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How to Play a Paladin: A Guide by CalebTGordan


Advice

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

There will always be paladin threads, and people are still going to play them wrong, but I felt inspired to write a guide anyway.

This is not, in any way, an attempt to write a guide on how to optimize a paladin build. This is an attempt to write a guide on how to play with the code of conduct. As a result, this guide will probably be revised and expanded over time as I gain more experience and feedback.

The initial parts of it are not that long, but there are a couple of optional sections that go on for many pages. I have included a brief history of the word paladin, a brief look at why they have a code of conduct, how to prepare to play a paladin, and a more in depth look at the standard code of conduct. After that there is a section on how to use communication between the paladin and the god, and a section on codes of conduct that can be used as inspiration for custom paladin codes. There is also an old Dragon Magazine article on the subject from way back in the AD&D days.

This thread is for discussion, relation of experiences, and providing links or suggestions for the real life code section.

There is some discussion of real life religions, including but not limited to Christianity, Islam, and Buddism, but I did what I could to limit those discussions to the optional sections. If you find anything in the guide insulting or infuriating, please keep any responses you may put here civil.

You may find the guide here.


Pretty good article; I like how it prompts questions to be asked of the GM (although I might put the onus of the preparation to being asked these questions -on- the GM in the first place, rather than trying to come up with them once a paladin player arrives).

One thing I'd point out, though, is Roger Moore's article. I remember paladins 'back in the day', and the intent and spirit of that article. I remember the kinds of things that prompted that article, and some of them are things we still see today ("My neighbor didn't tithe today; am I obligated to kill him?") For its time, it was a good piece of writing from many perspectives.

However.

There is a problem with the article. The times have changed, and they have changed mightily. 'Cultural relativism' isn't the bogeyman in 2014 that it was in Pat Robertson's 1988, for instance. Moore's writing comes off, in current context, as anachronistic and unnecessary. Moore writes from a time when a good portion of the nation was still fighting the so-called Culture War (including the aforementioned relativism), and it clearly reflects his position on it in light of the character class and the game. But regardless of your perspective on whether it is for the better or worse, that time is past. Its inclusion in your guide seems out of place with the more considered parts, even though I perfectly understand what Moore was driving contextually. I would remove it; as a historical artifact it is interesting, but it has no place in a Guide.

IMO, naturally.


"A Paladin will fall if they fail to stop Thug from beating one[beggar]."

Ouch you fall for trying and failing?

A distinct lack of anything on Paladins without Gods. The rules in Pathfinder do not dictate the requirement of a Paladin to follow a God.

Also I find your passage on Legitimate Authority poor at best. A King can make a Paladin fall for having a law that says "No Paladins allowed in my country" through that logic.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Scavion wrote:

"A Paladin will fall if they fail to stop Thug from beating one[beggar]."

Ouch you fall for trying and failing?

A distinct lack of anything on Paladins without Gods. The rules in Pathfinder do not dictate the requirement of a Paladin to follow a God.

Also I find your passage on Legitimate Authority poor at best. A King can make a Paladin fall for having a law that says "No Paladins allowed in my country" through that logic.

Sorry, the intention is if a paladin sees a beggar being beaten and he does nothing at all to stop it, walking away without taking action.

I did forget to address a godless paladin, but honestly in my own opinion it is such a special case that it wouldn't really need to be addressed in any special way. Essentially, just like a godless cleric, the details are left up to the player and the GM and it doesn't take much to figure out how to adapt things to that situation.

I thought I addressed how a paladin could act in a kingdom or city where the laws were against them. Maybe that part got cut. The basics are: The GM may be intentionally being a jerk. Have the paladin consult with authorities (superiors, their god, other paladins) in the matter so they know how to act. If in doubt, follow the code over the law.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I disagree about not adventuring with evil companions. Some of my best games have involved a LG paladin and a LE assassin working together to bring down a tyrant. One did it because it was right, the other did it for money/revenge.

Good cop/Bad cop doesn't get any more effective.


CalebTGordan wrote:


I did forget to address a godless paladin, but honestly in my own opinion it is such a special case that it wouldn't really need to be addressed in any special way. Essentially, just like a godless cleric, the details are left up to the player and the GM and it doesn't take much to figure out how to adapt things to that situation.

