How to play an effective Paladin
An Insider's Look at One of The Most Difficult Classes To Play.
The following article is great for giving players some ideas on where their characters came from, and for helping DMs incorporate those backgrounds into a good campaign.
Introduction: Why do I feel qualified to write an article on how to properly play a paladin? Because, I have role-played for almost eighteen years and most of that time was spent playing the most difficult class of all: the Paladin. I feel I did so in a manner that was not only effective at representing the holy knight, but I successfully maintained a level of quality play without inflicting anything upon other players except to force expanded role-play. I'll get into that with the examples I deliver later in this article. First, let me say that I will be referencing a number of different movies, manuals and books in this article, and if you aren't familiar with them, become familiar… it is the only way you will ever due justice to that which is embedded so deeply in history it will never vanish, that which you are endeavoring to embody, the legendary knight and purveyor of the faith (whichever it might be).
History: Our own history is an important thing to know when playing a paladin. Not because you will necessarily be incorporating knowledge of Earth-based historical events into your game, but because throughout history we have made reference to paladinesque people, no matter the culture. We have revered them and their deeds, storytellers have regaled crowds with renditions of their legendary quests, and movies have been made depicting them as both human and saintly. Why? Because the paladin is the most romantic, respectable, and courageous historical figure to have ever been presented to the world. Even people who care nothing for the Fantasy worlds that you are so familiar with can name a few paladins.
You have fictional history, people that scholars cannot prove have ever really existed, or have very little fact to back the stories, like Sir Lancelot du Lake, Sir Gawaine, King Arthur, and most of the Knights of the Round Table, Ivanhoe, and even Robin Hood after a fashion. You have historical figures such as the Templars who could be classified as paladins, and you have fictional characters such as Sparhawk from a famous and fun series of books by David Eddings, Sturm of Dragonlance, or Navarre from Lady Hawk. It is with a familiarity of these characters that you will be able to see how a true paladin should be portrayed.
Another part of history that you should be very familiar with is the history of your paladin, possibly even a few generations back. The more you know about your paladin's past and ancestry the more likely it is that you will be able to play him with the carriage that such a noble warrior should be portrayed with. But we'll delve deeper into that particular aspect a little later in this article.
Misconceptions: Have you ever had a DM groan and roll his eyes when you said that you wished to play a paladin? What about the other players? Did the guy in the corner who rarely comes out of the shadows except to snatch that last donut practically jump up and, in indignant fear, protest? What about that? Why do you think they don't like the idea of a Paladin among their ranks? Could it be that they have the same, dry impression as a good portion of the rest of the role-playing community? You bet your codpiece it is! But it doesn't have to be this way.
Paladin's come from every walk of life and have to face every kind of danger just like every other character type. Hopefully, we'll show you how to overcome that misconception.
The Editions: How far back was it that the first Paladin class was introduced in Dungeons & Dragons? Think about that for a moment if you care to… in actuality it really doesn't matter. The Paladin of 3E Dungeons & Dragons is basic… I mean very basic, in comparison to what it could be. Is this finger pointing and casting of stones? No. I harbor no ill will towards the creators of this particular edition because they actually opened more doors than they closed. In reality the books should be used as guides for your creation and you can implement anything from as far back in the rule books as you can convince your DM. So when you create a paladin, don't look at it as a 3E paladin vs. 2E, because your view on your paladin should transcend the books. That is the first step to playing a truly impressive holy warrior.
The Beginning: So, let's get started. The process that I will use in order to illustrate how to create the Paladin will be to follow me through the creation of a character from the start (almost, I won't bore you with numbers and such) to implementation in play, and through their life (the paladin I will use is dead now). You are reading that last parenthesized statement and your face is all screwed up reflecting this thought: "And telling us how to create and play a dead paladin is going to help, how?" Because, in my opinion, and those of the other players, he was a success, beloved for his deeds, feared for his righteous might, and respected for his stoic beliefs.
Up above I said that creating history was as important as knowing it. Why is this? Because the knight lives on his heritage more than any other character you will ever play. You have read it and have seen it in the movies most likely; Sir Davic, Duke of Morshire, son of Lord Erran, Earl of Manchester, son of His Grace Anton, Count of Manchester who fought the dragon at Black Cliff Ridge and … you know the drill. This will also help set the mood for your character. If your character comes from humble birth, you'll end up with different results than if he grew up in a noble family and his lineage has nobles back as far as the heraldry charts exist. Keep this in mind as you build your character's history, and make sure you run everything by your DM before setting it in stone.
