Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Class Struggles: The Anti-Paladin

For the month of October I want to focus on classes that have a certain amount of evil or horror associated with them.  So first up is a class that may have been one of the classes that got me thinking about doing a witch in the first place.  The Anti-Paladin.

The Anti-Paladin
Really, if you think about it the Anti-Paladin was a no brainer.  If there is a hero in white or shinning armor, then there is a dastardly foe in black, twirling his moustache and laughing evilly.  My first experience with the Anti-Paladin was finding him in the pages of The Best of Dragon Magazine Vol. 2.  It would have been somewhere in the summer of 1982.  I remember laying on the floor of my parents van reading while we drove to some family function in Southern Illinois.  I had that and the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.    The Anti-Paladin fascinated me because he was so evil and the class was so detailed.  Several pages in fact. This issue also had other classes; the healer, the ninja (2 versions), the samurai and the berserker.  But this was the one that captured my attention the most.

I could tell even then the class was way over-powered for normal play.  Basically he was a paladin AND an assassin all in one.  I did have an anti-paladin character for a while.  I would use him as an NPC at times too. I played him more or less like I imagined then how Gilles de Rais was; aristocratic, maybe a bit of a fop, and evil to the freaking core.

I still liked the idea of the anti-paladin.  Something so antithetical to good as to be it's own dark reflection.  Something who's mere existence should cause the paladin to either quake in his shiny metal boots or fill him with enough steely resolve to destroy the beast.

Unlike some classes that get reimaged or redone every so often (the witch, necromancer and ninja are prime examples) the Dragon article pretty much became the definitive word on the anti-paladin for many, many years.   Even (maybe especially) during the 2e years that avoided any sign of "evil".
There was a follow-up, the very popular "Plethora of Paladins" article in Dragon #106, over five and half years after the anti-paladin appeared.  Even the Complete Paladin's Handbook for 2e claimed there was no such thing as an anti-paladin.  In fact we would not see an official anti-paladin till the WotC years.

The release of the D&D 3.0 Dungeon Master's Guide saw the return of the "evil" classes the Assassin and the anti-paladin in the form of the Blackguard.  Both were now "Prestige Classes".  The Blackguard was something akin to anti-paladin if he had begun as a paladin and then fell.  As an experiment with the new D&D 3.0 conversion guide I tried to rebuild my old anti-paladin as a new blackguard.  Of course my character never began as a paladin, so a multiclassed fighter/cleric/blackguard was the way to go.  Nice, but not really who that character was.
But the OGL meant the flood gates were now open and we got a number of paladins, alt-paladins and anti-paladins.  The Pathfinder rules might have one of the best "Antipaladins" since it is an "alternate" class of the Paladin.

In the OSR world one of the better Anti-Paladins comes from the ACKS Player's Companion book.  It captures the feel of the Dragon article quite well I think.  It is also given enough reason to exist without being grossly overpowered.   There is also the Barrel Rider Games Player's Companion that presents a number of new class features and, appropriately enough on page 13, the Anti-Paladin.
This class is not as detailed as the Dragon article (but to be fair, little is) but it covers all the basics.

In my mind the idea of the Anti-Paladin was an obvious one, but it seems to me that Baron Meliadus, the Wolf-helmeted villain of the Hawkmoon series by Micheal Moorcock was a good archetypical anti-paladin.  He was part of the nobility, but amoral and debase (some would say those are not as mutually exclusive as we are led to believe).  But he shared a number of qualities with the the hero of our tale, Dorian Hawkmoon.  Hawkmoon was the closest thing Moorcock ever wrote to a paladin in my mind.


How about you all?
Ever play one of these?

5 comments:

rjschwarz said...

I remember the original Dragon magazine anti-paladin. It was written as an NOC but had experience points and everything needed to play as a PC (which everyone knew was the actual point).

I also remember Gary going off on the Anti-Paladin in one of his articles.

JB said...

I love, and have always loved, the concept of the anti-paladin, specifically as a fallen champion of good (see Darth Vader). Even the blackguard was pretty good. Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity to play one...they don't really lend themselves to cooperative "team" play. Some day, I'll throw a good one into a game as an NPC. Hopefully more than one.

I think Hackmaster's anti-paladin is the best of the bunch; certainly the best write-up: "Chaos and evil deeds are the liquor and smokes of the anti-paladin." That's poetry.

: )

Andy Bartlett said...

I always think of Anti-Paladins in the line of the early Warhammer take on Champions of Chaos (which would bring us around, by a few twists and turns, to Moorcock) - not so much the regimented servants of a greater will (the Realms of Chaos sourcebook explicitly states that some Champions of Chaos fought against Chaos Incursions), more independent 'heroes' engaging in a mythic (though Chaotic, ahuman/ahumane) quest.

alzrius said...

You're right that, following the 1E era, we didn't get an anti-paladin until WotC took over...but that was before they released 3E.

Instead, the anti-paladin made a very late 2E return in the pages of Dungeon magazine #75, which I was very excited to read at the time.

Sean Robert Meaney said...

No...realized the party paladin was in fact an antipaladin too late when my cleric refused to hand over the gem from the Pharaoh's pyramid and poor Tundra was evicerated.

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