Poisadins. Paladoisons?


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There is no 'honorable' way to use poisons. It is almost universally recognized as a severe crime to deploy poison as a weapon, and poison is famously a weapon of assassins, tyrants, and cowards.

I don't mind blackguards and dark knights and such being willing to use it...Laertes in Hamlet sure thought it was a great idea...but if you're going to start off with Paladins as champions of Lawful Good, going out of your way to say it's not a cowardly, dishonorable action to smear a substance intended to cause painful, lingering death (or, in the case of soporifics, dull the senses...like some kind of coward) on your weapon to eke out every possible advantage in a fight is not merely wrongheaded, it's disgusting.

(For what it's worth, in 1st edition paladins couldn't use poison OR flaming oil. Flaming oil is a notoriously famous way to burn down entire forests and townships...not precisely a heroic way to do things, either.)

Liberty's Edge

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Mechanically, tranquilizer darts are poisons. Can Paladins not be veterinarians or park rangers? Are they morally opposed to such pursuits?


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And there are many poisons which kill quick and painless

which might be a more merciful way to go then bleeding from a swordwound through the kidney

And as deadmanwalking said, poisons which don't kill but merely incapacitate the enemy are a thing - and maybe a good alternative if you don't have the money (or space) for a 'merciful' rune on your favorite pig sticker


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1.) Acting with honor falls below protecting the innocent. If you need to take out an evil enemy whom you know you cannot beat in a normal 1v1 combat (or you know you'll never be able to face in an honorable combat cause they'll always try and cheat and gang up on you with their minions), but is threatening the innocents it would be definitely be allowed to use poison.

2.) Using poisons, such as the drow poison to cause the enemy to fall asleep, to allow you to capture them instead of killing them is definitely more honorable than just killing them.


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I dunno, grappling werewolf, holding him to the ground, force-feeding Belladona and keeping him busy for the poison to kick in seems like a pretty paladinish thing to do.


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Yes, the use of poison against humans (and some other humanoids) does seem evil, but what if you are facing a monster?
What if the enemy was some sort of creature beyond salvation (except through ultimate death) like an undead. In literature, the righteous monster hunters facing evil vampires almost always use poison or substances with similar effects on their undead foes to battle the forces of evil. Isn’t holy water like poison to undead, so why shouldn’t a holy warrior drench his weapon in it if it would allow him to defeat evil.
And if the monster he faces happens to posses a weakness to a substance that is poisonous to humans as well as the monster, why shouldn’t the Paladin use it if it could weaken the enemy and therefore safe the life of his companions?

Liberty's Edge

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Using poison was forbidden to the PF1 Paladin as part of the acting honorably obligation

If using poison in some circumstances was not dishonorable, then it was not cause for falling

The devs have clarified that using poison dishonorably, like cheating, was forbidden under the appropriate tenet in PF2

I hope some gods will have anathema that reverse part of the tenets. For example Paladins of Sarenrae might be forbidden to lie whatever the situation

I think being known as always truthful or always honorable no matter what was a great boon for the PF1 Paladin. I hope it will still be available to some characters in PF2


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Tranquilizer darts: A). I probably wouldn't imagine that some Lancelot type is spending their time as a zookeeper, this is an edge case to justify an immoral and empty argument. B). A sedative is different from a poison, but you still shouldn't be smearing it on your sword like some scumbag to edge out the competition in a fight.

Quick and painless: if you're using a quick-and-painless poison, what are you using it with? Obviously not some knight's weapon...that's not going to lead to a quick or quiet death. Are you using a blowgun and darts? You're going to make an armored champion of justice armed with a reed and a chemistry kit? This is a thought experiment I don't find compelling

Evening the odds: If you're not willing to risk death against unfair odds without resorting to trickery and crime (and there are almost NO societies that don't consider poisoning a mortal offense), you're not much of a hero. Also, you should probably have some friends? You're a high Charisma adventurer who's probably fairly rich.

Hierarchy of deeds: 'the ends justify the means' is not a particularly convincing knightly argument. Also, dark elves are not a paragon of fair play and heroic action. The poison they use to kidnap people to smuggle them into slavery and sacrifice is not a tool worthy of a hero. If 'save the innocent' or 'protect my friends' can be used as an out for every single possible tactic, trick, or action, then the whole thing is meaningless.

Poison the undead: Getting into ridiculous 'positoxin' territory here. Paladins are well-armed against specifically these foes (you mention holy water, which scorches the unclean through positive-negative interaction, which is violent but hardly dishonorable) and shouldn't need to use a special murder paste or nerve gas as well.

A lot of these are weird edge cases or bad faith arguments that miss a vital point: there is no just society which considers the use of poisons to be anything less than a crime. In Middle Age Europe, poisoning was considered to be proof-positive that you were a witch in league with the Devil! To this day, authorities and courts consider the use of chemical weapons to be amongst the most egregious crimes imaginable. If your shining knight can't do better than scumbag dictators and militarists, why would you want to play one?


