Monday, 30 September 2013

Fun with Family Trees #4

Building Houses 2: Expanding the Family to a Dynasty

In my previous post I suggested a relatively simple method for generating a family for a character. The idea was to give each character a little extra depth.

For Houses Major - the planetary ruling noble dynasties - I tend to simplify my Family Generating rules even further as I am inevitably attempting to construct a lineage that stretches over several centuries.

Usually, I have a date when the dynasty first gained its title. A number of the Rimward dynasties, for example, were established during the Trumer Restoration, the campaigns of Sector Duke Leonid I Trumer that ended the chaos of the Sarkul Wars in 906. 906 is the official date for the establishment of Miazan Subsector, the founding of the Duchy of Miazan and the accession of House Geyukthi as Dukes of Miazan. It also marks the accession of House Mahuran as Counts of Bromus. Obviously, there were antecedents in the family lineages of House Mahuran and House Geyukthi but, prior to 906, these antecedents were just members of the teeming mass of Houses Minor and other functionaries who had found themselves drawn into the orbit of House Trumer and, in particular, the orbit of the man who would become Leonid I, Sector Duke of the RimWorlds.

In the case of the House Geyukthi lineage, with the chronological start point established  I pretty much rolled 1D6 and declared that Duke Arkuru I had three siblings, assigned them spouses, and went from there. The width of the page of my notebook pretty much decided the maximum number of descendants per generation, and I kept a close eye on my History of the RimWorlds document to check for events that might lead to major die-offs amongst dynasty members, such as the 3rd Outrim War that devastated the Geyukthis.

The Geyukthis of Miazan are a patrilineal clan - in fact, by default, I tend to construct patrilineal clans as Western European History tends to accept inheritance - of the family name, in particular - as passing through the male line. We accept women taking their husbands' surnames, we accept lines of descent being plotted from father to son, and we are only just beginning to question male primogeniture in the English royal succession. In my notes I have one House Major, House Hikasaku of Gazul Subsector, who practices pure primogeniture - the successor of the first Duke was his daughter, and her husband was bestowed with the honour title of Count, but not Siridar-Count as he did not rule an Imperial County of more than one star system.

When I pretty much pulled the family of Saariki Hassoon out of thin air for my previous post, the dice dealt me a sequence of female characters in all the critical age groups to keep the family viable. Pushing the ages around a few years avoided child brides and child mothers, but pretty much confirmed a matrilineal descent from Liriansa, through Goushansu, to Saariki Hassoon the Marine. I wrote and posted that post at work (a slow day in the data fields) and mulled it over on the way home. The most difficult part of the family tree construction was that I had opted for a vaguely Egyptian naming style and it wasn't immediately obvious which names were male and which female. Other than that, I was suddenly presented with the question of why the 53rd Century Family Trees I had been constructing were so concerned about male lineages when, basically, girls could do anything, including be Marines and Fleet Admirals.

Chagrined, I had a look at House Mahuran, Siridar-Counts of Bromus and the first House Major I had constructed in a couple of decades.

In building this House, I had a character, Count Sakkan III, already extant in my game notes. Looking through my extant family trees, I picked up three female members of House Mahuran who had married into other Houses Major. My usual practice to now has been not to record the ages of females marrying into a House, I have worked under the assumption that their age will be similar to that of their spouse. Working backwards from their spouse's ages, I was able to place these women both generationally, and then temporally, and discovered that the current Count of Bromus had two aunts -sisters of his father - who had become Duchesses of Miazan and Gamelea, respectively. Not bad for a couple of gals from the potato fields of Bromus.

While filling in the generations back to the establishment of the County of Bromus in 906, I realized I had to fit in two more Sakkans, and any number of other holders of the Honour. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that Sakkan I had lingered on as Count for a lot longer than the standard human lifespan. This gave rise to the intrigue about his possible use of anagathics (and possible rumours of a haunted tomb) which, in turn, gave me more scenario ideas.

For those interested in this sort of thing, this Wkipedia article gives a good explanation of what we perceive as the "standard" form of succession, as well as some that are, perhaps, not so familiar.

