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Supernatural feudality in a modern word?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Anders Ämting, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. So, I'm sketching up a concept, which is still somewhat vague. It's an urban/contemporary fantasy story in that it takes place in a modern world like our own, but with alternate countries.

    The main character lives in a country that is equal parts France and England. She discovers that she has special powers that make her master of a realm centered on a magical castle that is the manifestation of her authority. There are more such realms in the world, including some that compete with hers for territory and influence. There is probably a kind of Masquarade going on, so most normal people and goverments don't know about this.

    What I'm trying to figure out is how this supernatural authority functions practically, since it doesn't actually let her rule her part of the country in a political or legal sense. I figure these rulers are basically Fisher Kings - their physical, mental and spiritual states are reflected on the state of their realm - but that's as far as I've come. Also, I'm not sure exactly what these people get out of the deal personally.

    Anyone have any ideas? Any suggestions are welcome.
  2. atkogirl85

    atkogirl85 Dreamer

    Before you can really answer this you would need to know what kind of supernatural power / being she/they is/are. If they are not really 'ruling' a lot of territory because they are secret then why are different faction fighting? and why is anyone following at all?

    Look at the difference between Harry Potter, Um, Percy Jackson & True Blood : etc... Supernatural / modern world / covered up / fighting between factions - but they are pretty darn different in just about every single way.
    Different Rules, Cover Stories, politics, beliefs, abilities, and big #1 loyalties.

    Sorry, I know that doesnt help. But maybe with more info :)
  3. That's the crux of the matter, I haven't really figured that out yet.

    It has something to do with how magic works and is distributed, but I'm unsure of the details. What I know is that the power of the rulers is tied to their lands via their castles and that they can provide power to special magical champions to serve as their "knights." That doesn't really explain their motivations, though.
  4. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    Ha, I used to play a text based online game (MUD, anyone?) called Lusternia. This sounds a bit like that.

    Basically, each city-state had a "well of magical power" going on. Each class was tied to one of the cities, and their powers were fueled by the well in their city. The well was also called on to create NPC guards that would protect the land controlled by the city.

    The players could particiapate in a number of events and quests that would affect the balance of power in these wells. They also had the ability to influence the different NPC villages to become loyal to different cities, which would result in extra power for the well and also commodities that the crafters use to create potions, weapons, armor, enchantements, etc.

    Basically, the entire economy of the game was based on making your city stronger.

    This might be useful to get some ideas for your own world.
    Zireael likes this.
  5. It has to be something people in general wouldn't notice, though, yet still be important enough to fight over.
  6. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    So who exactly does know of the existence of these castles? I'm assuming that other such rulers do, but anyone aside from that?
  7. People who are generally involved in the supernatural, I guess. I'm thinking that heritage is one of the major themes so probably anyone born into a magical bloodline. Occasionally, people with natural magical potential might stumble into it.
  8. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Ok, so saying that there are only a select few who know the existence of these rulers, then that term can only be applied one of two ways: either the rulers acknowledge each other and attempt to gain control over territories for the sole purpose of power (whatever that may be, as you haven't described a clear magic system), or two, that these rulers can somehow manipulate their world to their gain. If nobody else knows of their existence, then the only reason to call them Kings is a superficial one. I think you should definitely devise a theme, a reason for applying these magical castles' existence in your story before developing. Why before how, so to say.

    At first thought, I'd say an easy parallel to make would be corporate funding behind political leadership, very few know the true extent of who donates funds, but we all experience the side-effects of this. Perhaps your rulers could somehow sway the population they 'rule' over, maybe not something directly as mind-control but subterfuge and influence in the daily lives of their populous. That way there is a distinct reason to fight over control, because there is something to be gained by it.
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    So she lives in a secret magical castle, from which her whims and desires are projected onto the country. That's right?

    Is this more of a decisive power or a whimsical one? That is, does she make choices about how the country operates, "I'm having them declare war as a pretense for stamping out my opposition," or is it a matter of, "I'm mad at you! Oh good, looksee, my country is declaring war!" Or am I misunderstanding entirely?
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Sounds like secret society time...'illuminati', (some) Freemasons, followers of the Rosy Cross, ect.

    So...you have various secret societies - 'lodges', special classes at some universities (or even separate schools). Members of the societies use them to aid in business, make a mark in politics, that sort of thing. Each secret society has its own history, goals, and overall approach. They change with the times, to an extent.

    The secret societies also actively look for potential recruits, ones they deem capable of fullfilling a given goal or agenda. Your MC would be such a person.
  11. That would queens, actually. I've more or less decided only women can be rulers. A "king" in this context is something very special, basically an additional level of authority: a ruler who rules over the other rulers.

    I think the last king messed the whole system up somehow, though, which is why men can't be rulers anymore, and they haven't had a king since.

    Well, that's kinda why I made this thread. I could use any suggestions you have.

    Something like that. Though, more like if she is sick or wounded, people in her realm start feeling worse as well, nature starts dying and the rates for disease and catastrophic accidents go way up. Or if she is heartbroken, it rains all the time and everyone becomes really depressed, etc.

    Probably the later, I don't think she can control the conditions directly.
  12. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Where do the champion knights come into play? Is there some sort of strict code in which two warring factions send their champions out and decide victory through combat? Moreover, why have the knights in the first place if the queens are literally the abstract representations of a kingdom's 'emotional' status? Is it power, the need to have more land under each queen's control that spurs on these champions?
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I kind of thought that's what you were going for.

    So first, big wrinkle to iron out . . . a person's moods will change far more rapidly, I think, than can be realistically projected onto a country's "national mood." In only a day, you can be optimistic, sad, surprised, angry, tired, and so on. Nor are countries very uniform - storms hit the east while the west is bright and sunny.

