Rank and title are complicated matters in the Outlands. The two kingdoms share similar title and ranking systems, although the means of succession differ drastically. Of the two, Hightower is the more straightforward, with multiple titles and offices being the exception rather than the norm that it is in Quadlum.
In Quadlum, the Crown is the "Font of Honor". All titles, ranks, and privilege are derived from the power and authority of the Crown. Titles are initially granted by the Crown, and are inherited via a complex system of primogeniture (that is, the eldest legitimate male offspring inherits the lands and titles). Non-inheriting siblings are granted allowance and living, or dowry as specified by the will of the parent which must be honored by the heir.
In Hightower, the Crown is the "Pinnacle of Glory". All titles, ranks, and privileges are earned and weighed against the ultimate glory and power of the Crown. Here, as in Quadlum, primogeniture determines who inherits, and similar obligations to the parent's will apply. However, the nation believes in the Right of Might, and any title is subject to challenge.
New titles are granted by nobles of higher stature in Quadlum, as long as a protectorate of land is assigned along with the title. In most cases, however, tradition and respect dictate that the only noble who will grant a title is the King or Queen. In the written history of Quadlum, the only persons allowed to hold noble title have been of Elven descent. The Queen has offered titles to persons of other races, but has required them to accept a racial transformation to Elf. Titles have been granted for political reasons, to fill power vacuums and occasionally to acknowledge service to the Crown.
While the King may create a new title and appoint its first holder, all noble titles held in Hightower are subject to challenge. When challenged, the title holder has one day to summon his or her champions and be ready to face the challenger in an arena battle to death or submission, typically monitored by another noble. A challenge may be refused only if the challenged must soon fight in a military conflict, and a challenge may only be issued by a citizen of Hightower. The victor of the challenge has the right to all of the loser's possessions, and may call for the loser to be executed. Typically, if it is the challenger that is successful, he will pass his old, inferior title along to the vanquished noble. If the challenger fails, however, the risk is typically much greater, and executions and complete dispossessions are not uncommon. Disputes regarding challenges are all resolved by the King or Queen.
A noble of the rank of a Baronet or above may vouch for a person in a challenge, assuming the challenge is for a title of lower rank. This permits them to add one champion to the side they are vouching for. If multiple nobles vouch for someone, they may have multiple additional champions fighting on their side. For example, if Sir Galahad has challenged for the title of Baronet of Dugnar, Sir Galahad, being gentry would be permitted one champion. The Baronet of Dugnar would be permitted two, making it a 2 on 3 fight in favor of the current Baronet. But if the Baron of Faire Meade and the Baroness of Jagged Peaks both vouched for Sir Galahad, then they could each add a champion to his cause, making it a 4 on 3 fight, in favor of Sir Galahad.
Note also that many offices can also be won through challenge, though if the office is appointed by a noble it is very likely that they will vouch for their appointee. These offices include Mayor, Governor, Magistrate, Sheriff, Constable, Guard Captain, Guard Lieutenant, and so on. Most guild offices are not handled in this way, however. One cannot challenge to be Guild Master of the Earth Guild, for example.
A noble's champion has a position recognized by law and custom, and as such must be a citizen of Hightower. Appointed through a declaration by the noble in question, a champion may refuse the appointment (with the usual attendant problems of angering a noble). Champions can be appointed or dismissed at any time, outside of the structure of a formal challenge. Once a challenge is formally issued and until the challenge is carried out, the champions cannot be changed. Often the champions are declared at the time the challenge is made. If a declared champion does not show up at the appointed time and place, no substitution is made unless foul-play on the part of the opponent can be proven.
Custom often grants a declared Champion a great deal of unoffical authority. Because they are charged with protecting their leige from challenge, Champions are jealously guarded. An attack of any kind on a noble's champion risks bringing that noble's full wrath upon the perpetrator.
Aside: Champions in Quadlum.
A champion plays a very different role in Quadlum, it being an informal honor conferred on one who protects the honor or dignity of a noble. A Lady might choose a champion to represent her in a tourney, and a nobleman might have his champion fight a duel over a matter of honor. The institution isn't used as much now as it was before the Hightower Revolt.
* Children of a noble with title are gentry, until they earn or gain a title of their own, though for social and legal purposes they hold rank equivalent to one step below that of their parent. The exception to this rule is that princes and princesses are considered to be above even Dukes and Duchesses in noble rank and authority. Designated heirs in Hightower are permitted half the number of champions of their parent, when challenging for the parent's title upon the parent's death or resignation. If challenging for another title, they typically only have the one champion allotted to them as Gentry, though its pretty common to have several nobles vouching for a challenging heir.
