Game Surprise, and Paladins

It seems that I’m going to get the chance to play through the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path with my wife after all! For those unfamiliar with it, Wrath of the Righteous is the Pathfinder Adventure Path that was designed with the Mythic rules in full use. As such, it requires a good GM to run it, and the ones I’d trust are notably few and far between.

It’s been long enough, in fact, that we’ve both designed character concepts multiple times. We gradually settled on tieflings, although the specifics of the one I’ll be playing depend a little on what the other players plan to do. Ideally, I’ll be able to build out an entertaining and satisfying paladin-archer who strikes enemies down with a barrage of arrows from a bow. Unusually for a paladin in Pathfinder, my ideal is to play one devoted to Erastil, the god of frontier communities, the hunt, and the verge of civilization.

However, if need be, I have a reserve character concept – a warpriest of Desna, the goddess of dreams, with a Strength-based critical-hit build, so that if anyone else needs allies who can flank enemies I can be in the thick of it. Both builds are interesting, and I’ll freely admit the warpriest is more appealing because lawful alignments chafe against my own natural impulses.

For the moment, though, let’s talk about paladins, and where far too many players go wrong.

A paladin, in terms of D&D-derived games, is a holy warrior with a code of conduct, devoted to a god or sacred cause and drawing their power from that. They can fall from grace if they break their code and commit an act of evil, and there are admittedly some GMs who go out of their way to set up situations where the paladins have no good recourse and punish them for whatever choice they happen to make.

While these GMs really shouldn’t be going out of their way to be such jerks about it, many of them have had the experience of a badly played paladin in their games in the past and just want to get it out before it becomes a murderhobo blender situation. All too often, people who pick up paladin will play them as the epitome of Lawful Stupid, rather than Lawful Good. Something detects as evil? Smite it! See someone breaking the law, no matter how petty! Smite them! Think someone is acting even slightly off what your cartoonishly rigid notion of Good is? Smite it! It gets tiresome fast, and really stinks of the kind of thinking that caused the Satanic Panic.

So I don’t blame the GMs who go out of their way to get rid of paladins, because playing a paladin is both harder and easier than it looks. Harder, because entirely too many people see it as a blank check for being a sanctimonious jerk, or as a self-healing Murderhobo Plus. Easier, because to be a paladin all you really need to do is play as if you’re playing a genuinely noble person – the kind who sees the Golden Rule as a rule, and refuses to make exceptions to it. Give people the benefit of the doubt when you can; do right by others even if it won’t profit you to do so; recognize that the right course is often going to be the harder one. As a paladin, you’re held to a higher standard, but you don’t expect others to do the same – you’re an exemplar, standing up as an example to inspire others, not as a taskmaster to force them. Given the chance to reform evil, a paladin will take it – but they’ll also recognize that if evil is unrepentant, you make sure it can’t come back to hurt anyone else. Fight evil on every front – kindness to those in need, encouragement to the scared, and ferocious resistance to those who seek to cause harm.

Paladins are a beacon of hope, when played properly. Tireless defenders of those weaker than them, devoted champions of those who need their aid, and cheering section for those who seek to follow their example. a paladin who sees you trying to follow in their footsteps will do their best to encourage you, and to help you back up if you fall down along the way. They know better than anyone how hard their road is, and they don’t think less of those who are at least trying to walk it, no matter how much their steps falter.

Paladins are genuinely good and noble souls, looking to help and protect those who need it, and aiming to stand as an unbreaking bastion against anything that would harm their charges.

You wanna play something smite-happy, consider a cavalier or a warpriest.

Game Surprise, and Paladins

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