Posts Tagged “tg”
My paladin had taken a vow of celibacy. Not the feat from the “Book of Exalted Deeds,” mind you. It was simply something my character had done in-character, with no mechanical benefit. The villain in this particular campaign was an enchantress. It was a lame self-insert character by our GM, but the group tried to put up with it. In our last session I got separated from the rest of the party while we were hunting the enchantress. She jumped out at me, and cast Dominate Person. Once I failed my saving throw, and was under her power, she tried to seduce me. I told the GM that, since this was against my nature as a celibate man, I ought to get a new saving throw at a +2 bonus to resist. Do you know what she said to me?
“Deep down, all men just want to have sex with women, no matter what they say.”
She denied me the right to a new saving throw, and went on to describe my character and her’s having sex. Once she was done, she said that since I had broken my vow of celibacy, I lost all of my paladin powers.
So how can I get back at her for this?
-Paraphrased from a tale told by one of the Anon’s on /tg/.
Every gamer knows the rules. A paladin swears an oath. That oath demands that they do good, and fight evil. Any paladin who willfully breaks their oath will be forsaken by the gods who grant them their holy might. Their powers will be stripped from them, and they will go from being one of the most powerful melee combat classes, to being a fighter without any bonus feats. This fall from grace leaves the Paladin next to useless; worse than that: it represents a fundamental failure of the paladin to uphold the ideals to which they’ve committed their lives. It’s the kind of life-shattering failure which might actually make a person consider becoming a blackguard.
Playing a paladin means holding your character to a higher moral standard. Those who play the class take on an additional challenge for themselves. Not only must they survive the dungeon, save the captives, defeat the villains, and recover the treasure; they must do it all without compromising an ironclad code of ethics. I’ve written in the past about how I believe a Paladin should be played. In my next two posts, I’d like to discuss how I believe a game master should handle a paladin character. Because, after all, what is the purpose of a GM if not to challenge his or her players?
It’s always dangerous to generalize, but I think it’s safe to say that most players who play paladins want to feel noble. They want to feel as though they are the righteous fist of their god, meting out justice one moment, and mercy the next. In other words, people who play paladins want to feel like they’re playing a paladin. And as GMs, it’s our duty to facilitate an environment where they can feel that way. But we can’t simply hand it to them, any more than we can hand out free experience or treasure. We can try to, but when we hand rewards to our players for free, all we accomplish is diminishing the value those rewards have in our players’ eyes. If being an upright defender of all that is good and true is never difficult, then how can it be interesting?
But there is a danger in constructing this manner of challenge. Far too many GMs approach it as a question of how they can make a paladin fall, rather than asking how they can challenge their player. The example at the start of this post is obviously an extreme case. That GM is not only a bad at running a game, but is a pretty awful person to boot. It’s not an isolated case, though. If you’ve spent any time on gaming forums I imagine you know what I’m talking about. Complaints of game masters who force a paladin character to fall are disturbingly common. Sometimes spells such as Dominate Person are involved. Other times, the paladin is put into a situation where they’re forced to commit an evil act by circumstance. Still other times, a paladin falls for doing something the player didn’t even realize they could fall for—something a strict interpretation of the rules would not indicate they should fall for. Regardless of the exact method involved, all of these cases have the same root cause: a really terrible game master.
So the question becomes, “How do we challenge a paladin’s morals, without crossing the line into shitty game mastering?” And for that, I’ve come up with four possibilities.
Make evil the most obvious option. For any given problem, there are numerous solutions. But there will always be on solution which is most obvious. Someone without imagination might not even be able to think of another solution—but a paladin does not have the luxury of lacking an imagination. When the mind-controlled peasants have the players cornered, the rest of the party may give up and choose to kill the poor dominated folk. But the paladin must stand firm, and notice that the wall is weak enough to smash through, or that the second floor balcony is within jumping distance, or that the gem hanging from the chandelier is glowing the same color as the villager’s eyes.
Make evil the easiest option. Even when non-evil options are apparent, they may not always be easy. When the chaotic neutral bandits surrender, it would be easy to simply slay them, or to bind them and let the wolves have them. But a paladin cannot injure a foe who has yielded, not even indirectly. The paladin must make some manner of accommodation, whether it be taking them all the way back to the last town to face judgment, or placing a Mark of Justice spell on them.
Make evil the recommended option. Most often, the options available to a group of characters are implicit. The GM describes a room filled with monsters, and the players figure out for themselves what their options are. Sometimes, though, the players receive directions from NPCs, or even seek out NPCs to give them advice. If this advice requires an evil act, then it’s up to the paladin either to figure out alternatives on their own, or to find another source of advice. For example, if the destruction of an evil artifact requires it to be submerged in the blood of babies, a paladin might choose to instead seal the artifact away, or to seek another sage who knows an alternative method for destroying the item.
