I just want to begin by saying that knightly business, especially in the Arthurian context, can be a campaign and a story all in and of itself. The prior d20 Norse game had a fair amount of politics in it, and thus the knightly orders were more present than in the current campaign. To the extent that knightly business enters the campaigns is pretty much left up to the players. We now have two knights (Calidore and Duncan) on the team. Their players (Mike and Jar) also have a thorough understanding of historic knightly business, so I will tend to defer to them on certain issues.
History of Knighthood
Real historic preface: The feudal system in history only lasted for a millennia or so, and during that time conflict generally erupted due to politics or invading hordes. In sharp contrast, the feudal system in Farlanthia has lasted for 4-5 millennia, with the last 1000 years or so seeing general peace amongst the nations.
During the Age of Destruction a man by the name of Elric Pendragon united the squabbling tribes of humans and led them in a 100-year campaign that pushed the forces of darkness back and established the countries as they exist today. He fought Dragons, Giants, Goblins, Sarl, and Elves in this bloody, bloody campaign. Those that fought by his side were given the title “knight” and bequeathed land conquered during this campaign.
During the time of peace that followed, Elric (now the High King) established the Feudal System, putting into place the lordship structure, whereby a lesser noble swears fealty to a higher noble, until everyone swears fealty to the High King. However, local groups of knights wanted a tighter kinship than the feudal system provides, and so they formed the Orders. These knights took a similar bond of fealty, but it was common to each other. Since most of these knights were living in the borderlands, they would constantly be defending their own and each other’s lands. The Orders formed during this time are the following:
|Order Name||Weapon||Values||Classes (typical)||Location|
|Bear (Ursuridian)||Axe||Prowess in Battle||Fighter, Barbarian, Warden||Estora|
|Thorn (Briánorëian)||Sword||Justice||Fighter, Warlord, Ranger||Durein|
|Shield (Aegis Adamant)||Two-Handed Sword||Defenders of the Weak||Fighter, Warlord||Pellen|
|Sun(Solarian)||Sword and Shield||Retribution||Fighter, Paladin, Warlord, Avenger||Faddain|
|Lily (Líarellian)||Rapier||Courtly Knights||Fighter, Warlord, Bard,||Serve Landed and Minor Nobles|
|Crown (Regorian)||Mace||Protectors of the Crown||any||Generally the King’s Retinue|
|Black Rose||Any||To Protect and Serve the High Queen at all costs||any||Secret organization penetrating all societies|
|EvenStar||Sword, Bow||Silverelf, sworn to serve the High Queen||Ranger, sword mage, arcane archer||Silverwood|
|White Gold||Hammer||An odd order of Dwarves.||Fighter, Warden, Warlord, Ranger||Dwarven realms and Pellen|
|Black Crusade||None||An order which has turned to dark arts||Vampires, Liches, Werewolves||Somewhere in the Goblin Swamps|
As time went on, Kings rose and fell and eventually the title of Knight became somewhat lessened in value. As nobility and politics rose during the Age of Man, Knighthood was seen as a career path and less of a title. Being a Knight meant that you were an extremely skilled fighter, sworn in the service of a landed noble or king. This puts Knights in Farlanthia in similar kinship to Samurai in Japanese feudal society, and less like the nobles of Arthurian mythology. During this time, numerous “clubs” or politically aligned orders of knights arose, but these generally change throughout history, unlike the ones mentioned above. The availability of steel, weapons, and armor via magical means also makes being a knight (and living through conflict) more affordable, thus during the Age of Enlightenment, many nobles took care to distinguish themselves above Knights by spending money on more and more valuable things that were obviously outside of the spending range of a military man.
Knightly Rankings, in order of honor (low to high):
- Robber Knight / Black Knight: a name given to a knight who abuses his power
- Knight Mercenary: a name given to a knight who has lost his land, lord, or statue. Many work for money, few seek to return their titles.
- Squire: a Knight in training.
- Knight: a highly skilled combatant who has sworn fealty to a Landed Lord and Order
- Knight Errant: a term given to knights who are sons (or daughters) of Nobles until they prove themselves in combat or quest. Has fallen into disuse since the distancing of Nobility from Knighthood.
- Knight Superior: A decorated Knight, who may be awarded land or significant money.
- Knight Captain: A high-ranking officer in a Noble’s army.
- Knight Commander: A high-ranking officer in the Regent King’s Army.
- Knight Marshal: The highest ranking officer in the Lord King’s Army.
- Knight General: The highest ranking officer in the High King’s Army.
Fealty and Oaths
Since the separation of Knighthood and Nobility during the Age of Enlightenment, who a knight works for, and where there allegiances lie, has become a rather blurred thing.
To be sworn to someone is to make an Oath of Fealty. The Oath of Fealty demands that a Knight fight and die on behalf of, give shelter and hospitality to, uphold the values of, respect, and allegiance to the individual or organization to whom he has sworn. A Knight who breaks his Oath of Fealty is stripped of his title, rank, lands, possessions, and honor. The only time that breaking an Oath of Fealty is permissible, is if a higher ranking Fealty commands the knight to break it. The ranking of Fealty is given below:
- A Knight is first sworn to God, Elohim.
