No Cure for the Paladin Blues

Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!

What time is it?

MIKO TIME!

Background

Miko is a paladin from Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick. She was orphaned at a young age and raised in a local monastery until Azure City’s ruler, Lord Shojo, adoped her and trained her as a paladin for his Azure Guard. Miko is very no-nonsense, reckless, and arrogant. She’s actually portrayed as the worst way to play a paladin; a paladin whose Lawfulness and Goodness is disruptive to the adventure. It’s a very interesting caricature on how many people believe Lawful Good should be portrayed that is simultaneously juxtaposed with more reasonable Lawful Good characters.

Build Concept

Miko’s a Multiclass Monk / Paladin. Like most of my Order of the Stick builds, no archetypes allowed. This also means that I will not be using all of the Iriori Paladin archetypes and prestige classes that I know my readers expect me to use. Don’t worry, folks, I’ll do something with those someday. But today is not that day …..

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Monk 2 / Paladin 5
  • Feats: Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Katana (Human), Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Wakizashi (1st), Improved Unarmed Strike (Monk), Stunning Fist (Monk), Combat Reflexes (Monk), Dodge (Monk), Weapon Focus: katana (3rd), Weapon Focus: wakizashi (5th), Crusader’s Flurry (7th)
  • Abilities: AC Bonus (0 + Wis), Aura of Courage, Aura of Good, Channel Positive Energy, Detect Evil, Divine Bond (horse), Divine Grace, Divine Health, Evasion, Flurry of Blows, Mercy (fatigued), Lay on Hands, Smite Evil (2/day), Unarmed Strikes

I am definitely taking some liberties with this build so let me explain. In Japanese culture, a katana and a wakizashi are technically considered two parts of a single weapon set, a daisho. Based on how Miko prefers to fight in the Order of the Stick, I am going to assume that the Twelve Gods’ favored weapon is the daisho, as in both katana and wakizashi. You should NOT assume that your GM would do something like this for you, but it is a pretty cool idea to have a set of weapons as your deity’s favored weapon, especially if the deity’s “style” is Two-Weapon Fighting. Just wanted to point this out, because the build sort of relies on this ruling.

The other major thing that I am ignoring is the fact that Miko wears armor in the Order of the Stick. In Pathfinder, any sort of armor impedes most of your Monk class features. I’m building Miko in assumption that she does not wear armor of any sort and therefore has access to all of her monk abilities because the build is more fun that way. The final liberty that am I taking is giving Miko her first level as paladin, even though her backstory states that she was a monk first. The reason I’m doing this is to get those pesky Exotic Weapon Proficiencies out of the way.

With that out of the way, the centerpiece to Miko’s design is the Crusader’s Flurry feat. As you can see, even though I’m considering the daisho one weapon for Favored Weapon purposes, Miko still needs to earn proficiency with them on her own. That’s the brilliant part about the Deity’s favored weapon bit; its not a class feature, so you can take feats and abilities that require proficiency with a deity’s favored weapon even if you don’t have that specific line in your weapons and armor proficiency section. For example, you can be an oracle that can channel energy via the Life domain and quality for these feats as long as you have proficiency with the favored weapon of a deity that you worship.

Crusader’s Flurry is neat because it essentially works as a free Two-Weapon Fighting ability and Double Slice ability for Miko in one. It takes a lot of feats to get there, sure, but its totally worth it in the end. Other then that feat combination, Miko is pretty standard for a Paladin 5 / Monk 2. She has her horse, Windstriker, and so far all is well and good in the land. So far, anyway. Let’s see how Miko holds up later in the game.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Monk 3 / Paladin 11
  • Feats: Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Katana (Human), Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Wakizashi (1st), Improved Unarmed Strike (Monk), Stunning Fist (Monk), Combat Reflexes (Monk), Dodge (Monk), Weapon Focus: katana (3rd), Weapon Focus: wakizashi (5th), Crusader’s Flurry (7th), Monastic Legacy (9th), Boon Companion (11th), Power Attack (13th)
  • Abilities: AC Bonus (0 + Wis), Aura of Courage, Aura of Good, Aura of Justice, Aura of Resolve, Channel Positive Energy, Detect Evil, Divine Bond (horse), Divine Grace, Divine Health, Evasion, Fast Movement (+10 feet), Flurry of Blows, Maneuver Training, Mercy (diseased, exhausted, fatigued), Lay on Hands, Smite Evil (4/day), Still Mind, Unarmed Strikes

