I love Paladins. Paladins are probably one of the coolest things in D&D, aside from Monks. I've always loved the idea of a crusader for justice, though I've never actually played one, or attempted to write one for OSR D&D.
But then, when I read Arnold K's latest post on religion, it got me quite worried. So I decided to get in on the ground floor, and publish my own Paladin, as I love the class, but had never been inspired to actually write one.
Before we continue, let's differentiate what a Paladin is, in comparison to their nearest contemporary, the Prophet.
Firstly, Prophets are normal people who were called to do extraordinary things. They can be anyone, in any walk of life. Paladins are not normal people, though. They are the enlightened, the gifted among mortal kind, born with an abundance of spirit. They could have directly harnessed their gifts, had their circumstances been difference, and became great Wizards or Priests. They could have also used their gifts less directly, channeling their raw charisma and talent into becoming wealthy merchants, diplomats or governors. But instead, do to events beyond their control, they became Paladins.
Secondly, Paladins are not entirely reliant on their God. Prophets were granted knowledge of one or more of the Secret Names of God, to prove their status as divine messengers and to protect them on their quests. Paladins are not like this- they were born with innate abilities, which through training and a connection with their God has bloomed, making them incredibly strong.
This is also why a Paladin can "fall", while a Prophet cannot. If a Prophet acts against their God, the God can immediately revoke their status as Prophet, reducing them to just another mortal. But if a Paladin turns against their God, they will lose their powers, but they can usually find a new Master. This is why Paladins usually die shortly after breaking their Vows for the last time, because unlike a Prophet, which are reliant on their Masters for power, Paladins are dangerous no matter who holds their leash.
To play a Paladin, you must choose three things. First, what is your Cause? Secondly, what is your Vow? Thirdly, who is your Master?
The Cause is the most important thing in a Paladin's life, the sacred mission they are constantly endeavoring to fulfill. To be a Cause worthy of you, a Cause must be moral, difficult, and something you'd be willing to kill or be killed over. You may decide your own, or you can roll on the table below. Make sure the Referee knows what your Cause is.
My Cause is...
1- To protect my Tribe/People and advance their interests.
2- To protect, enforce, and uphold an institution (a government, body of laws, etc).
3- To defend the interests of my God.
4- To destroy an Evil Force.
5- To advance Good in the world.
6- To bring about reform or change in an institution, nation or people.
Your Vow specifically relates to your Cause. It should be one sentence long, a statement of intent. It could be a positive thing that describes what you will do in the future. For example, how exactly will you work to advance your Cause? Your Vow may have something to do with that. Alternatively, your Vow could be a negative thing, that you place as a limitation upon yourself. Regardless of what your Vow is, the most important thing to remember is that you must never, ever break your Vow. A Paladin breaking their Vow should feel like the universe itself has stopped making sense, as if reality itself is crumbling.
This is not a permanent error, as redemption is almost always possible, but it will require actions to earn back the good favor of your God.
My Vow is...
1- To never allow [member of specific group] to come to harm if I can prevent it.
2- To destroy [Target] wherever I find it.
3- To uphold [Ideal] wherever I go.
4- To always take/do [specific action] whenever the opportunity arises.
5- To never do [specific action].
6- To never act against [member of specific group].
Finally, a Paladins have a Master. Prophets also have Masters, but for a Prophet, their Master is always their God. Paladins are more flexible, as they are not wholy reliant on divine power. A Paladin's Master could easily be a Deity, but it could also be a Priest, or a King, or anyone else. The only requirements for someone to be a Paladin's Master is that they have access to the same Divine Power that the Paladin has, a connection to the same Cause, and the authority to punish the Paladin.
Masters are often also a Paladin's teacher as well, being the one who initially molded the Paladin and introduced them to their cause. They are someone a Paladin has a strong relationship with, and someone who the Paladin still respects and fears, even now, when they are older and wiser.
My Master is...
1- An older Paladin
2- A Prophet
3- A Priest
4- A King or Governor of my Polity
5- An Angel (good Outsider)
6- A God
Beginning the Jihad
Starting HP: 1/3 HP
Fighting Spirit: You get +1 FS per Paladin level
Starting Equipment: Breastplate, Helmet, Shield, Shield or Spear, Prayer Beads or Holy Symbol, Sacred Vow
Grace Dice. You have a pool of d6s that you can burn to fuel your abilities. These dice burn out on a "5" or "6" and come back after you make an accepted sacrifice to your God. Note that your God might not accept your sacrifice, if you have done something that displeased them, or are sacrificing something that is unacceptable to your Deity. Note that if you have broken your vow, they are unlikely to accept or offer anything from you, until you perform some act of penance. See 'Vow' below.
