Roleplaying Resources

Palladin Murderers

My God Says to Kill Children, So I'll Kill Children

A post on the Character Development board by The Great Alchemist, on May 28, 2003 02:02 AM.

I've always thought that the religious aspects of Alignment are often overlooked, particuarly when it comes to paladins. I have always thought that a Paladin's moral code should be more strongly based on his religion than it is commonly assumed.

Of course, a paladin is a champion of good (and law too in a way) but his very concept of what good is should be defined by his religion and relationship with his god (or godsm higher power, cosmic forces, etc.). Therefore, the good a paladin does should not be as closely related to his own sense of right and wrong (that would be more like chaotic good) but by the morality of his religion.

I then think that it would also be possible when the question is asked “what would a paladin do in XYZ situation?” you have to look at that the religious doctrines that the paladin adheres to determine his actions. “Is it better to execute the criminal or bring him to justice?” “Can a paladin get drunk? Have sex? Out of wedlock?” “Does he have to give a copper piece to that begger or can he walk on by?” “Should the paladin kill the baby orc or take care of it?” All of those questions should have no set answer, it should depend on that specific paladin's religion personal moral code. Many have argued that a paladin isn't pigeon-holed, but often when they say this they mean that you can have a lightly armored paladin with a bow - not that a paladin's actual moral code is flexable (or rather that t can vary from paladin to paladin).

One religion/god/church may support violent aggressive action against evil doers, where forgiveness and mercy has no inherent value. In that case, it would be completely natural for the paladin to coldly execute captures enemies. On the other hand, another faith may believe in peace and forgiveness, in which case it may be a terrible sin for the paladin to execute a criminal or even resort to violence unless it was absolutely necessary (like defending innocent people). One faith may require that the paladin is chaste and celebate and that he cannot drink alcohol, eat expensive food, or wear more than the most hunble clothing. Another religion may allow a paladin to drink and have premarital sex as long as it doesn't get in the way of his duties and might encourage him to wear fine clothing as a mark of his position in the church. I think part of the role playing apeal of a paladin are those idiosyncracies of his religion. To say that all paladins have the same moral codes and that their religious values are secondary to secular morality kind of removes the heart and soul of a paladin I believe.

As to the topic of this post. As I have suggested, the morality of the paladin's religion should take precedance over any other moral code, including the laws of the land or the paladin's own beliefs. To a paladin, his religious morals should be unquestionable. So if the god tells him to kill babies, the paladin would kill babies - because to the paladin, his deity's will would define morality. So, even though the paladin may feel that its wrong, if its the will of the god then it must be right. Kind of like how Abraham was ordered by God to kill Isaac. Sure, Abe didn't like it and surely didn't know why it was right; but he knew it was right because God said so. The same should be true of the paladin. Not just in the case of direct communication from a god (like Abraham got) but in holy laws that are part of the religion. Things such as eating a pig may be considered immoral and a violation of the paladin code; while acting violently against unbelievers may not be (another Old Testiment example).

Of course, my entire arguement kind of implies that alignment is not absolute but is somewhat subjective. Which is the way I think it should be a role playing heavy campaign.

A counterargument

From Tzor, on May 28, 2003 11:16 AM

Here is one of those cases where I completely disagree with you Great Alchemist, although I think that many of your conclusions are similiar to mine, although reached from the opposite direction.

To me, a paladin is first and foremost a paragon of good and law, and thirdly a representative of his deity. This forms a almost asmovian heirarchy, because a paladin must always good or else he forfeits his powers, he must be lawful, and of course he needs to repect his deity.

Deities who are not lawful good and who accept paladins also accept who they are and that they go a little overboard on either the law or the good depending on what type of neutrailty they are. After all, paladins do have their uses, even if they are not perfectly “aligned” with their deities.

Never the less, many of the questions you asked, “Is it better to execute the criminal or bring him to justice?” “Can a paladin get drunk? Have sex? Out of wedlock?” “Does he have to give a copper piece to that begger or can he walk on by?” “Should the paladin kill the baby orc or take care of it?” are not ones that can be answered out of context by good or law considerations alone. And if something cannot be clearly decided based on good, or law, then following the deity does come directly into play.

So we get to the question. Your deity says to kill children. Is the act evil or good? (If the former, then why would an evil deity have paladins?) Is the act lawful? If these conditions are met, then is this something in accord with your deity. (As if your deity would say something not in accord with you deity.) Under these situations it might be perfectly possible for an act (killing children in this case) to be cetanly permissible and proper for most of the deity's followers but still not proper for a paladin.

If you aren't a lawful good deity, that good and law part of a paladin can be annoying. But it is one of the prices you pay for having them in the first place, and in the end, it is a price well worth it, because for the most part them paladins are people of results!