By Brian McRae (a.k.a. Cebrion)
In the early days of the Great Kingdom the ancient enemies of the Aerdy, the Ur-Flan, summoned forth a demonic creature to slay the Aerdy king while he was traveling. The fiend set upon the king and would have slain him but for a group of simple commoners who came to his aid and, through cleverness and bravery, slew the abomination. This group of loyal yeoman would be honored by the Aerdy king and appointed as his personal guard- his knight protectors. A formal charter for the Knight Protectors was granted shortly thereafter in -107 CY by the grateful king. Since that time, the Knight Protectors have upheld a tradition of excellence exceeded by none. Only the most skilled and loyal warriors are asked to join the ranks of the Knight Protectors, and many of the knightly orders throughout the Flanaess are based upon their traditions. The structure of most knighthoods in the Flanaess follows the model set down by the Knight Protectors, even though the doctrines of each order may vary beyond this. The Knight Protectors’ training emphasizes horsed combat, with all members being proficient in the use of the lance. In addition to being trained as elite heavy cavalry, Knight Protectors are known for upholding lawful causes and for their selfless defense of the helpless and the innocent.
Those wishing to join the Knight Protectors are only open to consideration if they are a proven warrior. Unlike many other less reputable knightly orders, the Knight Protectors do not accept pretenders who merely seek a title of knighthood as a sign of social distinction. The Knight Protectors seldom take on squires, though the practice is not unheard of. Throughout the order’s history, the Knight Protectors have allowed warriors of any faith or social standing able to abide by the order’s strict guidelines entry to their ranks, so long as the supplicant is worthy and is sponsored by a current knight of the order. The credo of the Knight Protectors is to uphold the will of the (rightful) king, show respect to those of or above your own station; demand respect of those below your own station, help those who are in need, and do nothing to defame or embarrass king, country, or the order. A similar credo is followed by most other knightly orders throughout the Flanaess. The Knight Protectors is home to all manner of holy knights and the tenets of the order serve to maintain a peace between members whose faiths publicly oppose one another, as in the case of the order’s Heironean and Hextorite members.
To maintain the quality of its membership, supplicants are evaluated by a body initially formed for this very purpose- the Council Gallant. Made up of the Knight Protectors’ most senior members, the Council Gallant not only judges the worthiness of potential new members, but acts as the ruling council of the order itself. Shortly after the inception of the order, the Knight Protectors were made autonomous by the Aerdy king himself, so as to distance the order from the increasing intrigue of court politics. Though independent of the king, the Knight Protectors continued to place an honorary contingent of knights at the king’s disposal. The Knight Protectors’ original charter charged the order with protecting the Aerdy king and his people, and with enforcing the king’s laws throughout the land. The Council Gallant is responsible for defending the order’s tenets from outside influences, even those of the sitting king.
Leading into the Age of Great Sorrows, the order was rocked by the treachery of the notable knight Lord Kargoth and a group of 13 other influential knights who were seduced to his cause. These fourteen knights would become the first death knights. By their acts of treachery, and indeed their very existence, the death knights would become the arch nemesis of the Knight Protectors. Over the next hundred years, the Knight Protectors sought to destroy the death knights and those who served them. While many minions of the death knights were put to the sword, not a single death knight was able to be destroyed. With the scattering of the traitors, the Knight Protectors looked to be in the ascendant once again, but the worst was yet to come.
The Age of Sorrows was a time of strife that heralded the downfall of one of the brightest lands in all the Flanaess. The Great Kingdom, a land renowned as a beacon of law and order, began to come apart at the seams, as power hungry nobles sought to gain influence within the kingdom. As strife began to permeate all lands of the Great Kingdom, the Knight Protectors were sent far and wide to quell the unrest in lands as far west as the Nyr Dyv. It was at this time that the order’s arch nemesis, the death knights, once again revealed themselves. Scattered throughout the turbulent kingdom, the Knight Protectors became east targets for the resurgent forces of Lord Kargoth and the other death knights who began to hunt members of the order with almost complete freedom. As a result, the Council Gallant was forced to recall its far flung members from the troubled border states to combat this dangerous menace. Many Knight Protectors were hunted down and slain by the death knights while attempting to return to the order’s base outside of Rauxes. The gathered strength of the order was enough to force the death knights into hiding once again.
While the Knight Protectors and other loyalists were preoccupied with the threat of invasion by outside forces the unruly border states, tired of the ever increasing demands of the king for taxes and man power to combat the growing disloyalty throughout the kingdom, finally rebelled. As a result the Great Kingdom lost half of its lands. The Knight Protectors had also become less than welcome in the now independent border nations not only due to their enforcement of the king’s will, but also due to the rampages of the death knights and their minions who continued to display debased forms of their own personal heraldry or that of their former order.
