The Aristocratic Houses

A Noble House isn’t an organization in the classic sense, but rather, consists of a dynasty of powerful and influential nobles who share a collection of titles and a similar lineage. The Noble Houses discussed in the context of the Alliance refer specifically to the noble lineages of the Old Alexian Empire, who created the Federation, and now stand in opposition to the Empire, having formed the Alliance.

When Alexus Rex rose to dominate Maradon and forge his interstellar empire, he had two major assets. First, he had the assistance of wealthy warriors skilled in the art of the force sword, and he had the assistance of the Akashic Order, who foresaw not just the ultimate victory of Alexus, but the desperate need for not only that victory, but the eternal reign of his dynasty. These two elements combined to create the Noble Houses of the Alliance.

The Akashic Order foresaw a million branching “paths” that the galaxy could take, and chose one winding and complex path called “the Golden Path” as the best hope for humanity’s ultimate survival. Alexus could never achieve this victory on his own: his line would need mates that would help breed the line true, allies who would fight at their side, rivals who would sharpen their skills and mentors who would remind them of their purpose. The Akashic Order needed not just the Alexian Dynasty, they needed a host of heroes. For this purpose, they turned to the best of the best among the Maradonian nobility and began to breed them for their ultimate roles. As a result, modern nobility, where its bloodline has remained pure, who have access to specific psionic abilities and have distinct advantages over the common man, with a focus on achieving a specific role within the Akashic Order’s vision of the future.

A Noble House has legal privilege and dominion over certain worlds. As Alexus conquered the galaxy, he distributed the rights to rule those worlds in his names to the warriors who helped lead his armies to victory. Their right to rule became cemented by the machinations and blessing of the Akashic Order, who needed their eugenically engineered nobility to shepherd the rest of humanity down the Golden Path.

Taken together, a noble house, then, is political, genetic, psionic and martial tradition dating back millennia. They ruled over the galaxy, and rule over the Alliance today, and fight the Valorian Emperor, all in the name of their inherent supremacy and the mandate given to them by the Akashic Order to protect all of mankind. However, the death of the Alexian dynasty and the failure of the Akashic Mysteries ended any hope of fulfilling the experiment they began at the dawn of their empire. Now, the noble houses cling to the tatters of that dream, with their traditional domains stripped from them by Emperor Ren Valorian, and their genetic purity drifting and dissolving back into the common masses.

Taken in another sense, a noble’s house is literally his estate and those who maintain it. In this sense, a house very much represents a classic organization, but this organization exists to serve the lord. This represents the lord’s armies, the lord’s servants, and his networks of spies and assassins. Described in this way, a noble house consists of servants, commanded by a single lord who governs the entire house. The other lords of a House do not strictly speaking belong to this hierarchy, but that hierarchy does exist to serve them.

The Galactic Federation and the Alexian Dynasty contained dozens of noble houses. The Alliance contains fewer houses (and many houses within the alliance have lost a great deal of their former glory). This document details four houses, meant to be a representative, rather than exhaustive, list.

  • House Sabine: A royal house engineered by the Oracular Order to provide a pool of Espers to draw into their ranks and to serve as the consorts to House Alexus. They’re known for their exceptional beauty and fecundity, and the fact that they produce far more female than male children. They have a knack for ESP. The head of their house, the numinous Nova Sabine, Duchess of of Persephone currently serves as the speaker for the Senate.
  • House Grimshaw: Technically a cadet branch of the royal house of Daijin, the Grimshaw family rose to dominance during Shio Daijin’s ill-fated attempt to re-unite the Alexian Empire under his rule. The Oracular Order engineered house Daijin (and Grimshaw) to serve as purifiers of the noble houses, ensuring they stayed true to their purpose, and Grimshaw remains a deeply conservative house, often in opposition to Sabine’s more egalitarian politics. They have a talent for ergokinesis. Their head, Bale Grimshaw, Duke of Denjuku is considered the most powerful noble of the Alliance.
  • House Elegans: This knightly house lost all of their domains to the Empire, and have returned to the Alliance seeking allies in reclaiming them. The Oracular Order engineered them to be the left hand of Alexus, willing to explore new ideas and to violate social norms to achieve success; they’re a somewhat controversial and complex house, plagued with rumors of regicide and abandonment of the Oracular Order in favor of True Communion, all of which they hotly deny. They have a talent for emotion manipulation and empathy, and make for fearsome duelists (and created the Swift form of force swordsmanship). Their current head is the young Anna Elegans, Marchessa of the Tangled Expanse.
  • House Kain: The House of Kain is not a “true” Maradon House. Instead, the original warlord of Caliban, Lothar Kain, blocked a key route from the Maradon arm of the Galaxy to the galactic core. Rather than fight these exceptional warriors, Alexus offered them a place at his side. The Oracular Order tried to turn them into Alexus’ right hand, his faithful hounds that would devotedly follow his orders, but the House of Kain has always forged their own path, and remains a barely tolerated faction within the Federation and Alliance. They have no innate psionic potential and lack the blood purity of other houses, but they have a robust line and a tradition of excellent cybernetics. Their current head is Kento Kain, Archbaron of Caliban.

