What’s this? Paladin’s moral compass might align with Antipaladin’s? The horror!

Just to make sure we’ve got our precedents in order before we dive in, it was back in Mean Girls, Part 1/3 when we last talked about playing your alignment. We also had a rollicking debate on the topic of paladins falling from grace in Tolerance. Coming out of those conversations, I’m beginning to think we focus too often on the GM’s role in this equation. I mean, just consider what’s going on in today’s comic between the man in shining armor and his counterpart in black. There’s no overbearing GM in sight. These are guys playing out their internal conflict, and agonizing over their choices.

Now let me say first and foremost that this is BY NO MEANS the only correct way to play a paladin. Nothing says you’re required to moralize and agonize. But speaking as a GM, I can tell you that my “must enforce alignment” instincts relax considerably when my paladin players remember to bring up these issues themselves.

When you’ve got a code of honor, strict alignment restrictions on your class, or some other kind of your-behavior-matters mechanic built into your dude, I think it pays to treat it as something more than a nuisance. It’s an opportunity for character exploration and world-building. What goes through your head when you’re faced with a moral quandary? How does your particular religion/philosophy/whatever see the world? I actually think that kind of exploration is the purpose of the alignment system, and it’s all I really want to see out of my players when they write “paladin” on their sheet.

Speaking as a GM, I can tell you that I wouldn’t penalize either Paladin or Antipaladin for choosing to rescue Necromancer. Knowing that my PCs are thinking about the consequences to their actions is enough for me. They’re already bringing their codes of behavior into the picture, and so I don’t feel like I’ve got to remind them of it myself. Besides, that sort of thing really ought to be the player’s choice to make. It’s called “internal conflict” after all, and that doesn’t seem like the province of the dude behind the screen!

So what do you think, guys? Do you treat your paladin codes as annoying baggage, or do you like to bring them up in-game? Let’s hear all about your favorite moral quandaries and philosophical dilemmas down in the comments!


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