Roleplayer #8, January 1988

The Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem

The Hospitallers in Yrth

by Kirk Wilson Tate

And so it was that our blessed founders came to ride the fields of Yrth as the twelve apostles walked the Holy Land, and many were those that were converted by their efforts.

– The Chronicle of the Deceased Masters

The Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was first established on Yrth in the year 1187. It is told that Grand Master Roger des Moulins and eleven Knights of the Order, their comrades slain by the Saracens at the Fountain of Cresson, were miraculously spared the same fate when the Banestorm manifested itself as a huge whirlwind. The tornado swept the Knights into the sky, and after a short period deposited them safely upon Yrth. Des Moulins interpreted this event as divine aid. Later, having discovered that they were no longer in familiar territory, the Grand Master declared that God had chosen their number for a Crusade in a new land.

On the site of their arrival in Yrth, the twelve Knights founded New Jerusalem – ironically nowhere near the New River Jordan, but instead on the banks of the River Conn, in western Megalos. "Recruiting" labor from nearby human villages, des Moulins directed the construction of a new Hospital.

During the next few centuries, the Hospitallers made common cause with the armies of Megalos, fighting to spread the hegemony of Christianity over Yrth. They were rewarded for their efforts with grants of land and titles from the Emperor. Hospitaller priories were thus established throughout Christendom, and the Order acquired many novices from among the ranks of the nobility's younger sons. Yet the Hospitallers always maintained their independence of the crown, answering only to their own Grand Master and the occasional Conclave of Archbishops.

Today, the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem is governed from the Hospital at New Jerusalem, by the Grand Master of the Order (Social Status 5). The holdings of the Order are divided into regional Priories, each overseen by a Prior (Status 4). Reporting to the Priors are Bailiffs (Status 3), each of whom is responsible for a single bailey of the Order. Equal in status to the Bailiffs are the Commanders – Knights commanding a contingent of the Order's men-at-arms. The Commanders report to the regional Prior. Common Knights of the Order (Status 2) are subject to the commands of all of the above, but are usually assigned to a specific abbey or Commandery. Novices (Status 1) – young noblemen training for knighthood within the Order – serve as squires to Knights. The Order also maintains a force of lay soldiers (Status 1 or 0), as well as an assortment of servants and laborers (Status 0 to -4).

"Firstly, I ordain that all the brethren of Yrth, engaging in the service of the poor, the defence of the Catholic Faith, and the war against the Demons . . ."

– The New Rule of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Yrth, set down by the Blessed Roger des Moulins

The declared goal of the Hospitallers, believing themselves appointed to this task by God, is the domination of Yrth by Christianity. Though they do actually operate a hospital in New Jerusalem, their primary function is military.

The Order participated enthusiastically in Megalos' wars against the Muslim nations of the south, and played an important role in the conquest of Al-Kard centuries ago. The Hospitallers also joined in the campaign against the dwarves of Thulin's Folk four hundred years ago, and were furious when the Megalan nobility allowed petty power squabbles to deter them from the holy mission. Many of the Knights are calling for a Crusade into the Blackwoods, believing the black magic of the Dark Elves to be responsible for the region's growth, but the current Grand Master, Sir Gilford Perrennius the Durable, remains unconvinced.

The Hospitallers are conservative and intolerant in their theology. Although they are compelled by Church policy to accept goblins, reptile men, orcs and kobolds as capable of redemption, members of these races are not accepted into the Order. Dwarves and elves, because they keep apart from humanity and retain their own religious beliefs, are considered the spawn of Satan and deadly enemies. Of course, all Hospitallers bear animosity toward their traditional adversaries, the Muslims.

". . . shall promise four things to God, and with His aid, keep them. These things are purity of spirit, which means abstaining from the use of magic; purity of body, which means abstaining from the pleasures of the flesh; obedience, which means whatever thing is commanded them by their masters; and to live without property of their own."

– The New Rule of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Yrth.

The Hospitallers take vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and abstinence from magical practice, and follow a strict, monastic regimen. Hospitallers are allowed no personal possessions. Even a Knight's arms, armor, and mount are owned by the Order, and revert to it upon his death. Only a Knight's habit – bearing the Order's white cross on a field of black – truly belongs to him, and serves as his burial gown.

