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Grand Duchy: A Letter of Introduction to the Grand Baron

Grand Duchy: A Letter of Introduction to the Grand Baron

The Embarkation for Cythera - Jean-Antoine WatteauFew things are better than treasure, but a Letter of Introduction into the noble houses of the Grand Duchy is certainly one. A Letter of Introduction is a doorway into genteel society, a chance for adventurers to demonstrate they can step into the world and observe the same courtesies as the high-born.

One of the known best known for helping adventurers open that door is the Grand Baron Dymytros Howlik Van Rottsten of Bad Solitz. Dymytros knows everyone and everyone knows Dymytros, it is said.

Though he is far down on the succession lists, the Van Rottstens consider him their “indispensable man.” He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and for being able to provide the information, influence, or favor needed to close a deal. Dymytros occupies that position because he makes acquaintances and cultivates friendships with folk who otherwise would be kept at arm’s length from the nobility.

Not every adventurer who is awarded a fief took their first step up the social ladder with Dymytros’s help, but enough did that it is customary to seek him out and earn guest-right to his manor.

Acquiring a Letter of Introduction

This is the tricky part, because it requires a person of lower social rank to gain the recommendation, the “introduction,” from a person of higher social rank than the intended recipient. For example, the PCs might call upon the house herald and sister-in-law to the queen regent, Aymoneta Star Van Rottsten, asking for a letter of introduction to Dymytros. (In fact, this method is exploited so often that Aymoneta is called “the key” to Dymytros’s hearth.)

What Aymoneta requires before issuing a Letter of Introduction is for another person to vouch for the applicant’s good character, if the requesting party’s reputation does not suffice. It doesn’t matter if both people are strangers.

What makes this system work is that it quickly weeds out scoundrels and anyone who abuses hospitality. Past bad behavior is noted, and if either of the two carries a whiff of mischief, they will be summarily dismissed. (Other nobles might be fooled by the occasional dashing rogue or charlatan, but Aymoneta can sniff out a fraud at 100 paces.)

Now, gaining access to Aymoneta for this reason requires some niceties, too. But as this is seen as being akin to being a “business” transaction rather than a social one, it involves an exchange of calling cards, followed by a summoning by servants for a scheduled (but brief) appointment. If everything is in order and Aymoneta is satisfied with her quick appraisal of the applicant, then a Letter of Introduction is provided.

A Week or Two in Good Company

Dymytros, or more likely, a member of his household, will receive the Letter of Introduction and make available a guest room at the manor house. The bearer of the Letter of Introduction is then expected to stay for an extended time, a week at least, if not more.

It is incumbent on the letter-bearer to be a good guest, whether the master is at home or not. In fact, with the master away, the guest has the opportunity to impress the staff, members of the household, and other guests on his or her quality and character. All the guest’s activities and behavior will be reported to the master in good time.

Of course, guests can prove their worthiness by being helpful, courteous, and good conversationalists. Guests who take part in the activities of leisure with grace and skill gain greater consideration. Guests aren’t obliged to defend their host’s home or holdings, but those who do are remembered for their courage and pluckiness.

Dymytros’s Boons

Dymytros has at least one social engagement with the guest. (If he is away during the guest’s manorial visit, Dymytros feels obliged to invite the guest to another social function where he can have this encounter.)

Here is where Dymytros takes his measure of his guest, makes an appraisal of the guest’s manners and motives. Most of all, he sees if their interests intersect, and if some mutual endeavor profits both of them.

Adventurers occupy a special place among Dymytros’s acquaintances, mainly because they bring a variety of skills that can be of service to him. Dymytros grants boons to those he deems worthy. Sometimes these are what Dymytros calls “trinkets,” small favors he can bequeath for a little expenditure of gold and silver, such as improved weapons, armor, fine clothing, fine wine or spirits, spell components or scrolls.

Dymytros considers these boons good investments. Most of the time he rarely has occasion to ask a favor in return. Hundreds of adventurers and merchants have received such gifts without ever hearing from the noble again. But those who do know they possess personality or ability the “indispensable man” found appealing.

And their first step into the society of nobility is assured.

3 thoughts on “Grand Duchy: A Letter of Introduction to the Grand Baron”

  1. Loved the article! Here’s my question though, At what level should something like this take place? Yes I do know ANY level is doable but I’m just curious what you might consider.

  2. Sheyd: That’s a good question.

    Much depends on the circumstances that your GM allows, of course, but if I were in a Midgard campaign with a player character, I would seek out a Letter of Introduction to Dymytros (or someone like him) as early as I could arrange it.

    Regardless of whether the PC has ambitions of gaining a barony of his or her own, It makes sense to have powerful allies. And in a level-based game, the “trinkets” that Dymytros bestows will have far greater impact on the careers of low-level characters than high-level ones.

    Bringing this intention to your table (or introducing it to your character’s backstory) also sends a clear signal to your GM that you are open to social-interaction style encounters. “Yes, I love taking down bugbears and giant spiders, but in between dungeon-crawls, I’d love the chance to impress a lord in Bad Solitz and get on their good side.” Most GMs are receptive to such suggestions, if it fits into the theme of their game.

    As a GM, I would probably not introduce a character like Dymytros until after the PCs have had at least one adventure (they need to earn their spurs, after all). And I would make them jump through a few hoops, like trying to get an audience with the house herald or some other acquaintance. And during the stay in the manor house, you present the PC with a challenge that tests their loyalty, that might put their chance at winning the noble’s favor in jeopardy.

    In the broadest sense, a Letter of Introduction is akin to gaining an invitation to an initiation into a fraternal order, guild or other organization. Much of what is presented here can be applied to other game situations.

    1. Thank you for the reply, Troy. It is much appreciated. As a player my backstories tend to be a page or two long and often includes a small story predating my character to set things up as it were. Your advice for both player and DM was insightful. I definitely plan to use this (Albeit modified for my setting) in my next campaign and will put it in my next backstory. Thank you again!

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