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[Let's Read] The Palladium Roleplaying Game, AKA Palladium Fantasy First Edition

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
I said something similar in a VtM game back in the day using the Elders book. "My dude's intelligence is 7. Please help."
There's a scene in the film Dracula 2000 (I won't link to the clip on Youtube since the same clip includes the following scene, which is NSFW) where Dracula walks into a record shop and all the women are overcome by his sexual magnetism. Gerard Butler's performance doesn't hurt but it's everyone else's performance, following him with their eyes and ignoring everything else, that really sells Dracula as this creature of superhuman charisma. I think playing high stats (and other stuff on your character sheet) is often more of a group effort than it first appears.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Soldier, in contrast to mercenary, is described as usually being part of a military organisation, ‘directly responsible to a specific commander or leader (knight, king, ruler)’. That ‘knight’ is interesting as it raises the possibility that a soldier player character could be simply under the command of another player character or an NPC in the party. Border postings are explicitly mentioned as giving soldiers a degree of freedom and law enforcement responsibilities. In total, the book spends over a hundred and fifty words on the restrictions a soldier faces as though they balance out the advantages the soldier class has over the mercenary class but I don’t buy it. If the group and/or the GM are all right with you playing a soldier, it would be baffling for them to then say your soldier can’t go on an adventure because they’ve got to stay and guard the barracks or whatever. Soldiers are primarily focussed on ‘combat and the inflicting of damage (killing) of one’s opponent as quickly and accurately as possible, where it will do the most harm.’

Soldier and mercenary get the same skill acquisition overall – mercenaries get one more secondary skill and one fewer elective skill than soldiers at first level and keep pace from then on – and mercenaries have slightly better class skill bonuses overall. The hand-to-hand combat (soldier) skill is noticeably better than the mercenary version. The real counterbalances to soldier’s superiority over mercenary are the experience tables (mercenaries consistently require slightly fewer experience points to level up) and the attribute requirements.

Soldiers, according to the information about pay on p31, are paid by the month just like mercenaries but the bottom of the range of soldiers’ pay is the top of the range of mercenaries’ pay for each type of assignment: 60-80 gold a month for a ‘[t]ypical soldier’, 80-100 gold for a border posting, 100-150 gold for a combat assignment and 120-200 gold for a ‘special assignment’. By the same reasoning as for mercenaries above, 120 gold might be a typical monthly income for a player character soldier. (All these rates of pay assume the soldier has enlisted for a period two years with an option to re-enlist for one-to-four years. Soldiers get free room and board just like mercenaries.) Low-ranking officers are paid 200-350 gold a month; high-ranking officers get 500-800 gold.

As mentioned above, soldiers are also issued with equipment:
  • soft leather armour: 75 gold
  • short sword: 40 gold
  • dagger: 10 gold
  • small wood shield: 35 gold
  • back pack: 20 gold
  • two sets of clothing: over 60 gold at the very least
  • grooming utensils/supplies: no price is given anywhere in the book
So the total value (ie the price another character would have to pay) for a soldier’s basic equipment is over 240 gold. As I said above, I’m not convinced that a soldier would be expected to pay for their gear or give it back when they muster out: I know nothing about military history but I’ve read lots of stories where retired soldiers retain their military gear (there’s a whole table for it in Traveller). But, on top of this pile of gear that’s worth more than the money a noble character starts with, soldiers can apparently buy more equipment at a 25% discount, meaning their starting 120 gold can buy 160 gold’s worth of stuff, putting their effective starting total up to 400 gold, or twice what a noble character gets.

Book II: Old Ones lists ‘Standard issue of equipment’ for the Timiro military, which (according to the price list in this book) comes to
  • 220 or more gold for foot soldiers
  • 955 or more gold for light cavalry troops
  • 990 or more gold for elite cavalry troops
although 600 gold’s worth of the cavalry’s equipment in both cases is the horse. Still, it seems like the free and/or cheap gear is a big part of the advantage of starting with a soldier character: if it weren’t, I can only imagine the book would mention that nobles, palladins and other characters who could reasonably be expected to be well equipped would start with more stuff. (The book does imply that knight and palladin probably start with a horse each but it’s one passing mention in the palladin class write-up: see below). Perhaps that’s the sort of thing the book expects the group to just handwave but, if so, why is the soldier’s equipment and rate of pay detailed at such length?

