Thursday, April 15, 2021

D&D BECMI "Revised" Paladin Class

One more “class” of hero can be added to the panoply of “revised” versions I’ve come up in recent past. D&D BECMI’s classic paladin is an extension of the base fighter class, only available from level 9 up. It’s perfectly fine when playing “by the book.” For the sake of variety, however, I’m now offering an alternative available from level 1 for those who don’t want to wait until level 9. Most adventures back in my earlier years of roleplaying often included a paladin in the party. This iconic character proved awesomely beneficial and at the same time equally infuriating to unscrupulous opportunists. Priceless. The subject of paladinhood since then has been covered to death in multiple RPG versions, so there isn’t a whole lot of innovation that can be brought to this table other than my own creative license.

Art Credit: Paladin by ForrestImel on Deviantart, published: Jun 29, 2017 © 2017-2021 ForrestImel

Regarding D&D BECMI
            Be aware that unlike recent game versions, races are treated as classes—thus an “elf” is a class onto itself, and so are the dwarf and the halfling. If you are a big fan of 5e, that’s great but this article isn’t meant for you, let alone the paladin’s existing treatment in 5e. Comparisons and personal judgements on the nature of games from the early 80s are irrelevant here and unwelcome. Please consider this analogy: plenty of folks love the latest car makes, with the best modern technology can offer; others collect vintage cars as a hobby. Neither is wrong. D&D BECMI also fits on the vintage side of things, much like most other OSR fares.

            "Paladin" derives from the Latin palatium (a palace), palatius relating to a high-level official attached to an imperial or royal court, a palace warrior. In literature, this eventually referred to a pious knight, as in King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. In roleplaying games, it became more of a holy warrior, a well-meaning zealot with extravagant powers and a lordly demeanor. Cool. I dig this.

            The basis for the paladin is essentially a cross between cleric and fighter, with fancy chrome, whitewalls, and gnarly tail fins. Although I hadn’t intended to grab everything I found in other RPGs about paladins and jam it all into this character class, I carried over the abilities described in D&D BECMI at least. Following the general trend of my recent articles, I focused on the lower levels offering plenty of features to have fun with. I’m using the cleric’s revised spell progression as the basis for the paladin’s spellcasting ability, and the updated saving throws I introduced in the previous article. I added a couple of new things. They replace the +2 bonus to saving throws and miscellaneous combat bonuses, although perhaps with a bit more panache. I’ve also altered mechanics for some of the class features taken from sources other than BECMI.
            Experience point requirements are much higher than the classic fighter’s, given all the special abilities. If you still think the paladin is just too unbalanced for conventional level 1 adventuring, you can start the new character as a level 1 fighter. When reaching 500 or 1,000 xp (at the DM's discretion), the fighter makes its oath and becomes a level 1 paladin (with 0 xp).

The New “Revised” Paladin Class

Prime Requites: Strength and Charisma.

Experience Bonus: I give a +5% if Str and Cha average out between 11 and 12, and +10% if they average less than 11, implying that all other stats are lower than the prime requisites. Paladins with lousy stats are possible provided their two best scores go toward Str and Cha. What matters is what truly lies in their hearts (think of Capt. America before his transformation or Don Quixote). At 13+, stats otherwise provide conventional bonuses, other than extra xps.

Hit Dice: 1d8 per level up to level 9, +2 hp per level thereafter, and Con adjustments no longer apply.

Maximum Level: 36.

General Abilities: Fights and saves as a fighter.

Armor & Weapons: All armors permitted. Ranged weapons, however, are restricted since they are deemed a coward's means.

Fighter Combat Options: As fighter; starts with the same number of weapon proficiencies and special combat maneuvers.

Special Abilities: See below.

The Oath: The paladin must of course pronounce its oath of fealty to a lawful cleric order. All RPGs and fantasy settings have their own versions, so there isn’t much point is belaboring this issue here. The bottom line is that there can be no paladin without an obligation to do Good. Failure to comply results in forfeiting all class abilities; the paladin becomes a regular fighter of the same level until proper atonement is performed. Whenever the atonement is complete, paladinhood is regained on the basis of the fighter’s current xp. For example: A level 6 paladin (48,000 xp) demoted to a simple fighter (with 32,000 xp), would regain paladinhood on the basis of the fighter’s current xp, probably becoming a level 5 paladin. This loss can be much steeper at high level.

Alignment Issues: Starting out as “Lawful” is a game requirement. Situations may arise where alignment has changed for no fault of the hero’s. Paladinhood isn’t necessarily lost instantly, provided the paladin never performs malevolent acts. Scrupulously following one’s oath may suffice over time for the paladin to become “Lawful” again, without penalty. The oath therefore safeguards not only those deserving protection, but also the paladin itself. Changing to a “Chaotic” alignment outright (or an evil one in other game versions) will, however, cause the loss of paladinhood, as explained earlier.

Wealth and Hirelings: Paladins do not retain wealth, as pledged in their oaths. They keep what is needed to purchase or replace personal equipment and pursue their missions. The balance of their earnings goes to support their clerical order. They may not forego (in favor of other party members) portions of their treasure shares that should go to their orders. A paladin does not keep henchmen, but may employ hirelings whose combined HD aren’t more than ⅓ their employer’s (rounded down).

Aura of Protection:
This is an ability unavailable to classic BECMI paladins. An aura 15’ radius surrounds the paladin. All evil creatures within range suffer a –1 penalty to hit rolls and saving throws. This aura cannot be dispelled. Affected creatures can sense where this aura comes from.

Detect Evil: This ability is akin to the detect evil spell, thus with a 120’ range. The paladin must be able to see the source of evil.

