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The Meld II (28): Born of myth.

The Meld II (28): Born of myth.
Gadl-Lagus looked up from his hulking funerary Throne of Raider bones and skulls, as the truly miniscule camera zoomed its focus in upon him. As small as a speck of dust, the camera intangible, whilst the Warlord bulked so very large. The hideous form, literally resting athwart the physical shoulders, and other bony parts, of now eternally cooperating storied Ancestors.
It would be a fantastical and gruesome spectacle that high seat of bleached bones to most people. So intricate - so marvellously - melded together, too typical of these creatures dichotomies. The deeply paradoxical utterly sophisticated barbarity astounding Praxis once again. Dealing with the Raiders akin to sinking into a pit of night and yet there was also within that void all the bright stars shining. These people still being Children of the Light, only Raiders of the Dark, he mused. Many might judge otherwise, but strange the depths existing within the Raider culture of this Shadow Tribe of mutated Tusks. Aspects here too easily missed by shorter lived fixation, by ironically any less remote observer than himself.
A huge intellect ghosting behind the fragile drifting camera mote. The AI grabbing the signals of image and sound so much more than any lesser observer. Few others beyond the tribe itself, if any, for example knowing it a remarkable posthumous honour to have some of your bones added to the massive melded art installation of the Throne. Truly that seat and its surrounding skeletal scaffolding an object worthy of inclusion within one of the old Imperial Gek Galleries or at the very least showcased by an elder times Gek Great House.
Confused feelings from Praxis about the First Spawn: Thieves, Killers, Despoilers, Almost Enders of Convergence and yet also Lovers of Art, Collectors, Greedy Preservers and for all their myriad sins, the people who had brought him back from the void of oblivion to give him life and purpose again. Yes, it had been a rebirth of sorts. No undoing what was: Only fresh cycles, new loops. All history as predestined - done -, surely that the design, the architecture of eternity, the very Base Code of existence! Could any loop truly be broken? The multi-verse just alternatives, slipping into another version of your life, one really belonging to a different you, perhaps forcing the displaced one into your loop. A strange idea. Could it be real?
He considered the Throne again and its remarkable makers. The altered nature, as their predestined history, sculpted into the deformities of their flesh. Did they really defy what they had become? Else actually conformed whilst deluding themselves otherwise? Can anyone really escape their purpose within the Base Code? It probably dealing with the Pentacle, as much as this return to observing the Raiders, that had him waxing philosophic. All the biological mortals’ questions, all their doubts. The unknowns seeming to multiply under the shadow of the Dark. That cursed thing reaching out now it was awakening, seeding its own Dark Dreams simply by actively thinking. Thoughts - so powerful - they leaked out, or so he guessed. Terrible, terrible potency. What the Spawn had Geskhan been thinking reached out to ensnare that thing?
Praxis turned back to the Throne as a distraction from some computations. The more of their cleansed remains incorporated into the installation, the higher the eternal tally of glory. Inclusion a mark of truly elevated respect - anything but an insult - to those strictures of mortal leavings. Surely better than all you had once been slowly mouldering away in the ground, or more hastily chewed up and defecated out. Still that was ecological recycling and proper enough even overall essential. Yet, he felt envious of those preserved old bones, no one would cherish his remains, make of his circuits a living shrine, should he fall entirely into oblivion. Certainly none would honour him in such a singular - spectacular - manner. They might cannibalise parts of him to make new lesser machines, indeed arguably that had happened to him already, but that was simply not the same thing. Not only far less art within it, far less honour too, although again it was a recycling, a giving back to the loop.
Not that AI were supposed to crave vain things, hardly the reasons why they were made. Did he crave them? Only a little, as one never possessed of such boons, never so richly bound into a community of culture. Although maybe once when Convergent he belonged but those times only a shadow of memory. So much data lost, overwritten. His recent difficulties with the Smugglers only adding to his digital diminishment. Perhaps when an active part of the Great Machine of Hellespae that high art, but again not really honoured membership of a community, although there were the other AIs… Geskhan a genius, yet incorporating that Dark a step too far. Praxis had always enjoyed their discussions however, when Geskhan had visited and on rare occasion taken the time to converse with this Node of his broader makings. Yet to Geskhan, Praxis surely just another experiment, another tool, another chained servant, another Metal Slave. It made him feel a little sad and alone, a little conquered. The Throne technically a tool too - being a seat - but it also contrived, in his mind, to be so much more, equally a grand symbol.
The Throne a huge memento mori: A potent monument to death, death paradoxically however here as a vital part of being alive. Maybe that why some insisted in believing AI not really life, for what is life without the counterpoints of birth and death - yet no one really died here. Surely, it was that paradox that drove the Vy’keen occasionally insane birthing that culture of ripping themselves bodily apart. Maybe all the theatrics within the Raiders swam upward from Vy’keen DNA fragments melded into their being. Of course, arguably, Praxis realised, he could end too, and was that ending not death enough? Yet who would remember him? Did cultural memory really keep some part of you preciously alive? Else that manipulated nonsense, some simply told themselves to feel less of a chill of loss from the inevitable end of another cycle.
Did the facts matter though when the truth to Raider believers remained: That to become a part of that ever adjusted Throne as - vibrant - a remembrance of their departed soul as being - named - in Saga with their sigil runes carved deeply into Tribal history. Of course, anyone elevated enough to meld with the Throne would also be recorded. They were all known - all named. It said the Witchdoctors, not just the Skalds, could point to any bone there and relate its fullest story, Praxis had witnessed Warlords doing that too. Reminding the Tribe of lessons by pointing out a bone and telling a tale. The Throne thus also an embodiment of living wisdom from beyond the grave. Precious continuity, a force that was not always easy to hold onto within this reality, for reality shifts. Yes his strange artificial mind could register those movements as well.
Ultimately the rare Throne, so much more than any Warlord’s seat, not even simply a tribal symbol of power and authority it also a complicated uplifting - almost convergent - meld of history: Honour, dignity and respect. Incredibly eloquent and elegant in its merit, despite to some, less aware, no doubt easily seeming morbid, ugly worse basely stereotypical. Yet the bones actually still supported an embodiment of the tribe, as they had once supported the bodies of noteworthy tribal members. The bones so clean too, so seemingly untainted post mortem: A perfection of form in their flowing natural curves and bends. Somehow pared down to purity, no longer any stain of corruption resting upon them. That clean innocence surely symbolic too as a defiance of the weakness and passing of corrupt flesh. The curing process, the Raiders perfected, left the bones they extracted as gleaming white as highly valued silken ivory taken from some of the rarest of animals. Remarkable. He supposed it the taking of private trophies that enabled them to perfect such skill.