Troglodytes and gnomes are barred from the soldier class. The probabilities of the other eleven playable races meeting the attribute requirements are
    • dwarf 88%
    • ogre 88%
  1. troll 82%
    • orc 76%
    • wolfen 76%
  2. kobold 61%
    • human 52%
    • elf 52%
    • goblin 52%
    • hob-goblin 52%
  3. changeling 26%

Soldier is a bit more difficult to meet the attribute requirements for than mercenary but five of the races still have chances in the top quartile and five of the others have a better than even chance. Even changeling, who has a much worse chance to qualify than any other race that can be a soldier, is above the bottom quartile. Still, if you really want to play a soldier, you should play a dwarf or one of the larger races that are hostile to humans.

The way the mercenary and soldier classes are written up here makes it seem like there’s no such thing as mercenary units (or companies or whatever you call a military group in a fantasy world informed by ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, Howard, Tolkien, King Arthur and Prince Valiant): mercenaries seem to be individuals hiring onto military organisations like temps without agencies. The mercenary write-up says that a mercenary character can ‘come and go and do as one pleases without being responsible to a commander’ while the soldier write-up says that a soldier character is ‘required to obey laws and orders’.

I suppose this tells us something important about the setting: individual mercenaries are hired by militaries and not expected to adhere to any sort of military discipline in between times or even obey the law. You could even read it as saying that soldiers are law enforcers while mercenaries are basically outlaws (except when mercenaries sign up to a particular military, at which point they effectively become lesser soldiers). That sounds like an interesting distinction, especially considering the races that can be mercenaries but not soldiers.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
Longbowman characters (which have their own, rather nice illustration of a man with a covered face drawing a longbow) are elite military (wo)men: they are described in the class write-up as ‘highly skilled’ and ‘much sought’, and apparently receive double or triple the pay of the mercenary class, or double that if they are at least seventh level (seventh level is part of the end game, according to Siembieda’s account of the playtest campaign quoted above; it’s also the level when characters with the longbow weapon proficiency get more shots per minute than hand-to-hand training ever gives attacks per minute). That would mean a monthly rate of pay of 60-180 gold for a ‘[t]ypical’ longbowman, 80-240 for a longbowman in a border posting, 120-300 gold for a longbowman given a combat assignment and 160-360 gold for a longbowman given a special assignment, so maybe 200 gold would be a good ballpark figure. All of those numbers would be doubled for a high-level longbowman. If there is such a thing as a longbowman officer, they’d be getting 200-600 gold a month, or as much as 1,200 gold a month if they’re at least seventh level. The book also says longbowman characters in a military organisation ‘can often dictate the terms of enlistment.’

Longbowman characters have slightly better skill acquisition than soldiers and mercenaries: they have the same number of secondary skills as soldiers and one more elective skill (as opposed to one less, like mercenaries) at first level, then keep pace with both classes. The total of longbowman elective skill class bonuses is between mercenary and soldier but their total secondary skill bonuses are better. The longbowman hand-to-hand skill isn’t clearly better than the soldier or mercenary one but, especially considering that longbowman characters are expected to engage in combat from over a furlong away from their opponents using arguably the best weapon-and-proficiency-combination in the game (which only they and rangers get), it’s difficult to argue the case that their combat skills are inferior. Longbowman’s attribute requirements aren’t strictly, er, stricter than soldier’s, since it has a PP requirment as opposed to a PE one, but the scores needed are higher overall.

Dwarves, (hob-)goblins, kobolds, troglodytes and gnomes are barred from the longbowman class. The probabilities for the other seven races meeting the attribute requirements are
  1. troll 75%
  2. elf 48%
    • orc 34%
    • ogre 34%
    • wolfen 34%
    • human 23%
    • changeling 23%

There’s a bit of a spread of probabilities there: human (who represents the baseline in terms of attributes, as mentioned above), is in the bottom quartile along with changeling, troll is at the top of the second-to-top quartile and the other four races that can enter the longbowman class are in the second-to-bottom quartile. If you want to play a longbowman, play a troll, especially if the rule about giant weapons doing an extra die of damage applies to longbows. You could expect to have to roll up four or five humans to get one that could enter the longbowman class, by which time your fellow player who’s been rolling up trolls could expect to have got three or more and the player rolling up elves could expect to have got two.
 

