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Breaking Fealty

Question: If a vassal doesn't feel safe under the oaths of fealty they swore to a liege lord, how much threat of bodily harm do they have to suffer before they can appeal to a higher authority to have their oath annulled? Is there a limit, or do you have to choose between torment and oathbreaking?

Answer: Completely the discretion of the Faith. But typically it has to be some sort of clear, demonstrable harm or loss suffered, that demonstrates that someone is not keeping service in good faith. Insults, as a rule, are never enough, and threats are rarely enough without extremely clear, demonstrable reason to doubt one's safety or continued well being. Proof of some form is usually required, which make breaking fealty for words rather than deeds extraordinarily rare.

Creating And Elevating Houses

Question: I wonder what power the various levels of nobility have to elevate and deligate the vassels beneath them? Can Margot as a noble give a vacant barony to a loyal servant or does she only have sway over those directly beneath her - the March lords (as crusader kings would lead me to believe) or would that only be the power of the royal houses?

Answer: They have a lot of sway in creating a new house... if they are willing to section off lands personally owned by their own house to do so, and permanently grant it to a newly created house to have complete dominion over it. So it's extremely uncommon for them to do so, since it is a major sign of trust and is explicitly weakening the higher house in order to create a new demesne for a vassal.

Now for replacing vassals, it does happen, but the families of vassals tend to be large, and it's rare for a liege to get involved in succession and interfere unless the vassals ask the liege to do so to help resolve a succession crisis. This can lead to bloody wars, and it is very rare for a liege to interfere more than one step removed (ie, Tyde would have a lot of influence over the marches under their control, helping nudge who might be the next marquis, but would have little in a count sworn to those marches). Highlords and the crown rarely get involved for fear of cheapening their prestige and authority in distant matters, and the amount of clout they have varies quite a bit. Someone like Donrai was a tyrant, and most minor vassals would have feared to go against what he said, for his obvious willingness to enforce even trivial matters with force of arms. While Grayson vassals can expect a great deal more latitude, and tend to have a lot more respect and loyalty rather than just fear for the Princess of bastion.

Q: Also how fluid is the line between wealthy/high ranking commoners and the nobility? Is it generally looked down? Are they thought of as less than the 'pure blooded' nobles? Or is it a thing that happens and everyone expects it?

A: Extremely wealthy commoner families are still considered below the nobility, and an important distinction here is it is very, very rare for a commoner family to own land rather than to be effectively just leasing it. A core way for commoner families to become ennobled is to be granted land by essentially buying it, and acquire a peerage, but it's considered unseemly and a big show of weakness for a noble family to be effectively selling off their land to raise money, and trading their long term prosperity for short term benefit. Marrying commoners is similarly a sign of weakness or a lack of control over the family. It does happen, but it's frowned upon. (And when Dominion comes in, a core ruling benefit will be the marriage alliances one has, and ones to commoner will be a tool essentially cast aside).

Elevating Vassals

Question: How do the newly-elevated Houses handle elevating their own vassals? If for example a March becomes a Duchy, do its Counties automatically become its new Marches, etc? Does the new Duchy decide which of its vassals become Marches? Or do these vassals themselves need to proactively go through the entire process of elevation with the Faith, even if they are not technically changing fealty?

Answer: A newly-elevated house does not confer any increased rank and status on its own vassals, no. For example, a march that becomes a duchy would still likely have counties sworn to it, though it's considered proper to allow the County-rank houses to re-evaluate their vows and change to another house on the fealty chain, with the hopeful amicable approval of the chain and the Faith. Those counties, if they wish to be elevated, would still need to attain recognition by the Assembly of Peers to their new status, as the change in social rank is quite formal (rank is formally IC defined, not an OOC abstraction). They do not, however, need to have any approval for a change in oaths, as their oaths remain unchanged.

So if March A becomes Duchy A, and has County B sworn to it, county B needs to amass the power, wealth and lands to be considered a march. If it has reached the minimums that the peers would countenance, then they seek formal recognition of their elevation at the Assembly of Peers, but if there's no change in oaths and County B stays sworn to Duchy A, then the faith needn't be involved as the oaths are identical, and it is strictly a matter for the Peers and the Crown.

Fealty And Loyalty

Question: A quick question on how citizens view their loyalty, in general.  Would the average citizen see their primary loyalty as being to the lord directly above them, their highlord, or the compact? Would individual citizens of a duchy/county/barony etc. also swear fealty to their high lord, or just to their duke/count/baron/etc? If a citizen's direct lord decided to rebel against their high lord and/or the compact, would citizens generally go with their lord, or generally remain loyal to the compact/high lord?

