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A Song of Wand and Potion - can we make a readable feudal HP world?

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Download, Oct 25, 2020.

  1. Download

    Download Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    The political "most noble house" cliche. We've all seen it and it makes most of our eyes bleed.

    Usually they try to go down the route of making houses a powerful political entity with the ability to rule over house members and vassals, and essentially create laws unto themselves, but at the same time have a canon Ministry with its legal and bureaucratic system that isn't compatible with that. So I find myself wondering what would need to be done to make a more feudal HP world work.

    For starters the Ministry needs a lot less power. Their primary purpose is enforcing the Statute of Secrecy and everything else attached to the Ministry works to that end. Regulation of dragons for example exists just to stop muggles from becoming aware of dragons and everything else follows that line.

    As this is a feudal system, power in this world is in the hands of houses/families. Giving the Ministry power to prop up certain houses is a double edged sword and likely sees progress towards a non-feudal bureaucratic government. Any power the Ministry has along those lines must be diluted across many houses and is likely along racial lines (i.e. stopping Goblins from getting wands). In turn, the Minister of Magic has little martial power (see the monopoly on violence which in this world exists in the hands of houses). He is an administrator that exists as a compromise between many houses. With little means to bring the minority to heel, being minister is not as simple as winning 51% of the vote. If you're so unpalatable to the 49% they'll just walk out leaving the Ministry without enough funding or staff.

    This raises the question of whom houses and the like answer too. I'm going with no one on the basis that magicals are very good at hiding. If someone wanted to seize the UK and crown themselves magical king, it wouldn't matter much because they lack the ability to truly bring the magical population to heel (see how many people were on the run in book 7). In this setting, feudal houses are an attempt to create and enforce laws within small groups.

    Unlike in a true feudal society, power is not lied to lands. There are few vassals and (probably) no levies, and houses don't need to worry much about having the land needed to feed armies and the like. Instead if families are tied anywhere it would be to magical fortresses or to locations of magical power. Borders won't matter much due to magical transportation either. So any large-scale land ownership doesn't have much meaning.

    As there is no land requirement, I would expect that starting a new magical house is not hard. There is likely no formal process or paperwork. Instead a house exists because it has the martial strength to defend its interest or can borrow that martial strength from allies or as a vassal from overlords. A house would need to balance its ability to deter with how much of a thorn it is in the sides of other houses. This in many ways was true of actual feudal societies: houses exist because they have the power to exist.

    Hogwarts is a powerful magical institution that remains independent because it is a fortress staffed by powerful like-minded people and backed by houses who believe in its independence. The students have no hope of taking it from the inside because students are in no way unified enough to do so, which would allow teachers to crush attempts to take it from the inside. For the reason, the school doesn't let many adults into the castle.

    Family magics are hoarded for obvious reasons but due to marriages they only stay secret for a few generations on average. Marriage and other magical means (?) of tying together families are important.

    The pureblood and muggleborn conflict still exists, but is twisted slightly towards the idea that muggleborns bring with them little knowledge besides their own. It's not entirely correct though as many muggleborns bring new outside ideas to the table but of course, not all of them are good ideas.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Silirt

    Silirt Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    I like the idea of Hogwarts existing as a deal between the four magical lords and ladies to share their jealously guarded knowledge with anyone willing to pay the tuition. Previously, a young witch or wizard could be educated by any old estate, but would have to be accepted as an individual ward among many, and the knowledge whatever lord or lady possessed would be limited. Promising, by contrast, the secrets of four distinguished Houses, Hogwarts was an appealing option to everyone in Britain with the coin, and effectively cornered the market. Even the nobles would send their own children, knowing that they had more to gain than lose, namely pride of independence, though the rural wizards would continue to educate their own children in what little magic they personally knew.
    In this way, the nobility maintained its status as the military strength, because combative magic was not really crucial for farm labor, and the rustics did not lose sleep over not being able to send their children to Hogwarts. A magical knight would be someone of noble birth who had been trained in offensive spells and possibly dark magic from a young age.
    I'm not entirely sold on the land bit because wizards need to produce food somehow, because they can't just transfigure it, and the nobles need a source of income to be rich. If it's not land and therefore food, I suppose it could be that one family owns a mating pair of caged dragons, or maybe one family runs a super off books veela brothel.
     
  3. Download

    Download Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    The amount of land needed is trivial. The magical population is tiny. Their source of income is their ability to use magic.
     
  4. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think you need to go more AU to make it work.

    As it stands, the canonical magic system is too meritocratic for a feudal system to last for any duration of time. As you recognise, ultimately power comes down to who has the most martial force, which in HP is about magical power. And the HP magic system has magical power a function of individual talent, which means that a talented nobody can become the most important person in the magical world in a single generation (see: Voldemort), and a prominent family can become irrelevant in the same time frame if all their offspring are magically weak.

    That is fatal to a feudal system. A feudal system needs as its basis a heritable resource which reliably perpetuates power. In real life that was land, which constituted economic power (generates income), and military power (comes with vassals and levies).

