Theme Questions

This is an archive of responses that have been recorded by staff on the Theme Questions board. Unless indicated otherwise, these are direct quotations from the bboard.

Contents

Arvani Culture

Accents

Q: Are there dialectical accents around Arvum? Like a Western Oathlands vs Southern Lycene vs Central Crownlands? I mean, I'm assuming there *are* since that's just how language tends to evolve, but are there any set generalities we can assume or analogous comparisons to accents we'd be familiar with? For example elongated or flat vowel sounds? I know, I'm a complete nerd. -.- For whatever reason, my head cannon has given the Oathlands a French/Israeli sound (Shhh, I know why!) whereas the Lyceum is more of a blend of Italian and Spanish, etc. Am I over thinking this? I'm probably over thinking this.

A: Yes, but I don't want to overplay this and have a few people go overboard and drive other PCs nuts by hyperaccenting to the point where their characters are indicipherable. So let's use a very light touch there. But that said...

Each region does have some clear inspirations, and I think it's fine to see the accents as light touches to their real world analogues. Crownlands: North America (midwestern newscaster neutral), Oathlands: French, Lyceum: Italian/Spanish, Northlands: Scandinavian, Mourning Islands: Eastern Europe. Veeeeeeeeeery roughly. Don't drive other player nuts.

Calendars

Q: The game runs on a twelve month calendar right now. Do the months have names or are they just numbered?

A: I'm going to mirror rl names in the few cases it comes up. This is one of those cases where I very intentionally stay ambiguous because while renaming days of the week or months for a fantasy world is very cool, it also confuses the heck out of every new player and for a very minor touch raises the barrier of entry significantly. So I'll stay intentionally vague on the names for now unless I come up with a very seamless coded way to always remove ambiguity or clear up uncertainty about something characters would always 100 percent of the time know but their players often would not.

Commoner Traditions

Q: Are there any? Can we make some up as we go and stick them in a file somewhere?

A: Tons. Check out 'help holidays'. More will be added as time goes on, and it's fine to fill in small details and they can become a thing (such as commoners calling nobles 'silks' was player made that caught on, or calling resources 'writs'), but the key word there is small, and ones that are easily intuitive. The danger in oocly creating super detailed ones is it becomes far less accessible to new players, and way more intimidating when the first time they are on grid people reference a hundred different cultural traditions that no one has any idea what they mean. As such, yes, sure, I add them, but I always keep that in mind.

Currency

Q: There are set denominations of coins in Arx, but do they have set appearances or can they vary? Is a silver from Thrax the same in appearance as a silver from the Lyceum? Do they change perhaps with rulers, making some older coins stand out? This isn't about coinage from other kingdoms or any fanciful currencies, but what the average Arxian might know about at least in passing.

I do hope the answer will contribute to me being able to have a coin collection. I'd do stamps but licking things and sticking them on messengers doesn't seem to have caught on.

A: You can definitely rock out a coin collection. Very few people would remember this, but we originally -did- have different coins of different denominations in very early alpha, but we quickly realized how much a gigantic pain in the ass this would be to players to work with these and instead decided to handwave it and treat it all as a single group, but one can assume that when they give someone ten million silver they aren't attempting to murder them by burying them in a money bin somewhere.

Most coins are minted in Arx, and have the current ruler's face on it, with different banks through Arvum being granted the right to mint coinage that would be valued at above weight by the crown, and those would often have the current highlord's face on the back along with the date. Crown Observers are the ones who would often visit institutions for the crown to make certain they are keeping standards and uniformity.

Currency generally is: 100 Copper bits to 1 Silver knight. 100 Silver knights to a Gold Count. 10 Gold Counts to a Platinum Duke (platinum is extremely rare, this is just trace amounts) 100 Platinum Dukes to an Orichalcum King (similarly, trace amounts) 100 Orichalcum Kings to an Alaricite Queen (that's solid alaricite on the other hand, and very few are ever minted)

Fashion

Q: We have examples of what standard fashion is from many cultures, but what do people who are looking to shock do with their fashion choices? More skin than usual, like the kinds of dresses we might see on the red carpet? Actual exposed skin? More meshes and sheers than even your typical Lycene, covering parts that would normally be covered with something opaque?

Libertines usually try to identify themselves by their clothing, so how can most Arvani tell at a glance?

(This is all with the understanding, of course, that anything that would be uncomfortable for other players wouldn't have attention drawn to it beyond 'this is what the clothing is' and no further description of why it is scandalous past that.)

A: Honestly, because the game design goal for Arx was to disallow/heavily discourage slut shaming, we've maintained that the scandalousness of Lycenes is rooted in their willingness to lie and deceive, and pretend affection (and then possibly stab epople in the back!) They do certainly present, stereotypically, as seductive, but I'm very hesitant to define what constitutes 'immodesty' or "titillating'. It also varies from region to region. If one wanted to be a libertine Crownlander, one would wear impractical clothing, a libertine Thrax - gaudy and bright or garish clothing. If one wanted to be a libertine Lycene, one would...be Lycene. If one wanted to be a COUNTERCULTURE lycene, one might dress as a northlander would, in leather and fur. It's less about skin exposure and modesty, across the board, than it is about bucking the social order. I hope that makes sense.

Godparents

Q: What, if any traditions are associated with the birth of childen, both in terms of casual society as well as within the Faith? Differing ones depending on which region one is from? What about the equivalent of godparents?

A: Hooboy. Let's start with godparents. The earliest form of the patronage-protege system evolved from the Arvani equivalent of godparents, and specifically the Oathlands.

In the Oathlands, the Faith dominates many aspects of their lives, and that includes births. When a child is born, a Witness to the Naming can be appointed by the parents, and they serve a very similar role to what many would think of as godparents. A Witness serves at least three distinct roles: political, religious and familial. Firstly in familial responsibility, they are an individual entrusted by the parents to care for the child if anything should ever happen to them, with the implicit high honor that the parents trust the Witness with what is must dear to them in life. If a higher born lord agrees to being a child's Witness, it can be expected even if the parents never suffer any misfortune that the child will at some point in their youth be taken as a ward in the higher house, so in many ways it can be a guarantee of social advancement. Secondly in political terms, the Witness acts as a trusted speaker in saying the child is who they are claimed to be- ie, to make sure that no one can be an imposter claimant to succession, and that their bloodline is exactly what they say it to be. A well respected, honorable witness can (and have) settled succession crises just by speaking for the child. Thirdly, and this is still very true in the Oathlands but much less so elsewhere, a Witness is supposed to take an interest in the spiritual development of the child, and help instruct them in the Faith. In the Oathlands, that is still strictly true. The Witness is there at the child's Naming (which typically happens at birth, but is not required to do so), helps teach the child for each of the Thirteen Lessons (a once per year separate ritual starting at age 5, where a child ritualistically speaks on divine virtues and recites their commitment to them, and the end signals the start of adulthood in the Oathlands), and often help be instructors in courtly behavior.

In other regions, that can differ wildly. One point of contention between the Oathlands and the Lyceum is they feel that the Lycene take upon Witnesses to the Naming is an inverse mockery of their customs. In the Lyceum, a child's Witness is not a religious instructor at all, but a pragmatic instructor that shares responsibility in teaching a child how to survive the Lyceum. By tradition in the Lyceum, godparents are referred to as 'the Best Liar' for the child, which almost certainly started as an insulting term given by the Oathlands but was adopted by the Lyceum out of spite. A Best Liar usually on a child's birthday recites thirteen statements to the child, and the child wins a gift for each one they guess correctly is true or a lie. This also has become a very popular birthday party game for the Lyceum in general, but the implicit message is that a child must be taught to be a convincing liar in order to survive in the Lyceum, and that implication horrifies the Oathlands.

Throughout the Northlands, and in many prodigal houses, the Witness is sometimes called a Speaker for the child, and instructs them in ways of shamanism. The term is thought to come from the notion that they would teach the child to pray properly to the spirits of the wilds, and how to speak to them without giving insult. Birthdays among prodigal houses vary wildly, but in the Northlands in particular having Naming Hunts is a frequent way to celebrate birthdays, though there can be a sharp divide between city living nobility (who sometimes favor more refined parties) and more rural northmen.

The Crownlands are in many ways the stewards of the Compact's history- a Witness for a child often teaches the child about house history, and the interplay between the houses, and helps instruct them so they can better balance the competiting goals and cultures of the Compact and be a more effective leader, if they were born to lead with a repeated emphasis on noblesse oblige. For others in the crownlands of more humble birth or further down the line of succession, a constant emphasis on history and solidarity is repeated in subtle ways, with many Grayson birthdays being storytelling contests of relating the best stories of the history of the Compact and near forgotten heroes.

For the Isles, Witnesses are sometimes called Salt Parents, and though none of the three houses would like the comparison, are close to an amalgam between Oathlands and Lycene beliefs. Their Witnesses walk a fine line in instilling pragmatic self-reliance (parents are horrified if they ever produce a self-pitying whiner), but not allowing that same fierce self-reliance into crossing into rebelliousness, with a repeated emphasis on discipline and rigid respect for authority. The Survivor's Game is a popular birthday game for children, in giving them complicated sets of instructions that encourage them to think for themselves, but they lose and are out of the game if they ever violate any of the complicated (and possibly conflicting) rules. Until recently, games for children in the Isles were extremely sharply gender defined- games of laws and rules were tended to be shown to women (who still make up an overwhelming majority of lawyers and judges in the Isles), and all combat play was shown to men. That's only now becoming less true.

The Great Archive

Q: In Investigations people talk about searching the archives and finding writings from Py. Are these white journals? Are these books? Are these theories? How would a player that wanted to be as cool as Py emulate mechanically what the NPC did?

A: Books, journals, there's probably tens of millions of white journals from the past few decades alone and the archiving system for the Great Library often changes every few Archscholars making re-cataloguing things a constant struggle. Someone could become an author, sure, and have a ton of books.

Incest

Q: I can't believe this is a thing that has to be asked, but: What's the stance of the general populace on incest? I sincerely hope it mirrors general modern thought in that 1) eww and 2) EWW. What sort of repercussions are there for people who seem utterly intent on banging their siblings and/or cousins?

A: Taboo largely mirrors western modern (rather than medieval) sensibilities in EWW. That said, a simple (and expected) denial is usually enough to settle matters- a lord can't go around asking incredibly offensive questions, because the implied insult just by asking is so great it is destructive to their own prestige. "Hi so I hear you are having sex with your sibling" just isn't done. Nobles that had a consensual incestuous relationship and made it public would typically be denobled and live out their days as social pariahs.

Q: So in recent discussions of marriages in our household, we have a person who is interested in potentially marrying but they have familial ties to pretty much every major line in every major house, give or take. That's not really my question, though. It made me wonder: how close is too close? Socially, and legally, at what point are two people with familial ties considered kosher to marry? Second cousins? Third cousins? Or are all cousins off the table?

A: Less historical royalty and more modern RL adjacent. First cousins are a no, second cousins are an 'eh', third cousins and further are fine.

Mercenaries

Q: What does it take to join the Mercenaries' Guild? What legal standing does a guild Merc have vs those not in the guild?

A: The Sellswords guild isn't known for its exacting standards. One key aspect to remember is that Arvum does not have a codified system of universal law. Laws, while they adhere in general terms to the shared morality of the Faith of the Pantheon, are completely up to individual title holders of domains to create and enforce. This is relevant because the Sellswords' guild first question is, "Are you a wanted criminal or exiled from any current domain?" Someone that is say, wanted for robbery in a random barony way off in the Oathlands definitely is not going to have that crime follow them to Arx, typically, but it certainly means they can't go back there. And any domain holder has the right to refuse anyone traveling in their domain. This means mercenary companies that recruit wanted criminals will find their entire company denied right of passage on domains, and sellsword Bob will completely screw their contracts because of it.

Thus, the Sellsword guild doesn't particularly care about hiring former criminals, or ones not wanted for crimes, but they care quite a bit about ones banned from entering domains or that currently wanted in them. Being a member of the sellsword guild is typically a sign that someone will not be arrested randomly for returning to any domain they are hired by.

Q: We have two active mercenary groups that have been part of the game for some time. I am aware that the Crimson Blades are lead by a Telmar noble, and that the Valorous Few's Captain-General was a commoner until a fairly recent ennoblement. How are mercenary groups viewed by the population at large, and what sort of opinion is levelled upon a noble that chooses to form his or her own? Also, do mercenaries follow the same strict law as defined in: http://play.arxmush.org/topics/Retinues/ ? For example, would Tobias Telmar's Crimson Blades count against the number of soldiers House Telmar itself can bring, or are they viewed as a separate entity entirely?

A: Not that great. The Valorous Few is more typical of mercenary companies in that they are neither few nor valorous, and most mercenaries have a pretty unsavory reputation. The Crimson Blades was designed to be a counterpoint and more professional outfit, and the noble leadership would be seen as reflecting well on the company by commoners but poorly on the leader by the peerage, who would still see it as unseemly. And Audric being ennobled would have many commoners and peers alike imagining he might have rigged the Rose Barony award or something, and by turns be romanticised or villified depending upon the quality of his hype men and women (go go propaganda skill).

Legally, any mercenary company must register with the Iron Guard while in Arx proper, and they do count against retinue numbers. The Iron Guard generally will talk to a lord if it's clear they have over a hundred swornswords under their disposal in the city, and politely but firmly ask them to amend this.

Mirrors

Q: When did the superstition start? What exactly about them makes people nervous? What's the history behind all that STUFF?

A: That's one of those traditions that seems like it has always been there. There's a lot of folk stories about 'be careful of a demon from behind the mirror watching you' or something stealing a person's reflection and running amuck with it. Most of those stories have fallen out of fashion in the past couple hundred years for some strange reason, along with any particular theological teaching about reflections and how they relate to the soul.

Musical Instruments

Q: What instruments might be used here? (Lyre, Lute, dulcimer, recorder/flute, harpsicord, something else?)

A: Any instrument that saw common, widespread usuage in europe by the 13th or 14th centuries. So harpsichord would be a no, as that didn't see widespread usuage till later, but pipe organs and clavichords saw use during that period as relatives. So stringed instruments that are probably okay: Harps, lutes, rebecs, psaltery, chittarone, citterns, dulcimers, gittern, viol, vielle, mandolin, mandore, clavichord. While for woodwinds, I more would want to avoid culturally specific instruments, like bagpipes I'd find too close a direct analogue for a specific region that's distracting, but anything that saw widespread usuage in the middle ages by the 14th century is fine (so flutes are fine). For percussion, unless someone is trying to desc a modern drum set, probably not going to be anachronistic.

Q: So, I have some questions about setting appropriate music. I know that there is a goodly amount of leeway given for flavour items in the game as well as recognizing that the setting is not a direct analogue for RL history, but I've been noticing that there's several instruments that were invented about 300-400 years after the basic time period we've been directed to as reference. For example, pianos. Modern pianos, to be precise.

The inventor of the piano (then called an arpicembalo or "harp-harpsicord") worked for the Medicis at the sunset of their power (early 18th century), which is where we find the first unambiguous evidence of Cristofori's piano (1700 AD). Are we allowing instruments this late (Baroque period) to be used in the game? I have largely been RPing instruments and musical works associated with early music (Medieval and Renaissance). Further, if we are, are we using the modern day iterations of these later instruments? Technology has advanced significantly since the early Baroque years, and the sounds of modern instruments are drastically different from their earlier counterparts.

A: Baroque is just a little too late, imo, I would prefer trying to keep instruments to medieval and early renaissance. Dulcimer is okay, I think clavichord is pushing it imo but I think pianofortes is too far forward as much as I like piano music.

Patronage

Q: Petal is getting many offers of patronage. I realized that I don't know exactly what such means in this theme. I figure that asking will be better than making a guess. Can a crafter have a patron who is a noble not from the house they have fealty with? Could Petal have a patron who is not Redrain and still stay Redrain?

A: Yes, absolutely. In fact, it's as or even more common to have proteges outside one's fealty. While patronage has always existed in one form or another, the current traditions around it were largely started by Queen Alarice to encourage fostering bonds between higher nobles and lower ones or commoners, including cross fealty. Part of the idea is if one invests in the social development at court of an outstanding person, even in another fealty, it will reduce the possibility for conflict by strengthening the bonds between houses. For a lord, having a minor vassal become a protege of another lord in a different fealty would be considered a compliment, definitely not stealing someone away. This is particularly true for commoners, since even a baron for a minor holding almost certainly doesn't know all of the few thousand people in their demesne by name, and finding out a great lord essentially established a formalized friendship or teacher/student relationship with a vassal is an implicit compliment in their rule.

Q: Can a crafter have more than one patron or do they generally have one official patron only?

A: One official patron only. A patron can have multiple proteges, of individuals they sponsor either to see their social development at court, to give them a voice among their social betters because of the quality of their ideas or work, or as a teacher. For a protege, becoming more known socially and seeing them floruish at court is a reflection upon their patron (jutsified or not), so they are exclusive in that way. However, a protege could have proteges of their own. The king could be a patron of a marquessa, who is a patron for a baron, who is a patron for a commoner. There's no implicit relationship between a patron and their protege's proteges though, or between one patron's protege and other proteges.

Q: What is a crafter expected to provide their patron? I am thinking it might giving them priority on items they wish to have made assuming those items are within the crafter's ability to make? I think the patron is still charged for their orders? Supporting their patron as they can by crafting for their friends, events, allies and etc, but all within reason and for pay?

A: This is deliberately vague as specific relationships can have a great deal of variance. If a patron is sponsoring a crafter to make them more well known at court, and give them a voice there, then gifts of goods (ostensibly to show off their work) would be appropriate. However, a patron could be sponsoring a crafting because their work is so exceptional, and they just want to have first claim on their time. In that case, then not only would the crafter be charging, but the patron would likely be paying the protege a regular stipend as well. This would denote a degree of possible exclusivity and first claim on their time. For that reason, the Whisper House's whispers are all considered proteges of the crown itself, to prevent the extremely implicit bias that would make it difficult for them to be seen as impartial diplomats for hire.

Q: What does the Patron provide the crafter they sponsor? I am thinking they promote that crafter? Protect them as needed with their title, like dueling in the behalf if needed and etc? I am not sure if the patron gives the crafter a small salary or not?

A: An insult to a protege is an insult to their patron. They are specifically noting someone as their student or as someone they have a stake in. Threatening a protege is extremely dangerous, as many patrons will take it very personally, and it is extremely damaging to a patron's social clout if they ignore insults or threats to their protege because it,in effect, is saying their protection and friendship is meaningless. It's a much more personal relationship than fealty vows, and under fealty a lord takes the well being of their vassals seriously (or should, at least). Many nobles give proteges a stipend, while some proteges (particularly the more wealthy but isolated), pay upwards. Merchant princes in particular are ones known for essentially paying for protection.

Q: Are crafters expected to eventually chose a patron or is going patron-less long term considered okay?

A: It's fine to be patronless. But here's a place where it is important to remember that there are over ten million people in the Compact, and tens of million more in Arvum. A commoner is one person, and even if a dozen players playing nobles like their goods, that really shouldn't be taken as them being well known or important to the Compact as a whole or a guarantee of fame or renown. Be linked to one of the thousands of peers raises someone's stature, and it's really up to them whether that matters to them at all or not.

Q: What if the etiquette around changing patrons? Lets say Petal takes a patron and that patron stops playing much and loses interest in her work, is changing patrons possible or is it something that is set in stone once done?

A: There are never any vows of service between patrons and proteges, very specifically they are not, because it is seen as a friendship or teacher/student, sponsor/sponsoree type relationship. It is also considered extremely gauche to have any sort of contract, as these are (ostensibly) supposed to be friendships, and a specific circumstance where a powerful lord using their position to elevate a commoner is seen favorably rather than a potential abuse. If a protege leaves, or a patron desires to sever that relationship, it is generally seen as no fault, or that someone has been taught all they wished to be taught or reached a position at court where they stand on their own merits and an official recognition of that bond is no longer necessary. A polite, respectful mention of it in journals is considered fitting with social decorum. People being people, vaguebooking about just why someone was cut out to the amusement of the rest of the peerage isn't particularly uncommon, and reflects poorly on patron and protege alike. So the wise patron and protege keep acrimonious splits cordial and polite outwardly at least to not avoid looking foolish.

Q: How much say can a HoH have in who you take as a patron or as a protege? Can they ask you to stop being their protege or patron? What would cause a HoH to want to have one of their house members to change who their patron or protege is?

A: Patronage is a very respected institution, and it would be seen as crass and domineering to interfere in someone else's choices of patron or proteges unless that individual had clearly demonstrated they were an enemy of the house, or at least publicly and gravely offended them. If a HOH was personally offended by a patron or protege of a house member, it would be seen as petty to ask a house member to sever that, but there's not a shortage of petty nobles. They just might look bad for doing it.

OOCly, HOH really shouldn't ever be controlling who someone does or does not RP with except for the most extreme examples, like a character is actively trying to destroy the house in an unambiguous way or just tried to assassinate them.

Q: What is the expected amount of push back/stigma to attach to socially high ranking individuals who take on proteges who are also socially high ranking in their own right? The write-up talks about a noble / commoner relationship. It seems like people are finding it reasonable enough for lower ranking nobility to also take advantage of that system, but how should PCs (and NPCs) react to a 'prince/ss protege'?

A: The change we made to have a wider rank separation was largely to make sure it's not characters that already have very formal links with someone from other ways, that would make a patronage/protege relationship somewhat redundant, like family members. It's of course still fine to say that anyone is your patron or protege, just without the coded benefits for doing so. Lower rank nobles having a much more higher born patron is not uncommon at all, and many cross fealty alliances are noted in this way.

Personal Sigils

Q: Are personal sigils a thing? Is it something any noble can grab and start using, as long as it's relevant enough to their house sigil as to be recogniseable?

A: Someone can have a personal sigil, though they don't use the word 'sigil' to avoid confusion. Typically 'personal device' is most common, though emblem or heraldry are fine. It's a little bit uncommon for nobles to do so, since it is considered pretentious with the power held in the hands of the head of house. It is, however, useful for nobles who have significant interests that are separated from their house, such as a noble who is acting as a voice for their liege's house, who wishes to sign things with their own personal device to make it clear they are not in fact speaking as a plenipotentiary for their liege.

Piercings

Q: I apologize if this has already been asked! I know we've discussed tattoos and that they are considered a bit barbaric, typically something the Shav or Abandoned do. But what about piercings? I know we have earrings as a recipe for jewelry so I assume that at least ear piercings are generally fine, but what about other piercings-- nose, tongue, belly, lip, etc? How does the compact feel about those?

A: Less common than tattoos, but they do exist. They tend to get extremely strong societal pushback from them due to how shav-like they are seen, as piercings are particularly popular among the most barbaric of clans that are extraordinarily warlike, particularly the ones that practice human sacrifice. It has some pretty bad connotations, and prodigals are strongly discouraged from keeping with it.

Poison

Q: I was wondering, what is the legality on all three facets of poison? Their creation, their sale on the market, and also practical use in a non-Academic and Academic manner?

A: It's not, by and large. There wouldn't be anything advertised or sold as a poison legally (if you have problems with rats, buy a cat), but there would be some that can be used as poisons that have other valid, legal uses, such as herbal medicines that in small doses are relaxants, and large doses are fatal, or different cosmetics that are seriously not good to ingest. It is pretty much going to be entirely the purview of apothecaries from a coded standpoint, but for practical purposes just about all poison mixtures will fall under +crime and be illegal, and it will not be possible to make or use poison legally.

Polygamy

Q: My house history suggest it's founder practice polyandry. is this something my character should be denying? what is the social and religious prohibitions on polygamy?

A from Aureth: As the author of the passage in question, I can clarify that the husbands were not concurrent, except insofar as she had a rep that included a rep as an adulterer.

A from Staff: Polygamy is not practiced in the Compact.

Pregnancy and Alcohol

Q: I don't know if this has been answered before but it is a thing I think about. How knowledgable are those in the world of Arx, ICly, about how alcohol can potentially affect spawn children? As in would someone who is pregnant know to stop drinking alcohol or not too? Is the medicine that advanced? What is the knowledge level about this stuff for those in the world of Arx?

