Kirt writes "Revealed herein is the secret training that produces elven heroes and Knights of the Hart.
Arathalian Training in the Knights of the Hart
(Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.)
Author’s Note: The arathalian is a character class specific to elves in my campaign. It can be adapted to any campaign and is suitable for any elves that serve a higher power as knights. In my campaign, the majority of the High Forest Branch of the Knights of the Hart are arathalian. Elven nobles (the Lord of the Elves, Queen Yolande, Duke Grenowin) and powerful churches (the Fane of Lloth) have a number of arathalian servants. The stats presented are those of 2nd edition, and conform to the description of the character class as given elsewhere on this site.
As is recounted elsewhere, the High Forest Branch of the Knights of the Hart accepts virtually any class as a member. However, the majority of members, and almost all leaders, are of the arathalian class. The services of non-arathalian are valuable, but their training is an informal affair. Most are expected to learn their class “on the job”. When they advance, many have to seek trainers from outside their House. In contrast, the training of arathalian has become quite systematic (although it was not always so). Each House is expected to recruit and maintain a number of arathalian-in-training, as future candidates for knighthood. The training program itself is more-or-less standardized across the Houses. The most basic details of the program are presented here.
Arathalian of first and second level within the Knights of the Hart are much more active than their counterparts in service to nobles. At the start of their careers they have already trained extensively in military tactics in addition to their weapons skills. All Hart arathalian have Battle Sense NWP required at first level (1 slot), in addition to the standard arathalian requirements for NWP (Animal Handling, Riding (land-based) and Heraldry). These arathalian serve as troop leaders, at the grade of sergeant (1st level) and then lieutenant (2nd level). Most of them serve along the skirmishing line with Iuz, but many serve as advisors to the civilian militias of Ironstead and Verbeeg Hill or to the Town Watch of Highfolk City. A few serve as officers in the reconnaissance or archery units requisitioned by the Furyondy Royal Army. The positions rotate and the arathalian are expected to receive experience commanding different kinds of troops in different situations, as well as to participate in combat themselves. By the time they achieve 3rd level they have served in all the areas under the influence of the Knights of the Hart (the Vesve Forest, Highfolk Vale, Sepia Uplands, and the fringes of the Yatils). Since much of the service in the Vesve involves leading faroth squads on recon missions, any arathalian with extra NWP slots from high intelligence typically picks up some of the outdoor faroth skills (Ambush, Animal Lore, Direction Sense, Hunting, Set Snares, Survival, Tracking, Weather Sense) by the time they are 3rd level. Even if they don’t gain the skill itself, they become conversant with how and when to use it. For example, few arathalian would choose the Ambush skill for themselves, but they do learn where the best places are to set ambushes and how to arrange the faroth under their command into effective ambushes.
Most Hart arathalian are trained in sword, bow, and dagger. Frequently their three initial WP slots are in sword (2 slots, specialized) and bow (one slot, proficient). The dagger is typically used nonproficient as a weapon of last resort when their sword is lost or they are borne to the ground. The Whispering Leaf House trains those arathalian with high dexterity to be guerillas and faroth leaders. Since they are more likely to make stealth attacks than to engage in open combat, they specialize in dagger, take a single WP in short bow or blowgun, and leave sword as nonproficient. The Hartlands House requires short bow for their arathalian while the Highfolk House requires longbow. The Velverdyva House leaves the choice of bow type open to its members, but most choose crossbow.
At third level, arathalian are recalled to their own particular houses for intensive personal training and individual attention from the higher-level members. Although already trained in riding, at this point they begin training to fight while mounted and to bond with wild animals. The animals of preference are elk, Irish elk, and cougars in the Vesve, wild horses in the plains of Highfolk Vale, and mountain ponies and giant eagles in the Clatspurs and Yatils. Other mounts are not uncommon. At third level, arathalian gain another WP slot. Since this is when they begin to train as mounted warriors, they typically take a melee weapon that can be used while mounted, such as lance, cavalry saber, or horseman’s flail. The choice of weapon depends on the mount they are likely to bond with - lance for those with large chargers (horses, Irish elk), saber for those with sleek sprinters (cougars, eagles), and flail for those with sturdy combat platforms (ponies, elk).
