Knight

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Medieval Europe's equivelent of Hell's Angels

Not to be confused with the miniature Imperial Titan..

The "Knight" (Pronounced 'Kuh-niggit' for you Frenchies with outrageous accents) is an title given to a loyal servant of a monarchy in olden Europe. To start your knightly lineage, you must be valuable enough to your lord that he eventually bestows knighthood upon you. Once that is done, you are officially part of your kingdom's nobility (albeit at the near bottom of the ladder, but you're leagues better off than the common folk) and any children you bear will also be knights, who will then continue your proud lineage throughout the ages.

Knights originally started back in the early days of the 10th century as elite soldiers who fought on horseback, but started becoming the chivalrous, romantic daredevils we all know and love by the 12th, due to the influence of Christianity and Islam throughout Europe. They are usually rich-enough blokes that knight families typically owned at least one estate that they may develop as they see fit.

These guys were the greatest thing in Europe's arsenal for nearly a thousand years before being weakened by Italian pike formations, another chinese import and the idea of a professional and standardized standing army which gradually put an end to the age of knights. Then, in the 19th century and after the French revolution, Romanticists who wanted to defend the old order of things against upstart ideas about "democracy" and suchlike began looking to the past with rose coloured glasses and forgot about the shitty quality of that period and instead saw dashing knights in shining armor (a phrase that originally meant "The New guy who has never been through battle" FYI).

Misconceptions[edit]

In modern parlance, Knight is the catch-all term for some posh bloke who fought on horseback with decent armour and weapons. It was the case for some time, but the term 'Knight' has started to refer to the social rank of the man, not the way he fought, around the XIIth century. 'Chivalry' does refer to horsemanship, however.

Most armored guys on the battlefield of High and Late Medieval period (usually carrying shield, non rusted armor and a decent weapon) were Men at Arms -- a better equipped class of soldier. Through patronage of a wealthy lord; large groups of these blokes were kitted out with decent weaponry and armour (to varying degrees). They sometimes had a horse if there weren't enough cavalry, otherwise they just be a better equipped form of infantry. They were usually of better social standing than their comrades serving in a Lord's (or Knight's) armies as meat shields and arrow fodder (Re: conscripted peasant), although that itself would vary from men who their overlord might socialise with to a degree, to a better off commoner like a merchant who simply bought better armor than the smelly peasants, or they might just be some smelly oik with an aptitude for combat kitted out at his Lordship's expense.

Since most Knights were fairly wealthy; they nearly always fought as Men at Arms (being that they could afford decent plate armor, an arsenal of weapons, and a war horse, on their own), though not all Men at Arms were Knights. It is also worth noting that Men at Arms usually were poorer equipped than Knights, and often received little to no training which usually lasted between a fortnight and a month. Knights, however, were trained from the age of six and this training lasted until their mentor deemed them ready to be a full knight (that age varied, but generally was around 17-18 years. Edward the Black Prince, for example, was granted full knighthood in 16 years). They also had the option and means of having their own armor and weapons specially made/procured for them. Additionally, any non-noble who was able to attain knighthood though exemplary military service would have been a warrior of few equal.

It is also worth noting that some Knights did not fight at all, being too sickly, too old when war broke out, or simply too scared. Due to this, some knights engaged in civilian leadership roles, rather than military ones.

The Modern Take[edit]

In our current times the misconceptions mentioned above have created a stereotype in the general public's mind of what it means to be a knight; an owner of land and a castle, wearing that ridiculous heavy armour on top of a mighty horse and being the upmost example of honour, valour and nobility. This is because over time people have a tendency to start romanticizing things in poems and stories until what it originally was is buried under a mound of half-truths and plot twistings.

For example there is that tricky part of the tale of King Arthur: his dad Uther Pendragon wants to have it off with the lady Igraine, who is married to his enemy Gorlois. So, using circumstances and Merlin's magics, Uther takes on the identity of her husband, has his way with her, and then nine months down the line Arthur is born, an illegitimate child. This is left out of many tales except those seriously referencing the old poems as it is not the heroic source of the once and future king that many would expect (in later legend there is emphasis that Gorlois conveniently dies in battle before the conception occurs, therefore changing the fluff of the legend in Uther's favor. A predecessor to Matt Ward, it looks like).

So many use knights are a standard for human warriors of chivalry going out and slaying various beasts and saving various maidens (most fantasy settings, RPGs and mmorpg's use knights as a class type, some renaming to make them sound more original rip off D&D like 'Paladin' or 'Crusader').