Agendas of the House

A house exists to serve the interests of its nobles. The nobility must retain and expand their power, so the House guards over their titles and quietly push for new acknowledgment. The nobility must retain the purity of their bloodline, so the House seeks acceptable mates and helps to arrange marriages (and alliances!) between them. The nobility must assert its dominion over the galaxy, so the House invests in powerful corporations and expands their military power.

  • A noble has traditionally ruled over a world now dominated by the Empire. He must advocate for its liberation, as well as send agents to the world to support (or foment) like-minded insurgencies, and then once the world has been liberated, ensure that everyone understands his role in its liberation, and restore himself as its proper ruler (even if only as a courtesy).
  • A beautiful young courtier has been making the rounds of the Alliance courts recently, and she’s caught a young noble’s eye. The noble needs to be assured that she is genetically compatible with his glorious bloodline and, if so, needs to properly court her, while ensuring that such a marriage remains politically beneficial to him. What is her family like, do they have a noble lineage, and what agenda lurks behind her mask of innocence?
  • A rival noble has purchased considerable shares in the corporation that a House has traditionally monopolized. The House must press its legal and traditional dominance of the corporation, while undermining the rival noble’s claims. They must also attempt to uncover the reasons behind the rival’s action, and see if they can find some sort of compromise that leaves the House’s power intact.
  • A rival noble looks poised to achieve some victory over an important noble of the house (perhaps winning the hand of a beautiful courtier, gaining control of a valued corporation, or achieving some great honor slated for the House). The house must move to find a way to discredit him. The easiest would be to contrive some insult and challenge the noble to a duel, but that requires martial excellence in the House. Alternatively, the House can find some scandal or some legal violation and bring him up on charges before either the Senate, or the aristocratic courts.
  • A noble has tangled himself in some unfortunate scandal! Local planetary authorities demand justice, or a corporation threatens to throw him off the board, or the Senate has begun to murmur about charges. The House has a few options. They can counter accusations with accusations of their own, slinging so much mud that everyone seems dirty, though that threatens to besmirch the house itself. If they can focus on a single target to accuse, they can turn this into a duel. Alternatively, they can focus on protecting the house itself, and leave the noble to stand on his own and sink or swim in the face of the Alliance’s rule of law, but this sends a dangerous signal to the allies of the House, that the House will abandon you as soon as the going gets tough.

A House as Opposition

The stability and power of a House varies. Some Houses are little more than tattered shells of their former glory, while others retain almost all of their political and social clout. The weakest houses, full of little more than puffed up courtiers are BAD -0, but most Houses have at least paramilitary security and defenses, giving them BAD -2 to BAD -5! Given their psionic legacy, most Houses have superior psionic defenses, and should have at least a PSI-BAD of half their BAD, rounded up.

Serving in a House

Servant Ranks

As an organization, a House exists to serve a noble, and in this sense, a noble isn’t in a house so much as a focus of his house. Instead, the actual organization of a house is made up of the servants of that noble. These servants guard the noble’s interests, and help facilitate any actual political rule the noble may have.