Consider these questions when you are writing up the past: to whom was your paladin born? What social class was he born into? How did he become affiliated with his church? Is there a knightly order in the church? If not, will your DM work with you to establish one? What kind of childhood did he have? What historical events would have affected his life? How did he take to the cloistered life? And most of all, how did he feel and respond to these events? What led him to become a paladin instead of a common priest, or a warrior who revered that god? Why not just a cavalier? These questions have to be answered before you can effectively play a paladin, and the reason behind it is that to represent the character well you have to understand him and what he stands for. Choose your poison - er - religion. Be picky, and don't let anyone force you into a particular faith. A paladin has a split role within his society. He is a representative of his faith and ideals, a missionary, and a person who is turned to in good faith by all who are of good heart. Sure, there is the black paladin, as in the evil paladin or anti-paladin, but we will discuss that later. So, make sure the religion that you chose to represent with your paladin is one you can identify with so that you will have no problem playing the role of a representative for said religious organization. Also, make sure it is fleshed out, and I mean really, truly fleshed out.
One of the things that set a paladin apart from the rest of the fighter subclasses is that they follow strict guidance and mandates on how to live their life. The more that you and your DM know about the religion, the more you can really get the feeling you want in the game. Daily rituals, holy days, ceremonies, how he is to treat ranks within the religious order, what is his place in the theocracy? Delve deeply and you will have satisfaction in your character's responsibilities. Don't be stingy either, remember, these are the most faithful and holy of individuals… one might even say above that of the standard priest. And, these strictures will help define your paladin even further.
Now, you have a history and a religion. What comes next? You define the person that you are going to play. How does the paladin view his constraints? Is he the willing subject of religious fervor? Is he reluctant because he feels repressed? Is he the martyr? How does he view himself? What does he believe his role in society is? How does his up-bringing affect the way he views Lawful Good ideals? This is tricky because this is where you can wind up with a stiff-necked jerk that comes across as holier-than-thou. These are feasible paladins mind you, but not many will want to be around your character. Make notes on all of this as you will frequently have to reference them at the beginning of play, or after a long hiatus (I prefer to create a vivid history in the form of either a short story, or a bunch of journal entries, but how you keep notes is entirely dependant on what works well for you).
Player's Handbook, Dungeons & Dragons® Core Rulebook I© states that, "…No one ever chooses to become a paladin…" I disagree with this. According to them, being a paladin is a holy calling, and that I agree with. However, there is no reason to limit the membership to those called by divine representation. If a character has proffered themselves before their god and desires to be a paladin, accepting their strictures and such, then I see no problem in assuming that the god will respond favorably. After all, what god would not want someone who will fight with dedication after his or her cause? However, the paladin may have been called to the position, and that is something you should work out with your DM as it most definitely should influence the play of the character.
If your Paladin has been called to the role, this presents a particular dilemma for your DM. He is now burdened with keeping your Paladin on a constant Holy Quest. If a god or goddess actually reaches out from their plane of existence and touches an individual saying, "You shall serve me as the holiest of warriors, come be my Paladin." Then don't you think they would keep their warrior fairly busy working on major issues the faith has encountered? This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and Paladin's generally view every adventure they are on as a quest, but whether it is a Holy Quest or not is something that you will have to work out with your DM because it is more work overall, and a little more difficult to fit other classes into the Holy Quest.
Honor: Oh yes, honor. That thing that has most people believing a paladin must stay and fight to the death in any combat. Those rules that make the Paladin so difficult to understand and cause most young Paladins to find an early grave. The reason that a high-level Paladin has earned so much respect, after all, if a Paladin survives to high levels living those strict rules then there is certainly reason to second guess insulting him. However, it is with honor that most people sign their character's death warrants before even entering the character in play, and it doesn't have to be this way.
In Unearthed Arcana©, the character class Cavalier was presented to the gaming world. This knight was not a Paladin, but had a defined Code of Honor that works perfectly for a Paladin. So, I incorporated it into my Paladin's play, though I changed a few minor points to reflect the virtues that were left out. A Paladin's Code of Honor is not that of an Eastern Samurai. As a matter of fact, though the general concept of the two classes are similar, they are very different. One simple difference is that a Paladin would be dreadfully embarrassed to be presented in ceremony before a noble without his best armor brightly shining upon his person. A Samurai would be dreadfully embarrassed to be presented before his Diamyo wearing any armor at all, and would definitely be presented with a redeeming quest by his lord for such an affront. These two respected warriors are from two very different cultures and that should be kept in mind when creating and playing a Paladin.
