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Knightly honor and surprise


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What is the general consensus on surprise melee attacks?  KAP says "it is very dishonorable" to attack an enemy from surprise.  Yet there are a couple instances of battles where the Cymri catch the Saxons by surprise, and these aren't characterized as dishonorable moves.  I'm wondering if surprise is ok on a relative basis, like:

  • vs. beasts: not dishonorable.
  • vs. honorless men (e.g. bandits, Saxons): not dishonorable, but gain less glory to do so.
  • vs. fellow knights: dishonorable.
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25 minutes ago, Ringan said:

What is the general consensus on surprise melee attacks?  KAP says "it is very dishonorable" to attack an enemy from surprise.  Yet there are a couple instances of battles where the Cymri catch the Saxons by surprise, and these aren't characterized as dishonorable moves.  I'm wondering if surprise is ok on a relative basis, like:

  • vs. beasts: not dishonorable.
  • vs. honorless men (e.g. bandits, Saxons): not dishonorable, but gain less glory to do so.
  • vs. fellow knights: dishonorable.

That seems to be about right. In the early periods knights might be a bit more pragmatic about it. It also seems to be more of an issue on the small scale than the large scale. That is it's worse for a knight to ambush another knight, than for an army to ambush another army. Possibly because with armies you are obviously expecting a fight, so be caught by surprise is at least partly your own fault. Part of fighting a battle is to surprise the enemy about something.  Later of Chivalry plays a bigger part, so there is probably a stronger emphasis on "being fair"  about things. 

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Yeah I think there is a difference honor wise in surprise between sucker punching someone, and out maneuvering or out foxing your enemy on the field of battle.

I think just because you are dealing with dishonorable types a knight would still be honorable. So if there was some political peaceful meetings with Saxon for some reason, attacking them when you were under some sort of truce would be dishonorable. Striking one from behind during negotiations and the like would be dishonorable. Although probably not looked on as badly as if it were towards another knight.

Having your unit of men lying in wait in woodlands or behind a ridge, and then charging out to attack the Saxon matching line before they have a chance to form up however is just sound tactics. 

Edited by TerryTroll
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I can’t point at a specific reference, but I’ve also gotten the feeling that a battlefield is, at least semi-officially, a whole other kettle of fish. Yes, the duel with the enemy hero that everyone nearby stops to watch should be conducted one on one and honourably. But those footmen over there, facing the other way and completely ignoring your unit? CHARGE! :D

Edited by Sir Mad Munkee
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I would generally agree with the above.  Back-stabbing an individual opponent instead of defeating him in honorable combat would be murder and dishonorable.  Using ruses and tricks in group actions and war is totally acceptable, at least historically.

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All right, now say you are a single knight riding in the woods and you spot a band of three Saxon marauders.  I see a few ways this might be approached:

  1. Surprise attack them (i.e. unopposed attack) - is this dishonorable?
  2. Charge at them.  You get the charge bonus but you're probably too loud on your horse to be "surprising" - no dishonor here, right?
  3. Hail them and formally announce you'll attack them, allowing them to prepare - overkill, right?

For 1 and 2, does the scenario of being an outrider, in a build-up to an imminent battle change the honorableness?

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35 minutes ago, fulk said:

The code of chivalry only applies to other knights (and ladies).  You are free to massacre the peasantry and especially Saxons at will.  

Well, it depends on the details of the code of chivalry. For instance, do you protect the weak and defenceless? 

Killing, plundering etc can be done but is potentially subject to Cruel checks and suchlike, not to mention the disapproval of the lord of those peasants. But I expect they mostly melt into the woods when the armies come around. Foot soldiers take their chances. 

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Well lets be clear: kill"rebellious peasantry" (i.e. bandits) and Saxons, at will. In fact, killing foreign raiders is kinda expected. Arresting bandits and turning them over to the local lord is expected, but generally he won't mind if you just kill bandits caught in the act.

Generally.

It would be considered almost insulting to treat peasantry with the same honor that a knight would show to other knights, however a recognized thegn in a Saxon band could be extended such courtesy by particularly gallant knights. Most will just laugh at him, however. The age of chivalry's flower comes after Badon, when Saxons are not going to be doing much unless they are also, you know, bandits.

Armies: if yon army failed to notice yours marching up, it's totally not your fault and you can finish drawing up your line of battle and/or arranging a preemptive charge. The proper thing to do when you see you've been out-maneuvered at this scale is to withdraw to defensive terrain, or just take your licks. Running away is acceptable but not wise when facing cavalry. Do keep in mind that "drawing up a line of battle" could take a good hour, depending, so "surprise" is a relative term, there.

