November 24th, 2009

Voodoo Dolly
  • tashiro

Nobility in RPGs

In an idle discussion with a friend about L5R and Japanese noble titles (long story short -- they don't use them in L5R), and was reminded of when I first made a noble in 7th Sea.  In 7th Sea, you can buy an Advantage which makes you a member of the nobility, along with a bunch of benefits for being noble -- but there's nothing in the game system to tell you what rank of nobility you are, or what it means.

The more I think about it, the more I remember that nobility is rarely touched upon or fleshed out in any fantasy setting.  Way back in D&D 1E, there was a section on giving your character a noble title, and they had a list of titles -- but never explained what these titles meant, or the obligations connected to them.  When I was playing the game, I had no idea what a noble title was or what it meant.  I saw 'The Grand Duchy' and I saw 'The Black Eagle Barony', but these names didn't mean anything.  My character became a king, but that meant little to me besides 'oh cool, I can tell people what to do... I think'.

I've often thought about this -- why don't RPGs actually flesh out these parts of the game -- especially if such a thing is important?  There's a lot to be said for laying out and showing how the chain of command works in any given fantasy setting.  If I knew now what I knew back then, I'd know that the Grand Duchy is a dukedom, which gives them a lot more political rank than the Barony next door.  In fact, I would probably accept that the baron is a servant of the duke.  Instead, I thought, 'oh, so the Black Eagle Barony is the Bad Guys, and they are a power equal to the Duchy'.  Mind you, I didn't know what a 'duchy' was, either.

It would be nice, is all.  :)
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