Rupert

Active member
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Soldiers, according to the information about pay on p31, are paid by the month just like mercenaries but the bottom of the range of soldiers’ pay is the top of the range of mercenaries’ pay for each type of assignment: 60-80 gold a month for a ‘[t]ypical soldier’, 80-100 gold for a border posting, 100-150 gold for a combat assignment and 120-200 gold for a ‘special assignment’. By the same reasoning as for mercenaries above, 120 gold might be a typical monthly income for a player character soldier. (All these rates of pay assume the soldier has enlisted for a period two years with an option to re-enlist for one-to-four years. Soldiers get free room and board just like mercenaries.) Low-ranking officers are paid 200-350 gold a month; high-ranking officers get 500-800 gold.
The thing that bugged me about this is that Soldiers also got issued equipment, so Mercs just get shafted on pay and conditions (and have no job security) , and yet they are the people you hire when you need more manpower - they actually should be getting more pay. When you hire outside experts who come with their own equipment, and who have to provide their own 'holiday/sickness pay' for a short contract it generally costs you a ton because those contractors have you over a barrel - they can charge right up to just under what it would cost to hire more permanent employees and have those permanents lounge around doing nothing in the quiet times.

Given how Longbowmen, also mercenary soldiers, do get paid a premium this suggests that there are a lot of Mercs out there (probably mostly bandits, outlaws, and small-time adventurers), and that employment opportunities are actually relatively limited. On the plus side, this also implies that a lot of the jobs will be 'special assignments'.
 
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Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
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Given how Longbowmen, also mercenary soldiers, do get paid a premium this suggests that there are a lot of Mercs out there (probably mostly bandits, outlaws, and small-time adventurers), and that employment opportunities are actually relatively limited. On the plus side, this also implies that a lot of the jobs will be 'special assignments'.
Yes: the pay structure does seem to imply that it's a buyer's market for mercenaries, which in turn implies there's an oversupply. That fits neatly with the characterisation of mercenaries as outlaw adventurers.

...what it would cost to hire more permanent employees and have those permanents lounge around doing nothing in the quiet times.
As I understand it, having standing armies is a modern thing (possibly even what distinguishes the modern period from earlier periods). The soldier class, as described in the book, would cover the troops of a pre-modern government used for law enforcement, border control and so on as well as making war. This broad concept is complicated, of course, by classes like knight and palladin representing a class of warrior-nobles rather a military profession.
 
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Rupert

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Well... The Romans had a standing army of professionals from the late Republic onwards.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
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Well... The Romans had a standing army of professionals from the late Republic onwards.
I hadn't thought of that. The Romans did outperform all their neighbours militarily, though. And I suspect the wolfen are the in-setting stand-ins for the Roman empire. Their write-up on p188 says (among other things):

...the emerging Wolfen empire. ...clever, inventive, adaptive, and ferocious warriors. The wolfen are incredibly well organized, disciplined , and just. Much like the early days of the Roman Empire, the wolfen are building a reputation for strength, justice, loyalty, and military might. Like the Romans they are masters of diplomacy and subterfuge, offering aid and assistance to any kingdom or people (even humans) who request it. Treaties, pacts, and alliances complete the transaction which the wolfen fulfill to the letter. If such an agreement is broken by the other party, they are crushed or bullied into submission. ...the wolfen do not destroy or enslave its [sic] conquered people, but rebuild their cities, protect and provide for the people and allow them to keep and openly practice their religious faiths, as long as they are not subversive to wolfen rule. This fair play is unprecedented even in human rule and conquest. And so the wolfen empire slowly grows and prospers. ... Although the wolfen have no sea worthy vessels at all, their foot soldiers are trained to perfection. Combined with honor, dedication, and a burning goal of global conquest the wolfen armies are a force respected and feared. ... Wolfen are civilized with cities, culture, and laws. They are very similar to humans in that they are inventive, social creatures who have farms, forts, villages, cities, merchants, diplomats, soldiers, nobles, and kings. They have rules, laws, and regulations. ...wolfen disapprove of... races like goblins, orc, and trolls, all of whom are considered barbarous by wolfen....
So they're definitely fantasy Romans but they are Romans: the illustration on the following page has two wolfen, one wearing a breastplate and a helmet with what looks like a horsehair crest while the other has on what looks like a Roman cingulum.
 
