Nobles & Merchants

Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.

LORE

Nobles & Merchants character Icon

Class structures have been part of human society for as long as we can trace History. People of power, wealth and social importance were organized into social castes and elites, and if these classes found legitimacy in various sources, from military might, popular respect, or birthright, to merit and business acumen, they always made great efforts to distinguish themselves from the masses.

Nobility as a concept predates the Middle Ages by a long shot, but the medieval noble, the feudal landowning class, is probably the most iconic historical version of nobility, coming to most people’s minds first, way before the Roman patricians or any other type of aristocracy. Closely tied with monarchic systems, nobility involves an elevated status and privileges gained by birthright. Medieval noble lines were at first established by warlords that secured land for themselves by pledging allegiance to a sovereign or serving as knights in the monarch’s direct entourage.

Nobles were a military caste with wide social and economic privileges. Over time, more people were invited as part of the nobility through influence, prestige, or as a reward for service. While nobility often came with great wealth, noble status could be held by destitute families. Still, they would keep their privilege under the law, placing them above wealthy commoners in medieval Europe.

From petty nobles or mere gentry owning small estates, to mighty dukes, counts, and kings ruling over millions, the nobility included a large spectrum of aristocrats with widely different levels of power and prestige. Yet, all of them found pride in their elevated status.

By the end of the Middle Ages, a new social elite was emerging, not that it would rise to prominence until much later. The bourgeois, or the mercantile class composed of traders, managers, and financiers, would come to hold extensive power and influence in the cities. While the land made the nobles rich, the bourgeoisie was made prosperous by trade and early industry. Eventually, some of these merchants and bankers would literally buy their way into nobility, shaking the aristocratic system to its core by buying status with wealth. They were the challengers of the medieval class system, aspiring to the power held by the nobles above them, and often imitating them and their fashion.

Characters

In LARP, nobles and merchants characters are sharing some similarities, often conflated together by stereotypes and caricatural cliches. We all saw those pompous, hedonistic, prideful and self-important characters despising everything that is common or bellow them, shunning physical work and boasting with an almost cartoonish sense of entitlement. Drowning in privilege and blinded by their egos, these characters can be very fun to interact with and certainly have their place as comic relief, difficult quest givers, or very despicable antagonists. However, for player characters, some more depth may be needed, and with that depth come some distinctions to be made between the aristocrat and the merchant in LARP.

Interesting nobles are best exemplified by well-written characters like those introduced in the early seasons of Game of Thrones. A noble can be more than the adult version of a spoiled brat. They can be political schemers, respected house elders, tyrannical rulers obsessed by legacy, or glorified warlords constantly projecting strength. Aristocrats wield power or are expected to inherit some when their time comes, and their relationship with these responsibilities, or the opportunities this power gives, are a cornerstone of their character. Establishing goals, motives, or attitudes toward a noble’s own place in the world is a good way to make sure the character doesn’t ring hollow.

Traders and merchants occupy an interesting middle point between aristocrats and lowly commoners, and this dual identity is an important aspect to consider when creating a character of that social class. Is the merchant trying to fit in among nobles and win their respects, or is that character at odd with the traditional elite and trying to rival them? Is the trader a rag to riches story that retains some solidarity with the poor and the needy, or on the contrary, is that wealth making them feel above the undeserving masses?

WITHIN REACH

POUCHES & BAGS

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WEALTH AND PRESTIGE

JEWELRY & BROOCHES

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Costumes

Wealthy characters are likely to want to display their prosperity and status by their attire and the way they dress. From tacky and over-the-top clothing surging with jewelry, intricate textile patterns, and rich colors, to sharp and fashionable attires displaying good taste and a sense of importance, in all cases, nobles and merchants avoid casual clothes. Downplaying their riches and importance might be a ruse or a practical necessity, but given the opportunity, they will showcase their perceived superiority, no matter if they were born into wealth or achieved it through cunning and work.

Nobles and merchants should wear well-fitting and clean looking clothes, with either vibrant contrasting colors or desaturated greyscale, with pale whites and dark blacks. Brown, decolored and earthy textiles are the signs of working peasants and common folks, while the wealthy can afford good dyes and stark contrasted clothes. If the fabric is decorated with various patterns, from arabesque to floral or simple textures, it certainly increases the apparent quality of the piece, and makes for a richer and more prosperous look. Layering is also a great way to give a more dignified appearance to a character.

Accessories are another opportunity for a wealthy character to display their status, and any noble or merchant should at least wear some kind of hat, pendant, or ring. Belts and pouches should be fancy and decorated with engravings or metallic touches, and any weapon or armor should match with the clothes and look heavily ornamented, or at least clean and polished.

For nobles specifically, heraldry is very important, and so are the colors of their house or nation. A noble character should try to display their heraldic symbol on their clothes or accessories and wear an attire that matches the colors of their coat of arms.