at a time to fuel your boons.
Paladins of Binlor Ironshield tend to work in more or less the opposite manner to most Binlor devotees, focusing on clearing out their piety reserves before a level-up to avoid the -10 piety hit. A well-managed Binlor Paladin will thus have 80-90 more piety to spare over a game than other Binlor users. The Binlor Paladin can compliment their physical resists with magic resists, as well as getting good functionality out of the very powerful Stone Form and Stone Fist boons. The stone skin boon, with its reduced cost, is particularly useful. Once he has knockback, a Paladin can regain piety almost as quickly as he spends it, letting him perpetually keep his physical resists maxed out while building up more magic resistance. While Binlor Paladins don't really want to be locked out of boons by using up all of a level's walls, they aren't in any danger of punishment if they do. Additionally, while most Binlor devotees tend to convert out to more attractive late-game deities before their piety gain is superseded by wall loss, Binlor's Paladins instead rely on the very useful late-game stoneskin (65% phys res. and Might for 12 piety) and rocketing magic resistance. Binlor paladins can use IMAWAL to build a wall without punishment, thus using spare piety at level end to provide extra walls for knockback, piety generation or boon fuel.
Jehora Jeheyu is a strong monotheistic deity, but JJ Paladins lose all benefit from Holy Work. Jehora never actually deducts piety, and Holy Work does not protect you from his random fits of "boredom", so all you receive is the boon cost discount. This still isn't a bad deal, and getting petition earlier in particular is quite useful. Paladins of Jehora Jeheyu can more easily obtain multiple uses of his boosts and can have massive health and mana values.
The Pactmaker still functions for the Paladin, and this is the only case where the Paladin can benefit from multiple deities in the same dungeon run, but he receives no discount on the cost of Pacts. Paladins can often push pact use a little more confidently than other classes, since they're unconcerned about punishment. The body pact in particular is a powerful choice, building on the Paladin's natural resistances, and works particularly well with Taurog, who offers too much piety for the Paladin to actually use and other sources of resistances to stack with this pact.