A: There isn't an awareness of the direct corellation or of how dangerous drinking alcohol is, however, there is a common religious practice that during pregnancy, both father (out of solidarity) and mother tend to drink water and avoid hard partying (because of the awareness of trauma induced miscarriages). There's a number of 'accidental' Faith of the Pantheon practices that are healthy, such as worship of lagoma by the Mercies leading to effective sterilization techniques by blessing instruments with flame, and similarly, pure, clear water helping an child develop isn't scientifically based, but a traditional cultural practice.

Recognition and Disguises

Q: So, as a humble and completely legitimate businessperson I find no reason to ever need or wear a mask or disguise. However, it has occured to me that in a setting like this where every character is an object and has a link to a webpage about them, people play as if they always recognize people when they aren't wearing masks. My question then is, is this something IC where everyone, even commoners, studies the peerage so much and has seen pictures that they recognize people they've never met, even if they are in a non-mask-object disguise? What about nobles recognizing commoners? Is it at all possible to have the Aladdin Scenario where a noble poses as a commoner and nobody reacognizes them with their altered clothing and dress and because they are spending time with people that have never seen their face? What about the reverse where a commoner shows up and presents a bunch of wealth and claims to be some foreign noble nobody has seen before but maybe they have heard of them?

A: Now, I very intentionally say that it is reasonable for any character to presume they know everything public on the sheet for every other character for a lot of reasons, treating everything written there as a public reputation for a character and general knowledge. I view it as fine for characters to opt out of that and intentionally play ignorance if they want, since that can be fun, but I never want to be in a situation of policing cases where characters should not know something that is publically accessible to players since it creates all sorts of excruciating situations of handwaved meetings and ambiguity on what a character knows or not, and from a gamerunner standpoint it is a nightmare, so I'm almost always going to default to being a very open society where it's reasonable to know of something's existence.

That said, I view extensive disguises as the result of stories as fine. There's a few characters that have done just that, and changed/hidden their identities, and one that's been disguised for months in fact. As the result of RP, we're happy to change characters appearance if it is reasonable to do so, but we'll probably very slowly put in code to do that which is under player control to avoid abuse cases.

Roman Numerals

Q: What's our Arvani equivalent?

A: Roman Numerals exist and are called, 'Old Formal' vs arabic being called 'standard Arvani'. Old Formal is considered a pre-reckoning convention, from before written literacy was common, and so primarily just used for noting repetitions of royal names (Alaric Grayson IV).

Serfdom

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.

Signatures

Q: Is it considered rude, inappropriate, a subtle sign of something if someone introduces themselves or signs their letters with nee surname... Example: Lord McMuffin Pig nee Boar instead of Lord McMuffin Pig

A: Might come across as odd in situations when it's not relevant to know their birth family, it would be considered a very formal long form used mostly in family trees and the like.

Slurs

Hey folks. This is a reminder (can we please stop needing to have this conversation) that gendered slurs DO NOT EXIST on Arx. Words like "bitch" or "cunt" or "dick" are pejoratives by gender and make no sense in the context of Arx. While we appreciate that this can be very difficult to change if, in your OOC life, you're used to using gendered slurs on the regular, we'd appreciate you keeping that out of our game.

For some ideas on things that would be in the lexicon of Arx, take a look here (and I didn't have this available either but Aleksei found me the link ofc) - http://arx.mythicus.net/Arx_Lexicon

Thanks.

Skills and Fame

Q: This is a mix rules/theme question perhaps, but given our skills system, at what point do people start becoming well known / famous for their skill in a given area? For example, just how far and wide might stories of the Arx Smith who forged Alaricite have spread? Would the people of Arx and the larger world begin to take notice of and hear stories of the most skilled fighters or tailors or the like? Just how 'amazing' is a rank 5 skill, compared to the populace at large? One in a hundred? A thousand?

A: Having a 6 makes someone famous for it. That's part of what being legendary in a skill does, and the world does take note of it. For less than that, 5 would be seen as one of the best in the field, and at least in Arx is probably significant, and would likely be known by individuals that specifically study it. But there wouldn't necessarily be exhaustive lists, particularly since it can be difficult to quantify, and characters (particularly marital ones), are likely known for their deeds- even if those deeds are more a result of getting astronomically lucky than true skill. There's several hundred thousand Arvani that practice at arms- having a 5 would put someone comfortably in under 1 percent, but it wouldn't necessarily make them famous.

Tattoos

Q: How advanced is the art of tattoo in setting? And is it something that all of Arvum might have? Or is it typicaly a shav or northern thing?

A: Medieval and reniassance era methods, so basically the same as the world over in terms of technology before the modern era (no elaborate inking methods). It's largely associated with shavs- sinec Arvum is not ethnically distinct by and large, it's quite popular for isolated Abandoned tribes, houses and clans to ritually tattoo their house words or sigils and the like. It is equally uncommon for the Compact to do so, since it's associated with barbarism and generally looked down upon, but the biases there are slight rather than overwhelming (it's generally seen as crass). There's no taboo against it in the Northlands at all however, while even Abandoned in the Lyceum tend to not practice it so much.

Writing Implements

Q: Arx writes, a lot, but with what?

A: Quills are most common, and on parchment. Vellichorian Vellum is a rarer parchment used specifically for black journals that was started after the Great Fire of Arx, and Vellichorian Vellum is completely inflammable. To the point that Great Archive scholars have used the vellum to smother and extinguish fires.

Q: For Inks: Is black the go to with other ink colors exceptional rare, or is there some variety available?

A: First I hate you for making me google, 'The history of Inks' and reading through some of the most boring stuff imaginable. Other pigments are rare and very expensive, as they would be from grinding in rarer plant extracts, while animal glue and soot is readily available and the city size of Arx being a half a million people with the sheer quantity of commerce makes it able to keep up with black ink demands.

Q: For Pens: Do we use quills, dip pens, fountain pens, or something fancier?

A: Quills.

Q: Are pencils, either charcoal or lead, in use?

A: Not commonly no, graphite isn't frequently mined for it to catch on.

Times of Day

Q: Assuming (and I feel like I've heard people say this) that clocks are a relative rarity in the Compact, do people (peasants specifically, but even nobles from smaller/less wealthy domains) have special names for the times of day? Is it like in our medieval times where there might be a bell at the local house of worship, or a bell rung by someone hired to do it, which announces specific times? Would it be like in the morning is the Queen's bell and at noon is the Sentinel's bell and in evening is Tehom's bell and at around 9 is Aion's bell or something like that? I know this is probably in overthinking it territory, but crunchy world building stuff like this is the best, and I have occasionally had to refer to the time of day and found it felt a bit awkward to be like oh, it's 3:47, what up?

A: Clocks are very rare, though I think 'o'clock' is still thematic for simplicity sake, that it's still caught on. Bells are common, and the great cathedral has one that sounds off on the hour (climb to the top of the great cathedral for the Bell Tower room). In more rural areas, where a bell is distant, times of day are usually broken up into 4 parts. At 6 am, a bell of the closest church would ring to start the new day, which would be marked as Creation's Canticle of Dawn (named for the triad of creation, mangata petrichor and lagoma). For the godsworn in rural areas, this often means waking to sing morning prayers as farmers tend their fields. At 1 pm, or 13 hours past midnight, starts the Artisans' Canticle of Day. At 7 pm starts the Concepts' Canticle of Dusk, and then at 1 am, 13 hours past noon, starts the Thirteenth's Canticle of the Vigil.

Arx

Geography

Q: I'm sorry to ask again, because I know there have been several info channel discussions, but can we get a description of Arx and how the pieces of it connect to one another? What portions are exposed to what sort of approaches? ie: My understanding is that the Lower Boroughs is only exposed to a sea attack, because the rest of the city effectively cuts it off by land routes, so other portions of the city would have to fall before the Lowers could be attacked via land.

A: Correct, Arx is built ontop of a thousand foot elevation plateau, with the Lower Boroughs essentially built on the side of a gradual slope between the river and the rest of the city, and the mouth of the river meets cliff face without any practical means for a force to move along a shore from the eastern approach of Arx to the South. To enter the lower boroughs, they have to first get through the seawatch gate, or over the eastern walls, or cross the Gray River, which is massive and stronger currents than could be safely swum near the mouth even if one was uncumbered and could swim the thousands of feet across.

Guard Retinues

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.

Hall of Heroes

Q: Since I've been asked this ICly a few times and have given sort of hand-wavey answers... in the Hall of Heroes, are the memorials in the main hall the only ones where the bodies (if recoverable, anyway) are interred beneath the hall? Are the memorials of the other halls also interred beneath the hall where possible? Or given the size of the Arxian catacombs, is it likely -- if not necessarily known for certain -- that not only are the various heroes of the halls buried there if possible, but that there are far more heroes interred beneath the Hall than there are specifically-called-out statues? (The last is admittedly my assumption.)

A: The memorials I created in the hall of heroes should be taken as a -sampling- of those buried there, and definitely not an exhaustive list. I made a few nods to that in the descriptions but I think it is very easily missed. There are definitely hundreds if not thousands of individuals honored in the hall of heroes, though for a thousand plus years of history, that still makes it a pretty rare honor. It does lead to the rest of the catacombs, meaning there's not any issue with space, even if the tombs below are hallowed ground and not visited except in ceremonial or special occasions and off limits.

Q2: The statues seem to mostly end around the time of the elven war. Are people ever still buried in those catacombs in the modern day, even if they don't get statuary? For instance, is it possible that the more notable of those who fell opposing the Silent Army or similar threats might get interred there? (The Igniseri adventure twins, Baron Eos Saik, and so on.) And if not, is that something that -- with the return of the Queen, and the new awareness of said catacombs -- the NPC populace has opinions on?

A: Yes, in fact, while I enjoyed writing the history snippets there and spent a great deal of time on it, I also did intend for it to become a burial place for PCs that died in heroic fashions. To be so honored would require that they are nominated for the honor by the fallen's highlord (so crownsworn would be the crown), then confirmed by the Faith as it is on hallowed ground, typically with the consent of a majority of highlords and the crown. The honor is traditionally proposed as an item at a meeting of the Assembly of Peers. Despite that bar, it's usually not as difficult as it sounds, since most houses wouldn't want to needlessly provoke another by barring honoring their dead unless the individual is so hated in other houses their own vassals basically demand they do so.

All that said, it's still a relatively rare honor, and the vast majority of dead from noble houses are buried in tombs in their domains' strongholds.

Q: Who maintains the statuary in the Hall of Heroes, and who provides what we know about the statues there?

A: The Hall of Heroes is considered holy ground, and so templars guard its grounds, and disciples see to maintenance duty and Faith sponsored artisans. Being interred is more complicated process, and the traditions for it have changed throughout the Compact's long history. In current day, typically now the peers of the fealty nominate a hero to be interred below the Hall of Heroes during a meeting of the Assembly of Peers, requiring a simple majority of sitting peers. The highlord of the fealty seconds it (or he may start the nomination himself), and it passes a simple majority of the Voices of the Realm. Then, if it passes those three steps in the Assembly of Peers, the Faith of the Pantheon needs to grant consent for burial in the Hall, and godsworn artists typically create the memorial after after the rites are performed when they are interred.

Q: 1) Being interred into the Hall of Heroes is supposed to be one of the greatest posthumous honors someone can receive. Since a Great House has to nominate them and it's supposed to be rare for anyone to object, how common is it for people to try and shoehorn their their friends/loved ones in?

A: Rare. This is someone that is significant to either a) the entire Compact or b) that fealty, for actions done throughout their life. Someone that saved the Compact or did great works on the Compact's behalf, or someone that acted as an exemplar for a great house's ideals.

Q: 2) Has there historically been repercussions for a High Lord nominating someone their people wouldn't view as worthy of being in the Hall?

A: They might look bad, is considered unworthy and is rejected. Normally, the vast majority are buried in the house tombs at a house's domain. Buried in the crypts beneath Sanctum, for example.

Q: 3) With the last 'step' of the process being the Faith approving their interment, is there a precedent for the Faith stepping in to say 'this person has not earned a spot in the Hall'? If so, how has that went over historically?

A: Anyone being added to the Hall of Heroes is a big deal. Typically, for being buried in a house fealty's area, every seraph of that fealty will meet in a convocation and vote on the worthiness. For someone buried in the main hall, it would be -every- seraph in a Grand Convocation of the Faith. Typically, most seraphs bow to the will of the archlectors, legates and Dominus, but there have been exceptions (such as where to bury Marach the Apostate, who was not interred, despite his successor's nomination).

Q: 4) If a House wanted to memorialize someone in Arx who isn't able to be interred in the Hall of Heroes, what would they typically do?

A: A nomination from the house to the head of their great house, with it being brought up at the Assembly of Peers with a simple majority agreement, and then seeking the consent of the Faith.

Q: 5) Less theme related, but what is the OOC process after all the IC things have been covered? Is it an action or a request to intern someone? Is there a particular Faith PC who would confirm interment or would that be a staff call?

A: If someone isn't famous, it needs to be justified. It should be an @action with a minimum of 10000 social resources minus 1 for every 100 legend the person had, or face enormous societal backlash and a likely veto from the faith. This would be per person.

Population

[Info] Gaius: Related, do we have a rough estimate for the population of Arx, the other cities, the different fealties, and known humanity as a whole?
[Info] Apostate: Was half a million for Arx at the start, but that almost doubled during the siege of Arx with waves of refugees, and settled down to around 650-700k now. Around 1.5 mil or so for each of the great houses, with a higher bit in Thrax due to thralldom, and then looking at around 2-3x the amount of Abandoned in Arvum as in Compact, but most of them spend way more time fighting each other, or trying to avoid human contact
[Info] Apostate: And it wouldn't be commonly known what the populations are like in the other continents

Tournament of Roses and Boons

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.

Vehicles and Transportation

Q: Given that Arx is a massive city, how do most people get around it? Does everyone walk, or are there carriages that can be hired, like hackney cabs and such? I'm guessing there are options for long-distance travel, wagons/carts and carriages for distances like Tor to Arx, or something like that?

A: Carriages are used, but they are less common in traveling city to city, because the road conditions tend to be poor, making wagons and carriages sticking to the most major routes but almost never without heavy escorts with the ability to repair them, as roads are just not that reliable. Horseback is far and away the most common between cities.

Inside Arx, litters (such as palanquin style) are not unheard of, but usually limited to the very rich and infirm. Prince Donrai Thrax used one, which was carried by armored guardsmen. The implication, however, is that it is for the infirm, very aged, or injured that must travel on busy streets. Carriages do see use in Arx, but they are also on the rare side and for the very high nobility. There is a tradition, mostly started by House Grayson, that nobility should be seen when in public, and heavy use of litters or carriages has an unseemly implicit dismissal of the commons that many peers are not comfortable with. A little bit is fine out of practicality, too much comes across as arrogant.

Waste Disposal

FORGIVE ME if poop has been addressed before. I'm curious: do we have toilets? Do we.. have.. long drops? Out houses? Do we have running water? Do we have.. water heaters? Like: Are baths drawn and heated by hand over fire, is there technology to deal with poop? Sewers?

Well, I guess it had to happen at some point.

Arx absolutely has some kind of system of wells and pumps and aquifers/channels that keep the general hygeine of the city well above that that would be analogous from the real world for the 'time period', but as to defining it by class and specifics, we really don't want to. There's just a lot to define and write about that is both more interesting and more likely to lead to nuanced rp. Just don't talk about your heated seat hello kitty toilet with LED, or how you are shitting in the streets, and you're fine.

Crafts

Alaricite

Q: It seems as though when the game began there was a social stigma around the use of Alaricite weapons. As they only existed in the five great houses as weapons gifted from long ago, there has been a sort of reverence around the use of Alaricite swords. Now that there are crafters who can make them, are the stigmas changing? They have been proven to be most effective against the demons we now face, does that change the view around their use? And what would be the general populace'€™s view of someone acquiring such a weapon given the great cost it takes to produce them?

A: It is always acceptable to use heirloom weapons in time of war in true combat. What is considered improper is using any heirloom weapon for matters of personal honor, specifically duels or minor fights, since an heirloom weapon is considered representative of the honor of the house. Now for alaricite or diamondplate weapons that are not heirloom, it would largely be considered wasteful and socially frowned upon to use any such weapon for sport rather than serious matters of honor or war.

Q: Do human made Alaracite and Diamondplate weapons have special qualities? I have noticed that some of the ancestral ones, or the Nox'Alfar weapons, seem to have quite mystical descriptions. Is that unique to ones made by elves, is it something that happens over time, or does it just randomly get assigned when it is created depending on factors?

A: Maybe.

Colored Golds

Q: Do the colored golds exist?

White gold == Gold and white metals such as nickel, manganese, palladium Red Gold == 75% gold, 25% copper Pink Gold == 75% gold, 20% copper, 5% silver Green Gold/Electrum == silver / gold alloy (appears natural) Grey Gold = Gold / palladium, but cheaper uses silver, manganese, and copper instead.

If they exist would they be a luxury metal like "rose god" (which is a gold 75%, 22.25% copper, and 2.75% silver alloy)?

A: Sure, they exist and are luxury metals. Platinum, on the other hand, is a metal not commonly found in Arvum.

Commoner Heirloom Weapons

Q: Ok, so I have a question. Is there precedence for commoner families gaining diamondplate or alaracite weapons, then claiming them to be the family sword? Or is there anything that owning such a blade would do to a commoner family as far as social status goes, or would they just be seen as rich?

A: Commoner families are extremely informally recognized. Much like how commoner marriages are a matter of someone just saying they are wed, commoner families are largely just by whoever is recognized as being part of a family. They don't have heirloom weapons as such since they aren't recognized in the same way as noble houses, as having a distinct representation of their family honor and traditions. They certainly can have weapons that are heirlooms and passed down, but they wouldn't be treated with the same distinction as noble houses, in so much that Demonslayer is a represetation of the house honor of Redrain, there's not really an equivalent that would represent a commoner family in the sense of prestige and esteem in the peerage. It should be noted that the champions of a house are called the Sword of their -holding-, not their house. IE, the champion for Grayson is 'the Sword of Bastion', not 'the Sword of Grayson'. Commoners have no holdings, so they aren't fighting on behalf of a people and all under their protection, which is implicit in house champions. tl;dr, sure they can pass down weapons, but the societal significance is not there at all.

Exotic Pelts

Q: The crafting material list describes exotic pelts as, 'pelts made from extremely rare, almost mythical animals -- the pelt of a white hart, for example.' What other animals would be considered rare enough to be almost mythical?

A: There's a number of very rare animals that aren't common to central Arvum, but live in rare habitats. Whitebears of the Everwinter (ie polar bears) are one example, where their pelts are prized for rarity. Alligators in some Lycene swamps, and crocodiles in the saffron chain. And then dire-varities of all major animals, which are essentially giant versions of the same thing, and most people in Arvum think of them as just unusually large versions but not intrinsically magical.

Jade

Q: Hi! So jade has its own listing on the material page and isn't available at the market. Like platinum, which generally isn't available on Arvum. Is jade about as rare?

Yes. Sometimes we'll decide for thematic reasons specific materials aren't available commonly and deal with them separately, and jade in this instance isn't found much outside of Jadairal.

Onyx

Q: Hi! Onyx is a coded material but not available for purchase. Is it ICly rare/unavailable as well? Are there other materials (besides jade and platinum) that are similarly rare?

A: It's on the rare side, and most black stones (obsidian, jet) are rare. Not so rare that I feel the need to police people describing random jewelry with it, but yeah I'd rather not. Some point in the very distant future I'll likely revisit materials and make them more specific and less general.

Plaid

Q: I think Tartan patterns are a wonderful bit of scottish history, but do they have any cultural use by the houses of Arx? I won't go so far as to ask about kilts.

A: Probably more modern than you'd think at around 16th century, when mostly we're an analogue for 12th, 13th, etc, but I don't think it's a big deal. I don't think it's in very widespread use by in the Northlands, since it's not quite their cultural analogue, but one or two houses maybe. For anything specifically cultural like that, just can't use the names, but could desc it as essentially that. A tartan kilt, in other words, would be described as a plaid male skirt.

Platinum

Q: Platinum continually comes up as a thing. On the theme board, there was a post that says it's "not commonly found" in Arx, per staff. Yet, SOME PEOPLE have informed me that it is "extraordinarily rare", per staff. At the same time, the Altar of Gild is platinum, per the desc of the room. So, which is it? Uncommon or extraordinarily rare? Most importnatly, can PCs buy platinum?

A: No. Not without a special action trying to hunt it down and negotiate it, as it has no common suppliers, or trying to collect platinum dukes and melt them down and try to get the trace amounts from it.

Steelsilk vs Fireweave

Q: I was wondering what the differences between Steelsilk and Fireweave are. I know codedly it is mostly the same, and also they are from different lands. However, do they have any different looks, any different feels to them compared to the other?

A: Steelsilk feels almost liquidy in how smooth it is, while Fireweave feels pleasantly warm to the touch, and is fireproof. They can both be dyed any color, and steelsilk and fireweave are both extraordinarily hard to cut, taking truly master tailors to be able to work. Most people just can't do it.

The Faith

Black Reflections

Q: This has come up a few times and some parts answered in bits and pieces on the Info channel, but for the sake of posterity:

We know that Black Reflections are never released unless the person stipulates it in their will. From what's been said, they must then be vetted (for safety?) by the Faith. I assume the Archscholar or a Senior Scholar? Who can vet? And then they're given to the family to approve of release. (Just one person in the family? A Head of House or Voice, maybe?) What exactly are they looking for in terms of reasons to disapprove of the release? Can families decline release just because the person said embarrassing things that look bad for their house? Do the objections have to be stronger than that?

A: Under 'help vellichor' there's some detail here, but there's a special senior branch of the Scholars of Vellichor that make up the Censor Librorum. Anything whose release could constitute harm in some way is flagged as 'nihil obstat' for review. While this can constitute grave secrets that could start a war or bodily harm, it can also be anything that would be purely spiteful that was written to cause harm after their death. The feeling of the Scholars Superior is that white journals are perfectly valid, trying to do so with the release of Black Journals post death is trying to use the Scholarship to attack one's enemies out of spite, and the Scholarship is under no obligation to do this. But Scholars Superior will forward on a work as 'imprimi potest' if it's possibly permissible, and the Arch Scholar will rule something is 'imprimatur' if something is dangerous but should still be seen. Purely spiteful works are usually removed immediately unless it has some other value.

Q: Another thing that comes up sometimes: Can a person indicate in their journals that they'd only like to release specific journals after death? Or release all but a few specific ones? Could they ask for their journals to be released just to a specific person? Or straight up all or nothing through the standard vetting process?

A: Sure. But from an ooc perspective going through every journal by hand and slowly flagging them and turn them back is painstaking and really annoying, which is why there hasn't been many black journal dumps after people have died unless someone really makes it clear they really want to see it happen.

Blessings

Q. What does it mean to bless a thing? Is there a system for it? I know a lot of the details may not be widely known until we discover it ICly, but what are the religiously understood effects of blessings?

My understanding is a full, godsworn knight of the Temple is as much priest as knight. I don't mean the men-at-arms, or the knights who receive their knighthood from houses but join the holy orders, but those knights who dedicate and are godsworn and knights. I've regularly played the 'priest' angle and sought to minister to people, but I might be off base in doing so. My question is thus: can godsworn knights 'bless' like lectors/priests can?

A. Blessings in the sense of godsworn members of the faith just blessing someone is common, and while there's a liturgy and very frequent phrases (picture each god or goddess having a stock set of a half dozen phrases essentially wishing someone well based on their sphere), they are just regular, every day phrases. Godsworn Templars like Preston could grant any of these blessings, there's not any doctrinal opposition to any member of the Faith doing so, though full ceremonial functions (like a marriage ceremony) would want someone with priestly training- which Templars or knights of solace can have, so it would depend whether they are considered invested (anyone over theology 2 could reasonably be so). There's no system currently for blessings since for these every day blessings there would be no mechanical effect at all- there's no magic behind it, it's no different than someone saying words. Currently, no action by any player could be considered reliable in having any divine, supernatural, primal or abyssal reactions- by its nature anything like that is capricious and unpredictable. Very specific rites to get the favor of the gods can be done, but they require enormous sacrifices in order to have a manifest effect, and this knowledge has been largely extinguished, but yeah a full magic system including divine providence will be Season 2, as it follows the storyarc of the game starting low magic/low fantasy and gradually transitioning to a high fantasy world.

