Honestly a class's spellcasting prowess does not really depend on his spell's level but the power and functionality you get through his spellcasting. There are plenty of crazy spells between levels 1-4 anyway. Now Paladins typically fill the following roles in a party: Damage dealer, damage sponge, healer, and party face (although he is more restricted in that capacity, given his code of conduct).
The Paladin's spell list typically lends itself to the following: Self-buffing, defensive buffing, healing, and diplomacy / truth-telling / minor investigation. There are also minor bonuses to other skills and a few slight debuffing options (mostly Prayer
and Archon's Aura
). There are also a number of options to hate on evil creatures and undead, which is largely redundant functionality. At 4th level the Paladin gains access to more unusual abilities like Invoke Deity and Archon's Trumpet. The best race for spells is Half-Elf of course, since you gain Paragon Surge
(at a level penalty...) and Resilient Reservoir
(which, with a bit of full attacking + two weapon fighting without feats on yourself for 1 damage each, lets you quickly charge up the reservoir for large skill bonuses whenever needed). Generally the best debuffing ability the Paladin has is Dispel Magic
(assuming the Paladin has Magical Knack
to go from -3 caster levels to -1), especially if he has the Destructive Dispel
feat, since you can not only strip away buffs but also render all sorts of magical equipment useless (although a Lesser Metamagic Rod
of Maximize Spell
might be warranted to get a good duration. Another, subtler (and PFS banned) spell good for debuffing is Quick Throwing
which allows you to full attack with thrown weapons (since it does not prohibit you from using it with alchemical weapons, unlike Quick Draw
). So now your Paladin can go around throwing Tanglefoot Bags
and other useful things like a normal person could with a Quick Draw feat in 3.5.
So the Paladin is generally lacking in the following fields:
- Skill monkey: Resilient Reservoir with an Improvisation feat to make checks untrained largely solves, but feat taxes are ugly and Resilient Reservoir only becomes available at 13th level. However, if you invest your meager skill ranks into getting a wide range of skills trained, you would not need these feats. If you want to go out of your way you can prestige into Evangelist, but this will prevent you from collecting non-Evangelist Deific Obedience boons at higher levels, and you will be giving up favored class bonus, hit die, and BAB for Evangelist boons, more AC, more skill points, and more class skills. Spell-wise a wand of Heroism would help, and getting Gallant Inspiration (with a lesser metamagic rod of maximize spell) through the Bard list is not bad either. It's also possible to take True Skill as a 1st level spell (assuming you have the Magical Knack magic trait to bring the Paladin up to -1 CL from -3 CL), but the bonus doesn't become much good until you have a caster level of at least 6.
- Sneaking around: Shadow property, possibly Improved or Greater variants, on armor and wands of Invisibility should solve this one, especially if you are doing a dex-based Paladin. Would help to get Stealth as a class skill through traits or racial traits.
- Trapfinding: Really, you should not be doing this with a Paladin, since you cannot get Perception as a charisma-based skill and you are a cha-based class. Paladins are pretty much the class that can (and probably should) dump wisdom (and int). Skip trying to do this. You can get wands of Aram Zey's Focus (if your GM allows it, take the Trap Finder campaign trait instead), add Perception as a class skill (this is worth doing anyway), get Disable Device as a class skill (really, not good for Paladins), and invest a Skill Focus into Perception and Disable Device (the Focused Study alternate race trait of Humans provides. Add masterwork thieves tools for the circumstance bonus, and I hope you are playing a dex-based Paladin. You should probably get Heroism as a spell or wand for the buff to skill checks too.
- Battlefield control: Here is something the Paladin is generally bad at. Getting the Caves subdomain as a Sacred Servant, Grease from the Bard list with Unsanctioned Knowledge, and a wand of Obscuring Mist alone will work wonders for a Paladin's battlefield control capabilities. Alternatively, Smoke subdomain provides Stinking Cloud, Bard list can provide Grease, Pyrotechnics, and Slow (which is a rare non-mind-affecting will save). Throw in a wand of Wall of Ice and your Paladin is oddly potent here.
- Debuffing: A wand of Blistering Invective works wonders for intimidating groups of enemies. Developing extreme AC and using Archon's Aura will provide a debuff. Prayer also works. Touch of Gracelessness from the Bard list is also usable here (especially if you have a lesser metamagic rod of Maximize spell), as well as Crushing Despair.
- Disabling: Stinking Cloud from smoke subdomain, Hideous Laughter, Silence (especially if you silence yourself and proceed to grapple an enemy caster, in which case you can just use a wand), Slow, and Hold Monster through Unsanctioned Knowledge work.
- Mobility: Worship Abadar, take the travel domain, and get Oath Against Fiends and your Paladin can teleport fairly well between Dimension Door, Word of Recall, and Plane Shift. Unsanctioned Knowledge can also provide Expeditious Retreat, Jester's Jaunt and Dimension Door through the Bard list.
Battlefield control and disabling are the most oddly effective additions you can make to a Paladin, it seems. Debuffing is not so much the way to go. There is also just improving general out-of-combat utility. You can either do that by abusing divinations, where the best way is probably to not go Sacred Servant and instead take mount bond, use the Monstrous Mount
feat for a Griffon
companion, then use the Totem Guide
archetype to gain Augury
, among other spells, but you can also gain them through Unsanctioned Knowledge or by gaining an animal companion through the Animal Ally or Exotic Heritage (Sylvan) feats, but those are more expensive in feats and Griffons are probably the best companion to have if you're going to give up the ability to switch between animal companions. Or, probably just worshiping Torag
has you covered, since getting Fabricate
and Major Creation
as 3rd level spells is extremely useful and lets you build just about everything, really. Fortifications, traps, etc. You name it. Your creativity (and ability to make relevant skill-checks, but the Voices of Solid Things
region trait lets you turn Craft into a cha-based skill).