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Alignment Part 10 – The Goodest of the Goodest?

The Paladin.  Every powergamer has one, and they are a potentially unbalancing class in any campaign.  One thing above all keeps them in check…their alignment.  The lawful good alignment is one of the alignments that is difficult to play, and that is by design.  However, DMs and players alike often misjudge the alignment and the way the alignment itself can work.

Based simply on the name, the assumption is that a lawful good character will follow all the laws of the realm they are in.  However, what about this moral quandry?  The lawful good character finds himself in a land with an evil ruler who believes he is a God.  He demands (making it a law) that everyone sacrifice an innocent child in his honor.  While a lawful good character can do so and remain true to the lawful side of his alignment, doing so would clearly not be a good act.

Now, this would be pretty crappy of a DM to put a player through something like this.  However, these types of scenarios aren’t out of place in many fantasy games, and perhaps the DM wants to test the lawful good character.  With some forethought though, this can be worked around.

My suggestion is to work out a Code of Conduct before hand.  As PCs are world hopping adventurers who find themselves in different lands, knowing the laws in each is often impossible.  Having a moral code to follow can work as the “law” that the character follows.  This allows them to follow a guiding principle that will follow them regardless of the realm, and let them work towards toppling the evil tyrant that demand sacrifices in his honor.

This Code of Conduct must be written prior to the first session, and the DM must have approval at a minimum (if they don’t write it themselves).  Of course, the DM should still test the character, and punish him accordingly for violation if necessary.  However, now the character has a piece of paper dictating what his duties and responsibilities are, and he won’t be punished for actions he didn’t realize were against some aspect of his alignment.

The lawful good alignment is hard to play properly, but I hope I’ve just made it a bit easier for all concerned.  Doing so may help your paladin keep his powers, and your non-paladin will have all the flavor you want 😉

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August 28, 2008 - Posted by | RPG | ,

4 Comments »

  1. Whenever I run a paladin, or DM a paladin, I always work out a code of conduct beforehand. It makes it so much easier to run a character who adheres to a code because you know the code beforehand and you and the player both know exactly what it code is.

    Comment by reveal74 | August 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the testimonial reveal! I’ve heard the same from many others, and have made it a house rule in games I DM as well. Personally, I think it’s a great way to keep things clipping along nicely!

    Comment by Tom | August 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Here’s an example of why this should always happen: I was playing in a PbP with people I had never played with before. I was a paladin. In our first combat, the goblin leader was yelling out orders to his cohorts to attack us. Thinking tactically, I went up behind the leader and attacked. The DM decided to penalize me because “a paladin wouldn’t attack someone from behind.” I quit right then and there. No where in my character history had I inferred that I was honorbound to attack only from the front. As the saying goes, “Lawful Good does not mean Lawful Stupid.” If it is beneficial to the party to take out the leader, attacking his front or rear shouldn’t matter.

    Comment by reveal74 | August 28, 2008 | Reply

  4. I agree completely. Lawful Good doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t flank an opponent, much less hit them from behind. To often, people look at paladins as a paragon of virtue. While that is true, virtue takes on many forms. That’s a great example of where the Code of Conduct really helps!

    Thanks for sharing that!

    Comment by Tom | August 28, 2008 | Reply


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