A Knight of the Order rises at the hour of Lauds, just before dawn, and retires just after sundown. His morning – until the hour of None, in the early afternoon – is devoted to prayer, meditation, and the study of the scripture. His afternoon is filled with labor and practice at arms. All of the military brethren, up to the rank of Commander, are required to attend drill at least three times per week. Training includes wrestling, jousting and riding, weapons practice, marksmanship with the crossbow, group tactics, and calisthenics. Further religious exercises are performed afterwards, before the Knight retires in the early evening. The only relief from this arduous routine comes when the Knights are on campaign – which helps explain why most Hospitallers are eager to march on the slightest pretext.

As part of his vows "to administer to our lords the sick," every Knight of St. John swears to serve in the hospital at New Jerusalem to the best of his ability. Some Knights – particularly those qualified as physicians – spend years at the Hospital; others only serve broth for a single afternoon during their entire careers. But all must be prepared to wash the feet of lepers in the service of God.

While the Order does not claim that magic is inherently evil, its use is forbidden to the Hospitallers. The reason for this prohibition is twofold. First, the Order of the Hospital of St. John is an ascetic one. The Rule of the Order permits no luxuries, that the brethren might remain humble, and more closely follow the examples of Jesus and the blessed Roger des Moulins and his companions. The use of magic among the brethren would make the enforcement of the Rule more difficult. More important, however, is the view that the study of Magic opens one to the temptations of evil; thus, the use of magic is not for mortal man. The Hospitallers view mages as fools dabbling in something better left to God alone.

The harsh discipline of the Order is maintained by a system of even harsher punishments. The breaking of vows or failure to obey an order is punishable by enforced fasting, solitary confinement, flogging or expulsion from the Order and imprisonment. To prevent false accusations arising from personal enmity, and brother failing to prove his accusation of another suffers the same punishment the accused would have suffered. Cases are heard by the immediate supervisor of the brothers in question – usually a Bailiff or Commander – with the opportunity of appeal to an assembly of six brethren chosen by the superior. The Hospitallers recognize no civil authority whatsoever concerning the discipline of one of their own, and will ride to the aid of any Knight under the threat of civil justice.

To become a Novice in the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, one must be sound of body and willing to take the quadruple vow of the order. Training for ordination as a Knight of St. John includes both martial and theological instruction. A Novice PC may be quite advanced in his studies without having received the sacrement of Knighthood. Novices are addressed by their Christian name, or as "Novice."

Patron: The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem
(Very powerful, appears on a 9 or less)
Reputation: Dour Fighter and Enemy of the Infidel
(+1 reaction from Christians, -1 from all others;
recognized by his habit – effectively all the time)
Social Status 1: Novice of the Order of St. John5points
Vow: Chastity-5points
Vow: Poverty-10points
Vow: No Conscious Use of Magic-1point
Duty to the Order
(effectively the Vow of Obedience; Demanded on 10 or less)

Minimum requirements for a Knight of the Order, however, are more rigid. In addition to the above requirements, a Knight must demonstrate proficiency in a number of Skills relating to his role as a holy warrior and a priest. Knights of the Hospital are addressed by the title "Sir," like secular knights.

Reputation: as for Novice
(increase to +2 from Christians, -2 from others)
Social Status 2: Knight of the Order of St. John+5points
Clerical Investment: Priest and Knight of the Order
(+1 reaction among Christians, increasing reaction bonus to +3)
Riding (DX+1)4points
Broadsword (DX+2)8points
Shield (DX)1point
Catholic Theology (IQ+1)6points
Latin (IQ)2points
Leadership (IQ)2points
Tactics (IQ-1)2points

The disadvantages – three Vows and a Duty – which make up the four-part vow of the Order should not be counted against a character's normal 3-disadvantage, 40-point limit. The point costs for Reputation assume the Hospitaller character is played in a campaign set in Christian lands; if the campaign takes place in Muslim or pagan nations, the Reputation is a disadvantage, worth the same number of points.

Many Hospitaller PCs will have the disadvantages of Fanaticism and both Racial and Religious Intolerance. The vast majority of NPC Knights of St. John suffer from these disadvantages.

There are many adventure possibilities for a party of Hospitallers and their allies. A group of Knights might enter the Blackwoods to prove that there is a pagan evil behind the mystery, in hopes that Grand Master Gilford will declare a Crusade against the . . . forest? Or perhaps they might endeavor to rescue a brother Knight being held by the city guard of the Saracens. An entire campaign could be built around a Crusade into the Muslim nations of Al-Wazif and Al-Haz, or the pagan Nomad Lands. But remember – the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem never surrender to the infidel!

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