Q: Is there a defined limit on what can be blessed within theme? Ex: Could a lantern be blessed by the shrine of Lagoma, or only the flame inside of it? Could you bless a field, or just that season's crop?

A: Anything appropriate to that god's sphere with a pretty wide interpretation. Really as long as it seems like it can be justified to the god.

Q: Do blessings have a generally accepted duration before they must be renewed? Does it vary? If so, are there any guidelines to be followed?

A: No apparent mechanical effects at all that anyone could be aware of. By church doctrine, items and places tend to be blessed every thirteen days ritually, or 13 months, or 13 seasons or 13 years depending on how ornate the rites are (like the sanctification of holy ground, for example, could be considered a blessing).

Q: Who can grant a blessing? Does it require a recognition, or is it simply anyone who can do the proper ritual? Do blessings from some people carry an expectation of being more meaningful, or are the blessed more egalitarian?

A: Godsworn with priestly training and investiture for any kind of ceremonial rites. Obviously any member of the faith can say, 'Lagoma bless you' or the like, and these are fairly common. Not that uncommon for disciples to see over harvest festivals or the like when seraphs aren't available.

Confession

Q: In IRL terms, there's this concept of the 'priest-penitent' privilege. That is, if a person seeks advice from a religious guide, what that person says and what that guide says is protected: on the one hand, legally (you can not compel the revelation of it), on the other hand, religiously (the church considers this privacy a sacred duty). The reason behind this privilege is basically... if you can't be truthful with your priest and ask their advice, how can you honestly be seek guidance from them to be righteous?

If a godsworn is approached for advice, if they are told a secret under the bond of secrecy, and if it does not directly lead to a threat against the life of another, is that the asking and advice considered by the religion of the Faith 'sealed'? Can the person asking expect their asking not be revealed, and would the Faith act negatively to its revelation?

I know PCs are... PCs. But I'm asking about the *religion*. Character A approaches a godsworn priest and confesses an act in the past, if that priest Character B tells someone... is there a) a consequence, and b) an understanding this is wrong?

Its been previously said that the scholars often accept 'confession's as black journals they do not reveal in a very similar sense to the catholic confessional, so the concept is in theme. But... these scholars only listen. The IRL purpose of the priest-penitent privilege is to protect people seeking advice. Counsel. Trusting their religious advisers so they can be spoken to truthfully.

As a godsworn this question is important to me. Is it assumed that if you go to your priest and talk to them its secret?

Of course I recognize an exception: if you go to a priest and say you will kill the king that's not protected. Existing lore has such an exception: black journals are only secret if you don't directly threaten the Great Archive. I don't expect a confessional to be secret if someone is saying anything like a threat to the life or safety of others.

A: It's protected more than you'd think. Even reporting killing the king would be absolutely prohibited, unless the death of the King would implicitly result in the destruction of the Great Archive or the worship of Vellichor. For confession, godsworn must safeguard the knowledge and counsel given, if it is presented in a religious setting of giving counsel of the Pantheon. In those circumstances, the oath to safeguard knowledge is paramount- and even vows to protect the Faith and Crown are secondary to it. If someone reported that the king would be assassinated, that godsworn person would be executed or forced to become a Silent Reflection, with their writing hand cut off and tongue out so they could never again reveal any secrets. A majority of Silent Reflections did not become that way because they attempted to take advantage of religious confidences for personal use, though that's the public implication- the majority of them becamse that because they conscience did not permit them to keep a potentially harmful secret, and they willingly betrayed their oath in order to save lives/stop the destruction of something vital, and willingly were excuted or became Silent Reflections as the penalty for obeying their conscience.

The only time it is ever permissable to reveal a confidence either in a black reflection or a similar confessional would be because the actions of the confessing party threatens the body of knowledge protected by Vellichor. Someone accused of breaking a confidence is always judged in secret by the Faith, and the only mitigating factor is ever did it threaten the body of knowledge protected by Vellichor- no other defense is permissible. A few extremely sympathetic individuals have 'escaped' after their trials and lived in exile, but that's about as far as the Faith has been willing to go.

Now mind you, someone just saying they murdered Bob is not a religious confession or confiding in a godsworn in a religious context. It has to be either for the purposes of a black journal, or in seeking religious guidance or instruction as to the will of the gods. Confessional situations have a great deal of ritual around them to make it very painfully clear to both parties involved, with the priest typically swearing it to secrecy before their talk and reiterating the punishments should he betray it.

Discipleships

Q: I was curious, can one be, for example, be both a full Scholar and Mirrormask, without being Godsworn, or is it one Disicpleship only per person?

A: Limited to one discipleship, someone would not be seen as being able to reasonably devote enough time to devote to membership. I'd say for practical purposes, I'd just say rank 4 or above in either org would count as being 'full' for most people, since then they'd be involved in the business of helping that discipleship function rather than a sometimes participant.

Gloria (Templars)

Q: So, for Gild the division of the discipleship between military and non-military is pretty clear and easy. The KoS report to the Grandmaster, and through him/her to the archlector, while the regular disciples (bookkeepers etc) answer direct to the Archlector. Nice and simple and clear cut.

How does this work for the Templars, which are the only discipleship of Gloria? The Templars, by the helpfile, includes support staff (such as our armorers etc) - but are there also people whose tasks are more focused on the temples/shrines? Do the bulk of disciples fight? Are all expected to go on campaign when needed? How does the structure work with the Grandmaster and the Archlector? Do only the knights or only the godsworn knights and their squires go via the Grandmaster while the men at arms go to the archlector, or does every part of the Templars go to the Grandmaster and the archlector deals with nothing directly? Or is there a division where the grandmaster handles military matters (while answering to the Archlector) and the Archlector handles theological questions and the management of the shrines? I'm struggling to conceptualise how that division/arrangement works and how it looks like. And I'm assuming some separation to justify Gloria getting two seats at the table (same as Gild).

A: The templars are, generally speaking, the forces every individual parish and local seraph has at their call. Depending upon the size of the parish, this probably is no more than a few godsworn knights for a village or small town, and can be up to a couple dozen for a major hub. Non-godsworn disciples however, the men at arms, are typically people that live in that parish and devote at least several hours of voluntarily military service per week, which the local lords are delighted with as it gives free manpower that is covered by the church provided the church is supporting them. All disciples are trained to fight, and are expected to keep current, and to be ready to answer the call for any problems in their local parish. If multiple parishes are involved in a campaign, then disciples can be reasonably expected to serve for at least one season, with permission from their local seraph or higher required to avoid service.

The Grandmaster has field command for any campaign, or her commanders below her, and directs multi-parish forces and how they are organized. However, any action by templars that leaves a parish, or is multi-parish in nature, must be approved as 'righteous' by the Archlector (or the Legate above her or the Dominus). Parish-only actions could be overruled, but they are so minor they default to the control of the local seraph, but aything outside of that ultimately must be approved by the Archlector. So while the Grandmaster is the field commander, the Archlector or those above her always authorizes military action.

Questions of the Faith

Q: In the information about Disciples, there's mention of ten ritualized Questions of the Faith that must be asked, before one becomes a Disciple. I am wondering, are these specific questions that must be asked and answered, or is this more of an improvised thing? I haven't been able to find the specific questions anywhere, and if there are specific questions, do they differ for each Discipleship, or are they the same?

A: The questions are a very basic test of knowledge of the nature of each god, to see if someone has a heretical answer. So this is usually formalized, with the question sung of, "What is the nature of <god or goddess>" for each of the three original triads and then the thirteenth, with sung answers of 13 words memorized for each.

That is most common through Oathlands Orthodox, but it is not necessary for them to be. Particularly in the Lyceum, which prefers to challenge formulaic traditions, each of the questions would be worded about a certain aspect of the god or goddess, and then a disciple would be expected to come up with an answer of thirteen words exactly on the spot that answers it adequately. It is also not uncommon in the Lyceum to cheat, and have someone be given the questions in advance, so they look exceptionally clever as they sing carefully prepared but ostensibly spontaneous answers.

Examples would be, "What is the nature of Mangata?" with the answer, "From her we breathe air, drink of water and wine, and survive seas." And so on. I'll write up examples of all at some point.

Vellichor (Scholars)

Scholars' Vows

Q: Recently on scholarchan there's been some OOC confusion over what level of Scholars (rank 5 aka "Scholar"? rank 3 aka "Senior Scholar", who deal with NPCs' Black Journals offscreen?) vow to Vellichor and exactly how far those vows extend as far as people's ranking up in the org, so could we please get a clarification as to the particulars of these vows? Thanks!

A: Any Scholar of Vellichor, before being allowed to work in the Great Archive of Vellichor or work with journals at all, must make the following vows before Vellichor:

"I am a guardian of knowledge. I shall never allow knowledge under Vellichor's protection to be destroyed."

"I am a guardian of stories. I shall never allow any works under our protection to be altered, and thus for the accounts to be forever lost."

"I am a guardian of testimony. The black reflections are a sacred bond between a soul and the gods of the Pantheon. I may record, but that trust must never be violated."

Those are vows that everyone working in the scholarship would take, even if they are never permitted to work with Black Reflections (and it is typically only godsworn scholars handle them in any way). Godsworn, of course, also vow that they will take no other vows between themselves and service to the gods, including having children, ruling over land, or other titles.

Eternal Flame-Lit Items

Q: Hi. Considering how many items there are that have been lit by the Eternal Flame -- some going back at least 3 IC years -- I'm wondering if the fire in those lanterns eventually go out? Thank you.

A: Items lit by the eternal flame last significantly longer than normal (from two to thirteen times as long, abouts), but do eventually go out, unlike the eternal flame itself.

Faith and the Crown

Q: I wondered how exactly the members of the Faith see themselves in relation to the Crown? Is there an idea that the King was placed to rule over everything by the Gods so they are his subjects? Is it that they answer to the Gods, but the land is man's domain and so they respect and offer obedience to the laws of man in so far as they don't interfere with the laws of the Gods? Do they view themselves as allies more than subjects?

I guess what I'm burrowing down to is where does a Godsworn see themselves in relation to the King, the King's minions etc, whether we view ourselves as another (and ultimately more overarching) fealty, or whether the Faith is more there to offer the King critical advice, and act as the mouth piece of the Gods?

A: It is significant that the Faith are all crownsworn, and unlike most crownsworn, when they take a vow to the gods and the crown, they do take that second part seriously. This waxes and wanes through the years based on the current dominus and legates, and reached an epoch during brief shining moments with a Valardin Queen wearing the crown extremely briefly after the death of King Darius Thrax the Vowbreaker, before the oathlander was in turn assassinated by Thrax, and continued the Faith being solidly and militarily behind the Grayson-Valardin faction during the Crownbreaker wars.

In current times, the Faith militant usually sees itself as firmly in control of the Faith, but friendly towards crown institutions like the Iron Guard. Historically they've had a rivalry with the Inquisition since the Crownbreaker Wars, and have butted heads, and sometimes come into open and overt conflict particularly in times with a weak crown that didn't exert control.

So short version, yes, the Faith militant generally do see themselves as the stewards over Limerance's vows, and particularly the vows of fealty that would lead to the crown. This also leads to lords being extremely reluctant to openly oppose a liege before they have very clear and explicit backing from the Faith to do so, since no one wants to fight both their liege and the armies of the Faith at the same time.

Favoritism

Q: Is it heretical or otherwise bad for a household to keep a shrine to the Pantheon that esteemed one God above the others? Point in case: can Grimhall have a shrine that puts Mangata on a higher altar, or on the central pedestal? Can we have a household priest/ess to maintain it?

A: Divine Patrons or Matrons aren't uncommon, and discipleships all highlight the god, but what is uncommon and would be considered heretical is any implication that a god is somehow better than the others. That really isn't done, as it's more about emphasizing that sphere that the god controls. "We spend our times talking about Mangata because we spend our lives on the sea" is fine and not unexpected, "Mangata is the best goddess" would strike others as heretical and weird. It should be noted that there's not specific priesthoods for the gods- while there's discipleships of lay people that venerate the worship of a specific deity, to honor rites that are about what that particular deity embodies, the godsworn priests are priests of the Pantheon. Archlectors who oversee the worship aren't really the head of a specific priestly order, they more are specialists who oversee anything that has something to do with that particular deity.

Funerary Practices

Q: Hi! So all I've found about funerary rites, so far, is the following: A less common aspect of her worship, but growing in popularity among the more superstitious commoners outside of the Lyceum, are funerals pyres with rites that avoid any mention at all of the Thirteenth, and pray to Lagoma to help their loved one have an easy transition to the other side. While the Lyceum specifically honors the Thirteenth in its darker funeral rites of Passing Beyond the Reflection, some of the north feels acutely uneasy with any mention of Tehom and turns to Lagoma to mourn their loved ones.

From channel chat, I know that a number of the Commons toss their dead into the Pit. There's also been talk of a graveyard expansion, outside the city, presumably for the commons. So my questions are:* How much does it cost to have a pyre? How much is it the materials vs paying a Godsworn to officiate? * How much does a burial cost? Does that require a Godsworn? * Are there group burials or cremations? * Is it customary for the dying to receive something akin to last rites? If so, is that something that could be administered by a Mercy of Lagoma who possesses the proper theological training?

A: Pyres by their nature are inexpensive, due to just collecting kindling. It isn't uncommon for the relatively inexpensive rite for pyres (single digit silver for kindling) or for burials to balloon in cost just by the nature of running a very large, grand funeral with a paid singers, food and so on, which for a funeral cal event would just be represented by the largesse rating.

Funeral and last rites are almost always presided over by a godsworn priest of the pantheon, but in the absence of one, it's not uncommon for laity to say words, and even informal burial rites are respected by the Faith and recognized as legitimate. Mercies of Lagoma would be likely to fulfill that role in the absence of godsworn priests.

Group burials or cremations would be rare but done as an expedient for large scale death.

Gods and Months

Q: I wondered if, with the exception of the Thirteenth, the months of the year corresponded with a particular god - if at all?

A: See 'help holidays'. Essentially, worship services would tend to talk about the gods during those months their feast days fall, even if the months are not explicitly dedicated to them or named after them (to avoid ooc confusion from new players in trying to adapt to a completely foreign fantasy calendar)

Holidays

Q: On Tehom's world page, it's mentioned the 13th has but a single feast day every few years during a blood moon. When can we expect the next one, assuming one has already happened in recent IC memory? And are their usually signs devotees of the 13th follow in order to mark just such an occurrence?

A: The Eclipse of Mirrors has an irregular astrological schedule, which will just so happen to always fall on October 31st in the real world time by happy coincidence. For at least several days IC before that, it can be assumed that the entire Lyceum (and 13th devotees everywhere) are engaged in carnivale and revelry, with nonstop parties, which comes to a spectacular conclusion on October 31st, always lining up with halloween real time.

Judgment

Q: 1) Does there exist any sort of ... idea of confidentiality between a godsworn and someone seeking guidance? I don't know the answer and sidestepped the question with careful RP of not asking details.

A: The Faith is extreme on this. The preservation of knowledge is one of their core beliefs due to Vellichor, and some would argue is the primary mission of the Faith. Trust in the ability for the Faith to safeguard knowledge must be absolute. Someone wishing confession of some kind would have it recorded in their own Black Journals while a godsworn hears it, and it could never, ever be repeated anywhere else. Violation of that would cover the same consequences as revealing a black journal- tongue out, writing hand cut off, lifelong service until death as a Silent Reflection or execution if they prefer. Most godsworn would stop someone and ask, "Are you wishing honest counsel of a man, or do you wish to record your thoughts for Vellichor and speak your conscience?" The former lets them talk freely and not as a representative of the gods. The latter is incredibly dangerous. Inversely, every member of the Compact should tell the difference between speaking informally for guidance, and the ritualized confession or counsel as a representative of Vellichor, which every godsworn may do (not just the Scholars of Vellichor). In practice, unless someone is making it clear that it is a confession or seeking religious counsel, it wouldn't be treated as the latter, but priests that have abused them have absolutely been executed or made into Silent Reflections.

Q 2) What happens if someone excommunicates dies? I... winged this hard. My thought: the Faith is the conduit to redemption and salvation. But men, even the Most Holy, are men. Yet. If you are excommunicated it is for some grave sin-- and if you have are excommunicated when you die, you obviously didn't repent. Therefore, the Sentinel will judge you with this sin as unrepentant. The implication was clear but not said out loud: chances of mercy, super low, but... the Sentinel is the god and the Sentinel judges. But if being excommunicated automatically exiles you to the mirror-abyss err he was off base theologically.

A: More forgiving than people would think. Family members can seek reconcilation of the dead, and for them to be effectively forgiven and offered funeral rites after their death. In the specific example of the highlords, they were specifically told they were to seek atonement. In Esera's case, she was seeking atonement upon her death, despite the argument, so most of the Faith would likely assume she would have reconciled and be willing to hear a petition from the family to have her forgiven post death. 'Would this person have atoned had they lived, so are they likely seeking atonement with the Sentinel now' is the deciding question typically debated by the Dominus, legates and archlectors in a review of post death excommunication. However, burying someone still considered excommunication without the permission of the Faith would be considered heretical.

Q: 3) The person I was RP'n with mourned a recent excommunicated person who died and felt guilt, and he made a few points: 1) Sentinel judges, mourning is fine, its what you feel. 2) You aren't guilty to feel for someone, even a bad someone, who has passed. Especially if you *acknowledge* they were bad and guilty. Mourning isn't a sin, its human. Finally, 3) Its never a sin to pray for someone. It might do absolutely nothing but to speak up, the Sentinel already knows whatever you'll say, but praying itself -- even for a sinner, even for one excommunicated -- isn't *bad*.

A: This is fine.

Mercies of Lagoma

Q: What is Arx's Mercy structure/hierarchy? Based on a convo with Apostate a while ago, Arx has a Mother Mercy who oversees everything, with the equiv of Voices that help facilitate things within and outside of the org. This isn't documented anywhere, though, so confirmation is requested.

A: The Mother Mercy (or Father Mercy) tends to make at least one voice for every hundred mercies in the city of Arx, called a Hand of Mercy, and then there are senior mercies called a Touch of Mercy. Touches are further divided into seniority, which is related to length of service, as our mercies themselves. Outside of Arx and regionally, some other branches of the Mercies of Lagoma instead designate seniority by number of lives saved, or number of Acts of Mercy (wounded or sick aided, even in part), which can become disproportionately large numbers as each mercy working in a field hospital could count every person there among their Acts. Some mercies coming to Arx from the farflung reaches of the different five kingdoms would bring these practices with them, even if they wouldn't really be officially recognized by the Arx Mother of Mercy or Hands of Mercy.

Q: What are the expectations of membership? It's a discipleship, so the Faith has only so much pull. What is it like inside the org itself, though? I know that no one can be ordered/commanded per se, but it strikes me as plausible that the leadership still expects reasonable requests to be honored.

A: Discipleship varies a great deal. The Scholars of Vellichor, Templars and Knights of Solace are three organizations so tightly wound to the Faith that discipleship in them for most is a primary occupation, even if they aren't godsworn. The Mercies are a halfway point between the very informal ones where no one does that as a primary occupation, and has Devoted Mercies (ones who service in the Mercies of Lagoma is their principle occupation, many who become godsworn) and Aiding Mercies (ones who offer what service they can as laity, but have other jobs/duties/responsibilities outside of the discipleship, and only donate what time they can). While most of the higher ranks are Devoted Mercies, it's not uncommon for the Mother Mercy to be a high born noblewoman or man that is not godsworn, and is technically an Aiding Mercy. This isn't seen as a mark against them, since securing donations and support for the Mercies of Lagoma as a whole would be one of their core responsibilities, as well as being able to speak to the Archlectors or Dominus as a peer- it just tends to default to someone very high born, like Sophie for example, out of necessity. Now for expectations, at least in Arx they need lengthy training in healing before they touch a patient without assistance, since the Mercies care a great deal in making certain no one is ever hurt by an untrained Mercy. This typically comes from acting as an attendant to a full Mercy as they heal, observing and helping. As mercies constantly working with the sick tend to become ill themselves, most new mercies are tending for the mercies themselves under their first patients supervision.

Q: What are the social/political repercussions, if any, for not adhering to those expectations? Can the chapter head revoke Mercy status for that chapter?

A: Improperly caring for the sick, resulting in higher mortality, can in extreme cases be considered unlawful killings if their neglect resulted in the death of those seeking aid. This has led to chapters being barred, and in a handful of cases when a regional Mother Mercy went full cult leader, resulted in Templars breaking up chapters by force of arms with whatever local lord usually deciding he no stake in this. In at least a few cases, this has resulted in a small brushfire war effectively between the Faith and a mercy chapter that was backed by a local lord (due to embezzling donations).

Q: What happens when a Mercy from another chapter relocates to Arx? Places like Arx and Blancbier are said to have the highest standards for being considered a Mercy. Is there an assessment test? (I assume PCs will pass because PCs are awesome but I still wonder about the process.)

A: PCs would be assumed to pass, unless they wrote it specifically into their background that they wouldn't. They would be expected to conform to Arx (and Blancbier) standards of service and would be tested, and Devoted Mercies in Arx that are mercies for their full occupation are typically paid a much higher wage in Arx than in the provinces, while Aiding Mercies are always unpaid (so the Mother/Father Mercy is by traditionally normally unpaid, but they tend to have full control over donations to the Mercies).

Q: Are non-local Mercies who relocated to Arx expected to fall in line with Arx's chapter hierarchy? If they opt-out, is their Mercy status recognized within Arx? Is there such a thing as an independent Mercy in an area that has an established chapter or are they expected to "join the union"?

A: Anyone opting-out of working with the Mercies of Lagoma in Arx, or with the chapter of a specific region, is asked not to call themselves a Mercy until they leave the region. The reason for this is simple- there's a great deal of charlatanism and con artists who happily claim to be Mercies to attempt to sell useless herbs for healing and the like, trying to take advantage of the good name for Mercies. For this reason, Mercies are also strongly discouraged from working alone without a representative of the Faith, or unless their status with the organization is well known, to prevent the charlantanism that would happen. A well known Mercy is fine with acting alone, but newer ones almost never are.

Q: What are the training guidelines in Arx for characters who seek to become Mercies? For those with no prior medical/apothecary background, I figure it would be 2-3 years IC study, presumably, which would take maybe 1 RL year.

A Probably until they can pass tests, which would just be medicine skill checks. But the usual baseline would be having a medicine of 3 would be considered appropriate for a Mercy. They are pretty well trained.

Performing Rites

Q: I was curious about what all a Disciple is allowed to do as a non-Godsworn. As in, what rites and blessings if any can they do? Can they do anything for the deity they are in a discipleship of, or are /all/ rites and blessings for godsworn? Can a Disciple like, lead a sermon or teaching as long as there's no actual blessing/benediction done?

A: They are laymen where it comes to rites. They can give informal prayers in the same way any non-godsworn, disciple or no can, but cannot officially preside over church ceremonies except as assistants to godsworn.

Relationships and Children

Q: I know that godsworn can not marry. But, is that like the IRL Catholic vow of celebacy? I know in theory we have great birthcontrol, but I was also told before that 'orphans' showed up and got Knight... support, in a manner that is not entirely unusual. Ie, its not entirely uncommon for godsworn bastards to show up. I'm not asking this about Preston's birth itself, I note: I don't know and don't ever expect to know his birthright. Him being an anonymous orphan is cool. But i'm wondering on the law of 'attachment' in the Faith.

Are relationships frowned upon? Are the godsworn SUPPOSED to be celebate? I note: "supposed" is important to the context of this question, not what is normal.

I have a theory that this is all about the Laws of Limerance and its that marriage creates a bond that conflicts the godsworn: an oath that binds them to another interest. And so my thoery is as long as there's not an *oath* made before the gods, that's what matters. Yes, godsworn shouldn't have children. (Yet it happens and is nudged under the rug) but the actual law is no marriage.

Is my theory totally wrong? Am I misinterpreting this?