Make evil a Justifiable option. A paladin who is lax in their pursuit of justice may be led astray by small evil deeds with appear to serve the cause of righteousness. If a blackguard infiltrates the party disguised as a paladin, the villain may be able to convince the paladin to commit larger and larger evil deeds, all in the name of the greater good. The trickery is in convincing the paladin that the evil deeds are justifiable, rather than in convincing the paladin that the evil deeds are good.
Of course, there is one final element which is important to keep in mind when GMing: never, under any circumstances, try to force your players to take a certain kind of action. No matter how cool you think it would be. No matter how important it is to your ‘story,’ it is never acceptable for a GM to attempt to force a choice. We control the entire world. The demons and the devils, the celestials and the very gods themselves bend to our whim. The only thing the players control is the choices their own characters make. If you really want to make those choices yourself, then maybe you should be writing fiction, rather than running a game.
On Wednesday I’ll write in greater detail about what a paladin’s oath entails. Let me know in the comments if you can think of any more more good ways to test a paladin’s moral convictions.
7 Comments »
Posted by LS on Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 8:33 pm
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: Classes, GM Tips, tg
If I haven’t made this clear before, I’m a huge fan of 4chan’s “Traditional Games” forum. This makes me something of an oddity on the “respectable Internet.” The general consensus is that everything on 4chan is awful, and saying anything positive about it makes you a bad person. As is often the case, the general consensus on this matter is drawn from ignorance. Not only does it overlook that many of the cute and harmless Internet jokes everyone is so fond of originate there. But it is most often informed by an encounter with /b/. And while /b/tards may be the most numerous of 4chan’s contributors, I’m a fa/tg/uy. And I’m proud of that. But defending 4chan’s non-/b/ subforums isn’t the purpose of this post.
About two years ago I participated in a thread on /tg/ which forged the most horrible magical item any GM has ever concocted. A wicked cursed dagger so ghastly in nature that I honestly hesitated to post about it. It’s not an item any civilized GM would include in a game. Its value lies in how amusingly vile it is. We called it: The Womb Dagger. It was created in a generic thread about cursed items [Very mildly NSFW link]. You can view the entire discussion if you like–there are some gems in there. But here is the full write up which I put down on paper once the thread was completed.
I would like to make clear that I am not responsible for creating the majority of this. I merely sorted all my favorite ideas together, then made a nice write-up. I would also like to add, in all seriousness, that this item may be offensive to some readers. If sexual elements in role playing games bother you, you may not wish to read further.
Aura Overwhelming Transmutation; CL 28th
Slot none; Weight 2lb.
The dreaded Womb Dagger is a cursed minor artifact created by a long forgotten god of trickery and balance. Most of the few womb daggers are very plain, though a few are adorned with ornate carvings. All Womb Daggers are +6 Keen weapons. However, the true wonder–and horror–of the item is obscured from identification with spells.
When a woman uses the dagger to kill a creature of any type capable of sexual reproduction, the wielder becomes pregnant with the (now dead) creature’s offspring. If the character is already pregnant and kills with the dagger, then immediately after giving birth she will become pregnant again. Each killed creature is added to her ‘queue.’ Creatures are born as halfbreeds, half the DNA of the killed party, and half the DNA of the killer. In some cases this can cause odd creatures to be created, since not all species would normally be genetically compatible.
The dagger wielder can never harm the child in any significant way, but will always recover fully from any injuries relating from pregnancy and birth. In such cases where such injuries may be extreme, such as with hill giant or draconic children, this can be a lifesaving feature of the dagger. The woman’s children are strongly predisposed to be quite fond of their mother, and will remain with her as companions throughout her life, barring any extenuating circumstances.
If a woman’s queue becomes large enough, she will begin to bear young in ‘litters’ to avoid an endless repetition of pregnancies after clearing two or three dungeons.
If the dagger is wielded by a man, then any time he kills a creature of any type capable of sexual reproduction, he will “carry” that creature’s genetic legacy with him. The next time the male dagger wielder has sexual contact, he will have a 100% fertility rate, negating the use of any preventative measures. Men will maintain a queue of waiting young much like their female counterparts will, though they will only ever pass children along one at a time.
So long as a man wielding the Womb Dagger has a queue of children waiting to be passed on, he will find that he is irresistible to women. Heterosexual women passing within [10 * # of children in queue] feet of him must succeed on a DC: 16 will save or make aggressive advances on him. These women will suffer the same pregnancy and birth related oddities experienced by women who kill with the dagger. This includes their young having a lasting fondness for them. However, that fondness will be overwhelmed by a deep hatred of their father. Most often, these children will leave their mothers once they reach adulthood, and attempt to hunt down and murder their father.
