I have seen quite a few paladins in my time—both at the table and in fiction, and my favorite is O-Chul from the Order of the Stick Comics. He is what a paladin should be in my opinion, fighting for justice without overdoing it. Paladins have a stereotype of being “lawful stupid.” Frequently they appear so full of themselves and their station that they make everything about them.
A paladin should put their deity above everything including their own pride. They shouldn’t be glory seeking zealots but seeking to glorify their deity through their every action. Their should be someone with rock hard faith in the rightness of their cause, not the rightness in themselves. If anything, they should doubt themselves, questioning whether or not their every action is the right one to exemplify the rightness of their deity and their cause. Here are 5 Questions to help you role play a paladin better. Previously we shared with you 5 Questions to help you play a fighter, cleric, monk, bard, and rogue better.
1) What Caused Your Strong Devotion to your Deity?
Following a deity is one thing. You worship, follow a few tenants, and go about your daily life. Being devoted is another. A devoted person will take time out of their day to contemplate how to best incorporate their deity’s tenants into their actions and will wonder if they are devoted enough. Being a paladin is far, far more devoted than that. You are so devoted that you are willing to go into dangerous places risking your own live to do your deity’s work and are willing to kill while doing so. Being that devoted should be sobering. One does not do that “because it seemed like a good idea at the time,” at least, not for long. The person had to have had a life changing event to inspire that level of devotion. So what was it? Were you rescued from certain death or worse by a servant of that deity (or the deity him/her/itself/themselves)? Perhaps you were in a bad place in your life and the church helped you leave that life behind. Did you lose a family member to monsters or strung out on demonic narcotics and a paladin of this deity was the only thing that kept you alive? What bad place were you in and how does this deity help change that in you?
2) What is Your Purpose?
For many religious people that find faith because of some great change, they feel they now have a purpose to their lives that they lacked before. What is that purpose? “Spreading the word of the deity,” is far too easy and generic of an answer. It would be specific and would relate directly to your old life before you began worshiping the deity. It is this purpose that propels you to wake up every morning, even when you are questioning your devotion to your deity. You remember what your life was like before and are determined at all costs to not return. You swore an oath and follow a strict code of conduct that keeps you on that purpose. That purpose can suddenly change your perspective in any situation. If you were addicted to drugs, you would be particularly merciful to someone you were after the moment you found out they are hooked on those same narcotics and even more wrathful if the person you are after sells those bits of false pleasure. If you purpose is to hunt down demons so no one else’s family need die and you were hunting down a nest of demon worshipers, you would only show mercy to those that were doing their bidding out of fear, not out of a desire for power. What drives you?
3) What About Yourself Do You Not Like?
You swore an oath and follow a strict code of conduct because you were in a bad place and do not want to return. The thing is, deep down you blame yourself for being in that bad place in the first place. If you didn’t blame yourself, you could have fought your way out of that situation and became a fighter or learned to see the right opportunity to escape it and became a rogue. Instead, you couldn’t adapt, couldn’t figure a way out, and needed rescued. Situations like this can make a person turn their anger at the situation inward and see the fault with themselves, making them not like some aspect of themselves.
Yet there is the purpose that let’s the person ignore that inner struggle, silencing it for a time while focusing on the work. As such those unresolved feelings fester inside and can make the paladin stumble. This is exactly why paladins have the ex-paladin sections in their class description, about breaking their oaths. Everyday for a paladin should be a constant struggle between the good person they want to be and the darkness that lurks inside. What is that darkness for you?
4) How did those you know respond to your change?
People don’t like change. You have changed yet your old friends and family have not. They are still in the same place they were before. Some people can handle that you are a different person now; others cannot. Some relationships should end, like those that helped you to get to your bad place. Others were unaware of how bad that place you were in truly was and do not understand what that change means to you. So when you start trying to help them in ways they do not want helped, it is not uncommon for people to abandon the changed person. Name three relationships that changed for your character. The first should be someone that helped get you to that bad place. The person can be evil but does not have to be. The second should be someone you were close to before but you are now estranged from. The third should be someone you casually knew before but are now close to after your change. All three of these people should be people your GM can use as NPCs to cause internal conflict, making the story more personal.
5) Why Do You Stay With Your Fellow Adventurers?
Let’s be honest, adventurers can be a rather unpredictable lot. They steal, fail to show proper respect for “worthy” deities or those that serve them, and can commit all manner of sacrilege, not because they are evil (necessarily) but because they are ill-informed of what they are doing. Is this why you stay with them? To help them see how they could be better? Or do you see the person you use to be before you went to your bad place and are trying to help them find a way to avoid the same fate? Is this simply a relationship of convenience, where they happen to be fighting the same evil you are? Or do you genuinely care for them and as a good and faithful friend you are sticking with them?
Corrakwak is a tengu paladin (sometimes preferring the term inquisitor) of the goddess Amanozako, bent on making sure that all are treated fairly. He despises those that go back on their word having once been left for dead by those that use to be his close friend. As such, Carrakwak has trouble making close friends now, but has learned to trust his fellow adventurers enough to know they will not cheat him. Now he fights for truth and justice with a vengeance.
Carrakwak is featured on the cover of the Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium for Pathfinder, the Book of Heroic Races Player Races 1 for 5e and Book of Heroic Races Age of Races 2 for 13th Age. Download these today at the JBE Shop with the “holiday2017” coupon code until January 31st for your game to choice to get 30% off your order.