My Paladin killed a child molester (and now my DM wants to take away my powers!) - Page 12
  1. #111

    Damned Alignments!


    I am shocked that a paladin would behave in such a manner. Don't you just hate it when you have those darned characters all high and mighty knocking off those secret significant plot elements?

    All silliness aside, from what you've indicated, this was for the most part your garden variety paladin (5th level). I'll cover the whole issue of alignment in a moment. In many instances there are prestige classes that allow paladins to go willy nilly smiting the slightest hint of evil without complications. Paladins often wind up in situations that hamstring the rest of the adventuring party if the paladin does not act appropriately. Roleplaying a paladin is one of the easiest yet most complicated characters to do justice. (No direct pun intended.)

    Having stated the obvious, if the perpetrator was doing evil, the paladin must act without hesitation. According to my understanding of a paladin, a great deal of tutelage and training is doted on the paladin by the elders of the diety that they worship. Certain villainy requires to be dealt with harsh and promptly. The paladin has been taught to judge situations when they arise and take action. Stepping away from that for a moment. The conniving DM placed the paladin in a morality situation that required him to do the "right thing" regardless of the outcome. The complication is that the DM decides whether or not the player's interpretation of what a paladin does in that situation is appropriate.

    The key alignment aspect is Lawful in this issue. Following the guidlines of order. Clearly something lawful was violated. Now here is where the problem lies. Good vs. Neutral vs. Evil. Slaying the evil-doer as it relates to the circumstance is vague. Walking into that situation blindly as the paladin did meant that so much was unclear. Did the paladin detect evil? Did the paladin cast detect alignment? Was an iniative roll used to determine whether or not the paladin could act first? If the paladin caught the peasant flat-footed and had a free action before an actual combat would initiate, it seems the paladin chose the tried-and-true: strike-first-and-ask-questions-later. The player's actions could be related to how the DM has ambushed his players in the past.

    Paladins following a code strictly is a bland way to role play a character. How often have you been in a game where the party wastes twenty minutes hemming and hawing over what to do? More often than not all the parties efforts make no difference because no matter what, the DM will have his way win out. Removing that which makes a paladin from the character in this situation seems too harsh. The character's alignment may have been played inappropriately. As a result the DM is within his bounds to say that the paladin's alignment is being played ie. Lawful Neutral opposed to Lawful Good and the player must now adjust the character accordingly. At the same time, the opportunity for the character to atone for this has to be there.

    So Sayeth The Bone Daddy!

  2. #112
    Quote Originally Posted by Herpes Cineplex
    Here's a definitively, obviously evil guy caught in the act of harming an innocent child; the paladin's under no obligation to bring the guy back alive or give him a "fair fight" or tell him "hey, please stop" or anything like that, barring vagaries in local law enforcement. It's a clear-cut decision: you are the paladin, you are confronted with a man who is about to perform an utterly vile crime, you stop him. Not "you stop him in the nicest way possible," or "you stop him as long as he's looking in your direction," or "you ask him nicely to stop and please repent his evil ways," or even "you stop him with minimal force."
    Is catching someone in an evil act always justification for homicide for a paladin then?

    This is why stopping people in the nicest ways, or stopping them when they're looking at you, or asking them to stop and repent is part of being a Paladin.

    Paladin's don't slay evil unless they have too. If they can slay evil whenever they want to just because it's evil, they can slay probably a good 50% of the population. Some may think this molester is a "has to slay evil" situation, but others don't. Paladins especially shouldn't slay evil when the societies they're supposed to protect and support have decided on other Good means of dealing with evil.

    joe b.
    Last edited by jgbrowning; Thursday, 27th May, 2004 at 10:25 AM.

  3. #113
    Quote Originally Posted by Herpes Cineplex
    Absolutely. The only part of the PH that actually discusses a paladin's code says that they respect legitimate authority, act with honor, help those who need help, and punish those who harm/threaten innocents.

