The Paladin has always been one of my favorite classes in fantasy games. I love the idea of a stalwart defender geared up in shining armor, wielding a sword and shield on the front lines. They are the first and last line of defense. The holy warrior. The protector against evil. Because of this I was super excited to play as the Paladin of Fury in Massive Darkness. It was one of the heroes I was looking forward to playing the most. Did the Massive Darkness version of this classic hero disappoint? Read on to find out!
The first skill you choose for the Paladin can be a little tricky and is heavily reliant on what gear drops. The Leather armor everyone starts with only gives 1 blue defense dice so you will generally want to get the starting Long Sword to give you a second blue defense dice right away. Even then it can be hard to make use of Payback. With that in mind I generally would advise going for Bastion of Defense first. This will give you the flexibility of healing yourself or an ally for 1 point of damage at the start of your hero's activation.
Getting a shield and/or better piece of armor early on can really determine what skill you get next. If you get either or both of these Shield of Fury can be a great option. Now you will be rolling at least 3 blue defense and your chances of doing damage back to attackers when you are defending are much greater. If not I would generally go for Enhance Health or Taunt next. Enhance Health will give you an extra point of hp which will help you take more hits. Taunt will allow you to start tanking for your group and, even with 2 blue defense dice and Bastion of Defense, will mean you are more equipped to take attacks than others.
Level 2 is where things start getting more interesting with the Paladin options. If you still haven't gotten a shield by then, Light in the Darkness is the obvious choice for skills. This will give not only yourself, but also allies in the same zone a static +1 shield as long as you are in the the shadows. Of course if you are in a magic or range heavy group your allies won't make much use of Light in the Darkness. If you have gotten a shield equipped, Almighty Tank is usually a better option. It gives your hero the same +1 guaranteed shield, but also gives you +1 sword when you attack. This can help a lot since the Paladin is a very low damage outputting class.
Shield of Fury will start seeing a lot more use by this time and you should pick that up next. With Light in the Darkness and Almighty Tank you will have a guaranteed +2 shields. Combined with the max 3 blue defense dice rolls means Payback will usually be going off. You might even find yourself doing more damage with Payback than you are when attacking as the Paladin. One strategy to keep in mind is using each action to attack a separate enemy if multiples are in the same zone as you. This will trigger counter-attacks from all of them, maximizing the damage potential of Payback. That can be 6 or even 9 damage back to the enemies with the third version of Shield of Fury. Ensuring they only damage themselves on their attacks and not your party is huge.
At this point I generally would suggest going for level 3 Taunt. It gives you a re-roll on defense which can help you get Shield of Fury to go off. Level 3 Bastion of Defense and Enhance Health can both be gotten much later since by this point your defense will be high enough neither comes into play much. With that said Bastion of Defense might still be useful for healing OTHER players if they are taking a lot of damage from counter-attacks, or if you get a really unlucky defense roll or three.
What I would suggest going for next is level 4 Almighty Tank. This doubles the shield and swords granted from the first version, bringing the total of both up to +2. This will give you a little extra damage and helps ensure Shield of Fury will work. Level 4 Light in the Darkness can be gotten after that to give allies a little extra defense and give yourself a static +4 shields in Shadow Mode.
Last but not least is the level 5 version of Taunt. This gives all the same benefits as previous versions, but also gives you a defense dice of your choice. This can be great for making sure you are rolling max defense dice, or as close to it as possible. After getting this I would suggest going back and picking up Bastion of Defense and then Enhance Health. The key with the Paladin is mitigating tons of damage before it actually is dealt. This purpose is two fold because it means you will first off be doing damage back with Shield of Fury, and second off will be absorbing all would be damage for your group.
As for the Paladin's Free Class Skill, it can have limited uses. Bulwark provides +1 shield to allies in the same zone as you. It is basically Light in the Darkness, but doesn't require you be in Shadow Mode and doesn't give yourself the +1 shield either. In a range or magic heavy group, this skill can be very limited or even useless. However, when fighting alongside other melee giving them a +1 shield all the time is great for when they get counter-attacked. It still is a bit limited, however, since you will be taking most or all of an enemy's normal attacks with Taunt.
Bodyguard, on the other hand, is the Paladin of Fury Signature and it has much more use. This skill not only allows you to use your great defense to stop would be damage to an ally, it also allows you to move a zone and potentially better position yourself. While it costs 1 xp and only can be used once per game round, it still can help mitigate damage or even save an ally from dying.
