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Which Player Squire Rules Should You Use? An Analysis

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Book of Knights & Ladies p. 57 has rules for playing a 16 year-old, which take the starting skill values of a character's culture, reduce any above 5 by 3 or to 5 (whichever result is greater), and then skip a couple of the steps you'd normally take making a PK (no setting one skill to 15 and three to 10, no four advancements) but you still get the 10 free points. Attributes and Winter Phase advancement are unmodified compared to adult knights.


Book of the Entourage p. 16 modifies squire character mechanics more extensively. It can cover a squire of any age from 14-20, with 14-year-olds taking -3 each to SIZ and STR and alternate gaining one point to one or the other every year after that to end up at regular adult Attribute allotment by 20. He has mostly standard cultural skills, except in First Aid, Horsemanship, Sword, and Lance, which start at Age-11 (although this seems kind of Cymric-specific and might be better re-framed as "subtract (21-your age) from the cultural value" since applying the rules as written to non-Cymrics will leave some cultures with 14 year old squires having more skill in an area than grown knights ought to have). He gets none of the skill advancement of a starting PK, not even the 10 free points BoK&L squires get, but his Winter Phase advancement is modified, giving him five extra skill points from being trained by his knight on top of normal Winter Phase advancement.


Since neither system modifies the actual allotment of Trait, Passion, or Attribute points, both seem like they'd probably produce knights slightly more developed in those respects than ones generated at 21 years old, but not to an extent I'd worry about, especially considering the next point.


BoK&L squires lose ~17-21 skill points relative to the cultural baseline, then a further harder to quantify amount from not having the "set one skill to 15, three to 10, and get four advances" bit. Depending on how strategically the player would deploy these options for a starting knight, this will probably represent another 35-50 point deficiency for a character built as a squire, but potentially less for the sort of player who'd spend their starting advances on Traits or Passions. So basically 50-70 skill points to try to cram into five Winter Phases. Considering BoK&L squires use regular Winter Phase advancement, it feels like you'd need a GM who's preeeetty generous with experience checks to have any chance of reaching the capabilities of a standard starting PK. If you pick the Gain 1d6+1 in Skills option every Winter Phase, you'll gain an average of 4.5 skill points per year, five Winter Phases, comes to 22.5 (we'll round to 23). In order to make up the rest of the difference, you'd need to average at least five successful experience check rolls on skills per year. Starting with low skills means higher odds experience check rolls will be successful, so this isn't totally crazy or implausible if you've got a generous GM who will give you experience checks just for hanging out with your knight while he does stuff even if you don't contribute much, but if you've got the kind of stingy GM the core rules encourage who only hands out checks for plot-significant or critical successes, you're going to end up very underdeveloped as a knight.


Entourage squires vary a bit more since they don't have a set starting age, but the broad strokes are pretty similar. 14 year olds definitely have it pretty bad starting out - if their culture even has enough points to lose, they'll shed 35 before even getting to the 45-60 lost from not having set value skills, advancements, *or* the ten discretionary points. On the other hand, that 35 (or lower multiple of 5 for older squires) is exactly canceled out by the five extra skill points per Winter Phase, so for purposes of how our knight eventually turns out we can ignore it. Using the aging rules for producing squires over 14 (as opposed to using those squires in play) will, perhaps expectedly, produce fairly standard knights - on top of reducing the age penalties for starting skills, to the tune of five skill points, you get eight points per year, or 48 by the time you're a 20 year old squire. That already clears the low potential end of the deficit, and another theoretical year of the same would make you a pretty bog-standard starting knight.


But of course, that's basically just two different methods of character generation ending up at the same goal, so let's look at how Entourage squires compare if actually played as such. Ignoring the five extra Winter Phase points and age-based skill penalties, since they cancel each other out, we've got seven Winter Phases to make up the 45-60 point deficit. Which, already, seems like a significant improvement in our odds of parity with regular knights compared to BoK&L squires - more time to compensate for a smaller difference. The average results of training for seven Winter Phases round up to 32 points, which is 2/3rds of the low end of our range and over half of the top end, so we have seven Winter Phases to try to get the other ~13-28 points. Assuming the sort of unusually active and adventurous squire (albeit still not one who would dare steal an important fight from his knight) who'd be worth playing as a character, even a pretty stingy or unlucky average of 2 successful yearly experience checks (which, I'll remind, any experience checks you do get are much more likely to succeed with a squire's low skills across the board compared to a grown knight) clears the low end, and GMs who are on the generous end of the spectrum with awarding checks (averaging 4+ successful experience check rolls per year) start getting into the realm where a played squire will outstrip a well-optimized knight who's generated at 21 years old. Though, that said, even if your played squire ends up 10-15 skill points ahead of optimally generated comrades his age upon knighting, it's a minor enough reward for all the effort of playing through the relatively weak and limited period of squirehood.


