The Paladin Code is the cornerstone of a Paladin’s life. It is the heart and mind of a Paladin and guides him towards further Goodness. It is the Will of the Paladin to be what he truly is, a Champion of Light. No Paladins defies the Code, for no Paladin can exist without the Code. The Code links the Paladin with the righteous forces of the Universe. It is the common ground for all Paladins, the common father. A Paladin does not follow the Code. He is the Code. A true Paladin doesn’t act against Evil because of an order or expectation of reward, but rather because he feels that the Light must prevail. The Code is what being a Paladin is all about.
THE CODE: There are eight basic elements assembling the Paladin Code. A Paladin may add more elements as part of his Code when he starts his career as a Paladin but he can’t remove any of the basic elements, unless he doesn’t want to be a Paladin. First, the eight basic elements will be analysed and a small definition of some extra elements will follow.
I. Fealty: A legacy from long-lost knights, Fealty described the relationship between a feudal lord and his knights. The Knights swore to protect the land and his lord in exchange for protection, support and property. When monarchies were established, the knight swore fealty to the king. In the 11th century, knighthood became a holy duty and knights were called to pledge fealty to the church. Fealty involves obeying commands from a law-abiding good patron, protecting and guarding him and his ideals, even sacrificing his life for the cause. A Paladin must pledge fealty to something. As a minimum, he can pledge fealty to a good church or philosophic movement or organization. It is this pledge that gives the Paladin his power. He can then pledge fealty to a lawful and good government (if one exists) or organization. He can’t pledge fealty both to a church and philosophy and he can’t pledge fealty to the government alone. Typical fealty obligations involve obeying the patron’s edicts; promote the patron’s ideals and guarding the patron and his ideas with one’s life. Fealty is intertwined with other elements of the Paladin Code, Faith and Honour.
II. Courtesy: Courtesy involves more than following rules of etiquette. A Paladin is polite to everyone, maintains self-control, considers the feelings of others and take care not to offend them, speaks with kindness, behaves with dignity at all times and respects friends and foes alike. A Paladin though should not be lost in the typical forms of etiquette. He need not concern himself with trivial matters such as “which is the right hand to use the knife with”. Nor will he keep his silence, when the truth must be spoken, to avoid offending someone. A Paladin will do his best to be polite when addressing anyone but he has to be true to his word and not fall into the “False talk” trap of etiquette. Courtesy involves calls of judgment and is developed through constant exercise. Novice Paladins usually have a hard time balancing Courtesy with another element of the Paladin Code, Honesty.
III. Honour: Honour involves behaving in a morally sound manner even when the Paladin is by himself. Honour involves respect for anyone who shares the Paladin’s ideals of goodness and justice. The Paladin shows mercy and refuses to inflict undue suffering even to his worst enemies. A Paladin acknowledges the dignity of all law-abiding good people, regardless of race, by treating them with respect. A Paladin dies before compromising his principles, betraying his patron, renouncing his faith or abandoning his duty. Honour is a matter of being true to one’s self. Honour couples with Honesty and Fealty, two other elements of the Paladin Code.
IV. Honesty: While Honour is a matter of being true to one’s self, Honesty is defined as “being true to others”. A Paladin always tells the truth, as he knows it. He may choose to remain silent or withhold information but he will never intentionally misguide anyone, even his enemies. Speaking the Truth is tricky, as it may violate another element of the Paladin Code, Courtesy. The Paladin, if he chooses to speak, will tell nothing but the truth. Usually the answers have to be carefully spoken, since bluntly speaking the truth will violate the Courtesy element. A Paladin will not make promises lightly but once he gives his word, he will always keep it. Honesty balances with Courtesy and couples with Honour.
V. Valour: A Paladin demonstrates unparalleled courage at all times. He will face the greatest dangers to fulfil a promise or a duty. A Paladin will never yield or flee in battle unless he is greatly outnumbered or receives a direct order from a peer. Nevertheless, a Paladin will never retreat if the life of another is at stake or other elements of his Code will be compromised because of his retreat. Valour embraces and supports most elements of the Paladin Code, protecting the whole from compromise and enabling the Paladin to uphold his sacred duty with a true heart.
VI. Humility: A Paladin remains humble in spirit and action. Humility keeps the Paladin’s feet on the ground and protects him from the vilest enemy of the Paladin Code, Pride. A Paladin knows what he is, and that is enough for his self-esteem. He will never preach his status or his achievements with arrogance. He never speaks highly of himself. Praises embarrass him and the knowledge of a job well done suffices as thanks. A Paladin’s only reward is the happiness of the people, the victory of Light over Darkness and world peace. A Paladin’s inner pride flows from the Paladin Code, not from human praises or rewards.
VII. Selflessness: Paladins will not seek excess wealth for themselves, but strive to build home for the homeless, heal the sick and feed the poor. A Paladin will give his food to a hungry child even if that will mean starvation for himself. He will use his excess funds to help all those in need. He will cover his friend’s retreat even if he has to die. He will sacrifice his life to save another. Selflessness is the desire of the Paladin to become one with his principles.
