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Should the Paladin Fall? A Guide


Advice

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Shadow Lodge

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Better Formatted Blog Post here

There are a lot of questions about when a Paladin should fall, and with good reason. The rules are intentionally vague. They describe a roleplaying situation, not a mechanical situation, and so are best left to DM and player scrutiny.

"A paladin who ceases to be lawful good, who willfully commits an evil act, or who violates the code of conduct loses all paladin spells and class features."

The most important part of playing with a Paladin is communication. Before even considering the fall, you must determine what the Paladin's codes are. Does he follow the rule of law, or his own personal code? Does he favor the greater good or the immediate good? What God does he follow?

I offer up the following five criterion for determining when a Paladin falls. If a Paladin meets all five of these criterion, he should fall. If a paladin meets the first two, and at least one of three, four, or five, he might fall. If a Paladin does not meet both one and two he should not fall, regardless of all else.

1: Did you warn him?:

If you did not warn him, he should not fall. This is the most important rule.

The fall of a Paladin should never come as a surprise. It is the DM's duty to warn the paladin of any wrongful course, should the player (if not the character) be unable to see it. Pathfinder is a cooperative game that is about having fun. Players will have a bad time if they feel that their powers are taken away without warning or apparent reason. The DM must warn the Paladin that he is stepping down the wrong path, and perhaps suggest a better one. If you forgot to tell the player that he may lose his paladin abilities, then his character should not fall.

However, if you told a Paladin that his actions were likely to lead him down the path of darkness, and he took them anyway, then tally one against the Paladin. However, take a second to consider what exactly an act worthy of falling is...

2: Was there an obviously better alternative?:

Lose/Lose situations are not grounds for falling. The Paladin should only fall if he knows of a better alternative.

Every once in a while, a DM will place a paladin, intentionally or not, in a situation without a clear correct path. Let's take the most basic possible example. There are two children trapped in a burning building. The Paladin only has time to save one. Either way the Paladin will have the death of a child on his hands, and so he should not be penalized for choosing one or the other. There is no better alternative, so the Paladin should not fall.

Now, let's say that the Paladin has in his possession a wand of create water capable of putting out the blaze and saving both children. However, the player or the character are unaware of the nature of the wand, and so does not use it. This wand is not an obviously better solution, as the Paladin is unaware of it, so the Paladin should not fall.

For the sake of argument, lets say that the Paladin is again faced with the burning building. Instead of saving either child, he decides now would be a wonderful time to pull out his bag of endless marshmallows and make a s'more. There is an obviously better, so this may be grounds for falling.

3: Was his act unlawful?:

Pathfinder describes the relationship between lawful and chaotic like this:

"Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties. Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it."

In most games, there are two ways to play lawful characters. Those who follow the law of the land, and those who strictly follow their own personal code. The DM should ask what kind of Paladin the character is playing, and then use that information. Often, the law and code will conflict. When they conflict, don't hold law-breaking against personal-code Paladins, and don't hold code-breaking against rule-of-law paladins.

Let's consider an example. The Paladin Charity believes that she should give money to the poor. Charity finds herself in the Land of Nice, where giving alms is mandatory. She gives half her money to a beggar. This is clearly a lawful act, as she is following both the law of the land, and her own personal code.

Next, Charity wanders over to the Land of Mean, where it is illegal to give money to the poor. The King of Mean is a wealthy jerk who kicks kittens every morning. Charity decides to follow the rule of law, and she refrains from giving alms. If Charity is the kind of Paladin who favors rule-of-law, then this is perfectly acceptable behavior. If Charity is the kind of Paladin who favors personal-code, then this might be grounds for falling.

After spending a few weeks in Mean, Charity has a change of heart, and wants to give money to the poor. However, all of her money has been taxed away. She decides to steal from the King of Mean, and give the money to the poor. If Charity is the kind of Paladin who favors personal-code, then this is wonderful. If Charity is the kind of Paladin who favors rule-of-law, then this might be grounds for falling.

After successfully sneaking in to the castle, she comes across the treasure trove. The mounds of gold open her eyes, and Charity decides to take it all for herself. This is clearly an unlawful act. She is breaking the laws of Mean by robbing, and she is breaking her own personal code.

4: Was his act un-good?:

Pathfinder describes the relationship between good and evil:

"Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit."

Some acts are clearly good (such as petting a puppy). Some are clearly evil (such as killing a puppy). Most of the confusion comes from greater good and immediate good. Find out if the paladin favors greater good over immediate good. Often, these two ideas will be in conflict, and when they are make sure to favor the paladin's reading of it.

Paladin Smartz goes after a werewolf who has been terrorizing a village. He tracks the werewolf back to its lair, and finds that the werewolf is a poor, defenseless boy who cannot control himself. Luckily Smartz can remove the curse. This is clearly a good act. He is serving the immediate good by saving the boy, and he is serving the greater good by protecting the townsfolk.

However, there is some bad news for Paladin Smartz. Remove curse does not work. Smartz raises his sword to strike the boy down. If this is a greater good Paladin, then this is the right move. Killing the boy will prevent any further attacks on the village. However, if this is an immediate good Paladin, then this may be grounds for falling, as killing an innocent boy certainly feels like an evil act.

Paladin Smartz slowly lowers his sword. He cannot kill the boy, but his adventure would have no room for him. Instead, he will bring the boy to the town jail, and force the town to work on his cure. If this is an immediate good Paladin, then he has fulfilled his objective. The innocent boy is not dead. However, if Smartz is a greater good Paladin, this may be grounds for falling. He is endangering the lives of every civilian by letting the werewolf live.

The conundrum is too much for the Paladin. He slays the boy, then returns to the village. Smartz is angry at the mayor for placing him in such a delicate position, so he returns to town hall and slays the mayor. Then all the witnesses. Then everybody else in town. This is clear an evil act, as it serves neither the greater good, nor the immediate good.

