[RPG] Why did D&D Paladins originally have a requirement to be Lawful Good?


In every edition of D&D before 4e, Paladins are required to be Lawful Good. If they stray from that, they are completely stripped of their powers. This means that evil deities can't grant powers to paladins or if they do, they go into a new class (e.g. Anti-Paladin).

My question is: why? Why was it designed that paladins have to have such a strict alignment? It seems to me that it unnecessarily pigeonholes the character types and doesn't make sense in D&D world. After all, couldn't evil deities have (un)holy warriors?

I also don't understand the mechanical decision about why was it designed that an evil Paladin has to be a different class. Wouldn't this create a problem if you wanted to redeem an evil Paladin into a good one? This never really made sense to me until 4e where they just dropped the Lawful Good restriction entirely and let you have a Paladin of Vecna (or have that Paladin of Vecna become a redeemed Paladin of Pelor without having to switch classes).

I'm especially interested if the D&D designers ever wrote anything about their decision to make it this way.

I'm mostly looking for an answer on why the rules were designed this way, not reasons for why non-Lawful Good paladins can't exist in the rules as they have been written by the designers.

Best Answer

Since Gary Gygax was the original "designer" let's look at what inspired his version and hence D&D's version of the Paladin.

This is from a Collection of "Sources for D&D" that was compiled by Aardy R. DeVarque, who draws his source directly from the original 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide.

Paladin Class

Based largely on the character of Holger Carlson from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, as well as Anderson's original sources, Charlemagne's paladins in the medieval French chansons de geste ("songs of deeds"), particularly The Song of Roland and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. The paladin's tie to a special war-horse is also from Three Hearts and Three Lions.

I do not mean a saint, but a warrior whom God gave more than common gifts and then put under a more than common burden. —Martinus, Three Hearts and Three Lions

So a lot of what the Paladin class is, seems to come from Three Hearts and Three Lions.

The main protagonist of the novel plays a crucial role in an epic struggle between Law and Chaos (this is also where the D&D alignment system came from). In the book, law and order are represented by Christianity, which was also considered a beacon of hope. This is, I think, the basis for the Lawful Good requirement and code of conduct that Gygax attached to the paladin class.

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