Answer: Always their direct lord. Oaths of fealty are made directly to an individual or individuals (godsworn swear to the crown and the gods), but a commoner vassal of a duke is sworn to the duke, who is then sworn to a highlord, who is sworn to the crown. It would be expected in cases of conflict to always side with their direct lord. This doesn't mean that conflicts exist or some might break that, particularly if their direct lord is egregiously in the wrong, but if a lord rebels against their highlord, it can usually be expected that all or a majority of their vassals will stand with them. Similarly the autonomy that a duke practices from a highlord is roughly equivalent to the autonomy practiced by a marquis to the duke.

Feudalism

Answer: The feudal system of Arvum has persisted relatively unchanged for well over a thousand years, with the only significant changes happening during the Reckoning era which saw the five separate independent kingdoms/regions of Arvum become unified under the crown and forge the Compact. The feudal society works with a combination of sworn swords on one's individual demesne and then in turn granting land by means of enfeoffment, in the archaic terms of ancient Arvum that are seldom used today.

Technically speaking, all land in Arvum could be considered to belonging to the Crown, but is then invested in the keeping of vassals. The feudal system of Arvum uses a hierarchial structure of the land being divided up and invested in others, where a lord's own holding is referred to as their demesne (or domain), and the individuals living on the land that serve them personally and have vows of service to them are their sworn servants, and soldiers are often referred to as sworn swords. New demesnes are created by granting land to another family (or individual founding a family) that will hold land independently for their lord as a bannerman, creating this independent fief for them through enfeoffment. This is often referred to as 'a bannerman grant' or 'founding a bannerman house' or 'granting a fief' or the like.

A lord traditionally has complete autonomy in their domain, ruling their demesne with little traditional oversight and passing all their own laws and customs in their own demesnes. There is no codified universal system of law in Arvum, but in practice most of the laws of one domain to the next are very similar, as the Faith can bring immense pressure to bear on any individual lord, and more than one petty lord passing flagrantly unjust laws has been crushed either by the templars of the Faith or by their bannerlord (the lord's direct liege that granted their family its fief). In return for the autonomy, a bannerman is expected to maintain the peace in their own domain, collect and pay taxes to their bannerlord no less than one thirteenth of their gross income from the domain, provide use of their domain's army to their bannerlord in time of war (whenever their lord calls their banners), keep the peace and maintain just laws. Houses that break that agreement could find themselves made outlaw and effectively become among the Abandoned, banished from the Compact.

Due to the autonomy, traditionally the bannerlords execute very little control over their bannermen- a baron taking any action to the welfare of his own barony is not expected to have to inform his count, nor is the marquis holds the banners for two counts below him and their baronies below them expected to keep his bannermen informed of every decision he passes or seek their counsel. There is, of course, politeness and most lords would want to have some reasonable warning if their bannerlord will be taking some action that will impact them and vice versa, but houses in the same feudal hierarchy will act more like friendly allied powers than they would in any kind of employer and employee relationship. Afterall, for absolute direct control, that's what sworn swords in their own demesnes are for.

For common terms: most sworn servants will refer to the direct person that holds thier vows as their liege lord or liege lady or the like. For the lord of their lord, often called the bannerlord for whom their direct lord is sworn to, there is no direct tie of loyalty. In other words, knights sworn to a baroness do not have any direct loyalty to the countess whom the baroness is sworn to in turn, or to the marquessa who the countess is sworn to, or the duchess the marquessa is sworn to, or the princess the duchess is sworn to, or the queen the princess is sworn to. Their loyalty and their oaths of fealty are all held directly, they have in practical terms no direct ties above that, and that is entirely the responsibility of the bannerman. Since 'my lord' or 'my liege' can be ambiguous in some cases, generally those terms mean the direct holder of their vow of loyalty. A knight for a baroness would use 'my liege-lady' for the baroness, 'my banner-lady' for the countess that holds their liege's fealty, 'my banner-marquis' for the march holder above them, 'my banner-duke' and so on up to the crown. Strictly speaking, civil wars tend to fall very heavily around what the individual lords decide, since loyalty is so closely tied to individual vows of loyalty, and a knight siding with their bannerlord against their direct liege would be seen as an oathbreaker and dishonorable, making it extremely uncommon.

