Great Houses

Great Houses
Image from Anders Sandberg

Ancient and powerful aristocratic establishments and bloodlines going back thousands of years, each House is also a clade or race with its own rules and culture and religion, its own protocol and ontology and rich tradition, and its own guiding and overseeing transapients (whether AI, posthuman, postvec, postalien, or postprovolve). You cannot just join a Great House, you have to born into it, and carry the divine sangreal or the sacred code. Here baroque feudalism and noblesse oblige is the standard of society, as it has been for centuries.

Historically, the Houses as a monarchic or oligarchic system of government originated among the colonies with the decline of the First Federation, reaching maximal influence during the Age of Emergence. From the beginning, competition was intense, especially in the old Federation, and only the most intelligent or the most ruthless were able to flourish. In the Inner Sphere many of the Houses were later absorbed into, or became client states of, the great archailect empires. A few powerful Houses like Cygexpa, Metasoft, and Silicon Generation became independent superbright and hyperturing empires in their own right. Others fled to the periphery to try their luck in the new worlds. The rest continued as quaint institutions, local baronets, or eccentric micro-principalities living on the memory of former glories. Since the Empires period, throughout the Inner Sphere and the developed provinces, the House system has been limited to a local or clade-pride phenomenon, sometimes with economic or diplomatic overtones, rather than a political-military form of government in its own right. These institutions are sometimes valued by the hyperturing authorities for memetic purposes or as means of entertaining the masses with spectacles of royalty. In other systems they are barely tolerated and have to eke out a living on mined-out asteroids or in kuiper bodies or comet cores. Away from the reach of the mighty hyperturings and overruling Archailects however, the situation is very different, and in many of the more isolated areas of the Hinteregions, throughout the less developed Outer Volumes, and along the Periphery, the House system flourishes as much as it had during the late First Federation period. But as the AI Gods extend their reach outwards, many of these ancient monarchic regimes are forced to resettle and develop even further out, and once again reestablish local sovereignty.

Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 17 March 2001.