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- This Aint Your Daddy's Paladin
NOTE: This was written by Josh, and I didnt have it in the blog backup that I made before Red Jason deleted it. Fortunately, Nemo was able to locate a cache on Google that had some of the latter posts that I had written. Until Josh gets back on, I'm going to repost it for him and give him the credit.
Since it's debut in the original 1975 Greyhawk Dungeons & Dragons supplement, the Paladin has become one of the most iconic tropes in fantasy gaming. A fearless holy knight in gleaming armor, her sword, the Holy Avenger, grasped in her gauntleted fist and wreathed in white fire, charging forth to offer battle to the forces of darkness upon her celestial warhorse. This is the classic image of the Paladin, a concept originally based around the historical Knights Templar, and the stories of Charlemagne and the Twelve Peers from such works as the "Carolingian Cycle."
Initially, the Paladin class had a high bar of entry, requiring that the character have a Charisma score of at least 17 (no meager feat when using the original Dungeons & Dragons method of ability score generation) and a minimum Strength of 12. Also, it was required that the character be a Human of Lawful alignment and that they follow a very strict code of honor for fear of losing their divine powers. Over the course of the game's evolution, the restrictions of the class have slowly been lifted to offer players a broader range of concepts for their Paladin characters. In 3rd edition D&D, the racial restriction was lifted so that members of all the races could take up the sword in the name of their god. Also the introduction of feats allowed for more customization and nuance in PC's. Now in 4th Edition, the alignment restriction has been lifted, making the Paladin class a holy soldier that all of the gods employ to promote their interests on the material plane.
It has been the criticism among many players that the Paladin class can tend to be a bit generic, offering little in the way of variety. The stereotype over the years has been either a a goody two-shoes boy scout, or a fanatical inquisitor. So how can one take the overall concept of Dungeons & Dragon's Holy Knight and create a unique and workable character concept?
The potential is limited only by the imagination of the Players, but here I have cobbled together some sample concepts for Paladin characters based around some common archetypes. For the sake of universality, I've used the core pantheon from the implied Points of Light setting.
The Pursuer: A righteous warrior and relentless bloodhound who pursues her divine mission with singleminded, almost mad determination, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Ironside is a Paladin of Erathis who has taken it upon himself to hunt down fugitives who have fled beyond the reach of the law, and deliver them to the authorities to answer for their crimes.
Vargas is an agent of Vecna, who's mission is to protect the god's secrets and silence those who have learned them either by accident or by design.
Black Magda is a Paladin of the Raven Queen who seeks to eradicate all undead wherever they lurk and punish those who would dabble in such blasphemous power.
Stavros is a Paladin risen among a cult of the mad god Tharizdun. He travels the land seeking to find seven ancient keys, artifacts that will unlock the chains binding his God from the world.
The Ronin: A Paladin who does not act under the auspices of the church, but rather acts as a wandering free sword, spreading the will of their god where they feel it is needed most.
Sigurd is a Paladin of Kord who believes that he can hone his spirit through constant battle, and so acts as a wandering gladiator, offering challenge to any formidable enough to make a worthy foe.
Anjell is a faithful of Corellon, who wanders the untamed lands in an esoteric philosophical journey of discovery. It is a perilous but potentially rewarding path, and the divine power of her god drives her inexorably forward.
The Nameless Swordsman wields his blade in the name of Bahamut, roaming the wildlands wherever the wind guides him and offering protection and justice to people who would otherwise have no one to turn to.
Eloin is a scholar and Paladin of Ioun who travels to the sites of long lost empires, or into the depths of long forgotten dungeons, seeking lore long thought lost to the ages.
The Protector: This is a Paladin who dedicates themselves to a defense of a person, place or cause. They could be an agent of the church, or they could be a commoner who's spirit is recognized by the gods.
Shiris is a Paladin of Lolth, and an indentured vassal to a high priestess of the Goddess of Spiders, defending her against the murderous machinations of her rivals, at least until she finds the right time to avenge herself against the abuses of her retainer and usurp her power.
Edvar, the Green Knight is a Paladin of Melora who is charged with defending a sacred grove hidden deep within a dense and ancient forest from all intruders.
When a raiding party of gnolls attacked his small farming community, a boy named Brannen valiantly took up arms in defense of his home. Recognizing his noble spirit and courage, Moradin granted him the divine powers of a Paladin so he could continue to defend the village.
Ragnar grew up amidst the terror and savagery of the Underdark, becoming a shrewd and formidable warrior. He is now charged by the god Torog to act as gaoler to the prisons that guard some of the more terrifying creatures held captive there.
The Reluctant Hero: This is not one who had chosen the path of the Paladin willfully, but rather someone who has had the mantle thrust upon them by fate.
Jessalyn was a simple farmgirl who dreamt of a quiet country life until destiny calls her to become a beacon of hope in the darkness to come in the name of Pelor.
Stone is a former criminal and back alley brigand is charged by the god Bahamut to become a defender of justice as penance for his black deeds.
Rowan is a minor prince who aspires to create a great empire to push back the tides of darkness that encroach upon civilization...Azmodeus offers him the power to do so, but at a terrible price.
Fawkes was a rake and a gambler who's spirit caught the attention of the goddess Avandra. Now he acts on her behalf as a masked vigilante, a foil against the tyranny and oppression of corrupt regimes.
These are just a few of the limitless possibilities for the class, possibilities that will be expand exponentially with the coming release of Divine Power and the Player's Handbook 3 from Wizards of the Coast. But these are just my ideas...I have the utmost confidence that you gamer's out there have even more interesting ideas clamoring about in your heads...
so let's hear 'em.