So often, when I think of a Paladin (like many other people—though not all), I think of the now-classic Paladin from World of Warcraft. I have tried to create and perfect a similar Paladin in the Elder Scrolls throughout the years and with the addition of the Dawnguard expansion, like so many others, the temptation to take another crack at it was just all-too-evident. In many ways, Skyrim has offered me many ways to roleplay the typical Holy abilities of the WoW Paladin, and I’ve utilized all those here, but before we get to the particulars, let’s set the roleplaying background for this character.
The Paladin, as always, is a holy warrior of faith and justice, bringing peace and order across Tamriel. As all warriors, they train in combat rigorously from a young age, but unlike the common sellsword or soldier, Paladins also train in the use of Holy, Protective, and Healing magic; making them even more formidable opponents on the battlefield. On top of that, they are often called in to arbitrate or resolve disputes, diplomatic or otherwise. They tarry to no man’s will, bearing in mind only the greater good and the oaths they have sworn to keep. They serve the Light, and as so, are servants of all the Divines, though they show particular deference to Arkay and Kynerath (or Kyne). They also serve as protectors of life… all life
… which means they will normally only attack out of an absolute necessity. That being said, their need to serve justice constantly buffets against their oath to protect the sanctity of life, so this internal turmoil often becomes a Paladin’s greatest challenge. Times of war prove to be a great strain on all Paladins, as they either chastise or abase themselves for the destruction they wreak or, worse yet, fall from the Light entirely as they succumb to the thrill of battle and bloodlust. The Great War between the Aldmeri Dominion and the Empire was one such time, for example, and proved to nearly eradicate not only the Blades, but the reborn Knights of the Nine, the Holy Paladins of Cyrodiil.
This is where our hero enters, just entering the twilight years of his/her life, a forgotten relic from the Great War itself. The Paladin had fought side by side with the Blades, bound-in-arms with his long-lost brothers of the Knights of the Nine within the besieged walls of the Imperial City. When the dust had settled, most of his comrades had died and the city had fallen. With no other options, the Empire and all fighting forces surrendered. The Paladin had survived, but just barely, and he/she had become sick with the blood smeared across his/her hands. The Paladin had tasted war, and had almost delighted in it, certainly relishing in the thrill of combat beside worthy comrades. The Paladin had even learned to savor the challenge of a worthy enemy and find excitement at the touch of death… and with these thrills, he/she now felt immense shame.
The Paladin had exiled him/herself, walked the path of the Nine through Cyrodiil once more, but found that neither Arkay nor Kynerath would speak to him/her. And so the Paladin set further off, traveling throughout Tamriel, seeking out the holy sites of the Divines and paying them great homage. He/she slept in gutters and on forest’s floors, doing small deeds for scraps of food, and generally offering up his/her will and service for any noble or needy cause he/she stumbled across in his/her travels. As he/she traveled, the Paladin often found refuge in the forgotten Dwarven Ruins dotting Tamriel’s landscape and gradually developed a keen interest in their engineering and artificery. As his/her intrigue and wonder grew at their underground marvels, the Paladin became compelled to discover their history. Over the next 24 years of his/her self-imposed exile, the Paladin would diligently explore and research everything about the dwarves, his/her knowledge soon rivaling even the most honored Dwarven scholars like the legendary mage Calcemo in Skyrim. Yet still, throughout all those years, neither Arkay nor Kynerath deigned to speak to the Paladin, holding a bitter grudge against him/her for the bloodshed of the Great War.
Until at last, it was when the Paladin’s research into the Dwarves led him/her to High Rock, back to his/her home again at last, after nearly 28 years of exile and 17 years of training and service under the Knights of the Nine, that the Divines blessed him/her. Finally, at the small chapel in his mountain village, Arkay spoke to the Paladin. Arkay was cryptic, saying only words in a whisper; seven of them in total. Some names, some places, some things the Paladin had never heard of before. They were: Aetherium, Froki, Tullius, Septimus, Alduin, Florentius, and Skyrim
. It mattered little, Arkay had spoken. And the Paladin had a destination: Skyrim.
If he/she wished to regain the favor of the Divines, the Paladin would figure out what had to be done, for justice, for the greater good, for the Light.
It was while just arriving in Skyrim that the Paladin accidentally stumbled into an Imperial ambush on the rebel forces of the Stormcloaks just outside of the town of Falkreath. In the confusion, the Imperials accidentally mistook the Paladin for a rebel and hauled him/her off to the town of Helgen for execution. The Paladin worried little, however, for he/she knew that Arkay had much bigger plans for him/her. The Paladin would not die today. And when the Paladin arrived at Helgen and heard the Imperial soldiers shout out “General Tullius”, he/she let out a subtle smirk… because now the Paladin knew he/she was in the right place for sure.