    So my first thought is that, maybe different sections of the country represent different sections of her personality. So the east might be wet and sour for as long as she's unhappy with her family, which continues even when she gets her mind off it with her friends (sending the city into a frenzy of activity....). That way you can have a little more nuance and depth to it, making it feel more natural and giving you more wiggle room. It would probably open up avenues for deeper themes and development, or something.

    As for motive, I would expect more than just living the good life in a magic castle. Some possibilities:

    Maybe she has some attachment to the people in her country? They could be her people, trapped there, and her ancestors were chosen (or cursed) by a wizard to be the ones responsible for their well being.

    Maybe the "country at the whim of my emotions" effect is a side-effect of something else going on for these people, a long-past effort to become a god completely backfired, sealing them to this fate. Maybe some of the queens think they can fix the spell and just become a god?

    Maybe they're just ego driven and stupid, caring more about their relationships with the other Queens than about the people in their country, acting like children, fighting over petty luxuries like the size of their castle.

    Maybe they need to get their people to do something crazy, like "Reach the Age of Enlightenment," at which point something good happens for them, too.

    Maybe the emotion effect works both ways. Like, if somebody invades her west coast, then suddenly her family starts falling apart. So many of their actions could be about self-protection.

    Maybe there's wide swaths of people who have no ruler, or maybe it's not always immediately clear who's queen of what regions. There could be a lot of confusion and deception at play.

    So, there's a few thoughts.
  14. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I can't remember what it was called but there was a sci fi novel which had a similar situation to what you describe. A world where there were loads and loads of psychics, (sci fi wizards I suppose), where all of those psychics depended on one woman for their powers. And when she got sick, none of them could do anything.

    I'm guessing that your scenario is somewhat similar. Lots of wizards, but their magic is maybe sort of filtered through an agent - a person that might be titled as a lord or a lady and live in a castle. A human catalyst for other people's powers.

    As to how it would operate, my thought is that it could be similar to crime families, which are sort of feudal, with each family controlling a certain area and a certain set of products, extortion, gambling etc. Naturally champions would be similar to the Mafia's bulletmen, go out and kill rivals trying to poach on their territory etc. But also lots of twisted versions of honour and codes of behaviour.

    And maybe civilians, magical of course, moving from one territory to another have to visit the local crimelord to make introductions and transfer catalysts for their powers.

    Hope that helps,

    Cheers, Greg.
  15. To clarify a bit: Her realm isn't necessarily the entire country, nor does it have to correspond to actual geographical regions. Rather, it's the size of the sphere or influence she projects from her castle, the size of which grows as she grows more powerful. Early on her realm might not be larger than a city or so. There are probably several other castles in their country alone.

    As for the effect her mood has on the realm, I'm guessing everyday feelings isn't enough to cause noticable changes - you would need something serious to really mess the place up. Also, the strenght of the changes would be centered on either the castle or the queen herself. Thinking about it, causing storms and stuff probably takes a lot of magic oomph, so for that to happen you'd need a realm of a certain size.

    Anyway, I'm also not sure how important that mechanism is actually going to be. Right now it's more symbolic of the responsibilities of the queen. Knowing me I'll be too busy writing fights with people throwing cars at each other.

    Also, it's set in a world very similar to our modern one, cellphones and internet and everything, so the Age of Enlightment occured a long time ago.

    Each queen has a kind of court consisting of knights and magicians that serve her. The knights serve as agents and protectors of the queens, being magically bound to them. Knighthood is typically hereditary, but it's impossible* to become a knight without binding yourself to the service of a queen. Knights who have lost their queens become errant knights and lose a lot of their powers until they find a new master.

    I don't think there are any strict rules to how warfare between the realms are carried out, but I figure that conquering another realm requires you to either kill the rival queen, destroy her castle or convince her to hand her power over voluntarily.

    As for why they do it, I'm guessing they have various reasons. Some might just want power, some might genuinely like the queen in a personal way, some see it as a sacred duty and some just naturally feel the need for a master to serve.

    * Probably. I'm still figuring out the details.

    I was actually considering to have the whole thing be part of some kind of massive seal keeping demonic beings from entering the world. Though, that begs the question why the queens would ever be fighting.

    I think I need to come of with some kind of obvious benefit for wanting as large a realm as possible.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
  16. An Arthurian-style magical kingdom modeled after organized crime syndicates does sound kinda fun in a twisted sort of way. :D
  17. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

    If you are doing anything with the Fisher King, Look up "Last Call" by Tim Powers. Not only is it just an amazing book, it does some really cool stuff with the Fisher King Mythos.

    Magic in Last Call is very limited, EVERYTHING is part of the system. It is based on Tarot Cards, Jungian archetypes, Probability, Poker Games, and body snatching. You can't go anywhere without seeing some sign, or symbol, or event that means something to the magic. It is everywhere, but at the same time it doesn't DO much.

    Anyway, The Idea of ruling an Esoteric "Kingdom" that doesn't line up with a real boarder on the map is in there. And people fight and die to get that throne - Las Vegas.
  18. Zireael

    Zireael Troubadour

    Lusternia sounds interesting, I'm looking it up.

    I think I saw several urban fantasy novels somewhat similar to the OP's premise, but can't recall any names or titles.. sorry.

    I would not make the rulers Fisher King(s) per se, since it'd make for a boring world. The idea of magic kingdoms not matching the modern countries is nice. I like the idea of, say, a Brythonic kingdom in France and England. I'd make each ruler's abilities depending on the kingdom he rules. A kingdom in Americas would be very different from a Brythonic one or a Slavic one.
  19. Yeah, but why? What is their motivation for wanting to rule Las Vegas?

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