How to successfully paladin? A question on Role Playing


So, I like the idea of the paladin, And mechanics wise they seem fun, But I worry about the RP aspect.. So I wanted to ask here, How do you successfully RP a paladin? How do you avoid the pitfalls of lawful stupid and how do you avoid ruining the game for the party?

Jimmy Fiddle is my paladin in a play by post on the boards.
Feel free to read up on him.

All a paladin is really required to do is to strive for good to the best of his ability.
I ended up having an argument over killing undead with the party healer. It is fun to play someone who has a code they strive to stick to.

Jimmy's code is simple though. Loyalty above all.

Remember that paladins don't actually have to worship any God.

Just don't ruin the game for your party. It's easier than it seems. You can be a close and nice person if you want. You don't have to coerce your party to act lawful good even if you are. As long as they aren't a bunch of psychos you shouldn't have any trouble.
Maybe sometimes your paladin code will come to conflict but as long as you advice your party to act like you'd want and not try to force them into making everything your way it shouldn't be problematic.
If they want to make something really terrible that could cause your character to fall, and they wouldn't change their mind, this solution has always been the best choice in my gaming groups:
«I'm sorry, my friends, but I cannot take part in this. You are my friends and I won't fight you, but this is too much for me. I hope you reconsider your actions»
(Then your character leaves for a while and let them do what they were doing)

Refusing to take part in anything your character would abhor but not forcing your decissions on the other players is the key. It's not a tool you should use too often but it helps not to be disruptive while remaining loyal to your morals.

If you have access to Faiths of Purity: there are a couple of flavourful codes for Paladins based on their deities.

For the rest, just remember that Paladins are more good than lawful, but must respect legitimate authority. Also: have fun. A Paladin does not need to force his beliefs on those in his party, he/she can try to lead by example. Maybe give a lecture or two for acts he really does not approve of and try to better those around him/her.

*Edit: Sort of ninja'd. This is what I get for posting from work :)

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I get ninja'd all the time for posting from my cell phone with no WiFi. So I'm glad to be the ninja this time, mwahahahaha

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I always quote this gem from TriOmegaZero's profile.

Lessons for Paladins by Peregrine (Rules discussion disguised as prose)::

Welcome, initiates, to the beginning of the rest of your life. Today you begin your new life as a paladin, the strong right arm of God. I see that you have been issued with your swords and armour; leave them at the sides and sit down. You will not need them yet. Here, in this class, you will learn about the life of a paladin. You will learn about honour, justice, mercy, duty; above all, though, you will learn about the code to which you will dedicate your life. You may call me Teacher, or Master; I pray for your swift elevation to full rank, when you may call me Brother.

Of humility befitting a paladin (Paladin's Rule 0: Don't be a jerk.)

You know of course that you are here because you have been chosen. But lest any of you fall into pride because of this, remember that you have been chosen by God to serve in a specific capacity to use certain gifts given to you. The governor, the scholar, or even the farmer, who seeks to honour God in his labour, is chosen and gifted as surely as you. You may find yourself lifted higher than they because of your calling, but you will also ever be in peril of falling lower. Remember this, and be humble.

Of the paladin's code and the truth it stands for (Don't let the code choke you or your game.)

It is because we are chosen, and called, that we must live by our code. The essence of the code is simple: do no evil; respect authority; act with honour; help the needy; punish the wicked. But you are not here just because you are capable of following rules. The code is more than rules. It is the expression in words and deeds of a deeper truth. It is the violation of that truth, not of the mere rules that express it, that will distance you from God should you transgress against the code.

The truth of righteous living is universal, but it is essentially unutterable. The more we try to describe and define it, the farther we stray from its universal nature. Yet because we are only mortal beings, we must try to define it in order to conceive of it and follow it at all. Thus, what the code means for me may differ from what it means for you. But this must not be the shifting, relative morality of whim and passion that you may have heard preached, for we must seek our path from God, not our worldly wants and desires. Particularly to those who have come from afar to learn with us for a time, I say: Discuss earnestly the particulars of your own code with a mentor before you begin your duties as a paladin. In this way, you may avoid the troubles of vagueness and doubt on the one hand, and the poison of lawless self-will on the other.

Notwithstanding all that I have said, I shall try to clarify what it is to conduct yourself righteously, as befits a paladin, and God willing it shall light your path somewhat.

You have no doubt heard in tales and such that it is a noble thing to die by the code. Put that out of your minds. I shall endeavour to teach you to live by the code; if you do, you will be ready to die when your time has come, but you shall not be tempted to court death for your own glory. More importantly, you must know how to live by the code with every breath you take, every deed you do, even when death is not an immediate danger. Those who only know to die by the code will stand firm in battle and hard deeds, but swiftly fall to the subtler seductions of evil.

