The nobility of magic
What is the justification for the nobility? Some appeal divine authority. In one world however, being of noble blood really does elevate you above the common rabble. By virtue of magical aptitude.
There is innate and hereditary aptitude to tap into the mystical forces and shape them to your will that has come to be known as the Glow. Not all who possesses the Glow become wizards, but the glow is recognisable. The occasional golden sparks in the eyes when agitated, a silver aura when joyful. Its manifestations and are subtle and unpredictable and vary from person to person, but they are there. Everyone has their own distinct signature, that shines with family semblance of its bloodline. The glow flows in the blood and is only ever passed by ancestry. Only a child of two glowing ones will have the glow. Otherwise, it can be passed on dormant for many generations of the first blood until a second glow is added to the blood.
In the earliest times of human civilisation, families of the Glow rose to power and established noble and royal bloodlines across the world, raising other glowing ones and outcasting those without it. In this world, the right to rule is not a divine one, but a magical one.
Consequently, magical knowledge exists only among the nobility, it is their privilege, blood and mandate to rule. Not all nobles becomes wizards, some simply don't have the inclination for anything more than cantrips, but many do and the measure of one's status is in no large part one's magical prowess. A king without the power to reflect his royal bloodline would not last long and a duke mastering only minor conjurations would soon find himself marginalised in high society.
Of course, there are ways to compensate. More than one past king of bastardly blood has shielded his utter lack of magical aptitude by simply adorning himself with magical items of sufficient power to hide the fact from others. And wealth, land and armies speak a language of their own even in this world.
Naturally, there are forms of etiquette and protocol to be observed even in a magical society of nobles. Although it happens in the odd generation here and there, nobles would never resort to such crude measures as actual magical combat between each other or rain demons upon rival houses and the like. Subtlety and finesse are considered great virtues of magical mastery. Battle magic is as crude as warfare. Of course, it can be necessary at times, but to muddy one's own hands in such toil is hardly refined.
And besides, what could be more delightfully humiliating than for an enemy noble than to be assassinated by entirely mundane, albeit well executed, means?
Occasionally, the glow is discovered among the common folk. Even noble men have needs and they are not always satisfied in noble company. And sometimes by chance, common people of such dormant bloodlines come together and awaken the glow in their offspring, many generations after such dalliances. If they cannot be be dealt with quietly and swiftly (in some cases, the scandal would be too obvious), such people are sometimes taken in and given proper education, working as councilors and lifeguards of the nobility and royalty, eventually given minor titles for their service. They are after all, undeniably of noble blood, even if it has been tainted by generations of common heritage.
And some believe great bloodlines thought extinct lie hidden among the common people.
The duchies of Gentea have been without a royal bloodline for 400 years since the great coup. But since that time, the rumour that the crown princess survived and hid in some remote village, living out the rest of her days in anonymity has persisted. The royal guard disappeared to the last man on the day of the great coup and some speculate they went underground to guard the secret of the royal line as a secret order.
Even today the grand dukes worry that some day, that bloodline might reawaken and the True King of Gentea will come again. Of course, they will not readily surrender power, but they know that with proper tutelage any such heir would quickly be one of the greatest wizards of this age, such is the strength of the bloodline, even more so if there is only one left. And with the unmistakable signature glow of the blue hawk that marks the kings of Gentea, he will soon find armies gathering to his side, ready to fight for their true liege, the blood of the land.
Some minor houses no doubt would love for nothing more than to find this lost and dormant heir and marry into the family, to have the king born from their house. Of course, that would mean finding the lineage before a child is born in it with the glow. Easier said than done. For 400 years, not a trace of it has been found.
Playing noble characters is an often overlooked opportunity for some good role playing and this gives a different twist to it. The errant knight in shining armour might well literally have shining armour due to the defensive magics he can cast on it and will certainly have an edge in battle over common warriors. He is a noble after all.
Playing without any noble characters in such a world would not be very different from normal campaigns except there is no hedge wizard in the local village (he lives in the nearby manor) and magic is perhaps a bit more removed from the world of common people. It is something *they* use. Or perhaps the group wizard is not a noble, but someone who has discovered his knowledge on his own, taking pains to conceal his true nature, lest he risk being dealt with in a most convenient manner, or at best a pawn of some noble family. For him, the only option is to seek out knowledge where it has been abandoned and forgotten, hoping to become powerful enough to assert himself before he is uncovered. Even in this world, there are and have been wizards who have abandoned the follies of society to dedicate themselves only to the art of magic in secluded towers and catacombs. Ruins can be found and knowledge uncovered. And perhaps, somewhere in the wilderness, even a mentor.
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? Responses (18)
designer notes: I conceived this idea for a setting when creating a GURPS character and thought 'what if Status and Magery was a joint package?' - I am liking it so much I think I will have to flesh out a world on this.
Awesome. A simple approach, but fantastic execution! Very well described. I'd like to rp in this world.
Battle-magic and other ostentatious shows of arcane force being perceived as gauche and ignoble is sublime.
Great world! Very easy to use, easily explained to PCs (not a lot of prep time is needed to play), and stimulating from an rp and magic-use perspective.
One question. Not sure if I missed this but, can the heir be found by using magic? or?
