Thursday, August 10, 2017

Aristocratic Culture

This is a bit of a last-minute addition.  When I wrote the Alliance, I finished it up and released it to my Patrons and then put all the posts up in advance.  Then, as my patrons read it, I got some feedback and one of the things I realized was that I lacked aristocratic culture.  What to aristocrats do with their spare time? How does one woo an aristocratic girl?  What offends and what does obligation demand you do? I've touched on some of these already, but I wanted to expand on those elements.

What I have turns out to be quite a bit of material, perhaps too much material.  I'd love your feedback on what you found useful and what you didn't.  In the meantime, though, enjoy, and I hope this gives you a better vision of how the Alliance feels, at least from the perspective of an aristocrat.

After all, what's the point of playing a space aristocrat if you can't go to a space gala, get your space knickers in a twist because someone said something mean about one of your ancestors, then lose the girl you were trying to woo to some space jock, and then challenge him to a duel and accidentally kill him, right?


Aristocratic Culture and Character Concerns

Aristocratic Character Concerns

Legal Immunity (Alliance Aristocrat) 2 points

This advantage is the equivalent to the 10 point version of Legal Immunity (B65), but has 1/5 the cost due to being only pertinent within Alliance space. Characters with it, while in Alliance Space, are subject to one less level of Control Rating and, if accused of a crime, may demand to be tried by other aristocrats (who tend to be more sympathetic to other aristocrats). However, the character may be charged for failing to live up to his or her aristocratic obligations, including the obligation to defend his domain, the obligation to respect the titles of others, the obligation to honor duels, and the obligation to marry in such a way as to maintain the bloodline of his house.

Social Stigma (Disowned) -1 or -2 points

This is identical to Social Stigma (Disowned) [-5 or -10] but has 1/5 the cost, reflecting the fact that only fellow Alliance Aristocrats care whether or not you have been disowned. Characters with the -10 version of Social Stigma (Disowned) may not have any titles or ascribed status associated with his former house. Such exile is sometimes imposed as a punishment for a grievous crime where death is considered too extreme a punishment, or a horrible embarrassment. By disowning a member of the House, the House no longer recognizes that person and publicly repudiates their deeds.

Aristocratic Culture

Aristocratic Savoir-Faire

Knowing the general outlines of Aristorcratic Savoir-Faire merely requires Cultural Familiarity (Galactic Federation) and either 1 point of Savoir-Faire, or a Savoir-Faire roll at default. Knowing the particulars of course, is what Savoir-Faire rolls are all about!

Aristocratic Savoir-Faire turns primarily on honoring the rights and obligations of the aristocracy. Each right and obligation has customary acknowledgements associated with them. Violating Savoir-Faire is not the same as violating the law, but does carry a negative consequence with it. Characters who flout the rules of savoir-faire will certainly earn a negative reaction modifiers, and those who routinely flout the rules of polite society may find that they quickly earn a negative reputation with the aristocracy,

Right and Duty of Recognition

All nobles should be recognized by their titles. Only friends, in private conversation, may refer to one another by first name. In public and especially during formal events, the aristocracy expects others to refer to them by their titles. Generally, one only uses the full set of all of a noble’s titles when announcing the arrival of said noble (“Announcing his Highness Bale Grimshaw, Duke of Denjuku, Lord of the Shinjurai, Lord of the Grimshaw, Guardian of the Mysteries), otherwise, the basic form of address is sufficient (“Your highness.”).

The aristocracy order themselves by status. The last to arrive, the first to sit, the first to eat, the right to interrupt others (and to not be interrupted) depend on one’s status. Technically, only ascribed status matters, but in practice imputed status matters too. A wealthy and politically powerful commoner (say, an Imperial admiral who accompanies an ambassador during peace negotiations) might technically not have precedent over a mere knight, but in practice the aristocracy doesn’t want to offend a powerful potential ally. Reputation and social veneration matters to: the aristocracy might overlook the temerity of a mere knight speaking over a duchess if he just returned from a the front lines after winning a great victory.

Any character who wishes to act “out of turn” or attempt to interrupt someone, one-up someone, insult someone or otherwise assert social dominance over another may roll a quick contest of Savoir-Faire against his target, to see how well navigates the complex social situation. Add all forms of Status and any additional reaction modifiers the GM deems appropriate (typically appropriate forms of Reputation) to your savoir-faire roll. In strict circumstances (such as a highly formal ceremony), only add ascribed status. Alliance Aristocrats with Social Stigma (Disowned) for [-10] automatically lose all such contests. The character who wins may override or humiliate the other and suffers no general social backlash (people might be shocked or scandalized, but it seems appropriate given their stations and decorum); the loser must accept, or face general embarrassment (their defiance seems inappropriate, petty or out of place).

