Warrior, Champion, Duelist

The Warrior Trade is the most comprehensive of the three tiers or trades by which a character can be prepared to take part in armed combat. The real difference between the Warrior by Trade and those that merely swing a weapon at need, for self defense when pressed, is one of interest and commitment.

The Fyrd are looked on by full-trade Warriors as dilettantes with only a passing interest, doing only the bare minimum required of them by the law. The Fyrd-trained character can barely keep control of the weapon in his own hand well enough to offer a real threat to the enemy(-ies) he faces. In the army and in battle, the Fyrd play an undeniably important role, and it is exactly the one the members of the Fyrd who end up facing foes on the battlefield generally fear it to be: “sword fodder.” To die so that their betters might live. In the eyes of a Warrior, only luck can get those with this level or tier of training through an actual pitched battle alive. One who works to practice and improve this tier of training to improve it may end up on top in a duel or keep himself in the streets.

The Night Watch are acknowledged as more serious, but they remain part-timers, at best. The Night Watch-trained character is too busy keeping a close watch on the weapons he fears in his foe’s hands, worrying about his personal safety and survival, to be able to calm down and start observing his opponent like a true Warrior. Honing the skills they are taught, a character may stand strong with his fellows and get safely through a skirmish. If those who have risen this far in their martial training can be inspired – and survive – they may eventually earn their way into the ranks of true Warriors.

Those pursuing the full Warrior trade are in it for life, to keep themselves alive on the battlefield, where they expect to make their fortune or find it. They burn with the will to survive, to defy the limitations of their own bodies, to rise to be the best they can in arms. They are driven to learn and understand the various regional variations and differing forms in weapons, especially by nationality, and also not only the various styles in which they are used, but the men who created and teach (or taught) the fighting styles all Warriors seek to collect and study. Some of the greatest styles are described in detail with illustrations in costly books to be handed down – some of them considered useful and instructive standards widely known and observed even a couple hundred years after the original master’s death.

The Warrior trade is quoted a standard length of apprenticeship in character creation like the rest of the trades, BUT any such training was always at will and subject to the student’s ability to pay the tuition, like any other school, while the apprenticeship to a fighting master is considered equally informal but rather more serious in terms of commitment.

These details of character background are up to the player to work out with the GM.

In the distinctly English medieval milieu of the game, the basis of RoM, social class and station actually dictates the weapons and arms available to the character. A royal statute (law) known as the Assizes of Arms dictated the bare minimum weapons and arms all able-bodied male citizens over the age of 16 and up to the age of 60 must acquire and maintain for the defense of the realm, according to the value in yearly income of the lands each holds, or the value of their chattels (moveable goods), whichever is greater.

Every citizen is required to swear an oath before the local court in allegiance to the king and to uphold Assize and provide the arms required of him and to use them only in defense of the realm at age 15 or 16 among commoners, no later than age 21 for the gentry.

They are expected to train in their uses along side their neighbors no less than monthly under the direction of the local constable. The local constables call the citizens out on a regular schedule to drill with their weapons; archery practice was compulsory for Sundays and feastdays, historically. However, it is illegal for any commoner to wear or bare their weapons or even armor in any marketplace, church, town, or on royal road, as a violation of the King’s Peace or the Peace of the Church, even when responding to the summons to muster. Those of noble blood and those directly in their service may bear arms, especially when accompanying their lord, but all are bound to keep the peace.

For most walks of life, this dictated the minimum maintained in the house as far as war harness, and thus the skills they were expected to practice and for what purpose they were allowed to be used. In this way, every character’s war harness is subject to review for proper care and maintenance once a year by the local representative of the king –– the sheriff and/or hundred Constable primarily.

Because of the Assize of Arms, every character must have at least Fyrd training, if not the Night Watch or this, full-fledged Warrior trade training, in addition to whatever other trade(s) the player chooses. It is up to you as GM to determine how strictly this rule is observed in your game world. It may well vary from one realm to the next (GM’s discretion).

This was required of all male characters, but women were NOT barred from participating.

These trades are the product of either some type of school or the tutelage of a particular master. Both sorts of training were widely available across England in the period of the game despite the legislation actually enacted against them in the period.

The Assize of Arms thus dictates the minimum equipment everyone must own and train with, BUT those with the wealth are welcome to to buy more or better quality in addition. The drawback to displaying wealth greater than proper social station is, when one is in the lands (shire, but especially the home hundred) where he is best known for his family and having been born/raised, the danger of being accused of theft and taken in hand by the authorities for it until the rightful owner can be established. This is why maintaining receipts (stocks and tallies) are important.

Bows, staves, sling staves, farm tools and common slings are all exceptions, as are Brawling and Wrestling skills. These are all considered right and proper in the hands of land bound characters and commoners, alike.

By the time the player gets to Step 6. of Character Creation, he should know where his character falls on this schedule of minimum requirements. The character’s class and station by birth are the basis of this, BUT his primary Trade may be the most important in that determination as it may force him into a higher bracket, or allow him to plead a lower one.

