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Our party is going through a Kingmaker-type campaign and is currently made of:

  • One splendid half-orc, ex Gladiator, CN and pretty friendly
  • Two twins tieflings, a CN Rogue-Sorcerer and a CN Rogue-Bard, brother and sister who are enterprising capitalists by trade and con-artists by hobby. We agreed that their talent won't be ever used against the group.
  • A now presumably deceased CG Sarenrae's cleric Aasimar that got a bit too nosy with some potential enemies.
  • Our own shining Sarenrae's paladin (obviously LG), a human Taldane woman, who is a first time player that occasionnaly refers to the DM regarding her RP.

As probably most players in a D&D-based system experienced, our paladin is the classical stick-in-the-mud, holier-than-thou character. I don't blame the player as it is her first time ever role-playing1.

Being the only Loyal Good character, and sworn to uphold a strict set of rules, the Paladin is often at odds with the group. We're all Chaotics, and the majority of us are even not Good aligned (we prefer a more capitalist approach). After a few clashes of opinions, we resolved to keep our "fun strategies" out of her character's ears' reach, as it tended to turn the Paladin and her player irate. (Fun-Strats™ may include lying, cheating, stealing, framing, forging as well as the very rare and occasional murder of a not-so-innocent and really annoying business rival. We're greedy and opportunistic, but not murder-hobos.)

A Paladin refusing to partake in such Fun-Strats™ is totally understandable, as some GM may rule that it conflicts with their code of honor. (Although I'm not 100% certain that letting it happen is forbidden. Inquisitors and Holy Rogues are a thing, after all.)

The problem is that at some point, the Paladin began being suspicious that we were plotting behind her back, and returned to her old ways. Namely, threatening us of a good beating if we don't behave (IC and OOC). Kind of understandable. But at some point, it devolved in "It's my way, or the high-way", i.e. we follow Paladin's plan or she won't tank and/or will beat us.2 And when I say "won't tank", she means in a perfectly legit and lawful endeavour - she will let us take the hit, even if the purpose is good, like getting rid of a trolls nest that's dangerous to citizens. (I'm well aware of what My Guy Syndrome is, and she often uses this excuse for her character behaviour - I'm not asking about the player problem.)

Is using coercion and threats on allies at odds with a (Sarenrae's) Paladin code of honour? (Though, outside of this particular thread, the question can be applied to any Good-Aligned deity.)

Now, coercion and threats to force people to act the way you want is obviously not a Good aligned behaviour. If you force Neutral people to work for you for free, even if the end purpose is Good, then it's slavery, and most people consider slavery to be baaaad.

But without coercion, what a Paladin can really do in a Chaotic party? Sure, we try to play nice, but in the end, 3 out of 5 players care for money more than almost anything. So unless we attack her and she defends herself (and in this case, it's completely legitimate - no question asked), if you take physical threat out of the Paladin book, there is not much to get out of the status quo. Plus, the Law kind of work on that principle: behave, or be punished.

Interesting point is that Paladins do not get Intimidation as a class skill, and I wonder if this is on purpose.

TLDR: Can a paladin use threats and coercion to force allies to follow the paladin's own code of honour and still uphold said code?

I'm interested, in order, in:

  1. Setting source going one way or another (yes/no)
  2. System source going one way or another
  3. Historic element of D&D based systems (no personal opinion, but hard facts) going one way or another.

Bonus point if you can include way to accommodate such a Paladin in our mostly Chaotic group without constantly making her break her oath. (We're going full plausible deniability at the moment.)

I'm asking out of curiosity because 1) it's a non-trivial question, 2) I might play a paladin one day, 3) I (we) want to accommodate this player as best as we can and still have our fun being greedy bastards.

1: We've all have been through here, I'm not particularly proud of my first characters, now that I look back. So we try to be understanding, as much as possible.
2: Not particularly worrying, she is outnumbered and we have means to put her down safely. But we try to play nice.

The Sarenrae Paladin's code

The following is Sarenrae's Paladin code from the Inner Sea Gods book. As it is, until rule 0-ed by a GM, the closest we have to a generally admitted code of conduct, the question will refer to this code.

Paladin Code
The paladins of the Dawnflower are fierce warriors, like their goddess. They provide hope to the weak and support to the righteous. Their tenets include the following adages.

  1. I will protect my allies with my life. They are my light and my strength, as I am their light and their strength. We rise together.
  2. I will seek out and destroy the spawn of the Rough Beast. If I cannot defeat them, I will give my life trying. If my life would be wasted in the attempt, I will find allies. If any fall because of my inaction, their deaths lie upon my soul, and I will atone for each.
  3. I am fair to others. I expect nothing for myself but that which I need to survive.
  4. The best battle is a battle I win. If I die, I can no longer fight. I will fight fairly when the fight is fair, and I will strike quickly and without mercy when it is not.
  5. I will redeem the ignorant with my words and my actions. If they will not turn toward the light, I will redeem them by the sword.
  6. I will not abide evil, and will combat it with steel when words are not enough. I do not flinch from my faith, and do not fear embarrassment. My soul cannot be bought for all the stars in the sky.
  7. I will show the less fortunate the light of the Dawnflower. I will live my life as her mortal blade, shining with the light of truth.
  8. Each day is another step toward perfection. I will not turn back into the dark.

