THE IMPERIAL NOBILITY
Variant Rules For Aristocracy In The 'Traveller' RPG
Based On Articles By Charles Ahner & Rick Stuart
This system is solidly based on the article 'Scepter & Starship' by Charles Ahner & Rick Stuart, in the short-lived magazine 'Adventure Gaming', Vol. 1, No. 1, July 1981 (Manzakk Publishing, Inc.). In turn, that work is a definite expansion of 'Robe & Blaster' by Rick D. Stuart, in White Dwarf #22, Dec / Jan, 1980 / 81 (Games Workshop Ltd).
[Mind you, this was the good old days - when WD was a genuine gamers' magazine, not just a catalogue of ads for Games Workshop products.]
The system is still very much theirs, despite my personal commentary, cosmetic changes and afterthoughts. If Rick D. Stuart, Charles Ahner, and anybody else involved in the creation of this system happens to read this, then I truly hope that my treatment of their work is acceptable.
The Nobility of Traveller's 'Third Imperium' are vague. The rules say that they have powers and responsibilities, but it is left to Referees to decide what these might be.
Consider the ceiling on Social Standing in the 'Classic' system. One is technically a Noble at Social 11 (or B, to use proper notation), but 15 (F) is the highest ranking achievable (the Emperor being at 16, or G). A recurrent situation emerges with Characters who start with SOC 10+. Such individuals gravitate towards Navy careers, given the favourable DMs there. With just a little luck, they can get a commission, then a few Attache/Aide assignments, attain the rank of at least Captain, then muster out. Odds are that they will end up with Social 15 (plus a couple of wasted rolls, probably) - and no clue what can be done, other than giving lip to other nobles and perhaps going after the Emperor's job.
What follows is an alternative approach, in which Social stats in excess of 15 are permissable for Imperials. The Emperor and his immediate heirs are at Social 24 (Q - Fellow Trekfans, make of that what you will). The procedure is simple - a Character is generated as per normal. Their 'final' Social stat is then calculated and found on Table 1.
TABLE 1 - Social Rankings
NOBLE TITLE (Male/Female Designations)
Number of Benefit Dice
(M / F)
Knight / Dame
Sir / Lady
Baron / Baroness
Lord / Lady
Marquis / Marquise
The Honourable Lord / Lady
Count / Countess
The Most Honourable Lord / Lady
Duke / Duchess
His / Her Grace, Duke / Duchess Of...
Archduke / Archduchess
His / Her Grace, Archduke / Archduchess Of...
Viscount / Viscountess
His / Her Grace, Viscount / Viscountess
Prefect / Prefectress
The Esteemed Lord / Lady Prefect
The Esteemed Lord / Lady Viceroy
Lord / Lady
The Royal Lord / Lady
Protector / Protectress
His / Her Highness
Prince / Princess
His / Her Royal Highness
King / Queen
His / Her Royal Majesty
Emperor / Empress
His / Her Imperial Majesty
Particular note is taken of how many Benefit dice Characters receive - eg. a Character with a Social of 14 (E) gets up to 4 benefit dice. The Player then goes to Table 2 (see below). Benefit dice are cumulative, so she gets to roll four times for benefits - once with 1d6, once with 2d6, once with 3d6, and once with 4d6. Each of these rolls is conducted entirely separately of the others.
In this example, those rolls result in 2, 11, 9 and 18 - meaning Merchant Holdings, Ancestral Lands, Court Influence, and Right of Free Passage. Note is taken of each of those benefits. Attention is given to Court Influence, since that gives an additional 2d6 benefit, which is immediately rolled for. The result is another 9, which is specifically disallowed, so the dice is rerolled for something else. For the sake of argument, we'll say that the Countess of Enope ends up with another Ancestral Lands result, which is acceptable.
A picture emerges. The Character in question is a comparitively low-ranking Noble with a modest private income (by Imperial standards, that is!), but has a certain amount of influence and routinely travels at Imperial expense. Depending upon her prior career and accumulated skills, the Countess may be a well-connected person of leisure, on remittance, or even an Imperial agent - conducting diplomacy, investigations, courier work, intelligence gathering, and/or whatever else the Imperium asks of her.
TABLE 2 - Nobility Benefits
As standard service pension.
1d6 (f) x 10,000 Cr p.a.
Planetary business holdings (eg. a local business, a farm, rented / leased premises, etc.). May be sold at market value.
1d6+3 (v) x 10,000 Cr in dividends p.a.
