Last year I introduced the Lady Miriam to you, my Sidhean priestess who I retired (and killed off as an npc) in late April 2014. She served her purpose, got me in touch with the softer feminine side of playing a true noblewoman but should never have been an adventurer. Her genteel nature made adventuring a bit of a shock to the system and rather than toughen up or find something strong inside her she caved in. Partly due to the emotional froth of losing your shadow (which was hilarious to role play with, particularly in solving some of the plot in branch at the time), but she was too delicate to survive long. But she was fun to play when I wasn’t out in the field. Sadly LARP is an “in-the-field” system and so I decided it was time to pack her away.
I then played Wren, the mad Elven Blacksmith who originally had a limited human vocabulary and no faith at first. She was fun, pure and simple and got to play hard and fast with the rules. Sometimes she went a bit far, but that was a learning experience in itself and I got to live through the big fests of the season as a character that could just pick up her gear and wander off into the woods if the mood took her. She ended on the field of battle, but I was already preparing my next character and as much as it hurt to lose her, I was not as broken hearted as when I lost Rowan. Heck, I got a public battlefield lay-to-rest from the then Defender of Crowa who I’d met once in character and who recalled our meeting in tear-jerking detail. The corpse might have been crying at the end of his prayer to her God, to properly burst into tears when I was “dragged” back into camp and left in the Guild tent alongside the deceased Forgemaster. To be able to say goodbye for now to my guild mates had that effect on me.
But to walk into camp that night as Ravenna was a good feeling. And if you let me, I’ll explain why.
The Knights of Ithron
I’ve wanted to play a knight in Fools and Heroes for a long, long time. Originally I didn’t feel up to handling the mix of sins and strictures the Order Knights have (the Blacks and Griffins are dual-kindred) or experienced enough with the game mechanics to pull it off. After playing Rowan and losing her my confidence took quite a knock, but Miriam and Wren provided the different experiences that made me look forward to playing another fighter character. Plus the OH and I have gathered enough armour over the course of the years (!) we’ve been in system to outfit a knight – as proven by my OH playing Sir Peter Sabloir-Flessan (Griffin Knight) recently.
There are several groups of knights in the Fools and Heroes setting – the four knightly Orders and the recently introduced Feudal vassals. Considering the different options I chose to go with the Black Order due to some background thoughts I’d worked on with my OH and the local referees. I have the luxury of a local referee who’s recently played a Black Knight who seemed more than happy to furnish me with awesome stories, thoughts on the mindset of the Order and worked with me to help prepare my character in advance.
I like to “place” my characters in the game world – consider their background, note their key milestones in the history of the branch to track the events they would be aware of, and in the case of my knight consider the training they would recieve prior to adventuring. For example – when Ravenna was a young woman the Order suffered significant losses in a battle against the Lirronese at Darlan Pass – how would that have affected a training Squire? I did a lot of reading around the subjects of knights, the Order, the history in game and in particular the Code of Chivalry. I am lucky enough to have been gifted a copy of the IC work on Chivalry prepared by Sir Robin Adair of the Grey Order, something which helped influence Miriam previously, but helped to get my brain around the mindset most of the Knightly Orders should have regarding the rules and code obeyed by all members of the Knightly Orders. With this text in mind I did some web surfing and found some interesting thoughts on Chivalry penned by members of the group known as the SCA. And the more I read, the more digging I did. Using a book my OH bought me during this prep period as a starting point, I began to draft out what a young member of the Black Order would expect to learn from a young age to the point where they could enter the adventuring game world at 16+. When would they be considered a Squire? Would it be shameful for them to be an older Squire? What would they be expecting out of becoming an adventurer? These thoughts helped shaped the background “inspiration” that I ended up writing and passing by my local referees, my LO and current/ex-members of the Black Order for their thoughts. The feedback was very helpful, and with this framework in place I looked into how it would have affected the young Ravenna.
After some discussions with the branch nobles referee and my OH I developed the character background and slotted her into the wide ranging web of noble families that already exist in our branch history. This gave me a reason to be in the Order even if I was female (in a world that still does favour the male over the female children at times) and Ravenna was all set to begin.
What’s in a name?
The name comes from thinking around the Black Order and following the word chains around until the knotted tangle of inspirations and thoughts coalesced to give me references to the Celtic Goddess of Battle Morrigan and her accompanying Crows. Crows are members of the Corvus Corvidae family, but sadly Corvus is a name used for a particular holy creature and I didn’t want to link myself directly to the creature. But I liked the latin word Corvidae, and after mulling over other options for a Latin/Axirian sounding name (appropriate for a member of the Axirian-formed Order) I eventually settled on Corvidae as a surname. Ravenna comes from Snow White and the Huntsman and fits with the imagery I began to develop when thinking on the future knight. My brain sometimes pulls all sorts of things together, the beauty of inspiration I guess. Here are a few more inspirations – Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) from “Snow White and the Huntsman”, Brianne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) from the “Game of Thrones” series and Muriella (Leelee Sobieski) from “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”.
Character Kit for a Knight
The starting kit for a member of the Black Order is simple – black tabard, two holy symbols of their gods, four bandages and a choice of weapon from the Order supplies – all things that could be packed up small in a kit box just in case. As such, when Wren met her end on the battlefield I was able to pack her away with my character kit, don Ravenna’s kit and with a quick brush up on the key points I returned to the camp as a different character. To avoid stumbling into character I chose to leisurely walk through the ooc camp to the back of the ic boundary and arrive as if I had been present all through the campaign and only now reaching the advance camp where the adventurers had been for the last few days. The walk helped settle my new character as I found I developed a stance and gait, so when I appeared I was Ravenna and the rest, they say, is history.
