Supplement Review: Divine Favor: The Paladin (PFRPG) by Stefen Styrsky for Open Design

Paladins were always a bit of a strange beast when I was playing a ton of D&D as a kid. The idea of a “holy warrior” who exists as the embodiment of law and goodness was nice and all, but very difficult to play – especially when you’re a “tween” exploring the concepts of true “good” and “evil.” As a GM I thought they’d work well as NPCs, but other than that we typically just ignored the “goody two-shoes” in the game.

That said, Stefen Styrsky’s Divine Favor: The Paladin presents some different ways to look at the D&D class in Pathfinder. Is it enough to get me to consider playing one? Maybe… Content-wise, the 20-page book breaks down into a few different sections, with sidebars scattered in to keep things informative and interesting.

Initially, the book offers some tips on the care and feeding of your paragon of goodness, exploring the many abilities they have at their disposal such as Smite Evil, Divine Bond, Lay on Hands, and more. There are even tips for choosing the right spells and skills. But where things start to get really interesting is with the various alternate class abilities. Imagine having more of a focus on Community or Glory, Law or Protection, rather than the good old divine bond. Each of these alternatives grants different abilities… For example “Community” grants abilities like Greater Aid, Ally Aura, Shared Fortitude, and others to help the group a bit more concretely.

If that’s not enough, there are some new archetypes to play with that also add some new abilities. Heavenly Beacon makes the paladin a shining example able to inspire others to greatness. The Metropolitan archetype helps paladins gain some useful powers to aid inhabitants of the corrupt city. Templar archetypes protect holy spaces against those who would despoil them…

The Codes of Conduct section details several vows a paladin might take to provide a code for them to follow on a righteous path. These would be useful for any GM or player looking for guidance playing religious characters such as priests or paladins. Vows of Abstinence, Poverty, Honesty, and Servitude provide overviews as well as suggested spells so long as the character maintains the tenets of the vow. If your character takes a vow of Honesty, they may never lie, cheat, or steal despite the context or the consequences. As a result they gain spells like Guidance and Stabilize at 1st level, Augury and True Strike at 2nd, etc., with spells through 4th level.

Also included are many new feats specifically for your paladin. Some of the new feats are very intriguing such as Mortified Flesh which grants you a DR of 1 + your Charisma modifier against non-lethal damage. Or Purity of Body if you took a vow of Abstinence, which grants a +2 bonus on saving throws vs. poison, drugs, and alcohol. More than a dozen are available.

Some of the sidebars are quite entertaining such as “Paladins in the Real World,” which offers some historical basis for paladins in the Crusades. Many RPG settings include multiple knight orders along the lines of the Knights Templar or the Teutonic Knights that D&D paladins would feel right at home in. A different sidebar shows the power of high level paladins in PFRPG. Any fighter with a 20th level paladin doing 50-60 HP of damage on the low end would be a monster in combat and I’d hate to make him (or her) mad.

At the beginning of this article I wondered if I’d be more likely to play a paladin if I had these options available. Even now I’m not sure that I would as a player, but I definitely would as a GM. Playing a “Lawful Good” character puts too many restraints on the flexibility often necessary as a PC that wouldn’t be as much of a problem as a NPC. The 20 pages of the Divine Favor: Paladin PDF offer plenty of intriguing options, but unless I had a really exciting character concept I think it would be difficult to play in a group.

The PDF is formatted in a traditional two column layout with a ragged right (left aligned) text line. In the background of every page is a faded grayscale knight in armor on a horse, which sometimes makes in-column images a bit clunky set over the background. Despite that, the fonts, headings, and white space make the text very easy reading. I did find a few editing mistakes, which is unusual in anything from Open Design, as well as a missing image, so I’m guessing I may not have the most recent copy of the book.

However… If you’re looking for some new ideas to revamp paladins, one of the least used character classes in my 30 years of gaming experience, Divine Favor: The Paladin has plenty to like. Great ideas on taking the one-size-fits-all holy warrior and giving him some real crunch. Check it out at DTRPG/RPGNow or at the Kobold Press store.

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