The European medieval period through rose tinted glasses.
That’s no doubt a common and incredibly valid argument that will be made of the portrayal of what I’ve written. The Noble as a class that becomes more powerful for keeping it’s word, the common people having a love rather than fear of the local knight and religious institutions that fulfill the role of social safety net instead of pan-European power mongers. No crusades (for now in any event, nowhere is it written that I can’t present expansions) and no rules in the game for horrific torture and persecution of jews and homosexuals.
My game is not horribly realistic when measured by those standards.
But then again there are fucking elves.
Is there evil in the world? Yeah, of course there is. What would the Knight characters have to do except friendly jousts with one another otherwise? Are there cruel nobles who are power hungry? Are there wizards who turn their awesome powers to evil? Sure. But the nobility is not a vicious class of warlord in my game. This idea no doubt chafes against American audiences, but if you’re involved in this hobby, you’ve got at least some romanticism about European nobles.
We need elements that lead to conflict, but that doesn’t mean that we have to live in the world of Warhammer 40K where freedom is a long-lost memory and there is only warfare and torment of varying degrees for anyone who ever lives outside of the Tau empire.
The world of fate and fealty is the world of the Geats from Beowulf: the king is not an asshole, he provides his vassals with riches and protects and looks after his subjects and feels woe and torment when his people are slain without him being able to do anything about it. In that sense, the world of fate and fealty is a melodrama, but rather than being a cynic melodrama in the tradition of Les Miserables, it is a melodrama of optimistic tone in the tradition of the Arthuriana that I grew up with.
Central to this is the idea of Noblesse Oblige, a feature of the Noble and Knight archetypes. The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus: whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
That means that it’s good to be a Noble or Knight: the people wherever you go give you deferential treatment, food, shelter- theyprovide for you what they might within their means, you are their lord. They also look to you for guidance, governance and protection.
When a Noble exercises Nobless Oblige, he may find himself asked to judge the case of a man who has slept with another mans wife. In the medieval period, we’d probably just have expected this to not even be a court case, or it would be a case in which the wife was branded a harlot and cast into the streets, even were she raped.
I expect better of the players who choose the Noble archetype. I’m not going to dictate what judgement is fair- after all we don’t know anything about the case- but the nobles of Fate and Fealty understand, on principle, that it takes subjects to rule a kingdom, and that subjects will follow men and women who rule them with justice and compassion.
The Noble has many privileges, but is ultimately a public servant.
So too the Knight: when a Knight exercises Nobless Oblige, demanding a new horse or quarters for his army, the people will call upon him as well. We make an artificial distinction between Knight and Noble in the game. Knights pay a lot of attention to chivalry, but they are also of noble blood. The difference between a Knight and Noble is that the focus of a Noble is to interact with others using their superior Charm and to rule justly, the Knight is a dedicated combat class. When the people look to the Knight, they aren’t asking someone to sort out a squabble in the market or to negotiate the limits on where one mans farm ends and another’s begins: they cry out for a hero to do deeds of valor. Slay the local ogre. Save the kidnapped damsel. Challenge the cruel knight from the neighboring castle.
This ability is there to give players who choose highborn characters the ability to live up to their rank and enjoy the privileges thereof, but it’s also an engine that draws them into one tale after the other, adding more story and therefor more fun to the game.
*sourced Noblesse Oblige from Wikipedia