Of honourable combat (Stop shouting challenges before every fight. War is not a duel is not an arrest.)

But let us first look at battle, for we are the soldiers of God in a world of danger and war. You have heard that you should give the enemy a fair fight, yes? Open challenge, equal readiness, and God will decide? Utter rubbish. Put it out of your minds at once. The only time you are obliged to give this sort of 'fair fight' is when you are honour-bound to do so: that is, in a duel. The principle you must instead observe might be called the 'rules of engagement'. This is the term used in open warfare, but it will serve for all forms of combat and confrontation. The rules of engagement for a duel call for a 'fair fight'. No other rules do.

The most basic rule of engagement is that you must have due cause before doing violence to a foe, and you must do your diligence to make this cause known to the foe. In warfare, this is often twisted to demand a duel-like challenge, no ambushes, and other such absurdities. It is the declaration of war itself that serves to make your cause known. After that, anyone who is a soldier or partisan in the war may be considered to be legitimately informed, and you may attack in any manner that is suitable, observing only the mercies of your conscience and a rigorous effort to ensure that you only attack soldiers and partisans.

It is likely that you will spend more time in commonplace enforcement of the law than in open warfare -- and here too the 'rules of engagement' have been twisted to make you believe you must duel every lawbreaker and murderer that crosses your path. Your duty in upholding the law is to uphold the law. In the process of apprehending a culprit, you must make them aware of the crimes with which they are charged -- but you may, indeed should, use sufficiently overwhelming force to ensure that they are apprehended. Letting them escape from a 'fair fight' is a travesty of justice, not a deed of honour.

Of duels, and of the related trial by combat, the less said the better. If you should find yourself in one, let it be because a trusted and neutral authority called for it. If you declare that God will see you victorious, when you declared the duel to satisfy some slight to your own honour, your judgement is clouded and you are almost certainly not acting in submission to God's will.

Of justice tempered with mercy (Lawful AND Good, people.)

Enough said of combat and violence, even if it is just. Justice alone is not enough. A paladin is a champion of righteousness, which is justice tempered with mercy, law balanced with love. Meditate often on this. Those who revere justice without compassion will tell you that your law is made imperfect by your mercy and restraint. Those who celebrate loving-kindness above all will say that your good deeds are fettered by your strictures and principles.

The truth that the first error will deny is that the law is imperfect, an imperfect expression of the truth of righteousness. Law without love serves no purpose but itself, and is futile. Law and love together serve to better the giver and the receiver of justice.

The second error denies the truth that love without stricture is defenceless. Quite apart from defending against all the evils of the world -- and as paladins we must maintain our vigilance always, and be bound to order and principle to do so -- we ourselves are not perfect. To defend the goodness of love in our own hearts, we must be mindful of lawfulness, not so that love becomes diminished, but so that it may be perfected, and not sicken or stray into a cruel parody of love that, all unawares and unresisting, harms others in the pursuit of the beloved, even harms the beloved thing itself.

Always strive for the way that upholds law and good. But the perfect way is narrow and hard to find. If you are ever caught between them, remember that the second error is the less. Imperfect good is preferable to imperfect law. Remember the first rule of every paladin: do no evil.

Of resisting evil (Why we do not detect-and-smite.)

More than this, of course, we are called to actively resist evil. You will learn to sense the presence of evil; indeed, part of your training here will be in recognising the aura that evil presents to your supernatural senses. This, however, should be your first clue to the limitations of this gift: It is quite hard to actually get evil people to willingly come inside our walls and be test subjects. Therefore, we use magic to present differing auras to you, for your training. Learn from this that the semblance of evil is not itself sufficient grounds for violence. (Learn also that the absence of the semblance of evil is no cause for complacency.)

Moreover, the taint of evil on a being's soul is not itself a crime. We punish deeds, not souls; souls, we strive to redeem. Evil can be mundane; it can even -- but never be complacent -- even be beneath our immediate concern. A malicious misanthrope who spitefully abuses and spreads lies about his neighbours is a wicked person, and you will sense the evil in him, but misanthropy is not -- not in our region, at any rate -- sufficient cause by itself to do more than verbally chastise a person. And that will itself likely do little to help. Unless you can find evidence of evil deeds that have gone unpunished, you will do well to leave the matter alone.

Take from that, this lesson: Your awareness of the presence of evil is a warning, not damning evidence. Treat it as you do your other senses and support it with sound reason.

Of obedience and the law of the land (No, you don't breach the code by wearing a hat of an illegal colour while passing through the Duchy of Frivolia.)