A: All godsworn take an oath that they will set aside any bond that could come between their devotion to the gods and the crown. This is understood that they will avoid forming any relationship that come between them and that service, though strict celibacy is not required. A godsworn having children is a violation of their vows, and with 100% reliable birth control, would be at best be seen as a gross error in judgment, that could carry severe consequences up to and including becoming a Silent Reflection. If they do have children, it's understood that they now have an obligation that they cannot in any way reconcile with being godsworn, and are required to leave the faith to care for the child, and leaving the faith in disgrace is the lowest of potential consequences- having children to try to escape vows would be an insult to the Faith and the gods. Individuals that want to become godsworn are only permitted to do so if they have no one dependent upon them- they cannot take the vows if they have young children, or if they have anyone they provide primary care for. It is also not uncommon for godsworn to be released from their vows if the family they set aside require them, and both the family and the godsworn member asks- but they would not be permitted to return until and unless the situation again changes. Godsworn that have children in secret, and do not give up their vows to care for them would definitely be forced out of the Faith- it would be a betrayal of their obligations. As part of the ritual when they are sworn, any potential godsworn is asked in the ceremony if they have any others that depend upon them, or any others that could come between them and the gods, and asked to take a vow to never permit that to occur.

Relationships Between the Gods

Q: Are the gods generally considered independent, unrelated entities? Or do they have bonds between them like the pantheons of the real world? (Apollo and Artemis are twins, Thor is Odin's son, etc.) If so, do we have stories and legends about the gods and their actions or was that largely lost to us/supplanted in the shift towards the gods as ideals to be embodied?

A: The faith, generally speaking, downplays an anthropomorphic take on the gods, and sees them as distant, more vaguely defined ideals. There's an undercurrent of mystery to the Faith that implies that trying to fully understand or define the nature of the Pantheon is in some ways inherently sacrilegious and a sign of the arrogance of man, rather than being willing to take some aspects as unknowable, and that the idealized nature of the god should be taken as instructive for how they wish for men to act in the current world, rather than being deeply concerned with the next. That said, it is rare to address it, but it does, mostly from the contrarian nature of some parts of the Faith in regards to 13th Dogma.

There's clear overlaps between different ideals, and those idealized overlaps are seen as representations of relationships. For example, take Gloria and Limerance, who have arguably the highest overlap when talking about idealized chivalry, honor, and the importance of vows and service before battle. The laity and priesthood alike will sometimes very lightly talk about a relationship between the two, or even portray them as being in love, though it's definitely nowhere close to the more humanized representations in Graeco-Roman type mythos. Similarly, idealized aspects of the world that are clearly a mix of gods are sometimes talked about being children- mud is the child of Petrichor and Mangata, for example, as a mixture of rain and the earth. That sort of thing. But the Faith doesn't think there's a Demigod of Mud, except in some heretical cult type offshoots that perform human sacrifice and hope to bring about the coming of Sludge, Mudlord of the Apocalypse. They are then killed by templars and never talked about again.

Sigils

Mangata

Q: Back in the original Maelstrom crisis, there was a symbol that was getting carved on ships that supposedly protected them from being eaten by sea monsters. I was wondering if what that symbol looks like was described anywhere? Is there a drawing of it? I can't find anything on the website.

A: Typically a wave, usually with a cloud or something symbolic of the sky above.

[Note: All the god helpfiles now have sigils listed!]

Silent Reflections

Q: What infractions, exactly, lead to becoming a Silent Reflection in the Faith (i.e. having your tongue and hand cut off, and being sentenced to humble service)? 'Help Vellichor' suggests that it's an exclusive punishment for Scholars revealing black journals or otherwise breaking the sanctity of the Archive. But 'help Tehom' suggests that it can be a punishment for any dire infraction against the Faith by the Faithful, including heresy. I'd think that the latter would be more likely, but it'd be nice to have clarification. As a secondary question, about how many Silent Reflections are there at any time in the Arx areas?

A: Heresy can cover the infraction, for a specific case- betraying an oath to the gods by word, which could also mean willfully and maliciously speaking falsehoods and presenting it as dogma to justify actions. This does fall under malfeasance on the part of local seraphs and their godsworn, who might willfully misrepresent their religious authority for personal gain at the cost of the Faith as a whole and their parish. In other words, a Seraph found guilty of misusing church funds and misrepresenting that, and lying to the rest of the Faith, and justifying it falsely, could be guilty of heresy by breaking their oaths to the gods, while one argunig possibly heretical beliefs may not be, as it's a harder call if oaths are being violated. Nearly all Silent Reflections were Godsworn, and relatively few come from Arx itself (generally just the scholars trying to personally benefit from black journals and being caught), with most of the few dozen in Arx being churchmen who commited crimes against the Faith that specifically broke their oaths. Allowing sanctuary to be broken for one granted protection of the Faith, embezzling church funds, willfully concealing information from the Faith on Faith matters for personal gain. Offenses that constitute a grave betrayal of trust of the faith in a way that would also potentially destroy the trust of the faithful in the church.

Sins

Just to explore this topic for people! How do the variety of sins rank according to the gods? Oathbreaking, kinslaying, worshipping other gods (shamanism), etc? What are considered major sins? Is envy and pride, for example, considered sins? Complete with an info log:

[Info] Gian: So, in the hierarchy of sins, breaking an oath before Limerance is worse than kinslaying, right?
[Info] Hellfrog: I mean, maybe according to the gods. Probably not from a perspective of "am I going to prison forever"
[Info] Aislin: I feel like breaking the oath will get you seen as dishonorable and like, you might have concern for your soul. I feel like kinslaying, depending on the circumstances, might get you, you know... actually /executed/.
[Info] Gian: Well, so would any murder, though.
[Info] Hellfrog: Right, Aislin.
[Info] Gian: Any extra special stigma for killing famiky?
[Info] Calliope: Depends on your family, right?
[Info] Cristoph admits that I have been going on the assumption that lying is generally viewed as super bad, from a religion point of view. Given the quasi Zoroastrianism influence.
[Info] Hellfrog: Not legally.
[Info] Hellfrog: Socially? Sure.
[Info] Hellfrog: Lying, but more the breaking of your word, of your oath.
[Info] Gian: Cool. Just checking, thanks.
[Info] Cristoph nods. I figure that lies are sort of a mild version of that though, with actual oath breaking SUPER BAD above that?
[Info] Sylvie throws onto board for future preservation! :)
[Info] Sylvie: I don't think lying is considered a sin. Lyceum lies all the time (taken with a grain of salt, please), but doesn't oathbreak.
[Info] Sylvie: Or if it is-- I have been playing wrong.
[Info] Cristoph: Lyceum take on the faith is not the same as Oathlands take on the faith though neccessarily.
[Info] Sylvie: Yeah.
[Info] Orazio: Lying would seem to be an offence to the Sentinel, being that he's the god of Truth and all.
[Info] Hellfrog: lying is a sin, but lying is a sin in almost all religions, right? It's not the sort of sin that gets you kicked out of your faith or your tongue ripped out.
[Info] Cristoph has been working on the assumption that telling a lie, for a genuinely religious and orthodox person, is definitely the kind of thing you think 'Gah, I need to actually repent and make amends for this or else I endanger my soul a fair bit'.
[Info] Sylvie: idk, is lying a sin in all religions. I am horrible at religions.
[Info] Calliope was just thinking the same thing Sylvie.
[Info] Orazio: Yeah. Just because something's a sin doesn't mean there's a lot of a punishment that you're going to face secularly, and even talking to a priest might get you, "You should try and do better," not "Burn in the Abyss!"

Shop Owners

Q: It's come up a few times on channel: can godsworn own/run shops and businesses?

A: Yes, but with restrictions. Becoming godsworn does stop the newly sworn from receiving inheritance from a family or passing on an inheritance, and specifically prohibited from owning property, but there's not a hard requirement for a vow of poverty (though a large percentage of godsworn -do- take one, particularly in the Oathlands). This, however, does not give godsworn as much freedom as that would seem to imply, since ultimately most assets they collect are more seen to belong to the church, and it is merely in their holding. In practice, very few leaders of the Faith are in a rush to discourage godsworn from generating finances by snatching it away, anymore than most house leaders would seize assets of family members who are holding things 'for the house' which is a result of their own personal pursuits. The crown would ultimately be the only source of appeal there, such as a godsworn member leaving the faith, and the faith attempting to hold onto their possessions, with typically the crown supporting the faith over an individual in such a dispute, since more than one person has started a small business for the faith, then tried to leave it so they could grant inheritance to former family, and been blocked by the crown from doing just that.

Tehom and the Oathlands

Q: Is worship of the Thirteenth outlawed in the Oathlands?

A: No. Not as such. Some members of the Oathlands Orthodox believe it -should- be, but it very pointedly is not. For a real world equivalent, think of how the most conservative roman catholic diocese in Boston would feel about the Mexican Day of the Dead also practiced by roman catholics. They aren't fans, and it's not prohibited, but trying to practice a day of the dead in the heart of boston would probably be exceedingly awkward and uncomfortable for every person involved. Thematically, most oathlanders recognize that by coming to Arx, they are going to have to endure a lot of annoying moral relativist skepticism practiced by Lycene branches of the Faith, and find it intensely obnoxious, but quietly tolerate it. At a party in the Ward of House Valardin, they might politely ask someone to leave a mirrormask at the door, and someone coming into the Sleepless Knight and adopt contrarian arguments would be seen as an unbelievably annoying interloper, but on the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Oathlands Orthodox aren't going to do more than quietly be exasperated at someone marrying a Lycene provided they keep mirrormask talking points to themselves.

Titles

Q: How do titles interact with the Faith? If a knight is anointed to be a priest, does the Sir drop in deference to Brother? Do they become interchangeable, or can they be combined? Do knights need to be, in essence, re-knighted by the Faith? Does it depend if you're taking vows to be a priest vs a sworn Templar or Knight of Solace? (Are the vows different in those instances?)

A: It depends on the title. Titles that are related to a family are dropped, as becoming godsworn would no longer apply. Lord, Lady, Princess, etc would be lost because those titles represent being a noble in standing with their family, which is given up when taking the vows (though keeping the surname is not unusual). While on the other hand, becoming a knight or titles related to military service or some other kind of trade or craft are often kept, as long as the service can be applicable to the faith. Knighthood then, is recognized by the faith, and the Templars and Knights of Solace actively try to recruit knights into their ranks, though they do distinguish between being dubbed by a secular lord or by the Faith- knights of the Faith are usually termed as 'annointed knights', as the ceremony for being made a knight in the service of the faith involves ceremonial oils for each of the gods, and a vow of service to each god. Knights that become templars or knights of templars typically are annointed later, usually when they become godsworn.

Fealty

Breaking Fealty

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Q: How does the Compact/Faith reconcile rebellion and fealty oaths? Is it a situation where the rebelling House offers a justification and claims their Liege has violated their duties as Liege or is it purely case by case? Are rebelling houses treated as oathbreakers?

A: Oaths of fealty are sworn to a house, not to a person, so if there are civil wars most would consider themselves still serving the oath loyally by choosing one side or another. And no one is required to follow an oathbreaker, if a liege has broken their oath to ask for no service that would dishonor them. And the faith can declare an oath invalid, if it is seen as in bad faith. This is a very tricky one and I'd usually consult staff if there's any vagueness.

Changing Fealty

Q: 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?

A: Oaths are judged and held valid (and sacred) by the Faith. There's a great deal of overlap in Arx between the law and the Faith, meaning the Archlector of Limerance (or Legate of Concepts) or the Dominus is the authority on the validity of an oath. Commonly, if a dispute would come to war between a liege and a vassal, the overlord (the next step up in fealty) would be the one to negotiate and broker a peaceful change in allegience, so long as the consent of the Faith holds the change to be justified. If the Faith agrees the situation merits a release of a vassal from their oaths of fealty, this means a direct transfer of that allegience to another of the overlord's vassals.

For example: If a march is in conflict with his duke, and the march wishes to break fealty, the princess of that region could offer a change to one of the other duchies under her control provided the Faith agrees. Similarly a county would appeal to the duchy above the march, or a duchess (in theory) could appeal directly to the crown.

This agreement would include real compensation to the former liege, between 1/13th of the vassal's holdings, up to 1/3 in extreme cases. Even when the transition is all agreed to, geographic distances are a real challenge here, as ones trying to switch to distant fealties are isolated, and conquest tends to make them switch back after a few decades or a century or so. Very few duchies have changed hands, though Tor was sworn to the Oathlands for at least part of its history, as was Nightgold in Stonedeep, and some Isles houses have been briefly Lycene and vice versa.

A House breaking fealty without these negotiations is intensely dishonorable and risks being declared outlaw and becoming Abandoned - no longer sworn to the Compact. Some Abandoned houses were ousted in just this manner.

Additionally, in theory, a liege has the ability to attaint a sworn house and strip their nobility for treason... if, again, the Faith agrees that a house has broken its vows in the eyes of the gods. This was the case when Prince Donrai Thrax attainted and destroyed House Tyde during the Tyde rebellion, with the justification they had murdered his children in a prelude to armed revolt, to wipe out his succession, and the Dominus agreed with the reasoning. Even so, Alaric III (the current Alaric's father), was traveling to the Isles to attempt to try to settle the bloodshed while Tydehall was under siege after a few years of conflict, on the direct invitation of the Duke of Tydehall. Unfortunately for Tyde, the castle was taken by storm (resulting in catastrophic casaulties on Thrax's side to the indifference of Donrai), before Alaric III arrived and the official story adopted by Donrai is he never received official correspondence asking him to wait, which was accepted as a polite fiction that the following regent Gabriel Bisland and Alaric IV did not see worth going to war over.

But normally, if a vassal petitions for arbitration from their overlord and the faith, the overlord is expected to get involved and do so while the conflict halts - unless the Overlord and Faith agree the liege is justified, then this could still spell disaster for the vassal (most likely in the form of crippling reparations and hostages to ensure cooperation).

Usually it's more civilized than that. If a vassal and liege wish to break, the Faith agrees, and then the overlord can amicably assign them to another house, that's that. Most people don't want war, if they can save face while doing it. If a vassal petitions an overlord and has their support, few lieges would wish to go to war with both their liege and their vassal simultaneously to prove a point, but some land concessions are common on the part of the vassal breaking away (1/13th lands to the liege, 1/13th total wealth to the Faith).

Creating and Elevating Houses

Q: 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?

A: 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).

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).

Cross-Fealty Organizations

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.

Demoting Houses

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.

Domain Positions

Q: Yes, yes, I know that the @domain system isn't up and running yet, but for now, folks seem to be putting people into the domain related ministries for their respective areas and using them as RP hooks. For the sake of IC understanding, what is the focus of each of the positions? Some seem self-explanatory, like Finance, Farming, and Warfare, while others are a little vague, like Loyalty, Upkeep, and Population. And I have no idea what Productivity is supposed to represent at all. Halp? Multipass?

A: The names there are largely ooc constructs as summaries.

Loyalty oocly will be a minister that helps mitigate negative impacts on NPC morale, or checks for attempts to raise it. ICly, this would be a minister that is, effectively, a fantasy equivalent of a pollster. Minister of Grievances, Minister of Concerns, Minister of Petitions, any of those would be appropriate as someone that sits and hears the many, many, many gripes and sometimes praises from the commoners or soldiers in a domain.

Upkeep is going to mitigate maintenance costs in domain. This would be an infrastructurial position, of a character ICly overseeing improvements that make a domain more efficient and prevent erosion, such as a character seeing to road repair, to making sure there's no shortages, to seeing to trades for better or cheaper building materials. Minister of Public Works, Minister of the Forge, Minister of the Wheel, etc would be appropriate thematic titles.

Population oocly is going to be population growth, which would be covered by housing, keeping track of marriage housing, births, divorces, deaths for the commons, keeping track of immigration, and so on. This would thematically be important in so much that the pro forma commoners wishing to leave or join a domain do have to swear or be granted leave from oaths, so often this would be Minister of Oaths, or Minister of the Hearth, or similar.

Productivity would be an aggregate mod to commerce that increases all of them, so this would be Minister of Charters, or Minister of Leases, or Minister of Writs, or similar. Remember that commoners typically do not own land, so any grant for someone to rent a property would effectively come from the lord, and similarly for merchant houses to operate in a domain. They'd have to be granted leave to do so, which means adding to an existing charter or creating one.

Land Ownership

Q1: What exactly /are/ the laws on land ownership? If a house owns land in one fealty, then changes membership to another fealty, do they get to just take that chunk of land with them to the new fealty, or do all the lands revert to their former liege to redistribute?

A: Land ownership is a misnomer, in the feudal system of Arvum. Everyone will think in those terms, but it really is more in the keeping of the liege above, all the way up the chain to the crown who very technically owns all land of Arvum. Very technically, in a way that even the peers don't really think in those terms, much less the crown, as there is a very deep seated respect for others' demesnes and it goes way beyond the pale to ever seize anything without an extremely well justified war or other event. But this does mean that respect for those land is based on traditional respect and not something truly binding, so it would be unheard of for land to pass to another fealty unless they sit on the border, since how can that possibly be defended? If a minor barony sworn to Redrain decided they wanted to be a vassal to Fidante, that's great, but they are surrounded then by tens of thousands of soldiers that have no reason at all to tolerate that, except for their good nature, and most lords are just not going to trust to the non-existant benevolence and permissiveness of their lieges for anything smacking of disloyalty. So while it has happened, those tiny islands usually last no more than a generation at best before the reality of holdouts are swallowed up again- and in fact quite a few Abandoned houses come from this, where they rebelled against their liege, are largely cut off from the rest of the Compact, and just eventually become an isolated island to themselves no longer recognized by anyone that is slowly picked apart over the years and fractures. A few rare cases have resulted in one house swearing to a new fealty and being granted new lands and a new peerage, while surrendering their own to their previous lord, as a result of extremely high level negotiations usually with the highlords and the crown in attendence to keep it from devolving into a really messy war. But yeah, anyone wanting to switch fealty has no good way of holding onto their own lands, so it is very, very, very rarely done except for border lands, which is why marches tend to be so significant.

Q2: What's the status of land ownership when it comes to commoners? It's been previously held that some notable families have land -- vinyards, lumber yards, etc. -- within their fealty. Is that land some they own outright akin to noble houses (and thus under the rules of whatever the answer to Q1 is), or is it land they hold in trust from the house whose territory it's in?

A: Commoners are in even more precarious spot. In terms of vows of fealty, commoners are granted freedom of movement as one of the reforms of Queen Alarice the Great to prevent serfdom from being much like slavery and allow commoners the right to leave the lands of their lords. This, however, doesn't address possessions at all. All commoner land that's 'owned' is really leased at the tolerance of their liege, and while commoners can have sellswords, they can't take vows of fealty themselves, meaning that their ability to defend any land is extremely questionable, particularly since it is very unlikely that all the lands between whatever new fealty they proclaim and their own lord's lands will just happen to allow armies of mercenaries free passage to set up in some vineyard somewhere to defend the claim. Typically in these cases, commoners would bargain with their old lords for a fair market value for the land they 'owned' before switching fealty, relying on the lord not wanting to look tyrannical or cheap and hurt their trade with other merchants to be fair. But that is purely about perception, and the ability to petition to higher authority here is extremely limited. Lieges of lords in question VERY RARELY intervene in such matters, and even more so the crown, since there is basically no incentive whatsoever to piss off a powerful vassal in order to placate a commoner that means nothing to them, and risk a war over some damned vineyard that is sitting on a vassal's land. So the odds of a merchant family keeping lands in a previous fealty's demesne is extremely slim, without some kind of contract that makes it worth the while to the old lord- there is not much hope of appeal here unless other powerful lords lean on both parties to seek neutral arbitration in court of Arx, in which case it almost always will just be some agreement about the sale of the land for something deemed fair, since most lords wouldn't want to risk alienating all other merchants by something as heavy handed as seizing it. On the other hand, if they are pissed off enough, that would be precisely what happens.

Lieges and Vassals

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.

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Q: Based on fealty Redrain isn't supposed to try and interfere with Sanna (for example) but should instead talk to Halfshav about meddling with Sanna. If that's accurate does the Crown actually have the entire Compact's fealty or just the fealty of the Great Houses?

A: Just the great houses and crownsworn, though most say 'ultimate fealty' to the crown, even if their direct vows are always to the liege. A sanna is sworn to halfshav who is sworn to redrain who is sworn to the crown.

Renouncing Fealty

Q: What is involved in renouncing fealty?

A: 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.

Taxes

Q: What would the typical percentage or rate of gross/net income be from a vassal house to a liege house?

A: By tradition, the Rule of Thirteens. They can't pay less than 1/13th of their gross income without being considered an oath breaker, with most typically offering ten percent. Similarly, if a lord calls their banners for war, vassals are obligated to answer the banners for at least thirteen time thirteen days (169 days of service). Lieges by tradition explicitly offer their bannermen the option to return home and tend to their house business after 13 months on a campaign, though many specifically refuse the offer to show their loyalty and stay until a campaign is finished.

Trading Protocols

Q: How does trade at the various levels work?

An example: If Bisland, a duchy, negotiates with a county in the Oathlands, the products they are offering comes from its Marches, and the product of the Marches come from its Counties, which gets product from their Barons.

So what aspects of the March's economy can Samantha negotiate on behalf of? If she's asked about products that are particularly the purview of one of her counties, how is that approached? When Bisland negotiates, are products produced in Deepwood inclusive to those agreements?

And with regard to embargos, if my liege opts to embargo trade, am I obligated to observe the embargo as well, or only if my liege explicitly insists that I do so?

A: Generally speaking, a liege doesn't have a lot of economic control over vassals- they can't unilaterally decide policy for vassals, and declare an embargo upon their behalf, or exert much macro level control over their economy. The historical standard of free reign for vassals to rule largely precludes that. But there are some notable exceptions.

First, taxes. Most of the taxes that are given to lieges aren't, in fact, any kind of income taxes. These are tariffs and duties placed on goods coming into their lands or leaving. In matters for a liege and vassal's border, it can usually be assumed the liege has control, and that means that taxes (up to 13 percent) are usually their discretion. Secondly, soft power is extremely common, and I intentionally go with a soft power approach because I believe this creates RP situations of characters lightly pressuring or encouraging their vassals and needing to form consensus that comes from RP, where hard power tends to be more mechanical and can be essentially automated. In other words, while yes technically all vassals have autonomy in their domains, it is extremely foolish to continuously defy the aims of a liege, and there will be mechanics in the coming social systems that could potentially make that ruinous.

Vassal House Numbers

Q: How many NPC vassal houses are there?

A: There's a few npc houses that aren't quite correct (don't take bank stuff to heart). Right now, every great house but the Lyceum has 3 ducal houses, with at the time of this post Grayson and Thrax having an npc one that will probably get defined eventually. Then all non-lycene ducal houses have 3 marches, with those in turn having 3 counties, and each county having 3 baronies. Generally.

For the Lyceum, they have more duchies and less smaller vassals to represent them being clustered in city-states and satellite towns. It's one grand duchy, 4 ducal houses, and then each ducal house having 2 marches, those having 2 counties, and 2 baronies.

There's some deviations to that, houses can be sworn to ones much higher in rank though it is unusual to do so, mostly due to geographic difficulties and how the majority of domains were created by carving off parts of their own. For the phantom NPC houses, we'll clean them up when dominion is coming in.

Health and Medicine

Birth Control

Q: Can birth control be used by men and women, or just women?

A: Birth control comes in the form of Limerance's Libertia, a plant that grows abundantly in almost every region and climate currently known to Arvum. Its leaves can be brewed into a nice tea, taken as a powder, chewed, etc. Limerance's Libertia is accepted at all levels of society, fully embraced in the culture of Arvum, and equally effective for both men and women. It prevents pregnancy with 100% certainty, whether one or both partners take it. Because conception of a child requires both consenting partners to forego birth control, unwanted pregnancies are very rare -- not entirely unheard of, but a bit of an anomaly in a world where pregnancy can be prevented with such certainty.

Drugs

Q: Are there ways to get Haze and Dust into the city that aren't through the LB crime network, or should it basically assumed that if people are doing drugs they're coming in through the smugglers and lowlifes in my neighborhood?

A: Primarily lower boroughs, but not necessarily the criminal network down there- Arx is the busiest port in the world, and that's an awful lot of smuggling even outside of the criminal families. There's a good amount of land based trade with some contraband coming in from caravans passing through seawatch gate. The majority of illegal smuggling is just any trade with Abandoned, it is unlawful to trade to anyone that refuses to recognize the authority of the crown. Abandoned just happen to live in a lot of poppy fields to boot.

