Monday, 6 May 2013

“ My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen” – another look at Nobles

I’ve written about Nobles on several occasions in the past (four times, in fact, according to the label list over there to the right) and, while an evolving thought-experiment on my part, the basics of my take on Nobles in Traveller has remained fairly consistent. My post of Sunday 19 December 2010 formed the basis for a longer article I wrote for Brett’s Into the Deep Fanzine and included a draft of the Benefits Table I never quite got to posting on this blog.

Given recent events in the RimWorlds (where Player Characters have been active), it seems like an opportune time to dust off these ideas and bring them up to date.



Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ led me to envisage a two-tier system of nobility – the Siridar, or Great Nobility, the Houses Major, who rule entire planets, systems and groups of planets; and the Houses Minor, the Petty Nobility, who hold fiefs on planets and make up the planetary banking, industrial, military, political and scientific elites.

Player Characters who roll a high Social Status characteristic, or end up with high Social Status due to the Character creation process, are from a House Minor. Roll for the Character's position within the House.

Roll
Position within Family
1
Incumbent
2
Heir
3
Sibling of Heir
4
Heir of Heir
5
Sibling of Heir of Heir
6
More Distant Member of House

The Social Status of the Character is an indication of the Status of the House Minor and what Rank they hold, and this determines the number of rolls the Character may take on the Benefits Table. A Noble Character rolls both the benefit dice for their current rank, as well as the benefit dice for all ranks below their current rank.

An Heir, or an Heir of an Heir, will have a Courtesy Title - one rank lower than the title possessed by the Incumbent in the case of an Heir, and two ranks lower in the case of an Heir of an Heir. These Courtesy Titles are usually for lesser holdings that the House has acquired over time. For example, the Heir of a Marquis might hold the Courtesy Title of Baron, while the Baron's Heir might hold the title of enfeoffed Knight. "The Honorable" is the Courtesy Title bestowed upon Heirs and Heirs of Heirs who rank below enfeoffed Knight. It is also the Courtesy Title for non-heir siblings. Heirs, and Heirs of Heirs, will roll Benefits for their Courtesy Title. When they attain their intended rank, they are permitted to roll the appropriate benefit dice for that rank as well.

Houses Minor
Social Status
Title
Number of Benefit Dice (d6)
11 (B)
Knight
1
12 (C)
Baron
2
13 (D)
Marquis
3
14 (E)
Count
4

Houses Minor that advance beyond the rank and title of Count have been elevated to House Major Status.

Social Status titles for Houses Major:

Houses Major
Social Status
Title
Number of Benefit Dice (d6)
11 (B – S)
Siridar-Lord
5
12 (C – S)
Siridar-Baron
6
13 (D – S)
Siridar-Marquis
7
14 (E – S)
Siridar-Count
8
House Major titles extend beyond those of Houses Minor as follows:

Social Status
Title
Number of Benefit Dice (d6)
15 (F)
Duke
9
16 (G)
Sector Duke
10
17 (H)
Arch-Duke
11
18 (J)
Emperor
12

House Major ranks have the same titles as House Minor ranks, but with the prefix ‘Siridar’ – ‘Great’. The House Major Social Status characteristic is suffixed with an ‘S’ to indicate that the character is of Siridar status. The one exception is that of Social Status B Knight. The corresponding House Major title is Siridar-Lord and is the lowest rank of the Great Nobility to be assigned governorship responsibilities for an entire planet. Very few Siridar-Lords actually hold such positions and for many Houses Minor, merely obtaining the status of Siridar-Lord is the culmination of decades or centuries of effort. It should be noted that the titles of Duke (usually the short form of either Subsector or Sector Duke) and Archduke are not available to Houses Minor in the Imperial Rank system. Consequently, there is no need to prefix the title with ‘Siridar’ because if one is fortunate enough to encounter an individual of this rank, then one should be assured that one is in the presence of the ruler of a Subsector, a Sector or a Domain and behave accordingly.

The elevation of a House Minor to House Major status can occur in one of several ways: Meritorious Service - a member of the House Minor has performed some service of such value that a House Major will stand sponsor for the House Minor’s elevation before the Conclave of Houses Major; Marriage Alliance – a House Minor successfully marries into a House Major and then inherits the House Major’s title and estates upon the failure of the direct line. Such successions usually set off lengthy court battles as any House Major heirs, of any remove, would seek to block the elevation of parvenu blood in such a fashion; Wealth and Power - a House Minor has accumulated sufficient wealth, prestige and political power to literally buy the patronage of a House Major to stand sponsor for the House Minor’s elevation. Meritorious Service, and Wealth and Power, are the two most common means by which Houses Minor elevate themselves to House Major status.

