A look at whether or not Paladins have to be lawful, and what that means for the class.
Checkout this video:
There are a lot of video games out there that allow for a wide range of player choice when it comes to setting up their characters. In some cases, this means choosing between different classes with unique skillsets (e.g. mage, warrior, thief), while in others it might mean simply tailoring the character’s appearance to the player’s liking. One of the most popular choices players have to make is whether or not to be “lawful” or “chaotic” – but what does that actually mean, and more importantly, does it matter?
In most games that offer this choice, being lawful generally means adhering to society’s rules and acting in a way that would be considered morally upstanding. Chaotic characters, on the other hand, are more likely to break the law and/or act in ways that could be considered morally ambiguous. There are usually different benefits and drawbacks associated with each option – for instance, lawful characters might find it easier to get along with others or be granted special privileges by NPCs, while chaotic characters might be better at sneaking around or be more likely to find rare items.
When it comes to paladins – one of the most iconic lawful good characters in all of fantasy fiction – the answer is a little bit more complicated. In most cases, paladins are required to be lawful good in order to maintain their class-specific abilities (such as smite evil), but there are some notable exceptions. For instance, the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons Paladin has no such alignment restriction, meaning players can theoretically create a chaotic good paladin if they so choose.
Ultimately, whether or not a paladin has to be lawful good is up to the specific game rules you’re playing by. However, it’s worth noting that even in games where paladins can technically be of any alignment, they are still usually portrayed as paragons of virtue who always uphold the law – so if you’re looking to play a cowl-wearing rebel who flouts authority at every turn, you might want to consider another class!
What is a Paladin?
A paladin is a heroic champion who fights for good and justice. Often associated with lawful good characters, paladins can be of anygood alignment. Paladins are known for their courage, honor, and determination to do what is right.
There are many different types of paladins, but all share some common features. They are all skilled warriors, and most are also capable of casting divine spells. Some paladins specialize in particular weapons or combat techniques, while others focus on defending the weak and innocent. Many paladins serve a specific deity or ideology, but some serve only the cause of good itself.
While paladins are often portrayed as lawful good characters, this is not always the case. Some paladins may be chaotic good or even neutral good. The important thing is that they fight for what they believe is right, even if it goes against the law or strict codes of conduct.
The Paladin Code
Most paladins in fantasy fiction adhere to a strict code of conduct known as the Paladin Code. This code dictates that a paladin must be lawful, honest, chaste, charitable, forgiving, and kind. Some variations of the code also require paladins to be brave and just. While there is no hard and fast rule that all paladins must follow the Paladin Code, it is generally accepted that those who do not adhere to its tenets are not true paladins.
Lawful Good vs. Neutral Good
There is some debate among players of the Dungeons & Dragons game as to whether or not a paladin has to be of the lawful good alignment. The official stance of Wizards of the Coast, the game’s publishers, is that a paladin “must be of lawful good alignment and loses all class features except proficiencies if she ever willfully commits an evil act.”1 However, there is precedent in the game’s history for non-lawful good paladins, and some players argue that the Paladin code does not necessarily require a paladin to be Lawful Good.
The Paladin code does require a paladin to have a strong sense of justice, and to act with honor. A Paladin who breaks her word, or who acts in a dishonorable way, may lose her ability to cast Paladin spells.2 Some players interpret this as meaning that a Paladin must be Lawful Good, as acting with honor and keeping one’s word are essential qualities of that alignment. Others interpret it as meaning that a Paladin must simply be lawful or good, but not necessarily both.
The idea of a non-Lawful Good paladin is not without precedent in Dungeons & Dragons history. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, there was a class called the Cavalier which could be of any good alignment.3 The 3rd edition Player’s Handbook mentions cavaliers in its section onGood Characters Who Are Not Necessarily Lawful Good,4 and further suggests that characters who adhere to codes of honor but are not necessarily lawful might make good paladins.5
Ultimately, whether or not a paladin has to be Lawful Good is up to the Dungeon Master. Some DMs will allow players to create non-Lawful Good paladins, while others will require them to strictly adhere to the Paladin code.
Lawful Evil vs. Neutral Evil
There is some debate over whether or not paladins have to be lawful, with the consensus being that they can be of any good alignment. However, the idea of a chaotic good or neutral good paladin is more of a modern creation; in older works, paladins were always portrayed as lawful characters. The reason for this is that the original concept of the paladin was based on the French knight-errant, who was a type of medieval chivalrous warrior. These knights were bound by a code of conduct known as chivalry, which dictated their behavior both on and off the battlefield. As such, they were seen as being disciplined and orderly, which are qualities typically associated with the lawful alignment.
Good vs. Evil
Paladins are often seen as lawful good characters, but do they have to be? Paladins are warriors of virtue and justice, and they fight for what they believe is right. While they may be associated with lawful good ideologies, paladins can come from any alignment.
The Paladin’s Oath
The Paladin’s Oath is a code of ethics and morality that Paladins adhere to. The Paladin’s Code is not a set of specific rules, but rather guidelines that help Paladins make morally correct decisions. Paladins are expected to be Lawful Good in alignment, and while they do not have to be Lawful Good, they must be within one step of Lawful Good on the Good-Evil axis (i.e. they can be Neutral Good or Chaotic Good, but not Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil).
The Paladin’s Code of Conduct
Paladins are warriors of honor who adhere to a strict code of conduct. This code requires them to be lawful, honest, chaste, kind, and merciful. They must also maintain their integrity and vow to protect the innocent. While the code does not enforcement mechanisms, paladins who violate it may face expulsion from their order.
The Paladin’s Duties
Most people think of Paladins as being Lawful Good characters, and while that is the most common Paladin alignment, it is not the only possibility. A Paladin can be of any Good alignment (Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic), and in some cases, an Evil Paladin might even be allowed in a campaign. However, no matter what alignment a Paladin is, they all have two things in common: a sworn duty to uphold good and justice, and the terrific power to destroy evil.
A Paladin’s duties are twofold: to protect the innocent and to vanquish evil. They often take on the role of judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to rooting out villainy. Paladins are expected to show no mercy to evil foes, and they often operate outside of the law in order to bring evildoers to justice. This can sometimes put them at odds with the authorities, but as long as their actions result in justice being served, most Paladins are content to let the chips fall where they may.
So while a Paladin does not have to be Lawful Good, their devotion to duty and justice will always be one of their defining characteristics.
It is a common misconception that paladins have to be lawful. While it is true that the vast majority of paladins are lawful, there are a small number of them that are chaotic. While they are not as common as their lawful counterparts, they do exist.