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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Default Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    I created a nation called Swynfaredia. I created a thread here asking for ideas about how titles would pass down with mixed succession laws, but I didn't want to post there because it would be a bit of thread necromancy.

    Essentially their social classes are like this.

    Sorcerers > all non sorcerers

    Draconic sorcerers > all other sorcerers

    Draconic Sorcerers with a lineage to the Founders > all other draconic sorcerers.

    My dragons are similar to typical D&D dragons except they are not color coded for your convenience. Dragons come in a wide variety of colors and you cannot tell a dragon's powers and moral outlook just by looking at them. Any two dragons of opposite sex can produce viable dragon offspring, so there are no subspecies, but due to magical forces, dragons are very unique and individualistic.


    Roughly a thousand years ago, four dragons got together and had the idea that the young human race needed draconic wisdom to guide them. The four founding dragons created a lot of half-dragons and set them up as the nobility of a young nation, Swynfaredia. (Swin-far-rid-eeya). Called "Swineherdia" by their enemies.

    They created four houses named after the four dragons (Fremiss the Vibrant, Goirsonad the Wise, Numaness the Mystic, and Kovenoth the Builder) but over the centuries new houses were cresated to reward lesser nobles who provided exemplary service or because one of the major houses had a schism and a philosophical offshoot.

    I realized that I forgot something. I built up Swynfaredian history assuming that the dragon blood thinned over the generations. They brought in more human sorcerers and one or two elven sorcerers and intermarried with them, but I never considered what would happen if a half-dragon sorcerer or sorceress knocked on their doors and asked to join the party.

    In my setting, ancient dragons were far more likely to mate with humans than modern dragons but the practice of creating half-dragons never stopped entirely.

    Based on their ideology, such an individual should be welcomed. Also, the second generation of dragon blooded nobles had roughly 98% of their children manifest sorcery but a thousand years later, now only 50% of their children manifest sorcery. Most assume it's because their draconic blood is thinning. In theory they should be thrilled to marry a new half-dragon into their families.

    On the other hand, the members of the four main houses (House Goirsonad, House Numaness, House Fremiss, and House Kovenoth) would probably oppose a threat to their political legitimacy.

    I'm also not sure if the four founding dragons ever had any dragon offspring. They spent about two hundred years advising the nation of Swynfaredia, then they flew off. Over a thousand years later, the four founding dragons are practically worshiped They would be dead by old age by now, but hypothetically if a dragon showed up and claimed a direct blood line to one of these dragons flew in, he or she could start a civil war just by sneezing.

    I could say that the four founding dragons were all dragon-celibate but I'm not sure if that's realistic and I'm sure whether or not it's good idea to include new draconic blood into Swynfaredia.

    Note, in my current RPG campaign, Swynfaredia is the Villain Nation. They are invading the PCs small scrappy Home Nation of Fumaya. But first they are starting a cold war.

    My players seems to like variety. Our current formula is to run a straight forward campaign with lots of fighting and action, then a political campaign with mysteries and detective work, then another action campaign, then another political campaign, rinse and repeat and the players and myself have a consensus that this a good system

    Maybe if I ran a second RPG campaign it might be set place in Swynfaredia if I found a group of players who were Game of Thrones fans that wanted to play a fantasy intrigue game.

    Anyway, Swynfaredia is WAY stronger militarily than Fumaya but Swynfaredia has a lot of infighting. All the various houses want to make sure that their house takes minimal losses in the war and gets the lion's share of the war spoils, so they are likely to undermine each other.

    Thus, Fumaya's best chance to win a war against Swynfaredia is for Fumaya (well the PCs) is to exploit the political divisions.


    EDIT: I forgot the important detail. The Queen of Swynfaredia is preparing to invade Fumaya not so much because she wants Fumaya's land and resources (she does) but she thinks giving the noble houses a common enemy will defuse tensions at home and lead to fewer people trying to assassinate her.

    Anyway, based on all this should I have half dragons historically messing with the status quo.
    Last edited by Scalenex; 2021-02-15 at 05:11 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Nov 2011

    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    My answer is, Hel yeah!

    Here's an idea:

    Though sorcerors have been welcomed, half-dragons are very rare, and none have come to the city in a century. The party's patron realizes that having one arrive at this point in time could de-stabilize the magocracy and give his nation breathing room.

    The PCs are tasked with finding a HD rumored to live in the desolate mountains over yonder, groom him to become a pawn in their scheme, then present him to a house that was recently humiliated by the queen.

    Beyond his breeding potential and his combat prowess, he could be a direct threat to the queen as a rival for her throne. He could also be an indirect threat as his children would likely displace hers in the next generation. The other clans would see opportunities to advance their own agendas.

    The trick for the PCs would be to destabilize the nation without tipping it into a war from which one faction might emerge as the ruler of a unified kingdom.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    I'm also not sure if the four founding dragons ever had any dragon offspring. They spent about two hundred years advising the nation of Swynfaredia, then they flew off. Over a thousand years later, the four founding dragons are practically worshiped They would be dead by old age by now, but hypothetically if a dragon showed up and claimed a direct blood line to one of these dragons flew in, he or she could start a civil war just by sneezing.

    I could say that the four founding dragons were all dragon-celibate but I'm not sure if that's realistic and I'm sure whether or not it's good idea to include new draconic blood into Swynfaredia.
    I don't think you need to worry or revise what you already have.

    This is a feature, not a bug.

    Cultural institutions are a patina of understanding built over time, and often contain assumptions that aren't sound as society extends from its original environment into a broad perspective. Dragons inventing a human(oid) society built to suit their opinions and establishing themselves as literal parent-kings, but not considering how their draconic line would interact with the human line....that's believable. That at some point in thousand-year history of the society, there was a sloppy patch-over to solve a problem, or the problem had to be resolved after a major disruption, or hasn't been resolved actually makes more sense than complete cultural stasis.

    Especially since what you've described is a top-down social system imposed by fiat--the base premise of the hierarchy is arbitrary; there is no relationship between sorcery talent or dragon descent and the skills required to operate a nation, and the rest of the culture--who gets resources, who gets educated, who gets titled--bends to make that flawed base premise "true." It's four dynasties maintaining their power base...including through strategic marriage...except the qualifying condition is magic and descents from dragons rather than descent traceable to a legitimate heir with some other justification structure (descended from a god, from a blessed family, first king of the nation, first king of the "right" religion").

    So technically it's not just the dragon's dragon offspring that could try and argue a claim, it's their parents, siblings, nieces/nephews.

    Furthermore...once the base premise of "dragon descent is good" has been set, there's going to be a dragon out there who looks at the racial hierarchy of the country and sees two points of failure. The first is that there's nothing material stopping another dragon from joining the culture and starting their own dynasty' the second is that the needs for dragon-descended sorcerors is so incentivized by the racial hierarchy that regular re-infusions of draconic heritage is a very smart thing for the dynastic houses to reach for.

    There's many, many holes in the base premise of the society...but that's not because you've written it wrong, it's because imaginary distinctions imposed by powerful people to preserve their power tend to be ridiculous and full of loopholes and technicalities, because the point isn't coherence, it's creating a rhetoric that serves the needs of the already-powerful.

    It makes perfect sense to pay attention to those flaws and let players use those flaws to alter or destroy this society.

    If you don't want this to be a factor in the setting, the simplest solution is: the society is racist, and could probably solve these cultural problems with more racism. Racists love fractally precise tiers of distinctions, and a natural distinction would be "relative dragons and half-dragons are somewhat special, they're allowed this much license within the society and their offspring can attain this rank; stranger dragons and half-dragons are permitted far less license and their offspring are allowed only to attain this lesser rank."

    But...you seem to want things to be more dynamic!

    Given a thousand-year history and the enormous incentives to have draconic heritage, it's far more likely century by century the ploy of bringing in new dragons and half-dragons has been tried both by the powerless and the powerful. Furthermore, a millennium is another enormous amount of time for a cultural or political entity to exist stably, so it would make perfect sense for there to be points of social upheaval or disruption that attempt to alter the power structure.

    For example, the death of each of those founder-dragons creates a power vacuum inside their clan, between the four ruling clans, and between the ruling clans and the subordinate and subjugated peoples.

    It would be perfect time for a dragon to stake a claim through kinship to be the next dragon-leader of the clan...this society is based on a racist tier system, and within that racist tier system it could be argued that a dragon kin to the founder is better than a humanoid kin to the founder...and this doesn't have to be a legal argument, much in the way that a bastard that clearly resembles their noble parent can barge into the succession when the law points towards some distant relative that technically inherits.

    And if you were a clan leader in a society where there's always been four dragons in charge and that's the base assumption of where authority comes from...when your dragon in charge dies there's going to be a very rational fear about losing power, because the parity that shapes the society has been punctured, and there's no actual guarantee that the agreed-upon system will operate according to it's premise. So attempting to re-create the framework of the previous system but with a different dragon is...a reasonable thing to try within the unreasonable framework of the society.

    It would also be moment where non-clan entity could attempt to assert themselves by allying with a dragon and re-creating the dynamic that established the nation...again, arguing the continuity of form is what is most important.

    The intricate norms and laws that were discussed the last time you posted about this setting would likely not be the product of one giant bout of legislating, but generations after generation of trying to use culture and law to seal up loopholes in the laws about racial hierarchy and "creative" interpretations of societal norms about dragons.

    Another likely point of crisis in this society is if there's a generation where no one at the top of the social hierarchy meets the culturally established criteria for right-to-rule...which is entirely feasible over 33-someodd generations, especially if these people are in-breeding to maintain "bloodlines." And it's not just biology--oligarchies create intellectual and cultural cloisters in which the social intrigues of the powerful are more important than the meat-and-potatoes practical, so after generations of infighting the top echelon has to be skilled at petty infighting to get power, but doesn't necessarily have any skills to hold power. A war, plague, or accident could drop an enormous number of legitimate candidates, too. So if the culture criterion of rulerships creates a situation of rule by scrubs, incompetents, weirdos, the basic premise of the society is exposed as...dumb.

    Individuals more practically qualified to rule--that have economic, political, and military skills--will start questioning the very idea of the hierarchy. Individuals with some of the cultural qualifications the society has elevated--skilled sorceror, more dragon--not of the traditional family power structure will also question the premise of the society.

    Also...

    The society you've described has fetishized dragons. Dragon-ness is validity and thus the gateway to power, and since the powerful are supposedly more dragon, dragon-ness (haha, dracosimilitude) will also be...beautiful, elegant, a sign of refinement, reflective of a "superior" mode of being. So while the law might try to hammer down that only the ancestral dragon line matters, and the top-down culture emphasizes the same...the presets of the culture mean people want to be around dragons, see them as inspiring and deserving deference. When these ideas were instilled it was just four dragons gaming a human society, but over time connecting each generation of power-holders to those four dragons--nearness to dragons is good and right, being part dragon is better--that's going to ripple through society.

    Half-dragons and dragons would likely be welcome in the society entirely independent of the power structure...but eventually their ubiquity would create implications for the power structure.

    Think in terms of 33 generations: over that much time, new dragon clans emulating the structure of the old ones have time to develop and grow even if they're not acknowledged by the law or assigned power. And at the same time, the perverse incentives involved in the four dragon clans maintaining their lines means they're desperate to shore up their number of sorcerers and draconic sorcerers by any means necessary. Over time, these secondary clans begin to marry into the four main clans--by law they're kept subordinate and by kinship they're theoretically not-family, but even if the law says "people marrying into the four ruling clans don't have power" they can still have de facto power by being effective at ruling or just savvy at working the intrigue systems.

    There's a lot of history of kings marrying women who nominally have no power in a patriarchal kingship, but become powerful because they're smart and their husband isn't...and a smart person with no formal qualifications is sometimes more important than having all the right pedigrees. There's also a lot of history of families providing a bride for a higher-status noble, then the entire groups elevates themselves by taking over the household of their noble in-law.

    If your players want to crack this society open, or just play at intrigue...that really long timeline can pay dividends, because it means shameful secrets and hidden compromises that the ruling class conceal because it undermines the premise of their rule, as well as complex internal factions that know things about one another but are holding off on the high-society equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction.

    (At least one ruling dragon clan has no direct lineage from the dragon they claim as their ancestor. Given how royals roll, I 100% guarantee it.)
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2021-02-15 at 02:49 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Dec 2013
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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Especially since what you've described is a top-down social system imposed by fiat--the base premise of the hierarchy is arbitrary; there is no relationship between sorcery talent or dragon descent and the skills required to operate a nation, and the rest of the culture--who gets resources, who gets educated, who gets titled--bends to make that flawed base premise "true." It's four dynasties maintaining their power base...including through strategic marriage...except the qualifying condition is magic and descents from dragons rather than descent traceable to a legitimate heir with some other justification structure (descended from a god, from a blessed family, first king of the nation, first king of the "right" religion").
    I mean, it's a feudal D&D setting. Sorcerous power is simultaneously contingent upon personal charisma and directly contributes to the military and diplomatic power required to maintain one's position atop the feudal power structure while being self-evidently inheritable from generation to generation, providing a natural reason why the title ought to be passed on to a blood relative. Obviously this country would also ideally want some appointed administrators who are good at tax collection, and jurisprudence, but you can do a lot worse than using "Let our most powerful sorcerer be the combination head of state/top military commander." as a heuristic for governance in D&D-land.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    I mean, it's a feudal D&D setting. Sorcerous power is simultaneously contingent upon personal charisma and directly contributes to the military and diplomatic power required to maintain one's position atop the feudal power structure while being self-evidently inheritable from generation to generation, providing a natural reason why the title ought to be passed on to a blood relative. Obviously this country would also ideally want some appointed administrators who are good at tax collection, and jurisprudence, but you can do a lot worse than using "Let our most powerful sorcerer be the combination head of state/top military commander." as a heuristic for governance in D&D-land.
    This is generally true, but I am specifically and deliberately trying to provide explanations for why new blood would be good and how the society could break down while following its own cultural premises because the OP was interested in that idea.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Yanagi replies to my questions are always gold mines. :)

    But I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my posts and make thoughtful replies.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    My answer is, Hel yeah!

    Here's an idea:

    Though sorcerors have been welcomed, half-dragons are very rare, and none have come to the city in a century. The party's patron realizes that having one arrive at this point in time could de-stabilize the magocracy and give his nation breathing room.

    The PCs are tasked with finding a HD rumored to live in the desolate mountains over yonder, groom him to become a pawn in their scheme, then present him to a house that was recently humiliated by the queen.

    Beyond his breeding potential and his combat prowess, he could be a direct threat to the queen as a rival for her throne. He could also be an indirect threat as his children would likely displace hers in the next generation. The other clans would see opportunities to advance their own agendas.

    The trick for the PCs would be to destabilize the nation without tipping it into a war from which one faction might emerge as the ruler of a unified kingdom.
    That is a good idea but I would be concerned that this would move the spotlight away from the PCs and onto the half-dragon NPC

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    I don't think you need to worry or revise what you already have.

    This is a feature, not a bug.

    Cultural institutions are a patina of understanding built over time, and often contain assumptions that aren't sound as society extends from its original environment into a broad perspective. Dragons inventing a human(oid) society built to suit their opinions and establishing themselves as literal parent-kings, but not considering how their draconic line would interact with the human line....that's believable. That at some point in thousand-year history of the society, there was a sloppy patch-over to solve a problem, or the problem had to be resolved after a major disruption, or hasn't been resolved actually makes more sense than complete cultural stasis.
    Good point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Especially since what you've described is a top-down social system imposed by fiat--the base premise of the hierarchy is arbitrary; there is no relationship between sorcery talent or dragon descent and the skills required to operate a nation, and the rest of the culture--who gets resources, who gets educated, who gets titled--bends to make that flawed base premise "true." It's four dynasties maintaining their power base...including through strategic marriage...except the qualifying condition is magic and descents from dragons rather than descent traceable to a legitimate heir with some other justification structure (descended from a god, from a blessed family, first king of the nation, first king of the "right" religion").

    So technically it's not just the dragon's dragon offspring that could try and argue a claim, it's their parents, siblings, nieces/nephews.

    Furthermore...once the base premise of "dragon descent is good" has been set, there's going to be a dragon out there who looks at the racial hierarchy of the country and sees two points of failure. The first is that there's nothing material stopping another dragon from joining the culture and starting their own dynasty' the second is that the needs for dragon-descended sorcerors is so incentivized by the racial hierarchy that regular re-infusions of draconic heritage is a very smart thing for the dynastic houses to reach for.
    I could retcon my history that this already happened. I created about a half dozen new houses. I built their concepts around their political strategy but I can throw a new dragon into the mix.

    There's many, many holes in the base premise of the society...but that's not because you've written it wrong, it's because imaginary distinctions imposed by powerful people to preserve their power tend to be ridiculous and full of loopholes and technicalities, because the point isn't coherence, it's creating a rhetoric that serves the needs of the already-powerful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    It makes perfect sense to pay attention to those flaws and let players use those flaws to alter or destroy this society.

