Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Knightly Orders of the Alliance

The aristocracy of the Alliance have more military power than just their navies and armies, they also have one another.  Like-minded knights form together into Knightly Orders, patterned after the highly successful Knights of Communion. Many amount to little more than just social clubs for bored aristocrats, but some can prove to be major military forces within the Empire, and all become powerful political factions, able to push their agenda thanks to the wealth and prestige of their members.

I offer three knightly orders as examples of what Knightly Orders might be like.  Feel free to create your own!

I personally found it odd how isolated and unique the Jedi Order was in Star Wars.  Eventually, the expanded universe added a few new groups out there, but in reality, warrior-monks tend to rise out of joining religious and martial traditions, rather than springing up ex-nihilo.  The aristocracy of the Alliance represents the legacy of the martial tradition that gave rise to the Knights of Communion, and we'll dive into the religious/philosophical tradition that gave rise to them when we dive into philosophy.


Knightly Orders

When the Knights of Communion broke away from the Alexian Empire, sacrificing their feudal bonds in favor of philosophical bonds, it sent shockwaves through the Maradonian aristocracy. At first, they saw the Knights of Communion as opposition, but eventually began to emulate them, either to better combat them, or out of respect for what those knights had forged. Where before, knights served based on bonds of blood and political necessity, a knightly order allowed them to forge bonds of friendship and brotherhood. One could serve those in whom he believed, rather than those that custom dictated.

Knightly Orders proved especially useful after the collapse of the Alexian Empire. They forged bonds between houses which prevented all-out civil war. Where before two knights had been strangers, now they both served in the same order together. This provided a social glue and yet another avenue for the aristocracy to see one another as belonging to the same, broad social class, which set the tone for the Federation and the current Alliance.

Orders began as strictly military brotherhoods where everyone made a vow to serve and uphold some cause. These required vows from their adherents and followed hierarchies of command similar to military organizations (which, arguably, they were). As time evolved, adherence to core principles became less important than the prestige of entrance into a knightly order, and the social connections one could make by being part of a knightly order. Thus, knightly-order-as-pretentious-social-clubs began to spring up, especially towards the end of the Federation. Both exist within the Alliance, though more social-club orders exist, while militant orders tend to cause a certain level of nervousness among the Alliance members, as they serve as a sort of military wildcard.

Examples of Knightly Orders include:

The Knights of the True Path: An old order that arose in opposition to the Knights of Communion, with the stated purpose of protecting the Oracular Order and purging the aristocracy of any influence of True Communion. This order remains and retains its military structure. Traditionally, knights who joined rescinded their House fealty, but this practice has faded in recent times. This is an example of a militant order.

The Fraternity of Liberty (the Freeguard Knights): When the Aristocracy broke away from the Empire in revolt, many knights dedicated to the cause of defeating the Empire formed the Fraternity and waged personal war upon the Empire. This proved popular, as nearly all members of the modern Alliance wanted to join. To prevent the fraternity from becoming so ubiquitous as to become meaningless, the Freeguard limits their numbers to those who currently serve as Knight Protectors of the Senate, or to any who have served as defenders of the Senate for at least two years. This is an example of a militant order to which one can be an informal member.

The Threefold Order (the Knights of the Blade): Less of a true military order and more of a social club for aristocrats interested in dueling, the Threefold Order teaches “the three force sword forms”, the Destructive Form, the Graceful Form and the Swift Form, as well as monitor duels and maintain the generally agreed upon rules for dueling. This is an example of an informal order.

Knightly Order Agendas

A Knightly Order serves no explicit noble. Inspired by the brotherhood of the Knights of Communion, who served no lord but Communion, the Knightly Orders became brotherhoods of nobles who came together to serve a particular purpose. Sometimes, such knights abdicate the bonds of feudalism and serve only their order, as the original Knights of Communion did, but more often, these orders turn into social clubs, a way for martially inclined aristocrats to interact across House lines.

Knightly Orders exist for a stated purpose, one built into its charter. Whatever that purpose is, all knightly agendas ultimately serve that goal. Beyond this, knightly orders seek to improve their visibility and to advertise their usefulness, so as to attract more recruits and more clients willing to make use of their services. Knightly orders also tend to offer unique training to their members, which requires the pursuit of fabled secrets and proving their superiority in this field (often through challenges and duels, if the training offered is martial in nature). Finally, Knightly Orders seek to facilitate the connections and political careers of those associated with them. Many of the most powerful aristocrats also have membership to some knightly order, and part of their power comes from the fact that they knew other people in high places, thanks to their member ship to a knightly order.

