Paladin? No; Holy Warrior

The paladin class has made an appearance in every edition of AD&D to date.  It has evidently always been considered to be an important class, a fundamental class.  Yet I for one have always felt this class to be incomplete in its definition.

Paladins have traditionally been restricted by alignment to lawful good, and the powers and abilities that they've been afforded coincide with this theme.  Often neglected, however, is the potentiality for a character devoted to a different alignment extreme seeking a similar role.  Occasionally, rules have emerged for various editions attempting to address this absence.  Anti-paladins, illriggers, etc have all manifested in some form, though never in the base, official rule set.

My contention is that should 5th edition attempt to implement the paladin class, it should not so narrowly define the scope of a holy warrior to only the paladin.  Let the class instead be well-rounded, encompassing all alignment archetypes -- and afford characters their powers accordingly, just as the cleric class does.  Let the paladin be only one example -- even the prime example, if it must -- of a holy warrior.  The hallmark of 5th edition is versatility.  Let that principle extend to this circumstance as well.

So in other words, how 4E handled it? That a paladin was just the holy champion of any god they wanted to?

I'd be fine with that. I actually really like that 4E ditched things like alignment restrictions. I'd be happy to play the Chaotic Good Paladin of a Chaotic Good deity.
D&D Experience Level: Relatively new First Edition: 4th Known Editions: 4th, 3.5 --- Magic Experience Level: Fairly skilled First Expansion: 7th Edition Play Style: Very Casual
Apparently, my unfamiliarity with 4th Edition is showing.  I wasn't aware that they'd made this change.  Yes, then, I'd like to see 5th edition adopt this 4th edition feature of the class.
I think the name Champion of [God's name or Ideal etc...] is a better name too.   Paladin does have LG connotations.

So a Champion of Pelor might be a Paladin.

For those not wanting to be hindered by a God, you could play a Champion of Justice or Freedom.  

 


My contention is that should 5th edition attempt to implement the paladin class, it should not so narrowly define the scope of a holy warrior to only the paladin.  Let the class instead be well-rounded, encompassing all alignment archetypes -- and afford characters their powers accordingly, just as the cleric class does.  Let the paladin be only one example -- even the prime example, if it must -- of a holy warrior.  The hallmark of 5th edition is versatility.  Let that principle extend to this circumstance as well.




I hope we get the versatility without the system mastery.  Eliminating pre-requisites entirely.  I also hope that with backgrounds and specialties we can create the character concept we want.  To me, character concept is more important than character class.

The paladin class is an issue because it is seems that it is highly regarded as a principle class.  When it has not been implemented as a principle class in previous editions.  Sure it is a class, but always as an archetype bred from the Cleric/Fighter union.  In 4E, classes took a hit, because the entire skeleton of class was the same throughout the spectrum.  When you peel back the onion, the classes desolved into roles.  Interestingly enough, the paladin and the fighter served the same role.  Arguably, of course, in 5E I could create a background called paladin and slap it on a class and my concept is created as a paladin.  Look at this:

Class: Fighter
Background: Paladin
Specialty: x (maybe a holy warrior specialty like, Avenger, Harbinger, etc.)

Who is to say that this is not a paladin?  Remember, let the principle extend to the circumstance.  The above paladin is blessed when it comes to skill of arms; role-playing the behaviors associated with rooting out and destroying evil/good, often times taken to the extreme while being supported by choice of specialty.

Look here at this paladin:

Class: Paladin
Background: Spy
Specialty: Necromancer

The paladin nercromancer has an interesting blend of archetypical elements.  It reminds me of pinneapple and ham on a pizza.  Some people like it, some won't touch it with a 10 foot lance.  But it is still a paladin.

My vision of 5E will grant me the opportunites to create mad concepts.  And I am looking forward to it with anticipation.  What I would like to see from the paladin class is a unique class mechanic that would get me interested in applying that to a concept.  I want the design team to blown my mind.  I don't want something along the lines of fighter/cleric redundancy.

