I have to admit that I was never really drawn to the Paladin class in D&D. AD&D 2e was the second game I ever role-played in (the first being Marvel) and after a quick glance at the options I was pretty married to the bard. When I flipped through the Player’s Handbook, the idea of needing 17 charisma to play such a character was a bit too much for a newbie like me. The Paladin seemed like the pompous version of the fighter class. Which I was also not a big fan of at the time.
Where I actually gained insight into the Paladin class was in a completely different game system. Palladium created a Cyber Knight and along with the cool name, it came with the Code of Chivalry. That document defined my character, it fleshed her out and gave her purpose. With D&D I was still learning and so delving into which god to serve and creating my own code or practice wasn’t even on my radar.
So I propose you should use the Code of Chivalry for a jumping off point for your next paladin.
Let’s look at the code:
The Code of Chivalry from Palladium Rifts Coalition Wars Cyber Knights published Dec 2000
1. To Live
"Live one's life so that it is worthy of respect and honor.
Live for freedom, justice, and all that is good.”
Amended D&D Style: To live to bring honor to my deity
Each deity and world of religion brings its own essence to your game play. The pantheons are both diverse and thorough (and there is a quick glance feature on pages 293-299 of the Player's Handbook) from fantasy worlds to European gods from cultures like the Greeks and the Nordic peoples. Discover your choices to enhance these codes for your particular character.
If your campaign has Egyptian deities as the pantheon of choice then you might choose to worship and serve Hathor, goddess of love, music, and motherhood.
So you could include things like:
Live one’s life in devotion to those who bring forth life through childbearing.
Live to share music with the world to help spread the message of Hathor.
If you are rooted in the Greyhawk world, you may be a paladin of Ehlonna, goddess of woodlands.
Your codes under this category may be:
Live as though you may not upset the balance of nature.
Live and treat all life as equals.
Living for your deity is important to include in your personal code.
2. Fair Play
"Never attack an unarmed foe.
Never use a Psi-Sword on an opponent not equal to the attack.
Never charge an unhorsed opponent.
Never attack from behind.
Amended D&D Style: Sportsmanship
These may seem like innocuous ideals for Sportsmanship but -speaking from experience- when these rules are played out and they essentially take ambush off the table, it changes your game completely.
When playing D&D paladins I would use some of these, and add amendments. Perhaps a dwarven paladin of Moradin, the dwarf god of creation, will never attack an unarmed dwarf from behind, but other races may be subject to their tactics. Or maybe your code would read: Never cheat those who follow the true way of Heironeous. Give these coded ideas life based on your deity, your race, or even your disposition towards other races. Your interpretations of the code can also add flavour.
"Exhibit self control.
Show respect to authority.
Obey the laws if they do not supersede the rights of life.
Protect the innocent.
Amended D&D Style: Oath of _______
In 5th edition, there are 3 Oaths that can be taken once your paladin reaches level 3. Each is unique and comes with different benefits to your character. These oaths have several tenets of devotion that are very similar to the code you are creating. You should look through these tenets to cement your ideal paladin. Even before the 3rd level, your paladin should be striving to meet some of these requirements to flesh them out and give them a direction.
To aid you in your code creation, the oaths are:
Oath of Devotion: this encompasses your stereotypical knight in shining armour who tend to be idealist and paragons of virtue
Oath of the Ancients: these paladins adhere to a long-standing ideal of light (rather than its counter darkness), life is of particular importance to these folks
Oath of Vengeance: are those concerned with justice and punishing those who have done wrong and set things right.
But the tenets laid out in each of the oath sections in the Player’s Handbook (pg 85-88) have verbatim some of the thing you need to include in your Character Code Creation (CCC: new acronym FTW.) Go forth, read, and inwardly digest.
"Exhibit courage in word and deed.
Defend the weak and innocent.
Fight for an ideal, like freedom.
Fight with honor.
Avenge the wronged.
Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause.”
Amended D&D Style: Valor
I wouldn’t change much, if anything, in this section. These are the courageous things that you read about in fiction and history. These are what make a paladin larger than life, better than you, and a formidable opponent.
"Always keep one's word of honor.
Always maintain one's principles.
Never betray a confidence or comrade.
Respect life. Honor all life.
Respect all views of life.”
Amended D&D Style: Honor
Honor is still an important factor, and I would suggest some thinking on what is honorable for your character. The deity worship, the world they live in, and what situations drew them to the class will all determine what honor is for them.
Some questions to get you thinking about honor CCC (character code creation) are:
Is your world at war? If so, with who?
Has your character been through life-changing tragedy? Did this change them?
How did they find their faith? Why that deity?
Who were their role models?
Who has betrayed them?
I know that this CCC (Character Code Creation) may look daunting before you start playing, but this will make for a more fleshed out paladin. There is something wholly terrible about those paladins that are just played as religious-type fighters. Let’s let these behemoths of virtue stand tall on their own. Put in the work ahead of time and you won’t be disappointed.
This article was written by Vanessa who is a sarcastic, 30-something wife and mother. She likes things and stuff, but not simultaneously. When she isn’t involved in things and stuff, she teaches middle school science, math, art, and other random subjects. She loves new teenagers in action. They make her laugh and shake her head and her world is much better with laughter. She thinks everyone should be roleplaying. She is also trying out this new twitter handle at @sarasma_nessa
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.