5: Was his act against his God?:

The fifth criterion is the one where you can have the most flexibility, and the most fun. Why? Because you are the Paladin's God. You get to make the rules. You can even change the rules – Gods, even Lawful Good gods, are notably fickle.

Paladin Hare worships BunnyLord, Lord of Bunnies. He favors rabbits, hates oozes, and is pretty relaxed about out-of-wedlock hanky-panky. When Hare is faced with a possessed rabbit, he chooses to capture the creature and perform a complex exorcism rather than simply kill it. When he is given the choice between killing dragons and killing oozes, he kills oozes every time. And when he finds his wife in bed with the mayor, he lets them both off with a warning instead of taking more serious action. Paladin Hare is a great follower of the Bunnylord.

Wrap-Up:

A Paladin can be many things, and it is important to know exactly what a Paladin is before passing judgement. To wrap up, let's consider the following example.

Paladin Triky is greater good paladin, who follows a strict code of "destroy all demons" and worships the BunnyLord. He is faced with a possessed rabbit who has been terrorizing the villagers. But the villagers have been unable to kill it due to strict no-poaching laws. He decides to destroy the rabbit as quickly as possible. Should he fall?

Well, you may want to ask Triky. Triky was preserving the greater good by saving the villagers, even at the expense of the life of an innocent bunny. He also broke the no-poaching law in favor of his own personal code. However, that's all consistent with who Triky is as a Paladin. True, he went against the BunnyLord's wishes, but with good reason. Paladin Triky should not fall for killing the bunny.

Paladin Conflikt is an immediate good Paladin who follows the law of the land and worships the Oozelord. He decides to save and cage the bunny, wasting time and resources searching for a cure. Should he fall?

Well, you may want to ask Conflikt. Conflikt was favoring the immediate good by saving the bunny, even at the potential expense of all those around him. He preserved the no-poaching law, even against the OozeLord's wishes. Paladin Confliky should not fall for saving the bunny.

What might make one Paladin fall is the right choice for another. Know your player's Paladins. Don't place them in unwinnable situations, or, if you do, don't penalize them. And above all, let them know if a certain action will lead to a fall.

Better Formatted Blog Post here

Sczarni

This is very well done! Thanks, Broken Zenith!

Now we will never have paladin fall debate threads ever again.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I like it overall, though you seem to say (correct me if I'm misinterpreting you) that a single unlawful/non-good act (committed willingly with other options available, etc) is enough to make them fall.

This is, in fact, not true.

As far as alignment goes, the paladin only falls if she:
1) Commits an evil act
2) Ceases to be lawful good.

In most cases, committing a single unlawful or non-good act does not qualify. Ask yourself this: if the LG fighter did this, would I shift his alignment to something other than LG? If not, and if the act wasn't evil, then the paladin does not fall.

It sounded like you were saying that nonlawful and non-good acts were as strictly forbidden as evil ones, but that's simply not the case in Pathfinder.

Again, though, I may have misinterpreted your position.

Shadow Lodge

@Trinite - Dear Gods I hope so.

@Jiggy - You are right, I don't mean to imply that one bad act can make a paladin fall. I think in general I say that either an act is not grounds for falling, or it *may* be grounds for falling. I'll add in something about how one act does not make a fall (usually).

The only place that I say that a paladin "should* fall is if they meet all five criterion. And, if they meet all 5 criterion, then they are committing an act that the GM warned them about, that they had an obviously better option, an act that was unlawful, "ungood," and against their god. That's such a bad act that a paladin probably should fall, should they commit it.

Additionally, non-lawful, non-good acts are pretty bad. From the "Ex-Paladin" section of the rules:

"A paladin who ceases to be lawful good, who willfully commits an evil act, or who violates the code of conduct loses all paladin spells and class features."

They don't say a paladin who becomes chaotic evil, but a paladin who ceases to be lawful good. That means that even neutral good or lawful neutral acts are dangerous territory to a strict GM.


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Broken Zenith wrote:
Additionally, non-lawful, non-good acts are pretty bad.

"My paladin opens the door."

"Opening a door is a neutral act. It is neither good nor lawful. You're on thin ice here."

Shadow Lodge

Hopefully, the Paladin's god is a DoorLord. If not, we are looking at some serious falling into Antipaladin worshiping the WallWhisperer.

I get the sense that actions that are devoid of lawful/chaotic or good/evil connotations don't count one way or another. A character of any alignment would open a door, eat a sandwich, ride a horse - these actions aren't meaningful in that respect.

Taldor

Excellent guide! Thanks!


doesn't everyone roll a paladin because a fallen paladin makes for a more powerful anti-paladin??


I think you could add "Was his action against the Paladin code?". IE, "not lying, not cheating, not using poison,". Those are all explicitly forbidden.


Pendagast wrote:

doesn't everyone roll a paladin because a fallen paladin makes for a more powerful anti-paladin??

How is it more powerful than just rolling an antipaladin?


Not a bad frame work...only one I question a bit is #1. I always sit down and discuss with my pallies or other alignment dependance chars what I expect from them and their understandings before we play so everyone's on the same page. That is as far as I think a gm needs to warn their player. I don't see it as my role to constantly give feed back on their actions(are you sure/really you want to eat all the villagers)...maybe in a close case I would but It seems to defeat the purpose if you have to remind a player how he's supposed to be acting. Im a big believer in the party dealing with the consequences of their actions good or ill.


My general flowchart goes like this.

Does the paladin fall?

1. Do you need to ask?

If you had to ask, the Paladin doesn't fall.

Paladins falling should be for overtly evil acts where there is no question whatsoever. you look at the paladin and go 'you ate a baby, you're going to the hells. fall time.'

If you have to ask, the answer is no.


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Chaos_Scion wrote:
Not a bad frame work...only one I question a bit is #1. I always sit down and discuss with my pallies or other alignment dependance chars what I expect from them and their understandings before we play so everyone's on the same page. That is as far as I think a gm needs to warn their player. I don't see it as my role to constantly give feed back on their actions(are you sure/really you want to eat all the villagers)...maybe in a close case I would but It seems to defeat the purpose if you have to remind a player how he's supposed to be acting. Im a big believer in the party dealing with the consequences of their actions good or ill.