No where, and I repeat, no where in the histories, or fictional writings, does it ever have a Paladin committing ritual suicide. The worst that happens to a Paladin is that they become "Fallen", but we will get into that in more detail later. Please, for the sake of your own role-play, do not mix Eastern and Western philosophy unless the world where you play does so for you. At the end of this document I will present you with a knightly order that I have created for my version of The Forgotten Realms®, and you will see what I mean when I refer to the Code of Honor, or the edicts of an Order.
Outfitting the Character: "I thought you said you weren't going to bore us with the minor details, Lance." I'm not. However, this is important to touch upon because a paladin is one of the most difficult characters to master when it comes to play, and part of that reason is his equipment. When possible your paladin will outfit himself in full plate armor of the finest quality, shield, and a great sword. However, that isn't always possible. Consider the rules if you will; 3E states that in order to get completely armored in full plate it will take your character four minutes! That is forty rounds! Do you honestly think that as the ogres are bearing down on your campsite early that morning and your Paladin is scrambling to get into his armor, he'll succeed before the fight is over? What's more, you will need help to get it on or else you have donned your armor hastily and that means you don't get the full effect of the armor class. Even a good friend's patience may be tried helping a paladin into and out of his full plate every morning and night.
I bring this up because these are the most realistic rules for armor that I have come across in the D&D rules and should be used as one more counter against the benefits of heavy armor. However, there is a certain appearance that is necessary when presenting yourself before nobility, in ceremony, and in contest. Unless your character has a squire I'd suggest not going above chain mail or a breastplate and a shield. Your character has to think about appearance, where other's can get away with wearing that tattered cloak and the patched armor. It is unbecoming for a paladin to follow suite. Consider this when outfitting yourself; appearance is a matter of honor for a paladin, and will affect how you play the character. Of course, all of this is based on the common perception of a knight and holy warrior.
In the fantasy campaign the region in which the paladin was raised will greatly influence their preference in appearance. After all, you can't have a holy warrior passing out because it is so hot in their armor that they get juiced every time they move! Consider the Arabic Paladin. He may be more prone to wear fine silks and such for presentation than be caught trying to roam the desert in full plate. Be realistic with both costs and choice, but remember, these things are partially what make up your character's personality and should be influenced by the history and location of birth you have already created.
We Know How to Create a Paladin! Yes, most people know how to create a character by following the process in the books and putting numbers on the paper. This is important, but the reason I went into all of that above suggestion is to illustrate one point:
NOTHING SHOULD BE DONE CONCERNING THIS CHARACTER WITHOUT FIRST CONSIDERING HOW THE CHARACTER WOULD RESPOND BASED ON THEIR UPBRINGING AND PAST.
This is what will set your paladin apart from the run-of-the-mill character, and make it fun for everyone involved.
A Paladin's Steed: Another of the perks that set a Paladin apart from your run of the mill knight is that he gets to quest for a special animal companion, the Paladin's War Horse. If you will consider the value of horses in the time of the knight you'll understand just how important it is that you include a proper level of involvement for the Paladin's Horse.
As a teen-ager I wrote a short story that depicted one of my Paladins in his journey to rescue a kidnap victim. His only companion was his horse, and in the story I illustrated the care that the Paladin had for his animal, and the companionship it offered. The questing life of a Paladin can be a lonely one, even when surrounded by other characters. The Paladin's War Horse may be the only creature that truly understands what drives your Paladin.
Consider that the Bonded Mount will remain with the Paladin so long as the Paladin remains true to his principles. Consider that the noble steed will be the only such creature that the Paladin will be able to have in a decade! Ten years! That means that if the animal dies you will have to wait ten game years before you will be able to have your character bond with another of these creatures. When you combine the Paladin's War Horse with the riding skill of 3E, and the Mounted Combat, Trample, Ride-by Attack, and Spirited Charge feats of 3E you have a very powerful ally.
Make sure that you tend to your steed's needs. Healing, barding armor, a military saddle, become proficient with a lance, and if your DM will allow it, there is nothing dishonorable about a Paladin with archery skills (Mounted Archery feat, 3E). As a matter of fact, archery was a sign of nobility in the medieval ages so it really wouldn't be uncommon for a Paladin to engage in that type of combat if engaging in melee is unpractical.
