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Troy’s Crock Pot: Reading List Checkup

What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Just Paladin Around

Some time ago, Martin asked me and my fellow members of the Stew Crew to offer up our recent reading lists. And one item on my short list of “to read” was an article on paladins written by Richard Pett, which appeared in Kobold Quarterly 6 [1].
I love when history and gaming intersect, and this was one of those pieces that warms my heart — mainly because it addresses what I think are two of the misconceptions about paladins:
1) Paladins are choirboys (or Boy Scouts, take your pick). Sorry, having a code of honor doesn’t suddenly require saintly behavior or a monastic lifestyle. Passion and devotion are the lifeblood of paladins – a far cry from the chaste ascetics some portray them as.
2) Paladins come in all alignment stripes. (Bad guys retain paladin special abilities for ignoring two basic precepts of knighthood —obeisance of a lawful authority and to do what is good and right toward the weak and defenseless?) Hit the buzzer on that one, baby.
As Pett explains:
“Paladins should be paladins — namely knights of pure spirit and fairness, bravery and generosity — and any deviation from that makes them something else.”
Do I hear an “A-men!” from the congregation?
Pett’s article explains how the knights of the palace or intimates of the palace (hence, paladins) came to be in the Carolingian Romances. Then he followed that with the Code of Conduct for a Peer Knight, spelling out the responsibilities paladins had toward one another, their liege, their God and Church, and to their fellow men.
Another thing Pett touched on was the role of the questing knight. What’s that, you ask? Think about the Dennis Quaid character from the 1996 film Dragonheart. Quaid’s character Bowen was a questing knight, a “knight of the old code” called forever to fight injustice whereever he finds it. (Take the Wayback machine to 1972; David Carridine’s Shaolin monk Caine from the TV show “Kung Fu” was a sort of questing knight, though he traveled the Old West rather than the Dark Ages).


A Diamond in the rough

Going hand-in-hand with Pett’s piece on paladins was an unexpected find: David Schwartz’s article in the same issue of KQ on feats and weapons usable for paladins and knights.
Both the Bec de corbin pole arm and the crusader sword receive detailed descriptions in the piece.  I’m not sure I agree with the game stats for the crusader sword (I would have made damage 1d8 instead of the listed 1d6, simply on the basis of it being a longsword).
But I like the author’s idea that a crusader sword can be used to administer nonlethal damage as well as lethal — a sort of Middle Ages peacekeeper. (Of course this is a rather romanticized perspective on the crusading knight …) Even so, it’s kind of cool.

And I thought it was just a hockey team

Another writer blending history with fantasy is John E. Ling, a fellow freelancer and someone I consider a friend from our “Class Acts” days freelancing for Dragon magazine. John posted a write-up on the Jersey Devil, aka the Leeds Devil, over at the KQ site. It’s available for your standard (version 3.5) d20 fantasy or d20 Modern games.
John gives you the whole history of the creature, as well as statting it out CR9 aberration. It’s good stuff.
I’m particularly interested in the origins of the creature, which date back to 1735. Why? Right now, I’m culling Colonial Gothic and Northern Crown for ideas for an upcoming mini-campaign set during the Colonial period of U.S. history, propably around the time of the French and Indian War. And the Jersey Devil fits right in.
(For another take on this creature, take a peak at Pathfinder 1 from Paizo Publishing, which did a writeup on what they called the Sandpoint Devil.)

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Reading List Checkup"

#1 Comment By Patrick Benson On October 17, 2008 @ 7:06 am

Historically knights weren’t very concerned with justice at all. They were instruments of the government and/or church. When you read the history of knights there are plenty of stories about them killing uprising peasants to maintain order, sometimes without being ordered to do so but just acting as they saw fit. D&D’s paladin class is the romanticized legend and not the historical truth, and I think that is actually why it works so well in the game.

The only thing that is missing is the evil servants of gods. Antipaladins, remember those? Call them something else like Dark Disciples, or Devoted Destroyers, but I wish there were more classes for NPCs to be designed around that would be the complimentary bad guys to paladins.

#2 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On October 17, 2008 @ 8:58 am

The abuses of knights was the primary reasons a code of chivalry was held up as a model of behavior, even if they were rarely adhered to. They were passionate young men with armor, sharp weapons and big horses. In our society we worry about giving teen boys the keys to the car. Why not send them out with a loaded gun and the certainty they are above the law? I think it’s easy to see how bad things happened because of the martial classes.

I agree … there needs to be an NPC class that can serve as a counter to the paladin. Here’s one trick I employ for NPCs: Apply prestige classes without respect to prerequisites. Therefore, throw a blackguard template on a warrior NPC, and you’ve got a bad apple anit-knight.

#3 Comment By Scott Martin On October 17, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

How about the Knight class in the [3.5] PHB2? It seems like it could be a good Black Knight kind of class and concentrates more on chivalry than alignment.

#4 Comment By grahamd0 On October 17, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

Sorry for being pedantic, but I believe appropriate word is “ascetics”, not “aesthetics”.

Still, spot on assessment, those are my two biggest pet peeves with people trying to play paladins.

I once played a campaign with a player who was trying his first attempt as a paladin. When the DM (and a couple of the players) informed him that it was un-paladin-like to steal the armor in the (temporarily) abandoned blacksmith’s shop, he immediately turned to the thief and said, “Ah! But you can steal it for me!”

It took a while, but we finally managed to explain that paladins don’t look for loop holes in their moral code.

Too few people realize that there’s no problem playing an unfriendly paladin, but there’s a big problem with playing an unlawful paladin.

#5 Comment By BryanB On October 17, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

[2] – Knight Class? There is a Knight Class!? PHB2 you say? I’m going to have to check that out. I knew I bought that book for a reason. Now if I can actually find the book… 😀

#6 Comment By BryanB On October 17, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

[3] – That was a good point about distinct Paladins. They need not be cookie cutter in their personalities just because they are Lawful.

#7 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On October 17, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

Grahamd0: Thanks for spotting that. I will fix. To be honest, the one thing I hate — as a professional copy editor — is not having a copy editor see my posts before they go up. It’s nearly impossible to catch your own boo-boos.