[RPG] What happens if a Paladin has a crisis of faith


We have a long-running D&D 5e game in which there is a Paladin who worships a god invented by the Kuo-toa.

Per the Monster Manual:

Kuo-toa worship gods of their own insane creation, but if enough
kuo-toa believe that a god is real, the energy of their collective
subconscious can cause that god to manifest as a physical entity.

In our campaign, the Paladin, who is not a Kuo-toa but worships a god created by them, increasingly believes that the god does not represent what he thought it did. It turns out that the god is evil. This is creating a crisis of faith for him, and he will likely turn his back on the god entirely.

This is different than the Oathbreaker as described in the DMG, which is about Paladins who turn towards evil. The character has not broken his oath and is still following the tenets, but does not believe in the god.

My question is: If a Paladin abandons belief in a god, but does not seek to "pursue some dark ambition or serve an evil power," as stated in the DMG's Oathbreaker section, what happens?

Without faith, is he still a Paladin? Does he lose his magical abilities? Or should the character be re-classed into some other martial class upon abandoning his faith?

Best Answer

Changing to a new Oath may be appropriate

Other answers cover that there aren't any rules or flavor for Paladins which are fundamentally incompatible with your player's character realizing that he no longer agrees with the god he was worshiping. A Paladin's powers aren't necessarily derived from a god in the first place and it is entirely reasonable for the Paladin to abandon the god but keep his oath both flavorfully and mechanically.

However, if your player wants a mechanical change to represent such a profound shattering of their beliefs, especially if their oath isn't compatible with what they've learned (perhaps the original oath was specifically related to serving the deity) then an option from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything could be what you need (emphasis added):

Sometimes a character undergoes a dramatic transformation in their beliefs and abilities. When a character experiences a profound self-realization or faces an entity or a place of overwhelming power, beauty, or terror, the DM might allow an immediate subclass change.

I think that the situation you described certainly qualifies as a dramatic transformation of beliefs, possibly with an accompanied profound self-realization. The decision should not be unilateral from either the DM or the player, but if you discuss this option you may be able to find a new Oath that better aligns with the character's new priorities. Maybe an Oath of Vengeance against an individual or group who deceived the Paladin about the true nature of the god (or even against the god itself), an Oath of Devotion to a new god or to specifically finding his own "justice" without a specific god, or an Oath of Redemption after realizing how someone might be following evil without being evil. It definitely depends on what his previous oath is, and how his character plans to react to his revelation.

I don't recall any specific guidance for entirely changing class, but I don't think it would be particularly disruptive to move to a Fighter if the character is so distraught that they don't even want a new oath. The specifics of that change would also depend on a lot more details about the character's existing Paladin build and their new intentions; there aren't any official rules about how the conversion should happen.