Worlds & Lords

We’ve been refining the tactical end of the Iron Empires on the forum, most recently with the sprawling Build Your Own Anvil Battalion thread. The Brick itself gives a good overview of the grand strategic situation of the various Empires and successor states. But now Chris Moeller’s map of Sector 243 (in the galactic southeast of the Comoran worlds) gives us a fascinating glimpse into the level in-between an individual Anvil Lord’s battalion and a Great Lord’s empire: a district of scores of worlds and multiple feudal domains of several systems each.

And here we have considerable undefined territory in canon. How many worlds does an “average” Forged Lord (if there is such a thing) control? How many layers of the feudal hierarchy exist between a Great Lord like the Darikahn Emperor and a particular inhabited planet – that is, between the general setting information in the Brick and the specific location that the players create using the World Burner?

Chris’s map gives us a few clues. I’d been thinking of the archetypical Forged Lord’s domain as a single heavily industrialized world, to support its main Hammer fleet, with a half dozen lesser worlds around it as economic fodder. But there are way fewer “House” names marked on the map than industrial worlds – the borders of their domains aren’t clearly marked, and maybe aren’t clear in (fictional) reality, but it looks like each of the named Houses on the map controls several industrial worlds.

So, I have some questions for Chris, and some thoughts of my own, and all of it I’d like to throw open to general discussion.

Questions for Chris:
How do you generate these sector maps? I get the impression there’s a Traveller-style randomization process at work.

  • how many systems to the average sector?
  • how many systems in each of the Empires?
  • what percent of systems are industrialized?
  • what percent of systems are at what Tech Index levels?
    And then how do you draw the borders and sketch the political areas, especially the more local ones (“House Udolor,” “Sika Outraders,” etc.)?

Thoughts for everyone to discuss:

Power in the Iron Empires is first and foremost military power. Military power requires wealth (“The sinews of war are infinite money” - Cicero), specifically industrial capacity. So what matters, militarily and politically, is the industrial worlds (the equivalent of the high-population worlds in Traveller). Everything else is just maneuvering room.

Power in the Iron Empires is also highly decentralized. It’s a feudal system, and distance matters enormously. Power projection is hard, and your influence diminishes dramatically at greater ranges from your power base.

These two factors together suggest that a region’s political structure depends on the distance between industrialized worlds. Where several industrialized worlds are close together, you either have endemic conflict between them, or one Lord who unifies them. The more isolated a given industrial world is, the more politically independent it can be.

The thing that is not clear in my mind is how many layers of feudal hierarchy there’d need to be. My quick estimate suggests there are nearly 100 industrialized worlds in “Sector 243.” If those little grid squares on the map on p. 28 of the Brick are Sectors, then each of the Empires has 30-50 of them – so we’re talking thousands of industrialized worlds per Empire.

My first reaction is that each Empire (with the partial exception of the Darikahn, who are more centralized) is really a confederacy of a number of regional domains, with the Emperor’s personal domain being the strongest but not so strong that one of the others can’t challenge it – hence the Gonzagin Civil War between Gonzagin and Evans (p. 139) or struggle for the Overlordship of the Dunedin between Norsadek and Gadazh.

  • Let’s call these individuals “Great Lords,” with the recognized Emperors and Overlords of the various regions being first among equals but not dramatically more powerful than the others. (Excepting, again, the Darikahn Emperor, and only to a degree). Let’s allocate each of them a couple hundred industrialized worlds.
  • But there’s no way one powerbase can control so many systems. So each Great Lord has perhaps a dozen or so major vassals, who control, say a couple dozen industrialized worlds. I’ll tentatively call these “Quadrant Lords,” since each quarter of Sector 243 has about the right number of systems to support one of these nobles.
  • Then the Quadrant Lord holds sway over 10-12 “Sector Lords,” one based at each of the worlds marked as a “Sector Capital” on the map, each dominating 1-4 industrialized worlds.
  • Only then do you get down to your neighborhood System Lord, with a single industrialized planet as his (or her) home base. Perhaps this level doesn’t even exist, though. Perhaps power is more centralized at this local tier, so that not every industrialized world is homebase to a Forged Lord: maybe some of them just have Hammer Lords and Anvil Lords with their liege in a neighboring system.

This is me attempting to construct a fairly flat hierarchy – a Lord of level (x) controls 10-12 Lords of level (x-1), a very wide “span of control” in military terms – and it still took me five tiers: System Lord, Sector Lord, Quadrant Lord, Great Lord, Overlord/Emperor.

But my basic assumptions as to numbers may be off, or small errors in my estimates may have compounded nastily as I scaled up from the Sector 243 map to the Iron Empires as a whole.

