Excerpts 03/08/2006

Power of Faerûn Excerpt
By Ed Greenwood and Eric L. Boyd

Power of Faerûn is a comprehensive guidebook to playing high-level heroes and running high-level campaigns in the Forgotten Realms. This supplement introduces new options to players and Dungeon Masters as well as guidelines for starting a temple, running a guild, leading an army, serving the crown, and participating in political intrigues. The excerpts below include information on earning titles, leading armies, adding dragons to your adventures, and using the merchant prince prestige class in your game. You can get more information from recent previews for this book, as well, so be sure to check there for cover copy and dragon statistics, too!

Earning Titles

Rulers never seem to have enough money, and they tend to hate to part with coin; however, courtiers can sometimes persuade them to gift some land and/or a title. Many a low-born merchant, grown rich but contemptuous of his "so-called betters," has been more delighted to become a titled lord, with blazons and robes and courtesies, than to receive even staggering sums of coins. As Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun put it, "One tends to want most what one does not have, and believes one can never have."

Generally, only a ruler can confer land, major offices, or noble status. There are two sorts of titles in Faerûn. The most numerous, held by most serving military and courtiers, is an office with a grand job title such as Necessary Underlady of the Queen's Purse, Royal Clerk of the Understair, Page of the Royal Presence, or Lord High Marshal of the Royal Host. You gain the title when accepting a job and lose it if dismissed from that work (something quite likely to happen to the more important offices in the event of a change of ruler). Offices almost always include a salary and the ability to call on the support of (or even command) other courtiers in specific, narrowly defined ways; thus, these powers make them ready rewards for the supporters and friends of a ruler. Offices might include a uniform and usually involve a few odd rituals or duties, inherited from earlier times (such as the duty to light the first candle in any chamber where royalty is sleeping, or the obligation to test any bath prepared for a ruler).

The rarer (and, to most distant eyes, more glamorous) sort of title is a noble title. Although these can usually be stripped from you by a ruler just as an office can, they are in theory attached to you, not your occupation. Noble titles might be hereditary (inherited from your elder kin, and passed down by you to your descendants) or what heralds of Faerûn call extraordinary (for you only, dying with you). Some such titles even include the word "Extraordinary," as in Lord Falconblade, Baron Extraordinary of Blackpillars.

Office titles might have their own heraldic blazon (coat of arms) or badge, or might use a differenced version of the arms of the court (royalty) they are bestowed by, but all noble titles have blazons -- and in Faerûn, must be "of someplace." In other words, the title refers to a region, city, town, castle, village, or even an inn, tavern or crossroads. In some cases, this place might be fanciful, might no longer exist, or you or your noble family might no longer have any connection to it -- but it must be part of the grant of arms. Most noble titles began as a royal acknowledgment of the ennobled person's ownership of lands within the realm -- and as landlord, renting out homes and fields to tenant farmers, and sharing in crop and livestock sale monies, these lands brought steady income (often great wealth) to their noble owner.

Noble offspring usually bear courtesy titles of smaller places within the lands of their titled parent's land. If Harlo Belorgan succeeds his father to become "Lord Belorgan" (that is, Earl Belorgan of Wyvernshores, the farmland along the southeastern coast of the Wyvernwater), his wife Alclaera becomes Lady Belorgan (Countess of Wyvernshores). His son Raedlar ("Red") succeeds to Harlo's title of Viscount of Juniril, and younger sister Thaelmra takes (as "Baroness") Red's former title of Baron of Forgemarket (a market crossroads in the Wyvernshores countryside). The unused courtesy titles of Baron of Lowbridge and Baron of Mossfarms (a village and the Belorgan estates, respectively) are held by Harlo, but if he and Alclaera have additional children, they will bear these titles. A noble house never runs out of titles, because local heralds always meet with the senior competent noble of the house to devise a name and grant of arms for at least one title in reserve (for the Belorgans, these are Baron of Windkeep and Baron of Fallturret, the two Belorgan castles). The details of inheritance, courtesy, and precedence (ranking among nobles) vary slightly from place to place, but are always administered by local court heralds (see Chapter 6). In Faerûn, thanks to the High Heralds, all heralds have a large measure of independence from rulers, nobles, and other courtiers, and can very rarely be corrupted or persuaded to overlook or "twist" anything heraldic.

