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Paladin Orders, The Open Door Society

Paladin Orders, The Open Door Society

Adriaen van Ostade - Feasting Peasants in a Tavern

In the current edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game, paladins get the short end of the stick in two ways.

First, paladins don’t have the greatest reputation with the player base. Previous editions typecast them as lawful good killjoys! In reality, paladins and their religious orders are an important part of fantasy settings, filling critical roles within society.

Second, the role of paladin orders is poorly explored in 5th Edition. A paladin’s order is equivalent to a cleric’s church, providing guidance and support for adventuring adherents.

Fret not, brave adventurer! By considering the six following questions, you can create a compelling paladin order for your players or for your own character to join.

Read about more paladin orders in the archive!

Zarema is creating an order using the Oath of the Hearth from the Tome of Heroes. As the game starts in the northern reaches of some unremembered domains, she expects to battle many cold creatures. The Fiery Smite feature and expanded Divine Sense provide almost instant utility, while the Turn Boreal Creature option for Channel Divinity can provide some relief from the cold.

Question 1. How old is the paladin order?

The order’s age and longevity may inform your interactions, as well as create tension in the story that you tell with your fellow PCs and GM. Consider the following:

  • Older orders may have more resources to bring to bear, while younger orders may struggle to support their paladins in the field.
  • Older orders may focus on the way the things have always been done, while newer orders are less entrenched in their practices.
  • Older orders may have experienced, powerful leaders, while newer orders may have room for rapid advancement through the ranks.

Zarema decides that her order is old and entrenched. However, the wing of her order operating in this region is rather new. This is good, as the order’s headquarters supports her wing financially. This also cuts the other way, as the order’s headquarters can treat her wing like children who need constant attention.

Question 2. Which tenet is most important?

While they follow each tenet of their oaths, the order exemplifies one specific tenet. Consider the following:

  • How does society view this tenet? Is it outdated or unpopular, or perhaps favored by a corrupt government?
  • How does this tenet influence how your order operates in the community?
  • How might you struggle to uphold this tenet as a paladin adventuring in the field?

Zarema wants to focus on the tenet of the hospitality of home. Members of the order often earn their living by operating pubs and carriage houses, in addition to protecting members of the communities where they live and work. Paladins rarely adventure, except where instructed by the order or after their homes and communities are destroyed by monsters.

Question 3. Who founded your order, and why are they renowned?

Many paladins grow up hearing tales of the heroes who founded and sustained the order. More seasoned paladins derive inspiration from the founders’ trials and tribulations. Consider the following:

  • Was your order founded by a single paladin or a group?
  • Are the founders alive? If not, how did they die?
  • What are the founders renowned for? Had the founders already established the order, or did this precipitate the order’s founding?
  • What lessons can you learn from the founders?

Zarema decides that the order was founded by three abbesses at the crossroads of trade routes. Recognizing the danger along the southerly passes, the abbesses planned a regular route of miniature abbeys to protect travelers. Once built, the order couldn’t properly fund their operations. Instead, the defenders were forced to pivot, converting the abbeys into public houses of accommodation for travelers with adequate coin when funds were late or missing from headquarters.

Question 4. Why is your order (still) relevant?

Paladin orders that don’t remain relevant can’t attract new adherents. Perhaps more crucially, the order can’t get support from citizenry, wealth donors, or the government —all of whom the order relies on for support.

  • Does the order maintain purpose by meeting a critical societal function, such as education or proselytizing?
  • Does the order derive relevance by filling an unmet social need, such as soup kitchens for the hungry or orphanages for the parentless?
  • Has the order struggled to remain relevant? If so, how might you breathe new life into the ranks?

Zarema decides that the order remains relevant by operating hearth and home in far-flung locations. Locals benefit from the paladins’ leadership and protection, while travelers know that they can find the order’s houses along even unfriendly roads.

Question 5. What is a relic of your order?

Each order has a number of relics that have been used by past paladins—and maybe even the founder.

  • What does the relic do? Is the relic magical or mundane?
  • Has the relic been lost? If yes, when and where was it lost?
  • What would happen if the relic fell into the wrong hands?

Zarema decides that each paladin is gifted a staff of the lantern bearer when granted stead over one of the order’s properties. This magical staff, which can be found in the Vault of Magic, makes any fire magic more potent when it’s used as a spell focus.

Question 6. What is the order’s darkest secret?

Like any organization, your paladin order has skeletons in its closet. It will use any means necessary—from intimidation, skulduggery, or Turn Undead—to keep them out of the public eye.

  • What is this secret?
  • Is the secret confined to the past or is it still ongoing?
  • How great is the shame if this secret came to light?
  • How might the secret be rectified?

Zarema decides that certain members of the order are devoid of honesty and goodness. When lone travelers come to the order’s public houses, the paladins kill the traveler and take their property. This can give rise to restless undead within the walls of the public house.

After this, give your order an evocative name and provide it to your GM for comment and use in your game.

Zarema names her order “The Open Door Society”, after the paladins’ general attitude toward visitors. She sends this to her GM over Discord, who thanks Zarema for her hard work and adventure hooks.

About Benjamin Eastman

Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock Lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex

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