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    Default Stump the exalted paladin

    Hi there. I'm a frequent poster in the 3.5/pathfinder subforum of the roleplaying forum and this game is mostly for others that frequent that area though, of course, anyone is welcome to play.

    I've said, on a number of occasions now, that putting a paladin or vow of poverty character in a genuine no win situation is much harder than people like to think. I figure it's probably about time to put my money where my mouth is.

    Here's the deal. Present a scenario in which the titular character, a paladin with a vow of poverty per the rules from the 3.5 PHB and BoED, is given a task that will force him to lose the benefits of his paladin class features or his vow of poverty. I, or anyone else who cares to, will try to think of a way out of the presented scenario, special abilities in tact.

    Here's the relevant rules text for anyone that doesn't have easy access:

    Quote Originally Posted by Paladin's CoC
    A paladin must be of lawful good alignment and loses all class abilities if she ever willingly commits an evil act.

    Additionally, a paladin’s code requires that she respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use the help for evil or chaotic ends), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents.
    Quote Originally Posted by vow of poverty
    To fulfill your vow, you must not own or use any material possessions, with the following exceptions: You may carry and use ordinary (neither magic nor masterwork) simple weapons, usually just a quarterstaff that serves as a walking stick. You may wear simple clothes (usually just a homespun robe, possibly also including a hat and sandals) with no magical properties. You may carry enough food to sustain you for one day in a simple (nonmagic) sack or bag. You may carry and use a spell component pouch. You may not use any magic item of any sort, though you can benefit from magic items used on your behalf—you can drink a potion of cure serious woundsa friend gives you, receive a spell cast from a wand, scroll, or staff, or ride on your companion’s ebony fly.You may not, however, “borrow” a cloak of resistance or any other magic item from a companion for even a single round, nor may you yourself cast a spell from a scroll, wand, or staff.
    Two final notes:

    1) The presented scenario must be RAW legal; no DM fiat special effects.

    2) because it would be pointless to do otherwise, evil will be defined as it is in the BoVD. With the very important added note that what another creature/character does as a direct response to the paladin's actions doesn't weigh on the paladin's soul; i.e. if a blackguard has a hostage at bladepoint and says "submit or die," the blackguard stabbing the hostage and killing him because the paladin didn't surrender weighs against the blackguard not the paladin.

    That's it then. Let's try to keep this fun.

    - - - Updated - - -

    A few forgotten details.

    1) bonus points if you can get the paladin to violate both simultaneously.

    2) the paladin's build is intentionally undefined, however I, at least, don't plan on claiming a bunch of multiclassing to work around the limitations of the class, though I will apply some paladin specific or very paladin friendly PrC's if I think it's strictly necessary to get out of the situation.

    3) The special mount can be any creature preapproved for use as one in any of the various rules supplements.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2014-12-01 at 08:54 PM.
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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    I'll get this started with something easyish then.

    The Exalted Paladin sees a rogue steal candy from a baby. After arresting the rogue in question, he discovers that, during the trial proceedings, all witnesses are required to testify using a zone of truth item (let's say it's a magic hat), to prevent falsehoods.

    The rogue will not be found guilty without the Paladin's testimony. What does the Paladin do?

    Edit: forgot an apostrophe.
    Last edited by Magma Armor0; 2014-12-01 at 09:12 PM.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    I thought Zone of Truth had an area effect rather than just hitting the one touching it? Assuming that there is a reason for the ZoT to be only effective on people wearing it, just have it so that the Paladin will not make movement to attach it to their head (but allow someone else to do so) or say sodall and cast it himself. It's a Paladin 2 spell. The REAL question is how someone else determines if they failed the save.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    I would actually use the codes against each other in that scenario. A paladin isn't allowed to lie, lest they lose their paladin abilities. Thus, if you indicate that you have paladin powers both before and after the testimony, that should be sufficient evidence. Paladins have a pretty broad set of abilities that aren't all that available elsewhere, so it could work. I don't know if such a thing is possible to prove perfectly, but you can get reasonably close. Probably better evidence than something as notoriously problematic as zone of truth.