Guard Retinues

Question: By tradition, no inquisitor, high ranking member of the faith or member of the iron guard exceeds a half dozen armed retainers in the form of confessors, templars/knights of solace, or iron guardsmen respectively. Nor do members of the King's Own usually field more than a half dozen (squad) independent of his majesty or the royal family typically. It's more a matter of traditional respect than practical enforcement as of course several different squads of guardsmen might descend upon the same disturbance, but the traditions there serve to help to de-escalate potential conflict from nobles feeling threatened, so a half dozen is more enough to deter without threatening a highlord.

Leaving The Peerage

Question: What would happen if a noble with no claims (just like a Lord/Lady) decided to give up their nobility and married a commoner and joined a commoner house?

Answer: Not much. They give up all their ranks and privileges and become a commoner. In practical terms, what more matters is their family. Chances are the family doesn't take the scandal well, and the person would no longer be welcome on their old lands or in their household, lose all incomes and so on. Their prestige of course would probably vanish, since it was tied to their noble standing, but people would generally leave someone alone and wish them well, while regarding them as socially dead.

Lyceum Conclaves And Succession

Question: Good question recently in light of recent events. Was asked that if conclaves aren't voting, then how does the Lyceum really differ thematically from other great houses.

Answer: Okay so the whole, 'dictate terms when people are defeated' is actually very different from other great houses, in that it has an implicit understanding that civil wars won't usually result in the utter destruction of another city-state or the annihilation of another house. And that's a very very important concept, in that most wars of rebellion are usually by necessity fought to the utter extinguishing of any line in order to prevent future conflicts. Like the Tyde rebellion, it ends with a house attainted and destroyed and it lands absorbed. That doesn't happen in the Lyceum at all. City-states just don't change hands, but the recognition of where they stand is more malleable. It's a very important distinction since otherwise people would assume that in order to take the great house position one would have to wipe out velenosa utterly, and I think it is very very very very important to avoid that, and instead I -do- think there will be crippling wars that can put someone in a position where they would be effectively defenseless and have no choice but to surrender it, while if it happened to Grayson and its army was wiped out, it would be unthinkable for Bisland to go, 'well that sucks for you, we're now the great house'. That just wouldn't happen thematically, while in the Lyceum it very clearly would.

Question: Q: Ok, this might have been asked before, I'm not sure. I do know of the Leviathan, the Thrax Fleet, but what other Houses have a fleet and what are their general numbers, as well as does Arx have a fleet, say the Iron Guard having ship patrols at all or a navy at all meant to protect its waters, or does it source that to elseplace?

Answer: Yes, any domain that's not entirely landlocked can have a fleet and any that are landlocked have more land units in equivalent measure to make up for it. Numbers will defined in dominion when it's live but basically basically a couple cogs from a barony to a hundredish ships for Arx or Maelstrom in the rough scale, with longships/galleys/drommonds.

Oaths Of Fealty

Question: Q:These have obviously been called into question with recent in character events, but what are the actual obligations of a vassal noble to their liege in this setting? A lot of people seem to be working on the assumptions of absolute obedience but I have to imagine that is only one extreme of a very broad spectrum of relationships and ''contracts'.

There seems to be a 10 percent income tax as standard and there is obviously some kind of military obligation as well but how far does that go? Are the armed forces of a noble expected to be entirely at their liege's disposal? Or is a landed noble's obligation to provide X number of troops for a set period a year? A month? A season?

A: Taxes up to this point were automated, but Tehom recently added in a shown Tax percentage in bank payments rather than an auto deduction. That's consider a vassal's responsibility. As to military forces, it would be 'a reasonable percentage of their force that still accounts for the security of their holdings'. In practice, that's not less than twenty five percent for the full duration of any armed conflict, but the liege was wide latitude in forgiving that.

Q:I imagine things vary but is there a general standard and if things are nebulous is there a customary obligation? Additionally what are a liege lord's customary obligations if a vassal goes above and beyond these expectations? For example if a vassal is fielding more troops than their feudal contact specifies and brings them when banners are called, or remains in the field longer than is expected, does that generally mean their liege owes them a vague favour? Are they expected to start paying those soldier's wages to compensate their vassal if somebody turns up with a double sized army or fights for their liege all year?

A: Responsibility would solely be on the vassal to support it, though lieges and vassals have a wide latitude to debate what's reasonable.

Q:Also is scrutage a thing? To expand if, a vassal is unable or unwilling to send troops to their liege, is instead providing their overlord with money (to hire mercenaries or pay other nobles to up their contribution) an option, or indeed can a liege lord ask for money instead of troops? Or possibly is this kind of thing abstracted into the taxes already levied? Obviously those are options which could be personally discussed but are there in character assumptions of what is and is not acceptable?