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Nah! I'm with the design team. If it's honourable to use enhanced weapons it's ok to use poisons. Real world comparisons aside (it's not real world) there is little difference between extra acid damage and ability damage - both will kill you, both are above and beyond that caused by the weapon itself. If one is ok, the other is too.

Whether a substance was initially designed to facilitate slavery does not mean that every use is. I mean the bad guys are fond of using weapons and armour to evil ends - should a paladin enter combat unarmed and unarmoured?

Now sneaking poison into someones food is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.


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Which honor are we talking about? The fantasy idea of honor or the way it actually took place/takes place in the real world?


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Some people just hate Pseudodragon Paladins.

Liberty's Edge

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Neuronin wrote:
Tranquilizer darts: A). I probably wouldn't imagine that some Lancelot type is spending their time as a zookeeper, this is an edge case to justify an immoral and empty argument.

It really isn't. A Paladin of Erastil might easily wind up in exactly that role, for instance.

Also, assuming bad faith on the part of those you disagree with is bad form. Please stop that.

Neuronin wrote:
B). A sedative is different from a poison, but you still shouldn't be smearing it on your sword like some scumbag to edge out the competition in a fight.

Mechanically? It absolutely is. Drow Sleep Poison on a hand crossbow bolt is almost precisely a tranquilizer dart in function.

And I'd argue that any Paladin not willing to use poison on, say, a serial killer of children in order to save one of his victims is not worthy of being called a Paladin. Saying 'My personal honor is more important than innocent lives' is a pretty unpleasant attitude when examined.

Neuronin wrote:
Quick and painless: if you're using a quick-and-painless poison, what are you using it with? Obviously not some knight's weapon...that's not going to lead to a quick or quiet death. Are you using a blowgun and darts? You're going to make an armored champion of justice armed with a reed and a chemistry kit? This is a thought experiment I don't find compelling

You seem singularly lacking in imagination in regards to what Paladins can be like. Many are literal 'knights in shining armor' but some are only such a thing in a metaphorical sense.

Neuronin wrote:
Evening the odds: If you're not willing to risk death against unfair odds without resorting to trickery and crime (and there are almost NO societies that don't consider poisoning a mortal offense), you're not much of a hero. Also, you should probably have some friends? You're a high Charisma adventurer who's probably fairly rich.

Contrariwise, if innocent lives are on the line, not stacking the deck in your favor so as to save those people is not only irresponsible and stupid, but immoral as well.

You certainly need to be willing to fight unfair odds, but doing so when you don't have to and lives are on the line? Not actually very heroic. That's letting your hubris get in the way of actually helping people.

Neuronin wrote:
Hierarchy of deeds: 'the ends justify the means' is not a particularly convincing knightly argument. Also, dark elves are not a paragon of fair play and heroic action. The poison they use to kidnap people to smuggle them into slavery and sacrifice is not a tool worthy of a hero. If 'save the innocent' or 'protect my friends' can be used as an out for every single possible tactic, trick, or action, then the whole thing is meaningless.

No it isn't. The fact that a Paladin cares more about actually doing Good than whether a fight is strictly fair, but still does care about making fights fair when possible, is a pretty solid version of actual heroism, as opposed to the self indulgent heroism of someone who puts 'a fair fight' at a higher priority than, say, the fate of an innocent child who'll be tortured to death if they lose.

Neuronin wrote:
A lot of these are weird edge cases or bad faith arguments that miss a vital point: there is no just society which considers the use of poisons to be anything less than a crime.

Again, accusations of bad faith are not cool, man. And many societies have felt this is true about many poisons, but it's hardly a universal reaction (especially since knockout drugs and the like count as poisons mechanically in Pathfinder).

Also, this argument, if true, makes the removal of poison from the code largely meaningless since obeying local laws is still part of the Code. So what are you really objecting to, the hierarchy?

Neuronin wrote:
In Middle Age Europe, poisoning was considered to be proof-positive that you were a witch in league with the Devil!

So was having a mole in the wrong place.

Neuronin wrote:
To this day, authorities and courts consider the use of chemical weapons to be amongst the most egregious crimes imaginable. If your shining knight can't do better than scumbag dictators and militarists, why would you want to play one?

Chemical weapons are generally considered war crimes more because they're indiscriminate and cause crippling long term effects than anything else. Neither are really true of poisoned weapons.

It's just a really poor (and tasteless) comparison.


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If a paladin buys the bar a round, are they a potential mass murderer?


Deadmanwalking wrote:
And I'd argue that any Paladin not willing to use poison on, say, a serial killer of children in order to save one of his victims is not worthy of being called a Paladin. Saying 'My personal honor is more important than innocent lives' is a pretty unpleasant attitude when examined.

