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This writing exercise is meant to accompany this post about the Nobility “polity,” in which power is divided among several autonomous nobles who nevertheless feel part of a common nation or society. If you like this exercise, read the above-linked post first and then come back.

  1. Spend five minutes thinking about your nobility. What makes the nobles independent of a central authority like a king? What is the source of their power? Do they have land? Their own militaries? Control over trade routes? Magic?
  2. What feature of this region, or your larger setting, makes it difficult for a central authority to project power and control the nobles? If there is no such feature, why hasn’t a king or other powerful ruler arisen? Or was there a ruler before, who became weak or was overthrown?
  3. Is there a nominal central ruler, like a high king or president? Is the ruler weak and getting stronger, weak and getting weaker, strong and getting weaker, or strong and getting stronger?
  4. Are the nobles organized in any sort of council? Do they have bonds of loyalty or partnership or citizenship? What ties them to each other? (If no such ties exist, then they are not strictly speaking “nobles,” but a collection of autocrats ruling over many tiny states.)
  5. What rivalries exist between different nobles? How might someone else exploit them?
  6. How might the nobles take power from each other over time? How might the nobles take power from the central ruler? How might the central ruler take power from the nobles?
  7. Does the central ruler have a “courtier” class? How are courtiers rivals to the nobles?
  8. Could any noble be tempted to ally against the others with the ruler, or with a foreign power?
  9. Thinking about all the possibilities you’ve written down, which have the most resonance with the story you want to tell?