View Full Version : Conceptualize The Paladin

Tequila Sunrise
2009-01-20, 04:01 PM
For you, is the paladin a unique concept in and of itself, or is it a broader concept like the cleric?


Fax Celestis
2009-01-20, 04:07 PM
A paladin and a cleric are two sides of the same coin: one is a holy warrior, the other is a paragon of faith. In game terms, one is a fighter-type, while the other is a caster-type.

2009-01-20, 04:23 PM
I've always viewed it as certain... "sensitive" souls can pick up on the underlying underpinnings of the universe and are tapped by the gods to become clerics, rather than simple ministers, channeling and focusing their power while also adding to it or in the case of paladins, they are called (either by a deity or from receiving a little bit more helping of good and lawfulness when their soul was forming so that they tap into the fundamental alignmental forces of the universe) to service to glorify and spread Xness due to having an almost physical pain-distaste for anti-Xness.

Something about Paladins being something where the choice is only the person's in that they can reject it, but rarely are willing to do so, due to who is selected for said call. The temptation to fall comes from the not-entirely willing but not actually coerced nature that I'm still grappling with, as well as simple attrition and erosion from having to deal with what they deal with.

....Sort of like being spiritually imbued with the divine into the mortal in the case of the cleric as opposed to being physically imbued with the divine into the mortal in the case of the paladin.

Thane of Fife
2009-01-20, 04:28 PM
A cleric is someone who is granted powers for his devotion and faith to something.

A paladin is someone who is so righteous that he has super-human abilities.

In that sense, the paladin is more specific than the cleric - he's much closer to, say, the druid.

I guess the comparison would be that a cleric is granted spells and protected by his god. A paladin is protected and powered by his own virtue.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-20, 06:12 PM
Strictly speaking, roleplaying games have given the word paladin its current meaning. Originally the term "paladin" referred to the Twelve Peers, Charlemagne's most trusted and loyal knights. They were held to be the highest paragons of virtue and courage, especially Roland (or Orlando), whose horn never sounded retreat, even when he was near death. Though the paladins were honorable men, who believed firmly in the Christian faith (and fought tirelessly against the Muslims who occupied Spain at the time), they weren't given magic powers or anything. When you think about how the term "paladin" has changed with the advent of Dungeons and Dragons and other RPG's, you really get a different impression.

Whenever I roleplay a paladin, I tend to stick to the older vision of them as a glorified knight. Basically the best examples of paladins can be found in the old stories of questing knights like Roland and Rinaldo, and more famously in the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur himself. When I think of Sir Lancelot or Galahad, that's what I think a paladin should be. The holy powers are just icing on the cake.

Karma Guard
2009-01-20, 06:24 PM
A Paladin is one who fights in the name of his god or belief.

A Cleric is one who serves in the name of his god or belief.

A subtle, but important difference.

A Cleric works.

A Paladin fights.

v(._.)v it just so happens that D&D's Cleric also happens to fight insanely well.

2009-01-20, 06:34 PM
Yeah, I always envisioned the cleric as more of a "humble servant" sort of character, whereas a paladin is all, "I kick ass for the Lord!"

Seriously, one important distinction between the two is the paladin's code. Love it or hate it, a cleric is much less restricted in his actions than a paladin.

2009-01-20, 06:36 PM
I view the Paladin as a 'holy knight', a man of faith, every bit as Ordained as any Cleric, who prefers to wield the Sword as a symbol of justice and protection, defending those in his charge to the last breath in his body, rather than tending to his charge's souls.

To put it another way, the Cleric works with his mental prowess, wheras the Paladin works with his physical prowess. The cleric can be the direct mouthpiece of his deity, whereas the Paladin may be lent the power of his deity to defend the faithful.

2009-01-20, 06:48 PM
Historically, name of "paladin" was linked with the most prominent knights of Charlemagne, the best known of them was Roland, king's nephew (legend/song about Roland). Stories portray them as defenders of king and faith, honourable, generous and also real killing machines.

From the perspective of game mechanics, I see paladins as a subset of fighters, with additional restrictions, but also extra powers; something like a fighter with a dash of cleric and alignment restriction.

Personally, I think they best work when treated purely as "holy warriors" with a (often individual) mission (preferably a well-defined one, not just "bring goodness to the world"), and a tendency to pride and self-righteousness, perhaps (with which they should fight). Who/what exactly made them "holy", what is their mission and how this is supposed to work fluff-wise is best left to players.

