Difference between revisions of "Paladin"

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[[File:Seelah.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Seelah, Pathfinder's Iconic Paladin/Champion]]
[[File:Seelah.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Seelah, Pathfinder's Iconic Paladin/Champion]]
[[Pathfinder]] made a number of mechanical improvements (''beefy'' ones, Pathfinder paladins are ''badass''), but mostly left them alone conceptually.  Now they cast spells off charisma rather than wisdom ([[MAD|and praise Saerenrae for that]]. One unusual consequence of this is that thanks to high natural will save and adding charisma to all saves, Paladins are now free to [[Stupid Good|dump wisdom]] as low as it can go.), and their Smites, on top of granting better defensive and offensive bonuses, ''keep Smiting'' until they either Smite something else or the Smitee is dead.  (Sure, it can ''theoretically'' run out in twenty-four hours, but almost nothing suffering from a Smite is going to live that long).  The Code of Conduct was also softened a little to allow paladins to more easily be team players and not 100% stick-in-the-mud party cops.  One problem, if you can call it that, is that the paladin is ''too'' specialized (even with Pathfinder's improvements he still won't break tier 4): If the DM keeps throwing evil outsiders or undead into the campaign as [[BBEG]]s a modestly-well-prepared paladin will be able tear through them like a holy-powered buzzsaw without a lot of effort, since he deals better "burst" damage than almost any of them and has great saves and immunity to shit like ''mummy rot'', so he won't be afraid to charge in and [[rip and tear]] when another class would be adverse to taking risks around one.  If the final boss keeps getting one-shotted by a well-timed Smite Evil ''litany of righteousness'' power attack/deadly aim combo, it may very well be time to invest in "moral complexity."  (Read: throw some constructs or wild animals at him.). Despite this the Paladin still struggles to be worthwhile outside his niche. A major reason for this is that Paladins have only 2+int skill points per level, being the only player class in the system aside from Fighter to have only 2 skill points without getting at least 6th level spells. Their class list is at least much better than the Fighter’s, and they do have some spellcasting and healing for out of combat utility.
[[Pathfinder]] made a number of mechanical improvements (''beefy'' ones, Pathfinder paladins are ''badass''), but mostly left them alone conceptually.  Now they cast spells off charisma rather than wisdom ([[MAD|and praise Sarenrae for that]]. One unusual consequence of this is that thanks to high natural will save and adding charisma to all saves, Paladins are now free to [[Stupid Good|dump wisdom]] as low as it can go.), and their Smites, on top of granting better defensive and offensive bonuses, ''keep Smiting'' until they either Smite something else or the Smitee is dead.  (Sure, it can ''theoretically'' run out in twenty-four hours, but almost nothing suffering from a Smite is going to live that long).  The Code of Conduct was also softened a little to allow paladins to more easily be team players and not 100% stick-in-the-mud party cops.  One problem, if you can call it that, is that the paladin is ''too'' specialized (even with Pathfinder's improvements he still won't break tier 4): If the DM keeps throwing evil outsiders or undead into the campaign as [[BBEG]]s a modestly-well-prepared paladin will be able tear through them like a holy-powered buzzsaw without a lot of effort, since he deals better "burst" damage than almost any of them and has great saves and immunity to shit like ''mummy rot'', so he won't be afraid to charge in and [[rip and tear]] when another class would be adverse to taking risks around one.  If the final boss keeps getting one-shotted by a well-timed Smite Evil ''litany of righteousness'' power attack/deadly aim combo, it may very well be time to invest in "moral complexity."  (Read: throw some constructs or wild animals at him.). Despite this the Paladin still struggles to be worthwhile outside his niche. A major reason for this is that Paladins have only 2+int skill points per level, being the only player class in the system aside from Fighter to have only 2 skill points without getting at least 6th level spells. Their class list is at least much better than the Fighter’s, and they do have some spellcasting and healing for out of combat utility.
Thanks to their variety of class abilities that can be traded away, a Paladin has some of the most varied archetypes in the game, second only to [[Monk]]. These range from simple (Divine Hunter, which trades melee abilities for ranged ones) to "free planar ally and more casting" (Sacred Servant, which can shoot a Paladin up to tier 2 if they worship a deity that gives a good planar allies and tier 3 even if they give something lame like elementals).
Thanks to their variety of class abilities that can be traded away, a Paladin has some of the most varied archetypes in the game, second only to [[Monk]]. These range from simple (Divine Hunter, which trades melee abilities for ranged ones) to "free planar ally and more casting" (Sacred Servant, which can shoot a Paladin up to tier 2 if they worship a deity that gives a good planar allies and tier 3 even if they give something lame like elementals).

Revision as of 02:24, 29 June 2022

The typical Paladin, note the colors, and the symbol of the eagle, an important core of their faith

Paladins are a class from Dungeons and Dragons, inspired by a mixture of the idealistic views of the Crusades in late 70s/early 80s Western culture (never forget, Gary Gygax was a devout Jehova's witness) and the "Knight in Shining Armor" archetype of Chivalric Romances and the Arthurian Mythos. They are divine warriors of a somewhat more martial bent than Clerics, receiving a variety of powers generally focused around smiting the enemies of their god, and tend to have high Charisma scores to fuel their holy powers. Many a fictitious maiden that hasn't been seduced by the party's bard has benefited from a Paladin's Laying On of Hands. (Purely to heal their injuries, you understand. Unless they're into that sort of thing, of course. Not every god demands chastity of their warriors, after all.)

In addition to consistently being little different from a cleric/fighter multiclass character, they have earned a rather unfair reputation as a "troublemaker" class in D&D circles, the kind of class that must be watched because That Guy tends to be drawn to them. Rather like the Xaositect or the Kender... except, of course, the Paladin actually has numerous saving graces, so it has earned defenders, unlike either of the aforementioned troublemakers.

The cause? Simple: in the 1st through 3rd editions of the game, due to their "holy knight" origins, Paladins were game-mandated to uphold a Lawful Good alignment (which makes no sense, since any god would have use for paladins, not just LG ones). If they failed, they lost the bulk of their special abilities, leaving them as at-best a sub-par version of the Fighter until and unless they either Atoned - a process that could be very painful and often railroady - or changed classes entirely.

Now, this wouldn't be so bad in and of itself - alignment restrictions are hardly unique in any of those editions, even if most of them moved to much broader requirements under 3e and Pathfinder. However, for some reason, Paladins just seem to bring out That Guy in DMs. Why? Nobody really knows. The most logical reasons are a three-part combination; the "Fall from Grace" angle is a pretty well-worn story-angle, especially for more lackluster DMs, it makes a handy hook for railroading the party on, and most importantly of all: "Old School DMing". See, back in OD&D's day, D&D hadn't come far from its wargame roots, and so there was still a pretty strong "competitive" mindset in the culture. DM vs. Players was very common, if not the norm, with players trying to get all the loot and power they wanted and DMs trying to stop them. Thusly, the Paladin's "you must do what the DM thinks is Lawful Good behavior or lose all your power" ruleset was a built-in weakness. Of course, none of these may be true; some DM's are simply put, for the lack of a better word, little Cartmans who want "their authoritah to be respected", and likes to abuse and make people squirm because their lives were miserable.

This magnet for "moral dilemmas" and similar bullshit was bad enough, but on top of that, you had players who overplayed themselves, often for sheer fear that if they didn't act Lawful Stupid, the DM would strip them of their power. And whereas the "I drop my pants and piss on the King!" Chaotic Neutral, the "of course I steal from the party too!" klepto-Rogue or the friendly-fireball Wizard were purely a player using fluff to be a dick, in this case, the Paladin had actual mechanical enforcement to make it be a dick.

And from these roots, their reputation grew.

Eventually, after two decades of it, WoTC made the decision to try and fix this undeserved reputation - first by dropping the alignment restriction requirement entirely in 4e, and then switching from the annoyingly vague and open to interpretation "Must be Lawful Good" to "must follow this specific oath, which requires you to do X, Y and Z" in 5e. Although this has been met with the usual amount of rage and skub, and hasn't completely shaken off the stigma yet, it has opened up the Paladin and attracted a lot more players than it's ever enjoyed before.

Dragonladieshere and Beldak_Serpenthelm tell it like it is

We said SLAY the dragon, not LAY the dragon!

There is none of that, "Oh well if you're truly sorry, there's nothing I can do." horseshit. No, he coup de graces your ass because he's a goddamn paladin. His job is killing evil. You know what his job doesn't entail? Being a sympathetic ear for every whiny NE or CN or LE douchebag who's only being evil because the world is unfair to him or every punk that lets his own dislikes or laziness overcome his own personality. You know what unfair is? Being able to know what kind of person everyone is before you even talk to them. Smelling evil so potent on a motherfucker that you want to sink your fingers in his chest and pull that tar out until the screaming stops. Having the psychotic urge to murder people that you've never even met, for the sole reason that your God decided that you ought to be his right hand without your choice in the matter, that's unfair.

But unlike Evil McBlacknails over there, that Paladin puts on his helmet, sharpens his sword, and then continues walking through crowds of people day by day, resisting the urge. Seeing evidence of injustice so black it makes him sick. Seeing murderers and rapists walk the street, watching good men hang as evil ones pull the lever. Saving his righteous violence for when the situation exactly, specifically, precisely calls for it. Surgically removing that which is most evil. Because he's a Paladin. And if he gave in to the urge, what would he be? Who will right the true wrongs if not he? It's not about not falling as a Paladin. It's about falling so fucking hard you crash through the planet and stand up on the other side.'
 - Dragonladieshere

Some of the misconceptions that I am aware of some people having are: self-righteously throws fights by using the word "dirty" to refer to "realistic fighting", doesn't care about murderous tyrants as long as they gave themselves legal permission, believes that strategic retreats are always "cowardly", doesn't believe in letting the other people fight when "talking" would be more "right" in a "fighting" game."
Counter: A paladin’s code of honor is not about throwing fights; it’s about not starting them. If someone is as evil and dangerous as you think they are, then they will have no problem throwing the first blow, and if they do not do so, then perhaps they are not as dangerous as you think. How many have been killed in fights that they picked with somebody whom they FALSELY believed would’ve attacked them first, but who in fact had no intention of doing so until he himself was attacked and had to defend himself? And yet, how many people have killed in self-defense in the same circumstance, when they in fact could’ve simply incapacitated their attacker and learned that his only real crime was stupidity?
More importantly, a paladin learns to pick her battles, but BEFORE the battle actually starts. If you attack something that you know to be dangerous, and then run off without planning to finish the job, then you have put others in danger by angering the enemy you attacked and encouraging him to lash out. If you plan to help people by deposing a tyrant, and you don’t bother gathering enough allies to ensure that you actually defeat him when you engage him, then the tyrant needs to know that when – not if – he defeats you, his quarrel with you will be finished, and he needs not burn entire villages to the ground looking for where you fled to and who helped you. If he was not the kind of ruler who would do that after a half-assed assassination attempt, then you would not have needed to depose him in the first place, and thus, if you are stupid enough not to bring enough allies to ABSOLUTELY guarantee victory, then you would need him to know that you acted alone and never had a chance worth him getting worried about after you are dead.'
 - Beldak_Serpenthelm

For a player who understands what a paladin is like, see also Powder Keg of Justice.

