Monday, June 12, 2017

Staffs and Wands

[To accompany the discussion of crafting magic weapons I probably should include those magic weapons used by spellcasters (in particular mages who externalise their sorcery). And yes, I'm intentionally using staffs to differentiate a wizard's staff from a stave, which is either a physical weapon (such as a quarterstaff) or something that hols up the tent. Not that when wielding in combat a want or staff is generally jabbed like a spear, rather than wielded using martial skills more suited for a weapon. Despite it's innate magical power and form, Monkey's Golden Wishing Staff is a stave, not a staff – intended for physical and not magical mayhem.]

Staffs and Wands

Staffs and wands in my game are tools used to help a magic-user cast spells, and are thus much more akin to magic weapons than they are the magical pistols and rifles of normal D&D. And they can also be used as physical weapons – a staff is considered a d6 weapons (which means that a magic-user without a Strength bonus needs two hands to wield it effectively), and a wand can bw a d4 weapon (although most non-combat mages will prefer a lighter wand that does less damage because they don't intend to hit anyone with it). [Note that there is an automatic -1 damage modifier for non-mages attempting to use a wand or staff in physical combat, or a mage attempting to use an unattuned wand or staff.]

Warmages (the military mage which is the standard template equivalent to the D&D magic-user) traditionally use staffs rather than wands (in fact the possession of a staff is an almost certain sign you are dealing with a warmage). For one thing, it is a heaver weapon, and thus more suited to the rigors of physical combat and can bear up better to the strain of being used as a focus for military magics. Lastly, but not least, it puts some distance between the magic-user and an opponent in melee. Warmages may still use wands though, and they are often used as sidearms, for when the presence of a fully-powered battlestaff might not be socially acceptable.

General Abilities

Spell Focus

The primary use of a wand or staff is as a spell focus. This allows the mage to apply the magic bonus as a penalty to the saving throw of the opponent against ranged magic. So a +3 magic staff gives opponents a -3 saving throw against spells targeting them. It also increases the combat range of a mage's spells from short range to long range.

Note that wands and staffs are not at all like guns; they are not point and shoot devices. The action is more akin gathering the energies in the staff and then physically hurling them at the target – the more flamboyantly the better (as with all magic). Wands in particular are wielded more like one would wield the handle of a whip. The upshot of this is that a mage needs freedom of movement to properly use a wand or staff.

Embedded Spells

Spells may be permanently embedded in a wand or staff when it is constructed. This requires the presence of a mage who knows the spell when the item is researched. This can reduce the effect Spell Point cost for casting the embedded spell by the magical bonus of the wand or staff. For example, if the spell magic missile is embedded into the a +1 magic wand (a rather common choice for a relatively low level wand), then the magic wan can be used to cast the spell magic missile as if it were a cantrip (at a cost of 1 SP). Note that the cost of casting the embedded spell cannot normally be reduced below that of a cantrip by this modifier.

The problem with using the full bonus of the wand or staff on a single spell is that means the wand is entirely dedicated to that spell. In the above example you have created a wand of magic missiles. If you apply a lesser bonus to each spell embedded in the wand or staff, then you can fit more spells within it. Note that if a wand is dedicated to an elemental energy (generally +3 or greater magic weapons) then this may reduce the cost of casting the embedded spells further.

Non-adventuring mages may often use a variety of low-powered special purpose wands for dedicated magical purposes, but the adventuring maze generally prefers to avoid the possible confusion and encumbrance of multiple wands. However, these special purpose wands can come in handy for non-mages that can use sorcerous devices (such as the Tomb Robber). For example, consider the possibilities of a wand of knock...

Special Abilities

Note that wands and staves are considered to be magic weapons and thus follow the same general progression of abiitities as other magic weapons:

+0 Magic Wand or Staff

This is an "ordinary" magic wand. It allows the mage to cast battle magic at long range and to be used as a weapon. but that is about it.

Note that the best magic wands are purpose-built for a specific customer (although no specific recipe is required for this). Otherwise it is a case of the mage adjusting themselves to the wand, rather than the wand being suited for the mage. The degree of adjustment required for a chance-found wand can be used by making a reaction roll on 2d6 (with a penalty equal to the bonus of the wand). The wand must be "persuaded" using spellcraft until it becomes an "ally" in order to unlock its full powers, making one adjustment roll each month of use. [Although in actual fact the wand is not being persuaded but rather the mage is adjusting themselves to the idiosyncrasies of their new toy.]

  • An "enemy" wand cannot be used at all. However this level of result is generally only possible if the mage killed the proper owner of the wand (directly or indirectly) and took it as a prize. In this case the reaction roll should have a negative modifier equal to the original owner's Charisma score (representing force of personality).
  • A "hostile" wand applies it's full magic bonus as a penalty to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells and special abilities cannot be used.
  • An "unfriendly" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells may be used, but with no reduction in the cost of the spell. Special abilities generally can't be used.
  • A "neutral" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
  • A "friendly" wand provides it's full magic bonus as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
  • A "sympathetic" wand is fully unlocked, but attunement will regress if the wand is not used.
  • An "allied" wand is permanently attuned to the mage.

Needless to say beginning characters generally have to put up with a cheap second-hand wand that may need further adjustment.

+1 Magic Wand or Staff

This is a masterwork wand or staff (and as a result is likely also to be considered an artwork in and of itself as a result, increasing the cost of the wand by the workmanship and decoration).

It is common to find specialised wand of this level that carry a single embedded spell as special purpose wands. For example, a dowsing rod is just such a wand with the appropriate detection magic on it (these are one category of wand where the Spell Point cost can actually be reduced to zero (0).

+2 Magic Wand or Staff

Like other magic weapons, a +2 magic wand is something greater than itself, and can develop special abilities not unlike those of magic weapons. One such special ability that is frequently built into the staves used by battlemages is that of Battle, which allows the magic bonus of the staff to be applied to physical combat as well as magical combat (and raises the damage die of the staff to that of the Magic Die of the user (uch a staff radiates destructive magical energies when wielded).

Spell-storing is another popular ability, giving the user of the staff the ability to precast spells into the staff and invoke them at will (costing only a single SP to cast). Not only does this count as a cantrip for casting speed, but the mage will presumably have recovered from the strain of casting the spell by the time it is activated.

Any of the other special and basic abilities available to magic weapons generally are also possible.

+3 Magic Wand or Staff

Like other magic weapons this is where a magic wand or staff acquires discrete mechanical abilities. For example a wand might be attuned to specific elemental energies (eg, a wand of fire) which makes using the wand to cast these magics easier (lowers the SP cost). This also affects the spells embedded in the wand (which must be associated with the elemental nature of the wand).

Another common ability at this level is Spell-turning which allows the wand or staff to effectively parry, deflect, reflect, and/or absorb the energies of the incoming spell (or even the actual spell itself).

+4 Magic Wand or Staff

Being associated with the Superhero Tier these are legendary items (albeit less powerful ones). The Staff of Power (note the singular "the") from D&D is probably the canonical example of the abilities possessed by a typical +4 Magic Wand or Staff. However all are really unique items at this level of power, and much of their nature will be determined by the intent involved in their crafting. They are also quite likely to be entangled artifacts.

+5 Magic Wand or Staff

These are the legendary items that can shake the world (or at least a Kingdom). The Staff of Wizardry from D&D is probably the canonical example of a +5 magic staff, although they are not simply repositories of spells that may be cast. For example the one-way anti-magic shell provided the Staff of Wizardry is a known unique ability of this magical weapon.

[Sometime this century I will manage to concisely describe the Title Nobility. I hope. Draft number 16 just hit the bit bucket. The problem is all the interesting historical variance (both temporal and cultural) that I keep wanting to add side notes. And really, it should just be a simple generic description – except generic is so bland. <sigh>]

Saturday, June 10, 2017

On the Crafting of Magic Swords

[Still having a bit of difficulty getting the next part of the Aristocratic Caste lecture to say what I want it to say, so I am offering up this sacrifice to the Gods of Blog.]

One of the basic ideas in my current D&D campaign is that everything is magic. That is magic is all around you and accessible with hard work. One of the consequences of this is that Craftsmen can make magic items. In fact in my game, only Craftsmen can make magic items. A magic-user could enchant an item and make it magical, but that enchantment would not be permanent and could be dispelled - or simply wear off with time and be forgotten. A Craftsman created magic item has its own essential identity which cannot be changed by magic.

The particular type of Craftsman that can make magic swords is the Weaponsmith. As with all Craftsmen, the magical bonus table is used to determine the type of magical item they can forge. Note that is is common to refer to the Class or Rank of a magic weapon rather than the bonus (so a Magic Weapon of the First Rank is a +5 weapon).