A Knight in either Hightower or Quadlum is an individual who has been entered into one of the Knightly Orders for acts of gallantry, military prowess, or for admirable service to the Crown. A Knight is addressed as Sir <Firstname>, and his wife may be addressed as Dame <Firstname>. A Knight must be wealthy enough to support his arms, armor and a fixed tithe, paid to the Crown. He is responsible for defending the interests of his Lord and the Crown, and is automatically considered gentry. Upon accepting the Orders, he swears an oath of fealty to the noble knighting him and other oaths as required by his Order. Typically only a Marquis, Duke, or King can dub a knight.
A Knighthood is not necessarily a landed noble title, but anyone who has been knighted is considered Gentry, above the peasantry. Often a knight will speak with his leige's authority.
Knights often adopt a squire to serve them and learn the trade and practice of knighthood. This institution is rather common in Quadlum, less so in Hightower. A squire is not necessarily a noble, and the position is considered to be one of the few reliable paths to better things for a commoner. Still, it's pretty uncommon for non-gentry to be made a squire, but by no means unheard-of. A Knight will only have one squire at any given time.
Being a stepping-stone on the way to a title, the post of squire is often sought after. Nobles or rich merchants and guildmasters will often ask a famous or respected knight to accept their child as a squire. The Knight is expected to then train the squire for bigger and better things. It is expected that the knight will test a candidate squire rather severely before accepting him or her, and perfectly normal to reject them for any failing... even the child of a Duke or King.
In Hightower, a squire isn't guaranteed a knighthood by any means. But being a squire is a good way to meet and impress influential nobles who can help a squire win a challenge later on in their career. Often, a trained and vouched squire will challenge a knight of an order that is in competition with his own knight's order, then swear to his own knight's order upon gaining the title, spurning the vanquished knight's order.
A Knight can strip his squire of his honors and position at any time, and a Squire is expected to be obedient and respectful and to bring honor and glory to the Knight he serves.
In Hightower, the knightly orders are less hidebound by tradition. The title of Knight or Dame is valued as a token of precedence. While the noble rank of Knight is earned upon a successful challenge, actual participating membership in a knightly order is not necessarily assumed. A successful challenger is given the chance to swear the oaths and undergo initiation into the Order of his or her predecessor, but even if the oaths are foregone, the challenger is a de-facto member. That said, it's unlikely they'll be trusted by any other members of the order without the formal swearing-in. It has become increasingly common for new Knights to spurn the Order of their predecessor and seek membership in another order, a practice the more successful Orders smile upon.
Certain knighly orders cannot be easily joined through challenge, such as the Summit Seven and the Oaks. Those who challenge and defeat a knight of these orders are usually inducted into the Order of the White Sash instead.
In both kingdoms, there are a number of offices that carry authority but which are still not nobility. In the legal systems of both kingdoms, these positions of authority are recognized.
The prestige and authority associated with any of these titles is commensurate with their legal standing, jurisdiction, and the power backing them up. In Hightower, many of these positions can be challenged for, however it is very common for a noble to vouch for the incumbant.
In either nation, a citizen is considered a more worthy individual than a non-citizen. Citizenship papers are typically granted when a person comes of age and swears loyalty to their local lord. These papers are often required for free travel throughout the kingdom, and are often an individual's most prized possession. A person with no citizenship papers or other identifying qualifications, whether foreign or domestically issued, might be enslaved.
Both nations recognize the right of their citizens to own slaves. Slaves are either born into slavery, captured in time of war, stolen from foreign lands, or created as a punishment for particular crimes. (Some are illegally harvested, their papers forged.) Quadlum and Hightower have agreements with each other that prohibit either nation from enslaving the others citizens... while the peace lasts, at least. The Cynder Valley Trade Syndicate, a organization that spans both nations, controls a tight monopoly on slave traffic. Legal slaves are either formal-marked or branded (usually with a stylized OV), and their owners must possess papers from the guild.
The military of both kingdoms are well organized and efficient organizations. Military ranks do not exactly correspond to noble titles, but a noble entering the military may typically expect to find him or herself assigned a rank appropriate to his or her standing. In general, the military answers only to the King or Queen, but the militant Dukes and most Marquis (whose traditional role as border guardians suits it) will often take a commanding role if a conflict occurs in their domain.