Paladins in different editions of D&D

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Introduced in the Companons Set for Dungeons & Dragons, the Paladin in this iteration of D&D is a kind of proto-prestige class. A Fighter with a Lawful alignment who reaches 9th level can choose to swear fealty to a Lawful church to be inducted into their order. This causes them to gain certain abilities as if they were a Cleric of much lower level, namely casting clerical magic and turning undead, as well as an innate ability to detect evil. Their only restrictions are that they must obey their churchly superiors (unless commanded to do evil), and they must offer what assistance they can to non-evil people in need of help, unless already on a mission for a higher authority.

This same edition introduced the Avenger as the Chaotic counterpart to the Paladin, essential a proto-Blackguard.

AD&D 1st Edition

Lawful Good. If you fuck up at being Lawful Good, you're busted down to Fighter at the same level, and your church shuns you. The controversial Unearthed Arcana book adds the chance to play Paladin-Cavaliers, who are incredibly ridiculous in power level (can stay conscious and retreat at negative hit points, can boost Str, Con, Dex, and Cha a little bit each level up, immunity to fear, etc).

Only humans can become Paladins in this edition.

AD&D 2nd Edition

A sub-class of Warrior, 2e Paladins are notable primarily by their potential to use Holy Avenger swords, which inflict an additional +10 damage versus Chaotic Evil foes (which is a lot for 2e), and create a circle of power that is a selective antimagic field versus lower level magical effects (so all enemy buffs and enemy magic items created by a level 12 wizard power down when a level 13 paladin walks up). The Paladin's kits have their own brands of notoriety. Most notably, the Cavalier kit recreates about half of the abilities they used to have for a Paladin; in fact, the 3e Paladin actually takes its Fear Immunity trait from this kit, rather than the core AD&D Paladin. Meanwhile, the Inquisitor was probably pound-for-pound the best anti-mage fighter in the game, with a redonkulous amount of Dispel Magic spells per day so potent Monte Cook still has bitch-fits at the thought of adapting the Inquisitor to 3.X. A straight Paladin probably does not have a good chance of being worthwhile compared to a fighter if they cannot expect to find their holy sword, however.

As in 1e, Paladin is the most racially restricted class, only being open to humans, for the most part. However, certain other races were also able to become Paladins:

  • Rakasta could be Paladins in Basic, but in AD&D, only the Sibasta strain from Dragon #247 retained this trait.
  • Lupins could be Paladins in Basic, and the Maremma, Golden Retriever, Zvornikian Sentinel strains and "Mongrel" breeds from Dragon #237 were Paladin-capable for AD&D.
  • Saurials of the Finhead strain had a special "pseudo-paladin" fighter kit available to them, called the Saurial Paladin.
  • Aasimar could become straight-up paladins, as you'd expect given they are the children of angels.
  • Bariaur males could become paladins since their introduction in the Planescape campaign setting - surprisingly, given the race's association with the Chaotic side of the Upper Planes.
  • Earth Genasi, at the DM's discretion, could be paladins - ironically, they could reach 15th level, whilst the aasimar could only reach level 14!
  • Irda could be Paladins when they came out in AD&D.
  • Black Swanmays (Dragon #266) can be Paladins, Clerics or Crusaders, whilst the White Swanmays can only be Druids or Rangers.
  • Daergar, Hylar and Theiwar dwarves could be Paladins in the Dragonlance Monstrous Compendium.
  • Silvanesti elves could be Paladins in the Tales of the Lance boxed set and in the Dragonlance Monstrous Compendium.
  • Dargonesti and Dimernesti sea elves could be Paladins in the Dragonlance Monstrous Compendium.

3rd Edition

Lawful Good, with an explicit Code of Conduct, in exchange gains a number of immunities to various status effects, their famous ability to Smite Evil, and the service of an intelligent and useful mount. Splatbooks introduced various alternative-alignment variants. The first and most well-known is the Blackguard prestige class from the DMG, which could be any flavor of evil and could gain additional abilities for every level of Paladin that the player had prior to becoming a Blackguard. Later, Complete Divine introduced the Holy Liberator prestige class as a Chaotic Good version of a Paladin. There are also options to make the Paladin more cleric-like in Dungeonscape, or completely remove spells such as in Complete Warrior.

3rd Edition Paladins are tier 4: Good (but not amazing) at destroying evil creatures, competent at diplomacy and good at pretty much nothing else. They also suffer from a severe case of MAD, relying on Strength and Constitution to be decent in combat, and Wisdom and Charisma for spellcasting.

D20 Modern

Urban Arcana adds the (Un)Holy Knight prestige class which requires one have Good or Evil allegiance. As a prestige class, it's fairly late to qualify for (8 BAB in a system where full BAB is rare) but it packs the main Paladin abilities into five levels. Since it gives Divine Grace at first level, it's a good way to finish off a Sorcerer or Telepath build and is still solid for any combat brute.


Seelah, Pathfinder's Iconic Paladin/Champion

Pathfinder made a number of mechanical improvements (beefy ones, Pathfinder paladins are badass), but mostly left them alone conceptually. Now they cast spells off charisma rather than wisdom (and praise Sarenrae for that. One unusual consequence of this is that thanks to high natural will save and adding charisma to all saves, Paladins are now free to dump wisdom as low as it can go.), and their Smites, on top of granting better defensive and offensive bonuses, keep Smiting until they either Smite something else or the Smitee is dead. (Sure, it can theoretically run out in twenty-four hours, but almost nothing suffering from a Smite is going to live that long). The Code of Conduct was also softened a little to allow paladins to more easily be team players and not 100% stick-in-the-mud party cops. One problem, if you can call it that, is that the paladin is too specialized (even with Pathfinder's improvements he still won't break tier 4): If the DM keeps throwing evil outsiders or undead into the campaign as BBEGs a modestly-well-prepared paladin will be able tear through them like a holy-powered buzzsaw without a lot of effort, since he deals better "burst" damage than almost any of them and has great saves and immunity to shit like mummy rot, so he won't be afraid to charge in and rip and tear when another class would be adverse to taking risks around one. If the final boss keeps getting one-shotted by a well-timed Smite Evil litany of righteousness power attack/deadly aim combo, it may very well be time to invest in "moral complexity." (Read: throw some constructs or wild animals at him.). Despite this the Paladin still struggles to be worthwhile outside his niche. A major reason for this is that Paladins have only 2+int skill points per level, being the only player class in the system aside from Fighter to have only 2 skill points without getting at least 6th level spells. Their class list is at least much better than the Fighter’s, and they do have some spellcasting and healing for out of combat utility.

Thanks to their variety of class abilities that can be traded away, a Paladin has some of the most varied archetypes in the game, second only to Monk. These range from simple (Divine Hunter, which trades melee abilities for ranged ones) to "free planar ally and more casting" (Sacred Servant, which can shoot a Paladin up to tier 2 if they worship a deity that gives a good planar allies and tier 3 even if they give something lame like elementals).

Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Pathfinder Second Edition decided to drastically change the class, with the least of these being its name: Yes, the Paladin is now called the Champion. This along with the option for any good alignment (evil later featured in Advanced player's guide and neutral is TBD) rather than the explicit Always Lawful Good nonsense. The limited spellcasting has also been condensed into Focus Casting (meaning you have spells that you cast using limited points, but you recover them with a 10 minute rest). Smite has been removed and replaced with a counter-attack based on the Champion's specific alignment (Either a flat counter-attack while protecting an ally, force the enemy to choose between dealing no damage or dealing less damage and being weakened, or giving an ally a chance to break free of a restraining condition and escaping with protection. The evil versions spin on this by making it revenge whenever the champion takes damage, either forcing them to kneel lest they take mental damage, extra damage resistance or taking bonus damage that's reflected onto the enemy). Like the 1E Paladin, you also get a Divine Bond, though you also have the option to use it on a shield (to make it capable of absorbing more damage than normal) instead of a weapon or summoning a steed.

All in all, the Champion focuses on being a defender/striker (depending on alignment) and supporter type, with spells being a minor feature that's not quite as hamstringing thanks to how Focus Points and how some feats grant more of them (Especially when taking from a Cleric Domain) and how the class itself is practically divorced from needing any spellcasting stat.

4th Edition

In 4th Edition, the paladin must be the same alignment as their deity; no more Lawful Stupid out of fear of falling. The slightest deviation from one's alignment no longer results in a DM bitchslap and losing class features; instead, you get vague threats that the other faithful of the paladin's religion will seek you out to administer chastisement for your failings. You would think that since this removes one of the oldest mechanical complaints about the class, fans would be happy, but "Paladins must be Lawful Good!" is such a sacred cow that people were bitching over its loss even as they bemoan the Lawful Stupid Paladins and Orc Baby Dilemmas of old editions. Because of this beloved sacred cow, /tg/ likes to joke that this applies literally, making a meme out of 4e-paladins taking no falling damage.

As they were mechanically slotted to the role of Divine Defender, Paladin abilities are more focused on being a meat-shield than being a holy avenger; for more smite-evil action, you want the Avenger class from Player's Handbook 2. What this enabled, though, was the ability to focus your paladin into two different styles: either the full Str-meathead attacking tank pally and the Cha-based casting-and-curing paladin. Regardless of which path you picked, Paladins have two features by default: Divine Challenge (Your alignment-neutral Smite Evil that now forces an enemy to fight you or suffer damage that scaled by tier) and Channel Divinity (Your 1/fight special powers weren't part of your leveling scheme that you only get more of by getting feats). There is ultimately one way paladins can differentiate yourself, and it was only realized with the advent of the Divine Power splatbook:

  • Lay on Hands: That old staple that the PHB held onto. You spend one of your Healing Surges to heal an ally as if they spent it.
  • Ardent Vow: A damage-focused power that dealt extra damage the next time a paladin hit the designated enemy as well as designating them to the newly-made Divine Sanction (A challenge-lite that also hurt an enemy when they don't target a paladin but has far less restrictions on usage).
  • Virtue's Touch: Not quite as strong as Lay on Hands, but this allowed a paladin to cure various conditions they might run into.

