OSR: Class: Knights

Rolling up a Wizard in the GLOG system is a joy. You get a bonus layer of fun compared to everyone else as the GM reads out spells, cantrips, bonuses, penalties, etc. The martial classes just get to sit there.

So I'm fixing that. Here's my Knight class v2.0, stolen blatantly from Arnold K's rules and Reverance Pavane's notes on nobility.

The Black Prince at the Battle of Crecy, Julian Russell

Class: Knight

If you are from Around Here, you must be male or appear as male to be a Knight. If you are from Foreign Parts, or if you are an Elf or something, anything goes.

Starting Profession: instead of rolling, you get "Courtesy".
Starting Skill: see below
Starting Equipment: chainmail, shield, sword, horse, 10 sp

A: Challenge
B: Bodyguard, +1 attack per round
C: Parry
D: Aura of Courage, Dragon Slayer

You gain +1 HP and +1 to Save vs Fear for each Knight template you possess.

This ability only works on creatures that can understand you and are capable of being offended. If you challenge a creature outside of combat, they must make Save to resist accepting. In civilized areas, this is basically a duel, and this means that you and the other party must agree upon the time, the place, the weapons, the victory condition, and the stakes. Leaders will usually send out a champion to fight in their stead (if applicable). In combat, you can challenge one creature each turn by yelling at it as a free action. The creature must Save . If they fail, they will attack you. This ability cannot force an opponent to make major tactical errors or leap off cliffs.

If an adjacent ally would take damage from a physical attack, you can choose to take the damage for them. This ability has a 4-in-6 chance of succeeding.

Once per day you can reduce incoming damage by 1d12 points. If you also choose to sunder your shield, you can reduce the damage by 12 points instead of 1d12.

Aura of Courage
Adjacent allies can use your Save vs Fear in place of their own. This ability has no effect if you are currently afraid.

Dragon Slayer
Once per day, you can cause one of your physical attacks to deal +X damage, where X is equal to the HD of the highest level monster your party has ever killed. You must keep track of this. If you miss, this ability is not expended.

Mechanical Notes on the Knight

You are a tank. You start off with chainmail (Defense 14) and a shield (+1, so Defense 15). Your challenge ability is designed to draw targets to you and keep the squishy wizards safe. Bodyguard is a last-minute save, Parry makes you tougher, and at 4th level, you gain the ability to deal some guaranteed damage.

I'm not sure if Arnold intended the "+1 attack" in his Fighter template to be "+1 to your Attack stat" or "+1 Attack Per Round". I've gone with the latter for the Knight. A competent owlbear can claw/claw/bite in one round. There are better ways to add consistent damage or hit chance, but having 2 attacks feels really good. 

If you haven't seen "The Lion In Winter" (1968), please book time to see it as soon as possible. I could write an entire blog post about this film. Hell, I could probably write a book about it. If you have any pretensions of running a "medieval-ish" game,  you need to watch it.

Feudalism for People In A Hurry

If you're not in a hurry, these rules might help. I continue to be baffled by Counts having 3 HD and Emperors having 6 HD, but I suppose it's just one of those game system things...

Imagine you are a warlord. You lead a vast and squabbling nation and take over a bunch of land. You want to keep your lieutenants happy and loyal. To keep them on your side, you grant them land in your name. Your lieutenants have followers, and to keep them happy, they grant their followers land in the lieutenant's name, and so on, in a vast pyramid of land and titles and loyalty. You owe the guy who gave you land military service and rent. He owes his lord military service and rent. The King doesn't owe anybody anything but most of the time he's given away a lot of his land. Fast forward a few centuries and you have feudalism.

As a knight in an RPG you are probably near the bottom of the pyramid scheme. You don't have any knights below you, but you might have some peasants or servants.

There are three Estates: the Church, the Nobility, and the Commoners. The most important benefit from being a knight is being part of the Second Estate. Paladins (and Clerics, if you have those in your game), are part of the First Estate. Everyone else, from wizards to the guy who holds your torches, belongs to the Third Estate.

Because we're in a hurry, there are 12 ranks to the Second Estate. You cannot normally advance from one rank to the other. Barons don't "level up" to become kings. Adventurers, on the other hand, break all the rules.

Rank Title Monthly Expenses
12 King 180 gp
11 Sovereign Prince 168 gp
11 Prince 156 gp
10 Sovereign Duke 156 gp
10 Duke 144 gp
9 Marquis / Earl 132 gp
8 Count 120 gp
7 Viscount 108 gp
6 Baron (Large Barony) 96 gp
6 Baron (Medium Barony) 84 gp
6 Baron (Small Barony) 72 gp
5 Baronet / Knight Bannerette 60 gp
4 Lord / Manorial Knight 48 gp
3 Courtier / Household Knight 36 gp
2 Gentleman 24 gp
1 Provincial Gentleman / Bastard 12 gp

Starting Noble Rank. Roll 1d4

1. Rank 1 (Provincial Gentleman). Gain the "Farmer" skill.
2. Rank 1 (Forgotten Son). Gain the "History" skill.
3. Rank 1 (Bastard). Gain the "Siege Warfare" skill.
4. Rank 2 (Gentleman). The skill you gain varies.

