The following files detail some of the various customs enforced throughout the theme of the game.
Most of us modern-day people have no idea about the day-to-day reality of class differences in the middle ages. Fact is that common men and nobles were living in two different worlds. Here's a few ideas, taken from the real world, just to give you the idea:
- If a noble wounded or killed a commoner, he might be liable for damages to the commoner's lord, but never to the commoner.
- Commoners could be killed on the spot for the smallest crimes against their lord.
- Most nobles would've considered it insulting to the extreme to have to share a room with a commoner, up to and including dungeon cells.
- For a commoner, even talking to a noble without being asked a question first was often considered a major breach of etiquette.
Dealing with Nobles as a Commoner
- Be respectful, at least on the surface. It could cost your head to be openly disrespectful of a noble.
- Try not to draw too much attention to yourself. Even if it is for heroic deeds, nobles might consider you competition.
- When you have to deal with them, always try to please and be useful. Nobles like useful servants.
Dealing with Commoners as a Noble
If you are a noble and have to deal with commoners here are a few guidelines:
- Avoid dealing with them if you can. They stink, they can't even talk in a properly elevated language, they stink, they are dirty and probably diseased, there's nothing you can gain from dealing with them anyways, and did I mention that they stink?
- Be short, to the point and blunt. First, they don't deserve any better and second, they wouldn't understand a sentence with more than seven words anyways.
- Never forget that you are a nobleman and they are commoners. You don't request, you order. They don't ask, they beg.
- Be quick and strict in dealing with any and all kinds of disrespect. Where one commoner is being disrespectful, there are always at least two others watching, and you absolutely don't want the word to spread that one can disrespect you, do you?
Betrothals are something done by noble houses only and consist of a signed agreement between two house heads over respective members of their houses.
- Once the betrothal contracts are signed, banns are announced, and the couple are expected to spend chaperoned time within each other's company (thus beginning the courtship period).
- While weddings can happen no earlier than 2 months no later than 6 months following the signed agreement, it is usually favored to arrange them somewhere between 2-3 months in an effort to ensure the betrothal does not become broken.
- Once signed, a betrothal may only be broken by the house heads from one or both sides as it is a binding agreement. Disgrace of one or both betrothed nobles, downfall of a family, madness, promiscuity of the betrothed bride, or banishment of one of the betrothed are all common reasons for breaking betrothals. Obviously, death invalidates any betrothal contract upon principle.
- Broken betrothals, depending upon the reason, can lead to strained ties between houses, and in some cases, demands for compensation. While there is no requirement for compensation to be given - more than a few houses have earned enemies in this regard.
Courtship is a luxury that is favored almost entirely by the Commoner class and rarely employed by the nobility, since marriage amongst nobles is rarely endorsed for love.
- During the courting period, it is customary for the male of the pairing to make offer of small gifts and gestures in an effort to ''woo'' his desired female. Likewise, it is not uncustomary for a female to issue a token of favor upon her suitor in an effort to show her appreciation of his attention. All such outings, especially when between nobles, must be chaperoned. Commoners are significantly less concerned with chaperones in general.
Courtship vs. Betrothal
- Courtship, in the case of Nobility, is referred to the period ''after'' a betrothal and ''prior'' to a wedding, which allows for the two contracted members to get to know each other.
- Courtship, in the case of Commoners, can be referred to a simple period of standard dating with no binding agreement and complete flexibility.
It is important to note that marriages are rarely about love and always about some measure of politics. They are most commonly used for cementing alliances between houses or financial growth of the family coffers. For further details regarding the ceremony, itself, see the Religion themefiles.
- The groom's house is expected to host an event for the wedding, whether as simple as a reception or feast, to as grand as a tourney or gala.
- Bridal dowry is paid immediately following the ceremony.
- Escorting the bride and groom to their bedchambers usually concludes the ceremony.
- Upon conclusion of the marriage, the bride joins the groom's house and swears fealty to the liege of her new house, if not already sworn to that liege. Any children of the union are considered of the groom's house.
OOC Mechanics: Following the ceremony, the bride joins the channel for her new house and does lose access to her old family channel.
Elopement, while a common practice amongst Commoners, is considered to be a stigma amongst the nobility and something that is highly frowned upon. The higher one's house and standing within it, the greater the taboo and consequences should it occur.
- Elopements cancel any betrothal contract and completely negate the need for the bride's family to pay a dowry unto the groom's. It is also one of the grounds for an annulment of a marriage amongst nobility, since marriages are as much about contracts and politics and anything else.
- While a romantic notion, Elopements are something that should be rare and are more likely to be tolerated and practiced amongst the impoverished nobility and lesser Riverland vassal houses (like Darant/Fenster, or any other sworn to one of the primary houses) than any others as they have little to offer in the way of dowries. Some houses, such as those lesser vassal houses, are more inclined to accept elopement, but even so, there are still definite stigmas attached to the practice.
- The consequences for elopement vary depending upon the status of the houses and parties in question, as well as whether or not existing contracts were already in place. However, the consequences have ranged across the spectrum from physical punishment (whippings/stockades), annulment, house exile, to even stripping of nobility and titles.
- Upon the circumstance that the couple are allowed to remain married and part of the groom's house, despite the elopement, the new bride will still need to swear fealty to the liege of the groom's house. In no precedence has the family of the eloping bride ever taken the couple into the official family should they be ousted by the house of the groom. Should the bride's house take pity on the couple and allow them to lodge in their lands, they risk the threat of enemies and worse from the groom's house, in addition to taking a huge social hit for this display of weakness. Circumstances of this nature, such as with Jarod Rivers and Rowenna Nayland, will always remove the couple permanently from any and all lines of succession.