Healing Hands: As an action, you may touch someone, and burn as many d6s as you like. That person you touched then regains [sum] HP. You may not heal yourself.
Blessed Hands: As an action, if you touch someone, they receive an effect as dependent upon your Paladin Archetype.
Vow: You have sworn a Holy Vow. If you break this Vow, you can expect, at the minimum, to have to repent and seek forgiveness, and possibly go on a quest. More serious violations will result in you losing your Paladin powers until you have demonstrated true repentance. Finally, if you repeatedly and consistently violate the terms of the Vow you made, you can expect to lose your powers permanently and/or to be killed in a hideous fashion.
Smite: If you attack someone, you may burn as many d6s as you like. On a hit, that person takes the normal damage + [sum] holy damage.
Dreams and Omens: God will tell you where to go and what to say in signs
and visions. He may also grant you visions of the future and hints
about where you should go and what you should do in dreams.
Blessed Tongue: As an action, your speech, gains special properties as dependent on your Paladin Archetype.
Holy Aura: You may release an aura of power that affects every living creature within 10*[dice]' around you. This aura can either heal or harm.
If the aura heals, everyone (except you) within it recovers 1d6 HP a round for [dice] rounds.
If the aura harms, everyone (except you) within the aura takes 1d6 holy damage a round for [dice] rounds.
Blessed Form: As an action, your body gains special properties as specified by your Paladin Archetype.
Angel Strike: You can fire a projectile of grace, targeting anyone you can see. Spend as many Grace Dice as you like. If you succeed on your attack roll, then that person is hurt or healed as if you touched them, as per Smite or Healing Hands. If someone wishes to be struck by Angel Strike, they may choose to be hit.
Blessed Feet: As an action, your steps gain special properties as specified by your Paladin Archetype.
Angelic Bombardment: If you use your Angel Strike ability, you may fire off as many projectiles as you wish, but you must pay for them as normal.
Cry out to God: Once per day, if you need help, you may cry out to God for aid. If you do so, and the Gods seem your situation worthy of their aid, then you immediately gain 1d20 Grace Dice, to be used at your discretion. Unused Grace Dice are lost at the end of the day.
These are the Archetypes mentioned above in the class write-up. You may make your your own, if you like, but I have included six to serve as examples and provide a template for writing your own. I also included these six examples to provide a broad spectrum of the "common" Paladin types.
Archetype- Holy Marshal
Cause- To enforce the Law, to punish criminals, to stop Crime
Vow- "I will obey the Law, no matter what it says."
Blessed Hands- As an action, you may roll a Grace Die and touch up to [dice] people. You can tell from touching someone like this whether or not they are guilty of any crimes that they have not received judgement for yet. This does not tell you what crimes they have commited, only if they have or have not. Those who are guilty of crimes such as thing feel pain at your touch, your holy hands burning their flesh. The law-abiding feel nothing special at your touch.
Blessed Tongue- As an action, you can try to force someone to confess. Roll as many Grace Dice as you wish. One person that can hear you must then save. If they roll higher on a 1d20 than [sum], they manage to resist your holy powers. If they fail to exceed [sum], they must confess to any crimes they have committed. If they have commited no crimes, no effect.
Blessed Form- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. For [dice] rounds rounds, no law-breaker or Servant of Chaos may harm you. Instead, for 1 round, all their attacks and damaging abilities instead do no damage to you. You must continue taking this action each round to keep yourself invulnerable. Note that your invulnerability only makes you impossible for a Servant of chaos or law-breaker to harm you. They can still man-handle or otherwise interfere with you, but they can't harm you.
Blessed Feet- As a free action, you may roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then teleport up to [sum]', taking everything on your person with you. You may take nothing else.
Archetype- Celestial Sword
Cause- To order the World, to serve the Heavenly Bureaucracy, to do your duty to the High King of Heaven
Vow- "I will always leave a place more orderly than when I first found it."
Blessed Hands- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then touch a creature. Evaluate how many Hit Points that creature has. If it has more HP than [sum], it is restored to full health. If it has less HP than [sum], it dies.
Blessed Tongue- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. For the next [dice] minutes, you may speak to any creature or section of a creature with a soul as if you shared a language. You may speak to any plant, animal or fungi; but you can also speak to sections of those creatures, such as to a person's liver or a tree's buds.
Blessed Form- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may revert your body to the state it was in 5*[dice] seconds ago, acting as if the intervening time and the events within after that point did not happen for you.