It's not just about 'personal honor'. It's about the basic themes of the class, the archetype: a paladin is a divinely inspired champion of what is ethical and moral. If you immediately jump to moral grayness and ends-justify-means shenanigans because ~the consequences are too great if I don't!~, where does it stop? As it happens, I'm not particularly fond of the hierarchy of deeds thing...I recognize the desire to neutralize the famous 'paladin falls button' situations, but turning it into a program that you can bend seems liable to rob it of vital force and storytelling opportunity.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
You seem singularly lacking in imagination in regards to what Paladins can be like. Many are literal 'knights in shining armor' but some are only such a thing in a metaphorical sense.

A). The paladin is the class that gets legendary proficiency with armor, so I'm not alone.

B). I'm not against a nature-loving paladin, but this theoretical James Herriot paladin does not strike me as a motivator to allow people who are supposed to champion honor and courage to apply thickened otyugh excrement to their swords to win the fight faster. It's a jump too far, and it again misses the core of my reservations.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
And I'd argue that any Paladin not willing to use poison on, say, a serial killer of children in order to save one of his victims is not worthy of being called a Paladin. Saying 'My personal honor is more important than innocent lives' is a pretty unpleasant attitude when examined.

Again, I do not buy this argument. Applying a deadly poison will always be an evil act, not to mention cowardly and debase. Also...who's this serial killer who's so dangerous your enchanted axe and evil-smiting ability won't cut it? You're ginning up these situations where, obviously, violent action is justifiable. But cutthroat hard-knuckle Jack Bauer-style ruthlessness should never be an acceptable option for paladins. If one is driven to such acts, they should pay the penalty.

That's why I'm making such a big deal out of this relatively minor, fairly popular excision...it sets the whole thing to tottering. I ask again: what's the point of a class where a code of honor is built in if you can just cross it off with no penalty when it suits you? Why would you want to play this class if you feel like you should have all the benefits of Galahad but get to cheat like Lancelot unpunished when it suits you? Why not just play a cleric, or a fighter with a noble background?


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Poisons for paladins are totally fine in my opinion. It is not the weapon, but how you use it that is generally causes the problem.

Shadow Lodge

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Historically, poisoners are considered cowardly and evil. But that doesn't mean the use of poisons must classify one as either.

Poisoners are evil and cowardly for the following reasons:

1) Indiscriminate victims. Poisoners often could not control who was affected. All they could do was plant the poison and hope the intended target would be the only target. A poisoners often must accept that an innocent person may die from their actions. This is considered highly evil. Even when the poisoners is directly poisoning their victim, there is still a chance to hit non-target individuals, such as when gas is used or serving a drink directly to the target.

2) They would rarely face their victim directly. Poison use is often done behind the back. This is considered cowardly and is very dishonorable.

3) It's a use of a weapon where the target cannot fight back with skill and muscle - a concept often considered a part of honorable combat.

4) Even without all that, coating a weapon with poison while only fighting one person while your enemy knows that's what you're doing is still considered cheating in an honorable duel. It's use in war is questionable at best, and certainly not considered "good."

A paladin is unlikely to use is for the reasons of accidentally affecting innocents or for the cowardly uses. The closest they could get would be coating a weapon with it, but then it is still dishonorable to use it without letting your opponent know. This, interestingly, is also a problem with non-obvious magic weapons, especially ones that add fire, cold, acid, or other forms of damage. Heck, even acid can be considered a poison in this context.

So in your game, if you're ok with the paladin using an acid sword or cold sword or something, you should also be ok with them using a poison sword. But any other use of poison to kill should not be allowed. The use of poisons for reasons other than killing may or may not be dishonorable or evil, depending on the circumstances and your own home game.

(I have a BS in toxicology and a MS in forensic science; the study of poisoners in history is a personal favorite topic of mine).

Liberty's Edge

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Neuronin wrote:
It's not just about 'personal honor'. It's about the basic themes of the class, the archetype: a paladin is a divinely inspired champion of what is ethical and moral. If you immediately jump to moral grayness and ends-justify-means shenanigans because ~the consequences are too great if I don't!~, where does it stop? As it happens, I'm not particularly fond of the hierarchy of deeds thing...I recognize the desire to neutralize the famous 'paladin falls button' situations, but turning it into a program that you can bend seems liable to rob it of vital force and storytelling opportunity.

Well, it explicitly stops right before you commit any actively Evil act, since that's the highest priority in the Code. It's even higher than protecting innocent lives.

And I don't think putting people in no-win situations (which is all the hierarchy prevents) is very compelling.

Neuronin wrote:
A). The paladin is the class that gets legendary proficiency with armor, so I'm not alone.

That includes Legendary Proficiency in Light Armor. It makes Paladins defensively focused, not forces them to wear any specific variety of armor.

