Breaking out of the "paladin trap."

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I think it's important to define your character in terms of their crisis instead of their capabilities.
The classic oath bound hero had more than one oath and two were doomed to come into conflict not really much mechanically to support that but Story wise you had Cu Chulainn (hospitality oath vs totemic oath), Sampson (divine vs marriage), Lancelot (crown vs queen)
 

Celebrim

Legend
You do seem to have a much much more limited scope of paladin concepts in play than I do - even when we just look at paladin - based on your descriptions.
Perhaps it is a variation on Tolstoy's observation: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
A paladin who is actually an avatar of their oath entity ? .. ie a mortal representation of that source what is an avatar of X like? Not sure what story this adds ie conflict but I bet some might occur.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Perhaps it is a variation on Tolstoy's observation: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
No idea about that - to me it just looked like different preferences. No idea where happy it not came into it.
 

Celebrim

Legend
No idea about that - to me it just looked like different preferences. No idea where happy it not came into it.
The point of my phrase is that perhaps Paladins, by being good and moral paragons, will like happy families - that is families that are not dysfunctional - will tend to have a certain similarity to them, whereas highly dysfunctional characters will like unhappy families all tend to be dysfunctional in their own ways.

From my perspective, the challenge of playing a Paladin is not in finding some sort of meaningful character arc full of character growth which might be the traditional way to conceive of a character, because you begin play as a paragon who is fully emotionally, spiritually, and morally mature. The challenge instead is to pull off that standing as a moral paragon in a way that is actually believable and leaves the character standing as heroic and admirable despite the challenges of being heroic and admirable in a world where quite frequently there is not an obvious way forward or way to go.

Pulling off characters like that is exceptionally hard - far harder than pulling off characters that are deeply compromised and dysfunctional and far harder than pulling off a character that is clothed only in self-righteousness that masks flaws in their character that are obvious to everyone but themselves. And as such, those presentations are extremely valuable, and extremely satisfying when they are done well, because they stand out more from the run of the mill characters.

A good approximation of this can be found in the character of Steve Rogers as presented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a Paragon character who manages to not fall into any of the easy traps for how such a character is presented, and yet within universe not only manages to maintain something like his integrity but is believably seen by even people who disagree with him as someone who is maintaining his integrity and therefore retains their respect - and to a large extent I think the audiences respect.

If you think that is easier to pull off than pulling off a character arc where someone comes to some realization and repairs their moral integrity, then I suggest you haven't done much writing. Steve Rogers was an incredibly well written character, and Chris Evans acted that challenging to inhabit character extremely well.

The real "Paladin Trap" I've seen more often in my years of gaming is to not even really try to aim at that high mark, or if trying to fail in hitting it utterly.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I write about "default storylines" over here, but the TLDR is this. If you’re playing any class with an inherent relationship to gods/fiends/eldritch-entities-from-beyond-time-and-space, then you’ve got a potential character arc laid out for you from Level 1. That's worth exploring, but I think it's wise to avoid relying on them. A character ought to be more than the relationships defined by its class features.

My question to the boards: What are some paladin/cleric/oracle character arcs you've seen that go beyond "I'm a servant of [insert entity here]?"
I have a swashbuckling Gnomish Paladin* who is a prince of a small island nation inspired partly by Spanish colonial California, partly by Tigana from the book Tigana, and partly by thoughts about gnomes and their societies.
His land was taken over by a human nation, and his grandmother who united the island into a kingdom died defending the castle while he helped the family escape. He’s got a revolution and revenge plot, as well as a great love of music, poetry, and skill at arms.

My wife has a Vryloka Paladin of The Blood of Vol in our Eberron game has a story that centers more around knighthood, nation, fealty, and redemption, that about the spice of her power.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
The point of my phrase is that perhaps Paladins, by being good and moral paragons, will like happy families - that is families that are not dysfunctional - will tend to have a certain similarity to them, whereas highly dysfunctional characters will like unhappy families all tend to be dysfunctional in their own ways.

