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

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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.
But doesn't that mean that people are saying we should shy away from the Western culture holy knight, and the class should focus on everything except that version? Ignoring an archetype that is still quite visible in pop culture today and is the narrative core of the class throughout most of its history seems silly to me. I really think people who are bothered by this should just find a way to "square the circle" personally and at their own tables, rather than push to change the game for everyone to suit them.
 

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MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
But doesn't that mean that people are saying we should shy away from the Western culture holy knight, and the class should focus on everything except that version? Ignoring an archetype that is still quite visible in pop culture today and is the narrative core of the class throughout most of its history seems silly to me. I really think people who are bothered by this should just find a way to "square the circle" personally and at their own tables, rather than push to change the game for everyone to suit them.
I'm all for expanding the paladin, and in principle I'm not a fan of paladin as crusader, but some of the language used is implying paladin=Christian and Christian=Bad?
 

Scribe

Legend
But doesn't that mean that people are saying we should shy away from the Western culture holy knight, and the class should focus on everything except that version? Ignoring an archetype that is still quite visible in pop culture today and is the narrative core of the class throughout most of its history seems silly to me. I really think people who are bothered by this should just find a way to "square the circle" personally and at their own tables, rather than push to change the game for everyone to suit them.

The circle has been squared, as of 5e, which is now 10 years old.

I'm all for expanding the paladin, and in principle I'm not a fan of paladin as crusader, but some of the language used is implying paladin=Christian and Christian=Bad?

Very much so, some believe that.
 


Scribe

Legend
At that point, why demand nuance and shades of grey if you're set on your own black and white position?(Edit: generic "you")

I mean that's certainly part of the problem, but I don't know how far we get to push this without a Mod hitting me with red text.

I performed a bit of a thought exercise regarding this topic, and just kind of walking back from 5e, frankly so divorced from the source as to be borderline irrelevant, and the roots of Western Fantasy, and D&D.

Hopefully this doesn't earn me another strike, but it's all foundational to this game.

The game has been called a colonization simulator. If one looks at early adventures, modules, and play loops, what happens very often?

Go out, find people who are not like you, kill them, and take their stuff and/or land.

Another blog called D&D a simulation of the Wild West.

The OP outlines how the roots of the Paladin can absolutely be drawn with not too long a line, to Crusades.

Do we brave the waters of Paladin/Cleric, God's that actually exist and talk to their followers, and in some cases demand Holy War?? Wizards doesn't seem to be.

"Load up the Galleon boys, we are sailing to the land of Gold!" said the Spaniard.

There is a lot of baggage, skeletons in the closet, of history, and yep if one wants to go back to the roots of the game, they will find them.

Now, do I think that's what 5e is? Not remotely.

But if one has issues with these things, they are there if you go back far enough, and if that's that's problem?

Well, that's up to the individual. Where it's fine to apply that black and white moral thinking.

Just don't assume that it can be applied to everyone else as if 'you' (not you @MoonSong ) are the final judge of what is moral and right.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
But doesn't that mean that people are saying we should shy away from the Western culture holy knight, and the class should focus on everything except that version?

No, it doesn't. Why would you think it does? The point is that the concept is broader than a single archetype, that doesn't mean you focus on everything except that archetype.

Ignoring an archetype that is still quite visible in pop culture today and is the narrative core of the class throughout most of its history seems silly to me. I really think people who are bothered by this should just find a way to "square the circle" personally and at their own tables, rather than push to change the game for everyone to suit them.

And what changes specifically would you make to the Paladin to allow a Holy Sikh warrior archetype instead of a French Crusader? How have we changed anything in the game as it exists currently, to make that happen?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I'm all for expanding the paladin, and in principle I'm not a fan of paladin as crusader, but some of the language used is implying paladin=Christian and Christian=Bad?

I would say not quite. The paladin is being equated to the Crusader, and the Crusaders were largely Christian European forces.

DnD in general equates the divine with Christian terms and language (Clerics have churches and monasteries, Celestials are largely referred to as Angels to give some examples) but this is more based on the fact that DnD is a game created in America, and American culture is dominated by Christian Religion to the point where it is the assumed default position. We, in general, are not familiar with other religions enough to use their language, or think of the Divine in their terms.

I only bring this up, because I think DnD has recently tried to be more open in their language about the Divine, but the fan base has largely not followed, because of this deep-rooted default. For example, in Shinto, it would be innaccurate I feel to describe the central conflict as "Good versus Evil", and far more accurate to describe it as "Pure vs Unclean/Corrupted". Many Yokai are hostile to humans, not because they are evil, but because humans are trespassing where they don't belong and the Yokai follow their natures and rip them apart. But those Yokai are not seen as evil, any more than a bear who mauls you for being in its cave is evil. You shouldn't have been stupid enough to bother them. A paladin based on those style of beliefs and practices could be LG and everything else, but they would not be a Crusader seeking to slay the non-believers. They would be more of an honorable warrior going where there is unrest and imbalance, to set things on their proper course.
 

MGibster

Legend
DnD in general equates the divine with Christian terms and language (Clerics have churches and monasteries, Celestials are largely referred to as Angels to give some examples) but this is more based on the fact that DnD is a game created in America, and American culture is dominated by Christian Religion to the point where it is the assumed default position. We, in general, are not familiar with other religions enough to use their language, or think of the Divine in their terms.
John Cleese made a similar argument in defense of The Life of Brian way back in 1979. Someone told him "You wouldn't make fun of Muslims" and Cleese said something like, "Well, no, because none of us are Muslim. Christianity has been the predominant religion in Britain and most of our audience wouldn't understand jokes about Islam." The Life of Brain is a British movie primary produced with a British audience in mind.

You're right, AD&D is an American game primarily published with an American audience in mind. That was more true in 1974 than it is today but it's still primarily produced by Americans and the culture they grew up in.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
John Cleese made a similar argument in defense of The Life of Brian way back in 1979. Someone told him "You wouldn't make fun of Muslims" and Cleese said something like, "Well, no, because none of us are Muslim. Christianity has been the predominant religion in Britain and most of our audience wouldn't understand jokes about Islam." The Life of Brain is a British movie primary produced with a British audience in mind.

You're right, AD&D is an American game primarily published with an American audience in mind. That was more true in 1974 than it is today but it's still primarily produced by Americans and the culture they grew up in.

Right, and there are absolutely zero things wrong with that, but it does tend to lead to associations and assumptions found in the subtext.
 

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