Fantasy Knights in a Nutshell[edit]

If you are a chivalrous knight in such a modern fantasy setting, your usual duties will include:

  • Quest Taking: From killing a dragon to drive the moles out of the fields of farmers, anything that troubles the people; you must help. It doesn't have to be you directly, though. If the task is too unworthy for your stature, but still needs fixing, sending your apprentice or hiring other people to do it in your stead also works.
  • Monster killing: Really a whole category of it's own although often a Quest as well, there are various nasty critters around and in ye olde times you would serve as a pest exterminator for hire. The bigger and badder the monster you slay, the more famous you are with the kingdom.
  • Damsel rescuing: Even if she is married (or you are married), you could get a kiss, a handkerchief, and hopefully a hefty reward for giving her a hand.
  • Helping out your king: At times you'll be called on to help your king or lord and hook up with a bunch of your knightly mates to rout some naughty foreigners giving the kingdom trouble.
  • Wench pulling: You keep an entire industry of busty women in business with the profits from your questing.
  • Looking impressive: Your armor and weapons aren't just your tools, its also your icons. It gives the peasants something nice to gawk at and often symbols of your deeds and character. Many knights are recognized, simply by their gear (i.e: Excalibur for King Arthur).
  • Example setting: Along with looking good, you have to practice being good to and showing everyone how to be a goodie-two-shoes. From escorting ladies to putting your cloak out across a puddle, saying hello to Ted the stable boy, to upholding your kingdom's faith and smiting any heretic who dares besmirch your god; being a choir boy is a 24/7 job. This is also the reason why Knights are typically Paladin equivalents in fantasy.
    • If you should fall short in your chivalry, it usually suffices to take on a particularly challenging and meaningful quest to restore your honor. If there's one thing peasants like better than tales of upstanding knights, it's tales of knights who stumble and get back up again (or die trying).
    • The flip side of upholding the code of chivalry is enforcing the code against oath-breakers. Knights who completely forsake their vows are especially harmful to your profession's reputation, so be vigilant for rumors of 'black knights' and the like.
  • Training a squire: Building up a knight household is a ton of work, and if you died without a legitimate heir to your name, all your hard work over the decades would have been for naught. So, you had to train a successor who will carry your knight household throughout the ages. Train them well and don't just treat them as a glorified servant, as that little buttmuncher will be the one who'll be representing your legacy once you're gone, and you don't want your house to be remembered for that dastard who became the unbearable shame throughout the land.

Old-School D&D[edit]

Both 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2e featured the knightly archetype in their options. For 1e, Gary Gygax himself created the Cavalier in an issue of Dragon Magazine as a variant Paladin. It... didn't work out so well. For 2e, the knightly motif was conveyed by certain Kits, predominantly for the Warrior class-group, with the most obvious version being, again, the Cavalier.

The Cavalier is not held up very highly by most Grognards, for reasons explained on its page.

D&D 3.5[edit]

They have a high base attack bonus and roll D12s for HP. There abilities are purely related to taking hits and forcing a single target to hit them, similar in concept to a 4E tank class, but with significantly less versatility in terms of providing damage output, boosting allies or disrupting the flow of the fight to suit his party. Probably one of the weaker classes as too much of its abilities are focused on being a punching bag of HP instead of an actual tank that is hard to hurt and lacks the ability to fuck things over, if you're familiar with how Marking a target works in 4E, its based off this guy, but at least in 4E you have penalties other than the -2 to hit to control your opponent. Like paladins this class has a code of conduct. Unlike paladins, the consequences of breaking this code of conduct last a day tops (directly anyways, who knows what larger setbacks it might result in). The code of conduct consists of what they consider a "fair play". Part of the code of conduct is not dealing lethal damage to helpless foes. By the way, some creatures are immune to non-lethal damage.

Knight is tier 5. Their one task, tanking, is theoretically useful but they aren't that good at it and simply unable to try against most threats. Outside that they aren't very useful.

