Noble Families

Brass Jester

One of my PC's is a Corinthian Noble and it soon became apparent that some way of setting up consistent, believable noble families was needed. Also, it laid the seeds for some intrigue and scheming, the stuff of Noble-level games!
Setting up a family tree for CONAN RPG

This system is designed to quickly create a family for a PC/NPC. It was initially designed for use with the Noble class, who need such a background to really give them depth; however it is usable with any character. As a GM tool it can readily be used to create the family of the ruling House (etc.) to determine if there really is an eligible Princess and so on…

The system uses a ordinary deck of playing cards, including the Jokers. This is so it can all be done with just a few deals of the cards. There is no reason why it couldn’t be converted to a dice system.

Basic rules
The cards are dealt for each generation of the family to determine who, if anyone, is in that generation. Re-shuffle the deck between each deal.

Only Hearts (females) and Clubs (males) count.

The value of the card gives an indication of the age of the person
Card Previous Current Next
2 71 20 0
3 72 24 1
4 73 28 2
5 75 32 3
6 77 36 4
7 79 40 6
8 80 44 8
9 82 48 10
10 84 52 12
J 86 56 14
Q 88 60 16
K 90 64 18
A 91+ 68 19

A joker (red or black) indicates a hunchback or crippled/disfigured
Two jokers indicate insanity.
In both instances, draw a third card to indicate the age of the person and the sex (red=female, black = male. Ignore the suit.)
Group into pairs as dealt, discarding all Diamonds and Spades.. Couples will be married if the cards are within four points of each other, otherwise count as single. Rearrange cards into age order from left to right, keeping married couples together. Females marrying out of the family will be discussed later.
Special: If there are unmarried male Court cards on the left and unmarried females of value ‘2’ or ‘3’ on the right then treat these as married and move the females to the left (thus allowing for young brides.). Otherwise, cards count as single/unmarried.

For each married couple, determine the next generation as shown. Be careful with ages, minimum childbearing age is 15 so a 20 yr old mother cannot have a child older than 4 . Again, rearrange into age order

Once all generations have been determined, draw up a family tree, rearranging into age order. Give everyone a name and personality if desired

The Generations
1. Previous: Deal four cards.
If no grandparents turn up, it’s obvious that they did exist but are now deceased. Make an entry on the Family Tree but mark them as dead.

You now have one, possibly two branches of the family. Only determine the second branch if one or both grandparents are alive on that side.

2. For each branch, deal 8 cards for the current generation and pair off as above.

3. For each married couple deal four cards for the Next Generation. REM: Watch ages.

1. For all adults (age 15+) deal one card: -
Spade: J = Sick Q-K = Dead A = Missing
Female (unmarried) Heart 8+: Married into another Family. Note on Family Tree which Family she’s gone to. All further entries concerning her will be done on that Families Family Tree.
Female (Married): Heart Q: Unfaithful/ illicit affair being conducted.

Children (age 14-), deal one card: -
Spade: Q = sick F = Dead A = Missing

All DEAD results: deal one card: -
Club Died a violent death
Heart Died of natural causes
Spade Murdered/poisoned
Diamond Died of an accident
Joker Died in mysterious circumstances.

Once all of this has been done it is usually easy to fit the PC in somewhere, assigning them a suitable place based on their position. As suggested in CAE, it is probably not advisable to make the PC the direct heir, although this could have interesting plot implications.

A very complex area, simplified for the game. Basically, inheritance passes down the male line from the eldest, then down the female line if there are no suitable males.

I created a Corinthian Noble character, but was lost for a background. Then, using this system, it turned out that her elder brother and younger sister had both died in mysterious circumstances. Her father was dead, killed in a war some time ago, her mother was still alive. In the same house lived her aunt and her cousin, who was the same age as her. Is there some intrigue and scheming going on here?

This system sounds long-winded on paper, in practice it only takes a few minutes or so.
Brass Jester,
Between this, the adventure idea matrix and the downtime system, you should publish a PDF of useful charts and generators! Or at least stow them in one centralized location. I can't wait to try out the Noble chart.

Thanks a bunch,
Looks good, fast and simple, I'll have to give it a text run. Now i have something to do other than playing spades and poker :p
Thanx for the feedback, glad it's been of use. I don't have my own website, but if anyone out there (Thulsa, Dr Skull, Iron Bear) can give me space then I'll package it all together. How about it guys, got room for a lil' ol Jester?