Q: Just how bad is it to be a Dusthead or a Hazer in modern Arx? Socially, what are the ramifications for users? If you get caught using, is it a major scandal? I mentally associate like ... Dust = coke, Haze = pot, just in terms of ramifications, but even that seems incomplete. How high can you get?

A: It's pretty frowned upon if someone doesn't have it under control. Treated with a similar amount of disdain as a prodigal. Would it get a noble kicked out of their family? Maybe not, but it's often treated with a bit more disapproval than someone being a drunk. The Inquisition doesn't tend to lock up users, since use alone is not a crime, just the smuggling aspect, and then it would mostly be about whoever they can extort for profits, really. The Iron Guard would treat someone pretty much the same as a drunk, probably ignore them unless they are a problem. As for how high, in extreme cases dust causes hallucinations. Dust is an opiate, and Haze more like pot.

Q: How addictive is Haze?

3) It's not really, as a pot analogue.

Q: Does it make sense to cut Dust with Haze and what would that do if you did it? How do these drugs interact? SHOULD SOMEONE STORYREQUEST AND FIND OUT?

A: Drugs, and there will likely be a lot more, probably have a lot of interactions but how they interact would be based on quality, quantity, type, etc. In general most likely better highs, but for specifics yeah storyrequest.

Q: What is the minimum legal age for drug use in Arvum, 18, 21? Or does it vary by region, such as Redrain or Thrax lands starting earlier due to the ahrsher environment/culture where Grayson and valardin lands are later due to the more reserved culture?

A:It can always be assumed the legal age for everything is 18, however most would see drinking or use of lower grade narcotics as more the call of whoever is responsible for the children.

Midwives

Q: With the Queen of Endings returning to her role in the pantheon, so too have the Harlequins of Death made an appearance. One thing I have noticed they have become involved in is the role of midwife. Yet who were the midwives before Death was remembered? How do most Arvani view the Harlequins in this position over the other/s? Is there any tension between those whose duty this had been previously (and may still be, of course), or are the Harlequins welcomed?

A: Arvum's birth rates are significantly lower than a historical equivalent due to the prevalence of contraception, but it's still in the tens of millions of people. That's a lot of babies. The average midwife is not a disciple of any org, but she and the family often would traditionally say prayers to Lagoma during it. Most Mercies fo Lagoma are trained midwives, along with the rest of their medical teachings, but there's vastly more midwives than there are mercies, let alone harlequins. Keep in mind that without modern travel, and dangerous roads, means that training like that is pretty common even if it's a job that isn't necessarily needed very often, since a village thirty or forty miles from a large settlement just won't have time to summon someone in an emergency.

Old Age

Q: How old do people typically live in Arx? Does it differ between nobles and commoners and others in a notable way? When people do kick the bucket and a war isn't on, what are the typical things blamed for death?

A: "He died of a bad belly." Medical knowledge is a rough analogue to Galen and Hippocrates, so there's definitely no germ theory. The life expectancy of a commoner is probably in his 50s, and with many nobles living well into their 70s, mostly from differences in diet. There's usually not much attribution to demons or evil magic or the like, that sort of superstition is foreign to the mindsets of Arvani, but without germ theory then death by disease is typically talked about in terms of humors, and most organ collapses are described in very genreal terms. 'His heart gave out' is a pretty rough guess for a heart attack that might be more accurate than not. One core component missing- high child mortality rates. The herbal treatments in Arvum are potent to the point where they lack any real word analogue at all- which makes average life expectancy sky high by comparison to the middle ages, since the average dropped to squat when you average in that a large percentage of the population died immediately.

Honor Duels

Q: Are there hard and fast rules in Arx for the specifics of Dueling? i.e. Does the challenged get to set the circumstances of the duel such as the weapons to be used, if armor is allowed, etc. Also, who must declare their champion first?

A: It's traditional for the challenged party to pick the terms for any kind of honor duel and the particulars of the engagement, and then that would go back to the accusing party whether they want to withdraw the challenge or accusation. Similarly, if it's accusing someone of a crime, the challenged party is the one that decides if they want to settle trial by combat, they could just insist on a trial in their fealty or by a crown representative as the judge. The defender would declare their champion first typically, but that's just traditional politeness rather than a requirement. Politeness tends to be everything, since it's a matter of saving face after all as the point behind most duels.

Further, what should be remembered here is these are duels of honor to save public face. The population of Arx would be extremely unforgiving of someone trying to appear to honor it on the surface while trying set terms or conditions that would make it impossible. In other words, trying to arrange on a date that would be impossible would make someone look extremely bad, and so would trying to insist on conditions that would be humiliating for the participants involved. "We shall fight without armor to first blood" is appropriate, saying, "We will fight naked in an insult contest declaring how much we suck with each swing" would not be, and even proposing the latter would cause opprobrium. In short, honor duels are always dignified, since they are about defending the honor of those involved- never farcical.

Q: It's generally accepted that it's a bit gauche for people not to hire Champions to represent them in honor duels in lieu of having a non-Champion represent them or just representing themselves. However, are there exceptions to this? The question was most specifically about whether it would be gauche in the same way for a knight to represent themselves in an honor duel if challenged.

A: So this is a little sticky. Knights are experienced soldiers, but more than that, they are bastions of honor, and honor is very important to the Compact. In general, if a Knight was challenged to a duel over something minor, they would just apologize for the offense given, or the misunderstanding, because a Knight's honor can be besmirched by escalating petty squabbles. In VERY RARE cases where a Knight's actual honor had been insulted, such as someone in a white journal saying they murdered babies with impunity, or accusing them of betraying their lieges, it would be acceptable to fight a duel on their own behalf, but that's a very dangerous gambit - if the Knight loses, it means they are on the wrong end of the conflict, and people will whisper it's true. Their honor is doubly in doubt. Again, for Knights specifically it's much more common for them to defuse the situation and deal with the challenge that way - by getting it rescinded. Otherwise, if it was a petty thing that the challenger refused to put aside, they would hire a Champion in order to signal that the duel is not of much concern to them, and their Knightly honor is thus not truly on the line.

Q: Can I challenge an entire group, by using someone representative of a group, or say a house, organization, or other group has no honor or the like? Such as saying because of one person's actions they show an entire house has no honor?

A: No.

An honor duel should always be a specific offense that an apology would set to rights. That is the point of them. Someone causes a trivial offense, an apology is given, or someone refuses and effectively admits that they were out of line and were in the wrong, and aren't willing to fight to prove otherwise.

Saying a -group- has no honor is far, far more serious than it would seem, because the entire basis of the society is that when someone gives their word of honor, it can be relied upon no matter what. Saying a house is honorless would be grounds for war, and if it was a vassal doing so, it is likely they would be attainted and destroyed. That could lead to a case of house swords fighting to the death, for example. -That- is why honor duels are between individuals, and not groups.

Q: 1) How does a Noble go about ignoring a commoners challenge?

A: A commoner is beneath notice and would not be taken seriously until and unless a member of the peerage echoed their concerns, typically. It would just be ignored.

Q: 2) How does a Noble tell if ignoring a commoners challenge is harming them socially? Do they just gauge the White Journals, do they put in a +request to staff, do they just roll the dice and see if they take a prestige hit?

A: If someone of similar social rank to the challenged noble agrees that a commoner has a point, then it might be taken seriously. However, it is the view of the peerage that a commoner should NEVER challenge a noble as a criticism of their ability to rule, because a commoner does not have sufficient understanding of nobility to make that criticism, and pretending they do is trying to place themselves on the same level of their social betters. In other words, a noble committing a trivial offense is valid if another noble agrees the commoner has a point that a noble acted boorishly or beneath their dignity. A commoner saying that noble doesn't deserve to rule is very, very dangerous for the commoner and socially unacceptable.

Q: 3) What commoners (as a rule of thumb) should the Nobility not ignore in challenges?

A: Only those treated as members of the peerage due to their station, which is only the faith. Unless a commoner is questioning a noble's judgment as a ruler, leader, general, or their social better. Challenges may be made over slights if a noble supports them, but never over their fitness for the peerage.

Q: 4) If there is a challenge about whether to include a note with an anonymous gift (for example) does the population take the outcome as a hint from the Gods or is it just lawl silly duel? Would the results of a duel ever change general public actions?

A: Generally, most in Arvum shy away from honor duels as the same thing as Trial by Combat and very serious duels to the death. For showy honor duels, they tend to appreciate the ability to entertain, as long as it doesn't mock the institution.

The King's Own

Q: What are the King's Own?

A: The King's Own are the royal guard of the 'Crownbearer' of the day. At present that is King Alaric Grayson IV. They are famed to be among the best knights in all of Arvum and are reputed to have the greatest score of accomplishments across all military organizations across the continent. The knights therein typically hail from noble families, but it is not unheard of for some particularly talented commoner(s) who attain knighthood to be invited into the One Hundred by either the King/Queen or the Lord Commander.

Q: Where do the King's Own call home?

A: Crownguard Tower within Guardian Square of the Ward of the Crown. It is a formidable place that due to the Thraxian Treason of 713 AR, is almost as famous as the King's Own itself. It has a storied history and has been witness to many, many acts of heroism throughout known history. Their duties naturally extend to the palace, where they function as the main source of security(sometimes backed by the Iron Guard) for the palace and the royal occupant(s) within.

Q: Who do the King's Own owe their loyalty and allegiance?

A: The King or Queen of the time. The King's Own swear themselves in an oath of loyalty to only the Crownbearer. This does not mean that the King's Own are unable to have acquaintances, friends, contact their families which they (theoretically) give up, or even a lover or lovers. They must remain loyal solely to the Crown. Naturally the King's Own will report to others as a matter of professional courtesy, such as the Ministry of Defense or the Regent/Voice of the day. As much to cooperate with those beyond the king/queen as to limit the burden of their constant attentions being hefted onto the Crown. There is a chain of command, but the King's Own are very fluid among it, and if they feel an order poses some manner of risk to their liege, they may very well summarily ignore it. When it is all said and done however, the King's Own, the Lord Commander in particular, reports to one entity within Arx: The King or Queen.

Q: What happens if the Sovereign is in a coma? What do the King's Own do then?

A: They ensure the safety of the Crown. Historically this has been a fairly mundane role of babysitting a potato. There is currently an IC movement within the King's Own to grant them some forward momentum as far as becoming involved with matters beyond guarding an individual that doesn't get out much and is the Arx Staring Contest Champion for at least the past years. It is my belief that the King's Own has plenty of NPCs that are able and willing to protect the King At Rest. As a result the PCs should be more protagonist than background flavor. The King's Own are very professional, but they take their duties very seriously, so their becoming more proactive in matters related to the safety of the Crown is not beyond the realm of reason. It is something which I hope to bring to the forefront for the King's Own, that they are more than a static background piece and are the most loyal protectors of the Crown; sometimes protection means more than standing in one place and watching a spud grow.

Q: What are the legal boundaries the King's Own are restricted by/to, both within and beyond the palace?

A: Due to their reputation as the defenders of the Crown and being among the greatest knights across Arvum, their word alone often does carry with it some measure of weight. While they may not have full authority within the Ward of the Compact or the Ward of the Crown, they are at least regarded with respect and their opinion on a matter can carry some weight or generally influence the common citizenry. The King's Own largely have autonomy as far as their jurisdiction and power within and surrounding the palace is concerned. Were a scuffle to break out within the palace, the King's Own could toss that individual or individuals into the palace dungeons until one or all parties involved learn to 'use their words' or those same parties could be handed over to the Iron Guard. The palace, it's safety, and the king/queen that resides within it are the priority of the King's Own, so their word is often the first and last pertaining to it. Beyond the palace that same authority is often encapsulated when in the presence of the king/queen; for example if the King's Own order someone to step back at the Judgement Green, it's at that individual's own risk that one would ignore the order and attempt to come closer.

Q: Is becoming a knight of the King's Own a lifelong obligation?

A: Short answer? Yes. Long answer? The situations vary along a sliding scale of how dishonorable, if at all, it would appear to be. Have a love-child with a random lover and thus must request leave from the sworn vow in order to see to this newly birthed child? Clearly you hadn't taken your vow seriously and that is highly dishonorable. You've performed feats of valor and just don't have the energy to continue? It may not be dishonorable and would likely result in a dismissal from the vow, even if just a tiny bit reluctantly. You simply want out because you want out? No wise employer would maintain a bodyguard that doesn't want to protect them with their life. It is likely a highly dishonorable means of getting out of the King's Own, but just as likely not a foreign concept. As stated before the situations and reasoning are varied, with the level of their reception depending on the precise reasoning behind the knight's choice to request their leave.

Knighthood

Q: What does a typical oath of knighthood look like? When someone is knighted for the first time I assume they swear an oath to the House or person that's knighting them?

A: This varies wildly by region, there's not a single unified way of doing so. It's usually expected one will ask the knight to show different chivalric virtues and serve faithfully on the field of battle, and then it is expected for the Knight to pledge their sword in service to those knighting them. This does mean that a knight must be formally granted permission to leave service (or kicked out of service, as the case may be) to not be considered an oathbreaker for most knightings, but any knight can knight another.

Knightings for a house are often done by the House Sword or by the lord, but neither of these are necessary, and really just how traditional they are feeling. A very formal vow, such as done in the Oathlands by the Sword of Sanctum for service to House Valardin, might go like:

"Do you swear your life, your sword and your sacred honor in service to Prince Edain Valardin, Prince of Sanctum and Highlord of the Oathlands?" "Do you pledge to defend the gods and their church, protecting the Faith of the Pantheon?" "Do you pledge to protect the weak and the defenseless, will you be a shield for those that need shelter, and a sword against those that would harm them?" "Do you swear to act with courtesy and dignity, and bring no dishonor upon your sworn lord?" "Do you swear to keep your word sacred, tell no lies, and take no oaths that would interfere with your service?" "Do you swear to obey any lawfully given command, that would stain your honor?" "Will you show valor in combat, and give no ground unless ordered to do so?" "Do you swear to act fairly and kindly, to reflect the grace of the gods?" "Then rise a knight."

Unsurprisingly, many houses clip out quite a few of those, and an 'Oathlands Knighting' is sometimes used as slang for excessively formal ones with way too many vows.

Q: Following the semi-historical paradigm, I am assuming that some (but certainly not all) future knights start out as squires? Would this work similar to fostering out a child (esp. in noble families) to strengthen ties to an individual or different family? I realized I have been making a lot of past background assumptions about Ouida by imagining she was squired/fostered out for training purposes (being the 2nd spare) when she was young. Is this an OK thing to do?

A: Yeah, it follows the page->squire->knight paradigm and it's fine to be fostered out, but with one core thematic difference- it's very frowned upon for those under 18 to be in battle, in so much that adults look irresponsible or cruel. It's considered dishonorable to have child soldiers, as a teaching of Gloria. Generally, characters below 18 that saw battle in their past would be considered as non-combatant observers or the like.

Law and Order

Courts

Inside their own domains, a lord traditionally has complete authority. Courts as they exist are NOT a check and balance against the authority of the executive, like they are in modern societies in the real world. Not at all. They exist to carry out the will of the ruler of the domain, and judge as they would, because no lord has time to oversee every minor dispute. This doesn't make courts powerless, as few lords wish to have the embarrassment of overruling someone that they themselves appointed and theoretically have their authority, because it makes them look incompetent and weak, but courts also have to be extremely careful about not ruling in ways contrary to the opinions of the lord of the domain, because they would immediately be replaced. This does get muddled when some lords, for difficult political decisions such as two vassals squabbling over an issue that want arbitration, intentionally allow one of their judges to rule on it, see how much blame they get, then overrule it if it appears the other way might be advantageous politically.

Incarceration

Long term incarceration does not exist thematically under most normal circumstances. Typically, anyone accused of a crime is held until a trial for no more than a period of several weeks, with a date immediately set, but even then most highborn or notables who aren't deemed a flight risk would be paroled with terms set, and in some cases, assigned guards to guarantee compliance and return them for trial. For the guilty, extreme crimes are usually met with execution (by hanging is most common), or exile, or outlaw (as a variant of exile), with crimes below that being given heavy fines, public physical punishment (flogging for example), or forced labor but not confinement. Madness, where someone is deemed a constant threat to themselves and others, is one of the only case where long term confinement might commonly result, under care most often by the Knights Solace and Mercies if the ill has no family to care for them.

OOCly, long term incarceration is a modern punishment, and doesn't really fit theme, but even if it did I wouldn't have it in the game, because it's too easy to have characters effectively killed off for minor crimes as a result. This also means that any PC should not be confined for more than a couple weeks at most, and even then only if they have a set trial date going into it. Even then, most PCs should be paroled while waiting trial unless the character is a very clear, unambiguous risk.

Inquisition

Q: Could Inquisitors be Crownsworn or does it not matter?

A: Doesn't matter.

Iron Guard vs Inquisition

Q: I'd like it if the distinction between the Iron Guard and Inquisition's duties can be clarified here so that it gets asked on a less daily basis. That is, the Enforcer vs. Investigative thing.

A:. The Iron Guard keep the peace, both as a military force under the command of a crown for Arx's immediate security, and maintaining law and order in the streets. They are the equivalent of beat cops to modern sensibilities. If they witness a crime, or a crime happens while they are around, they will pursue a criminal. If it is at all vague who is responsible, and there is not a clear indication of who the guilty is, then it goes to the Inquisition, and the Inquisition decides if it is worth their while to investigate.

For commoners to be arrested on suspicion, one of the protections is the equivalent of a grand jury if they have any kind of lawyer recognized by the Crown as representing them, in the classic medieval sense rather than the modern one. IE, that a lawyer makes certain that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial and make the accused go through the ordeal (which in the Inquisition, can have context of 'ordeal' as in 'trial by Ordeal', ie torture). Torturing or arbitrarily jailing someone or executing them when the accused has a crown representative can be seen as disregarding a crown mandate, which would in turn be treason, and can get someone executed themselves. That said, relatively few commoners keep a lawyer, which gives the Inquisition de facto power to arrest largely whoever they want whenever they want, since there's no one from the crown telling them otherwise, and there's been quite a few cases of powerful merchants' retained counsel suspiciously saying they had zero problems with the charges being brought up, or magistrates saying even the flimsiest charges could go forward.

It becomes far more complicated for nobles, as peers of the realm can only be tried by their peers- ie, to even arrest a noble, it typically falls to other nobles to do so, even assuming they are in the ward of the crown. In theory all iron guard or inquisition are crown representatives, in practice nobility in the institutions are prized simply because it gives them the authority as a peer to hold other peers suspected of breaking crown laws while in the ward of the compact or crown or boroughs (iron guard and inquisition have no authority whatsoever in the wards owned by the great houses).

tl;dr- iron guard only hunt for known criminals and do on the spot arrests, typically. Inquisition for all deeper investigations or turning up known suspects. Crown recognized lawyers are a thin protection for commoners. Only peers can arrest peers.

Q: Staff has previously clarified that the Inquisition and Iron Guard do not have authority in the Wards controlled by the Great Houses. (http://arx.mythicus.net/Theme_Questions#Iron_Guard_vs_Inquisition).

As a follow-on question: Who has authority over the noble houses located inside of the Wards of the Great Houses? For instance, does Victus have authority over Darkwater Reach such that Thrax guards can bust in and arrest someone? Or do the individual houses fall within the demesne of the House that owns them, such that the normal rules regarding liege-vassal relations apply?

A: This is one of those cases where everything is by tradition rather than codified law. The inquisition, iron guard or other crown entities do not have authority in the wards of great houses, nor do they have it in manors in those wards. Traditionally, the authority of the heads of houses in the manors in the wards is respected, but unlike their own demesnes where they have absolute control, the wards are seen as the land of the great house. In other words, someone is living in a manor and house guards of the great house would traditionally not enter without permission, but the highlord could deny someone the rights to -build- a manor, or even forbid them entry from the ward entirely even if their manor is on the ward. So there's a great deal more practical power in highlord's hands, as their manor is effectively built on land that they do not own, even if their authority inside it is respected.

Jurisdiction

Q: Does the Inquisition have jurisdiction for crimes committed on lands outside of Arx? Is trial by combat a universal right? What rights do commoners have?

A: It depends.

It matters quite a bit on the nature of the crime, who is the victim of the crime, where the crime took place, and who is accused of the crime. In theory, the only one that has the power of High Justice (the ability to pass a capital sentence), would be the crown, but in effect that's practiced by any lord in their own domain, and if the accused is one of their own vassals and the crime is against one of their vassals and it happened on their land, no one will gainsay their right to try and conduct justice however the domain holder pleases. When those circumstances are different, that's when it gets complicated.

Trials for crimes typically happen in the domains where the crime was committed, particularly if the victim was sworn to that domain. And traditionally, verdicts from those trials are honored, but there is not any formal laws prohibiting double jeopardy, nor is there a unified code of law- this is entirely tradition and respect and deference shown from one peer to another. The issues arise when the victim is not sworn to that domain and/or the accused is no longer there. Then it gets complicated.

There is no formal system of extradition, and the authority and jurisdiction between different domains is not clearly defined. If a crime is a 'low crime', meaning something that is not capital and cannot result in execution or banishment/outlaw from the Compact, then generally the consensus is that someone will face justice if they return to the lands they committed an offense, but there is generally little interest in pursuing a criminal except as a matter of courtesy from one lord to another. For example, a crownsworn vassal accused of stealing Mildred the Cow from the Barony of Noonecaresville and now in Arx is unlikely to face even token harassment from the Inquisition, until and unless they are accused of something else. In fact, it's more likely to just be used as a threat to pressure them, unless Baron Von Pompous protests loudly to the Inquisition and demands the filthy cow thief is returned to him or forced to pay the full value of Mildred or have assets seized. In theory, this means the Inquisition has enormous power to stomp down on anyone accused of having a dark past of chicken thefts and have their assets seized as justice for their victims.

Crownsworn commoners are, in theory, entitled to a trial if they are accused in Arx. Once they are formally accused and arrested, if they have a lawyer that represents them, the lawyer can formally request from a crown justice that the accused has sufficient reason to doubt their guilt that they are spared any ordeal, or possibly released with bail or released on their own recognizance. If the formally accused does not have a lawyer, or one willing to represent them, it's not fun times for them, because the Inquisition then has the right to question them... including by ordeal (torture). Lawyers' power to 'spare someone an ordeal' is a very big deal. For Peers, they are always entitled to doubt, as long as their liege vouches for them. In the good old days of Shreve's inquisition, few trials were necessary, as the accused was tortured, confessed, and thus convicted. It was a very tidy system. And often they didn't bother with accusing someone at all, and just snatched them off the street. Or admitting whatever happened to people that were disappeared. The inquisition has some lingering bad feels towards them for this.

Now for high crimes (those that can result in execution or banishment), in theory only the crown has the ability to sentence someone to execution, or a lord in their own domain, and these are (in theory) supposed to always come under review, and were in the time of Alarice the Great as one of her reforms. In practice, few lieges want to go to war with a crazy vassal that hangs commoners for stealing cows, and tries to pressure them off it for short of war, but it does still happen, and usually the threat of intervention is enough to keep even despotic lords on the straight and narrow. Commoners are entitled to a trial for this, though typically requests for trial by combat are only honored if, and only if, the Faith and justices agree that there is sufficient doubt on the part of the accused to justify this, and requests for a trial by combat can be denied if a godsworn representative of the Faith agrees the evidence is overwhelming. Peers however can request that they only be tried by peers- meaning someone of equal social rank or better, including a jury of peers. Peers are far more likely to be afforded trial by combat at their own request.

tldr- The inquisition does not try anyone, though they can question people and hope for a confession if the individual doesn't have a lawyer that spares them for ordeal. If there is sufficient evidence to arrest, then someone is seized, and awaits trial for a high crime, or is bailed out for a low crime.

Q: Previous theme posts have said any noble house can execute cow thieves on their lands and at best there can be pressure from their Liege or the Faith to alter that behaviour... What limitations are their on punishing/executing a noble? Example: Arik gets drunk and takes a whiz on a shrine in the Oathlands. Is he entitled to a trial? Can he demand a duel? Can whatever House runs the land he is on summarily do whatever to him?

