Thursday, November 14, 2013

D&D Next Homebrew: More Oaths for Paladins

In the course of writing my most recent short story for my kids, “Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki,” I wound up with a little conundrum.  The story was based in part on a little D&D Next campaign that the kids and I played through while we were on vacation up in Maine, and in that game, I played my character, Nathaniel, as a paladin of Loki.  I did it that way because my kids were huge fans of the Avengers movie, and as a result, I knew that they’d get a charge out of my playing a character devoted to a villain with which they were already familiar.  And also, it seemed like an interesting character choice—a good way to give the character a little bit of an edge.

However, in the current D&D Next Playtest Ruleset, there aren’t rules for playing anything that even remotely resembles a paladin of Loki.  I mean, you can play a paladin and take a few pains to try to add a bit of trickster-like sneakiness to the build, but mostly, trying to a play a paladin as an antihero is going to be a matter of roleplay.  That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s not like we don’t have the tools to try to gin something up that’ll be a little more effective.
The latest—and last—D&D Next Playtest Ruleset provides rules for two kinds of paladins, delineated by the kinds of oaths that they swear to their gods.  
  • Oath of Devotion – These are the old-school paladins of D&D’s past.  
  • Oath of Vengeance – These guys are similar to the 4th Edition’s Avenger class.
For those not in the know, paladins are D&D’s version of European knights or crusaders.  All D&D paladins are melee-oriented close-combat fighters who use heavy armor and shields and are proficient with all manner of martial weapons and mounts.  In addition to this, all paladins get the magical ability to heal by Laying on Hands, and they can all Smite Evil.  Paladins also have limited spell casting abilities, which are influenced by the kind of oath that they swear, and they can channel the divinity of their god in ways that are determined by their oath.
But all of this makes the idea of a paladin of Loki somewhat problematic.  After all, a paladin is supposed to be a stand-up guy who fights in the front lines.  Meanwhile, a devotee of Loki can be expected to cheat and use trickery to succeed whenever possible, preferably without actually exposing himself to physical danger.  How can we reconcile these two ideas?
Well, that’s the interesting part, now isn’t it?
Oath of the Trickster
Not all paladins are virtuous.  Some are selfish; some see the church as a means to an end.  Some mean to be good men but make poor choices, only to learn that there are opportunistic deities who look to ensnare the souls of the righteous at any opportunity.  
Regardless of how one finds one’s way to the Oath of the Trickster, the oath itself offers power.  Power to deceive, power to hide, power to control.  That power may come at the price of one’s honor, but after all, what good is honor without victory?
Oath Spells
You gain the following Oath Spells at the levels listed below:
  • 3rd Lvl: Fog Cloud, Disguise Self
  • 5th Lvl: Suggestion, Mirror Image
  • 9th Lvl: Aura of Invisibility, Blink
Channel Divinity
You gain two Channel Divinity options:
Obscuring Darkness.  As an action, you can summon a ten foot globe of darkness centered on you for the next minute.  You can see normally, but bright light within the globe becomes dim light (lightly obscured), and dim light becomes darkness (heavily obscured).  The Obscuring Darkness effect moves when you move, and while it is in effect, all attacks against you have Disadvantage.
You can end the effect as a free action, and if you are knocked unconscious, the effect ends automatically.  Creatures who have darkvision can see through this effect as normal.
Trickster’s Distraction.  As an action, you present your holy symbol and attempt to distract any enemy you can see.  The target of the effect must make a Wisdom saving throw or be distracted, suffering Disadvantage on all attack rolls or ability checks it makes (save ends).  If the distracted enemy was using Concentration to maintain a spell effect, that Concentration is lost and the spell effect ends immediately.
Arch Trickster
At 8th Level, your Obscuring Darkness effect creates magical darkness instead of dim light.  You can still see normally, but for all other creatures, the darkness is heavily obscured.  However, creatures with darkvision can see through this effect as normal.
Oath of the Conqueror
Some gods seek justice and promise mercy.  Others believe that order must be imposed from above, that civilization must be brought to the lawless at any price, that conquest is the birthright of the powerful.  For followers of these gods, there is the Oath of Conquest.
Oath Spells
You gain the following Oath Spells at the levels listed below:
  • 3rd Lvl: Command, Divine Favor
  • 5th Lvl: Branding Smite, Magic Weapon
  • 9th Lvl: Crusader’s Mantle, Haste
Channel Divinity
You gain two Channel Divinity options:
Conqueror’s Weapon.  As an action, you imbue a weapon you are holding with negative energy, gaining an advantage to attack and damage rolls equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum of +1) for the next minute.  In addition, your attacks deal both physical and necrotic damage, and if your weapon was not previously considered magical, it is for the duration of this effect.  
You can end this effect as a free action.  If you fall unconscious or lose control of your weapon (or drop it) for any reason, this effect ends.
Shock and Awe.  When you hit an enemy with a melee attack, you can spend your reaction to force all enemies within a ten foot radius to make a Wisdom saving throw.  On a failed save, enemies must flee in terror on their next turns.  An enemy that is forced to flee must move its speed away from you as soon as possible, drawing opportunity attacks as appropriate.  
This effect lasts for one round.  Creatures that are immune to fear are immune to this effect.
Princep’s Weapon
At 8th Level, you can choose to have your Conqueror’s Weapon deal either fire, lightning, or acid damage instead of necrotic damage when you use your Channel Divinity power.


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  2. You should ask yourself the question if a "Paladin of Loki" is really appropriate. Not every god might have Paladins in his service. Not even clerics as such! Evil gods have cultists, which may be played as clerics...but paladins?

    1. I tend to agree that not every god is going to have an entire holy order of knights, complete with temples and everything, in his or her service. For example, it is difficult to imagine the Militant Order of Eros. However, weird circumstances happen in games, and I like thinking about how I might deal with them.

      This particular idea came out of my writing a short story for my kids called "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki." One of the main characters is a guy who failed at being a paladin of Mars, prayed to the Trickster, and wound up in his service. Yes, those are entirely different pantheons; that was actually an integral part of the story.

      Anyway, my man Nathaniel is not part of some holy order of the knights of Loki. He is more like a lone cultist fighting with sword and shield. It was him that I was trying to model.

  3. I guess they will hand out a "Blackguard Conversion Kit" for the Paladin. Let's wait and see.

    1. I've wondered recently how I would change my book if it was set in the Forgotten Realms. Most of the Greek pantheon is fairly well represented amongst FR deities (Bane for Mars, etc), but how would I introduce the other pantheons, like the Loki and the rest of the Norse? And I finally decided that I'd substitute Lloth in place of Loki, make my half-elf a half-drow, and go from there. But it would be a pretty profound re-write.

      I mention it because I think Lloth ought to have a militant order of knights where Loki doesn't, despite the fact that both are gods of Chaos.

  4. I would love to see these updated for the final edition, and expanded to 20th level!

    1. I'm always surprised to find folks still interested in this. I'll have to look into doing a rewrite.