As you have probably gathered, I chose to plan my kit accordingly in advance and consider how it would develop – leading from my Squire garb of long black coat and tabard to the armour and costume that the knight would eventually wear. Part of my inspiration came from watching the Tudors and oogling all the lovely doublets, and from looking into some of the SCA resources for developing personas. I wanted my knight to be a proper serious knight, which for me ruled out skirts as I intend to run to problems, not amble up due to getting caught in my skirts. A piece of advice given to me as my forester was this “you need to be ready to run at any time, in any condition, anywhere”. This advice held true for the training forester and guided my thoughts for my Knight. I wanted her to be able to, given the circumstances, to be able to pick up a weapon and go deal with a problem should one arise – fitting for a member of the Order with a reputation of finishing fights and being skilled warriors.
Here is the normal clothing worn by Ravenna – think daily wear that might be worn around the keep or when she’s answering her letters, issuing reports or relaxing after training. Traditionally members of the Black Order are never seen without their chainmail or some form of armour – but that’s included in the adventuring kit below. The black shirt walk-through can be found here. The tabard, with the order symbol on the chest, is a sign she is a knighted member of the Order, as is the belt flash which is sometimes worn at banquets.
The adventuring kit is added on top – a mix of leather, chain and plate for a knighted member of the Black Order. As a knight she has the ability to “double stack” or wear two layers of armour together according to game rules which turns an Errant who can take a bit of a beating into a knight who can hold firm in the shield wall. I admit that the thigh guards (bottom left) are only really brought out when I’m expecting a proper fight such as a battle or a tough adventure, but they are suprisingly comfortable when properly adjusted. The arming cap for the coif is an adaptation of a St Birgitta’s Cap similar to the one I made for Miriam to go under her veils. The leather body armour was made by White Rose Apparel, who was make a range of armour for LARP and Re-enactment. They can be contacted for more information on steeli[at]ntlworld[dot]com or search for White Rose Apparel on Facebook.
Here you can see the current banquet kit for Ravenna, though I have a few plans for the future. I also have a long sleeveless overrobe which may be worn instead of the cape on colder nights. The shirt was made the same way as the black shirt, but with addition of the cartridge pleat ruff. The doublet is a recent creation and is shown in greater detail here. The garment is rounded off with a pair of tudor-style trousers, leggings and boots.
All in the details
I like adding a few bits and bobs to my kit to give a little extra to the character.
Black Knights are known to carry an Honour Sword, being bound by their oaths not to wield another sword. As such, I had a scabbard commissioned by a local leather crafter for my sword for the occasion, and the belt was fashioned by my OH. The weapons Ravenna owns/carries as a Knight are also shown below, along with the medium round shield I repainted. All the weapons (but not the stake) and the shield are the handiwork of Saxon Violence, a local maker of historically inspired LARP weapons.
The Adventurers belt – the pouches and things Ravenna carries on her person when adventuring – including all important bandages, healing alchemy and a stake for pesky vampires. She also carries the remains of an amulet given by Sidhe to assistance in the removal of the Whisperer from Tisa Valley in accordance to the promise she gave.
She also has a few delicate touches. I made the frilled hanky using this tutorial because I was a fan of Miriam’s stash of girly frills, along with a mock paternoster. This Kharachian symbol was originally used by Wren, but I thought it would make a nice form of symbol for Ravenna to carry – also handy as it’s not around her neck and at risk of tangling in her gear should she need to draw it to ward off undead. I made a pair of earrings for Ravenna to wear, then decided to adopt a Tudor-fop style swagger and go with a single drop in one ear. The holy symbols are made for the system by White Rose Apparel and represent the Gods Sidhe and Kharach, and the Order of Black Knights.
I decided that I wanted her to have had an accident as a child and lost an eye as it was something I could physrep. Without applying a contact lense to the “missing” eye I decided to use make up and an eyepatch to simulate the damaged flesh and to cover the eye. Using a cleansed base, I apply some cream blush above the lid and under the eye, blending the edges to indicate the scarred and damaged flesh, before painting the lid and a small area under the eye to imply the empty void. I then use a lip liner pencil to draw the scar that caused this wound down from the forehead to midway down the cheek. If I am doing this for a long time at an event I prime the area before hand with moisturiser and a small amount of foundation and apply a dusting of powder to set the makeup. The eyepatch is made using cotton, interfacing, lace and elastic and contains a lace panel to allow me to see through the patch and maintain some of my 3D vision. I would prefer to be a safe larper than authentic.
As Head of Order Ravenna wears a red belt sash – something which needs to be made quickly (!), but is likely to be a long piece of red cloth designed to be bound twice around the waist and knotted on the hip, over which her sword belt will be worn.
As Ravenna progresses through the ranks I intend to add a few more items to her banquet kit such as a fealty chain to complete the Tudor/Elizabethan look and maybe a beaded snood/hairnet to show her senior rank. She will gain a red edge to her tabard to display her seniority when in the field but these things will come in time. For now, Dame Ravenna is looking good and is a joy to play.
Edit – Take a look at these additional projects here!