Iron. Only the Nobles can play?

So… just to be clear because of the sketch of the guy in Iron on page 155/in the Theocracy area (aside from the perception that Iron seems more awesome & less cowardly/lame with the Mundus Humanitas behind it)…

To have Iron as someone in the Theocracy setting, you’re probably looking at a Cotar Fomas lifepath, specifically via Lord-Pilot Anvil. Iron is only accessible via Noble paths, and even the high Theocrats & Magnates & Circle of 10,000 have no innate access to Iron.

So, to transform a statement into a question: there is no other way to get at Iron besides Nobility?

Iron as a symbol of Nobility seems potentially quite nasty & divisive (Nobility versus whatever), from a mean-spirited storytelling point of view. If the Archcotare decides the Cotar Fomas has outlived his/her usefulness, poses a threat to the Archcotare’s power (or vice versa). Iron-as-pinnacle-of-self-preservation just screams for some kind of counterbalance… communists, the Archcotare, whatever.

When I get more spending money, I will get the graphic novels with Mr. Moeller’s work… I only have Burning Empires & Bloodstained Stars at this point…

Correct. Nobles only.

The question is kind of circular, though. Iron is one of the marks of the nobility, so it’s a bit like asking “Is there no other way to become a pilot than by learning to fly a plane?” You can gain Iron and enter the nobility by working your way up the ranks (Anvil Captain -> L-P Anvil(Stewardship and Court)) or by devoted service (L-P Anvil in Stewardship and Court more generally reflects this) or by buying your way in (Magnate and a couple other LPs are possible prereqs for L-P Anvil) as well as by the prototypical Born Noble-Coeptir-Armiger route.

Looked at from another angle, what’s happening here is the co-option of Iron-bearing individuals into the power structure. There is a single dominant feudal power class in the Iron Empires, and if you start outside it and make it to the point where you exercise significant personal power, you will typically be offered membership in order to bring you into the fold. There are existing structures in opposition to or outside of this power class, but they don’t wield Iron in any significant way. If you want to be the Iron Revolutionary, you’ll have to do that in your game, not before character creation.

So that power class controls certain offices, and if the Archcotare doesn’t like his Cotar Fomas, he’s going to need another member of that power class to take his side in order to replace the Cotar Fomas.


Didn’t read through the Magnate path, but the context makes sense, especially with “Bloodstained Stars”. I can sense the difference between the Noble born and the bought Lords Pilot.

Why not just subvert the Cotar Fomas if you are the Archcotare & never get another?

The power structure of the Cotar Fomas appears to be different & not necessarily required in the Mundus Humanitas (at least, as I read it), so what if the Archcotare (or his “subordinates”, for plausible deniability) just raises his own levy of peasants & Sodalis to wipe out a Cotar Fomas for “heresy” or whatever political reasons?

The Cotar Fomas is the Archcotare’s subordinate and the captain of the Archcotare’s military. Sure, the pope can execute the Grandmaster of the Templars and disband the order, but he puts himself at the mercy of the kings who have maintained their military forces.

Your question is like asking “why doesn’t the president raise a militia to wipe out the Joint Chiefs of Staff?”

Also, note that if Trevor Faith is more or less typical of a Cotar Fomas, not only does a Cotar Fomas lead battalions of Anvil Sodalis, he also has at least a troop of Iron Sodalis serving him.

I see. It would require a unique set of circumstances for the Archcotare to want to wipe out a Cotar Fomas & the Sodalis structure underneath that specific Cotar.

It is more likely for an Anvil Lord to want the Cotar Fomas & the Sodalis wiped out. Or a would-be Cotar Fomas subordinate to the Cotar Fomas might want to jump start his career path (ah, I see the Sodalis-Brother LP now). Just trying to work through the obvious challenges to a Cotar Fomas & his suit of Iron here…

What is the power base of the Inquisition? Purely an investigatory order (which is what it seems like)? Do they have a separate Inquisitorial Sodalis structure (like the 40K =I=), or are they reliant on like-minded Cotar Fomas & Sodalis?

All the context is very helpful in sorting out the place of Iron in the feudal structures.

What about through a Trait vote? Or is this a question about setting, not play?

Primarily about Setting, as expressed through the Character Burning process.

Reading all the lifepaths & associated Traits is nice, but it leaves room for error as I inevitably miss steps or forget pieces from all the moving parts.

