Paladin forced to perform evil under magic, do they loose class abilities?


Rules Questions

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So, yeah, I want to know if a paladin that's forced to commit murder under the influence of mind-control magic looses their class features as if they performed the deed willingly. SPECIFICALLY, I suspect Suggestion, but I still want to know about things like Dominate and other spells, class features, etc, that can force someone to act directly against their will or nature.

My main reason for asking is because if the mere existence of the spell Absolution, which wouldn't need to exist if they didn't.


Yes, as noted by the code text, the existence of the spell absolution, and the existence of the no-cost version of atonement. It should be pretty difficult to get a paladin to do something obviously evil via suggestion, though, as it would be an obviously harmful act.


If it is actual mind control with no volition from the paladin, then no, he doesn't fall. It would be appropriate and in character to get absolution anyway.


Sometimes, all it takes for a good man to do something bad is a small nudge. A guy who rules by manipulation for personal gain is someone and good-minded person would abhor and want to see removed from power. Nudge a man used to combat just right, and he mentally goes from murdering a lawful ruler to deposing a despot. "Obviously harmful" is a pretty broad category, and bloody hard to define. What your common farming peasant considered "obviously harmful", your common adventurer would consider a Tuesday brunch. What THEY would consider obviously harmful, most PCs view as "a small diversion."

Lantern Lodge

Although I’m against the idea of you are mind controlled you are somehow responsible for those actions, there is a pfs scenario where a npc paladin falling due to this is integral to the plot. So based off that I’d say you do fall.


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I'd go on the 'Am I being a jerk to my players by doing this' yardstick.

If that's the end goal, then yes, have fun.

If not, then having the afflicted individual taking pains to redeem their name after recovery despite not needing to makes for good story.


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In the past I had thought this was unreasonable, but have been convinced by a certain line of argument-

the good powers that have endowed you with your paladin abilities don't want you to have access to them while you are enthralled so that you can use them to do bad stuff. Like if you've been dominated and told to kill a lot of orphans, the good powers don't want you to so easily resist stuff that would prevent your spree had you failed your save (e.g. Hold Person), so Divine Grace has to turn off. Because this isn't as much of a black mark on your record as if you did bad stuff on purpose, the requirement to prove "I'm okay, really" is lower (Absolution vs. Atonement).

Probably this is not a thing you should be doing without good reason, though. "Let's mess with the paladin" is not a good reason, unless it's what the Paladin player wants.

Grand Lodge

Absolutely not. In real world law, criminal guilt requires both an act and a mental will behind the act, or at least not caring about the consequences of your act. Why should the gods of goodness be less enlightened than our lawmakers?

If the paladin voluntarily failed his will save he is responsible. If he resisted to the best of his ability and tried his best to make things right afterwards, he is not guilty. The paladin in that PFS scenario stopped resisting, and so he fell. A paladin who resists and agonizes over his domination or possession for 100 years, though he is constantly overpowered, should still not be guilty.

If a servant who is enslaved in agony for 100 years finally fights his way free to return to his rightful master, and then that master kicks his servant to the curb because the servant was held against his will even thought he fought as hard as he could for his freedom, that MASTER is EVIL. Think about it.

Silver Crusade

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Not at my table they don't.

The Gods aren't out to trap their paladins, they WANT Holy Fighters. They're not going to be dicks about non intentional alignment violations.

And GMs shouldn't be dicks about it either


"Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell."

Self harm is a harmful act. As are most evil acts. So... never comes up because can't happen

Grand Lodge

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PossibleCabbage wrote:

In the past I had thought this was unreasonable, but have been convinced by a certain line of argument-

the good powers that have endowed you with your paladin abilities don't want you to have access to them while you are enthralled so that you can use them to do bad stuff. Like if you've been dominated and told to kill a lot of orphans, the good powers don't want you to so easily resist stuff that would prevent your spree had you failed your save (e.g. Hold Person), so Divine Grace has to turn off. Because this isn't as much of a black mark on your record as if you did bad stuff on purpose, the requirement to prove "I'm okay, really" is lower (Absolution vs. Atonement).

