Author Topic: Of Paladins and Poisons  (Read 1291 times)

ViktorYouFool

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Of Paladins and Poisons
« on: April 15, 2018, 09:39:55 PM »
A poisoned blade is the definition of dishonorable, a thing that all proponents of Law and Good should abhor.


.. Why are varnishes better, morally/ethically speaking? They are both rub-on components to to make your weapon inflict greater harm on someone. If poisoning your sword prior to a fight is dishonorable, why is a fire varnish okay? Or an acid varnish?

Iridni Ren

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 09:58:21 PM »
I like these kinds of questions because they require some thought :)

After thinking about it, it seems to me a negative energy varnish would definitely be something a paladin should not use because of the means it uses to inflict harm.

Otherwise, however, I think there are generally two sources for "the definition of dishonorable": either the paladin's own code or external convention, custom, and law.

Because paladins are supposed to be lawful, I personally don't go with the "I have my own personal code I follow" and prefer the latter for determining lawful good, but that's another argument that would derail your topic. If one subscribes to the "personal" code, however, then an individual paladin could say poison itself is okay. But my answer is that the varnishes are okay the same way a magic sword is okay: if those are the customs and practices of "fair" combat generally understood in the milieu and in accord with the paladin's faith.

« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 10:01:37 PM by Iridni Ren »

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ChrisRanHimselfOver

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 10:00:38 PM »
I think in this case it's important to take into account certain other properties of varnishes and poisons.

A weapon coated with a varnish is honest about what it will do, they all apply visual effects and give off light. They aren't subtle.

A poison is generally meant to be undetectable until it is too late, and then it continues to do its work even after the fight if one party retreats or if the one who applied the poison falls.


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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 10:03:57 PM »
I think part of it is there's an element of deception and trickery with poison. Most blades aren't obviously poisoned. Great lengths are gone to to conseal poisons in food and drinks. While Paladin might not always be forthcoming to a fault, I feel they general don't engage in gross deceptions.

Varnishes are overt. You know exactly what his/her weapon is gonna do. Again, i think it's less additional damage and more about deceptions.

By the same token, would dark fire or holy sword not inflict more damage to someone?

ViktorYouFool

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2018, 10:07:19 PM »
After thinking about it, it seems to me a negative energy varnish would definitely be something a paladin should not use because of the means it uses to inflict harm.

Aren't all weapon varnishes meant to inflict harm? I mean. The weapon itself is also meant to inflict harm. That's what weapons are for.

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2018, 10:07:49 PM »
Yeah, it's all about being honorable and not "cheating"; here's what the d20srd/PHB say about the general paladin code:

Quote
Code of Conduct
A paladin must be of lawful good alignment and loses all class abilities if she ever willingly commits an evil act.

Additionally, a paladinís 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.

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2018, 10:09:37 PM »
Its also because the implication of a poisoned weapon, along with being hidden, is to kill the opponent slowly or otherwise with just a scratch rather than an honorable victory or defeat.  Poisons cripple the opponent, creating an advantage that wouldnt exist before, and in an underhanded manner.

That and poison use is expressly stated as evil.

Also I wouldnt use a negative varnish as a paladin.  I'm also reluctant about certain items and potions, if not outright disinclined to use them at all.  Its not the fact they cause harm its *how* and what sort of harm.

Iridni Ren

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2018, 10:11:42 PM »
After thinking about it, it seems to me a negative energy varnish would definitely be something a paladin should not use because of the means it uses to inflict harm.

Aren't all weapon varnishes meant to inflict harm? I mean. The weapon itself is also meant to inflict harm. That's what weapons are for.

"Because of the means it uses to inflict harm" (i.e., negative energy). We're trying to differentiate why some means of doing harm are acceptable and some aren't.

I think the points others have made about the nature of poisons (deceit, continuing to harm after the conflict, etc.) are all good.

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2018, 11:36:31 PM »
I don't think it's the use of a substance we're talking about, but rather the nature of the substance. So, I don't know if poisoning a blade by NWN terms is necessarily considered ill-doing, but there's no good reason for you to do that anyways. I have a feeling it may be angled more towards killing through deception- Or, in other words- Poisoning someone's wine, an apple, etc, to trick them.

Varnishes are pretty easy to see.

tzaeru

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2018, 04:12:21 AM »
In one way, you could approach it by assuming that poison doesn't actually kill (except Pit Fiend Ichor, but even that kills slowly if at all), while paladin doesn't seek to cripple or hurt an enemy; they seek to stop or destroy an enemy.