Right and Duty of Dominion

A noble must have an invitation to enter the domain of another noble, or he must ask permission (preferably in advanced, but allowances can be made for an emergency). The closer one gets to the person of a noble, the more urgently permission is needed. To slip across the border of a duchess’s territory and back without permission is worth an eye-roll, while touching a noble without permission may result in immediately drawn arms! “Permission” is this context can be anything from a formal invitation to a verbal summons to a physical beckoning t a flirtatious wink. If circumstances are uncertain, roll Savoir-Faire (with different in status as a modifier: a duke grabbing a knight without permission might be overlooked, but the opposite situation would almost never be).

When first entering the presence of a noble, especially in formal circumstances, the guest must be announced by another (one of the host’s servants, or a servant of his own, or the Master of Ceremonies in especially prestigious events), whereupon the host will acknowledge the guest, and invite them to enter. In informal circumstances, of course, this sort of thing is waived (a lover does not fill out paperwork in triplicate to slip into his mistresses bedroom and wake her with a kiss)..

Right and Duty of War

Martial nobles must be allowed to carry their arms and armor wherever they go. However, wearing full armor and a force sword in all circumstances tends to make people nervous. Unless wearing armor for ceremonial purposes, most nobles will wear only a single piece of diamondoid jewelry (which another noble might comment upon, if he wishes to praise the martial virtue of the other). Nobles typically voluntarily surrender their force sword to their host when visiting, and the host places it on a prominent display so that others may see it. As such, most nobles have elegant, attractive and distinctive force swords so that theirs can be easily picked out. The host must ensure the security of the force swords under her care, and any force swords missing at the end of the event are a black mark on her name! Nobles may keep their force sword with them; that is their right. But doing so sends a clear message to the host of mistrust, hostility or the belief that they cannot adequately protect the guest.

Right and Duty of Grace

The aristocracy must dress the part for any occasion. Showing up at a grand gala in dirty coveralls is a grave insult to the host, and a disgrace to oneself. Overdressing, though, means that one does not know their station. The aristocracy should wear no more ostentatious or fashionable an outfit than their station allows, nor should they be better dressed than their superiors. If two characters have conflicting outfits (“She’s wearing my dress!”), then seek social precedent as per the Right of Recognition. This only matters if someone wishes to assert their superiority in this matter.

Generally, outfits matter the most during an introduction. Aristocracy will often wear multi-piece outfits, and wear the full outfit for their entrance, and then slip away for a few moments to remove some of the less practical elements (for example, a knight who arrives in full armor, and then removes his helmet, in the very least, or even strips out of his armor and wears something more comfortable). This has limits though: the noble still needs to look their part.

Right and Duty of Satisfaction

An aristocrat may only reasonably challenge another noble to a duel if his rights have been besmirched. A violation of savoir-faire counts, though most people will care about the severity of the offense: challenging someone to a duel because his ship’s path technically crossed your terrain while in hyperspace and he didn’t say hello first would be a hard sell.

Treat a challenge to a duel as a Savoir-Faire roll. Apply a penalty or bonus based on the severity of the offense (most reasonable offenses, such as an insult against your person, or simply barging in without permission, are +0; clear and obvious violations, such as killing another member of your family, is up to +4. Sketchy and made-up violations generally go as low as -4; most nobles will accept even the flimsiest of reasons, provided the challenge is sufficiently polite). Add a bonus for innovative or florid public challenges. Generally, the challenger announces the crimes for which he is challenging the other; the other either accepts the charges and agrees to the challengers terms (which might be arbitrated by an aristrocratic court), or he defies the challenger, in which case the fight is on!

Right and Duty of Legacy

A noble must marry! A woman is expected to marry before she is 30 (The technology of Psi-Wars is sufficient to extend a woman’s fertility almost indefinitely, plus it can engage in artificial insemination or even cloning and the use of artificial wombs, but a woman who needs such things admits that she is an unfit mother). Failing to do so suggests that something is fundamentally with her, and she might get a negative reputation. Men who fail to marry by 50 has a similar problem.