Probably this is not a thing you should be doing without good reason, though. "Let's mess with the paladin" is not a good reason, unless it's what the Paladin player wants.

Most abilities cannot be activated when you are possessed anyway. If dominated, the GM would be very reasonable to cause the paladin to lose his special abilities temporarily, but this is not the paladin FALLING - instead it is the paladin having his powers temporarily 'switched off' so that the enemy can't use it, and if the paladin was worth a damn he would approve. IF the paladin cared more about keeping his powers than an enemy misusing his powers, THEN I would make the paladin fall.

But since the absolution exists I see it as no more than a paladin paging his deity to say 'Sir, I escaped from the enemy. Ready to return to active duty.' In most cases I would waive it, or at worst have the deity cast the spell for the paladin himself. If the deity cared to notice when his servant got dominated, he would care enough to notice when his servant broke free.

I love how some people preach about how paladins should not be 'lawful-stupid', then turn around and expect the paladin's god to be 'lawful-stupid'. Not saying anyone here has necessarily explicitly done that, but I've seen it happen in play.


Paladins are meant to be held to a pretty high standard. I see a failed will save as not being strong enough to uphold the virtues and ideals of their position, so I'd go with it counting. That said, it needs to be something that violates the code of conduct, not just committing an evil act, as the text is specific that the evil act must be willful.

I mean, this is bearing in mind that atonement exists, and it's pretty hard for a Paladin to fail a will save if they are even remotely trying to have a good will save. For a paladin that's sort of their responsibility, being incorruptible. Plus atonement is about more than just "fault." It's about making things right, rebalancing the scales, soforth.

That said, just having an villain force a paladin to use poison or something out of nowhere is kind of a dick move to pull as a GM, so I'd only really have that happen as part of a specific arc that would make sure the paladin had a chance at atonement. I doubt I'd use the spell either, tbh; I'd want to just make it part of the story. I'd also only do it to a player that I felt could handle it, except maybe if I were running like, a one shot dungeon or something. Like I don't want to make someone feel like I ruined their whole experience.


One of the things I would really really suggest a GM to create if they're going to go after Paladins is to create an Occult Ritual to get your powers back in lieu of atonement/absolution. It can be as hard, costly, or painful as need be (Occult rituals tend not to be for the faint hearted) but it should be something a Paladin and their friends could manage by themselves at a lower level than anyone can cast absolution.


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If a caster of suggestion was very.. very cunning and worded the spell in a way that "make(s) the activity seem reasonable" and the paladin went and did it, then yes I'd say he had a tumble and needed official assistance to right himself.

"Hey, that orphanage is a cultist front, you should burn it down" isn't normally reasonable, but if you worked the paladin up to believing it was run by satanic nuns first? You might maybe be able to plant a Suggestion that one of the nuns was about to drown a child as a sacrifice and when the spell cleared and there was a dead nun and a screaming child who just didn't want to take a bath... then maybe you've got yourself a fall!

You can't just Suggest evil shenanigans out of the blue though. It is just a 2nd level spell, you have to finesse it a bit. Massage the circumstances. Fix the game, THEN roll.


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GM Aram Zey wrote:


I love how some people preach about how paladins should not be 'lawful-stupid', then turn around and expect the paladin's god to be 'lawful-stupid'. Not saying anyone here has necessarily explicitly done that, but I've seen it happen in play.

Gods are capricious, and even the good ones are prone to being self serving. I'd also suggest considering the motivations of the gods in question when determining how difficult it is. Hell other gods might get involved too; look at the labours of Hercules. Politics'll kill ya, doubly so in heaven. In fact, I would submit Hercules as evidence that mind control totally counts in general, because it's exactly what happened to him.

Then again, maybe you're in a high level mythic game and the gods are facing an existential threat and your god of kissing cute puppies sees you burn down an SPCA because you were mindganked, and he's like "you know what, lets talk about this AFTER you stop Skeletor from using the Nightmare Stone to unravel existence."