    If you don't want this to be a factor in the setting, the simplest solution is: the society is racist, and could probably solve these cultural problems with more racism. Racists love fractally precise tiers of distinctions, and a natural distinction would be "relative dragons and half-dragons are somewhat special, they're allowed this much license within the society and their offspring can attain this rank; stranger dragons and half-dragons are permitted far less license and their offspring are allowed only to attain this lesser rank."
    I guess I figured their would be different aspects of racism. Some would be thrilled to welcome in new dragon blood, and some would be terrified by the prospect. Both factions could have fanatics willing to assassinate rivals in this case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    But...you seem to want things to be more dynamic!

    Given a thousand-year history and the enormous incentives to have draconic heritage, it's far more likely century by century the ploy of bringing in new dragons and half-dragons has been tried both by the powerless and the powerful. Furthermore, a millennium is another enormous amount of time for a cultural or political entity to exist stably, so it would make perfect sense for there to be points of social upheaval or disruption that attempt to alter the power structure.
    I rechecked my master calendar. Swynfaredia is 898 years old, not a thousand. But the founding dragons plotted and schemed to set up a pet nation well in advanced of Swynfaredia’s official founding so they like to talk about their thousand year heritage. It just occurred to me that the 900th anniversary of Swynfaredia would be a big deal for the superstitious. My world has nine deities so nine is a sacred number. I guess I could make that the Queen’s plan. Two years of cold war followed by a real war.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    For example, the death of each of those founder-dragons creates a power vacuum inside their clan, between the four ruling clans, and between the ruling clans and the subordinate and subjugated peoples.

    And if you were a clan leader in a society where there's always been four dragons in charge and that's the base assumption of where authority comes from...when your dragon in charge dies there's going to be a very rational fear about losing power, because the parity that shapes the society has been punctured, and there's no actual guarantee that the agreed-upon system will operate according to it's premise. So attempting to re-create the framework of the previous system but with a different dragon is...a reasonable thing to try within the unreasonable framework of the society.
    I did see this one coming. The four dragons didn’t want to rule over their puppet humans forever, they knew if the four dragons became three that would destabilize the balance so all four left once the first half dragon king had things running moderately smoothly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    It would be perfect time for a dragon to stake a claim through kinship to be the next dragon-leader of the clan...this society is based on a racist tier system, and within that racist tier system it could be argued that a dragon kin to the founder is better than a humanoid kin to the founder...and this doesn't have to be a legal argument, much in the way that a bastard that clearly resembles their noble parent can barge into the succession when the law points towards some distant relative that technically inherits.
    I figured succession would be messy. Especially when squibs are involved, or squibs having sorcerer children.



    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    It would also be moment where non-clan entity could attempt to assert themselves by allying with a dragon and re-creating the dynamic that established the nation...again, arguing the continuity of form is what is most important.
    I hadn’t thought of that. I could work that in to my history somewhere.

    I have three civil wars in Swynfaredia’s 898 year old history. The second generation had 99% sorcerery wielding children, the third generation had somewhere around 95% sorcerer. The first civil war occurred when the eldest son of the late king was a squib. The squib and his younger sorcerer brother both claimed the crown. The sorcerer won and succession laws were changed so all titles pass to the eldest male heir with sorcerery. At the time roughly 80-85% of children of noble sorcerers “bred true”

    Over generations, it slipped to about 70% breeding true. During one generation, by dumb luck the royal family had a lot of sorceresses and very few sorcerers. There was a new civil war between the late king’s eldest daughter and the kings nephew both claiming the crown. The daughter won and succession laws were changed so that titles went to the eldest child with sorcerer regardless of sex.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    The intricate norms and laws that were discussed the last time you posted about this setting would likely not be the product of one giant bout of legislating, but generations after generation of trying to use culture and law to seal up loopholes in the laws about racial hierarchy and "creative" interpretations of societal norms about dragons.
    Another likely point of crisis in this society is if there's a generation where no one at the top of the social hierarchy meets the culturally established criteria for right-to-rule...which is entirely feasible over 33-someodd generations, especially if these people are in-breeding to maintain "bloodlines." And it's not just biology--oligarchies create intellectual and cultural cloisters in which the social intrigues of the powerful are more important than the meat-and-potatoes practical, so after generations of infighting the top echelon has to be skilled at petty infighting to get power, but doesn't necessarily have any skills to hold power. A war, plague, or accident could drop an enormous number of legitimate candidates, too. So if the culture criterion of rulerships creates a situation of rule by scrubs, incompetents, weirdos, the basic premise of the society is exposed as...dumb.

    Individuals more practically qualified to rule--that have economic, political, and military skills--will start questioning the very idea of the hierarchy. Individuals with some of the cultural qualifications the society has elevated--skilled sorceror, more dragon--not of the traditional family power structure will also question the premise of the society.
    That kind of happened.

    The next generations saw instability in marriage politics as it was now possible for a child to inherit titles from his mother and his father. It was possible that a single sorcerer or sorceress could be the heir to two family’s titles which made things messy. Sometime matchmakers wanted to consolidate power in a single bloodline and sometimes they wanted to split up titles.

    The rate of breeding true slipped to about 60% and it was discovered that the patriarch of House Kovenoth was actually a lich. He was exposed and destroyed and a lot of the lich’s collaborators were executed and their lands seized. House Kovenoth already was in a tenuous position. The majority of them backed the losing side in the two previous civil wars so they already lost land and status.

    The hero was a commoner born sorcerer knight who exposed the lich argued that the status quo of “dragon bloods.” He argued that rulership should pass to the strongest sorcerers and sorceresses regardless of bloodline. Thus beginning the Third Swynfaredian Civil War. He and his wife were the most powerful spell casters but they didn’t have a lot of followers, and they eventually lost, but they ended up killing a lot of dragon blooded nobles before they fell. The Third Swynfaredian Civil War was different from the first two in that no laws were changed after the war was over. Also, very few conventional soldiers fought, almost all the fighting in the Third Civil War was sorcerer-on-sorcerer duels or terrorist style magical attacks on the peasantry.

    House Kovenoth backed the winning side this time, but they took proportionally heavy losses. They are one of the four founding houses but now they have little more than a famous surname and huge vaults of almost literally priceless heirloom magical items that they cannot sell because pride is not going to let them sell a 50,000 gold piece item for 8000 gold pieces no matter how broke they are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Also...

    The society you've described has fetishized dragons. Dragon-ness is validity and thus the gateway to power, and since the powerful are supposedly more dragon, dragon-ness (haha, dracosimilitude) will also be...beautiful, elegant, a sign of refinement, reflective of a "superior" mode of being. So while the law might try to hammer down that only the ancestral dragon line matters, and the top-down culture emphasizes the same...the presets of the culture mean people want to be around dragons, see them as inspiring and deserving deference. When these ideas were instilled it was just four dragons gaming a human society, but over time connecting each generation of power-holders to those four dragons--nearness to dragons is good and right, being part dragon is better--that's going to ripple through society.
    I got this worked into the background fluff. Originally, the first two or three generations felt socially isolated because they didn’t relate to normal humans very well and more human-looking nobles were considered more fortunate. By about the sixth or seventh generation, as draconic features became increasingly rare, it was considered a good thing to have vestigial draconic traits. The last trait to disappear was dragon-like eyes. Now 15-20 generations later, a lot of nobles use clothing with scale patterns on them or hats with fake horns on them. They use make up or illusion magic to create dragon- like eyes, something only one in ten children are born with nowadays.

    Officially minted coins have the national coat of arms on one side and a scale pattern on the other because they believe that the ancient dragons of yore traded in golden scales. Noble titles are commonly based on dragons. Captain of the Queen’s Guard is called “The Dragon’s Scales.” A sorcerer with a bunch of mobility spells to help the royal family travel is called “The Dragon’s Wings.” The Queen’s enforcer is called “The Dragon’s Breath.” Dukes and Duchesses also have these positions in their courts. Knights are called Talon Warriors (if they are not sorcerers) or Fang Warriors (if they are sorcerers).

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Half-dragons and dragons would likely be welcome in the society entirely independent of the power structure...but eventually their ubiquity would create implications for the power structure.
    That’s what I’m trying to examine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Think in terms of 33 generations: over that much time, new dragon clans emulating the structure of the old ones have time to develop and grow even if they're not acknowledged by the law or assigned power. And at the same time, the perverse incentives involved in the four dragon clans maintaining their lines means they're desperate to shore up their number of sorcerers and draconic sorcerers by any means necessary. Over time, these secondary clans begin to marry into the four main clans--by law they're kept subordinate and by kinship they're theoretically not-family, but even if the law says "people marrying into the four ruling clans don't have power" they can still have de facto power by being effective at ruling or just savvy at working the intrigue systems.

    There's a lot of history of kings marrying women who nominally have no power in a patriarchal kingship, but become powerful because they're smart and their husband isn't...and a smart person with no formal qualifications is sometimes more important than having all the right pedigrees. There's also a lot of history of families providing a bride for a higher-status noble, then the entire groups elevates themselves by taking over the household of their noble in-law.
    I figure this kind of stuff would be routine. Though I don’t think I want 33 generations. I’m probably going to revisit my math, but I figured about 19 to 21 generations (with the 22nd generation in diapers and one two old gummers from the 18th generation in old sorcerers homes), but I also assumed that the half-dragons had longer life spans and less fertility than normal humans so the first few generations are longer. Though 898 years later, modern Swynfaredian nobles no longer enjoy increased life spans.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    If your players want to crack this society open, or just play at intrigue...that really long timeline can pay dividends, because it means shameful secrets and hidden compromises that the ruling class conceal because it undermines the premise of their rule, as well as complex internal factions that know things about one another but are holding off on the high-society equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction.

    (At least one ruling dragon clan has no direct lineage from the dragon they claim as their ancestor. Given how royals roll, I 100% guarantee it.)
    That’s a good idea. At one point I did start writing short biographies for the first generation of half-dragons and planned to work my way forward. I wrote short biographies for all the half-dragon children of Fremiss the Vibrant. It was kind of fun but it occurred to me that writing a history for a thousand dead sorcerer nobles would not really help me write a better novel or run a better RPG.

    Almost all nobles in Swynfaredia probably share blood with Fremiss the Vibrant. Fremiss the Vibrant had eighteen half-dragon children via six human lovers. The other three dragons combined had about thirty half-dragon children. Even generations later, House Fremiss has a reputation for being hedonistic and promiscuous.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    I mean, it's a feudal D&D setting. Sorcerous power is simultaneously contingent upon personal charisma and directly contributes to the military and diplomatic power required to maintain one's position atop the feudal power structure while being self-evidently inheritable from generation to generation, providing a natural reason why the title ought to be passed on to a blood relative. Obviously this country would also ideally want some appointed administrators who are good at tax collection, and jurisprudence, but you can do a lot worse than using "Let our most powerful sorcerer be the combination head of state/top military commander." as a heuristic for governance in D&D-land.
    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    This is generally true, but I am specifically and deliberately trying to provide explanations for why new blood would be good and how the society could break down while following its own cultural premises because the OP was interested in that idea.
    Originally I created this fantasy nation for a D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder world but I since adapted my setting to some homebrew rules I cooked up combining some aspects of D&D with White Wolf’s d10 system. I call it D&D10.

    Charisma is useful to spell casters in D&D10 but it is not the be-all end-all it is for D&D sorcerers. But political power stems from the ability to wield economic and military power and I figure magic leads to both political and economic power.

    Even though my system does not necessarily require it, I tend to give sorcerer NPCs higher social attributes and wizard NPCs higher mental attributes.


    Anyway, here is what I have so far for sorcerer houses. None of it is set in stone and I'm planning to add more houses later.

    Founding Houses

    The founding houses were named after the legendary dragons, Numaness the Mystic, Goirsonad the Wise, Kovenoth the Builder, and Fremiss the Vibrant and their half-dragon descendants.

    House Numaness : The most influential house. The majority of the kings and queens of Swynfaredia have been from this house, including the current Queen. Originally they focused on magical excellence, now they push their house members to be excellent at everything.

    House Goirsonad : The second most influential house and a constant contender for the royal throne. Their motto is "Knowledge is power." Originally they were a house of sages and scholars. Now they are a house of spymasters in addition to sages and scholars.

    House Kovenoth : The least influential of the original founding houses. Their strategy was always to play kingmaker but a series of scandals and poor decisions has left the house low in prestige and strapped for coins, though they are still holding an impressive arsenal of priceless heirloom magical items and constructions.

    House Fremiss, original: House Fremiss was based on the principles of being kind to commoners, being brave in battle, and having a general zest for life. They were very fertile and a lot more nobles today bear the surname Fremiss than any other founding house. Unfortunately they were too zesty and the house fell into a lot of infighting over the centuries. Now there are three offshoot houses of Fremiss.

    House Fremiss A : Fremiss is the most political powerful offshoot of House Fremiss, but they have given up most of their original houses ideals (though they still have a bit of a hedonistic streak). They are now ruthless and power hungry, hoping to cement their place as the power behind the throne in Swynfaredia. They are seeking to strengthen ties to all the priesthoods, especially the Children.

    House Fremiss B : Fremiss B has taken the bravery ideals of their original house. They have cultivated a warrior culture, both among the nobles and their low born subjects (who they treat well in the hopes of receiving patriotic service in return).

    House Fremiss C : The smallest and least prestigious of the Fremiss offshoots. They are trying to shore up their political power by shoring up their magical power. They are far less picky in marriage partners as long as their marriage partners are powerful sorcerers and have bestowed a number of honorary titles and positions on non-human sorcerers to win their loyalty.


    New Houses

    Over the centuries, as Swynfaredia grew and recruited more sorcerers, various sorcerers were given ennoblement as reward for their exemplary service creating new houses.

    House Gareth : House Gareth was the first new house recognized in Swynfaredia as a reward for their years of faithful military soldiers. Originally the soldiers of this house were loyal to the realm as a whole but they are now essentially loyal sidekicks of House Numaness.

    House Manasch : A group of merchant sorcerers who bought their official house recognition. Their power is in economics, especially through dominating Swynfaredia's reagent trade.

    (reagent is my catchall term for materials that go in magical items and potions)

    House Selwyth: This secretive house is a group of flamboyent schemers and Machiavellian cutthroats. They have allied themselves to House Goirsonad hoping to ride their coattails to power.

    House Gruffyl: This secretive house is a mercenary minded house that seems to be playing neutral in the feud between Numaness and Goirsonad waiting for an edge.

    House Cefnor: This secretive house is a mercantile minded house that is hoping to build their fortunes through controlling Swynfaredia's sea trade.


    House Selwyth and House Gruffyl are hiding dark secrets. House Cefnor is secretive but they are pretty benign and are a red herring, but people think they are hiding dark secrets (and Selwyth and Gruffyl are arranging that if they are ever caught in their misdeeds they can blame Cefnor)


    Selwyth is secretly ruled by a lich. Their long term goal is to make liches socially acceptable in Swynfaredia. Their medium term goal is to make using undead troops socially acceptable. Their short term goal is to ingratiate themselves to House Goirsonad.

    House Grufflyl's goal is to figure out a way to increase the odds of sorcerers and sorceresses breeding true. Their ultimate goal is to figure out a way a sorcerer and a commoner can be guaranteed to produce a sorcerer baby. They are willing to do horrifying magical eugenics experiments to meet their goals.
    Last edited by Scalenex; 2021-02-16 at 12:39 AM.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Depending on average age of having children, 33 generations is between 660 and 990 years, roughly.

    Not sure what sort of lifespan, etc, you're thinking of for your dragon-blooded individuals.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Some comments:

    "New" draconic blood can come into the system, but that itself can provide another layer of stratification if those entrants aren't descended from the original 4 dragons. So if they marry in then their children may be higher status in terms of magical power but lower status because that power does not come from "old" blood

    Are all sorcerers dragon blooded in this world or are there some who get their powers from other sources? Even better perhaps if other sources of power exist but their existence is officially denied - so you can get power from Fey or Celestial heritage from example but have to pretend it is draconic in origin

    Where do warlocks fit into this? Priests of draconic gods? Druids who can wildshape into dragons?

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Okay, a revision:

    House Kovenoth sends an agent to the PCs who wishes to hire them to safely deliver a half-dragon to them before the other factions discover it. What the agent does not say is that she is a child still in the care of her mother.

    Other clans learn of her and wish to add her blood to their lineage. Some would kill her rather than allow some other clan have her.

    Cfter the offer is made and the agent shown out, the patron speculates on the political ramifications should one or another house succeed. Then the patron speculates about the consequences if she dies. Then he speculates about the possibilities of the appearance of her death.

    The sad truth is, now that she is known to exist the rival houses will not quit until she is a part of their society, but it will be decades before she is ready to mate. What damage will be done before then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Depending on average age of having children, 33 generations is between 660 and 990 years, roughly.

