Once again I’m returning to run games in my Cobrin’Seil D&D setting. It’s just a setting, there’s no high romance to it, I don’t have an elevator pitch to it that’ll let you go ‘oh yeah, dang, I want to be here.’ It’s just a place with a bunch of stuff I like in it, monsters for friends to fight, Trade Cartels to attack, bandits to retaliate against, at least one or two churches to have corrupt villains come out of, all that stuff.
In this setting, though, there are Church Knights, and I’ve found more than anything else in a tabletop game book, I get excited about factions. Factions are something that you can belong to, an organisation with a perspective and an idea to them, and it can come with competing needs and ways to shape yourself in response to an identity.
So I’m going to share a bit of my setting. I’m going to share with you the Church Knights of the Eresh Protectorates.
The Eresh Protectorates are a set of city-states, across both major continents of Cobrin’Seil, connected by highways. Before the borders were cemented and the nations were declared, these cities and their highways were kind of the structure people viewed the world around, and over time these cities became strong enough to have their own shared cultural touchstones and organisations.
One of the organisations is the Crown; an obligatory set of noble houses, people who own property and small villages. You know, your typical people who turn to the city’s orders and infrastructure when they have some local bandit or monster problem. Inherited wealth, sorta-feudalism, lords because there have been lords, perfect to have corrupt jerks and stupid assholes in amongst them. The crown has an army.
Then there’s the Church of Olifar. Big holy city, clergy and the like distributed throughout the cities. Cathedrals, that kind of stuff. Want an evil pope? You can have one here. Want helpful bishops who are constrained by the organisation around them? Easy! Sanctuaries? Sure! The church has an army, and why wouldn’t they, why are you asking, what’s weird about that?
Then there are the Church Knights. Ostensibly, they are part of the Crown (they’re knights, that’s a noble title), and the Church (it’s there in the name). But for reasons of many layers of tradition, the Church Knights aren’t under the control of the church. They’re technically under the control of the monarch directly, though that can be micromanagement problem. The long and short is that Church Knights have ‘duties’ they attend to, and they’re separate from Church rules, and they’re not part of the Crown Army, so the generals can’t order them around either.
The four orders of Church Knights are the meat of where we’re going here. Conceived back in 3.5 D&D, the orders and their alignments are the Tzarum (lawful good), the Lethinites (neutral good), the Raguzan (chaotic good) and the Chardunists (we’re trying, okay). And that, there is where the player documentation for the game book starts, presenting each order as a player option, their motto, and how to look at each order.
Order And Peace
The Tzarum have two common roles in their place in the cities of the Eresh Protectorate. Simultaneously a group of holy warriors regarded as high-impact shock troopers, the Tzarum are also integrated heavily into the City Watch.
Ostensibly the Tzarum serve at the request of the Church and the Crown, but as all the knightly orders, they are fiercely independent. This can be a problem for city watches, which may have conflicts with the Knighthouse as to protocols and rules. Similarly, Church soldiers often regard Tzarum as indolent, because of their unwillingness to go where the Church demands without what they see as an acceptable reason.
Tzarum knights tend to be well equipped and well trained, and in many cases live in the same Chapterhouse for long stretches of time.
At Their Best: Tzarum are a terrifying high-impact force who arrive in time to save people and destroy evil.
At Their Worst: Tzarum are inflexible and rigid, refusing to communicate with others because of the rules.
Aid Through Understanding
The Lethenites are commonly found managing and maintaining church sites dedicated to complex magical problems, such as holy relics or bound fiends. They are also commonly involved in the work of magical and holy libraries, transporting important books and icons from one place to another with a degree of understanding how the things work. Lethinites also often serve guarding care posts for church services like poorhouses and rest homes.
Lethinites do not have as much integration in other organisations as much as they tend to have a member of the Lethinite order whose duty is to liaise with a group. This can be a specific responsibility and tends to come with a lot of infrastructural knowledge – Knights often finish a task with detailed reports for the next knight to handle.
