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Thursday, 25 January 2018

Lion & Dragon Q&A: How Hard is it to Get Knighted?

Welcome! As Lion & Dragon still keeps selling strong in the top-10 of RPGnow's bestseller list, we take the opportunity to look at a few more questions!

Q:Read it over the weekend. I really liked it. Especially the advancement part you are talking about above.
I guess if I had any questions it would be about social status and moving up or down the ladder. Is it even possible? Can/should status be a reward? How do adventurer types fit into the grand scheme?

A: Great question. In terms of Medieval-Authenticity, the reality is that if you want to be authentic, it should be relatively easy to move up the lower social classes, but very difficult into the upper social classes. Very, very difficult, though not completely impossible.

Being a serf or slave is a legal status, but in the time of the late medieval period, in Western Europe at least, this is becoming increasingly rare. Peasants can by this period become villains just by moving; of course, in this time, very few people did move from the country into the city, but any PC who did so would have been born a peasant (and likely still have "peasant ways" about him) but would in terms of social quality now be a city-dweller. It wouldn't really be any different than someone from the depths of Arkansas moving to New York City; their 'status' as a country-bumpkin would largely depend on how quickly they could drop the things that identified them as the former, and learn the cosmopolitan trappings that would let them identify as the latter.

But as for becoming a knight, or a noble, these things are incredibly difficult if you do not already come from a certain stock. Someone who is born into a high-end villain family or some very wealthy peasant family (because remember, wealth and status are two totally different things, you might find some common peasant that has more money than some Earls) MIGHT, by great personal effort to distinguish themselves in service to a lord or the crown, end up being able to achieve knighthood. But this is not very common at all.
If you look at history, what is much more frequent is for some commoner to become either rich or famous or both, to gain influence with the power-elite, build up a great reputation, and then for HIS SON to become a knight, and then maybe his grandson (or great-grandson) might end up getting some minor title of landed nobility.

What you can more commonly see as 'rewards' for lower-status characters would be things like offices.
So, for example, if you have a PC who's from a knightly family, or a cleric, and they do some great deeds that get the attention of the Crown, they might be rewarded with a knighthood.

A fighter or a magister that is from villain background, they might get rewarded with some kind of a rank or an office. The interesting thing is these ranks or offices (say, Sergeant of Fotheringhay Castle, or Personal Tutor to the Son of the Duke of Somerset) would come with room, board, and an annual wage. Whereas things like knigthoods or the types of offices granted to nobles ("Warden of the Cinque Ports", etc) did not actually come with any money, because it would be beneath the dignity of an aristocrat to accept monetary reward.

One thing to remember in Lion & Dragon vs. D&D is that a big bag of gold coins is literally the least honorable reward you could be given.

(you know you're playing a real Medieval-Authentic campaign when your ambitious PC does a scene like in this image)

So if you had a Scots Man, or a peasant fighter or thief, etc., they might get a bag full of shillings as their reward, and that would be saying "here, this is what will make you happy and it's all you care about, and it's a sign from us that we think you did a good job, so you might as well go spend it on the stupid things savages and peasants are likely to blow their money on".

If you give a big bag of shillings (instead of an office with a salary, or a special personal gift, etc) to the aforementioned Fighter or Magister of villain background, you're putting them in that same category, you're saying: "we're thankful for what you did, but we also don't think you'll ever amount to anything better than this, so we're treating you like we treat our inferiors".

If you give a big bag of shillings to someone of Knightly or Noble background you're saying to them "We think you're a mercenary and a cad, so we're insulting you by treating you like a fucking peasant who needs and wants money".