Neuronin wrote:
B). I'm not against a nature-loving paladin, but this theoretical James Herriot paladin does not strike me as a motivator to allow people who are supposed to champion honor and courage to apply thickened otyugh excrement to their swords to win the fight faster. It's a jump too far, and it again misses the core of my reservations.

I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at here. I think people should be able to play any style of Paladin they want as long as that character is properly heroic in and of themselves.

Neuronin wrote:
Again, I do not buy this argument. Applying a deadly poison will always be an evil act, not to mention cowardly and debase. Also...who's this serial killer who's so dangerous your enchanted axe and evil-smiting ability won't cut it? You're ginning up these situations where, obviously, violent action is justifiable. But cutthroat hard-knuckle Jack Bauer-style ruthlessness should never be an acceptable option for paladins. If one is driven to such acts, they should pay the penalty.

Well, first, if you're sure to beat him without any poison, you can't generally use poison (it usually violates the 3rd or 4th tenets in a situation like this unless you need to do it for the 2nd one). Of course sure thing wins are rather rare.

Also, Jack Bauer style ruthlessness generally goes full-on into Evil Acts and is thus definitively not Paladin safe (as mentioned above). Putting poison on a weapon does not, however, strike me as an Evil act. And, indeed, the rules agree with me.

Poison is not inherently morally wrong. Many ways of using it are, but not its existence.

Neuronin wrote:
That's why I'm making such a big deal out of this relatively minor, fairly popular excision...it sets the whole thing to tottering. I ask again: what's the point of a class where a code of honor is built in if you can just cross it off with no penalty when it suits you? Why would you want to play this class if you feel like you should have all the benefits of Galahad but get to cheat like Lancelot unpunished when it suits you? Why not just play a cleric, or a fighter with a noble background?

It's not actually ignoreable when it suits you. You're forced to ignore certain parts of it under very specific circumstances. Indeed, if you present a moral conundrum the options a Paladin has in this edition are probably even more sharply circumscribed than in PF1, just in a somewhat different way.

You may not like the Code as is in this edition, but saying you can ignore it whenever you like is deeply and profoundly false.


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The Couatl, in PF, are an exemplary LG heroic species, on par with Paladins and likely candidates for pursuing that class. Their primary attack bears poison. Are they being dishonorable? Evil? In PF1, there was no leeway for them or other races with natural poison attacks, including some PC races. Now there is. Tying poison use to honorable actions is a better fit for the system than a blanket ban when there are such obvious exceptions, especially the nonlethal ones re: capturing.


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Imagining rejects from P2E Paladin school joining Hellknights that tells them they can kill Couatls all day long for using Poison illegally.


If we can't agree that putting a lethal toxin on your weapon is a vile, depraved act, then I think that's a gap we're not going to bridge.

If we can't agree that putting a dulling extract on a weapon is a dishonorable, craven act, then I think we're a bit closer (it's certainly a degree more gray than shooting someone up with greenblood or something), but still fairly far apart.

Again, look at the archetypal paladin. Look at MOST paladins. The image of the white knight is a vital part of the imagery. As it happens, as soon as 3e rolled around and I could make a competitive Acrobatics-using paladin, I did. But playing like paladins haven't been and won't continue to be strongly associated with knights-in-shining-armor to try to fit in an excuse for a sideways concept where 'tranquilizer darts are OK, therefore Squire Johnny is allowed to gash somebody with shadow essence' is a rhetorical trick I don't credit.

The chief problem I have is not merely a moral one, it's an aesthetic one. It's a character who literally gains their power from virtue and honor. Using a poisoned blade is never going to be honorable (no matter how many plot devices or 'but what ifs' you lade on), so it should be off the table (and, if the paladin fails willingly, punishable by atonement).

I personally have never liked the idea of a paladin using a flaming weapon, or an acid weapon, or an freezing weapon(I bring up, again, the AD&D1e prohibition against flaming oil)...but, again, lightning and blizzards are not the famous, cowardly weapons of skulks and murderers. The 'holy' quality exists for a reason.

The couatl thing...c'mon, folks. Like the tranquilizer darts, the mine carts full of nuns that can ONLY be stopped by throwing a poison bomb, etc...these are wormy attempts to evade the main point. It's an LG monster that doesn't even have arms! It's not intended to be a PC, and it's certainly not intended to be a warrior-at-arms guided by a chivalric code of honor, one of who's most notable abilities is getting a special horse/sword/shield.

Liberty's Edge

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Most Paladins are probably never going to use poison with the rules as is. In many circumstances it violates the 3rd tenet of their Code (the one about not cheating or taking unfair advantage), and anywhere it's illegal it violates the 4th tenet (which requires being law abiding). Which means you can only use it if it's required to succeed at the 1st or 2nd tenet (so to avoid committing an Evil act or save an innocent life).