Our fight is not against evil alone, however, and you will go astray if you fail to also uphold the law. Does this mean that you must obey every jot and scruple of the law of the land wherein you find yourself? No -- but you should strive to do so regardless.

The code is the heart of your law. But if the code itself is an imperfect expression of universal righteousness, how much more will the law of the land be imperfect, when it may be written by fools or tyrants? Seek for the heart of justice that underlies the law, and remember that where the written word departs irreconcileably from just governance, it is no longer truly a law.

Nonetheless, we are called to respect the authorities, so unless their injustice makes it impossible to do so in good conscience, endeavour to obey their laws. If you were to flout the law in the sight of others, even if you knew you were justified before God in doing so, others who do not know or hold your principles will be led astray by your actions. For their sake, obey law and uphold tradition.

I shall stress this theme on a particular point: the use of poison. The ethics of poison are oft-debated, and it must be conceded that there are times when it would be permissible for us to use it for good and just purposes. However, because of the stigma attached to poison's use, it remains proscribed in the codes of most paladins, lest those lacking our scruples should feel free to use it at whim, thinking they follow our example.

And likewise, concealing the truth -- if not, on occasion, outright lying -- is often all but necessary to prevent harm coming to others. But something of upholding the truth is said by most paladins' codes, because failing to uphold the truth will often lead to deeper and more subtle harms. But this is such an occasion as I described, where you may struggle and fail to see the righteous path between practicing deception, and giving power to your foes. Do no evil.

That is enough of a lesson for this morning. Go, attend to your midday meal, and discuss among yourselves what you have heard here. I pray you shall find some small kernel of wisdom in these words.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

My pfs paladin always strives to be the best he can be, and set an example for others. He is tolerant and patient of others failures, and will always take the time to help someone who tries to do right by others.

My favorite paladin in literature is Michael Carpenter from the dresden books by Jim Butcher. If you have the time to read them, they are a great guide to a lawful good paladin rolling with a not so lawful, not as good wizard.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16

And always remember, the Archetypical Paladin, Roland. Was a bit of a womanizing drunk in his downtime, but a shining knight on the battlefield. There are a ton of ways to play a Paladin.

Sovereign Court

Regarding being lawful but not lawful stupid, my Sarenite paladin would say: "I'm a discipline-bound knight so that others don't have to be. Some of us have to place ourselves under a tighter Rule so that we can correctly apply the greater power we have been entrusted with."

Furthermore, limiting themselves to honorable, just behavior doesn't make paladins weak or a hindrance; to them it's a big asset. People know that you can trust paladins, that you can depend on them. This gives them more authority when accusing evildoers, requesting aid or settling disputes. When a paladin organizes a peace conference, the delegates aren't afraid they'll be poisoned or ambushed. When a paladin rules against someone in a dispute everyone knows it wasn't because of favoritism but because of a balanced judgment. When a paladin stands up to the king's trusted advisor, people listen, because even though the advisor is influential, the paladin is bound to make no false accusation. This is surely an awesome power, not a stupid hindrance.

Paladins believe that upholding honor and just law is the best way to achieve Good and Justice for All.

Sovereign Court

Okay, let's tackle another hot question: how to Paladin if the rest of the party is a bunch of scumbags?


If the rest of the players really want to play scumbags, playing a paladin isn't going to be fun. Paladins don't work out in every party.

However, many times the other players aren't quite that committed to dastardliness. Although not everyone wants to play a paladin, there are a lot of people who like playing "heroes" with an eye towards healthy wealth accumulation, rather than pure neutral mercenaries. And a lot of APs are written with the idea that the PCs are heroically motivated.

Adding a paladin to the party is going to pull the party more in the direction of "playing nice with others". Which doesn't have to be bad; the party's newfound reputation for trustworthiness can open doors that would have otherwise be closed to them.

It's fair to ask the other players to be mindful of your ethical constraints; likewise you need to be mindful that they have different ethics. As long as they're not being evil, and not too shady, that can work out very well.

The paladin and the rogue
A paladin wouldn't be okay with a rogue stealing from normal people. That's simply a crime, and evil. It's not the most evil thing every, but burglarizing normal people or pickpocketing random people in the street is still evil.

A rogue who shakes down the tax collector of the evil baron is a different story. If a reasonable case can be made that the baron is no longer governing for the good of the people, then robbing his tax collectors isn't as clear-cut evil anymore. If the rogue also gives a cut of the money back to the poor and needy, it becomes more like Chaotic Good.

It's still not something the paladin should be doing himself, but it's not a reason for leaving the party (or kicking the rogue out of the party).

