DDN Blog: Paladin Design Goals

Between playing an unhealthy amount of Diablo 3, spending the weekends out of the house, and a more recent article on hit points and healing surges, I had almost forgotten about paladins.

I am glad to see that paladins will follow codes that reflect on their deity. Having a singular code regardless of god was kind of silly, and I would love to see codes for paladins of a gnome god (Garl, I think?). I like that paladins of neutral and evil gods will still stick around, too. My only complaint is that I would also like to see paladins that champion causes, though given that gods tend to have portfolios it would probably be an easy thing to re-skin and flavor.

I loathed detect evil in past editions for its ability to simultaneously overcome and be overcome by the plot magic items/spells. The new direction seems to be a vague, strange disturbance in the force, as opposed to a distinct radar ping (or aura). I like this. The paladin gets the notion that something is afoot, but does not know the precise source. As someone on RPG.net put it, "the paladin gets to hear the background music". The bit on smiting implies that a paladin will not be wasting smites, which is also nifty.

Paladins have always major access to weapons and armor, as well as immunity to fear, so the third point is nothing new. I liked how 4th Edition paladins could shield and take hits for allies, which also seems to be sticking around for the good guys at least.

And last but not least, they still seem to be getting lay on hands, divine magic, and have the option to summon a horse. The spells diverge from what a cleric gets, which was how it worked in 3rd and 4th Edition, and summoned mounts might grant kicker effects to other mounts. I guess boosting the stamina and speed of other horses is good for traveling. The bit on turning demons along with undead is nice, though I think clerics should get that, too.


  1. How do we feel about the redundancy of the Paladin class? After all, it's a fighter/cleric with some specific abilities. And as with the cleric, it always seemed rather tied to a specific Medieval and Christian reality and mentality. So on the one hand, I do like that they're taking it the 2nd ed. Priest route (different deities breed different Paladins), but I'm also worried that it makes it that much closer to the cleric in both form and function.

  2. While I do have wondered at the redundancy of the paladin (someone pitched it as a theme), basically if I make a fighter/cleric and it feels different enough from the paladin, I'm good.

    Given that, no matter what, the paladin will stick around due to tradition, I at least content with the direction they are taking; smites work on more things, detect evil does not ruin the plot, and summoned horses are optional.

  3. Here's a crazy idea: What if they did away with multi-classing entirely? Make the archetypes they represented their own class and be done with it.

    You could make Conan Fighter/Thief or you could make him a Barbarian. Which would you pick? Thinking out loud...

  4. I see a big difference mechanically between a paladin and a cleric/fighter. If you have a full cleric or full fighter in the group, then the multiclass will always be getting things that his buddy got a few levels ago. Yes, this is something petty, but I know lots of people that wouldn't like this.

    @Siskoid Barbarian/Rogue. :)

  5. I don't deny the mechanical differences, but to me, it's more about the role than the mechanics. If they have the same role, then why bother?

    I could see multi-classing as a function of later learning and training. The Nth level Fighter who's been around wizards a lot and asked to be taught a trick or two, without having to change his base mechanics.

    I want class to be a function of story - what stories can be told with them, what they say about the game world, what role they play in the party and society. Raw mechanics are less interesting. After all, if someone doesn't like the class system, it's like not liking Armor Class or hit points. Maybe they should be playing another game at that point. If it's the world/genre that interests you, you'll play the mechanics as written. But there lies the danger of designing the game for people who already play it and have set ideas about how things should be done based on past experiences.

  6. Role interests me as well, but so do mechanics. To build a swashbuckler, you can use a fighter, a rogue, a bard, a multiclass, or something else entirely. To you they might all be the same, but to me they play differently. Each character is unique, and I like to have the mechanics reflect that. One of the reasons I love pathfinder is the archetypes. These are packages that replace class features to give the class a different feel. This is on top of having more options in each class.

    Multiclassing is sometimes the option - it's especially relevant when somebody changes their focus or dabbles in something. But it doesn't always feel right to me. And it brings up the first level problem. If you want to play a paladin and the game only offers fighter-clerics, then you cannot play a paladin at first level. You can play a religious fighter or a warlike cleric, but you have to choose.

    Sadly, there's a conflict here. A game built on your thoughts will limit the roles I can take, because I'm uncomfortable if the mechanics don't work right. A game built to my standards will be more complex and perhaps offer too many options for your tastes.

  7. P.S. doing away with multi-classing would be bad too. There are some concepts that would be hard to do, like somebody who's changed careers after many years or somebody who failed as an apprentice and went a different way. There's also a lot of people that would have to wait to get a class. I've seen a ranger-wizard before, but it's not a popular combination.

  8. Well, there's no way I'd keep multi-class over "prefab multiclasses" like the Paladin.

    And while I haven't played Pathfinder, archetypes are similar to AD&D 2nd's kits, and might be similar to what 5th is calling themes.

    I'm sure there's a more streamlined way to do "abandonned class" types than keeping the entire multi-class concept around, inviting players to use a class hybrid that's got more color to it (class+theme). But to each his own. I haven't played a game with classes in years, to tell you the truth.

  9. But the mutli-class concept does work for somethings. The rogue who steals a spellbook and figures out a few simple spells. The noble's child who was trained for war but decided to run away to practice music.

    I play bothe class-and-level games and point build games. Both have their attractions.

  10. There are elements from both 3rd and 4th Edition multiclassing that I like, which I have talked about at length.

    For 3rd Edition, being able to gradually branch out into other classes has its appeal, but given how things scaled it often meant that you would suck at one or more things you were trying to do (especially when it came to attacking or casting spells). I also disliked how a fighter going into wizard spontaneously granted her a crapton of spells all at once.

    For 4th Edition I liked how you could nab a feat and grandually pick up elements from another class. It felt more organic, but you were limited (officially, anyway) to one class and had to spend feats to get more stuff. Hybrids and paragon multiclassing helped things, and I would have preferred a method to better control how much you got from another class.

    Ultimately my ideal multiclassing system is a meshing of the two: allow a player to determine what things she gets as she levels up, without falling behind. If a rogue nabs a spellbook, she should be able to gradually learn spells without having them to weak to be worthwhile.

  11. I think I'd like that approach, the player could trade away a core class ability for an ability in the secondary class. I suppose they'd have to be costed somehow to balance them.

    Thanks for the 3e and 4e context, by the way, and my deepest apologies for having suverted the debate away from the Paladin. Oops!

  12. I think that there would need to be some balance to this. "I'm giving up one of my bard's bonus languages to get sneak attack." "I'm giving up heavy armor for spellcasting."

    I like pathfinder's archetypes - they give up packages of benefits for other benefits. It's not as custome as choosing whatever you want, but it's not so abusable.

  13. I think that you would have to give up ALL of the bonus languages to get sneak attack ;)

    On the paladin, I would prefer to have them champion causes rather than Gods, since as a Christian I want to keep religion largely out of the game (except for the villains, hehehe). The essentials 'cavalier' was a good model for this, though they lacked real options the flavor felt right.

  14. Skills & Powers gave each class a pool of points, and broke each feature into its own thing with a points cost. You could spend all the points to buy the standard suite of features, but they included new stuff as well, so you could play a fighter that could only specialize in one weapon and have a d12 Hit Die, for example.

    I think having paladins champion virtues or whatnot is a good way to differentiate them from the cleric.

  15. What is the 'Skills and Powers' of which you speak?


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