English is not my first language, so I could use some help regarding what the exact wording of those tenets mean. I think 3, 5 and 6 could be relevant, but I'm not 100% sure of how they should be understood, regarding the actual situation. 1 definitely is, regarding her threat not to tank.

(Thanks KorvinStarmast and sdjz for help with suggestions to handle our group dynamic issue and the paladin code in chat.)

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closed as primarily opinion-based by KRyan, Miniman, Miles Bedinger, NathanS, mxyzplk Feb 20 at 0:33

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't want to edit this since I'm not aware of everything that happened in chat. But the current title doesn't make the content. "failing his/her role" is not the same as "breaking their oath". \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Feb 19 at 23:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, but alignment and related questions are in the end opinion based and up to the table at hand. I think our meta guidance on alignment questions is equally applicable here: rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5357/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 20 at 0:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ A useful piece of context that is missing would be whether or not the campaign you are playing provides a compelling reason for this group to work together. Is there something driving the group, despite their differences? \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Feb 20 at 2:24
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We cannot tell you. It is literally impossible that any answer that attempts to interpret the paladin’s code here will actually help you. We have no authority at your table, and our personal opinions don’t matter there at all.

The only thing that will ever resolve this situation is to talk with the other people in your group. That is the only hope you have of every actually convincing the people who matter to agree on this subject.

So you need to do that. You seem to have a problem with this character—I certainly would—but what you need to realize is that the problem isn’t that your character has a problem with this character: it’s that you have a problem with this character. It is causing problems for your enjoyment of the game. Your character can be miserable and go through hell while you are still enjoying the game, and that’s no problem—but as soon as you are doing anything less than actively enjoying your time, there is a big problem because this is a game and it’s supposed to be fun. You do not seem to be having fun. You are labeling the things both she and her character are trying to stop you from doing as “fun strategies,” which strongly implies that if she—the player—got what she apparently wants, you would have less fun. That is not OK.

The flipside is equally true. If your party got up to all kinds of “fun strategies” that the other player found objectionable or uncomfortable, or felt kept her from enjoying the game, at the very least, with this character, that is not OK either.

The solution to things not being OK with the game is to talk about them and coming to a resolution. That is, you have an out-of-character problem, namely that at least two players have conflicting ideas of what fun is, and that cannot be resolved in-character. So the paladin’s code does not matter here in the slightest. That is an in-character concern that is completely irrelevant until the out-of-character concern is resolved. You could be playing two different rogues, with different ideas on what is efficient and effective, and you would still have exactly the same problem.

Maybe all the player needs to know is that they are allowed to relax their paladin—maybe they should read up on playing a paladin without being a stick in the mud, learn about My Guy Syndrome, why it is bad, and how to avoid it, and hear from the rest of you—players as well as the GM—that these things are true and important, and that she won’t be penalized for relaxing her character, that it won’t make her a bad roleplayer, and her paladin won’t fall because of it. Maybe that’s all you need to do, and the problem is resolved.

Note that it is completely irrelevant whether some pseudo-philosophical argument justifies, or even demands, that the paladin behave in a particular way as a result of some interpretation of the code. What matters is that the table agrees, hypothetically here, that the paladin allowing and participating in this behavior is acceptable in terms of the table’s interpretation of the code.

But maybe that’s not good enough. Maybe she disagrees with that interpretation of the paladin’s code, and finds that that concept of a paladin—who allows such behavior to happen—doesn’t mesh with what she thinks of as a paladin. Or maybe it just doesn’t mesh with her idea of her paladin. Either way, changing the way her character behaves on this point ruins her enjoyment of that character in some fashion. Makes the character no longer feel like the one she wanted to play. She is allowed to have that opinion.

That doesn’t mean she’s allowed to dictate the ongoing campaign to the rest of the players. If this particular character she’s playing is inflexible on this point, and changing that about this character would ruin the character for her, maybe she would be amenable to playing another character entirely. The paladin can be retired, a new, non-paladin (or, at least, non-stick-in-the-mud) character can be introduced, and you can all get on with “fun strategies.”

Or maybe that doesn’t work for her either—maybe her problem isn’t in-character at all, but she herself actually objects to the “fun strategies.” Or maybe she’s just really determined to play a stick in the mud, and refuses to play anything else. Those, too, are legitimate positions.

But it’s also a legitimate position to not want to play with such a character. If she’s the odd one out, and only wants to play while playing such a character while no one else wants to play with such a character, then maybe the group is simply not a good fit for her. That happens sometimes—and that’s OK! You can still be friends; I have plenty of gamer friends I nevertheless don’t game with because what we want from a game are just too different. Doesn’t make me or them “right,” just makes us incompatible. We play board games or video games or just go out for a drink, instead. Hell, we’ll even enjoy talking about our respective campaigns with each other—even though we each don’t want to be in the others’ game.

