EOPLE ARE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ASSET AND TOOL in Blood Royal.  To begin with, you should understand the ranks of the society in which you live.

Emperor: There is currently no emperor, or empress, and cannot be one until the restoration of the Empire.  This is the goal to which kings and queens aspire, to be the overlord of all the realms of Beroert.

King: Each of the eight realms is ruled by a monarch - a king or queen.  Within their realm, their rule is virtually absolute: their wield huge power over their vassals (the noble lords who hold lands directly as servants of the monarch) and subjects (the common populace of the towns and villages).  The monarch holds lands themselves, from which their personal wealth derives.

Noble: The lords and ladies who hold lands as vassals of their king.  This is the status you hold at the start of the game, although you aspire to rise above it.  There are subdivisions within the noble ranks of course, which are dealt with elsewhere.

Player characters are the individuals who head noble houses and are controlled by - and represent - active human players.  NPCs, or non-player characters, include both the heads of computer-controlled houses, and also the offspring, siblings and spouses of player characters.

Both PCs and NPCs may hold different positions - advisers, generals, and so on - during the course of a game.  Some of those positions may be decided by you, others may be out of your hands.

All individuals are born with natural aptitude (or lack of aptitude) in each of the three areas of the game - diplomatic, militay and economic.  These abilities are on a percentage scale (0-100), and follow a bell-shaped curve distribution, that is there will be many average abilities, with a few exceptionally good and bad.  The abilities of the parents will influence the abilities of the offspring.  You will be able to see character ratings, but these are perceived ratings - how the character views themselves. These perceived ratings are based on the actual abilities, but may vary a little or a lot from reality, and you will have to observe how the characters perform their functions to see if the ratings are fuly reliable.  This represents people's skewed perception of their own talents - we all know people with an inflated estimation of their ability, or conversely people with low self-esteem. These ratings will be hidden from you - you will have to observe the effect of putting someone in charge of an action to see how good they are in that area.

S YOU BEGIN TO PLAN your rise to greatness, the only people you can rely on are yourself and your family (and you've even seen some of those acting suspiciously lately!).  Your family is initially small, but as marriages take place and offspring are born, it will grow into a many-branched tree.  Bastard sons may return to haunt you as claimants to a title, siblings and children can be married off to other nobles, rebellious relatives can be sent off to a nunnery or monastery to keep them out of trouble.  In Blood Royal, you can use individuals in two roles.

Firstly, many tasks will require, or will be more likely to succeed in the event of, the presence of an individual.  Assigning characters to lead armies, or negotiate a treaty or marriage proposal, will enhance the likely outcome.

Secondly, it is all-important to establish alliances with other noble houses, and one way of achieving this is to arrange marriages between suitable relatives.  This may seem as if you are treating people as pawns, and to a certain extent its true, but that's a fact of life.  Marrying a relative into another house can cement an alliance, raise your status, and perhaps even put you in line to inherit a territory.  Bear in mind that marrying off female relatives will involve arranging a dowry, and this can be quite an expensive business (land or money will do nicely).

It is a sad, but inevitable, truth that everyone - and this includes you - dies eventually.  Perhaps it will be a glorious death in battle, or maybe a peaceful one in bed, but always bear in mind that your aim is for your house, not an individual, to achieve greatness; it may take a generation or several before your plans come to fruition, but it will be worth it in the end.  Train your heirs well - you'll be playing one of them eventually.

NFORTUNATELY, there will always be some disagreements that cannot be resolved by peaceful means.  Luckily, you can call on your vassals and people to support you, enthusiastically or not, in your righteous war against the fools who oppose you.  Your army is not a standing force, and the call to muster must be proclaimed well in advance of a campaign, but your people are bound to obey such a summons.  There are three types of troops available to every lords: knights, the fyrd (or feudal levy), and mercenaries.

Each of your vassals will owe you the service of a certain number of knights; these can be called on in time of war, and will form the core of your army.  Knights generally fight on horseback, and consider themselves the elite troops.  Generally better armed and trained than any of your other forces, they will be the shock troops that can change the course of a battle.  Knights can be trained while mustered, but cannot be mustered for too long a period without fighting, or morale and loyalty will suffer; like the feudal levy, they need to return home to see to their lands.

The feudal levy, or fyrd, is made up of peasants, hopefully in large numbers, who form the foot-soldiery and archers of your army.  Levies cannot be mustered to the army in advance, but can join at the start of a campaign season.  The higher the levy call-out, the more your domain's productivity will suffer, and also, as levies will only serve in one campaign at a time, it is a good idea to keep a proportion uncalled-on in reserve for emergencies.

Mercenaries will always stand by you, as long as you have the wherewithal to pay them.  These professional soldiers do not need to return home between campaigns, so they can form the backbone of a standing army.  The best mercenaries are the cream of the forces available, but there are some villainous bands around.

The mustering of an army will not always get a 100% response, but, depending on loyalty, many unable to respond will send money instead.

If your own territories are attacked, the local nobility and feudal levies will turn out to defend themselves without need for mustering; this will not be as effective as having an army with orders to defend in the territory under attack.

OU ARE PROVIDED with a set of maps showing the physical and political geography of the ancient Imperial domains, now fragmented amongst a number of kingdoms.  Physical terrain is shown on the maps, but (due to the scale of the game) will have little direct impact.  Also shown on the maps are borders and man-made features - roads, towns, and castles.  All these features will play a major part in Blood Royal.

The land is divided into a number of kingdoms, each ruled by a king or queen.  Each kingdom is divided into provinces, the number of which varies from one kingdom to another.  Borders of kingdoms and provinces are shown on the map.

Each province is split into a number of honours; an honour being an estate, or group of estates, which are associated with a title, and are therefore usually held as a fief by a single individual.  You, as a noble, hold several such honours as a vassal of your monarch.  Honours are not shown on the map, as in many cases the actual land belonging to each may be fragmented.

Each province or honour will be held by an character, who bears an associated title; a noble who holds a province will be the vassal of a king (or queen), while a holder of an honour will be a vassal of a provincial lord.  The right to a title is usually hereditary, but the overlord may strip a title from its holder for a particularly reprehensible action.  An individual may hold title to several provinces and/or honours at the same time (and may therefore have duties to several overlords).

Roads help to facilitate the movement of goods and armies across the world; some may be toll-roads, where the local lord levies travellers, nominally to support the upkeep of the road.

Castles are the strongholds of most lords; many lords will have several castles in their domain.  One castle will always be the nominal seat of the honour or province, but losing such a castle will not automatically mean the loss of the domain.

There are two types of settlement: towns and market towns.  The latter are centres for local commerce, but in game terms do not produce significant quantities of any goods.  As time passes, and market towns grow, they can be upgraded to towns, some of which exist at the start of the game.  Towns produce a number of commodities which cannot be produced in the country, mainly those goods which require some form of industry, such as glass.  Towns can provide extra income to their overlord, but will resist over-taxation strongly.

Note that the term 'territory' is used loosely to mean a kingdom, province, honour, town, market town or castle.  The term 'domain' may also be used, and implies the personal holdings of an individual, which may be one or several territories.

Copyright © 2001-03 James Doyle. All rights reserved.