Despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that their land has been ruled by a singular leader for 400 years, the major families of Dornig are always looking for new blood. A hero who has a reputation for valor and is willing to swear fealty has a good shot of getting his or her own piece of land, a deed to a castle or country house, and a baronial title. This is a situation tailor-made for adventurers.
Welcome, friend, to the world of Midgard. Maybe you’re brand new to this world. Or maybe you’ve been around since the beginning. Either way, stay—all are welcome! Please, sit and listen to the tales. You see, the world has been changing, and oh, the sights to see. It’s a living, evolving realm where things happen after all. So why shouldn’t it have a life all it’s own? Where to start…
[From the Midgard Worldbook]
How to Acquire a Barony
The following conditions must be met for an individual to be awarded a fief in Dornig.
- Human, elf, or elfmarked. The families prefer to expand their ranks with elves and elfmarked, but humans of good character are welcome. Other races probably need not apply. (There are no halfling or dwarf landed barons, though they might be awarded court appointments in the military when appropriate.) Tieflings, huginn, gnomes, minotaurs, gearforged, and other minor races are not considered suitable for the peerage.
- Of sufficient experience. Level 10 or higher.
- Renowned in Dornig. Feats of daring and power in the south might get an adventurer invited to the better parties, but won’t pay out with a title. Adventurers seeking to retire to a sweet barony and a life of ease discover that their previous work elsewhere matters little. Notoriety is not enough—they must accomplish great deeds locally. If you are using the optional Status ability score, this is easier to measure: the character must have a current Status of 20 or more to be awarded land.
- Favor of a particular house or the Imperatrix. The crown and each of the major houses has a smattering of baronies available as a reward for loyal service. Helping a house (or the Imperatrix, via proxies) will fulfill that requirement, whether it involves recovery of an artifact, rescuing a clan scion, or preventing a particularly nasty scandal to gain merit in the eyes of a house. By the same token, such actions might irritate other factions.
- Comeliness. A Charisma of 15 or higher is recommended. Other mitigating factors might come into play, but no new baron or baroness has a Charisma below 9. There are enough sad and average faces within the family trees already, and the clans are looking for compelling notables.
One thing missing from this list is money. Mere gold is not enough to gain a fief in Dornig, and profligate displays of wealth are regarded as gauche. It is good to have gold, but to show off that one has it is not done. One cannot simply stake out a claim and build a new castle from scratch—rather, one is awarded the honor of holding land and swearing fealty to the Imperatrix and her other vassals.
Also, baronies are awarded to individuals, not to groups. An adventuring party that is offered the opportunity to control a barony will have that offer made to one of its members, and that member is held responsible for the land as well as for the actions of his or her fellow adventurers when acting on behalf of that land.
The major houses and the Copper Sphinx Throne have baronies to give away for a number of reasons. The primary one is death of the previous vassal. Baronial awards are for the life of the holder and are not passed down to future generations without the Imperatrix’s consent. Usually such consent involves marrying into one of the families. New barons are regularly called upon to serve their liegelords by dealing with particularly thorny issues—after all, this is why the Dornig lords agreed to make them barons and baronesses in the first place.
Details of a Barony
A typical barony is relatively small—the borders of most can be seen from the baronial seat. It likely collects a regular income from its populace in the form of fish, tolls from river traffic, lumber, cattle, or mines of precious metal. The liege-lord (a mid-level member of one of the major families) takes the bulk of that, leaving enough for day-to-day entertainments in a comfortable style.
A castle, keep, or manor house on the property represents the baronial seat, controlled by a castellan appointed by the ruling family, who both keeps the books and an eye on the new baron. Wise barons stay on the good side of the castellan. Near the keep or manor house, the primary town of the barony operates through the offices of its mayor, council, and church leaders. They are relatively self-regulating as well, since a commoner in such pocket baronies can see a half-dozen barons over time. The locals expect protection from their liege in times of crisis.
The barony usually includes a gate that allows entry to the fey roads, and through it to the other towns, major and minor, of the realm. Such a gate is often located in the deepest part of the keep, under lock and with continual guards, but could be an archway in the garden, the door to a family crypt, a swinging gate in the middle of hedge maze, part of a folly set off from the main keep, or even a road or stream that appears to lead nowhere. Other paths and destinations are discovered by accompanying others. The castellan or one of his agents can walk the fey roads to Reywald, Hirschberg, and Bad Solitz, and any summons from the liege lords arrives by a messenger who can lead the summoned on the path back.
Losing a Barony
Barons can be sacked for failing to perform their duties. These duties include returning a modest profit on their lands, presenting themselves to the court, providing soldiers in times of conflict, and making their talents available for use by their liege-lord. Failure to do so results in a visit by official representatives of the crown, and the barony withdrawn. Those who still occupy the castle will be removed by magic, siege, or assassination. A baron or baroness found guilty of treason will be put to death in the traditional Dornig fashion (the skin flensed from the body, and the still-living criminal then burned at the stake).
Baronies can also be abandoned by the fief-holder, and depending on the circumstances, such resignations might be accepted with good grace or declared treason. Experiences vary depending on the situation…