Just my two EP.

"The Apollo moon landing is off topic for this thread and this forum. Let's get back on topic." Crazy Monkey

So in other words, how 4E handled it? That a paladin was just the holy champion of any god they wanted to?



  They started down this route in 3E anyway.  You'd e surprised how many people were under the impression that a 3E Paladin got their powers from a deity.  The Blackgaurd, Paladins of Freedom/Slaughter/Tyrrany and the Gray Gaurd were all attempts at creating Paladins not tied to LG alignment so they could function more as generic holy warriors.



If you're going to rename the class, why not call it a Templar? Although I can't see that happening, the Paladin is too iconic. It'd also be interesting as a DM to have the option to replace the tired old Evil Cleric with an Evil Paladin, in black spiky armour, right out of the box.

Good suggestion for Paladin/Templar backgrounds and specialties. If DDN does go with the Big 4, and a lot of customisation options (which frankly I can't see happening, I think it'll be more The Largish 12), that'd be a great way to do it.
I think the Paladin should be an offshoot of the Cleric base, not the Fighter as it has traditionally been. Making it Cleric base, he would be tied in to a diety more closely than a Fighter is and more bound to the Alignment of the diety, as Clerics should be.
No Secular Humanist paladins in your reality, eh?
Awesome this argument again...counting down to full burn.
Awesome this argument again...counting down to full burn.

Is it Tuesday already?

Awesome this argument again...counting down to full burn.

Is it Tuesday already?




Best fourth wall breaking line of all time.
No Secular Humanist paladins in your reality, eh?



They would be called Knights, most likely. Thats what I would call a Paladin without any spell powers. Now, if a player could give me a good argument on how a Secular Humanist would GET "blessings" from dieties he does not believe in or recognize, I might allow it.

As a side note, the Secular Humanist Paladins (or SHP) sounds like a great band name
The name Paladin is too iconic to Dungeons and Dragons to change just because the design shifts away from a strictly Lawful Good alignment. I saw no problems with the 4E paladin who no longer adhered to the strict alignment restrictions. As for the design goals themselves, I hope that we can remove any sort of alignment requirement for their powers forever. If I play an evil paladin, I shouldn't be restricted to smiting only good people or vise-versa. Some things, however, are ingrained for the class such as a resistance to disease, lay on hands, and the ability to bring down the wrath of your deity/dogma in the form of a smite. I think their spellcasting should be extreamly limited (perhaps not receiving spells at all) and get a similiar attack progression akin to a Fighter, or a faster progression akin to the Cleric. So something like +2/+2/+3/+3/+3.
Divine Spellcasting has always been a part of the Paladin class, otherwise it's basically just a fighter, with maybe a few tricks. Also I could easily imagine laying on of hands being complemented by a damaging touch attack, for Neutral and Evil paladins, or even Good paladins of more violently inclined gods.
Divine Spellcasting has always been a part of the Paladin class, otherwise it's basically just a fighter, with maybe a few tricks. Also I could easily imagine laying on of hands being complemented by a damaging touch attack, for Neutral and Evil paladins, or even Good paladins of more violently inclined gods.



The problem I have with the idea of paladins having spells in D&D:Next is because it'll just mirrior those of the Cleric and I have a strong feeling they'll not have their own spell list with their own distinct spells. Something that they started to gain a lot of in 3E and completely in 4E. To have them go back to the same cleric-y stuff is just so.......*bleh*. If they can promise me unique Paladin-only spells in their list, then I'm on board. If it's just a smaller Cleric list, I'd rather have something different and unique.