You keep complaining that people are bringing up weird corner cases, but we're doing that because, by the rules, those are the only times most Paladins can use poison. If you truly think situations like that will never come up, then problem solved, because if they don't a Paladin will probably never use poison in your game.


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Honorable/dishonorable is a different axis than good/evil. 'Maybe it is good to use poison in situation X, Y, and Z' seems irrelevant to the question of the honor involved in the tactic.

Honor is weird. Challenging your rival to a fair fight is honorable, sneaking up on him to gank him at 2AM isn't. A SWAT team that send ten guys with rifles and flash bangs to ambush one sleeping naked fugitive hasn't fought evilly, but they have fought dishonorably. If that seems stupid to you ("You should maximize the officer's safety!") then, congratulations, you're not part of an honor culture (I imagine most of Paizo's customers don't value honor, I certainly don't), but at least understand the culture.

Poison isn't honorable, if Paladins are bound by traditional notions of honor they shouldn't use it. If you want Paladins *not* to be honorable, and just to be good holy warriors, that's fine, but it is a significant break with tradition.

Liberty's Edge

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Ring_of_Gyges wrote:
Poison isn't honorable, if Paladins are bound by traditional notions of honor they shouldn't use it. If you want Paladins *not* to be honorable, and just to be good holy warriors, that's fine, but it is a significant break with tradition.

I think the Code listed in the Paladin blog is actually an excellent compromise on this front. It requires you to be honorable right up until doing so harms innocent lives or requires an Evil act. That seems like about the right way for a Paladin to behave.

As for poison, I think it's usually dishonorable and illegal (meaning it can only be used by a Paladin under very specific circumstances), but by no means always (my tranquilizer gun example above, for example, is quite honorable for its intended uses IMO), and is certainly not inherently Evil.


That's why I bothered to make the thread: the blog explicitly says that it's removing poisoned weapons from the consideration; as long as it's used 'honorably' (I.E. slathered on a weapon in a face-to-face fight). I don't agree that that can ever be 'honorable', and I protest. You don't even have to make your case with tranq-guns and war criminals who HAVE to be poisoned or they'll drop a boulder on an orphanage...it's being built into the system.

I find that disgusting and against the very spirit of the class. The original paladin, which PF2's shares a closer lineage with than even the current 5e paladins, was a 'prestige' class, where great powers were a reward balanced by high stat requirements and a rigid code of ethics. The 'power level' of the various classes has gone up (to the good, I think) but the paladin's basic concept remains: a strictly moral and ethical hero drawing strength from their own virtue. The idea of them just being able to dose their enemies with wyvern venom, and the argument that 'fair's fair, fight with dogs and get dirty' is repellent to me, and deleterious to the LG base paladin as a whole.


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The Raven Black wrote:

Using poison was forbidden to the PF1 Paladin as part of the acting honorably obligation

If using poison in some circumstances was not dishonorable, then it was not cause for falling

This is why I think it was removed as an example. Because while this statement should be correct, it wasn't always the GM's belief. Some would read the code, see that using poison was forbidden, and say that meant any use of poison was dishonorable. Drinking? Alcohol is a poison and it is dishonorable to partake. Administering medicine? Well, hope that medicine isn't derived from a poison. Trying to cure Lycanthropy? Sorry, belladonna is poison. This is not great GMing IMO, but it is the case sometimes that a GM misinterprets the code and makes paladin unplayable.

Taking away these gotcha situations was the point of tiered code tenets anyway, this just helps further that trend. Now poison to save lives (medicine, tranquilizers) is not implicitly banned.


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Is it dishonorable to use arrows tipped with a dragon bane poison when hunting a red dragon?

Hunters have used poison to more effectively bring down game for millennia. Are they somehow vile, depraved people?

This seems like some sort of lawful-stupid argument.

Grand Lodge

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If Bane and Slaying arrows aren't dishonorable then poison isn't always dishonorable either.


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Malthraz wrote:

This seems like some sort of lawful-stupid argument.

That's exactly it, this is mourning over the death of the Lawful Stupid-adin.

Paizo responded with targeted clarification to areas the community had long identified re: Paladin Code.
This shouldn't surprise anybody who has been involved in these discussions over the years. I'm not.

Like DMW points out, it for the most part isn't going to actually change much for most games.
If anything it will accentuate roleplaying concerns re: "dishonesty" because you actually have to care about that AS SUCH,
instead of it reduced to concrete invocation of game term (Poison) which require no moral consideration to judge.
Like, folks, the game explicitly features Alignment mechanic which is based on subjective moral judgements by GM.
Deal with it.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Paladins should strive to be as Good as Coautls.


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Honestly the use of controlled poison used to gain the most combat efficiency to not drag out a combat will make sense as time is a factor in combat.