I particularly like the idea of the Lateral Succession where the Septs of the Clan of the House Major effectively form the Houses Minor of a planetary system, as well as filling its senior military and administrative roles. Upon the death, or retirement, of the current holder of the House Major honour, the heads of the Septs meet in conclave to elect the most suitable member of the Clan to succeed him or her. This person may not necessarily be the head of a particular Sept, but that Sept will gain status for having produced the successful claimant.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fun with Family Trees #3

Building Houses 1

Over the years I have looked at a number of methods for generating families for roleplaying and wargames campaigns. Some of them simple and some of them complex.

One of the lessons I have learned is to ask what role the family you are generating plays in your game. The answer to that question will govern exactly how much detail you need to create.

The family trees I have created for my Houses Major exist primarily to add a little flesh to the historical narrative of my campaign. I enjoy history, and I enjoy writing history, but history is the story of people, as well as events. It is the tragic stories of, primarily, human strivings, successes and failures, opportunities lost due to short-sightedness, or cunning plans adroitly executed by astute forethought and skill, that make history come alive. If history provides the "What?", then it is people, and their motivations, that provide the "Why?".

Sometimes, in the course of character creation, it is worth creating the character's immediate family - an elderly mother, a dissolute father, estranged (or otherwise) siblings, dependent children, can all provide motivations, plot hooks, complications and surprise twists for an adventure. Here is a simple way of randomly drawing up a family:
  • Roll 2D6 - there are 2 - 12 people in the character's immediate family.
  • Determine sex of family members - Roll 1D6 for each family member; 1-3 Female, 4-6 Male (if Aslan 1-4 Female, 5, 6 Male).
  • Determine age bands of family members - Roll 1D8 (or D10) for each family member; result is the decade of age the individual is in: eg 1 = age 0 - 9, 2 = 10 - 19, 3 = 20 - 29, etc.
For a Traveller Character, where you arrive at the character's age at Mustering Out, this process should allow you to build a rough family tree around them, and determine if there any gaping holes in it. You then have the option of reassigning a relative's age to fill the gap, or of explaining the gap as being caused by a deceased or departed individual.

For example, I have just generated Saariki Hassoon, a Marine. After serving four terms in the Marines, Saariki Musters Out at the age of 34. I decide to generate her family and roll 2D6, getting 8. There are 8 people in Saariki's family.

I then roll 1D6 for each individual to determine their sex and roll:

1D6 = 21D6 = 6
1D6 = 41D6 = 1
1D6 = 21D6 = 2
1D6 = 61D6 = 4
and end up with 4 Males and 4 Females.

I then roll 1 D10 to determine the age bands of the individuals and roll:

1D10 = 91D10 = 1
1D10 = 11D10 = 5
1D10 = 51D10 = 5
1D10 = 31D10 = 9

So, bringing the two sets of rolls together, I have the following:

1 Female aged 80 - 891 Male aged 0 - 9
1 Male aged 0 - 91 Female aged 40 - 49
1 Female aged 40 - 491 Female aged 40 - 49
1 Male aged 20 - 291 Male aged 80 - 89

The Male and Female in their 80's could be husband and wife. We then appear to have three Females in their 40's - probably sisters, and daughters of the elderly couple. At age 34, Saariki could be the elder sister of the Male in his 20's, or the baby sister of the three 40 year old women. The latter is unlikely, as this would imply that the Female in her 80's had baby Saariki when she was 46 (assuming we make her 80). If one of the three sisters is 49, it is possible that she could have had Saariki when she was 15 or 16 - unwed mother and all that sort of thing. The two young Males could be the children of one of the three sisters, the children of the Male in his 20's, or even Saariki's children, especially if she had a couple of Garrison assignments in her last couple of terms in the Marines and decided to start a family.

The lack of Males in the middle age range of this family is interesting. I could change one of the three sisters into a Male and that could give Saariki and her brother two parents. Alternatively, I quite like the idea of a family of strong, career-minded women who have loved and lost, or made do when fickle relationships have gone sour.

