Addressing Noble House Populations

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Bagels » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:06 am

I have really enjoyed the discussion so far, lots of great points by all and some very good questions Dulahan.

I would have to agree with the problem of presenting a noble house as something that can be completely wiped out. Any kind of reasonable assumptions we make about the ratio of nobles to non-nobles in the setting will leave us with millions of nobles. The idea of killing all nobles of a house, especially when spread over multiple worlds is not practical. That said I don't think there are too many houses that disappeared in that way. I may be off on my lore here so please correct me, but as I recall only House Alecto was utterly wiped out. I believe the rest of the major houses either became minor houses or were just absorbed by other major houses (as in House Windsor into House Hawkwood).

I would also agree that it's very unlikely that a peasant militia would be used as part of a force for a planetary invasion. Certainly a militia would be called to repel an invasion, but I think an invading force would exclusively be made up of professional soldiers and Knights.

That said, I don't think we necessarily have to resort to very tiny ratios of nobles to non-nobles to make the numbers work. For the sake of simplicity let's just focus on how many Knights could there be in a major house and use House Hawkwood as an example. Again, for simplicity's sake let's only count the human, non-barbarian population. The Hawkwood worlds have the following population:

Delphi: 2,015,000,000
Ravenna: 450,000,000
Leminkainen: 500,000
Gwynneth: 840,000,000
Total: 3,305,500,000

I don't think 1/100 is an unreasonable ratio (not to get political, but just look at how the phrase "the 1%" has gotten traction in the U.S. as a reference to the elite). I could also see an argument for 1/1000, but I'll stick with 1/100 for now.

With a population of 3.3 billion, 1/100 gives us 33,055,000. Admittedly, 33 million Hawkwood nobles is a lot of nobles. But I think we have to take a step back because this is just a figure representing all persons of noble birth at any age. In the U.S., 63% of the population is between the ages of 18 to 65. That might be a little generous considering the feudal setting, but nobles are supposed to have better access to food, shelter and healthcare than the serfs and the 63% figure doesn't deviate too much from the world as a whole or other economically developed countries. So that leaves us with 20,824,650 Hawkwood nobles between the ages of 18-65. Still a huge number. Spreading that out over all of the Hawkwood worlds gives us:

Delphi: 12,694,500
Ravenna: 2,835,000
Leminkainen: 3,150
Gwynneth: 5,292,000

So we are still working with some very big numbers (except for Leminkainen, which ends up with far fewer nobles than I was expecting even considering it isn't very well settled by the Hawkwoods). Obviously, if we go with the 1/1,000 figure we can reduce the numbers even further (only 1.2 million for Delphi, 280,000 for Ravenna, etc.). I think this does demonstrate though that 1/10,000 may be far too few (only 31 Hawkood nobles between the ages of 18-65 in Leminkainen, only 126,000 in Dephi to rule over a population of 2 billion?).

I think at this point we aren't going to get much more out of just looking at the raw numbers alone. A big problem we have is we don't really know what most nobles actually do. A small percentage rule (Barons, Counts, Earls, Dukes, Princes, etc.) But it's very unlikely that everyone that isn't a lord is a Knight. After all, the essence of a Knight is one of martial service. Some less combat-inclined nobles might be Knighted as an honor for other services, but most Knights would be expected to fight. And what about those of noble birth who join the church or live out their lives as courtiers and dilettantes? What about those nobles who marry the Knights, Barons, etc.?

So even if as much 1 in 4 nobles who are not of lord rank are Knights (and I think that ratio is probably quite high), then you end up with the following number of Knights for each planet:

Delphi: 3,173,625
Ravenna: 708,750
Leminkainen: 788
Gwynneth: 1,323,000

An army of 3.1 million to defend a population of 2 billion on Delphi is not that inflated. Taking another real world example, China has a population of 1.38 billion, they have 2.3 million active military personnel. That's about .00167 active members of the military per capita, for the Hawkwoods the ratio is .00157. And again, that's working with the ratio of 1/100 for nobles to the rest of the population. Change that to 1/1,000 and the numbers start to become curiously small, though still sustainable given the new medieval age feel of the setting. But change it to 1/10,000 and I think the whole thing falls apart.