    Here's a definitively, obviously evil guy caught in the act of harming an innocent child; the paladin's under no obligation to bring the guy back alive or give him a "fair fight" or tell him "hey, please stop" or anything like that, barring vagaries in local law enforcement. It's a clear-cut decision: you are the paladin, you are confronted with a man who is about to perform an utterly vile crime, you stop him. Not "you stop him in the nicest way possible," or "you stop him as long as he's looking in your direction," or "you ask him nicely to stop and please repent his evil ways," or even "you stop him with minimal force."

    Taking off his head in one stroke is actually kind of merciful for a habitual child rapist; I'd imagine many communities even today would have cried out for a longer, more painful end for the criminal. Unless this particular kingdom has a bizarre criminal justice system where rape isn't considered to be all that bad (like you're playing F.A.T.A.L. or something), I don't even see how what the paladin did conflicts with "respecting legitimate authority," which is about the only part of the code as written that is even called into question by this act, and that's only if he doesn't free the girl and report the whole thing to the local authorities, up to and especially the bit where he chopped the rapist's head off. The paladin helped an innocent in need, punished the person harming that innocent, and if anything, cutting that guy's head off just enhances the honor of the paladin; all he needs to do now is take responsibility for his actions and explain to the local magistrates what he did and why.

    Whereupon they'll probably give him a reward for doing the right thing.

    Being good, especially paladin-style holy-warrior Lawful Good, doesn't mean pacifism or embracing modern concepts of civil and criminal rights. Most fantasy settings are very rough places, with small communities fortifying themselves against bandit armies and monsters and the like. Evil is a real, palpable presence in most of those settings, and it needs to be fought. Sure, that kind of high-handed I-am-the-executioner vigilante schtick won't fly in the real world, but in a setting where demons are real and gods exist and actually interact with their worshippers, I suspect that paladins should be more than capable of administering some instant justice to the vilest scum they encounter without their own god pitching a fit about it. Local authorities will have a few things to say about it, I'm sure. But if you're trying to tell me that a good god who ordains paladins to go out and slay evil in his/her name would say "Whoops, sorry pally, killing a guy who is raping a little girl is way over the line, no more special powers for YOU," I think you may need to rethink just what kind of gods your campaign world has in it.

    honestly, it sounds like your gm is just looking for an excuse to play kick-the-paladin
    Just so we are clear if I as a law-abiding upstanding member of society ever find you ABOUT to commit a crime, with compelling circumstancial evidence that you have in the past committed a crime I am well within my rights to walk up behind you unsheath my weapon and slice your head off ? Without so much as a warning? And I should get a freaking medal ? I just can't picture you being okay with that.

    Paladins are held to a stricter moral code than anyone else. His actions were NOT honorable, his actions did NOT serve the greatest possible good, his actions MAY cause he and others of his religion, and even his GOD to be thought of in a lesser manner.

    It isn't like he is permanently stripped, a small quest (perhaps with the child as his squire or what not , teaching her that losing your temper is not a good thing and that the ends do not justify the means) and an atonement spell and he is all better.

  4. #114

    Deconstructing the Paladin's Code

    It is largely uncontested that the paladin committed a Good act. Protecting the innocent from an almost certainly Evil man is Good.

    The problem arises when one considers the paladin's code: here I will cite two points of obvious conflict: the "respect" of "legitimate authority" and the fact that a paladin must "act with honour".

    "Respect of Legitimate Authority"

    Respect legitimate authority - No contest here. The NPC wasn't an authority, and what he was doing was definately illegal.
    This comment in particular, and others, have demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of what respecting the legitimate authority means. Respect of legitimate authority does not mean doffing your hat and saying 'Yes, Guv', when Lord Goodheart asks you to fetch him a cup of tea. Respecting legitimate authority means that one acknowledges that, where the authority is non-evil and preferably non-chaotic, that the established magistracies and prevailing laws takes precedence over the paladin's code. Where there is a gross violation, then the authority has 'delegitimises' itself. An authority which ruled that nobles had the right to rape peasants had 'delegitimised' itself, at least with regard to that particular law. Insofar as the local authority acts in a legitimate fashion, the paladin is bound to acquiesce in spite of his personal predilection. For example, if the molester was brought to court and the paladin thought him worthy of death but the local jurists sentenced him to twenty years' hard labour, then he must accept their laws. Laws are derived from society, and the paladin must respect that.

