Why most lords tend to be nobles and royals

#1

If you take a look at all of the lords in the Fire Emblem series, one could make the observation that they tend to be of higher status than most of the other characters. For reference, here’s a list of all the lords throughout the series (by lord, I’m referring to a major character in the story).

  • FE1/3/11/12 - Marth is the prince of Altea, so he’s a royal. And in FE12, if they count, Kris is a soldier who was trained by a former knight before arriving in Altea.
  • FE2/15 - Alm was brought up as a commoner, despite him being the crown prince of Rigel, because he was never made aware of it, probably because Mycen worries about his friend’s son a bit much. Celica was brought up as a priestess, but those close to her, as well as herself, knew about her claim to the Zofian throne.
  • FE4 - Sigurd is a noble of Grannvale’s House Chalphy, and Seliph is his heir.
  • FE5 - Leif is the supposed sole survivor of House Leonster, and is the heir to its throne.
  • FE6 - Roy is a Lycian noble from House Pherae.
  • FE7 - Eliwood is a noble of House Pherae, Hector is the heir to House Ostia, the biggest in Lycia, and Lyn was the Lorca chieftan’s daughter as well as the heir to House Caelin. (I don’t remember a lot of FE7, nor do I care to, but I remember reading that Lyn’s dad was quite important.)
  • FE8 - Ephraim and Eirika are the prince and princess of Renais respectively.
  • FE9 - Ike was a common born mercenary, although his father earned quite the reputation in Daein. While he does become Crimean nobility, he resignes and bugs off after the events of the game.
  • FE10 - Despite being the true heir of the Begnion, Micaiah lived her life as a commoner. Ike is also here.
  • FE13 - Chrom is the prince of the Haildom of Ylisse, and becomes the countries exalt after his older sister dies. Robin was pretty important to the Grimleal as well.
  • FE14 - Corrin is Vallite royalty and lived in Hoshido before adoptive dad King Sumeragi got killed by King Garon of Nohr, who then took Corrin in as his own.
  • FE16 - Edelgard is next in line for the Adrestian throne, Dimitri is the crown prince of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and Claude is poised to be the senior duke of the Leicester Alliance. Some call Seteth to be the lord of Silver Snow due to his importance to the story, and he is very high up in the Church’s hierarchy. Byleth was raised as a mercenary, despite kinda being the grandchild of the Archbishop.

Now that I got that out of the way, we can now get to the meat and potatoes of why lords tend to be high up in the social ladder. For those that saw Clive and Python’s support in FE15, Python says something along the lines of (I’m obviously paraphrasing here) “commoners don’t care who’s butt is on the throne, all they care about is having food on the table and not freezing.” In short, commoners don’t tend to have vested interests in politics, hell, it’s why Ike backs off from being a noble in between PoR and RD. As such, commoners only care about their 9-5 life and not much more. To further add onto this, the lords that ARE commoners tended to be mercenaries (I guess Alm is an exception, but Alm and Micaiah are weird cases), because they care about fighting due to that being their job. Heck, villages you visit tend to tell you mostly about what’s going on and what the place is like. Nobles and royals don’t have to worry about starving or freezing thanks to their wealth and status, but because they have to worry about the country’s management, they have a more vested interest when it comes to the political issues involving alliances and wars. Some nobles would prefer certain treaties over others and every noble/royal has a different opinion. From a writing perspective, for such a plot about a war to happen, the noble/royal in question would be a better vantage point because the noble/royal has a vested interest to make the conflict end, as well as showing the reader that these nobles and royals are human, despite what other thoughts may pop up. Commoners would rather things end quickly, as that would cause a drop in prices, but would likely live as they normally do for the most part. Nobles and royals, however, need to try to find solutions to the conflict, because funding an army costs money and high taxes along with steeper prices for too long could cause revolts, which is the last thing a country needs when it’s at war. One could argue that the soldiers would have a vested interest in ending the conflict, but often they’re “just following orders” because there isn’t much else to do for soldiers outside of war aside maintaining border security and similar jobs.

