Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ranks and Titles

I was asked by one of you folks to explain how ranks, titles and forms of address were used in my game, which I’ll interpret as Fletnern more than Legend Quest. I knew I had some stuff on this, but I don’t think I can completely answer his question. His point was - different cultures do it differently, and how do I explain that in the game.

Let me start with some of the ones that I know. The city-state of Purity controls the Tandish Lowlands right up and even into the Mountains of Purity. Over centuries of intermarriages and a few skirmishes, those remaining in power agreed to a stable state of affairs. Now there are three Dukes (or Duchesses) that control the region. Each is reasonably autonomous in their own duchy, but they need to come to agreement to make decisions about the city as a whole. Their culture is such that they tend to always agree. Beneath the Dukes are the Counts who control counties. Makes sense, right? Next in line are the Barons over baronies, and then the Baronets over baronettes. A Tandish (Purity) county is typically about the size of a Velesan barony, which sometimes causes amusing difficulties in the two understanding each other. Nobles of authority (land controllers) are most typically referred to as “Your Grace”. Nobles of no authority are typically referred to as Lord or Lady. Therefore, Tandish barons are Lord or Lady, while Velesan barons are Your Grace. Only kings and queens are referred to as Your Highness, but there are relatively few of those around anymore. Other nobles tend to get upset when their bosses demand to be known as king; it leads to rebellions. Baronets are typically appointed, as are many Mayors or Burgomeisters. These lower titles (and they are jobs, not noble titles) are normally referred to by the job: Mayor Jones or Burgomeister Haffen. Knights - those who are knighted as a reward for some service (or perceived service) are “Sir”, so John Smith becomes a knight and he becomes John Sir Smith, at least officially. None of the jobs or knighthoods survive the person - You do not get to be a knight simply because your father was one.

Amongst the orc tribes, chiefs are addressed as “Chief My Chief” when they are chief of a smaller sub-tribe of the major tribe. The chief over all of one tribe is known the Chieftain. (The confusion here is that the Vile Ones is a major tribe with a Chieftain. But it has various smaller family units that make it up, and each of these is referred to as a tribe as well, thus the family unit sized tribe is Chief My Chief.) The orc known as Emperor Baratock amongst the humans is called Ocala by his inner retinue. It doesn’t really translate well, but would probably be something along the lines of Most Blessed One - not a divinity, just smiled on by a lot of gods.

The problem in getting too detailed here is that of “white space”. White spaces are those areas on your world map that you haven’t really designed yet because nobody has wanted to go there. If you plan out the different noble titles, then you start figuring out how much land they control. When you know how much land they control, you start thinking about how many there are and where they all are. Eventually (at least if you are like me) you find yourself hip deep in a project to name nearly every nobleman in your world. Those never work out. Fatigue on the project will cause you to either leave it behind (unfinished, but still so detailed that you’ll lose hours trying to figure something out a year later) or rush it and you wind up with square baronies ruled by guys named Bob.

I’m not saying don’t go there - You should! but remember to pull back before you sucked into the quicksands. As you may know from Fletnern, I’ve used major Earth or fantasy cultures to represent most of my human cultures, so when I need titles, I can rely on online encyclopedias. When you’re using Earth - make sure it works in your fantasy environment. Is a battle mage automatically an officer in the army? Can he reach knighthood? These are often better questions than what’s his rank called. (Not trying to offend there! The guy who asked me about this probably already has that piece figured out.)

Later - Titles and positions for clergy. This was already too long.

1 comment:

  1. I'm working to update this blog entry and a lot of the others here to link to our World of Fletnern wiki. Hopefully this will make the wiki more easily accessible and useful. It also reminds me of what needs to be updated/added!