Oh my! A martial build that doesn’t take Power Attack until 13th level! GASP!

In all seriousness, Miko’s build comes along nicely in the Mid Levels. One more level of monk qualifies her for Monastic Legacy. In addition to being appropriately named for her background, it also improves her unarmed strike damage, so her punches and kicks continue to matter throughout the game. She also gives a much-needed boost to Windstriker with Boon Companion, boosting her bonded mount to the point where it has the same power as if she was a single class paladin. And then Power Attack.

Looking at her build, things don’t change or improve very much for Miko. She gets more smites, more mercies, and a bunch of awesome new auras.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Monk 3 / Paladin 17
  • Feats: Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Katana (Human), Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Wakizashi (1st), Improved Unarmed Strike (Monk), Stunning Fist (Monk), Combat Reflexes (Monk), Dodge (Monk), Weapon Focus: katana (3rd), Weapon Focus: wakizashi (5th), Crusader’s Flurry (7th), Monastic Legacy (9th), Boon Companion (11th), Power Attack (13th), Crusader’s Fist (15th), Furious Focus (17th), Fearless Aura (19th)
  • Abilities: AC Bonus (0 + Wis), Aura of Courage, Aura of Faith, Aura of Good, Aura of Justice, Aura of Resolve, Aura of Righteousness, Channel Positive Energy, Detect Evil, Divine Bond (horse), Divine Grace, Divine Health, Evasion, Fast Movement (+10 feet), Flurry of Blows, Maneuver Training, Mercy (diseased, exhausted, fatigued, paralyzed, sickened), Lay on Hands, Smite Evil (6/day), Still Mind, Unarmed Strikes

This part of the build is a case of following the character rather than the optimized route. Personally, I don’t think anything Miko picks up from her six new levels of paladin is all that impressive. If this was my character, I’d put the nine levels in monk for the ki pool, an extra attack from Flurry of Blows, and a few cool bonus feats. But let’s face it, Miko is so wholly devoted to the Twelve Gods that she would never dream of straying from her paladin path. She is undyingly zealous to the Twelve Gods (up until she falls, anyway), which makes me think that she wouldn’t go back to monk.

Feat-wise, Crusader’s Fist is cool. It lets Miko punch undead for big chunks of damage. Furious Focus is a bit of a staple, and Fearless Aura is there because she doesn’t really need anything else. So this might not be the most interesting midgame in the world, but at least I can say it is mostly true to Miko’s character.

Windstriker

I’m not going to provide a full build for Windstriker because for the most part, we don’t really see what he can do. When the Order of the Stick first meets Miko, Windstriker basically grapples Belkar by pinning him to the floor, so I’m going to go ahead and say that Miko has Windstriker build to be a crowd-controller. The horse runs around and disables and distracts enemies while she slaughters her foes. For that reason, the horse should have a bunch of combat maneuver feats. I’d probably go as far to say that her house needs Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple, but in the long run that’s up to you.

And there you have it; a Monk/Paladin build for Miko from the Order of the Stick! What did you think? How do these two classes compliment one another? Is this a cool build or an average build? How many people do YOU think are going to tell me that I should have used the Irori archetypes / Prrestige Classes instead of going standard monk / paladin? Leave your answers below and I’ll see you next time!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune paladin, and his favorite pastime is silly. Very, very silly.

