D&D Classing it Up: Paladin

We’re getting back into the lawful good style of D&D. My number one piece of advice is, don’t play lawful stupid. That’s no fun for you, and it just makes the game itself less fun for everyone else. Unless you play it so far over the top that it becomes a bit of a parody — but even then, be very careful about that.

Image Source: Wizards

Just to explain what lawful stupid is and why you should avoid it: this is when you have a character that is so lawful good that they won’t do anything or be party to anything that might be even a little bit shady. For example, if the rogue in your party steals a single copper piece, you bring them in to the city guard. Or if a non-player character insults you slightly, you challenge them to a duel. That’s lawful stupid, and it can happen when players think their character needs to always be doing “good,” and that lawful good means that you have to follow every rule perfectly and can’t do anything that might cause you to slip up, like have a drink in a tavern. It’s better to look at it this way — lawful good is your alignment, not every single character trait that you have. Finja in Dungeons and Flagons was lawful good, but she would still have a drink or be part of the party’s random shenanigans, and she wasn’t always perfect in that she let Tate get away with less-than-savory antics.

The Paladin is the fighting cleric, and almost always falls onto the lawful good side of the spectrum. There are a few mechanical ways that you can handle this character, the first being that you can be more of a fighter who doesn’t really spend their spells on anything except dealing extra damage. Or you can lean into the healer side of it, taking on a combative role but with more of a focus on supporting and healing other characters in their party. Paladins use charisma for casting spells, so they can lean into being the face of the party if they want. This can also allow the paladin character to spread the good news of their faith.

As I mentioned, mechanically speaking, you can either go as a damage-bumping tank or a support healer. The different paths you can follow focus on areas from nature to law and order. The team at Wizards of the Coast did a good job of giving you options to be a fallen or even evil-focused paladin if you want. You get some spellcasting and fighting, but the strength of a paladin, in my opinion, is more in the combat aspect.

But because you aren’t fully focused on that, it allows you to play in a number of areas–let’s take a look at a few of those in my paladin backstory ideas:

Image Source: D&D Beyond

As a young child, you became a squire for a paladin who was charged with protecting the head of your religious order. You learned under him, and eventually, when he was no longer able to do his job, you took over for him. One night, you were watching at his door and were relieved by a guard you didn’t recognize. That wasn’t all that odd; there were new guards coming in fairly often. But when you woke up the next morning, that guard had disappeared, and the head of your religious order had been killed just a single room over from where you slept. In your guilt, you headed out on the road, where you met up with an adventuring group. While traveling with them, you’re still searching for any clues about what might have happened to your leader.

When you were a teenager, a horde attacked your village. You didn’t know what to do as your friends and everyone you knew were dying around you. The only thing you could think of was to drop to your knees and pray to your deity. You didn’t think your call would be heard, but you felt a surge go through your body, and holy energy poured out of you, striking down the bulk of the horde while the rest fled. When they were gone, those who were still alive lauded you as a hero, but you felt lost. You weren’t anything special, and you had no one left. A kindly family took you in, but when a cleric of your deity came through the town, they heard of you and offered you a chance to come with them and train to be a defender of the deity. It was something to do, so you left your town and started training until you became a paladin who people loved and revered for miles around. But now, you have a mission that you are going to need help with.

The life of a paladin was what you had always wanted — a life of devotion and holding to the oaths you had sworn. That had been your life, but that life had become boring. You felt a call from somewhere else, in a moment of weakness — or was it newfound strength? Hearing that call, you struck down the priestess of the temple and left. The connection you had to the deity of your order had been severed, but you felt something take its place — a darkness now filled you, and you were going to use it. It would be great if this was something you could do by yourself, but the darkness is calling you to others to help you complete your new goal.

There is so much evil in the world. When you were young, there were some from far away who came and took control of your town, making you and your family slaves. You were only recently able to escape, thanks to the help of a missionary who came and saw what horrors were being wrought on your village. He told you about his deity, and how that deity could bring law and order to the world. You listened, and you understood. You understood what you needed to do, as well. This missionary had been brought to you to help you get away, so that you could ride against those who did not believe and bring law and order and justice to the world, something you never could have hoped for before. Now you’ve been trained, and you have found a party of those whom you think can help you.

Have you had a chance to play a paladin before? Were you very lawful good, or did you try and find a way to play a paladin who was conflicted? How did that go? Would you try it another way the next time?

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