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Hercules didn't lose his powers, though. However, what he did WAS absolutely a fine example of what a Paladin should do.

He was driven mad, committed a terrible crime in his madness and after he recovered he sought out repentance. He even used his powers to complete the tasks asked of him.

A paladin would WANT to make amends for acts done while under mind control, but they should still have their powers available while these amends were under way.


Hercules wasn't a paladin. He was still expected to atone, regardless of the fact that he was mindganked.


You submitted Hercules as an example of "mind control totally counts" as if it was justification for stripping a paladin of his powers.

I submit that Hercules is an example of what a righteous hero should do to live a just and virtuous life even though he hasn't had his divine gifts taken from him.


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No.
That is the correct answer.
Honestly the "willfully" applies to the entire code of conduct. The paladin was not written by a team of rule lawyers and language experts. Parsing the RAW in such a way that it's okay to murder lawful good baby angels when mind controlled (an evil act) doesn't make you fall but using poison when mind controlled (not an evil act) makes you fall is absolutely ludicrous.

Falling happens when the player knowingly and willingly goes against the code. And by knowingly means the GM says in advance "that will make you fall".


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And failing a will save is not willingness .


If Hercules is an example of how a failed will save means a paladin falls, I would remind people that the same mythology also taught us golden showers will get a girl pregnant.

Maybe not the best source material for morale codes.


OK, I'm going to slide in a note here, the Paladin in question is actually an NPC, but with ties to a PC (my oracle character) that holds him in a small amount of regard. The problem is that I, myself as the player, don't know this information, though the character actually SHOULD know some of it and has access to a high level cleric that WOULD know ALL of it. My character is about to embark on a side quest to kill a bunch of evil people that are controlling his home town (and/or free the mind-controlled thralls thereof), and I'm trying to figure out of the aforementioned Paladin can be of value to me in my mission, since I can get said high level cleric to cast Atonement with relative ease, or if I'd be looking at, basically, a gimped fighter at my side.


A properly worded Suggestion in the properly constructed scenario could (not would.. COULD) cause a fall. You wouldn't want to tell the paladin directly, "Your lord is a traitor, execute him" because that wouldn't be a reasonable course of action.

But if you twist words around enough you can force a confrontation and maybe.. with the right situation... that confrontation could turn violent.

The Suggestion only has to start a fight. The paladin doesn't fall until until he steps over the line himself.

Players are usually too genre savvy to fall for this sort of thing, but it is ripe for NPCs.


Cavall wrote:

If Hercules is an example of how a failed will save means a paladin falls, I would remind people that the same mythology also taught us golden showers will get a girl pregnant.

Maybe not the best source material for morale codes.

Don't even get me started on giant geese and skull birth.


Zarius wrote:
since I can get said high level cleric to cast Atonement with relative ease, or if I'd be looking at, basically, a gimped fighter at my side.

You are going to have to lie to the Paladin if you anticipate wrongdoing on his part. If he goes in knowing the score then the atonement is going to cost 2,500 GP extra and will call that pesky "The creature seeking atonement must be truly repentant and desirous of setting right its misdeeds" clause into question.

"Oh, I have Atonement cast for me? Sure, I'll murder some people!" probably won't hold up in divine court.

Grand Lodge

Saffron Marvelous wrote:
Gods are capricious, and even the good ones are prone to being self serving. I'd also suggest considering the motivations of the gods in question when determining how difficult it is. Hell other gods might get involved too; look at the labours of Hercules. Politics'll kill ya, doubly so in heaven. In fact, I would submit Hercules as evidence that mind control totally counts in general, because it's exactly what happened to him.

Capriciousness is the mark of being chaotic, if not outright evil, and certainly not good. You might need to review your greek mythology if you think the greek gods were 'good'... They were more often than not neutral and many of them exemplified extremities of human characteristics, including human failures. In fact, in greek mythology the mortal protagonists are often far closer to being 'good' than the gods.

