I have often stated that it is my belief that Paladins are first and foremost “Good” and are only “Lawful” afterward. I wish to enlarge upon that statement here, hopefully without sparking religious debate. I only offer the following scriptural quotations so as to allow you – the Reader – to follow my thought processes on the subject, not to spark a different debate.
Within the game we have the "Fighter" class, which covers all fighter types, but we also have "specialty" fighters, such as Knights and Paladins. I like to differentiate between the two, not make them – basically – the same. To me, Knights serve the Secular Authority, whereas the Paladin is a “Knight” of the Church of whichever faith he/she follows. Since Paladins exist in our own world history and – at least in the Western world – are prominently associated with Christianity, I will use Christian scriptural teachings to demonstrate a few of the points I will make.
A Paladin manifests certain abilities, such as the Laying of Hands. Such power does not come from a man – such as the king – it comes from a "god;" be it Pelor, Heironeous, et al. Even in the game, we sometimes have two kings, who serve the same god, fighting each other. Upon what basis do we suppose that "Pelor" is empowering the Paladins on both sides? This is a contradiction that has no rationale, no explanation.
At Mark 12:17, Jesus told his followers: “Pay back Caesar's thing to Caesar, but God's things to God.” (Emphasis mine)
The scripture clearly demonstrates that there is a marked difference between the “things” -- i.e. Loyalty and Allegiance -- owed to “the King” and those owed to “God,” be the god Pelor, Pholtus, Hextor, et al.
Jesus' apostles enlarged upon this comment at Acts 5:29 where the apostles answered the San'hedrin: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Emphasis mine)
When the various game Editions speak of “lawful authority” they are almost always referring to the “Law of the Land,” that is – to “the King,” be it the King of Furyondy, of Keoland, of Nyrond, et al. In my view, however, a Paladin's first “duty” is not to the “King of the Land,” or to the King's “laws.” No, for me, the Paladin's first “duty” is to his/her God/Goddess, the Being supplying the Paladin with his/her powers. The Paladin's “duty” to the King's law is secondary at best – if the Paladin has any “duty” to it at all. A Paladin is not responsible for upholding the “law of the land,” a Paladin is responsible for upholding the “law” of his/her God/Goddess – Their teachings, doctrines, dogma, et al. History is rife with Bishops and Cardinals having their own knights, this was especially true in Germany from about 1050 A.D. until 1300 A.D. -- and beyond. These Prelates occasionally loaned -- and sometimes even rented -- their knights to the Emperor, but the knights still "served the Church" first . . . the Prelate could recall them from the Emperor's service.
So, I say that a Paladin -- in my game, at least -- is first and foremost “Good,” rather than "Lawful," because that's how I perceive and use them. Paladins are “Good,” anti-Paladins are “Evil.” (I've yet to see – or devise – a term I like for Neutral church knights. Suggestions anyone?) But I've heard and seen the title “Blackguard” used in association with “Evil” Paladins and that term works well for me also.
So, for me, a Paladin can be Lawful Good, Neutral Good or Chaotic Good – depending upon the God/Goddess the Paladin serves – as long as he is “Good.” And yes, I've seen the “nine” titles used in Dragon Magazine, but to me, those terms are senseless, they serve more as a Prestige Class then as a term for the "holy knight" him/herself and that's not what I'm after. I don't want nine terms/titles, just three: Paladin, Anti-Paladin and another for Neutrals. (I'm working on that.)
So a Paladin in service to a “Lawful” God/Goddess is lawful. A Paladin in service to a “Neutral” God/Goddess is neutral. And a Paladin in service to a “Chaotic” God/Goddess is chaotic. Trithereon quickly springs into my mind when speaking of “Chaotic Good” and – in my opinion – the prestige class “Holy Liberator” would be perfect for one for his Paladins.
For me, Paladins are “Good,” Anti-Paladins/Blackguards are “Evil” and a third term/title for Neutrals is waiting to be found. And I will stress this one more time: In my game, Paladins need not be “Lawful” in the eyes of the Secular Authority; they have no legitimate “duty” to “the King.”
As for a Paladin being a type of Knight, 2nd Edition's “The Complete Paladin Handbook” makes that point on pages 5 & 6, under the heading "The Roots of the Paladin." Do I agree with everything in there? No. I'm a fan of 2nd Edition, but that doesn't mean I don't think some adjustments are needed.
We're not finished talking about Paladins, there will be other posts. Such as, what I don't like about the kits in The Complete Paladin's Handbook and while we're at it – since Paladins are knights – why should fighters do slightly more damage than a Paladin and why should fighters get slightly more hit points?
But again, these are just my thoughts on how the Class should be played. What are your thoughts on the subject?