    Not sure what sort of lifespan, etc, you're thinking of for your dragon-blooded individuals.
    I used 33 generations because I was thinking in terms not of lifespan, but thirty years representing the period over which a person achieves adulthood and has a worldview that they communicate to younger people.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    I used 33 generations because I was thinking in terms not of lifespan, but thirty years representing the period over which a person achieves adulthood and has a worldview that they communicate to younger people.
    "Generation" is barely based on lifespan, yeah.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    When talking about kingships and the like a "generation" is going to roughly be the average age from birth to the birth of an heir.

    if we simplify that every human lives 75 years...now if someone's father takes the throne and dies of old age (75) the new heir will have however many years younger they were than their father before they also peg it from old age. Thus if old age is the main think killing your monarchs (like we seem to have in a highly stable empire seen here) the average length of rulership will be equal to the average age they start having children. . . There will be a lot of variation around this but but it will give you some idea of the average.

    Generation as a social concept is something else entirely...having to do with shared norms and probably shared experiences that shaped them.

    Generation as being more tied to a "king list" is yet another thing, but often used interchangeably. Because you get the old King X, Son of Y, son of Z, etc etc etc...which is how many people think of being various noble titles....(see people still being called the (number) Earl of whatsit or the seventh count of thataplace. Which has issues (elder heir dies young and it goes to a sibling for example will increase your king list without increasing the number of generations) but honestly doesn't really matter if you are talking large generalities.

    honestly. Having 898 years works well enough. using "generations" as a length of time is always going to be wonky. Figure out the number of rulers but your "generation" count would give you MINIMUM ruler count...how many more than this would be a decent indicator of the amount of sideways movement, backstabbings, deaths by assassins/battle/illness/accident, and general drama around the throne.



    Also at what age is "being a sorcerer" determined.

    For example if a young ruler dies and they have a child but that child is 5 years old. Then what? does that child become ruler when they become of age (with a regency?) or does the previous rulers younger sorcerous sibling? because if that child later grows up and IS a sorcerer they could argue that they have a better claim to the throne than their aunt/uncle (direct eldest child of the previous ruler and a sorcerer)....You can see where this could be an issue....as could just late bloomers...(imagine two siblings only a year or two apart in age but the only the younger's sorcery has emerged when their mother dies...so the younger takes the throne but then the elders ability appears in the aftermath of the coronation of their younger sibling....

    as could things like hiding or suppressing a child's sorcery (a ring/curse/crown of antimagic field could probably be developed around the idea and groups have the ability and incentive to do so in this nation) so that a favored sibling gets the inheritance....if such a thing is discovered what do they do? create a cadet house? take out the leadership who got into power when they shouldn't (even if they didn't know and this will create large political, social, and maybe military command disruption) sweep it under the rug?

    or what about bastard/illegitimate children? If someone has only squib or no official children (if their partner is barren for example) but does have sorcerer children with someone else...how does the society treat them? if they a great magical bloodline (especially if everyone "knows" (*wink wink* who the actual parent is) does that matter? are they often granted their own minor houses? optionally officially inducted as family but placed at the end of the inheritance line? are they snapped up by bloodlines a couple noble ranks lower than the parent? is there a lot of "polite surprise" that a lower caste family produced such a "noble specimen" and quietly co-opted into the family? lots of options here.

    how the society deals with these kind of things will also tell you some idea of where the society sits of the idealistic to practical spectrum. And this will be a major (but by no means only or guaranteed) determinant to how they view "new blood". How they view bastards probably having the closest ties...as they are "non system" semi outsider sorcerers.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2021-02-17 at 03:57 PM.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    I like the above idea.

    The Siblings' Rings

    Suratisia Koban came to the throne as Monyadaki III, known as The Reconciler for her inniatives which gave the losing sides a measure of power in the government.

    But she was wracked with guilt over the murders of her siblings by which the path to her throne had been paved. Thus she created five magic rings, one for each of her children.

    To her eldest she gave the Ring Of The Dragon. It is a powerful magic item which is believed to grant the wearer the following powers:

    Magic Resirtance 10

    Additional Sorceror spell slots at levels 0-4

    +1 Sorceror level. (If the heir has no sorceror levels the wearer can use the cantrip spell slot only.)

    The ability to Alter Self into a dragon once per month.

    The other four rings were cursed to prevent all spellcasting.

    All five were cursed to make it impossible to remove them. The idea was that it would prevent her children from being forced to kill their ambitious, (or guided by ambitious nobles,) siblings.

    The actual result was that Kuaari the Unlucky survived his mother by 13 days due to poisoning. With his siblings unable to inherit, the Monyadaki Dynasty ended in only three generations.

    The rings have shown up from time to time, but they all look alike so no one knows which is which. There is a rumor that The Ring of the Dragon is among the Crown Jewels, but no monarch will dare to try it on for fear that it is actually one of the Siblings' Rings.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Also at what age is "being a sorcerer" determined.
    This immediately brought to mind the Box of Pain from the start of Dune.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    This immediately brought to mind the Box of Pain from the start of Dune.
    **Shrug** sure it could work...If that is the way OP wants to develop the world and if there was something about the test that accurately determined the ability to cast sorcerer spells. For example if the box would turn off with the smallest channeling of magic energy (and such channeling is a good indicator or later true spell casting)or if the type of pain induced also induced the opening of sorcerer abilities...cracking them open earlier than is found in other places for example....but would still leave questions for how to deal with inheritances of those below the age of the test.



    also we have a good idea of how a line passes down directly from parent to child...but how it hopping house to house? this would create a break in the line and need a different system of choosing a new leader...and also justification (lack of heirs? but there seems a system for that)...are the houses run this way but the monarch elected by heads of noble houses on the passing of the previous monarch? And while there is a preference for electing the house heir of the previous monarch (and current monarchs give out many favors aimed at ensuring such a vote) it is by no means a sure thing?

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    **Shrug** sure it could work...If that is the way OP wants to develop the world and if there was something about the test that accurately determined the ability to cast sorcerer spells. For example if the box would turn off with the smallest channeling of magic energy (and such channeling is a good indicator or later true spell casting)or if the type of pain induced also induced the opening of sorcerer abilities...cracking them open earlier than is found in other places for example....but would still leave questions for how to deal with inheritances of those below the age of the test.
    It wasn't so much about the details, just about the idea of a high-pressure high-stakes test that they're putting kids through to determine sorcerous "potential"... and maybe it's not 100% accurate.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    The old seer entered the birthing chamber where the queen lay, sheathed in sweat, as the midwives cleaned away the evidence of birth. He lay his ritual basin of gold, silver, copper, and steel on the pedestal to the left of the birthing bed. He spoke a word and the basin filled with clean, warm water.

    "Bring me the child," he said in a formal tone.

    The ritual was old and very formal. Its roots, older than the ancient basin, went back to the founding of the Empire. The queen herself had participated in it in her time, though only the seer remembered the tiny, screaming creature which had grown to become his monarch.

    Two of the midwives brought a blanket-lined basket while the others continued to deal with the queen. The queen ignored their ministrations as she watched, through the pain and exhaustion of childbirth, the seer lift her son from his bed and hold him by his neck and his bottom to lay the babe into the basin. The red blood that remained on him spiraled out into the water and became tiny red clouds which mingled with the clear water until only the red remained. The old man's fingers, steady and gentle, bathed the newborn as he spoke the incantations of the ritual.

    Then a thing happened that was less and less common as the years went by: the blood-clouded water began to turn violet, then blue. The blue deepened, became the cobalt of the deep open sea. The seer smiled and was about to lift the babe from the water but he backed away instead with a look of astonishment on his face. The water began to turn translucent, and then began to glow. In the seven-hundred or more births he had attended, less than half showed the color change from red to blue. Of those, less than half showed the change as deeply blue as was seen just a moment before. None had caused his basin to glow with the power of ten lanterns!

    The startled midwives clustered to watch and to whisper, ignoring, for the moment, their tasks. The queen took no notice of them. Her attention, and her smile, was on the basin in which her son lay. When one of the midwives fled the room the Seer turned to look around, and then to step back and complete the ritual blessing of the child before lifting him from the basin. Placing the newborn back into his basket broke the spell, and the basin's glow ebbed until only the blue water remained in it.

    The seer watched as the midwives raised the baby and placed him on his mother's breast. They helped the mother and child to get into a comfortable position, then stood by while the rest of the midwives, their tasks for now completed, took the bloody towels and the other instruments of their trade away. He waited as the queen smiled an exhausted smile and gently stroked her perfect child's sleeping head.

    A moment later the runaway midwife returned, leading the High Priest of the Four Dragons. The priest genuflected to his queen, then turned to the seer.

    "Is he one?"

    "The water glowed, Elder Dragon."

    "Then he is one," the priest stated. "My queen, the law requires that on the fifth anniversary of his birth he be tested again. If he is truly one, then he is the first in two generations..."

    "I know the law, and I know history, Elder. The law will be honored, and my son, your future king, will become the first true dragon-king in five hundred years."

    "My queen," the priest said, then hesitated before repeating, "My queen, not all who undertake the Awakening survive."

    "Because the lore has been forgotten, Elder." The queen's voice took a commanding tone. "You have five years to learn everything that can be learned of the rituals of The Awakening. If my son dies, so too will you and all of the priests who failed him. But my son will not die." She turned her focus to her baby again as she said, "Will you my little Makada? No, you will not. You will become the strongest of the kings since the Disciple King. I wonder, will you grow wings?"

    She ignored or did not see as the two old men made their ritual obeisances and left, the seer carrying the basin filled with dark blue liquid.

    Back in his conservatory he poured the water off into jars, careful not to spill any. As he lidded and labeled the jars in his secret script he thought about the transformation their young prince would undergo, one day. He was very tempted to look into the future of the child to see what would become of him, but this was forbidden: his powers were not to be used to satisfy his curiosity.

    But even as he closed his mind to the future, an image came unbidden of a tall man, full in his power, unfurling great golden-red wings under the gaze of the four dragon-sculptures of the throne room.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-02-17 at 09:18 PM.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by wilphe View Post
    Some comments:

    "New" draconic blood can come into the system, but that itself can provide another layer of stratification if those entrants aren't descended from the original 4 dragons. So if they marry in then their children may be higher status in terms of magical power but lower status because that power does not come from "old" blood
    That is kind of what I'm thinking. Status is a mix of old blood, political acumen, and pragmatic magical power.

    Quote Originally Posted by wilphe View Post
    Are all sorcerers dragon blooded in this world or are there some who get their powers from other sources? Even better perhaps if other sources of power exist but their existence is officially denied - so you can get power from Fey or Celestial heritage from example but have to pretend it is draconic in origin
    In my world, a majority of sorcerers and sorceresses have draconic ancestors but not all of them.

    My world has magical weather patterns that most people cannot see. Usually the end result is that after this metaphorical "rain" the magic is going to pool into some areas and result in things like mandrake root, mushrooms circles and the like, collectively called magical reagents. Trained reagent hunters can hunt down the physical remnants of these things, collect them and sell them to wizards and sorcerers to make potions or scrolls with.

    Sometimes, this magical energies coalesce in the fetus of a pregnant woman and result in a baby born with the potential sorcery. Greymoria, the goddess of magic tries to steer these events into babies born to families that honor her but her control over this process is less absolute than the goddess tells her followers, so many become sorcerers by accidents thought this doesn't stop some Greymoria worshipers from praying that their children become sorcerers or those who think Greymoria worshipers are heathens shunning sorcerers out of bigotry (Greymoria is pretty evil and doesn't have many people who worship her out of anything other than fear).

    Swynfaredia, when they invade another nation, will invariably say that the people they are attacking are bigoted against sorcerers btw.

    The polite term for a sorcerer created by a random magic storm is Exogenic Sorcerer. The common term for them is Random Sorcerer. The vulgar term for them is Witch Touched Sorcerer.

    Swynfaredia has a lot of Random Sorcerers relative to the rest of my world. Greymoria's worshipers say this is because Greymoria has more worshipers here than most places. Others say that it's because Swynfaredian nobles go slumming and create bastard children among the peasants. It's really hard to tell the difference between a peasant born sorcerer who was empowered by a magical storm and a sorcerer who's grandmother had a tryst with a Dragon blooded noble.

    It's also theorized that a sorcerer could be a Dragon blood and Witch Touched, if they have diluted draconic blood that is awakened by a random magical event.

    I was mostly concerned with wizards pretending to be sorcerers since they are even more similar to each other in my homebrew system than 3.5 ed and 5th edition D&D.

    They did create a magical item called arcane vellum which can tell the difference between a sorcerer and a wizard, if the mage in question consents to the test anyway.

    When exposed to arcane magic it changes colors based on the schools of magic the mage knows. The colored blotches will be random nonsense shapes for sorcerers and geometric patterns for wizards.


    Quote Originally Posted by wilphe View Post
    Where do warlocks fit into this? Priests of draconic gods? Druids who can wildshape into dragons?
    I'm not 100% sure if even want to have my setting include warlocks. I like playing warlocks in other people's games but I am usually the DM and not the player and none of my friends are particularly interested in them.

    Now that I'm trying to write a novel in my setting I am hitting the wall of Hard Magic Systems versus Soft Magic Systems. Not just the magic, my world is very much a hard system. I even try to make sure my ecosystems and economies make sense.

    Warlocks and the entities that create them tend to be staples of soft systems.


    My system does not have draconic gods per se. Most fantasy settings create various peoples then figure out what gods they worship. Usually dwarf god(s), human god(s), orc god(s) etc. To create my world I started with the gods and worked my way down.

    I have nine deities and they are everyone's gods, humans, elves, dragons, etc. If they send an avatar to deal with mortals they will take on a mortal form, usually customized to the mortals they are dealing with and the gods watched over the dragons much longer than the humans, so all my gods do a draconic aspect.

    Without going into specific examples, some modern and ancient real world nations create a pseudo-religious aspect where their present and past leaders are either worshiped outright or they are kind of sort of but not really worshiped. Hero worship I guess. Swynfaredia has a vaguely religious sentiment for how they look at the founding dragons. Their statues are everywhere and they even have a few shrines. And the conventional organized religions are weaker in Swynfaredia than elsewhere.


    I am a bit of contrarian. If you ask me whether I created a high magic setting, or a low magic setting, I would say "I created a medium magic setting." Magic is powerful but nothing in my homebrew systems exceeds that of a fifth level spell if even that. Druids cannot wildshape into dragons. A polar bear or a large shark is about the limit of what they can manage.

    My dragons are a bit smaller than 3.5 or 5th edition dragons too, but that's besides the point. They are still the most powerful mortal creatures around.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Okay, a revision:

    House Kovenoth sends an agent to the PCs who wishes to hire them to safely deliver a half-dragon to them before the other factions discover it. What the agent does not say is that she is a child still in the care of her mother.

    Other clans learn of her and wish to add her blood to their lineage. Some would kill her rather than allow some other clan have her.

    Cfter the offer is made and the agent shown out, the patron speculates on the political ramifications should one or another house succeed. Then the patron speculates about the consequences if she dies. Then he speculates about the possibilities of the appearance of her death.

    The sad truth is, now that she is known to exist the rival houses will not quit until she is a part of their society, but it will be decades before she is ready to mate. What damage will be done before then?
    So like Baby Yoda but as a half dragon? I like this idea.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    When talking about kingships and the like a "generation" is going to roughly be the average age from birth to the birth of an heir.

    if we simplify that every human lives 75 years...now if someone's father takes the throne and dies of old age (75) the new heir will have however many years younger they were than their father before they also peg it from old age. Thus if old age is the main think killing your monarchs (like we seem to have in a highly stable empire seen here) the average length of rulership will be equal to the average age they start having children. . . There will be a lot of variation around this but but it will give you some idea of the average.
    Nod.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Generation as a social concept is something else entirely...having to do with shared norms and probably shared experiences that shaped them.

    Generation as being more tied to a "king list" is yet another thing, but often used interchangeably. Because you get the old King X, Son of Y, son of Z, etc etc etc...which is how many people think of being various noble titles....(see people still being called the (number) Earl of whatsit or the seventh count of thataplace. Which has issues (elder heir dies young and it goes to a sibling for example will increase your king list without increasing the number of generations) but honestly doesn't really matter if you are talking large generalities.

    honestly. Having 898 years works well enough. using "generations" as a length of time is always going to be wonky. Figure out the number of rulers but your "generation" count would give you MINIMUM ruler count...how many more than this would be a decent indicator of the amount of sideways movement, backstabbings, deaths by assassins/battle/illness/accident, and general drama around the throne.
    I'm all about drama over thrones. It worked for George R. Martin.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Also at what age is "being a sorcerer" determined.