Fortunately in Pathfinder a lot of treasure is in the hands of naughty people instead of defenseless innocents, so there's quite a bit of stealing that can be done without causing utter dismay to the paladin.


So when playing a paladin, it's fair to occasionally say to the party "I'm not okay with that plan, it goes too much against my code", but you don't get to force everyone to live according to your code either. Fortunately a lot of the code is about what you can do.

If the bard is lying to someone, you can't corroborate his story, and you better hope nobody thinks to ask you. You don't have to go out of your way to denounce his lies. However, when you get drawn into the conversation, it can become difficult for you, because lying by omission isn't really honorable, and rather testing the limits of your code.

If lying is needed, it's ideal if you're not entirely sure IC if it's happening. If you occasionally have your PC go to the loo and the bard seizes that opportunity to spread lies, and when you come back you don't ask too much about what you missed, then you'll be okay. After all, if you just started suggesting out of nowhere that your friend might be lying while you're not there, that's not exactly honorable either is it?

First thing to do when playing a paladin is to make sure the rest of your group is ok with it. If there are any outright evil characters in the group then don’t play a paladin. Morally ambiguous characters are also a problem a lot of times so be careful with those as well. If any of the other players are already playing characters who will cause problems with the group than you should skip it. The way I look at it, is that the established character kind of has the right of way. If on the other hand you are the established character you should be able to object to a new character who is going to cause you problems.

Also talk to the group about how they feel about having a paladin in the group. If someone really dislikes the idea it would be best to forgo playing a paladin even if their character is one that should not cause a problem. Many people dislike paladins and go out of their way to screw them over. This kind of sucks but there is not much you can do about it. They can cause you a lot more trouble than you can cause them. It is hard to roleplay a paladin when you are pissed off at the actions of another player. If another player want to cause your paladin to fall it is not that hard to do.

It may sound like I am trying to persuade you not to play a paladin, but that is not the case. Many gamers like playing heroes and welcome a paladin. Most of the groups I play with favor good characters and paladins are usually welcome additions to the party. It really depends on the group.

One of the most important things to do when playing a paladin is to make sure you and the GM are on the same page as far as the paladin’s code. Have a talk with the GM as to how he interprets the code. This will prevent a lot of grief and drama in the game so make sure you do this.

Also keep in mind that you are the one who has to follow the code not the rest of the party. If the party wants to do something that is against the code your paladin will not help them. As long as it is not an evil act he does not need to stop it, he just can’t be part of it. He can advise against it and try and talk them out of it, but he does not have to stop it. If what the party is planning on doing is an evil act that is an entirely different story. This is why I suggested talking over playing a paladin with the group beforehand.

Sovereign Court

I haven't seen the kind of paladin-hate Mysterious Stranger talks, although it's not the first time I hear about it. But I agree with him on the "right of way" of existing characters (be they paladin or villain).

necromental wrote:

I always quote this gem from TriOmegaZero's profile.

** spoiler omitted **...

I enjoyed that, thanks for posting it (& thanks TOZ too I guess).

I think it's a good idea to write your own code as a Paladin. It lets you add a little more to your character that's unique, and tends to lead to less people getting upset about you not "keeping to the code".

Let's take 2 REDEEMER Paladins who both worship Sarenrae. One writes a code that says "Redeem those who have fallen under the sway of powerful forces of evil" and the other has a code that says "Redeem powerful spell-casters as they will be powerful allies in the fight against the forces of darkness".

Now if your adventure pits you against a tribe of barbarians who have fallen under the sway of a powerful sorcerer, these 2 Paladins are going to have different ideas of priority.

I always like to look at the OATHBOUND PALADIN codes for ideas about what you could add to your code (Or if you prefer: OATHBOUND ON ARCHIVES OF NETHYS).

Code of Conduct: Spread the order of law wherever you go, so long as the law is just; do not serve as a tool of tyranny. Fight vigilantly the servants of chaos.
Code of Conduct: Never engage in a romantic relationship or a sexual act.
Code of Conduct: Never let lesser evils distract you from your pursuit of just vengeance.

Another place to look for ideas is in the DEITIES themselves. Some deities have specific codes, and even if they don't (or you don't like their codes) you can find inspiration i the divine.

Paladin Codes:

ERASTIL wrote:
I must offer the poor in my community assistance, but I may not do the work for them—instead, I must teach them to contribute to the settlement. It is only through cooperation that a community grows strong.
SHELYN wrote:
I live my life as art. I will choose an art and perfect it. When I have mastered it, I will choose another. The works I leave behind make life richer for those who follow.
TORAG wrote:
I respect the forge, and never sully it with half-hearted work. My creations reflect the depth of my faith, and I will not allow flaws save in direst need.

