Chapter 3: Ethos
The set of principles that structures a paladin's life and regulates his behavior is called an ethos. While an ethos may encompass the written laws of society, its scope is much broader, incorporating spiritual edicts and moral absolutes to form an ethical ideal. A paladin's ethos defines his attitudes, shapes his personality, and influences virtually every decision he'll ever make.
Though a guiding ideology is certainly not unique to paladins, the paladin's ethos differs from that of other character classes in two significant ways. First, the paladin's ethos is complex, comprising a long list of general guidelines and specific rules. Second, the paladin's ethos is uncompromising, requiring absolute dedication. Violations have severe consequences, ranging from reprimands to suspensions of privileges. Extreme violations may result in a complete loss of status and permanent removal of all his special abilities.
Still, the paladin considers his ethos a privilege, not a burden. To him, all conduct has a moral quality. Every action is a choice between right and wrong. With justifiable pride, he considers himself an embodiment of the highest standards of human behavior.
We begin with the three general components of the paladin's ethos: strictures (formal rules), edicts (commands from authorities), and virtues (behavioral values). The final section explains how a paladin may violate his ethos, and suggests suitable punishments and atonements.
The most important elements of a paladin's ethos are his strictures, a set of inviolable rules from the PH that the paladin must follow at all times. The paladin's strictures are as inflexible as his ability requirements; they are part of what defines a character as a paladin and distinguishes him from other classes.
Lawful Good Alignment
Every paladin must be lawful good. The moment he abandons the conditions of this alignment is the moment he stops being a paladin.
At the heart of a lawful good alignment is the belief in a system of laws that promotes the welfare of all members of a society, ensures their safety, and guarantees justice. So long as the laws are just and applied fairly to all people, it doesn't matter to the paladin whether they originate from a democracy or a dictator.
Though all lawful good systems adhere to the same general principles, specific laws may be different. One society may allow a wife to have two husbands, another may enforce strict monogamy. Gambling may be tolerated in one system, forbidden in another. A paladin respects the laws of other lawful good cultures and will not seek to impose his own values on their citizens.
However, a paladin will not honor a law that runs contrary to his alignment. A government may believe that unregulated gambling provides a harmless diversion, but a paladin may determine that the policy has resulted in devastating poverty and despair. In the paladin's mind, the government is guilty of a lawless act by promoting an exploitative and destructive enterprise. In response, the paladin may encourage citizens to refrain from gambling, or he may work to change the law.
Particularly abhorrent practices, such as slavery and torture, may force the paladin to take direct action. It doesn't matter if these practices are culturally acceptable or sanctioned by well-meaning officials. The paladin's sense of justice compels him to intervene and alleviate as much suffering as he can. Note, though, that time constraints, inadequate resources, and other commitments may limit his involvement. While a paladin might wish for a cultural revolution in a society that tolerates cannibalism, he may have to content himself with rescuing a few victims before circumstances force him to leave the area.
When will a paladin take a life? A paladin kills whenever necessary to promote the greater good, or to protect himself, his companions, or anyone whom he's vowed to defend. In times of war, he strikes down the enemies of his ruler or church. He does not interfere with a legal execution, so long as the punishment fits the crime.
Otherwise, a paladin avoids killing whenever possible. He does not kill a person who is merely suspected of a crime, nor does a paladin necessarily kill someone he perceives to be a threat unless he has tangible evidence or certain knowledge of evildoing. He never kills for treasure or personal gain. He never knowingly kills a lawful good being.
Though paladins believe in the sanctity of innocent life, most kill animals and other nonaligned creatures in certain situations. A paladin may kill animals for food. He will kill a monster that endangers humans, even if the monster is motivated by instinct, not evil. While some paladins avoid hunting for sport, others may hunt to sharpen their combat and tracking skills.
Magical Item Limit
The paladin's limited access to spells also extends to the number of magical items he may possess. Under no circumstances may a paladin retain more than 10 magical items, regardless of his level, kit, or status.
Paladins are limited not only to the number of magical items, but also the type. Specifically, a paladin can have the following:
One suit of magical armor. This excludes all pieces of normal armor that have been temporarily enchanted, as well as accessories such as a cloak of protection, a helm of protection, or boots of speed (all of which count against the paladin's miscellaneous item limit). A single piece of magical armor, such a chest plate, counts as a full suit for limitation purposes.
One magical shield.
Four magical weapons. This excludes all normal weapons temporarily affected by enchanted weapon or similar spells, but includes holy swords. A quiver or case of arrows or bolts counts as one item. Individual arrows and bolts are counted as one item if they have special magical properties, such as arrows of direction and arrows of slaying.
Four miscellaneous magical items. This category includes rings, rods, staves, gems, and scrolls. A bag of beans, a set of ioun stones, and a deck of many things each count as one item. A magical potion counts as one item, regardless of the number of doses. Items temporarily enchanted by spells are excluded.
To ensure that a paladin stays within his limit, it's important to clarify who owns each of the party's magical items. In general, a paladin won't use a magical item unless it's his. It doesn't matter who actually carries the item; if a paladin has claimed ownership, it belongs to him. A paladin may loan items to his companions, but so long as he retains ownership, loaned items count against his limit.
Conversely, if a paladin has 10 items, he won't borrow items from other characters. A paladin won't look for ambiguities to exploit; he remains true to the spirit as well as the letter of these rules.
Of course, a paladin may not know that an item is magical when he acquires it. But as soon as he becomes aware of its special properties, he's obligated to give it away or to get rid of another item to remain within his limit.
A paladin may voluntarily rid himself of a magical item if he finds a more desirable one. For instance, he may give up an arrow of direction if he discovers a javelin of lightning.
Excess magical items may be given to other lawful good characters, donated to the paladin's religious institution, or simply discarded. Since excess items technically don't belong to the paladin (he won't claim ownership), they may not be sold or traded, even if the paladin intends to funnel the profits to a worthy cause.
A paladin has no interest in wealth for its own sake. He seeks spiritual rather than material satisfaction, derived from serving his faith and his government to the best of his ability. To a paladin, the pleasures of ownership are fleeting, superficial, and ultimately debasing. The rewards of duty are lasting and deep.
Still, the paladin realizes that a certain amount of money is necessary to survive. Rather than forego money altogether, he retains enough wealth to meet his worldly obligations and sustain a modest lifestyle.
A paladin doesn't expect handouts, nor does he rely on the generosity of strangers or his companions. He feels responsible to pay his own way and takes pride in his self-sufficiency. He earns income from treasure, rewards, and fees, the same as anyone else. Unlike most other characters, however, the paladin operates under strict guidelines as to how he can spend his money and how much he can save.
