A somewhat cleaned up version of something I posted earlier on G+.
I came up with a rather simple system of representing patron-client relationships in Swords of the Eastsea. This happened after I watched Alatriste. Aragorn had a great moustache in it. And there was swordfights too.
Patronage is sort of a fixture in the early modern world. Though there are other structures in society, almost anyone can still benefit from having a relationship with someone above their status. And because your status is lower then theirs, they can have you do their dirty work.
Ground rules: you can only have a patron that’s of higher rank than you. Your patron will give you small sums of money and other benefits no questions asked, because they can afford to. In return, you are expected to show up and take care of things from time to time, but you are not an employee, you’re part of their retinue or household, even if you’re not there all the time.
Your patron has a level of status, starting from minor officials and merchants, going up to merchant princes, dukes, counts and the highest officials of any given nation. Actual rulers don’t have clients tho, they’re not represented by this system.
When you do stuff for your patron, you receive Favor Dice. You can roll them whenever you want something out of the ordinary. Money for new boots is ordinary, dinner at their manor or townhouse is ordinary, a full suit of armor is out of the ordinary, a chartered ship for your personal use is out of the ordinary. If you don’t succeed with the roll, you lose a Favor Dice because you thought too much of your own importance.
Of course, since this is a dice-matching system, it does mean that it’s sort of easy to blow a roll. Here’s two things: you can get modifiers to your roll by presenting your case in a good way, actually spending time on it, getting someone to recommend you for your patron, and so on. At the same time, it represents the dynamics of a patron-client relationship. Any patron has a whole lot of people asking them for favors. They’re not going to actually pay special attention to you before you’re standing out in some way. So you have to make an effort and not just hang around drinking their booze. Try saving their lives or something.
If your character rises in social status above your patron, they actually become your client, so now you got someone you can jerk around.