Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Paladins & Alignment

I'm probably not going to win any fans with this post. However, with the release of 5e's Player's Handbook and the latest iteration of this class, I feel like this is the best time to tackle this topic.

Let's talk about paladins and their alignment. 

While this wasn't always true, the Paladin is one of my favorite classes within D&D and Pathfinder. Although I understand why some people fine the class frustrating because they experienced a bad player giving into the "Lawful Stupid" stereotype that haunts these characters, I love playing a paragon of chivalry and virtue. Some of my favorite characters have been Paladins, I like including Paladin NPCs within my campaigns, I enjoy seeing a new, interesting take on the archetype. 

With that in mind, you can probably assume that I have no problem with the class' alignment restriction and that assumption would be right. 

Anyone who's read my blog before should know that I put a lot of importance on names and how they're used. Most names have pretty specific meanings and certain ideas attached to them. The Paladin is no exception. For those of you who aren't familiar with the name's historical context, I'll do my best to offer a quick summary. 

Sometimes known as the Twelve Peers, the Paladins were the foremost warriors of Charlemagne's court. While they did have connections to Christianity and that religion's virtues, they were supposed to be the knight's knight, the ultimate example of chivalrous ideas and the advocates of just and noble causes. When you consider that, Lawful Good really is the only alignment that makes the most sense for the class. 

Most people seem to see the Paladin as the martial arm for a specific church. 4e definitely took that path, and a few other products seem to adopt that belief as well. When you accept that belief, it makes no sense for Paladins to be a mono-alignment class. Only Lawful Good, Neutral Good, & Lawful Neutral deities can have Paladins? That seems a little weird.

However, Paladins are not divine warriors and shouldn't be seen as such. If you want to make a holy (or unholy) champion class, call it something other than a Paladin. "Crusader", "Templar", or "Warpriest" would probably be a better fit.

I feel like the main reason this misconception exists is because the Paladin receives the ability to cast divine magic spells at later levels. Sometimes, I wonder what people would think of the class if it didn't receive that diminished spell progression.

Now, I want to make something clear. I have nothing against those who want multi-alignment Paladins. If allowing Paladins to take alignments other than Lawful Good makes you and your group happy, I'm totally fine with that. Also, if companies would like to cater to that audience, I'm okay with that as well. 

I just like my Paladins to be Lawful Good and only Lawful Good. That alignment restriction is part of the appeal to me, and I feel taking it away would take away from what the Paladin actually is. If you want to make a divine champion class, that's cool. Just call it something else.