The Bonded Mount is also smart… even to the point of low human intelligence. Combine that intelligence with the 3E Handle Animal skill and you can have one of those legendary relationships between the Paladin and the War Horse. Handle Animal states that the animal can be taught unusual tasks such as coming at a whistle, rearing on command, etc., then you combine those with the Ride skill which allows you to guide with your knees, direct your mount to attack while you are in battle, and more! Your Paladin could very well become the feared mounted combatant that he is supposed to be if you play your cards right.
A Paladin in the Underdark, or Other Strange Places: The Underdark, the expanse of caverns and tunnels that span the area (specifically) beneath Fearun. What good does a mounted warrior do down there, you ask? Well, a Paladin can detect evil, in the darkness, where the largest source of light you typically have is a lantern, having a Paladin at the front of the party can be pretty handy. Admittedly, trying to traverse all of those slippery slopes and underground, raging rivers in heavy armor typical of Paladins is plain ludicrous, a Paladin can still be a very beneficial member of the party. And the Paladin's War Horse could take care of the rest of the party's steeds while everyone is below ground! What a bonus! Consider all of your Paladin's available skills and the types of campaigns your DM is prone to send your party on as you build your character. In my opinion, with the Paladin's limited scope of available class skills, developing the riding skills is always beneficial, but don't forget the Climb, Swim, and Jump skills since the strength of the Paladin could seriously benefit the party even when his master horsemanship can not.
Don't ever underestimate the value of the Paladin character based on his typical role.
Interaction With Others: So your paladin is grounded with all of these strictures and a belief system that seems to stagnant other's style. How in the world do you successfully interact with other players who don't wish to be restricted? It is quite simple really, if you follow a few guidelines. First, not everyone is going to want to play a Lawful Good character and that seriously treads upon one major standard in a D&D game that is 2E or earlier. Paladins cannot continuously travel with any but Lawful Good characters. Well, 3E takes care of that for you. Page 43 of Player's Handbook© states: "…While she (a paladin) may adventure with characters of any good or neutral alignment, a paladin will never knowingly associate with evil characters…" So as you can see, you are no longer limited by alignment except in the case that makes sense; evil. However, this doesn't suddenly free you of all constraints.
What about the thief in the group, or a priest of another religion? What about that statement about being a missionary for your church? You have all encountered the standard "Converting Priest". You know, that player who believes that the only way he is playing a devout cleric is to try and convert all of the player's characters. Don't do it. One of the most blessed attributes of a paladin is their humility. Sounds contradicting doesn't it? A paladin demands respect from those beneath his station, but he's supposed to be humble? Two different things, and in this case, being humble means that the paladin respects the belief of others. If the paladin makes an attempt to convert another player character and that character falls over backwards in their attempt to escape the paladin's efforts, don't try again. In the case of the priest from another faith, that could make for some very interesting character interaction.
The thief? Well, now he has another challenge doesn't he? A thief might be put out at having to work incognito around the paladin, but then, isn't the fun in the game supposed to be partially derived from figuring out ways around things like that? A couple of good examples for a Paladin's interaction with people of other walks of life begin with Navarre in Lady Hawk and The Mouse. The Mouse was a thief, though he had a good heart, and it was the goodness in him that eventually led to Navarre's friendship with him. Navarre teamed up with him first out of need, but the two became friends after the thief - through interaction with Navarre - showed the goodness of his heart. Another is in the case of Ivanhoe, a Norman Knight who was in love with a Saxon, and a Jew! In that time Jews were looked upon poorly and a Norman never mingled with a Saxon for long. Ivanhoe was thrown into the mix with these two ladies because of necessity once again, but because of his knightly virtues he was able to see past their line of blood and see the true person. What about Sir Lancelot? In all of the stories I have read Lancelot was the knight who would cry over death and his tears healed injury! That's purity. He was kind and caring, yet true to his virtues (until Guinevere), and even after the incident with the queen he eventually road in Camelot's defense once again!
Finally! Everything up to this point has been to try and get you into a mindset when you create and play a paladin, and it is this mindset that will allow you to play a successful holy warrior. You are creating a character that you will be bringing to life in front of your DM and fellow players. The key to this is to look at this intricate, demanding challenge as an opportunity to raise the standard of role-playing. Sure, the paladin is confined within a slew of rules and strictures, he has a code of honor that won't let him participate in certain activities without there being consequences, and his honor won't let him do some things that other players will gloat over. However, the character is still supposed to have feelings; love, hatred, envy, anger, joy… the works. They aren't stupid, they have common sense, and they know that in order to continue their duties to their god they must live to fight another day.