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Spikey

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Knight gets a nice illustration as well (this one is Siembieda, I think, rather than Kucharski, whose style I personally prefer) of two people dressed like knights – note the large shield – having a duel. The winner has a floriated cross on their shield and surcoat and forming the main opening in their visor, which raises some questions about the use of the cross as a symbol in the setting.

Knights, like soldiers, are ‘very direct and deadly’ (the following sentence also calls them ‘lethal’). They are also usually educated in religion, the arts and literacy. (I think I understand the implication that knights are refined and pious, following the ideal put forward in medieval Europe around the crusades of the knight as the authentic Christian warrior but, ignoring the weaknesses and problems inherent in that rhetoric in the real world, religion in the setting of this game is quite a different kettle of fish to medieval europe. A knight worshipping Yin Sloth the terrible and dedicated to killing all humans might resemble a crusader but a knight dedicated to Kirgi the rat god – god of trickery and deceit – would be very different, as would a knight worshipping Tark the spider goddess, who is focussed on gaining wealth and getting revenge on Yin Sloth.)

Knights are also basically free to go where and do what they like: the book says on p33:

Although a knight may be responsible to a sovereign lord, he is generally a free agent, wandering the territory enforcing laws, righting wrongs, and protecting the innocent or those under his charge.
No figures are given for income but a lot is said about their noble status so I suspect they’re supposed to be independently wealthy, despite there being no rules for such a thing. (You could handwave it, of course, by saying that a knight character and their companions could live for free without having to arrange room and board, but I personally would still want to have some idea of whether or not a knight can afford a new warhorse or a magic sword.)

Knight has the same elective skill acquisiton as soldier and the same secondary skill acquisition as mercenary, giving them the same overall skill acquisiton as longbowman (knight has one elective skill fewer than longbowman at first level and one secondary skill more, then keeps pace). Their total skill bonuses are better than any of those three classes, especially for secondary skills. Hand-to-hand combat (knight) is comparable to the soldier version and horsemanship (knight) is noticeably better at higher levels (as discussed above) than the horsemanship skill available to mercenary, solider and longbowman.

Knight is a class, of course, but the class write-up says you aren’t a real knight unless you’ve been ‘knighted by a Sovereign Ruler or Clergy of an established (large) church.’ I’m not sure how much of an issue that’s supposed to be: even reading the second type of authority as the ruling clergy member of an established and large church (and so having it as difficult as possible to get knighted), it would seem odd to agree to someone playing a knight and then say the character isn’t really a knight. Perhaps the status of knighthood is something for characters of the knight class to work towards or aspire to? I can see that leading in some interesting directions, especially given the code of chivalry which is part of this class. A knight is already potentially torn between their alignment and their code (unless the alignment is principled: see below). Having to get or stay in the good books of a monarch or church might be a third pole for that conflict.
 
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Spikey

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The knight’s ‘code of chivalry’ is laid out as a numbered list on p33, with seven headings and dozens of rules.

THE CODE OF CHIVALRY
  1. To live one’s life so that it is worthy of respect and honor by all.
  2. Fair Play:
    Never attack an unarmed foe.
    Never charge an unhorsed opponent.
    Never attack from behind.
    Avoid cheating.
    Avoid torture.
  3. Nobility:
    Exhibit self discipline.
    Show respect to authority.
    Obey the law.
    Administer justice.
    Administer mercy.
    Protect the innocent.
    Respect women.
  4. Valor:
    Exhibit courage in word and deed.
    Avenge the wronged.
    Defend the weak and innocent.
    Fight with honor.
    Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause.
  5. Honor:
    Always keep one’s word of honor.
    Always maintain one’s principles.
    Never betray a confidence or comrade.
    Avoid deception.
    Respect life.
  6. Courtesy:
    Exhibit manners.
    Be polite and attentive.
    Respectful of host, authority and women.
  7. Loyalty:
    to god, sovereign, country, and the codes of chivalry.
The actions addressed by these dozens of rules are largely the same as those addressed in the alignment write-ups on pp12-13.

