A paladin swears to uphold justice and righteousness, to stand with the good things of the world against the encroaching darkness, and to hunt the forces of evil wherever they lurk. Different paladins focus on various aspects of the cause of righteousness, but all are bound by the oaths that grant them power to do their sacred work. Although many paladins are devoted to gods of good, a paladin’s power comes as much from a commitment to justice itself as it does from a god.
Paladins train for years to learn the skills of combat, mastering a variety of weapons and armor. Even so, their martial skills are secondary to the magical power they wield: power to heal the sick and injured, to smite the wicked and the undead, and to protect the innocent and those who join them in the fight for justice.
Almost by definition, the life of a paladin is an adventuring life. Unless a lasting injury has taken him or her away from adventuring for a time, every paladin lives on the front lines of the cosmic struggle against evil. Fighters are rare enough among the ranks of the militias and armies of the world, but even fewer people can claim the true calling of a paladin. When they do receive the call, these warriors turn from their former occupations and take up arms to fight evil. Sometimes their oaths lead them into the service of the crown as leaders of elite groups of knights, but even then their loyalty is first to the cause of righteousness, not to crown and country.
Adventuring paladins take their work seriously. A delve into an ancient ruin or dusty crypt can be a quest driven by a higher purpose than the acquisition of treasure. Evil lurks in dungeons and primeval forests, and even the smallest victory against it can tilt the cosmic balance away from oblivion.
Oath of Conquest
The Oath of Conquest calls to paladins who seek glory in battle and the subjugation of their enemies. It isn’t enough for these paladins to establish order. They must crush the forces of chaos. Sometimes called knight tyrants or ironmongers, those who swear this oath gather into grim orders that serve gods or philosophies of war and well-ordered might.
Some of these paladins go so far as to consort with the powers of the Nine Hells, valuing the rule of law over the balm of mercy. Some label these paladins, calling them hell knights. Hell knights cover their armor with trophies taken from fallen enemies, a grim warning to any who dare oppose them and the decrees of their lords. These knights are often most fiercely resisted by other paladins of this oath, who believe that the hell knights have wandered too far into the darkness.
TENETS OF CONQUEST
A paladin who takes this oath has the tenets of conquest seared on the upper arm.
Douse the Flame of Hope. It is not enough to merely defeat an enemy in battle. Your victory must be so overwhelming that your enemies’ will to fight is shattered forever. A blade can end a life. Fear can end an empire.
Rule with an Iron Fist. Once you have conquered, tolerate no dissent. Your word is law. Those who obey it shall be favored. Those who defy it shall be punished as an example to all who might follow.
Strength Above All. You shall rule until a stronger one arises. Then you must grow mightier and meet the challenge, or fall to your own ruin.
Oath of Devotion
The Oath of Devotion binds a paladin to the loftiest ideals of justice, virtue, and order. Sometimes called cavaliers, white knights, or holy warriors, these paladins meet the ideal of the knight in shining armor, acting with honor in pursuit of justice and the greater good. They hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct, and some, for better or worse, hold the rest of the world to the same standards. Many who swear this oath are devoted to gods of law and good and use their gods’ tenets as the measure of their devotion. They hold angels—the perfect servants of good—as their ideals, and incorporate images of angelic wings into their helmets or coats of arms.
TENETS OF DEVOTION
Though the exact words and strictures of the Oath of Devotion vary, paladins of this oath share these tenets.
Honesty. Don’t lie or cheat. Let your word be your promise.
Courage. Never fear to act, though caution is wise.
Compassion. Aid others, protect the weak and punish those who threaten them. Show mercy to your foes, but temper it with wisdom.
Honor. Treat others with fairness, and let your honorable deeds be an example to them. Do as much good as possible while causing the least amount of harm.
Duty. Be responsible for your actions and their consequences, protect those entrusted to your care, and obey those who have just authority over you.
Oath of Glory
Paladins who take the Oath of Glory believe they and their companions are destined to achieve glory through deeds of heroism. They train diligently and encourage their companions so they’re all ready when destiny calls.
TENETS OF GLORY
The tenets of the Oath of Glory drive a paladin to attempt heroics that might one day shine in legend.
Actions over Words. Strive to be known by glorious deeds, not words.
Challenges Are but Tests. Face hardships with courage, and encourage your allies to face them with you.
Hone the Body. Like raw stone, your body must be worked so its potential can be realized.
Discipline the Soul. You must marshal the discipline to overcome failings within yourself that threaten to dim the glory of you and your friends.