VIII. Faith: The last but not the least basic element of the Paladin Code is Faith. Faith is as simple as eating. It cannot be acquired by exercising or reading philosophy. It’s the ultimate state of the Paladin’s mind. Faith makes the Code whole, assembles and connects the other virtues. It can only be described as “believe in yourself”. Faith gives life to the other elements. Faith and Fealty give the Paladin his supernatural abilities. Faith in a virtue, faith in a deity, faith in a philosophy, faith in one’s abilities, faith in Light, faith in Goodness, Faith in Justice, Faith in Peace, Faith in one’s self, the element that transforms the Paladin from a mortal Champion of Goodness to a Divine Warrior of Light.
A few words about three extra elements that Paladins can follow as part of their Paladin Code.
Ia. Chastity: The Paladin avoids even the appearance of impropriety, remaining pure in word, deed, and thought. Lusty thoughts about someone violate this are all impure thoughts caught in the Paladin’s mind. Chastity always couples with Celibacy.
IIa. Celibacy: Always following an oath of Chastity, a Paladin, besides remaining chaste, vows never to marry. The oath of Celibacy never stands alone in the Paladin Code.
IIIa. Industry: The Paladin engages in productive activity at all times. He accounts vacations and leisure activities to be time-wasting. He will work hard until he completes his word. When not working, he will study, exercise or practice his various skills.
Finalizing the Code (Violation of Virtues):
This is the Essential Paladin Code, adopted in most, if not all, Role Playing Games, or so it should. A Paladin will strive to live up to the Code and die for the Code if need be. In some Role Playing games (such as the Ad&d games) there are more parameters defining a Paladins ethos (such as strictures ). Those will be discussed later on. The main idea is that it is difficult (if not impossible) to be a Paladin, so people who aspire to become Paladins and remain thus, must be willing to bear the burden of the Code. The Path of the Paladin is not for the false and the faint-of-heart.
It is difficult to be granted Paladinhood and still harder to remain a Paladin. Humans err and a Paladin may occasionally perform an act inappropriate of his status. This act is a violation. The Paladin must atone for those violations by contemplation and other acts of sincere apology and atonement. Evil (Execrable) Violations are another matter. A Paladin who intentionally performs even a single evil act is immediately and irrevocably stripped of his status and his name. He must call himself by another name from now on and may NEVER regain his lost paladin hood. He is forever a fallen.
Category 1: Incidental Violations
Incidental Violations include accidental or careless violations that don’t jeopardize the safety of non-evil people in any way. Examples:
• Hesitate before entering a dark room (violating the Valour virtue). If the Paladin is too fearful to enter, this becomes a Category 2 violation or higher, depending of whether his action result in harm of good people.
• Failing to return a friendly greeting. If this is due to the Paladin arrogance rather than a mistake, it becomes a Category 2 violation. Also, it’s a Category 2 Violation if the stranger takes offence.
• Accidentally knocking a drink onto a stranger.
The Paladin must apologize to anyone slighted by his actions and to anyone observing the accident.
Category 2: Grave Violations
Grave Violations includes serious violations of trust and judgment, including accidental acts that might jeopardize the safety of non-evil people. It also includes intentional acts that offend, disappoint, or mislead non-evil characters but don’t jeopardize their safety. If the intentional act jeopardizes others’ safety, it becomes a Category 3 Violation. Examples:
• Neglecting personal hygiene (violation of Courtesy – maybe even Honour).
• Lying to a vendor about the quality of his merchandise. If the paladin lies to take advantage of the vendor (better price or co-operation), the violation becomes category 3).
• Telling a “white lie” or couching the truth (Honesty violation). If the lie results in harm of another person, the violation becomes AT LEAST category 3.
• Lose or misplace a person’s item (either loaned or given for safekeeping).
The Paladin must seek a good cleric and perform atonement immediately. He must forfeit a small sum to a charity, and make double or triple donations to his church for the next 1-4 months.
Category 3: Extreme Violations
Extreme Violations cover acts that put in question the Paladin’s commitment to the Code, such as intentional acts that endanger non-evil people. Examples:
• Delaying the execution of an edict, or failing to complete it satisfactory.
• Failing to give accurate information, thus jeopardizing the safety of non-evil people (telling the road ahead is safe, declining to mention the rumours of bandits).
• Inflicting great harm on the patron’s cause, such as failing to guard an item or official assigned to you.
• Avarice, usury or preoccupation with worldly goods (preoccupation with sexual pleasures falls in this category. Unless the lawful good religion states otherwise, a Paladin must be involved in a romantic, serious and sexual relationship with only one person at a time- Islam is another matter). Repeated violation becomes evil.
• Failing to aid a dying person.
• Panicking or retreating from a battle.
The Paladin temporarily loses his status. He must seek a cleric and perform atonement, forfeit most of his year’s earning to charities and perform a great service for the patron. Should the Paladin refuse to atone, he permanently loses his status.
Category 4: Execrable (Evil) Violations
Execrable Violations include the worst acts a Paladin can commit, the unforgivable ethos violations. Any direct violation of a Virtue or edict is an execrable violation as are violations that result in physical harm of good characters. Any violations affecting an official of the paladin’s government or church are execrable violations. Examples:
• Refusing or ignoring a just edict
• Habitual Cowardice
• Committing an act of blasphemy.
• Betrayal of the patron.
• Concealing funds
• Intentional acts of:
• Deliberate harm against a good person