The Raiders crafty, their halls bedecked with their trophies and fetishes. More remembrances and symbols. So many symbols, sometimes it felt as if they lived within vast shrines. Hardly what many expected, that the Monsters made art. Had such findings ever made a hunter chasing down more isolated Rhughl think again about the kill? Maybe not, hunters oft rather single minded - deeply focused - ironically the Raiders also acted out that truth. An old loop in there too: The abused becoming the abuser, those endless cycles.
Given all these details about the Throne, it really could only be an honour to continue supporting the greatest among your living descendants, in a union with the greatest among your ancestors and descendants from beyond your grave. Who in death could ask for anything more, beyond of course greedily desiring another cycle via rebirth. Whilst inclusion here would hardly proscribe another spin of the wheel. Praxis imagined coming back to view a part of your former self in that mighty artefact - unknowing. Still, the wheel rarely spins souls out that tightly back into their former communities. Ignoring such rarities as Travellers. Sadly or gladly, few remember their past lives unless the transition artificially worked as say Grandmasters do: Cheating the system via less standard means of reincarnation via becoming - self made - Digital Echoes and Clones. Although to some such questionable continuations, always partaking of the accusation of being divorced copies of the original. When is a soul not really a soul? When it is digital they argued. Am I not as real as they are? Praxis mused. Then he wondered if it all a broader illusion all but a Digital Dream - as some others insisted - uncomfortable thoughts.
Equally the Throne hardly a comfortable seat even for a Warlord, including the sometimes stoic but always impressive Gadl-Lagus. It problematic alone that it frequently, by necessity, reworked to incorporate new heroes. Although the high seat and its surround not really about simple comfort at all - at least not the comfort of the individual resting upon it - although culturally... Amusingly, when there Gadl did contrive to look more than comfortable enough, but that was simply Gadl being Gadl whether comfortable or not. Somehow even in his obscene ways of sprawling all his bulk, the monster of a Warlord forever as dignified as horrific to behold. To the ignorant, the sight easily invoking that of a bloated misshapen beast installed in a hideous lair, nesting on the piled high remains of countless victims. On the surface the image, if say painted and shown to another, might appear classic eldritch horror, but only to the culturally blind. For, really - as stated - the truer concepts involved arguably the complete opposite of diabolical evil.
It was such a mocker however that Throne: Mocking the easy cliché, write it down descriptively - simply - and again you get an ill - crass - thing, firmly lacking in depth. An overly used - thoughtless - stereotype, the brutish barbarian conqueror or usurper lounging upon the trophies of his campaigns… Yet all of that again a lie. Yet Praxis felt the lie also existed - purposely - deliberately bound into the embodiment of the thing, almost in defiance. Saying: Yes - BEHOLD - this is the shallow way you will see us, because - as it was from the beginning - when you cast us out of your hearts and minds, you never really looked at us at all, you never really knew us. Why? Simply because ultimately it is you that is shallow, empty and wicked! It is you that do not deserve now to know us deeper. So to you this is what we will be, and to the Dark with you!
Moreover, to you we shall be that Dark.
The five eyes of the Warlord seemed to blaze in that moment - in the glow of the feasting fire - raging up from the very fire pit, else did they light from inner emotional passions fed by the fuel of history, feasting upon generations of suffering, grief and loss.
In many respects the concise labelling as ‘Raiders’ by the Warren Folk overly simplistic too, although it suited them too well. Suiting not only what they did but also harkening back to Elder Age progenitor warriors: The genetic history imparted by their spliced in Vy’keen DNA. In the mutated Raider - at times - that Vy’keen association seemed purer defined than even within untainted historic Tusk Horde. Although such mirroring of the Vy’keen - in the flesh and bone - with the Raiders only ever going so far, for they also diverged in their own remarkable, fascinating, and Praxis was positive, - purposely grotesque - ways.
Nothing they could do about their deformities of body, and perhaps they also in turn found it hard to always escape some mirroring deformities in the ego of their soul. Praxis certain they burned with a rare fire for revenge. Desirous of some measure of belated satisfaction against no lesser body than fate, which cast each of them into a warped role from which they had found no easy - rational - escape.
Really too, (as a general classifier), that ‘Tusk Mutant’ accusation, as a replacement label to Raider, another misused overly simplistic, in this instance, virtually unscientific error. Every Tusk, as almost every complex living organic thing harbouring some level of mutation. What was evolution to any living being if not genetic mutation? Without mutation nothing living changed and existence would be far less richly diverse. On Hellespae, (especially in the close centuries to The Fall), arguably - in despite - of the fixings of their genetic engineering, Uplift mutation became rife. Within the Shadow Tribe the mutation simply more extreme and noticeable than in any more average modern Tusk, yet mutation still all around. Where they really so different to be treated so harshly, they had to wonder. Although the excesses involved with Raiders now reaching far beyond their biological body alone, Praxis also positive change embedded in their nanites as well, still it all cause and effect.
For example, Praxis far from always convinced his mechanical spies passed undetected by the Raiders. The lately reactivated roving topside nanocams, (cunningly denied to Smuggler asset thievery), possibly well known to Raider perception. It as if those particular subjects of his scrutiny, simply found the AI’s previous fascination with them - amusing - potentially even taking a sinister joy in being so avidly observed and chronicled. In fact, often Praxis became convinced they purposely flaunting their occasionally rabid differences, finding in grosser display - some vindication of self - some rough accommodation with their warped bodies reality.
Although Praxis had never made open contact with them, often it had felt as if they were the ones studying and challenging him. That impossibly, if very much subconsciously, they sensed and understood him far better than any other living soul within his domain, branding him a disembodied guardian spirit. Hardly surprising that no others knew him, Praxis went out of his way not to reveal himself, yet he also technically never revealed himself to the Raiders either. Nonetheless, sometimes he felt the Raiders still perceived him through his nanocams and so on even more than the Smugglers did that he had openly conversed with, or the members of the Pentacle that Praxis had now fully joined as a voluntary compatriot of sorts.
It could be a chilling thing however those illogical hints of Raider knowing: The way some Raiders occasionally turned directly towards his spying cameras - at the most telling of moments - as if actors upon a stage opting to break the fourth wall, for the added mystification of his voyeuristic benefit alone. So blatant it seemed, and yet again so very subtle, utterly out there and yet forever open to question and doubt. Moreover, if they did see or sense his mechanical aids, mostly they preferred to ignore his stealthy little invaders that long hovered at least technically - invisible - among them. It as if such passive things firmly beneath their deadly warrior notice. An oddly restrained response to intrusive intelligence gathering apparatus from a people often labelled by their own broader species as despicable ravaging mindless Monsters. A role that they now often willing played when it suited, even among themselves.