The Essentials books later gave the Paladin two variant classes: The Cavalier (a very simplified paladin that pretty much exemplified the stereotypical "Essentials Class") and the Blackguard (A sort of bizarro-paladin that went more offensive and gained powers from their vices without becoming completely evil).

5th Edition

Mechanically speaking, 5th ed paladins have a few minor differences; their "detect evil" is now 1+Cha mod uses per day, and can no longer be used on the same turn as a smite because move actions no longer exist. Additionally, it has changed from detecting alignment to detecting Celestials, Fiends, and Undead, as well as if areas have been consecrated or desecrated, meaning that the paladin can now be caught by surprise by mundane evil (Which makes sense, since Alignment is now strictly for roleplaying purposes, and has little to no mechanical backing). Smiting now uses spell slots, with higher spell slots dealing more damage. They also get different types of Smite spells as they level up, with additional effects. And their "lay on hands" power taps into a reservoir of hitpoints-per-day that expands with each level, rather than healing for a fixed value a fixed number of times per day, and, taking a page from Pathfinder, removes diseases and poisons. This new setup sacrifices raw healing power for flexibility of use to let them fill in a different niche from, say, a Life domain Cleric.

Really got the shaft, like the other half-caster this edition, with "dead levels" where they literally gain nothing but hitpoints, proficiency, and a single spell slot, are heavily-reliant on a very limited resource pool that only ever recharges on a long rest, and generally suffer, like the bard of previous editions, from being not quite good enough at any one thing to outshine the specialists, but at least, unlike the ranger, they have some abilities that scale naturally with their level, and they get a better version of the ranger's third-level Nature Sense power at level one, that also doesn't eat a spell slot to use. And their animal companion is summoned via a re-castable spell rather than an archetype feature, so they don't have to spend their own actions getting the damn thing to move and attack.

However. The best Paladin in 5th edition is not actually a paladin, but a Hexblade, Sorcerer, or Bard with some levels of Paladin. Because spell failure is no longer a thing, a Paladin who soon multiclasses into a normally squishy arcane caster class will still be rocking heavy armor and a shield. To start with, a single level dip into Warlock lets the Paladin pick the Hexblade feature, making her melee attack and damage scale off of charisma rather than strength or dexterity. This has the tremendous benefit of making them highly single-attribute dependent as they literally cut people in half with their sexiness-boosted melee attacks. Levels of Bard and Sorcerer, apart from the obvious benefit of giving the Paladin access to powerful charisma-based arcane spells, increase their smiting ability much faster than actual Paladin levels... meaning a "Paladin" who has six levels in Paladin and eight in Sorcerer is going to be laying sown hugely damaging smites all day long. While giving the party huge boosts to saving throws. And they can use sorcery points to supercharge their spells while also having massive single-damage melee capability.

In 5th Edition, paladins no longer must adhere to any alignment (though the fluff still talks like they're all Lawful Good and are effective against fiends and undead regardless of alignment). However, when they reach 3rd level they swear their Paladin Oath, which gives him a code of conduct for him to follow. Also, since paladins have their codes of conduct clearly stated in the PH, rather than leaving it up to the nebulous personal decisions of a DM as to what actually constitutes "Lawful Good" and its required behavior, it's a lot harder for DMs to force a paladin to fall on grey area moralities. A paladin that breaks his oath must seek atonement and absolution. An unrepentant paladin, a paladin who abandons their quest for justice, or a paladin whose repeated oathbreaking demonstrates an unwillingness to follow their chosen path may become an Oathbreaker (see Blackguard).

If you want to add more complexity to the Paladin Oath, maybe because you want to push it more towards the flavor of the elder editions, the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide gives an example of "general oaths" for Paladins. No mechanical crunch is enforced, so you don't have to uphold everything, but they offer great examples for more ways of fleshing out paladins in your setting, with tenets like "be honest and keep promises" or "be generous and tolerant".

There are three oaths in the corebook: the Oaths of Devotion, the Ancients, and Vengeance, each of which requires behaving a specific way and which gives specific powers.

  • Oath of Devotion is the closest to the iconic Paladin archetype. This Oath requires you uphold the principles of Honesty (don't lie or cheat, let your word be your promise), Courage ("Never fear to act, though caution is wise" in the book proper, which basically means "don't be a coward, but don't be Leeroy Jenkinsing dat shit either"), Compassion (Aid others, protect the weak and punish those who threaten them, show mercy to your foes but temper mercy with wisdom), Honor (treat others fairly, do as much good as possible with as little harm as possible, be an example to others) and Duty (be responsible for your actions and their consequences, protect those entrusted to your care, obey those who have just authority over you, so you don't have to obey the local tyrant because s/he is technically the ruler now).
In exchange for all that, you get iconic Paladin type spells like protection from evil, lesser restoration, beacon of hope, etc, the Sacred Weapon (you can charge up a weapon to become a glowing magical weapon) and Turn the Unholy (make undead and fiends flee from you) uses of Channel Divinity, the Aura of Devotion feature (immunity to charm and give this to close-by allies), the Purity of Spirit feature (constant Protection From Evil on self) and the Holy Nimbus (create an aura of radiant damage-dealing, fiend & undead spell-weakening light once per day).
  • Oath of the Ancients is a bit of an oddity, and possibly owes its origins to the Warden of 4th edition. Basically, this is a paladin who sides with the light due to their appreciation for beautiful, life-giving things of the world, making them allies of more benevolent druids, wilderness fae like dryads and nature deities, in theory. In reality, this is a class people take because it has by the far the best defensive aura in the game, halving the damage from all spells taken by allies in their aura. Between passively boosting saves and passively cutting incoming spell damage in half, Ancients Paladins are one of the most potent anti-magic classes in the game. An Ancients Paladin with levels in Bard for counterspell purposes will make your DM cry any time he tries to throw casters at your party.
They're frankly kind of hippyish, with the tenets of "Kindle the Light" (promote hope in others with mercy, kindness and forgiveness), "Shelter the Light" (protect beauty, love, good and laughter), "Preserve Your Own Light" (try to avoid turning into a bitter cuss) and "Be the Light" (serve as an example of why hope and joy are important to believe in).
If you take this Oath, you get druidic spells like ensnaring strike, speak with animals, moonbeam and tree stride. Your Channel Divinity can be used to create entangling vines with Nature's Wrath, or to Turn the Faithless and so repel fiends and fey. Your Aura of Warding grants you and nearby allies resistance to damaging spells. Undying Sentinel lets you cheat death once per day and makes you immune to aging. Finally, the Elder Champion is a nature spirit-like form you can assume once per day for a number of benefits, including regeneration and more potent paladin spells.
  • Oath of Vengeance is similar to the Grey Guard of 3rd edition, and probably best fits characterization like Batman or Judge Dredd. It's all about punishing the wicked and the sanctity of vengeance. Of course, you don't have to portray this guy as a total asshole - in fact, the 3rd edition Greyhawk Knights of the Chase are pretty applicable examples for a Vengeance Paladin.
The tenets of this creed are "Fight the Greater Evil" (basically, measure the evil you see vs. the evil your sworn enemy would do; if the guy you really have a hate-on for is less of a threat, then focus on stopping this douchebag first, otherwise focus on your sworn enemy), "No Mercy for the Wicked" (you can spare lesser foes, but sworn enemies need to die or otherwise be punished), "By Any Means Necessary", and "Restitution" (it's your fault that your enemies hurt people, so you have the responsibility of helping those that they hurt).
A Vengeance Paladin's spells, as you might expect, focus on impeding the ability of enemies to escape and enhancing the paladin's ability to go after them - hold person, dimension door, scrying, etc. They can Channel Divinity to Abjure Enemy (frighten an enemy so bad they can't move) or declare a Vow of Enmity (make it easier to kick that creature's ass), gain the Relentless Avenger feature (free move if you score an attack of opportunity), gain the Soul of Vengeance feature (Vow of Enmity lets you get free attacks if the target tries attacking), and culminate with the Avenging Angel feature (transform into an angelic form once per day).
  • Oath of the Crown essentially more fully embraces the knight archetype of the Paladin's history, with the paladin's devotion being given specifically to society and the laws that built it up from the wilderness. You could alternatively flavor it as a hyper-patriotic (or nationalistic, depending on alignment) character like Stephen Colbert in the picture up top.
This is a breed of paladin that focuses more on Law than on Good, with its tenets being Law (respect the law and hold it paramount), Loyalty (your word is your bond), Courage (do what needs to be done for the sake of order, no matter the odds) and Responsibility (the shit you do is all on you, so keep that in mind - also, you have duties & obligations, so you better damn will fill them). This means that Crown Paladins are the most likely archetype to fall back into the Lawful Stupid behavior feared and condemned of old, but they can also be sources of old-school Lawful douchebag character themes (i.e. "you lie, cheat and steal; you are scum and I must punish you!") and arrogant prick character themes (e.g. hating druids, barbarians, and nature clerics for being primitives that don't appreciate the value of civilization).
Because the Crown Paladin's focus is on the sanctity of law and society, with the specific ideology that the paladin is an Agent of Authority, their spells all fit into that theme, from the likes of zone of truth to outright mind-control spells like command and geas. They can use their Channel Divinity to issue a Champion Challenge (compel a creature to try and fight you) or to Turn the Tide (mass heal for allies). Divine Allegiance lets them soak up hits for nearby allies, Unyielding Spirit makes them harder to paralyze or stun, and their Exalted Champion feature means that, for an hour once per day, they can gain damage resistance vs. mundane weapons and grant advantage on death saving throws and Wisdom saving throws to themselves and allies.
A comment on using Crown Paladins in homemade worlds in the back of the SCAG admits their magical powers don't quite mesh with the knightly archetype, but notes they make excellent examples of theocratic knightly orders - or even mystic ones, if one simply changes their flavor from "divine" to "arcane".
  • Oath of Conquest is at best a fairly Lawful Stupid themed Oath and at worst goes all the way to Lawful Evil levels of tyranny; it dictates that its adherents should Douse The Flame Of Hope (use fear to intimidate defeated foes so badly they will never dare oppose you again), Rule With An Iron Fist (brook no dissent from those you have conquered) and to hold Strength Above All (what goes around comes around; if you can't beat someone, then either get stronger or be crushed in turn- there's no place for weakness in this Oath).
Because Conquest Paladins are often allied to arch-devils, their bonus spells have a fairly Warlockish feel to them, with spells like Armor of Agathys, Hold Person and Bestow Curse. Their Channel Divinity can be used to deliver a Conquering Strike (inflict fear with your weapon attack) or Guided Strike (big bonus to your To Hit roll), they exude an Aura of Conquest (disadvantage on saves vs. fear) at 7th level, they gain immunity to charming from their Implacable Spirit at 15th level, and at 20th level they become the Invincible Conqueror. This lets them buff themselves up for 1 minute once per day, during which time they Resist all damage, gain a bonus attack each turn, and deal critical hits on a 19-20 when making melee attacks.
  • Oath of Redemption, in stark contrast to the Oath of Conquest, is an oath dedicated to personal redemption for past misdeeds, using combat as a last resort. Of course, some morons might see this as an excuse to be That Guy and try to not help their allies in combat. However, the subclass is very good for support. They have shielding abilities and have an emphasis on rebuking those who attack first.
  • Oath of Glory, first printed in Mythic Odysseys of Theros and later reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, focuses on emulating legendary semi-divine heroes, such as Gilgamesh, Hercules, and Achilles. Its tenants are Actions Over Words (gain renown by actually doing awesome things, not just boasting), Challenges Are But Tests (don't get discouraged by hardship), Hone the Body (be swole), and Discipline the Soul (work to overcome your flaws).
Oath of Glory paladins get spells related to buffing themselves and others, like Heroism, Enhance Ability, and Haste, with a few 'ask the gods for help' spells thrown in. Their Channel Divinity can make them a Peerless Athlete (you're extra swole for a while) or deliver an Inspiring Smite (heals allies after you hit an enemy really hard). At 7th level, they gain an Aura of Alacrity, which increases the speed of anyone in its area of effect. At 15th level, they can mount a Glorious Defense, which makes an enemy attack more likely to miss, and allows the paladin to counter-attack if that happens. At level 20, they become a Living Legend, allowing them to draw upon the stories told about them to buff themselves, granting them boosts to charisma checks and saving throws, plus allowing them to hit an attack they would have missed.
  • Oath of the Watchers is Men In Black Paladin or maybe HFY Paladin sworn to protect mortal realm from extraplanar beings - this includes the obvious culprits like fiends, aberrations, genies, slaadi and elementals, as well as less malicious types, such as fey and celestials. Because they're dicks to mortals too, using us as pawns in their games. Their oath requires them to be vigilant to the point of paranoia and beyond and put the interest of mortals above all.
Watchers get a set of spells best suited for locating, protecting from and BTFOing outsiders back to their planes, can turn all kinds of extrapanar creatures like priests turn undead, or give their allies advantages for most common saving throws used by outsiders. Their aura gives bonus initiative which is always nice, they can retaliate with force damage when someone casts spells around them and as a capstone get to channel the power of HFY to get truesight, advantage on attacks against outsiders, banishing them on a successful hit.