A paladin requires funds to cover the following expenses:
Food. A paladin is responsible for feeding himself and his steed. To hold down costs, the paladin might hunt his own game, and may gather fruits, nuts and vegetables from the wilderness.
Weapons, armor, and clothing. This includes the costs of purchase, upkeep, repair, and replacement. A paladin seldom skimps in this area, spending as much as his funds will allow to secure the highest-quality equipment.
Tack and harness. As with weapons and armor, many paladins splurge to buy the best, especially for bonded mounts.
Lodging. When sleeping outdoors isn't practical, paladins seek out the least expensive inns.
Taxes and licenses. The paladin must make all payments required by his liege. He must also pay all foreign tolls and fees levied during his travels.
Training costs. A paladin may pay a tutor for training, providing the tutor is of lawful good alignment and the paladin has permission from his patron. (See Chapter 7 for more about training procedures.)
Miscellaneous provisions. Including medicines, lantern oil, clothing, bedding, and grooming supplies. Many paladins prefer to forage, improvise, or manufacture these items instead of buying them outright, in order to save money.
Salaries. Fair salaries are required for all servitors and henchmen.
Stronghold expenses. A paladin pays all costs associated with the construction and maintenance of his stronghold.
In addition to his contingency fund, a paladin may also maintain a separate fund to save for a stronghold. As explained in Chapter 7, construction prices vary wildly, though all are expensive. A paladin may have to save for years, even decades, to accumulate enough wealth to build a stronghold. A wise paladin, then, begins his stronghold fund as soon as possible; 1st level isn't too early to start saving.
Once a paladin establishes a stronghold, he acquires a universe of new expenses, particularly those involving personnel and maintenance. The paladin must adjust his monthly budget accordingly. He may also wish to build up his contingency fund to cover two or three months' worth of overhead.
An established stronghold typically falls into one of three economic categories, each of which has a particular impact on the paladin's finances:
Subsidized. The stronghold has no significant agricultural or manufacturing base. Any crops or goods produced at the stronghold are insufficient to pay the stronghold's maintenance costs and employees. The paladin must make up the difference out of his own pocket, which raises his monthly financial obligations dramatically.
It's not unusual for a paladin to subsidize a new stronghold until it gets up and running. With careful management and a little luck, a stronghold becomes self-sustaining within a few months or, at most, a few years. Some paladins, however, subsidize their strongholds indefinitely, usually for one of two reasons:
The stronghold was never designed to generate income, functioning instead as a military stronghold, training center, hospital, or religious sanctuary. Such a stronghold requires the commitment of a paladin with considerable resources.
The stronghold was designed to generate income, but due to misfortune or incompetent management, never succeeded. Should the paladin decide to cut his losses and abandon the stronghold, he must first see to the well-being of his faithful employees, giving them adequate severance pay and doing what he can to find them new jobs.
Self-sustaining. The stronghold pays its own way through the sale of crops, goods, or services. The paladin needn't subsidize the operation in any way, nor does he have to worry about the proper disposal of excess profits (there aren't any). This is the ideal arrangement for most paladins.
Profit-making. The stronghold generates regular and dependable profits from the sale of crops, goods, or services. The paladin uses these profits to expand his holdings (to provide jobs for more people or to further glorify his deity, never for personal gain) or to increase his donations to his church or other worthy causes. A profit-making stronghold usually requires extra time and attention from the paladin, or the services of skilled managers.
All of a paladin's excess funds must be forfeited. This includes all money remaining after he pays his regular expenses, as well as any money not specifically allocated to a savings fund for building a stronghold. He may keep a contingency fund equal to two or three times his normal monthly budget (including maintenance costs and employee salaries for his stronghold) but no more. He may not stockpile money to buy gifts, leave to his heirs, or pay a friend's expenses.
What does a paladin do with the excess? He has three options:
Refuse it. If an appreciative community offers him a sack of gems for destroying a vampire, he politely declines. ("Your gratitude is more than sufficient.") If he discovers a treasure chest filled with pearls, gold pieces, and a book of poetry, he takes the book and leaves the rest (and he's likely to give the book to a friend or a library after he's finished reading it).
Donate it to the church. This does not count as a regular tithing (see the Tithing section below), as it's not considered part of his income.
Donate it to another worthy institution of lawful good alignment. Suitable recipients include hospitals, libraries, and orphanages. Research facilities, military organizations, and governmental operations are acceptable only if the paladin is certain that the money will be spent on lawful good projects.
Within these guidelines, a paladin may dispose of his excess funds as he wishes. He may donate treasure to a hospital on one occasion, and refuse a monetary reward for rescuing a kidnapped prince on another. However, he may never give his excess funds to another player character, or to any nonplayer character or creature controlled by a player.
Remember, too, that just because a paladin declines a reward for rescuing a prince doesn't mean his fellow party members can't accept it. If a paladin kills an evil dragon, then walks away from its treasure hoard, his companions are still free to help themselves.
A paladin falling on hard times or confronted with unanticipated expenses may arrange for a loan from a lawful good character or institution. While borrowing money may be a humiliating experience, it's rarely an ethos violation unless the paladin borrows money he doesn't need or doesn't intend to repay.
In general, a paladin may borrow only small amounts of money (say, an amount equivalent to his monthly budget). He may also borrow the minimum amount required for an emergency; an opportunity to buy a treasure map leading to a holy sword doesn't qualify, but medicine to treat a dying companion might. Borrowing money to pay the monthly operating expenses of a stronghold is allowed, but only if necessary to keep lawful good workers employed or to make vital repairs. (A leaking roof can wait; a crumbled wall probably can't.) A paladin should strive to repay his debts as quickly as possible.
Repeated borrowing is discouraged, and chronic debt should be considered an ethos violation. If a paladin borrows money for several consecutive months, he might lose his stronghold, his bonded mount, or any other obligation that's costing him more than he can afford.
A paladin must give 10% of all his income to a lawful good institution. This 10% is called a tithe. In most cases, a paladin tithes to his church or other religious organization. If he doesn't belong to a church or operates independently (as in the case of the Expatriate character kit described in Chapter 4), he may designate any lawful good organization, such as a hospital or university, as the recipient of his tithes. A paladin has no say in how his tithes are spent, though the money typically goes towards the institution's maintenance, recruitment, equipment, and education costs. A paladin usually tithes to the same institution for his entire career.
