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Noble houses and nobility in roleplay

Anne Stickney

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All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW.

Nobility is an interesting concept, particularly in roleplay. Being a noble doesn't necessarily mean you are a ruler, but it does mean that your name tends to hold weight in society. In WoW, you generally won't see much in the way of class structure like this with two exceptions -- both the human race and the sin'dorei seem to have defaulted to a structure that involves upper and lower classes, with noble houses residing somewhere in that social ladder.

This week, I received an interesting email regarding nobility from a player who wished to remain anonymous.
Basically: Blood elf Nobility. Does it exist in the current timeline/expansion's lore, etc? Many, many, many of the Blood elves in our community role play as Nobility. Everyone and his/her mother is a Noble, and yet, none of them act like it. None of them have been able to provide any sort of evidence or credentials to their dowry or fiefdom. None of them. I have to ask, why would this be?

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The history of nobility in WoW

As mentioned, two races are noted as having noble classes in WoW -- the humans and the sin'dorei. For the human race, it was inevitable that it would eventually evolve into kingdoms with ruling monarchs and noble houses; it's just a part of class structure. That said, there is little information on the noble houses themselves, other than brief mentions of the House of Nobles that worked as advisors and councilors to the king of Stormwind. Varian's wife Tiffin was said to have come from one of these noble houses, and her marriage to Varian was an arranged one.

There was also a class structure firmly in place in Gilneas as well. As a human kingdom, it had a monarch and it had noble families. In fact, much of the civil war that raged through Gilneas had a lot to do with the class structure.

Obviously, there was the fact that the Greymane Wall essentially cut off all routes with Pyrewood Village and Ambermill, which put both villages squarely in the way of worgen and Scourge attacks with no place to go to for aid. To the rebels, Greymane didn't seem to care about this at all.

In addition, there was the tension surrounding the isolation itself. It stands to reason that the upper classes were fine with being behind a wall -- after all, they were wealthy and could afford whatever they needed. However, those of lower class who earned a living through trade no longer had the other kingdoms to trade with. The buyer market was severely limited, and it can only be assumed that the economy suffered as a result.

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It may seem strange that the sin'dorei (formerly the high elves) have a class system in place, given that they were originally night elves in the first place. While the night elves of today don't really have a class system in place at all, back during the time of the War of the Ancients, there was clearly one in place. Queen Azshara ruled over all, and her favored subjects were considered the nobility, or Highborne. It was these Highborne who were eventually exiled to the Eastern Kingdoms and left to their own devices.

Therefore, it was only natural that they turn to a class-structured society, since it was what they were used to. The Sunstrider dynasty was the family of rulers, and the Convocation of Silvermoon ruled alongside them. Comprised of seven high elf lords, the Convocation was completely wiped out when Arthas razed Silvermoon and destroyed the Sunwell during the Third War. In fact, most of the high elf race died during that attack -- 90% of the quel'dorei race was outright murdered by Scourge during the Third War.

What we have with the blood elves are simply the leftovers of society -- some noble, some not. They are those who managed to survive.

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Noble is as noble does

That said, it's remarkably easy to make your roleplaying character a noble. After all, all you really need is a credible-sounding house name and some sort of imaginary lineage to back it up. The idea of playing nobility really appeals to some roleplayers. There's the whole aspect of court and political intrigue that is fascinating to some. In many ways, it's like a soap opera of sorts. Many of the soap operas you see on television today involve the machinations of wealthy families and their seedy underbellies.

And of course, there's always the idea of your character being better than anyone else. Wealth is something that nearly every person in the world would love to have. The general thought of the matter is that the wealthier you are, the better life you have. It's not necessarily true, but the sentiment runs deep with a lot of people out there. Making your roleplaying character a noble is almost indulging in a bit of fantasy, in that aspect.

For the human race in WoW, nobility isn't too far-fetched a concept. There are still plenty of humans left in the world, and it only stands to reason that some are better off than others, although this is largely relegated to the humans of Stormwind.

For the sin'dorei, this concept is a little more far-fetched. The elven population was so decimated by Scourge attacks that there is very little chance of any of the existing noble houses surviving. Creating dozens of different noble houses from a lore standpoint therefore seems a little silly.

Does that mean you should avoid roleplaying nobility? No, of course not -- part of the fun of roleplay is being able to play whatever you'd like. However, trying to lord it over other roleplayers on your server is generally frowned upon, and it's not going to do anything except garner you a pretty bad reputation among your fellow roleplayers. And if you try to take the stance of nobility too far, you run the risk of being accused of godmodding.

Since roleplaying really is a social activity, you don't really want to limit that social aspect. You are certainly more than welcome to roleplay nobility, but realize your roleplay may be limited because of that.

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Handling roleplayers who assume a nobility role

On the other end of the equation is the roleplayer whose character is a simple adventurer. Perhaps his character has had a difficult past; perhaps his character is from a simple background. But when that character runs into a character who professes the fact that they are a noble, it's difficult to know how to react to that situation. Do you ask about their lineage? Do you ask where their land is located? Do you play along, or do you ignore them and move on?

That, of course, is an incredibly subjective question, and it really depends on what kind of roleplayer you are and what kind of roleplay you are looking for. If you aren't interested in playing fancy games of court and nobility, you can simply move on and find someone you're interested in roleplaying with. Remember, you are under no obligation what so ever to roleplay with every person you happen to run into. You can pick and choose your partners however you'd like.

As for those roleplaying nobility -- well, there's no harm in that at all. However, you may want to keep in mind that your lordly proclamations go precisely as far as those around you would like them to go. You cannot expect to run a government or a city-state on a WoW server. To try and dictate other player's actions based on your fictitious standing in society isn't just silly, it's kind of rude, to be perfectly honest.

If you'd like to roleplay someone from a noble house, you're more than welcome to do so. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to agree with your character's noble upbringing. But you're under no obligation to roleplay with anyone who doesn't care for your story, either. There is no reason why roleplayers can't coexist peacefully side by side even when they don't agree on each other's idea of a good story. Like any other squabble in roleplay, compromise will get you much farther -- and happier -- than disdain.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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