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In my campaign a level 13 paladin PC is about battle a blackguard. Eventually, the paladin will realize the blackguard is a former colleague who fell from grace. I'm sure the player will want to turn the blackguard back to the side of good again after the blackguard is defeated.

Can a blackguard regain his good alignment? If the blackguard does become good, what happens?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this question is answerable because it's mainly about 3.5e mechanics and how they interact with the blackguard, so I am reopening this. Opinions about "what is good" etc. are not welcome, but both the current answers are well scoped to just address the mechanical question at hand. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Sep 9 '15 at 16:50
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Regaining paladin features

See atonement, which has as two of its options

Restore Class

A paladin who has lost her class features due to committing an evil act may have her paladinhood restored to her by this spell.

Redemption or Temptation

You may cast this spell upon a creature of an opposing alignment in order to offer it a chance to change its alignment to match yours. The prospective subject must be present for the entire casting process. Upon completion of the spell, the subject freely chooses whether it retains its original alignment or acquiesces to your offer and changes to your alignment. No duress, compulsion, or magical influence can force the subject to take advantage of the opportunity offered if it is unwilling to abandon its old alignment. This use of the spell does not work on outsiders or any creature incapable of changing its alignment naturally.

Though the spell description refers to evil acts, atonement can also be used on any creature that has performed acts against its alignment, whether those acts are evil, good, chaotic, or lawful.

Note: Normally, changing alignment is up to the player. This use of atonement simply offers a believable way for a character to change his or her alignment drastically, suddenly, and definitively.

These are your rules-based ways of doing this. Atonement is a cleric or druid spell (also healer, shugenja, and apostle of peace, along with some domains and obsurer prestige classes), rather than a paladin one, so the paladin would need to consult a priest to get it done.

How to actually convince the blackguard to repent as necessary for atonement is a matter of roleplaying, and will depend on the paladin and blackguard characters themselves. What requirement the priest and/or god involved might assign (per the clause about using quest to assign penance) is up to you, as DM, and most likely would be tailored to the particular crimes that the blackguard has commited.

About those blackguard features...

Mechanically, RAW, a redeemed blackguard would actually keep his dark powers; there is nothing in the Dungeon Master’s Guide about ex-blackguards. Moreover, the rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for prestige class prerequisites state they only must be met in order to take one’s first level of the class, so not only could the redeemed blackguard keep his dark powers, he could actually continue to take blackguard levels.

This is mostly just a weird corner-case in the rules and probably an oversight, but I think there could be an opportunity for interesting roleplaying here. You see, actually using most of the blackguard features is going to cause problems for a paladin:

  • Many of the blackguard spells are [Evil] and thus casting them is an evil act.

  • Rebuke/Command Undead involves channeling negative energy, one of the few things the book explicitly lists as an evil act.

  • Associating with fiends is another thing a paladin definitely cannot do. That fiendish servant is thus off limits.

  • Smite Good, well, a paladin probably isn’t going to be attacking a good creature in the first place.

  • But at least Detect Good is OK! That one could actually be useful to a paladin.

  • Sneak Attack is somewhat dishonorable, but using it while flanking an enemy or when they lose Dexterity to AC because of something going on in the battle is probably just inside the bounds of what the Paladin’s Code accepts (attacking a completely-unsuspecting target probably isn’t unless there is a distinct war going on or similar).

  • Poison Use, on the other hand, is explicitly right out.

  • Finally, the Aura of Despair is not, apparently, optional: nothing says that a blackguard can suppress it. Even after redemption, he may just be stuck with it. He is thus branded for life and everyone who gets within 10 feet of him is going to know immediately that there is something very wrong with this fellow.

  • (Technically, Divine Grace and Dark Blessing stack, giving 2×Cha to all saves, since the bonus in each case is untyped; up to you if you want this redeemed blackguard to have ridiculously good saves or not.)

So here we have a redeemed blackguard, a paladin anew who has sworn to do no evil... with a fair amount of very-evil power at his fingertips. Can you say temptation? Especially if this man is going out into the darkness to do battle, there are going to be a lot of times when, say, it’d be really handy to have a fiendish minion, or turn the necromancer’s undead against him; a lot of cases where those things, properly controlled, could actually do a lot of good. But he has sworn off their use, and is going to be forever teetering on the brink of darkness. He’s not likely to get a second atonement.

And whoever his dark patron was, who gave him all this power: would that being rescind that power after the atonement, or just dig its claws in deeper? Maybe if the blackguard became a serious threat to that patron’s plans, his dark powers might get cut off (at the worst possible moment, of course), but otherwise I’d expect any fiendish power worth its salt to happily continue empowering a paladin that they’ve corrupted once before. “Whatever small acts of good are accomplished, will be forever tarnished when he falls again,” seems a pretty likely line of thought.

So I suggest that the blackguard, once he’s redeemed, continue to maintain his blackguard powers. Some of them are even usable, with care, as a paladin. But others will always be off-limits, available only at the price of his soul, and the Aura of Despair will follow him wherever he goes.

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What follows are mechanical methods of changing the blackguard's alignment. I don't know how a paladin can convince a fallen-paladin-who-is-now-a-blackguard to renounce his ways again except by methods used in space operas (e.g. the hero's foe turns out to be the hero's father, and the father turns a final time to save his son).

A blackguard can change alignment

Several different methods exist to convert a blackguard to the side of good. If the blackguard wants to change alignment, the 5th-level cleric spell atonement [abjur] (PH 201-2) employing the redemption function works. This is likely the preferred method of mechanizing an alignment change. Note: As a house rule, I urge adding the spell atonement to the paladin's spell list.

Alternatively, if the blackguard is resistant to changing alignment, the 8th-level shaman spell (also an 8th-level ancestor domain spell) compel [ench] (Oriental Adventure 99-100) has a 1 round casting time, a range of close, mandates a Willpower saving throw, and checks SR. Overcoming SR and failing the saving throw means the alignment of the target is permanently (not instantaneously, but see the text) changed to whatever the caster wants, and the target likes it.

Also, the controversial 9th-level sanctified spell sanctify the wicked [necro] (Book of Exalted Deeds 106)—after the spell destroys the blackguard's body and forces the blackguard's soul into a gem for a year—forces the blackguard to adopt the alignment of the spell's caster. (Tip: Good does not equal nice.) The 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell mindrape [ench] (Book of Vile Darkness 99) and programmed amnesia [ench] (Spell Compendium 162-3) can, with careful use, also yield a changed alignment.

"But afterward is the blackguard still a blackguard?"

Probably. No mention is made of ex-blackguards (cf. ex-barbarians, ex-monks, ex-paladins) so, apparently, a blackguard who changes from an evil alignment should retain the blackguard class's class features that he can, although some class features will undoubtedly meet with disapproval from his good-aligned allies and he'll likely be isolated from his fiendish servant. Also note that whether a creature keeps a prestige class's class features after the creature no longer meets the prestige class's requirements (and one requirement for blackguard is an evil alignment) remains a point of contention among Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 aficionados (q.v. this question).

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