Aristocrat

Despite the rise of the meritocratic Valorian empire and its official dissolution of the galactic aristocracy, traditions do not die easily. The galaxy brims with noble bloodlines that date back centuries or millennia, that rule over entire planets and vast industrial complexes. Even minor aristocrats with nothing to their name but a bit of money and a fancy title command a surprising amount of respect in galactic high society. Whether they rule a world or not, aristocrats have a golden ticket to the finest parties and the grand stage of galactic politics, though in recent years, they've been joined at the table by powerful Imperial ministers or the owners of galaxy-spanning corporations and their immediate family.

Aristocracy exist within a context within the galaxy. A duke, knight or princess does not exist in a vacuum, but is a duke of a world, a knight in the service of another lord or an ideal, and a princess to a particular bloodline. They control specific, named worlds and their bloodlines tie into the history of the Galaxy. As such, more than any other background, they require additional thought, detail and backstory. In a few, specific instances, you can find that detail built into the setting, and those specific examples are detailed below. If you seek to build a “generic” noble, you’ll need to build that context on your own.

Aristocrats are sufficiently complex to be worth breaking down into sub-lenses, each unique and independent from the others. This page details the Generic Aristocrat; these are suitable for Lithian Potentates of the Umbral Rim, Sathran slave-lords or minor Westerly tribal nobility. For alternate, more specific lenses, choose from below:

Aristocratic Lenses

These represent alternatives to the Generic Aristocrat background lens below.

How many points?!

By default, background lenses represent a minor aspect of your character compared to the actual template (ie, a Wanderer Commando and an Outcast Commando are both, ultimately, commandos and their background amounts to a small difference in less important skills, contacts and a trait or two). Characters with aristocratic backgrounds tend to be more thoroughly dominated by their aristocratic nature than by their occupational template. That one is a Sabine Princess might be far more character-defining than that one is a Commando.

As such, the Aristocratic background lens can really benefit from additional points. By default, the 20 background points offered by most templates provides a sufficient budget for a title, some additional wealth and some additional status, and a handful of skills, making one a minor and not particularly noteworthy noble. If one wishes to invest more deeply into their nobility (purchasing additional wealth, higher levels of status, eugenic packages, ranks in subsidiary organizations, etc), consider spending your discretionary template points on your Aristocratic background or see if your GM is willing to grant characters an additional budget for things such as power-ups.

Generic Aristocrat

20 points

The galactic aristocracy exist in a highly specific context. They rule over famous worlds and command important fleets. But the galaxy is far too large to name and note ever obscure lineage, or to detail the royalty of less well-known alien races. You are a member of one of these lesser known noble houses. You have a title. You either descend from noble blood, or you have been lifted up to the position of noble as a reward for your heroic deeds.

Examples of such aristocrats include tribal nobility, found on backwater worlds with tribal Westerly populations or primitive aliens; alien nobles such as Asrathi nobles or Sathran lords with unique lineages or legal privileges; Lithian potentates who have attached titles to their names, minor nobility of edge worlds like the Pelian aristocracy, or the strange, exotic masters of isolated worlds in the Galactic fringe.

Advantages: Title [1] and Status +1 [5], Wealth (Comfortable) [10]

Skills: Savoir-Faire (High Society) (E) IQ+1 [2]

Additional Skills: Spend an additional 2 points (and any discretionary points from your template) on Carousing (E) HT [2], Area Knowledge (Ruled Planet or Constellation), Current Affairs (High Culture, Politics) or Games (Any) all (E) IQ+1 [2], Artist (Any), Connoisseur (Any), Gambling, Heraldry, Leadership, Politics or Public Speaking all (A) IQ [2], History, Law, Literature both (H) IQ-1 [2], or Dancing (A) DX [2], or improve Savoir-Faire to IQ+1 [2] for +1 point, or improve any lens skill by one level for 2 points; or improve any lens skill by two levels for 6 points. Characters from a society with a dueling tradition typically learn the weapon skill associated with dueling and Games (Dueling).

