Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The B/X Anti-Paladin

Let me just say for the record that “blackguard” is not a class, except in the broadest sense of the erm, and there’s nothing prestigious about it. American Heritage defines the term as a scoundrel or ruffian (the latter being a term for a thug, gangster, or pimp) and notes that it was a term used to describe the kitchen help and menials.

To me, “kitchen help” does not equate with “dark champion of chaos and evil.”

For me, the D20 Blackguard was one of the 1st nails in the coffin…I just didn’t find it to do justice to the idea of the Anti-Paladin. The anti-paladin was a near mythical term for my role-playing crew of the 80s…we had heard rumors of such a character, but never actually seen a write-up for it. There were all sorts of wild speculation as to just how evil such a guy would have to be (we only had the paladin class for reference, and he was so goody-two-shoes no one wanted to play one). Would an anti-paladin lose his special abilities for helping an old lady cross the street? How about getting a cat out of a tree, or allowing children with candy to pass-by un-molested?

The true anti-paladin was published in an old issue of Dragon (one published prior to us kids’ first purchase of that venerable mag). Last year, I managed to find an old copy of a “Best Of Dragon” annual in a used game store that had a re-printing of the anti-paladin class. Sadly, readers, I have yet to unpack all my gaming materials (recently moved houses) and so cannot cite anything from the article, not even the date or issue #. Perhaps in a later post.

What I found in that quarter-century old article was: well, it may have been a bit better than the “blackguard,” but it wasn’t much more than a mirror-image of the paladin class. And I mean literally…it has all the same abilities, hit dice, etc. just with the good and evil parts inverted. Not terribly original when you think about it (in other words: “duh, I could have figured THAT out”).

Still, I think it’s both useful and cool to have paragons of badness wandering the campaign world…an evil knight errant, a true “black knight.” I always loved Chaos Warriors as a monster in Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing (as well as a possible character de-evolution)…heck, I even enjoyed the fallen Lord Soth in the Dragon Lance books (though of course Soth was a death knight, not an anti-paladin…that’s a whole different topic).

Fortunately, B/X already has a tailor-made contrast to its paladin class: the Chaotic Cleric. I mean, look at these guys: all armored up and nowhere to go but Church? Does this guy seem like a high priest to you?

We’re going to have to get to high priests and temples/churches later on…I have some ideas, but I want to let them grow some meat on their bones before I post ‘em. However, as far as anti-paladins go, keep in mind the following:

  • D&D clerics are a combo of templar knight and mythic holy warrior; excellent melee fighters that gain additional powers through their faith and devotion
  • Paladins and anti-paladins do not gain spell use immediately, but must “prove their worth,” just like B/X clerics
  • Paladins and anti-paladins have control over the undead, just like clerics
  • Paladins and anti-paladins lose their powers if they fail to follow the tenets of their alignment/church…just like clerics
  • Paladins and anti-paladins are RARE…just like adventuring clerics (most humans are “Normal Men” while only a handful are able to gain Levels).

Considering these things may help clerics take a more prominent role in an adventuring party. These devout “warriors of faith” should be leading the fight against evil (or good in the case of the anti-paladin), not skulking about like a “blackguard” or hanging back as a “medic.”


  1. I enjoyed the dark knight class presented in Hackmaster. With a few changes, this is effectively the anti-paladin suitable for my 1st edition games. Of course, he was a mirror image of the paladin (harming touch, cause disease, aura of fear, detect good, chaotic evil in alignment) but I'm not sure what the anti-paladin would be otherwise.

    I also considered the old Avenger sub-class to be the paladin's foil in Cyclopedic D&D. I believe they are aligned with chaotic clerics the way basic D&D paladins were with lawful ones.

  2. Ha, ha! The Dark Knight! Yeah I forgot about that his "wuss slap" of doom!

    The Avenger was the Chaotic version of the Paladin in BECMI. What they were trying to "avenge" is anyone's guess.