The godless Paladin is a baseline. Paladins having a God is solely something extrapolated thereafter.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I disagree about not adventuring with evil companions. Some of my best games have involved a LG paladin and a LE assassin working together to bring down a tyrant. One did it because it was right, the other did it for money/revenge.

Good cop/Bad cop doesn't get any more effective.

Awesome for you. I am sure that you did things I would have called you out on and had you atone for in that game. But then again, every group is different and all rules have exceptions. If you had fun, great, and I am happy you did.

I wanted the guide to be for a general audience, which to me meant that I couldn't call out all the exceptions without confusing some and misleading others. Also, it would make the guide super long, and I already felt it was too long when I posted it.

So yes, evil and good can work together, but often that is the exception and not the rule.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Apotheosis wrote:

...

There is a problem with the article. The times have changed, and they have changed mightily. 'Cultural relativism' isn't the bogeyman in 2014 that it was in Pat Robertson's 1988, for instance. Moore's writing comes off, in current context, as anachronistic and unnecessary. Moore writes from a time when a good portion of the nation was still fighting the so-called Culture War (including the aforementioned relativism), and it clearly reflects his position on it in light of the character class and the game. But regardless of your perspective on whether it is for the better or worse, that time is past. Its inclusion in your guide seems out of place with the more considered parts, even though I perfectly understand what Moore was driving contextually. I would remove it; as a historical artifact it is interesting, but it has no place in a Guide.

IMO, naturally.

I totally see where you are coming from, and will probably remove the article or at the very least have a paragraph before it explaining that it is old and no longer in the same context that it was written in. I might even remove it but leave a link to it on another site. For me it gives history, and points to where the paladin comes from, just as much as it gives advice. But you are right, and it probably isn't the best fit.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
CalebTGordan wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I disagree about not adventuring with evil companions. Some of my best games have involved a LG paladin and a LE assassin working together to bring down a tyrant. One did it because it was right, the other did it for money/revenge.

Good cop/Bad cop doesn't get any more effective.

Awesome for you. I am sure that you did things I would have called you out on and had you atone for in that game. But then again, every group is different and all rules have exceptions. If you had fun, great, and I am happy you did.

I wanted the guide to be for a general audience, which to me meant that I couldn't call out all the exceptions without confusing some and misleading others. Also, it would make the guide super long, and I already felt it was too long when I posted it.

So yes, evil and good can work together, but often that is the exception and not the rule.

Fair enough. My argument is that Paladins and evil characters can work together but there needs to be a discussion at the table about what's expected from both players.

Silver Crusade

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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Fair enough. My argument is that Paladins and evil characters can work together but there needs to be a discussion at the table about what's expected from both players.

Crimson Throne is much more enjoyable this way.

It also helps keep redemption themes on the table.


I have to disagree with your view of legitimate authority. Not all authority is equal and paladins of all people have a hierarchy of authority they follow. If there is a conflict between authorities the paladin follows the higher authority and can freely disregard the lesser authority. For most paladins the hierarchy of authority will be in the following order. The Paladins deity, The rules of the paladins religion, The authority of the paladins church, the Highest secular authority of the paladins nation, The lesser secular authorities of the paladins nation, The highest foreign secular authority where the paladin is located, the lesser foreign secular authority where the paladin is located, and last is the local laws.

Also many of these authorities have limits on their authority. The mayor of a town for example will have no authority in a town other than his own. If the mayor of town a in the duchy of b tries to give orders in town c in the duchy of d he has no authority.

Another thing you are not factoring in is that the paladin himself may have authority in his own right. If the paladin is for example a belted knight and the mayor of the town is a commoner the paladins authority will probably be higher than that of the mayor. This is of course assuming a European feudal culture. Other cultures may have different rules.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Scavion wrote:
CalebTGordan wrote:


I did forget to address a godless paladin, but honestly in my own opinion it is such a special case that it wouldn't really need to be addressed in any special way. Essentially, just like a godless cleric, the details are left up to the player and the GM and it doesn't take much to figure out how to adapt things to that situation.
The godless Paladin is a baseline. Paladins having a God is solely something extrapolated thereafter.

The Core Rulebook disagrees.

Core Rulebook wrote:
Through a select, worthy few shines the power of the divine. Called paladins, these noble souls dedicate their swords and lives to the battle against evil. Knights, crusaders, and law-bringers, paladins seek not just to spread divine justice but to embody the teachings of the virtuous deities they serve.