Another consideration is whether you're going to allow early knightings (regardless of whether you play out the squire period or not), as per BoK&L pointing out that some cultures and circumstances might warrant knighting 18 year olds, and even more exceptionally rare circumstances as young as 17 (such as the famous case of Lancelot, whose adoptive mother was the Lady of the Lake who protected Excalibur for the Pendragons, and asked Arthur to knight Lancelot early since she'd foreseen her coming death and wanted him able to support himself). To be honest, I'm a pretty lenient GM, so unless I had a good reason not to, I'd probably let a player build his 17-18 year old knight as a regular knight, with their conveniently prodigal skill and physical development for their age being significant to why a lord would acquiesce to the knighting in the first place (as opposed to letting a clearly unqualified child embarrass the office and die horribly by becoming a primary combatant before they're ready), and just not worry myself over the definitely-extant but fairly moderate mechanical advantages. If you don't want to do that, and want to represent the harsh realities of being thrust into the world of independent knighthood as a half-trained teenager (perhaps to avoid all your players hunting for excuses to knight their sons as young as possible), then I'd say go all-out with it by using the Entourage rules, building the knight as a 17-18 year old squire and then having him lose the bonus five skill points per Winter Phase once he's knighted, since he doesn't have a knight showing him the ropes anymore. Not only will such a young knight most likely be rather vulnerable and unimpressive on the battlefield initially, the effects of interrupting his education at such a crucial juncture will persist well past the point his peers have also been knighted. Although the gap will gradually become less significant over the decades, he will always be worse-mannered, less dangerous, and/or generally somewhat inept in the essentials of knighthood compared to his same-age peers, who may either pity him or turn up their noses at him for his oafishness. This is *arguably* the verisimilitude option, but frankly, while he's obviously going to be the biggest example of this by a country mile and I'm not expecting any PK to keep up with him, the existence of Lancelot tells me that Pendragon is open to rare, talented young knights excelling among their peers.


So take of this analysis what you will, but as a GM, I'd suggest that nine times out of ten you're going to get a better play experience out of letting your player squires use the rules from Entourage instead of the ones from BoK&L. I would only use the BoK&L rules if your GMing style is very liberal with experience checks but you don't want that to result in the player squire becoming any stronger than a normally-generated PK would be by 21, or if you especially value squires having decent combat skills right out the gate.

Edited by mj6373
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  • mj6373 changed the title to Which Player Squire Rules Should You Use? An Analysis

There is synchronicity is finding your breakdown this evening. We are gearing up to run a homebrewed campaign and wanted to begin a character from their time as a squire and over the weekend, we just encountered the discrepancies between these two books.

Thanks for the in depth breakdown.

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plus lucis quam solis
plus obscurior quam nocte
plus laqueum quam libido

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Nice analysis.

We have a set of household rules (from back in 5.0) that are a bit more involved, but they dovetail closer to what happens in Entourage. I think The last two years we just deduct one of the Miscellaneous Picks (so roughly equivalent to the Yearly Training that they'd get as knights). Also, we tend to 'round up' the year in chargen but since the Misc Point = Yearly Training, they don't get that at the end of the year. Anyway, that works pretty decently: the young PK starts off with a slight mechanical disadvantage (i.e. younger and poorer skills than a default 21-year old), but thanks to getting experience checks and glory earlier, he would be better than the equivalent age knight who starts his career only at 21.

But I can definitely see the point of just handwaving that and allowing PKs to be knighted early with full chargen, especially if the reason for the early knighting is that the Player lost their previous character. After all, I am very much in favor of not raining on someone's parade and making it as easy as possible to do dynastic play. And let's face it, in most games I have seen, it is pretty rare for a PK to be taken out by Aging rolls rather than violently by a monster/enemy critical.

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Good information.  I have been doing my own informal side-by-side review of the various procedures throughout the game.  The organic development of the game has resulted in systems or features of systems across editions or supplements that are more interesting to me than current core.  Thanks for sharing!

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