 

--Khanwulf

 

 

Edited by Khanwulf
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5 hours ago, fulk said:

The code of chivalry only applies to other knights (and ladies).  You are free to massacre the peasantry and especially Saxons at will.  

Not quite. While war is war there are certain codes on conduct that would extend even to Saxons. The whole thing that makes the Knight of Long Knives so bad was that is was supposed to be a peace conference. If knight broke such rules willy nilly then they wouldn;'t have much of a problem with it. Obviously they fell for the trap because they believed that it wasn't one. Ans the Saxons wouldn't have offered it, if they couldn't trust the knights not to go and slautghter them when they showed up.

If they come in peace and you let them in and offer them hospitality then you are bound by the rules of hospitality. So you can't just invite the Saxons to dinner and slaughter them. Same if they are at your lords hall or some such.. They would be considered their guest and they would look bad in something happened to one of their guests. 

Likewise I doubt King Arthur would tolerate one of his knights riding through Saxon lands slaughtering anyone he came across. Especially if it were through Surrey. 

As far as the commoners go, well the feudal system was supposed to be a symbiotic relationship, and the nobles were supposed to protect the lower classes. There were excesses and the nobility took liberties, but the commoners were supposed to be able to go to the court of their lord and have him charge such a knight with murder. It might or might not actually happen, but there were limits to what people would tolerate. If someone starts slaughtering too many peasants it's bad for the landholder. Dead peasants don't work, and terrified grieving ones don't work as well. 

 

I think a lot of the major excesses are from those with  very low Honor or a high Hate. With a good deal of overlap. 

 

 

 

Edited by Atgxtg
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12 hours ago, fulk said:

The code of chivalry only applies to other knights (and ladies).  You are free to massacre the peasantry and especially Saxons at will.  

I think this is not true. In the KAP core book the oath sworn by chivalrous knights is:

“To protect the widow, the orphan, the poor; not to slay a vanquished and defenseless adversary; not to take part in a false judgment or treason, or to withdraw if it cannot be prevented;
to never give evil counsel to a lady; to help, if possible, a fellow being in distress.”

There is no exclusion to ladies and other knights. So it actually prevents you from massacre of the peasantry. As a matter of fact as far as I know historically the idea of chivalry was introduced to prevent knights from going on a rampage and massacre whole villages and towns.

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Up to and including Badon, non-Berroc Saxons are hated. There are many reasons for this: Night of the Long Knives, taking of Cymri land, non-chivalric attitudes, and such.  A Chivalric Knight is meant to be better, but not stupid.  

36 minutes ago, Cornelius said:

The code of chivalry only applies to other knights (and ladies).  You are free to massacre the peasantry and especially Saxons at will. 

Quoting Fulk here.  This is valid.  Chivalry is meant to be extended to Ladies and other knights.  You are supposed to be better.  Not everyone accepts this view and it is one of the reasons for the eventual failure of the entire promise of Camelot, IMHO.

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2 hours ago, Hzark10 said:

Quoting Fulk here.  This is valid.  Chivalry is meant to be extended to Ladies and other knights.  You are supposed to be better.  Not everyone accepts this view and it is one of the reasons for the eventual failure of the entire promise of Camelot, IMHO.

But there is more that Chivalry going on here. Are you saying that a knight in Pendragon can behave like Jack the Ripper or Ted Bundy as long as he doesn't do it to Knights or Ladies?

What about his traits and passions? 

I don't see a character with a high Hospitality or Merciful just slaughtering a guest out of hand because said guest isn't a knight or a lady. 

 

 

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Traits and Passions are the meat of a knight. They can help or hurt your overall strength of character.  

One full of hate will be challenged to be Chivalrous, Hospitable, or Merciful. One who does not have Hatred in his/her heart, will have more opportunities to be Chivalrous. It is possible for one who has a true hate for Saxons, to be Chivalrous, but will be challenged in that almost every year as Saxons are one of the main enemies. It is also rare for a Saxon to ask for Mercy or surrender. There are plenty of opportunities for RPing here and that is a story unto itself.

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51 minutes ago, Hzark10 said:

Traits and Passions are the meat of a knight. They can help or hurt your overall strength of character.  

One full of hate will be challenged to be Chivalrous, Hospitable, or Merciful. One who does not have Hatred in his/her heart, will have more opportunities to be Chivalrous. It is possible for one who has a true hate for Saxons, to be Chivalrous, but will be challenged in that almost every year as Saxons are one of the main enemies. It is also rare for a Saxon to ask for Mercy or surrender. There are plenty of opportunities for RPing here and that is a story unto itself.

Yeah, but I think we are talking cross purposes. There is a difference between acting unchivalrously and acting dishonorably.  There are a lot of things that might not be chivalrous but perfectly honorable (like staying mounted against an unhorsed opponent). Likewise there are some actions that would be considering unacceptable no matter who they were done against.  For example, I don't see cannibalism being tolerated simply because Sir So &So "only eats Saxons and peasants" [Surf & Turf;)]. Just look at what happened with Elizabeth Bathory. 

