Nobles: The Lifeblood of Your D&D Monarchy
The structure of a monarchy can vary depending on the size of the city, ruling classes in place, and general mission, but all monarchies share a similar structure, organization, and functionality. Combining these details allows you to create an immersive and realistic monarchy for players to interact with.
The size of a ruling class in a monarchy is one of the first things to consider when characters travel to a new land. The number of them determines how quickly information passes between nobles, how fractionated the government is, and how many tiers of nobility there are.
A small monarchy may only have lords and the ruling monarch, whereas a larger monarchy may also include barons, dukes, earls, viscounts, and more. Multiple tiers of nobility introduce additional bureaucracy, further separating higher-tier nobility from the people and making them more difficult for characters to access.
The larger the government is, the more likely there will be subgroups with different, possibly hidden, agendas. Factions may be ancient, consisting of allied houses which work towards the same goals, or may have arisen recently with the purpose of deposing the current monarch. This can also lead to information siloing, where factions hide information from each other, preventing the ease of access to information among the nobility. It is more likely for rumors to arise in this culture, as well.
Location, Location, Location
Nobles typically manage their own estates, with each house or family owning a large plot of land and having separate business interests. Additionally, some nobles live in the castle, attending to the monarch as advisors, handmaids, ambassadors, and more.
While most nobles can be found at their estates, they often travel to arrange business in neighboring lands or vacation at their summer home or other noble estates. Because of this, it can be challenging to locate a specific noble at any given time.
The structure of a monarchy determines which nobles interact with each other and in what manner, as well as their specific roles within the monarchy. While smaller monarchies may give each noble a particular area to oversee, such as farming, trade, ambassadorial duties, etc., larger monarchies create sub-councils with various nobles each to monitor these areas. The nobles on each council are determined by a house’s previous responsibilities and station, as well as each noble’s aptitude. Different factions within the nobility may strive to eliminate rivals on certain councils and influence the decisions of others to create outcomes which are most favorable to their own interests.
While each council oversees different areas of interest, they all ultimately report to the monarch, who has the final say on any decision.
Depending on the monarch’s thirst for power and control, each ruler may give more or less authority to each council. Especially power hungry monarchs may create committees to provide the appearance of democracy, while secretly ignoring the councils’ suggestions and making whatever choices the monarch desires.
The overall focus and drive of the government is determined mostly by the monarch’s personal will, as well as the history and customs of the land. The drow nobility of the Underdark often have religious fervor, seeing their sovereign as not merely a drow but a being who channels Lolth’s will and guides their race to ultimate domination. Their societies are deceptive and cutthroat, with nobility frequently assassinating each other to gain favor in the eyes of Lolth and their Monarch. The behaviors they practice are primarily reflected in their religion.
However, dwarven monarchies are strong and enduring, practicing a strong ethic of honor and pride. Dwarves are steadfast in their beliefs, with a single family serving as the monarch for generations, facing no opposition from within the nobility. The dwarven nobility is stable and rock-solid. Any disagreement between houses is resolved in the open, without underhanded techniques.
Role-Playing the Monarchy
Nobles within the monarchy are often cutthroat, striving to gain the favor of the current monarch. The nobility that are in favor can change overnight, depending on the moods of the monarch. The same effect happens if the ruler is assassinated or abdicates the throne. Because of this, many nobles spend most of their time and energy protecting and trying to advance their position by creating several layers of backup plans to ensure they and their house will continue to survive, regardless of what changes come.
The monarch is often preoccupied with ruling the country and has little time for other endeavors. Tired and overworked, they task trusted nobles and citizens with affairs of state and security. Because of this, monarchs are often betrayed by those closest to them. Knowing this, monarchs often seek the help of adventurers to investigate delicate matters or take care of secret tasks. They can provide ample resources and reward for any support the adventurers offer.
In conclusion, nobles are the lifeblood that fuels a monarchy. Knowing each individual’s goals and the power structure of the government is necessary to better understand and manipulate the royal environment.