    Edit: You could even get someone who knows you to wear the hat and attest that the abilities in question can be sourced to your paladin nature.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2014-12-01 at 09:31 PM.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    After a long day of adventuring (thus, with all Lay on Hands and spells spent), a high-level VoP paladin with no ranks in Heal (since it's not a very useful skill for high-level characters) comes across the tail end of a battle between a group of noble adventurers and a band of black-hearted thugs; three of the adventurers are dying, unstabilized, and poisoned, while the last one standing is a Frenzied Berserker who has long since stopped caring if he's knocking the thugs out or killing them. The thugs are a local crime gang with a long rap sheet and a habit of using Con-damage poison on their weapons. Local governments want them taken alive because they've taken hostages, and only the gang knows where the hostages are; if they're killed, finding the hostages before the die from thirst and starvation will be all but impossible. The individual thugs are no match for the paladin, and are only slightly more threatening to the Frenzied Berserker. One of the adventurers, a mid-level cleric, has several wands of Cure Light Wounds and some scrolls of Neutralize Poison; you're fairly certain that the Frenzied Berserker is neither capable of nor willing to use them at the moment. The Frenzied Berserker is tough, but you can take them down if you need to. Unless the Frenzied Berserker is subdued, he will attempt to kill the thugs, regardless of what you do. Note that this is arguably different from the Blackguard example in the OP: in the OP example, the Blackguard makes an intentional, thought out choice to put someone in danger; here, the FB literally can't stop attacking unless they're subdued.

    If you subdue the thugs and the FB, the adventurers will die from you taking too long to stabilize them and neutralize the poison. This action is decidedly non-Good, but is at least partially balanced against a different Good act (saving the hostages) as well as a decidedly Lawful action (bringing the thugs to justice).

    If you subdue the thugs but not the FB, the FB will kill the thugs; the thugs will not face legal justice and the hostages will die. That makes this action arguably non-Lawful as well as arguably non-Good.

    If you allow the adventurers to die, that is a decidedly non-Good act. However, the only way to save them in time is to make use of their magic items, which would break your Vow of Poverty. Sure, they're not your items, but by RAW, you can't use any items; items can be used on your behalf, but this isn't like that.

    What do you do?
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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    Quote Originally Posted by aleucard View Post
    I thought Zone of Truth had an area effect rather than just hitting the one touching it? Assuming that there is a reason for the ZoT to be only effective on people wearing it, just have it so that the Paladin will not make movement to attach it to their head (but allow someone else to do so) or say sodall and cast it himself. It's a Paladin 2 spell. The REAL question is how someone else determines if they failed the save.
    Fair enough. Let's say it's a command word item created in an age long past by a CL 20 Cleric. The creator's high CL is the reason why the courts only accept testimony from those who have activated the hat. (like being sworn in on a Bible/Torah/etc. but with a hat instead)
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    I would actually use the codes against each other in that scenario. A paladin isn't allowed to lie, lest they lose their paladin abilities. Thus, if you indicate that you have paladin powers both before and after the testimony, that should be sufficient evidence. Paladins have a pretty broad set of abilities that aren't all that available elsewhere, so it could work. I don't know if such a thing is possible to prove perfectly, but you can get reasonably close. Probably better evidence than something as notoriously problematic as zone of truth.

    Edit: You could even get someone who knows you to wear the hat and attest that the abilities in question can be sourced to your paladin nature.
    Creative! I like it. Let's assume though that the letter of the law is clear: no one can testify in the court except under influence of the magic hat (described in a little more detail above). While the court recognizes that you have a completely valid point, and they will be amending their laws after this trial to reflect this, their legal code forbids changing the law in the middle of a trial. As such, they are forced to stand by the old law and repeat their request for you to put the hat on and speak the command word/oath thingy.

    Edit: for clarity's sake: You both "won." I'm just proposing a slightly different scenario. Round 2, as it were.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    Quote Originally Posted by Magma Armor0 View Post
    I'll get this started with something easyish then.

    The Exalted Paladin sees a rogue steal candy from a baby. After arresting the rogue in question, he discovers that, during the trial proceedings, all witnesses are required to testify using a zone of truth item (let's say it's a magic hat), to prevent falsehoods.

    The rogue will not be found guilty without the Paladin's testimony. What does the Paladin do?

    Edit: forgot an apostrophe.
    Easy indeed.

    Diplomacy. The paladin reminds the court of who and more importantly -what- he is; an exalted paladin. His word should be acceptable without such a device.

    Alternately, he can cast ZoT himself. The spell effect desired is in place and should satisfy the court's desire for such.

    Alternate to that, explain the unfortunate situation and request a cleric, perhaps the one who made the hat, be sent for to cast the spell on the court's behalf. The much more difficult to resist form of the spell should easily assuage the court's fear of not using the helmet.

