Prophecy: Chivalric Arms

Chivalric Arms & The Right to Bear Arms

Arms and armor are potential tools of rebellion. Obviously,
limiting their widespread use is in the best interest of any ruling
class. Weapons in the hands of simple folk challenges the
nobility’s hold on power. On the other hand, the gentry may require
military assistance from those lower on the social ladder and
benefits from having a supply of trained warriors. …Good
government, in a feudal sense, is largely a matter of keeping the
right number of people armed.

In theory, like land, the right to bear arms devolves from
the sovereign whose ultimate duty it is to defend the state.
Obviously, those charged with the defense of the kingdom, must be
privileged to bear arms.

In the strictest sense, only those explicitly granted the
right or those who can trace their right to a grant from the
sovereign, through his vassals, have the right to bear arms. The
practice, however, is more liberal.

Like knighthood, the right to bear arms may be delegated by
anyone who possesses it, so that a gentleman can arm his retainers,
as long as they remain in his employ [of course, he is the
responsible for their behavior while so armed].

Official military organizations, fighting orders, legions,
etc., lend the right to bear arms to their members and this right
is generally retained when an individual is honorably discharged,
especially if the individual remains available for military
service. Most mercenaries are former soldiers (or claim to be). The
sons of soldiers often claim their father’s right to bear arms, a
dubious claim that, nevertheless, may go unchallenged. Towns
charged with their own defense are usually given charter rights to
organize militia and/or hire mercenaries. To assure themselves of
the legality, however, they nearly always hire knights to take
charge.

— From Hârn Player

Defining weapons

One of the main difficulties is in defining weapons and armor.
What constitutes a weapon and what a tool? Which is clothing and
which is armor? There are two subclasses of weapon, chivalric
weapons which may only be used by nobility and common weapons,
which may be used by everyone else. Unfortunatley there is no
universal standard by which all nations judge. Custom defines a
weapon as a tool used for fighting on the battlefield or field of
honor and excludes items which are used by craftsmen in their day
to day work. The table below gives the usual interpretation of what
is a weapon, what is a chivalric weapon, and what is a tool. It
also lists weapons that are considered to be the weapons of
assassins (usually illegal weapons).

Bearing Weapons

For purposes of bearing arms, society may be divided into three
basic classes: the unfree (serfs and slaves), freemen, and
nobility. Generally speaking unfree can use only tools, freemen can
use tools and simple weapons, and nobility can use whatever they
want. The rights for the unfree and the nobility are easily
determined. The gray areas are for freemen (including most
adventurers).

Most nobles acknowledge that it is appropriate for simple
freemen to bear common (non-chivalric) weapons. This vaires by
occupation and situation. A heavily armed mercenary is appropriate
only when on duty in a war zone, but not otherwise. A modestly
armed freeman will rarely be challenged.

Many freemen make a point of carrying some visible symbol of
their right to bear arms, a shortsword, for example, on the theory
that asserting a right is the best way to retain it. In some
regions, this practice is required by law.

Some exceptions exist. Nobility consider some weapons to be
dishonorable. No noble would, for example carry a bow; they are
cowardly weapons and a gentleman is no coward. Bows are weapons
that kill at long range and a true gentleman fights only hand to
hand, close enough to his opponent to introduce himself. Crossbows
are likewise shunned by nobility. Among elves in particular, and
other races in general, it is not considered cowardly to use a bow
to slay dishonorable creatures (such as orcs, demons and dragons).
Weaponscrafters are in a special position and are generally exempt
from normal limitations, in effect, they are “honarary noblity” and
their right to carry the products of their craft is rarely
questioned. Weaponscrafters support (sometimes reluctantly)
customary constraints and are expected to refuse to sell chivalric
weapons or armor to a customer unable to prove his gentility.

Conclusions

In summary, bearing any unusual weapon or excessive armor will
attract attention. Oerth society is mildly xenophobic and not
particularly tolerant, especially of well-armed strangers. Players
must be especially careful of passing themsevles off as gentlefolk
to justify the arms they bear. Breach of Rank is a serious offense
in all civilized jurisdictions of Oerth. Some courts deeem the
bearing of chivalric arms as proof of guilt. Similarly, players
must be especially careful of claiming a right based on a patron of
noble station as they can loose such protection easily should they
abuse it. Adventurers not under the auspices of a noble or knightly
fighting order should limit themselves to the weapons and armor of
a freeman. Adventurers who are working for a noble or who belong to
a knightly fighting order can use whatever weapons and armor they
want.

Arms and Armor Types

Tools and common garb
Simple weapons and armor
Chivalric arms and armor
Assassin’s weapons and armor
sickle, maul, staff, (grain) light flail, sling,
pitchfork, scythe, kama, whip, pick, knife, net, hatchet, rock,
gnome hooked hammer, club, stick, clod of mud, etc.
spear, trident, falchion/scimitar, shortsword,
pike, handaxe, glaive, guisarme, halberd, ranseur, great club,
buckler, morningstar, light shield, heavy shield, (war) heavy
flail, dire flail, javelin, nunchaku, spiked chain, siangham,
crossbow, longbow, shortbow, armor spikes, staffsling, dart, spiked
shield
bastard sword, longsword, greatsword, rapier,
battleaxe, warhammer, mace, lance, poleaxe, two-bladed sword,
dwarven urgrosh, dwarven waraxe, tower shield, knight’s shield,
greataxe
sap, shuriken, orc double axe, punching dagger,
kukri
cloth, leather, padded, hide
ring, scale, chain, splint
banded, all plates
studded leather