Great Khan Enthroned

Great Khan Enthroned

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for-

Henry II. Great-Grandson of William the Conqueror, Grandson of Henry I, Son of the Empress Mathilda, Husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Father of Richard the Lion-Heart and John Lack-Land. King of England, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Count of Anjou, Maine and Nantes, Lord of Ireland. The first Plantagenet King of England, the period of his reign is referred to by historians as the Angevin empire*. He was descended also from the royal house of Scotland and the Anglo-Saxon royal line of England through his maternal grandmother. He was born on his father's estates in France and died in France too; which was not uncommon for English kings of the era.

In appearance he was large and strong, tall and broadly built, stocky. He had gray eyes, red hair and a freckled face. He excelled at athletics and could usually out ride, fight or march any of his nobles. He was also sharp-witted with a mind for law and languages. He was renowned for his generosity, his excellent memory, his sense of humor and his furious temper, exemplified in the Thomas Becket incident.

Most people would concentrate their appreciation of Henry II on his military career, which was extensive and glorious, but I would rather concentrate on what made him a good king. He reformed the law in England and invented the concept of grand juries and trial by jury. He created Royal Magistrate courts with traveling judges to increase justice throughout his realms.

He centralized power over the nobles by destroying illegal fortifications and forced the nobles to pay scutage. Scutage is a tax noble had to pay to avoid military service, essentially giving the king money to hire guys to meet their military obligations. Previously to the reign of Henry II nobles just routinely failed to meet their commitments and suffered not penalty for it. The institution of scutage had the dual effect of making the king's forces loyal to the king, their pay-master, rather than the lord they came with; and after paying the scutage the nobles couldn't afford to support as many of their own troops, so the low-grade endemic warfare common to the feudal system largely ground to a halt.

Henry II also increased royal control over the church in England, but it was at great cost and of relatively short duration. The sticking point between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the King of England was that the king wanted clergy to be subject to English laws and courts where previously they had held the right to be tried in ecclesiastical courts.

H is for Halflings. Halflings have an interesting lack of history in Garnia. In all of the history I wrote as a kid, Halflings only get mentioned once; and now that early stuff is apocryphal. Only rarely has anyone ever played a Halfling in my Garnia campaign; notably, back in the 80's my neighbor Scott W. played the Halfling thief Thorik for several years of regular play, and now Ashli is playing the Halfling Thief Ruby. Ashli insists that they be called Hobbits, so maybe they migrated here from Middle Earth.

H is for Half-Elves and Half-Orcs and any other half breeds that might exist in the D&D universe. They happen in my Garnia campaign, but only rarely. Most recently Lee's character Eemah the Half-Orc Fighter, who died last session. My take on the genetic viability of these creatures breeding is that the Elves, Humans and Orcs are all genetically the same and their parent races are influenced by the ambient alignment of the planes on which they originated. Good Elves or Evil Orcs can breed with unaligned Humans, but not with each other.

H is for Henchmen and Hirelings. Back in the day we used to bring veritable armies of these guys with us into dungeons. That doesn't happen so much anymore, because player characters have gotten tougher over succeeding iterations of the game and players themselves began to see the hired help as experience point leeches. To my mind Henchmen are like back up characters that you already have ready to roll out if anything bad happens to your main PC. Hirelings are just 0-level NPCs, usually, but they have their uses too for sure. The experience point leeching issue is one I have considered a lot recently as I try to encourage my players to go more old school and bring some help with them. First, I don't pull any punches, I let the dice fall where they may and I roll in the open. That means that the players want to see more targets on their own team, which encourages hiring help. Second, normal hirelings don't get experience points, they are stuck at 0-level forever.

Now that the PCs are leveling up some Henchmen have become an option, and despite losing a 1/2 share of xp to the Henchmen the players seem to be enthusiastic about finding some. We're playing later today and they are headed back to the city, so I guess we'll see.

H is for Huscarls. Huscarls, under various similar names and spellings, are the Germanic precursor to knights. They are oath-bound warriors that serve a warlord as a full time military, they are usually fed and housed by their lord and spend their days training for war or at war. They usually won't bother to survive a battle where their lord dies. There is actually a pretty moving, tragic Anglo-Saxon poem, "The Wanderer", about a guy that did live through a battle that killed his lord and fellow Huscarls.

H is for Heroes, that's what player characters are. They may be flawed heroes, but they are still heroes, at least in my games. I don't tolerate any of this burn the orphanage and rape the nuns nonsense of evil campaigns. Evil is the enemy, there to be destroyed; if you can profit from that, so much the better, but that's what you are there to do. I also don't like angsty BS or "situational" ethics, I am a black and white good versus evil kind of a guy. My wife calls me a Paladin**.

*Technically, the Angevin Empire period also encompasses the reigns of his sons Richard I "The Lion-Heart", who slightly increased it's territory; and John I "Lack-Land" or "Soft-Sword", under whom it collapsed.

**Unless she's mad at me for being inflexible, then I am just being a dick.