Saturday, June 13, 2009

The B/X Paladin

Just finished reading Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions (and NOW I see where the D&D troll comes from...right down to the Monster Manual illustration!) and thought it was time to post my thoughts on adding the Paladin to the B/X rules.

I know there are many B/X players out there who, like myself, wish that Moldvay, Cook, or someone had put out the promised D&D Companion set that was promised in Cook's Expert set. I know there are many, like myself, that are less than satisfied by the Mentzer Companion set and wish there had been something more similar in style and tone to our beloved B/X set.  And I know there are some who have worked, or are working, on a retro-clone version of the game.

I myself am undertaking this task...more for the fun of it than anything else (money, prestige, etc.).  Part of the challenge, of course, lies in figuring out what would have been in such a supplement that "never was."  Certainly it would have rules for classes up to 36.  It would have new monsters, spells, and treasure appropriate to a higher level.  It would probably have good information for running a high level campaign.

In looking over my OD&D little brown books, it seems as if all their information is pretty much encapsulated in the B/X rules...I mean more or less (no balrog, for example, but nearly all the other monsters are).  The rules for fighters, clerics, and well as dwarves, elves, and halflings are all there...and the spell lists are pretty much the same.  So as some have speculated previously, I wonder if perhaps it is the information from the various supplements that would have been in the D&D Companion set...and that might mean the paladin would make an appearance.

So check out these descriptions:

(from AD&D)

The class of character bears a certain resemblance to religious orders of knighthood of medieval times.

(from Moldvay's Basic set)

[they] are humans who have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess. They are trained in fighting and casting spells.

(from Mentzer's Companion set)

[he] must swear fealty (an oath of service) to a Lawful church to gain Paladin status...thereafter, the Paladin may be summoned by the church's leaders (the Theocracy) at any time, and must do as they command, as long as the service aids the power of Good.

The last quote explains how a Name level fighter of Lawful alignment may become a Paladin.  But look at the first two quotes...these are taken directly from the description for the CLERIC class.  Here's a little more from the Cleric description in the PHB:

The cleric is dedicated to a deity or deities and at the same time is a skilled combatant at arms...clerics have their own spells bestowed on them by their deity for correct and diligent prayers and deeds...the cleric has the ability to wear armor, carry effective weaponry, and engage in hand-to-hand combat...only humans will have clericism as their sole class...clerics have nearly as good prospect of success in melee combat as fighters.
If one substituted the word "paladin" for "cleric" you would pretty much have an accurate description of the Paladin class (paladins are NOT as good as fighters in melee combat, having fewer multiple attacks and lesser damage output with the lack of weapon specialization; in D20, this difference in melee is even more pronounced).

Interestingly, there is no real description in the AD&D Players Handbook of what exactly a cleric is...the only thing that distinguishes a paladin from a fighter (besides their special powers) is an adherence to alignment restrictions:

...unlike normal fighters, all paladins must begin as lawful good in alighnment and alway remain lawful good or absolutley lose all of the special powers given to them.  They have both fighting abilities and limited special powers (at high level)...Law and good deeds are the meat and drink of paladins.

And that's it for description...everything else details their powers and how they can lose them. The little detail there is could apply to a B/X cleric, especially regarding spells:

clerics do NOT receive any spells until they reach 2nd level (and have proven their devotion to their god or goddess)

Clerics are pretty much everything a paladin is supposed to be, except that they have more spells and are better at turning undead than paladins. Oh, and that stupid rule about "no edged weapons."  And I'm doing away with that (see my prior posts on variable class damage).

Guess there's really no need to add a Paladin class to my B/X Companion set. The paladin is already exists in the rule set.


  1. Yeah, the clerics in my current B/X game are very much playing in the role of Holy Warriors - far more Paladin than Priest.

    I think that the game would be better served by having a non-adventuring Priest class added to it if a new divine class was really needed.

  2. Good post. This has long been my stance on the OD&D Cleric; that he is in fact a Crusader/Templar type, not a Priest per se. NPC Priests can cast spells but tend to the Church and its congregation, never straying far from either. The Cleric is the more militant arm of the Church that actively seeks out evil in the world.

    In OD&D the Cleric and Fighting Man are nearly identical in regard to Fighting Capability for the first half dozen levels. The major advantage for the FM is the ability to use Swords (especially magic ones) as well as Missiles, of course. Contrast those advantages to spell casting and turning undead.

    Depending upon the relative power of your campaign putting Swords into Cleric hands might upset the natural order of things. This can be balanced by restrictions based on a character's faith and moral views, too. I know plenty of players who had the opportunity to play a Paladin but chose Fighter for this very reason.

  3. RPG -- I'm going to talk about priests pretty soon in another post. I am totally in the same chapter as you, in not exactly on the same page.

    Dave --even if I let my "cleric/templars" use swords (including the magical kind) they aren't going to outclass the fighter in damage (because o class specific damage) and staying power (less hit points). But the more power/importance the clerics take on, the more you have to hold them to the strictures of their faith/religion.

    I just like the idea of changing the perspective of the cleric...shift the paradigm a bit. I'd rather consider the "cleric" a templar/paladin than a priest in armor.