As for laying on hands for evil or violent-neutral paladins, I never liked that idea. The whole point was to be a secondary healer and, despite popular belief, evil paladins want to heal their evil allies so they can triumph over good. So if the whole thing with DDN is modularity and I can, as a Paladin of evil, decide whether my Lay on Hands can either Hurt or Heal, then I'll be happy. If ALL evil paladins automatically hurt with the ability then that's silly and something I'll have to homrebrew it out.
If I play an evil paladin, I shouldn't be restricted to smiting only good people or vise-versa. Some things, however, are ingrained for the class such as a resistance to disease, lay on hands, and the ability to bring down the wrath of your deity/dogma in the form of a smite.



The problem I see with that argument is that a Paladin is built around being the strong arm of the deity they serve.
They need to be in alignment with their deity if the expect to receive special abilities. The game Hackmaster had a whole chart system set up for alignment infractions and how that would affect Clerics and Paladins. I am not saying I want that for this game, but I think the concept of staying in alignment for these types of classes is important. It is kind of like a Druid who maliciously burns down a grove of trees expecting to get a full alotment of spells... its probably not going to happen.
Now, if a player could give me a good argument on how a Secular Humanist would GET "blessings" from deities he does not believe in or recognize, I might allow it.


That's an easy one.  The truly good deities, who actually care more about helping people and stopping oppression than about converting heathens or jockeying for position within the celestial hierarchy, will be more than willing to donate a little bit of their own power towards someone they know will use that power for good.  If you give healing powers to a good person, then that person will use those powers to help people.  That's how Healers got their spells in 3E.

It works the other way, too.  Some evil deity of mayhem and slaughter isn't going to (necessarily) demand that you work in her name; by giving you powers that can only cause pain and suffering, it pretty much guarantees that you'll be fulfilling her agenda.  And if you go all Spawn and try to pay evil unto evil, then she can always take those powers away.

Remember, not all deities are petty, and most of them are fairly omniscient (within their respective spheres of influence).  Of course, that does rely on a number of assumptions, so it's somewhat setting-dependent and your mileage may vary.

The metagame is not the game.

Except in adventure settings where gods dont exist.
If you're going to rename the class, why not call it a Templar?



Dark Sun took that word and turned into something completely different than a Paladin.  So, there may be some cross-setting confusion as a result of calling it Templar.
Resident Prophet of the OTTer.

Section Six Soldier

Front Door of the House of Trolls

[b]If you're terribly afraid of your character dying, it may be best if you roleplayed something other than an adventurer.[/b]

Now, if a player could give me a good argument on how a Secular Humanist would GET "blessings" from deities he does not believe in or recognize, I might allow it.


That's an easy one.  The truly good deities, who actually care more about helping people and stopping oppression than about converting heathens or jockeying for position within the celestial hierarchy, will be more than willing to donate a little bit of their own power towards someone they know will use that power for good.  If you give healing powers to a good person, then that person will use those powers to help people.  That's how Healers got their spells in 3E.



The problem with that argument is as soon as the Paladin USES such a power, granted to him from a deity, he must then recognize the existance of a higher power, thus negating his ability to be a SHP. In fact, if he even ATTEMPTS to use a power he KNOWS he shouldn't possess but hopes that he is somehow able to perform regardless of the facts, he should no longer be a SHP (I like using SHP), as he is showing belief in a higher power. The act of a deity imbuing non-believers with their blessings is in fact to help recruit those people into being believers.

In game terms, if I allowed a SHP in my game and he attempted to use an ability granted from a deity and it was granted, I would force him to make a WISDOM check. If he fails the check, he remains a SHP. If he makes the check, he must now wrestle with this new found knowledge, and each time he continues to use an ability granted from a deity he gets a +2 to his Wisdom check and must roll a check again. If he makes 3 consecutive checks, he is now a Paladin of that deity. Laughing

Maybe SHP gets his goodies from, uh, good vibes, man.

Or, you know, just accept that a paladin gets its abilities from the PHB and nowhere else (unless there's another sourcebook involved).  Paladin has Lay-of-Hands because that's what the book says it gets at level two.
Maybe SHP gets his goodies from, uh, good vibes, man.