5: Steward, Chamberlain, Marshal, Spymaster, Herald, Seneschal
4: Butler, Chief of Staff, Valet, Attendant, Lady-in-Waiting, Guard
3: Head Chef, Footman, Handmaiden, Groundkeeper
0-2: Maid or Servant

The lowest ranks represent a variety of servants serving in different roles. Rank 0 servants tend to work “out of sight” or do “dirty” work, such as scrubbing floors or maintaining infrastructure in the bowels of a space station. Higher level servants work visibly, which means they can catch the eye of the lord and more easily gain higher level positions. Rank 3 represents the most prestigious of the base servant ranks, either running a local department, assisting those who serve the lord directly, or being present at highly visible events attended by numerous nobles. All of these ranks can be replaced with robots, which is especially common among the least prestigious nobles.

Rank 4 represents those who serve the lord directly, attending to his needs, such as dressing him, fetching things at his request, or acting as a bodyguard, if necessary. This is amongst the most coveted positions as a servant, as it allows one close access to a powerful noble. The Butler or the Chief of staff managed all staffing of a noble House, and may choose who to hire and fire, and who to promote to particular positions. The noble overrides his Butler or Chief of Staff when he wishes, especially when it comes to the those who attend him directly; technically valets and such answer to the Butler, but in practice, they fall outside of the typical hierarchy.

Rank 5 servants act as proxies for their lord, or run major elements of his domain. The Steward or Chamberlain represent their lord in domestic affairs, ruling his estate in his stead. They might attend corporate board meetings in his place, handle his finances, or advise their lord on matters of administration (and might have Administrative Rank of 5).
Marshals represent and advise their lord on law-enforcement or military matters and might have Law Enforcement Rank of 5. They usually represent their lord’s legal concerns on other worlds, such as pursuing or arresting criminals in his lord’s name even off-world. They might have subordinates of their own, as deputies or lieutenants (Typically rank 3-4). The enforcers of a house typically have Law Enforcement Powers (Noble Enforcer) [5], which allows them to perform searches (with a warrant!) and arrest people, but only under the jurisdiction of the aristocrat he serves, and the right to kill if necessary, but killings often invite investigation and oversight and may cause a scandal for the ruling noble!
Heralds (or simply “Ambassadors”) represent their lord among other nobles or in foreign courts, and may have Diplomatic Rank of 5. Heralds generally have Diplomatic Immunity [20]; while executing their duties, their lord is responsible for their misdeeds and misbehavior, and the worst a body can do is expel the diplomat at the risk of angering the noble. This means that the heralds of weak nobles must tread more carefully than the heralds of powerful nobles! These characters also often have their own subordinates, called Secretaries and Attaches.

“Spymaster” is an informal position, and those who have it often have a different title (usually Herald or Ambassador). They govern the highly important spy rings that the noble uses to monitor his rivals and, especially, his traditional holdings within the empire. Spymasters don’t usually have a formal subordinate structure, but often recruit Agents who control specific spy assets. These characters might have Intelligence Ranks.

Rank 4+ servants are often Titled nobles with an Ascribed Status of +1.

The master of a House generally has at least Political Rank 6; treat all servant ranks as subordinate to this political rank. Other nobles of the house may or may not have political rank: they may or may not have direct control over the assets of the estate. If they do not, they may generally "Pull Rank" with their Status, representing the general obligation the House as a whole has to its members.

Favors of the House

Servants can certainly pull rank, when in service to their lord, but nobles may also pull rank. Treat them as having a Rank in the house as equivalent to their Status (or, in the case of the ruling noble, the higher of his Status or his Rank of 6). This does mean that a chamberlain has more pull within his house than a poverty stricken knight without rank in any other organizations, but that makes a certain amount of sense: because of his low position, the Chamberlain (or Marshal or whomever) can argue that he serves a greater lord directly; it is not the Chamberlain’s will that is overriding that of a lesser knight, but the pressing concerns of the House Lord.

You've probably already worked through Pulling Rank for nobles, but here's a list of ideas that you might find useful for that:

Entry Clearance (Pulling Rank 13): An aristocrat owns considerable swathes of property, including fleets of ships, industrial complexes and vast palaces. Servants might gain access to any of these as part of their duties, while nobles of the house can expect direct entrance.

License (Pulling Rank 13): Servants often need additional legal permissions to perform their duties, especially Heralds and Marshals. Houses do not grant these permissions, but can expedite them!

