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Old 06-14-2012, 04:14 PM   #11
Lord Carnifex
 
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Default Re: Golden Cages and Succession

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The Kafes system of the Ottoman empire in which surplus claimants to the throne were stored in a secure location instead of being left free to start civil wars or being killed off and thus endangering the line is quite fascinating to me. However, historically some problems emerged due to ill-preparedness for ruling or psychological problems due to confinement. Is there a way to reduce these problems?
Another attempted solution is to try to give possible heirs something to do that doesn't involve amassing independent military or temporal power. Master of the Royal Seraglio. Chairman of the baths. Majordomo of the palace (with control over the palace staff and logistics but no control over governmental figures). Lord Mayor. A figurehead position where they have to wrangle a staff but where they have only ceremonial duties and no power to speak of.

The basic idea is to give them experience in administration and leadership, but without building a power base.

Putting younger sons into the Church is sort of the same idea, except that serving as a Bishop or Abbot actually is frequently a position that carries a certain amount of soft power.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:15 PM   #12
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There's no historical precedent for this that I know of, but since we're talking about something for a game, I assume completely made-up ideas are OK: don't let the heirs know. Don't let anybody know until it's time. Have a system where the palace is a moderately large community. The extended royal family lives there, along with servants and noblemen, who perhaps circulate in and out periodically to do service to the throne. Every year a potential heir is born, children born at the palace are marked (tattoos or branding, for example), the marks secretly recorded, and the children "farmed out" to be raised by aristocratic families across the nation. They're rotated between spots now and again so they see more of the country. They grow up in positions of moderate power and military responsibility, picking up skills and exposure as they go. When the previous ruler dies, an heir is chosen, and the books are cracked open to see who the chosen heir is. The remaining "palace children" for that year can be folded back neatly into the bureaucracy and military. The children grow up isolated from their real families, but each can dream of becoming supreme ruler some day.

Now, that won't actually work either. Too easy to breach secrecy or to have a faction just pick one and use him as a figurehead. But it makes for nice stories, and that, ultimately, is what roleplaying campaigns are made of.
Completely made up ideas are more than OK, they are encouraged.

I had considered the application of secrecy to successions separately before but this is an interesting alternative I haven't thought of before. I think it might work better if there was a discrete group devoted to maintaining this system that is neutral and independent with respect to other factions. Of course they will have their own schemes but it won't necessarily align with other factions and since their existence is based on their neutrality they would be hard to bribe. If they can't reverse their decision there wouldn't be much they could do to control the ruler once selected. I'm envisioning a conclave that selects it's own members and handles the marking of children, keeping of records, and selection of the next ruler based on bloodline and demonstrated ability.

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Another attempted solution is to try to give possible heirs something to do that doesn't involve amassing independent military or temporal power. Master of the Royal Seraglio. Chairman of the baths. Majordomo of the palace (with control over the palace staff and logistics but no control over governmental figures). Lord Mayor. A figurehead position where they have to wrangle a staff but where they have only ceremonial duties and no power to speak of.

The basic idea is to give them experience in administration and leadership, but without building a power base.
You might be able to fit a staff like this into a particularly large cage. The claimant is kept occupied and given at least some practical skills to complement their theoretical education while still secured.

A quibble, but Majordomo of the palace is a pleonasm. A Majordomo is a mayor of the palace.

Last edited by Sindri; 06-14-2012 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:17 PM   #13
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The person next in line in that case is whoever the council decides is next in line. In some cases the decision might be known or suspected beforehand.
It will almost always be known or suspected beforehand, but the risk of the council changing its mind is something the potential assassin will be concerned with.
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A problem is when the lines of succession are unclear. Another problem is when the lines of succession are clear and someone wants to implement a different system under which they are the ruler.
Yeah, but redesigning your succession system has no effect on this.
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Another problem is assassination.
While this sucks for the guy who got assassinated, my point is that as far as damage to the country goes, it's a lot less of a problem than any of the options that lead to civil war.

As a side note, one of the benefits of electoral systems is that they generally don't result in this type of shenanigans. Avoiding democracies for the moment, you could look at examples such as the papal succession.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:21 PM   #14
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Avoiding democracies for the moment, you could look at examples such as the papal succession.
Or the Habsburg succession. Mind you, those don't necessarily work either (see, for example, a large number of Medieval anti-popes and eventually the Avignon papacy), but at least you didn't get massive civil wars tearing up Europe every few generations.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:32 PM   #15
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Similar to TBC's idea, one system I've used before is that the monarch (in this case, the title used was 'Regent') keeps the name of his designated successor in a safe in the royal bedroom. When he dies, the Chancellor opens the safe - with many, many witnesses - and reveals the name.

The Regent is free to change his mind and prepare a new document naming a different successor at any time. He's free to privately or publicly reveal who it is. He's even free to lie.