Assize of Arms

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† indicates a level of income that makes the character subject to “distraint of knighthood,” or he must procure the habiliments required of a knight and seek one out – or some other noble who has his knighthood – to be formally invested as a knight.

Knife above indicates any weapon of the knife/dagger group represented on the weapon rosters in Appendix D.

One of the most important distinctions on the schedule of obligations on the Assize table is between those who must be mounted and those on foot, as horses are expensive, both for purchase and to maintain. Those who are expected to provide horses by the income level noted generally already own them, however. It is a mark of wealth and greater station.

Of the swords with which some are required to equip themselves, the common sword, hand-and-a-half or bastard sword, and two-handed sword or great-sword are all reserved for the use of the knightly (noble) class. Bows on the other hand, are not considered a noble weapon, and even moreso are crossbows condemned, and as such are reserved for the use of the commoners on the field of war.

The shire levies, equipped according to the law, are called out when the king rides to war, for conquest or defense, organized by the constables of the hundreds and led by their sheriffs (both Warrior occupations, the latter always a Knight), but they are not bound to fight outside of the country (border disputes being a grey area, a right much contested). Many refuse to fight outside their own shire without pay, and none have any obligation to fight longer than 40 days without pay, regardless, on the strength of ancient custom. “Custom hath the force of law.”

The local constables call the citizens out on a regular schedule to drill with their weapons; archery practice was compulsory for Sundays and feastdays, historically. However, it is illegal for any commoner to wear or bare their weapons or even armor in any marketplace, church, town, or on royal road, as a violation of the King’s Peace or the Peace of the Church, even when responding to the summons to muster. Those of noble blood and those directly in their service may bear arms, especially when accompanying their lord, but all are bound to keep the peace.

Even the un-free villeins and serfs are equipped and called for service by the local constable in time of sudden invasion or great royal campaigns to accompany the king to war. The fabric of society in the English medieval milieu being flexible enough that even the un-free might distinguish themselves and earn recognition to win their freedom by their service.

To secure the personal freedom to maintain and train in the arts martial and seek a career as a common soldier or mercenary, town or castle guard, is far easier for the freeman, however. The landbound are likely to take their training in arms from the reeves and bailiffs of the lords to whom they are bound, and may have an easier time cementing that relationship if they come to them as a Huntsman, especially with Husbandry and Beast Mastery as a Falconer or Berner (master of hounds).

Freedom is a prize that service in battle makes attainable to the landbound, however, allowing them to aspire eventually even to the station of a Knight. The fabric of society was much more permeable in England than it was on the Continent. Likewise, it is the means by which the convicted and wanted criminal alike commonly makes restitution for his crimes, even if he be a murderer, so long as he is healthy enough to be able to serve with weapon in hand and follow orders. The prisons are often emptied of those willing to fight for a royal pardon when the king is ready to ride to war. All they have to do is survive the length of the campaign to return home with the king or his lieutenant.

Regardless of their wealth or lack of it, commoners and gentlemen alike may train as full-fledged Warriors. They may hone their skills as Hobelars (mounted troops) or generally as Men-at-Arms, generally footmen bearing pikes and/or “long knives” (such as the Welsh provided as mercenaries) or valued archers. Eventually they may earn the rank of Sergeant.

Warriors owning less than a full Knight’s fee (480 acres, or a total of £20 income per year) are called Sergeants. However, a gentleman or freemen can be similarly endowed, and also referred to as Sergeants, some to carry a lord’s banner on the field of battle, or lead local forces at need, or provide infantrymen, archers, or crossbowmen when Crown or lord call. These commonly stand as the light cavalry used in reconnaissance and skirmishing, taking part in cavalry actions with Knights, though not as wealthy or well-equipped. Tenure by Sergeanty has a variable value. Thus, the title of Sergeant is not indicative of social class and station. A Knight is still a Knight, a Squire still a Squire, a gentleman still a gentleman and a commoner still a commoner, regardless of holding tenure in property by sergeanty.

The Sergeants are the ranks usually tapped for local use in procuring troops for the Crown in time of war, as captains and Commissioners of Array (as discussed later).

A gentleman is a man of gentle birth, one whose ancestors were knights but who has lost the right to knighted over time, as that right only passes only by Primogeniture (eldest male heir). The younger sons train as Squires, but they must earn the right to the gilded spurs of a knight. That takes connections, drive and a measure of luck, their gentle blood notwithstanding. This class of “demi-nobles” still strongly identifies with the skills of battle, the driving responsibility of the noble class.

Choosing a career of battle, running off to fight in foreign wars for booty, participating in tournaments, even serving in noble households and turning their hands to battle when the household is raised, the gentleman keeps alive the possibility that he might once again, through valiant service on the field of battle, be restored to knightly dignity.

A character of noble birth equipped with the Warrior trade is assumed by default to have been trained first as a Page and then as a Squire. The player must choose between that character still remaining a Squire at the start of play (not at all unusual) or having undergone the lavish ceremony investing him as a full-fledged Knight. 