The idea is not until an heir is actually born with the glow. Dormant means no glow, only the strain to pass on. That means if the line is to be found before that, it would have to be through old fashioned detective work (and there might be some people secretly making that difficult).
Nobles that really are better then ordinary folk.
Hmm ... magical talent = noble bloodline
I think this really is an original idea - at least I don't recall it presented in quite this manner in any games system or fantasy novel I've come across
But, when you come to think of it, it's quite logical really. After all, the ability to perform magic is bound to be a really big advantage, so those who can do so will inevitably rise to the upper echelons of society. From there, it's only a very small step to rule by right of magical ability.
They do say that the best ideas are blatently obvious ... after somebody has pointed them out.
On that basis B9anders - I salute you for the genius your clearly are.
Simple, logical, well explained and easy to impliment - it doesn't get much better than this
plus my personal Wish I'd thought of that award
Keep up the good work
And please do flesh out the world - I'd love to see it
Seven Seas is the first one that comes to mind, as does Providence. Lace and Steel had magical nobility in cool fantasy setting.
Zodani in Traveller Universe comes to mind, but are not a specific game. Third Imperium is a classic setting though, dating since 1975. Crimson empire does have magical nobility as well.
Just needed to point them out. http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/encyclopedia/ if you want to check them out.
Hmmm --- I'd like to add a Hall of Honour vote, but for some reason I'm not getting the link
Being a lowly Lvl 7, I only get one per day, but I since I haven't used it today I'm confused --- why is it not coming up?
Dragon Lord, http://strolen.com/guild/index.php/topic,4617.msg61562/topicseen.html#msg61562
OK - that explains that
But I thought the Hall of Honour vote was intended to identify a post you thought deserving of greater than normal recognition
After all, if you just want to bump a post to the top of the list, all you need to do is add a comment
As originally intended, added the Hall of Honour vote (now that the link has re-appeared)
An excellent idea, too bad I am too late to add a good comment, those were all taken above. LoL.
It does bring up one point, the fact that a person can work magic doesnt automatically mean that they are good, intelligent, competent or capable. Picking a person to be a noble by their magical ability is akin to picking someone to be a noble by the color of their eyes, their height, or any other innate attribute rather than merit and competence.
True Scras, but since when was merit or competence a criteria for political power?
Let's look at some of the more usual methods:
--> Monarchy - the son (or occasionally daughter) of the last king/emperor/tsar/whatever
--> Theocracy - someone who worships the "one true god"
--> One party state - someone with the "correct" political beliefs
--> Military dictatorship - the person with biggest army
--> Democracy - the most popular or charismatic candidate
Hmmm ... competence, intelligence and merit just don't get a look in
While all of these systems occasionally produce good and competent leaders, they are just as likely put someone stupid, incompetent, weak, despotic or just plain cruel in the top job.
Granted, some are better than others, but they can all produce bad leaders.
So ... selection by the ability to lobb spells around - why not?
It might not be the best system, but it's no worse than any other and possibly better than some.
I agree. That is what gives this system its verisimilitude actually. A perfectly acceptable, predictable, and realistic way for nobility to be selected in a fantasy world. Again, Kudos.
An excellent idea there! Good presentation and ideas. I like it!
I like the idea, it's a very interesting prospect. Now, think about this: just imagine if one day, a strange man accused of claiming magical ability was brought in front of the royal court. When "questioned" about this, he responds that he DID do so, but based off of facts, and proceeds to prove his claim by sending the guards trying to beat him bloody flying dozens of feet into the air to land in an unconscious heap on the ground, then sucking the magical energy right out of a nobleman trying to intervene. Obviously, they think that he might be a runaway prince from an unknown realm. However, when asked what rank he has in his nation's court, he replies, "What? The NOBILITY!? They wouldn't touch us mages with a ten-foot pike! Stupid sods are afraid we'll set their fancy fur coats on fire. No, I'm just a member of the Mage's Guild. One of the more intelligent ones, but one nonetheless." Obviously, the fact that a COMMONER has such powerful magical abilities- and uses them in combat so willingly- raises some tough questions for them, namely, "How can we keep him from kicking our arses?" You see, this particular nation is known for its peaceful and arrogant nobility, who mainly use magic to amuse themselves and oppress old farmers, who're always named Bob, for some reason. As a result, their war magic is incredibly weak, considering how easy it is to oppress aging peasants. As if that weren't enough, they're currently at war with a rival nation with fairly powerful mages. However, then one of them suggests a very simple prospect: allow the commoner to marry into the royal family with the king's youngest daughter, who's around his age, and then use him as their secret weapon in the war!
To quote: "Naturally, there are forms of etiquette and protocol to be observed even in a magical society of nobles. Although it happens in the odd generation here and there, nobles would never resort to such crude measures as actual magical combat between each other or rain demons upon rival houses and the like. Subtlety and finesse are considered great virtues of magical mastery. Battle magic is as crude as warfare. Of course, it can be necessary at times, but to muddy one's own hands in such toil is hardly refined.
And besides, what could be more delightfully humiliating than for an enemy noble than to be assassinated by entirely mundane, albeit well executed, means?"
So yes, they are very well used to combat other spellcasters, with very definite and tricky means to deal with them. The overly aggressive combat mage would be probably manipulated into a duel with some noble... and die.
What a great magical system to use! (And good comments as well!) Time to HoH.
Forgot to vote when I commented.