View Full Version : Etiquette and protocol

2013-05-04, 01:44 PM
The players in my Iron Kingdoms game are getting more involved with the aristocracy, which means they may end up attending social functions of high society. Naturally this means that players are going to interact with said high society.

So hereís my problem. Being an uncouth American I know nothing of politeness and manners in dealing with white tie level social functions. So Iíve come to the playground for some inspiration on how my NPCs should act, and how the players should act/react. So how would people from Khador (imperial Russia), Llael (France), Ord (Spain), and Cygnar (England I guess) would act in such a formal occasion.

2013-05-04, 01:45 PM
Read Emily Post. Seriously.

And Americans aren't unique in being, by and large, uncouth.

2013-05-04, 02:39 PM
After a brief description of the manners, anyone who rolls high enough (DC 15) on Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) should be considered to have adequately followed convention if they were trying to, and they should be able to instruct those who failed the check as an Aid Another action.

2013-05-04, 04:44 PM
This is something that can very easily go very wrong, because you're attempting to simulate an interaction between two social classes that you ultimately know very little about. It could easily become a frustrating and unpleasant exercise if the players feel that they're being penalized for not doing exhaustive out-of-character research.

2013-05-04, 05:06 PM
Skills should be useful. If the PCs have ranks in useful skills like Diplomacy (talk nicely to people) Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (recognize people and address by proper titles), Bluff (fast talk their way out of situations they stumble into) and Sense Motive (realize what sort of subjects are being spoken about in vague terms and what not to bring up), they should be fine.
Especially in games where social interaction is not the main focus. We don't expect players to be able to kill a dragon with their bare hands - they have stats for that. Same with social interaction.

Games that are very heavily into social interaction and heavy on the setting, such as pbp court stories in Legend of the 5 Rings or many VtM games, are a bit less forgiving and expect you to not make a complete ass of yourself and try to use skills to cover it.

So the way I handle it, especially if the players (or I) are not very familiar with the setting or high society, role play the exchange, roll the result to see how well they did. If the player says or does something that is an extreme gaffe, allow them a roll to see if the character knows this would be a bad idea and allow them to change their mind.
Sure, getting into the feel of high society and extreme politeness can be fun, but don't feel the need to put too much work into it if it isn't the point of the game.

2013-05-04, 05:07 PM
The fun bit is this:

The characters my players are playing crass, brutish, insufferable louts already.
So I totally expect them to fail. Also Iím sure theyíll enjoy the chance to shake things up. Itís going to be glorious.

2013-05-04, 05:08 PM
In this case, still let them roll. Then you can really rub it in that they aren't good at this stuff.

2013-05-04, 06:11 PM
As I recall, etiquette varies by society and time. Create something consistent that the locals would think is highbrow that nobody else in the world who isn't rich cares about. Expensive stuff like polo that might cost a million a year to practice on. Things that only the very rich can afford to buy and do.

2013-05-05, 04:48 PM
Also, since you used both the words etiquette and protocol in your description, make sure you don't confuse the two (or else make sure the distinction is relevant in your game).

To express as simply as possible, etiquette is the expected good conduct for the situation/place/etc. For example, not eating before the king does, not eating with the left hand, etc.

Protocol is agreed upon formal etiquette between two distinct nations/kingdom/etc. Assuming your characters are legitimate representatives of one (or more) governments, they would not only be expected to know this, they would have been taught this by their own government before leaving.

Protocol differs from etiquette in that it may formally acknowledge local etiquette, or make allowance or concessions to differing beliefs. For example, in a kingdom (Elfland) where male facial hair is a no-no and alcohol stronger than wine is outlawed, protocol may allow foreign diplomats to keep their beards, but wear a veil to conceal it. This would be a formalized understanding between the involved parties. That is, Dwarf IronBeard can keep his beard as long as he wears the veil. However, he's stuck drinking wine only.

When protocol works properly, Dwarf Ironbeard was given (and probably trained) in appropriate protocol before ever leaving for Elfland. He was also advised to have one last night of drinking good dwarf ale, since he will be expected to drink nothing but the local wine while he is there.

This doesn't mean you can't create situations where they are unaware of protocol (last minute replacements, impostors, etc.) or are complete incompetents. And it also won't cover etiquette violations if they are not official diplomats (and thus not trained in protocol).

In short, anytime you say protocol, you certainly open up the opportunity to say that someone who is an official representative from another land, etc. would have been trained in it (even if the players are unaware).

2013-05-05, 04:58 PM
The fun bit is this:

The characters my players are playing crass, brutish, insufferable louts already.
So I totally expect them to fail. Also Iím sure theyíll enjoy the chance to shake things up. Itís going to be glorious.

Aren't such characters the reason nobles don't dine with the lower classes in the first place?

2013-05-05, 05:07 PM
think firefly, more specifically shindig. Other then that, have the noblepeople have a wide array of titles that vary subtly from nation to nation, so not knowing that a Cignar Baronet is lower then a Khador Boyar would be a bad faux-pas. Dining etiquette is also pretty big (for example during the reign of Louis XIV you would start eating when the king did and stop eating when he stopped. What dance is the current fashion could be a big one. Knowing who is on the rise and has influence and who is disgraced to the point where associating with them would taint the character's reputation. Having clothing in the right style and in fashion, not carrying too much weaponry (many courts had gentlemen carry around duelling swords, but armour or more heavy-duty gear would be bad)

2013-05-05, 06:35 PM
There's been some good advice also, but another thing to note is that it is your fictional world. You can add whatever protocol you want (as long as it doesn't interfere too much with day to day activity or seems too unrealistic). And different societies produce wildly different social protocols (look at how different the rules are for most European nobles than say how things worked in Japan).