Absolutely disagree here. I'm with Broken Zenith here; warn the player is the most important part. Is perfectly possible that the player has a good reasoning to what seem a bad act. Say directly "you take the wrong decission, you fall" without warning seems too adversarial for my taste. On the play table, comunication is the most important thing, specially between player and DM on subjects as delicate as the palladin.


Weables wrote:

My general flowchart goes like this.

Does the paladin fall?

1. Do you need to ask?

If you had to ask, the Paladin doesn't fall.

Paladins falling should be for overtly evil acts where there is no question whatsoever. you look at the paladin and go 'you ate a baby, you're going to the hells. fall time.'

If you have to ask, the answer is no.

One evil action does not change your alignment, but it might affect you as a Paladin depending on what the deed was.

In general I agree with the notion you have here, but sometimes people ask even when they should fall, as I saw in one thread.


There are some really nice "Codes of Conduct" for specific Paladin Orders in the Faith of Purity books. If you want to play a Paladin in Golarion, it's a good idea to check this book :D

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
johnlocke90 wrote:
Pendagast wrote:

doesn't everyone roll a paladin because a fallen paladin makes for a more powerful anti-paladin??

How is it more powerful than just rolling an antipaladin?

He's thinking blackguard, that old PrC where you traded in fallen paladin levels to bump yourself up or kept them to bump yourself up another way.

Threads like this tend reinforce my belief that James Jacobs is right about his opinion of the class. When was the last time you saw a thread about defrocking a cleric?

I'm seriously thinking of just eliminating the "Fallen" mechanic and pursuing an Eberron style. In my next campaign, Paladins don't fall, they don't lose their powers for alignment violations, they simply become more corrupt in the style of the Scarlet Brotherhood of Azeroth. But they can lose access to some or all of their powers if they have a crisis of confidence. Been thinking much along those lines after considering Eberron and Arcanis.


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Hiya.

Right then...lets get to it... :)

Broken Zenith wrote:

The most important part of playing with a Paladin is communication. Before even considering the fall, you must determine what the Paladin's codes are. Does he follow the rule of law, or his own personal code? Does he favor the greater good or the immediate good? What God does he follow?

Yes, but this should be done at campaign start, and not by a "character by character basis". A paladin doesn't, by definition, "follow his own personal code". That would be the definition of Neutral Good or Chaotic Good...Lawful Good follows an 'outside' LG edict (e.g., his deity and/or order).

At the campaign start, any player playing a paladin needs to have the "Paladins Code" given to them. This should generally be constant, regardless of deity, but with some added deity-based restrictions. So, all paladins in a campaign might have the edict to "Protect the weak and innocent", but a paladin of the god of the sea might have an additional "Protect the sanctity of the seas and oppose all pirates".
In short, there is NO "greater good" vs. "immediate good". Good is good, regardless of what the paladin wants it to be, and the paladin code (rules/laws) is the paladin code, regardless of what the paladin wants it to be.

Quote:

If you did not warn him, he should not fall. This is the most important rule.

The fall of a Paladin should never come as a surprise. It is the DM's duty to warn the paladin of any wrongful course, should the player (if not the character) be unable to see it.

I completely disagree here. If this were to be taken seriously, then a paladin would *never* fall unless he wanted too. It's like taking a multiple choice test where the student hovers his pencil over "A" and looks at the teacher who says "Are you sure? That answer isn't likely correct..."...so the student moves down to "B"..."Are you sure?..."...he moves down to "C"..."Are you sure?..." ...he moves down to "D"... --silence-- ... student circles "D".

At this point, the DM is the one making the 'hard' decisions for the paladin player. Which is, IMHO, always a bad move.

Quote:

Lose/Lose situations are not grounds for falling.

This could be a DM style preference...but I disagree with this as well. Sometimes a lose/lose situation happens. It sucks from a paladin perspective. I've played a paladins before (one of my highest level characters is a 1e 13th level paladin)...and I've had him in lose/lose situations. But, they have always been of the "lesser of two evils" camp; I loose paladinhood, seek out atonement, and get back on the horse. That is one of the key elements to a memorable hero (re: paladin). Making a hard choice that sucks hard...and then redeeming oneself as proof to others that even if you make a bad decision, or a situation has you in a lose/lose situation, you can continue on to rise above it and fight the good fight.

Quote:
In most games, there are two ways to play lawful characters. Those who follow the law of the land, and those who strictly follow their own personal code.

Again, I disagree...to a point. I agree, up until when you say "own personal code", that right there is the definition of Chaotic. A paladins "lawfulness" is in line with his deity/orders...otherwise he wouldn't have been accepted/blessed as a paladin. Period. It's silly to assume that a paladin "picks" what to follow...a paladin follows what he follows because it's part of his soul. His person. His very being. Kind of like Michaelangelo being a painter...he didn't just "choose" to do it because it was a job. He choose to do it because being a painter was what he was born to be, even if he resisted it at times.

Quote:

Most of the confusion comes from greater good and immediate good. Find out if the paladin favors greater good over immediate good.

Again, I disagree. Good is good...greater good is the more dangerous one for a paladin, IMHO, but immediate good can also be a slippery slope too. This is where the lose/lose situation can frequently come into play. The paladin shouldn't be thinking in terms of "greater good" when it means that innocents suffer/die. He should be thinking in terms of what is the least amount of damage he can do. Even this may cause him to temporarily fall from grace (re: require atonement). Nobody said being a paladin was all about looking good smiting evil all day long...sometimes it sucks...but the paladin willingly takes that suckage so that others don't have to. Even if it means his own 'fall'. As I said, Good is Good, and weather or not the paladin thinks of it for the "greater good" or "immediate good" is irrelevant to the multiversal definition of good.

Quote:

The fifth criterion is the one where you can have the most flexibility, and the most fun.