Nowadays, you could argue that commoners care more about foreign relations than they did before, but remember that it is mostly thanks to improvements in delivering the news, and that the quality of life has shot up in the last thousand years which means far more people have what to eat and keep themselves warm with, so the commoners of today are more like the nobles of yestermillenia.

tl;dr the lords being higher on the social ladder is because it’s easier for writers to work with because the worries of the commoners back in the day were much simpler, but for more dire reasons.

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#2

Just because commoners have no interest in politics, treaties, alliances, etc. doesn’t mean that we need nobility as a main character (so much).

Arguably, Fire Emblem’s biggest problem is the sameness of the series - it’s always a “power fantasy” about the growth of the main character into the leader of their army both on and off of the battlefield to the point that they confront the (often) generic-y final boss (and save the world/country). And, to that end, nobility or mercenaries are probably the best approach, due to the ease of casting them as the central leader of a group of allied units and fighters.

However, 1) the games aren’t exactly drenched in historical accuracy (so the 9-5 argument could easily have liberties taken with it), 2) the political angles rarely factor in beyond simple cases of who is allies and who wants to betray others (no real actual examples of hard politics) or the do-gooder noble that always helps those in trouble / the corrupt nobles that are blatantly bad guys, and 3) the JRPG trope-y “power fantasy” approach has been done to death, not just in Fire Emblem but across the entire genre. (I recall that there’s societal reasons for the frequency of this in Japanese media, but, personally, I think there’s enough examples that they don’t need to do it so often.)

There are so many avenues that the series could take to freshen the narrative up in these regards - FE9 was a bit of a deconstruction, since it still has the growth and leadership elements but also, as you mentioned, shows Ike’s distaste for politics and nobility and their inherent problems. But, you can have an FE-centric story, gameplay, etc. and have it have nothing to do with the standard focus of the story - you reasonably have to have conflict in the story and a final boss by virtue of the combat and map-based core gameplay loop, but what if you took FE5’s “small force being hunted and needing to flee all of the time” but stripped the “reclaiming territory” focus away and, instead, had a con man that was impersonating someone of note that was being hunted by those being impersonated and/or any marks they conned (being chased out of a village, etc.). They could still take jobs or have other types of maps as they would need to parlay their claims of who they were claiming to be, so it wouldn’t be solely Escape objectives… the point is, it’s a conscious decision to the narrative similarity that the series has and there are definitely different avenues that they could take with it that, frankly, could be just as simple to write.

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#3

I’ve been trying to think of some more unorthodox societal roles for potential main characters, instead of just more nobles/mercenaries/random amnesiacs. Here are some ideas I had:

  • Some sort of criminal. Bandit, pickpocket, whatever.
  • A merchant of some sort?
  • A commoner would work too, although like merchants, it would be harder to write an interesting story.
  • A random soldier. Not some aristocrat’s son or famed commander, just a draftee with an Iron Lance trying to make it out alive.
  • Some sort of priest, although you’d need to connect it to the rest of the cast.

If anyone has more ideas or ways to expand on existing ones, feel free to throw in a suggestion!

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#4

Ff12 did something similar where Can was the MC, but it really wasn’t his story he was just right place right time. Some (alot) people didn’t like it because he was a nobody just there for fun.

If you make it more based on them I’d be fine.

#5

I think a good example of a game of war told from a commoner’s perspective is Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. From the start, you’ve got a group of three young adults from a village that was razed to the ground by one of the factions in the current war, on top of their clan (read: nationality) being openly oppressed by yet another faction, involving themselves for revenge (where we already have internal struggle to invest ourselves in because there’s the MC, then the sister who’s tired of bloodshed, then the fiery best friend who wants revenge the most).

After a chance encounter with some banished knights from an uninvolved country, they rally their new allies to free their duke from imprisonment. They’re made figurehead heroes of their people, now working as soldiers for their resistance against the oppressing faction.

From there, the story follows them as they navigate the politics and conflicts inherent in war, with the MC being prompted to make choices to determine his stance and ideology in the conflict. Even at the ground level without a noble to center on, things manage to get involved and stay involved in the nobility, war, and politics.