Courtly romance is formal. The man seeks the permission of the family to “court” the woman (typically the father, but what matters is the master of the family, which may be female or, in the case of particularly young nobility, in the hands of a regent). Courtship consists of appearing at at least three formal events, publicly, as a couple and should generally take a year, long enough for people to gossip about it and get used to the idea of the new couple. Engagement involves an exchange of gifts, typically some piece of jewelry given to the woman, at least, to denote her intent to remain chaste and to be with no man other than her husband to be. The engagement also typically lasts a year, during which time everyone has sufficient time to ready for the wedding.

Most of this is mere formality, but it also provides plenty of time for jilted lovers to challenge (the aristocracy considers a broken heart ample reason to challenge, even calling it a violation of the right of legacy, but one typically challenges a member of the same gender: if a woman leaves a man for another man, then the first man challenges the second man; if a man leaves his wife for a mistress, then the wife challenges the mistress, not the man), and it allows time for people to ensure that genetic lineage, as well as social prestige, is a worthy match. Marrying below your station can cause for quite some scandal. A duke who marries a commoner won’t lose his status, but he’ll have a sufficiently low reputation that he may find exerting his full station increasingly difficult.

Aristocratic Ceremonies and Events

The aristocracy revel in festivals, party and ceremonies. They emphasize their prestige and importance, of course, but also allow them to mingle and interact. Event planning is overseen by a host and often a second, a junior aristocrat who acts as the lieutenant for the host. For formal ceremonies (especially honors and funerals), the actual events are conducted by the Master of Ceremonies, who often has high levels of skills necessary to perform the event. If the GM decides to require a roll to see if a ceremony goes without a hitch, roll against an appropriate skill with a penalty equal to the Status of the most prestigious character in attendance.

Aristocratic Celebrations

When the Alliance Senate is not in session, the “social season” begins, during which one may politely hold any sort of celebration. The most commonly celebrated events are the debut, where a young aristocrat is introduced into aristocratic society (generally on their 16th birthday for women, and on their 18th birthday for men), the wedding, and the birthday, but the aristocracy finds all kinds of reasons to celebrate.

A typical celebration begins with introductions. At the appointed hour, invited guests begin to arrive in reverse order of importance: the least important arrive the earliest and the most important arrive last. After their introductions, guests are invited into a parlor, sitting room or an event space and given refreshment and allowed to mingle.

Once the last, and most important, guest has arrived, typically the guests being celebrated (such as the bride and groom at a wedding, then the main event can commence, always conducted by the Master of Ceremonies. At a debut, or birthday the youth is publicly announced, a few speeches given, and then the youth may mingle; at a wedding, the couple exchange vows before witnesses. The ceremonial events typically last less than 15 minutes, after which anyone who wishes to give gifts to those being celebrated may do so, often accompanied with a speech. To perform a debut or a birthday without a hitch, roll Savoir-Faire. To perform a wedding, roll Religious Ritual.

After the events, the celebration moves on to dinner, where guests are seated at a grand table, or at tables sorted by importance and house, if the event is large enough, and the host offers an extravagant and creative feast. In particularly long parties, the host usually arranges for entertainment for after dinner, such a a show or a dance.

After the feast, mingling might resume and guests may reasonably excuse themselves. When the host announces that she is going to retire, that signals to everyone that the event is finished. Everyone should offer farewell to the host and depart soon (unless they’ve made arrangements to stay), unless the host passes hosting responsibilities to the second, typically by kissing their brow or informing the second explicitly that she is retiring for the night. Thereupon the second might announce an after-party, at which point the second becomes the new host for a new, less formal party, usually one full of alcohol and scandal, but any scandal (or glory) that comes from the after-party falls firmly on the shoulders of the second, not the host.

Aristocratic Accolades

During an Accolade, the aristocracy bestows recognition, an honor or a title on someone, called the “elect.” Accolades tend to be deeply formal, ritualistic ceremonies, and held most often when the Senate is still in session (as the Senate often plays a role). Sometimes an accolade is surrounded by a celebration above, such as when a debut also coincides with the conferring of titles, or when a proud parent wants to commemorate the event, but an accolade can occur on its own.

An Accolade requires someone receiving the honor, the elect, and someone who bestows the honor, the “conferrer.” The conferrer must be in a position to grant the honors or title: a lord can grant a title to a knight or a gentleman, the lord of a house may grant higher titles associated with the house, and the Speaker of the Senate may grant the title of Duke. The Senate itself appoints someone to confer the authority of the senate to a newly elected Speaker. The Master of Ceremonies conducts the actual ceremony, directing all participants in what they must do. If a roll is called for, an Accolade requires a Religious Ritual roll.

