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Khanwulf

Magic Knights and honor oh my!

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This... this has probably been answered before, but let's discuss.

Arthurian legend has a variety of "magic knights"... and then it has magic-using knights. The latter group of sorcerous lancers include the mysterious Menw, who shows up in Culhwch and Olwen to raise a fog at one point. The latter group explicitly includes Gawain, and may include Kay, Bedivere and the like if you hew to Culhwch.

It's the express inclusion of Gawain that bothers me a tad. Greg set Culhwch to one side because despite its authenticity as one of the earliest legends of Arthur's court, it doesn't fit with the chivalric practice of KAP.

Gawain has magic powers that raise his strength in the morning such that he's mightiest at noon and weakens toward dusk. 

Now... in KAP's honor loss tables there is '-8 for casting spells' (single quotes because I'm not actually looking at it right now). We can assume that Menw took this hit, and then rolled forward raising Honor at ever opportunity. But what about Gawain? If you acquire a magic power--a secret in Gawain's case known to himself, Arthur and select few others I might add--what kind of Honor hit do you take?

Are 'spells' limited to KAP-style magic with life energy and all that? Or is it a broader category of magic in general?

 

Bonus: how did Gawain get his solar superman power? Any explanation?

 

--Khanwulf

(PS: obviously in Gawain's case he probably earned his Honor back in an afternoon or something--at least by Greg's notes!)

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Don't forget Lancelot and his superhuman abilities either.

 

I think as far as Pendragon goes there is a difference between being magically enhanced and actively casting magic. It's okay for Arthur to wield Excalibur, but not okay for him to enchant it.As for Gawain, it is a left over from his originally being a Solar deity. As far as the latter Gawain goes he was given a blessing by a holy man, also named Gawain. So he probably gets a pass on the honor loss because it was, essentially a gift from God, who is untimely everybody's liege lord. 

Most of the spellcasting knights in the stories are extreme characters. Either they are honorless practioners of black magic and foul sorcery, or they are paragons of virtue who use their magic for just purposes. Fae are the exception, but seem to be covered under "force of nature" or "childlike ignorance".

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As Atgxtg points out, Lancelot and Arthur use magical items against their opponents without any issue. Gawaine at least has the excuse that he can't turn his power off, but Arthur goes to the duel with Accolon with the belief that he still has both Excalibur and the scabbard, without even thinking of levelling the odds by using a normal sword. So by our examples, that seems to be fine.

In the Grey Knight, Arthur sends his knights to seek magical items to help Gawaine in his, essentially, judicial duel in behalf of Arthur. Somewhat justified that the Grey Knight is clearly backed by supernatural forces, though. But I could see someone yelling foul if, say, there is a judicial duel and Arthur loans Excalibur to Gawaine to fight with, since clearly, this is prejudicing the outcome.Of course you could always claim that if the cause is just, prejudicing it won't matter, since God will give victory to the righteous anyway. Historically, this was less of an issue since no one had magical swords, but in a marital duel between a husband and a wife, the husband was handicapped to make the duel more fair, which would indicate to me that in the presence of actual magical items, there could be a similar effort to balance things out. That being said, in ordinary duels of honor, I think you would be expected to take your lumps. It is your own fault for getting into a duel with someone with a magical sword or a big charger or a better armor than you.

My inclination would be not to make a big deal of it, as magical items are rare enough as they are. If a PK manages to get his hands on a magical sword, the Player wishes his character to be able to use it, understandably enough. That being said, I would recommend that if the weapon in question is particularly lethal, the PK ought to consider either pulling his swings (and cause less damage) or switch to a regular sword, if it is a friendly duel for love (such as the first blood duels in the Kingdom of the Circle of Gold).

Edited by Morien

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1 hour ago, Morien said:

But I could see someone yelling foul if, say, there is a judicial duel and Arthur loans Excalibur to Gawaine to fight with, since clearly, this is prejudicing the outcome.

And yet, as you know, Arthur did just that in canon. Magical items are ok, it seems.

11 hours ago, Khanwulf said:

Bonus: how did Gawain get his solar superman power? Any explanation?