If a Trait vote was allowed to make someone Iron trained (which presupposes the corvus/crucis), I’d like to hear a story about how that worked out in play. Sounds like a neat adventure.

Note the non-noble paths require 6+ LPs before Lord-Pilot Anvil, while the nobles ones only require 3.

You’d need both Corvus and Crucis and Iron Trained, so you’d either need to get C&C in character burning or do both during the game. That said, you could create tech to grant the Corvus and Crucis trait…

Crucis Neural Integrator
Device: Enhancement (8pts)
Categorical Limitation: Depilates subject (-1)
Obstacle Limitation: Difficult Neurosurgery (requires Ob 4 Surgery test to implant, -3)*
Total: 4pts.

The critical question here is not “how did you get there” so much as “what happens then?” There are lots of ways in the lifepaths to get Iron and join the Pilotry. Doing those in play would be totally okay. The part where it all goes off the rails is where you get your Iron, and they say to you “Congratulations, brother, now you’ve joined the Pilotry” and you say “No.” That’s what it would take for you to have Iron without being noble. Your birth doesn’t matter, by virtue of your Iron you’re assumed to be noble. You have to actively break that assumption to be non-noble Iron. Why did you do that? What drives you? Those are the real questions.

*Actually that should be either an Ob 2 test, or worth -5pts. But I thought a crucis implant was harder than Ob 2, and the cost can’t go below 4pts, so I fudged it. If your GM wants to apply a PITA penalty, remember that you have two more points available to offset that.

I see. There’s a lifetime of skill choices between the “bought” noble title/Lord-Pilot & the noble-born (which reflects the message in “Bloodstained Stars”. But bought titles or not, Iron is still a Nobility thing.

Just to recapitulate the prior posts: There’s no 40K: Rogue Trader era thing where criminals plus power armor equals space marine. Iron is as much a symbol of power/the divine right as any trait, and perhaps moreso since there is the illegal crucis thing.

I can see the why of the shipping Magnate wanting to join the Lords-Pilot Hammer. The skill set is not as different between a Hammer Lord and a Magnate. One could just wear the crucis as a nouveau riche Lord-Pilot to show off the status.

It takes a few more hoops for me to see the why of wanting to buy the Lord-Pilot Anvil as a Magnate… but I can see it if the Magnate’s power/base is mostly locked on the planet, and he/she wants the Anvil Lord powers. Going on to Iron training as a Magnate (bought Lord-Pilot Anvil) is an extra hurdle, though. Seems one of those “lipstick on a pig” things to me.

The “what’s next” isn’t so difficult for me once I sort out the contexts. It’s a matter of sifting through where the LPs get me before I can make sense of the next steps.

Uh, I’m really not sure what you mean here:

There’s no 40K: Rogue Trader era thing where criminals plus power armor equals space marine.

The equivalent IE equation would be “criminals plus Iron equals Lord-Pilot Anvil.” What both settings lack is someone who uses the power armor, yet is not of the power-armored caste.

You know how they do the gene-seed magic and slap the armor on you and then you’re not “a criminal with really big shoulderpads,” you’re “a Space Marine?” Same thing here. There’s extra cultural baggage attached to the Iron that makes you a Lord-Pilot Anvil. (Notice that it’s not “CEO-Pilot Anvil” or “Preacher-Pilot Anvil” instead).

Minor quibble: Illegal Crucis does not allow you to use Iron. Iron requires the Iron Trained trait, which in turn requires Corvus and Crucis specifically. Illegal Crucis just gives access to the Helm skill.

Most Magnates probably don’t join the Pilotry at all, and you may be right that of those that do, most join the Hammer. But there are reasons to go Anvil instead. I suspect that it’s not generally out of a desire to be Lords-Pilot Anvil, but rather out of a desire to become Anvil Lords or to become Forged (if the lord you plan to follow on crusade favors the Anvil, he’s likely to hand out more fiefdoms to his Anvil vassals than his Hammer Lords). But if you don’t see it, that’s fine. The prereqs in the LPs show what’s possible, not what’s common or what’s a good life choice (you’ll note that Magnates also qualify for the Filthy Worm Lover and Clown lifepaths).