Cover-Up (Pulling Rank 14): Nothing may besmirch the honor of his highness! A noble house excels at covering up embarrassments, whether they’re ill-advised trists or completely illegal activity. They definitely perform this for their ruling or associated nobles, but also for servants who are acting in the interest of their lord.
Consultation and Specialists (Pulling Rank page 15 and 19): Noble houses have servants who specialize in fasion (Connoisseur (Fashion) and Fashion Sense), proper etiquette (Savoir-Faire), the history of the house (History) and various mundane household tasks (Administration, Housekeeping, etc).

Bribe/Hush Money, Cash (Pulling Rank page 14 and 16): A noble house has access to extensive tax receipts and corporate profits, and it will happily hand over a “cash allowance” to members of the house if they need a little extra, but this generally applies more to servants, who need some discretionary funds for some of their tasks, especially the less public ones. Note that how much money is available to a house varies from house to house, with Grimshaw and Kain among the wealthiest and Elegans (currently) among the poorest.

Funding (Pulling Rank page 16): Noble houses act as prime centers of funding throughout the Alliance. They tend to fund major war efforts, archaeological digs or major architectural projects out of their own (very deep) pockets. While they rarely fund requests brought to them by servants, they absolutely fund requests made by member nobles.

Gear (Pulling Rank page 16): Noble houses provide whatever materials their servants need to perform their tasks, but they also have access to ancient relics and powerful technology specific to that house. Nobles associated with the house may certainly request access to these features!
Introduction (Pulling Rank 18): The Alliance relies on introductions as its primary form of security. Noble Houses make a point of introducing their members to the members of other houses, sometimes through something as simple as a letter of introduction, or a direct introduction from one noble to another, but preferably through a grand event where the noble is introduced the aristocratic community as a whole. Servants tend not to be formally introduced to other nobles (though heralds will definitely receive letters of introduction, as will marshals in pursuit of justice), but they rub shoulders with nobles regularly. A servant who wants to meet a particular noble might ask very nicely (though likely at a penalty).

Invitation (Pulling Rank 18): Nobles regularly hold grand, and very exclusive, events which serve both to expand the glory of the house, and to Servants rarely get invited to parties or introduced to nobles as such, but they’re often asked to attend events to assist others, and this can bring them into very close proximity to other nobles, where they can be noticed, asked questions, or have a chance to ingratiate themselves to the elites of the Alliance. Noble Houses can also offer “letters of introduction” on the behalf of their servants, or even their nobles, to ensure that the noble is properly accepted by another, more important noble.

Facilities (Pulling Rank 18): The aristocracy controls some of the mot beautiful architectural space in the galaxy, available for the most elegant of soirées. They also control naval shipyards, war rooms and their legendary cathedral-factories, capable of constructing bespoke arms and armor.
Travel (Pulling Rank 19): The aristocracy owns ships. Naturally, they own many military ships, but for that, see Aristocratic Regulars. They also have access to diplomatic transports and personal yachts, all of which can be used to get people from one world to another, and often with a measure of legal immunity to boot! The aristocracy sees itself as interstellar, and can provide that access to the stars to any of their servants or members.

Muscle (Pulling Rank 19): Noble houses have access to military assets, but for that, see Alliance Regulars. This assumes instead that a servant needs some muscle, or a noble doesn’t want to pull on his military forces to push some people around. Most noble houses have some well-muscled men on staff, people who double as bodyguards in a pinch, and a house can generally rustle up some well-dressed knuckle-crackers, if necessary.

Propaganda: Given sufficient time (say, a week ahead of time, but it's ultimately up to the GM), a noble house can spread a particular idea. Treat this as Compliments of the Boss: A successful request applies +3, a critical success applies +6, a failure applies -1 and a critical failure applies -2. This applies to appropriate influence rolls and to Communion reactions for path-based miracles for the appropriate path. This effect is temporary: usually no more than one adventure (usually lasting no longer than a week: for more permanent effects, buy some manner of Reputation), and only to a single world. The player needs to define the nature of the propaganda up front and it only applies as appropriate (for example, if you spread the idea that you are the reincarnation of a world's savior, you cannot use it to impress off-worlders or the non-religious, or when you behave "out of character").

Servant Character Considerations

Requirements: Characters serving in a House as a servant generally have a minimum of Wealth (Average) [0]. This is true of even poor noble houses, as they’ll typically just employ less servants. Diplomatic servants usually have Legal Immunity (Diplomatic) [20], while law-enforcement servants usually have Law Enforcement Powers (Noble Enforcers) [5].

