Monday, August 7, 2017

The Titles of the Alliance Nobility

What does it mean to be "Noble?"  This week, I cover the four legacies of the aristocracy, and today I start with the titles of the nobility.

A question that I'm sure will come up: What is "ascribed status?"  GURPS has two forms of status: imputed and ascribed.  Imputed is status that arises naturally from your wealth (Wealth and Status, B26) and your rank (B29); being the wealthy CEO of major corporation gives you a lot of social pull.  In Psi-Wars, you may not purchase additional Status unless you have a title, which provides Ascribed status, that is, status that people assign you because of your rank.  Thus, one can be poor and belong to no organization, but have Status because of his title.  You must purchase this status independently, using the rules below.

The Titles of Alliance Nobility

The Nobility of Psi-Wars have the Title perk, and generally have the Aristocratic background. All titles once had a distinct legal meaning and formalized one of the many feudal relationships of the old Empire. Today, what matters is that one has a title, as circumstances have changed so completely that the original purpose of the title has largely lost its meaning in most cases. Instead, the aristocracy seeks to emphasize their primacy in all matters, and the distinctions between aristocrats mean little outside of the tete-a-tete in refined dining halls.

The Title perk can grant one title below, provided the player has also purchased the appropriate level of ascribed status (that is, status independent of the free status gained from Wealth or Rank, which you must purchase independently). Traditionally, the old Empire and Federation recognized, and the modern Alliance recognizes, the following titles:

Status +1: Knights and Gentry

At the lowest rung are those who have sworn their service to the the peerage of the galaxy. Knights traditionally lent their military skill to their nobility, and Gentry lent their administrative skills to the nobility and, in return, gained access to planetary holdings and specific legal privileges. These titles were never hereditary, but tradition has arisen around a noble accepting the heir to his servant as his new servant; thus while being the son of a knight does not guarantee knighthood, generally the lord will ceremoniously accept the son of a knight as his new knight once his father has passed or retired. Male knights and gentry (gentlemen) are addressed as “sir” and female knights and gentry (ladies) are addressed as “lady,” though some female knights prefer “sir.”

Status +2: Baron and Viscount

At ascribed Status 2+, noble titles become hereditary, and we enter the ranks of the “true” nobility of the Galaxy. Barons and Viscounts traditionally govern a single planet or a system, given to them directly by the Emperor or, more commonly, but another lord. Barons traditionally gained their holdings as a reward for military service and might have been expected to continue to offer military service, while Viscounts were offered holdings explicitly to govern them well. Thus, barons have a reputation for being brutish or martially inclined, while Viscounts have a reputation for being effete. Given their traditionally lowly status, they both have reputation for boundless ambition. Traditionally, male barons and viscounts are addressed as “Lord”, while female baronesses and viscountesses (or viscontessas) are addressed as Lady.

Status +3: Marquis and Count

A Marquis and a Count traditionally rule over either a system of major importance, or over a small region of systems. A Marquis rules over a region of space on the border of the empire (“On the marches,”) and is expected to excel at military conflict. Given the remoteness of such holdings, few marquises remain in the galaxy after the rise of the new Empire. A Count ruled over a system deeper in the heart of the Empire, and thus is traditionally more politically or administrative savvy (and, like the Viscount, effete) Traditionally, male marquis and counts are addressed as “Lord”, while female marchionesses (or marchessas) and countesses (or contessas) are addressed as “Lady.”

Status +4: Duke

At the pinnacle of noble rank lies the Duke, who always received his holdings directly from the Alexian throne, which is a minimum of an important section of space and may rise to an entire arm of the galaxy (but at such grand measures, we refer to a duke as an “Archduke”. A duke calls no one his lord but his Emperor. Traditionally, a male or female duke (duchess) is addressed as “Your highness.”

Other Titles

In addition to the standard titles above, the aristocracy collects additional titles that may or may not have any real bearing on their prestige. These are a Courtesy Title [1], and may have a minimum ascribed status associated with them, but feel free to ignore these. In the modern world, many nobles collect meaningless titles. Treat them as a full +1 status for only certain, specific tasks. Otherwise, in any contest where status matters, break a tie between two characters with equal ascribed status with a +1 for the character with the most Courtesy Titles.

Blade Master

Prerequisite: Ascribed Status +1 from a Martial title

A blade master oversees the instruction of force swordsmanship for a house or a recognized school, which is associated with his title (“Tyro Elegans, Blade master of the Swift Form.”). Traditionally, such characters have been the finest force swordsmen and must either accept any duel demanded of him, or to allow his students to stand in his stead.


Prerequisite: Ascribed Status +1 from a Martial Title, Military Rank 3

An Ensign has the right, and obligation, to bear his master’s banner and colors into battle. This results in a higher profile, which means he’s more likely to gain glory, if he survives combat.

Guardian of the Mysteries

Prerequisite: Ascribed Status +1

A title granted by the Oracular Order for defense of the Golden Path or the Oracular Order itself. Typically, it comes with associated respect from the Order (treat at Claim to Hospitality with the Order). The Oracular Order has fallen to the point where it makes little impact on the daily lives of nobility, but those whose ancestors have been granted this title in the past may cling to it, as a way of declaring their allegiance for the old ways.

Imperial Knight (or Knight Protector)

Prerequisite: Ascribed Status +1 from a Martial Title

Those knights who served the old Maradonian Emperor directly, in his retinue, were called Imperial Knights. Certain families became traditionally associated with protecting the Emperor himself, and clung to the title even in this new era, though given the new meaning to “Imperial,” many have chosen to calling themselves “Knight Protector.” This title is also given to those knights who have been chosen to protect the new Concord itself, and who attend the Senate as defenders (or the commander of defenders)


Prerequisite: Ascribed Status: +3

Technically, a “Lord” is any character with vassals who are, themselves, ascribed Status 2+. Most characters who bear the title “Lord” are the Lord of something. The tend to the highest rank member of a noble house, or a Maradonian noble that rules over an alien race or a human civilization that has its own traditional rulers that have Status (for example, if the Iko Trader Arks traditionally swear loyalty to a particular noble, he might be “the Lord of the Iko.”)

