Whether a merciful protector of the weak, a cold agent of the legal system, or a violent angel of revenge, paladins always serve "justice" in one way or another.
Much like shamans, paladins make a pact, bargain or exchange to gain their powers. Each individual paladin meets an avatar of Justice at some point in their life. Some make an intentional pilgrimage seeking such an entity, others run into one as part of their daily work in law enforcement or another field. More than a few paladins are first approached during a traumatic or dramatic moment in their lives when the power to enforce justice is truly needed right then. Unlike shamans, however, this deal is always the same, regardless of the circumstances under which this being is encountered, or whom the paladin met in particular. Athena is fairly common in much of Europe and North America, as is Blind Justice. Yama and Skanda have been seen all across East Asia, and Hōzōin In'ei has been encountered by certain Japanese Paladins. In Northern Europe, Tyr seems to appear regularly, while a few paladins in the American West have reported meeting Wyatt Earp. Egyptian Paladins often encounter the goddess Ma'at. At least one English paladin in the service of Her Majesty the Queen claims to have met a manifestation of Inspector Lestrade who offered him the pact. In all cases, the exchange is thus: service and sacrifice, in exchange for the power to exact justice when and where it is needed. That simple trade is at the heart of every paladin.
Mechnically, paladins may fulfill a variety of roles, though every paladin is hard to put down and harder to keep there. Besides their common durability, they may serve as healers (Virtue), defensive protectors of their group (Bastion, and to a lesser extent, Heroica), incredibly potent damage-dealers (Smiting), or some combination of these roles. Many paladin abilities work best when shared with allies, although solo paladins can also be very effective (particularly with Smiting and multiclassing for tracks such as Path of Destruction or Fortune's Friend). While any class can choose any set of skills, the high charisma common to all paladins makes them naturally suited for interaction skills (which can, of course, be useful in the pursuit of justice). Athletics is certainly useful to any character with high strength, and Vigor is a boon to any warrior expected to stand fast against fearsome enemies. Paladins often have training in a knowledge skill relevant to their particular region or the foes they most often face, to prepare them for the trials ahead.
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