If a player is satisfied with having the option to take knighthood but has no real pretensions to nobility, only wanting access to their company, a Warrior trained as a competent Squire can be as effective as any knight, although he is hindered in social interactions with them. Squires and Knights are discussed at length in the Warrior trade description.

A Warrior who has sworn sacred vows to a holy order is a Sacred Knight. He may or may not have the actual blessing of the Light, embodied in the Blessed Hero Trade. Those that do are graced with an array of special spiritual abilities, for they walk a Path that eventually leads them to the bosom of the Light as true Holy Mystics. Sacred Knights are discussed at length following Squires and Knights, in the Warrior trade description.

Trade Skills

Brawler/Wrestler

Dodge

Game Face

Perception

Assess Gear/Harness

Assess Wounds

Savvy

Sentry

Presence

Interview/Interrogate

Intimidate

Shield

Block 

Parry

Rim Strike

Shield Bash

Weapons † (10 *

† indicates that up to (AWA ÷ 4) skills in number of this type or category are allowed (not required).

Players have NO obligation to equip their characters with the full (AWA ÷ 4) compliment of these skills – with the understanding that they are NOT allowed to fill them in retroactively, after they have already brought their characters into active game play, just because they WERE allowed them during the Character Creation process (long since finished).

Those entries appearing in italics under an underscored skill entry define the specifics of the skill, what aspect(s) of the general root skill is/are known and practiced .

10) The Mêlée Weapon skills of the Warrior, Sergeant or Champion are NOT to include any Combination Blades or heavy Lance and should include at least one (1) Close Mêlée weapon, and one (1) Missile/Ranged Weapon (any) or at least some skill with a Hurled Weapon (player’s discretion).

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Violence is an accepted and unavoidable part of the true Warrior’s life, and for those who live by it, a simple fact of life whose religious and spiritual ramifications offer little, if any, deterrent. Indeed, a Squire or other Warrior is expected to be hit hard enough to knock him to the ground no less than 20 times during each of his trials and training before he is ever considered ready to face battle. Thus, a Warrior’s will to survive is tempered to a steely edge. He becomes inured to pain and privation over the course of his career, and is no stranger to the ivory grin of death. Warriors learn to endure and even dismiss discomforts that wear others down, and even the pain of injuries or wounds.

The Warrior is granted a bonus of (TR) to his P-RES score.

This applies only for the purposes of maintaining consciousness in the face of the pain of taking a wound, in resisting the numbing power of the shock of being struck and maintaining consciousness in the face of extreme fatigue (where the Wind and FTG rules are in play).

During the Warrior’s Trade training he learns to compensate for and work with his armor, to develop his fighting style that allows him to maximize it’s strengths, but mostly he becomes conditioned to the oppressive heat that can accumulate under it in the midst of a fight, rather more so than those who lack the same intensive training in arms that this trade represents.

Warriors are allowed to recover their Wind and FTG points normally (where those rules are in play), if they should have a chance to cat-nap or even fall truly asleep while still wearing their armor. 

No strangers are these characters to having to be ready for action on a moment’s notice, or to taking their shifts on Sentry duty, and so inured to discomfort and physical hardship do they become, over time.

A (TR) bonus is added to the Warrior’s Wind and FTG scores (where those rules are in play) and, for the purposes of determining how quickly he recovers his Wind and FTG points, also added to his effective CND score (but ONLY for that purpose).

As their trade training protects them from feeling too much or too deeply, thus providing these benefits, it is small wonder that Warriors are rather commonly noted for their callous lack of sympathy in regards to the complaints uttered by others when suffering physical hardships.

Like any other trade, Warriors all receive the same pool of Trade Skills and abilities. The specific choices of weapon skills and then the particular weapons representing each skill help to differentiate them.

With his close and almost constant exposure to the tools of his trade and his experiences in the practice yard, area tournaments and actual battle sharpens his senses and eyes in certain ways. A Warrior can Assess Gear/Harness so he can tell the nationality of the make of weapons, armor or other martial gear, the quality of steel, condition and if allowed to handle it, the quality and state of care. A Connoisseur specialty in weapons is a good fit for a full trade Warrior, including knowledge of hallmarks so the specific origins of a weapon can be discerned.

He may also Assess Wounds so he can tell the severity of his own or another’s wounds (Light, Serious, Grievous or Mortal).

Without trying to get insanely detailed and specifying what the actual “fighting styles” are that the characters practice, they are represented in such a way that each character more or less gets to develop his own over the course of play. This is based on the assumption that each Warrior takes elements from all the styles he is taught and blends them together to suit himself.

The basic tools by which fighting style(s) is/are expressed are considered to be provided by the maneuvers that appear in the Tactical Play & Armed Combat rules – Common Strike/Hearty Blow; Slash; Thrust/Lunge; Aimed Strike, Entangle (spec.); Bind/Entangle/Disarm; Feint.

The definitions of these and the way they are used in battle are provided with those rules.

In game terms, the Warrior character is granted (TR) points during Character Creation to divvy up and allot to these maneuvers as bonuses. 