Weapon Rank
11 – 12+5Weapon of the First Class
9 – 10+4Weapon of the Second Class
7 – 8+3Weapon of the Third Class
5 – 6+2Weapon of the Fourth Class
3 – 4+1Weapon of the Fifth Class
1 – 2+0

Note that if the Weaponsmith has an odd level they only have a 50% chance of making a wepoan of the desired potency. Note that this 50% chance is actually resolved by a Dexterity test in the case of a Craftsamn with known attributes, such as a player character with teh Weaponsmith expertise.

The Ordinary Tier

Ordinary people in my game have 1 to 4 HD (or are 1st to 4th level). This applies to Craftsmen as well, so Craftsmen of level 1 to 4 are reasonable common. In fact the Commoner Caste has specific title for these levels, which explains their status:

Guild Level Title
5Guild Master
4Guild Officer

So to combine these two table into one statement:

  • An apprentice has a 50% chance of making a +0 magic sword.
  • A journeyman can making a +0 magic sword.
  • A master has a 50% chance of making a +1 magic sword.
  • A guild officer can make a +1 magic sword.

This helps expalin the nature of these "magic" swords.

+0 Magic Swords

Now the ordinary tier also applies to magic items as well. While they may be called magic items they are not remarkably magical and don't have any extraordinary magical powers. This is especially true of a "+0 magic sword" which provides no magical bonus and his no innate magical abilities. In other words a "+0 magic sword" is a perfectly ordinary sword.

+1 Magic Swords

A +1 magic sword is a particularly fine magic sword, which generally has no other magical properties. It is in fact the definition of a masterwork sword, and a would-be master is required by guild rules to have forged a masterwork weapon before they can be admitted to the rank of master. Because it has no overt magical abilities, a naked +1 sword does not need a recipe in order to be crafted.

Because of the time and expense required to make a masterwork weapon, they are usually directly commissioned from the Weaponsmith themselves. In addition they are also normally considered artworks in and of themselves, so the price is increased by the quality of the craftsmanship and the value of the ornamentation. They are as a result often considered heirloom treasures, and make excellent rewards for warriors who have distinguished themselves in battle.

A special category of +1 magic swords are the exotic materials weapons. These are swords made outof exotic materials such as silver, copper, bronze, brass, cold iron, gold, mithral, platinum, orchicalcum, crystal, unicorn horn, terrasque shell, bulette hide, or other alien and exotic metals. These do require recipes to forge correctly (although a recipe is only required for the Weaponsmith to master a material, not for each individual weapon).

While a +1 magic sword is not inherently magical, it is easier for magic to reside in such a masterwork weapon and the greater the possibility that the weapon might even "awaken" and assume magical attributes on it's own (particularly when carried by a hero).

The Heroic Tier

The heroic tier is levels 5 through 8 and this is where the magic really begins to happen, both for characters, adventures, and items. Magic items of the Third and Fourth Class are almost always overtly and noticeably magical, and are accompanied by magical special effects when used.

Bane Swords

Technically bane swords are +2 Magic Swords except that everyone knows how to make them (or at least the cursed variety anyway). The presence of the curse lowers the difficulty and expense to that of a +1 magic sword. [I use the idea from 13th Age that a cursed item is flawed magic item and not an intentional trap. That is if the player is willing to put up with the disadvantage of the curse they can have a much more powerful magic item than it would be normally possible to make. It was such a nice idea I adopted it for everything, although truth to tell, the banes swords had this disadvantage for decades in my games).]

A bane sword in D&D terms is the standard +1/+3 vs [a specific type of creature] sword. It is traditionally made by performing the final quench of the sword in the still living creature or essence/blood of the creature. If you can make a +1 magic sword you can attempt to make a bane sword. If you use a specific recipe you can automatically produce the required weapon. If you don't, you can still attempt it with a Craftsman test, and there is a strong chance that you won't quite get the effect that you desire if tour intent wavers. For example quenching it in the body of a slave might produce a +1/+3 vs Humans, +1/+3 vs Slaves, +1/+3 vs Males, or even just a +1/+3 vs People Named Travor.

The curse of the bane sword is the tangible apathy towards the targeted creatures that affects both the bearer of the sword and people they encounter. The result of this antipathy is that the bonus against the specific creature is applied as a negative modifier to all reaction rolls (including the initial encounter reaction roll). Thus any creature of the indicated type is more likely to react negatively to a party where one of the members is wearing a bane sword. If the sword is actually drawn this antipathy is doubled.

There are also greater bane swords which are +2/+5 vs a specific creature. These are cursed +3 magic swords (equivalent of +2 magic swords as far as crafting them is concerned), which do require specific recipes to make. The manufacture of a greater bane sword also requires the inclusion of physical materials from the targetted creatures, and also binds the spirit of the creature used to quench the blade into itself. This always gives greater bane swords a personality, albiet a twisted demented and overall a not very nice or sane one. Self-hatred is the watchword for a greater bane sword. Greater bane swords almost always develop extra magical abilities related to their nature.

The evolution of bane swords is restricted to slaying and doom swords.

+2 Magic Sword

A +2 magic sword appears to be a fine masterwork weapon, but when held, it has gives a sense of being something greater than it actually is. Most +2 magic swords are named by their makers or users, which helps focus this potential into something more concrete. "Naked" +2 magic swords are actually pretty rare and actually more difficult to make - the intent of the craftsman tends to "contaminate" the blade to a degree unless exquisite precautions are performed. For this reason naked +2 magic swords need a recipe in order to be made. And they don't tend remain virgin for long once used.

The special abilities that a +2 magic sword tend to develop are not generally overt (in the same sense that slaying, sharpness, and life-stealing are overt). Instead they tend to assist the warrior that uses them in subtle ways. A weaponmith may imbue a +2 magic sword with a special ability with an appropriate recipe, or they can hope that naming the weapon will bring forth the appropriate ability. Possible abilities include (but are not limited to): increased saving throws against specific things (double the magical bonus is usual, so +4 vs poison or +4 vs petrification are valid abilities), increasing an attribute bonus by the magical bonus for a limited time (+2 Strength Bonus for 10 turns once a day), the ability to automatically sense creatures objects or even intents (sense ambush or alignment would be valid abilities), and so on.

They may also include martial art abilities. They may allow the wielder to use the martial art ability without actually knowing the ability, or may automatically use the ability themselves.

A +2 magic sword may also tend to develop a number of more limited abilities as well, such as the ability to understand a spoken tongue, actively detect things (either by a subtle awareness, dowsing, or glowing in the presence of the thing), see the invible, affect the immaterial, or protection against a eleemntal force (+4 vs fire).

These abilities may or may not have a Spell Point cost to activate.

[The root source of these special abilities are the special abilities for intelligent weapons tables (particularly from John T Sapienza Jr excellent article in Different Worlds 4), although I must stress that unless a magic weapon's spirit is magically awakened or it has a spirit magically bound into it a weapon is not intelligent. However all magic items do have a purpose (at least initially), so magic items may have an effective ego that can resist fulfilling this purpose.]

Holy and Unholy Swords

If the Weaponsmith is spiritually pure and performs the appropriate rituals they can transfer this purity into the blades they make. Similarly if the Weaponsmith is spiritually corrupted they can transfer this spiritual corruption into the blades they make (in fact it would be extremely difficult not to).

The basic holy sword tends to be a bane sword against the supernatural, except the accompanying "curse" tends to inspire supernatural to flee rather than attack. In addition the supernatural will suffer an automatic morale penalty equal to the bonus of the sword and a Demon Hunter (or similar class with the Banish Supernatural ability), may add the bonus to their attempts to banish the supernatural. Because of the difficulty of manufacture they get no benefit from having a "curse" (especially since the "curse" isn't really a curse), and may only be made by a craftsman in a state of spiritual purity (and probably one that is actively blessed to boot).

As holy swords get more powerful they increase their bonuses and defences against the supernatural, and may gain explicit powers, such as undead and demon slaying, magical immunity, and even the ability to dispel the supernatural.

Unholy weapons have no standards as to the nature of their magics, but they are always Corrupt and will transfer that Corruption onto anyone that willing uses them. Anyone holding an unholy weapon will know at once what it is, as will anyone in it's presence if it is drawn. Most people will react negatively to the presence of a corrupt weapon (unless they themselves are corrupt). Fortunately the Gods despise corruption and an unintended corrupt weapon will eventually decay and dissolve (unless magically protected from doing so). Unfortunately Demons often offer Hell-forged corrupt weapons to those who are willing to use them (sometimes even with no strings attached save for the fact that it is a corrupt weapon). [Note that in my current campaign the Demons are at war with the Gods, so that the objective is not the corrupting of souls but rather the supplanting of the Gods. So unholy weapons of this nature don't tend to be spiritually "booby-trapped."