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Dulahan » Fri Dec 15, 2017 10:45 am

I think a couple others have been wiped out. The Chauki off the top of my head (until recently when a lost world was discovered with some left! But said world was lost before the Hazat purge of the Chauki, so the house was functionally wiped out so far as anyone in the main jumpweb knew). But my point still stands, why was anyone following Vladimir if his house was so easily wiped out... unless all houses were small and thus, the nobility mattered far, far more than numbers, because he still had the resources and support base to pull it off without an army of nobles behind him.*

I'd still say those numbers are just astronomically high. They just don't work with the lore, even the Leminkainen one is a bit shakey, given the presentation in Imperial Survey: House Hawkwood.

The surveys honestly are one of the best places to get some representation of society, and how isolated many of them are, not to mention how seemingly tight society is.

Armies also tend to be outright tiny, remember, even the biggest transports only transport a few hundred at once! FS Ships aren't big at all. Yet the lore of the Emperor Wars still hypothesizes that peasants would get shipped off in said ships. With millions of nobles alone, you could defend your house's territory on a world it's the majority (Another thing the books put to rest - many of the worlds have sizeable holdings for the other houses). Remember not to think of feudal worlds as anything like modern nationstates either. You don't conquer the world, you take out the base of the nobles and just set up shop. the peasantry probably doesn't much care whose banner flies overhead. They're being ruled by the ones with the guns period.

Of course, not many worlds changed hands is another good point to counter with. But at least one did for sure, and others came close.

Yet another point of interest thus made, what exactly did the Emperor Wars even look like? Would be cool to see more of that!

All the same, you also bring up the excellent point of just what do nobles do if they're not a Baronet or higher? More good stuff to have!

*Unless each 'house' is weaker than we might think, and there's lots of cadet and minor vassal houses (other than the "Minor" houses) that are what actually makes up the nobility... but then why aren't we told about them?

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby OccumsRazor » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:29 am

After running some side calc's on the populations given in the Imperial Surveys; I like the 1.575 per thousand as a rough guideline. Seems to work for alot of worlds. Others would need to be adjusted for political and economic concerns. (Criticorum, Tethys - Large scale self/guild rule on local level [Plus on Criticorum, 4m nobles none ranked above a Count? I'd feel for that governor.) A rough estimate for Kordeth and Velisimil based on primarily alien populations would have to be established separately based on the nature of human habitation of both worlds. (I still take issue with the populations given for some of the lesser populated worlds such as Cadavus, Nowhere,

As for the extinction and eradication of family lines.... I have the feeling that the Chauki vs Hazat.... Was a blood bath. Those decades saw population decreases of billions across the known worlds. Lost worlds were essentially rounding errors in death tolls.

The eradication of the Alecto, Gesar, and Windsor lineages we know so little about that it is difficult to speculate. Those are the primary examples that I'd use the cadet branches /sub-house family's breaking away (marrying into the Five) to justify. The core branch of the family would be the only one to need eradicated. A 1-50 thousand key family members powerful enough and eligible to inherit the reigns of command killed (or convinced into marriage/church service) before they could claim the House ceases to exist.. :twisted:

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Dulahan » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:05 pm

I definitely think the thing that would help most in a hypothetical "Noble" sourcebook?

Some indication of when does a person with Noble Blood become Gentry, and when does Gentry in turn slide down to Commoner?

