Roleplay Advice: The In-Character Paladin

“I literally run up to Alliance in WSG and explode in a shower of fabulous. It’s amazing.”

“… You must be playing a blood elf paladin.”

(Conversation on Twitter, in which @buglamp was excited about Long Arm of the Law)

I thought about putting this post off just a little longer to see what the next Know Your Lore on WoWInsider says about the Light. The most recent Know Your Lore is “The Sources of Magic, part 1″, and I’m curious about whether or not part 2 will agree with Rades’s theory about the Light being an element. But this isn’t really a lore post… it’s a roleplay post. For me, the two go very hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t make them one and the same. When it comes right down to it, what the Light is or where it comes from isn’t nearly as important for your character and what the people of Azeroth believe it is and where they believe it comes from.

That’s something I like about Azeroth… people don’t always know what’s going on, even when they think they know what’s going on. I know there were some ticked off Tauren druid players when a blue post finally explained that Tauren think they were the first druids, but Night Elves actually were. Not ticked off that it turned out Tauren weren’t the first, but ticked off because they felt they’d been misled or lied to and should have just been told the truth all along in the game.

I have a character who came across a book of Troll legends once (it spawned in Ratchet, I believe) and has wholeheartedly embraced what she read in it… that the Night Elves were forest trolls who evolved into Night Elves once they settled so close to the Well of Eternity. One of her favorite jokes is “Q. What do you call a bunch of forest trolls wearing mooncloth robes? A. Darnassus.” Of course, Night Elves don’t seem to find the joke very funny but… /shrug

The thing is, while that theory really does make a lot of sense if you consider the histories of trolls and Night Elves, it’s only presented to us as a Troll legend. That’s not the same as Blizzard saying “This is what happened.” It’s just saying, “This is what some Trolls believe happened.” Quests in the Southern Barrens are full of this now. Go through as Horde and you’ll see one thing, Alliance sees another. And some of what both sides think they see never actually happens at all!

I don’t feel like that’s Blizzard lying to or misleading us. That’s good storytelling, in my opinion. It makes the world of Azeroth more realistic. And when you’re roleplaying a paladin, channeling the Light isn’t nearly as much about what the Light is as it’s about what you believe the Light is.

“Paladin” is such a vague term.

What race is your paladin? This matters because not all groups of paladins are alike. Dwarves and Humans are Knights of the Silver Hand. (Yes, Tirion folded the Silver Hand and the Argent Dawn together to make an origami Argent Crusade, but that’s still so recent in Azeroth’s history that those paladins started out Silver Hand.) Draenei paladins are part of the Hand of Argus. Blood Elf paladins are Blood Knights. Tauren paladins are Sunwalkers. Those aren’t just different terms for “paladin”. Those are different cultural views of what it means to be a paladin.

Humans and Dwarves:

Humans have made a big religious thing out of the Holy Light. Personally, I’m not convinced dwarves agree with all the views humans have about the Light, but it is known that shared faith in the Light and the dwarves having a deep appreciation for the history and traditions of the Church of the Holy Light is part of what makes Ironforge such strong allies of humans. (I specify Ironforge not just because Wildhammers had a much smaller role in the game until Cataclysm, but because Wildhammers don’t follow the Light. They honor the Earthmother, like the Tauren do.) Many human paladins are titled landowners. Some were priests. Human and dwarf paladins are kind of like taking a priest and a warrior, smushing them together, and giving the result a well-mannered upbringing.

Humans and dwarves are, generally speaking, followers of the Light, but the Church of the Holy Light has traditionally reserved being a paladin for those who are most devoted to the Light. Essentially, every paladin is also a priest of the Light to some degree.  I have to wonder how much this has changed over time, and especially because of the Argent Dawn/Argent Crusade. If your human paladin has been a paladin long enough, though, it may very well have been that way when they were accepted into the Order.

For all the religion, though, the Light is not actually seen as a deity. It is believed to be a divine force of goodness, and following the Holy Light is about living the Three Virtues – Respect, Tenacity, and Compassion – and, to paraphrase Gandhi, being the good you want to see in Azeroth.

I don’t have resources that get very specific about dwarf paladins, but I usually see them played as if it’s another layer of being allies. There may be dwarves here and there who are part of the same Church of the Light humans are (my own paladin, Glorwynn, is one) but I see a lot more dwarves who sit somewhere between the human and draenei when it comes to the Light. That makes sense to me. Think humans, but with more telling dirty jokes while drunk and less being hung up on titles.