Unholy weapons often have other curses upon them as well, that reduces the effective cost of the magic weapon further, especially if provided by Demons (it's not so much that Demons are cheap-skates but their ability to bring such items into the world unnoticed by the Gods is limited). Reducing the magical "cost" of the weapon means it is less likely that the intrusion will be noticed by the Gods and stopped. The entry of a true Abhorrent Weapon into the world would literally shake the very fundament (physically and spiritually).

The basic unholy +2 magic sword usually has the overt magical abilities of a +3 magic sword because of the nature of the curse. In addition it may be able to draw on the power of it's corruption directly. Because being corrupt is automatically a case of being spiritually wrong (as far as the world is concerned) the powers that an unholy sword manifests also tend to be spiritually wrong. For example it might be a poisonous sword or soul-destroying. Wounds inflicted by the sword may not naturally heal, always bleed (causing hp loss each round), or be immune to magical healing. Or simply be more vicious (remember we are basically looking at +3 magic sword abilities here).

+3 Magic Sword

When most people think "magic sword" they are generally imagine a magic weapon of the Third Class or higher, because these weapons are overtly magical. They are frequently forged of exotic materials that you would not normally consider workable (such as the flames of the blacksmith's forge or a shard of ice from a mountain glacier, a beam of light, or the spittle from a bird), or include rare and costly materials that can only be obtained by quests (this is included in the costs of the raw materials to make the weapon - the only way to gather the required worth of raw materials is to include these exotic materials in the making of the weapon).

Needless to say making a +3 magic sword requires an appropriate recipe as well as the raw materials.

A +3 magic sword generally has an overt special power/attribute that affects things struck by it. For example it may slay a specific creature type, burst into flames or lightning, be a frostblade, do increased damage. It may store spells, or confer flight, lifekeeping or regenerative abilities on it's user. A sword might even be able to be used to attack an enemy at range!

Slaying Weapons

The most common form of +3 magic sword are the slaying weapons. Note that slaying weapons are much more specific than most bane weapons. Whilst a bane weapon is happy with being +1/+3 versus dragons a slaying weapon must be a +3 weapon of blue dragon slaying. On the other hand a +4 magic weapon of Doom is capable of targeting a group, and a +5 magic weapon of Death is capable of targeting everything.

If a target creature is injured by a slaying weapon then they must make an immediate Saving Throw against Death, with a penalty equal to the damage they have taken and the bonus of the weapon. Failure indicates the immediate death of the creature, regardless of the damage taken. Note that the creature is dead, not mortally wounded and likely to die unless there is a magical intervention; Raise Dead is not sufficient magic to actually restore the creature to life - you must reach beyond the Veil. Some slaying weapons also destroy the soul, preventing resurrection entirely. They are generally one class more costly. Which means soul-stealing weapons that affect everybody must always be cursed in some way, and even then are First Class weapons (usually named Godkiller and Stormbringer and the like).

Don't take risks when fighting an opponent armed with one. The presence of a slaying blade is usually sufficient to cause an immediate morale check in an opponent that can be affect by it. Like with all magic swords (unless they are create with the subtle ability) tend to announce their major function to all who are present when drawn. So people who are vulnerable to a slaying weapon are aware of the danger when one is drawn in their presence.

Slaying swords are a common progression for an awakened bane sword.

Elemental Weapons

The next most common form of +3 magic sword are the elemental weapons that are created by forging an elemental energy into the blade. They provide added bonuses against creatures that are affected by the elemental effects (in addition to the normal vulnerability that creature may exhibit to that attack form). Also users of an elemental weapon can apply the elemental effect to targets that they strike. For example targets hit by a flamebrand must save versus catching fire, and targets hit by a lightning tongue must save versus being stunned.

The Superhero Tier

This is the tier of legend featuring characters of the 9th through 12th level. Similarly magic items of the First and Second Class tend to be legendary in and of themselves. The expense and labour required to forge a weapon of this power means that they tend to be functionally unique. Even if created off the same recipe, the results won't be completely identical. For example Mournblade and Stormbringer were both created from the same recipe, but are manifestly different blades. While their primary ability is similar (soul-stealing), their extra abilities are quite different.

There really is no such thing as a "naked" weapon at this level. All the magic items at this level are created for a purpose and are often entagled with destiny (the definition of an artifact). Which means they all have powers appropriate to their intended purpose.

+4 Magic Swords

Magic Weapons of the Second Class usually have primary magical abilities that are lesser forms of Magic Weapons of the First Class. For example, whilst a Magic Sword of the First Class might have the vorpal ability, a Magic Sword of the Second Class might only have the sharpness ability.

Unlike the abilities of +3 swords these tend not to be as clearly mechanically defined. It is possible to create a +3 sword with a purely mechanical sharpness effect, but a +4 sword of sharpness would be able to cut anything. Including holes between dimensions if the user wishes. Or imaginary chains binding gigantic wolves with a taste for one-eyed gods.

The following is an example of a +4 magic weapon:

Tarnished Needle is a +4 magic spear that is capable of performing the Dolorous Stroke against an opponent - which pierces their heart on a successful strike. However the damage it causes is not physical but spiritual, causing a continuing loss of spell points and then hit points until the opponent is completely defenceless and weakened/shattered/tired. And because this wound is spiritual, it cannot be healed by most normal healing magics. It also has several lesser abilities like the ability to ignore armour, that are scarcely worth mentioning.

[Thanks to Weapons of the Gods for the idea/concept of this Class Two weapon.]

+5 Magic Swords

Magic Weapons of the First Class are probably considered artifacts in most games. [Remember that the 12th level of effect affects entire Kingdoms.] So Excalibur is a +5 magic sword, not because of it's incidental abilities in combat (which are pretty awesome in and of themselves), but because it is "The Sword of Victory" and can be used to guarantee victory in any battle when drawn (although the victory may end up being very Pyrrhic if you were never meant to win, but thats the price of using magic - it gives you what you want but doesn't consider the cost).

Tiger Soul is capable of executing the World Breaking Strike - which is capable of breaking anything. Anything struck by Tiger Soul by the World Breaking Strike must make a save versus destruction or be cut in twain. A person. A tree. A castle. A mountain. A kingdom. Roll your natural damage die and compare it to the effect chart for the effect of the blow. Despite the name, Tiger Soul will refuse to break the world itself, even if you do roll high enough.

[Thanks to Weapons of the Gods for the idea/concept of this Class One weapon.]

End Notes: Entangling Destiny and Artifacts

This is a method a craftsman can use to create a magic item with a specific purpose. However like all such events that mess with prophecy it is not to be particularly recommended. For example a craftsman could make a dagger and entangle that dagger with the destiny that it will slay a particular person. If successful (and it's not easy since the effect is 13th level), then the dagger will be the only thing that can slay the person. But it also guarantees that the dagger will eventually slay the person. The dagger has become an entangled artifact.

There are reasons the wizards [wizards are really really high level characters] frown on people messing with time, causality, and prophecy. They generally ensure that they don't get to do it again. And may even unwind the event.

End Notes: Recipes

Recipes are spells for Craftsmen. They may be discovered in ancient texts, bought from other craftsmen, or researched on your own. Once the recipe is researched a magic item may be constructed. Note that if the resulting magic item utilises astral energies the Craftsman may require the assistance of a Sorceror to create the recipe (and vice versa, of course). This is particularly true of Artificiers (the Craftsman that create sorcerous magical items like wands, rings, and statues that turn into giant carnivorous frogs), and less so with Weaponsmiths..

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Some Notes on Character Classes

[Just a quick diversion from the magnus opus on the Aristocratic Caste to say something about the classes in my house rules. And yes, I've always liked lots of different classes in my game.]

The Character Classes

The Primary Classes

There are six primary character classes - one for each attribute.

The Knight (STR)

The Knight is a melee specialist trained to fight on the battlefield in heavy armour (mounted or unmounted). Cultural variations include Samurai, Weaponthanes, and even Gladiators (all of which are considered cultural variants of the same class). They are the elite soldiery within a society and skilled in the arts of war, not to be confused with the common soldiery. The typical Knight is not trained to the use of missile weapons, but is highly trained in the art of cavalry and the hunt (more likely to end in spears than arrows). Weaponthanes replace expertise in horsemanship with thrown weapons and moving through the wilderness. Samurai are trained in both missile and melee weapons, but at a significant cost in horsemanship.

The Ranger (CON)

The ranger is the missile and wilderness specialist. Unlike the Other Game™ they are not a sub-class of fighter and nor do the spend their time guarding the ruins of ancient kingdoms in the north. There are the elite hunters, scouts, poachers, and foresters, not the common archers and slingers found in the armies of the world. Precision is their watchword. Rangers are trained to fight in melee, but not in formation and not in heavy armour, because the wilderness is a dangerous place. Most rangers also have some sort of stealth ability in order to sneak up on the animals (or bandits) they are hunting.