A paladin's first tithe usually comes out of his starting funds of 5d4 x 10 gp. After that, he must tithe from all sources of income, including rewards, treasure, wages, and profits generated from his stronghold. When he acquires a gem or magical item, he owes his designated institution 10% of the item's value (as determined by the DM), payable at the earliest opportunity. If he finds a diamond worth 500 gp, he owes 50 gp; if the gem is lost or stolen, he still owes 50 gp (the institution isn't penalized for the paladin's carelessness).
Tithes are due only on funds the paladin actually claims for himself. If he walks away from a treasure or refuses a reward, no tithes are necessary.
It's the paladin's responsibility to get his tithes to his institution as soon as possible. A monthly payment will suffice in most cases, with the paladin turning in 10% of all the income he's acquired in the previous four weeks. If a monthly payment is impossible or impracticalfor instance, if the paladin is on a mission halfway around the world, or if he's a prisoner of warhe may make other arrangements, providing he offers a satisfactory explanation. A paladin may personally present his tithings to his institution or he may deliver them by messenger.
Tithes carried by the paladin but not yet delivered are still considered to be the property of the institution. A starving paladin who has no other funds aside from 10 gp of tithes may not spend his tithes on food, unless he first petitions his deity for permission. If he's behaved responsiblysay, if he used his last gold piece to pay for treatment of a dying childpermission is usually granted, with the understanding that the tithes must be replaced.
Alignment of Associates
A paladin is known by the company he keeps. Ideally, a paladin associates only with good-aligned companions. Relationships with neutral characters may be tolerated in limited circumstances, but prolonged contact may result in an ethos violation. Any association with an evil-aligned character can be construed as an evil act. In general, a paladin bears responsibility for the actions of his associates, even those taken without his knowledge or consent.
Hirelings. Without exception, all of a paladin's men-at-arms and stronghold employees must be lawful good. The paladin should do his best to determine their alignment before he hires them. Should a hireling commit an evil act or otherwise reveal himself to be of an alignment other than lawful good, the paladin has no recourse but to fire him and, if necessary, turn him over to the proper authorities for prosecution.
In some cases, a paladin shares responsibility for the evil actions of his hirelings. For instance, a paladin's stable master commits murder. The paladin may not be legally liable, but he may be considered an accomplice in an ethical sense. Although the authorities may not prosecute the paladin, he may still suffer a punishment for violating his ethos, particularly if he was remiss in investigating the stable master's background prior to his employment. As always, it's up to the DM to determine if an ethos violation has been committed.
Henchmen. A paladin accepts only lawful good characters as henchmen. As with a hireling, the paladin should make every effort to determine a potential henchman's alignment before an alliance develops. The paladin must immediately dismiss a henchman who commits an evil act.
Good characters. In an adventuring party, a paladin naturally gravitates to other lawful good player characters, making them his confidants and closest companions. Rarely, however, can a paladin choose the composition of his party, as fate often throws together characters of vastly different outlooks. A paladin cooperates with a party so long as the majority of the characters are good-aligned; a majority of neutral characters or the presence of even a single evil character may present problems.
A paladin can maintain a comfortable partnership with a neutral good characters, despite his reservations about the neutral good character's indifference to social structures. However, the neutral good character must be working strictly in the interests of good. A paladin is less at ease with chaotic good characters, owing to their independent nature and lack of respect for authority. But a paladin will work with chaotic good characters so long as their behavior complies with his goals.
Neutral characters. Next to good characters, some paladins feel most comfortable with lawful neutral characters, admiring them for their sense of duty and loyalty to their government. This, of course, presumes the lawful neutral characters serve reasonably benevolent governments, not despots or slave traders.
A paladin will cooperate with a party that contains a minority of lawful neutral or true neutral characters. But he most likely keeps neutral characters at arm's length, resisting their gestures of friendship. Instead, he tries to serve as an example to the neutral characters, hoping to convince them through words and deeds that a commitment to good results in a richer, fuller life. So long as neutral characters refrain from committing evil acts, a paladin continues to work with them.
A paladin won't join a party consisting entirely of neutral characters, unless the stakes are exceptionally high. He may, for instance, work with a neutral party to retrieve a holy artifact, rescue his king, or save his church from destruction. For less momentous undertakings, such as treasure hunts or reconnaissance expeditions, the paladin should excuse himself. (If a party mostly consists of neutral PCs, the DM should explain the general nature of a new adventure to a player with a paladin PC. The player should have the option of gracefully bowing out of the adventure or choosing another character.)
Evil characters. Because he is duty-bound to suppress evil, a paladin won't tolerate an evil PC. He may take the evil PC into custody, physically restrain him, or demand his expulsion from the party. If all else fails, the paladin severs his ties with the party and go his own way. In any event, inaction is unacceptable.
A paladin finds it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid contact with evil NPCs. They're everywhere: walking down a street, dining at an inn, shopping at a bazaar. A paladin's ethos doesn't compel him to attack or even confront all evil NPCs; in many cases, hostile confrontations could be counterproductive, particularly if such an action distracts the paladin from a more important mission, or if it triggers retaliation from the NPC's companions against innocent bystanders.
Time and circumstances permitting, a paladin may question evil NPCs, follow them, or make inquiries about them. None of these actions violate a paladin's ethos when used in moderation. (However, spying and similar actions should be a last resort, because they connote deception). A paladin walks on shaky ground, however, the moment he begins an association with an evil NPC that could be perceived as friendly or compliant.
Edicts include commands, instructions, and traditions the paladin has pledged to obey, usually imposed by the paladin's patron. The paladin must follow his edicts to the letter; he takes them as seriously as any other element of his ethos.
A paladin doesn't choose which edicts to follow. Rather, he pledges to follow any and all edicts issued by specified sources. The paladin chooses his sources when he begins his career. Additionally, the DM may make recommendations or require specific sources.
Edict sources may be chosen from the list below. Usually, a paladin's background will suggest appropriate choices. For instance, a paladin whose parents expect him to adhere to their traditions may swear to follow all edicts from his father and mother.
The DM determines the nature of all edicts. He also decides how they apply and when they occur. At the DM's direction, a source may issue a set of edicts at the outset of a paladin's career. Alternately, a source may wait to issue edicts until a particular event occurs (such as the acquisition of a stronghold or a declaration of war). At any time, a source may issue new edicts, modify old edicts, or suspend standing edicts. It's possible that a source may never issue an edict. In any case, it's up to the paladin to keep track of his edicts and follow them exactly.
