Sep 12, 2017

Posted by in RPG | 1 Comment

The thing with Paladins

I switched from Shadowrun to D&D around the time 3.0 came out. This was also the first time I as a GM had to decide what is right and good and in doing so spoiling the fun of a player at my table.

Paladins in D&D 3.x and Pathfinder have to be Lawful Good. They are holy warriors filled with honor and righteous might. If a Paladin validates his code, or changes alignment, she loses the powers granted by her deity.

While the concepts of alignment and code have been kinda fuzzy in the beginning, in Pathfinder you can get a code for all the deities of their setting. This allows the player to get a pretty good idea what the Paladins of a specific deity stand for, and helps them to pick a fitting one.

There is a big problem, though.

History of our real world has shown, that the interpretation of religious texts is a very personal thing. A thing people care very strongly about and are ready to die and kill for.

And even with religious laws that were made up for a roleplaying game, people can get pretty intense. You will find people debating over things like the Paladin code of a specific deity over pages. And while debating insist that there is no room for debate, since it’s quite obvious and totally unquestionable that their view is the only one.

So, instead of going into the many difficult moral dilemmas that can occur, I’ll take a look at the issue from a gameplay point of view.

Paladins can be pretty powerful characters, esp. at higher levels. As pretty much every other class in a well balanced game.

Classes that have alignment restrictions normally have these for flavor and story reasons. It’s to get the idea of the class across, not to balance the power of the class by adding restrictions.

If you see a paladin, you should know what to expect. A good guy. Maybe a bit on the dogmatic and preachy side, but all in all a good guy you can depend on.

So, here’s my plea to all the GMs out there with a Paladin in their party:

Do not let the Paladin fall from grace, and strip her powers, unless the player thinks that this is where the character should go. If your player wants a fall from grace and redemption story, this is when you come up with a dramatic way to do it. And not because she partied to hard, or had to choose between two equally bad outcomes.

Falling from a big thing, comparable to character death and should not be taken lightly.

But what if the character decides to shout: “Leeeeeroy Jenkins!” and cut through an orphanage? Well, in this case something went wrong a long time ago. And I seriously hope that arguments like these are just there to play devil’s advocate.

So please, don’t think you are on a higher ground than your Paladin and that you can dictate their morale code. In know, in some cases you feel that you’re right. And guess what: so is your player. This will just create tension, remove the fun from your game and seriously change party balance.

tl;dr: The Paladin Code and restrictions are there for story reasons. Please use the “fall from grace” part also just for story reasons.

  1. Campaigns that I’ve been a player in that have a DM who “tells” the player how the character feels and acts, especially in regards to something as major as a paladin’s moral code, have always fallen apart.

    A DM, like you said needs to facilitate the story and not dictate it. Let the players actions and reasons have consequence that is proportionate to the actions.

    Also, as someone who’s never played ShadowRun before, how does it differ from the 3.5/Pathfinder rule set/play style?

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