The Accolade is a simple even, usually finished in less than an hour. Upon the Master of Ceremony’s command, the elect approaches the conferrer and kneels. In the case of honor or recognition, the conferrer describes the deeds that the elect performed to earn the honor. In the case of a title, the conferrer describe the elect’s new duties and demands that the elect swears an oath to uphold them, which the elect then does (the Master of Ceremony usually states the vow, which the elect repeats). In the case of an honor or recognition, the conferrer give the elect a token of his esteem, typically a medal pinned to the chest. In the case of a new title, the conferrer gives the elect the badges of his new office: a force sword for a knight, a mantle or item of jewelry for a gentleman, or the various traditional regalia associated with a higher title (for example, the signet ring, mantle, traditional relics and the biometric keys of a duke). If no such token exists, one is created to be symbolic of the new position (for example, when making someone the grand marshal of the combined Alliance fleet, the font of honors might offer the honoree a banner). Upon receiving the token, the elect turns and raises up the token for the gathered people to see, which signals the end of the event. Most people cheer, and then rise to congratulate the elect.

Aristocratic Funerals

Funerals, like accolated, tend to be deeply formal, but far more somber. No introductions are held and while one should be appropriately fashionable, one should not wear anything that makes them stand out. Black is the traditional color for Alliance funerals. The focus of attention for the funeral is the dead, not the guests.

The funeral tends to be a simple affair where the Master of Ceremonies extols the heroism and virtues of the fallen and might invite another to speak, after which the dead is buried in the soil of his dominion, and given a final salute by spaceships either firing an arc through the atmosphere, or starfighters flying in such a way that they leave visible, ionized streams through the air. If a roll is required to see that the event goes without a hitch, roll Religious Ritual, while those giving a eulogy roll Public Speaking.

Most families have at least a mausoleum in which they can inter their dead, and the great families have entire an entire necropolis. The greatest necropoli lie on Old Maradon, and the most honored, heroes of the Alliance, are given a resting place on the now empty world. Only natives of Maradon may set foot on its soil so the funeral is held on Atrium, the moon of Maradon, whereafter the funeral workers take the body and fly it to Maradon, where they inter the body in its intended mausoleum.

Those who wish the honor the dead may continue to wear black and a sigil associated with the fallen. The Emperor wears black and the sigil of the Fallen War Hero because he honors his mentor to this day. He also has the body of the war hero carefully preserved and once Maradon has been conquered, intends to set foot on the planet and inter his mentor on that great world personally.

Aristocratic Dances

The Aristocrats have a wide variety of dances that they know, but three stand out as the most popular or culturally significant. Any character character with Cultural Familiarity (Galactic Federation) and at least one point in Savoir-Faire (High Society) can claim to be familiar with these dances.

The Persephone Waltz

The Houses regularly show their devotion to the Oracular Order with ceremonial “Plays” wherein at least one member of each House represents the symbolic role his house will play in reaching the culmination of the Golden Path and in averting the great galactic disaster. Over time, some plays have been done to music and a tradition of dancing the play out has arisen. These dances involve an entire group, at least two members from each house, and the coordination involved requires years to perfect.

The dance roll for each participant is at -2, and requires a director, who needs Group Performance (Choreography) or rolls the lower of Dance-2 and his Leadership to direct the dance. Each House has their own specific part to play, and each House has their own dance (thus learning to dance another House’s dance starts at -5 until successfully executed at least 3 times), with the exception of House Kain and other non-Maradonian houses, which are left out of the dance. A character might recover from a failure, but a single critical failure will certainly ruin the entire dance for everyone!

Because of the traditionally sacred nature of the dance, as well as the amount of room necessary to complete them, they tend to be restricted to grand events, and have fallen out of favor among most houses since the fall of the Oracular Order.

The Imperial (Alexian) Waltz

Many aristocrats enjoyed the idea of the Akashic Waltz, but wanted to strip it of its religious connotations so it could be danced in other contexts. The result is a stiffly formal, slow and stately, but an elegant dance for two that looks especially nice when an entire ballroom dances the same dance.

The Imperial Waltz imposes a -1 penalty, as it has very intricate and demanding steps. Characters may use it in place of Savoir-Faire to impress onlookers with their gentility and manners.