    For example if a young ruler dies and they have a child but that child is 5 years old. Then what? does that child become ruler when they become of age (with a regency?) or does the previous rulers younger sorcerous sibling? because if that child later grows up and IS a sorcerer they could argue that they have a better claim to the throne than their aunt/uncle (direct eldest child of the previous ruler and a sorcerer)....You can see where this could be an issue....as could just late bloomers...(imagine two siblings only a year or two apart in age but the only the younger's sorcery has emerged when their mother dies...so the younger takes the throne but then the elders ability appears in the aftermath of the coronation of their younger sibling....

    as could things like hiding or suppressing a child's sorcery (a ring/curse/crown of antimagic field could probably be developed around the idea and groups have the ability and incentive to do so in this nation) so that a favored sibling gets the inheritance....if such a thing is discovered what do they do? create a cadet house? take out the leadership who got into power when they shouldn't (even if they didn't know and this will create large political, social, and maybe military command disruption) sweep it under the rug?

    or what about bastard/illegitimate children? If someone has only squib or no official children (if their partner is barren for example) but does have sorcerer children with someone else...how does the society treat them? if they a great magical bloodline (especially if everyone "knows" (*wink wink* who the actual parent is) does that matter? are they often granted their own minor houses? optionally officially inducted as family but placed at the end of the inheritance line? are they snapped up by bloodlines a couple noble ranks lower than the parent? is there a lot of "polite surprise" that a lower caste family produced such a "noble specimen" and quietly co-opted into the family? lots of options here.

    how the society deals with these kind of things will also tell you some idea of where the society sits of the idealistic to practical spectrum. And this will be a major (but by no means only or guaranteed) determinant to how they view "new blood". How they view bastards probably having the closest ties...as they are "non system" semi outsider sorcerers.
    I probably need to peg down when a sorcerer is legally recognized as a sorcerer. I figure there are at least a few years where the budding young sorceress has magic powers but they are weak and poorly controlled.

    I am thinking an early bloomer could wield controlled sorcery at age fourteen and a late bloomer could probably control his/her gift by age 21. Random magic usually manifests around age ten, but is has occurred as early as three or four or as late as sixteen. That is of course recent generations of human sorcerers.

    Half dragons have longer lifespans and tend to manifest their first magic later. To say nothing of elf or half-elf sorcerers (though elf sorcerers are fairly uncommon and relatively few of them are interested in joining Swynfaredia's government).

    I hadn't thought about a regency for a child who might be a sorcerer. That could causes interesting story issues if younger sibling is an early bloomer compared to an older sibling. I had considered an issue where the younger sibling is a far better sorcerer than the older sibling. This can create a lot of resentment on both sides that can lead to fratricidal thoughts.


    I played a historical fantasy game (Vampire Dark Ages set in medieveal Constantinople) once and the GM who was a history buff summed up Byzantine politics.

    Originally if the king was killed and deposed, the king's heirs were exiled as a mercy, but then an exiled prince came back and retook the throne. From then on out exiled heirs were disfigured because due to cultural norms, it was assumed no one would follow a disfigured king. Then a disfigured prince managed to retake his lost throne. Then they started blinding the heirs of defeated lords, until a blind prince was able to retake his ancestral title.

    Then usurpers opted to wipe out the entire bloodline every time.

    I think a similar escalation would happen if attempts were made to suppress a lord or lady's sorcery.

    Alternatively, given that Swynfaredians practically worship the ideals of sorcery magically suppressing a sorcerer would be akin to violate the worst laws of nature and be considered a more heinous crime than killing a sorcerer.


    As for bastard sorcerers popping up among commoners. It's probably not cut and dry. There are probably hardline old schoolers that snub bastard sorcerers and there are reform minded lords that welcome them with open arms. And of course there are those that will try to fake noble credentials for sorcerers and sorceresses they want to recruit.

    As more and more squibs are born, in general lords and ladies become less and less picky about rubbing elbows with low born sorcerers. Any and all of the options you brought up could apply somewhere.


    The stuff people wrote on testing children is intriguing. The blurb Brian 333 wrote is very well written. I need some time to ponder it.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    What is the place of Dragon Disciples in your setting? Can sorcerers undertake painful, potentially deadly rituals to awaken theirr laten draconic heritage? I would seem like this is a test which would demonstrate the legitimacy of a non-noble sorcerer and automatically make the Disciple suitable as a mate for a noble.

    In my blurb I intimated that those babies who made the water glow were eligible for Dragon Disciple training, but you may not want this in your campaign.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    as a general question....how common are new minor houses?
    sure you have the big four pillars that are basically immortal but how about the lesser houses?

    this give some idea of churn and overall turnover...how easy new houses are made, die, or are absorbed. The higher the rates of such things the easier it is for "new blood" to join the flow. At least in a legal sense...sure they may be looked down on as upstarts for a couple generations but then again so may other cadet houses, bastards, raised lesser nobles who gave good service, etc. On the other hand it could be very hard to create or destroy a house...which would lead to questions of why, what makes them so stable? The first thing that jumps to mind is adoption...either in the roman sense or perhaps as the highest form of vassalage...where you take the name of the foster family...this would lead to the families being large and more clan that the type of noble family we normally think of in the European Heraldic sense...but that could also work and would make the INTRAclan politics a larger thing. The lots of quicker up and down families would focus the politics more on the INTERfamily competition.


    as for the Byzentines....well just look where the Ottomans took that idea. A couple of them would slaughter all their brothers/halfbrothers upon taking the crown. It got extreme. but the basic crime of suppressing the ability to cast sorcerer spells is HIGHLY incentivized in the system you describe. So the ability, the action, and the FEAR of it would certainly be a thing. As would the attempt to fake a squib as a sorcerer.

    LATER EDIT:
    Possible idea drawn from Roman and Ottoman history. Before the daughter/nephew succession war that led to the change allowing for the eldest child instead of eldest son rule change, have one of those child regencies where the mother rules in the place of her son for a decade or more and runs the empire via behind the throne influence for a time after. And have this be a VERY good time for the empire. She proves her leadership and acumen, which is in part why she continues to be the shadow leader for a time after. Not only did things like this really happen but it would also set up a norm for the daughter to point to of female leadership particularly if it was comparatively recent to the time of the daughter/nephew war.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2021-02-20 at 01:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    What is the place of Dragon Disciples in your setting? Can sorcerers undertake painful, potentially deadly rituals to awaken theirr laten draconic heritage? I would seem like this is a test which would demonstrate the legitimacy of a non-noble sorcerer and automatically make the Disciple suitable as a mate for a noble.

    In my blurb I intimated that those babies who made the water glow were eligible for Dragon Disciple training, but you may not want this in your campaign.

    I have not as of yet created anything like dragon disciples in my D&D10 system. If such a thing existed, Swynfaredian nobles would surely want to do this.

    The first few generations of Swynfaredian dragonbloods wanted to look more human. The later generations want to look more draconic


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    as a general question....how common are new minor houses?
    sure you have the big four pillars that are basically immortal but how about the lesser houses?

    this give some idea of churn and overall turnover...how easy new houses are made, die, or are absorbed. The higher the rates of such things the easier it is for "new blood" to join the flow. At least in a legal sense...sure they may be looked down on as upstarts for a couple generations but then again so may other cadet houses, bastards, raised lesser nobles who gave good service, etc. On the other hand it could be very hard to create or destroy a house...which would lead to questions of why, what makes them so stable? The first thing that jumps to mind is adoption...either in the roman sense or perhaps as the highest form of vassalage...where you take the name of the foster family...this would lead to the families being large and more clan that the type of noble family we normally think of in the European Heraldic sense...but that could also work and would make the INTRAclan politics a larger thing. The lots of quicker up and down families would focus the politics more on the INTERfamily competition.
    I haven't given this much thought until this thread. While the Swynfaredians are not inclined to give equal status to foreign sorcerers, any sorcerer or sorceress who swears fealty to a Dragon Blood house is guaranteed a high paying job if not a knighthood. Swynfaredians don't have knights, they have Fang Warriors (referring to sorcerer warriors) and Talon Warriors (referring to elite warriors who are not sorcerers). Nearly every government position harkens back to dragons in some symbolic way.

    If a lesser sorcerer who swore fealty to the Swynfaredians marries a lesser sorceress who was also loyal to the Swynfaredians then of course the proper Dragon bloods would be happy to give favoritism to these second generation vassals. I guess I'll call these Recognized Bloodlines, which are like a lower tier of nobility in all but name.

    So I suppose a new house forms, when the king or queen (MAYBE a duke or duchess) opts to formally recognize a bloodline as a house.

    Of the lesser houses I came up with so far. Most of them earned their full house status for valorous wartime service and two money grubbing groups of sorcerers (one cornered magical potion ingredient trade and the other cornered sea trade) managed to get their house status by buying it.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    as for the Byzentines....well just look where the Ottomans took that idea. A couple of them would slaughter all their brothers/halfbrothers upon taking the crown. It got extreme. but the basic crime of suppressing the ability to cast sorcerer spells is HIGHLY incentivized in the system you describe. So the ability, the action, and the FEAR of it would certainly be a thing. As would the attempt to fake a squib as a sorcerer.
    True, highly illegal or not there would be a great incentive to fake a squib as a sorcerer and a lot of incentive to suppress a rival sorcerer's ability.

    I need to put more thought onto the latter. As mentioned before, there is a relatively cheap magical item called Rainbow Vellum that will identify a sorcerer from a non-sorcerer so it would be hard for a wizard or warlock to fake being a sorcerer unless they bribed or coerced the Arcane Registry into providing a fake vellum piece in their pile which is possible, the Office of the Arcane Registry is not above corruption, but it would be very expensive.

    Suppressing a budding young sorcerer or sorceress I am less sure of how to do it, but someone would certainly try.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    LATER EDIT:
    Possible idea drawn from Roman and Ottoman history. Before the daughter/nephew succession war that led to the change allowing for the eldest child instead of eldest son rule change, have one of those child regencies where the mother rules in the place of her son for a decade or more and runs the empire via behind the throne influence for a time after. And have this be a VERY good time for the empire. She proves her leadership and acumen, which is in part why she continues to be the shadow leader for a time after. Not only did things like this really happen but it would also set up a norm for the daughter to point to of female leadership particularly if it was comparatively recent to the time of the daughter/nephew war.
    So I started plotting out some early family trees. I use dice to ball park, did this person live a long life or did they die young. By dumb luck, among the first generation of half dragon children of the four dragons, the women generally lived longer than the men by a fair bit. That mean there is a precedent for wise matriarchs "advising" their sons and grandsons sitting on the royal and ducal thrones.

    So your suggestion is a good fit with the family tree I already started.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    hmmm...firstly I'm still trying to figure out the systems you describe and actions you want to happen and the structures of a classic western noble families. I really think you may want to the houses be more like clans...in part because with the original 4 dragons each having multiple half dragon children....so if it was more classically western nobility structure you'd get a bunch of noble lines...but it would make sense if the all the various lines decedent from a single dragon would be likely to intermarry and bond as an alliance, creating a single political unit...a house. House members being as likely to marry another member of the house (if a different line) as they are likely to marry outside of it. This would help form the family cultures you've mentioned and would also be a logical response to try and keep bloodlines strong which would be a major thing in the nation. This would also back things up for when a house looses many members in war...they have to have lots of members to start with...plus when a line is kicked off the throne and is eliminated by the new holder (in line with that Byzantine politics you mentioned, or imperial China,) there are other lines and families of the same house that can take over and keep the house alive which would prevent those names dying out over the last 900 years.

    Also I'm just going to toss out a bunch of House ideas...also in several editions of D&D draconic sorcerers are linked to certain dragon types so I'll include them (maybe)...also I'd consider most of these houses both minor and up-and-coming....and several are examples of "new blood" or have strategies for getting "new blood" that can then be used to gain status ... and overall this are as much to get ideas working as anything else.

    Spoiler: house ideas
    Show

    House Reothadh (White)
    This quite small family was largely raised for the military gumption. They are not known for being wise, strategic, or sly but are strong from the front type military leaders and the families constant intrafamily war-games means that most have a solid grasp of small and mid-level unit tactics before they are even tested for sorcerous ability. In part due to the fact that they are not respected on a political basis they are quite neutral which has led to their large, boisterous, only semicultured parties being acceptable places for members of all houses to let their hair down and enjoy...which is quietly treasured by many of the more stuffy houses.

    House Salsura (Black)
    This house has many small holdings throughout the nation and is a quite significant part of the economy. They started as makers of wine, vinegar, garum, and cheese but over time took these salt heavy foods and expanded into both direct saltworks, many vegetable pickling operations, salted meats, hams etc. From there various works of alchemy and embalming helped the family become valued within the nobility. The family now is key to many of the nation's military pushes..not in the vanguard but they are the cornerstone of supply lines. Salsura salted meats and pickles are the assumed rations for most of the military when away from base.

    House Bàisceò (Green)
    Another significant martial house well known for bringing hard highly disciplined troops to the front with them. Several battles have turned on the rocklike grit of Basceo raised and led shieldwall. The regions that they hold domain over are generally considered prosperous but deeply uncultured. Almost nothing from this house and most of the craftsmen from the lands they control show signs of ornamentation. The house is deeply efficient even if this means moral questionable things...like the slaughter of their enemies, war crime massacres, and some of the most strict and harsh punishments being doled out to criminals within their lands. This same dark willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals also applies to some of the families darkest secrets...including the fact that they have secretly captured a handful of halfdragons from distant lands and no hold them as slaves under one of their holdings...they have been repeated forced to bear Basceo children who are then slipped into the family line as "twins" of other births.

    House Sradag (Blue)
    Founded 250 years ago by a halfdragon from outside the nation as a puppet of their mother. And today the family plays a a dangerous game...over time the new members of the family grew to be actually loyal to the Swynfaredain nation but play at loyalty to their distant matriarch to keep her happy. For she provides them with many advantages. She has let them breed with other of her halfdragon prodigy in order to keep their bloodline strong, the sorcerous blood vital, and thus the status and even marriages that such things can buy, she also brings outside information and her own long political minded counsel.

    House Callabefio (Red)
    A house that rose to some prominence on a mix of the money they have gained from controlling several mineworks and the magical artifice that they have spent much of that wealth creating. The family has also used several well times "gifts" of such magical items to gain political benefit. While the house is well liked and well tolerated within Swynfaredia outside the nation they have spies (normally covered scholars or magical items) who keep an eye out for young dragonblooded sorcerers or halfdragons which have then been abducted, flat out bought from parents, and then mentally abused, charmed, or charmed until they accept marriage into the family.

    House Chalceus (Brass)
    For many generations this small family has been dominated by councilors, lawyers, and tutors but since the rise of the current patriarch the families fortuned have waxed both politically and even within the magical blood they hold in the veins. Some of the later may have to do with the young adult Brass dragon that is captured in the basement of the one of their manners having been held their since a hatchling (by the curent patriarch when they themselves were young) and knowing no other life adding more draconic blood into the family since reaching the young adult stage...How much longer the aged patriarch or the conditioning on the dragon can hold is anyone's guess.

    House Chuarten (Copper)
    Noble masters of building. They have deep ties to the creation of many of roads, castles, earthworks (especially irrigation) and the like. They use a powerful combination of engineering knowledge and powerful magic to help them build these often wondrous creations. This is helped by that many elder family members spend their later year pouring their magical power into magical staves for the future generations to use. These staves often have a higher caster level than the wielder and usually allow them to cast spells such as move earth, mud-to-stone, wall of stone, stone shape, and similar spells. The manner by which the family is able to create so many of these staves is not quite understood but seem to be only limited flexibility. Within the nobility the family is also well known for their lover of puzzles, riddles, and games of strategy. What is little known is that much of this search is because they have a more than cordial relationship with a copper dragon hundreds of miles away who very much likes riddles that he has never heard before and bonding over such things can at times get friendly...friendly enough that a smattering of halfdragons have been born into the house and largely kept secret in the more distant holding of the house all while strengthening the bloodline.

    House Aeratus (Bronze)
    Raised for their military minded support of the great houses House Aeratus is a regular pillar of the nations strategic power. The family is mostly based around a large river systems and fund much of their military from the trade and fishing along the shores. While deeply respected in some ways the family often lacks sorcerous potential within their blood (these sad children often form the core of the House's military officers) and is thus not much of a player in national politics...however some in the family are looking to change that but just don't know how.

    House Airgeaol (Silver)
    This house is nearly as ancient as the great four houses but far smaller due to the fact they were founded by a single halfdragon and his children when the main families were the various clutches of each of the founders. Quite wealthy this family has a very long term view of investment. They buy or trade for land next to settlements that they think have a good basis for future growth and have been quite successful over the centuries. Thus as those villages or towns expand to cover the lands that the house had purchased the younger generations can start charging quite high urban rents. Which are often used to develop the land further (so they can charge yet more) or to help those towns who need a bit of a push to turn into a centre of commerce or industry so that nearby holdings become profitable. Highly urban in nature this family generally avoids military service as much they can. They buy their respect or influence the cultural power that the cities hold. And what magic they have is often aimed in more "civilized" manners with illusions, charms, and divination being more common than fireballs or wall of force.

    House Achadh (Gold)
    Coming from part of the rural heartland of the nation House Achadh hold a somewhat interesting position within the nation. They are noted as highly adept managers of their holdings which grow large amounts of surplus foodstuffs that feed the cities of the Empire, hold deeply to grand culture of the nation if in a somewhat conservative way, and produce deeply loyal and strong military units that are a shining example to many of the other levies. And this house is deeply tied to their lands and rarely leave them. Their fair, honest judgment is largely why the seeming picture perfect regions exist. The While some people do leave these regions for the wider empire and world, these are the often idealistic exceptions. Besides the Paladins and Bards the region is known for most people from here, including the vast majority of the House Achadh members are homebodies. Which has led to a lovely, well managed, quite well off, and for many deeply boring region and house. This lack of focus on the larger picture has had negative effects for the house over the years, blindsided by political events in the capitol and lacking the close ties needed in order to make their often idealistic vision actually take root anywhere beyond their own holdings. That said their lands are popular places for outsiders to visit and are used as a form of political propaganda by the leaders in the nations capitol even as the leaders who made it that way are quietly shuns=ed and laughed at in the halls of power.

