Re: Old Seshnelan Chivalry

From: Nick Brooke (
Date: Tue 28 Oct 1997 - 23:10:56 EET

I am well aware that Jean loves to differ from received wisdom. With
that noted, I write in response to his recent post:

> In the Old Hrestoli church everyone begins in his father's caste
> and may become a knight, and have the right to lead men, to do some
> high magic, to fight with weapons and to do some manual work.

My description of life along the Castle Coast (the only sizeable "Old
Hrestoli" population I'm aware of) would be rather different. There,
"caste mobility" is unheard of. But anyone, of no matter what caste,
can aspire to join the Noble and Chivalrous Order of Knighthood. All
you need is a sponsor from *each* of the four castes willing to testify
that you have demonstrated mastery of the essence of that caste and are
ready for entry into the caste-transcending state of Knighthood.

I don't know (in RuneQuest mechanical terms) what would be required.

I suspect that you'd need first to acquire a "sponsor" from your own
caste (saying you were a good Farmer, or Soldier, or Wizard, or Lord),
who would then "fix you up" with one of his cronies in another caste.
That worthy would then oversee your further training and initiation,
until he in turn was satisfied with your progress and nominated you
for yet further experience. There need be no set order to this, as it
is in no way "progression" -- as far as Malkioni religious law is
concerned, you remain in your birth-caste until you have successfully
mastered the arts of all four castes. You're in an interim stage: I
suggest borrowing the Latin term "candidate" for the aspiring Knights
(it has interesting connotations with purity, aspiration, wearing of
white cloth, seeking approbation, and the like). "Failing" one of your
masters would be a real black mark for the would-be knight: not only
must he succeed with some other master, but he must also clear his
name of past failures. (Killing your quondam boss is not an option).
OTOH, anyone recommended by a notoriously "tough" maaster will raise
eyebrows (and expectations) commensurately.

The potential for nepotism is obvious. However, one counterbalance is
that *any* recognised master of his caste's skills (a village elder,
sergeant-at-arms, village priest or minor lordling) can sponsor any
candidate. Thus, if "anti-establishment" figures can get their act
together, they can strive to elevate "one of them" to the caste which
(for most practical purposes) runs the Castle Coast.

(In a literary parallel, this would be like one of the "Fair Unknowns"
or "Peasant Knights" of Arthurian literature arriving at court, to the
general scorn and merriment of the assembled worthies. Women would have
a similar route "in" -- I doubt the founders of the system expected to
allow this, but I'm sure devotees of Saint Elleish will have had a fine
old time prising open the glass ceiling...)

In gaming, I think it offers an interesting progression for player
characters: rather than "kill the monster, take the treasure" style
adventures, they'll need a more inventive approach to life, finding
ways to impress Wizards with their spiritual outlook, Peasants with
their down-to-earth folksiness, Lords with their broader perspective,
and Soldiers with their military common sense. (And *not* their raw
fighting ability -- remember, each caste-member hopes to select the
kind of person they *want* to have in charge of them. I think a good
Soldier would rather be led by someone with an understanding of the
exigiencies of military life than by some gung-ho martial-arts freak
or bodybuilder.)

They aren't necessarily learning other castes' skills during this
process, either -- or at least, not the "special" skills of their
master, save those he is ready and willing to teach. What they are
learning is more the outlook, perspective, attitude of the caste.
Only when they have understood *everything*, and demonstrated this
understanding (in tests and in practice) will they be admitted to
the Order of Knighthood.

Knights, of course, couple military service (Soldier) with leadership
(Lord), land-tenancy (Peasant) and spiritual duties (Wizard). They
are expected to master the High Skills of all these arts: chivalrous
jousting, wise rule, benevolent stewardship and a religious outlook.
A new-made Knight hopes to gain the tutelage of an older and wiser
member of the Order, who can convey the necessaries of these Arts to
him, through instruction and example. (You aren't made a Knight when
you've already mastered all the skills of knighthood: you're made one
because they think you stand a chance of doing so).

That's how I see life on the Castle Coast, anyway. NB: being a failed
candidate is probably a black mark with superiors in your birth-caste,
too -- though all would deny it, showing that you'd attempted (and
conspicuously failed) to strive for something better would probably
rankle among your less-ambitious peers. So the leaders of the Four
Castes are unlikely to display over-much sympathy with wannabe Knights:
they can afford to take a more caste-serving, detached view: "Is this
really the kind of person who should be elevated to prominence in our
land? I have many dutiful (Peasants, Soldiers, Wizards, Lords) under
me: what makes this upstart think he can transcend the boundaries of
Malkion's Law?" There are probably only a couple of hundred Knights in
the whole Castle Coast (total pop. 50,000 per Genertela Book): caste
masters can afford to be selective in promoting their charges.

Does this make sense to anyone?



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.7 : Fri 13 Jun 2003 - 21:33:54 EEST