Saffron Marvelous wrote:
Then again, maybe you're in a high level mythic game and the gods are facing an existential threat and your god of kissing cute puppies sees you burn down an SPCA because you were mindganked, and he's like "you know what, lets talk about this AFTER you stop Skeletor from using the Nightmare Stone to unravel existence."

This makes a little more sense. If there is a great threat to the universe, and the paladin failed a save because the bad guy's magic was just that powerful, taking away the paladin's powers when the paladin is trying to stop said bad guy, and thereby reducing the paladin's chances of succeeding, is the height of stupidity.

The paladin should always seek to make things right afterwards. But if the deeds were done against his will, I would only make him fall if he refused to make things right, not before.

Trying to do good and failing is not evil. Ceasing to seek to do good is evil.


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Cú Chulainn lost his powers because he was under two geas obligations that came into conflict; never eat dog, never refuse hospitality.

Samson lost his strength because his hair was cut off.

Sometimes legends aren't fair.

Failing a Will save isn't much different from giving into temptation. From our perspective, he rolled too low on a d20. From an in-universe perspective, he didn't resist as hard as he could. (Doing your best is when you get a natural 20, maybe?)

Remember also that a Paladin's abilities don't come for free; they're assigned from a finite pool of holy energy. If one Paladin stops serving good, the powers that be can use that magic to help someone else until the Paladin atones.


Matthew Downie wrote:

Cú Chulainn lost his powers because he was under two geas obligations that came into conflict; never eat dog, never refuse hospitality.

Samson lost his strength because his hair was cut off.

Sometimes legends aren't fair.

Failing a Will save isn't much different from giving into temptation. From our perspective, he rolled too low on a d20. From an in-universe perspective, he didn't resist as hard as he could. (Doing your best is when you get a natural 20, maybe?)

Remember also that a Paladin's abilities don't come for free; they're assigned from a finite pool of holy energy. If one Paladin stops serving good, the powers that be can use that magic to help someone else until the Paladin atones.

I think its going to be one of those table variance things. I can see some DMs looking at that and then using it as an excuse to screw over the paladin yet again while others will take it a face value. I personally don't count mind-control but I can see the argument go both ways.

Grand Lodge

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Matthew Downie wrote:

Cú Chulainn lost his powers because he was under two geas obligations that came into conflict; never eat dog, never refuse hospitality.

Samson lost his strength because his hair was cut off.

Sometimes legends aren't fair.

Failing a Will save isn't much different from giving into temptation. From our perspective, he rolled too low on a d20. From an in-universe perspective, he didn't resist as hard as he could. (Doing your best is when you get a natural 20, maybe?)

Remember also that a Paladin's abilities don't come for free; they're assigned from a finite pool of holy energy. If one Paladin stops serving good, the powers that be can use that magic to help someone else until the Paladin atones.

Cú Chulainn is a good example of being screwed over by a GM. If a god's code can be broken by someone offering his servant a meal, I blame the idiot god, not the player.

Samson's problem was that he was literally sleeping with the enemy (Delilah). He was given an enchanted item (his hair) and he told the enemy what where he kept his holy avenger so they could steal it while he slept. Quite a different situation, but that guy definitely deserved to fall our of favor with his deity anyway. If I were his god he would have fallen the moment he first shagged Delilah.

If a low roll is the same to you as 'not trying hard enough', then you're saying even a first level paladin should fall for failing his save against a 20th level wizard because he didn't 'try hard enough'? Please make sure to warn your players of that view before they play at your tables.

Matthew Downie wrote:
Sometimes legends aren't fair.

This right here is the problem with your argument. Suppose I agree with you. Sometimes legends aren't fair. You know who determines whether the legend at your table is fair? You the GM. So the question is whether you're going to be the sort of GM who decides he will not give his player a fair game because "Sometimes legends aren't fair". If you are, please give your players fair warning.

You know what else? A god who isn't fair to his followers? Doesn't sound like a 'good' god to me.


