Magical Mondays: The Magic of Kings   Leave a comment

For today’s Magical Mondays, we’ll be discussing the magic of kings and queens, kingdoms and queendoms, royalty and nobility. Many fantasy role playing games prefer to avoid the mechanics of familial blood ties and the even more fluid designations of political structures. However, the trappings of noble families and the pageantry of Arthurian honor are staples of fantasy stories.
The most famous, possibly the most classic, example is The Sword In The Stone. A noble sword is jammed through a stone and anvil, and the word spreads that whosever can remove the sword will be the ruler of all the land. Often said to be Excalibur, though many sources indicate that Arthur didn’t acquire Excalibur until much later as a gift from The Lady of The Lake, this particular Sword is a peculiar thing. When Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, as just a boy no less, he clearly wasn’t imbued with some supernatural amount of strength or blessed with a mighty technique. Arthur just took the sword. In a fantasy story, this makes perfect sense. In a game, though? Is there a way to represent that outside of just hoping that the story works out that way?
That depends on the kind of game that you want to play. For most games that bother with such things, I’d argue that introducing a mechanic is unnecessary. Talk to your GM during character creation if possible, find out if it’s going to be a world that supports this sort of thing. If your GM is so inclined, you’ll already have everything you need to pull a sword from a stone (or whatever) whenever it comes up. This is probably the preferred method: the stories will evolve more naturally, and you, as a player, won’t waste any in-game character resources on the concept.
If you need a mechanic, or if you want to discern some sort of in-game mechanical benefit, you need to define some things. What makes a True King or Queen? If the queen’s evil brother arranges a kidnapping of the true queen so that he can seize the throne, it’s pretty obvious that this evil brother won’t be the true king. If a settler reaches a previously unexplored region and builds a castle for himself and declares himself king, there’s probably nothing to it… at this point, it’s just a self-imposed title from a madman with lots of resources. If you’re a barbarian leader who storms through a territory and murders the current rulers, the barbarian’s claim to be king may be acknowledged, but if a baby prince or princess is hidden away somewhere until the child can grow old enough to challenge the barbarian to the throne, the story archetypes make it clear which one will be the “true” ruler of the land.
Historians and students of real world politics might chafe at the thought of a ‘true’ ruler. In fact, much of western civilization is based on the assertion that no one can be born into the right to rule. The worlds of fantasy role playing games don’t necessarily follow those same rules, but I think that real world concepts like governmental legitimacy can put players and game masters onto a path that might work for a game environment.
Looking at the examples above, what if any of those fake rulers managed to last? What if they lived their whole life unchallenged, or at least unusurped, and arranged for their children or other heirs to take over for them? If the people of the land didn’t accept the first one but managed to accept the second, would that person be a true king or queen? How about their child? What about theirs? And the generation after that?
All noble families start somewhere. Someone has to be the first crackpot, or the first conqueror, or just the first really wealthy farmer who gets less wealthy farmers to trade skill for lodging. Fantasy glosses over this… let’s be honest, real life history glosses over this… and deposits us into a present where the “true king” or “true queen” has legitimacy. Legitimacy is an intangible concept, but a GM and player can work together to define it for the purposes of a single campaign or family.
In my opinion, the absolute minimum you would need to say that a character has legitimacy is three generations. If a character’s grandfather started the royal line, then that character would either be the first to benefit from it or the one who makes the rest of what happened before “real” enough for the purposes of magic. A safer number might be seven, with the seventh generation being the first one that might be supported both by the land and the people of the land. By the seventh generation, it’s highly unlikely that any living human will be able to remember a time before this family ruled the land. That, plus “seven” is one of those nice, magical numbers. Ultimately, the exact number of generations doesn’t matter for story purposes, a GM can just declare that the family has ruled for “many generations” and leave it at that. What DOES matter is that any usurper does NOT have that claim of generations.
This basic concept of bloodlines can fit a lot of things other than royalty. An orc tribe’s warchief, for instance, or a military family where every generation has a student enrolled in a military academy (and has managed to get the same room every generation) might carry the same kind of impressive weight. You might even downgrade a True King or True Queen concept so that it’s merely a True Baron or True Duchess or something along those lines. If your great-great grandmother was a spice trading tycoon then people will trust your family’s expertise. Merchant lords will likely have fewer opportunities to make use of the concept of legitimacy, but the concept still works for character building.
When it comes to defining the benefits that a character can gain through legitimacy, there are two ways the magic can work in a d20 system. For specific approaches, a GM and Player could work to introduce feats to represent ways that the nobility can come into play, generally against nobility-specific situations, which is to say those things that a noble would be good at (generally somewhere between a bard-like ability to inspire bravery or loyalty and the ability to never, ever be comfortable if a pea is under a mattress. Select the ability in question with caution.) For more general approaches, a GM and Player could work together to create a unique creature template. This template would grant very general bonuses that would likely come into play only in dire and highly specific situations (such as having to defeat a monster that poses a distinct and immediate threat to the landscape.) This latter approach would have to be highly specific to a campaign and would require a great deal of planning from both the GM and Player. Feats are another matter entirely, however, and we homebrewers on the Internet can churn them out as if they’re made from nothing more than electrons zipping through ethereal networks.