Also, got several new fighting styles with the new Expanded Class Features UA, namely a sweet new fighting style to let them poach two cleric cantrips for a ranged combat option and some extra utility, as well as the fighting styles everyone else got, namely 1)Blind fighting, which lets you effectively fight a creature you can't see as long as it's not hidden from you; 2)Interception, which works like the protection fighting style except that it a] reduces damage by 1d10 plus your proficiency bonus instead of imposing disadvantage, and b] works with either a shield or a weapon instead of just a shield; 3)Thrown weapon fighting, which lets you draw a thrown weapon as part of the attack you make with the weapon, and grants you a +1 to the damage roll; and 4)unarmed fighting, which changes your fists to 1d6 plus strength (1d8 if both your hands are free) instead of the flat 1 plus strength, although it isn't clear if divine smite even works on your fists it has been stated that RAI you can't smite enemies using your fists; RAW however smite merely requires you to make a attack in melee with something other than spells so it works.

How to play a Paladin that won't get lynched by the party

As mentioned above, the Paladin has a reputation for strict "moral conduct" requirements, and at worst can range from insufferable to unplayable in a party. Now, assuming that you care about roleplaying and aren't just doing whatever you want to the point that their codes are meaningless or reskinning your oaths so much that they're unrecognizable, how would one play a Paladin that isn't so pants-on-head stupid that they're despised? These ideas might help:

General tips

  • As you read through this section, you'll notice a common trend among the tips that boils down to this: Be an example of This Guy, not That Guy. Remember to care about others, avoid putting a Law or Code over individuals, and the rest starts to take shape. But we'll try and keep the focus more on roleplaying and fluff, not social skills.
  • Remember that you're playing a character, not a label. They can have diverse feelings and nuanced or evolving views even if they strive to uphold their codes. Heck, figuring out what their faith means to them and discussing it with others can be good roleplaying opportunities.
  • Define what "Lawful Good" means to your character. There's a difference between "help the community and keep it safe" and "we must commit ourselves to the cosmic struggle, and if you don't you're a filthy heathen"; both could be Lawful Good, but one plays with others a lot more easily.
  • Work out your Paladin's personality with your DM and group so that you're all on the same page. That way, even if they butt heads, it'll hopefully play out more like an expected scene of conflict instead of a plot-derailing argument.
    • The "Teammate Nobody Likes" or being the resident naysayer can be an acceptable trope...if it's mostly agreed-upon. Your personality doesn't have to be likable; it just has to be something your group likes to play with. Does your group love 40k and instantly recognizes the appeal of the Space Marines? Congratulations, you can now play an Imperial Fist, with all the toughness and social skills of the brick walls they build.
  • Don't make your Paladin in a vacuum. Be somewhat aware of the setting or the party so that you're not just throwing in a Lawful Good character that doesn't fit.
  • Your Paladin's origins can help justify playing them as someone with sensible morality or moral sensibility. D&D, or at least 5E, generally assumes that you've been training on this path for awhile now, and while Edgelords might consider that grounds for religious indoctrination, it's just as viable to say that gave you a well-rounded education. Think of it like someone who actually made the most of their college years to grow as a person.
  • Conversely, you got your powers out of the blue with no preparation whatsoever, so you're free from the expectations and mindsets attached to Paladins. Think of it as someone who's just starting college, free of preconceptions.
  • We may talk shit about bad DMing and stupid roleplaying, but it's important to remember: in most circumstances, a Lawful Good character shouldn't have problems integrating with the world as someone who keeps their word and cares about others. Unless you're in a campaign which is deliberately made to be morally ambiguous or grimdark beyond hope or heroism, and so long as you're not playing your Paladin as a sanctimonious twit, your character should be just as capable of earning and giving loyalty and friendship.


  • If you're allowed to serve ANY god or come from ANY culture, you could serve a deity with values that aren't the stereotypical "LAW AND JUSTICE" fodder. For example, you could pick a more chill deity of the harvest and say "According to my god, it is Good and Lawful to help the land to flourish", or you are being Lawful by following such Neutral Good tenets. Though of course, be careful that you don't use it as a loophole for disruptive behavior like "I serve a trickster god, so it's Lawful and Good for me to be a self-serving kleptomaniac".

In 4e

Some might say that being a paladin in 4e is easy mode in regards this issue, since 4e paladins don't have to stay true to a generic alignment, but instead must uphold and obey the tenets of a patron deity. That said, this isn't entirely a free lunch. For starters, you probably shouldn't want to play a paladin devoted to an Evil or Chaotic Evil deity - though there are two notable exceptions, in the form of Bane and Vecna. Secondly, remember that you're playing a paladin; your theological role is more the protection of the church and the faithful, by force if necessary. If you really want to focus on the "smite the heathen, burn the heretic" approach to faith, you're honestly more suited by temperament to the Avenger class... not that Avengers don't have similar issues to paladins, but still.


  • Luck favors the bold. Take your fate into your own hands, and Avandra smiles upon you.
  • Strike back against those who would rob you of your freedom and urge others to fight for their own liberty.
  • Change is inevitable, but it takes the work of the faithful to ensure that change is for the better.

Normally 'freedom' is hard to get wrong, but care should still be taken so that you don't come across as a lulzy troll or edgy freedom fighter:

  • You're opposed to the BBEG who, more than likely, wants to conquer, enslave, and tell people what to do.
  • Your style of freedom is comparatively "hands off"; you merely defend it by fighting off tyrants and let people decide what to do.
  • Your tenets generally help avoid sanctimonious preaching, but be careful not to turn it into a tract against "The Man".


  • Uphold the highest ideals of honor and justice.
  • Be constantly vigilant against evil and oppose it on all fronts.
  • Protect the weak, liberate the oppressed, and defend just order.

The Platinum Dragon is one of the main vanilla choices for Paladins, and for good reason. So it's important to be wary of the classic pitfalls, too:

  • However you do it, don't fixate on PURE LAW or JUSTICE AGAINST EVIL to the exclusion of individuals.
  • Your take on your faith uses the third tenet to humanize the first two.
  • You are a fresh initiate whose formative experiences involve your community and church.
  • Conversely, you are a veteran whose firsthand experience lets you view conflict warily while appreciating what you defend.
  • Bahamut may feel strongly about upholding justice, but for a dragon god, he's pretty chill and doesn't really have a huge ego. If your church is aware of this personality, it could be a good foundation for playing your Paladin as an actually tolerable person.


  • Cultivate beauty in all that you do, whether you’re casting a spell, composing a saga, strumming a lute, or practicing the arts of war.
  • Seek out lost magic items, forgotten rituals, and ancient works of art. Corellon might have inspired them in the world’s first days.
  • Thwart the followers of Lolth at every opportunity

While Corellon may be one of the most mercurial "Good" pantheon heads each edition, it helps that aspects of his tenets can be taken as a proto-Oath of the Ancients:

  • Appreciating beauty and perfection may be inoffensive (usually), but you can frame it as you value what these things do for people rather than frivolously wanting to be 2 sxy 5 u.
  • Opposing Lolth is usually a no-brainer, but how you approach that can be more nuanced based on the plot and party. It could be a personal grudge, stoic vigilance against past evil, or even an ingrained prejudice you learn to overcome.

If you want an extra challenge as a Corellon worshipper, you could play your paladin using the rules for "elfpriests" from Dragon Magazine #394. These are the elf and eladrin-specific tenets, focusing on Corellon's identity as the patron deity of those races, and are meant to be followed alongside the core tenets above:

  • Safeguard the elves and their holdings. Elvenkind is your paramount concern.
  • Seek out and recover lost elven relics, for other races cannot be trusted with their safety.
  • Be vigilant against the Spider Queen. Her lies and treachery promote ugliness and corruption.
  • Wage war eternal against the banished darkness. The drow are your greatest foes.
  • Suffer not the orc to live.