Or, you know, just accept that a paladin gets its abilities from the PHB and nowhere else (unless there's another sourcebook involved).  Paladin has Lay-of-Hands because that's what the book says it gets at level two.



Hippy Paladins? Laughing

I am just joking about the SHP, its an interesting concept. If the rules for Paladins dont specify deity, I am cool with it.
Another way to do it is to have some god grant the powers anyway.  If the SHP does his thing in line with some god's overall plans, why not grant him power?  Sure the works won't be done in your name but they will be done and that, I imagine, would be sufficient for most deities - good or evil.  And hell, the player never needs to know that's how you the DM sees it.  It never needs to come up.  Everyone is happy.  Yay.
Resident Prophet of the OTTer.

Section Six Soldier

Front Door of the House of Trolls

[b]If you're terribly afraid of your character dying, it may be best if you roleplayed something other than an adventurer.[/b]

The problem with that argument is as soon as the Paladin USES such a power, granted to him from a deity, he must then recognize the existance of a higher power, thus negating his ability to be a SHP. In fact, if he even ATTEMPTS to use a power he KNOWS he shouldn't possess but hopes that he is somehow able to perform regardless of the facts, he should no longer be a SHP (I like using SHP), as he is showing belief in a higher power.

Except in settings where deities dont exist.

Even in settings where immortals exist, it can be both the immortals and the mortals are directly accessing the same source of power. Thus there is no need for mortals to rely on the immortals.

Norse animism doesnt rely on the Aesir (spirits of order) any more than other nature spirits, and the Aesir use the same magic that humans use, the power of the mind. Buddhism holds that immortals might exist but are irrelevant because they still fail to achieve enlightenment. Socrates mocks the impossibility of serving the Greek Olympians because serving one necessarily offends an other one.

The gods simply dont matter or dont exist.

It is foolish for the Cleric class to require a deity when many players will choose to use this class in settings that are agnostic (Eberron) or animistic (Dark Sun), or so on.
The 2e PHB didn't assume that a cleric got his powers from a god, there was an option to recieve powers from a Force, similar to what we'd now call a Domain, drawing on an essence, like a magical weeve. It's possible an athiest or agnostic cleric or paladin could draw his power from that weeve, whether the setting has gods or not. Not believing in god is not the same thing as not believing in magic.

Oh and I never meant to imply that the Positive/Negative Energy laying on of hands ability should be proscribed based on alignment or diety. I was just suggesting fluff reasons as to why a good God might have a Negative Energy laying on of hands effect, or how an Evil Paladin might have it. I do think it should be something you choose when you create the character though, not something you can flipflop on.
Secular Humanism (Divinity of Mankind) was a perfectly acceptable and supported "religion" in 2E (The Complete Priest's Handbook, p. 54).
The problem with that argument is as soon as the Paladin USES such a power, granted to him from a deity, he must then recognize the existence of a higher power, thus negating his ability to be a SHP.


This is less true in world with sorcerers (who can cast spells with no training), bards (who can cast healing spells without divine intervention), and unicorns (which can just always heal, because they're so awesome).

It should be possible to remain a secular humanist by merely assuming this power to be from some natural, non-divine source.  Again, like the perfectly natural unicorn.  (That does get into a conflict between when something counts as supernatural or not, though, with the 3.X rules claiming some abilities to be objectively supernatural in spite of occurring naturally.)

The metagame is not the game.

Except in settings where deities dont exist.



Nobody plays in those settings.

KIDDING!!

You make a good point. If this edition is truly going to be modular, then why not allow from the CORE the ability for Clerics/Druids/Paladins to NOT use a deity to gain their abilities? Leave it to the DM and the setting to determine.
The problem with that argument is as soon as the Paladin USES such a power, granted to him from a deity, he must then recognize the existence of a higher power, thus negating his ability to be a SHP.