Ranks of Lieutenant and above are frequently held by members of the gentry, and very high ranks are typically earned with a mixture of merit, money, and family influence. Commoners have been known to even hold the rank of General, however. Note that a Master Sergeant is often an individual with enormous capability and value, and is often more respected than junior Lieutenants or Warrant Officers, particularly those who hold their military rank only by virtue of their noble stature.
In Hightower, in accordance with the Right of Might dictum, things tend to be a bit more fluid. Still, in the military, challenges for rank occur only at certain gatherings. Anyone capable of challenging for the rank of Captain is also likely capable of securing a minor Barony.
Every citizen of Hightower is required to serve in the military on demand, and consequently even peasants in Hightower will have some martial skill. The ranks of the army in Hightower can grow very quickly, though their standing professional army is somewhat smaller than Quadlum's.
Quadlum has rules for conscription that protect the citizens from being pressed into the military. It is consequently uncommon for Quadlum to conscript its citizens, and their army remains mostly voluntary.
The economy of the Cynder Valley relies heavily on its middle class tradesmen, and indeed a great deal of power has shifted from the nobility to some of the larger trade guilds. Practitioners of magic were among the first to band together for mutual protection and shared knowledge, though soon tradesmen in most major towns recognized the value of working together. Most guilds are jealous of their monopoly and do not suffer competition kindly. They have access to resources beyond the ability of most PCs to muster, and those who oppose them should choose their battles carefully.
Here's a rundown on some of the major organizations that affect the lives of players:
Culminating just a few short years ago, the leaders of Earth Guilds throughout the Cynder Valley who favored taking a very hard stance against necromancy and chaos magic succeeded in crushing the opposing magicians. The victors formed what is now the most respected (or feared) guild in the Valley, the Earth Coalition.
Led by the charismatic warrior, Trevor Brightson, and ruled by a council, the Earth Coalition controls the individual Earth Guilds in just about every settlement in the Valley, including the Earth Guild of Mandrake's Landing. The Coalition has both a military and civilian arm, with a clearly delineated rank and structure.
The Guild's aims are to halt necromancy and chaos magic as well as to promote scholarly pursuits relating to the practice of Earth Magic. To that end it has laid down laws prohibiting the use of more powerful Earth Magics by non-members, and it strictly enforces these laws. The laws of the Earth Coalition are here..
Up until the fall of the year 602, these mages guilds have had no inter-city cohesive organization, and existed as independent guilds from town to town. But in early fall, the Guildmaster of the Mandrake's Landing Celestial Guild, Shard Linthrop, was named Defender of the Empyrean by King Drundal Hightower II, and effectively put in charge of all the Celestial Guilds in Hightower. Quadlum's celestial guilds remain independent.
They also restrict access to Celestial Magics by non-members, and usually enforce such laws with the cooperation of local nobles.
Up until the year 601 (2001), there were two trade organizations vying for power in the Valley, the Merchant's Guild and the Provisioner's Organization, and a separate guild that controled the slave traffic. Then, in the fall of 601, the Merchant's Guild and the Slaver's Guild merged to form the Cynder Valley Trade Syndicate.
Based out of the border trade-town of Nav'arac, the Syndicate controls more than 70% of the inter-city trade in the Valley. Not only that, but it has begun a widely successful effort to lock down most of the production tradecrafts as well, controlling both the production and distribution of most trade goods in the valley. There's little in the land that a member of the Trade Syndicate can't get for you.
The Syndicate had a guildhouse in Mandrake's Landing, but it was destroyed in somewhat mysterious circumstances.
The 100 or so square miles surrounding Mandrake's Landing are protected by a group of soldiers who call themselves "the Border Guard". They provide an early warning and first line of defense in case anything threatening approaches the city, but they do not serve either kingdom and work to their own agenda. They are associates of the Dwarf, Duncan Barkharrow, who was the former General of the Hightower's illustrious Summit Seven Brigade. Unfortunately, the death of King Hightower I was placed at the feet of the Summit Seven Brigade, placing Duncan very much at odds with the current Hightower regime.
They have assisted the townsfolk in several instances,
This international organization spans much of the continent, with academies in far-flung nations as well as in Mandrake's Landing. The organization provides a place for that iconoclastic group of people known commonly as "adventurers" to meet, train, and work.
Founded by Elidore Sterlin, it has quickly become a place of reknowned learning and travelers come from far and wide to train at the IAA.
There is no thief's guild. Who's asking and where do you live?
You don't want to know.
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