For setting final character ages, and the relationships between the various characters, one could roll a D10 to establish exact age, or one could shuffle the ages backwards and forwards slightly to get a better fit. Bear in mind that in a relatively technologically advanced society women will tend to have children between the ages of 18ish and early 40's with a trend towards starting families later. Men would possibly become fathers from a similar age - late teens - and can become fathers into their 50's or 60's, particularly if they remarry a much younger woman. And while advanced medical technology and anagathics will most likely prolong lifespans, I suspect that this will encourage people to start families later in life, but will not necessarily increase the number of offspring per relationship.

And so after a bit of a play around, I ended up with a family tree that looks like this one above. I've added two dead Males and one live one (Astranor, the husband of Asanoursu, the youngest of the three sisters). I also made Goushansu, Saarika's mother, slightly older and gave her a husband who died about four years ago. Saariki, herself, is a widow, as her husband, Philcan, died seven years ago. It is likely that her two boys, Atephet and Kosaari, have actually been raised by their grandmother, Goushansu, while Saariki has been deployed.

And there you have a nice, relatively simple, method for giving a character a family.

Next: Expanding this out for a Dynasty.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Fun with Family Trees #2

Previously, I looked at the political subdivisions of Miazan Subsector. Most of these, including the County of Bromus, came into being during the Trumer Restoration of the RimWorlds Sector in the early 10th Century. In my last post, I described how I was able to begin to establish the lineage for House Mahuran, the incumbent House Major of the County of Bromus, from extant design clues. With the basics in place, I now needed to expand my family tree for House Mahuran - both backwards in time to discover the establishment of the County, and forward to learn about the heirs of the current Count, Sakkan III.

As the Family Tree began to spread out, I saw some interesting story ideas and questions developing, especially when I began weaving elements of the already existing history of the RimWorlds around the developing family line.

Amongst the questions that occurred to me was to wonder why, even though House Mahuran had successfully pursued off-world alliances with other Houses Major, and had obviously aligned themselves with at least two Bromosian Houses Minor, there were few alliances with the other Houses of the County. Of the three subordinate Houses Major, House Mahuran has an alliance with House Asheranon of Exxilon. Neither of the Lords of Lo-Taisang or Omega Vasalai IX are included within the famiglia of House Mahuran.

Omega Vasalai IX is an airless rock, settled by a religious sect known as the Pilgrims. Purchasing the settlement rights in 851, the Pilgrims effectively moved beyond the Imperial Frontier to occupy their new home as the Miazan Subsector Military District only encompassed Tonivar, Celephais, Byer's Planet and Naltor at that time. Given the nature and practise of their beliefs, it is unlikely that the Pilgrims would concern themselves with political marriage alliances, though the Derbus (Shepherds) have subsequently found the title "Siridar-Lord" useful when dealing with officials at the County and Subsector level.

Lo-Taisang was colonised by a migratory Vargr Clan in 1002, granted settlement rights in return for defending part of the frontier. To the Vargr of Lo-Taisang, being considered trusted guardians and protectors of their overlords is worth more Charisma than any pseudo interspecies union. Each company of the TL9 Infantry Battalion that Lo-Taisang has raised serves in turn as part of the Count of Bromus' personal guard. The Charisma each company gains for such loyal service keeps the competing septs loyal to the County. And given the general distrust the average Bromosian feels towards offworlders, and alien offworlders in particular, the sight of a company of Vargr in County Blues both thrills and appalls the populace.

Exxilon is a large, high gravity world, colonised in 969, just after the 2nd Outrim War. It was used as a dumping ground for populations displaced during the late war and House Asheranon, installed as Siridar-Barons of Exxilon by Duke Mah'radys I of Miazan, soon gained a reputation for their hard, yet indifferent rule, insulating themselves from their subjects behind an oppressive Law Level and and Impersonal Bureaucracy. While the bulk of the population of half a billion live in a string of cities, high up in the mountains of the small continent of Parishnaman, House Asheranon and its retainers are based on a large, geostationary satellite. It is rare for a member of the Household to "go down the well".