A: Short answer, yes. These are very fluid- a vassal could make a reasonable offer to show their support, and a liege could accept it, and it is up to the two of them to determine what's reasonable. It would be extremely unusual for a liege to declare a vassal in disobedience- most lieges just are not powerful enough (unless they are a known tyrant, like Donrai was) to enforce their will uniformly and risk pissing off their other vassals. The most extreme step would be a liege, with the consent of the high lord of the kingdom and possibly the crown, to declare a vassal as outlaw (outside the law) and make them Abandoned. There's a number of Abandoned houses that fit that category, that live in such a defensible location that no one has ever bothered to try to conquer them or been successful at it.

Q: Weird array of taxes.

A: God no, let's keep it simple.

Orgs Across Fealties

Question: Q: This has come up recently for Tobias. What's the history/policy of organizations not specifically bound to one Realm being allowed to set up shop? Let's go with my specific example: Tobias has been offered to setup a chapter house/outpost for the Crimson Blades in another Compact settlement under the Thrax Realm. Is there any law or policy that prevents me from simply negotiating with the Lord of the city and setting up that way?

A: Organizations inside Arx and outside of Arx are treated vastly different, due to the practice of complete regional autonomy granted to any lord within their demesne. If a sellsword captain wished to negotiate a contract with a lord, there needs to be no higher approval to do that, though a liege could look in askance if his vassal seems to be raising an army for no reason at all, and a few bloody and unnecessary wars have broken out when a liege demanded a vassal cease army building believing it to be a prelude to rebellion, and the very argument led to its own violence.

That said, one important thing that's very easy to forget is the lack of freedom of travel for armed groups. If someone was traveling from Arx to Farhaven in the North, there are a handful of roads considered own by the crown granting safe passage, between each major holding, but that is considered the right of individuals to travel, not for military units, which have to have the consent of every single demense in between point A and point B to cross peacefully, or be considered armed invaders. This makes army movement typically painfully slow, as say, troops coming from Tor to Pridehall have to be granted safe passage through dozens of domains, with every single independent lord free to place any demands from a tax on travellers to barring their entry at all under force of arms. Army moevents then are exceedingly complicated in Arvum, as there's many cases when some force is unwittingly technically trespassing by moving through land that a local barony hasn't surveyed in a generation, is held by shavs, but still technically owned.

This in turns means almost all negotiations are conducted in Arx, since it is painfully difficult to travel to independent holdings to have sellsword negotiations, and most sellsword companies have at least cordial relationships with most ducal powers and have routes specifically plotted through friendly lords willing to grant free and safe passage.

In Arx itself, every sellsword company has to be registered with the crown (typically meaning the Iron Guard), and is granted a charter, and are limited to no more than a hundred swords in the city at once, and in the streets they are subject to the same retainer laws as noble houses. They are, officially, considered crown servants as well as whoever they might be selling their swords to, and coutn against the armed retainer limits for both.

Peerage

Question: Q: I have some questions about who is considered a "peer" in Arvum. Setting aside those who are obviously peers by right of rule, are those who hold the courtesy title of "Lord" or "Lady" considered peers? What of those who hold the courtesy titles of "Prince" or "Princess"?

A: The term 'peer of the realm' applies to any recognized noble still in good standing with their house. Social rank in this way has a formal usuage (it's not just an ooc construct, nobles could talk about outranking someone in a societal sense), with the family of a titleholder being considered typically a level below the title holder, save barony-level families which are the same. To distinguish between a peer that's a titleholder, there's quite a few different distinctions. 'Head of House', 'Ruling lord', '<title> of <holding>' such as the Princess of Bastion would mean the highlord of House Grayson, while 'A princess of House Grayson' would be a non-titleholder in standard usuage. So while a titleholder always outranks their families, the noble family are still considered peers of the realms, and it's not just a term to denote the holder of a peerage/domain.

Pravus Vassals

Question: Sorry to submit this during the freeze, but it seems like it will be swiftly relevant. I had prior understood (assumed!) that, with Pravus's elevation, their vassals that chose to remain with them would also keep their lands, and that those islands southeast of the mainland Lyceum that Pravus's vassals all tend to be a part of would basically not be a part of the Lyceum anymore. However, Pax's recent bbpost implies that anyone who wishes to become or remain a vassal of Pravus, including their current vassals, would have to give up their current holdings and be given new ones from Pravus's direct holdings and/or what they conquer. Can you clarify which one is accurate? 1) Current Pravus vassals who stick with Pravus take their lands with them, or 2) Current Pravus vassals who stick with Pravus have to give up their lands and get new ones?