Okay, here’s my bit:
How do you generate these sector maps? I get the impression there’s a Traveller-style randomization process at work.

Yes there is.

These numbers are for Sector 311 (where Taramai is):

Number of Systems per District: 1d10 (this can vary by sector, as some sectors have lower densities of inhabited star systems).

Value: 1d10-2

Independent/Vaylen Index
Val = 3+ 1d6-1
Val ≤ 2 1d6-3

Karsan Index
Val = 3+ 1d6+1
Val ≤ 2 1d6-2

Sector Capital: Index + Val = 10+
Industrial World: Index + Val = 9-10
Resource World: Index + Val ≤ 8

And then how do you draw the borders and sketch the political areas, especially the more local ones (“House Udolor,” “Sika Outraders,” etc.)?

I did these by “eye”. House Udulor, the extent of which isn’t shown on the map, is one of the larger Comoran houses in the sector, and has holdings on the following worlds:

Valabham (capital)
Machale, Ghamapi, Gaenatta, Ugudama, Dmiyana, Magarahewa, Jayanti, Keki, Banei, Saday, Baduya,Kagatama, hapulla, Harihara, Arya, Kumani, Kirinsaya, verika, Andhapura, Missam and Astella (the last two in District 243d/3).

Machale is also rated as a sector capital as it’s the seat of power of an Earl (Forged Lord Khore Sunder, Earl of Machale), who is also a vassal to the older lineage of the Earl of Valabham (Forged Lord Ishaman Udulor).

None of that is randomly generated, by the way :slight_smile:


So there are two different formulae? How do you determine if a world is Index 3+ or 2-?

I like Sydney’s 10-12 on down, makes sense, seems to match up with what we know.

I wonder if there is another way to approach the problem. Let us assume that each industrial word has a Forged Lord and each industrial world requires access to resource worlds whose total values are the industrial world’s value times 2.

Shokine (Value 7) in 243a5 as an example would need to draw on total resources of 14. This gives our Forged Lord a fief of Haria (1), Manesh (2), Cheya (1), Kahlan (2), Koye Maie (3), Mauhka (2), and Khari (2) held from the lord of Dake Dake and 1 fief on Sherrill (1/7). (I am assuming lords could share high value worlds.)

Each resource world have one Anvil Lord per value (to keep the resources flowing and taking a cut) and one Hammer Lord per value, if the world’s index is 2+ (right? or is it 1?). So our Forged Lord has 14 Anvil Lords holding his off-world fiefs and 2 Hammer Lords on Manesh and one on Cheya. Of course many of these Anvil Lords are on Index 0 worlds and probably wouldn’t have Anvils with an awful lot of off-world use.

On the industrial world, in addition to the Forged Lord, there will be Anvil and Hammer Lords equal to half the world’s value (rounded down), so Shokine has 3 Anvil Lords and 3 Hammer Lords.

So the Forged Lord of Shokine has 17 Anvil Lords (of which only 6 have Index 2 or higher forces) and 6 Hammer Lords, giving 12 lords of importance.



I had a nice, sprawling, exhaustively referenced response that I managed to consign to the Void. At any rate, great thought-provoking stuff Sydney; here is my anemic replacement-response…

My main thinking-points arising from this thread are:

  1. Who Forges a Forged Lord?
  2. How do the ‘Great Lords’ control their vassals?

1) Who Forges a Forged Lord?
I assume that the distinction of the Peerages of the Pilotry and the cachets of Anvil, Hammer, and Forged originate in now-fallen Empire. This suggests, to me, that the original Forged Lords were appointed by the Emperor and given fiefs that were capable of supporting their militaries and adequate vassals to extend their authority. These Lords are likely to have been roughly equivalent to each other - to ensure that there is less risk of the Forged predating upon each other while their Imperial overlord was occupied elsewhere across the gulf of stars. I imagine that the Imperial Stewards, with their Psychological support and powerful predictive computers, tried to manage and balance the influence of each Forged Lord.

