Paladin Versus Cleric: FIGHT! (with Monte Cook)

In today's D&D Next conversation, Monte Cook revisits the discussion on the paladin and the cleric and looks at ways to differentiate between the two classes. After you've read the article and filled out the poll, come back here to share your thoughts in the larger conversation.

Trevor Kidd Community Manager

At one point I thought they were too damn close to identical... Battlefield Roles in 4th edition gave me a reason for Cleric/Paladin/Avenger... now I will go read ;p
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IMO, the biggest distinguishing mark is going to be the Paladin's ability to protect others (Assuming Paladin Classic, which is annoying but looks inevitable at this point.)  because "Smite opposed alignment" has been something clerics have gotten on-again off-again access to in the form of divine or alignment-based damage.  It's a very iconic ability for the paladin, especially adding to melee damage, but it's also not unique to the Paladin

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There are no problems with paladins that cannot be fixed by whacking clerics with a nerf hammer. 'Battle cleric' and paladin should be the same class.
Isn't dnd next the all inclusive version? Aren't theme going to be present? So exagerate! Put more, different cleric and paladin themes, and, if sometimes they overlap, no big deal. Use the pools result as a metre to see what people like more and do it before, than put everything you can think about!

Ah, and I'd like to see some version of an evil opposit for the paladin. You know, evil campaign do have fans. 
Ah, and I'd like to see some version of an evil opposit for the paladin. You know, evil campaign do have fans. 


Blackguards fill this role pretty nicely.
Ah, and I'd like to see some version of an evil opposit for the paladin. You know, evil campaign do have fans. 


Blackguards fill this role pretty nicely.



Well, in 3.5 it was a prestige class, in 4e I do not even know if they exist. I'd like to see some base class or paladin theme, like "what if the paladin serves an evil god".
Mounted combat expertise is so situational that IMO it should be:



  • A bonus so small it doesn't take away other powers from the class

  • A balanced option that substitutes other powers (and a risky one at that)



And here we go again with "aligment as mechanics" powers. Does that mean we'll also see again the "DetectEvil_SmiteEvil.exe" Paladin? Because I'm not fond of the idea.

Aligment shenanigans I just don't like, thank you. If Next includes power sources, enemy types and/or damage types I wouldn't mind seeing things like Necrotic/Shadow damage resistance, damage bonus against Shadow/Undead/Demonic creatures, "Smite Evil" being a flat occasional Radiant damage bonus to attacks and/or similar ideas. But aligment mechanics implemented this way, no please. At least not as core. As a module, I have no problem. Suit yourselves.

YMMV
Ah, and I'd like to see some version of an evil opposit for the paladin. You know, evil campaign do have fans. 


Blackguards fill this role pretty nicely.



Well, in 3.5 it was a prestige class, in 4e I do not even know if they exist. I'd like to see some base class or paladin theme, like "what if the paladin serves an evil god".



There's a blackguard subclass introduced in Heroes of Shadow about a year ago.


That said, 4e never stopped you from playing an evil paladin. 
From the comments:
The 4E paladin is perfect for me. He challenges foes to honorable duel, smites his foes, punish foes who get to his allies with blasts of radiant light, uses the heaviest armor around, slashes through hordes of enemies, heals with lay on hands, can trade it for ardent strike (which is a better form of smite evil)... Really, it's a very cool concept and has a nice execution at least in theory.

What I'd hate to see is the paladin class tied in ANY WAY to the concept of evil. Really, just get rid of alignments. Please? Pretty please? Ok, you won't get rid of them, but at least make the interactions with rules non-existant. Or modular. Whatever, just don't force a cool concept like the paladin to have anything to do with those blasted alignments.