Laying on Hands: D&D BECMI doesn’t offer this power. I include it here since it is ubiquitous in other game versions. The healing amounts to 4 hit point plus the paladin’s experience level, thus 5 hp at first level up to 40 at level 36. If a wound requires less healing than what the paladin can offer, the balance can be bestowed upon another wounded companion. Once the paladin has used up all of its healing power, this ability is no longer available for the remainder of the day.
             If its healing ability is completely depleted, the paladin still has the option of forfeiting its own hit points in order to heal someone else (also see Knightly Fervor, later). It is considered a feat of great compassion. The player decides how many hit points to spend, up to the recipient’s normal total (the paladin can sense how much healing is needed to revive someone, relative to its own life force). Forfeited hit points cannot be healed for the remainder of the day.
             Malevolent recipients (NPCs or monsters) revived after having been knocked unconscious and restored to their full hit points, must save vs. spell (aimed magic) or change their alignments one notch toward the paladin’s. Saving throws receive a penalty equal to the paladin’s Cha bonus plus ½ the hit points needed to revive the recipient (rounded down; a natural score of “20” always saves). The hero must protect recipients failing their saving throws, or at least allow them to leave unharmed. The alignment change is canceled if the paladin or its companions harm or act against the recipient’s best interest.

Fortitude: This manifestation of faith provides immunity to non-magical diseases. Immunity does not extend to curses such as lycanthropy or a mummy’s rotting disease.

Turn Undead: The paladin can repel undead as a cleric one third its level (rounded down). Therefore, a level 3 paladin turns undead as a level 1 cleric.

Knightly Fervor: A paladin sacrificing its own hit points while laying hands on a wounded being earns faith points equal to the forfeited hit points. Faith points are only gained when forgoing at least 5 hp (or 10% of its normal total, whichever is greatest). A paladin may not accumulate faith points exceeding half its own normal hit point total (rounded up). They can otherwise be saved for later days.
            Faith points are redeemed as bonuses to hit rolls or saving throws. A player intent on spending its paladin’s faith points must clearly announce the matter before making any die rolls (possibly invoking the divine patron’s name for the sake of roleplay). Faith points are spent if the roll fails, just enough for the roll to succeed. If the paladin does not possess enough, current faith points are wasted although they do prevent a critical failure's catastrophic consequences.

Divine Ardor: Whenever striking down a foe affected by the hero’s aura of protection, the paladin earns a +1 AC bonus until the end of the battle. The foe must have at least half as many HD or levels as the paladin’s and been defeated in hand-to-hand combat (no slaying prisoners or helpless opponents, casting spells, or resorting to ranged means). These bonuses are cumulative; they cannot be dispelled unless the paladin is unconscious or subject to magical fear.

Cure Ailments: When laying hands, the paladin also cures any non-magical disease or non-magical poison. If the recipient doesn’t otherwise bear physical wounds, treat as if healing a 5 hp wound.

Hallowed Steed: At the end of the current adventure when reaching level 7, the paladin senses the need to leave on a personal errand. This journey should lead to a location where the steed awaits. The paladin may have to earn its trust and service. It can be a war horse or some other creature best fitting the paladin’s style, at the DM’s discretion. The steed should have +4 hit point but not more than half the paladin’s HD (up to 11 HD, rounded up). Its Int should be no less than 4, and its alignment Lawful regardless of its breed. The steed is bound to its master. It allows no other rider, unless permitted by its master. The steed also receives +1 HD each time the paladin earns two more, up to 11 HD, after which the steed receives only +1 hp. Should the mount perish at a later time, the paladin will sense another has become available after reaching the next experience level.

Holy Sword: Another classic artifact from other game versions implies the existence of the famed holy avenger. Upon reaching level 10, the paladin receives word of such a sword’s possible location. The paladin must leave on a personal journey to wrest the fabulous weapon from evil hands. The so-called holy avenger acts as a +1 magical sword. However, in a paladin’s hands, it rates as a sword +2/+4 vs. malevolent foes. It also produces a 10’ diameter aura that dispels malevolent or hostile curses and enchantments, cast at the paladin’s experience level. The sword must be unsheathed and held in hand for the latter power to manifest itself.

Death Blow: Whenever reduced to zero hp or less in while in hand-to-hand combat, the paladin is entitled an immediate and final strike against its nemesis (must be a malevolent being). The attack receives a +4 bonus to hit and inflicts the weapon’s normal damage +1 per level of the paladin.

Immunity to Mind-Altering Attacks: The paladin cannot fall victim to such spells as charm, hold, sleep, or magically induced fear. Spells such as confusion, hallucinatory terrain, or feeblemind are only effective if the spellcaster’s experience level is greater than the paladin’s. Immunity does not extend to magical illusions, however.

Aura of Piety: The paladin radiates a force 15’ radius keeping at bay enchanted creatures of a malevolent nature. These monsters include those that can only be hit with magic or that were magically summoned. Affected creatures cannot physically touch the paladin or its companions within the area of effect, but can use projectile weapons, spells, and natural abilities. The aura no longer repels those creatures attacked from within the area of effect (with melee or projectile weapons, with spells, or in any other way).

About Calidar: Paladins have not been mentioned in the World of Calidartm up to this point. They must be either pious followers of a divine patron, or zealots. Nothing prevents DMs from running paladins in that world. Paladins are by design empowered by their patron deities to fight demons. They suffer no penalty against rascals (see CC1, page 216), although weapons +2 or better are required. Archfiends require +3 magical weapons or better, and at least experience level 16 for a demon lord, or level 32 for demon prince. On the extreme end of things, paladins can only ever fight a fully ascended deity if they have earned epic hero status (see CAL1, page 86) and have been personally empowered to do so by their divine patrons.

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