- A Knight is sworn to the High King/Queen.
- A Knight is then sworn to his Patron Angel (if applicable).
- A Knight is sworn to his Lord King (if applicable).
- A Knight is sword to his Regent King (if applicable).
- A Knight is sworn to his Order, and the Leader thereof (which may include a church).
ex: I so solemnly swear to worship Elohim and no other. I so solemnly swear to defend the High King and all of Farlanthia. I so solemnly swear to uphold the values of the Order of the Crown, and to the King Darius McPhellen. Unto hardship, poverty, and death do I swear these Oaths.
When a Lord or Priest wishes to invoke a Knight’s Oath of Fealty, they charge the knight with a task or order.
ex: Sir Sparhawk, I charge you with the defense of these orphans and the priestesses who serve in this orphanage.
Also, if the knight knows of a need of the entity to which he has sworn an Oath of Fealty, then the knight must act in accordance. For example, a knight of the crown is abroad but learns that his kingdom is under attack. He is bound by his Oath of Fealty to report for duty unless released from that charge by a King, Knight Captain or higher ranking Knight.
A knight may then pledge to someone, thing, cause, or quest, which is an Oath of Commitment. The Oath of Commitment demands that a knight be fair, be hospitable, respect, and fulfill all obligations of the pledge to that party. Pledges can range in severity from a promise to protect, fulfill a dying wish, to a business arrangement. A Pledge is given generally to someone of similar ranking or lower, and thus it is up to the Knight to see how to best fulfill the Oath of Commitment. Any Oath of Fealty, however, gains precedence over any Oath of Commitment, no matter how severe. Breaking an Oath of Commitment may mean total loss of respect for the knight, and possibly being shunned if the pledge was severe. A Knight may also be held legally responsible, fined, demoted, or otherwise humiliated for breaking a pledge.
ex: Father, I pledge from this day forth, to seek out and find your killer and restore honor to our family.
A Knight may also give his word, or an Oath of Honor. To be given the word of a knight is to be treated fairly, given hospitality, and to be considered innocent until proven guilty if the need of low justice arises. A knight may also give word to protect the individual or party. A word is not a binding agreement, however, breaking their word is strongly frowned upon, and the Knight will find himself shunned and possibly even fined or court marshaled depending on the offence.
ex: I give you my word of honor, that while you are under my roof that no harm will come to you.
So, what does a Knight do?
A Squire will serve the knight he is attached to, and owes an Oath of Fealty to that knight until the squire is knighted.
Knights, Knights Errant, Knights Superior, Robber Knights, or Knights Mercenary can do whatever they wish, so long as they are not called upon by their Lord or Order to serve in a particular way. Many Knights, however, serve as elite shocktroops and cavalary in their Lord’s or Order’s army, and are thus kept close to the castle or keep.
Knights of rank Captain or Higher are considered officers in whatever army they serve, and are usually duty-bound to serve in the administration of that army. Politicking is also heavily involved, which leave little time for anything else like going on Quests.
Who are the Knight’s Associates?
- A knight will usually be on a first-name basis with the Knight he squired under, and any Knight that closely associates with his mentor.
- A knight will be on first-name basis with his squires, but they will give him full title and respect until they are knighted.
- A knight will be on first-name basis with his peers (knights who squired during the same time).
- A knight will know, and will be known by his Knight-Captain within the order. If the knight is Knight Captain, then he will know and be known by his superior officers.
- A knight will know, and will not be known by the Head of his Order or King. If the knight is a Knight Captain or higher, the Head of his Order or King will likely know him.
How does one become a Knight?
- A young boy (likely of 8 to 10 winters) will be squired to an existing knight. Reasons for squiring can range from money, family, necessity, or charity. A squire swears an Oath of Fealty to that knight, an the knight then pledges to train up that squire in return for the service provided.
- The squire then serves the knight for 5 to 10 years (depending on the aptitude of the squire) learning all he can about the honor code, order, fighting, and religion.
- The squire is then brought before the order, and tested in fighting, endurance, intelligence, and spirituality. A squire who does not pass can bring shame upon the knight he serves similar to breaking a pledge, and so the testing is not done lightly. A squire also gets only one change to prove himself, and those that fail generally become guards, soldiers, or mercenaries.
- Squires who pass are then sworn into the order and are given the title of Knight. The squire no longer owes the knight an Oath of Fealty at this point, and in turn the Knight no longer pledges the squire anything.
- It is up to the new knight himself to purchase arms and armor, although many Knights will sponsor their squires in return for pledges of brothers-at-arms. Favored squires generally receive the best treatment.
- The knight is then free to do as he wishes. Unless the knight is charged by his order or King, there are no restrictions on his actions other than those imposed by his code of honor, religion, and order.