On the other hand, we may be putting a little too much modern interpretation to this. While paladins are more or less born, they still end up shaped by the culture and society around them. In almost all civilized regions, using poisons would be deemed dishonorable and underhanded. As such, a paladin wouldn't use it either. Part of the reason why paladin always acts honorably is because that code of honor is part of having a good, lawful society. If paladin broke any part of honorable conduct, he would be setting an example saying that it's alright to sometimes break these rules of the society. But paladin is Lawful Good, not Neutral or Chaotic Good. The cause does not justify the means.

Despite what the player's handbook says, I could see a paladin use poison if he came from a society where it's largely acceptable to use poison in duels and fights and hunts. However, should such a paladin be made, I would say that to maintain the spirit of the class and his alignment, one should probably come up with alternative codes of honor. Perhaps such a paladin would refuse to use ranged weapons, for example, seeing them as dishonorable.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 04:15:00 AM by tzaeru »
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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2018, 04:19:29 AM »
It really depends on the society the paladin is from, the god they follow, and the order they belong to.  If any of those conflict with the use of poison then the paladin should not make use of it without violating the law, their god, or their code.

Varnishes are different because they are the equivalent of a magically-enchanted weapon. A greatsword coated in an oily varnish and set ablaze is no different than a +1 fiery burst greatsword. If for some reason one of the three things above would conflict with the idea of using such a weapon then the paladin should not make use.

Note that I said should not, not cannot. A paladin can do anything. He just might get in trouble for that thing.

Tycat

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2018, 05:08:05 AM »
Well, I can tell you exactly what Lex says about varnishes : alchemy is blasphemous. *sage nod*
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 05:10:53 AM by Tycat »

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2018, 06:37:38 AM »
Actually it doesn't matter about culture whatsoever.  As per the rulebooks, DnD settings which include Ravenloft are settings with Objective morality, which is not subjective - which is to say, cultural.  Based on this, if a culture approves of poisons, that culture is evil, and a paladin in that culture would defy that convention and refuse it, or they would fall.  Keep in mind that morality can still - and usually is - subjective for the individual in DnD.  An individual can and will view certains acts as good or evil.  However, their point of view does not override the overarching principle of Objective Morality, which we are playing in.

Also with the use of poisons in particular, use of poison is expressly listed as an evil act, in any situation.  There was writing of exceptions to this, called Ravages - which only affected those of evil disposition, such as fiends, being of divine origin.  But we are talking about poisons.

Varnishes are different to this, to a degree, by dint of the fact that they align in the category of spells such as greater magic weapon, bless weapon, deafening clang, and holy sword, which are all paladin specific and behave in a manner similar to a varnish (with the likely exception being a negative varnish, considering what it is derived from and what it is).  Poisons are designed to win a fight in a dishonorable means, and are based around malice and spite as an action.  Using one in such a manner, a cowardly manner overall, is an evil act for its baseness.

tzaeru

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2018, 07:13:18 AM »
Also with the use of poisons in particular, use of poison is expressly listed as an evil act, in any situation.
Where is this stated?
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 07:24:50 AM by tzaeru »
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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2018, 07:44:52 AM »
As per Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness, it expressly states that DnD works off an Objective morality system rather than a real world Subjective Morality system.  This is the basis for having such abilties as detect and smite evil/good, protection from good/law/chaos/evil spells.  These would not exist in a subjective setting, or at least not in the same means.

Ah, an edit.  On Page 34 of the Book of Exalted Deeds, it states the following, and involves a caveat I found surprising:

"Using Poison that deals ability damage is an evil act because it causes undue suffering in the process of incapacitating or killing an opponent.  Of the poisons listed in the Dungeon Masters Guide, only one is acceptable for Good characters to use:  Oil of Taggit, which deals no damage but causes unconsciousness."

That's fairly clear as to why it is viewed as evil, and the exception explains why quite well.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 07:55:40 AM by Nemesis 24 »

tzaeru

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2018, 08:11:46 AM »
As per Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness, it expressly states that DnD works off an Objective morality system rather than a real world Subjective Morality system.  This is the basis for having such abilties as detect and smite evil/good, protection from good/law/chaos/evil spells.  These would not exist in a subjective setting, or at least not in the same means.

