Paladin, How Are You Righteous?

Your paladin is a knight renowned for courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak. You do what is right no matter the cost. But why? And how do you show your righteousness?


Why would a person put a moral code ahead of their own safety and comfort? You don’t have to be a paladin to do so. Here are some ideas to consider. Keep in mind a paladin is unlikely to feel they measure up to their own standards and constantly strive to improve.
  • You serve a higher cause. You know you are flawed and can’t measure up to the standards of your cause but you believe in that cause and advancing it. The cause is bigger than you are and matters more. You pursue justice for the weak, honor toward the civilized, and courage in battle against the enemies of your cause and your higher power.
  • Innocents matter more than you. Your beliefs lead you to put others, especially the weak and helpless, ahead of yourself. You live to serve and protect. You may work closely with a village or town to keep its residents safe from enemies outside and within the settlement itself.
  • The weak need protecting. You are strong when it comes to fighting. Those who can’t easily protect themselves need you to stand in the gap. You prefer to take the fight to the enemy and serve on distant frontiers so those back home live in safety. A paladin in hell fits this description.
  • You know evil and it must be defeated. Evil manifests as murder, lying, stealing, the taking of another’s freedom without just cause, breaking oaths, and showing disrespect for the higher power you serve. Some evil can be confronted with words, others with deeds, and in some cases steel is needed.
How does your paladin show her righteousness? This line must be carefully walked so as to not stray into self-righteousness (being right because you say you are). As a paladin, perhaps the best way to display righteousness is through action and not through talking.
  • You never back down from evil. If you see soldiers abusing an innocent peasant, a rich man stealing from a poor man, or a knight murdering innocents you intervene. Those soldiers might outnumber you, that rich man may be your benefactor, and that knight might be your liege lord. It doesn’t matter. You stand against evil no matter what.
  • You are kind and gentle with those weaker than you. The smaller and more humble the person, the more you show respect and offer aid. You will give them shelter, gold, your possessions, your protection, fight monsters preying on them, whatever they need.
  • You give alms to the poor, protect widows and orphans, stand up for beggars and serfs, listen to those in need, and champion the cause of the downtrodden. Your needs always come last. You defend against bandits, those in power who are corrupt, and other oppressors which might include tyrannical dragons and other monsters.
  • You heal the sick and diseased, provide food for the hungry, visit prisoners to offer comfort and food and hope in your higher power, protect the weak, and provide shelter for the homeless. While your adventures take you into the wilds, you always spend the gold you recover and the powers you acquire on the needy whenever you can.
  • You believe that each individual person has equal value and is made in the image of a higher power. You work tirelessly to abolish slavery, to elevate persons in minority groups, and oppose laws and practices that take innocent life and freedom. You will fight any evil that takes life without just cause and treads on freedom.
Being a paladin is not easy, especially if your best friends like to kill and loot. You may find it works best to act on your beliefs more, talk less, and really listen to where those who oppose you are coming from. Only when innocent life and freedom is threatened do you take up the sword for your cause and in the name of your higher power and bring the fight to the enemy.
 
Charles Dunwoody

Comments

RSIxidor

Explorer
My view of the Paladin is that the Paladin's cause and code define what is righteous, what is good and what is evil. While there is the classical Paladin and what they are, as described here, I've always disliked how narrowly they are defined. One of the reasons I like that PF2 has the Champion in their place. Just a simple name change does so much to shed the baggage of the class, even though the class still fills the same archetype.
 
To me, what makes a paladin is how they behave outside of battle. Even the most villainous of PCs can fight undead and fiends, but it's how paladins carry themselves in the day-to-day that makes the difference.