These bonuses are added to the character’s weapon AV’s to attack and the DV’s against which his opponents roll, representing his defenses. Whatever maneuver he chooses to employ, the bonus is added, regardless of weapon.

The true benefit of the Warriors’ training in various fighting or fencing styles lies in their learning the timing and proper delivery of what are called Combinations.

These can be most easily labeled as Dual Attacks; Dual Defenses; Attack/Defense; Defense/Attack. These are designed to account for all the Warrior’s personal resources in battle. A player can choose to account for a weapon or shield or other object in a character’s primary hand, another in his off-hand, and he may move or dodge or kick, sidestep, advance, back-peddle, jump or some other similar movement (especially by means of the Brawler skill) all in the course of a single 10-second Combat Segment. The character may utilize one, some, or all of his faculties – or none, by means of a “Wait” action.

Full trade Warriors are the only characters that can utilize Combinations in armed combat.

Trade Warriors are also granted a bonus of 1 per 4 Game Face SL’s to ALL his attack AV’s, as it gradually stills any habitual movements he might make that might ‘telegraph’ or give away his his next intended move or strike to his opponent.

Warriors are granted a bonus based on their Savvy SL’s to ALL their defense DV’s, as well, as it gradually improves the degree to which they can read their opponent’s body language and fighting style, enabling him to anticipate his opponent’s next intended move or strike.

Warriors are unique in that any and every Trade is deemed an Allied Trade.

The Crown uses “Contracts of Indenture” to command military service as well as raise the levies to make-up the balance of the armies, once the feudal lords owing military service (servicium debitum) have been summoned. Warriors of great standing bearing royal commissions by Letters Close from the king, called Commissioners of Array, use professional Warriors as subcontractors carry Letters Close to raise troops of quality mercenaries by indenture to serve at wages – men-at-arms, archers, and Hobilars. Almost comprising a small but professional army of paid volunteers in themselves, the Commissioners rely on the good reputations of their deputies or captains in the various districts to attract seasoned, skilled mercenaries, and especially for finding skilled archers. The common men compete regularly at village archery contests for the honor of being chosen to stand for selection by the circulating or local subcontractors, captains or Commissioners. The Commissioner is always a wealthy man, or has access to plentiful coin or plate, for he is responsible for fronting the first installment of pay to the troops he gathers out of his own purse. The Crown regularly offers securities to repay the captains on reaching the hosting site, or as soon as might be afterwards, but wages are generally always paid in arrears, and commonly only when the troops are about ready to desert.

Captains and commissioners contract with the Crown to supply a certain number of men for a particular period of service – no less than the traditional 40 days, no longer than a year and a day – at specific rates of pay, obligations and privileges. The Captain holding the contract must be a man of liquid means, in the same manner as a Commissioner of Array, working on his own behalf.

The terms for the division of the expected spoils of battle are spelled out in the Contracts of Array. It is not considered appropriate for any common soldier(s) to capture and hold any nobleman for ransom, but they must turn them over to the lord under whose banner the Warrior fights for him to hold as hostage in return for a specified amount of plate and/or coin to the commoner having taken him captive. In campaigns officially launched by the Crown, whether led in person by the king himself or not, all lands, castles, towns, and hostages owning a living of £500 a year rightfully belong to the king. It is customary for the Crown to compensate the captor in return, but this is ONLY a courtesy. Of the booty taken in goods, coin and plate in war, every man must surrender one-third to his captain. The men taken into service under contract are also bound to preserve the peace among themselves on pain of privation or mutilation. All these affairs are adjudicated by the Court Martial, under the Marshal of the realm.

Outside the arena of war, whether private and local or a royal campaign against bordering rivals, the Warrior of common or landbound blood going armed and bearing weapons runs the risk of being accused of breaking the King’s Peace in pursuing retainer in the service of others who may be in need of his services, such as Merchants in need of guards to protect their goods and wealth when being transported from town to town or port on the King’s Road. Churches, markets, and the royal roads are all protected. Lonely roads far from any governing lord, where their services are needed most however, are another matter entirely.

In those regions where the status quo is too civilized for local war, those who are members of this trade are commonly hard-pressed to find uses for themselves beyond service to the king or plain banditry, but this requires them to hold a fair amount of land, which most lack. It is rather common for lesser knights, especially younger brothers of lords, and the men-at-arms serving under them to seek out a lord for shelter to perform all acts as commanded and protect their host’s causes, and in their spare time amuse themselves at brigandage. This was especially true historically of those who have fought as mercenaries in foreign wars and returned home again. Foreign mercenaries had long been forbidden in England by the period of the game, but there was nothing to cure the condition in their own citizens. Between the knights at loose ends and the mercenaries returned home and the avarice, greed and despotism of many of the nobles the practice of “bastard feudalism” evolved from the feudal system, where men were taken into the household without any given duties, yet provided with the lord’s livery (clothes in the lord’s heraldic colors and usually some form of badge drawn from that nobleman’s arms) and maintenance (protection, in old French), they provided the lord with a small army or war band or a handful of bully-lads to work their will in the districts where they were kept on behalf of said lord, which might range across three or four shires.