Answer: The former, provided they are on islands. Island based vassals could keep their holdings and they would effectively leave the Lyceum, forming a Mainland Lyceum under Velenosa that would almost certainly lose the 'Mainland' distinction over time as islands drift back under the control of Lenosia. Then Pravus forms a Island Lyceum that would over time become more tied to the Saffron Chain, with a mix of holdings that drift under Lenosian or Setarcan control, and the central power base is in the Saffron.

Renouncing Fealty

Question: What is involved in renouncing fealty?

Answer: Technically, everyone needs their lord's permission to be released from their oath. -Technically-. The reality is that is so pro forma it becomes rarely sought, particularly from those going crownsworn, since most lords just do not have the time to care about the son of random farmer Bob wanting to leave the barony and seek fame and fortune in Arx, for the very trivial it probably wouldn't even be mentioned for risk of irritating the lord's servants by wasting their time in informing them. But more prominent individuals are different. Going crownsworn is almost impossible to object to, since that is essentially one vassal leaving a lord's service to directly serve the crown, and very few lords would wish to risk irritating the crown by seeming they object to that, particularly about a commoner vassal.

The real times disputes happen is when one servant, like a wealthy merchant, has a dispute with their lord and wishes to leave their service and serve another. If the first lord (out of spite, for example) refuses to grant them leave, then the merchant could risk being seen as an oathbreaker which would vary based on their grievances on how they are perceived, and whoever takes their new service could be seen as giving a slight to their old lord. Very, very few lords -want- to keep a hostile vassal in their service, so refusing to grant such is pretty rare, and the only times this becomes violent tends to be during wartime, such as individuals effectively wishing to dessert as sworn swords, particularly if they'd seek service with their enemy. One of the reforms by Queen Alarice the Great was a crown law that forbade lords from refusing free travel of their vassals without just cause, to undermine serfdom that was slavery in all but name- this does lead to an extremely high amount of serfs who just 'go for a trip' from a hostile lord that they think might refuse to grant them leave of their service or retaliate if they ask, go to Arx, and then become crownsworn there once they are out of reach. This is a large reason for the immense population of the capital as well, to be under the auspices of the crown and away from minor lords who are despotic in their own domains, and many of those crownsworn then seek service among the lords they meet in Arx.

Respect For Nobility

Question: Q: In a hierarchy the notion is that those who are below will pay respect at least at a minimum to those above, I am wondering what happens when this does not happen?

My instinct is that it's both a violation of the social norms and as such taboo but also a violation of one's oaths to their direct Leige?

1. Who is responsible when someone down the social chain disrespects their betters overtly? The head of their house? Who ever they're directly sworn to or themselves?

2. What are the consequences social, religious and otherwise for such behavior?

3. To what degree are nobles expected to uniformly enforce the social demands of the hierarchy? Is this a 'I should be calling in the muscle to beat someone down' thing? I can't imagine we would use champions (a social construct) when one party is already in violation of the social norm?

A: It depends.

Generally speaking, bad behavior (crass, rude, offensive, disrespectful) flows either way on social rank, without much of a sense of les majeste. A noble trying to berate a worker would probably be seen as in the wrong and rude, and a noble trying to correct usuage of a title is more likely to be seen as petty and pedantic than the offending party to be in the wrong, unless the other party was intentionally misusing it to try to insult them. Respect for anyone in the society is based on their own merit, in terms of their accomplishments, and then respect for the families or the institutions they represent. Nobility try not to lean too heavily on the prestige of their family names, because it cheapens it, though similarly most commoners show a deference to family members of powerful houses due to what they represent.

1.: Heads of house usually feel responsible for family members reflecting badly on the family (and this will come up when social systems are active), but still the opprobrium is focused on the individual, with just tangential effects on those affiliated with them.

2. Ultimately, any interaction with npcs will be colored by someone's reputation. All of them. Like, say, spending resources. Or gaining them. Or any interaction with any house at all. In the meantime, it depends on the severity- someone that's considered an asshole probably isn't invited to all the reindeer games.

3.Merit matters more than status. Nobles should not feel they are responsible for enforcing social mores or the final arbiters of dignified behavior. Generally speaking, the nobles feel correcting trifles as beneath them, and wouldn't respond to something that's not an intentional provocation.