See, this is another of those misconceptions that I didn't elaborate on in the above section. Most people feel that a paladin is supposed to have this overblown sense of honor that won't allow them to disengage combat and retreat should things be going poorly for them. Is honor truly that restricting? Not necessarily. I mean, in reality it depends on you and your DM, but do you think that the knights of old survived danger by brashly standing when they should have fallen back? Do you think that Ivanhoe would have ever successfully freed Richard the Lion Heart had he not retreated from a few battles first? Unless you have a pushover DM you are never going to be able to wander the world in your search to free it of evil and only encounter creatures that you can defeat! The only times that a paladin should feel restricted to hold his ground until the end is if the life of another is in jeopardy, if the holy quest is at risk, if the temple is about to be destroyed—you get the idea.
Don't throw your paladin's life away on something as pathetic as a random encounter because you don't feel it honorable to retreat from battle. Turning tail and running in a cowardly fashion, yeah, that is unbecoming, but setting a tactical retreat to better face the foe strategically is not a breech of conduct. If your DM thinks it is you may have a problem.
Bottom line? Really role-play your character and you will be able to play a successful paladin. They aren't stupid or they couldn't be the most revered of all classes. Make sure you and your DM understands this and you won't have any problems. Example: I had a paladin of Tyr, God of Justice, that I feel I played quite successfully for some time within a diverse group of CG and CN characters. As is usually the case the paladin became the leader of the group. The other player characters consisted of a priestess of Tymora, Goddess of Luck, a warrior NPC, and a thief PC. The thief's player was very ingenious about getting around the strictness of my decrees as leader. As a matter of fact, the character was played in such a way that the paladin became good friends with the thief, and the interaction between the two was more like a big brother (my paladin) watching out for the little brother (thief). While I knew that the thief was up to no good most of the time, the character couldn't prove anything so Justice couldn't be dealt. It made for an interesting role-play opportunity.
The priestess of Tymora was another similar situation. The paladin and the priestess would often have debates on the perfunctory ideals of each said religion, but they respected each other and relied upon each other so the debates never turned nasty. Now, for some elaboration on a few of these points that I have listed above.
When I was first beginning to role-play I created brothers whose noble lineage went back in detail to a time where records were scarce. In their histories I wrote about their twin birthing (though they weren't identical) and how, according to the laws of the time, the boy that was delivered first was considered the heir to the family estates and riches. The younger brother spent his childhood learning all about how to be a noble of the land with a constant knowledge that he would only inherit the prime estates if his older brother passed on. Meanwhile, the older brother continued his education towards being the master of the estates and never really saw the dissention his brother was feeling.
Eventually the second child aligned himself with a thieves guild, and then an assassin's guild. The boy's father was a proponent of the political faction not in the guild's control and as such they wanted him removed. The entrance "exam" given the younger brother was to kill his father. The younger son decided that it wasn't enough. He felt gypped by his lot in life and had grown so hateful that he decided to get rid of the thing which was a blight on his life. The monetary wealth of the family would be his after all, and he could live the life he had chosen in ambiguity.
One night, using a combination of magic and the skills he had learned in the guilds, he barricaded the manor house and lit it on fire. His older brother managed to escape, but everyone else was lost, and the younger brother believed himself successful. In his sorrow, the older brother retreated to a local temple of the god of Justice—the god that his father had worshipped and had insisted his sons venerate as well. The younger brother's actions had been designed to give him free reign of the family wealth and make it look as though he had been killed in the fire as well, however, he did not know his older brother was still living, and so he took from the family coffers unaware that he would clue his brother in as to his plans.
So, the older brother remained at the temple, under their protection and tutelage. He was convinced that his family's death hadn't been an accident, not with his father's actions against the guilds, and he wanted revenge. However, through the teachings of the Faith he soon became focused more on justice than revenge, and eventually he discovered his brother's involvement. Distraught, he fell into fervent worship of the god as his only recourse and eventually he attained Paladinhood. His drive was to bring justice to the guilds as his father had been trying to do, and to bring his brother to justice.