As for the abilities. The cavalier theme steps on both the fighter and the warlord. The ally protection is a given, I want to feel like a paladin not like a random soldier that has a celestial mount and some random abilities tied to an outdated concept like in 3.5.
I'm very in favor of the out-of-combat stuff you mentioned because I'd like to see more balance in the non-combat pillars. 4E got combat right, now it's time to balance the rest too. Be warned about the last one though - teleporting towards the nearest concentration of evil - because it is an adventure killer. Seriously, think twice of it, it seems cool but tie it somehow: unrestricted teleport is bad.

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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
My take on the paladin is that it should kick (insert alignment here)'s ass, and protect the party, and take the train to crazy town. And yes, that means I think paladins should be able to be whatever alignment the player wants, most likely in conjunction with the god the paladin follows.

I think mounted combat is too specific for a basic class ability and should be relegated to feats, themes, or some other player choice.

Trevor Kidd Community Manager

Ah, and I'd like to see some version of an evil opposit for the paladin. You know, evil campaign do have fans. 


Blackguards fill this role pretty nicely.



Well, in 3.5 it was a prestige class, in 4e I do not even know if they exist. I'd like to see some base class or paladin theme, like "what if the paladin serves an evil god".



There's a blackguard subclass introduced in Heroes of Shadow about a year ago.


That said, 4e never stopped you from playing an evil paladin. 



Than just fix my first sentence with "I'd like to see again some version of a paladin's evil opposit" No big deal. I'd still like to see them in next.
Cavalier makes a great theme.  That's where mounted combat abilities should go.

To me, the smite is the paladin's signature combat ability.  They enter combat and lay down the smites.  To the extent clerics used to get that, they shouldn't.  Kill the avenger and give its stuff to the paladin.  The paladin's primary combat strategy should be charge 'n smite.

Clerics are the warrior-priests.  They have spells to help them in battle, but the actual battling is fairly mundane.  Their role should be buff 'n strike.

Priests are the spellcasting holy men.  They don't get into battle if they can avoid it.  Kill the invoker and hand it to the priest.  Their role should be bless, summon, 'n heal.
My take on the paladin is that it should kick (insert alignment here)'s ass, and protect the party, and take the train to crazy town. And yes, that means I think paladins should be able to be whatever alignment the player wants, most likely in conjunction with the god the paladin follows.

I think mounted combat is too specific for a basic class ability and should be relegated to feats, themes, or some other player choice.



I mostly agree with this, though me and alignment have a rather rough history. The paladin should definitely have a way to deal more efficiently with forces that oppose his deity, though not at the cost of his ability to fight bears and other random creatures.

Radiant damage in 4e is a good example of this in how its good against undead, while the Divine Classes aren't gimped against other enemies for having it. A paladin feels really awesome while fighting undead, but not to the point where they are trivializing enemies, encounters, or possibly whole adventures. Char Op only abused radiant in 4e because WoTC added more ways to add to radiant damage and vulnerability against every foe.


I think the Rider-types are better handeled as a theme or a good bunch of feats, that way the fighter can be a non-divine horsem and, and the warlord can be a cavarly commander too. The classes should be distinct enough to make the characters feel different despite all having horses.
If we're going to have a few broad classes, then people could make paladins from at least two directions -- a priest/cleric who specialises in combat (Knights Templar, maybe), or a warrior who champions his deity (Roland, Joan of Arc). Using themes and other variables, we could have a number of different types of paladins that suit each player's concept. I've even seen a paladin whose horse was smarter than he was -- but the horse was sort of the go-between for the paladin and his god. We got a lot of laughs out of that.

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Yet I belive the ability to sommon an holy mount is cool. Then you can decide to use it or not, you can decide if you want to focus on mounted combat or not, but the all holy mount evocation is cool. Or unholy. No matter. But it would be just awsome to ride my infernal, flying mount and coming on the field screaming and killing. Is anybody thinking Nazgul?
My take on the paladin is that it should kick (insert alignment here)'s ass, and protect the party, and take the train to crazy town. And yes, that means I think paladins should be able to be whatever alignment the player wants, most likely in conjunction with the god the paladin follows.


This.

