Worlds & Lords

Right. And when it come to computing real power, rather than nobility of lineage, the key issues are (1) industrial worlds, as we’ve already gone into, and (2) distance.

A Sector is 200 light-years by 200; a Quadrant, 100 by 100 ly; a District, 20 x 20 ly (according to Chris’s notes on astrocartography). The speed of ships is measured in DV (distortis vicis, “distortion week”), where 1 DV is two light years per week. Chris posted in an earlier thread that

although there are some super-fast couriers with “Burnhardt Compression Drives” (BCD) that can go as fast as 18 DV.

Now, when you’re talking about maintaining control of a region of space, the key thing to calculate is an asymmetrical round trip: how long it takes for a courier to bring a report from a trouble spot on your frontier to your capital, and how long it takes for a combat force to deploy from your capital to the frontier trouble. (Of course, you can position combat squadron nearer your frontier, but their commanders might decide to rebel if you can’t bring your personal fleet to bear from the capital).

Let’s be generous and allow couriers to sustain 12.5 DV, or 25 light years per week. That’s assuming BCD is fairly common and you have a system of prepositioned refueling stops and/or a relay of couriers that goes all the way from the frontier to the capital; not all interstellar realms will have this! Let’s further assume that prepositioned depots to cut refueling time allows combat squadrons optimized for fast response to sustain an impressive average of 5 DV, or 10 light-years a week.

So, response time for various distances:

Across a Sector (200 ly wide):
Courier inbound: 8 weeks
Combat outbound: 20 weeks
Total response time: 28 weeks

Across a Quadrant (100 ly wide), i.e., from the middle of a Sector to the edge:
Courier inbound: 4 weeks
Combat outbound: 10 weeks
Total response time: 14 weeks

Across a District (20 ly wide):
Courier inbound: < 1 week
Combat outbound: 2 weeks
Total response time: < 3 weeks


Now we can marry those distances up to the tiers of the feudal hierarchy.

A District averages 1 or 2 (1.375) Industrial/Capital Worlds; it’s the domain of your run-of-the-mill Forged Baron. He can keep a tight grip on his outlying Resource Worlds because he can respond to any revolt or raid within a week or two.
If there is a cluster of Industrial/Capital worlds all within a single district – as happens in quite a few places on the Sector 243 map, that creates a compact, easily controlled power base for a major Forged Lord, a great Baron or a Count/Duke/Earl. Such clusters are prime property, and their locations will be militarily and politically critical!

Without such clusters, it takes an average of seven districts (at 1.375 Ind/Cap worlds each) to get to 10 Industrial/Capital Worlds, the domain for a “Regional Lord” (a mid-tier Count/Duke/Earl) in our simple “powers of ten” scheme. Even if the capital’s significantly off-center and/or the territory is highly asymmetrical, that’s still only two or three districts, at most, to cross between capital and frontier, which means a response time of 6-9 weeks.
Such a territory is still pretty controllable from a single point. The regional Forged Lord does definitely want those vassal single-world Forged Lords at the local level to respond immediately to problems, but he can still ride herd on them from his capital as needed: They know that if they revolt, their liege will be on top of them in two months, tops.

A Sector averages over 100 (137.5) Industrial/Capital Worlds. So, in our powers-of-ten scheme, a Great Lord (a high-tier Count, Duke, or Earl) probably rules a domain roughly a Sector in size. Assuming his capital is as dead-center as he can make it – and at this scale, the random variations in the locations of high-value worlds will probably even out enough that he can make it fairly dead-center – he has to cross a whole Quadrant to get from his capital to his frontier.
That makes the Great Lord’s response time 14 weeks – more than three months. And that’s assuming fairly optimistic average speeds, which will be hard to sustain across such distances because of the logistical infrastructure required. That gives rebels considerable time to consolidate their gains and prepare their defenses: The American Revolution succeeded in large part because of the 2-3 months it took to cross the Atlantic each way from Britain (4-6 months round trip). But I’d argue that it’s still feasible to exert some measure of control.