‘Never attack an unarmed foe.’
  • principled: ‘Never kill or attack an unarmed foe.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Never kill or attack an unarmed foe.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Not kill an unarmed foe (but will take advantage of one).’
  • anarchist: ‘Are not likely to kill an unarmed foe, but certainly knock out, attack or beat-up an unarmed foe.’
  • miscreant: ‘Most definitely attack an unarmed foe (those are the best kind).’
  • aberrant: ‘May or may not kill an unarmed foe.’
  • diabolic: ‘Most certainly attack and kill an unarmed foe.’ And, ‘Kill an unarmed foe as readily as he would a potential threat or competitor.’
So good (and arguably unprincipled) characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway, while aberrant characters might follow it and anarchist, miscreant and diabolic characters would be expected to break it.

‘Avoid cheating.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Lie and cheat if necessary (especially to those of anarchist and evil alignments).’
  • anarchist: ‘Lies and cheats if he feels it necessary.’
  • miscreant: ‘Lie and cheat anyone, good or evil.’
  • aberrant: ‘Lie and cheat those not worthy of his respect.’
  • diabolic: ‘Lie and cheat anyone.’
Evil (and arguably selfish) characters would be expected to break this rule; selfish knights, arguably, might follow is as part of their code of chivalry.

‘Avoid torture.’
  • principled: ‘Never tortures for any reason.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Never torture for pleasure.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Does not use torture unless absolutely necessary.’
  • anarchist: ‘Will use torture to extract information (not likely to torture for pleasure).’
  • miscreant: ‘Use torture for extracting information and pleasure.’
  • aberrant: ‘Does not resort to inhumane treatment of prisoners, but torture, although distasteful, is a necessary means of extracting information.’ And, ‘Never tortures for pleasure.’
  • diabolic: ‘Use torture for pleasure and information.’
Principled characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway; anarchist and evil characters would be expected to break it while scrupulous and unprincipled knights might follow it as part of their code.

‘Exhibit self discipline.’
  • principled: ‘Respects authority, law, self-discipline and honor.’
  • miscreant: ‘Has little respect for self-discipline or authority.’
  • aberrant: ‘Respects honor and self-discipline.’
  • diabolic: ‘Despises honor, authority, and self-discipline.’
Assuming that respecting self-discipline correlates with exhibiting it, principled and aberrant characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway; miscreant and diabolic characters would be expected to break it.

‘Show respect to authority.’
  • principled: ‘Respects authority, law, self-discipline and honor.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Distrusts authority.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Dislikes authority.’
  • miscreant: ‘Has little respect for self-discipline or authority.’
  • diabolic: ‘Despises honor, authority, and self-discipline.’
Principled characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway; unprincipled, miscreant and diabolic characters would be expected to break it.

‘Obey the law.’
  • principled: ‘Respects authority, law, self-discipline and honor.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Works with groups, but dislikes confining laws and restrictions.’
  • miscreant: ‘Has no deference to laws or authority, but will work within the law if he must.’
Principled characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway while scrupulous characters would be expected to break it; miscreant knights, arguably, might follow it as part of their code.

‘Protect the innocent.’
  • principled: ‘Never harms an innocent.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Never harm an innocent.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Never harms an innocent.’
  • anarchist: ‘Never kill an innocent (but may harm or kidnap).’
  • miscreant: ‘Use or harm an innocent.’
  • aberrant: ‘Not kill (may harm, kidnap) an innocent, parlicularly a child.’
  • diabolic: ‘Use, hurt and kill an innocent without a second thought or for pleasure.’
This rule doesn’t line up with the alignment rules exactly but, assuming not killing innocents correlates with protecting them in play, good and unprincipled (and arguably anarchist and aberrant) characters would be expected to follow it anyway while miscreant and diabolic characters would be expected to break it.

