Roleplaying a paladin in DnD has gotten a bad wrap. Many people view paladins as the class that has a stick up there, well you know. They are strick and drain the fun of everyone around them. That is not how you have to or should roleplay a paladin.
Roleplaying a paladin in DnD can be done in a variety of ways. You can be vengeful, strict, righteous, passive, or even a villain. Just don’t be a pain.
In 5e you can be a villain or anti-paladin based on who you worship. It gives even more options than before. You may not even be recognized as a traditional paladin.
Paladins have a heavy stereotype. Roleplaying a paladin in DnD always meant that you were someone who was a pain. People had to talk about plans away from you and had to put you in a corner. Literally. I recall a few games where the paladin player was ignorant of the rogue’s mischief on purpose in order to let the story progress.
These paladins are the worst and should never have been played. The player didn’t understand what a paladin was, and the Dm did not intervene. It made it so that the paladin was a horrible class who primarily hurt the group in roleplay.
This does not have to be the norm.
Yes, a paladin has oaths and bonds that they have to uphold. So do clerics, druids, and other classes who are tied to a faction, rules, or even civilization. That does not make them horrible to play with, and a paladin doesn’t have to be horrible to play with.
Do not use oaths/rules as an excuse to be a terrible player.
Paladins of the past have been portrayed as people who demand the players to be stupid or die by the paladin’s hand. They try to put the blame on ‘maintaining oaths’ but it is just an excuse. You can have values and stick to them like everyone else. Just don’t push them onto other people with the threat of violence!
Some great ways to play a paladin are by looking at the oath which was taken and why.
That is why we will be looking into each of the oaths and seeing how they can be roleplayed well. After looking at each oath, you can pick how you want to roleplay your paladin or make up your own reason. These are guides to help you understand what a paladin is since the stereotype of a paladin is what they should not be.
Oath of the ancients
The oath of the ancients is a strange 1 for people who associate paladins with the stereotype. They serve nature and still fight evil, but on a cosmic level.
These paladins can be just, but also try to protect purity and life. The nature of why they became a paladin is up to them. They might be fey knights who were asked by a god/goddess to guard an area and only let those pass who they deem are worthy.
Ancient oath paladins are able to be more than guards. They usually try to protect life, but you can add something more to your paladin. Here is a good example.
My favorite paladin to play is an oath of Ancients paladin. She is ditsy, will drink, brawl, and go to brothels if they are legal. She is prone to almost every vice out there as long as the laws in the land allow it, but she most importantly enjoys life.
This paladin doesn’t fit the stereotype at all. She is prone to every vice imaginable, but she has some redeeming qualities. This paladin is loyal, protects life, tries to uphold justice, and will do her best to cause joy wherever she goes. She does all this while fighting evil and never comprising her values.
This is a great way to play an ancient’s paladin. Have a different value than the traditional paladin and roll with it. Hers was maintaining and giving joy to others while upholding all the other tenants. Your paladin could be someone who encourages growth in everything for their betterment.
There is almost no limit to roleplaying a paladin in DnD with the oath of ancients. The same applies to the oath of conquest.
Oath of conquest
Paladins who have sworn an oath of conquest usually are not like the stereotypical paladin. They are always out there fighting for a reason like the stereotypical paladin, but they can take it much further.
There is a classic moral quandary of orc babies. Let me tell you the quandary.
“You have slain the orcs and see that there is an orc baby, only a few months old, who is crying for his mother. What do you do?”
If you answered that you would save it then you are probably not a paladin of conquest. You saved the baby because it is just a babe and will not harm anyone. It might even turn out to be good in the future!
If you answered that it must die, you might be a paladin of conquest. The reason why it has to die is because it is an orc. It is evil, from an evil race, and will be evil. Therefore you are doing a good deed and possibly saving lives by killing this thing. Besides, it will resent those who killed it’s parents so why not kill it?
That 2nd answer doesn’t sound very paladin like, but a paladin who has sworn an oath of conquest might be trying to eliminate all evil from the world. This is 1 way to do it and you may do morally questionable acts in order to serve the greater good.
This way you are walking a fine line and can go too far. The weird thing with a paladin of conquest is that if you go too far, you can still be a paladin of conquest.
The dark paladin of conquest has become an anti-paladin. They might view the world as evil and try to slay everything in it, but both have some things in common.
A paladin of conquest can still have honor, loyalty, follow a god and their tenants, along with chivalry. Strange I know, but even bad guys can have morals.
You just need to figure out how you are roleplaying a paladin in DnD and why you are a paladin of conquest. This is a very murder-hoboish type of paladin, but what about a more traditional paladin?
Oath of the crown
You have chosen to serve a lord or civilization faithfully. These paladins must always respect the law above all others, but does that make you boring?
We have civic servants that act somewhat closely to crown paladins in our time. The servants I am talking about are policemen, but there are good and bad cops. The best police are those who try to help society, the people they serve, and practice de-escalation rather than force.
As a crown paladin, you are trying to serve society, but it isn’t an easy task. If you are trying to serve it by taking care of vagabonds, how will you do so? Will you think it is best for society to kindly put the vagrants into cells and rehabilitate them? If you think this is the case, then you could be like a good cop character in a movie.
