This is the sixty-eighth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
A paladin that takes their time.
It’s soon clear that what’s actually on offer here is a subclass of Paladin for use with Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. In fact, it’s one of a trilogy of Paladin subclasses from Birdhouse Games, all three of which are included in the bundle. The luck of the draw means we’ve encountered Oath of the Ambling Rose first.
As usual for tabletop role-playing game entries, I can’t actually play this one, lacking a group of people to play with. But I have played Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition before, so I can mostly understand what’s going on with this particular subclass of Paladins. Oath of the Ambling Rose is a succinct package, really just a single page, although there’s a beautifully illustrated title page (featuring art from Airi Kervinen) and a credits page added for good measure. The single page description of the subclass itself is not only clear and succinct, it’s nicely formatted and looks like it could have come straight from an official rulebook.
I like the concept of this subclass. It tries to get away from the more common warlike Paladins, who channel the holy powers of their deity towards the destruction of their enemies. Followers of the Ambling Rose are more like knights errant, wandering the world without any specific destination in mind, trusting that their deity will lead them to where they are needed. They are sworn to aid any who need help, no matter how small their plight, and are just as likely (perhaps more?) to help corral some missing sheep as they are to battle an evil demon. In another pleasing break with stereotypical adventurer behavior, they only carry what they need, giving the rest away to others in less fortunate circumstances. No hoarding of trinkets and valuables here.
These simple guidelines for roleplaying already suggest some interesting possibilities. But special powers gained at higher levels flesh out the way such a Paladin might play, while remaining nicely thematic. A follower of the Ambling Rose may partially undo the damage their friends take, as their deity gives them a second chance to save the day. Their confidence that their path will take them where they need to go can extend to their party, protecting allies from fear and other negative effects. With high enough level, they can even teleport their group to safety, and see with certainty exactly what they must do (in other words, get mechanical advantages on every action they take for a short time). My favorite ability, however, comes relatively early at level 3. At this point, the Paladin may meditate to receive guidance from their deity as to where and when something important will happen that will require their intervention and aid. In other words, they can directly ask the Dungeon Master to point them towards something interesting nearby, which is a brilliant way to keep a game session flowing without breaking from the fiction of the world.
This seems like it would be a fun subclass to play. My only concern is that it might be difficult narratively to include such a Paladin within a larger adventurer group. The idea of wandering without any specific destination is very different from how my (admittedly few) adventures in Dungeons & Dragons unfolded, and it seems that the Paladin would need to be the de facto group leader for a group session to work, otherwise they’d simply wander off to help the next person in need, leaving the group behind. This is nothing that a skilled group can’t handle, however, and the subclass is intriguing enough that I’m looking forward to seeing the other two Paladin subclasses on offer from Birdhouse Games. But those will have to wait for their own rolls of the virtual dice. If you missed it in the bundle, Oath of the Ambling Rose is available for a minimum price of $2.
That’s 68 down, and only 1673 to go!