River Warden (Paladin)


Round 2: Design an archetype

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 aka Fatespinner

River Warden (Paladin)
A divinely empowered embodiment of the spirit of liberty, the river warden protects safe and fair trade throughout the River Kingdoms. These staunch defenders of the six River Freedoms garner great support from locals for the river warden's efforts to guard roads and waterways from bloodthirsty opportunists who prey on honest folk.
Class Skills: A river warden does not gain Knowledge (nobility) (Int) as a class skill; instead, she gains Knowledge (local) (Int), Perception (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str) as class skills.
Skill Ranks Per Level: 4 + Int modifier.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A river warden is not proficient with heavy armor.
Detect Evil (Sp): A river warden does not gain this ability.
Aura of Awareness (Su): At 3rd level, a river warden can always act in the surprise round even if she fails to make a Perception roll to notice an enemy (but is still flat-footed until she takes an action). Both the warden and allies within 10 feet of her gain a +2 morale bonus to Perception checks and initiative rolls. This ability functions only while the river warden is conscious, not if she is unconscious or dead. This ability replaces aura of courage.
Woodland Stride (Ex): At 3rd level, a river warden gains woodland stride as the druid ability of the same name. This ability replaces divine health.
Wilderness Training (Ex): Beginning at 4th level, each time the river warden gains access to a new spell level she may choose a single spell from the ranger spell list of the same level to add to her spell list. Once made, this choice cannot be changed. This ability replaces channel positive energy.
Spirit of the Fens (Su): At 5th level, a river warden gains a swim speed equal to her base land speed and permanently gains the benefits of water breathing. Once per day as a standard action, she may grant these benefits to a number of allies within 30 feet equal to her Charisma modifier (minimum 1) for 10 minutes per level. At 9th level and every four levels thereafter, this ability may be used an additional time per day. This ability replaces divine bond.
The Six River Freedoms: A river warden swears to uphold the River Freedoms in all of her dealings by honoring oaths and free speech, respecting free travel and local laws, and abolishing slavery. A river warden may never imprison or detain someone without sufficient evidence that they have committed a crime. A warden must be of any good alignment and loses all class features, except proficiencies, if she ever willingly commits an evil act. These tenets replace the normal paladin code of conduct and alignment restrictions.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Congrats on making the Top 32, Zachary, and congrats again on choosing the paladin as a base class: there's only one other paladin archetype for direct comparison this round.

Fortunately or unfortunately, your River Warden and the Riverhelm ranger archetype are both built on the same premise. Your River Warden seems to me a broader and more playable archetype, so you win that comparison.

Down into the mechanics, though! The swap of Knowledge (nobility) for Local, Perception, Survival, and Swim is a huge bump in available skills and not at all an even trade. And there's extra skill points as well, so I'm expecting a nerfing of some other powers to make up for this. The loss of [i]detect evil[i] and heavy armor proficiency fits the bill.

By the time we get to Wilderness Training, though, I'm wondering why this is a paladin at all. The ranger spell list, the armor, the woodland stride, ditching the Lawful component of alignment restriction... I'm starting to think that this is not especially paladin-like.

So I'm torn. It's a neat archetype and theme with broader appeal than the Riverhelm, for instance. But if you remove most of the paladin restrictions and powers, is it still a paladin?

I do NOT recommend this to advance.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

A paladin trading heavy armor for more skill ranks and class skills, gotcha.

Aura of Awareness: I like the surprise round ability. A morale bonus to Perception checks is weird.

Woodland Stride: A swap for another class's ability.

Wilderness Training: Giving up channel energy to get 4 ranger spells on your paladin spell list is a pretty steep cost.

Spirit of the Fens: Giving up divine bond for a swim speed is a pretty steep cost.

Other than the surprise round ability, there's not much here to get me excited about this archetype. You're losing two powerful iconic abilities for some stuff from another class or a swim speed.

I do NOT recommend this archetype for advancement.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

I just think this is backwards. I think maybe you should have tacked some paladin abilities on a ranger, not the other way around. This doesn't even look like a paladin by the time you're done with it. And that makes me really question the design decisions. I like some of the things you did here, I just think the design underpinning your creation is flawed. Interesting concept but the execution isn't there for me. I don't like saying this because I was a huge fan of the lampblack. This one is up to the voters.

I DO NOT Recommend this archetype for advancement.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Your spectral Lamp Black was pretty nifty so lets see what we have here.

More skills points and some new skills for heavy armor and no detect evil. Seems ok

Aura of awareness seems fairly potent at first glance, more for the always act in a surprise round aspect. It certainly fits with protecting travel and stoping highwaymen.

Once of the biggest issues I have is the River Freedoms as a Paladin code. I certainly understand that this is justification for the loosening the alignment restriction, but I feel like upholding the Lawful part of things should be one of the core challenges of a Paladin in the River Kingdoms. Not to mention that two of the freedoms "You have what you hold." and "Courts are for Kings." Don't seem particularly good in the alignment sense. I think you were on to something here, but stumbled a bit in the execution. Good Luck.