Some of these are more hardline tenets, admittedly, and dependent on what sort of cultures your campaign has. And in case the world isn't totally fine with those (e.g. orcs aren't just innately violent brutes to kill):

  • Being "elves first" doesn't mean hating other races. You could view them as trusted allies or beloved students...
  • ...or make it a character trait that evolves with the campaign.


  • Work with others to achieve your goals. Community and order are always stronger than the disjointed efforts of lone individuals.
  • Tame the wilderness to make it fit for habitation, and defend the light of civilization against the encroaching darkness.
  • Seek out new ideas, new inventions, new lands to inhabit, new wilderness to conquer. Build machines, build cities, build empires.

A more benign and progressive precursor of the Oath of the Crown:

  • Your focus is on the small picture of community which makes the big picture of civilization, so you understand the value of individuals (or groups of them, at least).
  • Your first and third tenets leave you more open to new ideas and viewpoints.
  • You pursue your second tenet in moderation: You will harvest and tame the wilds for civilization, but understand the importance of responsibly managing natural resources.


  • Seek the perfection of your mind by bringing reason, perception, and emotion into balance with one another.
  • Accumulate, preserve, and distribute knowledge in all forms. Pursue education, build libraries, and seek out lost and ancient lore.
  • Be watchful at all times for the followers of Vecna, who seek to control knowledge and keep secrets. Oppose their schemes, unmask their secrets, and blind them with the light of truth and reason.

I think, therefore Ioun. Now that we have your attention:

  • Being a servant of knowledge, you've learned enough about how not to be a douche to others.
  • Your emphasis on self-knowledge means you have the humility and self-awareness to be at least tolerable.
  • Your second tenet reinforces the importance of playing well with others to you. If nobody wants to deal with you, how are you going to share knowledge?
  • As an extra note: Be careful not to be TOO zealous in unearthing secrets best left forgotten. More on that down below with Vecna...


  • Be strong, but do not use your strength for wanton destruction.
  • Be brave and scorn cowardice in any form.
  • Prove your might in battle to win glory and renown.

The god of swoleness can work out as the forefather of the Oath of Glory:

  • As you gained strength, learned from the stronger, and taught the weaker, you grew aware that with great power, there must also come great responsibility.
  • Your goal isn't to lord over others, but raise them to your level of awesomeness.
  • You're focused on SELF-improvement and have no need to preach at others. Not very interactive, but still an option.
  • You could basically just play Grimlock from Transformers: You think Might Makes Right, but equally, Might Should Be Used For Right. So while you think it's bad to be weak, you also think it's even worse to use your strength against the helpless (either because it's wrong, or because they are hardly a challenge). You could even think it's good to lead by example and fight beside the weak!


  • Protect the wild places of the world from destruction and overuse. Oppose the rampant spread of cities and empires.
  • Hunt aberrant monsters and other abominations of nature.
  • Do not fear or condemn the savagery of nature. Live in harmony with the wild.

Nature's a real mother. Here's how you can make that work:

  • Your outlook is of the more benign flavor of Druid: You're willing to live and let live, unless the balance is threatened. For extra fantasy points, you could model it after the Ents.
  • The BBEG represents a very obvious threat against the environment.
  • You are working with these city dwellers on the condition that they represent the interests of nature in return.


  • Meet adversity with stoicism and tenacity.
  • Demonstrate loyalty to your family, your clan, your leaders, and your people.
  • Strive to make a mark on the world, a lasting legacy. To make something that lasts is the highest good, whether you are a smith working at a forge or a ruler building a dynasty.

While he might be stern and mostly for dwarves, Moradin's a lot more consistent than Corellon:

  • Your tenacity isn't contempt for the weak, but care for them.
  • Your loyalty to community isn't blindly given; you know exactly what it takes to forge strong bonds, and act accordingly.
  • Your focus on making something that lasts is more of a personal goal than an excuse to look down on umgak efforts.
  • Moradin's been known to cooperate with other good deities, so you have a potential "in" there.


  • Alleviate suffering wherever you find it.
  • Bring Pelor’s light into places of darkness, showing kindness, mercy, and compassion.
  • Be watchful against evil.

Alongside Bahamut, a good vanilla choice for aspiring Paladins, though emphasizing kindness over justice:

  • Your tenets have a lot more built-in kindness, so find the degree and style which best fits. Pelor makes it easy to just straight up be nice, but tread carefully so that you're not (or are not seen as) a kinder-than-thou-goody-two-shoes who wants to show up others.
  • Your sense of mercy is tempered by the knowledge that there IS evil out there that has to be guarded against, so you're not Stupid Good.
  • Your vigil against the dark things of evil leaves you more wary and savvy than the stereotypical Paladin.

Raven Queen:

  • Hold no pity for those who suffer and die, for death is the natural end of life.
  • Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate. As the instrument of the Raven Queen, you must punish hubris where you find it.
  • Watch for the cults of Orcus and stamp them out whenever they arise. The Demon Prince of the Undead seeks to claim the Raven Queen’s throne.

While initially creepy, D&D veterans will likely appreciate gods of "natural death" like the Raven Queen:

  • Your calling gives you an appreciation for life and humanity. You're a little morbid in how you consider it "natural" and "not to be pitied", but you're not some unfeeling person who treats it merely as a biological fact.
  • Your punishing of hubris isn't because you're a zealous avenger, but because you've seen the sobering cost of undead abominations.
  • Fighting Orcus is a pretty good hook for the plot. Just don't go overboard with it and go full Leeroy Jenkins crusader.


  • Follow your goals and seek your own destiny.
  • Keep to the shadows, avoiding the blazing light of zealous good and the utter darkness of evil.
  • Seek new horizons and new experiences, and let nothing tie you down.

Corellon's moon waifu is definitely easier to work with than her amorphous hubby:

  • Sehanine's tenets give you a lot of fertile ground to be your own person. They can also easily go into Stupid Self-Absorbed Snowflake territory.
  • The second tenet might sound like Stupid Neutral bait, but you can humanize it fairly easily by caring for "those caught in-between". Or, simply by having more sense than Mordenkainen, recognizing that Evil tends to be WAY more invasive than Good.
  • The third tenet, by contrast, baits Chaotic Stupid if you play it as a STRONG, INDEPENDENT PALADIN WHO DON'T NEED NO PARTY or as some ADHD-addled reprobate. Having a proper personality and connections helps, but you can make this tenet work for you by taking it as "making sure to fully experience something"...including whatever the campaign has to offer.
  • Of course, an easy way to approach these "Neutral-Liberal" ideals is to take an approach similar to Avandra above.

Bane: Achra, the God of War and Conquest, might seem like an odd choice to play a paladin for, but there's a bit more nuance to him than to his Forgotten Realms namesake. As early as Dragon Magazine #372, 4e pointed out that there are perfectly logical reasons for non-warmongers to worship him; Bane is also the god of discipline, order, the rule of law, and the triumph of civilization over the wilderness... and considering that most of the standard &D setting (the Nentir Vale especially) is a monster-haunted wilderness hellhole... yeah, you can see why people might want him on their team.

In the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide, Bane's tenets are given thus:

  • Never allow your fear to gain mastery over you, but drive it into the hearts of your foes.
  • Punish insubordination and disorder.
  • Hone your combat skills to perfection, whether you are a mighty general or a lone mercenary.

The aforementioned Deities & Demigods article presents alternative interpretations, and a fundamental message for each of these in turn:

  • Fear is a two-edged sword.
  • Order is sacrosanct.
  • Without strength, there is no victory.

So with these tenets of the Oath of Conquest before the Oath of Conquest in mind, here's how you can make the Big Guy work...for you:

  • If the setting, like 4E, acknowledges that cities and Goodly folk pray to him for victory and to hold the line, then it won't be too big a leap to be a worshiper of Bane. Especially if that's established in your DM's setting.
  • His more civilized, disciplined aspects go a long way to giving you a framework: You strive to be a disciplined person who defends civilization, and you can personalize how you view those qualities.
  • You could interpret your worship of Bane as the more metal version of Kord worship, emphasizing self-improvement with the caveat that you're not just competing against yourself, but your enemies.
  • You fully buy into his domineering aspect...against your foes, because you cherish what is behind you.
  • Chain of command and unit cohesion, baby. You may be a hardass, but you have a military understanding of the importance of working WITH the party, not against them.

Vecna: You'd think that the god of necromancers, undead and black magic as a whole would be the last choice to play a paladin of without getting short shrift from the rest of the party. And normally you'd be right. But there's two things giving Vecna an almost Bane-like level of potential playability. Firstly, Vecna is a subtle god, so you're supposed to be keeping your true faith under wraps in the first place. Secondly, Vecna is also the god of secrets, which means there are sects of his dedicated to the idea that there is shit in the world that man was not meant to know, and to making sure that they don't get the chance. In particular, there's the sect known as the Keepers of the Forbidden Lore, who worship Vecna as the god of secrecy and forbidden knowledge by rounding up the darkest, nastiest lore they can find and making sure it stays buried forever. Truenames of fiends, rituals to open rifts to the Far Realms, magics of mass destruction, the Keeper's job is to find this stuff and bury it good and deep.

The DMG offers these as Vecna's commandments:

  • Never reveal all you know.
  • Find the seed of darkness in your heart and nourish it; find it in others and exploit it to your advantage.
  • Oppose the followers of all other deities so that Vecna alone can rule the world.

If you're sticking with Vanilla Vecna's evil edicts, you can go about it carefully:

  • Don't be Stupid Evil. Stupid Evil exposes you, turns your party against you, and makes Bone Daddy facepalm.
  • Play the long game subtly. You might be trying to get your allies to let the hate flow through them, but you're also trying to do it without getting caught, and with more grace than a DM spawning a single surviving orc baby after your massacre.
  • What's that? The BBEG is serving the interests of another deity? Sweet! I, too, oppose hostile deities!