This resulted in small, private wars being fought between noblemen and the intimidation and bullying of those farther down the social ladder in their districts. Many of those beneath them enlisted as allies simply for self-protection, in order to be left alone.

Despite the normal and usual appearance of the rule of law in the period of the game (in spite of the usual modern opinions), there exists or persists still something of a dichotomy of spirit. That which is wild and wolfish still remains, especially within those who fight for their daily bread, regardless of also possessing any number of up-standing traits or Virtues.

Those with wealth have the most to fear, and merchants are always a favorite target, for they are always at work moving valuable goods from one town to the next, back and forth to and from the ports and back and forth between the various faires in the realm and markets in the shires. As a case in point, a few merchants of the town of Lichfield sent 2 of their servants with 2 horses carrying “spicery and mercery” (spices and silk, linen and fustian textiles) valued at the considerable sum of £40. to Stafford in anticipation of the next market day. When the merchants’ men came to the eaves of Cannock Wood they found Sir Robert de Rideware awaiting them, along with 2 men of his own, who seized them all, servants, horses and goods, and dragged them off to the Priory of Lappeley. In the course of the journey, one of the servants escaped, to the merchants’ good fortune.

Arriving at the priory, Sir Robert met with Sir John de Oddyngesles, Esmond de Oddyngesles, and several others, knights as well as others. With the ease of a pre-arranged affair and common practice they divvied up the cloth and spices, each receiving a portion according to his degree. The company of noble brigands then rode off to the Priory of Blythebury, a house of nuns. Sir Robert declared to the nuns that they were all of them king’s men, quite exhausted and in need of hospitality, but the nun’s saw something suspicious about them and refused them entrance. Indignant at this reception, the knights broke into the barns and their lofts and fed their horses on hay and oats and settled there for the night. All the while, the escaped servant had been watching, having followed from a discrete distance so as not to be discovered.

When he saw the men settling in for the night, the servant rushed off to Lichfield with all haste to raise the bailiff, who then hastened, in turn, to collect his men to pursue the noble robbers. The brigand knights, being men of the sword, stood their ground when faced by the bailiff and his men and a true battle ensued, in which the robbers initially had the upper hand, wounding several of their pursuers. In the end, however, they were bested and fled.

All of the spices were recovered at that time and 4 of the robbers were taken captive and summarily beheaded on the spot.

Sir Robert was not one of the 4 and did not lose heart, indeed, he went straight away to his brother William de Rideware, who was Lord Hamstall, and set out immediately with William and some of his men to pursue the bailiff who was on his way back to Lichfield. This time the de Ridewares prevailed and the spices were taken again, the bailiff fleeing. When the aggrieved merchants mounted an excursion to Stafford to seek the king’s justice, they were met at the very gates by Sir Richard and Sir John and some of their and Lord William’s retainers who barred their passage to the town and attacked them “so hotly” that they had difficulty escaping with their lives. Thus, they returned to Lichfield, where their gentlemen persecutors and their men continued to menace them and keep them under surveillance so that they dared not leave the town again. No doubt through intermediaries, the aggrieved merchants started a petition to the local earl over the said Lord of Hamstall, since they could not reach the royal court in Stafford.

Due to the fact that Warriors and their ilk are not governed by any sort of guild (although they may frequently belong to one or more fraternities), these battle skills might be learned by those following any trade, so long as a willing teacher can be found.

Duelists are commonly hired not only for defense but also to teach the very same tactics that make them such valuable hires.

Any reluctance to teaching those outside the fraternities of their trade is commonly traceable to a general lack of patience with dilettantes.

If one can prove one’s commitment to doing the work needed to master these special skills, one may find a willing master to teach, or at least one grudgingly willing.

The Order of the Garter consisted of 26 secular Knights, divided into 2 teams for the tourneys, one under the king, one under the Black Prince, each with a stall in St. George’s chapel. The Order of the Golden Fleece was another such fraternity of (secular) knights.

Upon reaching the Master LoA, the Warrior gains the option of specializing as a Duelist. 

This specialty can only be learned from a recognized Duelist who has earned Master of the Works status since specializing as a Duelist himself, providing he earned that distinction while still bearing the TR that made him a candidate, otherwise add any TR’s of discrepancy between eligibility and earning the distinction to his Master of the Works TR requirement.

A Duelist is an advanced specialist Warrior, a fearsome fencer.

Fencing as a profession was originally developed by the professional duelists of the 1200’s. 

To transition into a Duelist, the Warrior must have skill with a melée weapon which stands at the Master LoA, either a Combination Blade or a Cut & Thrust-type or any of the other Renaissance styles of Blades provided on the weapon rosters (GM’s discretion).

The character who commits to such a trade takes great pride in his martial training and practices it as often as he may, for his own uses or defense or for another’s, for charity or for coin, but he may have to conceal his knowledge of such tricks until he has need of them.