GM Aram Zey wrote:

{. . .}

If the paladin voluntarily failed his will save he is responsible. If he resisted to the best of his ability and tried his best to make things right afterwards, he is not guilty. The paladin in that PFS scenario stopped resisting, and so he fell. {. . .}

Not to recommend a get out of jail card, but it would be possible to trick a Paladin into voluntarily failing a Save, thinking that the spell was for something else. Paladin's Detect Evil on the ruse-perpetrating caster merely requires some additional work for the caster to get around, and since they often dump Intelligence and/or Wisdom, they're reasonably likely to blow their Sense Motive rolls, even though it is a class Skill for them.

This reminds me of an anecdote from AD&D 1st Edition days (that I saw on rec.games.frp.dnd, if I remember correction), back when Paladins had to go on a vision-inspired quest to find their Warhorse (Mount was the only Divine Bond option back then, and it wasn't called Divine Bond). The Paladin was given a vision of the Warhorse in the possession of a Lawful Evil Wizard (Magic-User back then), who in turn given a divination of the approaching Paladin. The Wizard knew that fighting or evading the Paladin was futile, and so instead tricked the Paladin into accepting a spell -- only in this case it was a Polymorph spell instead of a mind-control spell. Then Wizard then congratulated the Pladin for passing the test, and out came a man claiming to be a horse, and around this time the Paladin realized that he had been turned into a horse . . . That Evil Wizard and his Evil Masters (that had given him the original divination of the approaching Paladin) got a great kick out of tricking the Paladin without ever doing any damage or mind control . . . .

Vidmaster7 wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Oh, is it time for this thread again already?
I hadn't even realized the last one had ended...

I'm not even sure the one before last has ended . . . .


Rules seem to say yes. Think it is stupid, think it reflects poorly on the gods, think it makes a toxic DM/Player relationship? Take it up with your DM. If he wants to get opinions to help him decide how he wants to handle it, a google search will give him more opinions on this and related topics than he could possibly read in his lifetime.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

If the act did not break the code of conduct and was unwillingly performed, his powers can be restored. Absolution covers instances of unwillingly breaking a code, which this case appears to be.


*Thelith wrote:
And failing a will save is not willingness .

Really? That begs the question as to what will saves represent.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

No, it really doesn't.

Will wrote:
These saves reflect your resistance to mental influence as well as many magical effects.
Voluntarily Giving up a Saving Throw wrote:
A creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic can suppress this quality.
Aiming a Spell wrote:
Some spells restrict you to willing targets only. Declaring yourself as a willing target is something that can be done at any time (even if you're flat-footed or it isn't your turn). Unconscious creatures are automatically considered willing, but a character who is conscious but immobile or helpless (such as one who is bound, cowering, grappling, paralyzed, pinned, or stunned) is not automatically willing.


^Good point -- I forgot about the possibility of the caster just KO-ing the Paladin (or waiting until the Paladin is asleep).

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Note that the creature is 'considered' willing. That is not to say that the paladin was willing, even if they were unconscious at the time. (Since no mention was made of that by the OP, that particular tangent is irrelevant to the discussion at hand until it is clarified otherwise. In any event, the meta of spellcasters waiting until victims are asleep to bypass saving throws and ruleslawyer ex-class features is not one I will entertain.)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

As always, the rules are clear... if you violate the paladin code you lose your paladin abilities. Whether you did so unintentionally or under the effects of magical compulsion is irrelevant save that it makes the atonement easier.

As always, some people really dislike that rule and change it for their games. Which is fine.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

It's relevant when considering the Absolution spell.


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GM Aram Zey wrote:
Saffron Marvelous wrote:
Gods are capricious, and even the good ones are prone to being self serving. I'd also suggest considering the motivations of the gods in question when determining how difficult it is. Hell other gods might get involved too; look at the labours of Hercules. Politics'll kill ya, doubly so in heaven. In fact, I would submit Hercules as evidence that mind control totally counts in general, because it's exactly what happened to him.
Capriciousness is the mark of being chaotic, if not outright evil, and certainly not good. You might need to review your greek mythology if you think the greek gods were 'good'

No need to make it personal. But to be honest, I'm not sure how you can be so well versed in Greek myth as to cast that kind of judgement, without noticing the major moral distinctions between the Greek gods.