With all of the skills out of the way, that brings us to the hero selection. Usually the hero in the core game is very good, but I find Owen a bit lacking. His Shadow Mode skill allows him to heal +1 wound every attack. This is great for healing up to 3 wounds on himself in the beginning, but later on he will rarely be taking damage so it becomes fairly useless most of the time. Fortunately his Special Skill Defender is MUCH better and allows you to re-roll any and all blanks one additional time.
The other recommended hero for the Paladin is Ostara. I find her to be a better choice because of her Shadow Mode skill. If you roll a bam on defense, you can inflict 1 wound back to the attacker. Used along with Payback means you can do 2, 3, or 4 damage back on defense to each enemy you attacked and that is counter-attacking you (so up to 3x, plus their normal attack). Her special skill gives an automatic +1 shield on blank rolls ensuring you will never roll any blanks. However, while it's a guarantee, it also doesn't allow you to turn blanks into a possible 2 shields and a bam like Owen's special does.
Usually I don't mention heroes that aren't recommended for a class, but I think it's worth noting Azrael makes an excellent Paladin of Fury. His Special Skill "Shield Specialist" allows him to use two handed weapons as if they were one handed as long as he is using a shield. Since you will want to get a shield as soon as possible anyways to take advantage of Almighty Tank and Shield of Fury, this is a great way to get yet another benefit for using shields. The only thing to watch for is this makes the effect on Dwarven Shield's pretty much useless. Azrael's Shadow Mode skill isn't too shabby either, allowing bams on defense rolls to remove the best attack dice rolled. This can immediately get rid of up to 3 swords and a bam, allowing Shield of Fury a better chance to proc. Of course it is reliant on you rolling a bam and can do nothing at all.
As for weapons, the Paladin is a bit limited in their options as they will want to take full advantage of Shield of Fury and Almighty Tank. Since this requires a shield, one handers will be the main weapons used for them. A couple of weapons you will never really want to use are the Ice Sword and Mace. They stun an enemy meaning the enemy won't counter-attack you and in turn you won't do damage from Shield of Fury to them. Since the Paladin doesn't use bams or diamonds at all with their class skills, you will want to make sure you get a weapon that does. Preferably one that causes direct wounds like the Plague Sword at level 3 since your chance of doing damage on offense from your swords is low. The Vampire Axe at level 5 is another great option as you can do up to +3 wounds with your bams, and another +1 wound and +1 heal with a diamond.
The Fire Sword at levels 4 and 5 is also a decent option giving +1 sword on bams and +2 on diamonds. The level 4 version can give up to +3, which along with Almighty Tank gives you +5 swords. The level 5 Fire Sword gives a possible +6 swords which is +8 with Almighty Tank. The Magma Sword is a decent choice for +3 swords on diamonds, but doesn't make any use of bams unfortunately. Lastly for one handed weapons the Battle Axe can be a decent choice. If you roll a bam when attacking, it lets you remove 1 yellow die (or any color for later level versions) from the enemy's counter-attack. This can be excellent in ensuring Payback goes off.
One thing to keep in mind is if you are using Azrael or the Dwarven Shield, you can actually equip a two handed weapon along with a shield. If you go this route the Great Sword, Hammer, and Meteor Hammer are all great choices since they will use bams you roll for extra damage. Just be mindful the extra defense from the Great Sword at level 5 might be wasted.
As for shield choices, you really can't go wrong with any. The Kite Shield at levels 2, 3 and 4, and the Round Shield at level 5 are probably the worst of the group since they don't have any effects and just supply slightly higher defense. This higher defense on the Round Shield isn't as good with certain armor such as level 5 Troll Skin, Plate, and level 3 Cold Iron armor since some of it will be wasted. The Dwarven Shield allows you to use two handed weapons with a shield as previously mentioned. The Spiked Shield and Knight's Shield are great choices as they give a similar skill that Ostara does and allows bams to inflict wounds back to the attacker. Used along with Shield of Fury and Ostara this can be a ton of damage back to an enemy. Ostara, rolling 2 bams on defense, with a full set of Knight's armor and level 4 Shield of Fury can do back 7 points of damage on an enemy's attack! Attacking 3 different targets, plus their normal activation would mean that's a max possibility of 42 damage to 3 different enemies... all while you are on defense!
Of course this is a near perfect set up, but it shows the damage potential of Shield of Fury. Really, that's where most of your damage will be coming from as a Paladin so it's a good idea to play into it as much as possible.