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Amaril
2016-10-04, 01:08 PM
You know how there are things like samurai fiction and wuxia that are all about stories centered on particular warrior archetypes? Well, I'm curious about fiction that does the same thing for European knights, or close fantastical analogues of the same. Aside from Arthurian mythology, which isn't the most current of examples, I'm having trouble coming up with works that really focus on knighthood and chivalry, and devote themselves to their examination.

I'd imagine that, much like samurai fiction, such stories would focus a lot on the concept of duty. Duty to one's liege vs. duty to the people, duty to God vs. duty to the Church (or whatever fantastical alternatives are at work), and so on. I can also imagine modern perspectives looking a lot at the issue of power--on one hand, the desire to use power for the good of society, on the other, the inherent injustice of holding power over others in the first place. Protagonists struggling against those who have let themselves be corrupted by power and use it to abuse those without it, while also struggling against the temptation to do so themselves.

A Song of Ice and Fire could be an example, but that's pretty much just "knights are jerks", with little more nuanced examination of the concept. There are a couple games I'm tangentially aware of that I get the sense deal with this--Polaris, I think, and possibly Mouse Guard, though I'm not really sure. Any other examples you can recommend? Do you think this is an interesting concept for fiction? How might you go about tackling it yourself?

JAL_1138
2016-10-04, 01:38 PM
The various tales of the Twelve Peers, such as the Song of Roland, might be worth looking into. Although they're not current by any stretch.

Lord Torath
2016-10-04, 01:41 PM
The Sparhawk books by David Eddings (The Elenium and the Tamuli trilogies).

The Protector of the Small (http://www.tamora-pierce.net/series/the-protector-of-the-small/) series by Tamora Pierce.

Mark Hall
2016-10-04, 01:55 PM
The Sparhawk books by David Eddings (The Elenium and the Tamuli trilogies).

The Protector of the Small (http://www.tamora-pierce.net/series/the-protector-of-the-small/) series by Tamora Pierce.

A Tale of Despereaux, as well. Depending on your definition of knights, you might look at the Valdemar books, but they tend more towards "rogues with psionics" than "heavily armed warriors".

EDIT: And, because I'm an idiot, I completely forgot about the Dragonlance books, which heavily feature the Knights of Solamnia. Legend of Huma; Weasel's Luck; Galen, Beknighted; all feature knights in pretty key roles. The Chronicles, of course, have Sturm Brightblade and the intrigues of the Knights as big features, and Knights of Solamnia make appearances in many of the short stories of the world.

comicshorse
2016-10-04, 01:57 PM
Obviously on the games side there's 'Pendragon'

Mark Hall
2016-10-04, 02:00 PM
Obviously on the games side there's 'Pendragon'

And Shadows Over Camelot.

And another book... Her Majesty's Wizard, by Christopher Stasheff. While later books in the series got a combination of stupid and repetitive, the first book looks at the question fairly seriously.

Amaril
2016-10-04, 02:06 PM
Alright, I guess there's a lot more of this out there than I realized. Nice.

Let's shift the subject a bit: what do you think are the most important themes and concepts to address in this kind of fiction? Do you find it more interesting when the philosophy behind it is lifted more or less directly from the time period when knights were a thing, or do you prefer a more modern perspective?

2D8HP
2016-10-04, 02:14 PM
Obviously on the games side there's 'Pendragon' I second Pendragon
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8e/PendragonRPGCover.jpg
The (King Arthur) Pendragon rules are similar to Call of Cthullu/Runequest except using a d20 instead of a d100, and you have the Traits and Passions systems (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendragon_(role-playing_game)#Personal_Traits) which are designed to model Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Gawain_and_the_Green_Knight) types of temptations.
Yup. Pendragon is a perfect example of how to handle moral issues. D&D is the poster child for how not to. I bought four editions of Pendragon, and it is the RPG that I most want to play, and yet have never played.