After a time the Great Kingdom became more stable and the Knight Protectors began to recover their strength. This time of rebuilding came to a sudden halt with the ascension to power of Ivid I in a bloody coup that saw the last Rax king and most of his known family assassinated. The Knight Protectors did not support Ivid I as the rightful king, and as a result the order’s charter was revoked and its membership declared to be traitors. The politics of the Aerdy noble houses had failed to penetrate the ranks of the Knight Protectors, but not those of an unlawful king. The order found itself beset on all fronts by enemies they had no hope of standing against. Those members of the order present in the capitol at the time forcibly fought their way out of Rauxes and took flight to the four winds. The Knight Protectors were driven from their headquarters at Morshaldin Castle which was ransacked and partially destroyed, but in time was rebuilt as a base for a new order of knights personally devoted to Ivid I known as the Knights of the Majestic Companion Guard.
For the next few years Ivid I spent vast resources hunting down the members of the order until his attention was diverted elsewhere. The death knights themselves also took advantage of the situation by emerging to quietly aid in the destruction of the Knight Protectors. As a result of these events, the members of the Knight Protectors went into hiding and have yet to recover any outward semblance of their former strength. Some of the scattered knights chose to serve one or another of the various Aerdy noble families, or one of the great lords of the Aerdy provinces. Others chose to take up service with one of the many knightly orders of the west. Many of the Knight Protectors maintained their oaths of service and have continued to pass down the order’s original purpose of aiding the people of the Aerdy lands, as they are able to. Since the rise of the Ivids many Knight Protectors, past and present, have fought under the banners of nations opposed to the Naelax over kings, and ultimately wish to see a rightful Aerdy king reign from the Malachite Throne once again.
Over the last few hundred years, the Knight Protectors as a knightly order has devolved into a mere shadow of its former glory. Many of the greatest warriors of the former Great Kingdom continue to instead seek service with one of the influential Aerdy noble families rather than join the Knight Protectors. Compounding this problem is the inherent lack of trust which has been slowly growing within the order ever since the betrayal of Lord Kargoth. The tenets of the order are no longer enough to guarantee civil relations among its members of opposed faiths, and more than a few clashes have occurred between Heironean and Hextorite knights in particular. Recently this tension has increased dramatically and the competitive rivalry that previously existed between the Heironean and Hextorite members of the order has since devolved into open animosity. It is not lost on many of the order’s membership that no fewer than three of the traitorous death knights are devoted to the Herald of Hell, which further fuels distrust among members of the order. Most Hextorites have since left the Knight Protectors to take up service with house Naelax, either previously under the Ivids, or currently with Overking Grenell of the North Kingdom. Others have gone over to Overking Xavener of Ahlissa who openly entreats other former Knight Protectors to join his service, though few of these knights trust Xavener’s motives and so remain aloof. Those few Hextorites that yet remain within the order are a testament to the old ways of the Knight Protectors and as such tend to be highly respected by most members of the order regardless of their faiths. Some knights however still keep a close watch upon all Hextorites within the order.
With the fracturing of the Great Kingdom at the end of the Greyhawk Wars, the members of the once formidable Knight Protectors remain scattered and as such the order currently does not truly exist (or so it is commonly believed), for they have no patron nation, or even a known base from which they publicly operate. For now, members of the Knight Protectors operate clandestinely within the lands once known as the Great Kingdom and aid those in neighboring nations that still value what the Knight Protectors stand for. The Knight Protectors continue to seek out new members from among the winners of tournaments and other champions whose beliefs coincide with the ideals of the order. Currently there are less than a hundred members within the order, but membership is on the rise, as hidden bases of the Knight Protectors continue to operate within the Bone March, the Adri Forest, Sunndi, and other outlying lands. The original heraldry of the Knight Protectors is Sable, a crowned sun or; an arrow gules dexter; an axe argent sinister. This heraldry has not been used in quite some time, currently for the reason that the Knight Protector’s host nation in effect no longer exists. It is also to be noted that since the time of Ivid I displaying the order’s original heraldic device was a crime punishable by death, and is also to the current day an invitation to be hunted by the death knights and their minions. The current Knight Protectors use a variety of symbols to denote their loyalty to the order, the most common of them being a sundered tower or a mailed fist clutching a burning orb (both often taking the forma of a cloak clasp or pin).