Silver Crusade Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Dude, I was with you until Divine Bond and losing the Lawful Alignment.

I think trading channel (you still have lay on hands) for 4 ranger spells is cool and with a Dex Paladin (which many people play), I think it's even cooler.

If it wasn't for the divine bond this would be a no brainer for me, but without it you're hanging on by a thread.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter Season 6

I've done some paladin archetypes for print, and generally left the code untouched. Looking at this archetype, I think I should have gone there for some changes. It's a very natural fit to weaken the paladin code in exchange for enforcing the River Freedoms, easily my favorite element of this archetype. That alone leans me towards wanting to see more from this designer.

I would have stuck with LG as a requirement, so that's a problem, but I don't think it's insurmountable either.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8 aka nate lange

one of the biggest things i'm looking at in my evaluations is, is this unbalanced? power level wise, no... (see below)

but in this case i have to ask, is it a paladin? not really.

it feels more like you should have made a ranger and tacked on some pally stuff instead of vice versa. also, smite evil is a potent ability that is balanced, at least in part, by the paladin's strict code- which you removed. now any good aligned sorcerer, bard, oracle or other 'face' can dip one level of paladin in order to gain their Cha mod. to AC and attack rolls (and ignore DR) against the BBEG 1/day. that is a serious mistake that would obviously be abused.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

Unlike others who have suggested doing this as a ranger with Paladin traits would be better I respectfully disagree. It can be done. Back in the 2nd ed. (using Skills & Powers) I made very nearly this concept and when I read the intro I was hoping to see what someone else did in this design space.

So I really wanted to like this but unfortunately I'm disappointed. This no loner resembles a paladin too many of the iconic abilities and restrictions have been removed and it doesn't feel like a ranger of druid either. The river Warden is left looking gangly, awkward, and crammed into the design space.

I did like the altered code of conduct but would have preferred (given all of the other changes) that it had retained the LG restriction.

Anyway Congrats on making it to the top 32 and good luck this round.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I think this does a good job of creating an "idealogical warrior" instead of a "holy warrior." It gives a solid option for a paladin who isn't beholden to a god, but the cause of the River Freedoms, which is a nice change of pace. Yes, he's got standards, but they're principles, rather than dogma.

It reminds me of the variant paladins from the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana, which were solid and didn't require LG alignment. Like Andrew Marlowe is saying-- it doesn't look like a stock paladin, and it doesn't look like a ranger-- and that's a strength not a weakness. If I want the same old paladin with a camouflage paint job or a ranger who's just LG, I don't need an archetype. This archetype takes the paladin and breaks the religion barrier on him. To me, that's a design choice that's been long overdue.

-Ben.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

terraleon wrote:

I think this does a good job of creating an "idealogical warrior" instead of a "holy warrior." It gives a solid option for a paladin who isn't beholden to a god, but the cause of the River Freedoms, which is a nice change of pace. Yes, he's got standards, but they're principles, rather than dogma.

It reminds me of the variant paladins from the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana, which were solid and didn't require LG alignment. Like Andrew Marlowe is saying-- it doesn't look like a stock paladin, and it doesn't look like a ranger-- and that's a strength not a weakness. If I want the same old paladin with a camouflage paint job or a ranger who's just LG, I don't need an archetype. This archetype takes the paladin and breaks the religion barrier on him. To me, that's a design choice that's been long overdue.

-Ben.

Agreed. I can see the argument that this could be done with a ranger chasis, but I think the core of the class is the commitment to the idealogical tenants of the River Freedoms, and a commitment to a code is a core feature of the paladin class. I like how this archetype uses that as a starting point and crafts a paladin that's fairly specific, without being tied to a particular god. Paladin archetypes are pretty tough, and I think this is one of the better ones I've seen.

Plus, to be honest, I'm a big fan of Zach's work, and I'd like to see him make it a bit further in the competition where he can demonstrate his exceptional rules-fu and nuanced design. This is a good solid swing, maybe not a homerun, but definitely not enough to send him back to the benches.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8 aka nate lange

in the interest of fairness, here are expanded comments on my issue with the relaxed code of conduct.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

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My understanding has long been that the paladin code is entirely for flavor, and is not a tool for balancing the class abilities. It's there largely for legacy reasons and to fuel internet debates about whether paladins can kill baby goblins. You could remove the paladin code entirely (and corresponding alignment restriction) and not affect game balance, though you would improve the actual experience of playing the game by sidestepping all the ridiculous alignment debates the class entails.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Additionally, this is a class archetype that is also plausible outside of the River Kingdoms, as a pirate-hunter or high seas crusader. I think that's an advantage.

