In a previous post, we discussed the iconic cleric. A majority of poll respondents felt the cleric concept is wide enough to encompass healing allies, wearing armor, wielding a weapon, and turning undead. Along those lines, the cleric we’re working on for the upcoming playtest wears heavy armor, swings a weapon, and casts spells. This is no accident—it reflects many D&D legacy mechanics. All this has caused some players to ask us what the paladin’s place in the game is.
Rather than start with the paladin, though, let’s return to the core four classes for a moment.
Looking at only the core four classes across every edition reveals a consistent pattern. Among the four, wizards have exclusive access to arcane magic, clerics have exclusive access to divine magic, rogues have the best access to skills or skill-like abilities, and fighters have the best pure combat abilities. The wizard and cleric have been fairly consistent in their expressions of spell mechanics. Rogues vary a little bit more, but whether they offer idiosyncratic skill-like abilities or superior access into a defined skill subsystem, they give the character ways to interact with things such as traps. The fighter’s mechanic is often more blunt. For example, in 3rd Edition, a fighter simply has the best base attack bonus table of the four, and in 4th Edition, he or she is making more off-turn attacks than the others.
Suppose that instead of just a superior base attack bonus, we offered the fighter—and none of the other core four classes—an option to enter a subsystem of combat-related abilities. This gives the fighter more of a distinct mechanical identity, and it also gives the fighter more choices of things to do each round.
This also allows us to mix and match the subsystems that are unique to the core four classes. The ranger, for example, could give access to some of the fighter’s subsystem and to some of the rogue’s skill system. The druid could offer both divine spells and skills. These classes would then feel mechanically like blends of two core classes.
Of course, we won’t do this unless there’s an iconic result at the end of the combination. Combining some arcane spells and some divine spells gets you a mystic theurge, which doesn’t have as much resonance as the ranger or the paladin. I’m sure we’ll make a nod to it somewhere in our first batch of content, but not likely as a fully realized class.
We now return to the question of the paladin. Although both the cleric and the paladin wear heavy armor, fight with weapons, and cast divine spells, in my head the paladin feels much more martially focused. He or she trains tirelessly to go forth and slay dark and evil things, wears the best armor possible, and fights on horseback. We have talked about building the paladin with a combination of the cleric’s divine spellcasting and the fighter’s combat abilities, which rings correct to me. We think there’s plenty of creative and mechanical space between the cleric and the fighter, and that’s what we’re exploring as an option for the paladin.