TL;DR A bunch of Hit Points that prototyped the tank class mechanics of 4E that lacks any choice beyond taking it in the gut. Avoid and just refluff a paladin as an atheist.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Classes
Player's Handbook: Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Player's Handbook II: Beguiler - Dragon Shaman - Duskblade - Knight
Complete Adventurer: Exemplar - Ninja - Scout - Spellthief
Complete Arcane: Warlock - Warmage - Wu jen
Complete Divine: Favored Soul - Shugenja - Spirit Shaman
Complete Psionic: Ardent - Divine Mind - Erudite - Lurk
Complete Warrior: Hexblade - Samurai - Swashbuckler
Dragon Compendium: Battle Dancer - Death Master - Jester
Mounteback - Savant - Sha'ir - Urban Druid
Dragon Magazine: Sha'ir - Deathwalker - Fleshcrafter - Soul Reaper
Dragon Magic: Dragonfire Adept
Dungeonscape: Factotum
Eberron Campaign Setting: Artificer
Heroes of Horror: Archivist - Dread Necromancer
Magic of Incarnum: Incarnate - Soulborn - Totemist
Miniatures Handbook: Favored Soul - Healer - Marshal - Warmage
Oriental Adventures: Samurai - Shaman - Shugenja - Sohei - Wu jen
Psionics Handbook: Psion - Psychic Warrior - Soulknife - Wilder
Tome of Battle: Crusader - Swordsage - Warblade
Tome of Magic: Binder - Shadowcaster - Truenamer
NPC Classes: Adept - Aristocrat - Commoner - Expert - Magewright - Warrior
Class-related things: Favored Class - Gestalt character
Multiclassing - Prestige classes - Variant Classes

D&D 4e[edit]

The knight was introduced in "Heroes of the Fallen Lands", the first of the two Essentials splatbooks for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. Flavorwise, knights are protection-focused warriors, champions who lead village militias, caravan guards and adventuring parties, favoring the use of heavy armor, hand weapon and shield to endure attacks as hold foes in place as the rest of their party closes in for the kill. Many knights belong to benevolent military orders, and whilst they are not paladins proper, they are still respected for their dedication to good (or at least martial perfection).

Mechanically, the knight is a "simplified" take on the 4e Fighter, this Martial Defender (with some Leader aspects) abandoned the AEDU System to something closer to an old-school fighter. Instead of the traditional front-loaded approach to class-features, the 4e knight gains different features at different levels. Instead of using the martial exploits system, it uses a combination of heroic-tier Utility powers and at-will stances, which modify the effects of its basic attacks. This formula would be reused for the Slayer, introduced in the same book.

A knight's core power is Defender Aura, an at-will utility used to mark foes, which goes in tandem with its Battle Guardian at-will attack to punish marked foes that try to slip past it. Its other level 1 features are Weapon Talent (+1 to your attack rolls with weapons), Shield Finesse as a bonus feat, access to two of the knight stances, and its only Encounter attack, Power Strike. It gains Improved Power Strike (use Power Strike 2/encounter) at level 3, Combat Readiness (+2 Initiative) at level 4, and Weapon Mastery (+1 damage with weapon attacks) at level 5. At level 7 it gains both an extra knight stance and one of the two Weapon Specializations, which adds a rider to its Power Strike attack; Bladed Step for heavy blades and Staggering Hammer for hammers. At level 8, it gains the utility power Shield Block, and at level 9 its Improved Combat Readiness feature boosts its initiative bonus to +4.

At level 11, it gains Stalwart Assault (Add Con bonus to Speed and melee weapon damage rolls in the first turn in an encounter), Stalwart Action (when you spend an action point, gain Resist 10 to all damage until the end of your next turn), and another Improved Power Strike (Power Strike 3/encounter). At level 12, it gains Greater Weapon Specialization, which gives it either the Shielding Blade or Bludgeoning Counterstrike utilities, another Improved Power Strike (4/encounter) at level 13, Paragon Weapon Mastery (+2 to all weapon attack rolls) at level 15, Armor of Conviction (gain Resist 5 to all damage while bloodied) and the Bolstering Strike utility at level 16, another new knight stance at level 17, Devoted Knight (using your second wind or total defense creates an aura 1 until the end of your next turn that grants your allies +2 to all defenses) at level 19, and Tactical Focus (you can slide a target you hit with Power Strike by +1 square) at level 20.

In the epic tier, it gains the Knight's Valor utility power at level 22, the Relentless Knight feature (can spend +1 healing surge when you use second wind) at level 23, Epic Weapon Mastery (+3 to all weapon attack rolls) at level 25, and finally Spirit of War (you can make a save to end an ongoing effect at both the start and end of your turns) at level 29.

It gains a chosen Utility Power at levels 2, 6 and 10.