This is less true in world with sorcerers (who can cast spells with no training), bards (who can cast healing spells without divine intervention), and unicorns (which can just always heal, because they're so awesome).

It should be possible to remain a secular humanist by merely assuming this power to be from some natural, non-divine source.  Again, like the perfectly natural unicorn.  (That does get into a conflict between when something counts as supernatural or not, though, with the 3.X rules claiming some abilities to be objectively supernatural in spite of occurring naturally.)



Thats why I would have the player make a Wisdom check (or Insight). If he fails, then he remains oblivious to the source. If he makes the roll, then he has deduced the source of the power and must now try to wrestle with what that means.

All of this is a joke, of course. I think DMs and players should be able to do whatever the two sides work out as being amicable for their setting.
I understand the sentiment - and don't totally disagree, I just find it so hipster to want only the paladin "saved" from its backward connotations. ((Not even necessarily the sentiment of the OP)) 

I don't want Druids in my world - I want Eco-Friendly Bio-scholars

I don't want Fighters - I want Conflict Management Specialists

"Paladin" in game terms simply means someone who follows an unbending moral code - in the past, that moral code was only Lawful Good. But a "Holy Warrior of Aiyedo Wedo" would STILL have an unbending moral code (probably something about revering Loa and never pissing them off - and how to go about achieving both of those things). 

Heck - it still leaves room for the secular type - cause everyone in the world is black and white, so the paladin mindset is second nature.

===

My point?  We could argue about the "nature" of these names endlessly - so why do only focus on the paladin and not rename other classes to more "Role-neutral" names?


The problem with that argument is as soon as the Paladin USES such a power, granted to him from a deity, he must then recognize the existance of a higher power, thus negating his ability to be a SHP. In fact, if he even ATTEMPTS to use a power he KNOWS he shouldn't possess but hopes that he is somehow able to perform regardless of the facts, he should no longer be a SHP (I like using SHP), as he is showing belief in a higher power. The act of a deity imbuing non-believers with their blessings is in fact to help recruit those people into being believers.



You are right in one way while wrong in another.  In the standard D&D setting with divine characters running around alongside monsters, magic and miracles there would be no such thing as an athiest or agonistic.  There would simply be no doubting the existance of gods (specific campaigns can always be exceptions of course).  So it wouldn't be a question of whether you believe in gods or not.  The question would be do you pray to the dieties, follow their laws and serve them.  A "Humanist" (not really Humanist in our sense of the term) paladin wouldn't doubt the gods existed but he wouldn't be in any way devoted to them.  He wouldn't pray, he wouldn't serve and he wouldn't supplicate.  He would set out to do good/ill/whatever and if a god (or group of gods) granted him power so much the better. 
  In the standard D&D setting with divine characters running around alongside monsters, magic and miracles there would be no such thing as an athiest or agonistic.  There would simply be no doubting the existance of gods (specific campaigns can always be exceptions of course).



I have to disagree there. You are assuming that all rational, intelligent beings arent also at the same time capable of being completely irrational and stubborn. Even in a world where divine beings made themselves known on a regular basis, there would be those that still hold to a belief that its all a scam or something. There are still people here on Earth that believe in their hearts that the world is flat. These arent bushmen in Africa, these are people from 1st World countries.

In regards to the rest of your post, you make a good point in regards to a SHP who discovers the source of his power. I can accept your arguement that he may not necessarily become a Paladin of that deity, but instead say "If you want to keep helping me out, fine. But I am not submitting to your will."
Now, if a player could give me a good argument on how a Secular Humanist would GET "blessings" from deities he does not believe in or recognize, I might allow it.


That's an easy one.  The truly good deities, who actually care more about helping people and stopping oppression than about converting heathens or jockeying for position within the celestial hierarchy, will be more than willing to donate a little bit of their own power towards someone they know will use that power for good.  If you give healing powers to a good person, then that person will use those powers to help people.  That's how Healers got their spells in 3E.