    Paladin: "Yes, I am a paladin. I was doing God's will"
    In the example cited, then we come across the classical notion of conceiving a set of predetermined axioms and drawing conclusions based from them. The problem is that these axioms are not always valid. If the city militia respect the paladin's right to dole out punishment, he is not merely respecting legitimate authority- he *is* legitimate authority. However, the problem arises where this is not the case. Depending on the local laws, the church to which the paladin is dedicated may or may not represent a valid part of law enforcement. If local law specifically permits paladins to punish, he is part of legitimate authority; otherwise, he is disrespecting it.

    It is thus inconceivable to argue that the paladin is simultaneously outside local authority and for him to respect it- either he is part of it (which was not postulated) or he inherently disrespects it by subjugating it to his personal morality.

    "Act with Honour"

    This is a more straightforward one. "Not lying, not cheating, not using poison, etc" has a coherent theme. Now, those who are familiar with my posts may know that I have sometimes advocated the ability of a paladin to use covert methods for the 'greater good'. However, the argument I have always deployed is that of 'final option'. Moreover, when a paladin is forced to lie to protect his innocents, he does not break his code but merely exerts a balance between the different sections: "act with honour" as against "protect innocents" (and IMHO the latter ought be the predominant).

    In this scenario, no such 'final option' exists. As has been repeatedly articulated throughout the thread, there were a myriad of non-lethal methods of dealing with the man, from subduing him to arrest. Attacking an unarmed opponent of grossly inferior combat ability who posed no discernible threat and had his pants down is dishonourable. It places an already vastly weaker opponent at even more of a disadvantage. As has already been argued, the paladin could logically reason that the man was no threat. This is no argument to say 'oh well, may as well attack from behind unseen'. Honour is not utilitarian. It is not balancing the odds of the man winning and coming to zero in either scenario. Honour is the principle of allowing an opponent a reasonable chance to defend himself, particularly if that opponent is already a negligent threat. Indeed, the man's pathetic nature made honour *more* not less valid- had the paedophile been a 10th level wizard, the paladin could have perhaps eschewed his honour in order to be certain of "help[ing] those in need". Here, the paladin could and should have done both.

    The paladin thus acted dishonourably.

    Nevertheless, I would argue that whilst the code was breached, it was not a "gross violation". Some removal of certain powers might be appropriate- the loss of his Aura of Courage (to represent dishonour) and his Divine Grace (since this is based upon the compact between paladin and god) would probably be the most reasonable outcome.

  5. #115
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    Sounds to me like you need to take that "chaotic good paladin" prestige class from Defenders of the Faith.

    Think of it this way: Paladin = Superman, Avenger (or whatever it is called) = Batman!

    Your character sounds more like batman-- who is willing to get his hands dirty in order to see justice done. Superman, however, will not break the law, even to see justice done.

    If your character were superman, you'd have apprehended the lecher, and brought him to the town marshal. As a paladin, you would swear an oath indicating what you saw. The Marshal would also take the girl's testimony to verify what happened.

    There would be a short trial.

    Then the townsfolk would put this guy on a stool, kick it, and make him take a short drop with a quick stop, if you know what I mean.

    In essence, even if this guy deserved to die for what he did-- it was not for your character to decide. The law has its own executioners, judges, and juries. You are not all three roled up into one, but a servant of justice. You should be helping the system, not overriding it.

    DM, if you are listening, I recomend, you DO NOT let this person remain a paladin. If s/he wanted this person dead, all that was necessary would be to turn them over to the authorities, who would have swiftly executed him anyway. The paladin's attack was not done in the interest of justice-- it circumvented it. This attack was done out of anger.

    Frankly, this person is lucky that they did not end up being charged with murder (after all, it not legal to kill someone who does not directly threaten you with bodily harm), let alone lose favor with their diety.

    What I would recomend to you, however, is that you allow this person to join a prestige class for "avenger" type, ex paladins. There is something to this effect in Def. of the Faith. (I don't remember the class' name right now) It is a class for chaotic good characters, and is similar to paladin (paladin abilities stack with it)

    I had a friend that also wrote up their own version of the "avenger" prestige class (his is actually called the avenger) if you are interested. Drop me an email at and I will send it over to you.

