Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Paladin (Part 5F): Closing Comments

Wow…20,000 words (give or take a few) later here we are. I have enjoyed putting together this summary, and I appreciate the comments that I received on the series.

To start off my final official blog on the series, I want to state the two over riding rules that I think are paramount to this entire discussion:

1) The class has to be playable
2) The class should be fun to play

After all is said and done, I think when playing the paladin, both the GM and the players need to keep this in mind. If the class gets hamstrung by extreme rules lawyers, it is not worth playing. If we can create a playable character, then it should be fun to play. This is a game, and it should be enjoyable by everyone around the table. I think that some folks lose sight of this, and I think that takes away from the game experience. With that in mind, I want to hit on a couple of final topics before wrapping this series up.

I am always a little surprised at the opposition to playing a lawful good character. My first 3rd ed game I GM’ed, I was playing with a younger group and everyone wanted to play evil. My next group was an older crowd, and even they shied away from playing lawful good. I think there is this feeling that lawful good is really awful good and therefore not fun to play. I going to make a wide sweeping comment and say that most of us in real life fall into the lawful good category, and therefore I believe that this really should be the easiest alignment to play. Apparently, I am in the minority on this.

There is a perception that playing evil or chaotic is more fun. What I have seen is that it becomes a crutch for doing really dumb things in game. In one of my games set in Ptolus, the characters were involved in an urban chase, with commoners being transformed by chaos. The chase was quite a bit of fun, with chaos, confusion and destruction happening in mass quantities. During the chase, one of the commoners was killed, and the city guards were quickly approaching the body. Given this situation, one of the characters decided that he would loot the body in plain sight of the guards that were advancing with crossbows. I had to explain the situation again to the player, before it really sank in. He was using his alignment to say that it was in keeping with his character. While that maybe true, it was a really dumb thing to do.

When alignment becomes an excuse for bad play, it is time to rethink things. Lawful good does not mean not fun; likewise evil does not mean crazy stupid. Actually, I believe that evil characters are very hard to play. If I was going to run evil characters, I would want to design a campaign specific for them. Most adventures as written, actually assume a good alignment party. With the growing popularity of adventure paths and story arcs, these adventures run smoother with good characters.

The next mis-perception that I want to hit on is the thought that humble means weak. I do not believe this to be true at all. Humble implies a sacrifice of self for the greater good. When confronted with a situation that demands action to preserve law and goodness, the humble paladin rises up as a champion, and becomes capable of great things. This makes for epic tales. This can be the classic David and Goliath story. David was very humble in the story. It was only after everyone declined to meet Goliath on the field of battle did David feel the call to do something special, and he became the hero of the tale. Being humble does not mean holding off on making the hard calls. It does not mean giving dishonorable foes unreasonable mercy. It means to take a step up to a higher road to accomplish more. Humility as a player means empowering the players around you. Ponder on that for awhile. How many times have you have you seen the paladin played as an arrogant character that disables the party? I will argue that is not what the paladin is about.

I do want to comment on paladins in the dungeon. For me, this has always been a bit of a stretch. From a realism stand point, what is a paladin doing in a dungeon anyway? A paladin belongs on a horse fighting the epic battles. This is the challenge of the player and GM to make the paladin feel like he belongs in the setting. In the sandbox campaign, the paladin very well may feel like a fish out of water. In the adventure path campaign with a very defined BBEG, the paladin fits right in. I know a lot of adventures start in the tavern, and I will be the first to say, that I struggle a bit with the notion of a paladin just hanging out there. Some creative backgrounds or story lines are required to make this seem natural. Sometimes, the players just need to suspend disbelief to make the whole thing work out.

As a final note to all this, to folks that like to play paladins, this series is for you. I really like the character. Gary added it into the 1st edition book for a reason, and it has stayed in there through four editions, and several off shoots of the game. It is a colorful character, and one that excessive rule lawyers need to stay away from, otherwise it can become a totally unplayable character.

Enough of all this writing and such, roll some dice, fight the good fight, smite some evil, and tell the BBEG that the Baron sent you!
Paladin Series Summary For ease of reading, I will provide the links to all the blogs in the series:
Part 1A


Joseph said...

Just my own personal opinion, I agree with you that Lawful Good is the easiest alignment to play, and it doesn't have to be a "Flanderized" stereotype. Personally, I would think Chaotic Neutral would be the hardest, but perhaps that's just because I don't personally understand that mind-set.

An exceptional piece of work on the Paladin. You should be most proud!

Mr Baron said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Lawful good definitely has a bit of a bad rap to it. I agree with you on CN. I know a lot of people like to play it, but it is not for me.