... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Paladin's Code

This is sparked by a discussion about paladins on the OD&D forums. Somehow, the paladin became interpreted as a champion of a deity or religion, instead of a champion of good. As a result, although everyone kind of knows there's a code of behavior that paladins must follow, they aren't clear what that code is, and may even think that it should be user-defined. Which, of course, opens the way for power-gamers to define a code that will provide maximum benefit with minimum restriction, just to get the paladin's goodies. But the paladin's goodies aren't a reward for taking on some role-playing restrictions; a paladin's abilities derive from and support the paladin's code. The rules make this clear:
"The paladin has a number of very powerful aids in his continual seeking for good: He can "lay on his hands" to cure wounds or diseases in others... They have a 10% higher saving throw against all forms of attack (excluding melee) ... [They] dispel evil ... and they detect all evil..."
The paladin's purpose is to do good deeds and oppose evil, and for that purpose, the paladin is able to heal others (not themselves) and can find, resist, and drive away evil.

What is the paladin's code? Contrary to the popular interpretation, I don't think a "roll your own" approach is appropriate. It's supposed to be "do good and uphold what is right." Paladins sacrifice themselves for others. Or, a simpler, more enforceable version: In any situation, a paladin's priorities should be:

  1. The innocent and helpless;
  2. Their comrades;
  3. Their opponents;
  4. Themselves.

This is meant to work like Asimov's Laws of Robotics: if you could save your friends, but you think about your own safety first and try to save them from a distance, you are not a paladin. If a damsel cries out for help, but you decide to help pack up camp first, you are not a paladin.


  1. Totally agree with you.
    The slow change of paradignm from "champion of Good" to "Champion of a Lawful Good deity" to "champion of the Gods" is the cause of such nonsense as the "Paladin of any alignment" of the 4th ├ędition.

    1. Technically, we can't blame "paladin of any alignment" on 4e. I'm sure I've seen custom non-LG paladin options for 1e.

  2. Huh. I think that makes me an Anti-Paladin.

    Finally, I'm "cool".

    But I do agree with the post and the allusion to the Laws of Robotics is good. I never realized robots were Paladins.

  3. At the same time, surely a Paladin's not obligated to be an idiot and recklessly endanger her life if a safer way of helping others is possible.

    1. Correct. Putting yourself as the lowest priority doesn't mean you have to commit suicide. What matters is whether concern for your own safety causes you to ignore higher priorities.