Example Agendas include:


  • The Oracular Order still exists, though greatly diminished, and its prophecies have directed its members towards a girl born in the Empire as their next major prophetess, who will guide them through this troubled era. The Oracular Order dares not try to do this on their own and, instead, call upon the Knights of the True Path to assist them. The knights must travel with the sisters of the order while in disguise, acting as agents and bodyguards, while their ships lurk off the border of the Empire, ready to fly to their rescue if the call comes.
  • A spy brings word of an imperial plot against the Alliance Senate, which seeks to quietly plant explosives in the capital, and then detonate them as a destruction for rushing in agents to kill specific, key senators while claiming to work for a rival senator. The Freeguard need to ferret out the enemy agents and protect the targeted Senators, while ensuring that peace remains between the two rival houses.
  • A duel between dukes! The sons of the two the highest ranking members of the senate have chosen to resolve their dispute on the field of honor, and have called in the Threefold Brotherhood to mediate the duel. One of the duelist’s father, a duke and himself a member of the Threefold Order, wants the referee to rig the contest as much in his son’s favor as is possible without being obvious. If the Order agrees and is exposed, this scandal would ruin its standing. If the duke’s son, as a representative of the Order’s training, were to lose, that might also undermine the popularity of the Order. If the Order revealed the Duke’s treachery and ejected him from the order, as is required by their charter, they would certainly make a grave enemy.
  • Discovery! The works of an ancient master of force swordsmanship have been uncovered on Old Maradon, but then immediately stolen by antiquities smugglers. The Orders, but especially the Threefold Order, could command greater respect if they and they alone offered training in the secrets of this lost master, and thus must compete with one another to be the first to catch the thieves and then either magnanimously return the work to an Alliance museum (with an agreement to be the only ones allowed access to it), or keep it for themselves.
  • War! The Empire attacks, and the order has members, facilities and materiel near the point of attack. While no general call has been made for others to rise to defense, the Order has a unique opportunity to ingratiate itself to the locals and to other knights if it fairs well in the battle. Joining in, especially pre-emptively, could expose the Order to the risk of loss (and defeat would undermine their credibility), but victory means the locals might be beholden to them, and raise the stock of the Order. The Order must not only achieve victory, but ensure that people notice its success!
  • Election! A member of an Order seeks to become Senate speaker, which would give the Order considerably more sway in the proceedings of the Senate. The order itself is not represented in the senate, but its aristocratic members certainly are, and could swing the vote one way or another. The order could pressure its members on the behalf of their candidate, but such naked political action threats the appearance of political neutrality.


Knightly Orders as Opposition

The security and strength of a knightly orders vary greatly depending on how formal it is. Informal knightly orders typically only worry about basic discretion and often not even that. Membership registries, accounting books, and even access to facilities can generally be as easily hacked or penetrated as a civilian organization. They also tend to lack strict security guards beyond bouncers and the members themselves. Thus, informal knightly orders tend to be BAD -0 or, at worst, bad -2.

Militant knightly orders, on the other hand, are effectively cadres of elite psionic soldiers who all work closely together. They have highly secured facilities, high levels of loyalty and possibly demands of secrecy from its membership. When they field combatants, those combatants tend to be highly trained and extremely well equipped. Militant knightly orders tend to be BAD -5.

Serving in a Knightly Order

Military Ranks

Rank

Knightly Order

6

Grand Master, Knight Commander

5

The Grand Council

4

Master

3

Knight

2

Supervising Brother, Knight

1

Titled Brother, Apprentice

0

Lay Brother, Initiate




Knightly Orders tend to have either formal or informal ranks. Orders that act as social clubs (Threefold Order) have informal ranks, which cost 1/level; rank represents something closer to status within the club. Formal orders (Knights of the Truth Path) follow strict hierarchy and expect knights who fall below the rank of another knight to follow his orders. Some orders bridge the line between both, and act as formal rank when serving with the order, and informal rank if you have left the order. The Fraternity of Liberty usually offers temporary rank (worth 1/level) for a knight currently serving as a senatorial guard, until he leaves, at which point rank converts to informal rank.

Knightly orders tend to begin with an “Initiate” rank, someone who wishes to join the order, and must perform whatever tasks the order asks of him in order to gain entrance. This is often a short-term term, especially among informal orders who might bypass it completely. An Apprentice serves a greater knight, someone fully within the order, who can teach him what he needs to know. Knights serve as the backbone of the order and is the most common rank, with varying levels of seniority. A Master has been acknowledged by the order as a master of his craft, and typically acts as an officer over the other knights, or a trainer available to all knights. The highest of the masters serve on a council, and often have specific aspects of the organization that they govern, though precise titles vary from order to order (the Blade Master might teach force swordsmanship, the Grand Admiral might command the ships, the Master of Foot commands any regulars employed by the order, and so on). The head of the council and the head of the Order is typically called “the Grand Master,” or the Knight Commander, though the title, again, varies from order to order.