Poisoning your blade before combat to make sure you, your allies or further innocents dont get hurt or lose their lives because of your tardines would be a VERY Paladin thing to do.

I would suspect a Paladin would have problem justifying poisoning a person before a duel, or poisoning them beforehand to make them easier to kill in a future combat. This would be considered "dishonorable" as long as the question of honor goes, however with the new Paladin code working with priorities you could have scenarios such as:

Poisoning the food of a guard to allow for prisoners to escape, even if the guard himself is innocent then technically poisoning him to make him sleep or easier to subdue would be a VERY Paladin thing to do.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What I find VERY interesting is that of the subset of folks that clamored for 'LG ONLY' also contains the 'Lawful Unintelligent' subcategory.

I personally would prefer a paladin to use chloroform on a guard rather than murder them outright in their sleep/etc.

The guard is just doing their job, and if it is done quietly enough, other guards are not alerted and thus the chance that the mission past said guard will go off without a hitch.

Instead of "WAKE UP, GUARD, I MUST BEST THEE IN HONORABLE COMBATS OF THE MOST LOUDLY FASHION THAT THEE MAY SAVE THINE HONOR!"


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But it just not right if the paladin doesn't fall for using rat poison to kill vermin in his castle! Unless he valiantly slays each mouse, rat and roach in personal hand to hand combat, no powers for him! :P


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I suppose the point we are trying to make is that even poisons isnt as black and white as claimed. The intent matters more than the tool when it comes to the quest of paladins, be it using poison, intimidating someone or seek the help of your shady companion.


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I'm inclined to agree, Neuronin. "Lawful Stupid", as some people call it, is part of the Paladin's schtick. Justifying immoral or even questionable actions is just not part of being a Paladin no matter what kind of armor you wear. If you want to be an "ends justify the means" kind of LG character, be a LG Ranger or Cleric. Erring on the side of honor and decency is part of the Paladin package. Paladins receive tremendous advantages when facing evil foes. Whether it's a matter of game balance or just roll playing flavor, they pay for those advantages by adhering to an extremely strict, sometimes self defeating, moral code. Poison use, whatever the justification, falls outside of that moral code in my view. Now will there sometimes be an outlandish circumstance that forces the Paladin's hand such that he is forced to use questionable tactics in order to defeat an agent of evil (such a serial child murderer)? Of course that might happen. That's what atonement is for. That's not to say atonement is some kind of Get-out-of-jail-free card. The circumstances must be extreme and a greater good must be preserved.
As far as "Lawful Stupid" goes, don't replace it with "Neutral Stupid".
Rats in the castle? Please. Get a Ranger or a Druid or a scroll of speak with animals or a cat. C'mon now.
Lycanthropy? Remove disease.
Bane or slaying arrows? Those are keyed to a specific, usually evil, target. Poison is not, it is entirely indiscriminate. Poison can fall into the wrong hands. It can be used to greatly evil ends. I would submit arrows of slaying or a bane weapons are not so readily used by or targeted on the innocent or undeserving.
With all that said, this not a topic that deserves a heated or unpleasant exchange. If there's a rule one disagrees with, don't use it at your table. Call it a higher moral code;)


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Neuronin wrote:
A lot of these are weird edge cases or bad faith arguments that miss a vital point: there is no just society which considers the use of poisons to be anything less than a crime.

Are you including lethal injection? That's poisoning approved of by the state. Socrates was forced to drink hemlock. And while you can reject these societies for being unjust, societies that had absolute rules against poisons mostly weren't any better; they had slavery, torture, etc.

90% of (PF1) poisons are safe, non-lethal sedatives. Banning all poisons because of the potential for dishonourable use is like, say, banning crossbows outright because the Paladin might use them on people a long way away who can't fight back. (Crossbows were also something that Middle Ages society disapproved of, because it threatened the ruling classes. "Anything a peasant could use to kill me is dishonorable!")

Silver Crusade

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WillDM4food wrote:
"Lawful Stupid", as some people call it, is part of the Paladin's schtick.

It is not and has never been.


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Rysky wrote:
WillDM4food wrote:
"Lawful Stupid", as some people call it, is part of the Paladin's schtick.
It is not and has never been.

Agreed, the term "lawful stupid" have been a degoratory for players playing the paladin as a "stick-in-the-mud" due to the confusion over the paladin code and alignment system for ages.

Why do we defend this bad practice? As if the Paladin class havent already got a bad enough reputation?


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The point that adding fire to a weapon is ok, but for some reason poison isn't pretty much made it clear for me. Then again, I never understood the no-poison argument anyway.


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Oh, Poison. I guess I should have read the title more closely. I was expecting a discussion of Paladins of Poseidon. ;)

Shadow Lodge

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OCEANSHIELDWOLPF 2.0 wrote:
The point that adding fire to a weapon is ok, but for some reason poison isn't pretty much made it clear for me. Then again, I never understood the no-poison argument anyway.