Finally! Something I agree with! :) A paladins god, as I mentioned in #1, may have 'additional' codes, but they all have the base LG ones. As a DM, you should have worked out the 'code' that the paladins and clerics of Deity X have and how they are expected to behave. Lots of fun can be had here...as long as the tenants of LG are adhered to, of course.

Phew! That was a bit longer than I had anticipated. I guess what I'm trying to say is...no, I don't think those 5 criteria are good to follow for trying to determine if a paladin should "fall". There are no "varying paladins"; a paladin of the god of the sea and a paladin of the god of healing are going to have much in the way of identical values; only in a few select areas will the differ. A sea-god paladin may say "That pirate ship is aflame. We should rescue those pirates and try to change their ways. Those that choose not to we give one day of food and water each and set them on a boat in the open sea, leaving their fate to the Sea-God." A healing-god paladin may say "That pirate ship is aflame. The pirates who are injured should be rescued and healed. With the Healing-Gods blessing they may see that kindness and compassion is a better path than that of piracy." But both paladins would agree that killing the pirates floating in the water would be a bad thing.

^_^

Paul L. Ming


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Chaos_Scion wrote:
Not a bad frame work...only one I question a bit is #1. I always sit down and discuss with my pallies or other alignment dependance chars what I expect from them and their understandings before we play so everyone's on the same page. That is as far as I think a gm needs to warn their player. I don't see it as my role to constantly give feed back on their actions(are you sure/really you want to eat all the villagers)...maybe in a close case I would but It seems to defeat the purpose if you have to remind a player how he's supposed to be acting. Im a big believer in the party dealing with the consequences of their actions good or ill.
pming wrote:

If this were to be taken seriously, then a paladin would *never* fall unless he wanted too. It's like taking a multiple choice test where the student hovers his pencil over "A" and looks at the teacher who says "Are you sure? That answer isn't likely correct..."...so the student moves down to "B"..."Are you sure?..."...he moves down to "C"..."Are you sure?..." ...he moves down to "D"... --silence-- ... student circles "D".

At this point, the DM is the one making the 'hard' decisions for the paladin player. Which is, IMHO, always a bad move.

I completely agree with the points raised here. PCs should only get warnings like these if they're wearing a phylactery of faithfulness - otherwise, it's something of a pointless item.


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Obviously, these guidelines are by nature subjective to Game Master and Player preferences.

That said, I support Broken Zenith's guidelines 100%. They match my old school perspective that these games are cooperative and should be played in a manner that maximizes enjoyment.

Thanks BZ! Hopefully when another fallen paladin thread pops up they will refer to this one. Maybe even elevate it to the sticky guide thread for all of the passion that this subject generates.

@Alzrius the phylactery of faithfulness warns you of the things that your character would NOT know: for example, swallowing this blue pill will make you True Neutral, drinking from this fountain will make you Lawful Good, grasping this cursed sword will make you Chaotic Evil. BZ is not really talking about these things that are rare and plot devices.

cheers

Silver Crusade

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I would not play a paladin if pming was the DM!

Paladins are individuals. They would make decisions as such, not have their decisions made for them by the DM before the campaign even starts or the paladin has been generated!

Twin paladins, alike in every way, come to a fork in the road. One takes the left fork. The DM says that path leads to evil and that paladin falls. The remaining paladin clone takes the other fork. The DM says that path also leads to evil so the paladin falls. Both players go home, having had no fun at all. The DM is very pleased with himself, having saved at least one table from those who would dare to play a paladin any different than he would; even his own paladin would fall five times a night.

Why can't gods have nice things?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Broken Zenith wrote:

@Jiggy -

.....

Additionally, non-lawful, non-good acts are pretty bad. From the "Ex-Paladin" section of the rules:

"A paladin who ceases to be lawful good, who willfully commits an evil act, or who violates the code of conduct loses all paladin spells and class features."

They don't say a paladin who becomes chaotic evil, but a paladin who ceases to be lawful good. That means that even neutral good or lawful neutral acts are dangerous territory to a strict GM.

Only if they cause an alignment change (which they shouldn't, if it's just one act).

As you quoted, it's if you "cease to be lawful good". Does committing a neutral good act cause you to "cease to be lawful good"? No, it doesn't. In fact, even a chaotic neutral act, unless it's pretty extreme, will not (all on its own) cause a character to cease to be lawful good.

The rule you just quoted spells out two separate things: committing an evil act, and ceasing to be lawful good. If the second only required a single act, why is it explicitly separated from the first? Why not just say "willfully commits a non-good or non-lawful act"? That would save word count, and be clearer, if that were the intent.

No, it's pretty clear that "commit an evil act" and "cease to be lawful good" are to be treated differently. One is about the action, and one is about the final sum state of your alignment. An evil act is the only "one strike and you're out" part of that line - acts of alignments other than evil never make you fall directly: only when you actually reach a point that your CHARACTER'S alignment, not a single act's alignment, shifts away from LG does the paladin actually fall.

Shadow Lodge

Interesting points pming, but I've got to agree with Silveclaw - I wouldn't want to play a paladin if you were GMing. I'd be constantly terrified that I'd be put in a situation with any level of complexity, and that you would disagree with the action I took or claim that either action was grounds for falling. It seems like the main disagreement we have is this. I lay out a framework for a paladin choosing the right decision when ideals conflict. You seem to imply that the paladin should fall if he is ever put in a conflictual or lose-lose situation.

Falling is a serious problem for a Paladin, and it should never be forced upon him by the GM. If you think that falling is neat and great story material (which it can be) then that is something that must be reached by both player and GM.

Thanks Breakbottle, for summing up the point of the guide:

Jubal Breakbottle wrote:
These games are cooperative and should be played in a manner that maximizes enjoyment.

@ Jiggy: I completely agree, one action, unless its an incredibly important one, does not an alignment shift make.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Jubal Breakbottle wrote:
@Alzrius the phylactery of faithfulness warns you of the things that your character would NOT know: for example, swallowing this blue pill will make you True Neutral, drinking from this fountain will make you Lawful Good, grasping this cursed sword will make you Chaotic Evil. BZ is not really talking about these things that are rare and plot devices.