-Ben.


Finally there's a paladin archetype that lets you be something other than lawful obnoxious. I always dread having a pally in the party because of how annoying their code is for everyone else. And really, there's no reason to make them be LG if their deity isn't. That alone is enough to secure my vote.

I do like the theme of a tough woodsman who metes out justice on the road however is necessary. It also works well outside of River Kingdoms while still distinctly fitting the theme, which is nice.


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I agree with Sebastian - ditching the alignment restriction is a thing that has been very sorely needed by the paladin class for a long time. A few other classes are limited in one axis of alignment, but no other class is limited in both. In return, Paladins have neither the heavy combat capabilities of a Fighter nor the full-range healing and buffing powers of a Cleric.

Removing the alignment restriction presents interesting thematic options. Deity write-ups could include notes on each deity's paladins, what they can smite, whether they heal or hurt with a touch, whether they channel positive or negative energy, etc., lending flavor to the deity's clergy and properly positioning Clerics as 'church leaders,' while Paladins become closer to 'holy warriors' of any given god.

The Cavalier already exists as a class. The Paladin need not be solely the 'knight in shining armor,' since the Cavalier expressly fills that role. Allowing Paladins to break from the alignment restrictions, and instead, say, requiring that they be their deity's exact alignment, yields many new storytelling opportunities. Individual deities' paladins could be individually balanced, allowing Paladins to fulfill roles that otherwise would be filled by currently non-alignment-restricted classes.

Writeups of deities could also include straightforward oaths that any paladin of the deity is required to take and uphold, at the risk of losing his paladin powers.

All this to say, I think the River Warden represents a widening of the Paladin class that has been a long time coming. As a player who enjoys thematics far, far more than number-crunching, seeing the Paladin pattern stretched to include other oaths and virtues is very exciting for me. Thumbs-up, would vote again.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I will give general impressions, but with 3 areas of particular focus that suit my personal interests. Archetype and ability names: do they show flair? How closely tied to the River Kingdom is the archetype? And last but certainly not least, do I want to play this archetype?

Archetype and ability names: slightly below average. Mostly descriptive, archetype name is kinda bland.

River Kingdom tie: Above average. We have rivers, we have the six freedoms.

Desire to play: Average. I like the idea of an idealogical warrior paladin, as someone put it. And the abilities are practical for the area. But nothing really excites me about this one. It makes sense, and for a RK campaign I might go with it, but I'd also be looking at other choices.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Yet another upholding the tennants of the river kingdoms archetype. I shouldn't be surprised, but as this is my last one... well, I still am.

Though I like the idea of an ideological paladin, I don't really feel this ranger-flavored paladin really works. It's halfway between the two without anything of it's own to make it feel unique, which is what it's missing.

good luck in this and future rounds!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

Class Skills: This should just be "Replace Knowledge (nobility) with Knowledge (local), Perception, Survival, and Swim." It's in the Class Skills section, so we know these are class skills, and you don't need the stat next to it. Saves on wordcount.

You double the Skill Ranks per level...interesting.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Makes sense if they are protecting water ways then they are not likely to swim in heavy armor...although I'd argue Medium armor is pushing it.

Detect Evil: I'm not sure yet why you are just cutting this ability.

Aura of Awareness: Makes sense, but you could cut the "not when unconscious or dead" part...that's just repeating what you told us with it's only active when she's conscious.

Woodland Stride: Hmm I can stretch and see how this makes sense, but something like River Stride where she can walk on water would make more sense.

Wilderness Training: Gaining a ranger spell of that level in place of channel positive energy...hmm. I'm not...sure. I'm seeing your theme in contention with your abilities at this point.

Spirit of the Fens: It's quirky and cool, and I would actually have expected this instead of Woodland Stride...with some level breakage for permanency and granting bonuses to allies.

Six River Freedoms: I see what you're doing but this feels tacked on.

I really agree with Clark's statement...You almost should have started as a Ranger that gains some Paladin abilities...or just scrapped the Paladin tie at all. Your theme is a little all over the place. You give some class ability swaps at a huge cost to Paladin class skills.

Overall, I don't think this is showing Superstar. It really needs reworking from the entire base of the premise.

I do NOT recommend.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

Good: Its a Ranger PAlkadin mash up I can dig that!
Bad: Yeah execution is missing something the other reviewers nailed it.
Ugly Weak RLs tie in.
Overall: This could make my top 16 but definatly not my top 8, sorry about that. You're writing is solid but you just got out competed for me.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

I'm not a fan of an archetype changing the paladin alignment and code that much. I think to do it right you need a full subclass (see antipaladin).

Beyond that, as others have said, the abilities you gain here don't make up for what you lose, and you pretty much wind up playing a ranger with smite evil, or some other ranger/paladin hybrid, and in general, while that type of archetype is functional, it's not particularly innovative or superstar.

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