Voting stock in an Imperial (mega)corporation.
2d6 (v) x 100,000 Cr in dividends p.a.. At Referee's discretion, awardee also (sometimes) may receive preferential treatment from that particular company and any of its subsidiaries (eg. up to 5% discount on direct purchase of corporate products, limited access to facilities, courtesy / goodwill services, special offers, etc.).
Court Influence (1d6)
Positive DM on Patronage, and for some reaction rolls (Referee's call - typically those involving other Nobles, the Imperial bureaucracy, and maybe the media). If the other person actively dislikes / opposes Imperial Nobles for any reason, this DM will become negative.
One additional 2d6 roll for Benefits (May NOT be another Court Influence).
Planetary holdings, titled to the Noble and heirs. Includes suitably-appointed living space for the Noble.
Value of 3d6 (f) x 100,000 Cr. Yields 1d6 (v) x 10% in revenue p.a.. Requires 1d6 (v) x 10% in maintenance every four years.
As Ancestral Lands, but also roll 3d6 x 100,000 Cr for additional cash (one-off payment).
Right Of Free Passage
Free transportation (High Passage) on any commercial carrier within Imperial space, even to the exclusion of other passengers. This right only extends to the awardee, not to anybody accompanying him / her. The carrier is automatically compensated out of Imperial funds.
1d10 x 100,000 Cr cash (one-off payment)
Right of Commission
The awardee receives an honorary commission in one of the Imperium's armed forces (usually one in which s/he served, otherwise Ref's decision), with the right to raise and equip a military / exploratory unit "...for the welfare of the Imperium...". All expenses for the unit must be met by the awardee, who also assumes full responsibility for the unit's activities. The unit is subject to direct Imperial control in emergencies (in which case, the Imperium meets all expenses).
Accumulation of properties that the awardee owns outright. Usually, this is either a small corporation or a group of interdependant but separate local businesses (eg. a cattle ranch, a slaughterhouse, and a chain of butcher shops).
Value of 5d6 (f) x 100,000 Cr. Yields 1d6 (v) x 10% revenue p.a.. Maintenance is 1d10+15 % (v) p.a..
Administrator of a planetary system, with responsibilities determined by the Referee. Annual revenue determined by totalling starports in that system - 1,000,000 Cr per 'A'; 750,000 Cr per 'B'; 500,000 Cr per 'C'; 250,000 Cr per 'D-'. Must be renewed every four years (roll 8+ on 2d6, DMs for the awardee's perceived effectiveness in that post, and for skills deemed appropriate by the Referee). Major success (Ref's call) may lead to promotion.
Right To Bear Arms
The awardee may carry personal weapons in contravention of local law levels, excluding high energy weapons. This right does not extend to anybody accompanying the awardee. Note that this Right, like all others, is only valid on Imperial worlds.
Right Of Escort
The awardee may raise a personal bodyguard of up to 2d6 (f) individuals armed in contravention of local law levels, excluding high energy weapons. Note that this right only covers the awardee's attendants, not the awardee. Also note that this Right, like all others, is only valid on Imperial worlds.
2d10 x 100,000 Cr cash (one-off payment).
Right Of Commission
The awardee is granted a star system to be administered with local autonomy, in exchange for mandatory military / political service to the Imperium. [R]
Court Influence (2d6)
DM on Patronage and certain reaction rolls. One additional 4d6 roll for Benefits (May NOT be another Court Influence).
Imperial Senatorial Appointment
The awardee enjoys a special status within the Imperial Moot, with the right to 'directly' advise higher ranking Nobles (including the Emperor!) at any time on any matter. As well, the awardee may oversee and review the actions of system governors within his "home" sector. [R]
Administrator of 2d6 planetary systems (usually contained within one or adjoining subsectors), or of one subsector. Rules through Governors, with pay at double the scale, determined in the same manner. Need not be renewed. [R]
Administrator of 2d6 viceroyships (usually adjacent) or of 1-3 (adjacent) subsectors. Pay scale as above, but triple the base rate. In addition, on a roll of 12+ (DMs for Court Influence and Book 1 Military Rank), the awardee has control of all military forces within his jurisdiction. Need not be renewed. [R]
Offer Of Imperial Consort
Pledge of a high-ranking noble (NPC created by the Referee) to be the awardee's consort and, technically, the awardee's superior. If accepted, the awardee takes the noble as his / her spouse, and recives an additional five rolls on the Benefit table (maximum of 10d6 for each).
