Human culture in the Continuing Game has a feudal structure that is more defined than that of modern Earth, yet more flexible than medieval Earth.
At the top of human society are the monarchs, who rule by the grace of the gods ("divine right"). This is a generally accepted doctrine, and it is important to role-play this. As the king or queen rules by divine right, he or she is deserving of respect, and the desire to serve the king or queen is the counterpart to an American's devotion to the Constitution. The monarchs in turn are served by (and appoint) vassals, the nobles and knights. Next are the freemen. At the bottom are the serfs, or peasants who are bound to the land. (Because of this restriction on mobility, no PC is ever assumed to be a serf. PCs are assumed to be freemen by default.)
"Democracy" exists at some levels, but is usually exclusionary in some form. Village councils may be limited to freemen; guilds only allow full members the franchise; city-state "republics" may only allow landowners to vote. However, the notion of nationwide democracy as a form of government is alien and usually deemed impractical; moreover it conflicts with divine right.
|Title||Domain||Adjective||Form of Address|
|Lord/Lady||manor (or unlanded)||lordly||Lordship/Ladyship|
- "Royal" and "Majesty" are reserved for kings. A duke is addressed as "his/her Grace". This is true even of sovereign dukes (such as Valenne and Roudoigne), though they are sometimes styled "Sovereign Grace".
- The Emperor of Yamamoto, the Czarina of Zdunarova, and the Sultan of Kiljukan are styled "Imperial Majesty".
- "Prince/ss" is used only for 1) rulers of principalities such as Tamplonia or 2) children of kings or emperors. The heir of an independent duke is not a prince, and has no set title other than Lord/Lady.
- A prince or princess who is the child of a king is called "Royal Highness" because s/he is of royal blood. But the Princes of Tamplonia or Veneza, who are sovereign, are called "his Princely Highness" or "his Sovereign Highness."
- Dwarven Clans use a vastly more complicated system of titles than humans do. However, every dwarf with a title of significance seems to use the term "Bloodlady" or "Bloodlord" when in human lands.
Unlike those of medieval Europe, noble titles in Northern Hesket do not pass first to sons, then to daughters. Inheritance of noble titles passes from eldest child down to youngest, regardless of gender.
In the South, inheritance is also gender-blind, but may not pass from eldest to youngest. In Kiljukan, a noble designates an heir from among his/her children; the heir need not be the eldest, but usually is. Inheritance among the Marakhs varies from region to region, from tribe to tribe.
Noble Titles and Their Origins
Historically, the fundamental principle of feudalism was that you had the lord, and his/her vassals. Each kingdom thus started with a war-leader and those who served the leader when the kingdom was first founded or conquered. Initially, there were just these two levels of hierarchy. (No monarch, when founding a kingdom, would set up a five-tiered system among his/her friends! Instead the monarch would grant lands to close allies, in an equal fashion.
On Earth, the name for this "standard noble" varied from kingdom to kingdom. In France, the name was "comte" (count), in Scandinavia "jarl", and in England "earl". It is for this reason that count and earl are considered the same title, and indeed in England the wife of an earl is called a countess, not an earless. However, not all kingdoms followed this naming practice. For instance, Scottish lords were called "thanes", later "barons".
In later times, the British (and other countries) developed complex hierarchies of nobles and how they ranked. For simplicity, the Continuing Game avoids most of this.
What do all these titles come mean?
"Duke" comes from the Roman word dux meaning "leader", from Charlemagne's empire, where a "duke" controlled a large, semi-autonomous region. These regions were often ethnically different from the kingdom's core (e.g. the Duchy of Saxony). Because of the size of duchies and the power of dukes, the title became prestigious, and soon appeared in the core of France, not just as its fringes.
Not wishing to be outdone by the French, the English soon began granting out the title of duke as well, but only in two instances were there actual duchies associated with them: Lancaster and Cornwall. (However, these titles have been held by the crown itself for centuries, and so these really don't count.) Modern British titles of "duke" are appointments, and carry no duchy. No Quest country follows the English "royal family" practice, and dukes in Quest are all of the semi-autonomous, landed type. Indeed, some dukes are fully autonomous, such as the Dukes of Bilgosh, Valenne and Roudoigne, all of whom are subjects to no king.
"Baron" is another title meaning lord and varied in use. It sometimes implied a smaller jurisdiction than a count -- though not always. Power and title varied widely within the Holy Roman Empire and within France, and so too did the strengths of barons there. In modern Britain it is considered a "small" noble title, but in medieval Europe its usage varied. It is best explained by this excerpt from the alt.talk.royalty FAQ:
Barons were originally (in Britain) those who held their lands directly from the king... a baron was an important noble, especially before the Renaissance. It was the barons who brought King John to heel at Runnymede, and "robber-baron" has entered English as the term for one of the lords who collected "tolls" from Rhine river-traffic. In olden times, when there was little differentiation in degree or rank between neighboring nobles, "baron" could signify any noble, large or small, a meaning with some currency today on the continent, roughly equivalent in meaning to "peer" or "lord" in the UK... The status of barons varies. It can be a very high title or something of little consequence.
Note the phrase "when there was little differentiation". The lord of a domain was the lord of a domain, something to be reckoned with, whatever the title. In the Holy Roman Empire, many barons were strong lords; by contrast, many English barons were of little consequence.
In the Continuing Game, note that "Lord/Lady" itself is a title. Children of nobles are given that title, and the term is also used to denote the noble lord of a manor (a subdivision of land). These lords usually hold land from some other noble rather than the monarch*, holding it instead from some other noble. For example, the Baron of Fnordia would receive his barony from the King, and then might grant several of his manors out to individuals, who would thus become Lords or Ladies of those manors.
"Prince" refers not just to the son of a king, but also to independent rulers. The Holy Roman (German) Empire contained a number of sovereign Princes, and indeed to this day Monaco and Luxembourg are principalities. In Hesket, Tamplonia and some of the regions of Delona are principalities.
Nobles who are not kings or queens do not title their children "Prince", even if they are sovereign. For instance, the heir to the Duke of Valenne is known as Lord, not Prince.
Knighthood is not hereditary; the heir of a knight is not automatically a knight. Knights are not considered noble automatically. (A nobleman or noblewoman who is knighted would be considered noble, but a freeman or freewoman made into a knight would be considered the "gentry", the social class below the nobles but above the freemen.)
Titles not to use
- "Marquis" (German "Margrave" or "Margraf") was originally a title for a border-lord in Charlemagne's empire; they were few in number. It is only common nowadays because the title was later revived (after about 1385), and most of those made Marquis were simply granted the title without land. Since this title is only marginally period, please don't use it, since that will help keep the Continuing Game a little more simple.
- "Viscount" is not period, since it didn't come into use until the early Renaissance. Therefore, please avoid it.
- "Baronet" only appeared in 1611, stemming from the English conquests of Ireland and Nova Scotia. Thus, like Viscount, is too modern for Quest purposes.
* Note that in many countries where the sovereign is not a king or queen, the nobles will hold land directly from the sovereign and will be titled Lords or Ladies. This is true of many of the Delonan lands. For instance, the nobles of the Duchy of Philiathos, except for the Duke himself, are all Lords or Ladies holding land directly from the Duke.