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.
Allie is creating an order using the Oath of the Elements from Tome of Heroes. She thinks the Elemental Strike option for Channel Divinity makes an interesting option, especially with smite attacks. She also decides that gaining access to summon spells makes for a unique paladin, while the Elemental Companion option could be fun if her group makes it to 15th level.
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.
Allie’s order was founded in antiquity, back when the first metropolises were built at the edge of mighty forests of yore. Members of the longer-lived races have served for centuries.
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 Is it outdated or unpopular, or perhaps favored by a corrupt government?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?
Allie wants to focus on the tenet to defend the natural world. Mother Nature is sacred and must be protected.
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?
Allie decides that the order was founded by a group of druids and warriors who gradually merged into paladins. Most of the founders have perished, but two still live—an impossibly ancient elf with cracked and weathered skin and a gnome who was trapped in an amulet for an epoch.
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?
Allie decides that the order is relevant because it promises to protect cities and villages from abominations coming from the forests. In exchange, cities and villages hunt and log under certain quotas—or face dire consequences.
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?
Allie reviews the Vault of Magic and decides that her order has three oak heart figurines. This fabled item grows in power with the user attuned to it, allowing them to cast spells and even summon an awakened tree or treant.
Long ago, the order’s protectors recovered these figurines from a forest fire that ravaged the vast oak groves to the south. When asked, Allie suggests to her GM that other figurines might be found in similar fiery disasters.
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?
Allie decides that the order’s leadership hasn’t been honest on its dealings. The order is derelict on its promises to protect urban centers from arboreal abominations. Leaders from urban centers have advised the order that there will be consequences for continued breaches of these ancient agreements.
After this, give your order an evocative name and provide it to your GM for comment and use in your game.
Allie names her order “The Verdant Frond” and hands it to her GM (who thanks Allie for taking some of his input during the process).