13 April 2011

K is for Knighthood

Ok, another short one today. I've been swamped this week so far and it's only getting worse. ~sigh~

I find that there are plenty out there in the OSR who do not like Unearthed Arcana. I find that attitude amusing. UA was edited by Gary and, in many ways, is a preview of what a Gygaxian "2E" might have looked like. However, because it does not fit into some pre-conceived notion of what "real" AD&D is, it has to go.

I invoke the magic word "Balderdash!" There is nothing wrong with it. And one of the two classes that (incorrectly) generates a considerable amount of ire is the Cavalier.

The argument generally goes that the cavalier is unnecessary because a single-classed fighter is a better choice and that one can simply roleplay a fighter as a cavalier. The problem with this argument is that the PHB already had an assassin class. Isn't assassin merely a job description for a thief or fighter? (That's the same argument used for why it was removed in "2E" and was a prestige class in 3.0/3.5.)

The assassin establishes the fact that sometimes, for various reasons, a specialized class is necessary. The counter-argument is that the cavalier "gives too much" to the player. The cavalier is "overpowered." Funny. I thought that the fighter was a better fighter, especially with specialization. There are limits placed on the cavalier. Alignment is restricted; if he becomes neutral or evil in morality, then the cavalier loses the ability to operate at negative hit points. Evil cavaliers are also hunted.

The next argument is that DMs and players usually ignore all the class restrictions on alignment, behavior, etc. I have to say, "So?" If the end-user misuses the product, does that mean the design is flawed? Of course not!

The thing to reminder is that a mere fighter is not a knight. A knight is a chivalrous warrior. That is more than just being an honorable fighter and a good Joe. There is a certain attitude and skill that is involved in the concept. And the most important, the one that really sets the knight apart from other warriors is the horse.

First and foremost, the knight is a horse warrior, trained practically from birth to fight from horseback and to espouse the Chivalric Code of Honor. Combat is Glory. Defense of any Charge until Death. Courage and Enterprise in Obedience. The Knight is chained to a demanding lifestyle. He's not just a "good fighter dude." The horse is a big part of it. Lancelot was dishonored when he had to ride in a wagon because he had no horse. Horses were ransomed just like the knights themselves. Norman knights on the First Crusade dropped their armor in the heat, but never their horses.

Of course there is more to than the horse. Without his code a knight is just a brigand on a horse. Sort of like this guy:

That code is what keeps his force in check. He is a superb warrior but his might is chained to oaths of obedience and loyalty, oaths taken before the altar of a Good (although not necessarily a Lawful) deity. That is why evil cavaliers are hunted down relentlessly; it is not because they are evil, but instead because they are Oathbreakers who are now unchecked.

Maybe I make too much of this. Maybe I have too romantic a spirit. Naw... ;)
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