As you can imagine, the character was played with a deep seeded sorrow brought about by his loss. He was a very pious and reverent defender of his faith, while being a stoic pursuer of justice for those who broke the law. His drive to bring his brother to trial led him all over the land as his brother became more and more prolific with his assassinations, and more in demand with the corrupt politicians, eventually it led to world travel as he came so close to capturing his brother that the younger man was forced to escape through the planes. The older brother was forced to partake of youth magic in order to remain in pursuit of his kin due to the length of pursuit, and eventually he gained such recognition in his religion that the god blessed him with powers to help in the pursuit. Unfortunately for him, while dealing with another guild, he was slain in combat. However, through his steadfastness in his beliefs and service to his god he was revered and loved by the good people of any land he entered; he earned a reputation as a just man and a nickname that preceded his arrival on the lips of bards. When he died there were monuments raised, and a knightly order that he had established still performs rituals in recognition of his deeds.
I played that Paladin for thirteen years, and because of how well I developed his history I never had any question about how he would respond in any particular circumstance. If you keep in mind the fact that your paladin is supposed to be a person then you can effectively work your paladin into any campaign… except the ones that require breaking and entering, pilfering, and such on a regular basis. Your paladin will become someone everyone turns to and relies on frequently for healing, combative strength and strategy, spiritual strength, and interaction with others.
Fallen Paladins: Some people view a Fallen Paladin as the end of the road. "I failed." "All of his powers are gone, he's just a fighter now, and disgraced on top of it all! What's the point in playing him anymore?"
Shame on you! This is an opportunity for some of the best role-play that you have ever had the opportunity to participate in.
When a Paladin falls—for whatever reason—that adds a new element to that character's personality, a new trial to overcome. How would your Paladin respond to such a blow? Depending on their history they may take it lying down, but not likely.
What is a Paladin? Consider this when the going gets tough and your DM says, "Um… you suddenly feel the connection that you once had with your god flit away like dry leaves on an autumn breeze." A Paladin is a stalwart warrior who perseveres in even the direst of situations. What drove your Paladin to fall? There are a number of ways this can happen, and I have experienced a couple of these with the two Paladins I mentioned above. The first, the one who traveled with the priestess and thief, was a Fallen Paladin before he met them, and he had achieved his righteous status once more by the time they joined up. How did he lose it? Simply put, he ran from battle. Not in the cowardly sense, but out of a sense of duty that the DM didn't agree with.
The Paladin was in a city about to be put to siege. The character had important information concerning an artifact that his church was protecting and an attempt by a cult to steal it. He had to get that information to his temple, and I knew that a siege could last a very long time, so, out of a sense of duty to his church I had the Paladin escape the siege in the night. My DM felt that the action was cowardly and stripped the Paladin of his abilities. This added a dimension of betrayal to the character that he had to get over before he could ever go through the atonement process. And it was a fun process to go through too!
The second was the older brother who, after establishing himself as a force of good on the world he had traveled to, was with another character when a political miscommunication set the local military after the Paladin's companion. The Paladin stood in his friend's defense, but before he could even engage in combat, the friend (a powerful archmage) destroyed the approaching force and then teleported the two of them out of there. Eventually an emissary from that kingdom came to the king that presided over the lands the Paladin was calling home and demanded that the Paladin be returned to them to stand trial for the massacre. He also wanted the wizard, but the wizard was powerful enough to flat out refuse, and though my Paladin could have fought his way out of the situation and probably won the day, I felt that his honor wouldn't allow him to act in such a way. As a result he spent fifteen years in a prison mine and was stripped of his Paladinhood due to his involvement in such a dastardly deed. It didn't matter that the politics were at fault, and because of the martyr nature and sincere dedication to his cause I knew that the Paladin wouldn't back down in his pursuit of Justice, and would bide his time until he could regain his status and begin his search again, and he did so rather effectively.
Just because a Paladin has Fallen doesn't make the character unplayable, on the contrary, it makes them more playable! They have tasted something that they possibly hadn't before, what it is like to be on the other side of the tracks. And that means that they can better accept those that walk there all of the time. You will need to decide how such a fall affects your character, but it should be something huge!
Black Paladins, You Know, The Other Side of the Coin: So you've had the run down about ways to enhance your play as a warrior for good. Now, in order to effectively play an Unholy Knight all you have to do is reverse ethics. You see, just because they are evil doesn't mean you ignore the steps to creating a Paladin, you just have to approach it from the shadows. What drove the person to follow the edicts of an evil god? Why is it that this person can perform the duties of a Dark Paladin better than, say, the guy in the hood that always hangs out by that blood encrusted alter? I won't get into the nitty gritty because I don't feel it necessary, but you get the idea.
