Without a doubt, Paladins are one of the hardest classes to play properly. Depending on the system, it’s likely that a paladin will be required to be lawful or need to have a sense of law and order at the least. And, let’s face it, most of the other characters are probably not lawful; so most paladins end up feeling like a stick in the mud, and like they can’t do anything fun. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
So, how do you play a good paladin that sticks to his or her beliefs, does not alienate the rest of the group, and is still fun? Well, it’s not as hard as you think. Here are some ideas for designing a fun and functional paladin:
1. Pick the right god
Most paladins are devoted to either a god or some sort of idea. While some systems limit which gods you can pick, choosing something that you will enjoy is important. Take your time and learn about your god and imagine how someone worshipping that god or idea might act. If you are playing 5e, then your options are far more open in the way of gods, ideals, or oaths, but you’ll still want to take a moment and picture how someone might act and how it will work with other characters in the world.
2. Outline your beliefs
Once you’ve got a god, path, or ideal that you follow, take a moment and outline what is important to you. What do you consider holy? What actions are unforgivable? Make yourself a list of beliefs to help guide what you will and will not allow.
3. Write a good background
You weren’t always a paladin, right? One of the easiest ways to make your paladin more friendly and likeable is to give them a solid background. I’m not talking living in a monastery—be creative. Perhaps they were an urchin taken in by an aging bishop, which will make them more understanding of street rats. Maybe their father was a tailor who was killed by the follower of an evil god, which might make them more understanding of those looking for vengeance or doing the wrong things for the right reasons. Or what if they were a housewife whose husband died of a sickness and they are trying to make sure they meet them in the afterlife by doing good? The options are endless.
4. Include a vice
No matter what the Player’s Handbook says, your paladin is not a saint. Chances are, they struggle with vices and temptations just like everyone else. Giving them something (or even someone) that they might consider bending the rules for (or perhaps even breaking them in the right situation) will make them instantly more interesting to play. It shouldn’t be something simple, like gold, but it could be an old addiction, a forbidden love, or even a family member who has turned away from the light, and needs a nudge back on the right path.
5. Be prepared to compromise
Unless everyone in the group is a lawful or good alignment, there will be moments when your paladin has to stand up and say no. That can be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s part of playing a paladin. However, it’s important to realize that even your paladin will understand that not everyone can live like they do. For your paladin to have gotten this far in life they would have to know how to compromise. Remember that list of beliefs you wrote out earlier? Take a look at it again. Those are the things that you should not compromise on – everything else is negotiable under the right conditions. Make sure you express your beliefs to the other players to avoid conflict or at least make sure it’s intentional.
6. Create your paladin last
Some groups just don’t work with paladins. Generally speaking, for a paladin to work you need to have most of your character be a good alignment. Usually this isn’t a problem, but if you have chaotic neutral thief who is constantly stabbing people, chances are your paladin is never going to be okay with it. If that happens, it might be time to shelf your pally and do something else instead. Remember that it should be fun for everyone, and that sometimes means that a paladin just isn’t going to work.
Do you have an awesome paladin you want to share? Have any tips for playing paladins? Leave a note below, and be sure to share this article with your group!