Ah, an edit.  On Page 34 of the Book of Exalted Deeds, it states the following, and involves a caveat I found surprising:

"Using Poison that deals ability damage is an evil act because it causes undue suffering in the process of incapacitating or killing an opponent.  Of the poisons listed in the Dungeon Masters Guide, only one is acceptable for Good characters to use:  Oil of Taggit, which deals no damage but causes unconsciousness."

That's fairly clear as to why it is viewed as evil, and the exception explains why quite well.
So all poison is actually not evil, even by the book of Exalted Deeds.

It's also, in the end, questionable if supplement books needed to be treated as wholly canon when those books are given as purely optional. DM or campaign setting can easily rule otherwise. I think we have previously not been entirely into using stuff from The Book of Vile Darkness for example.

For Ravenlot, poison is not mentioned in the evil acts in regards of stuff that warrants DP checks. The section regarding the use of poison in Dungeon Master's Guide also doesn't say that poison was evil.

I also didn't say that morality needed to be subjective, however honor and what is lawful and what is not does depend on the cultural context, because laws and expectations change as well. Being lawful is about honoring these contracts and honoring the culture of a society unless this somehow contradicts with other beliefs of a character. So, in one culture, ranged weapons in duels might be considered dishonorable and by extension a paladin from that culture would be breaking this code of honor by using a ranged weapon in duel. Yet a paladin from another culture might not have such a problem in another context.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 08:16:05 AM by tzaeru »
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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2018, 08:36:55 AM »
PHB is a core book and such books take precedence over other books unless explicitly contradicted. As such, since itís indicated in the PHB, using poison would go against a paladinís code and would cause a fall. Thereís no subjectivity involved. A paladin is held to a higher morale/standard than the culture they come from.

Edit: Since itís part of the paladinís code, a paladin using poison would technically warrant a powers check, same as if they were lying or cheating. Not because itís necessarily evil but because they are breaking their code.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 08:46:00 AM by EO »

tzaeru

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2018, 08:50:20 AM »
PHB is a core book and such books take precedence over other books unless explicitly contradicted. As such, since itís indicated in the PHB, using poison would go against a paladinís code and would cause a fall. Thereís no subjectivity involved. A paladin is held to a higher morale/standard than the culture they come from.

Edit: Since itís part of the paladinís code, a paladin using poison would technically warrant a powers check, same as if they were lying or cheating. Not because itís necessarily evil but because they are breaking their code.
If I was running a campaign, I'd assume that the stuff inside the parentheses is examples of what is typically considered honorful/dishonorful, rather than hard rules. But either way, even if we take that paladin can never use poison without risking falling, there continues to be a question for why paladin wouldn't use poison. The paladin has to have a somesort of a reason for it. I think explaining it via his cultural background is the most feasible way to explain it for the paladin. I don't see it, in the end, as very different whether the paladin is using acid or poison, other than that one is dishonorable from some reason while the other is not.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 08:59:37 AM by tzaeru »
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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2018, 08:57:49 AM »
  Let's not forget that one of the Blackguard's abilities is Poison Weapon. Even if from a mechanical point of view, this definitely adds to the fact that poisoning a weapon is considered evil.

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2018, 09:09:26 AM »
PHB is a core book and such books take precedence over other books unless explicitly contradicted. As such, since itís indicated in the PHB, using poison would go against a paladinís code and would cause a fall. Thereís no subjectivity involved. A paladin is held to a higher morale/standard than the culture they come from.

Edit: Since itís part of the paladinís code, a paladin using poison would technically warrant a powers check, same as if they were lying or cheating. Not because itís necessarily evil but because they are breaking their code.
If I was running a campaign, I'd assume that the stuff inside the parentheses is examples of what is typically considered honorful/dishonorful, rather than hard rules. But either way, even if we take that paladin can never use poison without risking falling, there continues to be a question for why paladin wouldn't use poison. The paladin has to have a somesort of a reason for it. I think explaining it via his cultural background is the most feasible way to explain it for the paladin. I don't see it, in the end, as very different whether the paladin is using acid or poison, other than that one is dishonorable from some reason while the other is not.

In an individual campaign, the DM has virtually unlimited flexibility interpreting the rules. Considering that two experienced, professional judges who have made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States often disagree on how the Constitution should be interpreted, it's not surprising that we have disagreement when we have all these various sources that were not written (or proofread) nearly as carefully as most law.

In terms of POTM specifics, it of course comes down to how the Team interprets those rules.