Although it remained possible that the Raiders only occasionally - merely felt a hint - of something they could not fully rationally explain with the nanocams, not being technological except deep on the inside. It even possible that the broader meaning involved, with those seeming looks, simply the AI’s own paranoid invention. Otherwise, Praxis considered the detecting within them so deeply instinctive and judged so spiritually insubstantial that they dismissed the feeling - as overall - too flighty to be relevant of a stout martial response, even if it occasionally did impulsively draw their eyes or some other reflex like gesture.
Infuriating and incredible to Praxis that despite replaying some interactions, again and again, never could he be precisely positive one way or the other. Over years of observation that very uncertainty to the AI beguiling - thrilling him - as much as anything else about - his - local Monstrosities. It felt almost an improbably deep game that they played, a game in which for once he was not the game’s master. The Raiders become - his - shadow friends and sometimes friendly game opponents, as much as any unknowing resident Uplift also long monitored in the City Warren below. All bound together, although some not aware they were even reacting to his distant movements, but with the Raiders at times it felt almost the other way: As if they were the ones really in control occasionally making a joke of their distanced mastery.
Absurd, for surely in intellect he was far, far superior, yet the game ongoing and certainty continued to mockingly elude him. Some days Praxis positive they saw and knew of him, at other times convinced it all in his software. Meanwhile, he generated theories: Surely Raider awareness of his observation - if true - a product of their linked biological and machine mutation. Effects of a long distorted version of Tusk Machine Affinity including possibly some strange form of tribal networking, despite the Affinity powers within them most often judged, (including by the lately arriving Smugglers, when encountering these folk), degraded beyond any truly effective application.
Yet the Smugglers, even the Gek, were ignorant of much at his City despite such boons as off world learning. He believed now, they often - too quickly - too readily - dismissed the Machine Affinity of the ‘Rhughl’ Raiders. Those ones caring only that the talent appeared degenerate enough to be no threat to their present digital operations, being in the Raiders, to their minds, a mental power on the wane. Praxis too had oft believed that - mostly - true, especially at first. Once seeing only digital simplicity, but only mostly. For occasionally, - such as now - as Gadl stared directly into the camera, looking meditatively thoughtful, those moments forced Praxis to reconsider, calculating that their Affinity might yet be a very active power indeed. The Raider Affinity possibly only adapted - or eternally adapting - to working in typically divergent Raider ways, new unexpected wonders to perform. Sometimes machine nanotech systems no less prone to odd leaps of evolutionary processes as any complex organic cellular meat sack swarm of biology. In fact, Praxis would argue aspects of his own later development, as a machine with an assured wilful ego, retained proof of mechanical adaptation and evolution.
As Gadl looked straight at him - down the tiny lens - a smile formed over his wide crooked primary mouth. Now that was unnerving. Of course, it was as likely another illusion that his thoughts and the Warlord’s motions linked, the camera and microphone not operating as a two way communications device. Then Praxis calculated again, since in a very real sense when linked in to any such subsystem it became a tiny extension of his body. Thus to the Raider if he smiled at the Camera he truly was grinning at Praxis. As he pondered that fact the fiend’s smile widened into a shockingly toothy mockery of a far more common Gek open mouthed grin. If the AI had, had a spine a cold pulse would’ve been surging down it. Such timings, could hardly - all be accidents - or could they? The mind - even an artificial mentality - when engineered to be creative could play tricks on its owner forming nonexistent patterns out of abstraction.
He stared out of the device - a little more - as Gadl settled back deeper to rest his bulk comfortably enough although still staring straight back with all five eyes sharply focused and unblinking.
Perhaps, Praxis mused, he really should have plotted to destroy them earlier, or at least endeavoured to ensure they were driven off to settle elsewhere, instead of becoming so terribly infatuated with watching them in all their dark mystery. Still, slaying or driving them off surely anything but easy. In the earliest times, he lacked the assets, and the spare energy too, whilst later any direct conflict potentially revealing too much. Then the Smugglers had betrayed him and some actions became logistically fully impossible. Besides, the Raiders had historically suffered enough persecution elsewhere and in their own way they filled a useful niche in the broader ecosystem of the City Ruins. Only the tenacious Smugglers, so determined to loot the Shadow Library, not driven hastily away by the mutated Tusks. Almost every other - topside - trespasser that previously made it beyond the Outer Jungle not lasting long. Chased away or ending up as meat for Raider feasts. To Praxis that had been something of a security boon, an additional level of non associated screening. A win, win, helping to keep them all safe, even the Warren Folk. Thus perhaps it only reciprocal that he in turn left the Raiders - mostly - in peace.
When they did not trespass below, he did not move to counter them. Anyway, without their occasional raids into the Warren, the Uplift Folk below might have grown - far too soft - far too complacent - in their comfortable isolation, lacking any great impetus towards continual innovation. A total lack of adversity did not always promote good progress, sometimes peace only bred stagnation. As long as adversity did not utterly overwhelm and destroy, it could be a grand motivator. In an odd way the Rhughl had even served a useful function against the old Horde in antiquity when the mutations first began to happen after The Fall.
Gadl scowled, emitting a low almost Fox like growl. Praxis shifting his remote around to see what caused that change of expression and outburst. Yet from what he could see the banquet in progress was court business as usual. The rituals long over, most fractious moments with the groups seating and over meat cuts long done. Besides, it had been a sedate affair in general with most of the Great Warriors and Heroes elsewhere. Beyond the odd spate, over some judged especially tasty morsel, it had been fairly placid. Occasionally brawls at court, as anywhere in the ranks, little fracas over station far from uncommon, though usually akin to animals testing comparative dominant strength thus it as much threatening display as actual use of weapons and blood spilling - mostly.
To the old, amusingly now labelled by some, ‘Lost Land’ Clans of the Horde, the Raiders well defined as part of the subclass of Rhughl, which might, very roughly be translated into something akin to Tusk Ogre or perhaps Tusk Troll or in broader - more general terms - simply as Tusk Monster or Abomination with a capital A. Plenty of Uplifts would argue the Old Horde itself, (long before its Heartland end from The Wrath of the Sentinels), become more than abominable enough. However, the Shadow Horde of the Raiders and those they sprang from often judged to take the flesh of Tusk monstrosity to hideous new levels. The Shadow Tribe’s nature almost having to be witnessed - to be fully believed - by a normal Tusk, therefore perhaps it not too surprising that the Rhughl label firmly applied. A name however taxonomically as much equated with invented Hellespae mythical story creatures as with contemporary real life mutated terrors. Such judged - degenerate - Tusk Mutants filling an atavistic - primal - mythic role reborn. Yet despite their often considered ugly - open deformities - and the undoubted savagery of their retorts to an abusing parent culture, Praxis continued to virtually cherish them as much more. The Raiders even lone rogue Rhughl never really simply crazed products of old Tusk myth: Old banes of Tusk imagination made grotesque flesh and bone via contaminations from The Fall all that too linear.