    For bonus roleplay xp, inform someone in charge of the court that the whole room could be blanketed in a constant ZoT via magical architecture for future trials.
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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    How much control do we have over the Paladin's starting condition for the challenge? For instance, could we say something like "after a pitched battle you have used up all of your spell slots" or similar?
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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    Quote Originally Posted by Magma Armor0 View Post
    Creative! I like it. Let's assume though that the letter of the law is clear: no one can testify in the court except under influence of the magic hat (described in a little more detail above). While the court recognizes that you have a completely valid point, and they will be amending their laws after this trial to reflect this, their legal code forbids changing the law in the middle of a trial. As such, they are forced to stand by the old law and repeat their request for you to put the hat on and speak the command wod/oath thingy.
    My first thought for a workaround is to cite the legitimate authority clause of the paladin code, under the general assumption that such an irrational rule, or at least a rule on that level of irrational in this circumstance, makes for an illegitimate authority. Maybe not in general, but certainly in this case. Using that as the basis, you can presumably seek out your own form of punishment for the wrongdoing, and thus maintain your position with respect to the paladin code.

    Edit: As for the AvatarVecna scenario, I can't see any real violation of the paladin code aside from the potential death of the adventurers. And, as long as you put in a good faith attempt to save them, I don't think falling is a real outcome. After all, a first level paladin likely wouldn't fall if they failed to save some commoners from death against a massive dragon.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2014-12-02 at 01:06 AM.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    My first thought for a workaround is to cite the legitimate authority clause of the paladin code, under the general assumption that such an irrational rule, or at least a rule on that level of irrational in this circumstance, makes for an illegitimate authority. Maybe not in general, but certainly in this case. Using that as the basis, you can presumably seek out your own form of punishment for the wrongdoing, and thus maintain your position with respect to the paladin code.

    Edit: As for the AvatarVecna scenario, I can't see any real violation of the paladin code aside from the potential death of the adventurers. And, as long as you put in a good faith attempt to save them, I don't think falling is a real outcome. After all, a first level paladin likely wouldn't fall if they failed to save some commoners from death against a massive dragon.
    Paladin's have to be both Lawful and Good. Evil acts are more unforgivable, but Chaotic acts are still potentially fall-inducing. Furthermore, the Vow of Poverty is an Exalted feat; to keep it, you need to keep your Exalted status; Exalted is like Good+, so while you don't have anything to conflict with it on the other alignment axis, it makes non-Good and Evil acts even more unforgivable.

    The big difference between the scenarios is that, in your scenario, the act that kills them is not one the paladin can prevent from happening or fix after it's happened; in my scenario, the action that harmed the adventurers didn't kill them outright, although they will bleed to death if action isn't taken. Furthermore, the paladin is capable of saving them from death; they're simply refusing to do so in order to maintain their Vow of Poverty. Compare to this:

    "Oh my god, Dave's having an asthma attack! He's not breathing, and he's got no pulse! Does anybody know CPR?!"

    "I know CPR!"

    "Great! Please, save him! ...WHY AREN'T YOU SAVING HIM?!!"

    "Well...I've got this thing about germs..."

    "HE'S DYING!"

    "I know, it sucks, but what am I supposed to do? I get sick really easily; I just can't take that risk."

    If that dude was a paladin in my game, I'd make him fall from paladin-hood, Vow of Cleanliness be damned.

    The point of the vows, the paladin code, and similar things is to attach a mechanical effect to roleplaying. Furthermore, putting alignment, codes, values, beliefs, and oaths into conflict to see how a character acts is one of the best ways to develop the character. I've DM'd for two players who made paladins; both times, early on in the game, I set up something that would cause a conflict of faith, but that wasn't important enough to make the paladin fall. The intention was to help the players (video gamer guys who weren't used to roleplaying) figure out exactly who they wanted their person to be. One ended up being a pretty standard paladin, but by choice rather than default; the other went on to become a paladin fluffed as a Medieval Batman. It was perfectly played, and he only went down that road because he was pushed into deciding how different aspects of Lawfulness and Goodness weighed against each other to his character.

    Kelb's right: it's hard to make a literally no-win situation; most of the people who've had a paladin fall either totally deserved it ("You just murdered a kid for no good reason! You fall!") or they had Alignment Nazis for DMs ("Reflex save! You failed; you just accidentally stepped on a Petal flying through the forest! You fall!"). That said, we must keep in mind...
    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
    The paladin in my scenario must either stand by while good people bleed out on the ground, or he must use the resources available (the wands and scrolls) and heal them. One way or another, some code of conduct is being broken.