I’m currently about halfway through Chapter 2 (think Acts from Radiant Dawn) of the game, looking forward to how it progresses. I’d take a look at this game’s story for good examples of how to handle a commoner MC in Fire Emblem.

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#6

That seems very interesting, and yet it sounds similar to Alm’s tale from FE2/15, lol. Still, the plot sounds cool.

#7

I actually started work a couple weeks ago on a romhack with a group of thieves at the center. The way I plan to have them get tangled into the political sphere is by stealing a crucial plot-weapon or something like that. I always thought it would be interesting to play as a third-party to the main “good guy country vs bad guy country”, and I think the best way to do that is to have a main character that is one of the roles you listed.

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#8

This is the angle I’m playing in my own hack, but instead of politics the focus is on the characters and this idea of looming, even inevitable, calamity that ensues from stealing the weapon.

#9

There’s gotta be a reason the main character is able to command 10-40 other men with respect.

Easiest way to do this is: He’s royalty
The next is: He’s head of a gang

End of story.

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#10

Fire Emblem is elitist.

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#11

Because most Nobles and Royalty have like, military?

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#12

Because to affect the world you need power.

And to get power, you need many doors to open for you and followers.

And to get doors open with many followers, you need be as high as possible on the social ladder.


Main characters being upper echelon people with influence and money is realistic.
A shoehorned peasant boi with a pot as helmet changing the world is unrealistic.
Heck, even in those peasant boi stories, dat boi will get close relationships with some aristocracy down the road.

Moreover, the MCs tend to be a leader of a big famous group (mercs, terrorists, pirates, military etc) and not some random dude
that also tend to eventually get connected to another source of influence and power (nobility).

Finally inheritance helps a lot with all the above. People will shut up and listen to you
when you are the scion of a long and prestigious family tree.

In that case, why not make the boi a noble from the start?

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#13

A shoehorned peasant boi with a pot as helmet changing the world is unrealistic.

In Fire Emblem, some playable characters are literal wizards. We can probably drop a bit of realism in the name of an interesting story.

#14

If a story isn’t coherent and logical (realism) it can’t be interesting.

As for “magic” argument, you shouldn’t mix realism with the means of depicting tech level.
You can replace magic with tech or even set the story in the caveman ages without any magic.

The social aspects of influence and power never changed throughout history.

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#15

In addition to this point, There’s a very important thing is storytelling called “The suspension of disbelief.” It’s essentially, “How to keep the audience member from calling BS.”
So we (the audience) have been trained to accept things like wizards in a fantasy world with the story still retaining some credibility (we have King Arthur and Merlin to thank for that).

A boy with a pot on his head however, would completely break the credibility/acceptability of the story (unless of course it were a cartoon, or in the style of Alice in Wonderland, or this boy is somehow “The Chosen one” but even having a chosen one breaks a story for some people at this point).

What I’m saying is you can do things in a story and maintain credibility as long as what you’re doing makes sense in context of the world. In a Noir for example, a man with crippling depression can murder several people and get called a hero, in fantasy you can kill a dragon to get chicks (don’t ask me how it works, it just does.).

TL;DR: You gotta stay consistent to your setting, regardless of what’s realistic in real life.

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#16

I think there’s definitely ways to insert commoners into being at the forefront of your story in a believable manner outside of being a mercenary if you’re creative enough. Maybe they’re a monster slayer working for the church, a farmer in revolt, a privateer who used to be a sailor, a holy person on pilgrimage, a rapper from 1990s Chicago, a merchant of sorts like a blacksmith, a beast hunter, a thief with a gang or a member of a small town militia/city guard.

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#17

The “holy person on pilgrimage” one is the basic idea of a hack I’m probably going to start. He starts off fighting bandits alongside some mercenaries and not-Church-of-Seiros knights, but then an evil secret society/cult shows up, and things go to shit really fast.

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#18

…Final Fantasy X?

#19

Some really good suggestions. You could honestly make your main character a McDonald’s employee or a car mechanic who just got fired. Would make for some really interesting stories if you do it right.

#20

So “L’Arachel’s Bizarre Adventure” feat. Dozla’s stand?