Paladins are stalwart warriors who exemplify everything that is good and just. Worshipping the divine, they despise the Daedra and the undead. With their blessed weapons, they smite the wicked and defend the innocent. They are adept in using both weapons and restoration magic, making them formidable front line warriors that can endure long, arduous fights. They are often charismatic and can rise to become leaders if the cause if just. Shining, heavy armor which conjure images of purity are often associated to the image of a Paladin and seeing them in battle can inspire even the most battle weary of the faithful. These devoted warriors are firm worshippers of their chosen God. They dedicate their life to only one and they typically do not receive blessing from any other lest their God strip them of their power.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has no class system in place so there is no set way to become a Paladin in-game. However, with the right combination of skills, weapons and armor, embodying one is in the realm of possibility.
Of course to be a true-blue Paladin, you will need to commit to a few role-playing rules for the sake of flavor. For instance, you cannot take any quests from the Thieves Guild or associate yourself with the Dark Brotherhood as the conduct of such groups go against the strict moral codes a Paladin adheres to.
Playing as a Paladin in-game involves making consistent choices that are not governed by any preset game check lists. That being said, this guide outlines a few ways to role play one in-game, although following these to the tee is certainly your choice. As it is with any open-world fantasy epic, it's always more fun to bend the rules a little in order to match the Dragonborn's unique quirks.
In Skyrim, races do not only dictate the base look of your character, they also impart valuable bonus abilities, powers and unique racial traits. Considering that a Paladin makes use of both weapons and spells, there are some races which would prove more valuable than others. Also, from a role-playing standpoint, there are those that have skills that indicate inclinations which may not fit the ideals of a Paladin. For instance, the Argonian, Bosmer and Khajiit have bonuses to Pickpocket. At best, these are useless to a Paladin who looks down upon such acts and at worst they break the point of being one.
At the top of the list of Paladin-suitable races is the Imperial. Voice of the Emperor, a Power that can calm people for 60 seconds and may be cast once per day, is perfect for this charismatic character. They also have bonuses to Heavy Armor, Block, Enchanting, Destruction magic and One-handed weapons, all of which are useful for a Paladin. Last but not the least, Imperial Luck ensures that the race always finds more gold. It somewhat helps with the money situation so that there's no need to steal anything that isn't nailed down.
Speaking of Smithing, the Paladin will benefit from both that and the Enchanting skill in order to easily get access to "blessed" gear. Speech is also a must-have because textbook Paladins are natural born leaders and are able to sway the hearts, even inspire those who are faithful to their God. Restoration magic such as Healing and Stendarr's Aura fits the bill as well. The former is useful for long fights and is a typical Paladin ability and the latter will cause sun damage to all undead in the melee range for 60 seconds. As the undead are among the Paladin's favored enemies, this is exceptionally useful. On that note, the master level Restoration spell Guardian Circle will both cause the undead to flee from combat and heal your Paladin while he is inside the circle. And, of course, you can also spend points on One-handed and Heavy Armor to make your character more effective in battle.
Weapons and Armor
In general, you would want weapons and armor sets which give bonuses against the undead. In actual pen and paper RPGs, maces were reserved for fighting against these vile creatures so if you want your Paladin to look the part, you can go for blunt weapons. There's nothing restricting you from using swords though. Silver Weapons (one-handed and two-handed swords) are especially effective against the undead as well. The base damage against enemies such as Skeletons, Draugr and Dragon Priests is increased by 20.
There's also Dawnbreaker, which is a tricky subject depending on how strictly you wish to adhere to the Paladin ideals. Dawnbreaker is a reward item given by Meridia, the Daedric Lady of Life. She is benevolent and has only utmost hatred for the undead as well as Necromancers who have corrupted her life-giving energies. As such, the sword deals 10 points of fire damage per strike and has a chance to create an explosion which turns or destroys undead in the immediate area whenever one such foul creature is killed.
For armor sets, there's the basic Steel Armor set as well as the Dwarven Armor. You may add enchantments such as Turn Undead (makes undead flee for a certain amount of time) or Fire Damage for a generally useful attack bonus. The former adds a "Holy" prefix at max enchantment.
As we've mentioned before, because there are no class restrictions in place to be used as a guide, role playing is an essential part of being a Paladin. A textbook Paladin would be of a Lawful Good alignment. As such, his favored enemies would include the undead, wicked Daedra and those who willingly commit vile acts. A Paladin cannot be associated with the corrupt. He must remain truthful and honorable at all times. It is not in a Paladin's nature to strike foes using stealth, nor does he knowingly deceive them or use poison.
Paladins must choose a God to devote their life to. One such God is Stendarr. One of the Nine Divines, he represents Mercy, Charity and Justice. His Amulet fortifies blocking by 10% when using a shield.
Because joining groups may entail fulfilling quests or fighting for ideals which go against a Paladin's moral code, it is not advisable. Specifically, you cannot join the Dark Brotherhood, the Thieves Guild and even the Companions as the latter entails a drastic transformation. If you go ahead and choose to worship Stendarr, you may find his Vigilants randomly wandering in the world. If the Dragonborn happens to be infected, they will heal his disease at no cost. The Hall of the Vigilant is south of Red Road Pass. Note that you cannot join them or ask them to accompany you but for the sake of flavor, you can always role play.
Choosing who you associate with is a matter of staying away from inherently shady characters. Mjoll the Lioness is our top pick for a companion. Not only does she despise dark sorcery, bandits and Vampires, she is also an essential character. This means that she can never be killed even after completing her quest. If your Dragonborn is a male, she is among your marriage options. She may be found either wandering around Riften or inside the Bee and Barb inn.
As a warrior that worships one of the Nine Divines, you may prioritize fulfilling related quests. For instance, The Book of Love entails helping the Temple of Mara spread their cause throughout Skyrim and the Heart of Dibella tasks you to find a new Sybil for the temple. Also, the Blessings of Nature is also a Divine-related quest. There, you will be asked to restore the Gildergreen of Whiterun.
Again, you will want to determine how far you want to take the role playing aspect of being a Paladin. Meridia's quest line "The Break of Dawn" is the only way you can get access to Dawnbreaker. She is considered a Daedric Prince and as such is technically among your Paladin's favored enemies. But, she is associated with the light and the sword is intended to purge corruption. She is also considered to be benevolent, so take that how you will.
Considering a Paladin's nature, you will want to avoid fulfilling quests for the Dark Brotherhood as well as the Thieves Guild. Siding with Vampires is also a no-no, so quests related to those would not be available to you in Skyrim. It is important to note, however, that Skyrim's quests are all intended to put you into tight spots. In the end, it will be up to you whether or not you wish to strictly adhere to these classic rules or if you want your Paladin to simply be a general good guy.