His Channel Divinity in Dragon Magazine #395, which talks about playing a Vecna worshipper without being evil, instead presents his fundamental tenets thus:

  • Follow the Subtle Path: Enemies abound. Ostentatious displays invite their attention. Reveal nothing about yourself and never offer more information than is required. Hold back all that you can because secret knowledge gives you power over others. Vecna knows your spirit, so never risk yourself or your gains by revealing your devotion to nonbelievers.
  • Nurture the Seed of Darkness: Search your heart, your mind, and your body for darkness and surrender to its power. Let the shadow consume you, fill you with its perfect darkness, and guide your actions in the world. Those who shine brightest cast the darkest shadows. Corruption’s potential is your greatest ally. Locate darkness’s seed in those around you. Nurture it until the evil flourishes. Once your subject is in its throes, he or she will be powerless to resist you and become your obedient thrall.
  • Reject All Gods but Vecna: The Maimed God is the one true god of all gods. All others are lesser godlings, sycophants, and pretenders. They win mortal affection through trickery and fraud. Reject them and go forth confident in Vecna’s favor. Scorn the priests who prostrate at the altars to the false gods. Trust them not because they covet the blessings Vecna bestows on you. Oppose their efforts lest they steal from you what you have earned.

So assuming that, like Citizen Bane, you're taking the non-evil route, here's how you can make it work:

  • You treat Vecna's tenets as personal guides for self-improvement, wanting to master yourself rather than others...though admittedly, even the "non-evil" tenets imply you should try getting power over others.
  • You're similar to the Oath of the Watchers, maybe part of the aforementioned Keepers of the Forbidden Lore. Your driving motive, maybe even your plot hook into the campaign, is to keep the world safe from terrible knowledge nobody should remember.
  • Despite everything Vecna teaches, you're still a person, and you want what's best for those you care about. You want to master yourself to better help them, and you want to bring out their potential...even if you end up sounding more like Ayn Rand or Nietzsche than Confucius.

In 5E

While 5E is a lot more liberal with how players and DMs can interpret the strictness of their codes, some tips and ideas might be useful for the unique angles of each subclass.

Oath of Devotion

  • Honesty: Don't lie or cheat. Let your word be your promise.
  • Courage: Never fear to act, though caution is wise.
  • Compassion: Aid others, protect the weak, and punish those who threaten them. Show mercy to your foes, but temper it with wisdom.
  • Honor: Treat others with fairness, and let your honorable deeds be an example to them. Do as much good as possible while causing the least amount of harm.
  • Duty: Be responsible for your actions and their consequences, protect those entrusted to your care, and obey those who have just authority over you.

Closest to your typical Lawful Good types, what worked in earlier editions will probably work here.

  • You are serving a brand of Lawful Good that is a lot more benign. More "build schools and hospitals, hold fair elections", and less "WE MUST ROOT OUT ALL IMPURITY".
  • As mentioned earlier: You now have built-in reminders to avoid being Lawful Stupid or Stupid Good. These give you some in-universe fodder to avoid the rigidness of old, and you can raise them in case someone thinks it's "not in-character" for your Paladin to actually use their brain.

Oath of the Ancients

  • Kindle the Light: Through your acts of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness, kindle the light of hope in the world, beating back despair.
  • Shelter the Light: Where there is good, beauty, love, and laughter in the world, stand against the wickedness that would swallow it. Where life flourishes, stand against the forces that would render it barren.
  • Preserve Your Own Light: Delight in song and laughter, in beauty and art. If you allow the light to die in your own heart, you can't preserve it in the world.
  • Be the Light: Be a glorious beacon for all who live in despair. Let the light of your joy and courage shine forth in all your deeds.

Probably one of the most easygoing oaths this edition with plenty of room for interpretation.

  • If you're going hard on their artistic, joyous side, then just have basic situational awareness so that you aren't ruining moments.
  • You kindle the light in others not by being an in-your-face cheer elemental, but a supportive presence.
  • Decide whether you best represent the light through a flamboyant or humble example; some situations value a glam-rock glitterbomb spectacle, others would prefer to see the substance of your deeds over their style.

Oath of Vengeance

  • Fight the Greater Evil: Faced with a choice of fighting my sworn foes or combating a lesser evil, I choose the greater evil.
  • No Mercy for the Wicked: Ordinary foes might win my mercy, but my sworn enemies do not.
  • By Any Means Necessary: My qualms can't get in the way of exterminating my foes.
  • Restitution: If my foes wreak ruin on the world, it is because I failed to stop them. I must help those harmed by their misdeeds.

The Oath of Vengeance may seem like edgelord fodder, but it has some built-in safeguards so that your Paladin is aware of collateral damage and remembers to help people.

  • A useful rule of thumb is to play them like a well-written Batman, who actually cares about people and is introspective about the cost and sustainability of vengeance.
  • You still believe in bringing retribution to the wicked, but you have a life outside of it.
  • You've actually achieved your vengeance. Now you're either wondering what to do next, or looking to help other victims/bring other monsters to justice.
  • Ironically, the "by any means necessary" part of their code means the rules actually support you being a team player and going with the party's methods.

Oath of the Crown

  • Law: The law is paramount. It is the mortar that holds the stones of civilization together, and it must be respected.
  • Loyalty: Your word is your bond. Without loyalty, oaths and laws are meaningless.
  • Courage: You must be willing to do what needs to be done for the sake of order, even in the face of overwhelming odds. If you don't act, then who will?
  • Responsibility: You must deal with the consequences of your actions, and you are responsible for fulfilling your duties and obligations.

Hews closer to Lawful Stupid territory, but political pragmatism can help you out here.

  • You (or perhaps your whole party) are serving and cooperating at the behest of your government.
  • Your government/order/agency gives you a lot of...operational flexibility.
  • You and your oath only care about law and order in YOUR nation. Which can make you That Guy if you're not careful, but hey, it's a tip.
  • Conversely, you care about law and order EVERYWHERE, and are surprisingly bro-tier in that you'd help keep it together everywhere, not just your home.
  • You understand that good laws are made to bring about a good society, so you have some appreciation for the people under those laws. If nothing else, they can be a litmus test for the effectiveness of the laws.

Oath of Conquest

  • Douse the Flame of Hope: It is not enough to merely defeat an enemy in battle. Your victory must be so overwhelming that your enemies’ will to fight is shattered forever. A blade can end a life. Fear can end an empire.
  • Rule with an Iron Fist: Once you have conquered, tolerate no dissent. Your word is law. Those who obey it shall be favored. Those who defy it shall be punished as an example to all who might follow.
  • Strength Above All: You shall rule until a stronger one arises. Then you must grow mightier and meet the challenge, or fall to your own ruin.

Assuming you're not just in a flat-out evil campaign, Conquest is tricky but not impossible.

  • Your god/order is aiming you at the BBEG in an 'Evil vs. Evil' situation.
  • You're actually serving the side of good...by crushing evil thoroughly. Side of angels, but not one of them.

Oath of Redemption

  • Peace: Violence is a weapon of last resort. Diplomacy and understanding are the paths to long-lasting peace.
  • Innocence: All people begin life in an innocent state, and it is their environment or the influence of dark forces that drives them to evil. By setting the proper example, and working to heal the wounds of a deeply flawed world, you can set anyone on a righteous path.
  • Patience: Change takes time. Those who have walked the path of the wicked must be given reminders to keep them honest and true. Once you have planted the seed of righteousness in a creature, you must work day after day to allow it to survive and then flourish.
  • Wisdom: Your heart and mind must stay clear, for eventually you will be forced to admit defeat. While every creature can be redeemed, some are so far along the path of evil that you have no choice but to end their lives for the greater good. Any such action must be carefully weighed and the consequences fully understood, but once you have made the decision, follow through with it knowing your path is just.

In contrast to the others, this one might hearken back to Stupid Good.

  • It's in-character to give most mortal beings a shot at redemption, but remember that you can still use your judgement (or at least an Insight check) to see if they're being sincere so that you're not wasting your (and everyone's) time with Starscream's 72nd bluff.
  • Your interpretation of your oath is more along the lines of "remove their ability to do harm, THEN redeem them", so you find self-defense and neutralizing threats acceptable.
  • Even the write-up for your code gives you room to acknowledge "Yeah, you're too far gone, I have to take you out". Though if you make that choice too often, you're likely to be ignoring the spirit of your oath just to exploit the letter of it.

Oath of Glory

  • Actions over Words: Strive to be known by glorious deeds, not words.
  • Challenges Are but Tests: Face hardships with courage, and encourage your allies to face them with you.
  • Hone the Body: Like raw stone, your body must be worked so its potential can be realized.
  • Discipline the Soul: You must marshal the discipline to overcome failings within yourself that threaten to dim the glory of you and your friends.

As written, your oath mostly focuses on being the best you in mind, body and deed, so you're less likely to be the moral police. You might, however, be Leeroy Jenkins.

  • It's in-character to accept any challenge/quest/plot hook, but remember that you can still use your brain if it looks suspicious.
  • You're a supportive gym-bro who wants to help others reach your level, and not a chad who looks down on anyone not as (wo)manly as they are.

Oath of the Watchers

  • Vigilance: The threats you face are cunning, powerful, and subversive. Be ever alert for their corruption.
  • Loyalty: Never accept gifts or favors from fiends or those who truck with them. Stay true to your order, your comrades, and your duty.
  • Discipline: You are the shield against the endless terrors that lie beyond the stars. Your blade must be forever sharp and your mind keen to survive what lies beyond.

The Watchers are defined by an external threat, so like the Oath of Glory, you're not going to be needling your allies that much. Unless they're trafficking with extraplanar beings, that is.

  • You're a relatively pragmatic Watcher who is willing to work with or tolerate non-threatening Outsiders.

In Midgard

As one of the most prolific 3rd party creators of 5e content, Kobold Press has made more than its share of new Paladin Oaths to follow. Whilst there are some that are heavily tied to the Midgard setting, such as the Ramag "Oath of the Ancestors", others can be lifted into your own setting with relative ease. So of course we need to break down how you can play a Paladin of these Oaths without being a dick about it.

Oath of Radiance: Paladins of this Oath serve light in a more spiritual sense, being focused on battling the Shadow Fey, Undead and any other creatures associated literally or metaphorically with darkness. Midgard Heroes Handbook and Deep Magic.

  • Cleanse Corruption: I will burn out all creatures born of darkness, showing no pity or mercy. I will not suffer the company of dark creatures, save those taken in by darkness who I might redeem.
  • Lead With Light: I stand open and courageous in the face of battle and will be the last of my companions to quit the field, just as the last ray of sun leaves the day.
  • Preserve The Righteous: I will defend those who labor and live in fear of shadow. I will shield them from harm and keep the light upon them.
  • Redeem The Beguiled: Those tempted into the service of darkness may yet be saved, and I will do everything in my power to bring them back to the light. I will be discerning in offering this mercy, but the redemption of the corrupted is paramount.
  • Remain Pure: I will never yield to the lies of darkness or suffer corruption to take me. I Will cleanse myself of dark taint or die before threatening those I defend.