Occasionally, edicts from different sources may conflict. For instance, a paladin's church might issue an edict that clashes with an edict from his government. In most cases, religious edicts take priority over edicts from other sources. In all cases, a paladin's strictures and core principles have priority over strictures issued by any social institution. For more about conflicting edicts, see Chapter 8.
Religion and Philosophy
If the paladin belongs to an organized religion, the church will probably be the major source of edicts. Church edicts encompass spiritual obligations, behavior restrictions, and service requirements. Philosophies, too, may have their own edicts, imposed by the architects of the philosophy or by the paladin himself. A deity may also issue edicts to the paladin directly, appearing in a dream or as an avatar. Chapter 8 discusses religious and philosophic edicts in detail.
A paladin who has pledged fealty to his government must follow its edicts. Some examples:
Perform military service.
Donate the use of his stronghold for any legitimate government purpose (housing soldiers, entertaining government guests, storing supplies, and so on).
Pay a one-time tax or fee.
Temporarily loan a stronghold hireling.
Guard a particular item or person. The paladin assumes complete responsibility for the safety of the item or person.
Undertake a cavalcade, a long journey for the purpose of escorting dignitaries, delivering messages, or scouting new territory.
Represent the government in a jousting match or other contest of skill at a tournament.
Appear at a state banquet or other ceremonial function.
Paladins who have no ties to an organized religion often choose to follow the edicts of a mentor. A mentor can be any teacher, sage, or elder whom the paladin respects; often, the mentor is the paladin's ethical role model or the person who tutored him in philosophy. A group or organization can also qualify as a mentor. Possible edicts:
Take regularly scheduled tests that measure intelligence or integrity. For instance, the mentor may engage the paladin in probing philosophic discussions on the nature of evil or the obligations of friendship.
Care for the mentor in his old age.
Pass along the mentor's ideas to a young acolyte of the mentor's choice. (In effect, the paladin becomes a mentor to someone else.)
Unless they contradict the principles of his government or religion, a paladin may choose to follow edicts from his culture. Cultural edicts arise from the long-standing traditions of a particular tribe, region, or race, and as such, they rarely change. Examples include:
Marry by a certain age.
Always bow from the waist or curtsy to strangers and elders.
Hold the lives of animals to be equal to those of men. A paladin following this edict never eats meat, never hunts for sport or food, and only kills an animal to protect himself or those he's sworn to defend.
Family edicts derive from tradition, obligations to relatives, and the wishes of particular family members. Edicts may be issued by the paladin's parents or grandparents, or by a consensus of all living family members.
Won't all paladins automatically choose to follow the edicts of their families? Not necessarily. A paladin's family may not be of good alignment. The paladin may be an orphan and have no knowledge of his family. Sympathetic families may not wish to burden the paladin with their problems. If a paladin has not vowed to follow the edicts of his family, his obligations to them are no different from his obligations to anyone else. Typical family edicts include:
Visit the family burial ground once per year on a designated day.
Uphold a tradition never to harm a particular animal. (For example, if a bear sacrificed itself to save the paladin's infant sister from a dragon, the paladin may vow never to harm bears.)
Donate a fixed percentage of all income to the family.
Virtues are traits exemplifying the highest standards of morality, decency, and duty. They comprise the paladin's personal code. Although not specifically detailed in the PH definition of a paladin, a paladin's virtues are implied by his strictures as well as his outlook, role, and personality. Just as a paladin must obey his strictures, he must also remain true to his virtues.
Though most paladins adhere to all of the virtues described below, exceptions are possible. For instance, a paladin from a primitive society may be so unfamiliar with civilized etiquette that including courtesy as part of his ethos would be unreasonable. All adjustments must be cleared by the DM at the outset of a paladin's career.
There are no rules for adjudicating virtue violations. The DM is advised to err in favor of the paladin when the player makes honest mistakes. Conversely, the player should graciously accept the DM's rulings and, in the spirit of the paladin, avoid looking for loopholes to take advantage of the DM's good will. The entries below include examples of how virtues might influence the paladin's behavior in the context of a game.
In feudal times, fealty referred to the relationship between a warrior and his lord. A warrior swore allegiance to a lord in exchange for protection, support, and property. The lord, in turn, could count on the warrior for military duty and other services. Both the lord and the warrior scrupulously honored this agreement. Perfidy, the breaking of the promise by either party, was considered a treacherous breach of faith.
This book takes a broader view of fealty, defining it as loyalty not only to a lord but to any lawful good government, religion, or philosophy. For convenience, we refer to the recipient of a paladin's loyalty as the patron.
Regardless of whoor whatfunctions as the patron, fealty gives the paladin a sense of belonging to something greater than himself. Fealty also sets the criteria for a paladin's moral code; in essence, the patron establishes the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. However, although the patron provides the basic moral code, it is ultimately the paladin who is responsible for and bears the consequences of his actions.
About the Categories
Let's take a closer look at the three categories of fealty patrons:
Religion. A religion is a set of beliefs centering on one or more omnipotent deities with supernatural powers. The patron is usually a church representing an established religion, but can be a deity.
Government. This can be any individual or governing body with the absolute power to make laws and declare war. In most campaigns, the patron is usually a monarch.
Philosophy. A philosophy is a system of ideas that explains the nature of the universe, exclusive of supernatural beings. The patron may be an established philosophy developed by scholars, or a unique philosophy developed by the paladin himself. (Chapter 8 discusses the definition of a philosophy in more detail, including the differences between philosophies and religions.) For the purposes of fealty, religion and philosophy are mutually exclusive; a paladin can't pledge fealty to both.
Choices of Patrons
Every paladin must pledge fealty to something. As a minimum, he must pledge fealty to either a religion or philosophy; this faith is what grants him the special powers described in Chapter 2. Beyond this requirement, patrons should derive logically from the paladin's background and outlook. In most campaigns, the proper patrons will be self-evident. For instance:
If a paladin follows the tenets of a lawful good religion and serves in the military of a lawful good ruler, he probably swears fealty to both his church and government.
If a paladin comes from a rigid theocratic culture (a society ruled exclusively by priests) or serves no feudal lord, he probably pledges fealty to the church alone.
If a lawful good monarchy has no formal relationship with an established religion, the paladin might pledge fealty to a ruler and a philosophy, and not to a church.
If a paladin operates independently and has no ties to a government or church, he'll probably pledge fealty to a philosophy.
For reference, Table 14 lists all possible fealty combinations. A paladin may pledge fealty to any of the Permitted combinations (assuming the DM approves). He may not pledge fealty to any of the Forbidden combinations. The ways in which governments, religions, and philosophies interact are discussed at length in Chapter 8.