A Noble House will accumulate benefits. These will tend to accrue to the House over generations, with each incumbent of the title in effect acting as steward for the generations to come. These accumulated benefits are represented as a series of benefit dice rolls. Each title rank rolls the number of dice for its rank, plus the dice for all the ranks below the current rank. For example, a House Minor Marquis rolls three d6 for Marquis, two d6 for a Baron and one d6 for a Knight. It is quite possible to accumulate more than one example of a benefit.

All nobles have the right of patronage. This may be exercised in one of two ways: Firstly, a benefit that has been acquired more than once may be bestowed upon someone else – a player character for example – the recipient can be non-noble, but must be of good character (SOC 8+), and the bequest must be ratified at the Sector Level, at least, on a roll of 7+ on 2d6 (DMs: Admin, Bribery, Carousing, Court Influence). Secondly, a noble may use his or her patronage to sponsor a non-noble into the aristocracy, or a noble from a House Major may sponsor a House Minor to House Major status. A roll of 9+ on 2d6 is required with the following DMs: + Sponsor’s Bribery, Admin, Carousing, Court Influence; + half the recipient’s Bribery, Carousing, Court Influence; - (10 – Recipient’s current Social Status if a non-noble seeking elevation to the nobility) or – (14 – Recipient’s current Social Status if seeking elevation from House Minor to House Major status). If the Patronage roll is failed, then the Sponsor must forfeit one Benefit.

Table of Benefits
Dice Roll
Result
Notes
1-2
Pension
As a standard service pension: roll 1d6 x Cr10,000 and receive this sum per year
3-5
Business Holdings
System-wide stock/bond portfolios yielding 1d6+3 x Cr10,000 in dividends per annum. May be sold at market value.
6-8
Megacorp Portfolio
Megacorp voting stock yielding 2d6 x Cr100,000 in dividends per annum. May be sold at market value.
9-10
Court Influence
Positive DM on Patronage rolls and reaction rolls when dealing with other Nobles, and system and Imperial Bureaucracy. Can be a positive or negative DM when dealing with the media. This benefit immediately bestows one extra 2d6 roll for Benefits.
11-13
Ancestral Lands
Planetary Holdings titled to the Noble House in perpetuity, and includes a suitably appointed dwelling. Roll 3d6 x Cr100,000 for value. Yields 1d6 x 10% in revenue per annum. Requires 1d6 x 10% in maintenance every four years.
14-15
Inheritance
As Ancestral Lands, but also roll 3d6 x Cr100,000 for an additional one-off cash payment.
16-18
Right of Free Passage
Free High Passage transportation on any common carrier within Imperial Space, even to the exclusion of other passengers. This right only extends to the awardee, not to members of his or her entourage. The carrier is compensated from Imperial funds.
19-20
Right to Bear Arms
Right to bear personal side arms, excluding energy weapons, in contravention of local Law Levels.
21
Cash Grant
Imperial largess for services rendered. Roll 2d6 x Cr 100,000 (one-off payment).
22-23
Right of Commission
The awardee receives an Honorary Commission in one of Imperial Services (usually one in which he or she has served) with the right to raise and equip a military/exploration unit “… for the Commonweal of the Imperium …” The awardee meets the expenses of the unit so raised, and is responsible for its actions. In the event of an emergency, the unit is subject to Imperial control and the Imperium underwrites all operational expenses.
24-26
Estates
Accumulated properties that the awardee owns outright. These can be land, a small corporation, or a vertically integrated series of businesses. Has a value of 5d6 x Cr100,000 and yields 1d6 x 10% revenue per annum. Maintenance is 1d6 + 15% per annum.
27-29
Right of Escort
The awardee may raise and maintain an escort of 2d6 bodyguards, armed in contravention of local Law Levels, excluding high-energy weapons. This benefit only covers the awardee’s escort, not the awardee.
30-31
Governorship
Administrator of a planetary system, with duties and responsibilities to be determined by the Referee. Annual stipend is determined by the system starport type: MCr 1 if Class A, KCr 750 if Class B, KCr 500 if Class C, KCr 250 if Class D. Position must be renewed every four years on a roll of 8+ on 2d6, DMs for skills the Referee deems appropriate.
32 - 33
Right to Bear Arms
Right to bear personal side arms, excluding energy weapons, in contravention of local Law Levels.
34-35
Cash Grant
Imperial largess for services rendered. Roll 4d6 x Cr 100,000 (one-off payment).
36
Fiefdom
The awardee is granted a star system to be administered with local autonomy, effectively, through the awardee’s House, creating a Class 3 Government (Self-perpetuating Oligarchy).
37-38
Court Influence
Positive DM on Patronage rolls and reaction rolls when dealing with other Nobles, and system and Imperial Bureaucracy. Can be a positive or negative DM when dealing with the media. This benefit immediately bestows one extra 4d6 roll for Benefits.
39-40
Imperial Senatorial Appointment
The awardee enjoys a special status and a high level of trust within the Imperial Moot. With the Right to directly ‘advise’ both higher ranking nobles and the Emperor, the awardee may review the actions of system governors within his or her home sector
41-42
Viceroyship
Administrator of several (2d6) planetary systems. Rules through Planetary Governors with a stipend set at double that of Planetary Governors and set in the same way. Need not be renewed.
43-45
Right of Lawful Dissent
Under special circumstances, the awardee may personally circumvent local authority ‘in the best interests of the Imperium’. This Right also includes the Right of Automatic Audience with higher ranked nobles to advise them on matters of importance.
46-48
Viceroyship
Administrator of several (2d6) planetary systems (usually within one or adjoining subsectors), or of one subsector. Rules through Planetary Governors with a stipend set at double that of Planetary Governors and set in the same way. Need not be renewed.
49-51
Right of Commission
The awardee receives an Honorary Commission in one of Imperial Services (usually one in which he or she has served) with the right to raise and equip a military/exploration unit “… for the Commonweal of the Imperium …” The awardee meets the expenses of the unit so raised, and is responsible for its actions. In the event of an emergency, the unit is subject to Imperial control and the Imperium underwrites all operational expenses.
52-53
Estates
Accumulated properties that the awardee owns outright. These can be land, a medium sized corporation, or a vertically integrated series of businesses. Has a value of 5d6 x Cr1,000,000 and yields 1d6 x 10% revenue per annum. Maintenance is 1d6 + 15% per annum.
54-57
Sector Leadership
Administrator of 2d6 Viceroyships or adjacent subsectors, or the dominant noble in a Sector. Rules through Viceroys with a stipend set at triple that of Planetary Governors and set in the same way. Need not be renewed. Has oversight of the military forces of the Sector.
58-60
Right of Licence
Certain industrial practises or operations, or transactions of a certain type, can only be legally carried out within a designated area with the appropriate licence. Licences will be granted by the appropriate office upon payment of the appropriate fee. The Right of Licence generates a stipend for the holder of 1d6 x Cr1,000 x the population number of each planet within the licence area per annum
61-63
Nobility Creation
The awardee may personally confer Noble status upon any individual, without ratification by the Moot. No benefits are conferred as these are only dispensed via Patronage, the Emperor or the Moot.
64-66
Domain Leadership
Administrator of 2d6 Viceroyships or adjacent subsectors, or the dominant noble in a Sector. Rules through Sector Dukes with a stipend set at quadruple that of Planetary Governors and set in the same way. Need not be renewed.
67-68
Right of Decree
The Right to personally pass or amend Imperial decrees ‘on behalf of the Emperor’. Only a higher ranking noble may overturn such decrees.
69-70
Right of Pardon
Right to grant full and complete Pardon for any and all crimes committed. High Justice crimes, such as treason, mass murder, illegal possession and/or use of nuclear or biological weapons, requires a pardon confirmed by both the Emperor and the Moot.
71-72
Right of Taxation
May personally control Imperial revenue sources via Tax Rates and exemptions.