My last paladin was unflinchingly kind and upbeat. He was a lot of fun to play, though there were a few moments that challenged his faith in his adventuring career. But he survived those with his faith in the world intact.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
How does your paladin show her righteousness? This line must be carefully walked so as to not stray into self-righteousness (being right because you say you are). As a paladin, perhaps the best way to display righteousness is through action and not through talking.
  • You never back down from evil. If you see soldiers abusing an innocent peasant, a rich man stealing from a poor man, or a knight murdering innocents you intervene. Those soldiers might outnumber you, that rich man may be your benefactor, and that knight might be your liege lord. It doesn’t matter. You stand against evil no matter what.
  • You are kind and gentle with those weaker than you. The smaller and more humble the person, the more you show respect and offer aid. You will give them shelter, gold, your possessions, your protection, fight monsters preying on them, whatever they need.
  • You give alms to the poor, protect widows and orphans, stand up for beggars and serfs, listen to those in need, and champion the cause of the downtrodden. Your needs always come last. You defend against bandits, those in power who are corrupt, and other oppressors which might include tyrannical dragons and other monsters.
  • You heal the sick and diseased, provide food for the hungry, visit prisoners to offer comfort and food and hope in your higher power, protect the weak, and provide shelter for the homeless. While your adventures take you into the wilds, you always spend the gold you recover and the powers you acquire on the needy whenever you can.
  • You believe that each individual person has equal value and is made in the image of a higher power. You work tirelessly to abolish slavery, to elevate persons in minority groups, and oppose laws and practices that take innocent life and freedom. You will fight any evil that takes life without just cause and treads on freedom.
This is where the article becomes problematic. There's a lot of absolute terminology here. Never backing down from evil is where Lawful Good turns into Lawful Stupid and people start to find that perfect is the enemy of good. Nobody can fight every evil all the time. Sometimes you've got to fight this evil over here, even if there's evil going on over there. You've got to prioritize your fights. Doing so does not make the paladin less righteous. And too many DMs and players seem to think it does, making the paladin unplayable.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I find its hard for modern "moral relativists" to play a righteous holy warrior in a world of elemental evil and chaos. I have players who think a LG Paladin should be able to cut corners a lot and the ends justify the means, adventure with unsavory types, etc. They want the powers but not the ethos.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
My code is to obey the Natural Law, and values as the respect of the human dignity, helping others, trying the right balance between justice and mercy because too much and then it becomes vice, not virtue (words by Spanish king Carlos I to his son Felipe II).
 

tommybahama

Explorer
I have players who think a LG Paladin should be able to cut corners a lot and the ends justify the means, adventure with unsavory types, etc. They want the powers but not the ethos.
I agree with your main point, but it could be fun to role play a reluctant holy warrior that obeys the letter of his diety's commands but not the spirit because he disagrees with the goal. Kind of like Jonah, the prophet swallowed by the whale, who resisted warning the people of Ninevah to repent because he wanted to see them destroyed.

Never backing down from evil is where Lawful Good turns into Lawful Stupid and people start to find that perfect is the enemy of good.
There is also Biblical precident for only helping some people and ignoring others. And ignoring some evil may be required to defeat a greater evil or a different kind of evil.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
I remember in the day, when every alignment/deity could have there own (un)-holy warrior.

A plethora of paladins, by Christopher Wood
Dragon Magazine #106
February 1986, page 45-56.

I also remember when on Krynn, The Knights of Solamnia (LG) had to face their opposites in the Knights of Takhisis (LE).

Each order of Knights were the Holy Warriors of their diety. Their Paladin class as it were.

One's definition of justice is different (just like today where some people equate justice with vengence, no forgiveness, etc.).

No matter how you do it, they all are the role models of their deity and their cause. They are the physical embodiment of that belief. And to properly play one, one HAS TO do lots of role playing to do this character class proper.

While the Lawful Good Paladin is the most famous of the holy warriors, if role played properly, is also one of the most rewarding. Especially if one get XP for role playing.
 

SMHWorlds

Explorer
I have a few thoughts about the Paladin.

Lawful Stupid

This trope has been played out, maybe for a few decades now. Yes some players took the original ideas of the paladin and used them to create havoc or have their own way. They were selfish, putting their play style, or more rarely personal beliefs, above the collective good of the table. But these were the exceptions. There are just as many bad paladin players as there are bad fighter players or bad wizard players. Just as many players who used the LG alignment as a weapon as those who use CN or N. More than a few people I have witnessed use this term, once queried, are forced to admit that they have never played a paladin and/or never seen "Lawful Stupid" in action. The days of the strict paladin are long gone as are the days where this term had any real meaning. At this point bringing it up is less than useful.

