Reimagining Paladins  

Posted by Spenser Isdahl in , , ,

Paladins have long been a source of frustration to both DMs and players everywhere. They're nearly universally bossy, inflexible, and intrusive. Even worse, they're Lawful Good and everyone knows it, so they end up getting backed by every half-decent government and organization around. And, as a DM, it's impossible to ignore the fact that they can detect evil all day long without breaking a sweat. While there are a few slight variations on how paladins are presented, this is pretty much how I've always seen them played.

But what if we change a few of our assumptions about paladins? In building Ralsenna, I wanted to change how paladins are presented and seen in-game. But let's start with the basics.

What is a paladin?

First, let's go over what a paladin fundamentally is. A paladin is a Lawful Good warrior invested with divine magic who crusades against all things evil. There is nothing in the rules that ties them to a particular god or set of divine ideals (like with clerics and, arguably, druids), and are really guided only by the paladin code of conduct.

Making paladins edgier

So, we've already gone over how paladins annoy everyone out-of-game. So why aren't they likewise reviled in-game?

Here's my take: In Ralsenna, paladins constitute a secret order waging a shadow crusade on evil and, to a lesser degree, chaos. Paladins are seen as half-mad fanatics willing to kill for the slightest infraction, and most governments fear that paladin orders want to usurp their authority. Because paladins are devoted to helping innocents and the downtrodden, commoners are generally fearfully ambivalent toward them, though not outright hostile.

The paladins themselves live shrouded in secrecy. In order to operate unfettered, they present themselves as adventurers or mercenaries while carrying out their missions. Alternatively, some live the lives of common folk by day and fight evil by night. They usually operate by identifying an individual or organization responsible for evil or chaos and then working tirelessly against this target, in most cases even if the target attempts to make amends. Indeed, paladins are among the most tenacious foes.

Thus, in Ralsenna, paladins have to be careful not to reveal themselves in the wrong company, and cannot count on their reputation for being Lawful Good to help them on their quests.

This entry was posted on March 31, 2010 at Wednesday, March 31, 2010 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

3 comments

I like your take on Paladins. I, and some of my players, have groaned when someone mentions they are wanting to play a Pally, ESPECIALLY when another player wants to play a Rogue. There always comes a point where the conflicting personalities comes to a head and one ends up killing the other.

In a game I ran awhile back a player wanted to play a pally and what we ended up doing was treating him more like a Ronin that understood that there wasn't just absolute good or evil, but existed a shade of grey that he could traverse with.

He was grouped with pirates that only hit other pirates or was raiding against an oppresive government and he viewed joining with them as a lesser evil, even though they did plunder and steal. It helped him reach his goals.

March 31, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Very nice. But I am not sure how well the "secret identity" works with the Lawful Good.

That being said, I played a paladin who was the last surviving member of his order, having been the squire of the last knight of the order. The order, having been slowly grounded down by its enemies and betrayed by it noble "allies" (who desired their lands) had become rather ruthlessly pragmatic in the pursuit of their goals. Working as mercenaries when needed, but never against the Church or the innocent, using crossbows, hiding their allegiance to the order and so on.

It was a fabulous character to play, totally dedicated to his faith and the end game against evil.

March 31, 2010 at 2:08 PM

A very interesting take on things. This version of paladins might actually be interesting to see in play because it means the paladin has to be just as concerned about offending his companions as they must be about offending the "LAWFUL GOOD" sensibilities of the pally. Next game I run I'll definitely use this version of paladins rather than the standard stick in the mud type that seems to be played so often.

March 31, 2010 at 7:52 PM

Post a Comment