This is vaguely comparable to a 'vanilla' Paladin like that of Bahamut or the Oath of Devotion, albeit with more of an emphasis on fighting darkness, so similar tips can apply.

  • The oath does have built-in tenets that specify you're supposed to care about protecting innocents and redeeming people, so generally use similar tips on avoiding being Lawful Stupid or Stupid Good which go about prioritizing purity over people or blindly derailing groups by sparing every bad guy.
  • The most pertinent tip specific to this flavor of Paladin, of course, is how you handle the bits regarding 'purity'. Your tenets encourage you to abhor darkness and protect your purity, but beyond general 'obviously defend yourself against evil' bits, try and avoid reaching 40k levels of monomaniacal zealotry. Unless, of course, that's the whole point of what everyone wants to play.
  • Basically: Strike a balance. Focus your redemption on beings you have reason to believe can be saved, and care about your spiritual well-being without being a fanatic.
  • The most obvious roadblock you'll face: What if your party members are clearly, unambiguously 'dark/corrupted' like if they're a Warlock? The most probable answer is to find a good roleplaying solution with your fellow players, but on your end, you can try scaling back the 'REDEEM YOUR TAINTED SOUL' angle to more of a 'chill social worker trying to help an addict' vibe. Remember: You're supposed to try redeeming them before judging them, and that requires compassion and wisdom.

Oath of Thunder: On Midgard, Paladins of Thunder are devotees of Mavros-Perun, a Thor-like deity with perhaps a bit of Marvel Comics inspiration. They also tend to be women, due to Mavros-Perun's assocation with Midgard's Amazons, although dwarf and centaur paladins of this Oath are common too. Midgard Heroes Handbook and Deep Magic.

  • Composure Is My Shield: My deeds are my armor, and I am not easily provoked. If anyone shall insult me, I shall laugh at their ignorance. If anyone shall insult my companions, I shall show them their error.
  • Crush The Abomination: Twisted creatures from beyond the world have no place in it. Aberrations and fiends will feel my blade and know death.
  • Decisiveness In Battle: When the time for words has passes, I will strike first to bring a swift end to my enemies.
  • Duty Above All: Though I Drink with the gods and laugh with the valkyries, I will stand my watch. I will defend my nation. I will defend my companions.
  • Humility In Life: I am the Thunder's servant, not its master. I will live without excess, assured in my own strength without ostentation. Charity and courage are twins.
  • Voice Like Thunder: My voice rings clear and true in defense of those who can't speak out for themselves. I will speak the truth, because such words echo through the ages.

Something like a more stoic version of the Oath of Glory, with a dash of the Watcher against abominations:

  • The first tenet is a good deterrent: YOU are not easily provoked, so you can keep yourself from doing stupid shit. Though you should also be careful not to start bar fights just because your allies are being insulted; it may be a beloved trait in animoo, but your game might not follow those tropes.
  • The third also keeps you from being Leeroy Jenkins because it stresses 'when the time for words is done'.
  • Fighting aberrations and fiends generally shouldn't be a problem, unless your campaign makes working with them a plot point, so maybe borrow a bit of pragmatic Watcher and be more tolerant of 'non-threatening' ones or as allies of convenience. Or more to the point, you can roleplay that you clearly don't like it, but as a player, you can still go along with the group.
  • The fifth tenet is probably your most helpful one for justifying having a well-rounded personality and not being a dick. While it may refer to avoiding luxury and decadence, the spirit of it can be interpreted to mean 'be charitable, I'm not the shit, so I'm not holier-than-thou, I merely serve something holier than me'.
  • The last tenet might possibly be the most socially awkward one, potentially, because you have to draw a fine line between speaking truth to power fearlessly and just speaking your mind to be an asshole. It does suggest you should be speaking up for the downtrodden, but can easily go into social crusader territory.

Oath of the Ancestors: This Oath is heavily based on the Ramag, their history and their culture. Whilst it's not a 100% race restricted thing in Midgard, adherents would need to have allied themselves to the Ramag, and applying it to other settings may be impossible, since this guide will try to avoid simply 'reskinning' the material (though if you like the flavor of this oath, you can always ask if you can apply its ideas to a different race). Southlands Player's Guide.

  • The Void is Ruin: Creatures spawned from the void, and any fool who dares dabble with it, are a cancer to be stricken from the world.
  • The City is Our Heart: Though its districts are scattered, the protection of our capital is our highest calling.
  • The Soul and Body are One: Our mass and spirit are bound together, eternally united to serve the people and the city.
  • The Magic is a Tool: The titans taught us magic so we can defend our people, harness the ley lines, and gather our lost kin.

The emphasis on a specific race/faction/culture and guarding against corruption makes it something like a combination of the Oath of the Crown and the Oath of the Watchers, but you can also borrow from various community-based deities.

  • Like the elfpriests of Corellon, you can basically reason that 'being pro-Ramag doesn't mean being xenophobic'. While you're likely a patriot who views things in terms of how they benefit your people, you can still be open to the idea of judging others fairly and giving them a chance to prove themselves.
  • Bits of this oath combine both Vecna and Ioun: Believing there are things best left forgotten (the void), but also that knowledge should be used (magic). These can work as plot hooks, so long as you don't take them to extremes of disrupting the party's policies.
  • The emphasis on protecting your city can seem like Lawful Stupid bait, but remember: Your city is part of the world, and if the BBEG conquers/destroys the world, it'll be bad for your people, too.

Oath of the Chosen: Whilst its tenets refer to Nuria Natal and the god Aten due to roots, those references could easily be scrubbed and this Oath used to represent any nation or race with a strong religious nature and an associated divine protector. Southlands Player's Guide.

  • Defend the Land: Scour all threats to Nuria Natal before they corrupt the holy land.
  • Defend the People: A threat to the people of Nuria Natal is a threat to the land itself. Purge the holy land of all that would defile its people.
  • Defend Your Faith: Aten is the light of the world. Anything that makes a mockery of you or Aten is a threat to both his chosen land and his chosen people.
  • Be the People’s Beacon: The lands are rife with corrupting influences. Be the torch that guides the chosen people to enlightenment.

This is the most explicitly Oath of the Crown-flavored option (with the aforementioned religious angle), and its extremely patriotic bent takes you from Captain America to USAgent.

  • The oath heavily leans towards believing that you're the best civilization around, everyone else is backwards and in need of your enlightenment, and you shouldn't have to take shit from anyone. So the best question to start figuring out how to play it is: How should I roleplay a British/Spanish/Roman/Imperium/etc. colonizer and make it work? As a moderate, as a hammy caricature, or as a deliberately grimdark zealot?
  • Once again: Pro-nation doesn't mean antagonistic to everyone else. You can recognize your allies as worthy comrades, though your oath does encourage you to think that YOUR homeland is the purest and best, or at least first among equals.
  • Your take on the oath is less about your GLORIOUS HOLY LAND and more about protecting the people in it.
  • If your campaign takes you beyond your lands, you could explain that your clergy gave you a crash-course on 'how not to be a dick'. Both to make your own journeys go more smoothly, and also because if your behavior reflects badly on you, then it reflects badly on your nation.

Oath of the Elements: Associated with elementals in Midgard, this could just as easily be associated with fey or Primal Spirits in your own setting. Southlands Player's Guide.

  • Defend the Natural World: I hold every mountaintop, valley, cave, stream, and spring sacred. I will fight to my last breath to protect natural places from harm.
  • Lead the Line: I stand at the forefront of every battle as a beacon of hope to lead my allies to victory.
  • Act Wisely, Act Decisively: I weigh my actions carefully and offer my counsel to those who would behave impulsively. When the time is right, I unleash the fury of the elements upon my enemies.
  • Integrity: My word is my bond. I do not lie or deceive others and always treat them with fairness.

The emphasis on defending allies and the natural world makes this like a less artsy Oath of the Ancients, making it easier to roleplay.

  • A lot of your oath is written with checks to help you integrate better. Besides the usual 'just defender' thing, you've also got commandments suggesting you value others and think carefully. If anything, your third tenet suggests that you try and STOP someone from charging in.
  • It's tempting to play this in a Druid-esque manner of placing nature over people, but remember that you're also encouraged to care about your allies.

Oath of the Giving Grave: Whilst intended for a necromancer-aligned Antipaladin, nothing technicaly stops this Oath from being associated with shady-but-unevil faiths, such as the Raven Queen or the Blood of Vol. Midgard World Book.

  • Conquer Death: Immense power is needed to repair what's wrong with the world, and mortal beings' lives are too short to acquire that power and wield it effectively. Therefore, death itself must be overcome, and the only path beyond death is through the grave.
  • Serve Those Who Can Teach: To overcome death, one must serve and learn from those who have that knowledge, regardless of one's views about those entities. When they have no more to teach and no further aid to give, only then can the student's moral feelings come into play.
  • Brook No Opposition: Your vision for the world is correct, and the path to achieving it is narrow and treacherous. A single misstep could lead to disaster. Anyone who obstructs that path imperils the future and, therefore, deserves neither life nor mercy. This isn't cruelty; it's necessity. Where possible, those who fall can be redeemed by being made to serve your ambition after their deaths.
  • Honor the Gods of Death: Honor the gods who grant you power over life and death with devotion and sacrifice so that they will aid you and look favorably on you as an instrument of their power, or even as an ally. Punish those who blaspheme against them.

Not quite the same as the gods of 'grim but natural death' like the Raven Queen or Kelemvor since it is pro-overcoming death, but definitely something like a more sociable version of Vecna's tenets, emphasising knowledge and using it to your advantage.

  • Your main motive is 'I want to use this knowledge to help fix the world', so you can play with that. Maybe it's something cliche like wanting to bring back dead loved ones, but it can also involve learning the right magic to prolong lives and prevent disease, as well as the means to get it to those who need it.
  • The oath, like many others, tends to assume 'my way of thinking is right'. Just be careful with how you play that so that you don't come across as dogmatic and insufferable; you can believe that generic undead can provide a source of menial labor without going into 'and you're a backwards yahoo if you think otherwise'.
  • The emphasis on 'use knowledge', 'keep learning', and 'honor gods', while potentially self-serving, can also give you grounds to make a more humane, humble personality that plays well with others.
  • The second tenet's utilitarian view implies that you're learning from someone morally objectionable, but there's nothing stopping you from learning from a GOOD mentor.
  • You come from a society that respects its dead Dia De Los Muertos-style...or, going further into those mythos, even interacts with them in mundane, non-evil ways.
  • The third tenet is the most blatantly antisocial since its logical extreme (or original intent if you're going for an Antipaladin) probably means 'slaughter those fools trying to stop your necromantic rituals and raise them to think the right way'. But hopefully, you'll have found some way to humanize this oath with the other tenets.
    • Or alternatively, the BBEG is trying to kill EVERYTHING, and you want the world to enjoy living to begin with.
  • While the last tenet presents the gods as things you kiss up to because you want to get their favor, there's nothing stopping you from worshiping a good or non-evil deity like the Raven Queen or Kelemvor and then picking up some things from them.

