In your opinion, can a paladin be tricked into falling? For example, if a paladin kills an innocent person thinking they are evil, is that grounds for falling? A friend and I are in disagreement. He says that any act that goes against the paladin's code will cause them to fall, but I think that it's the intent, rather than the outcome, that really matters. So long as the paladin is repentant for their mistake, and doesn't try to justify it.
Well, I think you’re both right. I’ve considered the issue after one of my paladins murdered an innocent as a werewolf despite doing everything I could think of to stop including beating himself up with silver objects to be put out of commission. It only happened because the character in question was the living personification of curiosity being a death sentence, ignoring repeated warnings to stay away.
That paladin fell as a result, but when he found a temple to absolve him, there was no further penalty given the circumstances of what actually happened. Because he well and truly did not intend for it to happen, and his god knew that. So why wait until the Paladin arrived at the holy place for his god to restore him if he was truly contrite?
I look at it as a test, and an enforced period of contemplation. A paladin who was decieved by evil forces into doing their will might realize that the path of the paladin is truly not for them, that they are not equal to the burden. The vast majority of paladins who fall don’t take up evil’s banner, but instead take alternate paths with the recognition that they could make the same mistake again, harm others or be led astray again.
They have to decide whether or not to make way to the temple, face their patron in the eye and decide they’ve been misled, that they want to make up for what they’ve done. That can be beyond impossible when one’s heart is heavy with shame, or worse, that they broke the oath without regret and with malicious intent. But it’s a task that must be done.
Because in both our cases, the paladin killed an innocent who did not deserve to die. They were used as weapons for evil’s purpose, and that is the opposite of everything a paladin is supposed to be. There has to be consequences for that, or that poor soul’s death could mean nothing. If a paladin killed a few innocents in order to purge a greater evil and suffered no consequences for it, what’s to stop another from doing the same, and for all the little evils to suddenly become permissible, for tragic mistakes to be shrugged off because a holy warrior cannot be questioned even as they do unholy things?
The blood of innocent people shouldn’t fade away in the rain, but scrubbed off, with effort and grim thought, no matter how it spilled across your hands. If you can stand before the Light and it can see the truth of your heart, all the better. But there needs to be that moment, that illumination, purification, and revelation before the paladin can take up the mantle again.