I mean, we know it's mostly a Primogeniture Agnatic/Cognatic society. No indication of Patriarchy being too endemic, though it does seem to indicate a slight preference to male inheritance, but I'm guessing the new version will shy from that. Keep the family name of the more powerful rank. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Having second child and beyond characters slide down to Gentry and from there have a real risk of their kids becoming commoners also keeps down the numbers. Plus allows for fun Pride & Predjudice style stories of desperate social climbing via marriage. In fact, Imperial Fiefs mentions a situation just like this. With the viewpoint character running into the illegitimate daughter of the guy whose fief he took over. She was sent to a fancy boarding school on Byz II, with the hopes she'd meet someone worth marrying. Sadly, all the other people there were just like her - there to try and meet people who they could marry 'up' with. So this is definitely a thing! Not to mention a good Player Character sort of situation. (Find a good marriage through merit and deeds in a more adventure style game, or earn a fief through being a Questing Knight. Or alternately, as is for a super social game. Play Liz Bennet! Works easily!)

Actually, that might be a nice way to 'redo' Householder, or something similar. Just "Gentry" so not every landless PC is a Knight, you pay points for that. So a 0 rank "Gentry" option which means you're a low ranked noble would be nice.

Obviously, the higher the rank, the less likely your progeny slide down. Because they'll have more marriage prospects for any number of reasons. Also gives a better reason for giving children over the Church so they can maintain power and not muddle up inheritance (Just like history, that one!).

Either way, a system like this definitely helps keep down the totals to a more manageable level. Especially since it seems like even Barons, for the most part (especially of Royal Houses) are ruling the equivalent of modern Nationstates. While we know Dukes rule entire worlds, or large economic powerblocs like Mega-cities. So that'd be the final thing to delineate in mroe clear terms, what each title means in the setting's context, from Knight on up!

Leviathan of Maddoc
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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Leviathan of Maddoc » Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:59 pm

Awesome discussion. It really has stirred up some cool ideas about the game cosmology.

Long ago with created a model that we've followed through most of our games. 70% of the known worlds are Serfs, slaves and freemen. People who are largely held in sway by what 30 percent are doing. A little more than 10% of the know worlds wears the livery of a guild. A little less than 10% of the know world wears the sigil of a sect of The Pancreator. A solid 10% of the know worlds wears Noble Livery. Of that 11-ish % of Guilders PCs are in the top 4% of Guild members that either hold some rank or are going to make a name for themselves, but not part of the 3% of the guild that is really exerting financial power in the known worlds and unlikely to become consuls or more powerful ranks part of the 1% that steer the destiny of the league with their management decisions. Of the 9% of Church members the players are part of the 3% who are not just layperson plumbers, potters and guards but not part of the 2% that hold important and influential ranks within their church and not likely to be part of the 1% who are Priests or higher and have some influence on the dogma of the church. Of he 10% of Nobles the players are part of the 2% of nobility that are above an army of householders, agents, footmen, and soldiers but not likely part of the 1% of Nobles that manage lands or have vassals or control major house interests. The freemen specialists, the aliens, barbarians, psychics, the characters that don't fit into the big picture, they're less than 1%, such rare oddballs all of their personal capability would be washed away without the anchor of faction characters to give them a home in the known worlds. All told the players come from a cut of the population that 90% of known worlders only know through rumors and stories.

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby asodohatch » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:00 pm

Its also worth bearing in mind that not all the of nobles on that are part of a planetary population are members of the ruling house. On most of the worlds sizable areas of land are owned by minor houses, such as the Justinian's owning Courai on Delphi or the Thrusnikron owning Sudania on Cadaevus. Also a proportion of the planetary nobility will be from minor houses who mostly fulfill roles at court, such as members of House Torenson.
Once you add in the nobles from even smaller minor houses (most of whom aren't named) and a proportion of serfs and freemen who were knighted during the emperor wars you start to get a significant minus to the numbers who could used as soldiers for the ruling house. Also it's unlikely that all nobles of knight rank are martially inclined and capable. A sizable proportion will be, but there is no way that most planets will be able to field military forces entirely of nobles.

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Dulahan » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:27 am

Interesting stuff I've seen elsewhere, not Fading Suns specific, but Real World Nobility.

I think the key to the noble populations comes down to what a noble is. Is a noble someone who has land? A-La English nobility. Or something you never lose? No matter how many generations separated from a title.

