The Paladin has long been a favored character class, while the Cleric is not as much. Yet they are quite similar in many ways and in their roles in an adventuring party. I think part of it is that the name Cleric isn't particularly great branding, it sounds like a clerk. Someone who stays in the office filing papers. It is suspected that the Cleric was more inspired by Hammer Horror film depictions of Professor Abraham Van Helsing than by anything from medieval or fantasy literature that inspired D&D in the first place.
While the Paladin is a great character class, it also has very high restrictions and is difficult to qualify for. How many times have you honestly rolled up a character using the trusty old roll 4d6 drop lowest method that had the stats to be a Paladin? While that makes them rare and cool, it is also a little discouraging.
So you end up just making a Cleric right?
The name Paladin itself extends back to the age of Charlemagne and the legendary knights who served him. The source material for Paladins as a class goes back to the age of chivalry crossed with the grim historical reality of the Crusades and the Templars, Knights Hospitaller, and the Teutonic Knights. These grimmer, grittier Paladins were faithful servants of the Faith, and were also seasoned and experienced soldiers. This contradictory role is an idea that has long held a fascination for those interested in history, as well as romantic literature, and as it happens in adventure gaming as well.
The contemplative monk who is also an armored warrior bound by oaths to a higher ideal is a compelling idea. An expert at war dedicated to peace. Well, that's the idea anyways. Adapting this to a swords & sorcery fantasy milieu has held a place in my imagination for some time, and I started working on the character class sometime ago. I finally had to finish it up because they were becoming a distraction to other projects I want to finish.
The history and lore for monastic knights is wide and deep. A person could dedicate an entire career to just studying this field. I quickly realized there would be no way to encapsulate all that lore into a satisfying historical based character class, nor should I want to. D&D is a fantasy game and calls for fantasy characters. What this has ended up being are three classes that each have a compelling and unique flavor that can satisfy that role of the Paladin without being quite so restrictive to qualify for.
The monastic knights come in three general types:
- Knights of Sanctity (Sanctifiers) are balanced between being warriors and healers.
- Knights of Ardor (Ardents) are compassionate healers and only fight as necessary.
- Knights of Vindication (Vindicators) are formidable warriors with a few spells.