The Specialist [Tomb Robber] (DEX)

The specialist has mastered some sort of non-combat proficiency that may be of benefit to the adventurer. The default Specialist is the Tomb Robber, who is an expert at enetring dark holes in the ground and recovering the treasure therein. The archetypal adventurer, the Tomb Robber has mastered neither magic nor weapons, but is not adverse to using the limited amounts of either available to them. Although they generally prefer to avoid direct conflict. [For players of the Other Game (TM), they are the Thief equivalent, except they tend to replace the pickpocket proficiency with something similar to bardic knowledge. They may be connected to the criminal underworld (via fences), but are generally not considered part of it. The Thief is a separate Specialist class with less of a focus on insanity adventuring and much more of a criminal orientation. As with Knights and soldiery, the members of the Thief class are the elite of the criminal underworld, not your common mugger, pickpocket, or burglar.]

The Mage [Battlemage] (INT)

The mage classes uses sorcery (the manipulation of external symbols and objects) to evoke a resonance with the astral energies and manifest them in the real world. Most sorcery concerns itself primarily with the acts summoning and creation. There are many different classes of mage (differentiated primarily by spell lists), but the default one for adbventurers is the military mage, otherwise known as the warmage or battlemage. These mages specialising in handling the destructive magics typically of use on the battlefield, and thus have problems with the more subtle sorceries, such as those dealing with illusion and healing. How you access the astral energies has a profound effect on the spells that you can cast. No battlemage has ever managed to learn a healing spell. On the other hand a Healer Mage cannot throw a fireball, so fair is fair.

The Witch (WPR)

The Witch does not use externalities such as sorcery to create the necessary resonance with the astral, but instead uses internal meditations to invoke a change in the world. This limits the amount of astral energies that the witch can actually physically channel, so their magic tends to be on a much smaller scale than that of the mage. On the other hand a witch is capable of performing true healing using their magic. This may take longer than the "healing" provided by Demon Hunters, but it doesn't have the disadvantage that it can be dispelled.

The Priest [Demon Hunter] (CHA)

The magic of the Demon Hunter relies on the fact that the supernatural is unnatural and does not actually belong in the world. Their magic is antipathic, dealing with the unbinding and banishment of magic, as opposed to the mage, whose magic is sympathetic and concerns summoning and creation. Whilst they are quite capable of breaking the supernatural with a brute force attempt, they may also learn to focus their energies through powerful sutras that magnify their power immensely. Those with the natural ability to become Demon Hunters are as rare as any other spellcaster, and those that show promise are often sought out, trained, equipped, and supported by religious institutions. Others make their own way,banishing the supernatural for monetary reward. Because many supernatural entities also have a physical manifestation, most Demon Hunters are also trained to fight these monsters.

[In my D&D games the gods have always been distant (or alternatively, not gods at all). And I've always found it somewhat impious for the gods to change how the universe operates at the demand of one of their worshippers. This means that the source of divine power has always been the cleric itself, whether from belief/faith or something else. Not every priest has miraculous powers; in fact the ones with magical powers have always been as rare as any other spellcasters. And they have always been heavily modelled on the classical Demon Hunter from Chinese wuxia. Which makes this the replacement for the Other Game™ Cleric, although spells are often expressed in reverse, so instead of cure light wounds the Demon Hunter uses banish light wounds. ]

The Secondary Classes

Secondary classes are classes associated with two or more characteristics, and tend to embody aspects of the associated primary classes. They are usually considered a subclass of fighter or mage (depending whether their primary focus is physical or magical).

Here is a selection of fighter secondary classes (there are many more).

The Bravo (STR & DEX)

The Bravo is a fighting man trained to fight without the aid of heavy weapons or armour. Thus their style of combat is not as suited for use on the battlefield as the Knight, but may in fact be technically more proficient. This is achieved by increasing access to Martial Arts. The Duellist (who has a better access to Martial Arts) and the Assassin (who specialises in the stealthy kill) are known variants of this class.

The Paladin (STR & CHA)

The Paladin channels the abilities of the Demon Hunter unto the fighting ability of the Knight. Their primary role is to defeat the supernatural directly through force of arms, and thus they are much better than your standard Demon Hunter at fighting those supernatural threats that have a physical presence. They are however often at a loss at dealing with the more spiritual supernatural threats.

The Barbarian (STR & CON)

The Barbarian combines the melee capabilities of the Knight with the wilderness abilities of the Ranger. That is, they are effectively Rangers that specialise in melee combat.

The Marksman (CON & DEX)

Combining the abilities of the Ranger and the Craftsman, the Marksman is a specialist at presenting the continuing dielectic between the bourgeois and proletarians and encouraging the inevitable uprising of the proletariate... [Oh hang, on, that's the Marxman. Sorry. The Marksman attempts to perfect the art of using a bow (or other missile weapon), trading in their ability in the wilderness for improved access to Martial Arts dealing with the use of the bow.]

And here is a selection of some mage secondary classes (there are many more):

The Shaman (WPR & CHA)

The Shaman is a Witch with a much more animstic approach to magic. Although whether the spirits that they summon or simply manifestations of the astral forces they summon is hidden by the Perception Paradox of magic. For all intents and purposes the shaman summons astral entities to create the magical effects they desire. The Other Game™ Druids are a variant of Shaman.

The Necromancer (INT & CHA)

The Necromancer is what a Demon Hunter becomes when they realise that a door is an entry as well as an exit and gives into that desire to see what lies beyond. They use the externalised sorcery of the mage to create truly antipathetic magic and open the way from the Beyond. Instead of just using astral energies to animate the dead, they may summon actual entities to actually inhabit the dead, creating true undead. Or even becoming one. The gods generally despise necromancers because they disrupt the nature order (things are supposed to stay dead), but there are actually good necromancers as well as evil necromancers, although you are more likely to find evil necromancers who use their abilities for self aggrandisement.

The Healer Mage (INT & DEX)

The Healer Mage is a specialist in healing magics. It is one of the most common forms of secondary mages, although one that is not really suitable for adventuring. Actually most secondary mages are not particularly suitable for adventuring and most are considered to have an INT & DEX prerequisite.

The Illusionist (INT & WPR)

The first thing you have to remember is that all magic is illusion. That is, it is not a part of the world and may be dispelled or undone, but it still has a real presence in the world. For example, if you are polymorphed into a goat, you are a polymorphed goat and not a real goat. The magic can be dispelled and you will return to being a human being. On the other hand if you had kids while a goat, the kids would be real goats. Similarly if a mage summons a demon to do their bidding, that demon may be entirely illusionary, but the Perception Paradox means that it must be treated as a real thing. It can't simply be disbelieved. The Illusionist generally deals with two distinct types of magic - the creation of images (which are manifestations in the world), and phantasms (which are manipulations of the perceptions/mind). It is a very rare form of secondary magery because most experts eventually end up convincing themselves that nothing is actually real and then convincing themselves that they aren't real either and magically erasing themselves from existence. This should hopefully be a sufficient warning of the dangers of this type of magic.

The Tertiary Classes

Tertiary classes have three or more prime requisites. Here are some (there are many more):

The Martial Artist (STR & CON & DEX)

The martial artist generally forgoes all weapons and armour in pursuit of the perfection of their art. That does not means that they aren't masters of their use, just that they are generally irrelevant when the martial artist fights. The true Martial Artist, like all tertiary classes, is exceedingly rare and generally the protege of a monk on a remote mountaintop or a wandering fighter trying to perfect their art.

The Talent Mage [The Bard] (INT & WPR & CHA)

Talent Mages are rare because they perform their sorcery naturally, but to do so they must use some other talent to focus their sorcery. The most commonly known Talent Mage is the Bard, who focuses their magic through music. It normally takes a Talent Mage a lot longer to cast their spells than other mages, but they have the advantage that they don't need to know the actual spell that they are casting. On the other hand, the selection of magics they can actually use is generally limited by their focus.

The Ninja (STR & DEX & WPR)

Why will no one ever believe me that ninja do not exist. It's obvious. Nobody has ever seen one, therefore they don't exist and there is no Ninja class. Not at all. I haven't even considered what attributes would be appropriate for them. There are no ninja. [Those are just people in black silk pajamas (pay no attention).]

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Aristocratic Caste (Part 4)

The Landed Gentry

The vast majority of the remaining Aristocratic Hierarchy is made up of the Landed Gentry. These are individuals who have been given either a gift or a grant of land from an overlord. This gift or grant generally takes the form of a manor, it's associated farms and villages, and the people upon it. The holder of such a gift or grant is normally referred to as the lord of the manor. In return for this land, the overlord will generally expect some sort of service and/or tax, and in a feudal society the lord is a vassal of the overlord. Another rather archaic term for the landed gentry is thus vavasor, which translates to "vassal of a vassal," because the overlords of the landed gentry are almost always vassals of their own overlord.