Draenei:

What kind of paladins are draenei paladins, anyway? I don’t actually know very much about the Hand of Argus from a lore perspective. I do know your draenei, no matter what class they are, becomes a member of the Hand of Argus at the end of the questline in the starting zone. And there are NPCs along the way who aren’t paladins (I’m thinking specifically of a group of NPC marksmen) but they are “TheseDudes” of Argus and work as part of the same team the vindicators are part of.

That reflects the way I’ve always seen the draenei… people who serve the Light in everything they do. The draenei have always given me the feeling that you don’t have to be anything other than yourself to do the Light’s work. Fisherman? You serve the Light by bringing in food for others. Tailor? You serve the Light by clothing others. Housewife? You serve the Light by raising your children with love. I’m sure there are rules and structure within the Hand of Argus (they have ranks, after all) but I’ve just never gotten the impression that it matters as anything other than having some organization so things don’t fall into chaos the next time the Burning Legion catches up to them.

When it comes to how draenei see shamanism… well, that can get a little tricky. I suggest reading Unbroken if you — Well, I just suggest reading it! I think it’s relevant to paladins, shaman, draenei history, and it’s just an awesome story. Then go do the new quests in the Harborage in Swamp of Sorrows. (I believe they are Alliance-only quests. I could be wrong, though.) Your draenei paladin may not be too happy about draenei who choose to practice shamanism. He or she may not agree that shamanism is “another path to the Light”. Or they may be completely okay with that idea and have plenty of close shaman friends.

And now we switch to the Horde paladins, where the Light isn’t even the same Light…

Blood Elves – Blood Knights

Remember, the Blood Elves used to be High Elves. They had fairly good relations with Alliance nations, taught some dudes how to sling spells at Trolls, and many of them belonged to the Church of the Light. Some were priests, but paladins were rare.

As a people, however, the High Elves drew their power from the Sunwell, which was kind of like when Illidan created a new Well of Eternity… but with sunbeams. (That’s not as inaccurate as it sounds, I swear!) When the Sunwell was destroyed, their Light was gone. So they started stealing their neighbor’s wi-fi.

That’s not quite as inaccurate as it sounds, either, but it’s less accurate than “with sunbeams” was.

Kael’thas kidnapped a naaru, M’uru, and the Blood Knights used him as a Light battery, draining the Light from him as the source of their power. Eventually, the leader of the Blood Knights sees the error of their ways, but M’uru is all tapped out at that point. Turns out M’uru, A’dal, Prophet Velen, and who knows how many other dudes were expecting this. The heart of M’uru was used to reignite the Sunwell, and nobody really knows what happened after that because Blizzard hasn’t updated the draenei and blood elf starting zone stories yet.

I think one of the most telling things about the difference between Alliance paladins and Blood Knights was the mount quest. (And I still say druid form, warlock mount, and paladin mount quests should have been made much easier and put back in as mandatory. The class-flavor lost with the quests being optional, then disappearing, matters so much!) Alliance paladins had to redeem the soul of an undead horse that was a Death Knight mount. Blood Knights had to vadalise the Alonsus Chapel to prove they were the boss of the Light, instead of the Light being the boss of them.

Tauren Sunwalkers

If there was one thing I learned from player reaction to the news that Tauren would be able to be paladins in Cataclysm, it was that a large segment of the playerbase has a pretty fixed idea of what a paladin is. “But Tauren have nothing to do with the Light!” Well, that’s true. But Sunwalkers aren’t followers of the Holy Light the way humans, dwarves, and draenei are.

There was a scene that played out in Thunder Bluff that was a conversation between Aponi Brightmane (paladin trainer in Cataclysm) and Tahu Sagewind (priest trainer in Cataclysm). Tahu had been giving some thought to an idea he says had been brought up before… the idea that maybe the Tauren weren’t really living a life of balance if druids called upon the power of Mu’sha but no one called upon the power of An’she.  An’she and Mu’sha being the eyes of the Earthmother, and Tahu himself being a druid.

So it would seem Sunwalkers truly are calling on solar energies. No matter what the Light is for anybody else, Rades’s idea of the Light as an element does seem to be true for the Tauren. And Tauren paladins get different class quests than Blood Elves do. You still get sent to the same dungeon, still get essentially the same reward, but the rewards are named “Sunwalker” hammer/hat, and the quest text is different.