Oath of Redemption
The Oath of Redemption sets a paladin on a difficult path, one that requires a holy warrior to use violence only as a last resort. Paladins who dedicate themselves to this oath believe that any person can be redeemed and that the path of benevolence and justice is one that anyone can walk. These paladins face evil creatures in the hope of turning their foes to the light, and they slay their enemies only when such a deed will clearly save other lives. Paladins who follow this path are known as redeemers.
While redeemers are idealists, they are no fools. Redeemers know that undead, demons, devils, and other supernatural threats can be inherently evil. Against such foes, paladins who swear this oath bring the full wrath of their weapons and spells to bear. Yet the redeemers still pray that, one day, even creatures of wickedness will invite their own redemption.
TENETS OF REDEMPTION
The tenets of the Oath of Redemption hold a paladin to a high standard of peace and justice.
Peace. Violence is a weapon of last resort. Diplomacy and understanding are the paths to long-lasting peace.
Innocence. All people begin life in an innocent state, and it is their environment or the influence of dark forces that drives them to evil. By setting the proper example, and working to heal the wounds of a deeply flawed world, you can set anyone on a righteous path.
Patience. Change takes time. Those who have walked the path of the wicked must be given reminders to keep them honest and true. Once you have planted the seed of righteousness in a creature, you must work day after day to allow that seed to survive and flourish.
Wisdom. Your heart and mind must stay clear, for eventually you will be forced to admit defeat. While every creature can be redeemed, some are so far along the path of evil that you have no choice but to end their lives for the greater good. Any such action must be carefully weighed and the consequences fully understood, but once you have made the decision, follow through with it knowing your path is just.
Oath of the Ancients
The Oath of the Ancients is as old as the race of elves and the rituals of the druids. Sometimes called fey knights, green knights, or horned knights, paladins who swear this oath cast their lot with the side of the light in the cosmic struggle against the darkness because they love the beautiful and life-giving things of the world, not necessarily because they believe in principles of honor, courage, and justice. They adorn their armor and clothing with images of growing things—leaves, antlers, or flowers—to reflect their commitment to preserving life and light in the world.
TENETS OF THE ANCIENTS
The tenets of the Oath of the Ancients have been preserved for uncounted centuries. This oath emphasizes the principles of good above any concerns of law or chaos. Its four central principles are simple.
Kindle the Light. Through your acts of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness, kindle the light of hope in the world, beating back despair.
Shelter the Light. Where there is good, beauty, love, and laughter in the world, stand against the wickedness that would swallow it. Where life flourishes, stand against the forces that would render it barren.
Preserve Your Own Light. Delight in song and laughter, in beauty and art. If you allow the light to die in your own heart, you can’t preserve it in the world.
Be the Light. Be a glorious beacon for all who live in despair. Let the light of your joy and courage shine forth in all your deeds.
Oath of the Crown
The Oath of the Crown is sworn to the ideals of civilization, be it the spirit of a nation, fealty to a sovereign, or service to a deity of law and rulership. The paladins who swear this oath dedicate themselves to serving society and, in particular, the just laws that hold society together. These paladins are the watchful guardians on the walls, standing against the chaotic tides of barbarism that threaten to tear down all that civilization has built, and are commonly known as guardians, exemplars, or sentinels. Often, paladins who swear this oath are members of an order of knighthood in service to a nation or a sovereign and undergo their oath as part of their admission to the order’s ranks.
TENETS OF THE CROWN
The tenets of the Oath of the Crown are often set by the sovereign to which their oath is sworn, but generally emphasize the following tenets.
Law. The law is paramount. It is the mortar that holds the stones of civilization together, and it must be respected.
Loyalty. Your word is your bond. Without loyalty, oaths and laws are meaningless.
Courage. You must be willing to do what needs to be done for the sake of order, even in the face of overwhelming odds. If you don’t act, then who will?
Responsibility. You must deal with the consequences of your actions, and you are responsible for fulfilling your duties and obligations.
Oath of the Marine
The Oath of the Marine is most likely the oldest oath a paladin can swear. These paladins are known as Deepwardens and watch over the waters they call home.
Bent on maintaining their ancient rites- to protect the ocean, to preserve marine life, and to bring peace between the land striders and the deep-dwellers- these Paladins walk a path few can tread between the waves and shore.
TENETS OF THE MARINE
The tenets of the Oath of the Marine are personal yet fundamental, and all relate to working with the natural oceanic world to protect its balance. Paladins who keep this Oath will often reject societies that greedily take natural resources, preferring instead to live amongst the waves or on desert islands where they are the first line of defense, and the last warrior standing against the tide of invasion.
Harmony. You can bring both destruction and preservation. You must find a balance between living in your ecosystem, not overhunting, or protecting the prey from predators. You are an instrument of change that can destroy dangers, and maintain balance.