The (Caliban) Chase

House Kain takes love as seriously as it takes war. House Kain has danced the Chase since before they were a House, as it was a traditional dance from their homeworld, though it has fallen out of favor with the common masses and has evolved into a far more aristocratic dance in the hands of House Kain.

The Chase is a highly improvisational dance performed between a man and a woman. The dance is designed to be easy for a woman to pick up, and is only at -3 to an unfamiliar dancer (rather than -5) provided she has a skilled (at least 1 point in dance, plus familiarity) male partner. Men dance at no penalty or bonus.

The Chase has broadly five themes and movements, the greeting, the grace, the vigor, the charm and the farewell. Each dance begins with the greeting, which is a bow and a few typical opening moves initiated by the man, and thereafter the man can move into either the grace, the vigor or the charm. The woman can respond in kind, or refuse, and shift to a different movement (a “challenge”), in which case the man is expected to shift to match (“accepting the challenge”). Dancing the grace is a DX-based Dancing roll; dancing the vigor is an HT-based Dancing roll; dancing the charm is an IQ-based Dancing roll. The symbolism of the dance is that the man displays what he feels is his strongest trait, the reason the woman should love or admire him (“the chase”). If she responds in kind, this means she finds that trait appealing; if she shifts to a different form of dance, she declares that this trait interests her more and challenges him to prove that he’s capable enough to please her.

Finally, the dance ends with the farewell, which is a careful bow forward so that the faces and their hands almost touch. At no point in the dance may either physically touch the other except at the Farewell. The woman may, if she wishes, touch the hands of the man, or even kiss him (very forward!). The man may not initiate this (to do so is a gross faux pas). Touching in the farewell has different meanings, but most recently, the aristocracy has taken to seeing it as a declaration of romantic interest on the part of the woman.

The Chase has become increasingly popular across the Alliance as a romantic dance for would-be lovers. Most members of House Kain know it, but other houses have begun to take it up as well.

Aristocratic Games

The aristocracy often has a great deal of time, and needs to be seen as having a great deal of time on its hands. To maintain its prestige and to emphasize their difference from the common, working man, the aristocracy must play.

Courtly Games

Aristocrats often spend time waiting around at parties or for the decisions of more important aristocrats and need to come up with games to keep themselves amused. To pass the time, there is a large body of games that fall under the umbrella of “courtly games.” These tend to share common traits: they can be impromptu, they generally involve excuses to socialize or to be alone with one another for a few moments, and to get to know one another. Almost all such games are played with a small, disc-sized holographic communicator, which might contain pertinent data or their score. Aristocrats have been playing such games with one another since they were children and most know all the games and all the rules and how to turn them to their advantage. Most such games can be played innocuously enough during major events, so that players can have their fun under the noses of those conducting more important business (though most aristocrats are familiar with all such games and can readily identify when such a game is being played; in the very least, the giggles tend to give it away).

Courtly games tend to have simple rules, but if one wants to exploit a game for his benefit, he should roll Games (Courtly Games), which defaults to IQ-4 or Savoir-Faire-2. Most such games are sufficiently easy, granting a +2 to the roll, which means, in practice, characters roll IQ-2, Savoir-Faire or Games (Courtly Games)+2.

Some typical games include:

Inquisitor: One aristocrat announces that he’s the inquisitor and decides on a word that’s forbidden. He then begins to socialize with the rest, trying to tempt people into saying the forbidden word. If they do, he “marks” them by sending a code to their communicator that gives them a black mark. If they have three such marks, they’re out of the game. Others try to guess the word and, if they guess it, try to get others to say it while avoiding saying it themselves, and if they can do so, they report the violation to the inquisitor. The game ends when everyone has three marks or has correctly guessed the word. Games (Courtly Games) can be used to guess the word, or to try to get someone else to guess the word, or to use the game as an excuse to introduce yourself to someone.

Diplomacy: In diplomacy, each player selects a personal sigil, a holographic image that “represents them.” For a predefined time limit, players try to convince other players to give them a copy of their sigil (from holocomm to holocomm), with the winner the player who has collected the most sigils. The exchange must be done privately (so people don’t know who’s winning until the game has ended), and participants might demand whatever they want in exchange for the sigil. The simplest way to play is to simply exchange sigils but if everyone exchanges sigils equally, then everyone will tie. In practice, aristocrats swap small favors, often romantic ones (which is largely the real intent of the game), in exchange for sigils. At the end, everyone reveals what sigils they have collected (players may refrain from revealing their collected sigils, but doing so means they’re disqualified from winning). Who has what sigils often proves very illuminating, provided you can guess who belongs to which sigil. Characters may roll Games (Courtly) as an influence skill to persuade other players to exchange sigils or to offer a favor in exchange for sigils, or simply to be alone with them for a time. Characters may roll Savoir-Faire at the end of the game to “read the sigils” and see if they can define some secret liasons that might be behind the values.

