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Not fully quick, nor fully dead they were,
But by their coats of arms and by their gear
The heralds readily could tell, withal,
That they were of the Theban blood royal,
And that they had been of two sisters born.
Out of the heap the spoilers had them torn
Chaucer Canterbury Tales - The Knight's Tale

Basic Information

The position of Herald is a rather complicated profession. It's part messenger, part town crier, part scholar, and part artist. Yet nothing in that statement suggests the military facet of a herald, for they are also part officer of arms.

Chivlaric tradition usually dictated that Heralds were priviledged non-combattants in time of war - the same sort of status accorded to bards and druids in ancient times and to organisations like the Red Cross today.

Things a Herald might be called upon to do during the Middle Ages:

  • Deliver a message to a nobleman, or a nobleman's Lady.
  • Make proclamations and announcements to the public (on behalf of the nobility they serve).
  • Herald the arrival of their patron; riding on ahead to announce their approach.
  • Manage a tournament, such as a large joust or contest-at-arms.
  • Adjudicate a court of honour in case of a dispute over matters of Chivalry.
  • Design a coat-of-arms or other heraldry for a newly promoted knight or nobleman.
  • Identify the fallen on a battlefield by means of their heraldry.
  • Help interpret the military strength or allegiance of an opposing force, by identifying the livery of approaching troops.
  • Arrange and/or conduct truce, ceasefire or surrender negotations on the battlefield, and otherwise communicate between hostile forces.
  • Escort parties moving through hostile territory under truce.
  • Negotiate ransoms for prisoners of war.
  • preserve and maintain heraldic and genealogical records.
  • arrange and participate in ceremonies of state.

In the modern day, what few Heralds remain are mostly focused on matters of Genealogy and Heraldry proper, and are not present on battlefields nor do they issue press releases or the evening news.


4. for a slightly sillier campaign, look at the role of Chaucer in the Heath Ledger movie A Knight's Tale.

Game and Story Use

  • In the Standard Fantasy Setting, or any nation or world in Medieval Stasis, the Herald will still have his full duties. Any sort of Fuedalism will have a place for Heralds.
  • PCs with the Heraldry skill have a lot more knowledge and experience than just looking at pretty pictures. They should have the ability to perform all of the tasks listed above for Heralds of the Middle Ages, some of which are somewhat complex.
  • In a romance, the Herald might fill the Cyrano de Bergerac role.
    • Or might be tasked with carrying secret love letters to his master's secret lover under her husband or father's nose.
  • A Herald might be The Smart Guy
  • Or, just another sidekick in his master's entourage. Although that's more properly the role of a Pursuivant, which is sort of a junior or assistant Herald. A Herald-Henchman, so to speak.
  • A herald and his retinue is an easy way to adapt modern embassy plots to a medieval theme, replacing the Berlin Convention with the Laws of Chivalry

Building This Character

Character Level

  • Varies significantly, from the minor herald of a minor noble, up to one of the most important military advisors of an entire kingdom. Authority equals Asskicking, so the more important the Herald, the more badass they should be.
    • So a mere Pursuivant is probably lower-level than a major Herald, for example.


  • Heralds are Jack-of-all-Trades characters, and can't afford to be low-ranked in anything. They need a balanced character sheet with no obvious weaknesses.
  • Charisma, Intelligence, Wits or Panache would be candidates for the Herald's highest attribute.


  • If you're really lucky, the game system will have a broadly-defined Heraldry skill, or allow you to make your own. If not, you'll need all the following:
  • Oratory, Socializing, and/or Persuasion. Social skills in general, plus organizational skills to get things done.
  • Literacy … whihc should not be taken for granted in a vaguely realistic medieval setting.
  • Art, particularly Painting and/or Costuming - although the actual painting might be done by a limner. They also know Symbolism of Heraldry, which may border on Occult in it's significance and depth.
  • Signaling (and possibly Music)
  • Some measure of Military skills. You're not likely to send the Heralds into combat unless things get really desperate - indeed you may not be 'permitted' to - but they at least need the bravery to deliver messages or watch the battle from a short distance. From that they've probably picked up some strategy. And of course, military knowledge about combat, troops, and livery will be incredibly useful. If, as to be expected, they come from the upper/gentry class they will probably have served a knightly apprenticeship as a squire and maybe even been knighted before they took up heraldry.
  • Additional Knowledge skills to represent Genealogy, Etiquette, History, Politics, Local Knowledge, and other topics the Herald needs to be well vested in to do his job.
  • First Aid - You may discover the downed knight (whom you were about to report as KIA) is only mostly dead, and can be saved by quick thinking.
  • Riding, and either Map-Reading and Direction Sense so you can be a long-distance messenger.
  • Possibly Stealth or Disguise, and definitely the ability to be Unobtrusive and disappear into the background after delivering an unpleasant message.

Special Abilities

  • Powers that let you get people's attention, or otherwise support your social skills would be nice.
  • Given the multidisciplinary themes of a Herald, you might be able to justify an assortment of strange powers and abilities. You might even dabble in magic.

Combat Role

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