Mike’s Blog had a thought provoking post today.
My players haven’t quite hit paragon level yet, so I don’t really have any practical experience with paragon paths yet. I tend to build characters in the Character Builder a lot, and I often level my favorites up to paragon and epic levels, just for fun. I can tell you that, when I find a paragon path that fits particularly well thematically with a character, it makes me smile. Sometimes, though, the mechanics fit really well, but the theme needs to be tweaked a bit.
And that’s the thing about paragon paths in 4e; because they offer almost exclusively combat-oriented benefits, it can be difficult to reconcile thematic elements with mechanical elements. There’s a paragon path (I forget the name) that allows you to become a spy, but mechanically it just makes you better at fighting in a slightly sneaky way. Not really very spy-ish, but still useful. The opposite is also sometimes true, though; some paragon paths include mechanics that are extremely congruent with their underlying themes, and these are the ones I often wind up liking a lot and mentally filing away for later use.
I think that, in practice, a player who enters into a paragon path should simply choose the one that speaks to them the most, whether mechanically or thematically, and not worry too much about whether the mechanics and the flavor match up. Flavor can always be tweaked, and mechanics can always be re-skinned.
In general, I’m in favor of anything that allows players to tell their characters’ stories more effectively; I think that paragon paths can do that, even if not all of them are created equal for that purpose.