Recently I have been thinking about integrating NPCs into the aristocracy of my game world. It was always the intention that the PCs would become the major nobles and that the junior aristocracy would be composed of ex-PCs, Entourages and other NPCs. Some of the longer standing PCs are making good progress in the ‘Aristocrat Stakes’ – while others have chosen not to participate in that part of the campaign rules (not every character has a goal of becoming Noble and influential – and that’s cool and as it should be :} )
However, now I need to find a way of bolstering the lower ranks of the Aristocracy. The aristocratic system I use has three parts. A Chivalric Order (lifetime), Aristocratic Titles (hereditary) and Noble Titles all of which are geared towards PC advancement.
The Southern Chapter (The Chivalric Order) act as a gateway to the ‘higher’ titles that allow a character to establish a dynasty that has an ongoing place in the Aristocracy of the game world. It has two classes (Officer and Knight) that are accessible to any character and another (Knight Commander) that is restricted and semi-symbolic. A Knight Commander (technically) leads the troops in wartime and provides leadership in times of peace – but as those are primarily NPC or OOC activities, there aren’t any extra privileges for the character.
Membership is not onerous, with few responsibilities, but it gains some important rights for the character- and so far has been limited to characters who are (or have been) active PC adventurers. All members are required to support the order, support their ‘province’ and enforce the law – pretty basic and what PCs are generally expected to do in a kingdom building game. They are also required to recognize Brevoy as ‘The Kingdom’ and follow the King’s Laws and Dictates – although there is huge tension in Brevoy and the King is not secure enough to enforce his will – He tried, and failed, with the Southern Order taking an ambivalent stance in the threatened Civil War.
The rights are much more important, as they give all members to right to own land, create estates of their own, and to recruit private armies. No character (including the Senior NPCs) has done that without being a member of The Chapter.
The Aristocratic Titles (Laird, Lord-Dominus and Lord) are normally landed titles and generally rely on the character owning land, while progression is measured by the size of the character’s private army (Laird <5, Lord-Dominus <10, Lord <15). Neither of which are possible without being a member of the Southern Chapter. The only ‘Noble’ title open to PCs at the moment is Baron, which is fully land based, and is an extension of the aristocratic titles – which kicks in at Def 15+. The King can ‘gift’ titles to his cronies, of course, but seeing as we aren’t on the best of terms with the king …
During the game, a number of NPCs have become significant. For example, Mother Beatrix run the most widespread religious institution, a church or Pharasma that I have used to assist PCs building strongholds. Beatrix offers graveyards and religious building to (just about) every settlement as they are getting established – which makes it a bit easier for the PC to get their stronghold established. Others, such as the Roths and House Yitis, have appeared at times the economy has needed a boost or the game has needed a plot line. Brother Lutz, chief cleric of Torag, was originally built as a PC, but the player left before he went adventuring. Maril, Yolen and Helga have all travelled with the PCs (although not necessarily on adventures) and have become well known to some of the PCs.
Then there are the player run NPCs – Cohorts, Squires and Entourages. Some of these adventure with the PCs, but others stay at home and run their estates, which means they can be quite significant in the Fuzzy (non-adventuring) threads. These are the guys who run and administer our lands while the PCs are all away slaying monsters and doing ‘interesting’ stuff. Currently, I am aware of two who are negotiating quite serious investment programmes between them, on behalf of their PCs, of course. Another, recently, negotiated an investment deal (on behalf of his PC) with a different province. They play a significant role as it is. We are also getting to a point where some players want to increase their holdings and build up their own ‘court’ of land owning chivalric/aristocratic followers. Something that has been promised for a while.
We already have a partial solution, with Cohorts, Entourage Allies and Entourage Cousins able to join, or contract to, a PC run family. This allows a PC to start building a ‘court’ of significant NPCs as part of their entourage, but it doesn’t help with land use, defence points or titles. There are ways to get around some of those issues, such as Brother Lutz or Robert being ‘nominally’ in charge of defence points – BUT it can be a complex process. And, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t help with estate management.
The rules work well for small estates and holdings, but it is difficult to build a large estate. That is probably easiest to illustrate using Lord Henry’s holdings – his estates are split into two parts that are managed and accounted for separately, and he has people working for him that are specifically configured for the task. However, The Gates (his personal estate) consists of a small town and two villages – he can add one district to his town (or promote a Village to a town) before he runs out of ‘Consumption Bonus’. That doesn’t stop him developing, but it starts to slow him down – now that isn’t a big issue for a wealth NPC, BUT it will be difficult for a PC. Midmarch (Henry holds it via an administrative title) had the same problem, until a change in the way that infrastructure benefits were calculated. Before those changes, it would have been very difficult to run the two ‘estates’ as one.
Now, I need to develop a new, semi-independent, town – with its own economy -and it is becoming more difficult again. If I have those problems and GM, any PC trying to build a large estate will have them as well – but I have the advantage of being able to bend the rules – after the event :]
Enhancing the solution
The key to much of this, is the Southern Order – the gatekeeper to the rest of the structure. In effect membership of the order, in any of the current classes, is almost like Full Citizenship – it gives land and defence rights, but also allows a voice in the most important meetings that decide game-changing decisions – such as how to react to a potential civil war. And I see that, primarily, a ‘right’ given to characters who have taken an active part in securing the province – be they PCs or (the few) NPCs who have been adventuring.
However, I could add a Junior Class to the chapter that gives restricted rights to those characters how take a less active role. I favour Member of the Order (although Companion would also work) that confers limited ‘citizenship’ rights. Maybe the right to ‘own’ a single village, or perhaps a Hamlet, and be award the lowest aristocratic title of Laird and to recruit a limit number of troops (perhaps 2 or 3 defence points worth) – although not enough to advance to Lord-Dominus status (at least not at the moment).
That means that I can give Landowning PCs (with the title of Lord or Lord-Dominus) the right to appoint their own Lairds and start building a court. Later, when the PC gets to Baron status, they might be able to ‘promote’ their NPCs so that they can recruit enough troops (5 def points) to attain the title of Lord-Dominus.
At the same time, it means that the Lairds estates can be run separately (with their own stewardship council) and make it easier to grow an estate. Income from those estates still falls under the purview of the PC, although they MUST take the NPCs’ needs into consideration as they plan their spending.
Some NPCs, House Yitis, The Roths, Mother Beatrix and some entourages, don’t fit that profile, however they have significant roles in game – either financial or religious – and there may be other areas come up later. This is more difficult as it is much more subjective. However, for straight NPCs I find that, at some point, I need to move them to from my overview spreadsheet to the main Business spreadsheet so that I can keep a proper track of them. This is normally when they have four, or so, different buildings spread around the Southern region, so that seems like a suitable cut off point.
The next consideration is at what point do NPCs become significant? Most established NPCs (including commoners) are level 3, a few are level 4 – but there are very few who are level 5 or above. So, perhaps, Level 5 should be the minimum criterion for Membership of the Chapter. It works for my NPCs, and it works for entourages – and it works for the game.
Perhaps, L7 for NPCs to be able to advance beyond the title of Laird?