Another class rename here – the paladin has become the herald. It makes some sense, and fits squarely the the genre of fantasy that the designers seem to be aiming at.
Things that stay the same up to level 10:
Divine Sense and Lay on Hands at level 1, Divine Smite at level 2, Oath features at levels 3 and 7, ASI at levels 4 and 8, and Extra Attack at level 5.
Things that are gone:
Spellcasting isn’t gone , it’s just moved down to level 1 (more on that below), Fighting Style is gone, Divine Health is moved into Exploration Knacks (so actually appears available at the same level), and Auras of Protection and Courage are now part of the Saced Aura feature (see below).
What new stuff are we getting instead?
At character creation we gain access to Acrobatics and History as potential class skills, the equipment kits include Blessed Explorer and Divine Warrior, Spellcasting is moved to level 1 now and includes cantrips (I especially want to know what arcane muscles does) but the rest of the spell slot progression remains the same, at level 2 we get Combat Manoeuvres and also Divine Smite as a class feature, which gains 1d8 of damage every few levels, Exploration Knacks appear from level 3, level 4 adds Empowered Smite, level 5 gives Heraldic Sermon, level 6 brings Sacred Aura, 8 has Greater Empower Smite, there’s Inspired Devotion at level 9, and finally Improved Sacred Aura at level 10.
I’ll skip over Spellcasting since I basically explained it all above, and I’ll just say the Combat Manoeuvres available come from the Sanguine Knot, Spirited Steed and Tempered Iron flavours – the next playtest packet is all about Manoeuvres, so I’ll save talking about them for then.
Divine Smite is a nice touch. Instead of using a spell and concentration, a herald can spend their bonus action to add 1d8 of radiant damage a number of times equal to proficiency bonus per long rest.
The Exploration Knacks available to a herald seem pretty limited – there’s only eight of them in the playtest. Maybe that will expand, or at higher levels they can grab from the fighter or cleric lists.
As mentioned, Divine Health has become a knack. There’s plenty of interesting ones in the others – Bestowed Understanding means making an Insight check to understand the basic message of a language the character doesn’t know, and Sense import triggers a Divine Sense of places that are holy or unholy, or used to be. Do Without even means going without food or water without suffering adverse effects for a time.
Empowered Smite brings bonus effects to the Divine Smite ability once per long rest and thereafter by expending a spell slot.
Igniting Smite changes radiant damage for fire damage, and the target has to make a Constitution save or they’re on fire. Marking Smite causes the targeted creature to shed bright light for a minute, giving it disadvantage to hide and not be invisible (but not advantage on attacks against it, like faerie fire or guiding bolt?). Repelling Smite makes the targeted creature make a Strength save or be pushed back and knocked prone.
Heraldic Sermon comes in three flavours. Devout gives proficiency in Persuasion and potential advantage to influence others, Evangelism gives proficiency in Performance and potential advantage to convert others to the herald’s cause, and Fearmonger brings proficiency in Intimidation and potential advantage to intimidate others using faith.
Sacred Aura also comes in three flavours: Courage, Resistance and Willpower.
Courage stops allied creatures in range from being frightened, Resistance gives bonuses on saving throws equal to the herald’s Charisma modifier to those in range, and Willpower stops allied creatures in range from being charmed.
Greater Empowered Smite gives new options for Divine Smite, and the additional powers can now be used twice before spell slots must be used.
Blinding Smite blinds a creature for a minute if they fail a Constitution save. Disorienting Smite swaps psychic damage for radiant and brings disadvantage on attack rolls for a minute on a failed Wisdom save. Taunting Smite means the target has to make a Wisdom save or take additional radiant damage when attacking anyone but the herald.
Inspiring Devotion is a way for the herald to use their oath in social situations to gain further assistance. Lend Faith allows an ally within 30 feet to add the herald’s Charisma modifier to a saving throw or ability check once per short rest. Reveal Heresy gives proficiency in and double proficiency modifier in Insight checks (but not expertise dice, weirdly), and when a creature is lying to the herald a secret Charisma save can potentially tip off the herald. Truth of Conviction lets the herald or an ally who are truth-telling as part of a Charisma ability check treat a roll of 10 or less as an 11 once per long rest (there’s no range on that too, weirdly).
Lastly, improved Sacred Aura brings additional aura options. Aura of Healing boosts ally’s healing spells cast within the aura, Aura of Overcoming makes all ally’s attacks made within the aura magical, and Aura of Smiting gives ally’s attacks within the aura the chance to do half of the herald’s class level in radiant damage, but only on a critical.
And that’s it for heralds. I’ve not played a paladin in a few editions of D&D now, but I might have to go back and draw from that well. Some of these options look like a lot of fun.