Table 14: Fealty Combinations
Government, religion, Forbidden*
Government and religion Permitted
Government and philosophy Permitted
Religion and philosophy Forbidden*
Government alone Forbidden**
Religion alone Permitted
Philosophy alone Permitted
* For the purposes of fealty, religion and philosophy are mutually exclusive.
** Every paladin must pledge fealty to either a religion or philosophy, which serves as the source of his special powers (described in Chapter 2).
Obligations of Fealty
Once a paladin pledges fealty to a particular patron, he's bound to that patron indefinitely. Should his king engage in evil activities, or his church become corrupt, the paladin may be forced to pledge fealty to another patron; the Expatriate kit (see Chapter 4) describes one possible consequence. Normally, however, a paladin's patrons never change.
The responsibilities associated with fealty vary with the patron. Monarchs, for instance, may require their paladins perform military service. Churches may expect their paladins to follow rigid rules of behavior. The "Edicts'' section elsewhere in this chapter discuses such requirements in detail. In general, however, fealty requires the paladin to:
Faithfully serve the patron regardless of personal adversity.
Promote the principles and ideals of the patron.
Honor and respect the representatives and symbols of the patron.
Sacrifice his life for the patron if necessary.
Sir Geffen, who has declared fealty to his king, learns that his homeland has declared war against Dryston, a neighboring state. Geffen is distressed by the news. Many of his schoolmates now live in Dryston, and so does his brother-in-law. Nevertheless, Geffen vows to engage all soldiers of Dryston as enemies, regardless of who they might be.
In a distant village, Sir Geffen hovers on the edge of death, struggling to recover from serious wounds inflicted by a red dragon. A compassionate farmer offers to take Geffen to a medical specialist. Geffen accepts, and the farmer loads him in his wagon. An hour into their journey, the wagon passes a herald carrying the banner of Geffen's homeland. Geffen demands that the cart stop, then insists that the driver lift him to his feet. Reluctantly, the driver does as he's told. With his last ounce of strength, Geffen raises his hand to salute the flag.
To a paladin, courtesy involves more than merely following rules of etiquette. It's also an attitude, a way of presenting himself to the world. A paladin carries himself proudly, maintains self-control, and accepts ill-mannered behavior with grace. He follows social customs to the best of his ability. He is polite and deferential to friends and strangers alike.
Additionally, the paladin must:
Consider the feelings of others and take care not to offend them. A paladin always demonstrates proper manners (shaking hands with friends, expressing gratitude for favors). He also keeps himself immaculately groomed (bathing regularly, wearing clean clothes).
Speak tactfully and kindly. A paladin never knowingly insults or slanders another person, even his greatest enemy. If others engage in insults or slander, the paladin walks away.
Behave with dignity. A paladin refrains from emotional outbursts, excessive eating and drinking, foul language, and other boorish acts.
Sir Geffen asks a grizzled innkeeper for directions. "My information ain't free,'' snarls the innkeeper. "Especially for the likes of you.'' The innkeeper spits in Sir Geffen's face, then glares at him, daring him to respond. Sir Geffen politely thanks the innkeeper for his time, discreetly wiping the spittle from his cheek as he turns to leave.
After a long day spent slogging through a muddy swamp, Sir Geffen's companions can't wait to make camp and get to bed. Sir Geffen, however, stays up for hours, combing dried mud from his hair and cleaning the grime from his armor.
A paladin always tells the truth as he knows it. He may decline to speak or choose to withhold information, but he will never intentionally mislead anyone, even his enemies. He may ask permission not to answer a direct question, but if pressed, he'll tell the truth (however, he may frame his answers in such a way as to withhold vital information). Though a paladin doesn't make promises lightly, once he gives his word, he always keeps it.
Sir Geffen has been captured by an evil army. The commander demands to know the whereabouts of the paladin's companions. Sir Geffen says nothing.
"My spies inform me that your colleagues plan to arrive at King Relhane's castle by dawn tomorrow,'' says the commander. "Is this true?''
The commander's information is accurate, but Geffen remains silent.
"If you say nothing, I will conclude that I'm correct.''
"You may conclude whatever you wish,'' says Geffen.
Prevost, a young companion of Sir Geffen, asks about his performance on the battlefield yesterday. Sir Geffen believes that Prevost fought ineptly. "With your permission,'' says Geffen, "I prefer not to answer.''
"Please,'' insists Prevost. "I want to know.''
Geffen looks him in the eyes. "Very well. You allowed an opponent to escape. You dropped your sword at a crucial moment. Your performance was poor.''
Prevost glowers at Geffen, then angrily stomps away.
A paladin demonstrates unyielding courage in the face of adversity. No danger is too great to prevent him from fulfilling a promise or completing a mission. His commitment is stronger than his fear of pain, hardship, or even death.
A paladin's valor is particularly evident on the battlefield. He regards war as a noble enterprise, and combat as an opportunity to glorify the institution he represents. A paladin attacks an enemy without hesitation, continuing to fight until the enemy withdraws or is defeated. Whenever possible, a paladin chooses the most formidable enemya powerful monster, a giant, a dragon, or the leader of an armyas his primary opponent. In general, a paladin prefers melee to missile combat, so he can engage his opponent face to face.
A moment ago, Sir Geffen and his companions were riding peacefully through a shaded valley when they were ambushed by a brutish hill giant. The giant snatched young Fredrin from his horse and is now waving him in the air like a trophy.
"I claim this youth as my slave!'' thunders the giant. "If you want him back, send your best man to fight!''
Without hesitation, Sir Geffen rides forward.
Locked in battle with an army of ogres, Sir Geffen's party is suffering mounting casualties. "Withdraw!'' shouts Bordu, a friend of Geffen. "We will regroup and fight another day!''
Sir Geffen's companions scramble from the battlefield, but Geffen lingers behind. "Come with us!'' cries Bordu. "You can't win!''
"Perhaps not,'' says Geffen, steeling himself for a phalanx of charging ogres. "But I shall cover your withdrawal as long as I can.''
At the DM's discretion, a paladin can withdraw with honor if outnumbered by more than 2:1 in hit dice. If the paladin belongs to an elite organization, the DM might allow the paladin to withdraw if he faces odds of more than 3:1. If the player suspects such a situation exists, he may ask the DM whether a withdrawal with honor is possible. With the DM's permission, the paladin may withdraw without violating his ethos.
An honorable paladin conducts himself with integrity regardless of circumstance. He behaves in a morally sound manner even when he's by himself or when no one else will know of his actions. It's an admirable act to comfort a dying friend, but an act of honor to comfort a dying enemy.
