Pathfinder Building A Noble House

The first thing to be aware of is that building a Noble House is a slow venture, which normally takes generations. However, a successful PC, over the course of a successful adventuring career, can earn enough money, respect, status and kudos to get a long way towards it. However, it doesn’t really happen until there is a second generation ready to carry the ‘house’ one when the founder dies. However, there is nothing to stop control passing to an adopted child, if your PC doesn’t fancy settling down and having babies when they retire.

A Noble House is a group of people who have money, presence and (at least one) noble title, those who have the most money, influence and titles are Great Houses, while those with less are minor, or even local, houses. A Royal House will hold at least one royal title, such as: King, Queen, Prince or Arch Duke. An Imperial family will hold a titles such as High King, Czar, Caesar or Empress.

People

The people of a ‘house’ are all bound together and they have responsibilities to each other. In theory, the house rises or falls as a unit – although practically some rise or fall further than others. However, that doesn’t means that everyone in the ‘House’ has the same money, power or influence. It is like a mini kingdom, business and organisation all rolled into one – those at the top have the most power and influence, while those at the bottom have the least.

At the top, the members of a house are bound together by a mixture of blood ties, marriage, adoptions and contracts, which flow down through the pyramid through custom and practice, hereditary rights, legal obligations and employment contracts. Marriage can complicate things – but they can be used to link houses together and create alliances between houses. Or a whole ‘small house’ might become amalgamated, if their leader marries into a larger family. More importantly, perhaps, for PCs – is that a group of PCs can form a super-family by merging their own ‘houses’ into one big large house. Arrangements at this level are all roleplayed out.

At the bottom end of the pyramid, there is an expectation that loyal house members will not be sacked (without reason) and that their employers will try to find them some suitable work. If they are incapacitated, or grow old, in service - they expect the ‘House’ to make sure they are ‘alright’. This might mean a small pension, being allowed to stay on in a less active post or being given somewhere to live (according to their station). They also expect their ‘House’ to find suitable training or jobs for their children, and they expect their children to be able to inherit the lease or tenancy agreements for farms, crofts, lands, animals and vessels. In other words, they make a commitment to the ‘house’ - but they expect the ‘house’ to make a commitment to them in return. It is a cross between a biker gang, feudal system, charitable organisation, mafia family and insurance scheme – all rolled into one.

The people at the bottom of the pyramid are the people who work for the business and organisations that you set up using the downtime rules, as well as the wider organisation created using the leadership feat. They could be servants, guards, inn staff, sailors, sages or just about anything else. Most of them are commoners, mixed up with some other NPC classes and few NPCs with PC Classes.

In the middle you have your managers, stewards, henchmen and (perhaps) higher level followers from the Leadership feat.

Not everyone who works for the ‘house’ is a part of the house itself - but if employees work hard and prove themselves both loyal and trustworthy, they know they have a good chance of becoming a part of the house itself.

You should probably check out the Entourage House Rules

Money

You can't just have a pot of money, because sooner or later that will run out. The point of a ‘House’ is that it lasts across the generations, so the money has to last across the generations as well. While you might be able to do that by breeding adventurer after adventurer, that is a bit of a gamble and doesn’t give security to the people lower down your pyramid.
The house needs to invest its money to provide that constant income and, in the same way as today’s world, it is probably best to spread your investments so that a bad year in one field doesn’t wipe the house out.
Investments include:

Most of these are shared investments - the ‘house’ owns the property and a house member operate the business – and makes a reasonable income from his/her work.

  • Buying country land and using it as small holdings and farms – especially if they are ‘Copy Hold’ properties.
  • Building business premises and letting them out. In a village this might be crafters cottages, a road house or something similar. More generally it could be a fishing ship, brewery, inn etc. There might be a ‘tie’ in where a fishing ship is required to sell its catch at a certain (house controlled) market, while an Inn or Roadhouse is obliged to take Ale from a ‘house’ brewery.
  • Buying/building houses/flats and renting them out. In the country this will probably be cottages, but in towns it could be houses, tenement flats or apartments. Unless they are ‘Copy Hold’, the letting agent becomes a ‘House’ member, while the tenants probably aren’t.
  • Trade – merchant ships/caravan/Warehouse all working together. This is a bit different from other businesses as the ships and caravans are a lot more autonomous, but it allows you to build a linked network that spans a region. Often there is greater risk and reward for the merchant who leads them.

Presence

Presence is your ability to broadly influence and area. It doesn’t necessarily give you an advantage in dealings with individuals, however, it is a rough measure of how much weight your opinion carries when the powers that be are deciding things. The greater your ‘presence’, the more your views will be taken into consideration. Presence is affected by a number of things:

  • Presence starts with personal reputation, social skills and looking the part. A fifteenth Level Character, with a high diplomacy (or bluff) score and Knowledge: Nobility, who wears courtier’s gear and lives in a mansion – has more presence that a third level pickpocket who lives on the wrong side of the tracks.
  • There is also an element of who you know, who you are allied to and who owes you favours as well as the ability to stand up for yourself - either by leveraging your commercial, social or military interests. If, for example, you own the only corn mill in town – you can control the price of flour; If you have built a number of shrines, the church is more likely to come down on your side; And if you have a loyal guard cadre (or even an army) – people know that you can’t be bullied.
  • Feats or Traits that imply some sort of Chivalric or Noble background, such as Noble Scion, Hell Knight Ancestry, Imposing Scion, Natural Born Leader, Rich Parents and Friends in High Places all add to your ‘House’ presence.

You might want to check out the Leadership Feat, because the 'followers' described there represent just that type of presence.

Subsidiaries.

Henchmen and merchants (among others) might earn enough money to make investments of their own. They may still be a part of your ‘House’ - you don’t get any income from their businesses - however their belongings still count towards the overall house presence. They get the benefits of the house network, and their interests are aligned with the house. Should you alienate a henchman or merchant, they may well leave and join another house instead. This would reduce the presence of your house, but add to the presence of their new house.

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