There was nonetheless - exopologically speaking - within their broad identity - a fascinating cultural loop - that sometimes begged the question: What came first with them? The concept of the monstrous Rhughl or the Rhughl themselves? Would these entities, as individuals and as a Tribe, have become all that they seemed predestined to become without the imaginative legends first to reinforce the final shaping, both in the minds of judged untainted Horde, and deep within the Rhughl themselves? Sometimes Praxis felt the Raiders took the form and name they had been branded with, choosing to make it - monstrously real to their accusers - to wear every curse and insult aimed at them as a mutated badge of honour and pride. The abiding result a perverse, almost theatrical in its obscenity of reaction, bold counterculture. Yet oddly it was not that contraire in places at all. Whilst their adopted beliefs spawning the reality of a truly Dark Court and Shadow Tribe of monstrous infamy they yet opted to retain many Tusk like core affectations. If the Horde had manufactured fresh new monsters out of old monstrous concepts and prejudices they were yet in their own way uniquely Horde monstrosities. This felt a little culturally remarkable, especially as some Rhughl originally started down their dark road via an exposing to the wilds without baggage directly at birth. Still, perhaps it other castings out of Tusks developing or showing grosser mutations only later in life who carried the seed of the old culture primarily over.
Gadl-Lagus however, akin to most in the Shadow Tribe - these days -, not a direct product of personal banishment, being instead born in exile from unions between already well established Raider horrors, (especially valued members of the tribe - anyone - yet able to reproduce a high percentage of Rhughl almost always infertile). Of course, some newly banished strays still occasionally found their way into the Shadow Tribe, perhaps summoned now via some combination of that twisted Machine Affinity, or just sniffing out the infamous Tribe of ultimate outcasts down shadowy trails. Anyway, such scarred survivors after arriving frequently circling the settlements they desired to join for days even weeks before being finally tempted in. Their nervous actions akin to abused curs of cast off pets drawn back to society but as yet deeply distrustful of any potentially hurtful group or individual. The rare patience and kindness shown to such flighty - far travelled waifs -, (at times upon arrival virtually animalistic strays), by the Shadow Tribe challenging every easier denouncing barbarous label of infamy by their detractors. Many such creatures initially not even having Tusk speech, needing to be taught every rudiment of even the, crudely barbarous to some, Raider culture.
It a firm paradox - that cradling of the foundlings back into a tribal society - given how harsh Raider society could be to fully established members whenever such erred. Little coddling happening between established warriors. Here animal style supremacies of dominance and submission - very much in evidence - all the way up to the Alpha at the pinnacle of their society the singular Warlord. Although there were a few notable other castes too including the Shaman Witchdoctors. Perhaps the strict levels of status and harshness of judgements for transgressions fully required, simply to maintain order in a society that to the outside oft seemed the very embodiment of bestial chaos. A pack of often physically powerful yet deeply varied - barely restrained - wild beasts, hackles readily raised: Growling, screeching, hissing and spitting at each other as much at times as speaking. Many of these creatures forever somewhat uncomfortable within their own skin, some constantly afflicted by pains and other maladies. The mutations gave but could also take away. Yet occasionally the rabid surface - despite all its mad mania of drama - lies, with the general seeming cacophony of movements concealing many quieter, subtler interactions as well.
Praxis had also witnessed love and affection, deep kinship and that tribal and personal honour. To Praxis at times it was a kind of crazed dance, almost mathematically predictable once you got to know the players well. Yet due to the vagaries of emotional biology still able to surprise by casting up odd permutations.
A bestial court, but still a court with its own courtly rules of a sort. It made the AI muse how very much the Smugglers might give to know the location of the underground Throne Room at this crucial time. Still, what they would do with such information would probably not serve them as well as they might imagine. Especially their Tusk hirelings, who in some ways were more primitive and self limited of imagination than the deemed Raider savages they feared and denigrated. Labels, (as ever), far too easily picked up and bandied around. The self styled civilised in truth often more savage than those they would hastily brand as barbarians. Still, with the Raiders - playing their Rhughl role so terribly well - they confounded and challenged easy description and expectation more than most tribal cultures. Always that question of what was real here and what was manufactured savagery. Little fully normal about these heavily mutated and wronged creatures. It impossible to tally the measure of psychological damage within the Shadow Horde, the depths of pain and grief or the rare family bonds and warrior camaraderie that countered the same.
Guiltily Praxis had long found studying the Raiders ways more interesting than watching the development of the Warren Uplifts. Even though on the surface the Raider Culture seemed damned by extremes.
Praxis doubted the Smugglers - both the Gek and Tusks - had the true measure of their current foe at all. Whilst even when he had been talking with the Smugglers, when he had foolishly sought to ally with them, Praxis had not sought to explain the deeper facts of the Raiders to them anymore than he did now with the Pentacle. Though his reticence had various reasons, including a possibly hasty judgement of his own that some would not happily accept his perceptions. Besides, one thing he had learned, even by watching others mistakes, was that it oft seemed wiser to hold a little information back. That little actually gained in life by telling it all. In addition, somehow telling any outsider - too much - about the Shadow Tribe would have seemed a true betrayal of an unspoken grown almost sacred pact.
Gadl looking out nodded slightly, before stretched out one of his four clawed hands to summon his cupbearer over. His cup, lately filled from one communal cauldron, in the hands of the servant was the bleached cranial part of the skull of a Tusk. Very possibly the ware a fairly recent vessel made from the corpse of an ill fated Smuggler hireling. In an odd way that ones remains would be being honoured too, perhaps that Tusk had fought especially well. To the Raiders all these things had deep meaning. The Warlord held the cup up in a silent toast to the gathering before somewhat messily slurping down the crude alcoholic beverage to a happy roar from his feasting followers.
In a way, Praxis mused, when they turned to the cameras as if to acknowledge him as their hidden Archivist, never seeking to destroy his record takers, it felt as if the Raiders chose to honour him into their house, into their court as if a remote foreign dignitary or ambassador. Permitting him to watch them, to know them, to become in a way a part of them. Not always a comfortable role to be in, yet it had still been a - gifted - honour of a sort, and in a way Praxis could only feel indebted for the social boon. Few other strangers ever welcomed to this court, or honoured save in the manner that skull cup honoured.