Honor also involves respect, not just for the paladin's peers and superiors, but for anyone sharing the paladin's commitment to goodness and justice. The paladin shows mercy to the repentant, and refuses to inflict undue suffering even on the vilest evildoer.
Additionally, an honorable paladin:
Defers to the judgment of all lawful good characters of superior social class, rank, and level.
Acknowledges the dignity of all lawful good people, regardless of their race, class, or economic status, by treating them with courtesy and respect.
Accepts all challenges to duel or fight given by those of comparable status and power. (A challenge from an arrogant youngster or a drunken warrior may go unheeded).
Dies before compromising his principles, betraying his liege or faith, or abandoning a protected charge.
After a lengthy battle, the king of the lizard men lies bleeding at Sir Geffen's feet. "I beg you,'' gasps the lizard king, "Let me live.'' Sir Geffen reflects. The lizard king is old and broken. He can no longer be considered a threat. And he has fought honorably.
Sir Geffen sheathes his sword. He motions for his aides to haul the lizard king away. The king will spend his remaining years in prison.
Sir Geffen has been captured by a cult of evil clerics. Bound with chains, Sir Geffen stares into the eyes of a cleric who holds a blade to his throat. "Renounce your blasphemous faith,'' hisses the cleric, "and I will spare your life.''
"Renounce yours, and I will spare you!'' says Sir Geffen.
Fealty, courtesy, honesty, valor, and honor will likely be a part of every paladin's ethos. Other virtues may also be added, subject to the DM's approval. Some possibilities:
Humility. The paladin remains humble in spirit and action. He rejects adulation and declines awards. Tributes embarrass him; the knowledge of a job well done suffices as thanks. He speaks modestly of his deeds, if at all, grateful for the opportunity to fulfill his moral obligations.
Generosity. The paladin gladly shares his meager funds and possessions with anyone in need. If he owns two swords and a elderly hunter has none, the paladin offers one as a gift. He will give his last crust of bread to a hungry child, even if he must go without food for the rest of the day. He is also generous of spirit, always willing to lend an ear to a troubled companion or acknowledge a friend's accomplishments with lavish praise.
Chastity. The paladin avoids even the appearance of impropriety, remaining pure in word, deed, and thought.
Celibacy. In addition to remaining chaste, the paladin vows never to marry.
Industry. The paladin engages in productive activity at all times. He works diligently and hard until he completes the job at hand. When not working, he studies, exercises, or practices his combat skills. He considers leisure activities, small talk, and vacations to be time-wasting folly.
Code of Ennoblement
Feudal tradition required newly knighted soldiers to swear allegiance to a set of principles that embodied religious ideals and service to the king. The oath constituted a sacred promise, securing the knight's loyalty to church and state.
At the DM's option, a paladin may take a similar oath, swearing to a "Code of Ennoblement'' that enumerates the strictures, virtues, and edicts he is obliged to uphold. The code defines the paladin's ethos, spelling out exactly what the patron expects of him.
The paladin swears to a Code of Ennoblement when he begins his career, usually as part of a formal ceremony (see the "Becoming a Paladin" section of Chapter 7 for suggestions). Typically, a monarch, church official, or mentor administers the code; the paladin candidate repeats the words as the official recites them. Alternately, the paladin can compose his own oath and recite it in private, addressing his words to a deity, an ancestor's memory ("I swear on the spirit of my father") or a universal force ("I pledge to the glory of the natural world").
Because different paladins may not adhere to precisely the same principlesthey may, for instance, follow different edictseach may swear to his own version of the code. Alternately, the DM may standardize the code for all paladins in the campaign. The exact wording of a code isn't important, so long as it includes these elements:
Name and homeland. The paladin should state his name and where he's from. He may also mention any notable ancestors. ("I, Sharlyn of Northmoon, daughter of Princess Ahrilla, granddaughter of Parvis the Wanderer.")
Strictures. At the DM's option, or the player's insistence, the code may list every one of the paladin's strictures. However, because all paladins must follow all strictures, it's not necessary to recite them one by one. A general phrase ("I swear to uphold the sacred strictures") suffices.
Fealty patron. The code should indicate to whom (or what) the paladin has sworn allegiance, as explained in the Fealty section above.
Virtues. The five principal virtuesfealty, courtesy, honesty, valor, and honorshould be mentioned by name, unless the DM has a good reason for excluding one or more of them. Add any new virtues agreed upon by the DM and the player. It's not necessary to spell out the responsibilities of each virtue, so long as both the player and DM have read and understand the descriptions in this chapter. Any modifications to these descriptions should be made clear before the oath is administered.
Edicts. Recite the relevant sources of edicts, not the edicts themselves. Specific edicts may be mentioned at the player's request or the DM's option.
Ordinarily, the terms of a paladin's code never change. In extreme circumstancesfor instance, if economic hardship makes it difficult for him to keep up his tithesthe paladin may petition his king or church for an exemption. The paladin must seek an audience with whoever originally administered the oath (or a suitable substitute), then plead his case.
Exemptions are rarely granted, unless new conditions make it impossible for the paladin to remain true to his ethos (if his church has become evil, the paladin can't be expected to continue his tithes). Officials may have severe misgivings about a paladin who even requests for an exemption, and may impose a modest penalty to encourage the paladin to stop whining and shape up. See the "Minor Violations" section below for suitable penalties.
Here is a sample Code of Ennoblement to use as a template. Feel free to embellish and customize it as you see fit.
I, *, do hereby pledge to honor the strictures of this sacred heritage ** and promise by my faith to be loyal to ***, maintaining my devotion against all persons without deception or forethought. Further, I vow to promote and uphold the principles of **** and to solemnly and faithfully follow the edicts of *****. I take this pledge freely, without coercion or expectation of reward, sworn by my hand on this saintly relic ****** and in blessed memory of those who have given their lives to this noble cause.
* Insert the paladin's name and home ("Arlon of Shallowbrook.").
** This phrase implies allegiance to the strictures required of all paladins. It isn't necessary to recite them by name.
*** Insert the paladin's fealty patrons. In this example, Arlon swears fealty to his monarch and religion ("King Bronman of Entland and the Holy Church of Enlightenment.").
**** Insert the five principal virtues. (Arlon will adhere to them all, as outlined in this chapter. Because of his strict upbringing, he'll also follow the virtue of chastity: "Fealty, courtesy, honesty, valor, honor, and chastity.")