:frown:

veti
2016-10-04, 02:24 PM
Let's shift the subject a bit: what do you think are the most important themes and concepts to address in this kind of fiction? Do you find it more interesting when the philosophy behind it is lifted more or less directly from the time period when knights were a thing, or do you prefer a more modern perspective?

Well, I'd unpack that question into two parts.

If by "themes and concepts" you mean the moral backbone and implications of the story itself - I think that can't help but be modern. The whole purpose of retelling stories of Olden Times is to participate in the ongoing story of modern times. That's why "The Once and Future King" is a very different book from "Le mort d'Arthur".

But at the same time, it's important (to me) that the characters within the book should espouse philosophies that would not look out of place in a traditional chivalric romance. If a character muses on, for instance, why women can't be knights, or the "rights" of serfs, or the role of the church - they should be very, very careful to do so in the voice and thoughts of their contemporaries, not ours. And under no circumstances should their attitude to these things be treated as a barometer to their overall virtue or role in the story, except in so far as it's directly relevant.

hamishspence
2016-10-04, 02:44 PM
But at the same time, it's important (to me) that the characters within the book should espouse philosophies that would not look out of place in a traditional chivalric romance. If a character muses on, for instance, why women can't be knights, or the "rights" of serfs, or the role of the church - they should be very, very careful to do so in the voice and thoughts of their contemporaries, not ours. And under no circumstances should their attitude to these things be treated as a barometer to their overall virtue or role in the story, except in so far as it's directly relevant.

In Protector of the Small - the protagonist is a female knight shortly after women have been allowed again to train for knighthood after a 1 century hiatus (her predecessor as knight protagonist, Alanna, had to fake being male to get training). She faces a lot of prejudice.

There's a strong theme of how commoners having significantly less rights than aristocrats is a Bad Thing, and how this needs to change - even if it can only change slowly.

The world is not exactly medieval - but it's similar - and changing slowly over time.

Amaril
2016-10-04, 02:55 PM
If by "themes and concepts" you mean the moral backbone and implications of the story itself - I think that can't help but be modern. The whole purpose of retelling stories of Olden Times is to participate in the ongoing story of modern times. That's why "The Once and Future King" is a very different book from "Le mort d'Arthur".

Personally, I agree. But I get the sense that some people enjoy this or similar kinds of fiction purely as a way to experience an old philosophy that isn't practiced anymore. To compare, I'm not super familiar with samurai fiction, but my experience is that it's rarely all that critical of bushido from the perspective of modern thinking (and it's not like bushido doesn't have a lot to criticize). I'd hazard that for some, this would be a similar thing.


But at the same time, it's important (to me) that the characters within the book should espouse philosophies that would not look out of place in a traditional chivalric romance. If a character muses on, for instance, why women can't be knights, or the "rights" of serfs, or the role of the church - they should be very, very careful to do so in the voice and thoughts of their contemporaries, not ours. And under no circumstances should their attitude to these things be treated as a barometer to their overall virtue or role in the story, except in so far as it's directly relevant.

I see what you mean, and I agree in a certain sense. Like I mentioned in the OP, I find knighthood and chivalry interesting largely as vehicles for examining the more general concept of power, and the ethics thereof. At a certain basic level, knights are people who hold disproportionate power in society, because of their near-exclusive access to military equipment and training (of course, that's an oversimplification in a lot of ways, but just bear with me for a bit). Now, let me leave real-world history and culture behind and just talk about how one might set this up in fiction. The principles of chivalry state that knights are supposed to use the power they hold to protect the weak and defenseless (read: the peasantry), which means that on a certain level, they recognize that such people are worth protecting. And yet, the very fact that they hold such power is an injustice against those they are commanded to protect; whether or not the characters are consciously aware of it, the consequences of it will always be apparent to the audience. So the question becomes, is it possible to use power for good when that contradiction exists? If so, how? If not, what's the best way to go about changing the system--by reform from within, or dismantling from without?