Of course in the former situation the younger children of higher ranked types tend to luck out through marriage more often. Being the direct kid of a noble in general means you'll be more respected than the great grandson of a third child who never inherited.

My own thought is the English Method* is -probably- more what the Devs originally pictured in their heads (given the King Arthur influence on the setting amongst others!). After all, it gives a good reason for a "Knight" to join an order. A reason why those kids get shipped off to the church to give them a 'place,' keep the succession clean, and really keep the populations down... And further, keeps those in power in power without letting the institution grow unwieldly.

Likely Householders and other gentry are the sorts who have some trace of blood way back. This is implied too, via the Viewpoint Author of Imperial Survey: Imperial Fiefs

This further keeps the amount of 'Titled' sorts down to a more manageable level. Still allows for degredation (Or rapid growth) of fief influence (like how we have the Cameton Baron on Byzantium Secundus who is barely holding off mutants with 150 armsmen at the same time a Baron once threatened another entire world on their own!). It keeps the 'titles' special, as they obviously are in setting. Meaning knowing the heraldry will let you 'know' or at least 'know of' all the Titled nobles of your house, and most of the other houses as well. Finally, it explains why you don't have millions of nobles. Because they're commoners now. Indeed, they probably -do- form a large chunk of the men at arms and soldiers of any given house... and I'd wager a good chunk of Muster Merc Units were second or third kids of a Knight who had some money yet and moved on to the Guild to do something.

The big deal is going to be elucidating what the "Knight" title means. In practice and play that I've seen, it's sort of the default to still be a noble. But does it inherit? Traditionally, Baronet was the equivalent of a Knight with some land. Knight was just military. But what about in FS? How easy is it to create a Knight?

Like I said earlier, a "Gentry" option would be a cool trait to represent noble blood, recent enough to still be respected and invited to parties... and even potentially marry someone of higher station and not have it looked down upon (You're Gentry, you have the bloodline. Just took a generation or three of being later children... but at least your family and you remained RESPECTABLE!)

This, for instance, (In the English sort of way) would likely account for a lot of the Clergy too. As that's a highly respectable place to go. The average Village Priest? Probably descended a few generations removed from Baron Muckity Muck Hawkwood up the road. Because she comes from the Gentry, and thus was educated. thus able to be clergy.

The other big deal is some impression of the 'rough' number of titles in the setting. Leave it slightly vague of course, to leave room for PCs, but something like "7 Duchies in House Hawkwood. 11 Counties. 23 Marquessates/Earldoms, 58 Barons. 129 Baronets. Etc" (Note numbers purely invented on the spot with no research, in no way intended to be representative of what I think said house really has)

Personally, I feel this would explain a lot of the FS Society as portrayed in the lore. It even explains the 'numbers' - Yes, Clergy is X% of the population. But it overlaps with nobility all the same (as we know it does!). Keeps the peasantry in its place too. Which this society is geared around.

*Note: I don't think each house would do things differently. Maybe slightly, but in order for the obviously rather homogenized noble society of the Empire to make sense, they should all handle it roughly the same. Maybe the Hazat are better about respecting or "Knighting" nobles who are good swordsmen despite being further removed from a title than Li Halan. Maybe Li Halan has less total Gentry due to shipping more off to the church than usual. Maybe al-Malik has a much larger wealthy Gentry population due to giving more money to second and beyond kids to idle about and engage in The Arts. Decados obviously makes more of their second kids into Kossacks (At least one is a noble in lore! Knighted, at the least!) But in general, all roughly doing stuff the same instead of one house doing the English Method, another the Polish "EVERYONE a noble! You get a meaningless title! You get a meaningless title! You get a Title!" and such, because nobility means something! That would make it mean very, very different things across House lines, and it obviously doesn't.