However in a feudal/medieval society the vast majority of the Landed Gentry are actually members of the Military Caste. They are generally the elite soldiers of the nation, such as heavily armoured knights or samurai (or even hopilites in early eras). In fact the manorial system generally exists purely to support the existence of the knight. Thus the most common service owed to an overlord (in addition to certain rents) is military duty (the traditional value is 60 days of service, plus defence of the overlord's holdings against invaders). In later eras this service was replaced by scutage (or shield tax), which allowed the overlord (typically the sovereign) to employ professional soldiers (a Royal Army). naturally this increased the power of the sovereign, since he no longer had to rely on the loyalty of his noble vassals.

When an overlord bestows the gift of a manor on an individual it is generally for the life of the individual (unless the lord has been attainted for treason or other similar crime). At the death of the lord, the manor technically reverts back to being part of the overlord's estates, to be gifted again. However the expectation is that the heir of the lord will receives the gift (unless they have somehow alienated the overlord).

When an overlord bestows a grant of a manor on an individual then they have alienated the manor from their own estates. The manor will automatically pass to the heir (however distant that heir may be). It is only when their is no heir that the estate passes back into the custody of the overlord. However the new lord will still be expected to swear fealty to the overlord as part of taking up the lordship of the manor. If they don't they may be considered in revolt, and the manor seized.

The Manor

Because of a general lack of of portable wealth (money) the manor/fief is generally the lowest economic unit within a society. That is, the manor grows the food to support the inhabitants of the manor, as well as additional food which the lord can then sell to the nearest town, mine, or other site that does not produce its own food. The lord can then use the cash income that results to buy those items that only towns and cities can manufacture ... and to pay the rents they owe their own overlord. Within the manor the lord adjudicates disputes and manages the community, and collects hs own rents, both in coin (from tenants) and (more likely) labour in his fields and on his projects (from his serfs).

A manor consists of

  • The manor house itself, which is considered a Noble Asset. The vast majority of these manors take the form of a fortified manor house (especially in a feudal society). In earlier eras or more peaceful times they might simply be country villas (walled or not). On the other hand more powerful members of the landed gentry might even have a fort or keep, or even a small castle (the larger castles are generally closely held by the Titled Nobility because of their military power). The manor always contains the Great Hall, where the lord sits in judgement and his household knights sleep (most servants sleep where they work). They will be associated with a manor farm which is effectively the lord's own private lands, which are worked by his serfs (in addition to their working their own lands). The lord is often capable of investing in longer term projects than the typical peasant (whose first objective is to feed themselves and their family and pay their rents), and so a manor farm may feature orchards and vineyards (whereas a peasant farm might be very lucky to have a single fruit tree). Similarly the lord's garden may feature a wider variety of herbs (including medicinal herbs) than would be found in a peasant's garden. It might even feature a purely ornamental garden with flowers.
  • The manor is always associated with a villageSettlement E ]. The village often provides the speciality services required by the inhabitants of the manor, such as a blacksmith, miller (especially since the lord can traditionally take a cut of any grain ground in hs mill), baker (it is cheaper to bake a lot of bread at once than for each family to bake their own), and a village priest. The village will also generally have access to an apothecary in the form of a the village healer/midwife (which is often better than what people in town have). Larger manors will have more prosperous villages that can support more specialists, such as a carpenter, brewer, or innkeeper (especially if the village can expect travellers such as pilgrims and merchants to pass through). [Remember that inns are often used as freight distribution nodes by merchants. Which is they often have guards/watchmen of their very own.] If the manor has access to special resources then it can usually have some sort of specialist tradesman or guildsman. For example a manor with a quarry might support a stonemason, or a manor with a clay pit might support a potter. These specialists generally produce material directly for the lord of the manor for trade outside of the village itself.
  • A large manor may also support a number of hamletsSettlement F ]. These are small villages that cannot support any specialists, and depend economically on the central manor/village, but are located at valuable resources (usually good farmland, but they may also direct support a quarry or mine. In which case the hamlet is composed of the quarry or mine workers, and is supported by the rest of the manor.
  • The larger manors may also have a number of smaller vassal holdings. These are smaller Noble Assets whose lords owe fealty to the holder of the larger manor as overlord. They may be gifts or grants. They provide the main holding with extra income (in the form of coin, which is always valuable), and the overlord with military service. However that military service is owed by the lord of the manor to their own overlord. So if your manor contains two small manors as vassals, when called to service by your own overlord you will be expected to provide both yourself (and any household knights), and these two vassal knights as well.

Note that in the pre-modern era, when the military operates on a more professional basis, there is less of a need for the traditional manor/estate. In which case the noble often takes the role of absentee landlord, and merely collects rents from the villagers (in the manner of a true member of the Aristocratic Caste). In such cases the village is usually run by a Village Mayor [ Commoner 3 ] who organises the activities of the village, which still generally operates as a single economic unit (although one that is much more like a modern corporation in which the villages own shares).

Most Noble Assets are extant (and inherited). Creating a new grant requires alienating a part of a noble's own demesnes so they are naturally very reluctant to do that. And most of the existing gifts are already occupied. There is the option of developing the wilderness, but this is very expensive. In order to create a new Noble Asset in the wilderness it is first necessary to attract the people to the new holding (workers are valuable in an agrarian economy, which is why the vast majority of the Peasant Caste are serfs and legally bound to the land). Assuming you can attract the people to the area, you can use them to build a new holding at the indicated cost. They can then use the resources (raw material and labour) of the holding to erect the actual Noble Asset. If the holding has vassal holdings of it's own, then they must be built (including their Noble Assets), before the main holding can be built. So that small castle, while it may seem outrageously cheap in monetary terms, actually requires the full resources of a barony to actually create it. You are just paying for the stuff you can't resource locally.

The base cost for the standard Noble Assets that can be owned by the Landed Gentry are given in the following table.

Noble AssetActual
Castle 1A1,8751,8753,75016,12519,875
Castle 1B1,8751,8753,75014,62518,375
Castle 1C1,8751,8753,75013,00016,750
Castle 1D1,8751,8753,75010,37514,125
Castle 1E1,8751,8753,7507,25011,000
Castle 1F1,8751,8753,7504,6258,375
Shell Keep A1,8751,2503,1253,5006,625
Shell Keep B1,2505001,7501,7503,500
Manor House A1,8751,2503,1252,7505,875
Manor House B8756251,5001,7503,250
Manor House C7505001,2507502,000
Manor House D6253751,0001,000
Manor House E500250750750

All costs are in gp, and represents incidental costs (such as the employ of an Architect and other Master Builders to direct the unskilled labour, and materials not normally able to be resourced from the local holdings that are needed in the construction). If imported materials are used, and labour hired and fed, then the actual costs increase dramatically. Decorating the manor house and adding features to it or the holding will also attract increased costs (although in many caes this will just be in labour and food supplied by the holding).

The exact details of a typical manorial holding will be discussed elsewhere. Generally as the size of the holding (indicated by the letter and determined in the normal manner) increases, so does the size of the manor house, as well as the number of vassal holdings.

Living Expenses for Landed Gentry

The living expenses for landed gentry depend upon their rank, which is determined primarily by the size of their holdings. However if they possess the appropriate holding, then their maintenance is paid for by the holding (as well as that of their spouse and their family). The holding will also support a number of additional employees automatically (mostly servants and military personnel).

Lord / Manorial Knight [ Noble 4 ]

This is the most common form of Landed Gentry, the lord of a small manor [ Manor House D or Manor House E ] who has no vassals of their own. Effectively the leaves of the feudal tree. They usually hold their land as a gift from their overlord, although it may also be provided as a grant (in which case it belongs to their family).

The vast majority of these lords are manorial knights, who, as part of their fealty to their overlord, are required to provide a certain amount of military service. This will be specified in the contract defining the gift or grant of the land, and will usually involve the lord himself and a number of additional troops from the manor. Failure to provide the overlord with this service is a serious matter (often because the overlord effectively owes this service to their own overlord). Traditionally the required term of this service is 60 days, although customarily this applies to military ventures outside the lord's domain. The lord may extend the term of militray service (especially in times of war), but the knight would traditionally expect to be paid for this additional duty. On the other hand defensive military service usually has no limit, because part of the oath of fealty is to defend the overlord's domains.

In later periods the lord of the manor could replace their military service with scutage (or shield tax), which was money sufficient to hire a replacement for the military service they owe their overlord. Kings liked scutage because it allows them to form a professional Royal Army and not rely on their noble vassals to muster troops on their behalf. On the other hand,in this situation the nobles tend to lose a lot of their power. But as a result of this shift in policy, more and more of teh landed gentry become absentee landlords, simply drawing rent from their estates (or even passing on the right to collect rents to others). Things can get very complicated very fast.