Shelter. Marine life is diverse, but a change to the ecosystem can cause ruin. You must shelter and tend to the life under your care.
Prevention. Life is unpredictable. Measures must be taken to reduce the harm invasive species can do, be they beast, people, or monsters.
Adapt. You can change. Even if your ecosystem is damaged, new life will return. Like it, you must learn and grow so that you may be prepared for what challenges you face.
Oath of the Open Sea
The Oath of the Open Sea calls to sea-faring warriors, swashbuckling sailors, and journeying guardians who seek the thrill of an endless horizon. Driven to seek the adventure and mystery across and beneath every endless oceanic expanse, paladins who swear this oath stand against those who would deny the liberties afforded to likeminded travelers, rooting out the tyrannical and corrupt that claim any shore. Such guardians believe in the natural beauty of the sea, often making offerings and prayers to entities or deities like the Wild Mother or Storm Lord that influence safe passage, while often feeling called to hunt those monstrosities that seek to terrorize and spoil the waters with wanton violence and ill intent.
TENETS OF THE OPEN SEA
No Greater Life than a Life Lived Free. One should be free to chart their own path without oppression. Those who would exert their power to dominate others shall be smote.
Trust the Skies. The guidance of a strong breeze. The rumbling warnings of a coming storm. Nature is a source of portent and council that should be heeded.
Adapt like the Water. The waters of the ocean can shift around any obstacle or become an impassable one. They can carve around and reveal the secrets of the past or swallow the truth and hide it forever. To embrace this fluidity is to be ready for any challenge.
Explore the Uncharted. The world is filled with much mystery. Through the pursuit of these enigmatic ends, one can both uncover those who hide their dark deeds in shadow to be judged, and find the path to becoming something great.
Oath of the Sohei
The sacred Oath of Sohei is sworn by a Paladin who is willing to sacrifice his life to defend his charge from all harm. As opposed to other paladins who protect laws, citizens, abstract ideals, nature, or their country, this oath focuses on protecting specific individuals or groups.
A Samurai or Ronin Paladin who swears the Oath of protection is called a Yojimbo. An Acolyte or Hermit paladin who swears an Oath to protect a monastery is called a Sohei. Paladins of other backgrounds, such as Folk heroes or Soldiers, devote themselves to protecting their villages or their adventuring companions. A few Paladins who swear this Oath come from Entertainer, Charlatan, or Geisha backgrounds, to provide discreet protection without drawing attention to their role.
Oath of the Watchers
The Oath of the Watchers binds paladins to protect mortal realms from the predations of extraplanar creatures, many of which can lay waste to mortal soldiers. Thus, the Watchers hone their minds, spirits, and bodies to be the ultimate weapons against such threats.
Paladins who follow the Watchers’ oath are ever vigilant in spotting the influence of extraplanar forces, often establishing a network of spies and informants to gather information on suspected cults. To a Watcher, keeping a healthy suspicion and awareness about one’s surroundings is as natural as wearing armor in battle.
TENETS OF THE WATCHERS
A paladin who assumes the Oath of the Watchers swears to safeguard mortal realms from otherworldly threats.
Vigilance. The threats you face are cunning, powerful, and subversive. Be ever alert for their corruption.
Loyalty. Never accept gifts or favors from fiends or those who truck with them. Stay true to your order, your comrades, and your duty.
Discipline. You are the shield against the endless terrors that lie beyond the stars. Your blade must be forever sharp and your mind keen to survive what lies beyond.
Oath of Vengeance
The Oath of Vengeance is a solemn commitment to punish those who have committed a grievous sin. When evil forces slaughter helpless villagers, when an entire people turn against the will of the gods, when a thieves’ guild grows too violent and powerful, when a dragon rampages through the countryside — at times like these, paladins arise and swear an Oath of Vengeance to set right that which has gone wrong. To these paladins — sometimes called avengers or dark knights — their own purity is not as important as delivering justice.
TENETS OF VENGEANCE
The tenets of the Oath of Vengeance vary by paladin, but all the tenets revolve around punishing wrongdoers by any means necessary. Paladins who uphold these tenets are willing to sacrifice even their own righteousness to mete out justice upon those who do evil, so the paladins are often neutral or lawful neutral in alignment. The core principles of the tenets are brutally simple.
Fight the Greater Evil. Faced with a choice of fighting my sworn foes or combating a lesser evil, I choose the greater evil.
No Mercy for the Wicked. Ordinary foes might win my mercy, but my sworn enemies do not.
By Any Means Necessary. My qualms can’t get in the way of exterminating my foes.
Restitution. If my foes wreak ruin on the world, it is because I failed to stop them. I must help those harmed by their misdeeds.