The Social Implications of Magic: Paladin Base

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2008

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"You have spells to let the Paladin be what he is meant to be: a heroic figure"

This is the fifth in a series of articles consisting of notes on each of the spell lists in the RMSS version of Spell Law. While it occasionally considers various other ideas concerning the spells, the primary focus is on the commercial or societal use of spells in order to see how they might influence the shape of a culture that employs them.


Detect Enemies would be very useful for stopping enemies at the border. Use of this spell depends on how "enemies" is defined. Still, I would think that United States Paladins could detect Islamist terrorists, as they are "religiously" antagonistic (even if the Paladin was himself Muslim, his religion would differ significantly), whereas a drug cartel hit man would pass inspection. It is also, of course, good for finding "enemies" that are hiding.

Enemy Speech is mainly useful for eavesdropping, infiltration, and such. It is a very limited, but powerful (8 ranks should be all one would normally need) language spell. It also means you do not need to learn their language to shout "Convert or Die!" at the enemy.

Cancels and Dispels are basic countermagics. They help make Paladins more attractive than Fighters when going up against magic-using opponents, but are not going to have any deep implications.

Dreams, Death's Tale, Commune, Channel Opening, and High Prayer have been covered under Communal Ways and give Paladins a chance to have some of the same impact as Clerics. A Paladin bent on "killing the [sinners/blasphemers/heretics/heathen/unbelievers/evil doers]" is likely to use these spells a lot for guidance to make certain he is killing the "right" people.


The Exorcisms list lets Paladins deal effectively with undead, demons and curses. This is very good for their heroic image. Of course, evil Paladins can use these spells as threats to gain cooperation, repel "good demons", or just do the hero thing like a good Paladin. "Evil cultists" need protection from rampaging monsters, too, you know.

Holy Arms

Holy Arms helps the Paladin fight any kind of foe, with some spells particularly helpful against Large and Super-Large creatures (Righteous Blow and Holy Focus). If there have been very high level Paladins around in the past, there may be legends of Holy Martyrs who saved (the church/the world/the chosen people/the sacred child/the royal family/some random people).

Holy Healing

Holy Healing offers a nice selection of healing spells, making the Paladin an excellent battlefield medic. When fighting as part of a unit against creatures the Paladin is not specialized to combat (undead, demons, "unholy" monsters), Paladins may routinely use their magic to serve the role of medic. This is especially true if specialist healers are unavailable or in short supply. Of course, outside of combat, these spells make the Paladin helpful in cases of injury and disease, so he can help those without access to other ready sources of healing.

Holy Shields

Holy Shields is the defensive brother to Holy Arms. It keeps the Paladin in the fight so he can smite the enemy. The Shield spell encourages the use of big, two-handed weapons, helping the Paladin's image as a dangerous fighter. Some of the spells are also useful for protecting others: Protection Prayer, Deflections, Bladeturn, and Aim Untrue. These spells, like the Holy Healing list, encourage the use of the Paladin as a leadership/support unit over use as a frontline combatant (when operating in a mixed unit and not facing his "special" targets). As I said when looking at Light's Way, the Aura spells are good to help identify a leader and make him appear more worthy of that position.

Inspiring Ways

Inspiring Ways directly helps the Paladin serve as field-commander with the Courage and Inspirations spells. The Voice/Words of (Something) spells and Command have a number of effects. They aid the Paladin in resolving conflicts peacefully when violence is inappropriate, allowing him to maintain order with minimal bloodshed or to pass through dangerous territory while avoiding unnecessary fights. Paladins make very suitable law enforcement officers. Voice/Words of Caution can prevent others from doing foolish/dangerous things, allowing the Paladin to play the protector in a non-combat role. Voice/Words of Reason/Friendship can help the Paladin in a diplomatic or evangelical role. Paladins in unfriendly territory can use these spells to gain aid and support where it might otherwise be scarce.

The Paladin's Role

The Paladin base lists allow him to be a highly effective fighter, especially against certain classes of monsters. They also make him very useful in a command or support role. Add to this some divine guidance, healing abilities, and persuasion, and you have a nice set of spells to let the Paladin be what he is meant to be: a heroic figure. Not all Paladins need take this obvious route, of course, and most spells work as well for the "bad guy" Paladins. But even Paladins who are not "good guys" should still have a heroic element to them. They are holy warriors of the highest order and even though their cause may not be just, they need to display courage and devotion to keep the favor of a god. He might just be too rigid and intolerant in his demanding faith or he might be a genuine villain of the sort one hates yet at some level admires.

In combining the martial virtues with a deep religious conviction, the Paladin appeals to a wide variety of personalities and I imagine the top Paladins would be as well known as sports and film celebrities in our society. They are almost custom-made to take on the most dramatic opponents and to leave favorable impressions on those who fight alongside them. A political endorsement from such a figure would carry weight. In certain societies, Paladins would also be ideal candidates for public office. If Paladins have their own organization(s) within the church, such organizations could be quite influential, possibly even more so than the central church hierarchy, especially if the society is at war or generally militant.

It is also possible to have a group of Paladins who are not organized under a clergy of Pure Spell-Users at all. A warrior cult might consist only of such fighter-priests or an order might be sponsored by the state, being highly religious, but not part of the religious structure. In these cases, they might be given greater civic responsibilities under a non-theocratic government, in which case they could, as under a theocracy, make a fine law enforcement or investigative force, as well as a sturdy military force. Indeed, in some religions, Paladins might not perform strictly military duties at all, only resorting to violence against "unclean terrors" or for immediate defense. In this case, they would almost certainly be used as guards/police by the church, state, or both. His numerous protective spells could make the Paladin a good choice as a bodyguard and they could make assassination substantially more difficult. (This will, of course, be balanced by other magic that makes assassination less difficult in most game worlds, but it is still a consideration in assassinations.)