By definition, according to the other professional men living by the sword (especially those of noble heritage), the Duelist fights “dirty”. In other words, a Duelist does what he must in order, not so much to win, but to survive. Many of the special tactics described in the discussion of fighting techniques under the Weapon skill come from the duelist bag of tricks.

Such persons are considered unsavory and lacking in honor, handicapped in any efforts to cultivate a good name or reputation among those who tout the values of honor and Chivalry. The Duelist works more in the social arena of private honor duels, however, but is also commonly engaged to teach the tricks that make him so successful. A character need not be a Magister to teach his trade, but it is beneficial to him and the student alike, as it is in the transfer of any sort of knowledge in the context of the game.

These unscrupulous and shady characters specialized in secret tricks of swordplay which they would teach in return for a hefty price. In some incidences, they would personally duel on a client’s behalf in order to ensure a satisfactory result, guaranteed upon their own bodies as a measure of their confidence, in the same manner as a Champion in the judicial duel.

Such tactics are what he teaches to those who come to him intent on defending themselves rather than allowing the Duelist or Champion to defend him, especially if he be headed into war. The professional duelist was considered (socially) a rogue (not the same as a member of the Rogue, in game terms) by the authorities, a social outcast if not actually an outlaw.

One of the keys to the Duelist’s effectiveness in battle is his knowledge of the earmarks and trademarks of the teachings of all the different styles of fighting popular in the part of the world where he took his training, and especially their preferred tactics and fighting techniques but, more importantly, how to counter them, as well.

  • For every attack that scores a hit on the same foe in battle, the Duelist receives a temporary +1 bonus to his Attack AV’s against him and his Defense DV’s to ward him off, to a limit of (AWA ÷ 4).
  • This bonus applies only to a single foe at any given time.

IF the Duelist should break off to engage a new opponent, the bonus achieved against the first is lost and a new one must be cultivated against the new opponent, as he observes and analyzes the moves and techniques preferred.

Duelists have something of the nature of a Trickster, insofar as they practice false body language as a true Player and make false movements to mislead. Rather than the cold and impenetrable “blank slate” the Game Face provides, the Duelist is all for deception and playing tricks to conceal his intentions until he is ready to actually makes his move.

  • When employing his favorite maneuver, the Feint (a favorite tactic), a Duelist is granted a bonus to his Attack AV based on his Player skill. 

IF the Duelist doesn’t have the Player skill, he may seek out someone who does who is willing to teach him, in order to benefit from it in this manner.

  • The Duelist also receives a bonus equal to his TR’s earned as a Duelist whenever he makes a Combination maneuver. 
  • This bonus is added to both his Attack AV(s) OR his Defense DV(s) (as applicable).

The London Masters of Defense

It was not until the middle of the 15th century that it was safe to publicly admit to running a school of fencing, historically. Although legislation of the 13th and 14th centuries forbidding dueling and such schools was still in force, it was only indifferently enforced, ie., it was complaint-driven, and complaints were assessed according to the social standing of the plaintiff. In 1540, Henry VIII finally granted Letters Patent to a Corporation of Fencing Masters, known as “The London Masters of Defense”. In doing so, he gave them a virtual monopoly on the teaching of fencing in England, Wales and Ireland, in the same manner as a guild in any of the many handicrafts and merchant trades. Indeed, they were addressed as the “guild of Masters of ye noble Science of Defense”.

This charter gave the profession a new respectability, although it was not for another decade or two that such an occupation was officially recognized. James 1 issued a Royal Warrant giving The London Masters of Defense the highest status they had ever enjoyed (1605). This warrant granted them the power to legally control the teaching of fencing within the English domains.

The company of fencers, the Masters of Defense, were structured in the same manner as any of the handicraft or merchant guilds, broken down into ranks according to their martial skills and accomplishments. These ranks were bestowed by playing a prize or demonstration in public to show one’s skill with a wide range of weapons, in the same manner as submitting a masterwork in a craft trade, but a new one was required for each successive rank. These ranks have been used for the purposes of the game in the same manner as LoA’s

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These exhibitions for succession in the ranks were very popular, historically. They were accompanied by processions, music and a good deal of showmanship, and were performed on the same shared-stage with the Elizabethan theatre actors. Shakespeare’s knowledge of swordsmanship and his use of the various weapons throughout his plays would have undoubtedly come from these exhibitions. The audiences of the day would have made the highest demands regarding the performance of the theatrical swordfights, since they would have specialist experience of combat between the most skilled exponents in the country from these exhibitions. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was first produced in 1595 and contains some of the most spectacular fighting scenes of any Elizabethan play.

The development of the London guild of fencers is included due to the fact that it faithfully follows the guild forms created in the period of the game and carried them forward, in much the same manner as a number of the other details lifted from the Renaissance for inclusion in the game due to the probable developments of an essentially perpetually medieval environment, illustrating the principle behind the passage entitled “The Perpetually Medieval Gameworld” in Part III.