Sunwalkers are so new they’ll pretty much take any Tauren who wants to dedicate themself to this life. Your paladin could, like Tahu, have been a druid or considering the life of a druid when being a Sunwalker became on option. Your Tauren could have been a fisherman. Whatever your Tauren was, if they’re old enough to be a Sunwalker they have not always been a Sunwalker. Their father was not a Sunwalker, and their grandfather was most definitely not a Sunwalker.

But what does a paladin DO?

“Don’t hurt people if you can avoid it. Don’t steal stuff
unless you’re starving or it’s really, really important.

Work hard. Pay your bills. Try to help others. Always
double-check your math if there are explosives involved.

If you screwed it up, you need to see it gets fixed.

And don’t eat anything that talks.

If it doesn’t fall under one of those categories, just do
the best you can.

– Digger, from Digger by Ursula Vernon

Blood Knights, I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to tell you. If someone can offer some resources on Blood Elf lore being updated, that would be awesome. Otherwise, all I can say is we know where you came from, we know things have changed since then, and… Yeah. Where do you go from there? Like Death Knights, you really need a new purpose.

On the other hand, Northrend did present the opportunity to do something as a paladin that did not involve kidnapping and draining naaru to power your Divine Storm. Maybe your paladin has decided to keep working with the Argent Crusade. Or maybe working with them in Northrend was necessary, but you don’t really see eye-to-eye with them and have no desire to be a part of that group. With the Sunwell reignited, I’m not sure if Blood Knights really have anything they need to stand for anymore. You could just be a warrior who channels the energies of the Sunwell the way Alliance paladins channel the Holy Light. Who you are as a Blood Elf could be far more interesting than who you are as a paladin.

Do paladins always have to be good? That does go with the territory for most of them. That doesn’t necessarily make them Mary Sues. Searching your soul and choosing good no matter how much easier life might be if you didn’t isn’t the same as being Hero McAwesomesome… easily making the right choice every time and swooping in to save the day while no one has died yet!

One of my characters is friends with a draenei paladin, and she talked to him once about Prophet Velen. After he had told her about Velen’s mercy and wisdom, she thought it all over for a minute and then asked her friend if he thought he could forgive the orcs for what they had done to the draenei, since it sounded like forgiving them was something Velen would want. Her friend closed his eyes and thought for a few minutes before taking a deep breath and saying slowly, but honestly, that if the orcs truly wanted peace with the draenei he could have peace with them.

It was the decision a “good” person would make, but it was very difficult for him to do. And I never saw that character do anything except sneer and mutter that they aren’t true paladins when Blood Knights were mentioned. He’s good… he’s not perfect.

My husband has played a dwarf paladin named Friginne. Friginne wasn’t always a paladin. He was a warrior, as was his wife. (If you apply how specs work to characters, Friginne was an arms warrier and Krona was a fury warrior. I wish she had actually existed as something other than part of his backstory. I would have loved to hear them argue about the proper way to fight.) Krona died at Mt. Hyjal, and the demons didn’t even leave enough of her for Friginne to take his wife home for a proper burial. He drinks way too much… even by dwarven standards… and you have to get to know him pretty well before you’ll hear him say anything. Usually, he just laughs. Whether laughter seems appropriate at the time to anyone else or not. His drinking has gotten a little better over time, and he doesn’t chase after every rumor of a demon on the loose he hears anymore. He’s not much on social graces. He sits on the floor even when chairs are available because he’s more comfortable there, and he made his exit from his sister’s birthday party by saying he had to get back to the front lines in Northrend because “Scourge donnae kill themselfs. Well… ‘bominations e’splode sometimes.” He’s never told anyone, not even his sister, that he once considered necromancy to bring his wife back, but knew that even if it worked she’d be something horrible and twisted, not Krona. And even having realized that, he was still tempted.

He’s a good man. He’s a great paladin. He’s not exactly a goody-goody. He once helped his sister hide a stolen horse. He didn’t even ask why she stole the horse (she told him afterward, but the point is he didn’t ask), he just accepted on faith that his sister must have had a good reason for doing it and “family comes first”. He decided to devote himself to being a paladin because he knew what the Light does to demons. His faith in Light meant having a weapon against demons that was better than any hammer. Destroying demons is a good thing, and his faith is strong, but his intentions may not have been the most pure.

He bestows the blessing of the Light on people freely, and he once gave ale to a couple of Night Elves at a Winter Veil party who were very polite when they asked him for it. Like a small. drunk Father Winter.