I don't follow. A phylactery of faithfulness makes the wearer aware of ANY action or item that could affect his alignment or standing with his deity, presuming that he takes a moment to contemplate it beforehand.

BZ seems to be suggesting that PC paladins get the benefits of this magic item, without the item.

Malachi Silverclaw wrote:

I would not play a paladin if pming was the DM!

Paladins are individuals. They would make decisions as such, not have their decisions made for them by the DM before the campaign even starts or the paladin has been generated!

Does not compute. Paladins are individuals who have chosen to follow a particular lifestyle set by the boundaries of being lawful good, as well as a particular code which they did not write. If they don't follow the code, they don't get to be paladins - that's not the DM making decisions for them, it's enforcing the consequences of their decisions.


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johnlocke90 wrote:
I think you could add "Was his action against the Paladin code?". IE, "not lying, not cheating, not using poison,". Those are all explicitly forbidden.

Definitely depends on the code, particularly the lying part.


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Broken Zenith wrote:

Interesting points pming, but I've got to agree with Silveclaw - I wouldn't want to play a paladin if you were GMing. I'd be constantly terrified that I'd be put in a situation with any level of complexity, and that you would disagree with the action I took or claim that either action was grounds for falling. It seems like the main disagreement we have is this. I lay out a framework for a paladin choosing the right decision when ideals conflict. You seem to imply that the paladin should fall if he is ever put in a conflictual or lose-lose situation.

Falling is a serious problem for a Paladin, and it should never be forced upon him by the GM. If you think that falling is neat and great story material (which it can be) then that is something that must be reached by both player and GM.

Thanks Breakbottle, for summing up the point of the guide:

Jubal Breakbottle wrote:
These games are cooperative and should be played in a manner that maximizes enjoyment.
@ Jiggy: I completely agree, one action, unless its an incredibly important one, does not an alignment shift make.

Falling isn't the end of a paladin. Thats what atonement is for. If he didn't have a choice in the matter, I would consider the atonement free. Otherwise, it just hurts his WBL. Its punishing at low levels, but not too bad later on.

Shadow Lodge

@JohnLocke - If I were a Paladin, I would not want to fall, not only for mechanics reasons, but also for roleplaying reasons. I certainly wouldn't want it thrust on me by a DM without any sort of coordination.

Also, when a paladin falls, he or she loses: Spells, Detect/Smite Evil, Divine Grace, Lay on Hands, Aura of Courage, Divine Health, Mercy, Channel, Divine Bond, Aura or Resolve/Justice/Faith/Righteousness, and finally, Holy Champion. How is this not punishing at higher levels?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Broken Zenith wrote:
@ Jiggy: I completely agree, one action, unless its an incredibly important one, does not an alignment shift make.

...Which in turn means the paladin doesn't fall. That's the point I'm making, and which your previous post(s) seemed to contradict. If a chaotic act isn't enough to shift alignment, it isn't enough to make a paladin fall. Your earlier commentary made it sound like you could commit a chaotic (or even neutral, LN, or NG) act that wouldn't shift your alignment but would make the paladin fall.

But that's not how it works. The only time a paladin falls for committing an act of a certain alignment is if that act is evil. If the act wasn't evil (and wasn't some other forbidden thing like using poison), and the character's alignment afterwards has not shifted off of LG, then he doesn't fall.

Silver Crusade

Alzrius wrote:
Paladins are individuals who have chosen to follow a particular lifestyle set by the boundaries of being lawful good, as well as a particular code which they did not write. If they don't follow the code, they don't get to be paladins - that's not the DM making decisions for them, it's enforcing the consequences of their decisions.

First, there are more than nine personalities in the world, one for each alignment. The idea that all LG people would make the same decision in every circumstance is absurd, yet many try to persuade us that paladins must make the same decision as the DM would, or fall! The RAW restriction for the 'alignment' part of the restriction is that the paladin remains LG, and the mechanics of that are identical for all characters; there is no separate 'lawful goodness' that only applies to paladins!

Second; the code. The idea that there is a single 'code', applying equally to every paladin in the world no matter the god, does not stand up to scrutiny. There are DMs who place themself in the position of 'god' and therefore their judgement is constant. But the DM should be role-playing different gods differently. Each code may have plenty in common with every other code, but would have plenty of differences too.

It's up to the player to determine the code for each paladin he plays, in consultation with the DM, so that he can check that the code is consistant with the LG alignment (not some special, paladin only LG!) and appropriate for the god chosen as patron.

If the DM creates the code and allows no room for a paladin's free will without him falling, then the DM is making decisions for them! It's enforcing the consequence of the DMs decisions!


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Malachi Silverclaw wrote:
First, there are more than nine personalities in the world, one for each alignment. The idea that all LG people would make the same decision in every circumstance is absurd, yet many try to persuade us that paladins must make the same decision as the DM would, or fall! The RAW restriction for the 'alignment' part of the restriction is that the paladin remains LG, and the mechanics of that are identical for all characters; there is no separate 'lawful goodness' that only applies to paladins!

This is all beside the point; I'm certainly not suggesting that there's only one kind of personality for each alignment; but there are only nine alignments, and only one that a paladin can be - violate and you fall, pure and simple.

Quote:
Second; the code. The idea that there is a single 'code', applying equally to every paladin in the world no matter the god, does not stand up to scrutiny. There are DMs who place themself in the position of 'god' and therefore their judgement is constant. But the DM should be role-playing different gods differently. Each code may have plenty in common with every other code, but would have plenty of differences too.

Yeah, again, you're arguing something that I'm not - no one is saying there can only be a single paladin code in the whole of the game.

Quote:
It's up to the player to determine the code for each paladin he plays, in consultation with the DM, so that he can check that the code is consistant with the LG alignment (not some special, paladin only LG!) and appropriate for the god chosen as patron.