Master (Mistress) of Ceremonies

Prerequisite: Ascribed Status: +1 from a gentle title.

While serving a greater lord, the Master of Ceremonies has a central role in all the rites and rituals associated with holding court. He enters the court first, before his liege, and he announces the arrival of others who wish to attend the lord. Those in the court follow the lead of the Master of Ceremonies, who guides them through any specific rituals that they might not already be familiar with. In less ceremonial courts (which describes most aristocratic courts in the modern Galaxy), the Master of Ceremony is often a young woman, allowed to dream up interesting events to entertain bored courtiers.

Prince or Princess

Prerequisite: A parent with Ascribed Status +2 or better.

Technically, a prince or a princess is the heir or child to a reigning monarch, but the Maradonian nobility apply this term to the children of any Lord of a house, or to the children of non-Maradonian elites that rule over a planet or an alien race; this has an arbitrary, traditional component to it; for example, there exists Shinjurai princesses, but not Westerly princesses. Finally, any family recognized by the rest to have Alexian ancestry may call the sons and daughters of their highest ranking nobles Prince or Princess. If the character does not already have Ascribed Status, this title grants them Ascribed Status +2.

The Privilege of Status

The nobility once enjoyed special legal privilege that extended across (most of) the galaxy. Today, the domain of their privilege has shrunk to the rump state of the old Federation, the Alliance. This privilege manifests as Legal Immunity (Aristocratic) [10], and represents preferential treatment before the law. Because that legal immunity only extends to throughout the space ruled by the Alliance, which is a fraction of the size of the Empire, it is worth 1/5th of its normal cost, (see parallel social traits, GURPS Social Engineering page 11). The skill covering what a noble may and may not do is Law (Aristocratic) for its particulars, though Savoir-Faire (High Society) is sufficient for generalities. When a conflict arises between two nobles with the duties below (for example, a knight is called into service by both his direct liege and his nation), roll a quick contest of Savoir-Faire (High Society) or Law (Aristocratic), with each competitor adding his Ascribed status directly to the roll. The winner has the superior claim.

These laws of a moral as well as legal component. Those who follow them to the word, but violate them in spirit, will tend to face the disdain of all other nobles. Many nobles behave as though these laws remain in place all across the galaxy and express disgust in places where they have been violated, and voice support where they remain supported (for example, a noble might express admiration of an Imperial officer who turns out to have aristocratic blood)

Legal Rights and Duties of Aristocracy

Right and Duty of Recognition: A noble has the right to all of his hereditary titles, including his unique heraldry. No other noble may use them. In return, the noble must recognize the noble claims of all other legitimate nobles, and denounce any attempt to co-opt a legitimate title or heraldric imagery from another noble.

Right and Duty of Dominion: A noble has the right to total dominion over his holdings, exemption from the sorts of taxes associated with the common person, and the right to sit on the (old) Imperial Senate, which translates to the right to sit in the Concord. In return, he must acknowledge the petition of all vassals directly beneath him, and acknowledge the laws and commands of his liege. If nobles have dominion over a planet, then only nobles may have Political rank 5+ (Any noble appointed to a political position can expect to begin at at least rank 3; this right is usually waived if a noble has at least has Courtesy Political Rank 5+, in which case commoners at rank 5+ have duties to “advise” the noble). This right to the Senate/Concord and high political rank is only guaranteed to those with Ascribed Status 2+ (Barons/Viscounts and better).

Right and Duty of War: The noble has the right to bear the marks of war: he may wear diamondoid armor (many wear a signet ring or other forms of jewelry made of diamondoid), carry a force sword, and only nobles may serve as Military Rank 5+ (nobles can expect to begin service at no lower rank than 3; This law is usually waived in the case of planetary militia where no noble has claim to the planet). In return, he must always answer a call to arms from his direct liege, or the lord of his nation. This right and duty is more commonly associated with knights, barons and marquises (“Martial titles”).

Right and Duty of Grace: A noble has the right to wear Stylish or Fashion Original garments (generally, characters Ascribed Status +1 can get away without Stylish outfits, but wearing less than a stylish outfit is a faux pas for characters with Ascribed Status 2+; only Status 2+ may wear Fashion Original in court), and only nobles may serve as Administrative Rank 5+ (nobles can expect to begin service at no lower than rank 3). In return, a noble must not engage in any “unseemly” work, meaning that he cannot work for his money outside of service to his liege or the direct administration of his holdings. This right and duty is more commonly associated with gentry, viscounts and counts (“Gentle titles”).

Right and Duty of Satisfaction: A noble whose honor has been (genuinely!) affronted has the right to demand satisfaction with a duel (which is to be fought with some form of melee weapon or specifically designed dueling blasters). This duel may be to the death or to first blood, but a duelist must always accept his foes submission if it is offered. If a noble turns down a duel, it signifies that he accepts the challenger’s claim. In return, all other nobles must accept the outcome of the duel.

Right and Duty of Legacy: A noble has the obligation to carry on his line. He must attempt to have an heir (male or female are both acceptable), but he must not marry outside of the aristocracy (only nobles may marry other nobles). Technically, the Oracular Order must approve of the marriage, having checked their genetic registers, but with the fall of the Oracular Order, few follow this stricture anymore. They instead satisfy themselves with squabbling over romantic matches with characters with the highest Blood Purity.

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