‘Defend the weak and innocent.’
As noted above, the alignment write-ups specify in what way (if any) characters of the various alignments are able to harm ‘an innocent’.

‘Always keep one’s word of honor.’
  • principled: ‘Always keep his word.’ And, ‘Avoids lies.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Keep his word to any other good person.’ And, ‘Lies only to people of selfish and evil alignments.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Keep his word of honor.’
  • anarchist: ‘May keep his word.’
  • miscreant: ‘Not necessarily keep his word to anyone.’
  • aberrant: ‘Always keep his word of honor (he is honorable).’
  • diabolic: ‘Rarely keep his word (and have no honor).’
Principled, unprincipled and aberrant characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway; diabolic characters would be expected to break it. Arguably, scrupulous, anarchist and/or miscreant knights might follow this rule as part of their code.

‘Never betray a confidence or comrade.’
  • principled: ‘Never betrays a friend.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Never betrays a friend.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Never betrays a friend.’
  • anarchist: ‘May betray a friend.’
  • miscreant: ‘Will betray a friend if it serves his needs.’
  • aberrant: ‘Never betrays a friend.’
  • diabolic: ‘Betrays friend (after all, you can always find another friend).’
Disregarding the part about betraying confidences, good, unprincipled and aberrant characters would be expected to obey (part of) this rule anyway; anarchist and diabolic characters would be expected to break it. Miscreant characters, arguably, might follow it as part of their code.

‘Avoid deception.’
As noted above, the alignment write-ups specify under what circumstances, if any, deception is in line with each alignment.

‘Respect life.’
  • principled: ‘Never kills for pleasure.’
  • scrupulous: ‘Never kills for pleasure.’
  • unprincipled: ‘Have a high regard for life and freedom.’ And, ‘Never kills for pleasure.’
  • anarchist: ‘Seldom kills for pleasure.’
  • miscreant: ‘May kill for sheer pleasure.’
  • aberrant: ‘Never kills for pleasure.’
  • diabolic: ‘Kills for sheer pleasure.’
Assuming killing for pleasure indicates a lack of respect for life, good, unprincipled and aberrant characters would be expected to follow this rule anyway; diabolic characters would be expected to break it while anarchist and miscreant characters might follow it as part of their code.

‘Respectful of host, authority and women.’
As noted above, the alignment write-ups specify the normal attitude to authority for each alignment.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
In all, nearly half the rules in the code of chivalry overlap explicitly with actions already covered by the alignment write-ups. The knight class write-up does say how the alignments interact with the code, on p33:

NOTE: Knight of the principled, scrupulous, and aberrant (evil) alignments are men of honor, and live by the letter of the code of chivalry. Unprincipled and Anarchist will follow the chivalric code most of the time (but bending or forgetting the rules occasionally), while those or diabolic and miscreant alignments will blatantly ignore them.
Looking at the individual rules and how they match up with the alignment write-ups, the principled alignment matches the code of chivalry pretty closely where they overlap, while the diabolic alignment is pretty much the opposite. Unprincipled, scrupulous and aberrant match up on some issues while miscreant is pretty incompatible and anarchist goes against it on just a couple of points. I suspect that Siembieda wrote the note quoted above based on his general idea about the different alignments and codes of chivalry, rather than the actual detailed rules he’d produced for both.

(Hob-)goblins, kobolds, orcs, troglodytes and gnomes are barred from the knight class. The probabilities of the other seven classes meeting the attribute requirements are
  1. troll 61%
    • dwarf 28%
    • ogre 28%
  2. elf 27%
  3. wolfen 19%
  4. human 13%
  5. changeling 4%

Troll is the race to play if you really want to qualify for knight, as above for longbowman. The other races are evenly split between the lowest two quartiles, with no-one except troll having as much as a 30% chance to qualify and troll having over twice that. You could expect to have to roll up seven or eight humans to get one that qualifies for knight; the player rolling up trolls would expect to have got four or five by then and the dwarf, ogre and elf players would expect about two each.
 
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