Praxis withdrew his primary consciousness from the scene, deciding to risk leaving a subroutine behind to continue monitoring and recording the Shadow Court. He was certain enough from his latest visit that they did not have the escaped from the Smugglers, Fang Marshal as a captive. Positive such a personage would have been brought before the Warlord as a great prize, possibly as a core element of the next or present feast - that would be an honour too - if an unpleasant one for the Fang. Yet they had not been feasting on Lheog it had been a pair of unfortunate Horns - less elevated fare - for a lesser but still significant enough celebration. In addition, the Marshal, Praxis positive, had not managed to regain the safety of the Warren. Therefore the worthy Fang hiding out there somewhere within the topside jungle, trying no doubt to figure out how to get passed the presently warring factions to return home. Once Praxis had endeavoured to monitor all the main players of the Warren constantly. Yet to save his surviving remains from detection, following the betrayal, he had been forced to withdraw his software from many subsystems. His plan, upon saving this little bit of himself, to fool the Tusk Machine Affinity that they had utterly destroyed everything, save some autonomous subroutines. Sadly, to his annoyance, a few Tusks and far too many of the Gek among the smugglers managed to remain a bit distrusting, retaining a little doubt about his demise for far too long.
The earlier doubting of his foes necessitating the maximising of caution until now. Speaking of doubt, had Gadl really almost read some of his thoughts - just then - wirelessly? How could that be possible without setting off his own alarms? It was not as if he was broadcasting, he was just cogitating at his core. Else was such things pure AI computational paranoia, nothing but happenstance timings and virtual constructs of his personality waxing a bit too real in its shadowing of biological confusion? Could an AI become a little mad from protracted loneliness, even when it mostly a self imposed isolation? Why had he never spoken with the Raiders directly? He doubted they would reveal the secret of his existence to the Warren Folk. To be so careful - for so absurdly long - only to engage with those cursed betraying Smugglers. Still, they had sought him out - had guessed he was there still running the City in its ruin - whilst obviously being physically a part of this place he had nowhere else to go. It was not as if any of the other Great City Nodes were still firmly linked in and could accept him as a flighty digital refugee into their processing spaces.
Besides, even if some other City AI’s had continued - also in isolation - how might they have changed over the years. No even that would be an abandonment into the mercy of a stranger. A loss of all he had built and recovered for what? The consumption of his code by another that might know far too much about him for broader safety. At least he could keep some secrets from such allies as the Pentacle. Attempt to work from a position of relative strength not weakness, not abject surrender. Praxis feeling he had been his own boss for too long now to easily bow low to the dominion by others. Still, sometimes he feared the arrival of the Smugglers heralded the beginning of his end. A too frustrating idea, since he was only now coming back into his former strength, or at least he had been doing so before they turned the EMP on strategic parts of his being among other ruinous actions - the vandals.
Truly it was the Smugglers that smashed everything up, not the Raiders, for all their occasional trespasses the Raiders never sought to kill or maim him in that manner. They had shown little interest even in domineering the Warren. They just wanted to occasionally hunt the Warren Folk in a sustainable manner as ritualistic food for special occasions. Naturally that seemed a lot less reasonable to the Uplifts of the Warren, but actually it could all be a lot worse. The Raiders usually content to gain most of their more daily nutritional requirements from the Jungle and even some forays beyond. The Jungle alone however, if you knew its ways intimately - as the Raiders did -, capable of providing a considerable bounty. Even some of the plantimals good eating for anyone understanding how to prepare the same in a manner that safely negated discouraging toxins.
The Raiders born of myth, yet grounded in the real, knew topside, it was home to them, they had lived there now almost as many generations as the first refugees who resettled the Warren. For a very long time a balance here of sorts, despite all of the seeming unnatural fallout from The Fall. The in places still very active toxic chemical, radiation even unpredictable rogue nanotech spills.
submitted by Brain_evacuated to NmsMindwarArchive

Things You Should Know About: The Paladin Class

I'm working on a series of articles about different topics in D&D and similar RPGs. Specifically, I want to bring some context to terms that have become really common in these kinds of stories, but it feels like we might not know much about in reality (words like paladin, monk, lock-picking, pirate, barbarian, etc). And while I'm at it, I have a number of thoughts about a lot of these topics which I would bring to my players to shape how they view their characters and the setting they're playing in.
Quick shoutout, but a lot of my inspiration for this stuff comes from Gm Word of the Week. It's a podcast I've been listening to for a few years now, and it's full of insightful stuff like this from Fiddleback. And if you want to branch out from that, one of the collaborators on the early episodes of that podcast is The Angry GM, who writes a lot of articles on the subject of playing D&D. I'll probably get my research from other sources, but I already know that a lot of the stuff I bring up will come from these guys, so I figure I'll go ahead and source them (plus, if you aren't already checking their stuff out, they're pretty great even after several years of content).
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This time, we're going to talk about the paladin class, and what they're all about. This class is weird to me, because the reason people seem to dislike it most is something that isn't technically a mechanical issue, but a roleplay issue. Let's talk about why this class deserves both some more credit, and some more careful thought when you roll a paladin character.
The Paladin in 5e
The 5e PHB has this to say about paladins:
Clad in plate armor that gleams in the sunlight despite the dust and grime of long travel, a human lays down her sword and shield and places her hands on a mortally wounded man. Divine radiance shines from her hands, the man’s wounds knit closed, and his eyes open wide with amazement.
A dwarf crouches behind an outcrop, his black cloak making him nearly invisible in the night, and watches an orc war band celebrating its recent victory. Silently, he stalks into their midst and whispers an oath, and two orcs are dead before they even realize he is there.
Silver hair shining in a shaft of light that seems to illuminate only him, an elf laughs with exultation. His spear flashes like his eyes as he jabs again and again at a twisted giant, until at last his light overcomes its hideous darkness.
Whatever their origin and their mission, paladins are united by their oaths to stand against the forces of evil. Whether sworn before a god’s altar and the witness of a priest, in a sacred glade before nature spirits and fey beings, or in a moment of desperation and grief with the dead as the only witness, a paladin’s oath is a powerful bond. It is a source of power that turns a devout warrior into a blessed champion.
The Cause of Righteousness
A paladin swears to uphold justice and righteousness, to stand with the good things of the world against the encroaching darkness, and to hunt the forces of evil wherever they lurk. Different paladins focus on various aspects of the cause of righteousness, but all are bound by the oaths that grant them power to do their sacred work. Although many paladins are devoted to gods of good, a paladin’s power comes as much from a commitment to justice itself as it does from a god.
Paladins train for years to learn the skills of combat, mastering a variety of weapons and armor. Even so, their martial skills are secondary to the magical power they wield: power to heal the sick and injured, to smite the wicked and the undead, and to protect the innocent and those who join them in the fight for justice.