Right Of Lawful Dissent
Under special circumstances, the awardee may personally circumvent local authority 'in order to serve the best interests of the Imperium'. Also includes the right to automatic audience with any higher ranking nobles to advise them on matters of importance. [R]
Right Of Decree
The awardee may personally pass or amend Imperial decrees 'on behalf of the Emperor', and may only be overridden by higher-ranking nobles. [R]
Right Of Nobility Creation
The awardee may personally confer Noble status upon any individual, without ratification by the Moot. This does not include actual benefits, which can only be dispensed via Patronage or by the Emperor or Moot. [R]
Offer Of Imperial Consort
Right Of Pardon
Awardee can personally grant full, partial or conditional pardons to individuals for crimes committed within the Imperium.
'High Justice' crimes (ie. treason, mass murder, genocide, illegal possession / use of nuclear / biological weapons, etc.) require a joint pardon by the Emperor and the Imperial Moot. [R]
Right Of Taxation
|Awardee may personally control Imperial revenue sources; and may impose, exempt or alter local taxation rates accordingly. [R]|
Awardee is the official leader of a Sector of the Imperium, including control of the military forces therein. [R+]
(f) - Fixed value. Roll the stated amount of dice upon receiving this benefit. The rolled amount will remain constant (subject to Referee intervention).
(v) - Variable value. The stated number of dice is rolled when required.
[R] - Repeat Warning: Nobles playing fast and loose with privileges should rest assured that There Will Be Consequences. However, benefits marked with [R] are monitored and policed with a severity that would make the Spanish Inquisition look like Woodstock. Even a hint of irregularity will mean that scarily serious representatives of the Moot and the Emperor will be asking embarrasingly direct questions, for which prompt and frighteningly detailed answers will be required. Conversely, Noble Characters could be called upon to investigate another Noble's alleged abuses of power. Definite adventuring possibilities either way.
A Noble with duplicate benefits of Court Influence or any of the Rights may use only one of them, not both. For example, a Noble cannot combine a Court Influence 1d6 and a Court Influence 2d6, to make a Court Influence 3d6; or merge Right Of Escort (7 guards), with Right Of Escort (10 guards), to give himself the right to have 17 bodyguards. Duplicate benefits must be dispensed via Patronage (see below).
This does not apply to other benefits (though duplicates of these can still be bestowed upon others via Patronage if the Noble chooses). A Noble can control (and draw income from) any number of Pensions, Holdings, Cash Grants, Portfolios, Inheritances, Estates, etc.. Likewise, he or she can have multiple Governorships, Fiefdoms, Viceroyships, etc..
Referees should consider the specifics of each Benefit, taking into account the Noble's background. For Ancestral Lands or Inheritance, one mentally pictures Olde English-style farmland complete with a respectable-sized mansion for his lordship. But remember that we are talking about an interstellar aristocracy here - the Ancestral Lands in question could be a small moon held by the Noble's family for generations, with the revenue coming from mining operations and/or areas leased out for spaceports, hotels, research bases, military reservations, etc.. In this case, the "mansion" may be a permanent suite on a nearby space station. Alternatively, Ancestral Lands could be part of an ocean, with revenue coming from sea-farming, and the "mansion" (if any) being a domed base on the seabed.
Generally, all Court Influence and Rights are only good within the Imperium, and all property is similarly located within Imperial space (by the Imperium's own definition, that is). At the Referee's discretion (and with Player approval), a benefit may be for a world or empire outside the Imperium - eg. a Noble with two Court Influences ends up with one being for the Third Imperium, and the other being for somewhere else entirely. This should be extremely rare, and indicative of special diplomatic status - meaning that the Character will be the first person called upon whenever there are problems between those two empires.
There is plenty of scope for Noble characters to "get involved" with the operations of their various holdings, and the possibility of further advancement should not be ignored. A Noble who is successful in his duties, in business, or simply in getting the right sort of attention (!), may be given additional responsibilities (read: "promoted"). In such cases, he may receive additional benefits, or existing benefits may be "up-graded". For example, a Noble may find that his Merchant Holdings are of interest to a Megacorp, and cleverly trades them in for a Portfolio. A Governor may do well enough during her term of office that she is rewarded with a Feifdom.