***** Insert the edict sources. (Arlon names his fealty patrons, and because he's promised to obey the edicts of his parents, he also mentions his family: "My king, my church, and my family.")
****** Some ceremonies require the paladin to place his hand on a sacred relic, such as a holy text or the monarch's sword. If relics aren't included in the paladin's ceremony, leave out this phrase.
Violations and Penalties
When a paladin violates his ethosthat is, when he violates any stricture, virtue, or edict he has sworn to upholdhe suffers a penalty. This penalty is in addition to any punishments required by applicable laws or local customs. For instance, if a paladin robs a merchant, he suffers an ethos penalty and he may also be imprisoned.
Two methods are provided for determining ethos violations and penalties. The Standard Method, derived from a strict reading of the Player's Handbook rules, is the easiest to referee, but generates the harshest penalties. The Alternative Method is easier on the players, but requires more effort from the DM. Whichever method you prefer, it's best to stick with it throughout the entire campaign.
In all cases, the DM has the final word on whether a violation has occurred. At the DM's discretion, he may allow the paladin to appeal his decision. If the paladin argues convincingly that his actions didn't violate his ethos, the DM may suspend the penalty.
If the paladin's violation isn't especially severe, the DM has the option of letting him off with a warning. If the paladin picks up a new magical item and already has 10, the DM might remind him of the relevant stricture, giving him the chance to put the item down before he claims ownership. One warning, however, is plenty; if the paladin commits the same act a second time, a penalty should be applied immediately.
The DM may bypass both the Standard and Alternate Methods, instead considering each ethos violation on its own merits and assessing any penalty that seems appropriate. A willful and deliberate evil action results in the irrevocable loss of the paladin's status. Lesser violations should result in minor penalties, such as the temporary loss of one or more of the paladin's abilities. A suitable quest, the clerical atonement spell, or both may be used as penance for lesser violations.
This method weighs the severity of an ethos violation purely in terms of alignment. The DM decides if a violation is chaotic or evil, and then applies the appropriate penalty.
Chaotic acts include violations that are inadvertent, impulsive, and relatively benign. The violation cannot have directly or indirectly resulted in physical harm to any non-evil person. Examples:
A moment of panic.
Opposing the judgment of officials from his government or church. If the paladin refuses a just edict, the violation becomes evil.
Failure to display proper courtesy to an elder or peer.
Telling a "white lie" or couching the truth. If the lie results in harm to another person, the violation become evil.
Penalty: If a paladin knowingly commits any chaotic violation of his ethos, he must seek out a lawful good cleric of 9th level or higher. A cleric of the paladin's faith is preferable but not mandatory. The paladin must locate the cleric as soon as possible. An undue delaysay, of more than a few weekschanges the violation to an evil one.
Once the paladin locates a cleric, he must make a full confession of his transgression and ask for forgiveness. The cleric will prescribe an appropriate penance. The paladin must execute the penance immediately; failure to do so constitutes a further violation. Typical penance's include:
1-4 weeks laboring at a monastery or church.
A day or two in complete isolation, where the paladin does nothing but contemplate the wrongness of his action.
Completion of a modest task (such as retrieving a medicinal herb from a mountain top or ridding the monastery basement of a snake infestation).
Evil violations include intentional acts of theft, treason, cowardice, betrayal, greed, cheating, and blasphemy. Any ethos violation resulting in deliberate physical harm to a lawful good character is considered evil.
Penalty: Even a single evil violation results in the immediate and irrevocable loss of the paladin's status. He forfeits all benefits, powers, and privileges associated with the paladin class, none of which may be restored by magic or any other means. From that point on, the character exists as a fighter; he keeps the same level and adjusts his experience points as necessary. Because he wasn't a fighter at the beginning of his career, he isn't eligible for weapon specialization.
Magically Influenced Actions
The DM may excuse chaotic acts performed by an enchanted or magically controlled paladin. Optionally, he may impose a small penalty, such as those in "Self-Administered Penalties," on p. 43.
If a paladin commits an evil act while enchanted or controlled by magic, he immediately loses his paladin status and becomes a fighter as described above. However, because the evil act wasn't intentional, the status loss is temporary. To regain his status, the character must complete a dangerous quest or important mission on behalf of his government, church, or mentor. Possibilities include recovering an artifact in another plane of existence, accumulating enough treasure to build a spectacular monastery, or singlehandedly slaying an evil dragon. The character acquires no experience points as long as he remains a fighter. If the character completes his mission, he becomes a paladin again. He has the same level and number of experience points that he did when he lost his status.
A character who doesn't wish to undertake such a grueling mission may abandon his paladinhood altogether and remain a fighter. From that point on, he acquires experience points and attains new levels the same as any other fighter. Once he abandons his paladinhood, he may never regain it.
This method gives the DM more latitude in determining the severity of ethos violations and also allows for a variety of penalties. To determine the severity of a violation, the DM must consider the paladin's intention, the consequences of the action, and who is affected.
Ethos violations fall into four general categories of increasing severity. Categories 1 and 2 include minor violations affecting non-evil characters other than the paladin's peers and superiors. Most violations belonging to Categories 1 and 2 are thoughtless, selfish, and insensitive actions which may not be evil in a strict sense. Deliberate or unambiguously evil actions belong in Categories 3 and 4. Additionally, all ethos violations involving an official of the paladin's government or church, or any organization or person to whom he's pledged fealty, belong to Category 3 or 4.
As these categories are necessarily broad, each includes several examples to help the DM make his decisions. Several possible penalties are also given. The DM should choose a penalty that fits the crime. He's also free to make up his own penalties based on these samples.
Category 1: Incidental Violations
This category includes accidental, inadvertent, and careless violations with insignificant consequences. The paladin doesn't benefit from this type of violation in any way. Nor do these violations jeopardize the safety of any non-evil person, either directly or indirectly. Examples include:
Hesitating before entering a dark room. If the paladin is too fearful to enter at all, this becomes at least at Category 2 violation (higher, if his reluctance results in harm to a companion).
Failing to return a friendly stranger's greeting. If the paladin's indiscretion is due to arrogance rather than a simple mistake, this becomes a Category 2 violation. Likewise, this belongs to Category 2 if the stranger takes offense.
Brushing against a stranger's dinner table and knocking a pitcher of ale into his lap.
Sample penalties include:
Apologize to anyone slighted by his actions, as well as to anyone observing the indiscretion.
Champion the slighted person in an upcoming tournament.
Meditate for an hour each night for the next 1-2 weeks, contemplating the wrongness of the action.