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Falling from Grace

Welcome to the Gibbering Mouth article for March 5th, 2014. Today’s article is a Wednesday Rave; the topic is the paladin code of conduct.

Discussions about alignment almost always revolve around one specific class: the paladin. Paladins are hardly the only class in the game with alignment requirements: barbarians, clerics, druids, inquisitors, monks, and the soon-to-be warpriest also have similar requirements placed upon them. Maybe its because most of these classes have a one-step leeway or something, but it seems like no one is complained about more than the paladin. Heck, you see more “falling paladin” threads and discussions than antipaladins, that’s for sure. Monks have an alignment requirement that is almost as strict as a paladin’s, too.

So why all the fuss about paladin alignment?

Falling as a Goal

For whatever reason, this idea that all GMs should be testing their paladin’s morality (translation: trying to get them to fall) is as old as the paladin class itself. Likewise, the player sentiment that all GMs are trying to make their paladins fall has existed for just as long. Last week we talked about trusting the GM, and this is certainly an example of a place where there is a noticeable gap in player-to-GM trust. For this reason, I feel obligated to say this to all my GMs out there. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t lord over your tables. But please remember this #1 rule of being a decent GM: it is not your job to screw over your players. Your players are more than capable of screwing themselves over; they don’t need us working against them too!

A perfect example is the “Satan Spawn” scenario. This is a somewhat famous “paladin trap” where the GM places a demon-possessed child before the paladin with some sort of MacGuffin that will kill billions of people or something silly like that. The idea of the “trap” is that the paladin falls no matter what he does. If he ends the threat by attacking the child, he falls for attacking an innocent person who was under the control of something else. If he does nothing, billions of people die and its all his fault, so he falls. The fallacy in this thinking is the idea that this is an interesting moral choice. It is not. Saving the billions of people at the expense of one child is ASSUREDLY a good thing. It could be good for a good personal dilemma, but it is not something that the paladin should have any chance of falling for. The obviously “good” thing to do in this situation is to slay the kid, save the world, bring the kid’s body back to her family, apologize to them, grieve with them, and help the family find peace. Telling the paladin that he falls for doing what’s right is NOT a moralistic decision: it is a GM being a twat. End of discussion.

Falling for Story Purposes

Some GMs have this idea that a paladin falling from grace makes for a dark, gritty, and interesting story. Because of this, you’ll sometimes see GMs who go out of their way to try and create situations for their players to fall (see above).

Let’s set the record straight: yes. A paladin falling and subsequently atoning for his crimes and redeeming himself (or transforming into an engine of destruction and evil) can make for a very interesting story. But generally speaking, those stories are better told with NPCs, not with players. That is, unless the player WANTS to fall. In any case, falling is not fun or exciting for players who do not want it. Because of all of the negatives that are associated with falling, players feel like their character FAILED when he or she fell. The paladin fantasy for players is not about atonement and redemption: it is about being a knight in shinning armor. A hero. This is why the fallen paladin works better as an NPC for the players to observe: everyone recognizes the fallen hero and it makes for a good story to interact with.

Am I saying that players should never want to fall? Nope. If you want to fall, good. Tell your GM that its what you are interested in. But GMs, do not decide for your players that they ARE going to fall. Let them make that decision on your own.

Breaking the Code

Paladins get a bad rap for having the strictest code of conduct of any class in the game. For whatever reason, our generation feels as though it must punish any transgression that is in violation of a set of rules with the upmost prejudice. But the fact remains that people are mortal: they make mistakes. And a single misdeed should not cause you to fall unless it is BIG; a truly repulsive act of upmost evil and chaos. But making small mistakes here and there? That shouldn’t destroy you.

For an excellent way to determine alignment change, check out the scaling slider in Ultimate Campaign: not only is it an awesome tool if tracking alignment is your thing, but it also gives tips on how certain deeds might affect your alignment. But always remember, folks. Alignment is an agent of communication: players and GMs need to talk about alignment before radically changing it from someone’s perceived notion of misconduct.