    House Operibus (Copper)
    Deeply linked to the Dragoneyes (or whatever you name the national intelligence service) the house was largely founded by a couple who were effective spyhunters and to this day hold to that. Mostly with a rather domestic focus they have traded access to power (and the lands, good marriages, and titles that come with that) for the trust and social acceptance of the other noble families and foreign dignitaries living in the Swynfaredain lands that they keep an eye on. One of the side effects of this constantly looking for disloyalty has been that the family has tended to co opt loyal sorcerers from odd places when they have found them and they have been useful. This has included foreign draconic blooded sorcerers, highly loyal members of families that have been otherwise exiled or imprisoned and even those willing to be agents for the crown elsewhere who have served well. Strangely enough this seems to have had a positive effect on the bloodline and they have a higher than average rate of magic in their children even if it tends to being quite hard to detect as quieter divination and enchantment spells seem more common that the loud attention grabbing ones.

    House Decoco (Red)
    A young house born from their leadership in the suppression a relatively recent (in the history of a 900 year old empire) uprising by a region that been brought into the Empire only a generation or so before. The formerly small house that had been vassals of another, descendant from a sorcerer exiled from his own homeland and happy to accept lands in the then newly taken region as reward for their military and magical service. They came to power truly when they ended up being some of the only survivors of a mass attack of assassination and targeted killings of nobles in these lands and further rallied the throne's forces to put down the rebels. It was not a pleasant or honorable war with several towns burnt to the ground to make examples of them but the Decoco were victorious at a time when the central government could ill afford to support actions in the region due to other crises and wars somewhere else. As a reward the family was granted much of the lands of those nobles who had been wiped out. Becoming land rich the house has been building power ever since but spend most of what they gain trying to redevelop their lands and hold onto the still resentful population. However only fools would not see that they are building a strong foundation for national prominence. . . and how to use that, or block it is starting to be mulled in the secret salons of the ancient houses.

    House Innisbàis(Black)
    If a house was ever born in a reflection of the memory of its founder it is house Innisbais. Not long after the dragons departed Swynfaredain and the elder generation of half dragon sorcerers had died of old age a quite powerful sorcerer arrived at the capital. She was obviously of strong draconic blood and claimed her father was half dragon...this led to her being taken as a retainer by one of the early throneholder because the magic in her blood was both strong and at the time rare within the kingdom...for she was a necromancer...how much was sorcery and how much divine magic has been lost to legend but it is implied both by the wise. While most feared she would summon skeletons and otherwise degrade the founding generations that were all but worshiped by the nobility she instead played into that hero worship. She played upon her ability to speak with the dead in order to "offer guidance" from their founders to current holders of power...subject to what she wanted to say and would be useful to her of course. This eventual semi-acceptance of her place in the early state led to a highly placed marriage (and taking her husbands name which is what is now preserved...her maiden name is subject to debate) and gifts of land and title. Today this small house still does this but has expanded its role if only in a few ways. They are now keepers of history, often the last word on who is decedent from who within the nobility, many of the functions around births and deaths (and the consumables therein), close ties with some church figures, and hold a near monopoly on the right to work the corpses of dragons...dragonbone, dragonscale armour and basically can not be worked without at least the blessing (and title to) this house...which while economically of little import is a goldmine of cultural influence and favor trading. The family interest in bloodlines and where they may find outsider sorcerers as well as awareness of about the lives of dragons in foreign lands (looking for bodies of dragons to both properly lay to rest/revere/turn into magical items has given the house several opportunities to bring in newer blood or cast of bastard children from other noble lines..or at least that is what is the semi-open secret that the house would have you believe...any possible rumours of them having a connection to their founders grandfather offspring is just that...rumour.

    House Eildearglic (wild or Fey magic)
    This house is a rare exception with the lands of Swynfaredain...it is a house of elves. They have sorcery in their blood and have earned themselves a niche in the noble games....Their elven blood and the fact that most are not even draconic sorcerers means that it is widely known that they could never truly make a play for true power in these lands. They have power because they can't hold power. Their "disability" in the great game of houses means that they are often considered "safe". They have been handed titles when a side loosing a political contest cared more about denying it to a rival than holding it themselves several times. They have also become trusted arbiters between draconic houses in conflict...as, in theory, they can hold no scales in the game and so will be fair. This has led to a surprising amount of soft power for the family and the elder members of line are some the most crafty and cagey political fighters in the nation. The house also almost never marries into other houses due to the racial difference and either draws from the tiny elven minority who develop sorcery, other house members, or foreign elves who they find useful and willing to accept the same overall deal the house has made...mostly sorcerers of course especially those resentful about the positions of wizard in most elven culture but there are examples of all kinds if it helps the house.

    House Rogadskiy (shadow/infernal/fire magics)
    This house wishes its sorcerous power was draconic, but everyone knows it is not. The hints of horns, warm skin, and small scale patches are often made to look as though the family is as draconic as any other...but it is a lie. And so the Rogadskiy have become culturally draconic even if their blood has not and has never been. IN many ways they are too perfect in their holding to the draconic ideals in order to compensate for the fact that everyone knows and politely ignores in public. The Rodaskiy are touched by the infernal. Founded by a foreign sorcerous tiefling that most outsiders could not tell from a child of a halfdragon and turned out to be deeply loyal to nation in return for accepting his odd appearance and family history. To this day some children are born teiflings in this house but most are functionally human. Their magic may have slightly different flavor to it..but again the family sells the image and national focus on dragons better then most who have thick dragonblood in the veins and so are forgiven...until it really counts. The family has long had to take roles that the rest of the nobility doesn't want and is regularly jealous of the fact that their blood tends to run quite pure with magic...which has led to charges of them dealing with extraplanar beings in return for that on a couple of occasions in history...and they may even have been true it is heard to say. The family has a bit of a history of taking in (and sometimes adopting or marrying) teiflings children abandoned by their parents both from within the human population of Swynfaredain and nearby nations. And interestingly the family has a long history of quiet success with many roles but especial in serving the intelligence services or internal police on behalf of the crown...which is part why they have managed to survive 300 years under the winged shadows of their draconic neighbors.

    House Coigreach (Wild Magic)
    House Coigreach is an odd duck. Born from a a pair notable peasant sorcerers one native and one from a nation now incorporated into the Empire but then independent house Coigreach as no known draconic blood in them. They are a family of noted purely human sorcerers. Which puts them at a strong disadvantage in the political games of the capitol and other high position...but respect for their sorcerous blood does remain and so they are tolerated...even though they are as native to the nation as any of the great four houses and can make some claim of being even older than them. And over time the family has found a niche. They are deeply tied to foreign trade on behalf of their homeland and similarly as diplomatic representatives in behalf of the Dragon Throne...because over the centuries of often aggressive actions not all of the nearby lands are very trusting of those who show signs of Draconic blood...And this is where the Coigreach shine. Wherever draconic blood (and especially where stronger blood that show signs on the body) would be a disadvantage this house sees opportunity. So while deeply loyal to the nation this house very often doesn't look like a classic noble and for good reason. The house is more than any highly aware that their sorcererous ability is the key to their own acceptance and thus existence within the nation (with no dragonblood to fall back on) and they can be quite aggressive in trying to get any small bloodline that appears to pass down magical ability within the human population to become incorporated into their own house to strengthen it while the constant side-eyes of the more prominent houses makes acceptance of foreign born sorcerers appears to be rare event (in order to keep questions of loyalty at bay) but their many contacts with foreign nations provides ample opportunity to make such connections and rumours always swirl around the issue.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2021-02-28 at 08:34 PM.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Orc in the Playground
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    Oct 2006

    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Your thoughtful reply is very excellent thank you. I meant to reply earlier but I wasn't sure how to start because you included so much.

    It certainly got my


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    hmmm...firstly I'm still trying to figure out the systems you describe and actions you want to happen and the structures of a classic western noble families. I really think you may want to the houses be more like clans...in part because with the original 4 dragons each having multiple half dragon children....so if it was more classically western nobility structure you'd get a bunch of noble lines...but it would make sense if the all the various lines decedent from a single dragon would be likely to intermarry and bond as an alliance, creating a single political unit...a house. House members being as likely to marry another member of the house (if a different line) as they are likely to marry outside of it. This would help form the family cultures you've mentioned and would also be a logical response to try and keep bloodlines strong which would be a major thing in the nation. This would also back things up for when a house looses many members in war...they have to have lots of members to start with...plus when a line is kicked off the throne and is eliminated by the new holder (in line with that Byzantine politics you mentioned, or imperial China,) there are other lines and families of the same house that can take over and keep the house alive which would prevent those names dying out over the last 900 years.
    I did create a family tree for the original houses and it includes the multiple human spouses/lovers of the dragon, so I suppose someone descended from Fremiss and Human A could marry someone descended from Fremiss and Human B and not have as much of an inbreeding issue as double dipping on Fremiss blood and human A.

    Fremiss the Vibrant happened to have children with six different human women.

    Numaness the Mystic was monogamous and had all of her children with one human man whom she formally married.

    Goirsonad the Wise and Kovenoth the Builder fell in between these two extremes.

    It just so happens that House Fremiss is the one that splits into smaller houses. Even 900 years later, the Fremiss bloodlines more than not live up to their reputation for being promiscuous.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Also I'm just going to toss out a bunch of House ideas...also in several editions of D&D draconic sorcerers are linked to certain dragon types so I'll include them
    A long time ago, I ran an entirely different D&D campaign and I homebrewed 3.5 rules for making my own dragons that roughly on par with the official dragons of Monstrous Manual. The main thing I did is I threw out dragon types. I figured that a single dragon needs a lot of territory to survive and that each dragon subspecies needs at least a few hundred members to have a viable breeding population. I thought if my world had ten separate stable populations of dragons there would not be much room for humans and demihumans much less other large monsters.

    So I went with one race called "dragons." Dragons can come in all variety of shapes and they can have any sort of breath weapons and you cannot tell by just looking at a dragon's color if it's Good or Evil (or Neutral). Dragons usually have the same general coloration and breath weapon as one or both parents and dragons usually try to mate with a dragon that is physically similar and shares a similar moral outlook but there are many exceptions. A lot of young dragons go through a wild adolescence/young adult phase where they fool around with the bad boy/girl whoever that dragon defines "bad" and some dragons rebel and try to radically differentiate themselves from their parents.

    I kept the same system for this new game, but I don't reinvent the wheel. If I need to make a dragon NPC, I will use one of the stereotypical dragon archetypes of classical D&D and change a few traits here and there. I really am a fan of the 3.5 book the Draconomicon where it has 100+ short biographies of various dragons young and old. They make great starting points. Fremiss the Vibrant was red and breathed fire, but his personality was closer to a stereotypical Bronze Dragon.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    (maybe)...also I'd consider most of these houses both minor and up-and-coming....and several are examples of "new blood" or have strategies for getting "new blood" that can then be used to gain status ... and overall this are as much to get ideas working as anything else.
    You certainly helped me generate some ideas.

    Based on your reply and the other replies on this thread, after my last RPG session was over (I'm running a solo adventure for a inquisitor type rooting out Swynfaredian spies in his homeland) we talked about how to combine this fantasy nation's history with aspect of real historical nobles, especially the Byzantines (which is being a history buff is well versed in).

    In broad strokes, my original is this.

    -House Numaness and House Goirsonad are the two main rival houses that have always pretty much always fiercely contested the royal throne.

    -House Fremiss made an early bid for power, fell flat on their faces and never were able to make a serious bid for the throne again, because internal divisions divided their power base. Fremiss the Vibrant's main value he tried to push on his descendants were "be brave in battle," "live life to the fullest." and "be kind to those who are beneath you." Now the three split houses each take one of those three precepts and elevate it above the other two.

    -House Kovenoth had the idea of playing kingmaker so they can have a hand in the shape of the realm no matter who had the throne. It worked for a while, but the bulk of the house backed the losing side in the first two civil wars. Then one of their leaders tried to hide the fact that he was a lich. Then during the third civil war they were distrusted by both sides and took disproportionately heavy losses. Now they are a house of has-beens.

    Originally, Numaness the Mystic pushed her descendants to focus on the acquisition of magical power above all else. This developed into a house stereotype where they can move mountains with their magic, but they cannot tie their own shoes without casting a spell, and a lot of their princes and potentates got manipulated by their advisors they learned to play politics. They still value magical power. But now their motto isn't excellence in magic, it's excellence in everything. Either they end up churning young lords and ladies who are very potent in statecraft, war, academia, and magic or they or they end up churning out psychological wrecks who burn out.

    Originally, Goirsonad the Wise pushed for the acquisition. Their house motto was "Knowledge is power." The House still has the world's largest library collecting dust, but now the knowledge they seek is about different things. They have a lot of spies and criminal contacts.


    Combining everything together, this is what I came up with for broad strokes history.

    I had the idea that the first king was chosen by contest. Each bloodline chose one male champion (at the time, they were patriarchal). Each champion went through a series of trials set by the dragons and the winner was crowned king. Because the trials were heavily tilted towards magical power, House Numaness' champion won.

    The First Numaness King married a Goirsonad half-dragon. By dumb luck, the Goirsonad Queen still holds the world record for the longest natural lifespan of a half-dragon/half-human. When the first king died, the nation had a new contest to determine who won. The queen manipulated the contest to greatly favor her handpicked successor. When he died, the queen manipulated the contest again.

    After the first queen finally died, House Goirsonad still tried to tilt the trials, but they lacked her subtlety and were found out, at least by House Numaness. At this point, Numaness and Goirsonad stopped being staunch allies and their rivalry began in earnest.

    A champion for Fremiss won legitimately to become the next king, but Goirsonad, deflecting blame for their past contest rigging, accused the Fremiss champion of cheating with a smear campaign and this narrative won out. Even most of House Fremiss believed the lie.

    At which point, the leaders of Goirosnad, backed by Kovenoth, suggested hey, this challenge system is too rife with cheating. Perhaps we should just switch to primogeniture like most of the other human nations are doing.

    Then not too long after that, the first born male son of the king was a squib and a civil war was fought to establish that squibs cannot inherit.

    Then not too long after that, the royal family had a relative dearth of male sorcerers and a civil war was fought to establish that titles passed to the eldest sorcery wielding heir regardless of sex.

    Then not too long after that, a non-draconic sorcerer tried to create a new meritocratic system and he got beaten...eventually. The non-draconic sorcerer and his wife killed a lot of dragon blooded nobles before they themselves were slain.

