While the original theme for Arx is extensive and detailed in all the different help topics under lore and world, here are some commonly asked questions that might help someone find what they are looking for when deciding how they should approach situations in game as a new player.
1. What kind of power does the king have? What kind of monarchy is it (constitutional vs absolute)?
-- Absolute monarch, and in theory complete power. This is heavily checked by traditional autonomy by lords within their own domain, which has made for some periods of a strong crown or weak crown. See http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Feudalism/ and http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Vassalage/
2. What function does the Assembly of Peers serve under an absolute monarch?
--While it is an absolute monarchy, in practice the crown has in the past often put a great many decisions before the peers, and decided conflicts with a simple majority vote by the highlords (the head of the house paramount for each of the five kingdoms). In periods with a weak crown, or one completely disinterested in politics, this resulted in effective Arvum wide rule by the highlords, while in very strong periods the Assembly was virtually never called and created discord and resentment among the peerage.
3. What does the king's court consist of?
--The crown will be played by a non-staff player pretty much always, and while it's expected that he has a great wide range of courtiers (particularly exemplified by the Whisper House as the core institution for courtiers), he or she is free to use their discretion and whatever generates the most RP. Generally speaking, expect for a pretty inclusive crown.
4. Will there ever be rebellion?
--Sure. Generally speaking I wrote everything when I designed the game with dynamic change in mind. I don't mind a great house being destroyed, the crown changing hands to another great house, and so on. But there always will be considerable inertia on the side of the status quo, and a house paramount isn't going to change every couple months as one group becomes inactive and another becomes active. Arvum is huge, with thousands of miles from coast to coast and population in the tens of millions. In order to effect lasting change, the Dominion system of automated land and army management (and a civlization style minigame) is going to be core to it.
5. What type of RP can be expected by joining each group or each major institution? The Crown, the five great houses, or the different core institutions: the iron guard, the king's own, the inquisition, the Faith of the Pantheon, the Whispers, the Observers?
--There will be a great deal of overlap. Most characters can be members of more than one organization, and RP from divided loyalties is expected. Only a few, such as the Faith of the Pantheon's godsworn or the King's Own crownsworn require members giving up ties to other groups. Every organization has its own help file, and the five kingdoms also have their own culture files as well. For example the Inquisition is http://play.arxgame.org/topics/org/48/ and is a secular, not a religious organization. While Velenosa has both http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Velenosa/ and http://play.arxgame.org/topics/org/2/ and the organization web pages are automatically populated from the current state in game.
6. Who are the highlords? What power do the highlords have? What does court intrigue look like in each group?
--The five highlords are the heads of each of the house paramount for the five different separate regions. Currently:
- Darren http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1793/ for the Northlands
- Edain http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1809/ for the western Oathlands
- Lark http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/5450/ for the central Crownlands
- Niccolo http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1801/ for the southern Lyceum
- Victus http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1643/ for the eastern Mourning Isles
While the flavor and style of each court varies immensely (scheming and sly for the Lyceum, vs arthurian for the Oathlands), every house paramount has multiple powerful duchies as vassals, who then in turn all have marches who have counties who have baronies. While individually any of the houses paramount might be more powerful than their ducal vassals, they certainly are not moreso than multiple of them, which creates a tensely cooperative dynamic of needing to balance the needs of both PC and NPC vassals with conflicting desires and the jostle for position among them.
7. How important is religion in this game? How much power do the religious structures have? How much influence does religion have over NPC masses? Can my character avoid religious RP?
--The world of Arvum was intentionally designed against type for medieval fantasy as a highly skeptical populace rather than a highly superstitious one. That does not make for a weak Faith of the Pantheon, however, as the church is often regarded as the '6th great house', and since law is largely entrusted to autonomous local lords, the Church is the bellweather for shared legal and ethical norms across Arvum. Fantastically wealthy from the tithes of millions of faithful and having probably the largest standing military in the faith militant orders of the Templars or the Knights of Solace, the church is extremely powerful. That said, while the Church is a core component of Arvani life, there's really no requirement for characters to be showing piety, and really only directly butting heads with the faith in a public way is likely to impact characters, so religious RP isn't particularly required, and we don't really want players to ever feel obligated to do RP they don't particularly enjoy. Similarly, the far less organized faith of shamanism popular among the Northlands and some prodigal houses should never be seen as required for characters it impacts.
8. Are there fantasy creatures? Is there magic? Can I play one? Can I do the magics?
--Almost all Arvani would laugh and say no. The population is intensely skeptical of magic, and even when presented with proof of its existence, tend to go far out of their way to explain it away in a way that is a little bit suspicious. Or a lot suspicious. Really, really sus. So while everyone would say 'no', there are hints they exist, even if no character would have anything obviously supernatural or magical for some time. Just yet.