Over at Grognardia, the Paladin came up, but since the topic of discussion was more along the lines of Clerics, I refrained from talking about it, but it does gnaw at my mind. What exactly is a Paladin? Where does he fit into the campaign world? What makes this sub-class unique? To find these answers, we need to go back into the past.
Knights of the Round Table
Yeah, I know that this is myth, however this myth is pivotal to Dungeons & Dragons, so we’ll just be excepting the stories of King Arthur as literal fact.
The Paladin began it’s life as an enforcer of the law, not just the King’s law, but God’s Laws. Sometimes they worked with a King, some times they worked against him. The greatest group of Paladins to ever assemble were those under the employ of King Arthur, this group forever changed how Paladins are seen, and how they see themselves. They embarked on a quest, a long quest that took them away from their duties for such a length of time that they had been replaced. This quest, was, of course, to find the Holy Grail. A religious artifact of immense importance. Upon the completion of this task, they found a different world then the one that they had helped create, one that regulated itself and has removed their need to enforce the law. Thus, the Paladin had to change, it had to evolve into a different entity.
The 12 Peers of Charlemagne
Paladin’s were still elite, however now, they had nothing to do. The entered the second phase of the Paladin, collectors of relics and artifacts. They found employment with another powerful entity, that of the church. They always considered themselves to be righteous, thus this was a natural move for the orders. Instead of enforcing the laws, they now found their purpose collecting important artifacts and bringing them to the church for distribution. The church needed these items to encourage folks to actually show up, as faith really wasn’t enough, one had to seek God itself, for these items the Paladin was well paid . . . But of course, THIS goes against the rules in D&D. In Dungeons and Dragons, the Paladin cannot keep much money at all. He gives most of it to a church or a group, this just did not happen in real-life, and was in fact the other way around. Churches paid high dollar for a Paladin, however in real life Paladin’s didn’t possess such strong magics, so the vow of poverty does balance the class out.
The Knights Templar
This was completely a financial move, however a brilliant one. Lugging around large bags of coin was dangerous, and getting to the point were it was unrealistic. Somebody had a brilliant idea of printing paper notes which stated how much gold the person had. The gold itself was kept by the Templar Knights, who also printed off the notes and enforced the law regarding it’s usage and distribution. If you tried to print your own currency, the Paladin would find you. Paladin’s were trusted, however absolute power corrupts absolutely and it was this move that corrupted the Paladin and forever removed the order as it stood from history.
The Paladin vs. Cleric
What is the difference between the Cleric and the Paladin? The Cleric is more skilled at magic, of course, but the Paladin is more of the hand of God. His relationship with his God is just as strong as that of the Cleric, but perhaps in our case he shouldn’t work under a church at all!
The Paladin vs. The Cavalier
The Cavalier in D&D terms, refers to the actual knights themselves. Heavily Armored elite soldiers bound to their Kingdom by an oath of Chivalry. Clearly, this also encircled the Paladin, which they no doubt started on the same path, however the Paladin became chosen by God to wield even greater powers, and is even more responsible then the Cavalier, however we are getting closer to where the Paladin belongs in the terms of what is happening around the character, and where he gets his instructions from.
Church vs. State
The Paladin is friendly with both, but serves neither. He is above the church, and also ruled by a higher authority then any Kingdom. For this reason he must serve a different order entirely. One that is connected to both, but independent at the same time. As a DM, you’ll have to design an Order for the Paladin to belong to. There will be a ruling class, or committee of high level Paladins who are responsible for distribution of funds, assigning tasks, and enforcing the laws inside of the order itself. They also work closely with the Church, and State however only those which are high level will ever communicate with either side, and even then must bring all business to the attention of the committee to decide what action, if any, should be taken. Be it recovering an artifact, destroying a church and eliminating all of it’s followers, or discovering and bringing traitors of the throne to justice.
The Paladin & Demographics
In a royal city, which acts as the capital and has a humongous population, they will have a base, but there should be no more then 12 paladins. Alternatively, there may only be 12 high level Paladins in the entire world! The Paladin is both gifted, and cursed. His appearance scares the crap out of evil entities, normally a PC gets to keep anonymous at lower levels, however Paladin’s change this rule of thumb. They will immediately be famous, and so much as setting foot in an area with a powerful evil monster, it will become aware of it and either decide to flee or destroy him. Many evil beings delight in destroying the Paladin without killing him, instead attempting to trick them into betraying their God.
Duties, & Secret Societies
The largest problem with PC Paladins, is that they are automatically in a society. There are no independent Paladins, unless your world is very young and you want to create a new group through play. The duties of a Paladin is to always identify himself and his order at all times. This will require the showing of crests and colors, which can be the job of an NPC or they can be displayed on the Paladins horse, or on his armor itself, but it is preferred to have all three. A Paladin will always need NPC’s to send messages back and forth to his superiors, as well as help him take care of all of his stuff. He may or may not have a squire to perform the maintenance but he will never travel alone.
The duties that his superiors will be exact, and any other duty discovered may or may not have to be delayed as it needs to be considered by the committee. If a Paladin is ordered to go to a village and discover why the local authority has stopped reporting to the King, he is only to do just that. Granted, if the city has been crippled by a necromancer, then he may destroy the necromancers army of undead, however he must await orders to destroy the wizard himself.
A Paladin automatically has authority in matters of law, it is up to the character himself as to when he extends this authority, if at all, however it must be warned that if he over extends himself without proper authority from the Council, he may find himself in legal trouble himself if he cannot properly justify his actions.
Paladins as Player Characters
Personally, I have only rolled up 1 of these guys, and I loved playing him immensely! However, with that said, they should be extremely rare! The reason behind this is because when you allow a Paladin to enter your campaign, then it will definitely alter the dynamics of a party. The role-player must be very skilled, else the others who play with him may feel that they are nothing but third wheels. Typically it is the Paladin who takes leadership of the party, a player may want to keep a back up character handy, just in case he knows that the road ahead is not for him. A paladin can either work for or against a DM, but strict game mastering must be enforced in regards to his actions at all times. With great power comes great responsibility. Not to say that a Paladin must be played so brave that he is suicidal, nor that he shouldn’t have trouble with his alignment, this is required to keep all characters fun to play and alive, but if he does screw up, then he must pay the price for his actions. This is the curse of the Paladin!
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