Concept: the Grail Quest retold from the perspective of the Knights of the Round Table’s support staff.

(For context, in real life, your average “knight in shining armour” was incredibly high maintenance, and required an average of 4-6 support staff following him around 24/7 just to carry his stuff, take care of his horses – he’d have up to three – and keep his equipment clean and in good repair. So whenever you read a story about half-dozen questing knights gallivanting about having adventures, there’s a totally unmentioned group of 24-36 additional people trailing around behind them.)

I thought the whole “inconsistently appearing servants/minstrels/monks/army” bit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was just a continuity error joke until I actually read Le Morte d’Arthur.


servants have a very distinguished pedigree in the genre; whether the Knights are traveling alone or with a realistic contingent of followers tends to vary not only from story to story, but from scene to scene within a single story, depending on what would be most dramatically convenient.

I feel like the narrator should be the little person who seemed to be part of every Knight’s retinue. So many knights (and ladies in distress)  in Mallory had ‘A dwarf’ following them around that I’ve seen people who think that means D&D/Tolkien style fantasy dwarf as opposed to “Short human who is increasingly tired of having to handhold his knightly charge through the thinkier parts of quests”

It’s one of the conceits in D&D that your warrior/paladin in full plate armor on a horse and with a full set of gear doesn’t have a gaggle of servants following them around, and only takes a few minutes to get in and out of their armor. But I guess it would be inconvenient to go dungeon crawling with 30 people following around a 6-person party.

To be fair, the earlier iterations of the game did have that assumption. It got dropped later on because your retinue would generally wait outside the dungeon, so keeping track of them added a lot of fiddly bookkeeping for something that had little substantive effect on gameplay.

“Right, so in the valley leading up to the Castle Dire, there’s the usual follower’s temporary village.”

“My cleric looks over the area to see how it’s organized.”

“Quite well, actually – it looks like some of the retinues have been here a while.”

“Define ‘a while’, please?”

“Most have been here during the questing season, but there’s a few who have weather-tight buildings. The kids playing in front of the largest house are about three to five years old.”

“My cleric packs his shit and goes back to the order.”

I’d like to add that three horses was actually the *minimum* for a properly equipped knight. One for battle, one to ride when not in battle or expecting trouble, and one to carry all the stuff. Five horses was apparently the standard, with one for war, two for riding, and two pack horses. Some documents reference as many as 24 horses for a single knight.

This was all for one dude, mind you. The squires would have their own riding and pack horses, and maybe a warhorse too. So would the men-at-arms, and maybe some of the more important servants would have riding horses too. Add some mules and donkeys to carry all the stuff they need. One knight plus squires plus servants plus men-at-arms and you’re looking at a cavalry pool of 15 – 20 horses, just for one knight with a small, six man retinue.

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