Paladins devote themselves to three ideals: purity, honor, and strength. A paladin’s primary duty is to her deity, and she seeks to brig others to her way of thinking by example – through strength of faith, strength of mind, or, if all else fails, strength of arms. Not that paladins believe in a “convert or die” philosophy – only that those who seek to do evil must be taught the error of their ways.
Paragons of devotion, decency, and diplomacy, paladins are seen as inspirations to the young – shining examples of what anyone can become with enough hard work, sacrifice, and faith.
Paladins worship many different deities. The most common is Iomedae, the ascended goddess of valor and justice. Erastil commands the obedience of a great many holy warriors, particularly those who uphold justice for the common folk. Paladins of Torag are highly sought as military commanders. Adventuring paladins often spread the word of Sarenrae, the goddess of the sun, honesty, healing, and redemption – for paladins often seek adventure as a form of penance. Some paladins serve Abadar, Irori, or Shelyn, but paladins who serve no particular god are actually more common.
Unlike noble knights, paladins are not always armed with the keenest weapons and clad in the finest armor, although they are always clean and orderly. Slovenly behavior is a sing of poor discipline and lack of conviction. Most proudly display emblems of their faith and carry their holy symbols in plain sight. Even those who serve mortal authorities work their holy symbols into their badges of office. Scions of evil who hunt paladins often make trophies of their victims’ gear.
Paladins are a rare breed, as few people volunteer for a life of hardship and peril in the service of their religion. Paladins dwell in enclaves here and there, separate from the temptations of society. There they train, pray, and sometimes simply fight for their lives against the forces of evil, as in the Star Keep in Mendev, where fewer than a hundred paladins stand against the Worldwound’s demonic hordes.
Vigil, in Lastwall, holds perhaps the largest concentration of paladins, due to the massive training facilities in the Holy Citadel of Light, where the young knights practice the arts of war battling hordes of orcs from Belkzen. Andoran also provides training grounds for holy warriors, many using their faith to underscore political ideology as members of that nation’s famous (or infamous) Eagle Knights. More formal schools exist in Absalom, Brevoy, Osirion, and Taldor, and countless members train apprentices all over Golarion.
Paladins who train in the Holy Citadel of Light focus specifically on the destruction of undead and are often charged with cleansing the land of its necrotic taint. These paladins can radiate holy light that damages undead around them, at the expense of being able to cure disease.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting