Page 1 of 3

Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:13 pm
by Dulahan
One issue I've long had with Fading Suns is how wildly divergent the estimates people have for the rough population of noble houses is. I've seen some think there's thousands per world and potentially millions of nobles, others operate on even the Great Houses having dozens of families at best.

Both create some problems.

For one, why bother arming peasants for any sort of war when you have millions of nobles? Or even Tens of Thousands in a house. Especially given how the transport ships aren't exactly capable of bringing large forces off world. Sure they'd be good for on world, buuuuut...

Also, how did Alecto and some of the other extinct houses get wiped out? If there's that many, it really makes the credibility of Alecto winning the first Emperor Wars seem odd, why did anyone still follow him when his house proper was wiped out but for him? Quite different if noble houses are (relatively) small, a la Dune.

Further, things like the Town Criers articles, Alustro's Journals, and other in setting vignettes also make it seem there truly aren't many nobles in each house (Relatively, again). As even members of other houses seem to know all about a large chunk of society from the rest. Everyone having rivals and friends with fiefs on other worlds.

Finally, we can see the relative sizes of Baronies and Duchies and such in the various Imperial Fief books. They definitely imply there aren't a lot of them! Sure Baronies are about the smallest sized fief we see (I don't recall any Baronetcies on the maps, but I could be wrong - But the Justinian ones are definitely mapped out in, oddly, the Li Halan one. and we see at least one County in al-Malik). And naturally there's a population and economic power level too. A Duchy MIGHT be a full planet, or it might be a single city. But they come out to roughly the same power levels. (A Song of Ice and Fire or Pendragon style "Fief Creation" system would be awesome, just saying, in case you devs are looking!)

Naturally, the second and beyond kids are the natural adventurers, who might not get a fief otherwise. And natural adventurer fodder at that! (And Church, and Military, etc)

Not having many nobles certainly makes it odd in other ways though, as in, why aren't there anymore? Are they all dying off? Are later children slowly losing status to distaff and poverty? Or Dying off in wars or left childless by large numbers shuffled off to the Church? There's a 'why' here too. And let's be honest, the Emperor Wars probably DID off quite a chunk of the population. But again, what is it?

So that's what I'm hoping gets published finally, in some respect or another. Not 'just' a percentage (Nobles are 1% of the population of the Known Worlds! Because that's a LOT of nobles! No, seriously, a freaking LOT!)

Give some idea of how many each house and the more important "minor" houses have. Are there 1000 Decados main line nobles? Or is it 100,000? Or even a rough idea of how many of each sized fief. How many Dukes does each house have? Counts? Like does Li Halan have 4 Ducal Fiefs, 20 Counties, 80 Baronies, etc.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 5:15 pm
by Grummore
A few thoughts on that.

I always pictured that a base planet always had one duke, while a more populated, more technological or with more political power would have several Dukes in order to control some parts of a planet.

So with the same idea, the more complex a planet is, the more barony there would be.

Still, I always wondered about the questions you bring Dulahan.

The nobles quantity among a House would probably be VERY different from each other. I would depend on their beliefs and ways of life. Do you think the Decados would have more or less noble than the Hazat. I'd say there would be more Decados; many bastards, expansionist house, etc. While many Hazat noble would probably never reach the age of 20; internal conflict resolved with duels, etc.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:27 pm
by Dulahan
Absolutely. They're gonna have differing sized houses.

Heck, Decados itself is interesting there, since there's some implication at times that even Kossacks are Nobles, and sometimes there's not. I waffle on them being the most populous though. Frankly, I'd see their nobles having a higher mortality than Hazat, but due to other reasons and intrigues.

al-Malik seems like the potentially most populous, but even that's by dint of the most populated worlds more than anything else.

I alluded to Minor houses and wanting info there too, and that in particular I feel is important. Knowing relatively how many nobles constitutes a Royal House, and how many are in the various minors gives us a much better idea how powerful said minors really would be. Right now it's awfully vague. Particularly for the more powerful ones on the cusp of Royal but for circumstances (Justinian, Keddah).

Naturally, every house should be big enough to leave room for a PC of your desired type (Even Minors!). So even some vague duchies and such is a good thing! But not so big you're just a face in the crowd even if you're a Knight. Since that's certainly implied to still be important in the fiction.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:55 pm
by The Kurgan
I remember having calculated at some point that a reasonable ratio of nobles vs others would be of about 1 to 1000. Thus the average planet with a population of 500 million would house about half a million nobles, 99 % of which would be knights (non-hereditary) and baronets.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:04 pm
by Dulahan
The Kurgan wrote:I remember having calculated at some point that a reasonable ratio of nobles vs others would be of about 1 to 1000. Thus the average planet with a population of 500 million would house about half a million nobles, 99 % of which would be knights (non-hereditary) and baronets.

And that's just ridiculously high. Like I said, you wouldn't need any peasant militia at all. Why bother? There's enough family, especially when taking into account the small amount of transport and how dangerous even arming non-nobles would be to the status quo. That's not how the theme presents it at all, it's a Knight here and there leading men at arms. Even if you presume 1 in 10 of those are of fighting age and disposition (like Hazat likely would be) - that's a force of 50,000 soldiers without a single peasant. The way some houses are, that's... probably a lowball too. Even more impressive given how well armed Knights are implied to be on average. That's far more tech than is typically implied to be left at that scale.