Servants often act as Allies, and typically cost either Ally (Servant; 75 point character; 15 or less) [3], or Ally (Servant; 150 point character; 15 or less) [6]. “Houses” rarely act as patrons, but the ruling noble might. A ruling noble as a patron is 15 points for a powerful house, or 10 points for a weak house, while any ruling noble is worth -20 points as an enemy.

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.

Ensign

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.

Knight Protector

Prerequisite: Ascribed Status +1 from a Martial Title

Those knights who served the old Alexian rulers directly, in his retinue, were called Knight Protectors. Certain families became traditionally associated with protecting the Alexian Dynasty, and clung to the title even in this new era. 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)

Lord

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 +3 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 Akashic Order must approve of the marriage, having checked their genetic registers, but with the failure of the Akashic Mysteries, only staunch conservatives follow this stricture anymore. They instead satisfy themselves with squabbling over romantic matches with characters with the highest Blood Purity.

Aristocratic Eugenics

The Maradonian Nobility ruled not because they had more power or prestige than everyone else, but because the Oracular Order ordained it so. With their deep insights into the future, they knew what shape humanity must take, what heroes the future would need if Maradon was to build a civilization that would last millennia and fend off the great impending threat. The Oracular Order shaped the aristocracy of Maradon into the heroes the future needed, and placed them in positions of power, to ensure their ascendancy and prowess when that appointed day came.

With the fall from grace of the Akashic Mysteries, the nobility of the Federation and Alliance rely more upon their prestige and power to enforce their claims to power, but their moral claims still come from this notion that the galaxy needs the noble houses of Maradon to stave off some future crisis. Many within the noble houses even still believe those old words and try to live their lives according to the principles the Akashic Mysteries laid out for them. Others, especially those who quietly subscribe to the beliefs of True Communion, defy the chains of fate and forge their own path. But however one feels about the impact the Akashic Mysteries made in shaping the noble houses, those marks remain.

The core reason for Akashic meddling in Maradon politics arose from the need to shape the future. Everything they did with the nobility centered on this core principle. Thus, all noble houses have a destiny that they should fulfill, a role that the Akashic Order saw for them. To fulfill this role, the Akashic Order needed the Maradon nobility to have psionic power. While this has a genetic component, the artificial and technological meddling with genetics causes some unfortunate psionic side-effects, like madness. As a result, the Akashic Order carefully bred the nobility to get the exact, psionically active bloodlines the future needed, using eugenics rather than direct genetic engineering. The genetic markers of a noble house remain, today, one of its most central features, and nobles use those distinct markers in their biometrics to prevent access to technology by anyone outside of the family.

Genetic Legacy

A house represents a carefully engineered bloodline, a genetic lineage trailing back at least 50 generations for the purest houses. Precisely what this lineage entails varies from house to house, and how that is expressed varies from individual to individual.

Characters who belong to the genetic legacy of a house must take the perk (House) Bloodline. Those with this perk register as a member of that bloodline to any genetic scanner or genetic biometric lock; furthermore, characters with this perk may purchase any abilities (whether genetic or psionic abilities or distinct forms of destiny) available to the House.

Most houses have eugenic templates, which represent the result of the centuries’ long eugenic project undertaken by the Akashic Order. In principle, members of a House should have the full template, but in practice, most members have stray genetic impurities that prevent them from achieving the total vision the Akashic Mysteries had for the House.

Thus, each template should be broken up into four power-up packages. Each package has the perk Bloodline Purity which represents how close to a “pure” member of the House a character is. This acts as a trivial reputation, granting a +1 to anyone who is aware of the character’s genetic purity, and considers this a useful trait (for example, for those considering a marital match with the character and who wish as pure a bloodline as possible for any potential child). A character who takes all four power-up packages has “the complete House template” and Bloodline Purity 4, but most characters will only take 0-3, and having a lower Bloodline Purity as a result.

All of this eugenic engineering has created some potential genetic drawbacks. Characters who take the eugenic power-up template may take optional “common” disadvantages, and characters with a bloodline purity of 2+ may increase their disadvantage limit by 5, provided they take at least 5 points worth of common disadvantages from their house (treat the eugenic template as a customizable racial template).