Relationships between House Asheranon and their feudal overlords, House Mahuran, are cordial yet cool. The installation of House Asheranon by House Geyukthi within House Mahuran's County was both a calculated insult and an assertion of authority by Mah'radys I, the 2nd Duke of Miazan. Count Sakkan I of Bromus may have won that argument, in the end, as he outlived both Mah'radys I and Chi'leur II, his son.

I find that as I look at the lifespans of various characters, and how they intersect with each other and the history of the time, that new details of the story emerge along with aspects of the character of key individuals. These are all elements of the metagame, the background against which the players will adventure and, to me, part of the fun is exploring and developing this aspect of the game.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fun with Family Trees #1

A Noble House from Scratch
House Mahuran, Siridar-Counts of Bromus, was the first Noble House I had created for my campaign in over twenty years. All this activity was sparked by work I was doing for upcoming game sessions with the "Tunnels of Tonivar" party, and by work I had recently done on Planetary Defence Units.

While the original "Tunnels of Tonivar" game had essentially been a treasure hunt, for the next chapter I decided to introduce a political and military element. To this end, I cast around for a suitable background world and, eventually, settled on Bromus/Miazan - where the Planetary Government type, a Charismatic Dictatorship, offered some interesting possibilities.

A brief account of Bromus has already appeared on this blog. During my solo game, "Aloin's Saga", one of the characters aboard Aloin's ship, the Iridium Queen, commented sarcastically that Bromus was a xenophobic dunghill of a police state, and only produced potatoes for export. Obviously, this wasn't the entire story of Bromus, but it made for an amusing conversation.

The Universal World Profile (or UWP) for Bromus is: C-4757A8-7.

What this means is that Bromus has a C Class Starport (routine services, no ship building); is 4000 miles in diameter (about half the size of Earth); has a standard atmosphere that is slightly tainted; 50% of the planet's surface is covered by seas, lakes, and other bodies of water; has a population in the 10s of millions; is ruled by a Charismatic Dictator; private ownership of firearms is prohibited and bladed weapons larger than a knife are controlled; and the planet as a whole has a technology level equivalent to the 1970s on Earth.

The Charismatic Dictatorship government-type got me thinking. My theory for how the Nobility work is that a Planetary, or Siridar, Noble is in effect the Planetary Head of State. The Planetary Government does the day to day administrative work, while the Siridar-Noble sets budgets, policy, laws, and represents the planet in interstellar forums. A Charismatic Dictator falls neatly into the category of Siridar Noble who has taken personal control of the planetary government - obviously, in this case, with the support of the populace.

At this point, I had no information on any noble house attached to Bromus. I had only created family trees for two Houses Major in Miazan Subsector - House Geyukthi, Dukes of Miazan, and House Sehlemarl, Viceroys of Celephais - and a couple more spread across Gamelea, Nolgor and Gazul Subsectors. I had some notes on two other Miazan Subsector Houses Major - Houses Rivokul and Van Zaquerl, both of Kamperel, but nothing as organised as a family tree. Scanning through the family trees I had completed, I discovered three female members of the "House of Bromus" - Stefani, married to Duke Pahran of Gamelea, Elemyl, married to Duke Mah'radys IV of Miazan, and Susan, married Duke Edenar I of Nolgor.

Basing the birthdates of these three women on that of their husbands, and arranging a sequence of Siridar-Counts of Bromus around them, I created a family line stretching from the mid-10th Century through to the current incumbent, Count Sakkan III (who, at this point, was just a name I had written in my notebook as I worked up scenario ideas for the Tunnels of Tonivar game). Given their ages, Stefani and Elemyl were obviously his aunts, while Susan became Count Sakkan III's great-aunt. House Mahuran, as the House of Bromus had become, was taking shape and had already demonstrated that this, supposedly xenophobic and isolated, House Major was actually connected to two of the most powerful Houses in the Spinward/Rimward portion of the Imperial RimWorlds.