Retinues

Answer: Since the Crownbreaker Wars, when Thrax brought its armies into the city and usurped the throne, the Crown has limited the number of soldiers allowed in Arx. Each Great House is allowed no more than 100 soldiers, with an additional 100 allowed between all of its vassal Houses. This means that while Grayson may have 100 soldiers, Bisland might have 50 while Ashford and Shepherd are limited to 25 apiece, and Bisland may opt to only have 40 while allowing Deepwood 10. This division of numbers is determined first by the High Lords for their vassals duchies, and then by the Dukes and Duchesses down through each vassal House.

In addition to this, there are laws that limit the number in each noble's retinue, determined by social rank. A High Lord may have no more than 12 soldiers attending them in the street outside of their kingdom's ward. A Duke may have no more than 6, a Marquis 5, a Count 4, and no more than 3 to a Baron. The noble families of the title holders are customarily permitted half the number of guards, rounded down.

Commoners typically do not have retinues but the cautious (or paranoid) might hire an armsman or mercenary to accompany them on business and they may not have more than 1 in attendance at a time. This is not policed in the Lower Boroughs due to arrivals at the docks and the Iron Guard do issue permits for larger parties to travel from the harbour to their home wards. But strict records are kept of fealties and the number of soldiers already in the city; the staff of the Minister of Defense will know very quickly if people try to sneak more armed men and women than they are allowed.

Salaries

Question: Q: I've had discussed weekly salaries with a few Heads of Houses for people at various levels of fealty within the House (as opposed to landed vassals). Are there recommended guidelines for how much these salary/allowances should be? Ranging from members of the noble family to their knights and servants? As well as how one might adjust at the different levels of nobility? Is there a difference between what you'd be a sworn servant vs. a Crownsworn servant? Thank you!

A: Any family member or house servant (rank 4 and up) should really have an allowance or salary. The, 'just ask me for money' would and should be seen as extremely tight fisted, overly controlling, and greedy, though of course ICly some leaders are tight fisted, overly controlling and greedy.

As a general rule, I'd say that no less than half of the net income after paying for their armies and domain upkeep should be used for automatic allowances and salaries, usually divided evenly with a double share for head of house and voices and a halfshare for house servants (rank 4). It should be noted that inactive family are not paid during chron- in fact, someone that hasn't logged in for 14 days is automatically cut out from it, whether they are formally marked as inactive or not.

But yeah seriously please do not do the, 'Yeah just come and see me for money', that kind of tight control can be very RP squelching unless someone does like legitimately rp with people every day about what they need and ask.

Serfdom

Question: Q: Every House in The Compact relies on Serfdom and so I wanted to get some clarification on exactly what serfdom is in Arvum. The reason for this is that in RL history Serfdom was a repulsive practice that was akin to slavery. People were forced into serfdom and were born into it, inheriting the status at birth. If a parent stepped into serfdom they effectively enslaved their family to it endlessly. Anything a serf owned belonged to their lords. Sometimes, although rarely, a serf was able to purchase their own freedom if they had made enough money to do so but it was extremely rare. It is so much akin to slavery that the UN ended up banning the practice as a form of slavery.

I'm not sure how many people have paid attention to this fact or asked staff about it in the past but I am curious what part serfdom plays in The Compact. I ask this because it seems exceptionally similar to Thralldom. So I am hoping Staff might take a moment to discuss with us exactly what Serfdom is in Arx, how Serfs are treated, and how it differs from Thralldom.

A: Serfs aren't, in the classic sense, serfs. This is a misnomer that continued from the time of Queen Triscali the Black Rose, and then further reforms passed during the time of Queen Alarice the Great. Originally serfs essentially were thralls, and the distinction between the serfs and modern thralldom was merely a distinction of thralls being mostly guilty of offenses.

During the time of Queen Triscali, slavery was formally outlawed, and with it the institution of serfdom massively reformed. While right of travel (serfs being allowed to leave domains without permission) wasn't formally granted till the time of Queen Alarice, they were effectively freemen, or free tenants as a medieval analogue. While they are restricted from owning lands, and do take an oath of fealty on reaching their majority, there's none of the slavery-like restrictions on them that are serf-like.

Social Rank Demotion

Question: Q: Is it possible for a House to lose a rank if their lands, wealth, etc. falls below a certain point? Can they lose more than one rank? Who decides this?

A: Yes. An example of this, in fact, are the Conclaves of the Lyceum that would transition between one Grand Duchy to another. All demotions of any kind are rare, but typically they follow this pattern: A house has some dramatic loss and wanes in power, while another house in the same fealty chain is waxing. The direct lord of one and the overlord of the other wants them to switch positions, for example, and promote one over the other. In theory, he can do this directly under the threat of war. In practice, what typically happens is this is presented before the Assembly of Peers, and a majority of the entire Peerage agrees along with the Crown, and that pressure averts any kind of war under the threat of the demoted house being expelled from the Compact and becoming outlawed and Abandoned.