On the other hand, you can recognize that those miscreants are a blight on civilization and should be fully punished according to the law. Maybe, a little bit further. Purging society of these worthless beings is what is best for civilization after all, and you might want to cleanse the streets in accordance with the law. Even if the law is death for begging.
In the middle ground, you can be a paladin who realizes that the law is the most important thing, but even the most important things are flawed. If a family is stealing for food will you chop off a hand like the law demands or will you let them go? You are there to help civilization and society, but is chopping off a person’s hand who just wants to feed their family really the best thing?
Lastly, crown paladins can serve lords, cities, or nations. But what do you do when they try to do something immoral like commit genocide? Do you stand up and fight against injustice or help strengthen civilization by cleansing the problems?
We might not find a paladin’s actions completely just in our society, but in their time and given the right circumstances, it might be just in their eyes. What is more, it could be considered just according to their oaths.
Even crown paladins have some grey areas that make it interesting when roleplaying a paladin in DnD, but what about the devotion oath?
Oath of devotion
This is supposed to be the stereotypical paladin. They hold honor and justice above all else, and everything else be damned! But you don’t have to roleplay a paladin in DnD like this.
The oath of devotion is for those who want to play old-school paladins, and they can be a lot of fun.
You hold others to these ideals, but realize that everyone is different. If the rogue is trying to get information from torture don’t just sit in a corner and let it happen. Ask why they think torture will work since it has only provided false information for other orders.
This is a factual reason, but there are also benefits to acting honorable and decent. Think of horrible people who lie, steal, and cheat. They have a negative reputation and they won’t do anything of high importance in society. At least, they won’t do so very easily.
Isn’t it easier to get jobs that help people from the king than lie, steal, kill, and cheat to rule an empire from fear? If you like the 2nd option, do not play this paladin but you have to realize that the 1st option is easier. That is why this route is beneficial to your party.
If you are the kind, honest, and righteous person everyone knows of then you will get more work. That is unless you are insufferable. DO NOT BE A PAIN TO WORK WITH!!!
You can hold others to your standards, but they will fall short. If they fall short, then you can try to guide them in the right direction. Friendship and a gentle but consistent guiding push is oftentimes more effective than a brutish approach.
This is how you get awkward yet amazing relationships between rogues and paladins. I have seen rogues and paladins as best friends who are both trying to help each other. The paladin is trying to help the rogue become a better person and the rogue is trying to help the paladin be free from all the rules and regulations. It is an interesting dynamic that can be extremely fun to roleplay.
There are many ways to approach the devotion paladin, but the main rule to remember is do not be a pain or detriment to your party! Roleplaying a paladin in DnD like this can be a lot of fun, but what about the vengeance paladin?
Oath of vengeance
You are an avenger! Someone has been wronged and you are the person to right that wrong. A group of bandits destroyed this village. You are the 1 to avenge those villagers and make their deaths not in vain!
The wrongdoing could be done to you. A group of bandits destroyed your village, and you are now after every bandit. They all must burn for their crimes!
This type of paladin sounds more like a crazy person, or at best a barbarian than anything else but there are major differences. Roleplaying a paladin in DnD always has some aspect of virtue, righteousness, and justice. In this case, you are punishing the wicked who have already done wrong.
That alone is very righteous and just, but you can also be virtuous by trying to stop further death and destruction from happening.
The oath of vengeance is pretty straightforward, but it is up to you how you want to play a paladin that has given their life to vengeance.
There are two types of oathbreakers. The first is 1 who has lost their way and needs to be redeemed. This can be a huge narrative process that will greatly affect the paladin and their comrades in order to make a grand story.
The 2nd type of oathbreaker is an intentional oathbreaker. These oathbreakers have been manipulated, chosen, or fallen in some way to break their oath and serve a dark master.
If you are roleplaying a paladin in DnD, you do not have to be lawful/good anymore. Some settings will only recognize you as a paladin if you are lawful/good (like mine) but you still have the powers of the paladin class. That is the oathbreaker subclass and these are the anti-paladins.
Now a paladin does not need to always serve a god of law and goodness. They can instead start out as a paladin of any god. This includes the dark gods who revel in murder, evil and all foul mannerisms.
An oathbreaker is not your typical paladin and has to have a reason for serving darkness. That reason could be anything. I would not recommend this as an option for many beginners since there are problems with evil characters.
If you are an oathbreaker and chose to serve a dark god, you are most likely an evil character. Being an evil character is fine but you NEED to follow these rules or the game will suffer. If you follow the 9 rules, you should enhance your game and make a memorable character for everyone.
Roleplaying a paladin in DnD is easy to mess up if you follow the typical stereotypes. If you follow the golden rule and do not be a pain, it can be an amazing experience for you and everyone involved.
It is not a bad thing to have a good guy in the group. You are a group of murdering adventurers, but it can be beneficial to have a good guy in the group. It might even make life easier!
In contrast to that, you can play a gambling, drinking, and brothel attending paladin who seems to go against the very idea of what a paladin is! At least, against the stereotype.
Take a look at your oath and think about who your paladin is and why they have chosen that route. It will help you create an amazing character, and I hope that you can play an amazing paladin in your campaign!
Also, if you want to check out our other guides on how to roleplay different classes then check out our theory blogs here!
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!