Plainly, this is not the case in the current era! The authority of the Emperor if far from absolute - thanks to there being several likely contenders - and the technical and social infrastructure of the earlier age is largely in ruins. I imagine that in addition to the “top-down” Forging of Lords, there are some Lords who are able to Forge themselves by persuading (by hook or by crook) their own Peerage and then the rival Peerage to accept them as overlord. This is probably hard. In addition to having to overcome a serious inter-service rivalry control over territories that are capable of maintaining several expensive lordships are likely to start registering on the scales of those Great Lords and pretender-Emperors. Any world that continues to maintain the capabilities to support Forged Lords would have done so historically and is probably still on some records in a palace archive somewhere. Eventually a representative calling himself “Steward” will arrive asking if he can set up shop - and suggesting a short trip to the throne-world to do homage…

I think that most systems capable of maintaining a Forged Lord will have one. Any world that can sustain Anvil and Hammer will have Anvil and Hammer Lords, and also a Forged Lord. There is really no advantage in dispersal of forces. A system with an acceptable place on Index will probably already be extracting sufficient resources across that system, and I am unsure if I am convinced of the benefits of interstellar trade when the ability to do so is restricted (mostly) to members of the nobility. A developed system that lacks a Forged Lord is a liability to an fief-holder since its Peers may decide to Forge someone else - who is then a rival (and those multiple-lightyear long supply-lines must really suck!). Instead a Forged Lord holding several developed systems (lucky jerk!) will Forge his own allies and appoint them over these systems. These subject-lords will presumably maintain their own Hammer and Anvil, and send contingents to augment their overlord’s standing army as well. This, in turn, permits the overlord Forged Lord to keep an acceptable military to defend his demesne and also dispatch detachments to monitor his vassals, respond to threats, and meet any feudal obligations he may have.

Related, but not directly connected; the idea that some worlds only warrant Anvil Lords is a bit weird to me. What is the purpose of these Lords? How can they provide anything to their overlord other than the pride of having a additional blip of colour on the map of the system? (Poor old Jepard Sheva!). I’m also confused about the economic base that can provide facilities to construct and maintain Iron suits but not Hammer vessels. It seems more useful to have a weak Forged Lord over such a system (perhaps it contains only the industrial world and mined-out husks or is dependent on expensive and dangerous import-routes or something?) than to have immobile Anvil (who need to be picked up!) or Hammer that cannot police the surface when necessary. Not having a Forged Lord to organise things (and to hold responsible!) means that absenteeism would be easier to justify.

(Speaking of absenteeism! I think this would be quite common in the current era. I recall Jepard Sheva mentioning he had to go and harrass neighbouring valleys for their landwehr units and I expect that it doesn’t get any easier as you get more technology and more distant. I imagine a lot of Lord Stanley-like behaviour - in fact I think I can easily see the Lord Stanley from the 1995 reimagining of Richard III as a disgruntled Hammer Lord; the scene in the film of Lord Stanley’s turning is just great - and could only improve with Hammer cruisers and fusor batteries!)

2) How do the Great Lords police their vassals?
I expect that in the Good Old Days, the Imperial Stewards (and their helpers) could keep an eye on things for their masters and ensure that the Forged Lords behaved themselves. In some instances perhaps Stewards became the Forged Lords themselves.

I imagine a system a bit like that of the Imperial Circles of the Holy Roman Empire. Powerful and Imperially-supported Forged Lords (possibly Constables on a grander scale) would patrol on the Emperors behalf and ensure that dicta were enforced, scutage paid, and that military contributions were of the correct percentage. Occassionally even the Emperor would circulate along the route and attend the session of that particular Diet.

I expect that, outside of Darikahn space, this does not happen with clockwork regularity anymore - however even lesser Forged Lords (Syd’s Quadrant and Sector Lords) would have adopted this kind of pattern of governance. The lack of communications technology* means that this medieval format of review and monitoring would be popular. By patrolling with detachments of his vassal’s militaries in addition to his own the Forged Lord would also be deliberately allowing his vassals to monitor each other as well - and perhaps helping to reduce any allegations of favouritism or privilege.

I hope this is of some interest to someone, I apologise for its lack of finesse but, as mentioned, I sort of killed the pretty version.

  • I was writing this and thinking to myself that I didn’t really know much about the communications technology of the IE. I also thought “What are the ranges of Psychology?!” - could psychologists use technological boosters to communicate across interstellar distances… or is this a bit WH40K for people’s tastes? I have to admit that psychological comms networks would ruin my ideas about HRE-style circles which would make me a bit sad. :wink:

Sheesh, and the above is the short version. >_<

For a Value 3 or higher independent system, roll 1d6-1 to determine its index (ie 0-5 index). For a Value 2 or lower independent system, roll 1d6-3 (ie 0-3 index).


I was writing this and thinking to myself that I didn’t really know much about the communications technology of the IE. I also thought “What are the ranges of Psychology?!” - could psychologists use technological boosters to communicate across interstellar distances… or is this a bit WH40K for people’s tastes? I have to admit that psychological comms networks would ruin my ideas about HRE-style circles which would make me a bit sad.