Non-aristocrats also serve in knightly orders, but as lay brothers. They act as servants and assistants, cleaning their facilities, cooking for the knights, etc. The lowest levels consist of Lay brothers, then brothers with specific jobs (“titled” brothers, such as Armorer or Chief Armorer, etc), and then those who supervise the whole of the service staff for the order. All technically fall under the command of any of the aristocratic members, but if a Master Librarian issues a command to an Apprentice, that Apprentice is wise to act on it.

Favors of Knightly Orders.

Entry Clearance (Pulling Rank p 13): Every order always has at least a headquarters, and often chapter houses. Gaining access to the non-public spaces of these, or to secret locations, or bringing in a non-member, all might require Pulling Rank.

Consultation and Specialists (Pulling Rank p 15): the Alliance Military can offer Contacts with skills like Administration, Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Strategy and Tactics, representing military attaches or military advisors. They're usually between Skill 15 and 18.

Cash (Pulling Rank 16): If the Order demands a vow of poverty, then it might provide some spending money for its members under specific circumstances (such as to bribe the local underworld, or to purchase supplies)

Funding (Pulling Rank 16): In a sense, Orders act like militarized advocacy groups. Those that demand vows of poverty collect the wealth of those who join (and donations), and other Orders typically collect dues. Given the concentration of wealth and political influence, an Order can be a serious heavy weight, politically and militarily. Thus, funding things is one of the major things organizations do, especially for “informal” orders.

Gear (Pulling Rank 16): If the Order is a military one and if it demands a vow of poverty, then it must provide gear to its members. Otherwise, most orders expect members to come with their own equipment.

Evacuation (Pulling Rank 17): Militant orders keep fleets of their own, though typically smaller ships than what noble houses control, and can send knights in corvettes and frigates off to rescue members in need.

Treatment (Pulling Rank 17): Militant orders, especially those that demand vows of poverty, care for their fallen.

Introduction (Pulling Rank 18): The point of a knightly order is to bring members of the aristocracy into contact with one another. Highly influential aristocrats certainly belong to orders, and even if they do not, they know someone who does, or might be positively disposed towards the leadership of an order. If you wish to meet someone, nearly anyone in the Alliance, an Order can nearly always arrange it.

Invitation (Pulling Rank 18): Knightly orders have integrated themselves into the social fabric of the Alliance and the aristocracy and thus regularly get invitations to major events. They could arrange for a member to get an invitation as well. Furthermore, many less formal orders act as social clubs, so some of the grand events of the Alliance are sponsored by knightly orders!

Services (Pulling Rank 18):Knightly Orders tend to offer high-level training in force swordsmanship, whatever their focus, and may offer access to additional services. The Threefold Brotherhood, for example, can regulate and arrange duels, while the Knights of the True Path can bring one into touch with oracles to tell your future.

Facilities (Pulling Rank 18): Just as noble houses control beautiful spaces, so too do knightly orders, but they also tend to have access to top-notch training facilities.

Fire Support (Pulling Rank 19): Militant knightly orders typically have navies, including battleships and starfighters. If necessary, they can lend their support to major, on-going battles.

The Cavalry (Pulling Rank 19): Knightly Orders can’t really do less than this, and nor do they want to. Typically the “least” they can scrounge are several highly trained knights with force swords at their side. Scary stuff!

Character Considerations

Requirements: Non-Aristocratic characters serving in any Order must Servant Rank 0 [0], minimum Wealth (Struggling) [-5], and at least Duty (9 or less) [-5]. Aristocratic members of a Militant Order must have Military Rank 0 [0], minimum Wealth (Comfortable) [10], and Duty (15 or less, Extremely Hazardous) [-20]. Aristocratic members of an informal Order must have Courtesy Military Rank 1 [1] and minimum Wealth (Comfortable) [10]. Members of any order, whether aristocratic or common, must swear a vow. Examples include:

Knights of the True Path: The Knights of the True Path must disavow participation of the world, sometimes called the “Vows of the still pond” because they demand that knights of the true path do nothing to disrupt the future. They also give up all they own to the Order, which provides them with all they need. Vow (Chastity) [-5]; Vow (Poverty) [-5]

Freeguard Knights: The Freeguard Knights must not expose themselves to the manipulations of the world and, in the name of discretion and state security, must never divulge what goes on in the Senatorial building, or with the Senators, without the express permission of the Senate. This results in Vow (Chastity) and Vow (Secrecy) [-5] for the duration of their service, which drops down to Vow (Secrecy) [-1] after service has ended, provided the character has Courtesy Rank.

Knights of the Blade: The Threefold Order demands only that none of its members reveal its secrets or to train anyone outside of the order. This is a non-enforced Vow (Secrecy) [-1].

A Knightly Order as a patron is worth 15 points, and -20 points as an enemy.

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