In D&D 3.5, if you fell as a paladin due to comitting evil acts, you could become a blackguard and benefit from your ex-paladin levels:

Fallen Paladins

Blackguards who have levels in the paladin class (that is to say, are now ex-paladins) gain extra abilities the more levels of paladin they have.

A fallen paladin who becomes a blackguard gains all of the following abilities that apply, according to the number of paladin levels the character has.

I wanted to ask if such a thing exists in Pathfinder as well.


No, there is no analogue of the blackguard in the Pathfinder ruleset. There is an antipaladin class, but it is written for warriors who have always been evil, rather than for fallen paladins. As an alternate class for the paladin, you actually can’t become an antipaladin if you have paladin levels, even if you are an ex-paladin. You can’t even use the retraining rules, unless you want to retrain everything as some other class and then retrain again to antipaladin. Nor is there any official rule for swapping paladin levels to antipaladin, as there was in 3.5e for high-level ex-paladins becoming blackguards.

Which means that fallen paladins are, in Pathfinder, even more thoroughly shafted than they were in 3.5e. The falling mechanics are, quite simply, awful and atrocious, and while they always were—and the blackguard didn’t help much, more on that in a bit—for Pathfinder to make them even worse is concerning. It’s bad for the game, bad for the story, and just all-around bad. What should be the height of drama is instead this huge anti-climax where a fallen paladin just gets crippled and all but forced to retire, rather than become any kind of significant force for evil.

In 3.5e, you at least had the option of the blackguard class... sort of. Unfortunately, the requirements for blackguard—including numerous skills that paladins don’t get in class, and feats that are unlikely choices for a paladin (or anyone, really; Cleave and Improved Sunder are seriously poor feats), blackguard is basically not an option for an ex-paladin unless they were planning to fall all along. Both 3.5e and Pathfinder have very severe problems supporting unplanned character development in general, but the blackguard is a particularly extreme case where it really only makes sense if it was planned, as a metagame thing.

Later editions of D&D do a better job here, where 4e eliminates falling altogether, and 5e provides rules for an automatic and mandatory switch to some other class (so even though you’re forced to lose your paladin features, you at least get the features of some other class, rather than being reduced to NPC-class status). D&D 5e also had the oathbreaker paladin archetype, which is an analogue of the blackguard for that system. But Pathfinder doesn’t have that.

Ultimately, because the falling mechanic is so bad, I mostly recommend ignoring it entirely. In my games, a paladin falls only when her player chooses to have her fall—at which point the paladin levels are immediately swapped to another class (à la 5e), or paladin features are swapped to alignment-flipped versions (poached from blackguard and/or paladin of tyranny or slaughter), or the character is retired. At no point is the character crippled and reduced to NPC status, and at no point is the player forced to play a character they don’t want to play. This ends up being the same in both 3.5e and Pathfinder for me, since the blackguard itself offers a poor solution to the problem the falling rules create.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about the Hell Knight Commander? \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Mar 30 '18 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ So far as I can see, nothing there says you can that ex-paladin levels improve or stack with hell knight commander features, or that you can swap ex-paladin levels for hell knight commander levels. Thus an ex-paladin/hell knight commander is still saddled with however many NPC-class levels. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 30 '18 at 21:30

There does not appear to be any Paizo Paladin archetypes which are for fallen Paladins (such as Blackguard). The closest pathfinder class that I see is: Antipaladin.

This is an official alternate class and should play very much like an archetype of Paladin.

Note: The antipaladin is an alternate class for the paladin core class. Making use of and altering numerous facets of the paladin core class, this villainous warrior can’t truly be considered a new character class by its own right. By the changes made here, though, the details and tones of the paladin class are shifted in a completely opposite direction and captures an entirely different fantasy theme, without needlessly designing an entire new class. While a redesign of sorts, this alternate class can be used just as any of the other base classes.

I do not believe that this class is only for characters who have always been evil, but can also accommodate players who turn to evil.

This is all I can see about Fallen Paladins in the Paladin class:


A paladin who ceases to be lawful good, who willfully commits an evil act, or who violates the code of conduct loses all paladin spells and class features (including the service of the paladin’s mount, but not weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies). She may not progress any further in levels as a paladin. She regains her abilities and advancement potential if she atones for her violations (see atonement), as appropriate.

Note the rules about retraining class levels under Retraining. You can swap out a class in 7 days, or just 5 if there is synergy between the 2 classes. So it would be RAW to allow a 10th level Paladin to retrain to a 10th level Fighter in 50 days and then to a 10th level Antipaladin after another 50 days (since you can't have levels in a core class and alternate class at the same time). A DM might allow a Paladin to retrain directly to an Antipaladin in just 50 days as long as there is no adventuring between its start and stop. However, when retraining archetypes to another archetype you have to pay the 2x penalty, so 100 days is probably RAW.

The retraining time would make good storytelling as well since it helps explain how the character drops their old life and masters their new evil powers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn’t a class for fallen paladins the way the 3.5e blackguard was, though, it’s just an evil analogue to the paladin, intended to be taken from the beginning as an antipaladin. As far as I am aware, there are no rules for ex-paladin levels improving antipaladin features, or for trading ex-paladin levels for antipaladin levels. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 30 '18 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well you can't be Paladin and Antipaladin at the same time (same core class). So I assume if you fall, you do a straight swap of all of your levels. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick Brown
    Mar 30 '18 at 13:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you have a citation of that swap being an official rule, I would upvote this answer. But I don’t believe it is. As far as I know, officially, a fallen paladin is just SOL. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 30 '18 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan - note that I updated my answer to include the rules for retraining class levels. By strict RAW it could be done in 10*X days (since you have to use a temporary class that isn't Paladin), but I would relax it to 5*X days if done all at once (where X is the number of Paladin levels the character has). \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick Brown
    Mar 30 '18 at 15:44
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually you can do a full swap from Paladin to Antipaladin in the Fall from Grace section "Not all paladins that fall become antipaladins. In fact, the transformation is quite rare. ... Rarely, a paladin turns from the light and seeks instead to make a pact with the dark powers.... When such a fall occurs, the transformation can be swift. The paladin trades in all of his paladin levels for antipaladin levels on a 1-for-1 basis. ". \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 31 '18 at 4:45

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