Social Traits: You may also spend any left over points, or your template advantage points on Accent [1], Alcohol Tolerance [1], Ally (Robot or Servant) [varies], Base (Private estate, hunting lodge, etc) [1], Contact (Wealthy friend, fellow noble, politician, skill 12, 15 or 8, 9 or less, somewhat reliable) [1, 2 or 3], Contact Group (Politicians or Nobles) (Skill 12, 15 or 18, 9 or less) [5, 10, 15), Courtesy Rank (Any; usually Academic, Military or Political) [1/level], Cultural Familiarity (those of your ruled subjects or, if you have a unique cultural familiarity, Galactic Humanity) [1], Fashion Sense [5], Favor (Any) [varies], Haughty Sneer [1], High Heeled Heroine [1], Honest Face [1], Language (that of the ruled locals, or a unique “high society” language) [varies], Legal Immunity (Local society only, -80%) [1-3], No Hangover [1], Patron (High powered noble) [varies], Permit [1], Reputation (Hero, good ruler, etc) [5/level], Sartorial Integrity [1], Signature Gear (Something typical of nobility) [varies], improve Status up to +4 [5/level] or gain additional Wealth [varies].

Optional Disadvantages: Add the following disadvantage options to your template: Alcholism [-15], Bully [-10*], Callous [-5], Code of Honor (Any) [varies], Debt [Varies], Delusion ("Blood will tell") [-5], Duty (to a more powerful noble or to your house) [varies], Enemy (Rival noble, rival house, the Empire) [varies], Greed [-15*], Intolerance (Non-Aristocrats) [-10], Jealousy [-10], Lecherousness [-15*], Overconfidence [-5*], Reputation (Scandalous, tyrant, oppressor, etc) [-5/level], Secret (Scandal) [-5 or -10], Selfish [-5*], Sense of Duty (your noble house/lineage or your subjects) [-5 or -10], Unfit or Very Unfit [-5 or -10].

The Bastard Aristocrat and the Exile

Many characters would be aristocratic if their parents recognized their legitimacy, or they committed a crime too grave for the ruling class and were cast out by them.
In the case of a bastard, the character has no title, status or wealth, and is best represented with some other background. The character may have Contacts in the aristocracy, area knowledge associated with their aristocratic parent’s homeworld or region of space, and some of the other Aristocratic background skills and traits, representing skills and traits that rubbed off due to close proximity, but they enjoy none of the actual prestige.

Secret heirs may not know that they’re actually aristocratic. Treat this as a Secret advantage (p. B33). Such characters often have Destiny as well!

Exiled characters generally retain their aristocratic skills and often many of their contacts and social traits, but they lose their Title and ascribed Status, and often lose their Wealth as well. Finally, they gain the Disowned disadvantage; typically, the value is divided by 5: most of the galaxy doesn’t care that you were once an aristocrat and are no more. Indeed, former aristocrats fill Imperial prisons! But your homeworld and the aristocracy associated with it care! Take the -5 (or -1) version if you’ve been merely snubbed and pushed to the edges of your aristocratic society, and the full -10 (-or -2) if you’ve been completely cast out of the aristocracy and stripped of your title.

Titles within the domain of the Valorian Empire only continue at the Emperor's mercy. If the Empire outlaws your title and seizes your property, choose one of the following scenarios.

  • Exiled Noble: if you quietly accept the stripping of your titles, treat it as being Exiled above. Your former holdings might treat you with disdain, and you've lost your Title, Status and (likely, but not necessarily" your Wealth.
  • Renegade Noble: If you didn't quietly accept the stripping of your titles, you can retain them (the Empire may not acknowledge them, but your people still do, as do other aristocrats), but you've usually lose your Wealth. If the Empire actively hunts you, take Enemy (Empire) [-30*]; if they catch you, expect public humiliation and imprisonment at best, and execution at worst.
  • Secret Noble: If you went into hiding rather than accept your titles being stripped, take Secret (Illegal Noble) [-30]. You can still use your Status and your Title, but doing so risks exposing your secret; the most likely result of your secret being fully exposed is Enemy (Empire) [-30*].