One common eugenic disadvantage is Mental Instability. Mental Instability is a secret disadvantage (B120), a lurking “trap” in the genetics that the GM can spring upon a player whenever he, provided she takes the Mental Instability disadvantage. Allow the player to take up to between -10 and -20 points, and then assign a disadvantage worth at least five points less.

Eugenic Considerations

A character’s genetic traits must be taken at character creation, as they represent something fundamental to the character. In essence, treat their genetic power-up as a slightly customizable racial template. At the GM’s discretion, a character might have “buried” or “latent” genetic potential that a psionic healer might bring to the fore, but I offer this only as a potential excuse a GM might use to allow a player to retroactively go back and change his character (a better way to handle “hidden genetic potential” would be as a secret advantage!).

Breeding matters for inter-noble marriage. If characters want to keep their bloodline pure and ensure that their children have access to the maximum, they need to choose someone with maximum genetic compatibility with their own genome. Who exactly is compatible and why is left entirely to the GM and is primarily a narrative concern. Characters with Bioengineering (Eugenics) or certain versions of Esoteric Medicine might be allowed to roll to tell who would be genetically appropriate and why. Generally, marriage within aristocracy is superior to marriage outside of the aristocracy for maintaining bloodline purity, but outsiders sometimes (by sheer chance) have just the right make-up or would add a vital component missing from the currently fading bloodline. This only a special effect in most Psi-Wars games, as they tend not to be multi-generational; even if they were, consider allowing players to write their characters as they wish, telling a story with their choice of genetic template. Decreasing purity emphasizes the slow decline of the bloodline’s grandeur, while being an unexpectedly pure and strong member of the bloodline is exactly the sort of heroic exceptions PCs tend to be!

Characters can intermarry, of course, and have children with mixed lineages. In most cases, children tend to show traits of one parent or the other (only one Bloodline perk), but some children directly inherent the blood legacy of both houses! In such cases, the characters take both bloodline perks, and may take genetic packages from both bloodlines however they wish, but treat the Bloodline Purity perks as distinct (generally to a maximum of 4: characters may not have more than 4 points of Bloodline Purity in any combination): a scion of both House Sabine and House Elegans may have Sabine Purity 3 and Elegans Purity 1; these combine for the purpose of reaction modifiers, but not for the purposes of any prerequisites the GM might have (that is, such a character has +4 to impress people who like extreme breeding or who look for an excellent marriage match, but could not purchase an Alexian ability that requires Purity 2+).

Cadet Branches

Often, a noble will have multiple potential heirs, and when he dies, he needs some way to properly divide his estate. Traditionally, all titles and property go to the first born son (Though different houses have different traditions: Sabine, for example, offers the domain of the house to the first born child, regardless of sex). In some cases, a secondary heir has collected sufficient power and prestige that his House cannot easily dismiss his claims. In such cases, the secondary heir typically receives a lesser portion of the estate and gains a new name and is noted as a cadet branch.

Cadet branches typically act as a house within a house. They pass their titles and estates down to their first born son and, if that’s not possible, branch off their own cadet branch, and so on. They still belong to their parent house, genetically and politically, and often serve as close allies. Should the branch die off without heirs, the estates and titles revert back to the master of the House, and if the governing branch of the House die off without heir (or suffer terrible scandal that forces abdication of certain positions), a cadet branch will typically step in to rule the House.

Treat a cadet branch as genetically identical to the governing house with a few minor exceptions. They have the same (House) bloodline perk, and the same eugenic power-ups, but they may change out one or two power-ups for power-ups of their own. This allows for variety within a house, and also for players to belong to a particular house with a chance at greater customization.

Psionic Legacy

The purpose and intent of the eugenic engineering of the Maradonian aristocracy (as well as other aristocrats eventually folded into the old Empire’s nobility) was to foster psionic talent. The Akashic Order needed more psions to feed its ranks and often drew them from carefully bred aristocratic lines, but more importantly, psionic power more carefully integrated the aristocratic line into the weave of destiny and solidified their destiny, and better helped them perform destined role.

