A hastilude is a “martial game,” in which warriors, and especially cavaliers and paladins, engage as both practice and demonstration of their martial ability. Despite the use of the term “game” they can be as deadly as regular combat at times. It is possible for different sorts of hastiludes to be combined at large festivals and gatherings, often for the express purpose of having a tournament with a joust. Such events are also usually accompanied by feasting and possibly religious or other celebrations as well, and are sometimes called “round tables.”

Bear in mind that knighthood is an appointment by some noble or royal personage and is not otherwise dependent on class; fighters and rangers (and, on very rare occasions, other classes) can be knights as well as cavaliers and paladins. All of the special horsemanship and other abilities possessed by the cavalier and paladin classes, however, will still apply to all of the situations described below.


A tournament is a staged combat between two groups of knights and/or their squires and retainers. Knights and their entourages arriving for the tournament are divided into two fairly equal sides, each of which is housed together in a “settlement.” The central element of the tournament is a large pitched battle between the two settlements, which is fought mounted, with regular weapons, and in which the principal activity is to force knights from the enemy settlement to surrender, after which time a ransom can be demanded for their return.

The tournament is not intended to be fought to the death, and knights will surrender when they reach a suitably low number of hit points. However, it is certainly possible that a wounded knight who suffers a strong blow may well be slain. Such is an accepted hazard of the tournament.

Ransoms are, as a rule, 100 g.p. per level of the captured knight, plus 100 g.p. per social rank. Thus, a 6th level cavalier of lower-upper class would be worth a ransom of 900 g.p. Being captured is only a minor shame for a knight in a tournament, especially if one’s opponent is demonstrably superior in quality. Failure to pay one’s ransom, on the other hand, is a grave shame, and knights will sell their armor, horses, etc. before allowing such a blight on their honor.

Some lands (particularly those of lawful good inclination) will conduct tournaments with blunted weapons; while these would be called bohorts in game terms (see below), they may still be referred to as tournaments.


A bohort is conducted much like a tournament, except it is usually fought with blunted or wooden weapons, making it much more difficult to inflict a fatal injury. Cutting weapons will inflict one-quarter damage (round down) and blunt or stabbing weapons will inflict one-half damage (ditto).

Such contests are often (but not exclusively) held among the squires and other retainers, and the participants will wear gambesons or leather cuirasses rather than full plate armor. They are sometimes held in conjunction with tournaments as preliminaries.


A joust is a one-on-one combat between two knights (or, again, their squires and retainers), wherein each gets three blows with a set of agreed-upon weapons. The goal of the joust is to either unseat the opponent, or, failing that, to inflict the most damage without killing him. Typical weapons include the battle axe and sword, and of course the lance (although for a joust the metal tip of the lance is removed, leaving only the blunt wooden tip). As the name indicates, most participants wear jousting plate armor to help defend against the blows.

The blunted jousting lance does only half damage, but bear in mind the joust is conducted as the opponents charge at one another, so the doubling effect of the charge cancels out the halving effect of the blunted lance.

Once a jouster has lost one quarter of his hit points, he must make a STR check to remain in his saddle. He must check again when he has lost half his total hit points, and once more at three-quarters. At this point the joust will usually be called for the jouster who has inflicted the most damage on his opponent or postponed, as the idea is not to inflict fatalities but to demonstrate superior mounted combat skills.

If neither jouster is unseated by the time three passes with each weapon have been completed, the joust is called in favor of the knight who inflicted the most damage.

Pas d’Armes

A pas d’armes is an impromptu challenge set forth by a knight or knights. The challenger will position himself at a spot on a road, at a bridge or ford, city gate, etc. and issue a challenge to all other knights who pass by to single combat. Often, word will circulate of the existence of the pas d’armes, attracting knights and their retinues from the surrounding area to test their mettle. Pas d’armes are not usually done in conjunction tournaments or other hastiludes.

As with the tournament, the idea is to fight until one knight or the other surrenders, at which time the usual ransom can be demanded. However, no special rules regarding blunted weapons are used in the pas d’armes.

Refusal by a knight to participate is regarded as a great shame, and honor demands that any knight so doing surrender his spurs (or other badge of rank) as a sign of his humiliation.


A quintain is a target for the lance, intended to be used while charging on horseback. Taking turns at striking a quintain will often be found as an attachment to a tournament or bohort, but it is not unknown for some villages to set up permanent quintains against which the local youths and/or nobility will try their skill.

Basically, the quintain itself will have an armor class between 9 and 1, depending on its size and composition.

Armor Class      Quintain Construction
     9-7                      Mannequin
     6-3                      Shield or board
     2-1                      Ball or ring

Those which are easiest to hit will generally consist of a life-sized mannequin, followed by those consisting of a shield or board. The hardest to hit will be small balls or rings; the latter must be pierced through with the lance in order to score.

Shield or board type quintains are often the most popular as permanent structures, for they are most often fitted with a weight on a cord or chain, such that if the shield or board is hit, the weight at the end of the cord will swing around and hit the rider on the back of the head as he passes, unless he is quick enough. In game terms, if a hit is scored against the quintain, the attacker must make a successful DEX check. Failure means he is hit by the counter-weight and must take 1d2 h.p. of damage. Cavaliers and paladins may subtract their level from their ability check roll as a bonus, as part of their horsemanship skill.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

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