Fading Suns Codex
How to become a Noble
The most obvious method of joining the noble estate is to be born into it. Blood privilege goes farther than any other method – indeed, it is practically the only method. The granting of knighthood is rare enough that the infusion of new blood does little to bring down class standards. The risk of bringing an uncouth, ill-bred knight into the ranks of rulership is thankfully small (LotR 11).
Knighthoods are usually granted only to freeman, but in dire circumstances a serf may be the recipient of noble largess. The Emperor Wars saw many such battlefield promotions granted by nobles desperate to bolster loyalty in the face of desertion or mutiny. Safe in the assumption that the new knight could then usually be assigned to a suicide mission, this became a tactical maneuver by many disliked nobles. To their patron’s shame, some of these new serf-lords survived the wars and now proudly display their noble status at upper class soirees (LotR 11).
The Privilege of Rank
While there are the divisions of major and minor house (the five major houses are called the Royal Houses), there are also essentially two types of nobles: landed and non-landed. The non-landed are practically second class citizens among the high society. They may hold title and even wealth, but with land comes prestige (and the stability to maintain it for generations) (LotR 12).
Most lords inherit their lands, but it is possible to gain them through merit (or cunning) from another lord. A land grant is either hereditary (handed down to the recipient’s heirs) or for one lifetime only (the grantor regains ownership upon death of the recipient). Obviously, the former is the more desired form, for without hereditary land, a lord is often considered transitory to other nobles (LotR 12).
Hereditary grants are rare, however, for few lords wish to part forever with lands which may be desperately needed in later years for income or resources. They are awarded sparsely and most often simply to keep the institution alive, to appease the young nobles and give them a figment of mobility (LotR 12).
Lands may be lost through war or misfortune. For instance, the head of a family can seize lands as punishment from a persecuted noble. Some lords rack up large enough debts so that their collected taxes go immediately towards paying their debtors, leaving themselves destitute. After the Emperor Wars, it is not uncommon to see a landless or poor Count. Indeed, the turmoil and chaos of the Emperor Wars has left many nobles adrift. Many thus adventure to reclaim lost revenue, to relieve debt, or to stave off boredom (LotR 12).