Content of the article: "Oathbreaking Needs To Be Expanded: An Argument In Favor Of Greater Mechanical Roleplaying"
With all the new subclasses in Tasha's being available for all 5e players to use mine still hasn't arrived yet ;-;, I've been thinking of new paths to be taken in regards to classes. We have the variant/improvement options in Tasha's, heaps of subclasses, but some of the stuff established at the beginning of 5e seem…outdated. Not balance-wise (at least, not exclusively balance-wise), but more in some of the thematic stuff. Specifically, I'm talking about Paladins, and the inclusion of the Oathbreaker in the DMG.
With the three base subclasses in the PHB, Oathbreaking seemed pretty straightforward: these three oaths are on the axis of good, and doing stupid stuff that comes into conflict with your oath means that your Paladin powers can be taken away, and be replaced with some kind of shadowy, evil kind of power instead. Seems pretty reasonable, right? If your oath is to protect people and you don't do that, you get your abilities changed accordingly.
And then Xanathar's came out, and the Oath of Conquest utterly destroyed this concept. Instead of being a "holier than thou" protector, you can make an oath to conquer and subjugate everything that comes within your grasp. This seems more morally grey than with some of the other oaths, with the flavour outright saying that some of these Paladins can work with the Nine Hells and still keep their powers.
But how does this relate to Oathbreaking, and what's with the phrase "Mechanical Roleplaying"? Did I just use that phrase to sound like I'm the most smartest essay writer ever? Well, yes, but I also think that it suits this idea quite well; the concept that the way you use the mechanics can help you express your character. But back to Oathbreaking for the moment. RAW, if you play as a Conquest Paladin who is a brutal tyrant, has brunch with Asmodeus every week and is an icon of utter fear, and then you decide to be a better person and actively decide to stop conquering and being a maniacal warlord and try to live a better life, you become an Oathbreaker; the devil- and undead-supporting monster that drains life and brings ruin. Even starter subclasses like the Oath of Vengeance are affected by this somewhat, where if you do the morally righteous thing and decide to stop pursuing revenge, which is usually a good thing might I add, you become an Oathbreaker. In your attempt to be a better person, you ended up a bigger edgelord than how you started.
Let's return to "Mechanical Roleplaying" for a moment. Why is this a part of this essay/rant/argument? Because the above example shatters this concept into powder. Instead of using available mechanics to define your character, you're forced to redefine your character around your new mechanics that might totally conflict with your goal.
Can a DM solve this issue with little more than a moment's thought? Yes. Does this resolve the issue? Not at all. Just because a DM has the opportunity to break the rules in favor of the Rule of Cool, it doesn't mean the issue becomes nonexistent.
So what's my suggestion? Create a "neutral" Oathbreaker or one that gives a greater emphasis on having broken an oath that has a negative effect, although I doubt we'll see one from WotC for a while.
reading through the DMG I just realised that many of these issues are directly addressed, but I still think this is something to consider, and something worth noting as a conflict in some parts of classes
- Am I doing the right thing by forbidding my player to play an oath of conquest paladin?
- Favorite and Least Favorite Paladin Subclasses?
- Need help picking Paladin Oath
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