    Now that things are calmed down, the various noble houses have started fighting again. The current queen faced more assassination attempts than she preferred to deal with, so she had the brilliant idea to start a war with a foreign power to unify the feuding houses against an outsider and prevent a new civil war (and to prevent an assassination attempt against the queen). Also, 9 is a sacred number in my world. The nation of Swynfaredia is 898 years old. The queen wants to usher her nation's 900th year anniversary with a military victory followed by a period of peace and prosperity to cement her place in the history books as the greatest monarch the nation had ever known.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Reothadh (White)
    This quite small family was largely raised for the military gumption. They are not known for being wise, strategic, or sly but are strong from the front type military leaders and the families constant intrafamily war-games means that most have a solid grasp of small and mid-level unit tactics before they are even tested for sorcerous ability. In part due to the fact that they are not respected on a political basis they are quite neutral which has led to their large, boisterous, only semicultured parties being acceptable places for members of all houses to let their hair down and enjoy...which is quietly treasured by many of the more stuffy houses.
    The underlined portion is already true of House Fremiss B, something I had more or less thought up with already, but I do like the stuff you have that follows. I could make them less cultured and be fun at parties. That adds a bit of character to distinguish them from the other military houses.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Salsura (Black)
    This house has many small holdings throughout the nation and is a quite significant part of the economy. They started as makers of wine, vinegar, garum, and cheese but over time took these salt heavy foods and expanded into both direct saltworks, many vegetable pickling operations, salted meats, hams etc. From there various works of alchemy and embalming helped the family become valued within the nobility. The family now is key to many of the nation's military pushes..not in the vanguard but they are the cornerstone of supply lines. Salsura salted meats and pickles are the assumed rations for most of the military when away from base.
    House Manasch and House Ceffnor are both merchant based house that bought their way into power. I didn't figure out how they bought their way into power exactly except the vague notion that Manasch control potion ingredients and Ceffnor dominates sea trade. Given that potioneering uses a lot of alchemy I like the idea of adding food processing and pickling into their repertoire.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Bàisceò (Green)
    Another significant martial house well known for bringing hard highly disciplined troops to the front with them. Several battles have turned on the rocklike grit of Basceo raised and led shieldwall. The regions that they hold domain over are generally considered prosperous but deeply uncultured. Almost nothing from this house and most of the craftsmen from the lands they control show signs of ornamentation. The house is deeply efficient even if this means moral questionable things...like the slaughter of their enemies, war crime massacres, and some of the most strict and harsh punishments being doled out to criminals within their lands. This same dark willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals also applies to some of the families darkest secrets...including the fact that they have secretly captured a handful of halfdragons from distant lands and no hold them as slaves under one of their holdings...they have been repeated forced to bear Basceo children who are then slipped into the family line as "twins" of other births.
    The idea of kidnapping half-dragons as breeding stock is intriguing. House Selwyth is a small very villainous house that is trying experimental magics to create sorcerer children via magical eugenics (via experimentation with unwilling human test subject). Mostly I had them trying to develop magical rituals to enact during conception to let ordinary humans conceive sorcerer babies, but I could throw some enslaved half-dragons into the mix.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Sradag (Blue)
    Founded 250 years ago by a halfdragon from outside the nation as a puppet of their mother. And today the family plays a a dangerous game...over time the new members of the family grew to be actually loyal to the Swynfaredain nation but play at loyalty to their distant matriarch to keep her happy. For she provides them with many advantages. She has let them breed with other of her halfdragon prodigy in order to keep their bloodline strong, the sorcerous blood vital, and thus the status and even marriages that such things can buy, she also brings outside information and her own long political minded counsel.
    Of all the ideas you came up with, a dragon infiltrating the nation with his/her half-dragon offspring is my favorite one. I definitely want to try something like this.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Callabefio (Red)
    A house that rose to some prominence on a mix of the money they have gained from controlling several mineworks and the magical artifice that they have spent much of that wealth creating. The family has also used several well times "gifts" of such magical items to gain political benefit. While the house is well liked and well tolerated within Swynfaredia outside the nation they have spies (normally covered scholars or magical items) who keep an eye out for young dragonblooded sorcerers or halfdragons which have then been abducted, flat out bought from parents, and then mentally abused, charmed, or charmed until they accept marriage into the family.
    This is well thought out, but this concept isn't really doing it for me. I'm not sure why.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Chalceus (Brass)
    For many generations this small family has been dominated by councilors, lawyers, and tutors but since the rise of the current patriarch the families fortuned have waxed both politically and even within the magical blood they hold in the veins. Some of the later may have to do with the young adult Brass dragon that is captured in the basement of the one of their manners having been held their since a hatchling (by the curent patriarch when they themselves were young) and knowing no other life adding more draconic blood into the family since reaching the young adult stage...How much longer the aged patriarch or the conditioning on the dragon can hold is anyone's guess.
    A captured dragon raised from birth to be a pawn is an intriguing idea though I need to flesh out more details.

    House Chuarten (Copper)
    Noble masters of building. They have deep ties to the creation of many of roads, castles, earthworks (especially irrigation) and the like. They use a powerful combination of engineering knowledge and powerful magic to help them build these often wondrous creations. This is helped by that many elder family members spend their later year pouring their magical power into magical staves for the future generations to use. These staves often have a higher caster level than the wielder and usually allow them to cast spells such as move earth, mud-to-stone, wall of stone, stone shape, and similar spells. The manner by which the family is able to create so many of these staves is not quite understood but seem to be only limited flexibility. Within the nobility the family is also well known for their lover of puzzles, riddles, and games of strategy. What is little known is that much of this search is because they have a more than cordial relationship with a copper dragon hundreds of miles away who very much likes riddles that he has never heard before and bonding over such things can at times get friendly...friendly enough that a smattering of halfdragons have been born into the house and largely kept secret in the more distant holding of the house all while strengthening the bloodline.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Aeratus (Bronze)
    Raised for their military minded support of the great houses House Aeratus is a regular pillar of the nations strategic power. The family is mostly based around a large river systems and fund much of their military from the trade and fishing along the shores. While deeply respected in some ways the family often lacks sorcerous potential within their blood (these said children often form the core of the House's military officers) and is thus not much of a player in national politics...however some in the family are looking to change that but just don't know how.
    This is kind of what my House Gareth is based on. Gareth was a bastard son of a dragon blood noble that was a great military strategists. His sons went on to have strong military careers as did their sons. Gareth was legitimized posthumously and House Gareth became the first "new" house formed.

    They are a military power without a lot of political clout. They want to gain political clout. Recently, their patriarch or matriarch (not sure which one they have yet) tried a risky political gambit. They have formally allied with House Numaness whereas before they were official neutral in the Nuamness-Goirsonad rivalry. They are gambling that has long as House Numaness is the ruling house, they can use Numaness' largesse to make themselves stronger.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Airgeaol (Silver)
    This house is nearly as ancient as the great four houses but far smaller due to the fact they were founded by a single halfdragon and his children when the main families were the various clutches of each of the founders. Quite wealthy this family has a very long term view of investment. They buy or trade for land next to settlements that they think have a good basis for future growth and have been quite successful over the centuries. Thus as those villages or towns expand to cover the lands that the house had purchased the younger generations can start charging quite high urban rents. Which are often used to develop the land further (so they can charge yet more) or to help those towns who need a bit of a push to turn into a centre of commerce or industry so that nearby holdings become profitable. Highly urban in nature this family generally avoids military service as much they can. They buy their respect or influence the cultural power that the cities hold. And what magic they have is often aimed in more "civilized" manners with illusions, charms, and divination being more common than fireballs or wall of force.
    I like the idea of a less numerous house formed by a single long dead half-dragon, but I'm not sure I like the urban slum lord angle.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Achadh (Gold)
    Coming from part of the rural heartland of the nation House Achadh hold a somewhat interesting position within the nation. They are noted as highly adept managers of their holdings which grow large amounts of surplus foodstuffs that feed the cities of the Empire, hold deeply to grand culture of the nation if in a somewhat conservative way, and produce deeply loyal and strong military units that are a shining example to many of the other levies. And this house is deeply tied to their lands and rarely leave them. Their fair, honest judgment is largely why the seeming picture perfect regions exist. The While some people do leave these regions for the wider empire and world, these are the often idealistic exceptions. Besides the Paladins and Bards the region is known for most people from here, including the vast majority of the House Achadh members are homebodies. Which has led to a lovely, well managed, quite well off, and for many deeply boring region and house. This lack of focus on the larger picture has had negative effects for the house over the years, blindsided by political events in the capitol and lacking the close ties needed in order to make their often idealistic vision actually take root anywhere beyond their own holdings. That said their lands are popular places for outsiders to visit and are used as a form of political propaganda by the leaders in the nations capitol even as the leaders who made it that way are quietly shuns=ed and laughed at in the halls of power.
    I kind of like this idea, but for a province or region of land, not a family line.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Operibus (Copper)
    Deeply linked to the Dragoneyes (or whatever you name the national intelligence service) the house was largely founded by a couple who were effective spyhunters and to this day hold to that. Mostly with a rather domestic focus they have traded access to power (and the lands, good marriages, and titles that come with that) for the trust and social acceptance of the other noble families and foreign dignitaries living in the Swynfaredain lands that they keep an eye on. One of the side effects of this constantly looking for disloyalty has been that the family has tended to co opt loyal sorcerers from odd places when they have found them and they have been useful. This has included foreign draconic blooded sorcerers, highly loyal members of families that have been otherwise exiled or imprisoned and even those willing to be agents for the crown elsewhere who have served well. Strangely enough this seems to have had a positive effect on the bloodline and they have a higher than average rate of magic in their children even if it tends to being quite hard to detect as quieter divination and enchantment spells seem more common that the loud attention grabbing ones.
    I really like this concept, but I already have a bunch of houses that use "we are spymasters" as part of thier identity. I need to figure a way to incorporate into an existing house or create a spy agency that transcends house lines.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Decoco (Red)
    A young house born from their leadership in the suppression a relatively recent (in the history of a 900 year old empire) uprising by a region that been brought into the Empire only a generation or so before. The formerly small house that had been vassals of another, descendant from a sorcerer exiled from his own homeland and happy to accept lands in the then newly taken region as reward for their military and magical service. They came to power truly when they ended up being some of the only survivors of a mass attack of assassination and targeted killings of nobles in these lands and further rallied the throne's forces to put down the rebels. It was not a pleasant or honorable war with several towns burnt to the ground to make examples of them but the Decoco were victorious at a time when the central government could ill afford to support actions in the region due to other crises and wars somewhere else. As a reward the family was granted much of the lands of those nobles who had been wiped out. Becoming land rich the house has been building power ever since but spend most of what they gain trying to redevelop their lands and hold onto the still resentful population. However only fools would not see that they are building a strong foundation for national prominence. . . and how to use that, or block it is starting to be mulled in the secret salons of the ancient houses.
    I'm on the fence with this one.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Innisbàis(Black)
    If a house was ever born in a reflection of the memory of its founder it is house Innisbais. Not long after the dragons departed Swynfaredain and the elder generation of half dragon sorcerers had died of old age a quite powerful sorcerer arrived at the capital. She was obviously of strong draconic blood and claimed her father was half dragon...this led to her being taken as a retainer by one of the early throneholder because the magic in her blood was both strong and at the time rare within the kingdom...for she was a necromancer...how much was sorcery and how much divine magic has been lost to legend but it is implied both by the wise. While most feared she would summon skeletons and otherwise degrade the founding generations that were all but worshiped by the nobility she instead played into that hero worship. She played upon her ability to speak with the dead in order to "offer guidance" from their founders to current holders of power...subject to what she wanted to say and would be useful to her of course. This eventual semi-acceptance of her place in the early state led to a highly placed marriage (and taking her husbands name which is what is now preserved...her maiden name is subject to debate) and gifts of land and title. Today this small house still does this but has expanded its role if only in a few ways. They are now keepers of history, often the last word on who is decedent from who within the nobility, many of the functions around births and deaths (and the consumables therein), close ties with some church figures, and hold a near monopoly on the right to work the corpses of dragons...dragonbone, dragonscale armour and basically can not be worked without at least the blessing (and title to) this house...which while economically of little import is a goldmine of cultural influence and favor trading. The family interest in bloodlines and where they may find outsider sorcerers as well as awareness of about the lives of dragons in foreign lands (looking for bodies of dragons to both properly lay to rest/revere/turn into magical items has given the house several opportunities to bring in newer blood or cast of bastard children from other noble lines..or at least that is what is the semi-open secret that the house would have you believe...any possible rumours of them having a connection to their founders grandfather offspring is just that...rumour.
    This is my second favorite idea you suggested. I might try to incorporate my own fantasy mechanic on spirit loas loosely based on real world folklore.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Eildearglic (wild or Fey magic)
    This house is a rare exception with the lands of Swynfaredain...it is a house of elves. They have sorcery in their blood and have earned themselves a niche in the noble games....Their elven blood and the fact that most are not even draconic sorcerers means that it is widely known that they could never truly make a play for true power in these lands. They have power because they can't hold power. Their "disability" in the great game of houses means that they are often considered "safe". They have been handed titles when a side loosing a political contest cared more about denying it to a rival than holding it themselves several times. They have also become trusted arbiters between draconic houses in conflict...as, in theory, they can hold no scales in the game and so will be fair. This has led to a surprising amount of soft power for the family and the elder members of line are some the most crafty and cagey political fighters in the nation. The house also almost never marries into other houses due to the racial difference and either draws from the tiny elven minority who develop sorcery, other house members, or foreign elves who they find useful and willing to accept the same overall deal the house has made...mostly sorcerers of course especially those resentful about the positions of wizard in most elven culture but there are examples of all kinds if it helps the house.
    Before I read this blurb you wrote, I assumed if an elven sorcerer or sorceress decided to join Swynfaredia than said elf was a pariah to his/her own people. The pariah sorcerer/ess would probably go on to marry a human and have half-elf children. Any half-elf sorcerer would probably marry a human sorcerer and thus breed out the point ear, so a lot of Swynfaredians would have elf ancestors but very few would have noticeably pointy ears.

    Now, I'm considering that maybe Swynfaredian would have an all elf house, or maybe an all gnome or all kobold house.

    My main misgiving is that only a small percentage of elves are sorcerers and only a small percentage of elves would be willing to uproot from their own societies to be willingly subordinate to a bunch of uppity humans.

    You made the point, that I could create very small houses, so I would only need a few a tiny number of elf sorcerers to migrate to Swynfaredia to make an all-elf house viable.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Rogadskiy (shadow/infernal/fire magics)
    This house wishes its sorcerous power was draconic, but everyone knows it is not. The hints of horns, warm skin, and small scale patches are often made to look as though the family is as draconic as any other...but it is a lie. And so the Rogadskiy have become culturally draconic even if their blood has not and has never been. IN many ways they are too perfect in their holding to the draconic ideals in order to compensate for the fact that everyone knows and politely ignores in public. The Rodaskiy are touched by the infernal. Founded by a foreign sorcerous tiefling that most outsiders could not tell from a child of a halfdragon and turned out to be deeply loyal to nation in return for accepting his odd appearance and family history. To this day some children are born teiflings in this house but most are functionally human. Their magic may have slightly different flavor to it..but again the family sells the image and national focus on dragons better then most who have thick dragonblood in the veins and so are forgiven...until it really counts. The family has long had to take roles that the rest of the nobility doesn't want and is regularly jealous of the fact that their blood tends to run quite pure with magic...which has led to charges of them dealing with extraplanar beings in return for that on a couple of occasions in history...and they may even have been true it is heard to say. The family has a bit of a history of taking in (and sometimes adopting or marrying) teiflings children abandoned by their parents both from within the human population of Swynfaredain and nearby nations. And interestingly the family has a long history of quiet success with many roles but especial in serving the intelligence services or internal police on behalf of the crown...which is part why they have managed to survive 300 years under the winged shadows of their draconic neighbors.
    My world doesn't have tieflings per se, but I do have extraplanar creatures that sometimes breed with mortals and sometimes carry sorcerous ability so I can work with this concept with some tinkering.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    House Coigreach (Wild Magic)
    House Coigreach is an odd duck. Born from a a pair notable peasant sorcerers one native and one from a nation now incorporated into the Empire but then independent house Coigreach as no known draconic blood in them. They are a family of noted purely human sorcerers. Which puts them at a strong disadvantage in the political games of the capitol and other high position...but respect for their sorcerous blood does remain and so they are tolerated...even though they are as native to the nation as any of the great four houses and can make some claim of being even older than them. And over time the family has found a niche. They are deeply tied to foreign trade on behalf of their homeland and similarly as diplomatic representatives in behalf of the Dragon Throne...because over the centuries of often aggressive actions not all of the nearby lands are very trusting of those who show signs of Draconic blood...And this is where the Coigreach shine. Wherever draconic blood (and especially where stronger blood that show signs on the body) would be a disadvantage this house sees opportunity. So while deeply loyal to the nation this house very often doesn't look like a classic noble and for good reason. The house is more than any highly aware that their sorcererous ability is the key to their own acceptance and thus existence within the nation (with no dragonblood to fall back on) and they can be quite aggressive in trying to get any small bloodline that appears to pass down magical ability within the human population to become incorporated into their own house to strengthen it while the constant side-eyes of the more prominent houses makes acceptance of foreign born sorcerers appears to be rare event (in order to keep questions of loyalty at bay) but their many contacts with foreign nations provides ample opportunity to make such connections and rumours always swirl around the issue.
    Hmmm, the concept of a completely dragon-less house is intriguing.

    You mentioned that they would make their mark in diplomacy.

    I had a similar thought with a different implementation.

    1) Dragon blood sorcerers often find diplomacy boring
    2) Not all dragon bloods want to disown and throwaway their squib children
    3) Foreign dignitaries are paranoid that sorcerers are going to cheat them with Enchantment or Illusion. Non-magic users are less threatening.

    Putting these things together, I figured a lot of squibs would be used as chancellors and ambassadors.
    Last edited by Scalenex; 2021-03-06 at 08:46 AM.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    The idea of a few large houses and many small ones makes politics easier. Constant shifting of alliances and the inability of any one house to trust its allies would make overt hostility rare but brinksmanship common.

    One final ingredient to make the soup perfect: the large houses are composed of many small houses, and then even the large houses must tread carefully in their abuse of power.

    This is a system in which charm, bribery, extortion, and personal image carry more weight than a battalion of heavy infantry.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    If you want to make this feel real, you have to define the Other that the society is defining itself against. What is the society that they see themselves as superior to/fascinated with/want to imitate? Those aren't distinct, nearly all societies have another society that they see as the Other that some group within it wants to use in one of those three ways.

    Say the other society is run by humans and is a monarchy instead of house based. So you have the "freedom" of multiple houses vs. the "tyranny" of the monarchy, the "Elegance" of dragons against the "lowness" of human rule, but also the opposite where the monarch has to rule "fairly" because he can't enforce his will while dragons are "capricious."

    So "new blood" is a way to prevent monarchical sympathizers (or tribal, or whomever.) You have to offer some sort of mobility or successful people will push to embrace a society that does, so maybe they are making "barons" in imitation of the neighbor, or giving landed titles instead of house titles and then marrying into those slowly.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    The idea of a few large houses and many small ones makes politics easier. Constant shifting of alliances and the inability of any one house to trust its allies would make overt hostility rare but brinksmanship common.
    That is what I was going for, but you summed it more succinctly than I could have written it

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    One final ingredient to make the soup perfect: the large houses are composed of many small houses, and then even the large houses must tread carefully in their abuse of power.

