The crown needs to represent everybody and stay above mundane struggles to maintain the divine right to rule. This calls for loyal supporters both in the Crown’s Inner Council and in the field. Advisers and agents of the Crown to deal with the dark times at hand. This is the Great Game, my friends.
Who could be a better protagonist in your story?
The Sword of the Crown
Someone needs to do what the Crown cannot. The threats. The blackmail. The sabotage. The beatings. The assassinations. These are the pillars of society, the bond that keeps society together. The dirty hands that keep the monarch clean. Your hands.
The Crown needs knights, trusted guards, assassins, and informants to protect the realm and the greater good. It is often better to keep the monarch in the dark on the details. Note that this does not make you disloyal in any way, it only makes you a better patriot and servant.
All servants of the Crown follow a chain of command, but more than anything they serve the Inner Council.
The Inner Council
“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”
– Tyrion Lannister, season six, episode two, HBO A Game of Thrones series
The Chamberlain makes decisions in the monarch’s absence. Hard times may call for hard choices, and often it is better is the monarch is absent a lot.
The Spymaster keeps everybody informed about the true state of the realm and any threats. A good spymaster should know who to trust, including any dissidents inside the Inner Council itself, because who can you trust?
The Royal Quartermaster oversees the funding and the gear of the agents, including poisons and magic items. Access to the treasury is important, especially to fund side-projects that require extra discretion.
The Royal Mage has access to knowledge and cosmic powers none others understand, and may the critical on the battlefield. Surely the Royal Mage is best equipped to deal with the affairs of state. There are other important supporters, but who rules?
The Glorious Deeds for the Crown and Country
There is no greater glory than selflessly serving your country.
- A local lord is struggling with brigands, or so he claims. Go there, figure out who’s the problem – the lord or the brigands – and deal with it. The Crown’s income is at risk.
- You must deal with a traitor in the Inner Circle. Confiscate personal papers, deal with traitorous servants, and apprehend the counselor. Keep the rest of the council in the dark, as there may be more traitor in our midst.
- One of the Inner Council’s servants has betrayed the Crown. We have found letters spouting claims of abuse of power, or some such nonsense, and the traitor must be silenced and made an example.
- You must teach a local lord a discrete lesson of what it means to oppose the Crown’s most loyal servants in the Inner Council. Theft of property of the loss of a trusted servant or family member may be appropriate.
- Our enemies abroad are moving against us, and we need agents in their capital to take out their spymaster, chamberlain or royal mage.
- A foreign nation seems to be expanding, and the crown needs to know if they are possible allies or simply our enemies as well. The Inner Council needs agents in their capital to discern who the factions are and if we have common ground.
- Our oldest ally is facing a possible coup. We need agents to identify the rebels because perhaps they need help?
- Transport a discreet letter to a friend in a foreign city. Do not read or lose the letter under any circumstance. The Inner Council does not expect any trouble, but be careful nevertheless.
- Enemies of the state have threatened a friend of the Crown. The friend has earned our protection, which makes it time for you to earn yours.
- Sadly the monarch seems to have lost sight to the greater good, which put the nation in a precarious situation. The monarch needs a strong reminder to regain focus!
The Rewards for the Stalwarts
Civil servants hold the realm together, and a wise monarch rewards good deeds.
- A medal. What could be grander?
- The Crown’s Gratitude. Recognition and gratitude are it’s own reward, especially when coupled with gold and access to the court. Nothing shows recognition and gratitude like gold.
- Introductions are in order. What better reward than making new friends?
- Good servants are even better when they have contacts and allies, and who knows, perhaps business opportunities may come of this.
- Agents of your own. Sometimes it is essential to create some distance to those who work in the field. What it lacks in efficiency, it makes up by confusing the enemy and maintaining the proper appearance for the Crown.
- Recruit some agents of your own and put them to good use, with the Inner Council’s blessing.
- An item of power and importance, for safekeeping of course. The crown need to put its many magic blades and arcane staves to use, and who is more suitable than the Crown’s most trusted friends and servants.
- A privileged bureaucrat position with high pay and little work, which is an excellent cover. Hand the actual work to a trusted servant, and free up time for more Inner Council business.
- A land grant. The Crown needs loyal servants in the countryside after all.
- A seat in the Inner Council. What could be a greater reward than faithfully and selflessly serve the Crown and the greater good?
- Creating Roleplyaing Game Campaigns
- Create Fantasy Roleplaying Game Adventures
- The Secrets of the Demon Hunter
- The Way of the Sellsword
The Reading List
The Three Musketeers (1844) by Alexandre Dumas is ground zero for flawed-heroes-in-defense-of-the-crown. Although written in 1844 it is surprisingly modern as moves forward at the breakneck pace. It shows its age with a bit wordiness but is not a treat to be missed by any serious fantasy reader. The BBC show is possibly the best version of the small screen and is also worth checking out.
Another classic about royal agents is The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) by Baroness Orczy, a book dealing with the fallout of abuses of power, although I am unconvinced it was the author’s intent. Still, an enjoyable tale of cloak and daggers.
A modern, and obvious example is, of course, A Game of Thrones, with Petyr Baelish and Varys behind the throne, both outlasting at least a couple of kings. Other noted civil servants include of course The Mountain, The Hound, the Knights and the maesters.
Ed Greenwood’s many tales from the court of Cormyr in the Forgotten Realms follow some ideas described above, but with less cynism, which can be a relief. Cormyr: A Novel (1996) by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb is my favorite.