Then you get to the Overlords. They control domains that are a Sector or two across. On the sector-gridded map of the Iron Empires (which should be up on the wiki soon), the Gonzagin Empire and the Karsan League are about two Sectors wide, requiring response to cross a full Sector-plus in some places. The Darikahn Empire is so sprawling and asymmetrical that it is four Sectors wide in some places, requiring a response to cross two Sectors.
We’re talking about response times in the 28-56 week range – easily up to a year in the case of the Darikahn. No wonder the Emperor’s control over his outer vassals is tenuous, and he cannot easily prosecute a war along the frontier with another successor state.

The largest “natural” political unit in the Iron Empires is arguably not on the scale of the Empires at all: It’s the Great Lord’s domain of about 100 worlds concentrated in a single sector.

I’m dissatisfied with the term “regional lord,” and “Great Lord” isn’t perfect either. To give a better sense of the scale, perhaps “Sector Lord” for the lord of a whole Sector (ca. 100 industrial worlds), and “Cluster Lord” for the lord of ca. 10 industrial worlds, since such a noble’s base of power is probably a cluster of closely adjacent industrial worlds?

I really like the term “magnate”, however in Burning games thise seems to have been used to refer to merchant-types of great importance.

Additionally, sorry to have seemed to have wandered away from this discussion - I am a bit busy at work and don’t have a lot of time for the forum at present unless it directly relates to our latest game. I shall return, hopefully with something interesting to say and ideally laden down with ancient technology with which to punish my scheming rivals!

We also have the classic space-operatic example of the Baron Harkonnen - a figure who has more influence, wealth, and might than a Duke of near-peerless lineage.

I don’t know how much selling of fiefs in the 14th century pattern will go on, but - to update it a bit and to take into account the technoeconomy of the Iron Empires a bit - I do like the idea of the Pilotry going into hock for a refit of their Index 5 Iron and having to contract out their hereditary rights to the production of their vassal factory-shop-workers. I’ve been having a bit of fun imagining what a Lord Pilot’s Fee looks like - and I imagine it as something other than acres of grain and bent back peasants; I like the idea that it might be in the form of skilled labour that is lent out to League industrialists or used in the factories of feudal superior.

A great example of this in the medieval period is the faydit lords of Southern France who owed fealty to the Kings of Aragon, often simply because there was a mountain range in his way.

I imagine that there is a lot of these sorts of pressures in states with centralising tendencies. A planetary lord can play off the Emperor-equivalent’s Steward-equivalents and his feudal superior’s Circuit-Lords in such states, whereas it might simply be harder to find multiple magnates to serve in the more fragmentary states.

States with centralising tendencies – I’d imagine that’s the Darikahn Empire, in a big way.

Yep, they’d be the ones that leap to mind for me as well. And the Gonzagin. I am just not sure how centralised the other ‘empires’ are. I expect that the Karsan League is more about having support rather than unbreakable fealty - I imagine important lords having a lot of emissaries and diplomats all out keeping an eye on how the wind is blowing.

The Gonzagin are actually described (somewhere) as being fairly loosely organized – an Empire in name and a “baronial confederation” in fact. I think the Darikahn are the only dynasy explicitly trying to rebuild the old Imperial systems of control.

In fact, when I look at the Darikahn’s religious policy – trying to wipe out the Mundus Humanitas – I get the impression they’re trying to revive the glory days of the pre-Mundus, pre-Hanrilke Federated Empire. Which is sociologically a hell of an uphill climb.

Really? Interesting! I might rephrase it to say that the Gonzagin are pursuing a centralising project - albeit without the success of the Darikahn. There may be more than one powerful wannabe ‘emperor’ each with their own wide-spread network of vassals and alleigances that all need to be monitored and/or enforced.

There may be more than one powerful wannabe ‘emperor’

Got it in one, actually. The brick describes a “Gonzagin Civil War” between the Gonzagin family and a powerful “Duke Evans.” What Evans rules is not precisely described, but I personally imagine him as a Great Lord with perhaps 100 industrial worlds swearing some form of fealty. That is, he is the dominant power in a full sector – which, eyeballing the map, is about a quarter of the Gonzagin Empire.

I wrote up a “Great Lord” lifepath and associated “Uneasy lies the head” trait here.