Hit Die: d10.
To qualify to become a Knight Protector, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.
Alignment: Any non-chaotic.
Base Attack Bonus: +5.
Skills: Handle Animal 4 ranks, Ride 6 ranks, Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 4 ranks.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (medium or heavy), Martial Weapon Proficiency: any lance, Mounted Combat, Ride-By Attack.
Special: Must be a human or half-elf (exceptions are extremely rare). Must have proven himself to be a capable warrior by either winning a tournament of champions or defeating a capable foe (CR 4 or higher in either case) single handedly, have done a great service to the order, or have been promoted from the rank of squire.
The Knight Protector’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (Int), Ride (Dex), Spot (Wis).
Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.
Novice (Ex): The Knight Protector gains the Spirited Charge feat.
Defender (Ex): At the start of any turn when the Knight Protector is within 5 feet of an ally who has fewer Hit Dice than he does, the knight can transfer 1 point of armor class to the ally (making his own armor class worse by the same amount). The knight may transfer up to one point of armor class in this way for each level he has attained as a Knight Protector. The knight may not use this ability if he is flat-footed, held or paralyzed (i.e. the knight must be able to act).
Shining Beacon (Su): A Knight Protector is the physical and spiritual embodiment of the highest ideals. All of his allies gain a +4 morale bonus on saves against fear effects when they stand within 10 feet of the character. If the knight is paralyzed, unconscious, or otherwise rendered helpless, his allies lose this bonus. This bonus does not stack with similar morale bonuses, such as from a paladin’s aura of courage ability or a bard’s inspire courage ability (from which the combat bonuses are gained, but not the saving throw bonuses).
Special Mount (Sp): A Knight Protector’s class levels stack with any paladin or blackguard levels the character may have for determining the characteristics of a special mount. If the character is instead a ranger, the knight’s class levels stack for the purposes of determining the abilities of his animal companion. If the knight has both ranger and paladin or blackguard levels, he must choose which class this ability stacks with.
Individual Training (Ex): While the Knight Protectors adhere to a strict regimen of mounted combat training, allowances are made for its membership to learn techniques more suited to the knight’s personal combat preferences or strengths. The Knight Protector gains a bonus feat of his choice. This bonus feat must be drawn from the feats noted as fighter bonus feats on Table 5-1: Feats (PH p. 90).
Initiate (Ex): The Knight Protector gains the Trample feat.
Burst of Speed (Ex): At 4th level and higher, the Knight Protector can urge his mount to greater than normal speed when charging. This ability doubles the maximum distance the mount can travel when making a charge, up to four times its speed. This ability can be used once per day without penalty to the mount. Each additional use of the ability in a single day requires the mount to make a DC 20 Will save immediately after the conclusion of the charge; failure results in the mount taking 2d6 points of damage.
Peer (Ex): The Knight Protector gains the ability to make a full mounted attack. While mounted, the knight can make a full attack when his mount moves more than 5 feet but no farther than a single move action would carry it. The knight cannot combine this full attack with a charge.
Optional Spell Casting Ability: While not being a holy order per se, the Knight Protectors do cater to their religious membership. As an option, a knight with paladin, blackguard, or ranger levels may continue to advance in spell casting ability, gaining +1 level of spellcasting ability for each level gained as a Knight Protector. If the knight has levels in more than one of these classes, the knight must choose which class his Knight Protector levels will stack with. If this option is chosen, the knight’s hit dice gained are downgraded from d10 to d8, due to the knight’s emphasis on religious training over combat training. A knight with cleric levels may also choose this option, and hit dice gained are downgraded from d10 to d6. The Knight Protector must choose this option at 1st level, or not at all.
Multiclass Note: A paladin or blackguard who becomes a Knight Protector may continue advancing as a paladin or blackguard.
Table 1. Knight Protector
| Base |
| 1|| +1|| +2||+0||+2||Novice, Defender, Shining Beacon, Special Mount |
| 2|| +2|| +3||+0||+3||Individual Training |
| 3|| +3|| +3||+1||+3||Initiate |
| 4|| +4|| +4||+1||+4||Burst of Speed |
| 5|| +5|| +4||+1||+4||Peer |
The Knight Gallant
The upper echelon of the Knight Protectors forms a ruling council known as the Council Gallant. Its members hold the title of Knight Gallant, and while they are few in number, they are among the most capable warriors and commanders in all of the Flanaess. The membership of the Council Gallant is scattered throughout the nations of the eastern Flanaess, though they secretively meet in council twice during the year; usually at festival times.
Hit Die: d10