As Atgxtg said, there is clear pagan solar connection to Gawaine. In the Vulgate (and probably Malory), he was christened by a holy man the hottest day of the year (St John's day). As you see, it's a "christian" explanation of a pre-christian myth.

11 hours ago, Khanwulf said:

Arthurian legend has a variety of "magic knights"

As Atgxtg said, this "magic knights" are in game either fae or fiends, or sorcerers, i.e. NPC. They are tools in the hands of the GM.

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I'm not as deep into the lore as you guys, but it seems to me that Arthur & Company are the superheroes of their era.  Superman doesn't apologize for using his strength against evil, nor does Green Lantern feel that he is somehow cheating when he uses his power ring.  Why should Gawain feel guilty about whacking the bad guys with his solar strength?

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1 hour ago, seneschal said:

I'm not as deep into the lore as you guys, but it seems to me that Arthur & Company are the superheroes of their era.  Superman doesn't apologize for using his strength against evil, nor does Green Lantern feel that he is somehow cheating when he uses his power ring.  Why should Gawain feel guilty about whacking the bad guys with his solar strength?

I think Superheroes might be a bad comparison. Yes, Superman doesn't apologize for using his super strength, but he also is an illegal alien who commits Assault & Battery and forcibly detains people without any legal authority to do so. Most superheroes are vigilantes and are acting outside the law, and so are not good comparisons to knights, who are part of the medieval legal/justice system. If superheroes really existed they either be drafted into government service, wanted fugitives, or convicted felons.

 

As far as Pendragon goes, I think with magic it depends on the source of the magic. Anything from God or some Saint of Holy Man is considered a good thing and thus should be acceptable. Thus Gawain is off the hook. Most other magic depends on it's source and the reputation of the wielder. 

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Another example comes to mind. In Adventure of the Circle of Gold, the guardian knights are using magic against the PKs in friendly jousts and duels, and do not seem to lose Honor by this. Granted, it is possible that they don't even know what the magic items actually do, as their effects are not obvious to the eye. It may have become a tradition, a part of the ritual of the challenges.

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Plus the key thing in KAP seems to be the "casting spells" part. It's dishonorable for a knight to cast a spell, but not necessarily to benefit from one. It is like chirurgery or industry. Not things that a knight should be doing, but it's certainly okay for a knight to benefit from. Somebody has to probe wounds and tend the fields.

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Maybe what Atgxtg says could be formalized by framing it within the well-known partition of Medieval society into three "orders": those who pray, those who work, those who fight. For KAP, the 3 orders become 4, with the addition of (the very rare) "those who enchant" ("those who charm"?).
It does not become one order to actively perform the duties that are typical of another order.
So, it does not become a knight to actively produce magic effects, or to celebrate Mass; however, he can certainly attend Mass, or use magic items or benefit from magical effects created by other people.

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1 hour ago, mandrill_one said:

Maybe what Atgxtg says could be formalized by framing it within the well-known partition of Medieval society into three "orders": those who pray, those who work, those who fight. For KAP, the 3 orders become 4, with the addition of (the very rare) "those who enchant" ("those who charm"?).
It does not become one order to actively perform the duties that are typical of another order.
So, it does not become a knight to actively produce magic effects, or to celebrate Mass; however, he can certainly attend Mass, or use magic items or benefit from magical effects created by other people.

You don't even need to go that far: the praying class was expected to be lettered, and the ability to read and write and enjoy "secret" knowledge passed through books by ancient people meant that you were assigned sorcerous powers thereby. It's a reason why Morgan is known as an enchantress: she (of the fighting class, albeit female) spent a lot of time in a convent being taught to read and write and study. Thus: magic!

 

So. It seems the consensus is that a knight who acquires magic items and/or abilities may use them freely in accordance with all knightly virtues without denting his honor. After all, God and his early lords have ordained to provide such tools that their order may be maintained to the benefit of the lower classes (and, of course, the nobles).

But learning how to force one's will on the world through arcane means is right out.

I'd suppose a magical ability that *looks* like a spell, being used in a dishonorable fashion, might increase the honor hit of that action. Maybe.

 

--Khanwulf 

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