A couple of months ago, I opened a history book for the first time since high school, and I realized I had no idea what a knight was. I imaged them as noble warriors who lived by a strict code of conduct and defended the weak from tyranny and oppression. The reality, however, wasn’t as glamourous…
In this article, I’m going to talk about knights and nobles. I’ll explain what they were, how to include them in your Dungeons and Dragons world, and what the latter implies. Hopefully, it will also mean the beginning of many fun adventures you never thought were possible.
The Tiny Kings
For most of the Middles Ages, when a king wanted to reward one of his warriors for his valor in combat, he would make him a knight and let him rule over a portion of his kingdom. On their land, knights could raise taxes, make their own laws (to some extent), and exercised justice. They also possessed an army to defend it.
The kings’ favorite warriors could also award a parcel of their domain to their subordinates and make them knights. The person receiving the land was the vassal, and the one granting the land was the liege. These rulers, named nobles, controlled a territory, which was their manor or fief.
This system ensured that every town and village had someone to protect it from bandits and “barbarian” invasions, but it also had problems of its own. Nobles mostly lived to fight, and they often went to war with each other. During most of the Middle Ages, the kings didn’t have the military power to keep their knights in check, and the nobles were the de facto kings of their own small country.