Lord / Manorial Knight [ Noble 4 ]
Social Status:4
Monthly Expenses:48 sp ( 4 gp)
Supporting Assets:The gift or grant of a small manor.
Customary Titles:Lord. [Sir if a knight.]


Knight Bannerette / Baronet [ Noble 5 ]

A knight bannerette is a senior knight with vassals of their own. These vassal holdings are considered part of the knight bannerettes own holdings and are almost always gifts, rather than grants. They are usually geographically co-located, although there may be some physical separation. The knight bannerette is typically allowed to fly a special pennant so that their vassals can find them on the battlefield. They and their vassals typically fight as a unit (a lance).

They typically have a larger manorial holding [ Manor House A to Manor House C ] featuring a large fortified manor house. Again they hold their land as a gift or garnt from their own overlord, and owe him military service as well as rents. They typically also owe them the military service of their own vassals as well (they are a knight, not an actual noble).

A baronet is a knight that holds a shell keep, tower, hill fort, or other primarily defensive construction. Whilst not a true castle with outer works, a shell keep or a tower, is still a formidable military obstacle to take, although, since outbuildings are not protected, has limited offensive value. Whilst economically they are not that power, they gain extra status from their control of a military strongpoint.

Note that hill forts may actually be considered castles, especially for barbarian tribes. In which case the holder of the hill fort (a wooden castle) is considered a baron (clan chief) in their own right, and the hill fort will be the clan's stronghold. However the importance of hill forts declined with the introduction of stone and brick castles. For one point, they are far less flammable.

Knight Bannerette [ Noble 5 ]
Social Status:5
Monthly Expenses:30 sp ( 5 gp)
Supporting Assets:A large manor
Customary Titles:Sir.
Baronet [ Noble 5 ]
Social Status:5
Monthly Expenses:30 sp ( 5 gp)
Supporting Assets:A shell keep or tower.
Customary Titles:Sir or Lord.


Baron [ Noble 6 ]

A baron is the holder of a small castle and the supporting holdings. A baron may be a vassal of an overlord or sovereign in their own right. Usually their sovereignty is simply a result of the general lawlessness of the region, allowing them to set up independently (for example as robber barons). If independent they generally maintain their position through military force.

The rank of baron represents the facts on the ground, as it were. It is not a title awarded directly by a sovereign, which means that they can be considered either the highest of the knightly class or the lowest of the noble class. The deciding factor is that most barons will not be related to the ruling dynasty. For example after the Normans invaded England a lot of the Anglo-Saxon nobles remained, but they were reduced in status to that of baron, whereas the Norman rulers actually had titles.

This means that anyone establishing a standard D&D-style domain in the wilderness with a stronghold could claim the rank of baron.

Amongst barbarian tribes the rank of baron typically equates to that of the individual clan chief, and the baron's castle will be a hill fort (or similar construction) that is the clan's stronghold. The knights being the clan's warrior thanes (essentially the owners of manorial farms or sufficient wealth to support a military elite warrior. In addition the baron will raise his own huscarls (household knights). Because the clan is tied together by blood and kinship, there is less of the civilised feudal hierarchy in the relationships.

Baron [ Noble 6 ]
Social Status:6 to 8 [depending on estates]
Monthly Expenses:72 to 96 sp ( 6 tp 8 gp) [depending on estates]
Supporting Assets:A small castle.
Customary Titles:Baron.


[ The next part will deal with the Titled Nobility (Nobles of level 7 to 9). ]

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Aristocratic Caste (Part 3)

The Unlanded Gentry

The large majority of the Aristocratic Caste are the so-called Unlanded Gentry - those who may claim noble descent through one or more of their parents, but who do not hold any land in their own right. Player characters of the Aristocratic Caste are always assumed to have this status, and may start the game as either a GentlemanNoble 2 ], a BastardNoble 1 ], or a Gentleman FarmerNoble 1 or Commoner 2 ] (their choice). They also have no direct prospects of inheriting a title (that is, advancing within the caste).

Being an aristocrat is expensive if you don't have the lands (represented by the appropriate Noble Asset) to support your status. Since the caste frowns on its members receiving any income that is not actually derived from rents or investments this leaves the would-be aristocrat four choices:

  1. The may seek employment in the court of a titled noble or baron as a courtier. The number of courtiers that a court can support depends on it's wealth. Positions include the Herald (responsible for running the court), a Butler (responsible for maintaining the household), Guard and Troop Captains (to lead the troops), a Sheriff (who ensures that law and order are maintained in the domain), a Spymaster (who insures that the intrigues of nearby courts are maintained), a Reeve (who collects the income from the domain and deals with the commoners living in the domain), Companions for dependants of the court (such as the Lady in Waiting) and - perhaps most importantly - the Household Knights (Thanes, Warriors, etc) that provide the court's military might. Particularly wealthy courts might have a number of other important Court positions - for example Court Sorceror, Court Apothecary, Court Physician, Chaplain/Confessor, and even Court Perfumer (although most of these positions are not generally suitable for unskilled Aristocrats). Baronial courts often combine positions (for example the Household Knights will generally also act as Butler, Captains, and Sheriff). The ability to obtain a position at a court generally relies on their father's ability to influence the titled noble who runs the court. Court positions are very rare though, and the competition for them is very intense.
  2. They may seek a position in a hierarchy that is normally reserved for members of the Military or Religious Castes - such as a position in the Army or Navy or in the Clergy. The members of the Aristocratic Caste have the basic skills to be able to act in these roles, provided that the roles are not tested. However because they lack the actual Expertise of actual members of the Caste, all actual tests are automatically Difficult (using a d30 instead of a d20). Again the Influence of the father on the appropriate authority will determine if the position is available, but in many cases it is often possible to purchase the appropriate position (for example buying a commission in the army).
  3. They may become Adventurers and seek their own fortune and rise (or more likely fall) on their own merits. The ambition of most aristocratic adventurers is to eventually convince an Overlord to gift or grant them a title and domain for services rendered. In a Terra Nullius (or frontier or colonial) game, they may seek to establish their own domain in the unoccupied "wilderness," either in their own right, or for incorporation in an established sovereign domain. They ahve the advantage over other adventurers in this respect because they have the skills to both run a court of their own, and to conduct diplomacy with other courts.
  4. They may take up a trade or do something equally disreputable. This generally formally removes them from the aristocratic caste, but does not dissolve the familial links. For example, a lesser son or daughter might become a merchant funded by their family (and returning profits back to the family), without staining the family name with undertaking base commerce. Alternatively some cultures have craft skills that are not considered utterly improper for members of the aristocratic caste to perform. For example, swordsmithing.

In most cases the children of members of the Aristocratic Caste who do not actively hold a Noble Asset (and the associated title and lands) are not considered tpo be members of the Aristocratic Caste, but are rather members of the Caste that their father is operating in at the time of their birth.

A Quick Note on Knights

Knights are really the default members of the Military Caste in a feudal society. The entire feudal structure is designed to support the armed and armoured knight (as well as provide extra troops), especially in a culture where the transport of food is difficult. This military force can be called up by the knight's lord to serve (usually for set period of time), in return for the land that the knight holds from their lord.

This means that while the Birth Caste of a feudal knight (or equivalent warrior) is actually the Military Caste, they are often given Noble Assets (a Manor, Keep, or even a Castle) and thus become a Manorial Knight, or a position in the court of a higher noble or baron as a Household Knight, which promotes them to the Aristocratic Caste.

But knights can also be Mercenary Knights (effectively guildsmen), military officers (most belted knights rate as a Captain at the very least), or even Knight Errants (an adventurer knight with no visible means of support). In all these cases the living expenses of the knight are considered normal for members of the Military Caste (at 6 sp a month per level), but the horse adds another 6 sp to the monthly living expenses. If the living expenses of an independent knight are less than 48 sp a month though (the equivalent of a Manorial Knight) the knight is considered a poor (with an increased chance of both himself and his horse falling ill during winter).

Living Expenses for Unlanded Gentry

The living expenses for unlanded gentry depend entirely upon how regularly they attend court (usually the court of their lord).

Provincial Gentleman [ Noble 1 ]

A provincial gentleman never attends formal court (or only in the most dire circumstances when summoned there). In many cases they are considered little more than country squires (with a manor without fief) or gentleman farmers (with a large farm that is prosperous enough to support a wealthier lifestyle. They are often members of the Aristocratic Caste mainly because of an old grant (they actually hold explicit title to the land that supports them [as is the case with any noble]), and they can trace their bloodlines back to a royal or noble family, and they actively preserve their aristocratic heritage.

Note that they must be granted the land they occupy. If they simply own it (as an allod, freehold or similar property) then they are simply a very rich YeomanCommoner 2 ]. In fact they actually have a higher Social Status as commoners because their Social Status of 2 outranks the Social Status of 1 they gain from their aristocratic connections.

Historical examples include petit-sergeants and ji-zamurai.