    This is a system in which charm, bribery, extortion, and personal image carry more weight than a battalion of heavy infantry.
    That is a good idea. And it fits with their history, they have neglected their heavy infantry over the centuries because they are more concerned with things like wards against hostile sorcerers scrying on their secrets than they worry about training problems with their soldiers.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    If you want to make this feel real, you have to define the Other that the society is defining itself against. What is the society that they see themselves as superior to/fascinated with/want to imitate? Those aren't distinct, nearly all societies have another society that they see as the Other that some group within it wants to use in one of those three ways.
    So my world setting is that dragons used to dominate the world during the First Age until one of their monarchs messed with magic beyond her ken and accidentally created a giant cataclysm. Then my pantheon of gods and goddesses created elves to run things until one of their monarchs messed with magic beyond his ken and accidentally created a giant cataclysm prompting the pantheon to create humans to rule the Third Age. The gods hope that their shorter lifespans will prevent a king or queen from amassing enough power in one lifetime to destroy the universe.

    Surviving historical records from the Age of Dragons are pretty scant, and most lore is from dragon oral tradition and they tended to embellish how great their ancestors were. Swynfaredians eat this up with a spoon. They try to adopt as many ancient draconic customs as they can or at least they pretend that all their customs represent ancient dragon customs.

    Swynfaredians will pay lots of money for artifacts from the First Age and spin yarns about how grand things must have been then.

    As the for the villainous "other" they probably look down on humans that don't understand how important sorcery and draconic heritage is. But on a pragmatic level, they don't normally ruminate on how evil and barbaric their neighbors are unless it's convenient.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Say the other society is run by humans and is a monarchy instead of house based. So you have the "freedom" of multiple houses vs. the "tyranny" of the monarchy, the "Elegance" of dragons against the "lowness" of human rule, but also the opposite where the monarch has to rule "fairly" because he can't enforce his will while dragons are "capricious."

    So "new blood" is a way to prevent monarchical sympathizers (or tribal, or whomever.) You have to offer some sort of mobility or successful people will push to embrace a society that does, so maybe they are making "barons" in imitation of the neighbor, or giving landed titles instead of house titles and then marrying into those slowly.
    Because I'm not very creative, the majority of the nations in my setting use some form of noble houses to run things. It just so happens that Swynfaredian noble houses are run by sorcerers.

    I kind of created an in-universe justification for why most nations in this land have very similar feudal systems.

    Roughly 1900 years ago, a vampire named Vladimir the Conqueror conquered most of the northern hemisphere and he used a feudal system to run things. At least until a combination of rebellious vassals, hostile foreign forces, and a mass resistance movement brought him down.

    But most humans lived under Vladimir's rule long enough to get used to his feudal model of governance and it stuck. They didn't mind the feudalism, it was the vampire thing that bugged them.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Hmmmm

    I think you may have misinterpreted a fair bit of what I was trying to get to...I see I didn't explain things that well. I'll try one more time before dropping it.

    Firstly on dragon types. Each family was basically drawn from the fluff of the 2e or 3e Monster manuals, the Draconomican, with an eye to classic non D&D dragon imagery. Powers of the type are tertiary at best. The reason for this is players will already link these themes to dragons in their head so you are already getting these noble families to dragons themselves which will make them all "feel" more Draconic. The types should mostly be read as personality types than powers. In fact I only included them at all because in some rule sets like 5e a draconic bloodline has a type requirement...oh and their names (either Latin or Scotish translation of words linked to the type-except for Russian with the tiefling one)

    Secondly. For a nation that seems to be quite expansionist and militaristic the military seemed not very politically powerful. This would be odd normally. But I figured if the political might of the army is broken up across a fair number of families that would make sense. Sure Fremiss B would be the most powerful but not powerful enough to be a major player, which is what you described.

    also I figures that having houses that the big powerful houses to basically fight over in their games of alliances would be kinda important.

    Rivalries vs monopolies. Now Rivalries breed drama, gives spaces for various groups to compete over or be insulted about. So I tried to avoid monopolies. Plus if one family dominates a trade but doesn't have an outright monopoly a house that needs just some of that controlled trade or item they can possibly pull it off while if it is totally a monopoly they will have trouble doing a lot of the scheming they would want to. and is implied in what you said. SO some of what I wrote was expressly to have overlap.

    Lastly you said that you were aiming at a game where the players are dealing with an invasion from these guys. So I'm leaning toward the types that the PC's are more likely to actually meet and deal with.

    I'll go into what I was aiming at a bit to see if I can explain what I was aiming or give you the foundation for turning it around in a way that works better. Where the idea need a different implementation.
    Spoiler: draconic houses
    Show

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Reothadh/Frost (White)
    This quite small family was largely raised for the military gumption. They are not known for being wise, strategic, or sly but are strong from the front type military leaders and the families constant intrafamily war-games means that most have a solid grasp of small and mid-level unit tactics before they are even tested for sorcerous ability. In part due to the fact that they are not respected on a political basis they are quite neutral which has led to their large, boisterous, only semicultured parties being acceptable places for members of all houses to let their hair down and enjoy...which is quietly treasured by many of the more stuffy houses.

    The underlined portion is already true of House Fremiss B, something I had more or less thought up with already, but I do like the stuff you have that follows. I could make them less cultured and be fun at parties. That adds a bit of character to distinguish them from the other military houses.
    I had actually thought of these guys as similar to House Fremiss B too...either they were drinking/battle buddies that they raised up or raised as a way to undercut them by someone else..but basically their hick cousins. Also my mental image may include classic gool-ol-boy behavior replacing the guns, trucks, and explosives with sorcery spells. And hell everyone loves a good BBQ or similar (which is kinda how stereotypical I saw their get togethers)

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Salsura/Pickle (Black)
    This house has many small holdings throughout the nation and is a quite significant part of the economy. They started as makers of wine, vinegar, garum, and cheese but over time took these salt heavy foods and expanded into both direct saltworks, many vegetable pickling operations, salted meats, hams etc. From there various works of alchemy and embalming helped the family become valued within the nobility. The family now is key to many of the nation's military pushes..not in the vanguard but they are the cornerstone of supply lines. Salsura salted meats and pickles are the assumed rations for most of the military when away from base.

    House Manasch and House Ceffnor are both merchant based house that bought their way into power. I didn't figure out how they bought their way into power exactly except the vague notion that Manasch control potion ingredients and Ceffnor dominates sea trade. Given that potioneering uses a lot of alchemy I like the idea of adding food processing and pickling into their repertoire.
    Firstly the house was born from the lines about Black dragons preferring to stick their food in water and letting it pickle awhile...or put it in an acidic liquid (vinegar)..and as they are also associated with death and rot the house can control and profit from rot.
    Fair. But this was kind of my idea for rivals TBH. Especially with Alchemy. While Manasch comes to alchemy from control of magic...very high class, tiny amounts of very high values, and the like. While Salsura would be the brute version. They come from a notion of large scale food processing. They work on the cart-load and by the ton. But they do know how to do what is needed for alchemy. (then again so may some metallurgist houses or textile groups (dyes and mordents)) and that gets some rivalry going. They each have their bases but also areas to compete....also they'd be tied into the support trains of the military your players are likely to see. And I figured they got rich off of big government contracts to feed the army and also in key moments when other regions are dealing with famine it is this family that could rescue them with long term food stores which could be traded for land, money, or the kind of political favors that lead to them being lifted to house status. In another way they feed and control death and rot for their own advantage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Bàisceò/Death Fog (Green)
    Another significant martial house well known for bringing hard highly disciplined troops to the front with them. Several battles have turned on the rocklike grit of Basceo raised and led shieldwall. The regions that they hold domain over are generally considered prosperous but deeply uncultured. Almost nothing from this house and most of the craftsmen from the lands they control show signs of ornamentation. The house is deeply efficient even if this means moral questionable things...like the slaughter of their enemies, war crime massacres, and some of the most strict and harsh punishments being doled out to criminals within their lands. This same dark willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals also applies to some of the families darkest secrets...including the fact that they have secretly captured a handful of halfdragons from distant lands and no hold them as slaves under one of their holdings...they have been repeated forced to bear Basceo children who are then slipped into the family line as "twins" of other births.

    The idea of kidnapping half-dragons as breeding stock is intriguing. House Selwyth is a small very villainous house that is trying experimental magics to create sorcerer children via magical eugenics (via experimentation with unwilling human test subject). Mostly I had them trying to develop magical rituals to enact during conception to let ordinary humans conceive sorcerer babies, but I could throw some enslaved half-dragons into the mix.
    Born from the whole part of green dragons hating beauty and being LE. And having these guys being a mirror to Selwyth...working on humans vs halfdragons....is just kinda cool. Plus this was also meant to add variety to the kinds of foes the PC's would face. This family would be the "hard squads".

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Sradag/spark (Blue)
    Founded 250 years ago by a halfdragon from outside the nation as a puppet of their mother. And today the family plays a a dangerous game...over time the new members of the family grew to be actually loyal to the Swynfaredain nation but play at loyalty to their distant matriarch to keep her happy. For she provides them with many advantages. She has let them breed with other of her halfdragon prodigy in order to keep their bloodline strong, the sorcerous blood vital, and thus the status and even marriages that such things can buy, she also brings outside information and her own long political minded counsel.

    Of all the ideas you came up with, a dragon infiltrating the nation with his/her half-dragon offspring is my favorite one. I definitely want to try something like this.
    Have fun...Born from the illusion and deception practices mentioned for the blues.


    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Callabefio/Smelt (Red)
    A house that rose to some prominence on a mix of the money they have gained from controlling several mineworks and the magical artifice that they have spent much of that wealth creating. The family has also used several well times "gifts" of such magical items to gain political benefit. While the house is well liked and well tolerated within Swynfaredia outside the nation they have spies (normally covered scholars or magical items) who keep an eye out for young dragonblooded sorcerers or halfdragons which have then been abducted, flat out bought from parents, and then mentally abused, charmed, or charmed until they accept marriage into the family.

    This is well thought out, but this concept isn't really doing it for me. I'm not sure why
    .
    Well firstly I forgot to end a sentence..."They have spent much of that wealth creating wondrous items"...They are magical item creators...that is what they give as gifts.
    Also this is drawn from the most classic Draconic imagry I could think of...On a mountain, deep caves (mines), perhaps lit with the glow of molten metal, lots of treasure, that may be wondrous or may be a poisoned gift, oh and steel away fair (high CHA) maidens back to their lairs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Chalceus/Brass, Brazen (Brass)
    For many generations this small family has been dominated by councilors, lawyers, and tutors but since the rise of the current patriarch the families fortuned have waxed both politically and even within the magical blood they hold in the veins. Some of the later may have to do with the young adult Brass dragon that is captured in the basement of the one of their manners having been held their since a hatchling (by the curent patriarch when they themselves were young) and knowing no other life adding more draconic blood into the family since reaching the young adult stage...How much longer the aged patriarch or the conditioning on the dragon can hold is anyone's guess.

    A captured dragon raised from birth to be a pawn is an intriguing idea though I need to flesh out more details.
    Brass only is as much as they are talkers-and thus the councilours/lawyers type. What I find interesting is that in some ways this is a deeply traitorous act. They are controling and abusing the very thing they are raised to revere. That twist is kinda what intrigued me. And also a bombshell to go off one day. . . yah know for some premade drama and scandal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Chuarten (Copper)
    Noble masters of building. They have deep ties to the creation of many of roads, castles, earthworks (especially irrigation) and the like. They use a powerful combination of engineering knowledge and powerful magic to help them build these often wondrous creations. This is helped by that many elder family members spend their later year pouring their magical power into magical staves for the future generations to use. These staves often have a higher caster level than the wielder and usually allow them to cast spells such as move earth, mud-to-stone, wall of stone, stone shape, and similar spells. The manner by which the family is able to create so many of these staves is not quite understood but seem to be only limited flexibility. Within the nobility the family is also well known for their lover of puzzles, riddles, and games of strategy. What is little known is that much of this search is because they have a more than cordial relationship with a copper dragon hundreds of miles away who very much likes riddles that he has never heard before and bonding over such things can at times get friendly...friendly enough that a smattering of halfdragons have been born into the house and largely kept secret in the more distant holding of the house all while strengthening the bloodline.

    I note there is no reaction to this one. Which is a bit of a pity as this was the first house I came up with and what started this whole thing. That said I like the image of coppers building mazes in their lairs that was tossed out and ran from that. Plus trading for boosting their draconic blood would be another route that hadn't been laid out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Aeratus (Bronze)
    Raised for their military minded support of the great houses House Aeratus is a regular pillar of the nations strategic power. The family is mostly based around a large river systems and fund much of their military from the trade and fishing along the shores. While deeply respected in some ways the family often lacks sorcerous potential within their blood (these sad children often form the core of the House's military officers) and is thus not much of a player in national politics...however some in the family are looking to change that but just don't know how.

    This is kind of what my House Gareth is based on. Gareth was a bastard son of a dragon blood noble that was a great military strategists. His sons went on to have strong military careers as did their sons. Gareth was legitimized posthumously and House Gareth became the first "new" house formed.

    They are a military power without a lot of political clout. They want to gain political clout. Recently, their patriarch or matriarch (not sure which one they have yet) tried a risky political gambit. They have formally allied with House Numaness whereas before they were official neutral in the Nuamness-Goirsonad rivalry. They are gambling that has long as House Numaness is the ruling house, they can use Numaness' largesse to make themselves stronger.
    I was kinda looking for both a house that is vulnerable for PC manipulation in waving blood strengthening opportunists, creating variety in the PC's dealing with invaders (a low sorcerer unit basically) I had started with a Naval house (which I would still recommend) but wasn't sure if the players would ever see it. But there is no reason why they all can't exist and only the ones you need really pop up in the game/story/etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Airgeaol (Silver)
    This house is nearly as ancient as the great four houses but far smaller due to the fact they were founded by a single halfdragon and his children when the main families were the various clutches of each of the founders. Quite wealthy this family has a very long term view of investment. They buy or trade for land next to settlements that they think have a good basis for future growth and have been quite successful over the centuries. Thus as those villages or towns expand to cover the lands that the house had purchased the younger generations can start charging quite high urban rents. Which are often used to develop the land further (so they can charge yet more) or to help those towns who need a bit of a push to turn into a centre of commerce or industry so that nearby holdings become profitable. Highly urban in nature this family generally avoids military service as much they can. They buy their respect or influence the cultural power that the cities hold. And what magic they have is often aimed in more "civilized" manners with illusions, charms, and divination being more common than fireballs or wall of force.

    I like the idea of a less numerous house formed by a single long dead half-dragon, but I'm not sure I like the urban slum lord angle.
    Of all the ones I think I must have explained this one worst. You know how in the fluff Silvers were often described as taking human/demihuman form and hiding in communities often as a sage or something? That is the basis of this house. They would be urban planners and developers of the urban life in my mind. Patrons of the arts and architecture. Think like the various "Newtown" areas of classic cities like Edinburgh (Princess St vs the Royal Mile). Highly cultured and urbane often scholarly types. If it doesn't suit so be it but there is that hidden dragon sage archetype I was aiming at and also gives a matter of both a source of money (land rents) and cultural soft power (patronage of libraries, theatres, etc)...These guys want high rents which comes from a high level of development, they want to be charging for Park Ave not slums if they can.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Achadh (Gold)
    Coming from part of the rural heartland of the nation House Achadh hold a somewhat interesting position within the nation. They are noted as highly adept managers of their holdings which grow large amounts of surplus foodstuffs that feed the cities of the Empire, hold deeply to grand culture of the nation if in a somewhat conservative way, and produce deeply loyal and strong military units that are a shining example to many of the other levies. And this house is deeply tied to their lands and rarely leave them. Their fair, honest judgment is largely why the seeming picture perfect regions exist. The While some people do leave these regions for the wider empire and world, these are the often idealistic exceptions. Besides the Paladins and Bards the region is known for most people from here, including the vast majority of the House Achadh members are homebodies. Which has led to a lovely, well managed, quite well off, and for many deeply boring region and house. This lack of focus on the larger picture has had negative effects for the house over the years, blindsided by political events in the capitol and lacking the close ties needed in order to make their often idealistic vision actually take root anywhere beyond their own holdings. That said their lands are popular places for outsiders to visit and are used as a form of political propaganda by the leaders in the nations capitol even as the leaders who made it that way are quietly shuns=ed and laughed at in the halls of power.

    I kind of like this idea, but for a province or region of land, not a family line.
    So this actually come from the Dracomicon. There is a optional rule in that about dragons causing changes in the surrounding countryside, Blacks causing swamps, Greens Thick tangled forests, Reds can cause lava to erupt from the ground. Well I took the idea that dragons are often deeply bound to their own lairs (almost always found there) too and applied all that to the thinking/personality of a gold dragon on warm plains. And the manipulative side of that dragon type that would be well reflected in the founding of this nation. But basically was a play on the idea that the land and dragon ruler are reflections and bonded and are reflections of each other. Plus is gives a good source of idealistic foes, hyper loyal humans subjects (who believe in the nation as much as the nobles), and all that which could be a useful tool in dealing with the PC's invasion game. And I could certainly see it as a region too...but there is nothing wrong from it being both..one dominated by a single family one by the best suited of various families 9perhaps surrounding the family one?).

