Knights of Sosaria
There are many circumstances where the primary characteristic of the fictional environment of UO is diversity. Our characters live in an extremely diverse world – especially when you consider the fact that a lot of RP things are not, strictly speaking, part of game mechanics, yet exist as far as we RPers are concerned.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the same characteristic, an immense diversity, would hold true in any consideration of what Knighthood in Britannia (let alone Sosaria at large) would look like. “Knighthood” in this world would take many different forms.
In this post I will outline what I think are the basic characteristics of just some of the different sorts of Knighthoods there may be within the game world, guided how the key questions of Knighthood I mentioned in a prior post might be answered. To review, the key characteristics I identified were as follows.
Knights were elite warriors. I actually won't be going into further detail on this characteristic in this post. For present purposes, this speaks for itself. However it is that Knights fight, they should be at least above the NPC average for it. (Or I guess fake it well – fantasy is full of false Knights who have gotten by on tricks.) The different ways of fighting associated with the different forms of Knighthood just aren't relevant for this post which mostly is providing food for thought about how to RP different kinds of Knights inhabiting the world of UO.
Knights have, are, or represent some kind of officially recognized authority. They therefore have a relationship with that authority, and that relationship helps to define what they are.
Knights live by a code that emphasizes some combination of combat prowess, loyalty, and honor – and sometimes this code can lead to conflicts that can make for interesting RP.
A Knight of the Britannian Crown
We have a few of these in UO's fiction. Geoffrey seems to be a knight in UO (though in Ultima 4 and Ultima 5 I never thought of him that way). Great Lakes has a recurring EM character named Sir Charles Kendal. Dawn was called a “Royal Knight” when she was first introduced as a character. Dupre the Paladin also can be considered a Knight of the Crown. There's an entry in Ultima's fandom.com site (known as “The Codex of Editable Wisdom”) on “Knight.” I've always thought of the Order of the Silver Serpents (OSS) as Knights (though, interestingly, the Codex of Editable Wisdom does not refer to them that way...see below for some brief additional thoughts on this).
Authority: I think it is fair to say that the authority that conferred Knighthood in the case of a Knight of the Crown is, well, the Crown – either directly or, perhaps more commonly, through subordinate officials. (For example, other Knights, nobility, even bureaucrats, who may themselves also be Knights.) It's also fair to say that the relationship between the Knight and that authority is one of service. It's very unlikely, unless King Blackthorn at some point is replaced with a character established as some kind of Knight, that the Knights could be the authority that appoints Knights. Though the Knights might have that authority designated to them by the Crown. (Would, over time, the Knights grow to be a competing power with the Crown? As I recall sometimes in the Roman Empire the Emperor's guards had a surprising amount of influence over who the next Emperor would be, simply by virtue of being there, and having the weapons.)
Code of conduct: It's fair to say that the code followed by a Knight of the Crown would stress the Crown and the Virtues in that order. When the current monarch stands under the banner of Chaos, as is the case now, the distinction can be incredibly important. How far Knights will allow a ruler to go in forcing them to push or break the other boundaries of Knightly behavior is an endless of source of fascination in both fictional and true stories. Does a given Knight of the Crown even accept the legitimacy of King Blackthorn? Has Blackthorn maybe never won over all of the Knights in his service? Are there conflicts between the Knights that Blackthorn brought in with him (we know he had them – remember all of those folks with Chaos Shields in his old castle? at least some of them had to be Knights) and the Knights from previous administrations?
A Knight of the Virtues / Warrior Monks
I have to say that unless someone counts the OSS (and I've always understood those to be beholden to the Crown), I can't recall a Knight of the Virtues being part of Ultima lore.
I've got to be missing something, though. This concept just makes too much sense for it not to be a thing in Ultima. Maybe we should count the Paladins of Trinsic and/or Dupre? Folks who know the lore better than I: What am I missing? This has to be a thing, doesn't it? Would the OSS be more beholden to the Virtues and less beholden to the Crown than I'm giving credit for? The OSS seems like a good candidate if one assumes they are beholden to the Virtues, and/or representatives thereof, rather than to the Crown.
Anyway....Even if no Ultima lore examples can be found, the existence of Knights of the Virtues totally makes sense and is a pretty easy extrapolation from the existing lore. We've seen the rise of the reliably creepy “Fellowship” as part of the global fiction. The Fellowship first appeared, however, on Great Lakes (explicitly) and Atlantic (implicitly) as part of EM story-lines, and there they appeared as an order of Knights, dedicated to the Virtues, and bearing an obvious inspiration of the real life Knights Templar. And, in that form, The Fellowship would fit what I have in-mind as a Knight of the Virtues.
The title of this section includes “other warriors monks,” and that's because the Virtues are not the only quasi-religious system in Sosaria. Other belief systems may have their own orders of Knights. Gargoyle and Ophidians, for example, both have their own systems of Virtues and Principles and it seems likely that both will have Knights dedicated to their belief systems. As, for that matter, might whatever the belief system of Tokuno is. In any case, all of those will have a similar dynamic to Knights of the Virtues.
Authority: This one could have many answers. The Knights of Virtue (or whatever you call them) could be the Authority. They could in effect form the core of some kind of Church dedicated to the Virtues. Or, they could be subordinate to it. Do the Virtues as a belief system have a Pope, and/or some other form of leadership structure? Would that structure be comprised of warriors? Would they appoint an elite core of warriors to serve him or her? If the latter what kind of relationship might emerge? Would there be conflict? My impression is that, in classical Ultima lore, the Virtues as a system actually doesn't have a centralized authority other than Lord British himself. Of course in UO Lord British is long-gone (preferring endless guard duty to ruling). Europa had a creepy, fanatical church of the Virtues known as the “Avatari Faith” that had a lot of success spreading themselves across Britannia, at the point of a sword and under the banner of a cross, not an ankh – under the theory that it would be Pride to fight under the ankh. Their Knights (if memory serves they were called “Templars” just like the RL Knights Templar and the mage-controlling, mage-killing Knights of the Dragon Age franchise) were the sword by which they conquered most of the map and crushed competing authorities.
Code: The Knight of the Crown in reverse. Virtues first, Crown second. I note that the fact that a champion of Chaos, a competing value system to the Virtues (at least to some), is an easy and obvious RP hook for characters in such an order, whether it's conflict, cooperation, blind devotion, or what have you. And here's a thought.....Would “The Knights of Chaos” or “The Knights of Balance” be a thing?