A: They can do whatever they want with him... if they are willing to risk a war. There's no firm laws on this, only traditions and expected behavior. If a noble committed an offense that would bring shame on his house, and he was summarily executed on another house's lands, it might pass without comment. Or, it might be seen as an outrage and they go to war even for daring to hold someone for trial. The traditions would usually be for any capital offense, it is expected that judgment involves a trial involving at least a representative of the Faith, but most nobles would immediately have witnesses from the offender's family, the crown and respective lieges, because they would want the proceedings to be as unobjectionable as possible to avoid justifications for war. For anything less than a capital offense, generally an offender would be paroled to their own family, or banished from their lands, or both. Trials by combat are traditionally granted if there is a lack of any hard evidence and sufficient doubt in the minds of the judges and the attending seraph to justify it.

Magistrates

Q: How many magistrates and staff are employed by the court? Are the bailiffs provided by the Guard, or are they Court employees as well?

A: Several hundred. A squad of Iron Guardsmen are usually on hand for peacekeeping at any trial, under the control of the Iron Guard. Accused that were questioned by the Inquisition are usually escorted to the court by confessors. The court does not have any armed retainers under its own control, but Iron Guardsmen at the court typically would follow instructions from any magistrate within reason.

Q: Are magistrates peers by necessity, or are there commons among their ranks?

A: A judge may only sit in judgement over their social equal or inferiors, never their social betters. In other words, a judge is expected to always be equal or higher social rank than those they sit in judgment over.

Q: The only 'court-related' building I know of on grid is the Commoner's Court. Are all of the Court's functions housed there, or is there another building I'm missing?

A: For low and medium justice, yes. High justice would usually be handled at the Assembly of Peers if it was sitting judgment over a peer, or at the judgment greens for a commoner for high crimes. The palace throne room would also be a place for high justice at the discretion of the crown, and for faith trials, the star chamber at the top of the Rectory for their internal conclaves.

Statute of Limitations

Q: I've read twice now that in Arx/Arvum there is a Statute of Limitations wherein you can't be charged with a crime if it was comitted a year+ ago. Is this true? Can I have some clarification on this? Thank you!

A: For the legal nerds, and I'm looking at our lawyers among our players, Arvum follows the medieval concepts of low justice, middle justice, and high justice, even if I don't explicitly state it to avoid confusion.

For low justice, which means petty or trivial offenses that are typically punished on the spot by the Iron Guard if caught in the act, the Inquisition typically will not pay notice to the most trivial of offenses past 13 weeks ('Bob punched me in the face'), or to the slightly less trivial for no more than 13 months ('Bob stole my chicken, Henrietta Clucksworthy. I want her back.')

For middle justice, more serious offenses that do not fall into capital punishments, exile, or outlaw, this is not taken notice for more than thirteen years, but this varies extremely widely outside of Arx as there is no uniform code of law, and every single domain holder enforces things differently. If a local lord hangs Bob for stealing Henrietta, there's not a lot that Bob's family can do about it.

For high justice, there's no statute of limitations, and in the Eyes of the Sentinel, these are offenses that justice must be brought, and the scales need to be righted. Always with formal trial. In theory, the right to capital punishment rests only with the Sovereign of Arx, but in practice this means anyone empowered by the crown to make decisions on their behalf- Shreve definitely interpreted that very broadly and followed proscription, signing death warrants left and right.

Trial by Combat

Champions

Q: Hi! Thematically speaking, how would a court/defendant go about getting a champion for a trial by combat? How would this play out in a House's demesne and in Arx proper?

A: For a defendant, they can name anyone that is willing to stand for them, or choose to represent themselves (if no one else is willing).

For the accusers, it depends. For a capital case, if the victim was a peer, almost certainly the House Sword of the victim's House would offer to represent them, as its a matter of House honor. In case when it was a commoner, if the court agrees to a trial by combat, then the house sword of the lord trying them in a local domain would often offer to stand if their lord requested it, or a representative of the Faith would be common, one of the local templars.

In Arx, the Court would often petition asking for someone who would champion the gods, and typically there's not a shortage of templars wishing to prove their worth, or alternately they can ask for aid from the Iron Guard, or Inquisition, who might generously offer to have one of their own swords represent the Crown. If the victim was someone of special merit to the crown, such a favorite of the king, the champion could be none other than the Lord Commander of the King's Own. But the court does not have the authority to force anyone to fight for it, and it is always in a position of asking.

The Lyceum

Succession/Conclaves

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.

A: 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.

Magic

Elves

Q: The Queen is a Nox'Alfar does the general population know/believe that? There's an embassy to the Nox'Alfar and technically one to the Marin'Alfar do people just think these are weird foreigners or are elves one of the mythical things they generally accept as real?

A: The common people think the Nox'alfar are another shav tribe and that it's odd they are giving shavs an embassy and that the king married a shav. Elves, to them, are nonsense.

Setarco and Magic

Q: So the battle at Setarco had an army of monsters, and there were a lot of soldiers there from different fealties of The Compact. So I'm curious how that has effected the natural skeptical nature of Compact citizens. Are the belief in monsters more wide spread? Are soldiers of The Compact treated as insane? Or did soldiers in that battle write off all the monsters as just trained, inbred and deformed animals?

A: Initially, very little of the first, and mostly the third with a little bit of the second. Most citizens of the Compact scoffed at the wild, obvious vainglorious stories attempting to describe some poor large dogs of war as monsters, and are indignant that veterans of the battle would insult their intelligence by trying to claim that 'monsters' were there (but thank you for your service, btw). A great many soldiers change their stories after the fact, saying they found things they couldn't really explain, but don't want anyone to think of themselves as crazy.

However, in very recent weeks, there's been much less pushback against it. Something might be changing.

Writs and the Despite

So while I try to avoid spoilers, and I won't explain this too much for people that don't know what I'm talking about, there's a very important clarification here for these two things so people can RP about them well. Separate but sometimes vaguely related.

Writs: magical compulsion, it effects -intent-. In other words, there's no trying to get around the wording, because it is based on the understanding a character has of the spirit of it, generally. So there's a big loss of agency, but there's an important ooc reason in that characters with them generally are able to compromise other PCs and get them killed through no fault of her own, so it's often necessary for fair game play. Because of that, any attempt to rebel or get around a writ has to be cleared with staff, no exceptions on them. Can't sand box them at all.

The Despite of Fable on the other hand is a bit different. Player Characters -can- draw conclusions about missing information, if they've forgotten something, and there's reasonable reasons to think something might be going on. It's not the same kind of compulsion that would be self-reinforcing, so if they forget something, but there's compelling evidence that would suggest that's the case, characters can reasonably draw the right conclusions from it.

Nobility

Alaric III

Q: Though I'm sure there's plenty of private stuff that the common peasant or uninterested noble wouldn't know about Alaric the Third, what's generally considered common knowledge about his life? What was his personality, how long was his rule, any major changes in law or culture during his reign, et cetera. Basically whatever your basic commoner would know.

A: Born in 950 AR, he was widely respected even in his youth as taking his responsibilities extremely seriously, with a reputation for compassion, integrity and thoughtfulness while crown prince and learning from his father, King Alerius II. While still crown prince, Alaric the Elder led the Gray Forest Campaign to make the roads between Arx, Pridehall, Bastion and Ashford Keep safe, starting with the Gray Forest Campaign of 970 AR, and continuing through most of his later reign under the leadership of Duke Gabriel Bisland, who was seen as his most trusted military commander. As king, he was much beloved by the commons and respected by the Peerage, and his fondness for holding open court and hearing petitions from the people of Arx often had a very young Alaric IV observing and was adopted by Alaric IV, whose accessibility and easy manner exceeded that of his father, who while fair made certain he was stern enough to never give peers cause to question his rule.

He was very non-interventionist in terms of crown control, allowing vassals to quarrel and war amongst themselves as long as it posed little concern to the Compact as a whole, Grayson lands, or Arx in particular. This was a very tradionalist policy, and adopted by most vassals outside the Mourning Isles (whose interventionist style was seen as tyrannical), and was seen in the Tor-Southport war and similar conflicts, where the Grand Duchess of the Lyceum also did not take sides, and Alaric III would not comment on who he saw as right in the conflict, fearing doing so would spread the conflict and potentially turn it into a general war between the Oathlands and the Lyceum. This is why he was so slow in intervening in the Tyde Rebellion, only sailing for the Mourning Isles when it appeared that both the Northlands and the Lyceum were going to join in and turn it into a Compact wide war.

Alaric III was a respected, much liked, defender of the status quo. Which despite his general popularity, would not please everyone.

Bastards

Q: We have lots of cases of noble men knocking up commoners and we know that their children grow up as commoners until/unless they're acknowledged (Dawn, Victus, Gideon), but we don't have any cases (that I know of) of noble/royal women having bastard children. Would their children automatically inherit their mother's status? Does this require the head of the family to acknowledge them? Does it change if the father does or does not acknowledge them?

A: No difference in genders. No child is automatically considered legitimate and noble unless it's born in wedlock between two noble parents. If a noblewoman had a commoner lover and gave birth to a child outside of wedlock, the same kind of condemnation due to recklessness would apply for not using contraception, along with the expected acknowledgement of the child, with then societal pushback if the child was further granted noble title.

Casual Nobles

Q: Are commoners generally accepting of nobility that eschews their titles/privilege? If Lord McMuffin walks into a bar and goes, call me McMuffin, don't bow to me, I didn't earn being noble, I was just born to it. Etc etc. How would they react?

A: Depends on the person and commoner, but now they aren't their social betters, so some might think they are dumb to give up their rights, some might respect it, some might beat them up and take their stuff, some might be intensely sympathetic, etc.

Consort Titles

Q: How should a 'consort' title be used ICly? Is it something that most people would only use formally?

A: Can be, it's a formal IC title to distinguish the difference between the ruling title holder of a demesne and their spouse, but people aren't clasped in irons or stretched on the rack for forgetting it since it usually seen as extremely formal usuage.

Courtship

Q: Are courting periods between nobles thematic, and if so, what is the average length of courtship?

A: This is generally expected for marriage pacts in so much that if two houses are creating carefully arranged treaties, they want to be sure the future happily couple can theoretically tolerate one another enough to not completely screw up the plans of their families. Three months is common, and the length is usually stipulated into the treaty negotiations. For love matches, which are already seen as selfish, courtship doesn't factor in since they would implicitly be seen as in love and doing their own thing over their families' desires. Some still would out of feelings of tradition, but it wouldn't really change the societal approval or disapproval one way or the other.

Crowns Et Al.

Q: What are the thematic norms and/or laws regarding the wearing of laurels, crowns, diadems, coronets, circlets, etc? Is only the king allowed such ornamentation? Can High Lords wear them? What about all landed titles or all nobles? Are certain features limited to certain ranks? Only the monarch is allowed to have arches or is the only one allowed to have previous stones in their headwear for instance.

A: There's no laws regarding them, or sumptuary laws in general, as I don't believe those quite thematically fit. There would, however, be quite a bit of unspoken societal conventions on what would be appropriate. The king/queen of the compact definitely have an heirloom crown (since the time of the crownbreaker wars, since the crown of alarice was lost in the chaos and the crown of King Alarius was shattered), and each of the 5 great houses have an heirloom crown, which I might design eventually, but circlets or tiaras or the like would probably be seen a fine for the upper echelons of nobility, where it might be seen as ostentatious or putting on airs for lower rank nobility. We might do something with this with +fashion eventually.

Heirloom Weapons

Q: Do houses ever change their heirloom weapons? For example might a house adopt an alaracite sword that was used in some great victory to be their new heirloom weapon, replacing a rubicund or diamondplate weapon the glory of which might have faded with the years?

A: It happens from weapons being lost, for example. What happens if this leads to multiples? The older one is never, ever retained as a personal weapon. Not ever. That would be immensely disrespectful to the legacy of the house, so in effect, any older one is permanently retired and still only used in matters of house honor or war. Heirlooms besides weapons are often given that distinction, used only in ceremonial or highly respectful traditions and never for personal use, when they are replaced or made redundant.

Q: Is it perfectly acceptable to have someone named as the House Sword without actually having a specific weapon named as the house weapon and/or heirloom weapon?

A: Yes. However, heirloom weapons are often seen as symbolic representations of a House's longevity, successful martial history, and honor, and there's quite a bit wrapped up in them. It would be uncommon to change an heirloom weapon, as that sort of history is effectively lost with the corresponding loss of prestige, similar to a house changing its name. Those sort of things happen, but they are seen as a much larger transitional point than naming a House Sword.

To be named a House Sword is an honor not done lightly, similar to being named a voice,in so much that the house effectively says it trusts the Sword to represent the house in matters of honor on the battlefield, particularly for a Champion Challenge, when two armies will decide an outcome with an often fatal duel rather than the armies going to war. More than one case shavs have bent the knee after their champion was slain in such a challenge, rather than persist in a war afterwards.

Though rare, having a house sword is seen as important, whether the house has an heirloom weapon or not. And any such weapon has to start somewhere, after all, often being named after the first major event in a House's history where it and its Sword carrying it distinguished themselves.

Leaving the Peerage

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Marriage

Q) While the theme doc says that marriage is more informal and common law amongst commoners, it's a more formal practice amongst nobility. Is there a formal ceremony involved in this? Is it religious or contractual? Do these ceremonies differ from faction to faction?

A) Vastly more formal. Commoners have freedom to marry whoever, whenever they want in regards to other commoners. Nobles very much do not if they want to stay nobles. Any match has to be approved both by their own head of house, and further any match has to be approved by the Faith and formally recognized in a marriage ceremony to be seen as valid, and for children from the bond to be considered legitimate. This means that the Faith essentially does have veto power over noble marriages (see Fawkuhl's proclamation about marriages not being performed for a time), and with some legates massive bribery to block or approve marriages was not uncommon. Religious and contractual both, and ceremonies do have regional variance, but all blessed by the Faith. Even shamanistic houses still have to have faith approval to be considered valid by the rest of the Compact.

Q: I understand from the news files that marriage among the nobility is basically a business/political contract (and one taken very seriously), and love generally has little to do with. However, I'm curious about what cultural role love plays in noble marriages, if any. Is it a case where it's a polite fiction that marriages are love (even if they generally aren't) and people are expected to pretend they're in love with their spouse? Will protestations of love help sell an unpopular match? Or is there scorn for letting such a think as fickle emotion compromise the very serious duty of contracts between houses? Or something in between--it's nice if you love the person you're marrying, but no one considers it a requirement?

A: Generally speaking, culturally Limerance is more the god of fidelity than of love, and that's an important distinction, in so much that duty and obligation weighs much more heavily than romantic ideals. This is a large part why culturally and religiously noble marriages are treated differently, since they have different bonds of fidelity and obligation between families as well as individuals, meaning that in many ways the expectation for spouses to keep their word to one another has a greater weight culturally than the expectation of any love between them. Since ultimately, honoring those vows about fidelity is much more significant than any nice-but-not-required romantic love, which unfortunately does result in a lot of unhappy marriages. Commoners, on the other hand, have no expectation of creating an alliance or bringing families together, even in the cases of powerful merchant houses or the like, so it's much more casual and love there is expected.

Q: Hi. I'd asked on Info channel about the existence of (gender/sex neutral) dowries and whether they would be paid to the house gaining a new member or to the house losing a member. Hellfrog said that dowries really didn't exist. My understanding is that trade pacts and agreements for military support (please don't kill any Archdukes named Ferdinand) were more along the lines of what to expect when allying two houses via the bonds of marriage. What are reasonable requests/arrangements along these lines when negotiating marital contracts?

Q: In conjunction with Sophie's question, what do noble marriage contracts typically look like? Would there be great differences between a contract between a non-landed and landed noble contract? What about a High Lord contract vs. other noble contracts? Additionally, I know the theme files talk about non-monogamy clauses if agreed upon by the marriage, but are there non-non-monogamy clauses if the parties intend to be monogamous (or is that just understood, if there is NOT a non-monogamy clause)?

A: Marriage pacts will mirror the interests of the houses, and 'reasonable' can be a tricky term there. By ancient tradition, titleholders aren't allowed to marry, and one of the two must abdicate and give up their claims on their birth family's holdings. For primary line marriages that stand in a direct line for inheritance (children, nieces, nephews, siblings and cousins of the titleholder), this usually represents a tremendous concession, so it tends to be the house that is 'gaining' the noble that in turn will pay for the costs of the marriage and ensuing celebration (which for great houses, could run into the hundreds of thousands of silver easily, and such marriage celebrations are usually a display of strength and grandeur). For someone that's not a claimant, that tends to be much less of a factor, and they tend to be a dryer negotiation with the two houses discussing what military obligations they should have to one another, often with a contract specifying how many sworn swords they may offer in the event of being threatened, and 'with all our power' being a common phrase to mean that if one house is threatened, they are all in. Trade agreements tend to be sweeping changes that might last generations, like the abolition of tariffs, tax incentives for their own merchants doing business in X, military agreements on who might watch over what caravans and where, and an awful lot of extremely dry details I don't want to go into great length about since very, very, very few players would enjoy discussing them. This will be very relevant when Dominion is in, but not so much now, as trade will very much be A Thing, and those will have a not insignificant relevance on the prosperity of houses, and directing trade towards an ally might make another house salty when they see their incomes drop by someone else being favored. And that's largely the tricky thing with anytime it's very abstracted and handwaved, in the current state, in that it is easy to say what people gain, but very very difficult to show the ramifications of it in what might produce unintentional consequences on others, in a way that makes the choices more difficult rather than pro forma.

As for contracts themselves, who is marrying into which house is common, and also if any of the children are being raised as wards of the other family- and would in effect be members of the other house. It can be assumed marriages allow lovers (but never children by them, with safe, extremely reliable contraception being a thing thematically), ONLY somewhere between the way RL noble marriages worked for men, and the way 'modern' marraiges 'allow' them. FOr example, if you cheat on your spouse you are probably not going to be stoned to death or immediately divorced, but they certainly don't have to like it. More, it is just accepted that discreet dalliances are bound to happen in loveless unions -- unless otherwise specified with phrases like 'And none shall come between us in our hearts' or other similar flowery phrases that mean they must be monogamous. Breaking those is an extremely big deal, since if someone does break a marriage vow, the injured party and/or the Faith of the Pantheon is free to declare the marriage pact null and void, completely invalidating any of those trade agreements, military alliances, etc. More common is the guilty party being dennobled, the guilty party's family making some kind of concession, and the pact continues on. Of course, more often than not, 'guilt' is a matter of debate, and this leads to wars if they refuse arbitration by the Crown or Faith. It should be noted that marriage contracts stipulations about monogamy must be equal- it must be closed and monogamous for both parties by contract, or assumed to be handled privately in the case of lovers for both parties, if no such thing is stipulated. Often marriage contracts will specifically outline what would follow if they divorce, to try to avoid that kind of messiness, as the Arxian equivalent of a prenuptial agreement. These are uncommon, as most families would distrust it and see it as casting doubt on the fidelity of the other party, which is a pretty big insult- remember that while the culture is extremely sexually permissive and progression, what replaces most of the hardline beliefs is a deep religious conviction around -fidelity-, so keeping word is a really, really, really big deal. Someone that's declared faithless in effect doesn't have a claim to the loyalty of all those sworn to them, which is what Fawkuhl tried to do unsuccessfully with the highlords he excommunicated.

Divorce

Q: I am not sure if I accidentally missed anything about this topic listed but I am curious. Is divorce something common theme wise? What happens if someone who was a commoner marries a lord, becoming a lady or vise versa when they do divorce? Does the title stay? Do they lost the title do to the divorce? What if an heir was already born for the marriage before the divorce is request? How does the church look upon divorce?

A: For commoners, it's as simple as saying they are no longer married, and that's that. For nobles, it's a much different matter.

Nobles marrying commoners is exceedingly uncommon, because it is looked down upon as a house intentionally permitting someone to selfishly pursue their own desires at the cost to the house, and not improving their standing among the peerage- and more importantly, not creating the kind of bonds that could prevent war and bring the Compact closer together. A commoner and noble marrying is uncommon, and divorce typically is much easier in that specific case than between two nobles, though it has significant consequences. It is entirely the discretion of the head of household if the commoner would then stay with the family and remain ennobled, or if they would be removed from the family and denobled, and the latter is significantly more common. Further, for the noble, this has a lot of ramifications for their reputation and here is a related point of theme that needs to be emphasized- Arvum's very strong feelings about fidelity.

The sexual mores and taboos are missing, but fidelity is much more strongly emphasized, in that the entire worth of someone and how trustworthy they are is entirely based on how well they honor their vows and keep their word. If a noble marries, and then divorces, they are pretty much proclaiming to the world and the entire Compact that no, they cannot see their obligations through, even when it was a love match and they did something selfishly at the expense of their house. It would be difficult for them to be taken seriously again, so they would have to point to a lot of circumstances around it, and even then, most nobles would probably dismiss them out of hand as someone trustworhty. And that's for a very light case, someone that very clearly breaks a vow or acts in an extremely visibly dishonorable way is largely socially dead in terms of how other peers would look at them.

Now, for noble upon noble divorce, that would largely be asking, 'How do houses break their most significant, meaningful alliances that they stake their house prestige upon?' Well, they can, sure. It hurts them in ways that are pretty profound, that wouldn't be apparent. When Dominion is live, things like house income will be heavily tied to their prestige, because it is, in effect, consumer confidence and how confident investors feel in working with a house based on their reputation. If a house breaks one of its most meaningful pacts, it is likely shattered. So sure, divorces can happen, and breaking up alliances, but it has significant macro effects, and largely that'll be more about removing carrots when social systems come into play.

Same-Sex Marriage

Q: Since different questions on this topic have come up at various times, I feel like it might be worth putting down answers in a lasting location. How common or rare is same-sex marriage allowed to happen in the nobility? From the gender helpfile, it sounds like it would be less common, as most nobles are going to face pressure to marry in a babymaking-compatible manner despite their sexuality or gender identity. But it's also been indicated that noble same-sex marriage isn't completely unheard of, so what situations would it be more commonly allowed in? More likely for nobles farther away from the line of inheritance? Special boons for particular service? In the cases of same-sex marriage in the nobility, how are children handled in the line of inheritance? Are any children produced by one of the pair automatically considered bastards with the chance to be legitimized? Do some couples make specific arrangements in their marital contracts? What would the "automatic" assumption/status of a child born to one of them be, and what would the potential be by way of arrangement?

And, as an addendum, in real life it was not uncommon to nominate a successor rather than explicitly having them be of your blood. Is that option one that nobles pursue with any frequency here? Would a same-sex marriage with a chosen heir be the accepted compromise.

A: Any love matches are rare, the closer someone is to direct inheritance of the noble holding the rarer it is. This includes any match that cannot result in natural born offspring between the two partners for any reason, noble-commoner, abdication to marry someone of far lower station, same sex marriages, known sterility. As far as nobility is concerned, it's a contract between two houses that result in children to solidify their bonds, with a tremendous amount of emphasis on natural born, legitimate children between two of them as guarantees of the ties between the houses. Homophobia isn't particular thematic, but callous indifference to people's actual desires often is, with many just expecting nobles to marry and then have lovers outside the marriage with varying degrees of openess or discretion.

Marrying someone that cannot result in children and/or is not about solidifying an alliance for the family is seen by different groups in different ways. It's seen as a selfish abrogation of duty by traditionalists, reckless or foolish by moderates, understandable and sympathetic by progressives, and romanticized and beloved by the commons. Generally speaking, it's expected of someone going into a love match to give up claims on inheritance for nobility, as they are putting aside duty for their heart. But not always.

Heads of house can choose heirs and appoint a successor not directly over their body, and it has happened. Legitimized bastards, adoptees, children further down the line because of issues with the first born. These are rare, however, because of concerns of it being challenged after the death, which is not at all rare, and even open minded and progressive peers of the realm are extremely concerned about non-standard succession because of the risk of being drawn into a potential succession crises. On the other hand, this really only applies to peers directly in the line of succession. A distant cousin is still going to be a noble, but they don't truly have heirs, since it is extremely unlikely they'll ever have their own direct domain to pass down. The social pushback they receive is considerably less, but there's still the standard disapproval of the peerage for ennobling anyone through adoption.

Tl;dr, it really only matters a lot for heirs expected to inherit domains, and it's usually taken as a given they'll pass it over if they marry for love. If they don't, could expect fights. Otherwise, there is societal disapproval depending on the circumstances, sometimes severe enough that nobility renounce their family and go commoner, but usually not so bad.