I fundamentally disagree here; I don't think that the player should ever get to develop their own paladin code.

Quote:
If the DM creates the code and allows no room for a paladin's free will without him falling, then the DM is making decisions for them! It's enforcing the consequence of the DMs decisions!

This is a false dichotomy; the GM writes the paladin's code - how is that "not allowing room for free will." The whole point of a code is that you modify your behavior to conform to it. It does not twist and warp to conform to your behavior in any given circumstance.

By adopting a code, you're voluntarily restricting your actions to fall in accordance with it. You choose to put limitations on yourself, and if you can't keep to that, then you lose the benefits you gained (e.g. paladinhood) by doing so.

Shadow Lodge

@ Jiggy - We agree. One action usually makes neither an alignment shift, nor a fall. Not to repeat myself, but

Broken Zenith wrote:
@Jiggy - You are right, I don't mean to imply that one bad act can make a paladin fall. I think in general I say that either an act is not grounds for falling, or it *may* be grounds for falling. I'll add in something about how one act does not make a fall (usually).


If your rules for playing a paladin can be accurately described as "Playing a paladin means signing up for your own personal non-comedic game of Paranoia, except when you would otherwise be replaced by a clone you instead lose all class features for a few sessions", something is wrong.


Broken Zenith wrote:

@JohnLocke - If I were a Paladin, I would not want to fall, not only for mechanics reasons, but also for roleplaying reasons. I certainly wouldn't want it thrust on me by a DM without any sort of coordination.

Also, when a paladin falls, he or she loses: Spells, Detect/Smite Evil, Divine Grace, Lay on Hands, Aura of Courage, Divine Health, Mercy, Channel, Divine Bond, Aura or Resolve/Justice/Faith/Righteousness, and finally, Holy Champion. How is this not punishing at higher levels?

Its punishing if it happens mid fight(which seems unlikely), but at higher levels you should have access to atonement(and carry around a scroll of atonement just in case).

I think it depends on how you view falling. In Catholicism its expected that everyone will sin and that confession is required to absolve these sins(and RAW Paladins who work with unsavorry characters are expected to perform a similar ritual).

I think the big issue is that the rulebook doesn't state how serious the transgression has to be in order to fall(RAW, any violation of the code causes a fall with no regard to the seriousness of the violation). I think most people houserule this to give paladins some leeway and there is a lot of debate on how big the houserule should be.


On average, even people who think they are being completely honest end up telling roughly 3 in just 10 minutes of conversation. I can imagine Paladin training involves falling and atoning dozens of times even for the most pure hearted, simply to follow one aspect of the code(not lying). Its run against strong social conditions.

http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/average-person-tell-lie


The only circumstances for a Paladin to fall should be knowingly violating the tenets of his faith. The GM needs to clearly list those when the Paladin is created, and it is then up to the PC to make sure that he follows them. If the PC has a question about a situation, he can ask for guidance from the GM, or make a Knowledge: Religion check to find the correct answer.

Shadow Lodge

@ John Locke: I would love to have you as a player in one of my games, as it looks like you take falling and atonement very seriously and would build it into your character. That's awesome, and should be applauded. However, that's just one play style, and I know plenty of people who play paladin who would have a worse time if they thought they might fall at any moment. Just different play styles, and I wouldn't want to force one on the other.

@Vod: Yup, I agree, with one caveat. I think that the GM and Player should work together to create a list, instead of the GM making it by himself.

Silver Crusade

@Alzrius; we definately disagree on who should write the code!

In a world where gods exist, and personally empower their mortal agents, why do DMs try so hard to trick paladins into losing their powers but clerics can do what they want? Does this DM also write restrictive codes for every single class with divine abilities and make them those their powers twice per game session?

The poster who inspired my ire also gleefully boasts that paladins fall if they, through no decision of their own, are forced into a lose/lose situation! If the paladin saves child A, he falls; if he chooses child B, he falls!

What a load of crap! There is no reason to fall here. There has been no evil act. If the code requires you to save children then you have; being unsuccessful is not grounds for falling, not bothering to try for no good reason is!

In this case the player will fall even if every decision he makes follows the code invented by the DM! This is not 'fun'! Why would any player want to play a character that the DM is going to break no matter what? In that game a paladin would fall at the DMs whim, even while while walking to the shops!

Paladin: 'I'm walking to the shops, and I give some coppers to a beggar'

DM: 'You mean, you chose to deny charity to the other beggars? Fall!'

DM: 'Only coppers? You have some money left, and there are still hungry people in the world? Fall!'

DM: 'Choosing to destabilise the economy of a lawful society, eh? Fall!'

DM: 'Walking? What about the taxi service? So, you're deliberately depriving an innocent taxi-driver of his livelyhood, eh? Fall!'

DM: 'Did you know that walking on the cracks in the pavement can damage the paving slabs? Willful destruction of city property! Fall!'

DM: 'Did you know that walking on the crack breaks your mother's back? Murderer! Fall!'

DM: 'Walking on the cracks is a chaotic act. So you are now chaotic. Fall!'

DM: 'Did you know that walking on the cracks on Saint Leonard's Day, without a sprig of heather in your lapel, unless your mother's maiden name has a 'q' in it, without being left handed, unless you are leading a lame donkey with your left hand, without a written exemption from two of the three popes, is illegal under a now forgotten and unenforced ordinance put in place by the insane Pope Radish the Seventh? YOU DIDN'T?? Ignorance of the law is no excuse! Fall!'


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Malachi Silverclaw wrote:
@Alzrius; we definately disagree on who should write the code!

I agree that we disagree. ;)

Quote:
In a world where gods exist, and personally empower their mortal agents, why do DMs try so hard to trick paladins into losing their powers but clerics can do what they want?

This is the wrong question to ask. The more correct question is "why does the paladin need to follow such a strict code?" The answer, as I see it, is "because that's part of what makes them a paladin."