Morality and Ethics

The earliest game paladins did have to follow a very strict code, a code that was as much a stab or nod to game balance as it was a class ethos. And paladins had to adhere to following what was Lawful and Good for fear of losing their class abilities. This can explain some of the bad behavior exhibited by paladin players (though by no means, all). But that has not been true in several editions now. The restrictions were loosened in 3rd and 4th and are gone in 5th. And 5th edition is where we should focus our attention. What does a paladin look like now, not back then? Yes there are behaviors that a paladin should exhibit based on their order, but these are guidelines and open to interpretation.

Having said that, I do think there are some universal evils that most paladins would have no truck with. But that is not an issue, it is an opportunity for the party and players to engage in some group dynamics.

Medieval-ism

There is no doubt the D&D paladin relies heavily on European Medieval zeitgeist. Even today. But the grip of the medieval has given way ever more to the grip of high fantasy, even though that is still very much Euro power fantasy. And the paladin has loosed its association with the armored medieval knight. They are now closer to the idea of the original peers of Charlemagne, the original paladins. They are close to the ideas of champions of a cause, be it earthly or humanist or divine. The green knight subclass is one of my favorite things about D&D5E. There is nothing stopping a player from using the traditional model of the paladin from earlier editions, but no longer are they forced to. What might a Mayan paladin or a Kushite paladin look and act like? I'd be curious to see them.

I think the article provides one way to play a paladin, a bit old school and absolutely valid and fun. It is certainly not the only way, however. Which makes for a better game. A campaign with an old school and new school paladin trying to understand one another's ways would be fascinating.
 

Anoth

Explorer
Why do good? That is a question that has been debated by philosophers for millennia. I would say because they ARE good. There is simply no other way for them. There actions reveal their character.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Why do good? That is a question that has been debated by philosophers for millennia. I would say because they ARE good. There is simply no other way for them. There actions reveal their character.
You could also use the creed of “always being of service to others.” They don’t do good because “that’s what heroes do,” they do it because they are fulfilled when they help others or answer their calling.
 
Your paladin is a knight renowned for courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak. You do what is right no matter the cost. But why? And how do you show your righteousness?
Why?

5e ditched this. Your paladin can be a ruthless bstd who believes the end justifies the means. He can be a social climber who plays lip-service to a chivalric code because it makes him look good. Your paladin can be an eco-terrorist who protects the natural world by exterminating troublesome humans. 5e allows paladins to be so much more than the lawful stupid cliché of earlier editions.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Why?

5e ditched this. Your paladin can be a ruthless bstd who believes the end justifies the means. He can be a social climber who plays lip-service to a chivalric code because it makes him look good. Your paladin can be an eco-terrorist who protects the natural world by exterminating troublesome humans. 5e allows paladins to be so much more than the lawful stupid cliché of earlier editions.

I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the lawful stupid Paladin, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

The modern Paladin; the class that stand for everything and nothing.
 
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I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the lawful stupid Paladin, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

The modern Paladin; the class that stand for everything and nothing.
All classes stand for everything and nothing. Moral code has nothing to do with class. You can play a righteous rogue if you want.
 

Anoth

Explorer
Why?

5e ditched this. Your paladin can be a ruthless bstd who believes the end justifies the means. He can be a social climber who plays lip-service to a chivalric code because it makes him look good. Your paladin can be an eco-terrorist who protects the natural world by exterminating troublesome humans. 5e allows paladins to be so much more than the lawful stupid cliché of earlier editions.
have you read the oaths. I don’t think so. Maybe an oath breaker. But even vengeance has an oath that is a good alignment
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
"You believe that each individual person has equal value and is made in the image of a higher power. You work tirelessly to abolish slavery, to elevate persons in minority groups, and oppose laws and practices that take innocent life and freedom. You will fight any evil that takes life without just cause and treads on freedom."

What? In what world are Paladins not genocidal, Spanish-Inquisition-style, smug bastards wielding rapiers, and generally being too trigger-happy?
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
have you read the oaths. I don’t think so. Maybe an oath breaker. But even vengeance has an oath that is a good alignment
Conquest most assuredly does not. Neither does the Purple Dragon Knight, who serves the Crown above all (unless the crown happens to be good).
 

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