OOC Note: Characters that are looking to elope need to send in a +request to staff, as a courtesy, to inform us of this plot hook, but should be advised of the potential consequences of this action.
Marriage vs. Elopement
- Marriage can be practiced by both Commoner and Noble alike and is the result of a legal binding agreement. It comes at the end of a betrothal for nobles, and at the end of a courtship for commoners.
- Elopement is practiced almost exclusively by Commoners, and more rarely by nobles. This is due to the significant consequences it holds for noble contracts and marriage politics. Commoners that elope would likely be subject to ridicule as well, but at a significantly lesser level. Even in the case of lesser vassal houses or impoverished nobles, there is always at least some consequence for elopement.
Fidelity & Virginity
Fidelity is a very gender biased concept within this setting but with some stipulations.
- A noblewoman is expected to remain completely chaste prior to her marriage. While it is understood that she might lose her maidenhead via rigorous physical activities, such as horseback riding, any rumors even hinting at impropriety can be an impetus for the house upon which she is to wed to request 'physical proof' of her purity. In these cases, the only way to disprove the rumors is to have the maidenhead in tact. While it is a cruel and harsh notion, it is the main reason a noblewoman must guard her reputation at all costs.
- The expectations of noblewomen gets no better following marriage as she is expected to remain completely faithful to her husband. Rumors of infidelity, if consistent enough and found with enough grounds of proof, are a criteria for the annulment of marriage. Contrary to this, a nobleman is free of any such expectations when it comes to fidelity. Noblemen may take as many Commoners to their bed as they see fit, as this is readily accepted by societal standards. However, it is frowned upon for a nobleman to take another noblewoman to bed who is not his wife. This is due to the politics equated with the social tier of nobility.
OOC Note: The decision as to whether or not a noblewoman has lost her maidenhead through physical excertion of a non-intimate nature, rests completely with the player of the said noblewoman. However, bear in mind that should her purity ever be called into question ICly, the presence of a maidenhead is the only thing that will prove her innocence.
Noblemen vs. Noblewomen
While a Nobleman caught taking a Noblewoman to bed is likely to cause a stir amongst the woman's male family members and house, a Noblewoman caught bedding others outside her marriage bed is in for far steeper consequences.
- More than one noblewoman has found herself cast out of her marriage for her failure to be discrete while others have gone so far as to find themselves stripped of nobility entirely. Let it be known the public makes no such distinction as to the social class of the man a noblewoman might take outside the confines of marriage - although should that man be Commoner, the punishment issued by her own house is liable to be more extreme.
- Punishment varies depending upon the house, her Lord Husband, and own family. While a noblewoman can trust her handmaiden to likely keep her confidence, even the most loyal of guards can be bought and sold.
- Married and widowed noblewomen have more freedom than never-wed noblewomen, simply because they are known to be unchaste, but still should bear in mind the expectations of their station.
OOC Note: Subtlety is a necessity in this setting. Any noblewoman that flaunts their male lover, or nobleman that flaunts a noble mistress, can be expected to suffer consequences apart from mere gossips.
Like so many other things, the core funeral practices tend to vary from house to house, but most tend to adopt one of two approaches. However all funerals do take place within one week following death, except in times of war.
- Burning the body upon a pyre is one of the most common ways of handling the funeral. This is mostly due to the high risk of disease that sets in once the body starts to rot. The pyre can be lain upon a plot of land, body wrapped in cloth and oils, as is popular with nobles - or placed upon a small crafted vessel and lit before sent down the river, as is more common amongst some Commoners.
- Other nobles, and some high landed merchants, prefer to wrap the body within the same cloth and oils and inter it within a small crafted sarcophagi in their familial crypt.
- Whether public ceremony or closed intimate affairs, the end usually consists of a hearty feast filled with lots of drinking to honor the dead. Not all of these feasts are made public as such things will depend upon the climate of the house and political arena at the time of the death.
- In the case of nobility, a stone effigy is usually chiseled in the likings of the deceased and added to the family crypt or ''Hall of Ancestors''.
Mourning observation times vary depending upon the significance of the one passing within the house. It is rare for a House Retainer to be mourned by the nobles they served for more than a few days to a week, while Commoners of the same family of that retainer might mourn for months on end.
- Most standard mourning times tend to fall anywhere between 6 months to 1 year, with 6 months being the minimal alottment of time before a widow or widower can be considered eligible for any sort of betrothal contract or discussion of such.
- During the period of mourning, in the case of nobility, Houses tend to place a tribute somewhere throughout the keep to honor the late lord or lady. In the case of a fallen Young Lord/House Head, all Lords and sworn knights of the house are expected to wear a black band somewhere upon their arm in honor of the deceased, this can be a ribbon or something else equally tied, for the duration of the mourning period. Ladies of the house are expected to trade their brighter clothes in favor of slightly more somber hues out of respect for the departed.
- The death of a Young Lord/House Head is significant and almost always inspires the lowering of all house flags to half-mast. In the past, allies of the house that experienced the loss have been known to follow suit in show of support.
- During the mourning period, members of the house still are to conduct business as usual. This means any contracted betrothals or negotiations still proceed at their normal pace, as not even death can stop the world from entirely moving onward.