Final note: There are often times where you and the DM don't see eye-to-eye concerning the ethics and credo that your paladin must follow. Remembering that the DM has the final word in all such debates it is always beneficial to make sure the two of you understand each other's opinions so you know just how far you can go without falling out of favor with your god. However, as stated above, don't discard the character if he does Fall! One of the best paladins I ever played spent a good deal of time as a fallen paladin, and that was one of the largest growth periods the character had by way of personality and reputation. If handled properly, your paladin will never be far from adventure, intrigue, conflict, and character-building experiences.
With this in mind, what denotes a successful paladin? Is it the ability to remain true to his edicts? Is it the ability to never step out of line? In part, but overall, the most important thing is the ability to roll-play a "PERSON", and that means struggling with his values, struggling with his restraints, while still managing to live life. If you are lucky enough to be able to pull this off without ever falling down, then either your DM is too lenient, or you are, or, just maybe, you really are able to play that Paladin the way they are supposed to be played. To play a successful paladin, PLAY THE PERSON, WITHIN THE CLASS, NOT JUST THE CLASS!
THE ORDER OF THE SILVER UNICORNS
This is one of the most prestigious orders in service to the God of Justice. Membership can be petitioned for or attained through invitation. It is only given, or even considered, to the most noble and true. Member's responsibilities consist of traveling the world in search of wrongs to right, Justices that need to be upheld, and defending the helpless unto death.
Requirements: A candidate must have proven his bravery many times over. He must have risked his life to protect others and be known for it. He must be at least 7th level, and must be observed by a member of the Order for at least two years, during which time any ethos violations on the candidates part is immediate grounds for dismissal. In the case of dismissal the candidate can petition again one year later. After the two-year observation period, the candidate is trained for one full year by his observer. After which the petitioner is brought before a Knight of the Silver Unicorn and two Knights of the Diamond Unicorn for entrance into the order.
This panel judges the reports delivered over the course of the petitioner's observation period and then vote on full membership rights. After being admitted, the candidate is considered a Knight of the Crystal Unicorn and is fitted for a special suit of full plate mail purchased by the Order. They then begin the Ceremony of Acknowledgment where the petitioner enters a special solitary chamber and is then `purified' of all sins for the next three days.
The purification consists of fasting and much prayer, ending with an Atonement spell cast by the High Priest of the Order.
Organization: Only one chapter of the Order exists and that chapter consists of up to 1,000 knights. The Knight of the Silver Unicorn presides and is final word in all matters. Two Knights of the Diamond Unicorn and the High Priest of the Church of Justice counsel him; this is called the Head Council. After this there are two more levels of knighthood before the Order of the Crystal Unicorn and the Petitioner Ranks. The order following the Diamond Unicorns is the Sun Unicorns, and the one following that is called the Order of the Moon Unicorns.
Knights are able to traverse the ladder of knighthood through honorable deeds and only when the number within the next higher-ranking order has been diminished enough to present an opening. If there is an opening the knights who wish to advance are either named by a sponsor or declare their intentions in a Ceremony of Declaration. A panel of knights then reviews their deeds, this panel consists of the knights with greatest tenure from the Order into which they are petitioning, and the final decision for admittance is reviewed and approved by the Head Council before the knight is advanced. If successful in the advancement the knight undergo something titled the Ceremony of Exaltation in which they undertake a quest specifically designed to test their mettle once more. Completion of the quest signifies their advancement.
Emblem: The profiled head of a Silver Unicorn to signify the knighthood as a whole, although each different knighthood has their own emblem: A faceted version of the profiled unicorn's head in silver, a profiled unicorn's head engulfed in flames and displayed in brilliant yellows and oranges, a deep blue and white profiled unicorn head, and a full body silver unicorn to indicate the Crystal Unicorns. Petitioner's emblem consists of a deep blue shield with a full body white unicorn.
Motto: "In defense of righteousness and justice through loyalty, long-suffering, and compassion."
- If at anytime a higher-ranking official of the god of Justice or the city/state/kingdom to which the Order is affiliated asks a knight for the use of his stronghold such service must be rendered.
- The knight must pay a fee of 100 gp to the Order in addition to their 10% church tithe once a year.