Glorwynn is also a dwarf paladin, but I didn’t give her a story nearly as interesting as Friginne’s. Until the Cataclysm happened, Glorwynn was a priestess of the Light. She was living in the Dwarven District of Stormwind and serving the Light as a healer. Her mother died of illness when she was young, and it was Glorwynn who really raised her brother while their father worked to provide for them. Glorwynn was unable to make it back to Thelsamar in time to see her father one more time before he died. And she was safely in Stormwind when her brother died in Northrend. She’d gone to visit an old friend of the family in Coldridge Valley when the Cataclysm happened. She found herself having to do a lot more than just heal people to help around there, and she decided it was time to learn to fight back against troggs, elementals, and whatever else was out there threatening people. Of course, she’s still a healer.

Muchao doesn’t have a story. All of my roleplay characters are Alliance. I’m sure she’ll have a story in time, though. All of my characters have a story eventually even if they aren’t a character I roleplay with.

The Best Advice I can Give

Don’t be too concerned about making your paladin a “proper” paladin. Know your race’s history, know what the Light is to them, and then just play your character as being the person they are. Paladins are people, too.

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3 Responses to Roleplay Advice: The In-Character Paladin

  1. Rhii says:

    :) Love!

    My blood elf paladin (Myrhani) has recently been faction transferred and I haven’t quite got a handle on her backstory as a draenei yet, but as a blood elf she was born in the underclasses of Silvermoon. She is quite young, as elves go, she really had her coming-of-age in Blood Knight training. She only was able to train as a paladin because they had so few people available to train, and because she had the aptitude. She lost everything in the scourge invasion, and she was as retribution as they come during the pre-sunwell days. She did whatever she wanted because she could. She didn’t care about vengeance, particularly, just power. She would think nothing of doing something absolutely reckless, then minutes later she would be trying to make herself as safe as possible. Also she was incredibly foul mouthed. :P

    After the redemption of the blood knights she had an actual religious experience, she thinks of herself now as drawing power willingly given from the same source as the naaru draw theirs. She knows, theoretically, that her race’s connection to the light is through the Sunwell now, but she is closer in attitude toward the light to what a human paladin would be than to what a Blood Knight normally is. She would not probably admit it to herself, but I think in her innermost heart, she worships the naaru. Also, she’s holy now, she doesn’t do destruction for the sake of it anymore, and has vowed not to. She is, however, still incredibly reckless, very prone to ignore the actual fighters in the group and charge something with her tiny healy mace, and still way too foul mouthed for polite company. Which makes sense, since she was essentially raised on a battlefield.

    She is semi-retired now, after having a major injury in the Icecrown campaign, and she’s retired to Silvermoon where she mostly trains paladin recruits. (This is my explanation for what happened to her after the race change… I’d love to write a fiction where she meets her draenei self sometime)

  2. Apple says:

    Lisan was originally going to be a warrior. From a very young age, she wanted to be strong and mighty so she could protect people. She’s always been under the impression that her parents died in the second war, and she wanted to make sure that no one she loved would ever die like that again. Granted, she was a little kid who firmly believed she could stop death single-handedly, but that feeling HAS carried over a bit, leading her to feel horribly guilty whenever anyone she cares about dies.

    Then, when she was… oh, about seven, I believe, she met Sara. Sara who was blind and orphaned due to illness, and Lis pretty much adopted her right off the bat. Poor thing wanted to be a warrior, but now she wanted to be a priestess so she could heal people, too. One week when they had been to the cathedral for a service of some sort, she asked the abbot if there was any way she could be a warrior AND a priestess, so she could keep everyone safe. He thought she was a dear little thing and told her that perhaps she could become a Paladin, and she set her heart on that from that day on.

    The Light is a tool for her, more than a religion. It’s a way to keep the people she loves safe and alive. She IS a decent person, and she has a strong sense of duty – she’s seen people, as a child, pass of responsibility of dealing with things, saying that “someone will do it”, and then nothing happened. She made a decision, during the third war, that if she had a chance to do something that needed doing, she’d do it. She wouldn’t try to pass it off, she wouldn’t assume someone else would take care of it. In following that, she’s become somewhat of a hero, obviously, though she’d never think of herself as such. She just does what needs doing.

  3. Things I love about this post:
    1. that you included bug’s quote (that tweet deserves an award!),
    2. that you included how the various races interpret the Light and how that influences each paladin differently, and
    3. that last bit of advice.

    Very nicely done!

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