I should probably admit that I've always been a bit of a sucker for Paladins. All the way back in AD&D (1st Edition), I remember sitting around rolling set after set of ability scores (3d6, assigned in order) until I managed to meet the 17 Charisma requirement so I could play a Paladin. In retrospect, my DM being "kind" enough to allow me to roll so many attribute sets was probably merely a sadistic amusement in watching the young player scrapping set after set of decent ability scores in pursuit of the most arbitrary of classes in the game. (For those who don't remember, if your DM determined that an action you took was chaotic, or evil, you lost all your paladin powers and had to find a higher level cleric of at least 7th level, confess the sins, then fulfill any penance assigned by said cleric.) Let's just say that Galin the Paladin had a brutally short, highly unsatisfying career....
And while reminiscing about those days has reminded me that since the earliest days of D&D, the paladin has valued Charisma highest, I still struggle with the notion of a valiant, charismatic warrior, clad in full plate, sword, and shield, who cannot carry s pound more, because Strength just wasn't important. So for six days I've been struggling with an alternative. Trying as I might, I just wasn't comfortable with an alternative similar to those I applied to the Warlock and Cleric (see last week's post). But what I have finally come up with may be too radical, too complicated, and ultimately too ridiculous. I suppose only play-testing and time will tell.
Here's the proposal: For Paladin attack powers, use the higher bonus between Strength and Charisma. And, if the lower ability is no more than three points lower than the higher ability, add 1 to the ability modifier. For demonstration purposes, let's say Bob the Human Paladin has chosen the array which starts him with two abilities at 16 before racial modifiers. He puts one in Strength and one in Charisma. He then applies his human ability modifier to Charisma. Now Bob has a Strength of 16 and a Charisma of 18. His modifiers are +3 and +4 respectively. So Bob would use a +4 ability modifier on his powers, instead of using +3 for Strength-related powers, and +4 for Charisma related powers. But, because Bob's Strength and Charisma are within 3 points (18-16=2) he can add 1 to that, giving him a +5 modifier. This makes Bob's ability modifier for attacks retain parity with Robbie the Rogue's, since Robbie was able to simply put an 18 in Dexterity and bump it to 20 with racial modifiers. It also retains the flavor of paladins from previous editions, where higher ability scores across several attributes were not just a good idea, but actually vital.
So perhaps not the cleanest, or even the most balanced solution, since, it starts to break down the sanctity of the ability score array system (which I'm actually a fan of, having always been one of the worst ability score rollers of all time...). In fact, when I get the chance to play-test this, I might find that it is completely unworkable and makes the Paladin completely unbalanced. And I can certainly see why such a solution was not implemented by Wizards from the start (people were rioting enough about all the changes in the new edition. This sort of thing might have caused heads to explode). But I think this just might work, and it will keep Paladins as the archetype of the strong, charismatic warrior, and out of the dichotomous position of either muscle-head or fast-talking wimp.