Assassin: Assassin plays exactly like Diplomacy, except one or more player secretly has a “death” sigil, and all other players have an “arrest” sigil as well as their personal sigil. If the assassin gives you a “death” sigil, you’re out of the game. If you give the assassin the arrest sigil, he’s out of the game. If you give the wrong player the arrest sigil, his holocomm instantly recognizes this and throws up an alarm, and the player who wrongly accused the other is out of the game. Games (Courtly) may be used as a complementary roll to guess who the assassin is.


Stellar Dynamic’s Stratagem

The Stellar Dynamics corporation has long hosted a massively multiplayer strategy game which depicts stylized and simplified space combat on a broad, strategic level. In it, a player controls a fleet of ships and uses them to take systems with have certain resources he can use to construct more ships and continue to expand his domain. The game uses a holographic interface and can be rather expensive to run (though is easily affordable to anyone with Comfortable or better wealth). Each “campaign” runs for a year, has a buy-in cost, and at the end the winner is announced and given a prize. For those who want a quicker experience, or don’t want to participate in the total campaign, they can play quick one-on-one “battles.” Audiences can watch through holographic displays, and like to gamble on outcomes.

The full game is played with a regular contest of Games (Strategem), with Strategy acting as a complimentary skill. A quick battle is a quick contest of Games (Strategem), with Tactics (Space) acting as a complimentary skill. Characters who choose to gamble on an outcome may simply do so; the Gambling skill offers no benefits.

The game updates with new campaigns, ships and rules every year and has proven quite popular with the aristocracy. Bale Grimshaw has a huge holographic display that shows the current state of the game set in the parlor of his house, so that his guests can admire its beauty and comment on the state of the game. Sometimes, Stellar Dynamics releases historical campaigns, usually set during the Alexian Empire, or during its inception. They once released a campaign featuring a hypothetical match-up between the Empire and the Alliance, but the results proved very depressing and was quickly recalled.

Alexian Trumps

The aristocracy loves to gamble and to flaunt their wealth, and Trumps (or Alexian Trumps to the rest of the galaxy) allows them to do so with flair. Trumps is a card game that favors bold bidding and constantly upping the stakes. While it can be played with physical cards, the most common version of Alexian Trumps is played with completely randomly selected holocards transmitted to specialized holotransmitters that sit before a player and can be commanded by voice or (the especially luxurious ones) hand gestures that look like touching the cards.

Alexian Trump is a gambling game where one can win either with very careful strategic play, or simply outbidding all opponents. Each game consists of a quick contest between all participants Games (Trumps) or Gambling. Bidding is typically 1/10th of monthly living expenses, but characters can gain +1 to their rolls for each Wealth multiple they increase their bid by (2x grants +1; 5x grants +2, 20x grants +3, 100x grants +4, and so on); for a simpler version, add +1 per level of wealthy higher than average! To use Gambling the character must outbid everyone else, meaning he must be the wealthiest person at the table. Characters may bid more than they can afford, but doing so usually reveals a weakness of hand that other players can exploit: this requires a Fast-Talk or Acting roll with a penalty equal to how ever many wealth levels the character is inflating his roll (If a character with Average wealth makes bids consistent with someone who is Filthy Rich, or x100 the amount he can actually afford, he’s at -4 to convince people that he can back his bid). How much one wins varies (players tend to win and lose over the course of a game), but if a monetary value is needed, it is equal to the bid of the wealthiest character who isn’t the winner. A liar who loses and is unable to pay certainly faces dishonor or a duel challenge in the least, and may face prison time.

The game plays slowly and dramatically, with characters drawing and discarding cards to build sets and making increasingly intense bids, or revealing particularly effective card combinations to claim a hand or a bid. The most striking feature, though, is the ever increasing bid, which generally reveals the wealth of the bidder. A game of Trumps played in a public space (such as a casino) tends to attract quite an audience, especially from those who want to ingratiate themselves to the wealthy and powerful. Most aristocrats consider this part and parcel of a good game of Trumps, and after a dramatic victory, a wealthy winner generally spreads some of his winnings around to the crowd.

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