And finally you can look to the real world. There are many religions who obey certain tenets simply to show respect to their god(s):

Restricting when/what you eat, praying a particular way or dressing in a certain fashion could set you apart and help you get into character.

First, make sure your GM doesn't have it out for Paladins.

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ascalaphus wrote:
I haven't seen the kind of paladin-hate Mysterious Stranger talks, although it's not the first time I hear about it. But I agree with him on the "right of way" of existing characters (be they paladin or villain).

I think adapting to the other party members is not a rule for paladins but a basic rule for every character.

I had something similar to that paladin-hate in a Dragonlance game. Funny thing, it was directed towards a LG Fighter with the Dragonlance Honorbound feat (almost a paladin in concept) and towards a NG druid who worshipped a good deity and her main goal was to redeem evil people.

The funny fact is that these two characters were never disruptive, they didn't try to force the rest of the party to behave like they did.

It was just because the two good characters refused to join the other two characters in killing enemies who had surrendered, mind controlled allies or people who were innocent but they disliked. Both tried to find a way to redeem or spare enemies who were not going to be a menace and somehow that got my other two players angry.

Also, when they refused some personal rewards or gave gold to people who needed it the other two characters went mad, even though they never refused more than their own part of the reward, so the other two characters still got their part.

So I guess the issue is not only about paladins, nor with alignments, but with gaming styles.

The two good characters were played by players who enjoyed roleplaying morality, the other two players just wanted a hack and slash game so they didn't get well together.

The game itself ran smoothly and I could satisfy both sides by giving them both irredeemable enemies who they could kill remorselessly and people who could be saved, but there was an abyss between the characters that made an interesting story but also a difficult to handle one.

For paladin guidance:

See under Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper.
Look for Elizabeth Moon, Paksenarrion.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks for all the helpful posts! I was planning to discuss it with the GM and party first. Always adapt to the rest of the group and enver actively seek to cause trouble. ^_^

As for Paksenarrion, Awesome book series. I read it three or four times.

My favorite paladins are the McManis family members from The Boondock Saints. Read up on the things they do and say in the first movie.

Kileanna wrote:

Just don't ruin the game for your party. It's easier than it seems. You can be a close and nice person if you want. You don't have to coerce your party to act lawful good even if you are. As long as they aren't a bunch of psychos you shouldn't have any trouble.

Maybe sometimes your paladin code will come to conflict but as long as you advice your party to act like you'd want and not try to force them into making everything your way it shouldn't be problematic.
If they want to make something really terrible that could cause your character to fall, and they wouldn't change their mind, this solution has always been the best choice in my gaming groups:
«I'm sorry, my friends, but I cannot take part in this. You are my friends and I won't fight you, but this is too much for me. I hope you reconsider your actions»
(Then your character leaves for a while and let them do what they were doing)

Refusing to take part in anything your character would abhor but not forcing your decissions on the other players is the key. It's not a tool you should use too often but it helps not to be disruptive while remaining loyal to your morals.

I've had issues with this because the last time I played a pally it turned into "wait until he turned around for torture" for a while which sucks. There's a give and take on both sides, not just the paladins which ties into deciding if this adventure/party is appropriate for the class. It feels like people expect the paladin player to bend way more often in my experience though.

Sovereign Court

Oh, I agree with Kileanna that "moral right of way" is something all new characters should adhere to, whether there's a paladin in sight or not.

If there's an established group, new characters should be made so they fit in. (Yes, it's that obvious.)

And when forming a new group, have a group discussion on characters so that they'll fit together, instead of everyone coming to the table with a concept developed in isolation.

Silver Crusade

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Bodhi's Guide yet. While it's mostly a guide to game mechanics, there are two pages at the beginning on personality types that are very useful.

My favorite notion of the Paladin is the hero who is absolutely the most handsome, good-natured and likeable person in existence. Someone who is so fundamentally and intrinsically good and good-natured, that supernatural/narrative forces are invested in their continued survival. The sort of person who would most likely be considered a jerk because of their apparent superiority, but you can't help to think of them that way because they're just so gosh darn humble and kind.

I think it's important to note that you needn't be a zealot for your church, or indeed a follower of any particular deity at all (you can have a broad fondness for the positive characterstics of each, or simply be a (wo)man of the people who doesn't concern themselves with such high-minded notions.) You're not necessarily a priest or any official representative of some deity, you're just a fundamentally (and improbably) good hero.

So the thing to keep in mind regarding Paladins is that the right choice is almost always the one that the most admirable person you could think of would make.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / How to successfully paladin? A question on Role Playing All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.