Examples:
Saidhutes hault-Kirzhon, Baron of Sahartes, is the incumbent Baron of one of the 19 separate nations on the balkanised planet of Feor/Gamelea. For benefits, Saidhutes hault-Kirzhon rolls two d6 for his rank as Baron, and a further d6 for the rank of Knight (the only noble rank lower than Baron). Saidhutes rolls "(4) Business Holdings - producing Cr60,000 in dividends per annum" and "(8) Megacorp Portfolio - voting stock yielding Cr700,000 per annum".

House Mahuran have been Siridar-Counts of Bromus/Miazan for two hundred years. Siridar-Count Sakkan III also holds the title of President for Life and is actively involved in the day to day running of the government of Bromus. Siridar-Count Sakkan rolls 8d6 for his benefit roll as a Siridar-Count, and then for each of the seven ranks of House Major and House Minor below him for a total of eight rolls. Sakkan rolls "(1d6=1) Pension - Cr50,000 per annum", "(2d6=5) Business Holdings - Cr50,000 per annum in dividends", "(3d6=10) Court Influence, "(4d6=16) Right of Free Passage", "(5d6=20) Right to Bear Arms", "(6d6=23) Right of Commission", "(7d6=31) Governorship of a Planetary System (Bromus) with a C Class Starport - stipend of Cr500,000 per annum", and "(8d6=25) Estates - valued at MCr1.2, yielding Cr480,000 per annum and costing Cr192,000 per year in maintenance.

Sources:
The Imperial Nobility by Ian MacKinder
based on the articles ‘Sceptre and Starship’ and ‘Robe and Blaster’ by Ahnre and Stuart
The article ‘Robe and Blaster’ by Rick D. Stuart - White Dwarf 22.
GURPs: TravellerNobles by Loren Wiseman and Joe F. Zeigler – Steve Jackson Games
Traveller Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium by Games Designer’s Workshop