Oath of Consumption: The all-eaters are the dark paladins of gods of hunger, excess, and greed. In Midgard, this Oath is only found amongst the ranks of the darakhul and dhampir, whose preternatural hungers and ties to the dark powers of necromancy give them an instinctive affinity for this creed. Underworld Player's Guide.

  • Devour: Feast on any who stand against you. They are the fuel for your war.
  • Debase: Let none stand higher than you. Consume their spirit that they know their place.
  • Demoralize: Take what you want and flaunt it before those who could not keep it from you.
  • Despoil: Learn what your enemy loves and destroy it.

Tricky to pull off since the oath tends to present itself as 'We're the apex predators, we don't need to apologize for what we are, so take what you want'. So kind of like the Oath of Conquest, with similar possibilities.

  • Classic Oath of Conquest advice: You're pointed at the bad guys, not your allies.
  • If you're from a race or culture that has similar tendencies to hunger and consume, you can still remember that the oath only focuses on your baser instincts; it doesn't keep you from feeling love or holding onto principles.
  • You've gravely undertaken this oath to hone yourself into the perfect weapon against a greater foe.
  • You can play your character like Wolverine (or a stereotypical Blood Hunter): you are driven by darker instincts, but you are dedicated to taking evil out of the world, and want to preserve your humanity.
  • Even though there's a strong 'survival of the fittest, crush the weak' vibe in this oath, nothing in it prevents you from having positive views of your allies or those under your watch. You may think weaker beings are lesser than you, but that could still be a net positive as 'being who is slightly less awesome than me'.

Oath of the Plaguetouched: Unlike the Oath of Pestilence from Grim Hollow, this is actually a good guy tenet! The Plaguetouched paladin, on Midgard at least, was infected with the strain of ghoul fever that would have turned them into a darakhul, but some mysterious power answered their prayers for deliverance from this cruel fate. Now they use their second chance on life to battling the undead in all their forms. Underworld Player's Guide.

  • Bravery: In the face of terrible creatures, you stand like a wall between them and the innocent people who those creatures would devour or transform.
  • Stop the Spread of Undeath. Fight to ensure the undead don’t snuff out the light of life in the world.
  • Relentless.: Creatures of undeath never tire; you must remain vigilant.
  • Mercy: Those who suffer disease must be cared for. If you could survive certain death, so can they. But when it is clear they are about to transform into a monster, you must end their suffering quickly.

The setting-specific flavor suggests that you survived a harrowing mystical plague, and the tenets reinforce how that near-death experience shaped you.

  • A lot of the tenets emphasize valuing life, which is a big help. They also allow for defending life against more general threats (though undead are a bigger deal), so you can broaden your focus and take part in most parties.
  • The first and last tenets most explicitly spell out that you should keep on caring for people.
  • Like Moradin and other oaths emphasizing endurance and strength: You don't look down on the weak. In fact, you want to protect them, or even give them the chance to become strong.
  • Being trained in an oath which probably exposed you to the sick and dying or those threatened by the undead, you've seen firsthand just how bad life can get for people. This can temper your Paladin in any number of ways to be more grounded and compassionate.

In Grim Hollow

With two very antipaladin-esque Oaths in its Player's Guide, the Grim Hollow paladin definitely needs this advice!

Oath of Pestilence: You're basically a Chaos Champion of Nurgle. Seriously, look at these tenets!

  • Strength in Resilience: Surviving hardship and plague make you stronger. Spreading these things causes strength to flourish.
  • All Things Must Pass: Death is the natural conclusion of life. There is nothing unnatural or amoral about the ending of life.
  • Might Makes Right: The laws of mortals mean nothing to poxes and plagues, they go where they wish and take what they want. So should you.

Yep. And much like ol' Papa Nurgle and his poker buddies, it's both implicitly AND explicitly stated that your way is right and you should make everyone see things your way. Still, the more 'familial' aspects of Nurgle (both in-universe and fanon) could help you out here.

  • The biggest hurdles are the parts of your oath which go past 'be strong personally' and dip into 'make others suffer so that they can be strong or die', so work on those first and how you can find a loophole or reinterpret it.
  • Your first tenet's first half is perfectly fine when applied to yourself, but actively spreading plague and hardship is incredibly hard to justify. You can, however, try and tone it down to more like a Space Marine-type feeling that while you won't actively cause suffering, you see nothing wrong with others who are currently suffering since you think it'll build their strength and character. Not very compassionate or likable, but definitely less malicious.
  • Your second tenet can be made considerably less grimdark if interpreted through the lens of 'natural death' like with the Raven Queen.
  • The last tenet is tricky with the most implied antisocial tendencies. Buuuuut you could interpret it as 'I will be as virulent as the Bubonic Plague, and no tyrant or devil will stop me'. In short: Don't use it on the people the campaign wants you to help, but as defiance against the BBEG and such.
  • Of course, the positive aspects of Nurgle and his followers can be a good reference: Yes, you think suffering builds character and would probably strengthen others in the long run, but you also have a sense of camaraderie through shared suffering, and a jovial attitude that laughs off anything getting in your way.

Oath of Zeal: Technically aligned with the forces of Light, Paladins of Zeal can be a bit... touchy.

  • Uncover Corruption. Darkness cannot abide the light of day. Wickedness must be revealed before it can be destroyed.
  • Purge the Heretics: Heresy is a tumor that spread through the hearts of the innocent. Cut it out at the source.
  • No Mercy: The righteous path requires unwavering conviction and unflinching resolve.
  • By Any Means Necessary: There is no sacrifice too great when it comes to defeating the wicked.

The SPEHSS MAHREEN or the Warrior Priest of Sigmar to the Nurgle champion above. Having done the Death Guard, we now turn to the Black Templars.

  • Once again, the main issue is the built-in zealotry. Like the 4E Avenger, your biggest hurdle is that your commandments very clearly demand that you have zero tolerance for impurity and evil. However, you COULD be like the OG Templar Siggy Stardust himself: Pitiless, remorseless, and utterly single-minded in the destruction of your foes...but also capable of introspection and emotional attachment, with the firm belief that the main reason the wicked should be slaughtered is because they destroy what is GOOD. It won't necessarily make you play well with others, but it DOES give you room to have a personality.
  • You could play it as being a fresh initiate. Not necessarily any less zealous, but focusing more on FINDING and RECOGNIZING evil first. Meaning you have the sense to investigate smartly and recognize things rationally.
  • All that talk about sacrifice and unflinching purity...are standards you set for yourself to become a better weapon, so that no innocent ever needs to walk your path. You may expect nothing but the best from yourself and your allies, but you will fall to the forces of damnation before you consign what you protect to this path.
  • While the oath largely defines itself by what it fights, you can also humanize it with what it's meant to protect.

See Also


The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition
Core Classes: Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Player's Guide:
Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
Class Guide:
Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
Ultimate X: Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante
The Classes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Core Classes: Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Advanced Player's Guide: Investigator - Oracle - Swashbuckler - Witch
Secrets of Magic: Magus - Summoner
Guns and Gears: Gunslinger - Inventor
Dark Archive: Psychic - Thaumaturge
Other: Archetypes
The Archetypes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Core Rule Book: Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Lost Omens Setting Guide: Crimson Assassin - Duelist - Guild Agent - Hellknight Armiger
Lion Blade - Living Monolith - Magic Warrior - Runescarred - Sentry - Student of Perfection
Lost Omens Character Guide: Hellknight - Hellknight Signifer - Spellmaster - Firebrand Braggart - Lastwall Knights - Halcyon Speaker - Knight Reclaimant - Scrollmaster - Spellmaster - Swordmaster
Lost Omens World Guide: Aldori Duelist - Lastwall Sentry - Knight Vigilant - Pathfinder Agent - Runescarred
Adventure Path Juggler Dedication - Staff Acrobat Archetype - Zephyr Guard Archetype - Mammoth Lord - Mammoth Lord - Nantambu Chime-Ringer - Crystal Keeper - Drow Shootist - Edgewatch Detective - Eldritch Reasercher - Forlklorist - Game Hunter - Ghost Eater - Ghost Hunter - Golden League Xun - Golem Grafter - Gray Gardener - Alkenstar Agent - Animal Trainer - Bellflower Tiller - Bright Lion - Butterfly Blade - Magaambyan Attendant - Juggler - Jalmeri Heavenseeker - Provocator - Red Mantis Assassin - Sixth Pillar - Turpin Rowe Lumberjack
The Slithering OOzemorph
Grand Bazaar Captivator - Spell Trickster - Wrestler
Monsters of Myth Packbound Initiate
Advanced Player's Guide Acrobat - Archaeologist - Archer - Assassin - Bastion - Beastmaster - Blessed One - Bounty Hunter - Cavalier - Celebrity - Dandy - Dual-Weapon Warrior - Duelist - Eldritch Archer - Familiar Master - Gladiator - Herbalist - Horizon Walker - Investigator - Linguist- Loremaster - Marshal -Martial Artist - Mauler - Medic - Oracle - Pirate - Poisoner - Ritualist - Scout - Scroll Trickster - Scourger -Sentinel - Shadowdancer - Snarecrafter -Swashbuckler - Talisman Dabbler - Vigilante - Viking - Weapon Improviser - Witch
Secrets of Magic: Magus - Summoner - Wellspring Mage - Cathartic Mage - Elementalist - Flexible Spellcaster - Geomancer - Shadowcaster - Soulforger - Wellspring Mage
Guns & Gears: Demolitionist - Fireworks Technician - Gunslinger - Inventor - Artillerist - Beast Gunner - Bullet Dancer - Pistol Phenom - Overwatch - Runelord - Sniping Duo - Spellshot - Sterling Dynamo - Trapsmith - Trick Driver - Unexpected Sharpshooter - Vehicle Mechanic
Book of the Dead: Exorcist - Ghoul - Ghost - Hallowed Necromancer - Lich - Mummy - Reanimator - Soul Warden - Undead Master - Undead Slayer - Vampire - Zombie