I thought of this a few days ago, and forgot what thought process spawned it. One of Pelor's faithful, gifted perhaps with modest healing powers, is captured by a necromancer and sacrificed in his own temple as part of an "unhallowing" ritual (causing statues to bleed, holy symbols to melt, the foundations crumble, etc). The character might belong to a powerful bloodline, or be "pure of heart", or maybe the necromancer just needed someone. At any rate, he rises the next dawn, gifted with the powers of a paladin, with instructions from both the Raven Queen and Pelor to stop this person.
- Prayers: Ardent Strike, Virtuous Strike, Valorous Smite, Majestic Halo
- Feat: Human Soul
I figure that destruction of your village, while a RPG cliche, is sufficient to prompt most people to action. However I think that it's much more personal if they actually kill you. The background should prove easy to work into most campaigns, as evil necromancers are a villainous staple of the genre. It also provides a reasonable explanation as to why a dead person is going about chanting prayers and channeling holy light, which to me is more interesting than another human, dwarf, or deva.
(what follows is just my thoughts on paladins over the ages, and has nothing to do with the above character)
I've seen people play paladins, thankfully never in the way commonly--and hopefully satirically--portrayed in other media; an annoying pretty boy (or girl) with armor and teeth that never tarnish, loudly proclaiming his intent to invade an orc camp, or complaining when the party wants to try subterfuge regardless of potential consequences, good or bad. Mostly I remember my players running them like they would any other character, with the occasional warning that they would forfeit their powers if they continued to proceed with an imminent infraction, which might have been due to a looser (read: more fun) interpretation of alignment and the paladin code.
Despite a lack of harrowing experiences, I've never really had any desire to play a paladin. In 2nd Edition it was partially because of the alignment restrictions and paladin code, partially because that the odds of me rolling a Charisma of 17, in addition to the other steep requirements, were slim to say the least, especially when you had to record your results in order. Come to think of it, I think that the only reason any of my friends played a paladin was because they rarely legitimately had the stats to do it, and when the opportunity finally arose they just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
3rd Edition made things a bit easier since you got to roll 4d6, drop the lowest, and place them however you wanted to. Unfortunately 3rd Edition tied ability scores closely to the rest of the mechanics, and paladins wanted Strength, Constitution, Wisdom, and Charisma. It wasn't unfortunate that they tied ability scores to mechanics, but that the paladin demands so much. You needed Strength for melee attacks, Wisdom to cast spells, Charisma for a few class features such as lay on hands, and Constitution to not die. And if that wasn't enough, you were still double-teamed by Lawful Good only and the silly paladin code.
4th Edition paladins are much friendlier to everyone at the table. You don't have a set alignment, and the ability scores you need are Strength or Charisma, and Wisdom helps. Strength and Charisma are used for your attacks, and there are sufficient prayers that you can pick one instead of spreading yourself too thin. Though divine challenge is keyed to Charisma, you can take a feat to link it to Strength instead, allowing you to forgo Charisma almost entirely. Last but not least, there's no paladin code, so you're free to act entirely within whatever character traits you desire.