Saturday, July 4, 2009

O Paladin...

(sung to the tune of O Canada)

Hey, it may seem like I am knocking the whole Paladin class (and I guess I probably am when I write how "unnecessary" it is).  But I really bear the guy no ill least, I bear no ill will to the players that like the class. I know they are out there in droves.

But I'll tell you that after reading JM's latest interview over at Grognardia, it's hard for me to knock most of the stuff published by TSR, at least in the early years.  This game was a brand-spanking new creation, and things that got thrown in were done because the player-creators thought they were fun, or made sense, or filled some niche in their game play.  And that's not something I can fault.

However, let me just explain how I see the paladin from my older, more mature "design eyes:"

OD&D: no idea (I don't own Supplement I).

AD&D and BECMI: simply a more bad-assy fighter; behavioral restrictions off-set by cool powers. Displaces the "normal" fighter with the proper attribute scores.

B/X: non-existent.

D20+: a lame-assy fighter; behavioral restrictions off-set by a handful of powers, far out-classed in fighting by actual fighters.

I've already explained why I think the game already has a "Holy/Unholy Warrior" type character in the Cleric class.  But let's look at the inspiration for the paladin, the Danish warrior Holger Carlsen from Poul Anderson's book Three Hearts and Three Lions.

Without going into the entire plot, Holger turns out to be a kind of eternal champion and one of Charlemagne's paladins.  He is very spiritual, as a chivalric knight should be, though not above "baser instincts."  He is very courageous, though not without fear (he sometimes prays to help him master his own fears).  People ask him to "lay hands on them" for blessings with the usual medieval respect (I won't say superstition) for the holy power of a chivalric knight (this doesn't actually heal anyone).  He is a tremendous fighter.  He has a very intelligent horse that mysteriously appeared for him, just as he himself mysteriously appeared when the people were in need of his help (in other words, it's no more supernatural than he is). He is a tremendous warrior.

If you wanted to 'port Holger Carlsen (Ogier the Dane) into a D&D game he would be a fighter. A lawful good fighter, perhaps, one with a high strength, wisdom, and charisma certainly, but a fighter.  There ain't nothing supernatural about him, unless it is the interest that cosmic powers have in him that cause him to be whisked between worlds and dimensions.  He's just a stand-up guy with a weird history plunged into a weird situation.  Oh, and he's a great fighter.

What about his prayers making him "fearless?" Isn't that kind of like he paladin's immunity to fear? No, my friends, that is called a saving throw.  Or good role-playing.

He seems robust and healthy! That is called a good constitution, not an immunity to disease.

No there's no point to adding a paladin to the game when one already has a Holy Warrior (i.e. the cleric)...UNLESS, you want your holy warrior to be more warrior and less cleric.  Which is what's been done.  I say, just let the clerics carry swords (and force them to follow the strict tenets of their faith to retain their powers) and there's no need to add paladins to the campaign...except, perhaps as a Level Title for the Cleric class.

There will be no paladin class in my B/X Companion. Sorry.

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