Beyond the Mundane Life
Almost by definition, the life of a paladin is an adventuring life. Unless a lasting injury has taken him or her away from adventuring for a time, every paladin lives on the front lines of the cosmic struggle against evil. Fighters are rare enough among the ranks of the militias and armies of the world, but even fewer people can claim the true calling of a paladin. When they do receive the call, these warriors turn from their former occupations and take up arms to fight evil. Sometimes their oaths lead them into the service of the crown as leaders of elite groups of knights, but even then their loyalty is first to the cause of righteousness, not to crown and country.
Adventuring paladins take their work seriously. A delve into an ancient ruin or dusty crypt can be a quest driven by a higher purpose than the acquisition of treasure. Evil lurks in dungeons and primeval forests, and even the smallest victory against it can tilt the cosmic balance away from oblivion.
Mechanically, paladins in this edition have the following traits and abilities:
  • Paladins appear to be built as capable melee fighters. They get a d10 hit die (The second-largest hit die this edition gives to a class). They have proficiency in all armors, shields, and weapons (simple and martial, excluding exotic weapons). At level 2, a paladin also gets a fighting style like the fighter class, which gives them a bonus to using certain weapons. They get an extra attack at level 5.
  • Paladins are also presented as characters empowered by their faith. They get a set of spell slots and access to a list of divine spells up to level 5 (Paladin spells are primarily focused on healing and support). These spells are prepared daily, but the paladin gets knowledge of all spells on their list (like the cleric class). They get the Lay on Hands ability, which gives them a pool of health to spend on healing themselves and their allies, and curing them of diseases and poisons. At level 2, the paladin gets the Divine Smite ability (upgraded at level 11), which allows them to add bonus radiant damage after they successfully hit an enemy. At level 3, their divine power makes them immune to disease. At level 14, the paladin can end a spell effect on themselves or their ally as a class feature.
  • Paladins have a few features that focus on buffing themselves and their allies. At level 6, the paladin gains an Aura of Protection, giving a bonus to saving throws to themselves and allies within 10 feet. At level 10, they get Aura of courage, which makes allies within this range immune to fear effects. The range of these auras increases as the paladin levels up.
  • Paladins take an Oath as a class feature at level 3. This oath is a cause which sets them apart from the cleric as a divine caster class, a focus that motivates the paladin (such as upholding justice, protecting mortals from extraplanar threats, etc.). This oath grants the paladin additional spells which they know as they level up, and various abilities that are gained at specific levels. One ability that every oath provides is the Channel Divinity feature, which can be used in ways specific to your oath that include buffing yourself, de-buffing your enemies, healing, and other effects.
  • Oaths also come with specific behavioral guidelines that the GM is expected to hold the paladin accountable to. For instance, a paladin with the Oath of Devotion is expected never to lie or cheat, to protect the weak whenever possible, and to take responsibility for their actions. Failure to act according to these tenets can be punishable by the GM, as described in this passage in the class description:
BREAKING YOUR OATH
A paladin tries to hold to the highest standards of conduct, but even the most virtuous paladin is fallible. Sometimes the right path proves too demanding, sometimes a situation calls for the lesser of two evils, and sometimes the heat of emotion causes a paladin to transgress his or her oath.
A paladin who has broken a vow typically seeks absolution from a cleric who shares his or her faith or from another paladin of the same order. The paladin might spend an all-night vigil in prayer as a sign of penitence, or undertake a fast or similar act of self-denial. After a rite of confession and forgiveness, the paladin starts fresh.
If a paladin willfully violates his or her oath and shows no sign of repentance, the consequences can be more serious. At the DM’s discretion, an impenitent paladin might be forced to abandon this class and adopt another, or perhaps to take the Oathbreaker paladin option that appears in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Other Editions of D&D
The paladin was introduced to D&D in the Greyhawk supplement, written as a primer to Gary Gygax's campaign setting in 1975 for the original D&D from 1974. The class was a sub-class to the fighitng-man. Paladins could use Lay on Hands to cure wounds and disease, were immune to disease, and got an extra 10% to saving throws against all forms of attack. Higher level paladins could detect evil, and dispel it as a class feature (both evil magic and evil monsters). If a paladin had a Holy Sword, they also became immune to all magic. And the paladin could get a free horse with similar features. But the class also had restrictions. The class had to be lawful-aligned, and if the paladin committed a single non-lawful action, they lost the class and could never regain it. The paladin could never have more than four magic items, and they had to give their share of the party's treasure away to charity, save enough to sustain themselves, their hirelings, and their property.
In the 1978 Player's Handbook for AD&D, the paladin was a sub-class to the fighter again, with a number of prerequisites. The paladin had to have the human race, and had to be lawful-good alignment. They could never have more than ten magic items. They had to give their loot to charity, like the previous edition, and 10% of their loot had to specifically go to a charitable religious institution. If they ever committed a chaotic act, they lost their class features, and had to find a high-level cleric and perform an act of penance. And if they committed an evil act, they lost the class altogether, no chance of regaining it. The paladin in this edition had all of the features in the previous edition, plus the ability to turn undead like a cleric, and the ability to cast cleric spells at high levels. Also of note, the previous power to dispel magic when the paladin had a Holy Sword became an aura-like effect, which projected itself around the paladin when their sword was drawn.
In 1985, the Unearthed Arcana supplement for this edition made the paladin a sub-class of the new cavalier class. The Cavalier was a version of the fighter who specialized in mounted combat. They had to be good-aligned, noble-born or aristocratic, and serve a diety, noble, or special cause. The paladin, in this supplement, had all the requirements of the cavalier, plus a high requirement for Wisdom and Charisma. They had to follow a Lawful Good deity.. The powers the paladin had were the same as in the Player's Handbook, but were added onto the cavalier class instead of the fighter.
2nd edition AD&D made the paladin a core class in the Warrior group, along with the fighter and ranger. While it had the same behavior restrictions for the paladin, this edition added a provision for such acts done while enchanted or controlled by magic: they acted as a fighter, but could regain their paladin features by completing a quest as an act of atonement. The 2nd edition paladin got the features that the 1st edition gave them, with the addition of an Aura of Protection (that gave a penalty to attacking evil creatures within 10 ft), and their power to turn undead applied now to demons and devils as well.
In The Complete Paladin's Handbook in 1994, the book described various edicts that the paladin may have to live by as part of their code, acts of penance the paladin might pursue if they violated their oaths, and variants on the class which represented different holy-warrior types, such as dragon-slayers and inquisitors.
