The Church Knights

by James Seidel (11 Nov 94)

The document is about 350k in text alone, representing considerable background information and character creation details. It will be posted in eleven parts.

The World of Darkness seems to be lacking in one key area - that of a counterbalance to the inherent horror of the Kindred. Even in a Gothic-Punk world, I believe extremes of apparent evil would be counterbalanced by extremes of good:

If you believe in the light,
its because of obscurity;
if you believe in joy,
its because of sin;
if you believe in God,
then you have to believe in the Devil.
- On the cover of Enigma MCMXC a.D., Virgin Records, 1991

Vampires proved to be an outlet for my previously purely historical interest in the Crusader Knights of Christ - the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitaller, Knights Teutone. Much interest has been shown in the myths and mysteries of the Knights Templar over the past decade. Books such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Foccult Pendulum have drawn strong public interest - though the Church Knights do not seem to have attracted any interest among gaming publishers.

I believe this concept has strong application to Vampire. Hunters with an extensive historical background, strong religious convictions (they are, after all, warrior-monks), powers conveyed by God, and the perceived ability to save the soul of a defiled human would have appeal. Potential exists for historical game play (the Church Knights have been in continuos existence in some form or another since AD 1100), and modern game play under the new-age militant orders that I have proposed. Much intrigue and mystery is attached to the history of the Templars, and to a lesser extent that of the Hospitallers and Teutones. The history and myths associated with these groups provide wide scope for adaptation to the Vampire concept and include: The Holy Grail, The Ark of the Covenant, The shroud of Turin, The Inquisition, The Mines of Solomon, The bloodline of Christ . . . the list goes on.

The concept behind the knights is best summed up in the words of their founding father, St Bernard of Clairvaux, AD 1128:

The Church Knight is a fearless knight,
safe from all sides,
who, as the body is covered with iron,
so is the soul by the defence of faith.
Without doubt, fortified by both arms,
he fears neither demon nor man.
Nor indeed is he afraid of death,
he who has desired death.
If the cause of the fighting is good,
the consequence of the fighting cannot be evil,
just as the end will not be judged as good
then the cause is not good,
and has arisen from an unjust intention.
- St Bernard de Clairvaux, De Laude Novae Militiae
(In Praise of the New Knighthood)

A 65,400 word document was the result of my efforts - with the encouragement of the members of a local gaming club. This document has been desktop published, currently being circulated the club for critique, proof-reading and game testing.

The knights are not stereo-typical good guys. The divisions between the Church denominations are reflected within their ranks. Templars, Hospitallers and Teutones all have different theological backgrounds, doctrine and histories. Disagreement between the Orders would be rife. Knights are mortal - and therefore subject to sin. If a sin is committed or their strict Rule broken, they can loose the blessing which gives them their powers - until a term of penance or task of expiation is served. A knight must live and operate to the strict Rule of their vows - a monastic way of life little changed since the 12th century. Moral conflict caused by their vows and beliefs would have to be a common occurrence in a Gothic-Punk world - an aspect that should be emphasised in role-playing. Expanding upon the True Faith system in Vampire: The Masquerades and Hunters Hunted allows these rigors to be integrated into game play. A new system of Piety Dice and Grace Points enforces adherence to the saintly aspirations of the warrior-monks.

The Church Knights are more than a highly trained and well equipped group of assassins with high Faith ratings. Ministry is also an important part. Vampires - while the Church believes them to be inherently evil - can be saved. The blessing of a knight may allow the vampires soul to be judged before God on the merits of its mortal life. In rare circumstances, vampires which have demonstrated their true repentance may be restored to mortality in a ceremony attended by the heads of each Order. (This source-book is not supposed to be a front for any religious group - any Church doctrine used is purely because it cannot be avoided.)

Their powers are based upon that of Faith, Miracles, Gifts, Prayers and Rituals. The concept that their powers come from God, and not from themselves, opens interesting possibilities. A knight may ask for protection against an advancing vampire - and if his prayer is granted, anything from a forest fire or a lightning-bolt from heaven may intervene. My lack of experience with the Storyteller system has made it difficult for me to generate balanced powers. Some powers are simply modified versions of Potence etc, though several new concepts have been introduced such as Absolution, War Cry etc. I have gathered many of these from powers posted on the Internet (with appropriate attribution). I feel this area can be considerably expanded through discussions on this mailing list.

Whether vampires are truly evil or not is irrelevant. The Church and the Church Knights believe it to be so (such is the basis of True Faith, no?). The same applies to the origins of the Kindred. The Church believes the Biblical account of Cain to be the basis of the vampiric bloodline. To them, Cains cursed blood is a lingering stain of original sin, and should therefore be removed.

I await your comments and judgement. The Church Knights is subject to Australian copyright which protects work not openly declared as public domain. Further copyright protection is pending. However, you are free to use this work for your own gaming purposes - just so long as you dont make any money out of it.

A full text copy will be posted to a friends www site shortly (I'll pass on the address once it's uploaded). Do not ask for the PS version: the Quark Express document, with pictures, is 17meg.

Hope it is useful.

Here is the worm that does not die,
the memory of things past.
Once it has worked it s way in, or better,
been begotten there by sin,
it clings tenaciously and there is no dislodging it again . . .
I have a terror of this biting worm,
this death undying.
I have a terror of falling into the hands of the living death,
the dying life.
This is the second death,
which never gives the coup de grace but is forever killing.
Who will grant them to die once and for all,
that they may not be eternally a-dying?
- St Bernard de Clairvaux, founder of the Knights Templar, in On Consideration, AD1150