When it comes to introducing a new player to Dungeons and Dragons, there’s always the moment where you need to help them design their character. “What kind of class do you think you’d be interested in?” is almost always followed by, “What are the classes?” You could spend time going over each class in detail, what its features and abilities are, what kind of role it may have in a party, but if your new player doesn’t have much experience with RPGs, that sort of information will probably go over their head really quickly. Instead of doing this, I find it can be incredibly helpful to provide that person with cultural examples of the classes, well-known characters that help cement what kind of character would be represented by that class. The specific mechanics can come later.
Paladins is always an interesting class in this regard. From a flavor standpoint, what really defines a paladin and gives them their holy powers is their oath, which is so strong and such an integral aspect of their being that it literally empowers them with might. In order to truly be a paladin, a character needs to have this sense of a binding vow, of morals or a sworn promise to always do something or fight for some specific cause. Bonus points if that character often finds themselves struggling between keeping to their oath or doing something else, or if their oath puts them at odds with other characters.
In my mind, two of the best examples of paladins in media are Optimus Prime and Captain America. Both fight for a specific cause, with a sense of justice and honor that elevates them to appear “greater” than the other individuals around them. However, while there are a few existing paladin subclasses that could fit either of them relatively well, I believe the game is missing a particular kind of oath that truly typifies what both of these characters are fighting to protect… Freedom.
The Oath of Freedom revolves around the belief that all beings are worthy of respect and self-governance. Not in the sense that rulers or governments shouldn’t exist, but that enslaving and controlling someone against their will is an unjust act that must be corrected. Oath of Freedom paladins are in many ways focused on anti-control; they can use their magic to break bindings, both physical and magical, which might physically restrain a creature or attempt to control them in some way. Some of their features also work to share one creature’s power or fortune with others around them, preventing any one individual from benefiting at the expense of those around them. And at their highest level, they can become a paragon of freedom and leadership, empowering their nearby allies and sharing with them their paladin spells.
Feedback and critique always appreciated.
Version 1.0 08Oct2021
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