Arathalian in the service of the Order of the Hart typically become full members of their House at 4th level. They begin to train junior members and to implement House policies. While they spend most of their time within the domain of their particular House itself, some serve as captains in areas with large concentrations of troops, such as along the border with Iuz or in companies serving in Furyondy.
In the Order of the Hart, 5th level marks an important point for arathalian. They are knighted by their House Master as a Knight Bachelor of their particular House (not as a Knight of the Order) and thereafter are part of the House leadership. This entails administrative duties as well as combat leadership roles, commanding companies of soldiers. The Knight Commander of each house directly supervises the House’s Knight Bachelors. The Commander also trains them in the duties of knighthood. As knights, they are expected to travel anywhere on the behalf of their house, individually or in groups, for most have acquired a linked mount by this point. Occasionally, the Commander of a House will lead its Bachelors in an adventure specifically designed to challenge them and gain them experience. These are often forays into difficult territory to recover some item of value, such as the exploration of the Yatils around the Velverdyva Valley, or missions deep into the Iuzian-controlled Vesve to search lost elven cities for magic items and lore.
At 5th level arathalian gain their fifth WP slot. This is typically either used to pick up a second mounted melee weapon or to gain specialization in the first.
At 6th level, Knight Companions are ready to quest on their own. Typically they serve their House, chafing in anticipation, until a group of three to six of them, from different Houses, can be assembled. At that point the Companions ride out together, with no goal but adventure and great deeds. This level is the ultimate proving ground for the knights. It is their actions at this level that will determine whether they are to become Knights of the Order of the Hart. When they ultimately achieve 7th level, the body of all current Knights of the Order will collectively decide for each Companion whether they have done deeds both of great heroism and of great service to the Vesve. If so, they are made a Knight Banneret of the Order of the Hart by the Grand Master of the Order. They are given a coat of arms and a seat at the Great Hart Table in the Hartlands Keep. They are expected to be able to undertake individual missions for the Order. There are currently 30 of these Knights. The number has increased since the Greyhawk Wars as subsequent fighting gave ample opportunities for elves in the Vesve to gain experience and perform heroic deeds. Those knights who reach 7th level without having achieved distinction remain as Knight Companions in the service of their House. Level advancement is possible, but advancing in rank within the Order is generally not.
At 7th level, arathalian make a great leap in individual fighting ability. At this point they are usually competent to adventure on their own, which is part of the reason for the title of Knight of the Order of the Hart. They gain the combat options of block, disarm, and smash, another WP, and an upgrade on their multiple attacks (specialized weapons go to 2/1, proficient to 3/2). Many of them use the new WP to double-specialize in one of their specialized weapons. This gives them +3 to hit and damage, which helps when they use the combat options and multiple attacks. For example, sword-specialists start to use a Block-Smash combination to protect themselves while still doing considerable damage (normally smash is -5 to hit, but +2 for sword use and +3 for double specialization means no penalty). Lance specialists gain the powerful lance charge-smash which does, as a heavy lance against a size large opponent, [(3d6) x 2] +3 + str bonus + str score, or easily 40 points with no penalty to hit (smash at -5; +2 from charging, +3 from double specialization).
After 7th level, Knights receive no formal training. Their advancement in level comes from the missions they undertake for the Order. Their advancement in rank comes from their personal political ability and depends on whether a suitable position is open (see below).
There is one Knight Commander (8th level or higher) for each of the four Houses. Knight Commanders directly oversee the activities of all the Knights of their House.
Each House has one House Master (thalion, a 9th level or higher arathalian). They oversee all the activities of the House (military, financial, political), not just the Knights.
There are two Provincial Commanders (each a 10th level arathalian) in the Knights. They oversee regional level plans and are most active politically, typically soliciting donations.
The Grand Master (11th level arathalian) is the head of the Knights of the Hart.
Note: drow, olve"