Noble PCs or What do you mean, I have to kill it myself?

Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

Silver Crusade

Hi there,

I'm not sure if this goes here or in the Advice forum - but I think this fits better here, because it a) is directly tied into Golarion and b) I kinda know how I want to do this and are more interested in other views.

The central question is:
How do you deal with noble PCs in your groups?
(And does it differ where they are from?)

So, the setup:
One of my players likes to play nobles.
In my Carrion Crown campaign, he played a noble paladin of Sarenrae from Ustalav (his mother's Qadiran). Compassionate, no-nonsense type of guy. His parents aren't really big players either.
In PFS, he plays the paladin's brother - a bard who sets out to learn about the world.
And now Dragon's Demand - he wants to play a noble wizard.
And that's where I start thinking.

Nobles in Taldor are (usually) filthy rich, decadent and FAR above the common man. Even if they are more down-to-earth, how would you deal with the fact that one of their kids basically says "Hey, I want to risk my life somewhere far away, don't hand me any money please, I'll do it myself!"? Even more weighs that if later on nobles show up they basically have to treat him better than the rest of the party because while he may not "outrank" them, he won't be
My current thoughts:

  • He doesn't start with more than the usual character because he lost everything just before the adventure started. Maybe he got robbed, maybe he drank away everything.
  • He might be the estranged son, or at least his parents are pissed enough at their youngest that they won't jump to his rescue as soon as his money runs out.
  • He only pretends to be a noble or at least massively overstates his importance. (This is something the player has to agree with, obviously.)
  • He is too proud to ask for help.

These problems seem pretty much confined to Cheliax and Taldor because I simply cannot imagine an Ulfen noble to give a flying f*ck about that stuff when he sets out to slay a dragon.
But if you think this is better moved to Advice, please go ahead!

There's also always the "on the run to gain the strength I need to face down the evil usurpers who stole my home" plot line.

There's a noble PC IMC: 3rd son of a Taldan Count. He was sent into the seminary of Abadar to train as a cleric but ran off and joined the Caydenites instead. He's given most of his money away to the poor or spent it on decadent parties so his Dad isn't giving him any more. But he was still wealthy at 1st level. Now he's been sent off by his boss priest to travel and have adventures like he's supposed to, so the family are out of the picture for now.

I simulated that mechanically with a trait: Knowledge-Nobility is a class skill with a +1 bonus, and add 300gp starting money.

As a character, he's very superior and snobbish and expects people to do his bidding, which doesn't go down so well in Andoran.

For the OP's wizard, maybe he got kicked out of the family manor for burning half it down in a magical experiment. No cash for you, son. Out. And take your familiar with you.

There's always the 'his family has pissed off some other family, so he got out of town for his own safety' angle. His parents are using their money for protection, and being at a distance is the best protection money can buy- as long as he doesn't do something foolish like send letters home and invite an assassin to be the money-deliverer.

He could be in debt up to his eyeballs and desperately turned to adventuring to earn a quick but risky fortune.

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- Estrangement from the rest of the family or an independent streak is my usual go-to for explaining why a noble is out exploring.
- Perhaps they're landless nobles, related to the right people for a title but without any actual substantial holdings - that was common enough in the medieval era (and in fact was the reason many actual knights got into the trade).
- They could be going undercover to find out how "the other half" lives. Carrying around the wealth of a small nation in a knapsack is a little hard to keep hidden.
- Once someone's far enough down the line of succession, their inheritance is going to be basically nothing anyway. Might as well adventure to claw your way back to the standards of the rest of the family.

He could be a acknowledged bastard son of a noble family. Despite being acknowledged as a family member, he's a blight on the family honor and doesn't stand to inherit much...if anything at all.

So going adventuring is a win-win situation for both him and the family

Some other ideas. A couple are variations of what others have suggested.

  • The family could be broke or close to it. Nobility doesn't automatically grant financial management skills, and plenty of wealthy people squander their fortunes. Or, they could just have been the victims of a misfortune. Someone working in the house may have embezzled money, etc. In other words, its possible to be an affluent noble with all your money tied up in loan payments. This is similar to Master Han Del of the Web's idea, just applied to the whole family not to the individual.
  • They may have money, but not much clout or standing in their social circles. Some nobles are ostracized for having unpopular opinions, or taking actions that anger the majority. They don't necessarily have to have done something bad. It could easily be just the opposite: maybe they did something compassionate, but that threatened to upset the status quo.
  • Maybe it's a thing in their family that being born doesn't automatically entitle you to the money. You have to earn your place in the family by working for a living and making something of yourself. You get a little help getting started, but that's it.

This is something I use custom traits and feats for.

Work out what the player actually expects out of their nobility. As mentioned they might via their backstory expect little to no actual gain from their nobility.

You might actually want to take a look at the fame and prestige system from ultimate campaign. That sort of gives a codification of what kind of things being a prominent noble might get you, even if you don't want to actually use the system it puts it into context. A noble from Taldor would obviously have clout in and around Taldor, but outside of their sphere of influence, there would be almost no impact. So a simple solution is they are simply a noble from Somewhere else, that the local nobility feels no major obligation to treat differently. And being so far from home they don't have direct access to their families wealth and resources.

If the player wants an actual impact, I'll usually have them spend traits or possibly a first level feat for it. Using the Reputation and Fame rules as a kind of measuring stick for what they might gain. There is also always the wealthy parent trait.

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One thing to keep in mind is that noble families have major expenses as well as high incomes. If the expenses are close to or exceed their incomes, they may not have much to spare for spoiling their children.

I once created a female noble PC whose adventuring career was driven by sexist inheritance laws. She grew up as her father's heir, but lost that position when her baby brother was born. She later left home to hunt down her father's older sister, who had been in a similar position to hers but eventually decided to "correct" the problem by killing off everyone ahead of her in the line of succession.

There's feats and stuff in the Heroes of the High Court Player's Companion that might turn out useful. :)

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