Clerics and paladins aren't two sides of the same coin. Clerics have latitude in what alignment they can be in regards to their deity; they also don't have a code of conduct in addition to their religious tenets that they need to follow. It's also worth noting that clerics can't do "what they want" - if their alignment drifts far enough, or if they fail to follow enough of their god's reaching, they can also lose their class abilities.

Paladins, by contrast, are supposed to be living embodiments of goodness and order, religious nobility, faultless crusaders, and other virtues. They're held to a higher standard, and as such have far less latitude the manner in which they can conduct themselves.

The problem isn't that paladins have a code where other classes do not; the most that can be said of that is that a paladin's code is a holdover from earlier editions of the game, and the other aspects of the character - such as requiring a higher set of ability scores to be a paladin in the first place, and having more special powers and abilities that other classes - have been lost.


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@ Malachi and I would never play with that DM again, to the point of walking out the first time he did it.

@Broken Zenith - I disagree, as GM I am playing the Paladins Deity, if he does not like the tenets of faith, find another deity.

From your example with the werewolf; A Paladin of God that reveres life, finding a cure for the werewolf is the best solution, killing it the worst although still a solution as it saves other life. A Paladin of a God that reveres Law and the Legal system, capturing it and turning it over to the town for them to try it and dispense justice is the best solution. A Paladin of a God dedicated to rooting out and destroying evil, killing it is the best option.

Playing a Paladin should be difficult.


Broken Zenith wrote:

If I were a Paladin, I would not want to fall, not only for mechanics reasons, but also for roleplaying reasons. I certainly wouldn't want it thrust on me by a DM without any sort of coordination.

Ima change some of the words here to make a point.

Quote:
If I were a Fighter, I would not want to die, not only for mechanics reasons, but also for roleplaying reasons. I certainly wouldn't want it thrust on me by a DM without any sort of coordination.

I think most players of Fighters, or any class, would agree with this, but the solution isn't to ask the player if they want their character to die before every attack.

Sometimes characters die and sometimes Paladins fall. We don't like it and we try to avoid it, but the fact that it could happen adds depth to the game.

On the other hand, if a particular group wants to play a game where characters can't die (unless they want to) and Paladins can't fall (unless they want to), then they probably should, but I would think this is the exception rather than the norm.


No offense, PMing, but it seems to me that any game you GM will be very frustrating and unfun to any would-be Paladin player.

I know I'd never even consider playing a Paladin under your rules, no matter how much I like the class. And that's not a good sign.

Right now I'm both playing a Paladin and GMing for one. We haven't had any problem so far. No paladin ignored people in need of help or commited evil act. Mine never lied for profit ("No, no this gem is worth at least twice that value") or self interest ("Yeah, I'm that very famous bard, wanna go to my room?", but he surely would lie to protect an innocent from unfair punishment if that's what it took ("No, mr.captain of the guard with 3 dozen soldiers, I didn't see those pickpocketing children") and probably to spare someone's feeling too ("No, honey, you don't look fat in that dress. You are just as beautiful as the day we met.").

Does that mean he should fall?

I never understood why poison is evil. What if poisoning the BBEG King would spare the life of many of his soldiers whose only crime is doing their job? Why is it that poisoning an Ogre is Evil, but stabbing it in the face is not? What of a Vishkanya Paladin who uses his sleep-indulcing poisonous blood to more easily defeat enemies without killing them?

IMO, poison is just a tool. It's how you use it that determines wheter it's an evil act or not.


Quantum Steve wrote:
Broken Zenith wrote:

If I were a Paladin, I would not want to fall, not only for mechanics reasons, but also for roleplaying reasons. I certainly wouldn't want it thrust on me by a DM without any sort of coordination.

Ima change some of the words here to make a point.

Quote:
If I were a Fighter, I would not want to die, not only for mechanics reasons, but also for roleplaying reasons. I certainly wouldn't want it thrust on me by a DM without any sort of coordination.

I think most players of Fighters, or any class, would agree with this, but the solution isn't to ask the player if they want their character to die before every attack.

Sometimes characters die and sometimes Paladins fall. We don't like it and we try to avoid it, but the fact that it could happen adds depth to the game.

On the other hand, if a particular group wants to play a game where characters can't die (unless they want to) and Paladins can't fall (unless they want to), then they probably should, but I would think this is the exception rather than the norm.

The difference is that I think most players would prefer to play a Paladin that can't fall.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

A lot of people seem to be singling out PMing for saying that sometimes lose/lose situations happen, and that since paladins are always supposed to do the right thing, this means they're going to fall.

Personally, I don't see why this is such a big deal. If you find yourself in a lose/lose situation, then you either 1) passed some point along the way where things got so bad in the first place, or 2) need to look for the third option.

Not to mention the fact that part-and-parcel of playing a paladin (at least, to me) includes the assumption that you'll be held to a higher standard than other characters, and that not meeting it can result in loss of abilities, at least temporarily.

PMing, I'd play a paladin in your game any day - it sounds like it'd make for some great role-playing!


Lemmy wrote:

No offense, PMing, but it seems to me that any game you GM will be very frustrating and unfun to any would-be Paladin player.

I know I'd never even consider playing a Paladin under your rules, no matter how much I like the class. And that's not a good sign.

Right now I'm both playing a Paladin and GMing for one. We haven't had any problem so far. No paladin ignored people in need of help or commited evil act. Mine never lied for profit ("No, no this gem is worth at least twice that value") or self interest ("Yeah, I'm that very famous bard, wanna go to my room?", but he surely would lie to protect an innocent from unfair punishment if that's what it took ("No, mr.captain of the guard with 3 dozen soldiers, I didn't see those pickpocketing children") and probably to spare someone's feeling too ("No, honey, you don't look fat in that dress. You are just as beautiful as the day we met.").

Does that mean he should fall?

I never understood why poison is evil. What if poisoning the BBEG King would spare the life of many of his soldiers whose only crime is doing their job? Why is it that poisoning an Ogre is Evil, but stabbing it in the face is not? What of a Vishkanya Paladin who uses his slee-indulcing poisonous blood to more easily defeat enemies without killing them?