There would have to be a significant disaster in your family for you to inherit a proper title. Roll 1d6+2 to see what the highest title you could potentially inherit is. This might be your father's uncle's title or something. Again, this would require a massacre, a plague, or divine intervention. You might still need to push a few nephews down wells. Roll 1d20+3 to see how many people are in line in front of you. You can name them if you'd like. You could even generate some history. One day I'm going to write a way to generate family trees in a hurry.

Your monthly expenses is the minimum you need to pay to maintain your status. It covers servants (elsewhere), repairs, fancy clothes, tithes, donations, taxes, and ransoms. As a starting character, your first month of expenses is covered. Being a Knight is expensive. It might even be prohibitively expensive. If you want to be an Fallen Knight, instead of rolling on the Noble Profession table above, roll on the regular Profession table.

Incidentally, 12x your monthly expense is the minimum amount you can be ransomed for. Cruel enemies might charge 36x or more. At least you can be ransomed - everyone else is ransomed in bulk, executed, or recruited. If you capture an enemy Count, for example, you could ransom them for at least 1,440 gp, paid in intervals according to the terms of the ransom. This money doesn't count for XP purposes in my game.

Provincial Gentleman
Supported by: Large Farm
A provincial gentleman never attends formal court, or only in the most dire circumstances when summoned there. You are a country squire, a prosperous farmer with a noble title, and, given half the chance, you'll disappear from the eyes of the Second Estate completely. You have 1d6 tenants (total, not families) and are on first-name terms with all of them. You have an explicit title to your farm and can trace your bloodlines back to a royal or noble family.

A large farm pays exactly your monthly expenses (12 gp) in a good year, half in a bad year, or none in a terrible year of wars, famine, and plague. In times of war, you will be called on by your lord to put on a rusty helmet, dig your sword out of the cupboard, and ride a horse into battle. If your lord is rich your equipment may be replaced. 

Forgotten Son
Supported by: Dubious Stipend
You are a legitimate son of a great family, but the third son of a third son of a second cousin of a noble isn't worth much. You remain at the court of a relative, but you do not have a position at court. People forget that you are related. Your monthly expenses represent the bribes, gifts, and costs of maintaining yourself in view of those able to better your station. 

You are supported by a stipend from your family. It pays exactly your monthly expenses (12 gp) but each month, roll a d10. On a 10, the stipend stops forever. In times of war, you will ride out with the court. You are essentially a household knight without position. 

No support
You are the illegitimate son of a noble. You are not expected to appear at any higher court, except as a novelty or during a trial. Your father has 1d4-1 older legitimate children, 1d4-1 younger legitimate children, and 1d6-1 other bastards. Halve these numbers if your father is young, dead, or there is a major disaster. There is a 20% chance your father has already acknowledged you. Otherwise, it will take a significant event for him to admit your existence. 

Even if you are acknowledged, you cannot inherit your father's titles or land. The only way to counteract this is to get the father's overlord to approve you as the legitimate heir to the title. This is very difficult to accomplish. Firstly, because in doing so you are effectively disinheriting the current heir (which may be a distant cousin from a collateral family line), and they can challenge this decision in higher courts (which will generally favour tradition). Secondly, if there are no legitimate heirs to a grant, then tradition has it revert to the overlord (so there is a considerable economic disincentive for the overlord to rule in favour of a bastard). In short, you're screwed unless your father likes you and the highest court owes him a favour.

You socially outrank all peasants but you won't impress wizards. During times of war you will not be expected to appear as a knight unless you are acknowledged. You may use your noble status to roam the land and search for your fortune, or you may abandon your status (and associated expenses) and become a Fallen Knight.

No support
You are the child of a a titled noble or wealthy landowner, but you hold no formal position at court. Your children are destined to lose their status as members of the Second Estate unless they achieve a position at court or obtain the grant or gift of a title. You are theoretically a household knight of your father's household, but you are not particularly respected. Gentlemen are expected to be able to appear at court but are not an actual part of the court. This does mean your lord, and possibly your overlord, have noticed you. 

Unless you find a position in the Church, in another court, or achieve the gift or grant of a title and land, you will soon run out of money. Warfare is one option, but so is adventuring. You have no real responsibilities and a great deal of ambition.
Fallen Knight
No monthly expenses

You have a horse, a sword, and armour, but you are not a noble. Maybe you stole the equipment of a dead knight. Maybe you abandoned your title and worked as a merchant or a farmer for a time. You are a false-knight, a knave, and an outlaw in any case. 