A Paladin of Tiamat should be just as valid as a Paladin of Bahamut, and engender the same reaction of "Whoah, there's an extremely dedicated and very powerful follower of (insert god here), I'd better not do something to cross (insert god here) while that guy is around!"

I would strongly recommend tying it to the god, and not the alignment however.  That way the paladin is infinitely mutable - any god that anyone comes up with can have an associated paladin without the need for new mechanics.  The alignment interaction is a secondary consequence of choice of deity, not the motivator behind the class mechanics.  The deity should be first and foremost.
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Agreed, Mand. We long ago houseruled that paladins could serve any deity, of any alignment. "Paladin" = "champion of deity" for us, no matter who the deity was. If some of the abilities were tied to a specific alignment, we'd fix it so "smite evil" = "smite good" or "smite chaotic" or something that fit.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

My take on the paladin is that it should kick (insert alignment here)'s ass, and protect the party, and take the train to crazy town. And yes, that means I think paladins should be able to be whatever alignment the player wants, most likely in conjunction with the god the paladin follows.


This.

A Paladin of Tiamat should be just as valid as a Paladin of Bahamut, and engender the same reaction of "Whoah, there's an extremely dedicated and very powerful follower of (insert god here), I'd better not do something to cross (insert god here) while that guy is around!"

I would strongly recommend tying it to the god, and not the alignment however.  That way the paladin is infinitely mutable - any god that anyone comes up with can have an associated paladin without the need for new mechanics.  The alignment interaction is a secondary consequence of choice of deity, not the motivator behind the class mechanics.  The deity should be first and foremost.



This right here. Tie mechanics to deity. Allow for paladin of a concept rather than a deity. Everybody wins.
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
I think it'd be pretty cool if a Paladin of Bahamut or Tiamat got some dragon-themed abilities.
You could even expand it further beyond alignment/deity.  For example, if "domains" are coming back... I don't see why you couldn't have Paladins linked to specific domains (or perhaps a collection of domains), much as how Clerics can pick a domain.
To further illustrate the difference between cleric and paladin, I've always seen clerics as worshipper and preacher, whereas paladins are the militant champions.  A paladin is set to fulfilling specific tasks in the image of the deity (especially in battling the forces of opposing deities, or those with principles opposing the deity), whereas the cleric is more about spreading the word.
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I think that a paladin should be a basic fighter with a few token extra abilities and a lot of fluff. Limited healing and turn undead is fine. Summoning a mount is also fine, but at the end of the day the paladin should just be a flavoured fighter

Paladins should work for a church as they did in 1ed. That adds extra roleplaying leads and allows the paladin to be flavoured in many ways.

In comparison I would like special  abilities of a cleric to depend on the nature of his god. The holy men of a war god should have extra fighting abilities like a cleric, whereas the holy men of wisdom god should have stronger spells like a priest.

DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Paladins should work for a church as they did in 1ed. That adds extra roleplaying leads and allows the paladin to be flavoured in many ways.


While I don't disagree that a paladin working for a church can provide roleplaying leads and some good flavor, are you really saying that all paladins should work for a church?  What if my paladin doesn't want to, why should I be prevented from doing so?
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While I don't disagree that a paladin working for a church can provide roleplaying leads and some good flavor, are you really saying that all paladins should work for a church?  What if my paladin doesn't want to, why should I be prevented from doing so?


In 1ed a paladin was basically a fighter that worked for a lawful church. IIRC a fighter could become a paladin at 9th level by signing a deal with a church. The moral code of the paladin was the moral code of the church.

In a later edition the paladin was refluffed into being a fighter that worked for the forces of lawful good. From then on the paladin was more of a lone ranger with a personal moral code. Some people like this, but I liked the old version better.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Why do you need "works in a church" to be printed in the class description in order to have your paladins work in a church?