Champions

The professional Champion is a specific class of Warrior who works with the courts and the law, looking for patrons to represent in the same manner as a lawyer or barrister, ultimately seeking to find a patron to keep him on retainer, in the same manner as a Knight, but without the high social prestige. Champions are often originally of gentle or knightly blood – some may even have once been knights truly trained and recognized, but as Champions they are fallen and forsaken. Fate sometimes makes fools of us all …. How the Champion came to follow that trade is up to the individual player to decide when writing the background for his character.

IF the character is a knight, originally brought up in that social sphere and tradition, the character should be made using the skill roster for a knight. Otherwise, the common Warrior roster (previously) should be used.

In all other ways, the skills and abilities of a Champion are exactly the same as any other trade Warrior.

The Trade of the Champion grew out of the traditions of the “ordeal of arms” or Trial by Combat at law. This was a favorite with the Irish Celts, the Slavs, and the Norsemen. A Norse warrior might even go around challenging the owners of property he coveted to invite the gods to determine who the future owner would be.

Trial by Combat was the simple process of two sides at odds in a dispute of a legal nature fighting it out with weapons until one party or the other cried “”Mercy”. The winner was thus declared in the right by Divine Judgment.

The persistence of judicial duels (which lingered in common practice through the Renaissance) is accompanied by the peoples’ fervent belief in magick and the manipulation of Luck in their causes during a judicial battle. Champions in judicial duels are almost expected to wear magical tokens. Even having occult symbols tattooed or painted on their heads is deemed acceptable. However, the combatants are expected to fight on an equal footing.

In one judicial duel between Champions representing the Bishop of Salisbury and the Earl of Salisbury, both Warriors were duly searched for unlawful arms and it was found that “prayers and magical spells” had been sewn into the clothes of the Bishop’s man. The battle was cancelled and the Bishop lost his case, NOT because the court censured the talismans or magick in general, but because it was felt their power would surely make the contest unequal, BOTH sides would have had to have been equipped with such blessings and talismans for the duel to go forward.

The respondent to the plaintiff in any property dispute pursued at law had the right of inquest (Trial by Jury) or Trial by Combat.

Those standing accused of a crime in court of law might challenge the accuser to a judicial duel, but a witness bringing evidence against him might be challenged also. If he lost the match, that witness’ evidence would be discarded.

A party to a dispute might even challenge his own witness if he provided evidence of a damaging nature to the case.

In 1017, Emperor Henry II used hired champions to decide the cases of robbers awaiting trial in Magdeburg and Merseberg. 

On the other hand, in 1040, Innocentius II forbade judicial duels to all ecclesiastics, just as they were forbidden to ride into battle in fulfillment of the servicium debitum owed for the estates they held. This was just as difficult to enforce. It was deemed necessary for Alexander II to repeat the prohibition due to non-observance again in 1070. Bishops rode to battle nonetheless, and Champions were contracted by Churchmen for judicial service.

In France, witnesses were so often challenged in hopes of getting their evidence thrown out that by the end of the 1200’s it was common practice to disallow any witness who could not be legally compelled to back his testimony up by force of arms.

Up to 1285, a champion could only be brought into play through the legal fiction of first taking oath as a witness, then proceeding to duel as a witness, as if the defendant had challenged him rather than the plaintiff. If he lost, he was subject to the traditional justice reserved for perjurers : hanging, or the loss of a hand or foot. 

Alternately, if the witness lost the combat, he was fined the amount that his testimony would have cost the defendant (Germany).

However, a crime committed by a wife against her husband or by a servant against his master were both considered treasonable offenses, and so these are deprived of right of challenge . In the same manner, the serf is denied the right to challenge the freeman, the leper to challenge the noon-leper, the bastard to challenge anyone legitimately born in holy wedlock.

Churchmen and women commonly avail themselves of the right to a Champion, and one might be sought to protect the rights of a minor, as well. In the cases where the challenged is physically deformed or a bastard, the appointment of a Champion is generally allowed. This is not allowed when barred due to social class or contagious disease. Resort to Champions is allowed in civil cases as well as criminal.

Thus, the Trade of freelance Champions emerged to fill those needs.

The use of a Champion is forbidden in cases hinging on charges of dishonor or felony, however, and the ban against women participating in judicial combat is not universal. There will be regional exceptions where a Champion will not be needed.

In 1228, a woman of Berne, Switzerland entered the lists and soundly thrashed her male opponent.

The loser of a judicial duel is dishonored and risks being summarily and immediately condemned to death.

Those who started as Knights in truth, by noble right of blood, are NOT acknowledged by their brothers once they turn Champion by trade. They are seen as the worst of sell-swords, as low as any common thug. Champions in general, regardless of class and station of birth, will be reckoned on a par with prostitutes, selling their bodies for coin, equivalent to fornicators, breakers of a major commandment.

Their honor is denied by those who would otherwise be his peers, and no professional Champion is ever allowed entrance in the lists at any legitimate tournament or allowed in any host of the tournament melée, although they are welcomed readily enough by lord or Crown in time of war for their battle-seasoned skills.