As the backstory suggests, much of the Paladin’s focus is on defensive and crowd control magic while utilizing combat skills when necessary. When leveling up, you want an even spread. 10 to Health, 10 to Stamina, 10 to Magicka and repeat. Gameplay for the first 30 levels is pretty straightforward: get large 2-h weapon, equip heavy armor, find an alteration-shield spell, and run around Skyrim carrying out justice with extreme prejudice against evil-doers. This is why the talent focus for the first 30 levels is mostly slotted into Two-Handed, Heavy Armor, Alteration, and Restoration. These four skills are your mainstay for the first half of the game because they’re going to keep you alive while you swing that giant sword/axe/hammer. In addition, you’ll want to spend 3-4 points in Illusion to get Hypnotic Gaze, Animage, and Dual Casting (optional). Meanwhile, throughout this first half of your play through, you’re going to ignore both the rest of Illusion and Speech and instead train both Smithing and Enchanting. The goal from levels 1-50 is to level both Enchanting and Smithing to 100, perk the tree for maximum benefits in both skills, and craft a legendary set of Dwarven Armor, Dwarven Gauntlets, and Dwarven Boots. Once you have the Ancient Knowledge perk, Dwarven Armor is among the strongest Heavy Armors in the game. Of course, you don’t have to use Dwarven Armor, I only chose it because it fits well with the character’s backstory and because (imo) it’s the bulkiest and most Paladin-looking armor in the game. The pauldrons alone give the armor that Paladin-esque flair. Whatever armor you choose, utilize max enchanting and enchant your armor to your playstyle.* Then once you’ve fully improved your armor and weapons, either go legendary with both of the skills or spend 2 dragon souls to reset them, both options will give you back your perks. From there, fill out the rest of the Two-Handed, Restoration, Alteration, Illusion, and Speech talent trees. For the most part, you can perk the Paladin how you feel comfortable, but some necessary perks for the character build/roleplay are:
Magic Resistance 3/3,
Master of the Mind
really does get a bad reputation, Collette’s right about that. Once you’re fully perked in Restoration, you regenerate both magic and health faster and with the Necromage perk, you become a true scourge against the many Undead throughout Skyrim. Finally, with both Bane of the Undead and Guardian Circle, all Undead hordes are easily manageable, the fact that Guardian Circle also restores 20 Health per second while you stand inside it just makes it even better.
, you become practically immune to magic and Stability is a must as you can cast an Ebonyflesh shield and pull out your weapon and wreak havoc for 3 minutes, fully shielded. That’s usually more than enough time to clear out a room or two in even the hairiest dungeon. When things really get out of control, the Paladin can stun his opponents with a paralyze spell, easily controlling the tempo of any fight.
, the Paladin becomes a master of the mind, able to pacify, influence, and rally the people around him/her. Illusion also has much to do with the hero’s background and the oaths a Paladin takes upon lifting their blade.
And lastly, Speech
plays an essential part in the diplomatic role of the Paladin. Remember, while you can easily smash your way through most quests, the Paladin will use his/her head and words to reason through a conflict before resulting to violence. To this effect, both Persuasion and Allure allow the Paladin to smooth over conflicts before they begin and gain favor with the people of Skyrim. Merchant and Investor, on the other hand, are purely optional, however, as the Paladin is a wandering holy warrior of justice, it would stand to reason that he/she would pick up a few tricks of the trade over the years.
After about level 63, all of the Paladin’s main skills are maxed out. What you choose to do from that point on is open. I will be going all the way to 90 based on the design I posted here. So both One-Handed and Block will essentially become main skills as well, since they will serve as his “tank” spec. The last three points in Pickpocket are just to open up and pick the Extra Pockets perk for an extra 100 carry weight, which always comes in handy.
In case you’re wondering how I roleplay the spells like a WoW Paladin, here’s how it breaks down:
Vampire’s Bane = Exorcism
Paralyze = Hammer of Justice
Ebonyflesh = Devotion Aura
Stendarr’s Aura = Retribution Aura
Unrelenting Force = Consecrate (expect way cooler)
Grand Healing = Holy Light
Bane of the Undead = Holy Wrath
Guardian Circle = Divine Shield (as good as it gets)
Rally = Blessing of Kings
Pacify = Seal of Command
Every Hammer Hit = Divine Storm
Now there’s one last thing that makes this particular Paladin play through more interesting than most, you may have noticed that I’ve been mentioning them all along… the Paladin’s Oaths.
The Oath of the Sanctity of Life:
Paladins are the protectors of all life, especially those of Kynerath’s and Arkay’s domains.
