On Paladins

Holy Hijinks

Hello everyone, Alex here, and we’re going to talk about something not directly related to just Porphyra today. We’re going to talk about something I’ve been homebrewing in my games for the past twenty some years, all the way from 2ed all the way through 3, 3.5, and pathfinder. We’re going to talk about one of my favorite classes, no not Bards (my actual favorite class), paladins.

Paladins get a bum rap as a role-play killer in any scenario where every member of the party isn’t a goodie-goodie.  Yes, they’re a powerful class – and yes, they are often beacons of light, and hope, and aweseomesauce. TSR, WotC, and Paizo even halfheartedly tried to address one of the problems with the paladin with inventions of things such as the antipaladin or the blackguard. They addressed the lawful evil gods who have fanatically devoted followers, but what about the chaotic gods? Or the Neutral gods? Who wouldn’t want to be a fanatical zealot in the service of Io, The Great Eternal Wheel or some other purely ambivalent master?

I suggest in any fantasy style game, Porphyra based, or otherwise that you take the time to sit down with your PC and flesh out a paladin that really works for whatever god they want to be devoted to, Good, Evil, or Otherwise. In some cases using the same general abilities is fine. Is there a huge difference between Tyr, Baldr, Paladine, Ares, Torm, Lathander, Helm, Iomedae, Sarenrae, or Gerana in terms of what their holy vindicators are going to look or act like? No – probably not. But what about other goodly gods? What about a paladin of Erastil or Cayden Cailean – they may be good and just but they certainly are not going to uphold law and order in the same manner.

I offer some insights that can be used in any game, as paladins should be as diverse as the many gods they serve, and maybe one day I’ll be able to carve out more specific guidelines for each and every god, but for now, let these guidelines help you personalize your games.

No longer refer to them collectively as “paladins” they are holy warriors, of whom the paladin is the most well-known. They are Holy Warriors; champions of the divine who strive to live their lives personifying the ideals of their patron. Here I’ll outline six Holy warriors, as I don’t usually let my PCs play evil characters because my experience is that most people are very bad at being evil – They’re good at chaos and they’re good at destruction, but not at being truly evil.

The Paladin – Lawful Good

The Sentinel – Neutral Good

The Avenger – Chatoic Good

The Enforcer – Lawful Neutral

The Watcher – True Neutral

The Anarch – Chaotic Neutral


So what all needs to be changed?

Skills: Typical paladin skills include, Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int) – most of these are pretty widely acceptable for any of the Holy Warriors. Sometimes switching out nobility works well, since many holy warriors’ do not come from noble families and have more humble beginnings. Heal is the other skill I most often exchange, often times for intimidate.

Aura: Auras should be changed to match the appropriate god, matching chaos or law work just as well as good.

Detect: Detect should always be the opposite of whatever the aura being generated is.

Smite: Smite often works the same, only you’re smiting whatever you were capable of detecting. I also sometimes change the bonus damage to dragons/undead – often times to constructs as it is a nice bonus and I feel chaotic energy should wreak havoc on those well aligned systems.

Channel: Channel should be handled the same as for neutral clerics if necessary.

Aura of Justice: Modified to match smite.

Aura of Righteousness: DR 5/evil still works well for all good holy warriors, but the neutral ones are more complicated. You can either have them resist the law/chaos as appropriate and give a TN paladin the choice which can’t be changed, or give them a lessoned DR, for example, DR 2.

I think these slight rules alterations can help validate the paladin as a class, making it more available in various campaigns, and in my opinion makes more sense. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to have militarized zealots of neutral of chaotic gods or that chaotic people can’t devote themselves to their gods.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to expand your gaming options and as always,

Game On.

What do you think?

Should this take on Paladins become part of the new Porphyra Roleplaying Game playtest?

2 thoughts on “On Paladins

  1. I have “paladins” for the four cardinal alignments – Paladin, Liberator, Tyrant, and Antipaladin. But I’ve never seen the paladin played as anything but a power grab, really – including when I recently played one myself. 😦

    For a deeper look at the paladin, I think it needs to be geared towards abilities that inspire the team – sort of like the Diablo II paladin. That should make it more of a team player. Chaotic paladins can give abilities that inspire freedom, while an antipaladin can have stuff like the spell crime wave that make them trouble magnets extraordinaire.


    1. Oh boy my first comment!

      You’re right – a lot of times paladins are used to be a better version of the fighter – and used to puff up people’s gameplay.

      Ideally, I like to work with each individual paladin and set them along a path with their god and devotions in check. Take, for example, one of my favorite gods from Greyhawk: St. Cuthbert. Everything about him inspires paladins, they even have orders devoted to hunting down devils, but he himself is Lawful Neutral and in my opinion there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to have paladin’s who follow his own path. That’s sort of the basis of the above post – gods who really should have paladins, but don’t.

      The original paladins are designed to be those knights of Arthurian Legend. Goody goods who strike fear into the heart of evil. Most pantheons are more complex than that and require a bit of wiggling. I like to work with my characters with paladins and monks particularly to help flesh out the orders they belong to and live as part of a code, sort of like a Wu Jen where I threaten to maim their character’s abilities should their roleplay stray from their supposed ideals.

      I simply make paladins become living beacons of their values, whatever they may be. Continuing the examples for Arthurian Legend, was Moredread no less a paladin of the dark forces than Galahad for good?

      If you’re looking for ways to maximize team effects, you may was to consider trading out abilities with the Chevalier class – which, like the paladin, is really just a fancy fighter.


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