From my perspective, the challenge of playing a Paladin is not in finding some sort of meaningful character arc full of character growth which might be the traditional way to conceive of a character, because you begin play as a paragon who is fully emotionally, spiritually, and morally mature. The challenge instead is to pull off that standing as a moral paragon in a way that is actually believable and leaves the character standing as heroic and admirable despite the challenges of being heroic and admirable in a world where quite frequently there is not an obvious way forward or way to go.

Pulling off characters like that is exceptionally hard - far harder than pulling off characters that are deeply compromised and dysfunctional and far harder than pulling off a character that is clothed only in self-righteousness that masks flaws in their character that are obvious to everyone but themselves. And as such, those presentations are extremely valuable, and extremely satisfying when they are done well, because they stand out more from the run of the mill characters.

A good approximation of this can be found in the character of Steve Rogers as presented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a Paragon character who manages to not fall into any of the easy traps for how such a character is presented, and yet within universe not only manages to maintain something like his integrity but is believably seen by even people who disagree with him as someone who is maintaining his integrity and therefore retains their respect - and to a large extent I think the audiences respect.

If you think that is easier to pull off than pulling off a character arc where someone comes to some realization and repairs their moral integrity, then I suggest you haven't done much writing. Steve Rogers was an incredibly well written character, and Chris Evans acted that challenging to inhabit character extremely well.

The real "Paladin Trap" I've seen more often in my years of gaming is to not even really try to aim at that high mark, or if trying to fail in hitting it utterly.
Well, I am very glad you have do thoroughly codified your ideal paladin and it provides you the kind of play you prefer.

I wont follow you into the path of judging one set of play or challenges or preferred archetype as more challenging, easier or exsmple of "well written" writing or playing, not agreeing r having different preferences showing a lack in some way etc.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
My favourite Paladin began as a member of an Order of Knights Vigilant whose duty was to recover artifacts, He gets sent to a small community where he discovers a conspiracy in the wider church that leads him to join a secret inquisition, have a crisis of faith in his gods and eventually uncover corruption in the leadership of his faith. The action against the leadership leads to a schism, wherein the PC leads the forces of Justice against the corrupt Church and changes the course of religion in the world.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I write about "default storylines" over here, but the TLDR is this. If you’re playing any class with an inherent relationship to gods/fiends/eldritch-entities-from-beyond-time-and-space, then you’ve got a potential character arc laid out for you from Level 1. That's worth exploring, but I think it's wise to avoid relying on them. A character ought to be more than the relationships defined by its class features.

My question to the boards: What are some paladin/cleric/oracle character arcs you've seen that go beyond "I'm a servant of [insert entity here]?"
...I find the idea of character arcs in D&D confusing. IME, there is only one: "I started off pretty weak, but now I can take on gods." I'm not sure I count that as an "arc". (Alternatively, "I started off as a pretty weak adventurer...and now I'm dead.")
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I write about "default storylines" over here, but the TLDR is this. If you’re playing any class with an inherent relationship to gods/fiends/eldritch-entities-from-beyond-time-and-space, then you’ve got a potential character arc laid out for you from Level 1. That's worth exploring, but I think it's wise to avoid relying on them. A character ought to be more than the relationships defined by its class features.

My question to the boards: What are some paladin/cleric/oracle character arcs you've seen that go beyond "I'm a servant of [insert entity here]?"
I have a swashbuckling Gnomish Paladin* who is a prince of a small island nation inspired partly by Spanish colonial California, partly by Tigana from the book Tigana, and partly by thoughts about gnomes and their societies.
His land was taken over by a human nation, and his grandmother who united the island into a kingdom died defending the castle while he helped the family escape. He’s got a revolution and revenge plot, as well as a great love of music, poetry, and skill at arms.

His divine connection isn’t even the same as a normal Paladin. His deity is the goddess who is the divine personification of his land, and he is “married” to her by a ritual wherein he made a very dangerous dive, retrieved an artifact, and thus gained her blessing.
 

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