D&D General The Problem With Paladin's Medieval Origins (+)

Hussar

Legend
It's tagged D&D, if this was a 5e specific thread, I'd be even more confused. It's a foundational question really, divorced from D&D even, because what's really at question here is the bedrock cornerstone type questions of western fantasy.
Alright. Fair enough. Although, again, since we're talking about how the depiction of paladins has changed over time, it's pretty hard not to include 5e.

Nothing in this thread is a "bedrock cornerstone" type question. Not really sure where that's coming from.

But, in any case, pointing to other games isn't helping.
 

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pemerton

Legend
@pemerton - I'm not sure that in a dedicated FIFTH EDITION thread about alignment in D&D and specifically how paladins are presented in D&D, referencing other games is particularly illuminating here.

Which is all very cool, but, at the end of the day, has nothing to do with D&D or with alignment in D&D or with how paladins work in D&D. IF D&D were a more narrative game where the players had control over in game truths, then you would have a point.
I gave an example of player narration of events affecting their 4e D&D paladin PC. And got a reply saying that I and my player were lying, deluded and that it is farcical to suppose that a player could, within the constraints generated by the game rules, narrate an event such as a divine intercession. Nothing in 4e D&D rules that out as an approach to play, and there is text in both the DMGs that encourages it.

And the comparison was made to a mystery RPG in which some method is used of identifying the killer other than the GM, in advance, deciding the answer. As if such a thing was absurd. Hence why I am pointing out that a pretty well-known RPG uses such a method, and is not absurd at all.

My view is that GM railroading in respect of morality and the gods - as I have described it upthread, the GM telling the player how to play their PC (if the PC is to live up to professed ideals) - makes for terrible paladin play. But that is not the only option available. Not even within the D&D family of RPGs.

(And I worked this out in 1990, when the RPGs I had to inspire me were A&D, Rolemaster and Classic Traveller.)
 

Scribe

Legend
Alright. Fair enough. Although, again, since we're talking about how the depiction of paladins has changed over time, it's pretty hard not to include 5e.

Nothing in this thread is a "bedrock cornerstone" type question. Not really sure where that's coming from.

But, in any case, pointing to other games isn't helping.

If this was a 5e thread, I would completely dismiss the premise.

Alignment is nearly dead.
Paladins are not sworn to a God.
Gods hardly matter.
Nearly 0 species can be called Evil.

The Paladin of 5e, is so far removed from the concerns of the OP, it's just not a thing.

Go back to the 70s, and there's something to it. Go back further, to what informed D&D, to the society it came from, to again, what created what I refer to as the Western Fantasy Tradition?

Yeah, there's an argument to be made, and that goes beyond game systems.

A Paladin, in many sources of fiction, is a Fanatic. A Fanatic in full plate, sworn to a God, and ready and willing to spread the word or defend the flock.

That's been a problem, and has the potential to upset some people.

5e really never covered God's well, and I think that was intentional, because it gets messy. Paladins in some editions, very much rubbed up on that space.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
This thread is exactly why I'm glad the modern Paladin is a Champion of a Cause where the Cause is X.

It's a very good deployment of the subclass system instead of rehashing old Prestige classes or kits.

What's your cause? Okay, here's Paladin powers to reflect that cause. No need to moralizing or gods or knights Templar baggage or anything and ESPECIALLY no arguing over what your character is allowed to be or do. Paladins and Warlocks were the winners when it comes to class design.
 

Hussar

Legend
This thread is exactly why I'm glad the modern Paladin is a Champion of a Cause where the Cause is X.

It's a very good deployment of the subclass system instead of rehashing old Prestige classes or kits.

What's your cause? Okay, here's Paladin powers to reflect that cause. No need to moralizing or gods or knights Templar baggage or anything and ESPECIALLY no arguing over what your character is allowed to be or do. Paladins and Warlocks were the winners when it comes to class design.
Essentially this. This it the point I've been making with @Levistus's_Leviathan throughout this thread. Many of the concerns, valid as they are, have been addressed already. And they will continue to be addressed as need be.

IOW, I think this is one place where, while we can be cognizant of the origins of the trope, we've managed to move past those origins and into a new space.
 

GrimCo

Adventurer
One of the best depictions of modern paladin (specially 5e paladin) in fiction is Sanya from Dresden files. He is Knight of Cross, he wields holy sword given to him by Archangel Michael. He still considers himself agnostic, sometimes even atheist. Why? Cause, yes, he did actually meet literal archangel. But, there is difference between believing in something, having faith, and knowing something for a fact. The way divine powers work in D&D, Clerics and Paladins know divine beings are real. There is no need for faith.

Classes' historic connections are problematic if you make them that way. Background lore about any class is just fluff. Fluff that any dm (or player) can remake into whatever he wishes to.
 

TLDR: Knighthood was and is a lot bigger than the Crusades, and I very much doubt that most people immediately think of the Crusades when they think of medieval knights. I suspect that most people think first of King Arthur and his court, which comes from chivalric romances. I think that is where the notion of the paladin, specifically a questing knight, resides.

But paladin is not just a knight. It is a holy knight, and that connotes a crusader. Most knights are fighters, not paladins.
 

Scribe

Legend
But paladin is not just a knight. It is a holy knight, and that connotes a crusader. Most knights are fighters, not paladins.

Which speaks to my point. I think most people would agree with this, it's a holy knight, a fanatical true believer, but 5e Paladin is now so broad (no Alignment, no God, various themes) it almost shouldn't even count as a Paladin.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I'm not sure if that is a yes or a no. I ask because, in Brindlewood Bay, the answer to the mystery is constructed by the players based on the clues they collect.

In my Cthulhu Dark play, the mystery and its answers were made up by me (as GM) as we went along, in response to the actions the players declared for their PCs, and what seemed like fun ideas to bounce off those.

Right the answer to the mystery is completely made up by the players.... as long as that answer is that the Midwives of the Fragrant Void, a Hellenic Death Cult, is murdering people to advance their Dark Conspiracy. As long as that is the answer, the players can make up any answer they want, or more specifically, they can make up the DETAILS of the answer.

Also note that the Brindlewood Bay game is not meant to represent a full mystery game, it is meant to be played as a mystery TV show. That is why one of the abilities is to call for a commercial break to save your character. And your character will be an old woman who is a fan of this specific mystery author, and be wanting to emulate this specific character, and will be part of the Mavens of Mystery. There is a lot that the game is pre-writing and declaring true before you even touch the rulebook.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
But paladin is not just a knight. It is a holy knight, and that connotes a crusader. Most knights are fighters, not paladins.

Well... sort of.

The Nihang of the Dal Khalsa were elite holy warriors of the Sikhs... and they never went crusading.

Or you could have the Ocēlōtl or Jaguar Warriors of the Aztecs, who were elite members of the Aztec military, and while they went on military campaigns (who didn't) they weren't crusading per se. And they were holy warriors, because they believed capturing the enemy for sacrifices to the gods honored the gods more than killing those enemies in battle.


And I could likely go on. The issue here is not that the idea of a "Holy Knight" = Crusader. The issue is that "Holy" for Western culture is often assumed to be Christian and "Knight" for Western culture is defaulted to the European Knights... but there is nothing inherent in the Paladin that prevents them from being an Elite, High-Status Warrior of the Gods from any other culture. It is just the assumptions we make about what these terms usually mean. A Shinto Samurai can be just as much a Holy Knight as a highly respected warrior chieftain of the Maori people. Because an oath-bound warrior of the gods is not limited to one part of the world.
 

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