It works the other way, too.  Some evil deity of mayhem and slaughter isn't going to (necessarily) demand that you work in her name; by giving you powers that can only cause pain and suffering, it pretty much guarantees that you'll be fulfilling her agenda.  And if you go all Spawn and try to pay evil unto evil, then she can always take those powers away.

Remember, not all deities are petty, and most of them are fairly omniscient (within their respective spheres of influence).  Of course, that does rely on a number of assumptions, so it's somewhat setting-dependent and your mileage may vary.

The diety could be both good AND wise and think that by converting the heathens, the diety can help prevent adherence to philosophies that are more likely to be corrupted and swayed toward evil. If they are not all-powerful, by jockeying for position, they can become powerful enough to have a larger presence. This would give the diety the potential to show a greater philosophy in action through the example of numerous good followers.

However, it could be that the Secular Humanist Paladin is indeed living proof of the deity's philosophies in action, and for that diety, that is sufficient.

In my own homebrew campaign, I decided to steer farther away from dieties per se, and call the 'gods' by the virtues they represent, thus allowing for the same philosophical concepts to be represented and interpreted in the various cultures throughout my world without having to explain why there are multiple all-powerful death gods. This has also made allowance for SHPs; however...the only player to attempt such a Paladin played his SHP very cowardly and self-serving, less than noble, and unwilling to commit to anything higher than himself... calling it 'pragmatic' and justifying the cowardice by reminding the party that 'if the Paladin dies, what good can come of it?' It might have been more entertaining, if it were intentional. Only that player was suprised when his called mount refused to come one day and he couldn't detect evil anywhere in the Temple of the Fiend Maalorix, and other such problems. The other players, whom he had abandoned for the last time, were wondering what took me so long ('the gods are patient').

I am not saying that Secular Humanists can not exhibit more noble qualities (history is full of examples of those who have), but a player trying to be a Secular Humanist Paladin is probably just trying to avoid having to live up to a standard of any sort for fear of losing abilities or life and just wants the cool abilities Paladin's get (which can be quite powerful) without the code of conduct that makes them balanced from a game perspective.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Now, if a player could give me a good argument on how a Secular Humanist would GET "blessings" from deities he does not believe in or recognize, I might allow it.


That's an easy one.  The truly good deities, who actually care more about helping people and stopping oppression than about converting heathens or jockeying for position within the celestial hierarchy, will be more than willing to donate a little bit of their own power towards someone they know will use that power for good.  If you give healing powers to a good person, then that person will use those powers to help people.  That's how Healers got their spells in 3E.

It works the other way, too.  Some evil deity of mayhem and slaughter isn't going to (necessarily) demand that you work in her name; by giving you powers that can only cause pain and suffering, it pretty much guarantees that you'll be fulfilling her agenda.  And if you go all Spawn and try to pay evil unto evil, then she can always take those powers away.

Remember, not all deities are petty, and most of them are fairly omniscient (within their respective spheres of influence).  Of course, that does rely on a number of assumptions, so it's somewhat setting-dependent and your mileage may vary.

The diety could be both good AND wise and think that by converting the heathens, the diety can help prevent adherence to philosophies that are more likely to be corrupted and swayed toward evil. If they are not all-powerful, by jockeying for position, they can become powerful enough to have a larger presence. This would give the diety the potential to show a greater philosophy in action through the example of numerous good followers.

However, it could be that the Secular Humanist Paladin is indeed living proof of the deity's philosophies in action, and for that diety, that is sufficient.

In my own homebrew campaign, I decided to steer farther away from dieties per se, and call the 'gods' by the virtues they represent, thus allowing for the same philosophical concepts to be represented and interpreted in the various cultures throughout my world without having to explain why there are multiple all-powerful death gods. This has also made allowance for SHPs; however...the only player to attempt such a Paladin played his SHP very cowardly and self-serving, less than noble, and unwilling to commit to anything higher than himself... calling it 'pragmatic' and justifying the cowardice by reminding the party that 'if the Paladin dies, what good can come of it?' It might have been more entertaining, if it were intentional. Only that player was suprised when his called mount refused to come one day and he couldn't detect evil anywhere in the Temple of the Fiend Maalorix, and other such problems. The other players, whom he had abandoned for the last time, were wondering what took me so long ('the gods are patient').