- At the beck and call of the church or of the city/state/kingdom, the knight must loan any hireling or servant requested by ranking members of said organizations.
- Services are rendered unto death.
- Undertake cavalcades at the command of the affiliated city/state/kingdom or higher-ranking persons.
- Always bow from the waist to elders and ladies (curtsy if female.)
- Give quarter when asked for.
- Visit the Knight's Tomb (the founder's tomb - that of the paladin mentioned above, The Devil Warrior, and the First Knight Tyraise Darkhawk) at least once a year. If too far away to visit, then the knight must pay homage to the dead through ceremony.
- Never harm unicorns or allow them to be harmed.
- Practice liberality, glory, courtesy, honor, unselfishness, cleanliness, bravery, good faith, pride, humility, and morality at all times.
- Lawful and good services cheerfully rendered.
- Defense of cause unto death.
- Courage and enterprise in obedience to the law.
- Respect for all peers and equals.
- Honor to all who deserves.
- Obedience and respect from all beneath your station.
- Humility above all else.
- Military prowess exercised in the favor of good, law, and justice.
- Courtesy towards all ladies.
- Combat is chivalry.
- Battle is the test of manhood.
- Sacrifice of life and limb to spare comrades.
- Justice is brought to all who break the law.
- Death before dishonor.
Oath of Fealty: I NAME do hereby pledge to honor the strictures of this sacred heritage and promise by my faith to be loyal to the Order of the Silver Unicorns, which operates under the grace of his holiness, the True Deity; GOD'S NAME, and under the rules and regulations of ORDER'S BASE OF OPERATIONS; maintaining my devotion towards all persons in order, as long as they continue to operate in a true and just manner, without deception or forethought. Further, I vow to promote and uphold the principles of fealty, courtesy, honesty, valor, honor, chastity, liberality, glory, good faith, unselfishness, law, justice and morality and do so solemnly and faithfully follow the edicts of the Order of the Silver Unicorns. I take this pledge freely and without coercion, nor do I expect reward, sworn by my mouth before GOD'S NAME and this assembly and in blessed memory of the founding fathers of this order, The Devil Warrior and the first Knight of the Silver Unicorn, Tyraise Darkhawk and to all those who have given their lives to this noble cause.
Confirmation Ceremony: The Ceremony of Acknowledgment
This begins when the candidate enters a special room for three days of solitude, prayer, and reflection. When the candidate comes out, he presents himself before an assembly of Knights of the Order, priests of the faith, and any others who wish to be present. The High Priest conducts the ritual with the Knight of the Silver Unicorn at his side. The candidate is marched in a complex weaving pattern with five other Knights of the Crystal Unicorn; the pattern is symbolic to the path of life. The candidate is then presented before one of the Knights of the Diamond Unicorn who proceeds in dropping single droplets of holy water on the brow, bosom and sword arm to bless the brow with wisdom, the bosom with courage and the sword arm with strength to fight evil. After which the candidate is escorted to don his new armor. Once outfitted, the candidate is escorted before the High Priest who then leads the candidate in reciting the Code of Ennoblement (Which consists of a recitation of the Motto, the Edicts, and the Oath of Fealty). Once finished, the Knight of the Silver Unicorn touches each shoulder with his sword (the blade of The Devil Warrior which was passed down after his death) and announces the acknowledgement of the candidate as a Knight of the Crystal Unicorn. Feasting and dancing usually follow the ceremony.
Benefits: A member of the Order of the Silver Unicorns receives a +2 reaction modifier from all lawful and good beings within their area of recognition, a +1 reaction modifier from all lawful and good beings anywhere else, and a +3 modifier from all upper class persons within their area of operation. Each member is a deputized policeman within their area of operation (they may carry out the law of the land without hesitation.) A member gains free room and board at ORDER'S BASE OF OPERATIONS. Upon death, every means of the Order will be made to retrieve the body and give it a proper burial in the Tomb of Knighthood. The family of the deceased will be well taken care of and educated.
Dismissal: For any crime against the ethos of Paladinhood or Cavaliership, the powers of the knight are stripped forever. The knight is also stripped of his armor, benefits, and is forever exiled from ORDER'S BASE OF OPERATIONS. Heinous crimes result in immediate beheading, and any member of the Order that breaks the laws or is found unjust in their dealings will be hunted until justice can be carried out.
Thanks to Bromern Sal for this contribution!