That means they protect animals and human beings. As a general rule with the Paladin (and to make things more interesting), I have placed most Skyrim creatures and animals under the Paladin’s Oath to Sanctity of Life. Don’t worry, though, by no means is this player a pacifist play through. In fact, far from it. It’s just that the Paladin would see little point in killing an animal or creature that is not threatening an innocent person. Most times when we encounter animals in Skyrim, we’re invading their territory. They have the right to defend themselves. So to this effect, the Paladin often uses Calm, Harmony, and the Kyne’s Peace shout to control all animal encounters, both parties slipping away relatively unharmed. The noted exceptions are when a quest requires the death of animal for the completion of an objective. This oath also means that the Paladin doesn’t immediately resort to violence when dealing with a tricky situation and also expressly forbids murdering people. The Oath of Justice:
Those who take the Oath of Justice are not known to take it lightly. Be wary of a man with resolve such as that.
The Paladin serves faith and justice, morality adheres to all things. While in certain, extraneous situations, the Paladin can justify the necessary sacrifice of innocents for the greater good, they will preserve order and life above all things. As such, Paladins adhere to a strict moral code, refusing to steal or murder for personal gain. They also will never take advantage of people or ask for anything beyond their means. While they have not taken a vow of poverty, they would not be ostentatious or greedy with their wealth, instead they are quick to help a citizen in true need. Finally, their Oath of Justice compels them to sniff out injustice wherever they are and stamp it out quickly, sometimes with extreme force, yet only in the direst of circumstances. As servants of justice, Paladins are bound by the laws of the region they are traveling through, however, will willingly step outside of the law if true justice demands it.
So, with the combination of these two Oaths, it tweaks your typical play through in some pretty significant ways. First, you’ve obviously figured out that the Thieves’ Guild and Dark Brotherhood quest lines are off-limits. It could be justified that the Paladin would scarcely work with the Thieves’ Guild for the greater good and tolerate their existence, but with the way their quest line unfolds it’d be a stretch. On the other hand, this play through opens up a unique opportunity to destroy the Dark Brotherhood, which is always fun too. Second, this introduces a new way to handle animal encounters in Skyrim, as well as many other encounters. It really livens things up in a way you might not have thought of before. Lastly, I’ve imposed two rules for my Paladin that I’ve really enjoyed so far: 1. No Fast Traveling and 2. Screw over the Daedra whenever possible. Not fast traveling really lends an authenticity to that feeling of being a wandering holy warrior of justice and helps you level up your skills in tandem with your opponents' level, not to mention there are so many hidden depths to the Skyrim landscape that you miss you if you just fast travel all the time. Take your time, enjoy the adventure. And the other rule about the Daedra is based off of roleplaying, Paladins serve the Nine Divines and scorn the Daedra.
As the background suggests, there are a number of quests related to the Paladin’s roleplay that you can complete along with any others you find (just remember to try and make the morally correct decision).
• The Main Quest
• The Dawnguard Quests
• The Dragonborn Quests**
• The College of Winterhold Quests
• The Blades Quests
• Lost to the Ages
• Unfathomable Depths
• Kyne's Sacred Trials
• The Blessings of Nature
• The Break of Dawn (Shrine of Meridia)***
• The Only Cure (Shrine of Peryite)***
• The Black Star (Shrine of Azura)***
• Destroy the Dark Brotherhood!
• The Civil War Quests**
• Almost any Quest related to the Dwarves or Dwarven Ruins
• The Quests for the Jarls' Courts
• All noble side quests in towns and cities
You'll notice the Companions
on the list. This is because to become a part of their inner circle, the Paladin would have to become a werewolf, a choice he/she would never willingly make. Their quests can be done up to the point before becoming a part of the inner circle to gain access to the trainers if you'd like.
And that’s pretty much it. Have fun out there, guys! Sorry for the long post.
*Again, you don’t have to choose those enchantments, but if you do, while wearing that armor set you have an armor rating of 408 at level 50 when fully shielded (keep in mind that I wore a circlet instead of a helmet for roleplaying circumstances) and have a buffed total of 500 Health, Stamina, AND Magicka at level 55.
**Both the Dragonborn Quests and the Civil War Quests present a fun and unique roleplaying opportunity to test your Paladin’s faith in the Light. Since the Civil War would remind him/her of the Great War and the emotions he/she felt there, you could roleplay a struggle with the faith and eventual fall into darkness, turning him into a Warlock or Blackguard. The same opportunity is afforded in the Dragonborn quests as most mortals who deal with Hermaeus Mora go insane and become evil.
***These are the only Daedric Lords (as well as Sheogorath) that the Paladin will tolerate and aid because they are not inherently evil.