Any character with the (House) Bloodline perk may purchase any psionic ability or talent associated with their house at any point provided they meet the Bloodline Purity prerequisite. Some characters never manifest any psionic powers, as the eugenic engineering of the Houses only make these traits more common, not guaranteed, but this is a narrative factor, not mechanical one. Other characters might manifest powers outside of the House Bloodline, or stronger powers than his Bloodline Purity would suggest, for the same reasons that any human might manifest psionic powers (for example, the character takes the Psionic Power-Up Package at character creation, or chooses to purchase a Psi-Talent). The Bloodline perk not a limitation on what the PC may purchase, but rather explicit permission to purchase certain psionic abilities.

Psionic powers available to members of a genetic line break down according to Bloodline Purity. Powers available to Bloodline Purity 0 characters tend to be the most common powers in the house, and those that define its members the most strong. Bloodline Purity 1-2 tend to be more rarified, and most nobles take their presence as a sign of excellent breeding. Bloodline Purity 3-4 tend to be the rarest and most powerful abilities of the psionic legacy. If the House has a Psionic Talent in its psionic legacy, that talent tends to require Blood Purity 4, as such pure blood opens up an entire psionic power and all of its abilities to the noble.
As a rule, Houses generally only have access to abilities within a single power.

Destiny

Ultimately, the Akashic Order engaged in all of this multi-generational eugenic engineering explicitly to push members of the House down a pre-ordained path, the Golden Path, one charted for them by the Akashic Mysteries. The aristocracy profited from the Akashic Order’s insights and endorsement, and in return, they served the Golden Path.
Gathering all of these threads of destiny and turning individual bloodlines into vital lynchpins had a price, however. An individual acting in bad faith, with the full weight of history behind him, could sabotage everything and throw everyone off of the winding and narrow Golden Path. Thus, those nobles who find themselves pressed by fate also find that they have a choice in which fate they choose to embrace.

Each house has three Destiny traits associated with them representing three possible directions the House could go. The exact nature of the Destinies vary from house to house, but they broadly follow the same themes. The first, the “True Destiny” of the House represents the Destiny members of the House would accept to further the Golden Path. This destiny is one of subordination to the (now vanished) House of Alexus and to the Oracular Order. It usually culminates in some great sacrifice. The second and third are “Corrupt Destinies,” which represent a dangerous deviation from the Golden Path. The first almost always involves a selfish path, wherein the noble profits and makes himself, his house and his family stronger, but at the cost of selfishly violating the code and morals of the Dynasty and possibly endangering the Galaxy. The third Destiny represents a liberation from the Golden Path, wherein the noble rejects the black and white choice placed before him by the Golden Path, and charts his own course, attempting to find a way to protect the Galaxy in his own way.

Each Destiny is typified by a particular, venerated ancestor of the house. Characters who acquire the Destiny trait are said to "exemplify" this ancestor, and tend to be held in high regard. Such characters find that major events of their ancestor's life repeats themselves in their own lives, similar to the repetitive and symbolic nature of an Akashic "Mystery Play," with the character caught up in the strands of their destined role in their House. Characters with an especially deep bond to their ancestor may purchase the Archetype (Ancestor) trait, granting them access to specific miracles associated with their ancestor. Characters who have gained access to Communion recognize these ancestral destinies for what they are: Communion Paths blindly forged by the Akashic Order, and they may explicitly attempt to walk them.

Most nobles never have Destiny, but any PC who has the appropriate Bloodline perk may freely choose one version of Destiny, but which they choose is up to them. They may also trade their chosen Destiny for a different one, but this typically involves some substantial rejection of the premise of their original Destiny in favor of the new Destiny, a narrative matter between the PC and GM. Aristocratic PCs are not “locked into” one of these three Destinies and may choose their own Destiny (say, with the Heroic power-up). Ultimately, the three Destiny traits of a house represent an interesting way of discussing the ultimate fate of the House, and the PC’s role in that fate.

Only the GM can answer whether the PC’s choice of Destiny has any impact on the setting and what, if any, impact that choice has. Perhaps the Akashic Order was simply wrong about the far future, or perhaps their predictions ran off the rails long ago and the Golden Path is no longer achievable. Or, perhaps, the Oracular Order remains critically relevant to this time and still works behind the scenes to maintain a sliver of hope to returning to the Golden Path before the increasingly imminent “great threat” that faces the galaxy. In the latter case, the GM should work out what sort of impact the PC choices make and present him with meaningful choices that pertain to his chosen fate.

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