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Packrat » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:49 pm

The source material for Fading Suns is incredibly schizophrenic and inconsistent regarding nobles and their demographics, also with army sizes, demographics and economics in general. I am in the process of making a text based online game (a MUSH) in the setting and have put a fair bit of thought into trying to come up with something that works.

The main setting is a Hawkwood dominated lost world with two duchies, one of them has been invaded and largely taken over by an outside force but the other, seated in the planetary capital, retains control over an entire continent along with the loose allegiance of various more isolated counties.

So total population of the Diospolis Duchy? About seventy million.

3 million inhabit the capital, which is largely guild ruled under a city charter

There are nine large cities that are comital seats sworn to Diospolis, with a total population of about two million.

Thirty two smaller but still substantial cities, generally either baronial seats, controlled by bishops or administered by guilds under charters. About another two or three million people in large urban settlements.

Then about as many people again in smaller urban centres that do not show on the map leading to a roughly twenty percent urban population. This works pretty well with approximately Victorian levels of technology and agriculture. I figure that perhaps a third of urban populations are serfs working in noble owned but largely guild operated factories with the rest free, most employed by various guilds major and minor.

So about half the free population are urban and the rest rural, with about eighty percent of the rural population as serf farmers. Most of the rest free farmers with various levels of prosperity from landless labourers to yeoman types with some land, to a small portion of 'squire' types who intermarry with the lower tiers of the actual nobility and are often their main retainers, village mayors or headpersons, etc. Maybe a few percent of the rural population would be clergy or guild members.

So how many actual nobles? Well one duke and their family, nine counts and their families, associated households, then it comes down to a question of how many barons? I figure somewhere around a hundred, varying wildly in power and influence from more important than a weak count to an irrelevance with a title.

Where does that leave the 'average' rural baron though? It leaves them ruling a swathe of countryside with a quarter to a third of a million people, including multiple towns. Assuming about a quarter of a million people directly alligned to the baron rather than other authorities, about 200,000 of them are serfs working as subsistence farmers who are basically going to pay their taxes in labour, grain and chickens outside of a trickle of coin from things like marriages or inheritance taxes. To avoid insanely huge armies I am assuming that serfs are generally forbidden weapons and similar.

About fifty thousand people though are free and given this is a quasi medieval setting I figure that free people have a right to bear arms as well as an obligation legal and/or social to serve in the militia if they are able bodied. These organisations would be regional and vary wildly in quality but likely consist of people in their late teens to early thirties training for a few hours each weekend, armed with crossbows, halberds, padded armour, etc. Likely they also get to dry fire rifles on special occasions and maybe try one or two shots a year. This gives a huge manpower pool and technically ten thousand or more 'troops' available to a baron, but they would be highly dispersed and largely useless against professionals or at any distance from where they live. Every village would have some fortification in high risk areas though so their main job would be to hold up raiders or patrol to keep down bandits.

Such militia would be lead by local landed knights and baronets holding manors, perhaps one per five to ten thousand population (1-2 thousand free population), though these individuals will also have families who are considered 'noble'. Each local militia battalion of 500 or so thus probably has a knight leading them along with a handful of full time armsmen with armour and firearms, likely a cheap anti tank weapon or two with limited ammunition, a surface to air missile launcher, etc. Richer free people will also outfit themselves better, mayors, prosperous landed farmers or wealthy merchants outfitted better than professional soldiers.

A baron also then retains a personal retinue of knights, squires and their armsmen. These would be hereditary retainers, householders, relatives and bodyguards. These are the people who act as sergeants and enforcers, collect taxes, have stern words with vassal knights, etc. I figure about twenty knights and a hundred and twenty or so squires or martial retainers as a mythical 'average'. This is my translation of the company of troops that a baron fields according to the actual Fading Suns setting books.

These would be entirely not expendable individuals and in most cases excellently equipped. A fair few of them are going to be knights with their own sources of income, importance, etc. I figure the knights and most important retainers would have energy shields and possibly synthsilk with most of the rest having plastic full plate with bulletproof shields. This is where you see automatic weapons and the odd laser or blaster along with ammunition to train with. They would all know how to ride and have access to horses as well as (probably unarmoured and unarmed) motor vehicles for transport.