Bold mine. The assumption is that they serve a god or gods. Granted that is the only mention of gods I could find in the write up for them, but they are also divine casters. All divine casters are granted their spells from an outside force, even druids, who gain their power from nature through secret and sacred knowledge. I also don't really agree that anything in the cleric's write up suggests a cleric can be completely godless. But that is a discussion for another thread.

All that said, I don't see any reason why a paladin can't Not be dedicated to a god, but they do need to be solidly connected to some higher power outside of themselves. Something needs to fuel their power and revoke it when it is abused. You can't have that be a purely internal thing.

At least that is my opinion on the matter.

[Edit: I forgot the word Not in a sentence, changing the intention of what I wanted to say.]

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mikaze wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Fair enough. My argument is that Paladins and evil characters can work together but there needs to be a discussion at the table about what's expected from both players.

Crimson Throne is much more enjoyable this way.

It also helps keep redemption themes on the table.

We didn't have a paladin in our CotCT group, but four out of the five PCs were good, two of those Lawful Good, three heavily dedicated to a god, and one an actual priest of his religion (though he was a bard who followed Shylen, not a cleric.) The fifth PC was Neutral bordering on Good until he was corrupted by an evil creature, and it was from constant help from his party that he was redeemed. Also, the chain happy anime girl NPC (can't remember her name,) ended up being redeemed by the bard and she converted to his religion.

My LG fighter had strong words with a cleric of Abadar for stuff the church did in the AP. Nearly started a feud between the churches of Abadar and Iomedae.

[Edit: Forgot I had a point] I actually wish I had played a paladin in that game. Though the GM had vastly different philosophies than me in terms of Good and Evil, and he was a very strict GM, I probably would have done pretty well with it. Excellent choice for a paladin if the player is confidant and experienced.

Silver Crusade

CalebTGordan wrote:
the chain happy anime girl NPC

Exactly who I was thinking of when I posted. :)


CalebTGordan wrote:

Bold mine. The assumption is that they serve a god or gods. Granted that is the only mention of gods I could find in the write up for them, but they are also divine casters. All divine casters are granted their spells from an outside force, even druids, who gain their power from nature through secret and sacred knowledge. I also don't really agree that anything in the cleric's write up suggests a cleric can be completely godless. But that is a discussion for another thread.

All that said, I don't see any reason why a paladin can't Not be dedicated to a god, but they do need to be solidly connected to some higher power outside of themselves. Something needs to fuel their power and revoke it when it is abused. You can't have that be a purely internal thing.

Stating fluff as fact isn't something to make an argument on. Monk fluff suggests them to be incredibly mobile skirmishers. This is not the case in practice.

Nowhere did I say that you believed that you couldn't be a Godless Paladin. I said you should include a section on them since theres absolutely no reason not to be. Gods just restrict roleplaying opportunities. And give the GM more fodder to restrict your character.

Why couldn't it be an internal power? The purity of the Paladin can't be a power in of itself? That straying from his zealous belief in what is right causes him to disrupt that power and lose it?

That line of thought at the end is exactly what the GM shouldn't bring to the table. Close mindedness is the greatest hamstring in creative roleplaying games.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

I don't want an argument and I'm sensing one of us will look like a troll at the end of it, so I'm walking away and agreeing to disagree (on nearly everything in that last post.). No, I won't address godless paladins in the guide. I think I made myself clear on that, as well as the reason why. Sorry if you don't agree, you are free to do so and play the game anyway you like.

I will be rewriting the section on legitimate authority. I seem to have missed the mark in that area.

Also touching up a few things.


CalebTGordan wrote:
Bold mine. The assumption is that they serve a god or gods. Granted that is the only mention of gods I could find in the write up for them, but they are also divine casters.

It's also makes mention of it under the divine bond.

Quote:

Divine Bond: Upon reaching 5th level, a paladin

forms a divine bond with her god.

And again under Holy Champion

Quote:

Holy Champion (Su): At 20th level, a paladin becomes a

conduit for the power of her god.

In 2E it was mentioned that you could serve 'an ideal'... but in 2E they were very big on the gods having 'portfolios'. The only time I saw a Paladin worship an ideal and not the god... It was decided that the god who took care of that particular ideal (justice I think) was still empowering him, based more on his actions than his 'lip service'...


phantom1592 wrote:
CalebTGordan wrote:
Bold mine. The assumption is that they serve a god or gods. Granted that is the only mention of gods I could find in the write up for them, but they are also divine casters.