It pretty much flies in the face of all the other points I made too. The "How do you even wipe out a house" issue especially, and why would anyone have kept following Alecto if they were that tiny. Not if Nobility weren't extremely important beyond being that huge.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:40 am
by The Kurgan
Well, it would be high if one thinks in terms of a higher tech world like Criticorum, Ligaheim or Byzantium Secundus. The average known world has an average Tech Level of 3 or approximately victorian. Most knights would reside in the countryside and due to the difficulties in communication and troop movement most affairs would be resolved at the local level (requiring peasant recruitment to muster an army as not many knights would be able to get there in time). Only major conflicts, like a duke vs duke or interplanetary conflict would require the recalling an important fraction of any House knights.

Bear in mind also that an average knight resources are impressive if compared to a peasant but not much compared to a typical player character which will have some extra gadgets. I would assume that usually a knight would have access to maybe to a projectile rifle or pistol or similar as well as a half-plate and some ammo. Any men at arms or peasants under his command will have lower level equipment. A knight belonging to a Duke's household troops will likely be much better equipped with high tech weaponry and armor.

Regarding how could you wipe out a House, if you follow the same scaling there will only be about 5 dukes governing a population of half a billion. If you only count the higher nobility, from the Baron level upwards (the ones that would rise to the challenge of a leading a whole House) we are talking of about 5000-6000 nobles. Those figures arenot that high and I could see all of them being wiped out in an all-out war. Also, many would not be killed but absorbed into the other Houses (There is even some in-text evidence for this as, for example, some lineages from House Windsor were integrated within the Hawkwoods).

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:23 am
by Dulahan
Yet that argument doesn't address the element of Society implied in the various Alustro's Journals, Imperial Surveys, Town Criers, and other fiction. The sort of things where even some no-name Knight is well known by nobles from other houses on other planets.

You don't really get a Society like that if there's tens of thousands in each house.

So yeah, this shows exactly why I'm saying it would be valuable to know the numbers as it makes a pretty big difference in how the setting operates.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:42 am
by The Kurgan
I agree with you that having too many nobles would not be compatible with the setting as described. On the other hand it would also be difficult to believe that a much higher ratio than one knight for every thousand peasants and freemen could exist. How could they control them given the prevalent low technology levels? In fact assuming the figures I used before for planet population (500 million) and the meager number of nobles per planet you suggest, let's say a mere thousand, you would get about half a million peasants and freemen per noble which is even more difficult to believe.

To be honest, most probably the writers have not thought much about this issue and its logical consequences and that is the source of the discrepancies found in different sourcebooks and texts. It would be nice to have some official estimation though.

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:23 pm
by OccumsRazor
I don't like the numbers published or implied with the canon. 1 in 100 seems high. Even 1 in 1000 seems high. Fake news I say spread during the era prior to the Emperor Wars to reflect a demographic fallacy. 1 in 5000 seems more reasonable.

I follow some simple rules I use to justify even these numbers.

Rule 1: Every House is different. The Hawkwoods have a mess of lesser cadet-branches (Silvers), the Li Halon maintain a large minor nobility, the Decados procreate bastards like rabbits, the al-Malik have trusted local lord mayors, and the Hazat promote Estancia to maintain the least of their fiefs. (Mix and match as one see's fit for planet to planet.)
    I see this as the downfall of the Alecto (cadet branches married off or conquered) and Windsor (minor houses shifted slowly to other houses),

Rule 2: Church rulers; many of the rural fiefs are controlled by the local clergy for the noble houses.

Rule 3: Urban Fiefs; Urban fiefs (barony's & baronettes) may control 10k's of serfs under freeman sheriffs and controllers.

Rule 4: Rural Fiefs; Large expanses of wilderness are controlled by roving sheriffs (appointed freemen).

Re: Addressing Noble House Populations

Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:23 pm
by Dulahan
More points of note, using established setting info:

We do know there's named Minor houses that aren't otherwise written up, just given a name and probably with a fief or two on some planet or another.

There's a throwaway line from the POV author of Imperial Fiefs about how his family had a distant Justinian ancestor who lost all claim to the bloodline 800 years earlier. So that certainly implies you can eventually fall out of the house somehow. Cadet to vassal to whatever. The sad fate of second and beyond children of Knights and other low ranking nobles who don't end up proving themselves no doubt. Because there's also implications that even a Baron can have enough power to threaten to take over off world fiefs.*

So how do Cadet branches work? At what point does a family member give up on being noble (as it is said many House Masseri do). what point does it just happen no matter what?

How much of a house is "The House" versus how many are Cadet branches, or vassal houses?

How common are tiny minor houses, and how commonly are they vassals of a major house versus separate entities?

It would be fun to see that differentiated and delineated a bit too, maybe not in the core book, but in a future book on Nobles. Because their society is extremely important despite low populations for the setting.

*Using a star here, because it's another interesting implication for discussion. As it implies that perhaps over generations one fief continued to prosper so much even a Baron is on par with higher ranking nobles, but due to feudal inertia they don't exactly gain new titles, see the Crusader Kings games for situations like this in a game style setting to be fair. But you've got a good resource, get wealthy, more serfs, healthier population, better trade, etc. Meanwhile a different Baron on Byzantium Secundus is struggling with only 150ish troops to hold desperately to his title and fief against a horde of mutants.