Another system I've used is slightly more malign. The duchy was a traditional "oldest living son" with some fairly complicated rules if there is no legitimate heir. However, there was an entirely seperate priest class (the priesthood of the earthquake god, who is attributed with having made the natural harbor the duchy depends on) who, once a generation on the old Duke's death, would choose one member of the ducal family - including the heir apparent - to be buried alive. So they're empowered to weed out obviously unfit candidates and "trim" the family tree from time to time. Assassinate the popular old duke hoping to take his place? Better be paid up with the right people or they'll be digging a hole for you before you can move in to the ducal palace.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:36 PM   #16
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Default Re: Golden Cages and Succession

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There's no historical precedent for this that I know of, but since we're talking about something for a game, I assume completely made-up ideas are OK: don't let the heirs know. Don't let anybody know until it's time. Have a system where the palace is a moderately large community. The extended royal family lives there, along with servants and noblemen, who perhaps circulate in and out periodically to do service to the throne. Every year a potential heir is born, children born at the palace are marked (tattoos or branding, for example), the marks secretly recorded, and the children "farmed out" to be raised by aristocratic families across the nation. They're rotated between spots now and again so they see more of the country. They grow up in positions of moderate power and military responsibility, picking up skills and exposure as they go. When the previous ruler dies, an heir is chosen, and the books are cracked open to see who the chosen heir is. The remaining "palace children" for that year can be folded back neatly into the bureaucracy and military. The children grow up isolated from their real families, but each can dream of becoming supreme ruler some day.

Now, that won't actually work either. Too easy to breach secrecy or to have a faction just pick one and use him as a figurehead. But it makes for nice stories, and that, ultimately, is what roleplaying campaigns are made of.
what that will cause is a series of very covert assassinations, bargaining, deception, rigging of the deck, and so forth. You will need to have some sort of way of guaranteeing the record can't be easily changed, read, or destroyed. Such a matter would naturally fall into the hands of the local priests. This would give the Priests a HUGE amount of power, but it would take time to build. The priests may be able to keep honest if percautions are made (such as sealing the record in a slab of concrete or something similar, but someone has to make the record, and will remember (unless you kill all of the scribes soon after marking the tattoos, and thats a bad idea). You can also try spreading the information out, but sufficient planning and plotting will get around that.

of course, if you want a game based on intrigue....
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:36 PM   #17
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It will almost always be known or suspected beforehand, but the risk of the council changing its mind is something the potential assassin will be concerned with.
Yes but that won't remove either the assassinations or paranoia about assassinations just lessen them.

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Yeah, but redesigning your succession system has no effect on this.
The point of the thread is discussing modifications to a system that does have an effect on this. Specifically one in which you imprison all the claimants.

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While this sucks for the guy who got assassinated, my point is that as far as damage to the country goes, it's a lot less of a problem than any of the options that lead to civil war.
Who cares? The guy who may or may not get assassinated has an interest in preventing assassination especially since rulers can easily be more paranoid about assassination than the likeliness of their occurrence would necessitate and I find it interesting to discuss interesting variations on succession systems that might be adopted because of this.

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As a side note, one of the benefits of electoral systems is that they generally don't result in this type of shenanigans. Avoiding democracies for the moment, you could look at examples such as the papal succession.
Well yes but a situation in which such shenanigans are prevented is not one in which a system even metaphorically like the Kafes system would appear and thus not on topic.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:54 PM   #18
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The point of the thread is discussing modifications to a system that does have an effect on this. Specifically one in which you imprison all the claimants.
So you imprison all the military leaders? People who decide that they don't like the current succession and wish to impose their own are often totally unrelated to the existing succession.
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Who cares? The guy who may or may not get assassinated has an interest in preventing assassination.
Usually restructuring the succession isn't the way of doing this. Probably the most reliable method is having children relatively late, then going into retirement or semi-retirement once the heir is an adult.
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Old 06-14-2012, 05:09 PM   #19
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Completely made up ideas are more than OK, they are encouraged.
How's this then:

Assuming a level of technology suitable to the average cyberpunk game (TL 9ish in GURPS terms?) every heir to the throne is hooked up at birth to an incredibly complex VR computer simulation sort of like the Matrix. Each is put in a position as sole ruler of an empire within the simulation, and each of the empires has an historical rivalry with the others. Basically the heirs to the throne are tested by competing with each other in the ultimate war game while living a "real" life within a completely controlled environment.

If you want more of a medieval feel you could always use magic instead of tech.
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Old 06-14-2012, 05:13 PM   #20
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If you want more of a medieval feel you could always use magic instead of tech.
I rather like that. The princes are laid in a crypt-like chamber where they lie, Sleeping Beauty-like, until one is awoken. Perhaps the rest are then sent physically as well as mentally into the dream-world. They're isolated from the waking world, except from those who can walk in dreams.

Yes, this is quite poetic.
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