Don’t be sad, John. Psychology can’t reach through space. In terms of canon, psychology uses the “leptonic sea”, ie: matter, to extend the psychologists awareness outside of himself. So psychology can’t go anywhere an electron can’t go. Karishun’s “booster” allowed Sheva to communicate with Jepard from low orbit, but that’s the most extreme limit of where psychology can go.

I realize that this kind of contradicts the game, where you can lock someone anywhere, even if they’re in space, but that’s not possible actually.


::locks Moeller::

{Channelling Spock} “Pain. Pain.”

Thanks Chris, I’m pleased that my image of circuit-courts-on-starships can continue to exist!

I very much like the “circuits” idea as well. Very High Middle Ages in Space, with distance forcing decentralization requiring Rube Goldberg governance structures, which is dead-on to the theme of the setting.

Now, running statistics:

Chris says

Number of Systems per District: 1d10

Value: 1d10-2

For a Value 3 or higher independent system, roll 1d6-1 to determine its index (ie 0-5 index).
For a Value 2 or lower independent system, roll 1d6-3 (ie 0-3 index).

Sector Capital: Index + Val = 10+
Industrial World: Index + Val = 9-10
Resource World: Index + Val ≤ 8

Since Resource Worlds can’t support a Forged Lord, we don’t have to worry about the second formula for Tech Index: It’s mathmatically impossible for a system with Value of 2 or less to get a high enough Tech Index for the total to exceed 8 and make it an Industrial World.

So, we have, assuming Sector 311’s density of worlds is average, and that its “Independent” systems are representative of the Tech Index of the rest of the Iron Empires (unlike its Karsan systems, which are explicitly stated in the Brick to be atypically high in their Indices):

Sector Capitals 10%
Industrial Worlds 15%
Resource Worlds 75%

Average District - rounded values (true values):
Sector Capitals 1 (0.55)
Industrial Worlds 1 (0.825)
Resource Worlds 4 (4.125)
Total Worlds 6 (5.5)

Now, there are 25 Districts per Quadrant, and four Quadrants, totalling 100 Districts, per Sector (see Chris’s notes on astrocartography, or just eyeball the Sector 243 map). That produces

Average Sector:
Sector Capitals 55
Industrial Worlds 83 (82.5)
Resource Worlds 413 (412.5)
Total Worlds 550

Now, it’s not stated anywhere I can find how many Sectors there are in the Iron Empires, and the PDF version of the IE map from pg. 28 of the Brick which I have at work is too blurry for me to make out the key (dammit), but the Astrography page states the entire Hanrilke realm is roughly 2,000 light-years on a side, and a Sector is 200 ly on a side. That suggests that the space occupied by the successsor states is 10 Sectors by 10 – although this doesn’t jibe with the gridlines on the map (sigh).

Anyway, assuming the Iron Empires occupy an area of 100 SectorsChris, please correct me if I’m wrong! – then

[EDIT: deleted incorrect calculations to avoid confusing posterity]

Now, as I’ve said, my assumptions may be significantly off.

After a flurry of emails between me and Chris, I think I’ve got this nailed down a bit better:

The Sector 311 formulae for world density, value, and “independent worlds” Tech Index are indeed reflective of the Iron Empires as a whole, to a first approximation. So that part stands.

However, the figures for the Iron Empires as a whole are somewhat off because instead of 100 Sectors, the eight successor states only occupy about 70 sectors.

So, the revised and corrected estimates for the Iron Empires as a whole are

Sector Capitals 3,850
Industrial Worlds 5,775
Resource Worlds 28,875
Total Worlds 38,500

Capitals plus Industrial Worlds: 9,625

Rounding that up to a tidy 10,000 systems capable of supporting a Forged Lord and using a simple powers-of-ten hierarchy again, that gets us

10,000 Forged Lords with one industrialized system
1,000 Regional Lords with ten industrialized systems
100 Great Lords with 100 industrialized systems
10 Emperors/Overlords with 1,000 industrialized systems - very close to the actual number of successor states, eight (though not all have a single overlord)

Those look like a reasonable estimate to start with, Sydney. Remember, many of those sectors (like 243) are only partially controlled by the Empires, much of them are independent, so that will skew the numbers down a bit.

I call I want to be an Overlord!


Can I be a Circuit Lord Chris? I’d be happy to keep an eye on this “Great Lord Sydney Freedberg” - who seems so popular with the Pilotry - for you…

[wigged, scheming]

[scheming] O lofty sovereign, this Trithemius chap does seem useful. Perhaps it would be wise to employ him in some modest capacity in the Circuits, far from court. Far, far, from court. [/scheming]


Now we’re getting somewhere!

The next thing is to try to align the feudal hierarchy more-or-less loosely with these tiers.