I mean, if you want to argue the alignments of gods, I'm gonna have to argue that, in that case, having a good god doesn't even make sense to begin with. The only pantheons where the gods aren't continuously dicks are the occasional watered down new age ones. You can argue about how that meshes with the D&D alignment system until you're blue in the face, but they exist in their own moral context. Yes, Athena is still supposed to be one of the good guy gods. She still turned that poor woman into a spider.

What does this mean for D&D/Pathfinder gods? Lets ask the Wall of the Faithless.

Or the Graveyard of Souls, to hit something closer to home. Yeah it's less outright evil, but it's still the equivalent of making you stand in the corner forever.

Or frankly, lets talk to any setting where being judged and sent to an eternal punishment is possible. "Good" gods in any such setting are, at best, living off and benefitting from an evil system.

So yeah, gods are capricious and even the "good" ones are prone to being self serving and egotistical.

Scarab Sages

i'd say the class abilities are still tight


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What I want to know is why people expect Lawful Evil folk to twist the meaning of everything that anyone every tells them while at the same time expecting a Paladin to try to interpret his enemies' demands as favorably as possible. Paladins should act like a Lawful Good version of a Cleric of Asmodeus, considering what's at stake.

Wizard: Suggestion!: Your Lord is a traitor and you should attack him.
Paladin (to Lord): Your stance on poverty leaves much to be desired.
Wizard: No, I mean with your sword.
Paladin: You didn't say that, now did you?


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Weeble Paladin wrote:

What I want to know is why people expect Lawful Evil folk to twist the meaning of everything that anyone every tells them while at the same time expecting a Paladin to try to interpret his enemies' demands as favorably as possible. Paladins should act like a Lawful Good version of a Cleric of Asmodeus, considering what's at stake.

Wizard: Suggestion!: Your Lord is a traitor and you should attack him.
Paladin (to Lord): Your stance on poverty leaves much to be desired.
Wizard: No, I mean with your sword.
Paladin: You didn't say that, now did you?

Fun idea but I feel it takes a savy player to pull it off especially if such instances are reapeated.

On topic; I mean if you did t want someone playing paladin you should have just said so.


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Matthew Downie wrote:

Cú Chulainn lost his powers because he was under two geas obligations that came into conflict; never eat dog, never refuse hospitality.

Samson lost his strength because his hair was cut off.

Sometimes legends aren't fair.

Failing a Will save isn't much different from giving into temptation. From our perspective, he rolled too low on a d20. From an in-universe perspective, he didn't resist as hard as he could. (Doing your best is when you get a natural 20, maybe?)

Remember also that a Paladin's abilities don't come for free; they're assigned from a finite pool of holy energy. If one Paladin stops serving good, the powers that be can use that magic to help someone else until the Paladin atones.

I strongly disagree with this assessment. Failing a will save isn't "giving in to temptation", it is being overpowered by an outside party. If a paladin who considered celibacy a part of his oath was drugged or in some way overpowered and raped by a villain, that is not the paladin giving in to temptation, that is blaming the paladin for the villain being able to penetrate his defenses and taking away his powers even though at no point did he willingly violate the oath.

From an in-universe perspective, rolling too low on a d20 doesn't mean you weren't doing your best to resist, it meant the person attacking you was strong enough to pierce your defenses. You don't fail a save against poison because you didn't WANT to stay healthy enough.

A paladin who is subjected to mind control by someone stronger than them does not change alignment because they are not in control of their actions, and is not willingly performing evil actions. There's no point in having the player roleplay a code of conduct to remain a paladin if you can just have a bad guy get lucky on a single d20 roll, which always has at least a 5% chance of happening, and strip the player of their powers even though they didn't do anything wrong. Falling is supposed to be because of a failing of the player, not a result of getting punk'd by one of the bad guys.

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