Many Referees will feel alarm about allowing major benefits into their campaign. Certainly understandable, but a Noble with a Viceroyship is unlikely to hang around Starport bars looking for patrons. In all probability, he will BE the patron. Likewise, Nobles with benefits such as Nobility Creation or Right of Decree will have major responsibilities. Even seemingly 'minor' neglect or abuse of such powers could have very serious repercussions - such as being stripped of benefits, or even charged with High Treason. The Imperial Nobility plays for keeps, folks, with very few second chances. Always remember that.
For high-level Nobles, the traditional adventuring career may be impossible. Instead, there will be much more concern with The Big Picture. Think of TV shows like 'The West Wing'. Movies like 'Seven Days In May'. Books like Raymond Feist's 'Daughter Of The Empire'.
A very different sort of Traveller campaign, but more than worthwhile if done right.
All Imperial Nobles have the Right Of Patronage.
This takes the following forms:
(1) BESTOWMENT: Any Noble receiving a specific Benefit more than once may, at a time of his/her choosing, bestow the duplicate upon another PC or NPC of his choice. The recipient can be a non-Noble, but must be an Imperial citizen ("...Of Good Standing...") with a SOC of 8+. The bequest needs to be ratified (at the Sector level of aristocracy or higher), and succeeds on a base 2d6 roll of 7+ (DMs at Referee discretion). Only one attempt at bestowment can be made for a given benefit or individual per year. Individuals who fail to be ratified suffer a cumulative DM of -1 on all subsequent attempts.
These benefits can never be taken back by the bestower. If the recipient dies, they go to his/her heirs. If no heirs, the benefits revert to the Imperium. If the recipient is found guilty of an Imperial crime, benefits can be removed at the Sector aristocracy's discretion - and will revert to the Imperium.
(2) SPONSORSHIP: All Nobles may use Patronage to sponsor non-noble Characters into the Imperial aristocracy. A ratification roll of 9+ is required. Positive DMs for the Sponsor's Court Influence (if any), and skills (select one of Admin, Bribery, Jack of Trades, or Leader). The recipient's previous SOC is subtracted from 10 and used as a negative modifier. Failure of the ratification roll means that the Noble must suffer the loss of one Benefit. Also note that this procedure can only be used to raise individuals to a SOC of 11, not to "promote" existing Nobles.
Individuals sponsored into the Nobility do not automatically get Benefits with the new rank. These must be bestowed by others.
This system covers the aristocracy of the Third Imperium, but elements could be used for other major cultures of the Traveller Universe. What follows is only conjecture:
ZHODANI - Psionics aside, the Consulate's aristocracy parallels that of the Imperium more closely than any other Major Race. The fundamental differance (other than the lack of Emperors or Patronage) is that the Zho hierarchy is very rigid in terms of benefits. Unlike Imperial Nobles who can conceivably be Governor of one place, Feiflord of someplace else, and Viceroy of someplace else again; most of a Zhodani Noble's privileges will be very closely inter-related. Also, there would be clear standardization for benefits - all Nobles of a given level would have a very similar range.
Amongst other things, my guess is that the equivalent of Court Influence would be commonplace, reflecting the clout that all Zhodani aristocrats routinely possess within their culture.
The only major variation in benefits would be in whatever "extras" an individual may need to do his / her job. Nobles with strong military backgrounds will almost always have Right Of Commission, unlike most of their non-military counterparts. Likewise, high level diplomatic types would probably have Right Of Free Passage and/or Right Of Escort. And so on.
SOLOMANI: Yep, the Solomani do have an aristocracy - it's called the Solomani Party. Somebody of good Party Standing (and the right SolSec connections) would have privileges very similar to what could be expected of a low-to-mid-level Noble elsewhere. By the time an individual gets into the Secretariat, the differances are wholly cosmetic.
DARRIANS & SWORD WORLDERS: Naturally, some cultural differances. Given the relatively small size of their empires, I would impose a ceiling of about SOC 20 if using this system for these folks. Otherwise, few problems.
ASLAN: On the one hand, probably as stratified as the Zhodani. On the other hand, a lot more chaotic as well. Privileges would mainly be limited to the territory of that Noble's clan and its closest allies.
K'KREE: Probably the most stratified social order of all. Variations in privileges would depend solely upon family standing and ranking within it.
DROYNE, HIVER & VARGR: You're kidding, right?
As always, think about what you want and how it can fit into the campaign...
|NOBILITY ADDENDA - Thoughts on Role-Playing and Refereeing Nobles - as well as Heraldry, Honours, Imperial Warrants, Etc..|