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). ]