To take that further, look at the fact that not all knights are of equal social status. There's a big difference between a random hedge knight with no household and no liege, and a wealthy landholder with connections in high places. You could argue that either one has more opportunity to do good: the hedge knight, because his power relies on nothing but his own skill and equipment, and he is beholden to no one, free to act as he sees fit; or the landed knight, because his position gives him the ability to exercise power on a much larger scale. However, the hedge knight will always be limited to making a difference in his immediate surroundings, while the landed knight must always contend with the strictures and responsibilities of his station. One could express this contrast in terms of loyalty to the people vs. loyalty to the institutions of power, and make conflict between the two, both internal and interpersonal, a central source of tension. And on top of that, both sides always face the temptation to just give up trying to do good and start using their power to benefit only themselves, going completely off the deep end and becoming enemies of everyone who's still trying, regardless of how.

All these conflicts seem, to me, to fit into a more archaic cultural setting just fine, but it's also quite applicable to a lot of things happening in the real world right now. See what I'm getting at?

Lacuna Caster
2016-10-04, 03:24 PM
A Song of Ice and Fire could be an example, but that's pretty much just "knights are jerks", with little more nuanced examination of the concept. There are a couple games I'm tangentially aware of that I get the sense deal with this--Polaris, I think, and possibly Mouse Guard, though I'm not really sure. Any other examples you can recommend? Do you think this is an interesting concept for fiction? How might you go about tackling it yourself?
Mouse Guard has a 4th-age-middle-earth-rangers conversion known as Realm Guard, which might be up your alley. It's quite similar to a court-of-camelot situation, in that everybody swears an oath to defend the kingdom, inhabits a chain of command, has competing emotional bonds, and the like, though unlike Pendragon it models flaws and virtues as flip sides of the same coin. In many ways it's Burning Wheel boiled down to the absolute core essentials (which I quite like.)

I have less acquaintance with Polaris, but it's interesting for having a fairly minimal ruleset that focuses mainly on distributing & alternating typical 'GM' duties among the group, and very structured outcome-negotiations.

Amaril
2016-10-04, 03:28 PM
Mouse Guard has a 4th-age-middle-earth-rangers conversion known as Realm Guard, which might be up your alley. It's quite similar to a court-of-camelot situation, in that everybody swears an oath to defend the kingdom, inhabits a chain of command, has competing emotional bonds, and the like, though unlike Pendragon it models flaws and virtues as flip sides of the same coin. In many ways it's Burning Wheel boiled down to the absolute core essentials (which I quite like.)

Ooh, yeah, that sounds really cool. I've heard of that, but I'd forgotten about it. It does sound a lot like what I'm thinking of, and I love Middle-Earth, particularly the Fourth Age (always thought that period deserved to be explored more, and would be perfect for games).


I have less acquaintance with Polaris, but it's interesting for having a fairly minimal ruleset that focuses mainly on distributing & alternating typical 'GM' duties among the group, and very structured outcome-negotiations.

See, I love the fiction and aesthetic of Polaris, but as a game, it's just not my style. Which is a bit of a problem, because the guy who most often GMs for my group and is our de facto leader is crazy about it, and has stated, in no uncertain terms, that he will force us all to play it at some point.

Lacuna Caster
2016-10-06, 08:50 AM
Ooh, yeah, that sounds really cool. I've heard of that, but I'd forgotten about it. It does sound a lot like what I'm thinking of, and I love Middle-Earth, particularly the Fourth Age (always thought that period deserved to be explored more, and would be perfect for games).

See, I love the fiction and aesthetic of Polaris, but as a game, it's just not my style. Which is a bit of a problem, because the guy who most often GMs for my group and is our de facto leader is crazy about it, and has stated, in no uncertain terms, that he will force us all to play it at some point.
I guess you could humour him for a session or two, with the proviso that if it's not working for you by then, he needs to find other players? <shrugs>

(One other nice feature of Realm Guard- it handles travel and weather conditions as conflict scenes, like heading through the Pass of Caradhras, along with seasonal progression (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NlnHtUTaKI) and time back at base. I vaguely recall that Pendragon has more detail on handling long-term dynastic play, though, so maybe still check it out.)