The Real and the Fantastical
The first exposure that I had with the term Paladin is from my days as a kid playing D&D. The paladin then was a magic wielding knight that used his magical abilities to heal and support his comrades in arms (unless he was of a chaotic evil alignment then he could inflict wounds rather then heal them). Little did I know that the paladin was an actual being in history. I think we should look at both.
The paladins of history are based on the retainers of one of Charlemangne’s vassals: Roland. These peers were known as the Twelve Peers. The Twelve Peers were knights, they were warriors and they were lead by Roland. From these people, the legend of the paladin was born. The word paladin first makes its appearance in the 16th century. The word originates from the Italian and it came to be applied to any knightly, chivalrous warrior over the years.
Particularly, the knights of King Arthur’s Court and famed Round table are known as paladins. They were the best of the best, the purest of the pure, the most valorous and chaste of the knights were referred to as paladins. Especially in the court of the French and English kings, the title of paladin was reserved for those of special station and prowess on the battlefield.
Now, for the fun part, the paladin of the fantastical role playing games and MMORPGs is a different critter all together. The paladin is a step above the regular knight. To use a word connection, the paladin is to the knight as the assassin is to the thief. The thief can assassinate but not as effectively as the assassin. The paladin is the epitome of the warrior classes. Here are a few things that all paladins would have in common:
- Superior Combat Skills – the paladin is going to be as good a fighter as a knight but is going to have trained with one weapon to the point that they are an expert with it.
- Magic Use – the paladin in the fantastical sense is a magic user as well as a warrior. The magical prowess of a paladin, is tied to the healing arts. If you want a healer in your group that deal out the damage as well, you want a pally.
- Serves an Order or Higher Being – the paladin is usually tied to a knightly order or the worship of a particular deity. Again, this goes back to the idea that paladins are healers as well.
And the paladin has survived past the concept of D&D, the paladin is a of course a class in World of Warcraft, other table top role playing games, Everquest and other MMORPGs. Just remember the next time you are rolling a character that the paladin does have some historical context as well.