For me, it's always been a matter of how one employs it. There are lots of ways that using poison isn't evil or dishonorable, even when it's use to kill. The use of pesticides spring to mind. And when not being used to kill, a poison at low dose can often be called medicine. Every single herb and drug used in the medical field is also a poison at a high enough dose. But what about using it to directly eliminate an enemy?

Using poison to kill an opponent while you're not present, doing so indiscriminately, opening up the possibility of targeting an innocent person, all while you're not present - that's the part that is obviously against a paladin's code.

Heck, just look at the visceral reaction people have to the use of poison gasses used in World War 1 - mustard gas, chlorine gas, etc.. has all been so universally reviled that the use of chemical weapons is now banned practically world wide. However, the use of poisonous gasses which don't lead to death are still regularly used - tear gas being a prime example.

Adding it to a weapon? Now it's a bit more grey. I can't really see how it's any worse than adding bane or acid damage or anything like that, other than the fact that there's simply a stigma around poisons that doesn't exist around all the magical options (likely because poison is real world and the other options aren't).

There certainly are some magical enhancements that I've never thought twice about, but putting it in the context of this discussion makes me question the use of. Acid damage addition on a weapon is a big one. Ever seen what acid does to a person when it's employed as a weapon? It's rather horrific. I don't believe any good person, much less a paladin, would ever choose to impart such pain and disfigurement on someone, unless it was a very last desperate resort.

I think a good course of action is to think about it from the perspective of your own character: would your character feel sneaky and submersive when they use it? Then it's probably a no go. The use of poisons which kill a sentient creature might be a no go, but the use which subdues a sentient creature or the use that kills a non-sentient might be ok.

It might also be a good idea to discuss this in Session 0; we all talk about how a poisoned weapon is no worse than a lot of magical enhancements - and maybe that actually means that there are a lot of magical enhancements that a paladin wouldn't use. A bane weapon against demons or evil dragons might be ok, but a bane weapon against humans or elves might not. And I would seriously question the use of acid in most circumstances.

Dark Archive

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On the same token, if we're going to start really delving into Lawful NotSoBright territory, a paladin (if prohibited from using poison) should not use:

Silver/Mithril Weapons against Devils
Cold Iron weapons against Fae or Demons
Adamantine weapons against constructs
Ghost Touch weapons against incorporeal entities

and definitely, definitely never ever ever use any sort of weapon blanching.

Sort of silly, right?

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

On the same token, if we're going to start really delving into Lawful NotSoBright territory, a paladin (if prohibited from using poison) should not use:

Silver/Mithril Weapons against Devils
Cold Iron weapons against Fae or Demons
Adamantine weapons against constructs
Ghost Touch weapons against incorporeal entities

and definitely, definitely never ever ever use any sort of weapon blanching.

Sort of silly, right?

Sure is. That sort of thing was the first thing that came to mind when this announcement was made: using the poisoned weapon to defeat monsters which'd be suicidal to get into a slugging match with.

Bellerophon using molten lead down the throat to kill the original Chimera, for example.


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I think Paladins should stick to honorable things like splashing acid to people's faces with flasks, and leave dishonorable stuff like sleeping poisons to rogues.


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And there has been many cases in myth where supposedly honorable characters have used a variety of poisons to defeat a foe. In Japan for example getting the monster really drunk before attacking it was really popular, as seen with Susannoo and Orochi, and the slaying of Shuten Doji, where the heroes used barrels of alcohol to poison the monster.

Shadow Lodge

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

On the same token, if we're going to start really delving into Lawful NotSoBright territory, a paladin (if prohibited from using poison) should not use:

Silver/Mithril Weapons against Devils
Cold Iron weapons against Fae or Demons
Adamantine weapons against constructs
Ghost Touch weapons against incorporeal entities

and definitely, definitely never ever ever use any sort of weapon blanching.

Sort of silly, right?

I think that's one of the areas where poison* use would be ok: the use against an enemy that can only be defeated with poison. (Well, "only" isn't quite true in these newer editions, but the basic idea holds true). There really isn't a clear cut delineation where we can draw the line, it's situational and should be evaluated on a case-by-caae basis. Likewise, the blanket ban on it is bothersome for the same reason.

*Poison as an all encompassing category has always bothered me with these games (such as 5es use of it where all it does it add extra damage), but to deviate too far from it is to make things overly complicated for a game.