I think you’re applying your own values to this, though. You come from a place where it’s better and higher-status to be a rich, successful man of business than to be a fighting man, sworn to the service of a lord. Most people in the Iron Empires, though, don’t agree with you. To them, the richest Magnate, owner of a dozen ships, is just a merchant. He has much coin, certainly, just as a farmer has much manure. But a Lord-Pilot, even one without lands or title, that man is a noble! He has a quality no amount of money can equal. So joining the Pilotry is a step up, and if you lack the technical skills and training necessary to helm a warship (as many magnates do), you might join the Anvil instead.

Let’s give an example: if Bill Gates or Warren Buffet walked up to our landless Lord-Pilot Anvil and said hello, they’d be cuffed to the ground for having the gall to address a superior without being spoken to first. (An IE magnate would have engineered an introduction, or approached through friends, in such a way as to satisfy the formalities while still making it clear that his status was lower but his power much higher than the Lord-Pilot’s.)

The Rogue Trader era was different. Power armor evolved into this thing with “Movie Marines” and giant mutant freaks with gene seed… but the reason why Space Marines weren’t 8 foot freaks back in the Beakie days was because they weren’t, not because of whatever lame scale excuse the fans throw around today (the rationale of why the Cadians are bigger than the Beakies). The Space Marines were thugs in suits, which doesn’t mean Medieval Knights weren’t thugs in suits, but just flip through the Rogue Trader rulebook & see what the Beakies were doing then versus what they are today.

In many ways, I prefer the Rogue Trader stuff. It’s much more influenced by the Star Wars Stormtroopers (as non-Clone troopers), Aliens’ Colonial Marines, and all that. Today’s Spesss mahreinns (!!11!)!!) are kind of dull.

That’s a good parallel, more towards the Renaissance era where economic changes created social change from the agrarian/warlord basis of the Medieval.

So certain Empires would put more of an emphasis on the Medieval style (the Urfan), some would be more in the transition/Renaissance, and perhaps some would see the Lords-Pilot as something more parasitic or pointless (the Merchant Leagues)… is that more fair?

Again, maybe this discussion is spillover from the other Iron thread, but this is all helpful towards thinking through the lifepaths for me. Iron is much better in the fullness of the context, IMO.

Huh. I think you’re doing some serious revision to the text there in the case of Rogue Trader,* but that’s neither here nor there.

As to the Iron Empires, I’m leaning High Middle Ages. In the Early Modern period, in most of Europe, a merchant could have a higher status than a landless knight (though certainly below that of landed nobility). I don’t think that’s typically the case in the IE. I don’t think you’re going to find anywhere in the Iron Empires where Iron is held in low regard (that empire would be part of the Non-Iron Empires, not so?) but its place will vary, certainly. I would personally conceptualize that in terms of the Pilotry either as a link in the chain from Forged Lord to peasant, or as this separate other thing. For example, look at the US Military**.

Is a mid-ranking Army officer respected in our society? Absolutely. Is rank a stepping stone to higher status? Not really. Nobody joins the army because if they can make full-bird Colonel, they can transfer to Congress and automatically become a Senator. People with political ambitions do sometimes join up because it’ll look good on a political resume, yes, but that’s more about just having put in the time. It doesn’t help you become a CEO or anything. In some parts of the IE, the Pilotry might be like that: respected and very privileged, but not really a stepping stone to anything higher. Then, you wouldn’t join the Pilotry to advance yourself, you’d join (most likely) because it was what your family had always done, or (maybe) because you really wanted to be a Lord-Pilot.

*Okay, they don’t use the word “gene-seed” in the main book, but they do talk about “bio-chem” and “psychosurgery” making marines into “super-human warriors.” To me, it reads very much like an early draft at the same kind of thing we see later, but there’s certainly room to argue otherwise. And certainly, if you read what’s in Rogue Trader itself, it does lean more on recruiting from gangs than you see in later work, but it’s also very clear that all chapters of marines are warrior-monks and that they are dedicated to prayin’ rather than thuggin’. Hell, the example they use is the Space Wolves, who are actually less thugged out in RT than they’re later presented. But on the other hand, I appreciate the gonzo crazyness of early acid-spitting, one-half-of-the-brain-sleeping-at-a-time, nine-feet-of-muscle-and-backup-organs Space Marines more than today’s reduced-madness supermen. We should compare notes sometime.
**Other militaries might be better examples, but are less accessible: the inter-war German military was heavily nonpolitical, for example.