It's also makes mention of it under the divine bond.

Quote:

Divine Bond: Upon reaching 5th level, a paladin

forms a divine bond with her god.

And again under Holy Champion

Quote:

Holy Champion (Su): At 20th level, a paladin becomes a

conduit for the power of her god.
In 2E it was mentioned that you could serve 'an ideal'... but in 2E they were very big on the gods having 'portfolios'. The only time I saw a Paladin worship an ideal and not the god... It was decided that the god who took care of that particular ideal (justice I think) was still empowering him, based more on his actions than his 'lip service'...

It's interesting how Paladins are nowhere near as explicit about being tied to Gods as Druids are about being tied to Nature. In fact the 3.5 Paladin has even less inclination to worship a god.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Thank you for that. I only had a few minutes to scan the write up, and in my rush I missed those. I also had forgotten about the 2E having the ability to serve an ideal.

I find it interesting that paladins in literature were servants to kings and god, or at least most of them anyway. Roland, for example, served Charlemagne. Not sure I would call King Arthur a paladin, and I am not sure he was ever called one himself (I'll have to check on that,) but I do know his knights were called paladins. They were also servants of the church, though it seemed they served god and country equally. I would have to actually read more to see how right/wrong I am on that.

As a result of the literary background I think if I ever played a paladin again I would ask to be a direct servant to a ruler and a god, and if I were a GM I would at least ask players if they would be interested in doing the same. Not something I would hold as a hard rule, just something to explore and try out.


CalebTGordan wrote:

Thank you for that. I only had a few minutes to scan the write up, and in my rush I missed those. I also had forgotten about the 2E having the ability to serve an ideal.

I find it interesting that paladins in literature were servants to kings and god, or at least most of them anyway. Roland, for example, served Charlemagne. Not sure I would call King Arthur a paladin, and I am not sure he was ever called one himself (I'll have to check on that,) but I do know his knights were called paladins. They were also servants of the church, though it seemed they served god and country equally. I would have to actually read more to see how right/wrong I am on that.

As a result of the literary background I think if I ever played a paladin again I would ask to be a direct servant to a ruler and a god, and if I were a GM I would at least ask players if they would be interested in doing the same. Not something I would hold as a hard rule, just something to explore and try out.

Mind you its a matter of taste. All Paladins before 3.5(Not immensely familiar with editions before that) have been forced to be pawns of their gods. Now you can do something different. I don't recommend brushing it aside. I just wanted you to be aware of "Hey this is a cool thing you can do!"

Being a pawn instead of your own man doling out a can of holy justice seems to just be a roleplaying crutch. This is mostly why I mention it. Yet another divine class spewing rhetoric and "My god this, My god that" is just so uninteresting.


Scavion wrote:


It's interesting how Paladins are nowhere near as explicit about being tied to Gods as Druids are about being tied to Nature. In fact the 3.5 Paladin has even less inclination to worship a god.

Were I to take a guess, (and this Is only a guess...) I would say that nature is by and large kind of universal... Everyone tends to agree (as much as anyone agrees with anything...) what 'tied to nature' really means...

Paladins and gods? There are a LOT of gods that qualify for paladins, and they are DRASTICALLY different in tone, theme and attitudes... The Core does try to be very vague about 'setting' stuff...

Faiths of Purity goes into more detail about the gods and the paladins and individual codes... but the base core is pretty vague.

OOOOOor.... they were leaving the door open for non-god paladins (as they did in 2E with the Complete book of Paladins) and there may or may not have been some 3.5 'cut and paste' errors.

/shrug, only the designers know for sure. In 2E the non-deity' paladins were by far the fringe ones, and most DMs wouldn't even allow them around here.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Can we please move this conversation to its own thread? I don't mind talking about it, but this is supposed to be about the guide. I already said I won't be addressing that in the guide, so talking about it further here isn't helping at the moment.

I have thoughts and opinions on the matter, and would love to discuss this in more detail, but I would feel more comfortable doing so in a thread dedicated to that topic.

Thank you.


Excellent article. Well done.

I like the tone and the level of research you have done and will certainly recommend my players read this.

G

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Edited the part on respecting and following authority.

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