  6. #116
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

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    I think many people have taken the "uphold and protect" parts of the code of conduct to mean "kill and maim".

    Upholding the law DOES NOT mean killing. Your Paladin could have done subdual damage, knocked him out, saved the little girl, and dragged his arse to the authorities.

    Secondly you were in some kind of carousing establishment (I dont' want to know what carousing entails in your gritty games - I just hope it was Paladin-like). Is it possible that this guy was just a "customer" of whomever really held the girl captive. Perhaps selling her off.

    All you did was kill a man. Yes he was about to commit a horrendous act, however you DID NOT have to kill him.

    The alignment of Lawful Good indicates that you follow the laws for the good of everyone. What are the laws of the land? If they allow you to kill an unarmed civilian then you are perfectly in the clear, however I'm guessing that you're not allowed to do this.

    Secondly, you cannot prove 100% that killing him was good for everyone. Indeed it was good for the girl, however was he the sole-provider for a family he wasn't abusing? Is his family now destined to die of starvation this winter?

    Your DM did warn you about the situation. Which IMHO he did not have to do if he had previously defined the laws of the land and the gods. Assuming he didn't do this (it's a tough job to do), he gave you indication of what the law (his law) said about the situation.

    At this point you decided to continue with the kill. You made a conscious choice to murder - you planned to kill him while his back was turned and pants down. Granted it could be opportunistic murder, but murder nonetheless. You helped the girl, but you MURDERED someone. A Paladin's code of conduct doesn't not state "and thou shalt murder the infidels". It says you should punish them.

    Knocking him out and chaining him to the wall would be a decent punishment. If the place is how you describe then sooner or later some other person is going to wander in and abuse the man.

  7. #117
    Gee I hope the original poster wasn't looking for a quick easy unanimous thread.

  8. #118
    Quote Originally Posted by jgbrowning
    This is why stopping people in the nicest ways, or stopping them when they're looking at you, or asking them to stop and repent is part of being a Paladin.
    I think you are--and please don't take this as an insult, because it isn't--instinctively applying modern, real-life standards of criminal justice and morality to a much less ambiguous and much harsher fantasy setting.

    It's not an insult, because it's says something nice about you when your gut reaction tells you that people should be innocent until proven guilty, that you must prove that guilt even if you actually witnessed the crime as it happened, that rehabilitation and reform is preferable to punishment, and that mercy should be extended to everyone, even (and perhaps especially) to those who most would say do not deserve it. I'm a big fan of all of those things.

    I just don't assume that a fantasy setting where devils and demons and gods and monsters are all visibly present and active, where people live in pseudo-medieval communities, where dictatorships and monarchies and the like seem to be the rule rather than the exception, and where people can be magically forced to speak the truth even when they're dead is necessarily an appropriate place for those sentiments to be considered normal. In the 21st century, in this country? Absolutely they should be normal, and I wouldn't want it any other way. But in this swords-and-sorcery setting, I'm not going to put any money on most countries (or any of them, for that matter) having such an enlightened, complicated, and comprehensive legal and ethical system in place.

    I also make a distinction between the secular authorities, who cannot revoke paladinhood, and the actual god who grants paladinhood in the first place. And D&D-style gods seem to be an awfully pragmatic (and often dogmatic and intolerant) bunch; obviously, the paladin's god can know the full truth about the situation in an instant and will know that the paladin has, in modern cop parlance, made a righteous bust. He has caught a child molestor with his pants literally down, and it takes an unreasonable amount of pretzel logic to see that situation any other way. Now all we need to know is whether this paladin's god is the kind of god who thinks that everyone, even a vile rapist, deserves a second chance, or if it's the kind of god that says that certain crimes are so heinous that they permanently stain the soul of the criminal and that it is the sacred duty of all that is Right and Good to send that besmirched soul off to the Abyss where it can suffer the eternal torments meted out to such creatures.

