D&D 5e: The Oath of Binding

A paladin of any particular oath might be obligated by circumstance to guard something evil that has been imprisoned, or something good that must be kept safe. This Oath, though, is for those who make guardianship the core of their duty, binding themselves to their armor. The oath sustains them without need for food or drink, so that they can take up posts in remote locations without access to supplies. Like this guy.

Oath of Binding (Paladin)

The Oath of Binding is regarded with a mixture of dread and wonder, for its knights are warrior ascetics like no other. It is a duty that is like unto a punishment: once they don their armor, they do not remove it except for the rarest of circumstances. They lose touch with many of the customs of society (and biology), but in return they are never unprepared for battle or distracted from their charge by mere physical matters.

Tenets of Binding

Preparation. If at any moment you are not prepared for battle, take such actions as correct this immediately. (This tenet permits armor to be removed for the sake of putting on new armor, and sleep so that you may be rested.) Have a plan for when things go wrong.
Tenacity. You will be overwhelmed; you will falter. You fail only when you despair. When nothing else sustains you, you still have your oath.
Understanding. To struggle against great powers, study them and understand their strengths as well as weaknesses.
Protection. It is not given to us to judge guilt and innocence; guilty and innocent alike shall suffer and die if we fail in our charge.
Celibacy (optional). Emotional attachments and physical desires distract us from our charge.

Oath Spells:

3rd: entangle, shield of faith
5th: hold person, see invisibility
9th: glyph of warding, magic circle
13th: locate creature, stone shape
17th: hold monster, wall of force

Channel Divinity

When you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options.
Sacred Armor. As an action, you can imbue one suit of heavy armor that you are wearing with positive energy, using your Channel Divinity. For 1 minute, when you take damage from any source, subtract your Charisma modifier from the total. For the duration of this effect, you cannot be moved from your current position against your will, except through teleportation. You can end this effect on your turn as part of any other action.
Iron Grip. When a creature within 10 feet of you that you can see moves farther away from you, including teleportation, you can use your Channel Divinity to restrict their movement. As a reaction, roll a melee spell attack against the creature (even if it is outside your natural reach). On a hit, the creature takes 2d8 force damage; its speed is reduced to 0 and it cannot leave its current space until the end of your next turn. Even if you miss, its speed is halved until the end of your next turn; if it teleported, you know its destination.

Bound in Armor

When you take this oath at 3rd level, you ceremonially don a suit of heavy armor. While you wear a suit of heavy armor and have not violated your oaths, you do not require food or drink to survive, and heavy armor does not interfere with your ability to sleep. In general, the only reasons a paladin of the Oath of Binding removes their armor is to repair it, or because they have acquired a better suit of heavy armor that they intend to don immediately.

Aura of Iron Doom

Starting at 7th level, enemies within 10 feet of you who have their speed reduced by any means suffer disadvantage on saving throws against spells you cast.

The Forge Within

Starting at 15th level, you can use your Lay on Hands and Cleansing Touch features even while incapacitated, as long as you are conscious.

If you are unconscious at the beginning of your turn, you can spend 20 points from your Lay on Hands healing pool to heal yourself for 1 hit point. This costs your action for the turn.

Iron Juggernaut

At 20th level, you can assume the form of an implacable titan of iron.

Using your action, you transform yourself into an iron juggernaut, and your armor completely merges with your body. For 1 minute, gain the following benefits:

  • Your size increases to Large. This increases your reach to 10 ft., and your weapon attacks deal an additional 1d6 damage. You gain advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws. Your weight increases by a factor of 8. If you are already Large or larger, this feature has no effect.
  • You gain resistance to all damage types except psychic. When you would take fire damage, you instead regain hit points equal to your level or half the damage dealt, whichever is smaller.
  • You are immune to any spell or effect that would alter your form. This does not end spells or effects already affecting you.
  • Your speed cannot be reduced against your will.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a long rest.

Design Notes

The Oath of Binding is definitely not for every setting; in fact, it’s explicitly for J.M. Perkins’s City of Salt-in-Wounds setting, and will be fine-tuned to whatever suits him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still interested in critique! Just… “my setting has no use for this” is not useful critique in this case. I would allow it in Aurikesh, of course.

The core image here is of a warrior encased in armor that they can no longer remove, perhaps spiked in place. I had to leave room for gear upgrades, though, since just about no one has plate armor by 3rd level, and the image really wants plate armor (that I wasn’t willing to hand out for free). This also meant I needed a workaround for basic biology (…look, shut up, I have a three-year-old, everybody poops), which is why the oath stops the need to eat and drink. That this also makes them the perfect knights for endless guard shifts in remote locations was a happy accident, and usefully expanded the archetypes I was covering.

As a result, though, paladins of the Oath of Binding need a bit more of a kick out the door to go adventuring than most paladins do. That flavor text might get massaged, or treated as a feature. Who knows?

Expanding from their locked-in nature, I made them all about locking down a fight – preventing forced movement to themselves, or preventing enemies from moving around them. Offensive paladin CD effects are a trick to balance, compared to cleric CD effects, because they don’t scale up past 1 per short rest. Devotion and Ancients cover for this by making one of their options just not come up all that much, because they’re locked to creature types; Vengeance has two options that have fairly similar and broad ideal use-cases. For Binding, I think one of the big risks is that you might never use either because you’re worried you’ll need the other one. On the other hand, Iron Grip (in combination with Aura of Iron Doom) can be a great setup for a devastating spell, either a smite or a hold.

The Forge Within is sort of a freestanding experiment in itself: paladins have a lot of class features bouncing around, but I haven’t seen many Oaths that expand on their uses. Spending your whole action on Cleansing Touch isn’t a great use of time in a lot of cases. The goal, then, is to see Cleansing Touch get more use, and to express extreme tenacity.

With Iron Juggernaut, my main problem was stopping myself from tacking on three or four more bullet-point features. Letting PCs become Large is always tricky, and here I’ve gone with one die size better than enlarge, but otherwise the same… plus all the other features. The second bullet point is about “well, a giant iron murder machine should have at least as good of mitigation as a Bear Totem for the duration,” and also “iron golems get to absorb fire, let’s try that in toned-down form.” The third feature is also lifted from the iron golem. The fourth feature is completely about the image of unstoppability.

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