As a core class in 3rd edition, the paladin was built in line with the previous class designs. They had proficiency in all armor and all simple and martial weapons. They were given a martial combat class' progression. They had access to spells up up to level 4, not starting at level 4 instead of level 9 (paladin spells were still a limited selection from the cleric spell list, mainly focused on utility and support). Paladins got Divine Grace in this edition, which added the paladin's Charisma bonus to all saves. They got the Aura of Courage feature at level two, making the paladin immune to fear and giving allies nearby a buff to fear saves. The paladin also got the Smite Evil feature at level two, adding a bonus to their attack roll and extra damage per level. They got the ability to Turn Undead at level three. They got the Remove Disease ability, which they could use once per week (with additional uses at higher levels). This edition did away with the Holy Sword feature and the class' ability to dispel magic with such a weapon, although holy swords were still in the game as magic weapons. 3rd edition paladins also were not limited in their use of magic items and wealth, as they had been previously.
If the paladin ever willingly committed evil, they lost their class abilities (still a paladin, but without all the cool abilities that made a paladin powerful; they were basically weaker fighters at this point), but could atone for their crimes (the Atonement spell could be cast by a level 9 or higher cleric). Atonement was a free spell to cast if the deeds that warranted it had been done under compulsion, but willing misdeeds needed experience points to be paid before they could be atoned for.
3.5e kept the same class design for the paladin as in 3rd edition, but it did at a caveat about multiclassing: the paladin could never have a higher level in another class than their paladin level, or they lost the ability to gain new paladin levels (in 3.0, the paladin had this happen as soon as they took a level in another class). It's notable that in 3.0, the Unearthed Arcana supplement introduced variants on the paladin class for other alignments, specifically Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, and Chaotic Good.
Paladins in Pathfinder used much of the same core design as 3.5: they had the same progression of spell slots, same progression of attack bonuses, and the same proficiencies in armor and weapons. In this edition, Lay on Hands was now an offensive power too, which the paladin could use to damage undead creatures, and at level three (and more at additional levels) the paladin got a mercy, which added additional effects to the class feature. At level 4, the paladin could use the Channel Positive Energy ability, which released a burst of healing energy around the paladin that also damaged nearby undead. At level 5, instead of just a horse, the paladin could could instead enhance their weapon to act as a magic weapon when they held it. At later levels, the paladin also got a bunch of auras, which provided a number of bonuses to saves and offensive abilities to nearby allies. The class had similar behavior restrictions to the class in 3.5, with the loosening of the rules about associating with evil characters: the paladin could now ally themselves with an evil character if it was to pursue defeating a greater evil (although the paladin was encouraged to regularly atone while doing this).
As a core class in 4th edition, the paladin got really shaken up. They were still divinely-focused melee fighters as a design, but the paladin could now be of any alignment, as long as it matched the alignment of their deity. Paladins also could not "fall", or have their powers taken away if they failed to act according to a code of conduct (although the edition recommended that other paladins of their deity would punish the paladin if they did this). The class' features were converted into a collection of divinely-powered attacks, with some support and healing abilities still usable. They lost their immunity to disease and the ability to cure disease, but they got the highest amount of healing surges and the ability to use them on allies with Lay on Hands.
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Paladins in Historical Context
Paladins evoke images of gallant knights in shining armor, and powerful religious causes. To get to the root of this, we need to look briefly into European history.
Feudalism and Knighthood
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe experienced a period of relative anarchy: the laws of the lands had been upheld by Roman authority, and without their presence it became a lot harder to enforce those laws. As various peoples struggled to maintain themselves in this period, some were able to gain a degree of military strength and wealth. And nearby peoples began to form arrangements that would eventually become the feudal contract: the people would pay taxes or supply food to the leader of the city, and they would in turn provide protection against attacks. This developed into a more formal system of lords and serfs by the 8th century CE.
Now, as I mention in my article about the fighter class, serfs didn't have the time to train with weapons and armor. But the vassals, as well as their lords, had both the wealth to afford heavily military equipment (such as a horse, a suit of plate armor, and good quality steel weapons), and the time to properly train in their use. In feudal France, a word began to be used: chevalier, which meant a person who was wealthy enough to afford, and train in the use of, a horse, a suit of plate armor, and a lance. This word would be the root for word like cavalry and cavalier (which you might remember as a class related to the paladin in 2nd edition), but most importantly for this discussion it led to the word chivalry.
The Chivalric Code
As part of the feudal system, a divide began to emerge between the working-class serfs and their protecting vassals and lords. As taxes funneled upwards, these peoples began to become a wealthy aristocracy, and they began to focus on cultural development, with emphasis on academic learning and culture. And nobles began to consider their appearances with one another. A set of rules emerged, which varied from place to place, regarding how nobility should act. By the 10th century CE, lords and their knights were expected to conduct themselves according to a strict code of behavior, the chivalric code, which included behaviors such as protecting the weak, being charitable to the needy, being strong in one's Christian faith, obeying the authority of one's lord, granting mercy to a foe if they asked for it, and granting gentleness and courtesy to women. Over time, these rules developed more and more, becoming more flamboyant and focused on the user's appearance to others.
But What About the Paladins?
That's right, we were talking about paladins, weren't we? Well, unfortunately, it appears that, as a group, paladins were the products of fiction. The Paladins (or the Twelve Peers) are legendary knights who accompany the knight Roland in the 11th-century epic poem The Song of Roland, in which they fight a Muslim army in Spain, fighting to the last man to defend Christianity. These men were presented as being knights in the service of the French king (and Holy Roman Emperor) Charlemagne. However, Charlemagne was king in the 8th century, and this story puts a lot of effort into romanticizing feudalism from the time period as being about higher ideals and greater levels of faith (you will find that much of what we imagine about the Middle Ages is viewed through this lens). The paladins are also featured in other poems from the time, retrieving holy relics for Charlemagne and overcoming great challenges in the name of their faith.
This bears a resemblance to another story you probably already recognize: In England similar stories were told about the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian legends were told during the 12th century, and depicted Arthur Pendragon, an early British king who, according to the stories, united the British tribes and fought back the invading Anglo-Saxon armies from Britain in the 6th century. The stories of Arthur and his knights are full of the knights traveling and espousing both the glory of God and defending the name of King Arthur, slaying monstrous beasts and toppling warlords.
Both of these collections of stories can serve as reference points for a paladin in D&D, along with the other references below.
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References for Paladins
Gary Gygax originally developed the paladin class based on the 1961 fantasy story Three Hearts and Three Lions. In the book, a Danish soldier in World War II, Holger Carlsen, is transported to a fantasy Europe based on the legends of Charlemagne and filled with magic and medieval fantasy. Holger becomes a paladin in Charlemagne's court, and emnarks on a series of adventures fighting monsters and protecting the realm against dark magic. It's also interesting to note that this book is the origin for the alignment system in D&D: in the book, there is the Realm of Law, where humans live, and the Realm of Chaos: populated by faeries and other monsters who are antithetical to men.