If you're talking about my paladins, why do you get to decide what my paladins do?
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I think the Paldin dedicated to divine spells and healing would still be better in combat (HPs, Def, Att, Dam / High Dam, High HPs) than a Cleric armored up worshipping a god of war who is still better at spells and healing.  From these extremes, you swing out the other way where you have the brick paladin doing sic damage and the cleric in robes that casts spells and heals almost exclusively in combat.

Armored up cleric is just one aspect of combat, armor doesn't give him HPs or att or damage.  Armor lets the cleric stand next to the paladin on the front line doing something different - casting spells and healing!

I'd like to see the Paladin take an express line to crazytown with a few spells levels but more specifically some godwizard type class features at higher levels.  I don't see why Paladins shouldn't fly all-day at high level, it's a FRPG right?!
Why do you need "works in a church" to be printed in the class description in order to have your paladins work in a church?

If you're talking about my paladins, why do you get to decide what my paladins do?


I guess that I meant to say that the paladin should choose a deity. 

But after reading your post I opened my 4ed PHB and I saw that 4ed paladins also have to choose a deity, so in short I like the 4ed fluff better than the 3ed fluff. 
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Choosing a deity is not at all like working for a church, is my point.

Happy that we're in agreement, though!
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I'd like to see the Paladin take an express line to crazytown with a few spells levels but more specifically some godwizard type class features at higher levels.  I don't see why Paladins shouldn't fly all-day at high level, it's a FRPG right?!


How about giving the paladin a lot of daily abilities and resource management?
Some people want to play a martial character with resource management, while others dislike the idea that a mundane character should have daily abilities, but the paladin is not exactly mundane, so the verisimilitude freaks (myself included) would probably accept a paladin with daily abilities.

Could this work?
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Some ideas on the Paladin:

He is a warrior lead by his ethos. Period.

This way, his abilities are divided into three groups: Faith, Honor and Duty. Each one has both combat and non-combat abilities. So, Faith should encompass abilities related to the divine, like Divine Grace or Smite; Honor is related to single combat techniques, morale and leadership stuff; Duty is for protection of allies and the weak.

This manner the player is allowed to choose which abilities to pick up from each group, customizing his Paladin character to whatever he likes. Also, this aproach opens room for other paladin concepts than the divine holy crusader. He can still fill this role, if the player desires so. Pick more abilities from the Divine list and you have a more standartized holy crusader Paladin. On the other hand, just pick abilities form Honor and Duty lists and you have a knightly-oriented character.

My two cents to the discussion.

I say all paladins should be lawful.  You are an agent and enforcer of your god.  Even if your god sows nothing but chaos.  You do as the god commands, and you follow a strict belief that chaos should sown throughout the plane.  You sin in order to carry out your god's wishes.  Congrats you are lawful because you follow a code.  Even if you moon the town guard every so often just to stir them up you're doing it because your god wants you to.  You are lawfully following your tennets of faith.  If there are no tennets then there is no religion.  If there is no religion then there is no paladin of that god.  Clerics are within one step of their deities alignment because they lead by example.  The paladin makes sure everyone correctly follows the example and punishes those that don't.  Now with this in mind I am totally down with lawful neutral, lawful good, and lawful evil for paladin alignments based on deity.  The paladin is the gods policeman, he is there to enforce the rules of his god, he is inherently lawful.

Although I think it should be harder to lose your palidin status, and that attonement should be a part of most religions and switching faiths should be possible although difficult. 

All that said I do realise that this simple concept baffles others because they don't understand the alignment system.  This is why I say any mechanical impact of alignment should be easily removed.  Smit evil can become Smite people your god would clearly or even possibly wish to be smote. 
Smit evil can become Smite people your god would clearly or even possibly wish to be smote. 


Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, in my opinion.
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Smit evil can become Smite people your god would clearly or even possibly wish to be smote. 


Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, in my opinion.


Smite infidel?
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Smit evil can become Smite people your god would clearly or even possibly wish to be smote. 


Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, in my opinion.


Smite infidel?