Social Rank Promotion

Question: Q: How does my house rise in social rank? ie, a march becomes a duchy?

A:Now on the subject of promotion, that has several parts. First, the Peerage of Arvum ranks houses on Incomes, Lands, and Power. There are minimums of each that a house has to meet to be recognized by the peerage, in terms of incomes from their lands, the overall size and population of their lands, and the military forces at their disposal (with understandings on the last due to losses). This could come from conquest, slow economic development, buying up land, and so on.

Secondly, when a house has exceeded all three categories, they typically again reach out to the Faith to seek their permission in switching their vows to their overlord. If the faith is amenable, the vassal then reaches out to their overlord, who brings their promotion before the Assembly of Peers for formal recognition of their promotion at a meeting of the Assembly. Typically, it is perfunctory to request promotion in the eyes of the Assembly as long as the petitioner's domain is sufficiently powerful to justify the rank increase and the faith, lord and overlord agrees, but the voices of the realm could refuse to recognize it if they felt for some reason that the ascent was illegitimate (such as conquest that they felt was unlawful).

Succession

Question: Q) With the succession crisis emits side by side, is the suggestion that legitimacy in any noble house matters more to holding leadership than the bloodline of that specific house does? I.e., would Mason (born noble, not Grayson but married in) or Harlan (born noble, not Grayson) have an acceptable claim if all parties agreed peacefully to it? Does a claim by a full-blooded noble supersede that of a legitimized bastard in the public eye? I.e., would Laric (born noble, Grayson) have a better claim to leadership in the public eye than Dawn (legitimized bastard, Grayson) if there was contention over the matter?

A) The will of the last titleholder in terms of declaring an heir is probably the single largest factor, and going against that is largely seen as illegitimate, though whether anyone does anything about it depends upon the ramifications of it going unchallenged. For example, if Dawn had declared she sought the crown, it was clear from her not being legitimized by either Alaric III or Alaric IV that she wasn't considered as an heir, despite being a highlord. It would have made most vassals acutely uncomfortable, barring any other factors. With that in mind, without a declared heir, then most would look at the standard line of succession, which would probably give Laric a better claim, though it's very muddled with the absence of any declared heir. Blood tends to have priority in direct lines, with someone serving as a leader being recognition of the esteem they were held in as a leader by the last titleholder. IE, someone arguing, 'I served the old highlord and house in X and Y ways, and he said he favored me but never got around to actually making me heir over Z person not as respected' would almost certainly win a great amount of support. Claims all have a degree of validity if they can be argued based on what likely was the will of the last title holder, past that and it is by and large considered usurping.

Succession By Combat

Question: It's not actually a thing. Players that did that were largely just making it up or drawing from inference. There's not any traditional challenges for positions or the like, except in the context if some people have extremely legitimate grievances and clear cut disputed claims, which would provide a solid foundation for a lively round of civil war and they instead settle it with a duel. But to get to that point, someone's claims have to be really, really solid, and not just 'I want that.' If wishes were fishes we'd all live in an apocalyptic blood soaked sea of Leviathan.

Succession in the Lyceum

Answer: Before the time of the Reckoning, every single city-state in the South claimed completely independence, with references to an old, mostly forgotten name before the 'Lyceum' as 'The Hundred Warring Kingdoms of the Southern Reaches'. During the time of the Reckoning, as the south was invaded, a great meeting was called by the heads of all the heads of the southern houses called the Conclave of the Lyceum, a secretive meeting behind closed doors where the southern leaders decided who among them should speak for the south in King Alar Grayson's new Compact he was calling in Arx. House Pravus of Setarco claims it had the first Grand Duke and Duchess of the Lyceum, but the details of this are lost to time, and a half-dozen other houses make the same claim, with it being known that House Velenosa rose to dominance and seized the title through war, treachery or marriage in the decades following the Reckoning.

The title of Grand Duke/Duchess of the Lyceum, and the associated Archduke/duchess of their city-state, traditionally passes through absolute primogeniture without contest. Nor is it anything like a right to bring a contest and demand a conclave- it simply is not done unless the current great house is in no position to contest the call. So while very rare, and often generations going by without a conclave, it is not without precedent.