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Operibus (Copper)
    Deeply linked to the Dragoneyes (or whatever you name the national intelligence service) the house was largely founded by a couple who were effective spyhunters and to this day hold to that. Mostly with a rather domestic focus they have traded access to power (and the lands, good marriages, and titles that come with that) for the trust and social acceptance of the other noble families and foreign dignitaries living in the Swynfaredain lands that they keep an eye on. One of the side effects of this constantly looking for disloyalty has been that the family has tended to co opt loyal sorcerers from odd places when they have found them and they have been useful. This has included foreign draconic blooded sorcerers, highly loyal members of families that have been otherwise exiled or imprisoned and even those willing to be agents for the crown elsewhere who have served well. Strangely enough this seems to have had a positive effect on the bloodline and they have a higher than average rate of magic in their children even if it tends to being quite hard to detect as quieter divination and enchantment spells seem more common that the loud attention grabbing ones.

    I really like this concept, but I already have a bunch of houses that use "we are spymasters" as part of thier identity. I need to figure a way to incorporate into an existing house or create a spy agency that transcends house lines.
    Ah I figure this is another I didn't explain well. These guys were not meant to be spyMASTERS but spyHUNTERS. Think more an FBI family vs a mafia one. Actually born of the thought that a member of House Numaness would be a fool for not doing something to try and block the spymasters of Goirsonad for doing something to them. With so many spymasters types it seems that the shadow war needs something to keep that well, in the shadows and that would be part of what this family was about. Now how would they survive against the existence of Goirsonad? I figured if they were loyal to the THRONE vs the house inhabiting it the Goirsanad would be okay...particularly as Goirsanad would be able to work around them but other spymaster houses would probably get caught up on the regular. Oh and breaking these rings up would be a riddle of sorts which is about the only link to copper dragons it

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Decoco(fuse, ruin, stew, waste away, shrivel, smelt) (Red)
    A young house born from their leadership in the suppression a relatively recent (in the history of a 900 year old empire) uprising by a region that been brought into the Empire only a generation or so before. The formerly small house that had been vassals of another, descendant from a sorcerer exiled from his own homeland and happy to accept lands in the then newly taken region as reward for their military and magical service. They came to power truly when they ended up being some of the only survivors of a mass attack of assassination and targeted killings of nobles in these lands and further rallied the throne's forces to put down the rebels. It was not a pleasant or honorable war with several towns burnt to the ground to make examples of them but the Decoco were victorious at a time when the central government could ill afford to support actions in the region due to other crises and wars somewhere else. As a reward the family was granted much of the lands of those nobles who had been wiped out. Becoming land rich the house has been building power ever since but spend most of what they gain trying to redevelop their lands and hold onto the still resentful population. However only fools would not see that they are building a strong foundation for national prominence. . . and how to use that, or block it is starting to be mulled in the secret salons of the ancient houses.

    I'm on the fence with this one.
    The idea with one is threefold.
    Firstly was to give the PC's facing invasion an idea of what failure could look like. A thematic stick to drive the PC's all the harder.
    Secondly it brings up the question of what happens if one of the lesser houses looks to be able to actually threaten the major powers of the land? lots of fun work could be had here.
    Finally, It provides a stalking horse plotwise of "this could always be worse" and the idea just taking down the leadership could lead to a worse version rising up later. . . A Swynfaredia led by this family would be terrifying, which weirdly makes Numaness seem like something to tolerate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Innisbàis(Black)
    If a house was ever born in a reflection of the memory of its founder it is house Innisbais. Not long after the dragons departed Swynfaredain and the elder generation of half dragon sorcerers had died of old age a quite powerful sorcerer arrived at the capital. She was obviously of strong draconic blood and claimed her father was half dragon...this led to her being taken as a retainer by one of the early throneholder because the magic in her blood was both strong and at the time rare within the kingdom...for she was a necromancer...how much was sorcery and how much divine magic has been lost to legend but it is implied both by the wise. While most feared she would summon skeletons and otherwise degrade the founding generations that were all but worshiped by the nobility she instead played into that hero worship. She played upon her ability to speak with the dead in order to "offer guidance" from their founders to current holders of power...subject to what she wanted to say and would be useful to her of course. This eventual semi-acceptance of her place in the early state led to a highly placed marriage (and taking her husbands name which is what is now preserved...her maiden name is subject to debate) and gifts of land and title. Today this small house still does this but has expanded its role if only in a few ways. They are now keepers of history, often the last word on who is decedent from who within the nobility, many of the functions around births and deaths (and the consumables therein), close ties with some church figures, and hold a near monopoly on the right to work the corpses of dragons...dragonbone, dragonscale armour and basically can not be worked without at least the blessing (and title to) this house...which while economically of little import is a goldmine of cultural influence and favor trading. The family interest in bloodlines and where they may find outsider sorcerers as well as awareness of about the lives of dragons in foreign lands (looking for bodies of dragons to both properly lay to rest/revere/turn into magical items has given the house several opportunities to bring in newer blood or cast of bastard children from other noble lines..or at least that is what is the semi-open secret that the house would have you believe...any possible rumours of them having a connection to their founders grandfather offspring is just that...rumour.

    This is my second favorite idea you suggested. I might try to incorporate my own fantasy mechanic on spirit loas loosely based on real world folklore.
    Yeah this was born almost entirely from black dragons being called skull dragons which kinda made me think of necromancy and from there speak with dead and the rest came naturally. Have fun with it.


    Spoiler: non draconic houses
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Eildearglic (wild or Fey magic)
    This house is a rare exception with the lands of Swynfaredain...it is a house of elves. They have sorcery in their blood and have earned themselves a niche in the noble games....Their elven blood and the fact that most are not even draconic sorcerers means that it is widely known that they could never truly make a play for true power in these lands. They have power because they can't hold power. Their "disability" in the great game of houses means that they are often considered "safe". They have been handed titles when a side loosing a political contest cared more about denying it to a rival than holding it themselves several times. They have also become trusted arbiters between draconic houses in conflict...as, in theory, they can hold no scales in the game and so will be fair. This has led to a surprising amount of soft power for the family and the elder members of line are some the most crafty and cagey political fighters in the nation. The house also almost never marries into other houses due to the racial difference and either draws from the tiny elven minority who develop sorcery, other house members, or foreign elves who they find useful and willing to accept the same overall deal the house has made...mostly sorcerers of course especially those resentful about the positions of wizard in most elven culture but there are examples of all kinds if it helps the house.

    Before I read this blurb you wrote, I assumed if an elven sorcerer or sorceress decided to join Swynfaredia than said elf was a pariah to his/her own people. The pariah sorcerer/ess would probably go on to marry a human and have half-elf children. Any half-elf sorcerer would probably marry a human sorcerer and thus breed out the point ear, so a lot of Swynfaredians would have elf ancestors but very few would have noticeably pointy ears.

    Now, I'm considering that maybe Swynfaredian would have an all elf house, or maybe an all gnome or all kobold house.

    My main misgiving is that only a small percentage of elves are sorcerers and only a small percentage of elves would be willing to uproot from their own societies to be willingly subordinate to a bunch of uppity humans.

    You made the point, that I could create very small houses, so I would only need a few a tiny number of elf sorcerers to migrate to Swynfaredia to make an all-elf house viable.
    Yeah mainly I picked elves because you mentioned them as existing. And was looking at "how would non draconic houses act" and one that came up was using their position as outsiders as an advantage by playing neutral and playing off the knowledge that their ambition is thought to be useless. In a way they are using the same ideas as the Mongols using judges from other areas of the empire, or Byzantine or Chinese eunuchs could amass power in large part because they had no way of holding power in the traditional way in their society. This would then be reinforced by the distance of being another race. I still think elves would work best (particularly as they could do the polite unassuming butler type so well) I could easily see it working with a different race.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Rogadskiy (shadow/infernal/fire magics)
    This house wishes its sorcerous power was draconic, but everyone knows it is not. The hints of horns, warm skin, and small scale patches are often made to look as though the family is as draconic as any other...but it is a lie. And so the Rogadskiy have become culturally draconic even if their blood has not and has never been. IN many ways they are too perfect in their holding to the draconic ideals in order to compensate for the fact that everyone knows and politely ignores in public. The Rodaskiy are touched by the infernal. Founded by a foreign sorcerous tiefling that most outsiders could not tell from a child of a halfdragon and turned out to be deeply loyal to nation in return for accepting his odd appearance and family history. To this day some children are born teiflings in this house but most are functionally human. Their magic may have slightly different flavor to it..but again the family sells the image and national focus on dragons better then most who have thick dragonblood in the veins and so are forgiven...until it really counts. The family has long had to take roles that the rest of the nobility doesn't want and is regularly jealous of the fact that their blood tends to run quite pure with magic...which has led to charges of them dealing with extraplanar beings in return for that on a couple of occasions in history...and they may even have been true it is heard to say. The family has a bit of a history of taking in (and sometimes adopting or marrying) teiflings children abandoned by their parents both from within the human population of Swynfaredain and nearby nations. And interestingly the family has a long history of quiet success with many roles but especial in serving the intelligence services or internal police on behalf of the crown...which is part why they have managed to survive 300 years under the winged shadows of their draconic neighbors.

    My world doesn't have tieflings per se, but I do have extraplanar creatures that sometimes breed with mortals and sometimes carry sorcerous ability so I can work with this concept with some tinkering.
    Meh. Mostly the point I was aiming at was a line that kinda pretends to be draconic, that to outsiders could perhaps even pass, but everybody knows. And so they act culturally perfect draconically instead. More draconic than the founding bloodlines even. But everybody knows and they will never have power because of it. To show instead of tell that rule in your opening post of Draconic Sorcerer > Other Sorcerers. Only advantage of tieflings bloodline is that horns, fire, and scales are images that both devils/daemons share with dragons and can blur a bit and give them the 'almost but not quite" feel if you have another source I'd recommend it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    House Coigreach (Wild Magic)
    House Coigreach is an odd duck. Born from a a pair notable peasant sorcerers one native and one from a nation now incorporated into the Empire but then independent house Coigreach as no known draconic blood in them. They are a family of noted purely human sorcerers. Which puts them at a strong disadvantage in the political games of the capitol and other high position...but respect for their sorcerous blood does remain and so they are tolerated...even though they are as native to the nation as any of the great four houses and can make some claim of being even older than them. And over time the family has found a niche. They are deeply tied to foreign trade on behalf of their homeland and similarly as diplomatic representatives in behalf of the Dragon Throne...because over the centuries of often aggressive actions not all of the nearby lands are very trusting of those who show signs of Draconic blood...And this is where the Coigreach shine. Wherever draconic blood (and especially where stronger blood that show signs on the body) would be a disadvantage this house sees opportunity. So while deeply loyal to the nation this house very often doesn't look like a classic noble and for good reason. The house is more than any highly aware that their sorcererous ability is the key to their own acceptance and thus existence within the nation (with no dragonblood to fall back on) and they can be quite aggressive in trying to get any small bloodline that appears to pass down magical ability within the human population to become incorporated into their own house to strengthen it while the constant side-eyes of the more prominent houses makes acceptance of foreign born sorcerers appears to be rare event (in order to keep questions of loyalty at bay) but their many contacts with foreign nations provides ample opportunity to make such connections and rumours always swirl around the issue.
    Hmmm, the concept of a completely dragon-less house is intriguing.

    You mentioned that they would make their mark in diplomacy.

    I had a similar thought with a different implementation.

    1) Dragon blood sorcerers often find diplomacy boring
    2) Not all dragon bloods want to disown and throwaway their squib children
    3) Foreign dignitaries are paranoid that sorcerers are going to cheat them with Enchantment or Illusion. Non-magic users are less threatening.

    Putting these things together, I figured a lot of squibs would be used as chancellors and ambassadors.
    Okay I kinda think I needed to lean on the point of these guys. They find opportunity where-ever draconic blood would be a handicap. After 900 years I figure the surrounding nations may not all be that happy with this nation. Some may even see any draconic blood, sorcerer or not, as being a spy or loyalist of Swynfaredia. Traders my not like nobles draped in scale pattern cloaks etc. And this family takes advantage of that. Sometimes that will traders, sometimes that would be diplomacy (as in Swynfaredia draconic is the edge I figure working with outsiders nondraconic blood would be a relative advantage). Or basically anywhere they can find an edge


    But yeah for the nondraconic it was all about what is their reaction
    -be a neutral body that uses the fact they can't hold real power to actually gain power
    -pretend to be draconic and fit in as best they can
    -look for places where draconic blood is not an advantage and focus there.

    And well unless Swynfaredia is FAR more advanced than its neighbors I would figure most would LIKE being ambassadors, they are invited to all the best parties, are honored as the very embodiment of the nation (and thus the founders) treated with fear or politeness and have the ear and time of basically whoever they want....It is a major ego boost. And high CHA is a major plus. So I'm not sure that squibs would be used all that much as ambassadors but for the embassy I see that.


    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    The idea of a few large houses and many small ones makes politics easier. Constant shifting of alliances and the inability of any one house to trust its allies would make overt hostility rare but brinksmanship common.

    One final ingredient to make the soup perfect: the large houses are composed of many small houses, and then even the large houses must tread carefully in their abuse of power.

    This is a system in which charm, bribery, extortion, and personal image carry more weight than a battalion of heavy infantry.
    Top line: I'd back this heartily.

    Middle bit: I would just say the "many small houses" is very much like how I was thinking about "lines" above...totally agree...but that may be a better way to look at it TBH...perhaps you could use something like Numaness-AAAA, Numaness-BBB, ? etc...so hyphenated names imply large family types? so it is easy enough for players and yourself to keep track of? (which leads to the question of the Fremiss daughter houses....perhaps some linguistic drift to separate them? its been centuries right? Frenys/Fraymis/Fremz/etc...have fun with it?

    Last part: domestically I'd agree but it sounds like the nation is quite militaristic towards outsiders. Why I was looking for ways to politically defang the heavy infantry (put them in the hands of minor families)...but you seem to be setting up a story focusing on the Swynfaredian military. So this needs some depth, balancing the charm/bribe/extortion with the invasion story.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2021-03-07 at 05:51 PM.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    One idea that comes to mind is the slow downward trend being restricted to the first half or third of the empire's history as the original nobility expanded to meet bureaucratic needs for the territory they ultimately claimed, then fluctuating over time rather than having any hard trend. This is to respect more realistic patterns of inheritance, as the underlying function of the degradation is that the bloodlines are thinning in the first place; once the nobility is reproductively insular, it should be approximately static.

    Another thing that comes to mind is the idea of an individual with the same draconic bloodline in a number of degrees intersecting with them, being simultaneously a historic Sorcery bloodline, a Half Dragon, and more marginal things like the old Draconic template or 3.5's Bloodline mechanic of the same individual dragon across the centuries of her life (for the sake of a bit of variety), being an inheritor of a truly staggering amount of sheer power... That's genuinely Draconic rather than typical sorcery, and having a pile of issues with instructors as a result.

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    Default Re: Bringing in new blood to a magical aristocracy

    Common-born sorcerers, draconic sorcerers in particular, would walk a fine line between being inducted into nobility and being eliminated (the government and nobility can't allow rogue sorcerers spreading their seed and passing down their powers among the commoners...).

    The ruling houses would probably pressure commoner sorcerers into joining the army, civil service or the retinues of established houses, and those who proved their usefulness would get knighthoods, taking the first step into joining lesser nobility (becoming actual nobility would probably require several generations of service, the accumulation of wealth, and marriages with the younger members of the lowest houses of nobility..).

    The process would be faster for draconic sorcerers, and even faster for half-dragons... Common-born half-dragons might have the option to join some kind of imperial praetorian guard as bodyguards for royalty, getting into a fast track to true nobility.

    Female half-dragons may even be invited to become concubines to high ranking nobles.

    There would be nasty tensions between the lowest established sorcerous houses and newcomer upstart sorcerous families. Old minor noble houses would hold their history and prestige dear, and would detest the thought of some nobody climbing to the same social level as theirs...

    These tensions would become particularly fiendish between old non-draconic sorcerous noble houses and new draconic sorcerer families, since the old houses know these draconic newcomers will eventually surpass them and climb above their own station... there would be fights and duels and such...

    But, at the same time, old non-draconic houses and new draconic families need each other: Non-draconic old houses need that precious draconic blood in order to climb the social pyramid and join draconic nobility, and the draconic sorcerer common-born newcomers need to marry into nobility in order to jump from knighthood to true nobility... that makes for some interesting political marriages and some interesting hate-filled family dinamics...

    EDIT: Also, I think learning of non-sorcerous arcane magic (and maybe even of divine magic) would be restricted to members of nobility who were unlucky enough to not inherit sorcerous powers... commoners can't be allowed to become powerful enough to rival their sorcerous masters!
    Last edited by Clistenes; 2021-03-15 at 03:19 PM.

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