 

 

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My take:

You are supposed to show mercy to knights who surrender. You CAN kill enemy footsoldiers without mercy, but gain Cruel checks for doing so. If you ride down peasants fleeing away from your raid, especially women and children, expect other knights to start giving you a bit of stinkeye, too. Things are a bit more relaxed during the war, but I still think that a knight who is seeing how many babies he can impale on his lance will get a VERY bad reputation really quickly and I would start handing out Honor penalties as the show of that social disapproval.

As for the surprise, against commoners, anything goes, though. You do not need to announce your attack on a bunch of Saxon raiders, who are clearly sneaking up on your lands, no better than bandits. That being said, if there is a mortal duel between you and a Saxon champion, expect that showing chivalry (letting the other guy get up, rearm and so forth) will get approving murmurs (and Honor checks), but also 'check Stupid AKA Reckless, too'.

It is kinda like this: if you have, by accepting the duel, acknowledged the other guy as a knight-equivalent, the honor rules kick in.

If it is war and they are sneaking across the border to ambush you, hammer them all you want.

If it is war and they have agreed to meet you at this particular field to fight the battle, it is very bad form to ambush them as soon as they march up. Same thing if you have both agreed to start the battle at noon, then dawn raiding would be quite dishonorable.

Generally you wouldn't have such pre-arrangements with non-knightly foes, so the question doesn't come up in war.

If you have accepted someone as your guest, then Hospitality rules kick in, no matter how lowly the guest might be. Although I do see exceptions being made for criminals and outlaws. Even if it is a face-saving measure of 'you are no longer welcome in this house' and the actual arrest taking place outside the manor.

 

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On 3/22/2019 at 2:31 PM, fulk said:

The code of chivalry only applies to other knights (and ladies).  You are free to massacre the peasantry and especially Saxons at will.  

I was being a bit flippant above, obviously, but in general Chivalry really only applies to other Christian Knights and Ladies.  You can kill foot soldiers after a battle etc without being dishonorable--Cruel, yes, but not dishonorable because they had no expectation of mercy.  It is also perfectly knightly and honorable to burn and pillage your enemies peasants.  Cruel yes, but within the norms of war, no matter how much the Church tried to limit such behavior. 

Chivalry in your Pendragon may vary though.  In the modern day, we would certainly think that a knight should protect the peasants and not burn down their houses and steal their cattle.  You can interpret things that way, but it isn't really historically consistent in terms of behavior and perception. The Black Prince, that paragon of chivalry, burned and pillaged his way across France. 

I'm not sure if being just being Cruel would really lose you Honor.   Likewise, some of the extreme examples like cannibalism would violate other social or religious rules.  I'm not sure if that would lose you Honor or just make you seem crazy...and evil. 

 

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16 minutes ago, fulk said:

  You can kill foot soldiers after a battle etc without being dishonorable--Cruel, yes, but not dishonorable because they had no expectation of mercy. 

It might not even be Cruel. Not much else to do, except maybe to ransom them off (apparently some commoners did have a random) or let them go (which could be a problem on campaign if they join up with another force.

It  is interesting that at Agrincourt, King Henry had to get the archers to kill the prsioners, becuase the Knights refused to kill the knights taken prisoner, although how much of that was because of  chivalry and how much barbecue of  ransom is hard to determine.

 

 

16 minutes ago, fulk said:

It is also perfectly knightly and honorable to burn and pillage your enemies peasants.  Cruel yes, but within the norms of war, no matter how much the Church tried to limit such behavior. 

That's pretty much what raiding is. 

16 minutes ago, fulk said:

Chivalry in your Pendragon may vary though.  In the modern day, we would certainly think that a knight should protect the peasants and not burn down their houses and steal their cattle.  You can interpret things that way, but it isn't really historically consistent in terms of behavior and perception. The Black Prince, that paragon of chivalry, burned and pillaged his way across France. 

Yeah, Chivalry is an ideal, and can be debated and lead to moral dilemmas. Hence all the opposed trait rolls. 

16 minutes ago, fulk said:

I'm not sure if being just being Cruel would really lose you Honor.   Likewise, some of the extreme examples like cannibalism would violate other social or religious rules.  I'm not sure if that would lose you Honor or just make you seem crazy...and evil. 

Yeah, I don't think just being cruel would cost honor. Just how you are being cruel and to whom would play a factor. By our standard most medieval people act cruel in many ways. But by their standards it just the way of life. So all those 10/10 traits are set towards the medieval norms, not modern norms. 

 

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