Written by Steven Matulewicz
One of the most prominent concerns that has been brought to me in the past few years is the feeling that “titles don’t mean anything” or that titles should mean more than they do right now. That while we have advanced in some ways in our game, there is a level of meaning that seems to have been lost, or been only hinted at in the past. In this article, I am going to outline my opinion on methods of backing up titles.
Having a title can do several things. It can show rank and level within a society/ group. It can show position, as in what office or job you have within a group. It can show achievement: you have accomplished many tasks or done great deeds. It can show the level of skill you have mastered. But there is a more intangible element to titles, an affirmation not only by the community as a whole but for it. That the community itself knows it is both advancing and deepening. To be bestowed a title is about that person. But to hold a title, to truly become the title, that ceases to be about the person and is more about the community. It becomes something more than the person. Not every group needs titles. And that is of course the choice of that group. However a group with titles, and well “backed up” titles, can add much to their own group and to the Realms as a whole.
So what does it really mean to back up a title? From the Omnibus:
The Social Structure
The Realms is not governed by a single kingdom. Each nation has its own hierarchy and structure. There are no hard rules for governing the social structure. Claiming land and titles is anyone's prerogative. The social structure really only has one rule: if you can back up your title or claim then you deserve to hold it. If you can't, then you should have nothing to complain about if you get put in your place.
That is all fine and good, but what does it mean to back it up? Way back in the late 1980s and early 90s, Shannon Slate put forth a set of guidelines on how an in- game social structure could work. Those ideas never truly caught hold, but the essence of how to back up a title was captured in that article. What the different levels and structures were is not as important as the How.
1.) Followers. One of the best ways to support a title is through followers. The more people that rally to your flag, the stronger your title is. If you are a large group, you can realistically claim loftier titles. But for larger groups, it is not just one or two people than can, or should, hold titles and positions. You can have a diversity of groups within the main group. But if this is done, you can lose a sense of the main group, with all the various possible heraldry and offices. So when you are large enough, a number of True Supporters, a set of people who always wear and carry your heraldry, is necessary. Again, a title is not just about you, but is about your representation to the community as well. You can have hundreds of followers, but if none of them carry your heraldry, then your title seems less than you claim. So not only followers, but a way of identifying your followers is important.
2.) Throwing events. Under Shannon Slate’s guidelines, the larger a group is, the more events they should throw. Smaller groups could throw a single event, but larger groups should throw up to 3, and any groups within that larger group should also be throwing one or two. The number of events, and the quality of those events, add to backing up the title. They are outward displays to the community. Be they feasts, tournaments, dances, quests… anything that can be said to be produced by your group show the strength of the group, and thus supports the title.
But what if your group wants more diversity of titles? For example, I was recently made the Master of Coin for Chimeron. While bestowing titles within Chimeron supports the main title of King and strengthens Chimeron as a whole, how can my title be given importance beyond the office itself? It is possible with your title that followers, heraldry and throwing events are not necessarily going to either make sense or really help establish the title. So here are some other things to think about.
3.) Military Might. The Realms is somewhat unique from many LARPs. In that it is a sport that developed RP and magic. For that reason, we are very combat oriented. So personal martial skill, or martial skill of those that follow you can go a long way to supporting a title. Getting good at fighting, be you a fighter or spell caster, can be important.
4.) Appearance. If you are a part/ office, you should “dress” for it. It you are a Baron, a Duchess, a King, then you should learn the best ways to play that role. How to hold yourself, how to present yourself for public speaking. Personal Hygiene and dress are important. If you hold Feasts and Tournaments, banners, flags, any props to enhance the event and increase immersion, are important. “Corporate Branding” (i.e. displaying your personal heraldry or the heraldry of those you follow) and any method to outwardly show the community who you are increases your visibility and thus supports your title.
5.) Accolades. Many people strive on knowing they are achieving and progressing. Sometimes it is not enough to hold a title, because over time, titles can grow stagnant, and a person may not enjoy playing it any more. Progression of a title, having levels of the same title, can help to show the person and the community an increase of mastery.
6.) Public Displays. I cannot stress enough that sharing when a title is bestowed with the community is important. Such displays, be they in court, on the battle field, planned, a surprise…. There are many methods. But making them known and in a way that is appropriate to the group and title (see Appearance), elevates the person and the significance of the title itself. It is a communication to the community and allows people to celebrate and experience those moments. Perhaps you only want the ceremony to be a closed affair to heighten its importance to the person. This is of course your choice, but a method to announce it to the world, like a later public declaration or even just a missive to the fact, can be good.
7.) Gifts. Presenting gifts to your Host of an event, to a celebration, or just because you felt like it can create social connections and can solidify a relationship. Strong ties of people who know you and respect you… that creates a support structure for a title. Be it a gift fit for the occasion, be it a Courtly Gift of a favor, to show your preference to someone, be it public Courting of someone, or even just inviting someone to your camp to share drink, bread and stories….. these are all gifts. A sharing of the self or the title you hold. And with gifts, there becomes a tendency to want to give back.
8.) Character. While covered under Appearance, it is important to me to stress that how you act reflects how you are treated. This is a game of active participation. You are the driving force of what you are and what you can become. How you get along with people, both IC and OOC, can show the community at large if you are worthy of the titles you hold. It is not so much what happens to you, but how you respond to your situation, that defines both your character, and yourself.
9.) Taking off the Mask. I think one of the more difficult things about the Realms is that we tend to judge people on what we see and experience. However we mostly see people IC, and the person people are IC are not necessarily the person they are OOC. For that reason, being social outside of your group, and being social OOC outside your group, is important. This goes back a bit to character. People will only know what you are willing to show them. So allowing people to know you in many capacities goes a long way to backing up what titles you have.
10.) Something to consider: titles are dynamic. How much meaning is given to a title, or to a person, changes over time. It is not enough to build a level of importance. Without effort to maintain a level or quality, the importance to any given title can wane.
I understand if no one point appeals to people: these are my observations from my experience. We all come from different backgrounds, and we use the Realms in a way that helps us best enjoy ourselves. Perhaps there are other ways I have missed. What is important, to me, is if you are going to claim something, then make sure it has meaning. Both to you and to the community.