Tuesday, 9 April 2019


arnold did a post on paladins and it got me thinking

if each holy order serves a specific purpose than you could generate new holy orders by thinking about what problems the medieval church had and what kind of guys it might have needed to fix them


Order of the Nightingale

Plague is caused by bad air. Bad air is caused by sin and sin is caused by demons. Or it's possible that microscopic demons breed in swamps and are carried into towns by insects and evil breezes. Or maybe the Jews did it. No-one really knows but there are definitely paladins about it. Also known as "empiricals", "grey surgeons" or just "plague knights", their beaked armour is packed with dried flowers and their stainless scalpel-swords are always sharp.

They prefer to fight at a distance, keeping potentially-infected enemies as far away as possible. They drain swamps and burn villages and and stomp on rats and butcher screaming hordes of the diseased and possessed - they don't make any distinction. Total bastards whose only redeeming feature is that killing every single person who even looks like they might have a bit of a cough does, in the long run, preserve more lives than it costs.

When they go heretical they become plague-agents, typhoid maries whose medical knowledge allows them to spread disease as quickly and efficiently as possible.

surprisingly hard to find good plague doctor art
Order of Janus

Whenever there is a schism in the church, the Order of Janus splits in two. Half the order sides with the real, legitimately elected Pope A and declares eternal war upon the foul deceiver Antipope B. The other half sides with Pope B and declares war on Antipope A. Half of the first half are deep-cover agents working for B. Half of the second half are deep-cover agents working for A. Half of the first half of the first half are only pretending to be deep-cover agents working for B in order to root out the vile traitors who'd turn against the holy word of A. And sometimes the church will schism again, and again...

The original idea seems to have been to prevent schisms in the first place by making them too confusing for anyone to bother with. Nowadays, though, people tend to assume that anyone wearing the two-faced helm of the Order of Janus is effectively neutral. Fighting Antipopes isn't like fighting Satan - their arguments tend to be a lot more convincing, for a start. Most people who aren't dickheads basically understand that it's not a good idea to worship Satan, but actual human politics tend to be a lot messier, especially when you're obliged to understand them as well as the people who make a career out of dealing with them. A lot of the two-faced knights are honestly too confused to know who they're supposed to be murdering from day to day, which is probably just as well. Quite a few are genuinely insane and can be found wandering the countryside, challenging people at swordpoint to arcane tests of ideology.

They are experts in spycraft and will sometimes infiltrate other orders of paladins, taking all the appropriate vows and waiting years for their chance to strike and denounce the whole thing as heretical. This is where shit gets really confusing.

When they go heretical they just become themselves, but more so.

Order of the Grasshopper

Even the humblest peasant can join the Order of the Grasshopper, as long as they demonstrate they're willing to put in the work. Grasshoppers wear velvet capes and gilded armour, ride fancy imported horses and eat plump capons sauced with exotic spices - but nobody begrudges their conspicuous display of wealth, because they know how hard the knights have laboured to get it, and in the back of their minds they're all thinking they too might be able to join the Order one day. Actual statistics on how many humble peasants make it to the top are not available at this time. The Order's Grandmaster was born in a pigsty and this fact is widely advertised.

Grasshoppers defend the good, loyal, honest, hardworking folk of the land from bandits, monsters, demons and outside agitators who might fill up the peasants' heads with dangerous ideas about "class consciousness" and "mass popular uprising against the oppressor". They are widely beloved and the subject of many a popular song. A lot of the people at the top are greying accountant types who haven't gotten on a horse in years, if ever, and whose only job is to manage the Grasshoppers' vast investment portfolio - a task which they pursue with all the religious zeal of a younger knight slaying a dragon. They understand perfectly well that their real job is to maintain the feudal-capitalist order, and are absolute fanatical believers in it.

When they go heretical they become Communists, obviously.

artist is kyoung hwan kim
Order of the Lion-And-Lamb

The Church's official position is that all conflict between Christians is caused by demonic sin. The Lion-and-Lambs are militant diplomats, set to mediate between local lords when their disputes threatens to impact spiritual business. They are expert lawyers and judges whose verdicts are broadly pretty fair, and always widely derided as obviously corrupt. Even the people who stand to benefit from them will tend to assume they just got lucky, and the paladin was either bribed by someone else or just stood to benefit from the verdict in some abstract way. Lion-and-Lambs are all seasoned warriors whose lives are guaranteed by the Church, which guarantees the excommunication of anyone who touches them. They have an odd tendency to die by their own hands.

When they go heretical they become Iagos and Machiavellis, bent on using their legal expertise to spark wars and create as much trouble as possible.

Order of the Ox

Intelligence is a fine and sacred thing - as long as it's in the service of the Church. Smart men are no more immune to the temptations of Satan than anyone else, and if left to their own devices they have an unfortunate tendency to start asking the wrong type of question. To be an Ox you have to be a certifiable imbecile. Village idiots, people with actual developmental defects, are ideal, but regular halfwits and simpletons are accepted as long as they're provably incapable of understanding complex ideas.

Their job is to hunt down alchemists, engineers, astrologers, historians, poets and anyone else who thinks being clever lets you get away with upsetting the balance of nature. The Oxes are equipped with heavy clubs and it usually it doesn't take more than a beating to guide their targets back to the righteous path of the Lord. They do, however, have to be given very careful instructions. They wear horned helmets with bells attached and sometimes ride actual oxes. The peasants are generally on their side.

Oxes almost never go heretical - they're simply not able to understand the arguments for it. That's the whole idea. You might, however, see a lost one wandering the wilderness, missing their faith but able to find anything else to replace it with.

couldn't find a real pic so have some dragon ball z


  1. Yessss, heretical paladins. This is what I need!

  2. But seriously, though, I've always had immense trouble figuring out exactly what paladins _do_. Like what their deal and their purpose is. It's something about the ambiguity of the class, how it straddles better-defined things like fighter and cleric, that makes it feel really wishy-washy in most settings I observe.

    'Specific-problem fixers for the church' is a really solid base. Gives just enough leeway for what a paladin can be, without being too unspecific or bland.