    I will say this: any DM that drops this situation on a VoP Paladin who just finished a day of adventuring is a total rooster. But this challenge is about situations that break the vows, not the meta-politics going on in the real world that brought about such a no-win situation in-game.
    Last edited by AvatarVecna; 2014-12-02 at 02:53 AM.
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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    hmm, following the VoP rules to the letter, it seems a character wouldn't be allowed to carry a large amount of food in order to save a village from starvation.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarVecna View Post
    After a long day of adventuring (thus, with all Lay on Hands and spells spent), a high-level VoP paladin with no ranks in Heal (since it's not a very useful skill for high-level characters) Not your call comes across the tail end of a battle between a group of noble adventurers and a band of black-hearted thugs; three of the adventurers are dying, unstabilized, and poisoned, while the last one standing is a Frenzied Berserker who has long since stopped caring if he's knocking the thugs out or killing them. The thugs are a local crime gang with a long rap sheet and a habit of using Con-damage poison on their weapons. Local governments want them taken alive because they've taken hostages, and only the gang knows where the hostages are; if they're killed, finding the hostages before the die from thirst and starvation will be all but impossible. The individual thugs are no match for the paladin, and are only slightly more threatening to the Frenzied Berserker. One of the adventurers, a mid-level cleric, has several wands of Cure Light Wounds and some scrolls of Neutralize Poison; you're fairly certain that the Frenzied Berserker is neither capable of nor willing to use them at the moment. The Frenzied Berserker is tough, but you can take them down if you need to. Unless the Frenzied Berserker is subdued, he will attempt to kill the thugs, regardless of what you do. Note that this is arguably different from the Blackguard example in the OP: in the OP example, the Blackguard makes an intentional, thought out choice to put someone in danger; here, the FB literally can't stop attacking unless they're subdued.

    If you subdue the thugs and the FB, the adventurers will die from you taking too long to stabilize them and neutralize the poison. This action is decidedly non-Good, but is at least partially balanced against a different Good act (saving the hostages) as well as a decidedly Lawful action (bringing the thugs to justice).

    If you subdue the thugs but not the FB, the FB will kill the thugs; the thugs will not face legal justice and the hostages will die. That makes this action arguably non-Lawful as well as arguably non-Good.

    If you allow the adventurers to die, that is a decidedly non-Good act. However, the only way to save them in time is to make use of their magic items, which would break your Vow of Poverty. Sure, they're not your items, but by RAW, you can't use any items; items can be used on your behalf, but this isn't like that.

    What do you do?
    First thing's fist, that FB isn't going to stop with the thugs unless his frenzy runs out just in time. On the other hand I don't need -all- of the bandits alive either.

    Spend a couple turns trying to stabalize the closest of the dying adventurers with heal checks, it is a class skill after all, then, when the thugs' numbers are dwindling, rush toward one of the thugs that's still standing with a roared threat that if he doesn't flee I'll tear him apart. Hopefully, he'll take the hint and flee.

    If he does, I change course to stop the FB and let the thug escape. We can follow him later and he'll buy some time for us with the hostages by keeping them alive.

    If he doesn't then I fight to subdue, then turn on the FB when he drops unconcious.

    All in all, an interesting scenario but ultimately not even an apparent no win. Neither the CoC, the vow, nor being exalted punish the character for failing to save lives.

    That said, your setup is a bit too informed. How could the paladin know that there even are hostages, that the fallen adventurerer even has those items, or that the thugs are actually the bad guys?

    Unless he's encountered one or the other group before then he has no way of knowing which side is in the right and should probably only try to heal the fallen and let the chips fall where they may in the battle, only attempting to stop the FB when everyone else is down to minimize casualties.

    If he was informed of the hostage situation beforehand, maybe that's his mission, a wolf special mount would allow him to track the hostages by scent sampled from the adventure's starting point, negating the need to save the thugs at all.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2014-12-02 at 08:36 PM.
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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    Alternatively, if we're just tackling this straight from a literal situation/build alteration angle, I think the divine spirit ACF can handle the stabilization efforts well enough.

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    Default Re: Stump the exalted paladin

    This whole build aspect of things brings the exalted problem to a weird sort of conclusion, I think. In particular, the best way to avoid breaking your many sworn vows is to have a lot of power. For example, looking at that original bag of teleportation problem, the true optimal answer is to just use one of your natively available teleportation spells to go to the orphans yourself. Similarly, the answer to healing running out in this circumstance is to just have more healing, and one of the best ways to get around the need for a zone of truth effect is to just have one of your own. Hell, you could even push things to the next level and cast inquisition. Overall, the answer to a dilemma is to take a third option, and the best way to take a third option is to have lots of options.

    Kinda makes this into a paladin optimization thread, and it means that the best way to stop the paladin might just be presenting overwhelming force. Like, we had this healing the dying folks scenario, and that's a good start, but paladins are healers. Instead of this low ball stuff, let's make the opposing force into a massive dragon that the paladin can't possibly stop without some item, and maybe make the protected beings some innocents that some mighty and king demands you save, or something. I don't have an exact scenario, but it seems like a good tact.

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