In short, you need to put a bit of thought in how parties get potentially rewarded by patrons, and not everyone in the party should get the same reward. And getting a reward that directly changes their status (like a knighthood), should be VERY VERY RARE. It might be something done for someone who say, already received increasingly important offices.
In my very long Dark Albion campaign, there was one character who ended up working his way up the scales this way: it took him 35 years of game-time (6 years of real-life gaming). He was, by the end, one of the most famous people in the kingdom, who was an invaluable personal servant of the royal family. At first, he was given little rewards of money or token gifts, then he was given minor paid offices and later more significant personal gifts that made everyone know he had the great favor of his lords (over the course of the campaign he had served the Earl of Warwick, King Edward of York, and then Prince (later King) Richard Crookback), then major offices (that did not come with a salary), and then finally knighthood. At the very end of the campaign he received a minor lordship. And this was a truly, stunningly exceptional character.

There was another character who BOUGHT a knighthood! This could happen sometimes, if you had enough money and there was a sufficiently powerful noble that desperately needed money. But after that he was treated as absolute dirt by almost everyone, because everyone felt like his title was illegitimate.

So you really shouldn't be thinking of knighthoods as a basic reward for even great deeds. You should work through that scale of rewards and a knighthood should be something very difficult to get, and any kind of greater title almost impossible if you don't already come from the nobility. In the real life period of the war of the roses, from what I researched, there were hardly any commoners who were knighted, and no commoners who received titles of nobility at all.

Q: Can Nobles who go around neglecting their duty to constantly kill griffons lose their social status?

A: A knight or noble who acts poorly, who do not fulfill their duties, who neglect their land, or don't come to court, or hang out with peasants or criminals or gypsies, or get drunk in free-houses or whatever other status-inappropriate misbehavior you can imagine do NOT automatically lose their social status.

With the lower classes, a villain who loses everything and goes to live in a hut to work someone else's land has de-facto become a Peasant. Their status is based on their lifestyle and surroundings. But with higher social classes, it's a bit different.

Knightly families are somewhat in between. If you have a knight who fails to ever act like a knight, becomes a poor farmer, etc, he will still personally be a knight. But his sons, in spite of being from a 'knightly family' will be unlikely to ever become knights themselves, and will likely get treated very poorly. And his grandsons will just be assumed to be peasants.

Nobles are more different. Their nobility is a matter of BLOOD. It is hereditary. So you could be an utter disaster in terms of behavior as a noble, and you're still a noble. You'd be an awful noble, who would be seen very badly by your peers, you would likely be suffering some serious social consequences for your activities. But you wouldn't 'lose' your social status itself.
There's only one thing that could make you lose your social status if you are a noble: a Bill of Attainder.

A Bill of Attainder is an act of the Crown that strips from your whole family their noble title and all lands. Typically, this was done for very high crimes like treason, though sometimes it was used as a tool against political enemies. It became a frequent event during the War of the Roses, for example, as when one faction or another got control of the crown they would end up passing many Bills of Attainder against their worst opponents in the other faction. The Attainder is judged as a "corruption of blood", which is why it applies to the family as a whole, not just an individual. So it is the ultimate punishment: a noble who has committed sufficient felony or treason to be attaindered not only loses their own title, and lands, but the title itself is stripped away from their children and heirs!

The person who is the direct source of the Attainder will usually be hunted down and put to death.

Obviously, this is something relatively rare. For example, even in the War of the Roses there was a great effort, when one rose or the other took the throne, to only attainder the most rabid allies of the other side, every other noble that sided with their opposition would be given the option to swear loyalty to the new (or restored) King in exchange for amnesty. Otherwise, you'd eventually run out of nobles altogether. Also, it was not uncommon for a noble to get attaindered and then later, many years later, for one of their sons to get their title restored, IF they prove themselves utterly loyal and dedicated to the crown. Thus, attaindering was used as a tool to 'reform' a family, by giving the now-disinherited sons of a traitor or felon the chance to restore their family fortune by not repeating the grave errors of their fathers.

But anyhow, no, it's not very easy to lose your social class, any more than it is to gain it.

So, please let me know if YOU have any questions for Lion & Dragon, about rules or lore! And if you haven't done so yet, please check out the game that's changing the way people look at medievalism in D&D!
Also, please help us stay in the top-10, by sharing this link everywhere you can!


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