Royal & Noble Titles

Today, I have been thinking about Royal and Noble Titles.  This is something that I have done previously, but have never really been convinced by what I came up with.  Now, thanks to all the extra time that Covid, combined with semi-retirement, has given me – I thought I would have another go.  Previously, I have looked generally at the titles and ranks, but this time I chose to use the Holy Roman Empire as my guide.

In the longer term, I think that I might need a hybrid monarchic system, that will add some flavour to my Stolen Lands game, but I also need a system that works with my campaign rules.  My Influence Rules have become incredibly complicated and there isn’t really a structure to use them in, my lower level, Aristocratic Titles work well enough, and I can get a basic definition of Baron – the title that links the top of the Aristocrats and bottom of the Noble tiers of titles.  But beyond that, it gets all woolly, and I am making stuff up for NPCs, and I would like to make get something a bit more consistent for when my PCs get to those levels – however, that won’t be for some time yet.

So far I have Laird, Lord-Dominus and Lord that work well as Aristocratic titles, while Baron works as the link between the Aristocracy and the Nobility.  These are supplemented by Governor and Viscount (both administrative titles in my game) that can be used to grant authority within a province.  While Baron is technically a Noble title, a baron is never an independent ruler with the right to impose their own laws and culture and (technically) they have to obey their overlord. I have been using Duke and Count in much the same way, but then I run into issues with palatine counties and duchies that have some elements of rulership – which starts to get complicated.  So, for this exercise, I am going to say that Counts are more powerful versions of barons (Great Barons, if you will) and have an overlord, while Dukes always rule palatine, or independent states.

This gives me Counts and Barons as hereditary nobles, and Governors as temporary or lifetime nobles.  Viscount becomes a temporary or lifetime promotion for a Baron, making them more influential.  That fixes my middle tier of titles, and leaves a way for PCs to progress through the system.

Now comes the difficult bit of Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Princes, Electors, Landgraves, Margraves, Emirs, Maliks, Chieftains and many other titles for absolute or limited rulers.  Throw in the concept of Prince-Bishops, Patriarchs, Merchant-Princes and Free-Cities and it becomes really complicated!  Because it is a game system, and is supposed to reward PCs for becoming more powerful and influential, I want to include a number of different routes in to the upper echelons of power and influence, even if they don’t traditionally fit there.

For the time being, I am going to exclude Kings and Emperors as (for me) their roles are relatively clear. An Emperor (or Empress) rules an empire of states that were once independent and have (normally) been conquered.  Kings (or Queens) rule independent realms, unless they are conquered by an Emperor.  The others all have a limited forms of authority or independence, but for the sake of simplicity, I am going to use two ranks – Dukes and Fursten.


Duke, in real life is a complicated title.  There are Palatine Dukes and Royal Dukes, Arch-Dukes, Grand Dukes, Honorary Dukes and a whole bunch of other titles that are translated as into English as Duke. So I am going to mash them all together for a nice straightforward definition.

A Duke is a hereditary noble who controls a fairly large area of land, and has a lot of autonomy in the way they rule.  In my game this represents the leaders of the Great Houses of Brevoy.  This, almost certainly, is not a realistic goal for any of my PCs.  I guess that the only ‘promotion’ to this level will be Jamandi Aldori, who currently holds the title of Countess.  I might well be wrong, but Duke is one of those pinnacle goals that will only be met, very occasionally.

Just as importantly, I am going to tie the title to the land.  Lose the title and you lose your rank of Duke.  You probably retain the title of Lord – But that is a big step down the Hierarchy.


Fursten is much more interesting, it just means First, but as a title it is generally translated as Prince, in the sense of a Ruler of some sort.  While not all of these turtles would normally fit into this category, it means I can make it include:  Princes, Prince Bishops, Merchant Princes, Lord Mayors and Chieftains.

Prince-Fursten – generally referred to as Prince …  While, technically, all Fursten have the same standing, Princes always have precedence in formal gatherings.  A Prince is ruler of a territory that includes at least one city or at least ten developed (not Wilderness) hexes.  You don’t get an automatic promotion if you exceed those minimums – however, you might gain seniority among the other Prince-Fursten.

Prince-Spiritual – Prince-Spirituals always walk immediately behind the Prince-Fursten, while  the rest of the Fursten walks as an amalgamated group behind them.  This is a generic title, and the actual title might be Archbishop, Great Druid, Primate or something similar.   In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince-Bishops ruled large estates, much like Abbots in the UK – for the game rules, this needs to be modified to having a strong presence across the region, rather than concentrated in one city. 

To account for the different types of faith in the game world this is defined in terms of BP (Build Point) costs of Religious Buildings.  An Arch-Bishop will have a cathedral, however a Great Druid might control a series of Holy Groves and  other small religious organisations, while  a Primate might control an abbey and a number of other monastic buildings.  Just as importantly, their control should spread over more than one noble estate.  (Duchy, Principality, County, Province or Free City) to represent the breadth of their influence.

Let’s say (provisionally) an investment of 60 BP (Religious Buildings), with developments in at least three noble holdings.   That should be achievable in less than 10 years, from the current position, for the Churches of Abadar and Pharasma that are currently operating out of Tusk.

Merchant-Prince – originally just a description, I intend to incorporate this into the hierarchical structure.  The ‘threshold’ needs to be the comparable with that of Prince-Bishop. Let’s say (provisionally) an investment of 60 BP (on Merchant Developments), spread over three noble holdings, which incorporates at least one Greater Trade Route.  Note:  A greater Trade Route requires two city bases.

Again, that should be easily achievable inside 10 years from the current position of both V&A shipping and DELEM trading.  Other Merchant Houses might take longer, but they aren’t a primary focus for PCs.

Lord Mayor – The Leader of a Free City, currently this would be the Lord Mayors of Tusk and Restov.  This is fairly well defined already – the rules for settlement size defines a city –  the Free bit is a political decision –  which may have to be negotiated.

Chieftain – The leader of a ‘People’ who are dispersed over a wide area.  This could be quite difficult to define in game, and is unlikely to be a PC goal.  Having said that, I once ran a character who was head of his family clan *shrug*.  The most likely example I can think of, in my Stolen Lands game, is a charismatic and powerful Dwarf pulling the Dwarven Diaspora together, under one political leader.

Again, let’s say 60bp of investment, in any area, whose owners/controllers pledge allegiance to the racial/family cause.

While that isn’t perfect, and the values might change, I think that gives me a system that allows PCs from any class to work out a way into the Senior Nobility. Prince-Fursten and Merchant Prince can be achieved by any class, and realistically any divine caster can achieve Prince-Spiritual status. It will take careful investment, and dedication – BUT it is within the grasp of any call.

Posted in House Rules, World Building.

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