Category 2: Grave Violations
This category includes serious violations of trust and judgment, including accidental or careless acts that might jeopardize the safety of non-evil characters. It also includes intentional acts that offend, disappoint, or mislead non-evil characters, but don't jeopardize their safety. (Intentional acts that jeopardize the safety of others belong to Category 3). Examples include:
Failing to keep armor or weapons in optimum condition.
Neglecting personal hygiene.
Lying to a vendor about the quality of his merchandise. If the paladin lies to take advantage of the vendorfor instance, to make the vendor more cooperative or to get a better pricethis becomes a Category 3 violation.
Lose or misplace a small trinket carried for a companion.
Sample penalties include:
Seek out a high-level lawful good cleric and complete a penance (as described in the "Chaotic Violations'' section above).
Forfeit a small sum to a charity (perhaps 2d10 gp or a day of work).
Pay double or triple all tithes for the next 1d4 months.
Temporarily lose the ability to cast spells, detect the presence of evil, remain immune to disease, radiate an aura of protection, or cure diseases. The loss persists for 1d4 weeks.
Earn only half of the normal number of experience points for the next 1-10 weeks.
Category 3: Extreme Violations
This category covers acts that call into question the paladin's commitment to his ethos, such as intentional acts that jeopardize the safety of non-evil characters. Examples include:
Delaying the execution of an edict, or failing to satisfactorily complete an edict.
Informing travelers that the road ahead is safe, declining to mention the rumors of bandits.
Inadvertently inflicting great harm on the patron's cause, such as failure to protect an artifact or important official.
Avarice, usury, or preoccupation with worldly goods.
Failing to aid a dying person.
Panicking and retreating from a battle.
Sample penalties include:
Forfeit his stronghold and all other property holdings.
Permanently lose the ability to cast spells (or the spells of a particular sphere) until appropriate atonement is made.
Permanently lose one of the following abilities: detect presence of evil, disease immunity, aura of protection, or laying on hands to cure disease until appropriate atonement is made.
The bonded mount leaves, never to return. The paladin never acquires a replacement.
Category 4: Execrable Violations
This category includes the most intolerable and unforgivable ethos violations, the worst deeds a paladin can commit. Any direct violation of a stricture or edict belongs here, as do violations that result in physical harm to any lawful good character. This category also includes any violation affecting an official of the paladin's government or church. Examples include:
Refusing or ignoring a just edict.
Committing an act of blasphemy.
Betrayal of the patron.
Concealing funds, hoarding more than 10 magical items, or purposely neglecting to tithe.
There is but one penalty here:
The paladin immediately loses his status, as described in the "Evil Violations'' section above. Heinous crimes against the monarch may merit execution. Crimes against the church may result in a vengeful deity striking the paladin dead with a lightning bolt or causing the earth to swallow him up. (If in doubt, roll 1d20. On a roll of 1, the deity kills the blasphemous paladin; otherwise he is just subject to institutional penalties.)
Magically Influenced Actions
If paladin commits an evil act while enchanted or controlled by magic or psionics, the DM determines the category of the violation, then applies a penalty from Table 15.
Table 15: Penalties for Enchanted Paladins (Alternate Method)
1 Apply normal Category 1 penalty or forego penalty entirely
2 Apply Category 1 penalty
3 Apply Category 2 penalty
4 Paladin temporarily becomes a fighter (as described in the "Magically Influenced Actions" section of the Standard Method)
Ceremony of Disgrace
At the DM's option, a paladin guilty of an ethos violation may have to submit to a Ceremony of Disgrace in addition to a penalty. Usually, Ceremonies of Disgrace accompany punishments for heinous crimes involving government or church officials (defined as "Evil Violations" in the Standard Method, and Category 3 and 4 Violations in the Alternate Method), but they may be used for lesser violations as well.
A typical Ceremony of Disgrace requires the guilty paladin to appear before one or more representatives of his government or church. The more serious the crime, the higher the station of the presiding official; a low-level bureaucrat may suffice for a Category 2 violation, but the king himself may choose to oversee the ceremony for a Category 4 violation. To compound the paladin's shame, a Ceremony of Disgrace is often held before an audience in the town square or other public forum with the accused paladin standing on a raised platform for all to see.
The ceremony begins with the presiding official declaring the paladin's crime. The official chastises the paladin for betraying his Code of Ennoblement, then announces the penalty. For a minor violation, the paladin may ask for one of the paladin's non-magical weapons. The official destroys the weapon by throwing it into a fire or snapping off the blade.
For a heinous violation, more elaborate humiliations may be involved. In addition to destroying one of the paladin's weapons, the official may demand that the paladin hand over each piece of his armor. The official flings each piece into a fire or has an aide pound the pieces with a mallet, rendering them useless. The official may then slap the paladin's face, douse him with a bucket of offal, or roughly shear the hair from his head until only a stubble remains. Finally, the official strips the paladin of his name; the paladin must call himself by a new name from that point on.
Throughout the ceremony, the paladin must remain silent. Speaking during a Ceremony of Disgrace may be considered an ethos violation in itself, requiring an additional penalty.
Occasionally, a paladin may commit an ethos violation that the DM considers irrelevant. The paladin might think lustful thoughts about an attractive hireling, mutter an insult under his breath about a hated foe, or accidentally eat a soup containing chicken broth when he's vowed to be vegetarian. While all of these examples might technically be ethos violations, they're so trivial that the DM will probably overlook them (assuming he's aware of them in the first place).
But even when the DM overlooks a trivial violation, a truly conscientious paladin player may insist on a penalty anyway. In such cases, the paladin is free to punish himself and choose his own penalty; the DM may veto a penalty he deems too severe. Typical self-imposed penalties might include:
Apologies to the affected parties, with assurances the offensive act will never be committed again.
A vow of silence for the next 1-2 days.
Becoming consumed with guilt and self-loathing for the next 1-2 days, during which time he makes all combat rolls and ability checks at a 1 penalty.
A special tithing, donation, or service for which the paladin accepts no return.
What better nemesis for a paladin than his direct opposite, an "anti-paladin" that embodies the forces of evil? As the mirror image of a normal paladin, an anti-paladin might be able to detect the presence of good, generate a aura of protection against good creatures, and wield an "unholy" sword.
Though DMs may experiment with any type of character they like, we discourage the use of anti-paladins. Good and evil are not merely mirror images of each other. Just as the forces of evil have their unique champions, the paladin is intended as a unique champion of good. The paladin originates from a tradition of dynamic balance, in which the forces of good are few and elite and in which forces of evil are numerous and of lesser quality. Allowing anti-paladins blurs this basic relationship.