It's nice to have something of a rational explanation, though, for why acid and poison are not the same. (And IMO several people have offered viable reasons.)

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2018, 05:32:39 PM »
PHB is a core book and such books take precedence over other books unless explicitly contradicted. As such, since itís indicated in the PHB, using poison would go against a paladinís code and would cause a fall. Thereís no subjectivity involved. A paladin is held to a higher morale/standard than the culture they come from.

Edit: Since itís part of the paladinís code, a paladin using poison would technically warrant a powers check, same as if they were lying or cheating. Not because itís necessarily evil but because they are breaking their code.
If I was running a campaign, I'd assume that the stuff inside the parentheses is examples of what is typically considered honorful/dishonorful, rather than hard rules. But either way, even if we take that paladin can never use poison without risking falling, there continues to be a question for why paladin wouldn't use poison. The paladin has to have a somesort of a reason for it. I think explaining it via his cultural background is the most feasible way to explain it for the paladin. I don't see it, in the end, as very different whether the paladin is using acid or poison, other than that one is dishonorable from some reason while the other is not.

It's completely arbitrary if you want to get philosophical. Using a poison that weakens you is no more underhanded than calling upon divine energy to smite you harder, it's just assumed that your good god were prefer the latter. What is "honorable" is also subjective. Suicide for a medieval knight is not only dishonorable but a sin and probably an evil act, to a Samurai it's a totally different thing and in many cases quite honorable.

Good and evil are funny things, largely they are also cultural. In the end it's a game, and it has rules, and this is one of them.

Paladins on the whole are the most narrow minded and over thought class definitions going. What was essentially designed as a Grail Knight archetype has since been expanded to include much more but it seems to have always held the restrictions of that original archetype which is of course Christian and Western in origin. I don't agree with that and have had my share of debates on "honor" as a player of an Elven Paladin but this is one of those things that does not really seem worth the energy to battle over.

Still it's hardly an earth shattering restriction. It's not going to ruin most concepts.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 05:34:51 PM by Sinful Mystic »
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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2018, 05:40:13 PM »
I wonder if the move to NWN:EE would enable us to have the alternate paladin classes from Unearthed Arcane (Where there is version for each extreme alignment; Paladin of Freedom, Tyranny, and Slaughter).

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2018, 07:49:43 PM »
Depends on the context and situation of using a poison.

What if a certain evil dragon can only be harmed by a particular poison? Would it be dishonorable to use his brains and avoid casualties by utilizing such?

The paladin could even be completely forth-right with his enemy about his blade's lining/coating. I wouldn't see that as dishonorable, example:


Quote
[Evil McGuffin]: "You cannot win this, Sir Goody Paladinson!"

[Goody Paladinson]: "But I am prepared for you this time, I have coated my weapon in a special treat for you."

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2018, 07:52:33 PM »
Depends on the context and situation of using a poison.

What if a certain evil dragon can only be harmed by a particular poison? Would it be dishonorable to use his brains and avoid casualties by utilizing such?

The paladin could even be completely forth-right with his enemy about his blade's lining/coating. I wouldn't see that as dishonorable, example:


Quote
[Evil McGuffin]: "You cannot win this, Sir Goody Paladinson!"

[Goody Paladinson]: "But I am prepared for you this time, I have coated my weapon in a special treat for you."

In this instance you would likely see Sir Paladinson acting as the party's shield while someone else involved the poisoned blades. Even then, they may chastise party members for it or have to atone for permitting it for the sake of the greater good.

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Re: Of Paladins and Poisons
« Reply #24 on: April 16, 2018, 08:57:33 PM »
Depends on the context and situation of using a poison.

What if a certain evil dragon can only be harmed by a particular poison? Would it be dishonorable to use his brains and avoid casualties by utilizing such?

The paladin could even be completely forth-right with his enemy about his blade's lining/coating. I wouldn't see that as dishonorable, example:


Quote
[Evil McGuffin]: "You cannot win this, Sir Goody Paladinson!"

[Goody Paladinson]: "But I am prepared for you this time, I have coated my weapon in a special treat for you."

In this instance you would likely see Sir Paladinson acting as the party's shield while someone else involved the poisoned blades. Even then, they may chastise party members for it or have to atone for permitting it for the sake of the greater good.

I think the important part of the 'poison' is it's underhandedness. I wouldn't think that a paladin using a poison that kills undead, or an evil dragon, or some other equally abominable evil would be seen as something wrong, especially given the paladin announced his intention.