CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Shining Light - A New Take On Paladins

Let me start by saying that I know a lot of you have strong feelings about paladins. Some of you love them, and some of you hate them. Some of you hate the alignment restriction, and many despise alignment altogether. I don’t play them often, but I really like the concept of the paladin. I don’t hate alignments either, although I can see why many people would. So this is just my take on paladins given the information I’ve been sifting through.

Let's take a look at what some of the books have to say about the paladin. We’ll start with the CRB entry on the paladin.

“Through a select, worthy few shines the power of the divine. Called paladins, these noble souls dedicate their swords and lives to the battle against evil. Knights, crusaders, and law-bringers, paladins seek not just to spread divine justice but to embody the teachings of the virtuous deities they serve. In pursuit of their lofty goals, they adhere to ironclad laws of morality and discipline. As reward for their righteousness, these holy champions are blessed with boons to aid them in their quests: powers to banish evil, heal the innocent, and inspire the faithful. Although their convictions might lead them into conflict with the very souls they would save, paladins weather endless challenges of faith and dark temptations, risking their lives to do right and fighting to bring about a brighter future.”

The first sentence of import is this one:

“Knights, crusaders, and law-bringers, paladins seek not just to spread divine justice but to embody the teachings of the virtuous deities they serve.”

Now I know many can read this as them serving one of the virtuous deities, but I have had much discussion about this point among my writing and gaming friends. It seems that it could be interpreted as Paladins can serve any number of the virtuous deities, one, two, four, or all. The number doesn’t matter.

The second part to look at is the next two sentences.

“In pursuit of their lofty goals, they adhere to ironclad laws of morality and discipline. As reward for their righteousness, these holy champions are blessed with boons to aid them in their quests: powers to banish evil, heal the innocent, and inspire the faithful.”

Again I’m sure there are many interpretations but to me it reads that it is their ironclad laws of morality and discipline that reward them with their power.

The next piece of information comes from the Sacred Servant Archetype in the Advanced Player’s Guide.

“Paladins as a general rule, venerate the gods of good and purity, but some take this a step further, dedicating themselves to a specific deity and furthering the cause of the faith. These sacred servants are rewarded for their devotion with additional spells and powerful allies.”

As you can see here it specifically says that unlike other paladins these ones dedicate themselves to a specific deity. Leading me to believe that most paladins do not pick just one deity to serve.

There are a few relevant quotes In the book Faiths & Philosophies and most people will immediately jump the quote about belonging to a church.

“All clerics and most inquisitors and paladins follow ecclesiastical traditions as members of deity-based churches, and some druids and other divine casters do as well.”

But that is in a section specifically entitled “Ecclesiastical,” which is speaking about followers of a faith. Before that there is a section on communal philosophies which has this to say:

“Cavaliers, paladins, and those concerned with honor are commonly attracted to the lawful bent demonstrated by the majority of communal philosophies, and bards often find their culture’s beliefs inspiring.”

Later there is an entire section on pantheistic philosophies which includes discussions on paladins.

So there you have all the information that I’ve been looking at for paladins as I’ve been pondering to myself how paladins really work. We have a vague statement that could mean they worship one out of all the good and lawful gods, or as many as they chose, or just outright all of them. We see that although most of their abilities seem to come from inner power they get a divine bond and a capstone ability that are definitively granted by a divine being. We have an archetype that says that unlike core paladins, these paladins dedicate themselves to one god and gain power for it. Lastly we have a statement that says that most paladins dedicate themselves to a church but not all do.

To me it seems that paladins do not get most of their power from a single deity, Much like other philosophies, they get their power through an ideal. Their ideal is their alignment. By sticking to their code and being the paragon of Law and Goodness, they gain their power directly through their own force of will. Seeing as how they gain spells and the use of most of their powers through Charisma and not Wisdom (like most other divine spellcasters), It seems logical that their power comes from within and not without.

Now does this mean that a paladin cannot dedicate themselves to an individual god, or doesn’t in the long run? No. We still need to reconcile Divine Bond and Holy Champion abilities, as well as the fact Faiths & Philosophies says they dedicate themselves to a church.

Our paladin, unless they take the sacred servant archetype, gains their ability from their own righteousness. But even if they aren’t a sacred servant they can dedicate themselves to a church. The paladin would do so only to a god that they believes stands for the same things that they do. By working for this church they accept the moral tenets they follow and in doing so it attaches this extra code, as can be found in Inner Sea Gods, onto their paladin code. Although there is nothing in inner sea gods that says they lose their paladin powers if they fail at one of the church’s tenets, I think it's appropriate.

We are now only left with Divine Bond and Holy Champion, and yes, I am totally shoehorning them in here. Even if the Paladin hasn't picked an individual deity, one of the gods of good or law has seen their good works and grants them the aforementioned abilities. If they are a sacred servant and does dedicate themselves to a deity, or if they decide to work with a particular church, the deity of that congregation grants them these abilities.

So there you have it, my new take on paladins and how I’m going to start running them in my campaigns. I’m sure many of you have vast differences in opinion, so let’s hear them. Tell us how you see paladins as a GM? How you’ve run a paladins as a player? Or just yell at me and tell me I’m wrong, but please tell me why and what your opinion on the subject is.


  1. Some interesting ideas you present here. I have always thought of them as holy warriors. A friend called them Ameranthis which I'm uncertain where he got that from but they were Paladins but not bound by an alignment but a tenet and a deity. basically as I said holy warriors, often chosen by said deity, and filled with divine power. For me I feel that if they fail to follow said tenets then they lose powers, not all at first as a warning to smarten up but if continue then lost of all powers would happen. But Regain-able with atonement deeds which was an entire campaign I once ran was the holy player traveling about with friends trying to redeem himself and his companions along for the adventure and their own goals which of course sometimes came into conflict. It was a lot of fun. Again thanks to the food for thought

    1. This is one of my favorite articles. And the argument I have is that Paladins are not just holy warriors. Clerics are technically holy warriors, the Warpriest archetype are even more so holy warriors. Paladins are a very specific type of person and although they very often are drawn to the teachings of certain churches they're true power comes from the dedication to an ideal and not just a god giving them power. I think it makes the Paladins unique and really explains why they are all Lawful Good.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. If nothing else I endeavor to make people consider different things and expand their gaming repertoire.

  2. An interesting read. Based on the arguments set forth, I would also argue that as long as a paladin is lawful, they could still technically follow a lawful neutral path. A lawful neutral paladin would act according to their personal code, and seek to maintain a natural balance in the world.

    I think not having one specific god as a paladin is a cool option. It may give you more options and flexibility to define your tenets- perhaps you follow multiple ideals that align with multiple gods. However, by not focusing on one god, you lose the patron specific boons you would otherwise be granted. I like the options with this!

    1. No he would still need to be Lawful Good. The pool of energy he is drawing from is put together by both the Lawful (except Lawful Evil) and good goods. So his good must be good and he must filter all these actions through that code of goodness.

      I'm not sure which Patron specific boons you are talking about. The paladin even if he did not focus on one god could be granted abilities by a specific god because that god sees him as in tune with his portfolio. Just because you don't worship a deity doesn't mean a deity can't say "hey good job there."