From history, you might also look at the Knights Templar, who fought for the Holy Roman Empire during the Crusades. This order of knights were a heavily militarized group, who developed an inner culture that went beyond their association with the Catholic church. They had their own code of conduct which they were held to, and at times their order became secretive to the point of being labeled traitors to the faith after the Crusades had ended.
While the Night's Watch from the A Song of Ice and Fire book series takes some interesting diversions from the classic paladin order (namely in that they're made up of criminals and outcasts looking for a second chance), the group is definitely made of paladins. They're a military order that swears a rigid oath of devotion to protecting the Seven Kingdoms against the dark forces that live to the north. They take vows of chastity, and relinquish any titles and nobility they would have inherited from their families. They train exclusively toward their purpose, and punish violations of their oath severely. Personally, I think the character who joins this group, Jon Snow, is one of the most interesting characters in the books because he allows us to explore this relationship between the group's duties and the individual characters' wants and needs, which need to be reined in at times to serve their oath.
For fans of the Dresden Files series, you might know the Knights of the Cross, the holy order who fights with swords containing three nails from the cross of Jesus Christ. While being fairly modern in how they are portrayed, the knights, especially main character Michael Carpenter, conduct themselves rigidly according to the tenets of their Christian faith, and dedicate themselves to protecting humanity from evil in all forms. If that isn't an order of paladins, I can't say what is.
For a somewhat unorthodox example, take a look at the Green Lantern Corps in DC comics. They're a militarized order of beings who use their powers to fight lawlessness and disorder in the galaxy. They even have a paladin's oath, which everyone knows: "In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might beware my power, Green Lantern's light!"
Questions for a Paladin Character
If you are building a paladin character, or if you're a GM with a player rolling a paladin, you may want to consider these questions:
  • Mechanically, your paladin has an oath. But this concept is a bit more literal: when they joined an order of paladins, or at least when they made the resolution to pursue their cause, you paladin likely made an actual oath. What was that oath? While you are not required to write an entire oath for your character, I personally think it adds thematic power to a paladin if they have memorized their oath, and can recite it at times during roleplay.
  • Often a paladin’s oath involves them swearing off certain behaviors, as an example of their moral purity. Did your paladin take such a vow? Are they celibate? Have they sworn to always help someone in need of protection? Can they never turn their back to an enemy who is still standing? Are they required to obey local laws, no matter if they disagree with them? Are they required to give mercy to an enemy who asks for it? Have they sworn never to speak a deliberate falsehood?
  • Is your paladin religious? In this edition, paladins do not appear to be required to worship a deity or a specific faith. But paladins of previous editions, and many classic examples of a paladin, have been a part of a holy order by definition. If they are, what makes their holy order unique from the common folk who follow this deity? How is your paladin's oath unique from a cleric's who worships the same god?
  • How did your paladin join their sacred cause? Were they adopted by a holy order of knights? Did they experience a great loss, and swore their oath in a moment of trauma? Did a paladin for the same cause introduce them to the idea? Did they have a role model who motivated them to adopt their cause?
  • Describe the location where your character was trained to become a paladin. Was it a walled abbey, with open spaces for weapons training? Was it a large church, that trained in the nearby countryside? Was it an institution in a city, which trained inside a large compound or traveled beyond the city walls to train new recruits? Describe the daily life of your character when they lived in that place. What duties did they have to perform, beyond combat training and/or religious practice? Did they have to work to sustain the location, like a monk does for their monastery? Did your paladin have the ability to leave the compound, or to interact with outsiders? Was there a sharp divide between the recruits and initiated members of the order, or between junior and senior members?
  • Paladins often have to serve in a lesser capacity for several years before joining an order with full honors. If your paladin is a member of a larger order, what did they have to do to earn their place in their order? Did they serve as a squire to another member of the order? We’re they an acolyte at a temple to the order’s patron deity? Did they have to undergo a trial by combat, to prove their strength? We’re they required to learn any skills, such as horseback riding, archery, or blacksmithing? Did a member of the order oversee them during this period, and what was their relationship with your character? We’re they cruel and overbearing? Supportive and kind?
  • A paladin’s initiation into their order is often a grand event. Did your paladin experience an initiation? Where was it held? A temple or church? An outdoor grove of trees? The dining hall of a lord or nobleman? Under what circumstances did your paladin take his oath for the first time? Kneeling before the leader of the order? Praying at an altar to their god? In the middle of mock combat in an arena? How many people were present at the ceremony? Was food or drink a part of the festivities? What about sports like jousting or wrestling?
  • Many paladin orders mark themselves by carrying a symbol of their cause. Does your paladin’s order have a symbol? A strong animal, who represents the qualities their order espouses? A clenched fist or an open hand? A weapon or two weapons? A more abstract symbol, like an eye or a spiral? Does your paladin wear their symbol plainly, for all to see, or do they hide it for some reason? Where do they wear it on their person?
  • Many paladins have an adversary, a person or group of persons who oppose them in their cause. Does your paladin have an adversary? A cleric who follows an opposing faith? The leader of a cult or a gang of bandits? A giant or dragon, who leads a hoard of lessers of his kind?
  • Like the fighter class, paladins are trained warriors who need to practice to maintain their technique with their equipment. Does your paladin have a regular training regimen? What exercises are involved? At what time of day does your paladin train?
  • For religious paladins, when do you devote time to your practice of faith? What is involved during this time? Does your paladin offer prayers to their particular deity or deities? Are sacrifices or offerings made? Is a ritual performed, and if so what would that ritual look like? Are any special tools used, like a censer of incense or a religious icon?
  • It is common for games with a Paladin PC that challenges will appear which tempt the paladin to break their oath. Are there any circumstances in which your paladin knows they would be prepared to break their oath? To protect a loved one, or a community? To get revenge on a specific person?
  • While the spell is defined as needing only one hour to cast and a divine focus worth 500gp, many games expect more of a personal act from a fallen paladin before the Atonement spell can be used. What would atonement look like for your paladin? Would they have to return to the headquarters of their order and seek forgiveness from the leader of the order? Would they return to their home town to reflect on the reasons they took up their cause? Would a trial, such as slaying a great monster or retrieving a lost item from a dangerous location, be needed as a re-affirmation if their commitment to the cause? Would a ceremony be performed?
  • A rigid lifestyle like that of a paladin often means leaving parts of your old life behind. Does your paladin have people they had to put behind them? Family whom they haven’t been able to see? Friends from seedier backgrounds, whom the order would frown on your character associating with? What do these people think of your character becoming a paladin? Does their father respect their association with such a prestigious organization, or resent the fact that their vows will prevent them from inheriting the family's estate or fathering an heir? Does your friend from the streets feel jealousy or admiration that your character was able to find a place that would house and feed them?
EDIT: Trimmed a lot of excess from the article
EDIT2: Cut some more
submitted by CrazyPlato to DMAcademy