IMO, poison is just a tool. It's how you use it that determines wheter it's an evil act or not.

Because the Paladin code of ethics is different from what most people use.

The basic idea is that the paladin is trusting in a higher power. He views morality as a universal truth imparted by his deity. Even if he disagrees with the code, he thinks that the code is smarter than he is. Most people go based on what feels right and try to rationalize a code around it.

Its similar to morality shown in the Old Testament, where characters are expected to have faith in God even if their actions don't feel right. For instance, the Israelis were reluctant to kill the Midianite's women and male children, but it had been commanded by God, so they had to obey or fall.


I think everyone is assuming the worse case scenario and starting their argument from there. If your gm's a jerk and is going to force you to fall no matter what you do then leave the game. If your player is a jerk and wants to play a paladin but not follow any of the tenants of the faith then don't let them play it.

Falling should not be close. 95% of the time it is obvious to all involved if a pally should fall (assuming your not one of the people who thinks they should never fall and you make me sad). Especially if you have been doing your job as a gm by sitting down with them and figuring out what code their character will be bound by before the first session (how you do this doesn't matter so much as you do it). In most healthy games a fall only comes up when the pally does something wholly unreasonable or consistently seems to forget what class they are playing. If they do their are in game mechanics to atone and rich role playing opportunists to get their powers back.

The people who seem terrified about losing their powers either play in games with jerk gm's or more likely I suspect don't focus on role play. The code is the price you pay for the awesome powers that come along with the paladin class if your not up to paying that price play something else.


Malachi Silverclaw wrote:


DM: 'Did you know that walking on the crack breaks your mother's back? Murderer! Fall!'

DM: 'Walking on the cracks is a chaotic act. So you are now chaotic. Fall!'

Hey, get it straight, breaking a back doesn't kill the mother. :P

Silver Crusade

Starbuck_II wrote:
Malachi Silverclaw wrote:


DM: 'Did you know that walking on the crack breaks your mother's back? Murderer! Fall!'

DM: 'Walking on the cracks is a chaotic act. So you are now chaotic. Fall!'

Hey, get it straight, breaking a back doesn't kill the mother. :P

Is this where the DM stepped over the line? The straw that broke the camel's back?


pming wrote:
A paladin doesn't, by definition, "follow his own personal code". That would be the definition of Neutral Good or Chaotic Good.

I definitely disagree with this - there's no code for a chaotic character, they either follow whim or conscience. They judge whether something "seems wrong". If they have any sort of inviolable restrictions on their actions, they are not chaotic.

The difference between following a personal code and following conscience is that one takes self-discipline. A chaotic character is free to act based on emotion and intuition, where a lawful character must learn to ignore emotion and intuition and act unflaggingly by a set of rules.

For example, a paladin of Shelyn whose personal code is based on promoting love might investigate a pair of goblin thieves who have been stealing a town's food and realize that they're deeply in love. Instead of killing them, she knocks them out and locks them in the same jail cell, so the threat is gone but they can still enjoy their romance. Another paladin of Shelyn whose personal code is based on promoting beauty might just kill the goblins instead, because they are ugly and spread ugliness wherever they go. In both cases, the characters are lawful good, and the GM shouldn't insist that one or the other code is wrong.

Having the GM impose his own idea of a code onto a paladin makes no more sense than telling a monk that he must always obey the law of the land because he's "lawful".


Here we go again... Although considering the subject, one could have expected the passion.

Alzrius wrote:

I don't follow.

1. A phylactery of faithfulness makes the wearer aware of ANY action or item that could affect his alignment or standing with his deity, presuming that he takes a moment to contemplate it beforehand.

2. BZ seems to be suggesting that PC paladins get the benefits of this magic item, without the item.

Your first part is correct. Your second part is incorrect. My post that you didn't follow attempted to point out why part 2 is incorrect. Please let me try again.

Starting with part 1, let's identify two issues: actions and items. Yes, BZ suggests confirming with paladin players that they understand the negative consequences of their actions before PC paladins act. I agree with BZ; you may not; so let's not debate that. The main reason for BZ's suggestions stem from the primary game mechanic where changing alignment significantly affects paladin abilities. A secondary game mechanic concerns clerics and druids who have to be within one step, so their alignment consequences occur less frequently. I imagine that BZ would apply his paladin guidelines to those classes, too.

The second issue of items is what makes the phylactery valuable and not useless when coupled with BZ's guidelines. If a paladin did not know that a cursed item would force his alignment away from Lawful Good, the action to grasp it would would not apply in BZ's guidelines. I believe his guidelines are to avoid any paladin player surprises with respect to playing the paladin's code within the context of the specific game, including the definitions of law and good.

Clearer? Cheers


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Jubal Breakbottle wrote:
The main reason for BZ's suggestions stem from the primary game mechanic where changing alignment significantly affects paladin abilities. A secondary game mechanic concerns clerics and druids who have to be within one step, so their alignment consequences occur less frequently. I imagine that BZ would apply his paladin guidelines to those classes, too.

You seem to be explaining why BZ is making the suggestion that he is. That's not hard to understand: alignment changes have consequences for paladins.

I interpreted his "warning system" as being more regarding violations of the paladin's code than alignment changes, but it's pretty much the same.

Quote:
The second issue of items is what makes the phylactery valuable and not useless when coupled with BZ's guidelines. If a paladin did not know that a cursed item would force his alignment away from Lawful Good, the action to grasp it would would not apply in BZ's guidelines. I believe his guidelines are to avoid any paladin player surprises with respect to playing the paladin's code within the context of the specific game, including the definitions of law and good.

Okay, that is clearer, though it doesn't change the issue overly much - it's still granting the lion's share of the benefits of a phylactery of faithfulness rather than all of them.


Wow. I was almost certain that this original post was going to be a troll, but it's actually well-done! Nice work!

-Cross

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