Warrior Standards

One of the most important parts of creating a warrior culture is coming up with the standards to which its warriors are held. Without standards, after all, what is to set a warrior apart from a non-warrior in his culture, or a person who fights from that group of people over there? How is he to know which of his opponents from outside still deserve his respect?

First, of course, is the question of what he has done to earn his status. This is likely a combination of skills—most, but not necessarily all, combat-related—and achievements. Usually, such things are at least somewhat relevant to survival and victory in the warrior’s context: one might be required to understand archery to the point of being able to fletch his own arrows and to have returned from being blindfolded and dumped half a week from home with a minimum of supplies, while another might need to show skill in surviving both on and off the water, know how to use three different weapons, and to have blooded one of the culture’s hereditary enemies in the last skirmish.

While skills are what keep the warrior alive to be a warrior, many cultures see behavior, attitude and mindset as the factors that set their warriors apart. A warrior is usually required to have at least one, usually several, strong mental qualities (the first among these is almost invariably courage, but things like discipline, compassion, pragmatism, self-reliance and determination show up a lot). Bear in mind, though, not every culture’s warrior ideal is bound up with our concept of masculinity (shocking, isn’t it?), so traits like a quick mind, a surfeit of cunning, a sense of unity with others, or th elike might not be out of place. For extra fun, if you’re dealing with two clashing warrior cultures, give them points of agreement and points where they can’t help but clash, then enjoy the interplay.

The warrior needs to know where he stands in the world. Many warrior societies are, after all, built on the pride of their warriors, which in turn springs from their understanding of what sets them apart from everyone else. What does the warrior’s culture say about how he should interact with noncombatants of various types from his own culture? How about noncombatants in general? Are they there to be protected, exploited, ignored, negotiated with (for some value of negotiation)? What about members of other cultures who show some martial skill but don’t quite qualify as warriors by his culture’s definition? For that matter, what about the people in his culture who have martial skill but haven’t fully qualified?

The warrior’s code shouldn’t be his entire characterization; if it is, everyone in the culture is going to end up exactly alike, and where’s the fun in that? But knowing what constitutes a warrior in a given culture will give you a template that you can bring out the rest of the character from and highlight qualities through conflict with. Have fun!

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