And that about wraps up my thoughts on paladin codes of conduct for this installment of the Wednesday Rave. What do you think? Have you ever played a paladin who was unfairly punished for something you did? How did you handle the situation? GMs, have you ever ran games for paladins that you have decided fell from grace? Why did they fall, and how did you handle it? Leave your questions, comments, and stories below and come back next week for more thoughts from my Gibbering Mouth!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune paladin, though he’s always wished for an Eastern “divine warrior” archetype that allows the paladin get proficiency with some eastern weapons.

State of the Blog — 07/22/14

Part exciting, part bitter sweet, I’m pleased to finally report back today about my blog’s merger with the Private Sanctuary Podcast. Now that Ryan Costello and Jefferson Jay Thacker finally have their new website up and running, we’re moving ahead with bringing my blog content over to them. Over the course of the next two weeks, I’ll be personally moving my blogs over to their website. They are categorized under articles, so if you want to see them all you need to do is click on the word “Articles” on the Top Right of the website.

The first thing that I want to announce is the blog’s new name — Guidance. After discussing it with Ryan and Jefferson, the decision was made that I needed a different name other than Everyman Gaming to publish my blogs on over on Know Direction. There were a couple of different reasons that were brought up, but ultimately I decided to make the name change because I wasn’t comfortable with plastering my publishing name all over the Know Direction website. (As some of you may remember, I filled for Everyman Gaming, LLC at the end of May, just before I officially joined the Know Direction crew as their blogger). This wasn’t a decision that I made lightly, but I’ve really come to love the blog’s new game and I hope that you enjoy it too. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I chose to call the blog Guidance as an obvious homage to the 0-Level orison, as Know Direction itself is also a 0-level orison. Plus I absolutely love my blog’s new slogan, which you may have seen on my Facebook Page or on the Know Direction page. Second, I also took the opportunity to use my improved graphic designing skills to improve the blog’s title card; you can see it as the Featured Image on this page.

So, what does this mean for me?

The obvious question: how does this affect you, my readers? To say that it won’t affect you a little bit is a lie. For one, any comments you left won’t be transferred onto the new location and I’m planning on retiring this website before the end of the year. I keep copies of all of my articles saved on my hard drive, so I don’t need to keep this blog in order to keep my articles around. And frankly, the Know Direction site looks SO much better than mine. Jefferson Jay Thacker (also known as Perram) is leagues better than me at website coding and design and I think it REALLY shows in the site’s presentation (which includes my blog).

Luckily for you, the new Know Direction site is also a WordPress site, so if you’ve followed me on WordPress you don’t need to sign up for a new account or anything. You should follow this link over to the Know Direction website and “like” or “follow” their blog; whatever it says you should do. As I mentioned, I won’t be posting my articles here anymore starting on August 1st; they’ll be exclusively over on Know Direction’s website.

If you follow me on Facebook, the only thing that will change is when my articles will appear on the Everyman Gaming group. I’ll be programing my articles to auto-post in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Podcast at midnight instead of Everyman Gaming. This is a limitation of the WordPress suit; if I could autopost to two Facebook groups simultaneously with their build-in tools, I would. Instead, my articles should be available on the Everyman Gaming group around 7:00 – 7:30 am EST; sowing my articles is the first thing that I do when I wake up in the morning. If you need to read my articles the moment they come out, either Like the Know Direction website or request to join the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Podcast group. If you are patient and don’t mind waiting for me to sow my articles, by all means wait!

Although I can’t assign two Facebook accounts to my posts, I can assign one Facebook account and one secondary account to my posts. To that end, starting on August 1st I’m going to be posting my links to my Twitter page as well. In addition to getting my blog content three times a week, this means that you can also read my sarcastic exchanges with anyone who humors my zany sarcasm! Huzzah!

Thanks for being patient with me while I’m undergoing this transition. If you haven’t checked out with the “new” Guidance looks like, you should. I’m really, really excited about this.