Freelance Champions are barred from giving evidence in cases at law, or succeeding to property, the same as Jugglers, Players, and bastards, except that in the case of the Champion the taint of blood and the same restrictions extends to his children as well.

Despite the ill-fame of the Trade, it is incumbent on the Champion to maintain a good reputation for being otherwise a good and up-standing man. A Champion can be excluded from plying his Trade for having been convicted as a criminal himself previously, or for being in general a “man of ill-fame”.

Permanently retained salaried champions are by their treatment and status on retainer considered a cut above. This is the level of status and recognition to which all Champions aspire, to be maintained in a household or retained in the same manner as any household knight. It is incumbent on the Champion who aspires to such heights to cultivate a manner pleasing to a lord to be maintained in his household. The Courtier’s skills may be invaluable in the end and serve his ambitions best. The Champion maintained by the Bishop of Hereford was paid 6s. 8d. for an engagement – quite an admirable wage, but in this case renegotiable after every bout.

A successful Champion might be blessed with a lifetime covenant of service for £20, plus wages when called on. That is the equivalent of maintenance at the legally recognized level of income of a Knight.

Champions & Trial by Combat

Local law-worthy knights keep the field and adjudicate all cases of judicial duel. The tradition of Judicial Duels is maintained most fervently in the arena of land disputes that have been gone to the courts. Judicial duels might be fought on horse or on foot, with various weapons. Sometimes local custom dictates the precise type of battle, or the social rank of the parties involved, or the type of crime might alternately dictate the terms. In this type of trial both combatants or champions may be required to appear with shaven heads, bare legged and bare-armed, and each to give the judge a glove with a penny in each finger while kneeling before him. The choice of weapons might be left to one or the other of the litigants in some cases, again in accordance with local rules pertaining to duels.

Each by custom must retire to a church/chapel to pray prior to the battle.

Winchester, London (1456)

One of the King’s Approvers, himself a convicted thief, accused another man, a fisher and tailor of craft, under threat of death and in return for an allowance of 1d 1hp per day. In turn, the Approve was himself accused of false accusation. 

For the duel, both to be dressed in white and each to hold a 3ft. ash stave in one hand and an iron horn “shaped like a rammyshorn” as sharp at its point as it could be made.

The duel took place on the “most sorry and wretched green that might be found about the town” and both men were to fast, “having neither meat nor drink”.

The battle drew a crowd, as usual, loathing and decrying the approver while cheering the tailor. The approver came from the Eastside (London), the tailor from the South-westside. 

Kneeling down to pray to God, the crowd prayed with and for the defendant, which so annoyed the approver (Thomas Whytehorne) that he mocked the tailor, inquiring as to why he would make such a long show of his false belief, thus provoking Fysher (the tailor) to jump up, declare his just cause, and lunge at him, but he broke “his weapon” in so doing. Whytehorne, blackguard that he was, pressed the attack until he was restrained and disarmed.

They resumed the fight, unarmed, with brief breaks for them to catch their breath. Whytehorne bit him (Fysher) in the crotch, but Fysher recovered and bit his nose and thumbed his eye, whereupon Whytehorne cried mercy. He then made his confession, which included 28 other men [no doubt members of the band that threatened his life and offered him the money in maintenance], and was then hanged.

Fysher, who might legally have been executed for having slain the king’s approver, was in fact “pardoned his life, limbs, and goods and went home”. He became a hermit and “with short time died”. 

In another case, a Knight of Holland, Jan van Arckle, when in the Holy Land during the first crusade, came across a cadre of German Knights, among whom was one who wore the same coat of arms as his own (a field argent, two bars gules). The German took van Arckle’s banner and threw to the ground, in response to which van Arckle petitioned the leaders of the Crusade, who found both parties to have independently originated the same coat of arms. A Trial by Combat was called for, which van Arckle won, thus securing that coat of arms as his own property the same as any piece of land, for those of his blood in perpetuity.

Duels between men and women usually had special rules, also.

In some parts of Germany, the man was to be equipped with 3 clubs, one arm tied behind his back, and standing in a pit 3ft wide up to his navel, while the woman was free to dodge about armed with 3 stones (each weighing 1-5lbs, according to local custom), each wrapped in pieces of cloth.

IF the man touched the ground with either hand or arm, he had to surrender one of his clubs. If the woman struck him while he was unarmed, she must surrender a stone. If the man wins, the woman is buried alive, BUT if she wins, he is then executed.

IF during the course of the battle the accused cries “Craven”, he gives in, effectively admitting his guilt, and the judge rules summarily against him, resulting in due punishment according to the crime.

IF the accuser cries “Craven”, he is sentenced for perjury, condemned to wear “the coward’s calfskin” for the rest of his life, and perhaps to lose a hand in the bargain, too.  If he fails to beat his foe by star-rise, he has lost and is again judged perjured, although without the other penalties of a coward).

Generally speaking, the expenses involved in the administration of judicial duels will be paid by the Crown. This will not be the case in most other countries outside the English milieu represented here to begin with in RoM, except when one or both of the litigants is too poor to equip himself.