One thing that I see over and over with paladins is that they are always as being lawful stupid. I think that is because people think about them the wrong way. They tend to be stupid because they don’t have any particular laws or rules that they follow. Everyone knows that they follow a god and get must do good stuff but no one really thinks about what are the actual rules that they follow.
I always took paladins as being holy warriors that upheld their god’s teaching and laws not every law that they come across. They would have to be lawyers to know every law of every land and that is not their function. If they arrived into Chellix would they suddenly be okay with slavery, demon worship and selling your soul for a good bargain… after all it’s legal, it’s the law. I honestly think when they say lawful I take it to mean that paladins follow the laws they where taught in their church. And as paladins they are the shining example of their church not of the government the church lies in. So It is quite possible that a Paladin would break unjust laws.
A paladin isn’t an universal cop who magically absorbs the law of the land then tries to uphold it. They uphold their beliefs against all comers and all obstacles.
To represent this set of laws I tend to have players choose seven laws that their paladin must follow. These seven laws form a pillar that the paladin adheres to at all times. These laws are used to interpret how they will deal with all other laws that they encounter.
This makes the rules the paladin must follow much clearer. The GM can setup his own seven laws for the deities in their game. If you haven’t then let the player choose them. It will quickly give you a set to work with and might give you some ideas of how to play with those laws in an adventure.
If they break three of the laws they will be punished. It can be the same law three times or three different laws.
Start with some basic rules to making the seven laws. The seven laws must be actionable. Every law must be something that the character must do. Each of the laws should be something the character does or how they deal with others. So one law could be that you show thanks every morning for your powers to your deity. Another example could be that you must extend hospitality to anyone you break bread with. There are many more that could end up These are things the character must do and try not to break.
This could lead to interesting encounters that aren’t just fighting. Did you just let a cloaked figure break bread at your camp for the night… oh he’s the big bad guy coming to take a look. Well now you are stuck having a chat with him for the night. Unless he breaks the tenets of hospitality by attacking you can’t attack or let him be attacked.
Just because the paladin is lawful good doesn’t mean they all follow the same seven laws. A war god may have the laws:
- Thou shalt not suffer the evil to live.
- The act of one is a sign of the many. Treat the many as the one.
- Purify yourself with fire every day (A paladin may choose to brand his faith over his body. Or walk on hot coals every morning.)
- Maintain your weapons and your body. Daily the paladin must take care of his arms and practice.
- Alway take care when choosing your companions for that act of one is the same as if you did it and must be punished. You will share in that punishment
- Always stand by your companions as if they are your brothers. You will share in their highs and their lows.
- Fight in all cases for surrender is the gateway to eternal wrath. You will never backdown nor allow weakness in any form. You are one with your companions and your companions are one with you. You won’t allow them weakness for it is a sign of your weakness.
As you can see it gives distinct laws that the paladin will follow and how they will treat the people around them and how they see the world. The following are the laws of a god of family:
- Thou shalt protect thy family, thy community and thy companions for everyone is your family. Treat everyone as your brother and your sister.
- Improve the lives of all you encounter and support your family in all cases.
- Don’t suffer or allow others to suffer the failings of your family. If there is a wrong it is up to you to guide them to the light.
- Forgive those that repent their sins. Everyone falls sooner or later it is up to you to pick them up when they fall.
- Seek to bring all into the fold of the family.
- Hospitality to all that share a table with you. protect those that seek your help.
- Give thanks to the goddess and your family every night.
As you can see paladins from both faiths would react differently to people they approach. And have completely different ways that they would handle enemies and deal with groups.
Try it out. It might give you some really fun interactions and add a lot to the game. The seven laws give great limits and allows each faith to have very distinct paladins. And how a paladin redeems himself when he fails will depend on what faith he is part of.
In the next article on paladins i’ll give examples for the gods of Golarion.