I am not saying that Secular Humanists can not exhibit more noble qualities (history is full of examples of those who have), but a player trying to be a Secular Humanist Paladin is probably just trying to avoid having to live up to a standard of any sort for fear of losing abilities or life and just wants the cool abilities Paladin's get (which can be quite powerful) without the code of conduct that makes them balanced from a game perspective.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
without the code of conduct that makes them balanced from a game perspective.

It never actually 'balanced' anything.


The problem with that argument is as soon as the Paladin USES such a power, granted to him from a deity, he must then recognize the existance of a higher power, thus negating his ability to be a SHP. In fact, if he even ATTEMPTS to use a power he KNOWS he shouldn't possess but hopes that he is somehow able to perform regardless of the facts, he should no longer be a SHP (I like using SHP), as he is showing belief in a higher power. The act of a deity imbuing non-believers with their blessings is in fact to help recruit those people into being believers.



You are right in one way while wrong in another.  In the standard D&D setting with divine characters running around alongside monsters, magic and miracles there would be no such thing as an athiest or agonistic.  There would simply be no doubting the existance of gods (specific campaigns can always be exceptions of course).  So it wouldn't be a question of whether you believe in gods or not.  The question would be do you pray to the dieties, follow their laws and serve them.  A "Humanist" (not really Humanist in our sense of the term) paladin wouldn't doubt the gods existed but he wouldn't be in any way devoted to them.  He wouldn't pray, he wouldn't serve and he wouldn't supplicate.  He would set out to do good/ill/whatever and if a god (or group of gods) granted him power so much the better. 

true
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
TBH I've never ever seen the Paladin's Code of Conduct rules used much at all, it seems to just get glossed over, because it's a pain in the ass. It's a bit of flavour, and not much more. I wouldn't be sad to see it go.
You can doubt the divinity of a being without doubting it's existance.  If the Greek gods were real, I'm sure I wouldn't consider them divine and worthy of worship.  They are petty feuding uber powers but they are hardly invulnerable.  

In my campaign worlds, the "athiests" are the cynics of religion.  Some may doubt the existance of some Gods.  But they all doubt the intent of those beings and see no reason to worship any of them.  

 
I think the name Champion of [God's name or Ideal etc...] is a better name too.   Paladin does have LG connotations.

So a Champion of Pelor might be a Paladin.

For those not wanting to be hindered by a God, you could play a Champion of Justice or Freedom.  

 



There were Paladins of Tyranny (LE), Freedom (CG) and Slaughter (CE) in 3e, though.  A CG Paladin of Horus in 2e.  And the NPC Paladins covering every alignment, in 1e. 

I would prefer they just go back to the 4e way of handling Paladins. 
I think the name Champion of [God's name or Ideal etc...] is a better name too.   Paladin does have LG connotations.

So a Champion of Pelor might be a Paladin.

For those not wanting to be hindered by a God, you could play a Champion of Justice or Freedom.  

 



There were Paladins of Tyranny (LE), Freedom (CG) and Slaughter (CE) in 3e, though.  A CG Paladin of Horus in 2e.  And the NPC Paladins covering every alignment, in 1e. 

I would prefer they just go back to the 4e way of handling Paladins. 



Whatever they do won't kill me.  I just suggested that Paladin has the connotation of nobility.  Kind of like saying an evil saint.  Doesn't really make sense.  Now I will admit that it's been going on for a while so it won't end my world either way.  Just a suggestion.  I thought Champion of Tyranny sounds better than Paladin of Tyranny.