There are, of course, many ways to do this. For example, one could give a very generic answer such as "The Paladin is one of 9 (soon to be 10) character classes in World of Warcraft." Or, one could give a more lore-centric answer. "Paladins are humans and dwarves who have been inducted into the Order of the Silver Hand, draenei who have become Vindicators, or blood elves who have joined the Blood Knights." Perhaps one might use a definition which mentions gameplay roles: "A Paladin is a hybrid character who wears heavy armor and can specialize in healing, tanking, or dealing melee damage."
However, while all of the above are true, my opinion is that the most significant definition of the Paladin deals with essence moreso than anything else. It's not until we strip away the surface characteristics, the rich and vibrant lore, and even the gameplay mechanics that we can begin to see where I believe the essence of the Paladin resides. What we are left with are themes, such as honor, devotion, faith, piety, righteousness, and (of course) big-ass hammers :P. Even then, the essence is elusive, and so we must sift through the themes to find what is most relevant to the Paladin as a whole, and only then can we see what I think is the true heart of the Paladin. What we are left with are 3 things. Three phrases that not only describe the Paladin of World of Warcraft, but also the Paladin of virtually every fantasy setting of modern times: durable, connected to the divine, and melee combatant.
- Durability is most commonly expressed through heavy armor and, occasionally, shields, and WarCraft Paladins are no exception. In addition, WarCraft Paladins also have the ability to reduce the damage dealt to themselves and their allies, become invulnerable, and heal.
- Connections to the divine are expressed in a variety of ways across the fantasy genre. The three most common are likely the ability to heal even the most grievous of wounds, to smite demons and/or the undead, and affiliations to a religious order. WarCraft Paladins fit this perfectly.
- Melee combat is often emphasized in fantasy settings by an aversion to fighting at a distance. This could be the result of a lack of proficiency with ranged weaponry, a code of honor that favors one-on-one or close-range combat or looks down upon commanding from the safety of the back lines, or a myriad of other reasons. This applies to WarCraft Paladins as well. More specifically, this manifests itself in the Paladin class of World of WarCraft through the inability to equip most ranged weapons (there's one exception, which I'm sure most old-school Paladins will remember :P) and the absence of any baseline spammable ranged offensive spell or ability.
So, two potentially not-so-quick questions:
- How would you answer the question "What is a Paladin?"
- What, in your opinion, is the problem with my definition, or is there one at all?