Is there a list of all the noble houses operating in the Tyr region?
Also, what exactly is a ‘noble’ in Athas? Just a large landowner that passes on his land to his children? Why wouldn’t the Sorcerer King own all the land? What exactly is the relationship between Nobility and the Templarate? How do people become nobles? Can the Sorcerer King elevate someone to the Noble class? Are there different ‘levels’ of Nobility?
Is there a list of all the noble houses operating in the Tyr region?
Nobles are scapegoats. They can also be templars. Like any game, they have access to things that the lower class does not.
There’s a bit where Hamanu is said to elevate great warriors to noble status (might have been in 4e?). I used this in my game where the party defeated a cloud ray threatening the obsidian mines.
I’ll preface by saying this is just my take on Athasian nobility from reading the Prism Pentad and various tidbits that were implied throughout the Wanderer’s Journal and the Revised Edition.
That out of the way, the nobility of Athas is presumably very similar to most bronze age civilizations. Not only is a noble a landowner, they enjoy hereditary privileges of status, lesser nobles that owe allegiance to them, their own sworn warriors, slaves, etc.
Now why doesn’t the SK own all of the land? Well he basically does, just with a few extra steps. If a SK needs additional resources, manpower, whatever, he is fully within his rights to demand those from his nobles. Many monarchs in real life theoretically had this same privilege, they just couldn’t back it up with mind bullets. Sorcerer Kings often create certain cultures of nobility around them as they see fit. But these nobles serve as an easy means of creating a civilization that serves the will of the SK for reasons aside from fear alone.
As for the Templar, their relationship varies to some extent with the city. However Templar’s #1 purpose is to enforce the SK’s will. Be they secret police, bureaucrats, or military commanders. For the nobility this often means that Templar handle the administrative work and act as the SK’s voice, the nobility still controls the land. The Templar simply collect tithes from the nobility and distribute those resources as they see fit.
When it comes to elevating someone to nobility, an SK could absolutely do that. I imagine SKs don’t do this too flippantly so that things don’t get too chaotic (and to add some weight behind noble families). We also have nobles who become Templar, though I imagine that usually separates the Templar from the line of succession and they instead enjoy their own privileges.
Regarding “levels” of nobility, this would also vary by city. For a lot I’m sure it varies just by your own personal wealth and influence. But with others it might vary by if you’re allowed to contradict certain Templar edicts, if you’re allowed to have audience with the SK, if your family is in charge of defending dangerous territory, etc.
Thanks for the insight @Star-Sage !
Though I’m still wondering why an SK would have both a Templerate as well as a Noble Class – couldn’t the functions of the Nobles be filled with high level bureaucrats (managing the agricultural land, collecting tithes, training armed forces…).
Is the main difference between the two that Nobles titles are hereditary while Templars are not?
Maybe it’s some sort of breeding plan…
Each city state probably handled things a little differently. Gulg’s nobles are non hereditary if I recall correctly.
As to why have both Templars and nobles? So too much power isn’t concentrated in the hands of one group. If you can play the Templars and nobles off against each other they are too busy to be looking your way.
Crosswire is right on the money. Keeping the centers of power divided allows an SK to more easily play the various groups against eachother. Additionally Templar are known to be directly tied to their SK and in many city states often serve as priests. Keeping the centers of power separate offers an illusion of legitimacy to the society and also offers an avenue of advancement that doesn’t involve worshiping the SK.
For example Nibenay uses his Templar in a clever way. They are constantly watching the rest of the city from the shadows and keep it in a tangled beauracracy only they can navigate. So while the nobles may be the reason the city’s wealth and culture flourishes, the Templar are so enmeshed in the laws and infrastructure of Nibenay that they’re ready to pounce on any signs of treason. In other words Nibenay exploits the fact that Templar are far easier to keep under his thumb and uses them to make sure the rest of the city is as well without appearing nearly as overt about it.
IIWASK, couldn’t I just play different Templars against each other to keep power divided? Nobles do not rely on me for spells and (if hereditary) may begin to think they have ‘rights’, making them doubly dangerous. Seems easier just to manage one group, the individuals of which I could promote or demote at a whim (or take away their spells?).
This will no doubt depend on your campaign. If in your campaign everyone working in the bureaucracy has spell-like powers supplied by the SKs then maybe nobility is a motivator for individuals who serve the SK, have no skill in casting spells, but have other valuable skills (warriors for example as @Killer_DM mentions).
Having nobility be non-hereditary, as @Crosswire mentioned, would be another check on noble families gathering too much power or beginning to believe they are entitled to the power they wield beyond the sufferance of the Sorcerer King.
Though I still like the idea that it’s some sort of Bene Gesserit breeding program - since nobles are likely to produce more children maybe it’s a way for the SK to breed certain traits into their population. Remember SKs have generations to see how their plans play out. Different SKs might be looking for different attributes. Hamanu for example might be trying to breed a race of warriors - after 50 generations would we start to see differences in speed, strength, endurance among his noble class? Other SKs might be trying for other attributes, like cunning, or beauty or docility…
Following the rule that a person will always work hardest for their own self interest, the land holding nobility makes a lot more sense. Nobles have a stake in their own lands and holdings. Their own slaves and products. It serves many SKs to let them have this illusion. We as dungeon masters know that at any moment a given SK can just take possession of any lands or belongings a noble “owns”. But the noble probably doesn’t.
Look at the Verdant Passage. Once Tithian took the nobles slaves in Kalaks name to finish the Ziggurat on schedule. Agis was convinced if the Nobles made a petition in the Senate and had it passed then Kalak would be forced to return what he’d taken. Now one could argue Agis was an idealist considering the other noble conspirators didn’t jump at his idea. Who’s to say how many nobles live in the fantasy that Agis bought into? Since SKs don’t usually make it a habit to abuse the nobility unless under extreme circumstances I would wager many truly believe they have a measure of control over their lives and property.
Yes, I could see where a Noble would think about the long term viability of their estate as it must provide for generations of his or her heirs. Templars, on the other hand, would want to see immediate and impressive short-term gains (just enough to get their next promotion) regardless of the long-term costs.
Somehow the latter scenario seems ‘more’ Dark Sun to me.
(or maybe just more corporate America? ;-))
Cogent analysis, Star-Sage
In BRAZEN GAMBIT we’re painted a picture of a two-tiered templarate. The majority is comprised of low-ranking poor templars, and a minority of templars of ever higher status (and smaller numbers). It is this status - near-powerless, and ever more powerful - that determines their pay and, yes, with how much self-serving dealings they can get away with.
Still, the children of templars won’t necessarily be templars.
I see the top of the crop of the templarate as members of the US Congress and Senate, who legally manipulate politics to make themselves rich, with little to no repercussion or oversight.