The title of Grand Duchess of the Lyceum has changed numerous times through the history of the Lyceum, though not since the end of the Crownbreaker Wars. While the details of a Conclave of the Lyceum are extraordinarily secretive, save that it is not in any way an election, a conclave has never been called save when the great house holding the title has been defeated in war or been shown to be clearly, demonstrably weaker than a house claimed as a vassal, with a majority of other ducal houses all in accordance that is the case. On at least two occasions before the Elven War, conclaves have ended with the complete massacre of all visiting noble heads of house, with the grand duke or duchess making an unambiguous statement that they were not as weak as might have been assumed, and holding control for another generation or two. For this reason, conclaves are typically called only when the Grand Duke or Duchess of the Lyceum is completely helpless to prevent the outcome, such as when terms are dictated in their palace for their surrender after a lost war.

Tournament Of Roses - Boons

Question: Q: The Tournament of the Roses is known to grant 'Boons' to its winners from the current King/Queen, a favour to call in, or a wish of sort. What can or cannot these be used for, exactly? Are there any historical examples (such as the Niccolo/Carlotta situation) to give us ideas? Furthermore, can they be gifted to another person who can use it instead?

A: By tradition, it's 'any reasonable desire' and there is enormous societal pressure to meet those requests. Marriage matches are the most common boon, and heavily romanticised, traditionally between two lovers whose heads of houses have disagreed with the match- this has been particularly true for marriages where offspring was not possible, and heads of respective houses were concerned that adopted heirs would put the house's line in a dangerous position so refused to consider the match.

Rank is another one, and not just ennobling someone, but promotion for an individual and their house potentially as well. Granting someone their own peerage is a common reward, either by the crown setting aside land near Arx to establish a barony (virtually all the barons near Arx were started this way, giving them the nickname of Rose Barons). Crownsworn being ennoble are particulaly likely to become Rose Barons. For others already serving a great house that wish to have a peerage in the lands they grew up in, typically it is a grant from the Great House, sometimes with the crown helping to offset the cost to the highlord with a fair cost for a barony (at the high range, this has been close to a million silver, but most highlords do not wish to appear stingy or ungracious when the eyes of the Compact are upon them, particularly when creating a new vassal sworn to one of their counts).

Similarly, this applies to rank promotion as well. Heads of houses could request that their house be elevated, such as a barony to a county, with commiserate lands being granted. This is much rarer, and the highest this has been done is raising a marquis to a duke, with each of the ducal houses and the great house of that fealty giving a minor grant from neighboring lands to make the difference (no more than a five percent grant is considered reasonable, and this has typically been closer to two percent, with the newly elevated peer giving the rank and title, but expected to largely expand their demesne on their own).

Finally, title grants are common. This is usually requesting a specific honor, often effectively asking permission to inherit a title when it would be passed on. Being named the Sword of a house is extremely common, and many champions of houses politely retire from the stead to make way when a rose winner makes their desire to serve as a sword known. Similarly, Dayne Valardin, winning his first tournament at 19, requested to be named the next Lord Commander of the King's Own upon the retirement of the previous Lord Commander, and it was done six years later, passing over numerous senior knights who were initially resentful but quickly grew to respect the grant of the boon due to Dayne's competence.

Boons can be transferred in the sense that a winner can request a boon on another's behalf, but the winner traditionally has to be the one speaking the words before the crown either at the tournament or in open court or at the Assembly of Peers.

Vassals of an Elevated House

Question: So, when a noble house is elevated, such as from a march to a duchy, what happens to the vassal houses under it? Do they move to the new duchy, following their liege lord? Or do they remain in their original duchy?

Answer: Traditionally, when a house is promoted all of its bonds are reassessed, and it is seen as proper to allow vassals to have the opportunity to change their liege as well, in the case of fully amicable changes, though most historically stay with their newly promoted liege. This is largely because most vassals were created by having their lands entrusted to them in a fief as a partition of the liege's lands, meaning that both geographically and culturally they are strongly associated, and it is unlikely a neighbor would be a better fit.

That's not necessarily the case, however. There's times when long standing friction has been resolved by a vassal using a promotion as a change to be sworn to a neighbor, or even a more distant liege. The latter is possible, and there are domains that are far flung and do not have a shared border with their liege, but the disadvantages for that are obvious- trade is much more difficult to their historical ties, and militarily they lose their ability to be reinforced from a liege, and in fact it might even be effectively impossible for a distant liege to come to their aid, as they'd have to march across domains that have no obligation to let their forces pass in order to assist them.

So yes, traditionally vassals tend to stay with their promoted liege, but are usually prompted asking if they intend to at the Assembly of Peers for the promotion of a house.