Provincial Gentleman [ Noble 1 ]
Social Status:1
Monthly Expenses:12 sp ( 1 gp)
Supporting Assets:The grant of a Large Farm or a Manor Farm
Customary Titles:None.


Gentleman [ Noble 2 ]

The vast majority of the members of the Aristocratic Caste are considered to be Gentlemen [Noble 2]. These are generally the children of titled nobles or landed gentry. Many of them are the cousins of titled nobles, and their children are destined to lose their status as members of the Aristocratic Caste unless they achieve a position at court or obtain the grant or gift of a title.

Given the expense in maintaining a aristocratic lifestyle with no offsetting Asset, most gentlemen will seek a position normally associated with another caste, or become adventurers (this is the reason for both the general social acceptability for adventurers and for why one of the smallest and most exclusive castes in society produces an equal number of adventurers as each of the other castes).

Gentlemen are expected to be able to appear at court, but are not an actual part of the court.

Gentleman [ Noble 2 ]
Social Status:2
Monthly Expenses:24 sp ( 2 gp)
Supporting Assets:None (or a Lesser Position at Court)
Customary Titles:Milord (Milady)
[In a formal situation "The Honourable XXX" may also be used.]


Courtier [ Noble 3 ]

A courtier is someone that is part of the court of a higher noble. They may be simply attending court (in which case the Monthly Expenses represents the necessary bribes and gifts to remain at court - in addition to the necessary wardrobe to avoid disgracing oneself), or more likely hold a formal position in the court of the higher noble (which is considered a supporting Asset for this status). Actual paying directly for the hospitality of the court is considered poor form. To remain at a court requires a continuing friendly reaction from the lord of the court.

The number of positions available at a court depend on the wealth of the noble whose court it is. The richer the court, the greater number of positions (and the more intense the competition for them. Poor courts may even use non-aristocrats in these positions. Some common positions include:

  • Heir: The heir to a grant is considered to be a courtier in their father's court. The "spare" is also considered to hold a position in the court, but only as a Gentleman [ Noble 2 ]].
  • Household Knight: The most common position in court in a feudal society is that of a household knight (or warrior or thane or samurai). This is because the fundamental purpose of the feudal system is to provide a supply of troops, and knights are the elite troops. Many noble gifts or grants will specify that the holder must supply a certain number of knights (and other troops) to their overlord as a condition of holding that gift or grant. Note that these knights will often serve as the other officers of the court (especially where the holding is too small to hold a formal court).
  • Herald: A herald is required to hold a formal court (and as such is a position normally provided by the richer barons and titled nobles). They handle the administrivia of court events, establishing precedence and conducting the court. They are also responsible for conducting tourneys and similar events. They are also used as diplomats between courts, and traditionally carry diplomatic immunity.
  • Butler: The butler is responsible for running the household of the noble. In particular with ensuring that the household staff is performing appropriately and that the holding is properly supplied. Given that most aristocratic holdings function as a military outpost in a feudal society, this is a very important position. It was only demoted to being a service position (and being part of the Peasant Caste) when the status of military outpost was lost.
  • Sheriff: One of the important duties of an aristocratic court is to decide on legal matters within the court's jurisdiction. The enforcement of these decisions within the domain is the responsibility of the sheriff (aided by bailiffs).
  • Steward: A steward is responsible for managing a holding, freeing it's lord for other duties. A steward cannot be placed in charge of a vassal's holding, only the lords own holding.
  • Reeve: The reeve is the court's treasurer and is responsible for collecting the fees, taxes and tithes due to the noble. Unlike a steward, a reeve is also responsible for inspecting and ensuring that vassals are fulfilling their obligations.
  • Spymaster: The Courtesy Expertise can also be used for intrigue. A spymaster dedicates themselves to finding out what is happening in and around the noble's court. Often considered a vital position at court (although mostly one that is hidden).
  • Court <Guildsman>: The richer courts may have a number of positions available to guildsmen who perform exclusively for the court. Examples include the Court Sorceror, Court Physician, Court Scribe, Court Perfumer, Court Astrologer, etc. As far as the guild itself is concerned, obtaining a position at Court is the same as having a Shop - it allows the character to claim Master status, even as a Journeyman. Adding the Shop Asset directly to the court adds 1d100 percent to the income of the Shop to the income of the noble's central holding each month (assume 50% generally). This is distinct to adding a guildsman's shop to the holding itself, which adds the full value of the Shop tothe income of the holding, but requires that the holding meet certain important conditions first.
  • Chaplain/Confessor: This is the individual responsible for the Lord's spiritual matters. The most common way of adding a Chaplain to the court is to add a Chapel or Major Shrine to the court. The Religious Bonus gained from the Chapel is then applied to the general activities of the court (this represents the court observing all the required rituals and ceremonial observances to avoid bringing down the disfavour of the gods, rather than any overt magical acts blessing the court. Courts without a confessor are forced to rely on the religious Assets attached directly to the holding.
  • Companion: These include the numerous noble companions that may inhabit the court. Whilst senior companions (such as the Lady Companion of the lord's spouse) are supported as Courtiers, the lesser companions (such as Ladies-in-Waiting) are supported as Gentlemen. Royalty children often have aristocratic companions when growing up. These often form the core retinue of the adult noble.
  • Retinue: A court will often feature many courtiers simply because the bigger the court the more impressive the noble must be. However the Asset can normally only support a limited number of these hangers-on, and mostly at the Gentleman status.
  • Pages: Older children of the Aristocratic Caste often serve directly at court as pages. Whilst doing so they are considered to be first level (apprentice) nobles in their own right.

In many cases these positions are best filled by members of other castes. In most cases non-aristocrats occupying a formal position at court are supported as if they are gentlemen (rather than courtiers). In many cases, this is still a much higher standard of living than they normally get. For example, a Court Physician would only have a standard of living worth 18 sp as a Master not attached to the court. They also have the advantage that there is no possibility of their "business" failing whilst they are supported by a court.

Courtier [ Noble 3 ]
Social Status:3
Monthly Expenses:36 sp ( 3 gp)
Supporting Assets:A Position at Court
Customary Titles:Milord (Milady)
[or if a Household Knight "Sir XXX"]
[In a formal situation "The Right Honourable XXX" may also be used, particularly for an untitled Heir, a Monarch's Counsellor, or a Parliamentarian.]


Special Circumstances

The following special circumstances can apply to membership of the Aristocratic Caste.

Bastard [ Noble 1 ]

The acknowledged bastard child of a titled noble can be considered to have the status of a Provincial Gentleman because they will never be expected to be presented at formal court. If they are to be presented at their father's court (or the court of their father's overlord) then they can be treated as GentlemenNoble 2 ], or, if given a formal position in the court, as a Courtier  [Noble 3 ]. Getting a bastard acknowledged usually requires that the father Influences the appropriate court. If it is the father's own court this is, of course, automatic.

That said, bastardry has several effects:

  1. Bastardry reduces their Social Status derived from the Aristocratic Caste by 1 (to a minimum of 1). This is often formally established by adding the bar sinister to the heraldry of the character. Blood is everything to the Aristocratic Caste (since it is the main reason their elite status in society is preserved).
  2. The child, even if acknowledged, cannot inherit their father's title if it is a grant. The only way to counteract this is to get the father's overlord to approve the bastard as the legitimate heir to the title. This is very difficult to accomplish. Firstly, because in doing so you are effectively disinheriting the current heir (which may be a distant cousin from a collateral family line), and they can challenge this decision in higher courts (which will generally favour tradition). Secondly, if there are no legitimate heirs to a grant, then tradition has it escheats to the overlord (so there is a considerable economic disincentive for the overlord to rule in favour of a bastard becoming the legitimate heir).
  3. It is generally assumed that the bastard is raised in the mother's caste (this is automatic in the case of an unacknowledged bastard). This means that they will have the Birth Caste of there mother, and thus gain the appropriate attribute bonus and Expertises of that caste, rather than those of the Aristocratic Caste.

In many cases, rather than acknowledging the bastardry officially, the father will simply use their Influence and/or wealth, to provide a higher status in another hierarchy for the mother and child. For example, they may provide mother with a freehold farm (and husband farmer), with the expectation that the bastard child will inherit.

Even if utterly unacknowledged, the father of a noble bastard is usually an open secret amongst the peasantry thanks to their Folklore Expertise. Even if the child is a Serf [Commoner 1] or Employee [Commoner 1] (which are the most likely statuses for the mother), the fact that everyone knows they actually have noble blood means they can claim [Noble 1] status amongst their peers and thus effectively socially outrank them.

Note that bastardry will have different consequences outside the Aristocratic Caste that are generally not worthy of note as far as actual game mechanics are concerned.

Bastard [ Noble 1 ]
Social Status:1
Monthly Expenses:6 sp (or higher)
Supporting Assets:None (or a noble father).
Customary Titles:None.