Also, I think the restriction of the class to human race in 2.0 made a lot sense, since paladins are a very specific and peculiar class. Allowing every race pick every class removed much of the diversity (that is, races ended up being packages of modifiers and abilities and the feeling of uniqueness of each them got lost along the way. At least for me ;p).

2009-01-20, 07:17 PM
I see the Paladin's code making them much more specific than Clerics, or Knights, Monks or Barbarians for example. The code not only proscribes a Paladin's behavior to a much greater extent than "Must be X Alignment," but makes being a Paladin very difficult---so that, among the classes, they're very rare.

I see the Paladin as so rare, that there will literally be only perhaps a few hundred at most in the entire known world. Most of these men or women will die ignominiously; a comparative handful will survive long enough to gain significant power/renown. But for all the danger and hardship--in fact because of them--Paladins will be heroes to nearly all peoples, anywhere, and welcome almost wherever they travel. If you can prove, for example, that you are Sir Steve Ogre-Bane, Savior of the Townships, it's free board and drinks in any town you go to. Any Lord or Burgess would be proud to put you up in his home.

The flip side of that is it's almost impossible for Paladins, in any setting I design, to gain a significant place of power or authority. Effective leadership requires too many compromises---even authority in a major Church or Temple requires a certain realism Paladins just aren't (IMO) capable of. They must behave according to their code, always, which means they're pretty much limited to random heroics and never gaining any kind of authority without falling. (An ex-Paladin, say, who remains Lawful Good, could certainly be a worthy leader.) If Paladins have an equivalent in Medieval society, it's not groups like the Templars or Hospitallers, who were essentially major corporations owning vast lands and moneys. It's guys like the Spiritual Franciscans, itinerant wanderers who move outside the order of regular men, inspiring and exhorting by their deeds and sheer example of their stringent lifestyle. Paladins are worthy of respect, but even Good-Aligned Barons, Bishops, Kings, or whatever, are a little leery of them--they're loyal to nothing above their code, and that's always potentially a liability.

2009-01-20, 07:33 PM
@^ I dunno, I think the Hospitallers would certainly count a few paladins among their number. Certainly not many of them, and probably not any of the highest ranking members. But among the lower-ranking knights I would expect to find one or three who qualified as paladins. I mean, they are an order based on protecting travelers and hospitals.

A paladin is an unimpeachable knight, who follows the spirit of his code fully, and who is so devout in his faith and righteous in his deeds that his deity has seen fit to grant a few, often small, but definite blessings to a lay follower.

If I'm remembering my Arthur correctly, Lancelot was not a paladin, for he was impeachable. Gawain, however, was the quintessential paladin. Parzival as well. His faults, though many, were not moral.

The vast majority of a paladin's power is his own, with only a few divine gifts. I do not like the way WoW or 4e did paladins, for example, and would be much happier in 4e with a fighter or warlord with the ritual casting feat and some heal-based rituals.

It is extremely important that a paladin be a virtuous person. They must follow their code faithfully, be devout in their faith although rarely ordained, righteous, steadfast, honorable, and compassionate. Of these, the most important in my mind is steadfastness. It is not enough for a knight to embrace the path of the righteous, he must be able to remain on that path in the face of incredible adversity. If having your entire family, your girlfriend, and you puppy brutally murdered before your eyes is enough to turn you to the dark side... you never were a paladin in the first place. Harsh, yes, but there are a number of reasons these guys are so rare.

2009-01-20, 08:01 PM
Unique concept, for sure. DnD-wise, I see them like sorcerers; they are unique individuals, set apart from the rest of their kind by an incredible personal force. Heck, I'd bet "strange phenomena" surround would-be paladins in their youth, but instead of weird noises and the occasional accidental flambe, they might be able to single-handedly lift a carriage off of a person trapped beneath or ease pain with a touch.

In that case, paladins would take up the adventuring life not just out of conviction, but also because they know (on some level or another) that they just don't fit in with their peers. They're kind of like Superman. Hard as they try, they will never truly fit in with society; but despite that, they love and care and fight for that society. And why? They may not even know. A paladins soul contains something intrinsically different from the common man, and something about that makes them do what they do.

Actually, that's a good comparison. Paladins are Superman.
(Not silver age.)