Customizing the Generic Aristocrat

The Generic Aristocrat works well with any template, but tend to favor Core Templates with access to a great deal of organizational power. The Diplomat and the Officer probably represent the rawest examples of stereotypical examples of aristocrats. The Diplomat represents the typical politically-motivated aristocrat who seeks to forge alliances, while the Officer represents the more martially-focused aristocrat who commands armies and seeks to conquer, or to defend his domain. The Space Knight and the Mystic draw on the more legendary tropes of aristocracy as the defender of people or the wielder of powers that heal the land. More practically, the wealth afforded to aristocrats tend to make them excellent Fighter Aces, as they can own their own fighters. When pushing at the edges of the law, many aristocrats make fine smugglers, and those who find themselves stripped of their fortunes can use their their breeding and razor-sharp etiquette as Con Artists.

Aristocrats use their wealth and status to empower the rest of their template. Consider purchasing additional levels of Wealth and Status if you can afford it. The context of your status matters, so much so that the Aristocrat background breaks out into several lenses which act as worked examples. Consider why the Galaxy affords you the status it does. What heroism did your ancestors perform to vaunt their entire bloodline so? What domain do they rule, and how do their people feel about them? Are you famous? A celebrity? Does everyone in the galaxy recognize your bloodline? How does the Empire feel about your nobility and why do they tolerate it (if they do)? This often requires additional context.

As part of this, consider what organizations exist to support your noble lineage, typically a House or a Corporation. What makes it distinct, and what favors and benefits members of your form of aristocracy can expect from your organization when using Status as Pulling Rank (see "Don't you know who I am?")

Constructing Aristocratic Context

As with all aristocrats, the context of the generic aristocrat matters a great deal. To this end, consider the detail’s of the character’s title, their domain, their bloodline and history, and their role in society. You’ll need to design your context together with your GM.

Degrees of Status

The Galaxy universally recognizes all but the most obscure titles. A Maradonian house will honor a Ranathim princess the same as they would a Duchess from house Sabine. Thus, status benefits everyone equally.

When choosing the Aristocrat background, you must decide how much Status your character has. For most characters, status is imputed from ones Rank and Wealth: an imperial admiral has high status not because he has a fancy title, but because he commands fleets and can destroy your world with a single order. When playing as an Aristocrat, your character gains Ascribed status: status that has been granted to him by virtue of his or her noble lineage. By default, your title grants you one level of Status above and beyond anything imputed, but this might vary depending on your social position.

Titles vary; use examples below for ideas. Note that many of the actual power of many titles have fallen away: a Duchess might not actually rule anything, but still inherit the title and status despite having little real power. Consorts also tend to gain similar titles, to lend legitimacy to an heir.

Gentry Titles: +1 Status

The lowest aristocratic titles represent those who serve a noble house in some esteemed capacity. They may be elite warriors (a knight), or highly valued servants or advisers (a gentleman or main). Typically, members of this family have served for generations, and expect their children to inherit the position. They also enjoy some of the authority and prestige of their masters. They tend to own their own starships and have access to elite gear.

Example Titles: Baronet, Gentleman/Maid, Knight/Dame, Lord/Lady, Medjay, Pasha, Praetorian, Timar.

Lordly Titles: +2 Status

Most aristocratic titles come from more feudal eras, where a powerful ruler would delegate the rulership of worlds or swathes of space to his most devoted servants. At this rank, one either rules over a world, or traditionally ruled over a world or administrated it, or has been honored to a similar degree. Alternately, families that have traditionally controlled a great deal of land or industry might be granted a title of this level, especially in more ancient regimes.

