Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Classes: Paladins

The Classes- Paladins
Sword of the Solar, Flail of the Fiend

Despite the awesome power the gods once wielded, rarely did they dirty their hands in dealing with their foes.  Where their clerics were often charged with educating and protecting the layfolk, each god also maintained private armies of holy warriors- commonly referred to as paladins- to execute their will in a more direct fashion.  Each was a credit to their faith; a soldier with neither fear nor peer, righting wrongs the world over with the literal blessing of their god.

Of course, that was a very long time ago.

Today, this ideal is best relegated to the annals of history, the tallest tales of bards, or the drunken ramblings of tavern regulars.  This is not to say that paladins do not exist, for they most certainly do- but they are almost universally reviled as pitiable and broken figures, carts put before dead horses.  Although it has been argued that the Shattered Pantheon has left paladins behind for a reason, no one seems to know what it might be.  None, that is, save for the paladins themselves, who will without exception angrily turn upon their detractor- be they clueless historian, degenerate jongleur, or hopeless drunkard- and explain in no uncertain terms exactly what is wrong with the world.

Paladins are born with the ability to look into another person’s soul with but a gaze, but it is a mixed blessing at best as the flaws in a person’s character play across their features in a dream-like vision.  While minor transgressions can be embarrassing or amusing- an ever-shifting and colorful array of love bites and smears of rouge along a philanderer’s neck, for example- greater ones have been known to drive men mad.  How long can one stand to see the bloody fingerprints their beloved and mysteriously widowed uncle leaves on everything he touches, or the oily smoke that escapes the lips of a gossipy older sister whose malicious slander has destroyed lives?  Some paladins instead see elements of a weakness they despise in others instead of past sins.  One who disdains charity might see a generous benefactor grow thinner and weaker with every donation they make to the poor, while a zealously free spirit might view a particularly well-organized and sober clerk might as being literally bound by the fetters of his daily routine.  No matter what a paladin sees in someone, they unilaterally feel compelled to do something about it.  Although the gods molder in their graves, those who would have been their warriors continue to fight for their ideals.

Due to the nature of a paladin’s visions, their roles within a society can easily transcend religious lines.  In fact, it is the least religious of the races that have the greatest respect for paladins.  Dwarven and Shuu specimens use their second sight to focus less on righting specific wrongs and more on ensuring that their respective communities remain free of what they see as disruptive elements, sometimes through lecture or negotiation, sometimes through ritual combat to the death.  Naturally, these paladins downplay the popular theory surrounding the source of their abilities, with dwarves viewing it as a source of embarrassment, and what few true elven paladins that deign to have conversation with other races growing angry and violent.  On the other end of this spectrum, halfling paladins eagerly play up the possibility that their abilities may be divine in nature, and often work actively with the clerical leaders of halfling society to nurture and inspire their people.  Half-orc and half-elven paladins often find that their abilities reinforce the fact that they are different from those around them, and while they usually adopt the viewpoint of the society that raised them, they also sometimes take up one that is diametrically opposed if only to rebel.  Common elven, half-dragon and human paladins are the most conflicted with respect to their abilities, as their societies have the biggest issues with the existence gods and the nature of their demise.  They either zealously embrace or utterly deny their abilities, and are very much responsible for the stereotype of the paladin as a judgmental and aimless wanderer, leaping into action only at the most inopportune and dramatic of times but with often with spectacular results. 

Because of their monochromatic worldview, paladins find most other classes wanting in some way.  Barbarians are reliably destructive but hard to direct towards useful ends, and there will always be more than a few bards and rogues that simply register as wrong in a paladin’s sight, no matter what offends them.  Those that dedicate themselves to a higher purpose, such as clerics, monks and druids, are either boon companions or bitter enemies depending on what ideals they follow.  Wizards, sorcerers and fighters are scrutinized as much as any, but tend to be viewed as individuals more so than a class.  In an adventuring party, paladins are ill-suited to leadership roles unless the party is working directly towards the paladin’s goals.  Instead, paladins excel as advisors to said leaders, using their abilities to weed out those who might not gel with the party(or themselves) on matters of morals or ethics.  It is important to note that paladins do not need to actively use their abilities to sense another paladin- they recognize each other on sight, and either greet each other warmly or attack one another viciously.

Paladin Traits:

As listed in the SRD save as follows.

Aura:  Paladins project an aura directly related to one part of their alignment.  Once the choice is made, it is permanent and always 'on'.  Neutral paladins can project any aura they wish with respect to their neutrality, but it functions as an aura projected by a paladin three levels lower, and they still cannot project an aura of an alignment opposing their own where applicable.  

Detect:  A Paladin's ability to detect an offending alignment functions within the parameters of the wizard and cleric spells of the same name, but are eternally ‘on’, and the paladin cannot turn them off(although this does not interfere with sleeping, eating or similar activities, no matter how disturbing).  The player should work with the DM to choose exactly what form their detect ability takes, whether visual (for example, detect law shows lawful people wrapped in chains, or detect good has good individuals giving off a blindingly bright light), olfactory (people of offending alignment smell bad, or perhaps all too savory), or auditory (evil people are eternally giving a litany of their sins that only the paladin can hear).  It is of the utmost importance that these abilities do not cause disruption to fellow players or the person running the game. 

Smite: A paladin's smite is an extraordinary ability that allows a character to add their paladin level to their attack modifier and damage dealt for a number of rounds equal to their Charisma modifier against the alignment the paladin detects as noted above.  As a paladin gains levels, their smiting surge gains more abilities: adding half their level to either their AC or initiative modifier at level 5, and finally their Charisma modifier to either their AC or initiative modifier at level 10.

Code of Conduct:  A paladin that moves one "step" away from their alignment with respect to their aura uses ALL of their abilities- save for detection of an offending alignment- as if they were 3 levels lower. A paladin that "falls" by moving more than one step away from their alignment with respect to their aura loses all of their abilities save for detection and gains a derangement- the player and DM should come to an agreement beforehand regarding what is and what is not acceptable and appropriate for both the character and the game.  An ex-paladin is likely a miserable person, and they will do everything they can to attempt to atone, usually with the help of a cleric that matches their original alignment, or lives in exile, far away from other people.

Associates: A paladin will be extremely ill at ease around people whose moral or ethical code they cannot abide, but can work with them for brief intervals in the face of a larger problem(under direct attack from a creature with an HD greater than the paladin's level, or passive opposition by someone or something that the paladin has solid evidence and reason to believe that a temporary alliance with an offending individual or group will allow them to overcome, for example), but will then turn on their former ally/allies as soon as the situation has been resolved.  An associate or associates who undergoes a genuine change in alignment while working with the paladin to the point that they no longer offend the paladin is exempt from this seeming betrayal.

Paladin's Mount: A paladin's mount looks like a particularly hale and robust animal associated with a god that matches the paladin's alignment. 

Paladin Alignment
Available Auras
Lawful Good
Good, Law
Chaos, Evil
Neutral Good
Good; Law or Chaos @ -3 lvl
Evil, Chaos, Law
Chaotic Good
Chaos, Good
Evil, Law
Lawful Neutral
Law; Good or Evil @ -3 lvl
Chaos, Good, Evil
True Neutral
Any @ -3 lvl
Chaotic Neutral
Chaos; Good or Evil -3 lvl
Law, Good, Evil
Lawful Evil
Law, Evil
Chaos, Good
Neutral Evil
Evil; Law or Chaos -3 lvl
Good, Chaos, Law
Chaotic Evil
Chaos, Evil
Good, Law