But most likely, the solution won’t be any of these, or at least, won’t be any one of these, but rather a mixture of these ideas as well as other ideas that you come up with yourselves. Which is why you have to talk about it. And what the paladin’s code does or doesn’t say really should not be a part of that conversation at all. All that matters is what’s fun for everybody. If someone will only enjoy the game when the code is interpreted some particular way, that’s just a fact and you almost-certainly have no hope of convincing them to change their mind—it’s all opinion anyway. If they draw that as a hard line, you have to decide whether and how to deal with that—whether you can compromise, or if you can’t, maybe you’re just incompatible. Or maybe they won’t be so inflexible, either, and they’ll be willing to compromise that position. Ideally, neither of you has to compromise because you can come up with some consensus that makes everybody happy—it’s a group of a few friends, it is possible in that situation to make everybody happy—but you’ll only find out if that’s possible, and how, if you talk about it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I knew I should have insisted more on "I'm well aware of what My Guy Syndrome is, and she often uses this excuse for her character behaviour - I'm not asking about the player problem." Also, I admit group problems, in its dynamic. I'm not planning to use this thread to solve our problem, but more lore and info can help lay basic ground for discussion and consensus, in order for everyone to have fun. We will talk about it, sure, but it is not really the point of the question. Thanks for the input, though. SE help is always appreciated. \$\endgroup\$ – Nyakouai Feb 19 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nyakouai Actually, the entire point of my answer is that “more lore and info” really cannot “help lay basic ground for discussion and consensus,” because lore has absolutely nothing to do with the problem here. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 20 at 1:53
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The problem you have is that (as you describe it) there's no actual reason for your group to be adventuring together. Why is a Lawful Good paladin adventuring with two tiefling rogue con-artists? Why are the two tiefling rogue con-artists adventuring with a paladin?

The answer you're at right now is: "well, because Player A decided to be a paladin, and Players B and C decided to be rogues, and a game of D&D requires that everyone is adventuring together, and we didn't think any further than that."

This is the sort of thing that you ideally would solve with a Session 0, where you talk about intergroup dynamics with the characters you're creating.

One answer you might try to get to is: "because we're friends! We've been through a lot together, and we're willing to make allowances when necessary to stay a group." Your paladin might decide to look the other way when the rogues get up to something, and the rogues might decide to play fair when the paladin's business is involved.

The other answer you might get to is: "well, actually we shouldn't be adventuring together! The paladin is going to wander off to find allies she considers more worthy, and the rogues are going a different direction to find allies that will be more fun." With this answer, you wind up splitting the group -- one side of the split becomes NPCs and brings in new characters.


It's often not useful to talk about "good roleplaying", because "good roleplaying" is not whatever's most realistic -- it's whatever leads to you having fun. Even so, let's talk briefly about roleplaying.

In some sense, it's bad roleplaying to have your group staying together when they disagree so strongly, both (a) because it's not realistic, and (b) because the players are feeling irritated with each other. It would be better roleplaying to have the group either reach an understanding, or split up.

A "realistic" group probably would have split up by this point.


PS. I agree with KRyan and the dark wanderer: it is not useful to try to argue about the paladin's code of honor. The paladin decides how to follow their own code of honor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A 'realistic' group might not split up if there was a sufficently good driver for them to stay together, which is often the core of a good campaign. We actually have zero information on the campaign setup, or group assumptions. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Feb 20 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ We're told this is a Kingmaker type game. That's quite a lot of information actually. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Feb 20 at 3:11
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Of course the player's interpretation of their paladin code is viable

The codes are specifically written to allow basically any action and most ideological frameworks, so that they work for a variety of groups and character ideas. Paladin codes are like a theme or a color palette, not at all like a restriction on character activities; they only become restrictions after a group or player determines what it is they want them to mean in a particular campaign, just like alignment. Perhaps in this campaign, 'good' means 'rational self-interest' and 'evil' means 'denying one's own authentic freedom' or vice versa. Perhaps 'good' means 'is rich' and 'evil' means 'is poor' or vice versa. These mechanics are just tags, and you tie them to things when you start a campaign.

You can, of course, also present the code in such a way as to prohibit the character's behavior. For almost any action, this will be the case. But there's no reason to think any particular action must be against the code.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question is specifically about a Pathfinder game, in the Golarion setting...good and evil are not adjustable in this setting, when there are magical effects that objectively tell you what is good and evil. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Feb 20 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @YogoZuno ...That's the point? Good and evil detection and other alignment based effects let you pull whatever you tie good and evil to into the game. Golarion doesn't have any particular stance on alignment, beyond a sort-of 'evil is violent/ugly/murdertimes, good is pretty/peaceful/generous' general ethical color palette. You decide that e.g. chaos is utilitarianism and law is deontology and then devils are all duty bound and demons are all about the greatest good for the greatest number by any means necessary. Or vice versa. You can use any configuration of ethical systems here. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 20 at 3:07

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