Example Titles: Baron/Baroness, Hatamoto, Mir, Sahib, Thane, Viscount/Vistcountess, Viconte/Vicontessa, Zamindar

High Lordly Titles: +3 Status

Certain aristocratic bloodlines traditionally rule over entire constellations, or especially critical planets, or handle especially critical tasks, such as guarding a border. In most systems, these technically have no more privilege than other nobles, but because of the importance of what they control, they tend to gain additional privileges.

Example Titles: Archbaron, Archon, Castellan, Count/Countess/Contessa, Daimyo, Earl, Graf/Gravin, Jarl, Mankari, March Lord, Margrave/Margravine, Marquis/Marchioness, Patriarch/Matriarch, Primus, Sheikh, Strategos, Wildgrave

Royal Titles: +4 Status

These are those from whom the rest of the aristocracy gain their legitimacy. At a minimum, they rule a world, but most traditionally have ruled over an entire race of aliens or an entire swathe of space. Alternately, they may be those who descend directly from the ruling (“royal”) family, or who stand in a position to legitimately determine succession.

Example Titles: Archduke, Duke/Duchess, Emir/Emira, King/Queen, Khan, Maharaja, Prince/Princess, Prince-Elector, Raja, Shah, Shogun, Sultan, Tyrant,

Domain

An aristocrat rules something, and if that’s not true, they used to rule something. This tends to translate into a specific world that they control, or at least a very large house (fortress, starship) that served as a traditional home. The aristocrat should have access to these as part of their Status and Wealth, but players who want to emphasize these can take the Base perk, or a Signature Ship, especially a large and powerful one.

Consider also the population ruled. That population, especially if alien, might have a unique cultural familiarity and a unique language. The aristocrat should certainly have knowledge of both! Additionally, most nobles will know Galactic Common and have a cultural familiarity with Galactic Humanity, as aristocracy typically interacts with other aristocracy, and the current ruling elite of the galaxy use both.

Aristocrats deeply invested in their domain should consider skills like Area Knowledge (of their domain), Leadership, Politics, and Public Speaking, disadvantages like Code of Honor, Duty or Sense of Duty as well as investing in an occupational template that represents how they assist their domain.

Role in Society

An aristocrat does not exist in a vacuum. They fit into a larger context. This context tends to separate them from the rest of the population. They often perform some vital role (especially a ceremonial one), and this tends to require an investment in Savoir-Faire. Players who wish to emphasize the separation of their character from the rest of the masses might have an appropriate Accent or knowledge in a unique Language associated with their world’s aristocracy. They also tend to learn skills that mark them as aristocratic, such as Artist, Connoisseur, Dancing, Heraldry, or highly specific Games. They often have unique items that separate them from the rest of society, handled as Signature Gear, and often dress exceedingly well, handled with Fashion Sense and unique perks like High-Heeled Heroine or Sartorial Intergrity.

Nobles may have unique legal privileges, such as the ability to carry an outlawed weapon (Permit), or laws that are less strict for them; the Valorian Empire never openly or officially acknowledges these laws and maintain the fiction of seeing all as equal before the law, thus these legal privileges only ever apply in specific social contexts (usually on their own world or in their own region of space); handle these with the Legal Immunity advantage at 1/5th the cost. Nobles who have strict laws that apply only to them, but allow them to avoid the laws applied to the average commoner have the 1 point version; nobles who are subject to a lesser form of the law have a 2 point version; nobles who have free reign to do as they please within their domain have the 3-point version. Nobles with this benefit might invest in Law to know the hard boundaries of their privilege.

Most aristocrats have a supporting organization, such as a “House” which has a host of servants that tend to their needs, or even military organizations that defend them and support their broader ambitions. If the character serves within that organization, or commands it directly, they should take Rank within that organization. Characters who do not directly serve or interact with the organization, but can expect its support if they happen to need it, can use their Status to access the services of the organization (see “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” for more details). Work with your GM to design such an organization (see “Maradonian Houses” as an example).

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