You cannot rule a quarter of a million people with 150 retainers though, almost all barons would then have at least a battalion of line infantry. These are full time soldiers recruited ideally from freeman volunteers but likely also conscripted from criminals, serfs behind on taxes but with spare burly children, etc. Basically infantry living in barracks and paid in cash, armed with bolt action rifles and armoured in plastic scale armour plus having bulletproof shields and melee weapons. They are probably not always paid on time, but get fed well and a rural baron has access to plenty of food and healthy peasants even if they do not have access to manufactured goods or necessarily much hard cash. Thus the main expense with these guys is ammunition, they would not be issued very much and certainly not train with live ammunition very often. Given how effective Fading Suns body armour is against firearms? Decisive action against other professionals would be hand to hand but their guns would allow them to slaughter militia or rebels with impunity. How many 500ish man battalions you maintain probably depends an awful lot on the neighbours and how rich a baron you are, outfitting this many troops with guns from scratch is immensely expensive after all though I doubt you are spending the full 200 firebirds for an imperial rifle if you are buying them in low quality and thousand lots.

Richer barons might also have dragoons or cavalry recruited from the wealthier echelons of the free population, paid promptly and well by comparison, on horseback but similarly armed. I assume any large formation like this is going to have a limited number of support weapons such as machine guns, anti tank missiles, mortars, etc. The expense of ammunition almost certainly ensures that skill with these is miserable outside of veteran units though. The commander of a battalion would certainly be a knight and I imagine there would be another half dozen as officers at minimum, likely a major source of employment for younger children of minor nobles who cannot support their offspring in noble fashion or secure them a place in the church or a guild.

So that leads to each 'barony' having about 50 martial landed nobles and knights, call it 200 nobles in total given these people have families? That is actually pretty close to one per thousand population yet nobles are themselves a pretty insignificant proportion of the total military of the barony, which is about 150 well armed and mobile retainers, say a thousand full time infantry with rifles and ten thousand part time militia who largely lack firearms or advanced armour.

The baron almost certainly also has a castle with a Pom Pom laser or two though I suspect paying engineers to service the things is low down on the priority list unless you actually expect immediate space raids.

I imagine there might be another thousand or so militia and armsmen retained by other groups within a typical barony but not at the disposal of the baron, towns run by guild councils with extremely well equipped urban militia, abbeys with soldiers or Swords of Lextius for security, etc.

As to how you invade a planet with these troop numbers using Fading Suns sized ships? I imagine you do not invade a planet or even a duchy as a complete unit, you almost certainly start off by suborning some of the local nobles over to your side as well as making the initial beachhead with something horrifying like a few assault landers full of knights in powered ceramsteel with air and space support who then take full advantage of their mobility.

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Dulahan » Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:57 pm

One other thing to remember. A Baron doesn't necessarily owe fealty to anyone but the House Prince. And a Duke might not have any Marquis/Earl titles under them. Or even necessarily any Baronies. In fact, inconsistencies or not, I'd say that tends to be more the norm for the setting rather than a nice, clear cut "A Baronet owes fealty to a Baron who in turn does to a Marquis who then swears to a Count who is under the Duke who is under the Prince"

Feudal rank of course matters for terms of social standing, but this far more easily leads to situations where Baron High Muckity Muck is much more relatively powerful than Count Something-Or-Other, even if said Count gets to sit closer to the Price at feasts (and in fact, probably makes Baron Muckity's kids more marriageable because Something's daughter could come along with a way to raise the title... I may have played a bit too much Crusader Kings)

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Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Postby Packrat » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:43 am

Very much the case, for that matter there are probably quite a few knights who have land for whatever reason.

In fact as an extreme example one Questing Knight in one of the books mentions having a keep on Tethys that Alexius granted him, so you have a knight who holds land directly for the Emperor with no intervening fealty.

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