The Lethinite order is the most likely to have access to strange magic or research, and arcane testing facilities. If you want to have a magical accident or a curse the Order are attempting to fix, this is the place to be.
At Their Best: Lethinites are scholarly experts in many interconnected fields who protect other researchers through force of arms.
At Their Worst: Lethinites are slow to react and unlikely to take a good solution because they’re seeking a best solution.
COME HAVE A GO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH
Raguzans are the cunning, brawly, slightly drunken sibling of the other orders. They are most often found guarding highways by travelling with strangers, retaliating to threats or incursions on towns, or presenting force and strength in church locations where infrastructure is modest. They’re commonly involved in protecting pilgrims or in questing duties, when not called upon as a military force.
The Raguzan relationship with other orders is pretty simple; they’re louts. They’re wild and rarely disciplined, without much record keeping or reports, and they prefer to handle violations of knightly code in-house. Since the Raguzan justice system is largely focused on good outcomes and not protocol, this means some sketchy behaviour gets cleared, and it irritates the other orders a great deal. Nonetheless, while Raguzans can often only be relied upon to attack things, they do it very well.
Raguzans have the most working class individuals, people who became knights from battlefield promotions or honouring for some special deeds and have the least access to money and resources. Notably, the Raguzans do have access to Royal Kennel rights, meaning that their chapterhouses often have stables, kennels, mews, and other facilities. Raguzans have some of the best animal trainers in the Protectorate, with specialised tools like dire war ferrets and messenger rats.
Raguzans are also renowned for being siegebreakers, and it’s there that a strange second side of sophisticated genius comes to bear. Raguzans don’t just throw themselves at sieges, as they have a trained corps of disciplined but practical engineers skilled in disarming and disabling traps and explosives, dismantling barricades, routing water and other liquids and all sorts of other useful skills for forcing an end to a siege.
At Their Best: Raguzan are knights of the commoners, people who stand up to and break systems that crush the weak underfoot.
At Their Worst: Raguzan fight for the sake of fighting and cause more problems than they solve.
Secret Sins Need Secret Saviors
The Chardunists are ‘known’ as the secret fourth order. Originally the Church’s arm of Inquisition created to eradicate sources of Psionic power (known once as the Shandrelle Heresy), their power grew and, and so to their ability to hide from oversight until eventually, they re-emerged (then just as quickly hid themselves again) as a Knightly Order protecting psionic entities from oppression, which they refer to as The Task. Chardunists are sometimes referred to as ‘The secret police’ of the nation, which isn’t correct. They see their roles as creating safe spaces for psionic individuals to exist safely away from church oppression, and acting in the name of the Crown to oppose problems that can’t be dealt with by throwing military force at it.
Chardunists keep their actions extremely covert, and even going so far as to use psionic powers to make people forget the locations of their chapterhouses and meeting halls. Chardunist writing includes ethical application of psionic powers, and come down extremely hard on those they see as violating these rules. This means that they seem inscrutable to other orders – Tzarumites don’t trust them for their secrecy, Lethenites don’t see why they can’t be trusted with the threats they contain, and Raguzans have strong views against mind influencing magic in the first place. Chardunists often regard the other orders as painfully unaware of the kinds of problems they deal with.
Chardunists are however, the least obviously knightly of the orders – most Chardunists need to be able to blend into normal societies, and therefore tend to favour roles and identities that seem extremely vague or unimportant. Coopers and wagon drivers, couriers and minor officials, Chardunists are also the most likely to be an inhuman or unnatural race thanks to the order’s stance of recruitment for the Task.
At Their Best: Chardunists are the salvation of the invisible, the saviors of people who think they have nobody to turn to, never needing to be asked or thanked.
At Their Worst: Chardunists are secretive and untrustworthy agents whose inability to communicate leads to worse outcomes for others that they can’t ever explain.