Peerage

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.

Respect

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.

Salaries

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.

Selling Goods

Q: I am wondering that when it comes to nobles, what constitutes as selling? For instance: Can someone trade jewelry for economic resource or is that seen as selling it? Is it gauche for nobles or royalty to sell their resources? What counts as being gauche and not being gauche?

A: Owning a shop or advertising, generally. If someone passes things over or sells them informally, that's fine. Mostly it's about appearances. One shouldn't behave like a merchant. Selling resources is mostly about trading favors around, and the nobility is all about that. Doing hard manually labor for monetary compensation or craftsman work, not so much.

Succession

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.

Q: How does someone marrying outside his or her House affect inheritance?

Suppose, for instance, that the second-eldest Baker House member in Valardin gets married off to the Charlie House in Redrain. Then the duke of Baker and eldest Baker House son get hit by a cart and die. Does the second-eldest inherit? Or is he out of the line of succession because of the marriage?

Put differently, does marriage out of a House alone put someone out of the line of succession? Or is succession effects of marriage something (if it happens at all) that is separately negotiated with the marriage?

A: Here's a case where the traditional autonomy granted to heads of houses is a headache for the Compact as a whole.

Traditionally, a line of succession is what the head of house specifically wills it to be, with an heir being declared, and some defining it three or four places down (and some changing it based on whim, with a few intentionally playing heirs off one another). This, of course, can create ambiguous situations that lead to potentially violent conflicts, and then it typically falls to that head of house's liege to make the call, or the highlord of the region, and that leads to traditional lines of succession.

Typically, one that marries out is considered lower in the line than anyone with equal proximity. Typically primogeniture goes in order of- eldest to youngest direct children, eldest to youngest grandchildren (and in theory, straight down in direct line, with a couple cases of great-grand children inheriting), then up to nephews/nieces, then at second cousins it would be considered equal proximity including up generations (brothers/sisters, uncles, etc). Marrying out puts someone traditionally at the bottom of the same proximity, so if someone had 4 kids, the ones married out would be treated as the youngest. Children -> Grandchildren -> First Cousins of Children -> everyone else. The vagueness after nieces/nephews is intentional, as the some elements of arguing by merit creeped in with that many potential claimants.

Succession by Combat

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.

Vassal Succession

Q: What authority does a liege have over a vassal house in deciding their succession, such as if they disapprove how a lord handled a major issue and would prefer to see a family member of theirs ascend in their place?

A: None.

Sort of. The actual answer is more complicated, in so much that lords have complete local autonomy in their own domains, determine thier own succession, and traditionally there is little outside influence over it. A liege, however, is normally militarily superior, so in theory there is always the threat of force to enforce their wishes, but that would likely alienate all their other vassals who would then see the liege as a threat and then join together against a traditional threat to their autonomy. Still, the pressure is always there and someone might abdicate- in which case, they traditionally also follow a set line of succession or name their own successor, and usually the liege only appoints a regent or new lord if everyone involved is dead or they have been specifically asked to do so by a majority of the noble family as an arbiter.

War, of course, is a possibility- but it should be noted that a defender has an often crushing advantage in terms of castles of the holding, with sieges often taking years, and producing profoundly awkward meetings in Arx from leaders on ostensibly neutral ground under the watch of the Crown within the Ward of the Compact. Further, most families have marriage pacts to other noble houses, which can cause a domino effect of involvement, with a minor holding turning into great houses going to war with one another, something few people want to see happen over Jimbob's Barony.

Suspicious accidents or ridiculous bribery to convince someone to step down are often more common, particularly in the Lyceum, as no one really wants to see an entire city-state under siege for years. Even then though, succession can be tricky, since it would follow along what the previous problematic ruling lord wished to see. Forced abdication typically only happens once someone has lost a war, and the matter is settled.

OOCly, I feel any form of PVP orientated stories should be dangerous and difficult for the initiator as a general rule, but when it comes to leaders, I have strong concerns about a quelling effect on player initiative if leaders feel bold or risky actions that result in social opprorbium will immediately result in loss of their leadership position. It's always important that actions have consequence, but on the other hand, this is a generational game, and changing head of house 4 times in a single generation is more of a sign of a house in meltdown and should never, ever be seen as something standard or thematic. Dealing with problems yes as a result of their actions, nuclear options not so much. They should be possible but very, very difficult.

Swords

Q: Is being a Sword of a Family only limited to Duchies? Can someone be called the Sword of their family without a heirloom weapon or is that a must?

A: The diamondplate and alaricite heirloom weapons dating back to the Elven War (or even the Reckoning) are found along upon the duchies and great houses, but almost every house has a Sword of their holding, a champion who will fight specifically for their house in matters of house honor. Most lower houses tend to have heirloom weapons of rubicund or steel with lengthy histories, they just weren't part of the gifts from the Nox'alfar from ages past.

Q: On the white journals a champion recently noted, "Hire Champions for duels. Anything else and you are doing yourself and centuries of traditions a disgrace." While Marian is a Sword, she is not a Champion, so does that mean if Darren received a slight from another lord that he would hire a Champion and not use his Sword? Or in cases where someone is head of household, do they use their Sword in all duels? Are the Swords only expected to defend the honor of their lord when it's related to trial by combat or stopping a war? Or is it expected socially for Swords to be members of The Champions if they are going to defend their lord in matters of slights? If staff wouldn't mind putting some clarification around the role of a Sword versus a Champion, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

A: Swords are in many ways the embodiment of the honor of a house. The heirloom weapon is seen as an extremely poweful symbol of the house itself, with much of the story around the house's history tied very tightly to the heirloom weapons, and the House Sword is in some regards carrying the house with them at all times. It often is seen as a ceremonial, but very important role, because it is exceedingly rare for House Swords to be required outside of war time- slights between houses don't merit a House Sword's attention unless it reaches the point where war would be on the table, and anything trivial is far beneath the dignity of a house sword, and would be something like honor duels handled by members of the Champion Guilds. So no, House Swords definitely do not fight honor duels unless they are also a member of the Champions Guild, which would put them in a tricky position of doing something for entertainment while having an extremely prestigeous and dignified other position and making certain the two are never confused. They could certainly do it, but they'd have to be careful.

Most often, House Swords due to the limitations of their positions, fall into other roles- captain of the house guard is very common for house swords.

Q: I noticed that people who are Swords of houses or aiming to be Swords think that once they are Sword they can't also be a Champion. Is this true? It would seem to be as long as you aren't using the house weapon in your Champion work it would be fine.

A: They can be members of the Champion's Guild. They just need to be very careful that their work for the Champions never is confused with their representative as the Sword of their House, and that risk is enough for many swords to shy away from it, since it would be a grievous breach of decorum for them to ever use an heirloom sword in an honor duel over a slight. So yeah, swords can become champions, they just have to be sensitive to the optics.

Voices

There's a misconception about voices and I've tried to make it clear, but I should mention this. A voice is not a trusted advisor or a respected, senior member of a house or organization alone. They are a plenipotentiary. What that means is they are entrusted with the full power of the leader of an organization to make decisions on their behalf, and while it's expected they'd know their mind and know what they want, this means that they are quite typically ruling in their name. This is a thematic necessity and a bedrock part of theme, as that is also a strong reason why all the leaders tend to be in Arx, and still have control over their domains, it can be assumed they have a trusted voice acting in their stead, who is fully capable of making decisions, up to and including making peace or war, negotiating vital long term deals, executing treasonous flunkies, working out marriage alliances, and so on. In other words, someone who says, 'NO I CANNOT TALK TO A VOICE, IT MUST BE THE HIGHLORD' is basically always wrong unless the subject is, 'Your voice is a traitor and is trying to stage a coup'. This is an extremely important part of theme, but more than that, it is an ooc necessity- I cannot and will not put all the responsibility on a single player character, since that is a quick way to overwhelm a player and burn them out on one hand, or on the other hand, put someone that is too controlling in a position to squelch all RP in a faction. So yeah, leaders make sure your voices have extremely wide latitude, and pretty much never do the, 'YOU MADE A DECISION WITHOUT ME, HORROR' reaction because that is wrong until and unless that decision directly damages a leader's position, and anyone else you should see approaching a voice as identical to approaching the leader of a faction.

Q: Is there any perceived favoritism if someone from a vassal house is named Voice of the lead house? I.E. if person from Duchal House A is named Voice to a Great House, do Duchal House B & C (or a member of the Great House family) have reasonable rights to be offended? Is there any reasonable perception that this Duchal House is then "favored" more so than the others?

A: Not offended, they wouldn't have grounds for that really. Being made Voice is such a high honor that it would be presumptuous for anyone to take offense for not receiving it, unless for example if a leader told them they were going to name them a voice and then changed their mind with predictable resentment to follow. Voices tend to be named to individuals based on their individual merits and recognition of complete trust, and are most commonly heirs and spouses, or deep friendships... which is the most common reason for voices from other houses. It is considered poor form to gripe about a liege's choice of voices since that puts someone in the position of typically attacking their heir, spouse or most trusted friends. It's seldom wise. Resentment over the implicit influence of someone from a rival house might wield as a result is, of course, very common.

Q: Can a person be a Voice of their house, as well as the House above them? So, can someone be a Voice to their Barony, and a Voice to the Duchal House above them as well?

A: Sure, if they can balance any potential conflicts or competiting obligations, they can. An honorable person that is ever put in a position of mutually exclusive vows would resign, but vassals tend to not be put in positions where speaking for their own house and their liege would be a conflict that often, as they generally have similar regional goals.

Q: We are well aware that a Voice acts with the full authority of the leader, and can make decisions without consultation. What occurs when a Voice makes a decision, or commits an action, that is perceived to be against the wishes of the leader?

A: Lose the position due to loss of confidence, apologize and do better, denobled due to undermining their authority, executed for treason, etc. All varies basde on circumstances. It could be anything from a gentle chiding and a private apologize to a civil war. There's a pretty wide scope in between those.

Q: In a follow up.. because I've been wondering. Can a Voice be the Voice of a House while in another feality? To me it seems like it is a thing that divides loyalties.

A: Yes and very obviously yes.

Shamanism

Dreamcatchers

Q: So. I was wondering if in any shaman traditions if they would have something similar to a dreamcatcher.

A: Sure, that's fine. The general rule is for anything specifically cultural and identifiable by name, you can have it, just not the name. A kusarigama could exist, but it's a chain and sickle, and referred to as a chain and a sickle. A dreamcatcher has another name. That's fine, it fits the Northlands.

Shamanism in Abandoned Tribes

Q: Sort of related to the above but sort of not. How widely is shamanism practiced in Abandoned tribes outside the North? There are a lot of prodigal PCs from other regions tied to shamanism, but I've gotten the impression that weirdo variants of Pantheon worship/cults were just as if not more common. So figured I should ask.

A: Pure shamanism paths that are practiced in the Northlands are very rare among Abandoned outside of it. In the Northlands, Abandoned might be say, 20 percent pure pantheon, 30 percent heretical offshoots, and 50 percent 'other' which includes shamanism, demon worship, etc. Outside the Northlands, Abandoned tribes would be about 50 percent pantheon worship either in an identical form or very close one, 45 percent some sort of heretical offshoot (ie, 'Mangata is the one true god, all blood is hers'), and 5% shamanism or other unrelated to the pantheon. Virtually all the Abandoned in Arvum outside the Northlands were originally from noble houses that practiced the Faith of the Pantheon.

Shamanism in the Compact

Q: Most of the Northern houses seem to be Pantheon/Shamanism, which iirc is based on treaties and agreements they've made with the Faith and the rest of the Compact, but what does that mean in practice for the average Northern noble? Do you get situations where Northern nobility has NO exposure to the Pantheon at all, or is it a standard part of education for the upperclass? Does what's preached there more-or-less resemble Arvani Traditional as described in 'news theology 1' (idk if there's a version of this description everyone without the skill can view), or is it another variant that focuses even more on blending? I assume practices differ from person-to-person (like, you have atheists and fundies everywhere), but I'm curious what the standard is socially and what'd be expected.

A: The worship of the Pantheon is widespread in the North, and there's no houses where there's a complete absence of the Faith of the Pantheon, even in immediately sworn new prodigal houses. As part of a house bending the knee, a seraph is appointed to the domain of the new noble house, and for houses that are pure shamanism, missionary work would start and they have to take their vows of fealty on Limerance. So while a handful of freshly sworn prodigal houses might have extremely limited exposure to the traditionally taught Faith of the Pantheon, that's really the only case, and otherwise standard instruction in the Faith is expected in every domain of the Compact, even if attendence in faith services and common worship is not mandatory and can be more sparsely attended in the Northlands. In terms of teaching, the Faith is VERY VERY concerned about heretical offshoots of the Faith. Most of the Seraphs are acutely aware that the Oathlands Orthodox is watching over their shoulder to see if anyone in the Northlands is trying to blend shamanism and the Faith into a new religious hybrid, and very carefully avoid discussing the two together. Seraphs who attempt to do so are usually recalled, and there's been a few execommunications for ones that have ignored this... including at least a couple houses that have gone Abandoned after a religious schism. This is partly why the response is so hardline. Societally, most that practice shamanistic daily devotions don't mix them with the Pantheon. They might open their day with a prayer to lagoma, thanking them for a new day, and then turn around and do some prayers to the Spirit of Good Earth and ask that they keep those damned rabbits from eating their cabbages today. They would see them as distinct and separate, and the local seraph would frown but likely say nothing.

Q: Hi! There seems to be some confusion floating around about this. It's my understanding that only the Faith can legitimize a marriage, and that would be the case even for a heavily shamanistic territory. Is that right?

A: For nobles. Any noble marriage to another noble is required to be recognized by the Faith to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the peerage and Compact as a whole. For commoners, usually there is a polite notice to the local seraph, but sometimes not even that, and if commoners had a shamanisitic marriage without informing the seraph, it wouldn't really attract notice if they introduced themselves as married.

Q: Northland born commoners believe in the spirits and turn to them for protection (in addition to the church)?

A: Generally yes, but these daily devotions are usually more traditions, rather than someone sincerely believing that a spirit is going to come and save their chickens or stop rabbits from eating their cabbages. Many northlanders might have sayings that are analogues to things like 'knock on wood', but much like the modern superstitious colloquialism, anyone that panics that someone did not, in fact, knock on wood would be seen as a weirdo. People claiming to actually talk to spirits are usually treated with polite deference, since open skepticism is rude.

Q: Do Northland commoners view their Noble Houses suspiciously or questionably for still being predominantly shaman oriented with some Faith elements?

A: Most would not really see what the big deal is. If someone wants to pray to a spirit, throw salt over their shoulder to ward off evil spirits, knock on wood, or talk to the earth in the morning, they don't see the harm. On the other hand, nobles are generally expected to go along to get along, while commoners are more free, so the commoners would likely be pretty annoyed if someone is quarreling with the Faith in a way that could get templars called upon their heads.

Q: Base on NPC population did the decree by the Dominus cause any significant portion of Knights of Solace, Scholars of Vellichor, The Mercies, or other church services to be ousted due to also believing in the spirits? Like 5% 10% 20% what are we talking?

A: Now here's a reminder, the 'religion' field on someone's sheet is what someone openly practices and avows in thier day to day life. Having 'shamanism' there means that they practice at least some form of daily devotions or spirit worship of some kind that is related to that. Most of the prominent original northern PCs were CG'd to say 'Pantheon' only, not shamanism, beause those characters realized it is impolitic to practice spirit worship -whether they believe in them or not-. Similarly, the Faith for the most part absolutely does not care if disciples believe in spirits... as long as they don't openly worship them while acting as a disciple. Because of that, only maybe 2 percent of NPCs were forced out, compared to a number of PCs, because NPCs, even if they do sincerely believe in spirits, absolutely are not worshipping them publicly and openly while serving as a disciple. The peer pressure alone makes that unlikely. A templar isn't going to try to sell his buddy in arms that's a fanatical member of the Oathlands Orthodox on how he should maybe pray to the spirit of Rust in the morning to ward off decay on his arms and armor. It would just be a bad idea. They keep that to themselves.

Q: Given the spirits are factually real and have actually assisted the Compact on several occassions is it really akin to demon worship amongst Northern commoners?

A: The PCs know that. The NPCs by and large react to that with the very polite tolerance of skeptics that have a very religious stranger on a bus ride trying to talk to them about the angel that just visited them. They aren't going to argue but probably think you are crazy, even if they are following a belief system that technically says, yes, those do exist.

Q: I am likewise confused on how people are viewing Shamanism. To me, it feels like NPCs are looking down on people who believe in The Spirits. Can you go into more detail and tell us how NPCs and The Peerage are viewing Shamanism? Like are they just supposed to be leery or is it that they feel greatly disturbed, are they social pariahs, or are they just looked at like they are utterly insane? Can you give us some guidance on this please and thank you!

A: It's not really the beliefs themselves so much as their association with the worst stereotypes of Abandoned being cannablistic demon worshipers (even if only a very small of Abandon really fall into that shav picture of The Enemy). In some ways, this has very mixed feelings among the north, since some of the very worst fighting against Abandoned is in the Northlands, and the Northern houses suffer under the most vicious shavs significantly more than some other great houses, which can in turn lead to some very virulent northerns trying to distance themselves from beliefs like that, or more nuanced beliefs in having burning hatred for specific Abandoned tribes rather than seeing them as a misleading and inaccurate aggregate. For most of the Compact, they vary between seeing as quaint superstitious and uncivilized folk traditions, that make the North seem shav-like, or local traditions that can be largely ignored- keep in mind, almost every house had some kind of offputting social traditions in the eyes of the rest of the Compact. For the Oathlands, it's religious intolerance, fanaticism, rigidity. For the Lyceum, it's perceived dishonesty, unreliability, Tehom worship. For the Mourning Isles, it's thralldom and ruthlessness. For Grayson, it's arrogance and the resentment coming from the expectation of rule. The Northland having shav-like traditions is just their thing. Most don't care for it, and would rather it be quietly downplayed, but it's probably not leaving them anytime soon however much friction it might cause. But speaking as a GM, when called upon their one thing that can be hard to be defensible, I think doubling down and adopting 'come at me bro' usually isn't productive, for any of the regions.

Q: I thought the original post by the Dom said no believer of Shamanism in general could be in those positions. Is that not the case? Is it only Shamans? I think my confusion, and perhaps others confusion, is that the Dom said people who believed in Shamanism couldn't be a part of any Faith org. It didn't sound like he was just saying Shamans with a capital S couldn't hold ministry positions within the Faith. I am inclined to agree with it not making sense to let a Shaman be a religious leader. But I think what has had people in knots is that even non-Shamans were kicked out of orgs for not being purely Pantheon oriented. At this point, I am confused on if it is just Shamans or all who believe in Shamanism and if it is just ministry positions or all Faith oriented orgs. Does that make sense? I'm not trying to be difficult. Just hoping for clarification.

A: The Dominus just doesn't want teachers and representatives of the Faith, which disciples of the Faith are, to represent other faiths or belief systems. In other words, he would not care if someone quietly believes in shamanism provided while they act as a representative of the faith they abstain from practicing shamanism or teaching about shamanism. The same would come from someone that followed any other belief system like Eurusi Reflection, for example. So even if someone believes in their heart of hearts that the spirits are real and talk to them on the daily, if their sheet says 'Pantheon' meaning that they don't just publicly worship spirits in their day to day life, they are aokay.

Q: So do I need to publicly renounce shamanism to be good with the Faith?

A: The short answer? No. The only thing the Faith cares about right now is whether someone very publicly worships them and continues to do so, while acting as a representative of the Faith. The 'religion' field on someone's sheet is just a representation of how they public present themself with common worship practices, it is NOT a representative of their inner most beliefs. In other words, the vast majority of atheists are listed as 'Pantheon', because they still go to worship services for appearances. Someone is only listed as an atheist if they public pick fights about this and argue with people that the gods aren't real. Similarly, someone could have the most fervent beliefs in shamanism and spirits, but if they just worship the pantheon for appearances, their sheet just says 'Pantheon', and that's all most of the Faith cares about.

Shav'arvani/The Abandoned

Q: What is the general Shav culture and life like? Is it equivilant to historical barbarian tribes like Gauls or Mongols? Or is it a post apocalyptic fight for daily survival? Further are there any vestiges of former cultures such as what we recently saw with the Shave of House Marin, or is that a unique case?

A: Shav/Abandoned culture is kind of a misnomer, as there's definitely no single unified one. There are thousands of different tribes of Abandoned and hundreds of different cultures, though there's some main strands.

There's Abandoned that were never, at any point, members of the Compact or parts of noble houses. These are mostly found in the Northlands, as in days before the Reckoning the Northlands were almost entirely barbarian raiders against the more developed southern lands, particularly against House Valardin. The Reckoning saw most of the tribes unite under Queen Valeria, but perhaps seventy percent of the tribes fell under demonic control during the Reckoning, and have the largest porportion of extremely barbaric and savage shav tribes. Most of the more extreme practices, like human sacrifice, ritualized cannibalism, demon worship and so on are found in Northlands shavs, though it's not even close to homogeneous. Abandoned tribes are vastly more likely to be fighting each other than raiding the Compact, and there's cases when dozen of tribes, clans and former houses ally against one another and have fairly significant wars that the Compact barely hears about.

Secondly, there's the former houses that were lost during the Reckoning. The term 'Abandoned' largely comes from them, as the vast majority of the nobles and their domains stood and fought against the demonic invasion rather than flee for the safety of Arx, attempting to defend their holdings. Most of the tribal identities come as bastardizations of their old house identities, and some stayed relatively intact a thousand years later. Keep in mind, during the re-conquest of Arvum after the Reckoning, many of the Abandoned were pushed off the same ancestral land they defended and given to other branches of the same family that did come to Arx, or other noble houses, so there's some thousand year old grudges over stolen land, or betrayal by family.

Then there's the other phases of societal collapse. The next several hundred years after the Reckoning were constant warfare and generations of trying to regain control over pats of Arvum, as essentially nothing was under significant Compact control -but- Arx, Sanctum, Farhaven, Maelstrom, Bastion and the Lycene city-states. Details about this are particularly vague, as all history was lost, but Arvum was just starting to come into parity between Abandoned and Compact control by the time of the Elven War, which was another genocidal conflict that saw humanity nearly wiped out, and virtually all holdings of man falling, save much of the same fortresses that withstood the Reckoning. And this, in turn, produced another wave of Abandoned houses that developed independent of the Compact for another 500 years. And then following that, the Crownbreaker wars a couple hundred years ago tore the Compact apart again, and saw another wave of collapse, and surge of Abandoned.

So in short, there have been at least three periods of effective collapse of civilization, and all of them have produced independent Abandoned houses, and all have their own cultures, traditions. Some are post apocalyptic fights for survival, some hundreds of miles away in isolation past hard land that hasn't been visited in centuries and completely forgotten, are probably pretty well developed. With millions of square miles, a lack of reliable maps, and dangerous exploration, there's a lot out there that the Compact is at best only dimly aware of.

Q: The people of Arvum call those who have not bent the knee 'Abandoned' but is there terminology in the other direction? What do the Abandoned call the citizens of the Compact? I realize that the Abandoned are composed of many different people, many different cultures so there might not be a universal word/phrase but maybe there is a term that several of them use that is especially common in the groups that did eventually bend the knee?

A: One intentional misnomer is to think of the Abandoned as a single group, but there would be a good amount of slang that would vary an awful lot. 'Prods' to refer to prodigals that have finally bent the knee and joined the Compact would be a derisive term, though since Abandoned clans war against each other far more than they do against the Compact, most would just be using to mock large groups of Abandoned that bent the knee. 'the bowed' or 'the sworn' are general terms for people in the Compact, relating how they all have vows of fealty, with the former being more derogatory. The Mourning Isles tend to have much more hostile terminology, with 'slavers' being a frequent term to just describe Thrax.

Q: Alistair jokes his parents were cannibals who tried to eat him. (Or is it a joke?) Are there any wild cannibal Abandoned tribes, or is eating your own kind too crazy even for Abandoned?