Noble Feats: A Noble Feat is a feat that can only be applied to a character with a historical legitimacy gained through either birth, marriage, or adoption. They may be gained after first level, but only after the character has grown into an acceptance of their place both in relationship to their lineage and to the environment their lineage supports (such as a nation or a people.) The GM has the final say on when a character has gained this state of self identity, and all Noble Feats must be gained with a GM’s approval. The previous prerequisites are assumed in all the following feats, and any listed prerequisites are in addition to these.
(Note: in the land of Cantadel, the following feats are all tinged with magic. A Detect Magic spell would detect a faint aura of a non-specific school (effectively universal) when a character makes use of such a feat, even if in just a passive way. This magical effect won’t be identifiable by most, but someone detecting it who has at least 5 ranks in Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) will be able to automatically identify the feat being used and the specific benefits within the feat description. An anti-magic field will not suppress these effects, though certain modified arcane variations of the Unhallow spell might. Cantadel’s rules may not be your own, however, and a GM may choose to instead rule that there is no magic here, with the benefits being entirely based on the character’s morale and sense of self.)

Vanquish The Usurper
With a blow fueled by your lineage, the land, or possibly just your own sense of noble entitlement, your seemingly normal blow deals a potentially crippling amount of damage to the one who dared conspire to take what was yours.
Prerequisite: Fighter Level 3, Knowledge (History) 3 ranks
Benefit: When in combat against an enemy who has attempted to seize control of your throne, you may add your Base Attack Bonus as an untyped bonus on any damage rolls made against this enemy. In addition, if the enemy has damage reduction it is reduced by your Base Attack Bonus on this attack.
Special: A Fighter may take this feat as a Fighter bonus feat.

Refined
Though people of lesser upbringing may never detect the tiny flaws around them, your senses are refined to the point that only the finest is good enough for you.
Prerequisite: Appraise 3 ranks, Perception 3 ranks
Benefit: Your senses can detect the mildest of flaws, particularly in attempts made to deceive or test you. You gain a +2 to see through disguise checks made to impersonate a member of your family, staff, or similar figure (one associated through tradition or business style, such as a wedding caterer you’ve never met before pending GM permission.) You can also gain a +2 bonus on checks to determine tactile sensations (such as when trying to determine if the new clothes are actually invisible or, sadly, when trying to sleep on a pile of mattresses that have a small item hidden beneath them.) Finally, you not only gain a +2 bonus on saves to resist ingested poison, you may also choose to replace a fortitude save to resist such a poison with a reflex save as you keep yourself from consuming the poisoned food or beverage. (“Odorless they say? Maybe most of the time… but one whiff of the Chateau Blanc 948 certainly told a different story.”)
Special: The +2 bonuses increase by 1 for every level of Aristocrat that you have.

Witch Queen/Witch King
Your ancient lineage meshes with your arcane studies in a way that even a mob of rioting peasants would fear.
Prerequisite: Arcane spellcaster level 5.
Benefit: Whenever you cast a spell that is limited by the number of hit dice of the target (such as cause fear, hypnotism, or sleep), the maximum number of affected targets is increased by a number equal to the level of the highest arcane spell slot available to you.

War Chieftan
By standing with your subjects in the face of impending combat, you can inspire them to acts of great violence.
Prerequisite: Rage class feature
Benefit: By spending an extra round of your rage duration every turn and shouting encouraging (or threatening) words to members of your tribe, kingdom, or other organization that grants you your legitimacy. You can grant all such people within twenty feet of yourself the benefit of a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution and a -1 to AC while they stand and fight for you. This is a language dependant, mind affecting effect.
Special: You gain an extra five feet on the effect for every two levels of Barbarian. For example, a seventh level Barbarian with this feat could inspire allies who serve him up to thirty-five feet away instead of twenty feet away.

Finally… let’s say that you want to influence the game from the other side of things. You don’t want to be royal or a noble, but you DO want to affect those who are for some reason. This is a simple enough effect, and the following spell might aid people looking for something along those lines.

Immovable Sword
School Transmutation; Level Bard 6, Cleric 6, Sorcerer/Wizard 5
Casting Time 1 day
Components V, S, F
Range Touch
Targets 1 Masterwork Sword and 1 Large or Larger Item
Duration Permanent Until Dispelled (See Text)
Saving Throw No (harmless); Spell Resistance No
This spell entraps a sword or other weapon significant to the legitimate bloodline of a nation or similarly large organization. The weapon must be of Masterwork quality and be worth a minimum of 500 gold. At the conclusion of the spell, the sword is thrust into its entrapping item (usually a boulder, an anvil, or some structure that is generally stationary and non-portable.) The sword easily moves into the item before stopping just before the hilt (or other suitable handhold) at which point it becomes held stationary. The sword and item both become effectively immovable; the sword is now a part of the larger item, and the item melds with the scenery. The larger item resists movement (a DC 30 Strength check to move it up to ten feet in a single turn), and both items become indestructable, even in the face of most offensive magic.
The spell cannot be dispelled by the caster. Instead, the spell is dispelled at by a rightful heir to the legitimate bloodline associated with the sword. Terminating the entire bloodline will also end the spell.
For some unknown reason, attempts to use this spell on items that grant bonuses to AC have always failed, likely due to the fundamental nature of armor being associated with an ability to move. Still, researchers are working on ways around this problem.

One final note about this spell and the feats in play: they are obviously meant for low powered campaigns. The Immovable Sword spell isn’t castable until 9th level, and the flavor of it assumes that you’re not going to find a caster much more powerful than that. Obviously, a 20th level Sorcerer can just cast disjunction upon such a magical sword of that sort. The concerns of royalty and nobility, fun as they are, could easily become seemingly uninteresting to the superheroes who walk the earth as you approach twentieth level (and some of these could be abused at those higher levels in unfortunate ways). GMs, approve the use of this kind of thing with caution.

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