Noble titles rarely include any sort of payment from the ruler or her court (although nobles are often chosen to fill senior-ranking offices, which have salaries and in many cases additional access to the royal treasury).

Noble titles include loyalty to a ruler, plus some sort of service (or payments in lieu of service) to the ruler, but inherited titles aren't as easy to lose as offices. This is because nobility also includes legal rights "commoners" don't have, and because a ruler might be reluctant to anger other nobles by harsh treatment of a particular noble. Acts of disloyalty or criminal behavior usually earn a noble punishment on an ascending scale depending on the severity of the transgression: fines, banishment for a particular time, permanent exile, forfeiture of lands or properties, and death. (These are usually less severe than the fates commoners face, for the same crimes.)

Stripping a "traitor noble" and her entire kin of nobility is considered an even more severe punishment than death, in most cases (although "extinguishing" a noble family in this way usually involves loss of properties and as many executions as possible -- because traitor nobles expelled from a realm and stripped of their lands and titles tend to become bitter, relentless foes of the ruler who return to do mischief or real harm). Usually, the only crimes that earn them the death penalty are murdering other nobles or royalty or committing an act of high treason (actively working to bring down a ruler -- as opposed to the "low treason" of merely supporting traitors, by keeping silent or by financially aiding them).

The Bright Banner

Political successes and failures at court are best determined through roleplaying, but provided here is an abstract means of determining who wins and loses, known as "The Bright Banner" (named after an old ballad about a craven, dishonest courtier who did everything wrong yet soared from success to success). It's a numeric scale, on which 1 is success (and higher numbers mean clearer victories and additional rewards), 0 is "nothing happens," and negative numbers mean failure with -- as the numerals grow larger -- increasingly bad consequences. Character feats and the policies and actions of the ruler should be added to the factors outlined here.

Matter involves key persons of:
a primary faith other than yours: -1
same faith as yours: +1
a family unfriendly to yours: -2
a friendly family: +1
higher court rank than you: -2
lower court rank than you: +2
at least two seasons more court experience than you: -1
at least two seasons less court experience than you: +1

You currently have:
many enemies at court: -2
no court profile at all: -1
strong royal favor: +3
known royal disfavor: -4
no usual jurisdiction in the matter: -2
usual jurisdiction over the matter: +3
no debt or obligation to a key courtier opposed in the matter: +0
a debt or obligation to a key courtier opposed in the matter: -4
at least two consecutive, immediately preceding "victories" at court: +2
at least two consecutive, immediately preceding "failures" at court: -3
more than four recent victories at court (usually in the last season): -2

grant a favor or give a bribe to a key courtier involved who stands in great need of it: +4 (per courtier)
gain at least two more high-profile courtiers as allies in the matter than are opposed to it (of roughly the same rank): +1
gain at least two fewer high-profile courtiers as allies in the matter than are opposed to it (of roughly the same rank): -2
have as public ally in the matter a courtier two ranks higher than the highest-ranked opponent in the matter: +3
have as public opponent in the matter a courtier two ranks higher than the highest-ranked ally in the matter: -3

The primary "power behind the throne" courtier:
publicly supports your position in the matter: +4
publicly opposes your position in the matter: -4
is known to like you: +3
is known to dislike you: -3
owes you a favor: +2
sees his lending of support in this matter as putting you solidly in his debt: +1

Using the Bright Banner isn't always a "once, right now" determination, although it should be used whenever there's an open confrontation. Most matters at courts not ruled by absolute tyrants involve negotiations, and the Bright Banner should be consulted several times as these unfold and various courtiers become involved (work it out for all of them, not just PCs, and compare the results). Most DMs won't want the Bright Banner to determine absolute success or failure, but rather to decide the attitudes of key NPCs. Are they confident of success? Do they see themselves as probably losing and, if so, would they want to avoid the damage to their reputation at court?

With tinkering, the Bright Banner can be used in most court events. Does the outlander Rauligosk win royal favor, or even get made a Lord Extraordinary of the Realm? Or does he get flogged before all the court, and driven from the kingdom? Does he get to marry the princess, or get publicly handed the troth of the ugliest scullery maid and a job as her underling?

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