You could still be ennobled or gifted lands, but hereditary grants are unlikely. You circle wars like a vulture, or you live beyond the reach of the law. 

So why should I play a Knight?

You lend legitimacy to your adventuring group. It's not implausible that, if you serve your lord well or discover a ton of gold in a tomb,  you might be granted or gifted a castle, or land, or a title. Everyone else has to work as hard as they can just to get into your social class. People respect you. They might fear wizards and revere paladins but you are the martial paragon of the world.

You also get to use all the homebrewed stuff people have invented over the years for nobility, wars, castles, etc.

Detail from The Huesca Bell, José Casado del Alisal
Alternatively "players react to your homebrew"


Land is everything. It's the only safe investment. It's power. Land pays your expenses. If you take up a trade to make ends meet you will become a social outcast (see Fallen Knight above). Chances are pretty good you won't start with any land. You can buy it, but only if someone who owns it outright is willing to sell. It's not worth it. The only real way to get land is to have it granted to you by someone of higher status.  
Land and titles can be gifted (not inheritable) or granted (inheritable). If you have no heirs, your lord needs to do someone a favour, or you've displeased them, they can revoke your title and grants at any time and give them to someone else. 

Swords, Bows, and Horse

If you are from Around Here your weapon of choice is the sword and you ride a horse. In Foreign Parts, knights might use bows and ride lizards, but Foreign Parts are disreputable. 
As a member of the Second Estate, knights are allowed to carry swords. It's forbidden to everyone else. Bows are widely available and their use is encouraged, but outside of hunting, a knight would never use a bow. It would be a disgrace to their profession. Peasants can carry swords by license of their lord, or permanently bear them by royal charter, or get away with it where the laws are lax and the region disorderly. In civilized areas with recent memories of revolts a peasant with a sword will be run down and killed. It's the law. Peasants usually carry knives (for eating), bows (for hunting, and for archery practice), and clubs (to beat wild dogs and goblins). Anything else is viewed with suspicion.

Any member of the Third Estate caught with a crossbow anywhere but a battlefield will be hung from the nearest tree. Crossbows are seen as knight-killing weapons. They are regulated like rocket launchers in the modern era. If you aren't marching with a group of other people near a war, your crossbow is going to attract attention. The same thing applies to lances, which could unseat a mounted knight.
Everyone who can afford a horse and needs to travel owns one, but if you are on horseback and openly carrying weapons, you had better be a knight, in the retinue of a knight, a member of the First or Second estates, or ready to run for your life.

Knight and Lady on Horseback, Alphonse Mucha.

Horse Quality Table

A standard riding horse suitable for adventuring purposes is worth 10gp. You can get horses cheaper, but if you want to avoid the GM rolling on the "Horse Complication and Messy Death" table (not published), you probably want to spend at least 10gp.

Roll on the table below, with +1 for each 10gp spent past the first (maximum of 190 extra GP).

Roll Result
1 Catastrophe Horse dies within 1d10 days. No refunds.
2 Lame Unable to ride for 1d10 days, exploding on a 10
3 Mad 1-in-6 chance of being unridable per day
4 Wobbly Jelly legs. Feels like you are on a boat.
5 Surly Must be coaxed into anything. Looks depressed
6 Vicious Will bite 1d10 people per day
7 Ugly Horse has a few odd features, otherwise normal
8 Patchy Horse is missing some hair, otherwise normal
9 Mawkish Horse is sentimental and attached
10 Stable Nothing special
15 Nose for Danger Senses ambushes, bad weather, and ghosts
16 Swift +10% Movement
17 Lord of Horses Other horses follow and obey your horse
18 Stoic Immune to weather, disasters, and fear
19 Warrior Not a true warhorse but it will kick your enemies
20 Beautiful Smart, loyal, and shiny. The envy of your party.

Also, Arnold K. wrote some horse rules.


You swore to uphold a code of conduct that emphasizes courtly (chaste) love, compassion to the poor, honour in combat, and loyalty to your lord. You and everyone else you know ignores it completely.


  1. "If you capture an enemy Count, for example, you could ransom them for at least 1,440 gp, paid in intervals according to the terms of the ransom. This money doesn't count for XP purposes."

    The hell why not it doesn't? This and duels could be the only way a knight levels.

    1. Mostly because it's a stable income. In knight-based party focused on warfare, sure, I'd allow it, but in a game about robbing tombs and exploring, it seems a bit odd. Ransoming someone is pretty much a trade, like candle-making or blacksmithing. Also, the way I have thing set up, 1,440 gp is about 5 levels worth of XP.

  2. Looking forward to the publication of a Horse Complication and Messy Death table.