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WillDM4food wrote:

I'm inclined to agree, Neuronin. "Lawful Stupid", as some people call it, is part of the Paladin's schtick. Justifying immoral or even questionable actions is just not part of being a Paladin no matter what kind of armor you wear. If you want to be an "ends justify the means" kind of LG character, be a LG Ranger or Cleric. Erring on the side of honor and decency is part of the Paladin package. Paladins receive tremendous advantages when facing evil foes. Whether it's a matter of game balance or just roll playing flavor, they pay for those advantages by adhering to an extremely strict, sometimes self defeating, moral code. Poison use, whatever the justification, falls outside of that moral code in my view. Now will there sometimes be an outlandish circumstance that forces the Paladin's hand such that he is forced to use questionable tactics in order to defeat an agent of evil (such a serial child murderer)? Of course that might happen. That's what atonement is for. That's not to say atonement is some kind of Get-out-of-jail-free card. The circumstances must be extreme and a greater good must be preserved.

As far as "Lawful Stupid" goes, don't replace it with "Neutral Stupid".
Rats in the castle? Please. Get a Ranger or a Druid or a scroll of speak with animals or a cat. C'mon now.
Lycanthropy? Remove disease.
Bane or slaying arrows? Those are keyed to a specific, usually evil, target. Poison is not, it is entirely indiscriminate. Poison can fall into the wrong hands. It can be used to greatly evil ends. I would submit arrows of slaying or a bane weapons are not so readily used by or targeted on the innocent or undeserving.
With all that said, this not a topic that deserves a heated or unpleasant exchange. If there's a rule one disagrees with, don't use it at your table. Call it a higher moral code;)

errr..role playing. Ahem.

I don't suggest that being "Lawful Stupid" is part of a Paladin's code, I only point out that others have suggested it since D&D's inception. I suggest that adhering to a higher, often impractical, moral code is not of necessity stupid. It's often impractical but frankly it's supposed to be. Being a Paladin is not supposed to be easy, it's not supposed to be convenient, it is not supposed to be confused with the path of least resistance. I don't think Paladins are supposed to be just another flavor of player character. They are supposed to be different. Having to adhere to a strict moral code seems like an opportunity for a Paladin to be exceedingly clever and resourceful. They can't just fall back on easy answers to common adventuring situations. They have to think outside the box and confront the adventuring world in fresh, new ways. That is what makes them so flavorful and fun to play. I've never thought of Paladins as "Lawful Stupid", rather I think they invite the player to explore "Lawful Thoughtful" as a role playing concept. One of my favorite PC's that I've ever DM'ed was a lawful good cleric who refused to act like a "normal" adventurer. He spent his early career giving away his wealth by literally handing it out to the poor on the streets. He insisted that the party subdue rather than kill monsters that they encountered. Using rules found in the Book of Exalted Deeds, he spent endless hours attempting to convert a troll the party had captured. It was epic and fun. And entirely impractical. But it wasn't stupid.
I'm not following the logic that using poison is the equivalent of using silver weapons against vampires or devils.
I do think that getting a foe drunk so that they are easier to kill is very unpaladinish.
Again, I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. I just want Neuronin to realize that he (she?) is not alone. I think many of the arguments marshalled against his/her position are exceedingly weak and nonsensical. Roll on Neuronin!


I guess there's also the question if something that has no concept of honor, or nothing resembling common conception of it, like a beast, or monster, can be treated with honor. In my eyes, if it's a duel with a enemy champion, the fight should be honorable and fair. If it is against a great monster, like a dragon or demon, who have no code themselves, the rigors of honor is a lot more loose.

All about context


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Malthraz wrote:

Is it dishonorable to use arrows tipped with a dragon bane poison when hunting a red dragon?

Hunters have used poison to more effectively bring down game for millennia. Are they somehow vile, depraved people?

This seems like some sort of lawful-stupid argument.

This is where the confusion comes in I think. Are hunters who use poison vile, depraved people? Not necessarily, they're just not paladins. There is a huge gulf between being a Paladin and being vile and depraved. Not being a Paladin isn't the same as being vile and depraved. You're conflating the issue.


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Not really, the OP has called using poison a vile and depraved act, so Malthraz' point is good. is a hunter vile and depraved for using poison?


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Poison has always been a better tool for Paladins than anyone else. Think of it this way, if a Paladin is trying to apprehend the evil cultist leader, he can:

  • Approach the leader, offer an ultimatum, and then when the leader predictably fights for his life (see: every stat block with morale listing of 'fights to the death'), the paladin takes his sword and cuts gashes into the fellow's flesh until he falls unconscious, almost dead.
  • Fire a blowgun dart at the leader with sleep poison, knocking him unconscious almost painlessly. The paladin then ties the leader up and takes him to a jail where he can be interrogated.

    Which of these two options sounds like its more evil? Because the first one involves a whole lot more bloodshed and pain than the second. Yes, the second is less honorable, but its a hell of a lot more peaceful and significantly less cruel. And in my mind its way more humane than dealing non-lethal damage to knock someone unconscious (mental image: paladin hitting someone with a stick until they pass out, covered in non-life-threatening welts), something that I've seen many paladins do in hopes of not killing their targets.

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