The top tier - the overlords with 1,000 industrialized systems – is pretty easy to name. It’s the Darikahn and Gonzagin Emperors, the Dunedin Overlord, the Urfan U’zar, the Karsan Tirkahn, and the Casiguran High Mother. (Sad thing: I didn’t have to look in the Brick for those names). The Comoran worlds don’t have a single Overlord in this tier, and the Primarch of the Mundus Humanitas, while ruler of the Kudus Theocracy, isn’t quite the same kind of politicalanimal.

As for the lower tiers, Chris Moeller’s not-necessarily canonical notes on his website have this to say:

Duke The highest rank in the Imperial Federationís hereditary peerage. The Duke’s name must date back to the Federation Register (at least 600 years). The Grand Lord is considered the first among the Dukes. There is no equivalent to a Duke in the Karsan League.

Earl A “new Duke”, a baron who has been elevated in rank by the Grand Lord, and who holds his rights and title from him. The Earls form the Grand Lordís strongest power base. They rank above a Baron, but below a Duke. In the Karsan League, Earls are given the suffix “-Kun”, for example Havers-Kun would be the equivalent of “Earl Havers.”

Count also called a Companion, the Count holds his rank as servant of an imperial court, (either from the Federation, Hanrilke, Gonzagin or Darikahn Empires). Otherwise indistinguishable in rank from an Earl. In the Urfan Court, the Uzar heads a class of Counts called the Uprichi (the individual rank being “U’phir”) dependent on him for their power.

Baron Any landed noble holding his rights and title by military or other honorable service directly from a superior noble (Duke, Earl or Count). In the Urfan worlds, Barons are called U’yars. In the Karsan League, they’re called Sipahis.

What’s critical to note here is that these titles are about what liege lord granted the title, how long ago rather than power currently held.

Count, Duke, and Earl are all potential titles for anyone in the upper two tiers – that is, holding 10-100 industrialized systems. The key thing is that these nobles hold their titles directly from their sovereign. Dukes have the most prestige because of the ancientness of their ancestry but not at all necessarily the most power.

Presumably, in the Federated and Hanrilke Eras, a lord holding 1,000 industrialized worlds would also be in Count / Duke / Earl (CDE?) category, since in that era they were not independent but rather vassals of the sovereign of that time, namely the Emperor of all humankind.

Then the title “Baron” covers any lord who holds title not directly from the sovereign, but rather from a Count/Duke/Earl. I suspect that this rank, too, covers a wide range of levels of power. It seems like at least some Forged Lords holding title to an Industrialized World and several suborbinated Resource Worlds are still mere Barons. Conversely, Baron Sheva in Sheva’s War seems to be a mere Anvil Lord ruling part of a planet – Chris,correct me if I’m wrong? – so at least some Barons are not Forged.

Oh, and I forgot to merge in information from some (old, subcanonical) notes Chris emailed me. Two salient points:

  1. “All mobile (star-faring) units are ‘held’ by Barons” – some Hammer, some Anvil, and some Forged.

  2. Barons vary widely in power. Most Barons own only parts of a system and are either Hammer Barons or Anvil Barons. At the high end, though, some of the Forged Barons hold sway over multiple systems – although it’s unclear whether this interstellar influence is formal, informal, or some hybrid of the two.

In The Passage Laser mentions he is in Baron Elias’ Forge, but his C.O. is a Baron Groy, who appears to be an Anvil Lord working for/sworn to Elias. So, yeah, I think many (most?) Barons are not Forged, many may just be Lords, without any higher title.

And I say keep Trithemius around, ya never know when you need an Archivist! (Trust me on that one.)

Cheers, Lance

I’d presume there are also Anvil Lords and Hammer Lords of (relatively) recently elevated lineage who hold no Baronial title at all and are simply referred to as “Lord.”

Of course, while their hereditary luster may be dim, their real-world power may be formidable:

"Roi ne suis,
"Ne prince ne duc ne comte aussi;
“Je suis le sieur de Couci.”

(I am not king,
(Nor prince, nor duke, nor count;
(I am the Lord of Couci.)

  • from Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, p.4 – one of Chris Moeller’s inspirations for the Iron Empiers

Also taking inspiration from A Distant Mirror, I think it’s important to note that a neat, pyramidal hierarchy of power is only theoretical. In addition to new grants, the buying, selling and trading of fiefs in the 14th century was common enough that laws had to be passed to prevent landholders from doing so without the consent of their lords. The power structure got very messy, very quickly.

Also, Tuchman asserts that it could be advantageous for noblemen of the period to have multiple masters so as to play them against the other for more gain.