A: A tiny minority, but very real. Now, what most of the Compact wouldn't admit to, is even most of these tiny minority are pantheon offshoots rather than shamanism. The Clan of the Feast, for example, was started by a crazy seraph who was excommunicated for questionable teachings about Mangata and her Reflection, long before it was discovered why some of the townsfolk of his parish were disappearing, and that nomadic group does steal people, ritually sacrifice them, and then eat them in tribute to Mangata and Her Dark Mirror. Now, probably no more than a percent if all Abandoned, and probably more likely to raid other Abandoned and eat them, they are so rare they more make up horror stories than a real threat. But they do exist, and the 'Bone Gnawer' tribe fought recently by Redrain did not refer to animals, for example.

Shav Dialects

Q: As a shav, would Arvani or the shav dialect have been learned first?

A: Arvani. That's the mother language for most shav, and the dialects are akin to a thieves' cant rather than a true language. Which means that it needs something to base itself on as a foundation. So Arvani is the native language for most shav (there may be a few exceptions but they are exceptionally rare) and the shav tongues learned later.

Q: There have been several times that I have seen people slip into full conversations in Shav languages in public places. Most often, I have seen it happen amongst Redrain and Thrax characters using Northlands Shav, the context being implied that it's a second/native language in the northern cities of the Compact.

Since Abandoned are bad news and Prodigals are looked upon with varying degrees of suspicion, how should we be reacting to shav languages being openly spoken in the city? Are shav dialects looked upon as truly secondary languages in the Compact and, therefore, a-okay? Or should we be putting on our red 'Make Arvum Great Again' hats and getting huffy? Do Redrain and Thrax speak Northlands Shav natively up in their northern cities or is it strictly Arvani everywhere in the Compact? How should we feel when nobility have full conversations in public places in non-Arvani languages -- are those feelings different when they are Prodigal nobility compared to non-Prodigal nobility?

To expand on the previous question, there has been a lot of confusion about Shav Languages. I have played for awhile and over that period of time, have seen many people striving to learn more and more of the Shav languages and personally have had knowledge of them used in prps, including staff run prps. (edited again. Thank you to everyone who pointed out the misunderstanding of what was meant by that post written on a place I do not ready and only heard about. I believe the core of my questions are still pertinent)

I understand that it shouldn't be the primary language used in the city, but it seems odd to liken shav languages to thieves cant. To compare it to modern day America, when I attend family reunions, people toss in quips and small conversations in the language of our ancestors... even though we've been Americans for many generations. So, the question is... is it really that far fetched to do so in Arx with shav languages? Especially for those houses considered Prodigal Houses? Couldn't it understandably be seen as a cultural identifier? Such as for Redrain. We are not shavs, but some of our houses were up until recent generations.

A: To clarify something, none of the shav languages are precursor languages that existed before the Reckoning. All of them are pidgins created from Arvani, and an entirely different tongue for each of the regional dialects that was very much not Arvani, and the people that have a clue talking about this might have missed the implications from it, as it was to show the different foreign influence on each of the different regions, which is hard to discuss without spoilers, but all of the languages are more recent developments, with 'recent' being the last thousand years.

That said, it's been a thousand years with at least three different apocalyptic eras that saw a complete breakdown of civilization and annihilation of history just during that epoch. When a language has existed for thirty generations, it's safe to assume some people would begin to think of that as an important aspect of Abandoned cultural heritage, and it's entirely sensible that prodigal houses would maintain it, even if it would be seen as crass and uncomfortable in the eyes of Compact traditionalists to have public conversations in the language of The Enemy. But there's a few important factors to consider.

The pidgins were developed by Abandoned tribes to identify each other and signify they are not part of the Compact. Groups that were completely isolated obviously would not have developed a shared tongue that is universal to the literally thousands of different Abandoned houses, tribes, and clans. Extraordinarily isolated groups (which would be a very distinct minority), might have lost Arvani, but they also would not have gotten a shared shav tongue, it would be a unique and completely individual language for that tribe, and no player created house has fallen into that category (nor would I approve one currently).

It's considered edgy for nobles to learn it and speak it, though there's practical reasons, but it's very near universal for Abandoned tribes to still speak Arvani at least in a close enough dialect to be understood. Keep in mind again that Abandoned, and no Arvani regions, are ethnically homogeneous. They are not racially distinct from other Arvani at all. This does mean that one of the most feared Abandoned chieftains, if she didn't have tattoos or other distinctive ritual scarring, could likely pass for a regular member of the Compact with a change of clothes and hairstyle. Think of what this means in terms of feelings towards distinctive Abandoned marking, and potential Compact paranoia. And this cuts both ways, with Abandoned groups intensely distrusting outsiders and if they can't speak shav, they are probably Compact soldiers in furs trying to lure them out to kill them. Combine this with the overwhelming majority of Abandoned groups being hostile towards one another with generational blood feuds, and you have an awful lot of cultural baggage with shav languages.

Now, over the last thousand years, houses have joined and left the Compact. Some that had long periods of being Abandoned might still speak shav in private, and it became part of their heritage, but it's not more of a, 'Remember when our family were pirates 200 years ago? We talked like this to identify each other', and not necessarily seen as a regional aggregate in the way a lot of players would think. The oldest and proudest houses though, that can trace their roots back to the Reckoning, -never- had periods like that, so it could be a point of pride that they were never reduced to such a state or had a need to learn it. At best, it would be seen as a low-tongue vulgate, that might be embraced as a form of rebellion against formality.

Thralldom

Q: So I recieved a question ICly about reforming thralldom that raised a couple of other questions for me. 1) Who can impose thralldom? 2) are thralls ever taken in war from the compact, or just from the shavs?

A: Any noble of Thrax (land owner) or member of the court system of Thrax, as it's essentially a declaration of debt. Commoners often do so and then just have it recognized later by judicial consent to formalize something that was informal. Thralls are from the rest of the Compact are, in effect, war hostages. It is done exceedingly rarely and only in times of war, as it's the same as ransoming prisoners of war. The overwhelming majority of thralls are Abandoned, who essentially have a war debt for being outside the Compact, and those found guilty of petty crimes in Thrax domains.

Q: There's a lot of talk of freeing thralls, and I know I had a really hard time putting the number of thralls into perspective. Would it be possible to know how many thralls there are in Arvum, and how much a life debt would cost to purchase?

A: Exact numbers would be hard to come by, but the general consensus is somewhere between 1 million and 1.5 million or so. Average thrall debt is usually around 2500 silver, but it varies significantly.

Q: The Thrall Reforms adopted by House Thrax were a big deal to a lot of players, and reflected a shift in the direction of Thralldom. I've had people say to me Thralldom is dead because of them, but others point out the lower houses did not have to accept the reforms, and believe many did not. Then there were child thralls being freed and so on so forth and it has left a degree of confusion. I'd really love to have a clear picture of where Thralldom stands today.

A: Victus passed a number of sweeping reforms (this is viewable under his character's past actions off the webpage), that outlawed in the Isles many of the worst abuse cases, such as passing down debts to children. It was however vaguely worded enough to not offend traditionalists very much, and they interpret it pretty loosely, so new thralls are still being created in NPC lands and that will continue until and unless thralldom as an institution is completely removed. The reforms didn't free anyone, thralls were effectively grandfathered, and characters like Alarissa's massive donations towards Thrax as an org is a representation of buying up child debts and the like. Characters wishing to directly pay off thrall debts can do so by using the donate command towards any house with thralls.

War

Crownbreaker Wars

Q: Is House Thrax the only other House to have been a Crown holder besides Grayson?

A: Nah there was a barrack emperors style period during Crownbreakers I'll write about, but these are historical footnotes.

Navies

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?

A: 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.

PC House Wars

Q: Historically there have been featly wars see Northlands vs Oathlands. The Tyde Rebellion. Is it possible PC Houses to war amongst themselves? Is it not desired by staff?

A: Sure but I'd like for wars to be coded in dominion before people use my time to do that.

Pensions

Q: How much will it cost to provide pensions to the families of those lost at the Battle of Arx?

A: Approximately 10,000 dead at the battle of Arx, though this is spread through the different fealties. The question depends upon how generous the pension is. Say 10 silver a month would be solid, and if someone is cover that for 10 years, that's 1200 per dead soldier. Approximately 10,000 dead from the Compact at present, but pretty spread. So looking at around 12,000,000 to set all the families of the wardead for life, with any resources being able to count towards 500 of that. Which sounds like a lot, but I don't think any houses couldn't cover it out of immediately available funds for their own losses.

Tyde Rebellion

Q: How destructive was the Tyde Rebellion? I know there are stories of Tyde Reavers taking holds that didn't surrender and crucifying the defenders on the cliff, and that the Redtyde March was destroyed, were many new houses forced to rise to take up old holdings after the war? Did any of the Tyde vassals publicly forswear their oaths? Any cross overs from Thrax in the same way? I know the war went back and forth for 3 years, but did Tyde ever look like they might win?

A:Tens of thousands dead, several houses completely destroyed with their lands given to loyal Thrax vassals and Tyde's duchy was personally controlled by Thrax until Victus granted it back to Margot. At first, Duke Eugine Grimhall didn't answer Thrax's call of banners and delayed, and House Helianthus (the third Thrax duchy) was thought to have uncertain loyalty, so Thrax fought Tyde on its own resources, and the Duke of Tyde managed to win a few victories by avoiding battle with Donrai's main fleet and raiding outposts around Maelstrom while Donrai smashed Tyde vassals in slow isolation attacks. When Redrain looked about to come into the rebellion on Tyde's side, with numerous Northlands 'volunteers' fighting on Tyde's side, which started to tilt things towards Tyde's favor including some bloody land battles near Maelstrom, which led to Helianthus and Grimhall finally answering their banner call, and the Lyceum indicating they would assist Thrax, which threatened to create a much larger war, which is when Alaric III sailed for the mourning isles to end it. Donrai did not wish to have a peace dictated to him, which he'd have no choice but to accept if Alaric demanded it in person, so he immediately launched an attack to take Tydehall by storm, resulting in a massive slaughter against its entrenched defenses.

War Crimes and Atrocities

Q: While obviously this is a dangerous and violent world to be living in, I'm curious to know what sort of conventions -- if any -- are considered 'beyond the pale'. I recall hearing that burning people alive is equated with 'shav barbarism' -- with flaying, mutilation, the gruesome killing of children/elderly/non-combatants, infecting people with plague to kill indirectly by the thousands, etc, how would the NPCs react to that? What are the expectations of members of the Compact in how they conduct war with one another and with the Abandoned? Where's the line where people begin to go, 'whoa, that is like, demonically and/or seriously evil'?

A: Wanton sadism is a big one, that most would find morally repugnant. Torture ostensibly to get information (even though it doesn't really work, and the Inquisition uses it as an excuse to get the confessions they want) would be given a pass, but torture to 'punish' an enemy would be seen as the sign of cruelty. Generally most will be given a pass if it falls under military necessity, but only up to a point- Donrai Thrax for example was extremely brutal, and he was feared, but he was disliked in both the mourning isles and without, and it was largely only tolerated because he kept his brutality to the Mourning Isles and the rest of the Compact never had to deal with it, so it was largely seen as the Isles' problem and not theirs. Wanton destruction and a clear disregard to chivalric combat -does- offend Gloria however, and most of the Faith would say so. There's a clear chivalric ideal in how to conduct warfare virtuously, and this is why thematically Thrax has so few knights particularly in religious orders- brutality just is not considered honorable combat, and someone that flays men and women to make an example to rebellious factions is just not held up as a paragon of knightly virtue and the Faith would refuse to annoint anyone that participated in that. Similarly, most objections would come in the context of just what would be considered dishonorable, and make anyone participating in it extremely suspect. They won't pick a fight with someone that is sending smallpox blankets to shavs, since shavs are the enemy, but they sure as hell wouldn't trust anyone seen as that far from chivalric ideals, and quite a few nobles would refuse to have anything to do with them.

tl;dr, most people would feel profoundly uneasy and distrustful of anyone participating in barbarism against an enemy, and clear cut sadism would draw reactions and condemnations if it can't be justified. Even justifiable atrocities would make most honorable peers acutely uneasy, and they would want to have very little to do with them, even if the mad dog is essentially on 'their side', but on the other hand very few peers would be willing to go to bat for shavs, who are seen as the boogeymen of the Compact, and there will always be a significant percentage of the Compact who will be unsympathetic towards any plight of shavs as a result.

Whispers

I got some questions via mail about Whisper theme and wanted to share the answers. I'm going to cross post on the "theme questions' board, so that non Whispers have the chance to read, as well!

1. How does taking Patrons work for Whispers? Specifically, common vs noble Whispers?

A: This depends on how you mean patron. If you mean patron as in 'client', as in someone patronized your business and had you host a party, then there is no difference. If you mean a patron as in the patron/protege prestige sharing relationship between nobles and commoners, simply: the Crown is the patron of all the Whispers. In their infinite Grayson generosity, they do not restrict whispers from working with whomever they choose and spreading their awesomeness around, but the crown is the only patron. That's because the Whispers are prestigious, themselves, and it wouldn't make sense for them to be 'protege' to like, a Count. Or a Baron. Even if they are personally from a commoner background. We're reworking prestige to be a more meaningful social stat, and we will set it up so orgs can patronize people, and then back this theme up with code.

2. Is it ok for a Whisper to sell vouchers for his or her time and skills?

A: Sure, that's fine. It's like getting a voucher for an hour of pilates or a therapist or something. Seems fine!

3. Is it unbecoming for a Whisper, a master of SOCIAL AWESOME, to challenge someone to a duel over an insult?

A: Here's the thing. Whispers are masters of diplomacy, /entertainment/, morale, information, etc. Noble duels over slights are a source of great entertainment to the common people, and so it's great if a Whisper is doing that. It's not declaring a blood feud, that WOULd be a little tacky for a Whisper. But a duel to first blood (or wound) over an insult? that's just good entertainment. It's not unbecoming at all to challenge duels over insults. it is the done thing, culturally.

Divorce and Whispers

Q: Relating to the questions of divorce because Mailys got married. What about with Whispers? A lot of them are commoners and I understand they have to leave the Whisper House. Would marrying them be treated like they are commoner or noble? Since being a Whisper is on par with being a landless noble or something. Would they be accepted back as Whispers if they divorced? OR would they be considered too much of a scandal to be considered a 'useful' Whisper? (I couldn't think of another term besides useful) Since being a Whisper is suppose to be very prestigious and provide connections wouldn't marrying them be more of a political move than, say, marrying the Baker's kid?

A:For any marriage match, there's several different factors involved. The most important are what other house the marriage match for a noble is tying themselves to- in the case of any commoner, even a highly respected courtier, accomplished common-born general, or someone famous and well regarded, the answer would still be none, since they have no noble house to tie it into. Some from that perspective, many nobles would always seem any marriage to any commoner as an abrogation of their duty as a noble to further their house's ties and make them raise in esteem among peers through solid ties. This will be heavily represented in Dominion, by any noble marriages between noble houses being strongly mutually beneficial to both, based on how strong the marriage itself is. That won't exist in any noble to commoner marriage, even if the commoner brings something else to the table- strong contacts, a merchant prince's wealth, secret links to a demon lord wanting to consume existence, whatever. Those would be the ephemereals that could justify it and mitigate societal fallout, but it would still be seen as questionable in marrying a knight vassal or a whisper, however respected.

As for Whispers being accepted back into the house after divorce- doubtful, since much like godsworn or crownsworn in the sense of the king's own, they are supposed to have a complete lack of ties that could divide their loyalties, even if that can be overlooked. But someone that left the whispers once and then trying to come back would carry that baggage that would make it suspect that they could maintain that same neutrality. I don't that strong of an opinion about it though, would be HF's call and her area of expertise thematically.

The World

Aion

[Info] Hellfrog: in your culture, the wider world is called "Aion"

Astronomy

Q: Are there any other planets in the skies of Aion? Comets? Recorded astronomical phenomena? Or did this all vanish with the Elven War?

A: Interest in astronomy vanished very sharply after around the time of the Crownbreaker Wars, oddly, and has fallen out of fashion for a great long time, with few paying it much heed. But quite a few constellations are tracked, often named after gods, such as Gloria's Sword which appears in the eastern sky, pointing down towards Eurus, or the Great Wolf, which helps those in the North find true north for navigation, or a dozen similar like ones. The Red Banner is a comet that appears every 169 years it's said, though records are shaky when the last one was seen. And of course there's the blood moon that brings about the Mirror's Masquerade celebrated in the Lyceum. As for other stars (which might be planets), most of that knowledge is no longer immediately accessible, but would likely be found somewhere in the Great Archive. Somewhere.

Q: Are there any stars and constellations in the night sky that the people of Avrum have identified such as a North Star or Constellations associated with the gods?

A: Quite a few, though astrology was originally populary in the Compact and has faded from memory since the Elven War, constellations are still commonly known. There's the Wolf's Guide, which is the equivalent of the Northstar, and at least once constellation named for each god or goddess as rough analogues.

Q: How many moons do we have, what do they look like, and are there any related stories behind them at all at current?

A: One. Rough analogue to earth. There's the blood moon at complicated intervals that creates the Eclipse of Mirrors and allows for the Mirrors Masquerade, and some other astrological events I'll probably define later. See 'help tehom' and the lyceum section of the hall of heroes.

Climates and Weather of Arvum

Q: So we know some stuff about Arvum's climate, the North being regularly cold and snowy and the Lyceum being more hot. But in a wider scope, what kind of overall feel do the different general areas of the continent have? Likewise, what kind of weather is usually expected of them? Is there anywhere especially more rainy or arid than most? Are there any large weather phenomenon like tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, etc that people of the Compact may have experienced?

A: Arvum is several thousand miles from side to side, and that covers a lot of geographic diversity, but it's specifically an analogue for North America in culture and most of western europe. There's some geographic types that aren't represented much in Arvum (jungle for example, or African style savannah or extensive deserts), though there's a few types that are at least partly represented, such as the Everwinter being arctic and some of the Northlands being permafrost or tundra.

Generally speaking, the Northlands climate wise would be pretty similar to lower through higher Canada, which is a pretty good range, with only the largely unsettled Everwinter being similar to the Northwest Territories or Nunuvut.

The Crownlands would be similar climate wise to a large range, equivalent to most of the eastern seaboard of the US, probably a range of say similar to Maine, all through appalachia, midwest, and southeastern US.

The Lyceum very much mediterranean, the Oathlands similar to france, and the Mourning Isles mostly scandinavian type climates in the north to more something like Guernsey or the Isle of Jersey or other Brittany style isles in the south.

Only outside of Arvum proper, into something like the Saffron Chain, do we start to see caribbean climates, and it's not till Eurus that deserts and so on are really seen, with the Suthyrn Wastes and beyond more of a south american analogue.

Holdings

Q: The holdings listed for the houses are mines, lumber, mills, housing and farms. For houses like Jace's (Redreef) would farms eventually be generic for fishing as well..just food production? Might be a System Discussion too, but figure I'd start here.

A: Yes, it would include things like fishing that will be fleshed out in Dominion. Though do keep in mind these islands also are generally going to have arable land, many are pretty big, and more islands in the sense Ireland is an island.

Latitude and Longitude

Q: Between what latitudes does the map of the Compact lie? How many time zones does it have? Is there a land of the midnight sun? I've always assumed the map covering a land mass similar to North America from northernmost Canada to the Caribbean.

A: I don't really want to get into exact math right now, but to give you an idea, the map on the webpage is broken down into grid squares of 100 miles long and wide, which are then broken down into a mini grids of 100 1x1 mile grid squares. The length/width is about 3000 miles in each direction. So midnight sun would be up in the everwinter beyond where the Compact ostensibly controls.

Progresses and Land

Q: While understanding that the high majority of RP is and should be set in the city of Arx, occasion will sometimes call for nobles to return to their homes in their territories - to reassure their vassals, to introduce new members of the Household, to assess damage in war or during a catastrophe, etc. If for some reason we want to take our characters on a progress through our demesne, how do we do it? Do we go off-grid? Do we rp outside the gates?

A: The short answer is that letting people do scenes in distant domains is one of the goals of the coded GMing mechanics and dynamic rooms, to allow for that usecase without making the grid diminished in importance or impacting organic RP. And that in the meantime, it's pure handwaving.

Now the long answer is that I haven't wanted to police travel time for character travel very much because it is a logistical nightmare from a continuity standpoint, and mostly I've been trying to prevent people from doing things that would be mutually exclusive while keeping things broadly in the same continuity. When systems come in, we'll almost certainly be grading travel based on Action Point usuage, taking AP relative for the travel distance, and not permitting travel again until it can be met, which will allow for characters to RP and handwave a offgrid travel while keeping them from doing it again that could create continuity errors. I would see that as the best compromise in not forcing characters to be effectively away from the game for extended periods (weeks would be likely since we're doing 2:1 right now), but making sure it is accounted for in the sense they can't do multiple things at once. But yeah in the meantime, characters can handwave it in private RP, and I'll just be accounting for it in storyrequestions and crisis actions that would offscreen wise take someone off grid.

River and Ocean Names

Q: This seems like it would be a think on the map. I know there is the Eventide Vast over in the Westrock Reach area and east. But what about all the rivers and their forks? Could we get the names of these? Having them on the map would be awesome for quick reference.

A: As a small reminder, there's going to be more geographic features than the map could really fairly show. Arvum is huge, so I'd assume for every major river shown, there's probably at least a dozen minor ones that aren't, though the major ones like the Gray River are a good mile or so across at wide extents and are major thoroughfares for ship transportation. Going from east to west, the joined river by the Twainfort is named 'the Mother', while the northeast smaller split running towards Hawk Hold is 'the Son', and the longer split to the west is 'the Daughter.'

The Gray River empties past Arx into the Bay of Thrax, which has the Mourning Sea beyond, with the far northeastern sea past Stormwall called the Frozen Sea, and the waters east past the Darkwater called the Eurusi Sea. Southeast of the Lyceum and far south of the Darkwater is the Saffron Chain, and the Saffron Sea around it.

The Gray River forks, with the western fork towards Pridehall and Stonewood called the Crown Fork, and the north fork towards the Bastion called the Gray Fork, but both are just commonly called the Gray River unless someone needs to distinguish between the two forks.

To the south, the entire sea around the Lyceum is called the Lycene sea, and convention holds that for a week sail south from the Cyrto Arch it is the Lycene Sea, before becoming the Suthyrn Sea as one nears the Wastes. The three pronged river in the Lyceum that forms a barrier with the Oathlands is known as the Lycene split, with the west most river fork called 'the Shield', the central fork called 'the Lie' (with disputed claims from both the Lyceum and the Oathlands about it's meaning, with the Oathlands arguing it is a reference to House Lyonesse which sits along it, and is short for Lyon), and the right most fork called 'the Silken Wine', so named because of silk shipments from Setarco and wine from Lenosia sailing up to then transport over land to central holdings in the Compact, and it being a bastardization of 'silk and wine'.

Between Pridehall and Sanctum is Sugan's Course, and then to the North from Sanctum is the Red Run, running past Farhaven, with the Goldglitter River running as a fork towards Stonedeep.

And finally to the west is the Eventide Vast, which goes on endlessly, and is unmapped, with little certainty as to where one finds the edge of the world if one sails far enough.

Sea Names

Q: I should have paid more attention when I was out surfing the waves at Stormwall! But I would like to know - what are the sea names that surround Arvum - The Northern Sea, Southern Sea? Western Sea? Eastern Sea? Do they have other names other than <Directional> Sea/Ocean?

A: Quite a few. The most common and popularly sailed is the Mourning Sea (the large sea off the eastern board of the Compact) that has all the Mourning Isles. This includes the Bay of Thrax (the large bay reaching out from Arx), though within sight of land is properly considered the waters of that domain, meaning anything within sight of Arx is considered the domain of the Crown. The Mourning Sea stretches to the east and southeast, where it meets some of the darkwater, and beyond that to the east would be the Eurusi Sea, to the south would be the Saffron Straits around the Saffron Chain, and to the north would be the Frozen Sea.

To the southwest and south is the Lycene Sea, is properly considered to stretch as far as a couple weeks at sea to the south, and then that becomes the Suthyrn Sea, which goes to the Wastes and presumably eventually Cardia.

To the west is the Eventide Vast, which includes all coastal areas of the Oathlands and there is a lack of knowledge of what lies to the west, aside from whispers and what was reported by Cerdic the Sunset Wanderer.