    I tend to think the latter kind of god is more likely to ordain paladins, but without either of us knowing more about this particular setting, we're both just speculating. If this is a paladin of a god of mercy and redemption, he's totally screwed because you're right, he should have at least made an attempt to do something other than mete out swift, uncompromising justice to the evildoer; but if he's a paladin of a god of righteousness and shielding the innocent, he's just won some serious spirtual brownie points for doing exactly the right thing.

    So I'm going to stick to my original diagnosis and say that in this case, the GM is simply playing kick-the-paladin. He's inventing new, undocumented restrictions, adding them to the paladin's code without mentioning it to the player, and then setting the PC up to fail. I'm with the player here in crying foul over this.

    and i'm also firmly in the "good is more important than lawful" paladin camp anyway

    Edit to add:
    Quote Originally Posted by Zimri
    Just so we are clear if I as a law-abiding upstanding member of society ever find you ABOUT to commit a crime, with compelling circumstancial evidence that you have in the past committed a crime I am well within my rights to walk up behind you unsheath my weapon and slice your head off ?
    Well, considering that you're not a paladin, you probably aren't allowed to carry around any weapon (sheathed or not) that could cut my head off, and that I live in a society where the criminal justice system specifically forbids that kind of rogue-vigilante act...wait, do I actually have to make this any more clear, or can I just pretend that you're joking about actually trying to start this argument?

    Obviously, we don't live in the setting where this event occurred. We never will live in that setting. That setting is under no obligation to mimic our modern-day world in any respect.

    In fact, let's all take a moment to remember that in this particular scenario, it was the GM's decision to have the paladin stumble across this rape-in-progress. This wasn't random, this wasn't real, this was an event specifically selected by the GM and--I'm fairly sure--meant to be a little "test" for the paladin. The only reason this thread exists is because the GM and the player disagree about whether that test was actually passed or not, and all I'm saying is that the player's case is better supported in most of the settings I've read and/or played in.

    I don't see anything here that tells me that the paladin performed an overtly evil act or a gross violation of the standard paladin's code. If the standard-issue code has been modified in their game to encompass modern philosophies about criminal justice, I kinda think it's the GM's responsibility to make those modifications clear to the player before setting up a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situation.
    Last edited by Herpes Cineplex; Thursday, 27th May, 2004 at 11:27 AM.

  9. #119
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jgbrowning
    As a counterpoint.....

    I think we all agree that there is a typical manner of dealing with such happenings. Be that calling for the guard or whatever, there was some set of socially determined methods for dealing with this man. What, in detail those are, we don't know as of yet.

    To me the Paladin ignored authority, behaved cowardly by not announcing himself in a situation that didn't justify immediate action, and fell pray to the spirit of vengence by not being willing to allow the legal authorities to deal with the matter.

    joe b.
    According to you, what kind of authorities existed in medieval times ?
    What kind of authorities existed in the wilds of the US at the time of the Western expansion ? Especially towards indian people ?
    What kind of authorities exist even now in places like Sudan, Somalia, North Korea ?

    Would you necessarily trust that kind of authorities ? Assuming that the law and the authorities have the answer, legitimity and even if they have, the Willingness to stop that kind of perp is VERY optimistic. It's not because modern day, northern countries authorities are MOSTLY just in that respect that the ones in the rest of the world, and even less in a fantasy world are necessarily.

    The "Paladin" archetype that creeps up in many human cultures is remarkable because it stands out from the generally low morales of its surrounding. Minstrels and church sang the praise of the paladin/knight in western europe because so few people looked like that ideal, and they wanted to educate people to act differently.

    I believe paladins get their powers because they have a "mandate from the heavens" and the mindset to act and face personal sacrifices to stamp out evildoers like the one described. That it could get them into trouble with authorities is irrelevant, said authorities can be a lot worse than even the perp.

  10. #120
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zimri
    Right but the only "weapon" the perp was holding in this particular case was his "magic wand of child defilement" He was unarmed, and no challenge was announced. The child had already been sullied so it wasn't like he was currently "taking" her maidenhood, besides I am fairly certain that when caught in the act he would fail his "use magic device" roll for the aforementioned wand.
    So according to you, if it has been done once, it can be done safely again, and will not cause more suffering ? I do not agree with you at all. I think your posts are becoming more and more shocking and offensive. I hope you do not think what you wrote.

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