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Posted by LS on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 at 10:04 pm
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: Magic Items, Magical Marvels, tg
Life isn’t straightforward. It isn’t black and white. The stories of vile villains and righteous crusades that we were weaned on are fairy tales. But heroes? Heroes are very real. They’re not perfect, and there’s no army of them, but they exist. They are the naive idealists without any grasp of how the world works. They are the battle hard cynics who fight on to keep the darkness from encroaching for another day. They are the unknown soldiers who die alone in the dark, with nothing to comfort them other than the knowledge that they have done what is right. Heroes fight losing battles, they are manipulated, and too often receive nothing–not even success–for their trouble. Yet heroes fight on, because some battles need to be fought.
These are the incorruptible, the charitable, the fearless. These are the paladins.
-Anonymous /tg/ contributor
I am tired of seeing paladins consistently portrayed in an un-paladin like manner. In recent years, I don’t think I have seen a single paladin–either in a game or in some other media–who didn’t suffer from a painful overzealousness. Paladins are played as assholes who object to the very concept of tolerance. They look down on anyone who doesn’t adhere to their strict (often arbitrary) moral codes. And even a slight suggestion that laws are being broken or evil acts committed will cause such a paladin to react with force. A sizable portion of the time, the paladin is so over zealous that he or she serves as an antagonist to good characters. In other cases, paladins grow so overzealous as to be actively evil according to any rational definition of the alignment.
It’s not that I don’t get it. We’ve all dealt with this kind of paladin in real life. The door to door religion salespeople, the condescendingly self-righteous believers, the snarling fundamentalists demanding that one group or another be denied civil liberties on the basis of a religion. In the real world, people with an absolute sense of right and wrong based on their religious beliefs are often brutish and unkind. Those willing to go out into the world and ‘fight’ for their religion often choose to do so by trying to bring everyone who doesn’t agree with them down. I am an Atheist, I have no reason to defend religion whatsoever. But the needless association of in-game religion to real-world religion needs to stop.
Pathfinder and D&D are games of magic and monsters. Games where gods actually exist, and frequently interact with the material world in obvious ways. In real life, a woman who kills 10 people and claims god told her to do it is crazy. In Pathfinder, the authorites would find out which god the woman is talking about, find a cleric of that god, and have that cleric ask their god why those 10 people deserved to die. If the woman were, in fact, crazy, then the cleric could use the powers granted them by their god to simply raise the dead. Whether you are religious or not, I think we can all agree that religion in a fantasy world is fantastical. Not only does it grant magical powers, but the gods who head fantasy religions are beings which can be reached and spoken to with even low level clerical spells.
Like the religions they serve, paladins are fantastical. With the rare exception of those who have fallen, paladins are paragons of virtue. They never walk past a person who is hungry without stopping to feed them, nor could they walk past a person who was cold without giving away their cloak. This is not a matter of duty–though a paladin might disagree. Paladins act always to help those in need because they want to soothe every iota of suffering possible. And when a paladin stands to fight, it is not simply to defend their honor or that of their god. Paladins do not fight for kings or queens, nor do they fight for money or prestige. When a paladin draws steel, it is because they believe they stand between innocents, and evil. It is because the only way to soothe suffering is to defeat that which causes it–be it man or beast.
I think the best way to demonstrate this point would be to relate a story of a paladin played correctly. This story has been floating around the 4chan sub forum /tg/ (for Traditional Games) for a number of years now. It is one among many such stories, though for the life of me I cannot find any others which I want to share. I’ve edited the story to work in a non-image board format. I believe it demonstrates the paladin archetype with actions better than I can demonstrate it with words.
My Warforged paladin was alone with the villain atop his tower. The villain had wings, and could fly away at any time, but since I was alone he chose to taunt me.
“Have you ever stopped to think about why you protect others?”
“On occasion, why?” I replied.
“It’s all programmed in, you know. You care about humans because you were built by humans and programmed to care about humans. You believe in everything you do because they chose for you to believe it. Look at yourself! They made you so that you like being helpful and protective, and it’s all a lie! Join me, and I can free you from it all. From the shackles they put on you. You can be a pure and perfect being, immortal and superior, with all the power you’ve ever wanted.”
“Yes, but isn’t that desire programmed in, as well? Even if none of my emotions are true, they feel true. Even if my cause isn’t really mine, it feels just. All you can do is exchange one lie for another. I’ll keep the one that makes everyone else, the ones with real emotions, happiest.”
With that, my character leaped forward and grappled the villain. I knocked him from the tower and rode him down to the rocks below, using my weight to prevent him from flying.
Just thought I’d share my characters last moments with you.
-Anonymous /tg/ contributor
Paladins are not self righteous. They are not over zealous. They are not eager to spill blood for their gods. They aren’t perfect, but nor do they suffer from the weaknesses which often characterize the “forcefully religious” in the real world.
What paladins are is goodly and just. They are heroes, and I would like to see them portrayed as such.
7 Comments »
Posted by LS on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 at 9:38 pm
Categories: System Independant
Tags: Classes, rant, tg