This made me LoL at work.  Not really loud but I had a good chuckle.  Mainly because I would love every second of using that ability.  I can just think of sitting at a table saying, "That's it this infidel is getting smote into the freaking ground."
Good equals Smite Evil
Evil equals Smite Good
Law equals Smite Chaos
Chaos equals Smite Law
Neutral equals an insane mofo who smites everyone. Tongue Out 
/barf.

Too much reliance on "vs evil". Which A) requires me to use alignment. B) means "vs pretty much everything except animals" in most games that do use alignment. So we're at the paladin being a better fighter than a fighter, because "against bad guys" isnt exactly a suitable niche for most games IMO.

Why the hell isnt the paladin just a fighter/cleric multiclass with the knight theme again?

That way you can have their code of conduct (and the cleric's for that matteR) tied to the knightly order, rather than trying to draw up a one size fits all list that probably doesnt make much sense in the first place...
To further illustrate the difference between cleric and paladin, I've always seen clerics as worshipper and preacher, whereas paladins are the militant champions.  A paladin is set to fulfilling specific tasks in the image of the deity (especially in battling the forces of opposing deities, or those with principles opposing the deity), whereas the cleric is more about spreading the word.



The problem is its not reflected in the class really. The cleric is a heavily armored dude who whacks enemies pretty good and casts a lot of spells. The paladin is a heavily armored dude who whacks enemies pretty good and casts a few spells.

If you make the cleric class a"a dude in light armor who isnt good at whacking people, but casts super spells", you can have your "battle cleric" by having an even split multiclass fighter/cleric, a paladin by having a fighter level heavy fighter/cleric multiclass, and a third class, previously not well represented in D&D, of the 'non plate wearing holy man" who is a leader of the people, similar to how priests actually functioned historically (but you know... with spells).

I say all paladins should be lawful.  You are an agent and enforcer of your god.  Even if your god sows nothing but chaos.  You do as the god commands, and you follow a strict belief that chaos should sown throughout the plane.  You sin in order to carry out your god's wishes.  Congrats you are lawful because you follow a code.   



And here we have example 493 zillion in "Why Alignment Doesnt Work".

The difference I'd like to see between Cleric and Paladin is one of offense vs defense.

A Cleric should be focused on healing, increasing resistances, and if he is a warrior type, it should be as a "pick on someone your own size" type of warrior that will draw aggro away from more vulnerable allies. I don't see them as heavy-armored - medium armored, certainly, but heavy armor seems a bit out there to me, though it could always be accomplished via the multiclass fighter/cleric, or via a "crusader" type of theme.

A Paladin should be focused on the smiting.  Attack bonuses, damage bonuses, etc. Frontline fighter - not as much raw power as an actual fighter, of course, but certainly being more focused on smiting down evil foes than protecting the weak, though he should have a few abilities that focus on protections, if only to differentiate him from the fighter.


If alignment does continue to be a defining character point (and I only think it should be, to a point), then Paladin should still be alignment-dependent - but NOT limited only to lawful good types, or even to good types in general. One thing that always bugged me about paladins was that they could ONLY be lawful good.  There was the blackguard, of course, and one of the supplements had a chaotic good paladin equivalent, but those were prestige classes. NG, CN, LN, and true neutral didn't get anything. What makes Lawful Good so special that they get a base class all to themselves?

That's part of why I loved the Incarnum book so much - Soulborns and Incarnates were strongly alignment-based without being specific to any single alignment. I'd love to see a bit of that go into the paladin.

I guess that I meant to say that the paladin should choose a deity. 

But after reading your post I opened my 4ed PHB and I saw that 4ed paladins also have to choose a deity, so in short I like the 4ed fluff better than the 3ed fluff. 


I prefer the Paladin having an Oath.  This works easy with churches and dieties, you just swear the oath to them, but it also allows for Paladins to have more personalized oaths.  Think of Don Quixote doing his moonlight vigil in the courtyard at an Inn, or Liu Bei and the Oath in the Peach Garden.
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