RPG Design – the Noble-Blooded

   Hm… This just keeps getting longer and it’s been a busy week. Well, here’s part III, the segment on the Nobility, to go with Part I (the background information on Magical Rulers) and Part II (The God-Favored).

   Once upon a time it was easy to recognize the “well-bred”. A well-bred horse or hound would be strong, healthy, usually above the average size, intelligent and well-formed. An experienced farmer or handler could usually pick out the “well-bred” quite early on. After all, it wasn’t “well-raised” or “well-trained” they were talking about; it was inborn qualities.

   The everyday experiences of the farm led to similar expectations with humans. Unfortunately, humans were more complicated. They might be obviously sickly early on, but their lengthy period of total dependency, and long childhood after that, offered a lot more chances for environmental influences to modify things. The fact that a lot of their abilities were learned, rather than innate, made the situation even worse; even if someone turned out well, there was no easy way to separate the acquired characteristics from the innate ones.

   Still, health, wealth, and power tended to be self-perpetuating in many subtle ways – and, as usual, the fact that a simple and superficially reasonable explanation for something didn’t really work didn’t keep it from becoming widely accepted. The phrases are still everywhere – “a noble animal”, “blood will tell”, “a man of breeding”, “the black sheep of the family”, and many more. The idea was still powerful enough to drive laws and wars very recently indeed; try a Google search on “Eugenics”.

   The idea of some individuals being “well bred” was quickly combined with the notion that nobility conferred power to reach the conclusion that becoming a noble not made you better, but it would thereafter make your children better – and more suited to rule. That notion was one of the foundation elements of hereditary rulership – a system that prevailed, however creakily, for many centuries.

   In Eclipse d20 terms, being “Noble Blooded” is another template – in this case, a +1 ECL template that a character can either be born with, or acquire later on. Unlike the God-Blooded template, this one is pretty blatantly supernatural. It’s also fairly powerful; everyone knows that the Noble-Blooded are superior.

  • Dominion (6 CP): While even the Noble-Blooded have to establish a domain to actually get any benefit from their potential, none of them have any trouble acquiring the Dominion ability once they do so.
  • Innate Enchantment, all abilities are unlimited use-activated, L0 or L1, caster level one, and personal-only (x.7 cost) where applicable unless otherwise noted. 12,000 GP base value (13 CP).
    • +2 Charisma and +2 each to any two other attributes (three L1 spells, 4200 GP total)
    • Immortal Vigor I/adds 2d6 – effectively 12 due to at-will use, +2x Con Mod HP (1400 GP).
    • Warding Rune/1 + Caster Level/3, +4 max, resistance bonus on saves (1400 GP).
    • Skill Mastery/+3 to a group of eight “Noble Skills” (normally including Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge/Nobility and Royalty, and at least one more Knowledge, 1400 GP).
    • Inspiring Word/+1 Morale Bonus to Attacks, Damage, Saves, and Checks (1400 GP).
    • Mitigate Disease/a L0 effect, may be applied to a given target up to once per hour, each such application provides a +1 circumstance bonus on the target’s next save against a disease which is currently affecting them, not personal-only, 1000 GP).
    • Cure Minor Wounds/this may only be applied to a given target once per eight hours, x.8, not personal-only(800 GP).
    • Delay Poison/only usable once per day but can be used on others, 400 GP. Of course, at caster level one this is only good for one hour – but it’s still a chance to come up with an antidote).
  • Immunity/Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Trivial – only covers L0 and L1 innate effects, 2 CP).
  • Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Major, Specialized and Corrupted for 1.5x Effect (through L7 effects) and half cost/only protects innate enchantments that provide personal augmentations, 4 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], Specialized/only to cover initial racial abilities, 1 CP).

   Given that the Noble-Blooded template covers everything from stone-age chieftains on through Victorian-era leaders, the final six character points go into a Bonus Feat – most commonly selecting something form among:

  • Warcraft/+1 BAB. Many nobles are simply skilled with weapons, whether due to natural talent or early training.
  • Presence. Many nobles inspire others through their sheer leadership and presence.
  • Mystic Artist/Oratory (Diplomacy). Many noble’s chief claim to importance is their ability to talk other people into doing things like “charge the enemy”.
  • Imbuement, usually using some type of Sword. Many nobles can effectively strike creatures that normally require special weapons to injure.
  • Privilege/Social States and Privilege/Wealth (3 CP each), for those who are born into a currently-ruling family, rather than just being naturally noble.
  • Executive – allowing them to provide bonuses when coordinating an effort.

   Or anything else that seems appropriate.

   The Noble-Blooded are the tribal chieftains, the war-leaders, and the lords of mid-sized areas – settlements, baronies, and dukedoms. While their template offers them no great advantages in the arts of magic, their enhanced toughness is almost always useful. They are capable of inspiring men to recover more quickly than usual and keeping those near them subtly healthier than they would otherwise be – and can, thanks to their Dominion abilities, bestow Offices – packages of abilities which go along with particular positions – an effect which, on a large scale, has far more impact than their personal abilities.