And a Quick Note on the Patriarchy

This post is written very much from the assumptions of the Patriarchy (that the man is the Lord of the Manor and that his spouse is his Wife). This is a natural consequence of invoking historical examples when creating the system. There were many reasons for the history being heavily patriarchal (for instance the incredible danger posed by childbirth without competent medical assistance was one, although the major reason was the fetishisation of blood and being able to "prove" patriachal descent by blood for legal reasons (since property could technically only be inherited by an heir of the body/blood).

However this is in no way saying that a fantasy game setting has to stick to established historical stereotypes. There is no reason to say that the the cultural setting may be a purposeful matriarchy (especially if it is common knowledge that men are too violent of foolish to hold society together) or one of equality. For example I particularly enjoy the idea behind the default setting of Greg Stolze's Reign - where a firm belief that riding a horse causes sterility means that all cavalry is female or eunuchs - raises the status of the woman so they can be nobles and troop commanders in their own right. In my own game becoming an Adventurer is a formal denial of societal expectations, so whilst the society tends to be patriarchal in the main, there is an easy and socially acceptable escape for women that wish to pursue their own path and make their own way in society. Which raises the status of women considerably, even if they don't choose to become an adventurer. It would be considered quite acceptable for a female adventurer to be granted title to a barony and be considered a Baron. It might also be dejure that that barony might descend through matrilineal lines as a result of the initial grant.

This does not even consider cultures where inheritance doesn't follow strict descent (this is actually quite common, especially in societies where the household possessions are held by the wife while the man only owns the tools of his trade - such as weapons and armour). In many cases a cousin of the wife will inherit instead of a son. Then there are legal complications, such as morgantic marriages (where the spouse is too low in status for their children to inherit), or the medieval Western European tradition that a widow can only gain control of their estates on the death of the third husband). All far too complicated (and interesting) to go into detail in a "simple" set of generic rules.

However I will continue to use the male form of title for generaly discussing the nobility. The reason for doing so is the patriarchal assumptions built into the title when rendered in English. "Gentleman" conjures quite a different image than "gentlewoman," for example, and it is the image of the first I wish to emphasise. Then again in three of my house games (I do like playing in different settings) the title equivalent for "gentleman" is officially gender neutral, and it is quite common to call a female bravo a "gentleman" (in fact in some games calling a female bravo a gentlewoman could be taken as an insult to their martial abilities).

Just to make things clear as mud. <grin>

[ The next part will deal with the Landed Gentry (Nobles of level 4 to 6). ]

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Aristocratic Caste (Part 2)

[ Note: This has been revised to account for the changes in the economic system inspired by attempting to write the subsequent parts of this post. ]

The Noble Hierarchy

Direct advancement within the Aristocratic Caste is nearly impossible unless one is either the acknowledged heir (or the "spare" that is maintained just in case something should happen to the heir). The exception to this is if some major disaster overtakes the family (such as a peasant rebellion from which the immediate family do not manage to escape), in which case it may be possible for a collateral line (a cousin) to inherit. However most members of the caste will only have a limited ability to directly progress above the status of Lord [Noble 4]. In particular, it is assumed that player characters have no such opportunity to directly inherit.

The other approach is to distinguish yourself in service to the Crown and be awarded a title (and the estates required to maintain it). The normal approach to doing so is either through the Military or via the Royal Bureaucracy. The other alternative, of course, is to find your fame and fortune as an adventurer – which is why despite being one of the smallest castes, the members of the Aristocratic Caste are equally represented amongst adventurers.

The Noble Hierarchy of the Aristocratic Caste is as follows:

17Emperor (Great Empire)620240 sp
16Emperor (Major Empire)619228 sp
15Emperor (Minor Empire)518216 sp
14Great King517204 sp
13High King516192 sp
12King415180 sp
11Sovereign Prince414168 sp
11Prince413156 sp
10Sovereign Duke413156 sp
10Duke412144 sp
9Marquis / Earl311132 sp
8Count310120 sp
7Viscount39108 sp
6Baron* (Large Barony)2/3*896 sp
6Baron* (Medium Barony)2/3*784 sp
6Baron* (Small Barony)2/3*672 sp
5Baronet / Knight Bannerette*2/3*560 sp
4Lord / Manorial Knight*2/3*448 sp
3Courtier / Household Knight*1/3*336 sp
2Gentleman1224 sp
1Provincial Gentleman / Bastard1112 sp
* In the traditional feudal society the lower ranks of the Aristocratic Caste are usually members of the Military Caste who have been gifted or granted holdings in return for military service. As knights they are considered elite soldiers, and thus default to being 3 HD creatures.

Hit Die: If the noble is not an exceptional character they are treated as being a creature of the listed HD. Note that those nobles who are feudal knights default to being 3HD because they are considered to be elite soldiers (usually using a d10 because of their combat training).

Social Status: Nobles automatically socially outrank the members of all other hierarchies of equivalent Social Status. The increase in Social Status for high level Nobles is die to the fact that the Aristocracy control the social hierarchy and purposefully rig the game in their favour. Not that Social Status is equivalent to Level in Social Situations, so any character with a Social Status above 12 is considered to be exceptional.

Monthly Expenses: This is the minimum monthly expenses required to maintain this status for the individual. It does not cover anything other than the personal monthly expenses of the character (such as maintenance of servants or holdings). For most nobles it is normally provided by the appropriate Noble Asset (for example a Baron requires a Type F Castle). Characters simply wishing to live like a king can expect to spend 180 sp a month (assuming that they are allowed to by sumptuary laws). Incidentally, when expressed in gold pieces (ie as an annual expense), this is also the accepted ransom for an honourably captured noble (although unfriendly or hostile individuals might demand two or three times that; an enemy wouldn't accept the character's ransom). Thus capturing a Count on the battlefield is generally worth a ransom of 120 gp to the lucky soldier.

Note that knights are generally considered members of the Military Caste as well as the Aristocratic Caste, although, depending on the cultural context, they may not hold an explicit position in the Military hierarchy.

The Aristocratic Caste (Part 1)

[ Note: This has been revised to account for the changes in the economic system inspired by attempting to write the subsequent parts of this post. ]

The Aristocratic Caste contains those who are born to rule over the rest of society. In the past they might have been the toughest or smartest thugs around, but as far as most of them are concerned that was in the distant past. They are simply born better than anyone else. It's all about the blood you see. Their ancestors were blessed by the gods to rule, and this mantle is inherited through their descendants. You'll find that life in this caste is all about the family, and your place in it.

Aristocratic Characters

Characters whose Birth Caste is Aristocratic gain the following benefits:

  • They get a bonus to their Charisma roll.
  • They gain an Experise in Heraldry. This is not just technical heraldry (the ability to blazon arms and make announcements in court), but also the ability to recognise to whom the different regalia belongs, their relative political and military strengths, and how closely they are related to to the throne. And more importantly, how closely you are related to the throne. Much of your youth is spent perusing Books of Arms and family trees.
  • They gain an Expertise in Courtesy. This is the official Etiquette skill for members of the Aristocratic Caste and deals with the proper (and even acceptable) behaviour at court, as well as minor factors such as navigating court intrigue and politics, claiming hospitality, fine dining, and even, in some cases, the ability to dance and recite the appropriate classics. Those without this Expertise will find navigating the halls of power much more difficult.
  • They are usually considered somewhat literate, educated, and tend to be reasonable good horsemen (although they are not trained to fight from the saddle). This allows them to perform the typical tasks required of these activities without the need to make a skill check, but they are not considered to have the Expertise when they are required to make a skill check (and thus their base skill check uses a d30 instead of a d20).

Aristocratic PCs are intentionally not in the direct line of descent for a noble title. There would have to be a significant disaster to happen to their family for them to stand a chance to inherit directly. They may be lesser siblings of a noble family, cousins of a noble, or born on the wrong side of the bed. The default status considers them to be Gentlemen [Noble 2], although they may elect to be a Gentleman-Farmer [Noble 1 and Commoner 2] or a Bastard {Noble 1].

Being a noble is generally twice as expensive as being a member of any other caste. Without an appropriate Noble Asset (a Manor, Keep, or Castle) to support them and provide their living expenses, it may be prohibitively expensive. For this reason many members of the Aristocratic caste will often seek a position in either the Military or Religious Castes (join the Army/Navy or Church). They are often aided in this endeavour by the Influence of the Head of their Family.

Alternatively they can formally renounce their family ties and attempt to make their own way in the world as an Adventurer, to rise or fall (mostly fall) on their own merits. Perhaps their actions may encourage a Titled Noble to grant or gift them with an appropriate Noble Asset, forming a new branch of their Family. The large preponderance of aristocrats who follow this path is the reason why adventurers are considered socially acceptable, and not immediately considered brigands or vagabonds.