General opinion is that it's a pretty badly handled class. It's strong at the Heroic Tier, but quickly falls behind the AEDU System classes from epic tier onwards, as its stance-modified basic attacks just don't cut it anymore.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Classes
Player's Handbook 1: Cleric - Fighter - Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Warlock - Warlord - Wizard
Player's Handbook 2: Avenger - Barbarian - Bard - Druid - Invoker - Shaman - Sorcerer - Warden
Player's Handbook 3: Ardent - Battlemind - Monk - Psion - Runepriest - Seeker
Heroes of X: Blackguard - Bladesinger - Binder - Cavalier - Elementalist - Hexblade - Hunter
Knight - Protector - Scout - Sentinel - Skald - Slayer - Sha'ir - Thief - Vampire - Witch
Settings Book: Artificer - Swordmage
Dragon Magazine: Assassin
Others: Paragon Path - Epic Destiny

Pathfinder - The Cavalier[edit]

Paizo has added traditional knights/men-at-arms to the Pathfinder roleplaying game, as the Cavalier class. They're a lot like Paladins without the magic. They differentiate themselves from the other melee classes in two major important ways: mounts and orders.

First of all, the cavalier focuses heavily on mounted combat. A Cavalier starts with a Druid's Animal Companion, though it has to be one he can ride. At first level, this is usually a horse(or a wolf for Small Cavaliers. Lots of his class abilities give out bonuses to him and his team while he's on his mount, including his "banner" skills, and let him bond with one particular animal. Note that Pathfinder has rules for riding critters like motherfucking dinosaurs and sexy lady centaurs, so don't feel compelled to settle for regular old horses. Around Level 4 or 7, your noble steed can take one for the team, and you can trade up to something really nasty. Every cavalier can also challenge enemies one at a time in the best tradition of chivalry, bashing the head of their chosen target in the ground in the name of honor, and they are natural tacticians, handing out Teamwork feats to the whole party a couple times a day. This has obvious problems in dungeons, so small-sized cavaliers are popular.

Second, a cavalier gets to choose from a variety of "Knightly Orders," that give him additional benefits and customizability, but also require him to keep up a code of conduct. Unlike the paladin's code, though, not all of these "codes of conduct" are pure Lawful Good stuff, and many vary heavily from order to order. Some outright tell you to be a murderous bastard, some basically make you act like a mini-paladin, and most give you an ideal, such as knowledge, glory, or beauty, to defend and strive for. You don't necessarily lose those benefits if you're terminally unable to roleplay your order right, but you will get jumped by other members who don't like you sullying their good (or evil!) name.

The Samurai class is a derivative of the Cavalier class, which mostly makes sense, and even comes with a few cool new Knightly Orders, though crosspicking is possible for both parties.

The Cavalier and Samurai are Tier 5 for medium characters, low tier 4 for small characters capable of doing one thing, mass damage from mounted charge, very well. However this one thing gets little chance to shine as many things disable mounts entirely, and the Cavalier has little of use outside these situations.

The Classes of Pathfinder
Core Classes: Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Advanced
Class Guide:
Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
Advanced
Player's Guide:
Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
Occult
Adventures:
Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
Ultimate X: Gunslinger - Magus- Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante
Ultimate
Psionics:
Aegis - Cryptic - Dread - Marksman
Psion - Psychic Warrior - Soulknife
Tactician - Vitalist - Wilder
Path of War: Harbinger - Mystic - Stalker - Warder - Warlord - Zealot

D&D 5e[edit]

Since knightly orders are a big thing in Forgotten Realms, the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition features two class variants with a knightly theme.

The Banneret (or Purple Dragon Knight, in-universe) is a Fighter martial archetype revolving around the concept of an elite and noble warrior whose skill allows them to inspire others to greatness in battle. It gets a bunch of class features reminiscent of 4e's Warlord, like healing allies when the fighter uses their Second Wind, triggering an ally to attack when you use Action Surge, and the ability to extend Indomitable to your allies.

The Oath of the Crown for Paladins, meanwhile, specifically represents the blur between knight and paladin, with a focus on lawfulness, order, and the sanctity of civilization in contrast to the paladin's general focus on doing good. It has features that let it serve as a mighty champion, and spells that tap into its spiritual authority, mostly enchantments like Command and Geas.

That not enough for you? Not only did we get a Cavalier subclass for the Fighter in the Kits of Old unearthed arcana, November 2016 gave us a full-fledged Knight subclass, which is essentially an even tankier version of the Cavalier. It can mount and dismount for only 5 feet of movement cost, has advantage on saves against falling off, always lands on its feet if it does fall off (providing it's no higher up than 10 feet and isn't incapacitated), has what is essentially the Fighter's Marking ability from 4e, a bonus skill with a "knightly" theme, the ability to make an attack as a reaction to an enemy moving within 5 feet that stops them moving if it hits, the ability to trade combat advantage for a bonus attack, gains a free opportunity attack each round, and gains +1 AC when wearing Heavy Armor.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes
Player's
Handbook:
Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
Unearthed
Arcana:
Artificer - Mystic

See also[edit]