While the iconic image of a Paladin probably involves gleaming armor and a white horse, it’s a little tricky for most knights to fit their mount through the cramped corridors of a dungeon. Which is why the best ones are only two foot six and ride adorable dogs.
The idea of miniature knights is hardly unique – see Sir Didymus from Labyrinth, for example – but one of the wonderful things about D&D 5E is that it allows a Halfling or Gnomish Paladin to be anything but a joke character. Indeed, with a bit of work they can actually be incredibly effective at mounted combat.
Let’s take a look at our example build – Lady Fellfoot the Brave.
Hit & Ride
As a reasonably accomplished adventurer and hero of the downtrodden, Lady Fellfoot has ascended to level five and has followed the progression familiar to most Paladins.
She is a Lightfoot Halfling and therefore gets natural bonuses to Dexterity and Charisma. Though these are useful – especially Charisma – the lack of extra Strength means her ‘to hit’ and damage bonuses will lag somewhat behind the more traditional Paladin races such as Dwarves and Humans for some time.
The Oath of Devotion is a natural fit for her character, and though she hasn’t taken any feats or anything particularly fancy her brave heart and determination make her particularly skilled at persuading people and talking to crowds.
The really interesting things about her abilities in combat only really become apparent when we look at a few stats. For a start, Lady Fellfoot has good HP, crazy AC, can move 40 ft. at a time and deals 1d12 + 5 damage from outside of opportunity attack range. That’s pretty awesome.
Much of the effectiveness of this build comes from the special properties of the lance. This weapon deals as much damage as a maul or a greataxe, but with 10 ft. of reach. As well as this it only requires one hand to wield if a character is mounted, allowing them to carry a shield.
As far as we’re concerned, however the most important property is that unlike every other high-damage weapon it lacks the ‘heavy’ property, meaning small characters like Halflings and Gnomes can use it without any penalty.
The reason this is so vital is that the only thing that keeps the lance from being horribly overpowered is that the fact you need to be mounted to make full use of it, making it highly situational. After all, even if a party never enters a single dungeon plenty of fights breaks out in taverns, throne rooms or the decks of a pirate ship, none of which are particularly horse-friendly.
Most of these problems evaporate when you’re on the back of a creature that only comes up to the Half-Orc’s knees. The traditional D&D mount for Halflings is the mastiff, and there are few places that you can’t take one of those – even if the saddle and barding raises a few eyebrows.
You can even take them underground without much issue, as you likely have enough strength to carry your own mount up and down ladders and slopes without needing any aid.
Even if Lady Fellfoot doesn’t have her trusty hound with her when things start to look dicey, at level five she can cast Find Steed and summon a celestial version of her mount that not only follows all her commands but is able to speak to her telepathically.
Don’t Look Down on Me
When you have a character that is a small but deadly knight there are only a few things that really make sense. Honestly, it would feel entirely wrong if Lady Fellfoot was anything but a stout-hearted protector of the weak and downtrodden.
Drawn from a family of common farmers, she was drawn to the teachings of Tyr, the God of Justice and made a reputation as a kind-hearted young woman who would always stand up for what was right.
One night Fellfoot – then going by her first name Milly – was awakened in the middle of the night by a compunction to saddle up her father’s riding-dog, grab a pitchfork and head off down the road. Guided by the hand of Tyr the young warrior came across a merchant wagon being attacked by Goblin bandits and threw herself into the fray.
The next few years saw Milly develop her fighting skills and seek out a deeper connection with Tyr, eventually travelling to a nearby temple and begging to be allowed to train with its order of Paladins. Despite her small stature the brave Halfling was immediately accepted by the brawny fighters.
Once her training was complete Milly – now known as Lady Fellfoot – was sent out into the world to bring justice and compassion to the dark places of the world. What better way to do that, she reasoned, than by joining up with a band of adventurers?