A paladin is a common concept in fantasy gaming, generally considered to be a melee fighter with holy powers who champions the cause of good and light. The DnD 2nd edition Player's Manual describes a paladin in the following way:
The paladin is a noble and heroic warrior, the symbol of all that is right and true in the world. As such, he has high ideals that he must maintain at all times. Throughout legend and history there are many heroes who could be called paladins: Roland and the 12 Peers of Charlemagne, Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, and Sir Galahad are all examples of the class. However, many brave and heroic soldiers have tried and failed to live up to the ideals of the paladin. It is not an easy task!
Of course, the book then goes on to describe minimum stat requirements, prime requisites and special powers, which are far less generic. This is, however, a classic book that defines the nature of a paladin for many people, particularly those who grew up in my era.
In WOW (World of Warcraft) I play a paladin called Redcape. I have many other characters of many other classes including Warrior, Warlock, Shaman, Priest, Death Knight and more, but Redcape is my main character. The question I have been asking myself lately is: How much of the fact that I have a paladin as my main character is chance and how much is me picking the class that in some way suits me?
Back when I first started playing WOW in 2004 I began with a Mage called Orangecape. Some people will recognize this as I have used Orangecape as my online handle and email address for years, starting around the time when I got an orange cape as a present in university. I played Orangecape the Mage for a little while, found the style not as much to my liking and began a Paladin, chosen from the list of options almost entirely at random. Since Orangecape was taken, I named him Redcape. Now a Mage is a character who blasts people from afar with magic and is very easy to smush if you get close to him, whereas a Paladin is tough and hardy, but has to walk up to people to bash them and is not known for killing his enemies quickly. I took immediately to the Paladin and have played Redcape for incredible amounts of time in the 5 years since he was first created, 5510 hours in fact. (The game records this just so you can know how much of a geek you are)
I LOVE the idea of a paladin. The concept of a warrior who embodies self sacrifice and the pursuit of justice, smiting evil and relieving suffering wherever he goes has tremendous appeal. This is particularly true since it is tailor made for a tragic romantic story. The idea of being caught between noble ideals and love for a particular person is just delicious. (See *this previous post* ) The roleplaying element of a paladin is wonderful, and yet in WOW roleplaying is really at a minimum. Mostly it is about numbers and hitting buttons and hunting for better and better loot, which really isn't all that compatible with the Paladin descriptions above or my romantic notions. Despite this I am fully, completely addicted to this one character. Other people swap from character to character on a whim, looking for the latest craze or a just something new but I would never consider doing that. Redcape is *me* in so many ways. It is the avatar I have played in a game that has been a huge part of my social life for years and the idea of just abandoning it for another is almost ludicrous. For many people that I consider my friends I am known solely as Redcape or Red and it is easy to imagine that as another facet of myself rather than simply a picture online of a a video game character I control.
Paladins are often associated in fantasy gaming with religion, which is interesting given my atheist beliefs. In some cases this religious leaning is specific and given to worship of particular gods, and in some cases it is merely a dedication to justice, truth, generosity and other good ideals. I certainly don't empathize well with the complete dedication to a named deity, but the idea of dedicating oneself to bettering the world for other people is one I do have a lot of respect for. I am often the voice of reason and rationality in ways people don't like: Do it the right way, stop listening to your gut and pay attention to the mathematics, use the scientific method, Think rather than just acting are things you would hear me advocate. I try to do the right thing rather than the thing that feels right, which are concepts people often find difficult to separate.
The thing is though, I do wish for a fantasy world. I long for a world in which the best thing to do is the thing that feels right to do. I would love for it to be so simple that we could just follow our feelings and stand up for what we believe in and in so doing make the world the best it can be. The cause of a paladin, charging across the land smiting evil is one that in the real world is full of good intentions and questionable results. Improved bureaucracy is often simply more effective, yet few of us have daydreams about improved data analysis or procedural changes that increase efficiency. Perhaps this is why I am attached to the paladin, for in his world the people that are righteous and follow their hearts are rewarded, the innocent are saved and the evil defeated. The paladin does not have to compromise because his world rewards rushing in to save the day while the real world does not consistently do so. So perhaps what I love is in fact a world without compromise, and the opportunity to be a hero in such a world.
I do not suppose that I will ever be able to know whether a paladin is where I would have settled down eventually or not. I clearly love the idea of a paladin, but if I had played any character for years in a game I might well have simply become too attached to them to change. Separating my desire for an uncompromising hero for my entrenched history with an avatar over the course of years is probably not feasible, so I will simply have to accept that the choice is made now, and will not be changed. The convergence of habit and love creates a bond that will not break.
I do really like the name Red, maybe I should try getting people in real life to call me that and see how it fits. (Not kidding, I have considered it. Sky is a fine name, but Red is great too.)