Clerics I always just saw as meditative scholars. Their beliefs grant them access to a power beyond their own. As they meditate and adventure they begin to realize more of what their beliefs mean, and this insight allows them to use more of the power they've been granted (aka, a new spell level). They don't get more powerful so much as they realize more of what they're capable of.
No, I don't see clerics as being particularly exciting in concept. They definitely aren't as rare as paladins.

I have a feeling I could expand a lot more, especially on the paladin concept. I might come back to that.

Tequila Sunrise
2009-01-20, 08:09 PM
I don't know much about historical knight figures, but I did study Le Morte D'Arthur. As I remember, Lancelot had his heart in the right place but was often led astray by pride and lust. Gawain was as righteous as humanly possible, though still flawed, while Galahad was inhumanly righteous. Nauseatingly perfect. An emotional robot.

My favorite knight was Sir Lucan, because he was one of the few characters who displayed a measure of common sense. And because my name is one letter different from his. /tangent :smallbiggrin:


2009-01-20, 08:12 PM
Clerics are ordained fighting priests, paladins are paragons of secular virtue. It is fairly straightforward in default Dungeons & Dragons, right up until D20/4e, but somewhere along the line the cleric's role as a holy warrior became conflated with the paladin's role as a warrior. It is quite an interesting transformation.

2009-01-20, 08:21 PM
I see Paladins as individuals empowered to more forcefully uphold the ideals of the church. In Warcraft, for example, Archbishop Alonsus Faol created the Silver Hand order so that martially-inclined priests would have a way of serving on the front lines.

That's how they should be, anyway. In D&D, the line is much more blurry - clerics can wear heavy armor, their spells enable them to match and even surpass the paladin in combat ability, and they can even pick up many of the Paladins' class features with a PrC like Divine Champion. This leaves the Paladin class, for the most part... outclassed.

2009-01-20, 10:04 PM
Depends on the game/setting.

Either (A) clerics are divine spellcasters and paladins are divine warriors, or (B) clerics are divinely empowered by their respective gods and paladins are Champions of JusticeTM.

It's best not to mix and match the two possible divisions (like 3E does).

2009-01-21, 12:52 AM
Paladins are unique, to me. I've always found the variant paladins in Unearthed Arcana interesting, but give them a different name please and thank you.

For that reason, it's probably too specific a class to have as a base class, but that's a discussion for another thread (along with the discussion about the appropriate ratio of spellcasting clerics to pastor who leads the worship service and couldn't cast a cure spell if his life depended on it clerics. Hint: compare it to the expected ratio of paladins to LG fighters and warriors employed by, or devoted to LG, NG or LN churches and deities.)


2009-01-21, 12:57 AM
Paladins are unique, to me. I've always found the variant paladins in Unearthed Arcana interesting, but give them a different name please and thank you.
At the very least, call them anti-paladins of slaughter and tyranny. (The paladin of freedom works basically like the paladin of honor, but the evil ones have their polarity reversed.)

Dacia Brabant
2009-01-21, 01:21 AM
paladins are paragons of secular virtue.

This, pretty much, though I'd go a step further and say that they're paragons of all the virtues--martial, ethical, moral and (the one most often missing in standard portrayals) intellectual virtue. I don't care about game mechanics, INT should not be a "dump stat" for paladins, not in any sense of it representing how they perceive, understand, judge and indeed act. Right action requires cleverness as much as it does virtue, and you can't be virtuous without understanding what virtue is.

When I think of a paladin I'm not thinking of a courteous knight of the Arthurian court or the Song of Roland, I think of him as Aristotle's "serious" or "excellent" man who possesses all the virtues of thought, character and deed. Such a person would be very rare but also very gifted: Superman was mentioned above, and that's about right.

I love paladins by the way, they're my favorite to play and write for, in part because of the challenge of it, it's a lot to try to live up to.

The Glyphstone
2009-01-21, 01:44 AM
I like the Superman analogy, especially since they come with their own kryptonite code of conduct as a built-in class feature.:smallsmile:

2009-01-21, 01:45 AM
I don't think that figuring out for yourself what's right meshes well with having a rigid code telling you how to behave. D&D's paladins are traditionally more the latter, I think. Instead of trying to be clever and possibly screwing things up horribly because they got something wrong, they adhere to standards that reliably promote Good when followed by a large group of people. (The total number of paladins in the whole world is presumably "lots".)