Blessed Feet- As a free action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You then avoid the next [dice] any attacks, abilities or other effects that requires moving through space to reach you. For example, you could avoid a Dragon's fire breath or a sword swing or a flung custard pie, but not a spell that only permits those affected by it a saving throw. You avoid the aforementioned abilities by simply not being where that effect or ability was going to be.
Archetype- Red Servant
Cause- To advance Freedom, to sow Chaos, to set the captives free, to smash civil government, to destroy society
Vow- "I will do as I will."
Blessed Hands- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. Then, touch any creature. That creature must save. On a failed save, the creature develops [dice] mutations.
Blessed Tongue- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then embed a secret message up to [sum] words long in otherwise normal speech. Only those you choose will hear the secret message, everyone else will only hear the normal speech. For example, you could say to the King and the uninitiated, "Your Excellency, I have brought glad tidings," while saying to the conspirators in the Court, "We are betrayed, flee," and both groups would only hear the message intended for them.
Blessed Form- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then transform your body and all your possessions into a gust of wind, a column of fire, or a pool of water for [dice] minutes. You can still move in this form and retain your mental attributes. However, you gain any physical weaknesses of this form. You remain in this form for [dice] minutes, or until you decide to revert back.
Blessed Feet- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. For then next [dice] minutes, [dice] creatures have the direction of gravity altered for them. You may use this ability on yourself. Unwilling targets get a save to resist this ability.
For example, if you wish, you can "fall" upwards, toward the sky. This does not affect anyone else.
Archetype- Green Knight
Cause- To destroy Symbolic Thought, to revert all to a pre-civilizational paradigm, to crush The City
Vow- "I will wear no metal armor, own only what I can take and hold, never sleep under a roof* and never use money for any purpose."
Blessed Hands- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. [dice] pieces of technology immediately break and will need to be repaired before it can be used again.
Blessed Tongue- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You then roar like a great beast. All who hear this must save vs [sum] or be frightened.
Blessed Form- As a free action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. Your body then transforms to gain the qualities of one of the great beasts. This boosts your STR and CON by +[dice] for the duration, as well as giving you dense natural armor equal to AC 12+[dice]. This transformation lasts for 1d6+[dice] rounds in combat or [dice] minutes outside it.
Blessed Feet- As a free action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You then gain the speed of a diving falcon. For 1d6+[dice] rounds, you always act first on initiative rolls, and you add double your attack bonus against any enemy with an AC reliant on non-full body covering or natural defenses (such as scales or a Damage Threshold).
*dungeons are okay, so are caves
Cause- To exact revenge on this world, to serve the Dark Powers, to bring those who harmed you down, death, destruction
Vow- "If I am granted the chance to take revenge on one of the targets of my rage, I will."
Blessed Hands- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. Your hands then begin secreting slime that is acidic or poisonous (your choice). Any creature you with these hands takes 1d6 damage of that type. Your acid is strong enough to eat through metal and stone, and your poison strong enough to poison all but those with the strongest constitutions, or a magical immunity to poisons.
Blessed Tongue- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then command up to [dice] unsouled corpses to rise up and obey. It shall, becoming your Undead Servant until destroyed or released by you. These Undead will obey you for [sum] days, and then will be free, and be under no obligation to serve you.
Blessed Form- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You then expel a cloud of white fog that fills the air for 10*[dice]' around you. This cloud of fog is cold and clammy, and has all the properties of a normal cloud of fog. However, it also has an additional effect. Any damage taken by anyone within this cloud of fog is multipled by [dice]. This fog lasts for [dice] minutes, or until you dismiss it. After that, it disappears.
Blessed Feet- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then assume the likeness of any creature you have killed. For example, you could become the specific man who you just pounced on and stabbed to death, or you could become a rat. You remain in this form for up to [sum] minutes, or until you decide to transform back.
Archetype- Folk Hero
Cause- To protect the interests of your tribe, to defend your people, to serve your God
Vow- "I will not stand idly by and allow my people or my kinsmen to be harmed."
Blessed Hands- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. The next creature you touch then gains a bonus to AC equal to +[dice] for the next hour.
Blessed Tongue- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You may then scream a battle-cry. All who are allied with you that hear this get a new save against any spiritual effect (charm, fear, etc) and deal +[dice] damage for the next hour.
Blessed Form- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You then call upon the strength of the great heroes of your past to aid you in battle. For 1d6+[dice] rounds, add a bonus of +[dice] to your Attack and Damage rolls.
Blessed Feet- As an action, roll as many Grace Dice as you like. You then call upon the cleverness of those nameless ancestors who built the society you live in. For 1d6+[dice] rounds, whenever an opponent makes an attack against you and misses, you may deal 1d6+[dice] damage to them.
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