    It doesn't need to be land, but there does need to be a magical equivalent if you want a magical feudal society. There needs to be some kind of heritable magical power, or if you want to go the economic route, a properly developed wizarding economy combined with some way to reliably convert economic power into magical power.

    I think if you go the economic route, you would need to substantially flatten the magical talent bell curve to eliminate the Voldemorts and Dumbledores of the world. Because economic power translating to martial power generally occurs via paying people to fight for you, but having a house guard of 10 Aurors is not going to successfully perpetuate your family's power if the set up of the world is such that a single powerful wizard with no family name like Voldemort can come along and toy with your 10 Aurors with ease.

    Even with a flattened magical talent bell curve, you can still imagine all the most prominent families engaging in a constant competition to recruit the best magical talent to their house, almost like the football transfer market.
     
  5. Download

    Download Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    While I agree about the power disparity, people like Dumbledore and Voldemort are rare and if they tried to use force and crown themselves king, they'd step on enough toes that people would band together to stop them like in canon. Voldemort can't resist whole countries when they get their shit in gear.

    As for the talent thing, families are about banding together. Yes, one person can sometimes make all the difference, but if a house has 20 or 30 people, the outliers don't massively change things up. A person in the top 1% generally can't take on a whole family of people and win. The hereditary power here is blood and family relationships that bind people together. A single person generally can't strike it out on their own because they're one person. An unusually powerful person can and this is probably where most houses would come from, but the average person can't.

    This would actually be an interesting point of muggleborn discrimination. They don't have a magical family behind them. Maybe a plot line with muggleborns trying to form democratic communes or something.

    Edit, why did we get rid of automerge?

    Also Dumbledore tier people don't seem to be having Dumbledore tier kids. In fact, many seem to die childless to boot.
     
  6. Genghiz Khan

    Genghiz Khan Headmaster

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    What the HP system would get you is the magical equivalent of Central Asia. Conquerors coming every generation, building an empire, dying, leaving it in the hands of incompetents, who then fall to the next martial genius and the cycle repeats. You wouldn’t have a feudal system in the same way Europe does now.
     
  7. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    You could solve the problem of the power disparity, by slightly changing the way wands work.

    Ollivander mentioned this in Deathly Hallows.
    Rowling has also mentioned how Wands tend to work better for others if they are related to the owner.

    I think you could build upon this and have their be specific wands in the possession of these nobles families, who have learned from dozens if not hundreds of different owners in the past and now offer an immense magical benefit to the wielder.

    You could even use this as an explanation for the power of the Elder Wand since it has always been wielded by the most powerful of wizard alive, and the reason it works particularly well is because of it always accepting the stronger wizard as master.

    As for why common wizards don't benefit from this, I would just go with the Canon explanation that the vast majority of Wizards are burried with their wands. Which is totally not a tradition encouraged by the noble families.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2020
  8. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Dark Lord

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    I can see two ways to make 'spellpower' roughly equivalent to martial might, and allow the enforcing of power, giving dynasties control.


    The first is to maybe take a leaf from D&D - material components for spells. Sure, most spells can be cast either without material components (see Acid Splash), or with cheap materials gatherable anywhere (see Dancing Lights). But Disintegrate requires a lodestone, and if you're the only family that can produce them, then everyone is reliant on your ability to produce the components for that spell. Whether that is grants economic power through restricting sales, or martial power by being the only ones to cast the spell, is up to the author.


    The second (and more developed) would be to run with the 'family grimoire' idea often seen in fanon. Sectumsempra showed that a wizard doesn't always need to have knowledge of what the spell does to cast it, but still needs to know the spell - it's not sufficient to shout "I-want-them-to-hurt" spell. Having spells refined through the generations, and only teaching them to family members who could then cast them silently, or only using them in private, gives power.

    Secret spells would sometimes slip out into the greater population, depending on how strict the tomekeeper is on teaching others - do they only tell the house heir, the heir and spare, every child of the current head; or every dynast, but put them under oath to not teach others. Maybe it slips back to a partner's birth family, who adds it to their own book of shadows.

    Taking it a step further - such a thing could be linked to the rising power of Hogwarts. Tuition fees can be waived by granting extracts from family books hidden from the greater public. Each time such a thing is added to the Restricted Section, it only makes the draw for future students greater, as they now have access to secret spells their forebears would never have dreamed of. In such a way, Hogwarts plays a roughly analogous role to the church, which could also be reflected in the teaching staff - fifth born sons who stand to inherit only a position as their brother's steward instead memorize everything they can and flee to (relative) safety.

    This also then brings in the hobbling of the Ministry - if they tried to take charge of Hogwarts, the houses would be (potentially) much more likely to rise up. No longer would the 'cousin' be leaving to teach some secrets to everyone, they'd instead be providing such secrets to those ostensibly in charge.




    I very much like the second idea more, because it lines up, historically, with Church/State. Powerful families might try to set up anti-schools, poaching teachers who'd worked under previous headmasters. Or maybe they'd focus on trying to get their family into the power structure of Hogwarts, similar to the Borgias. As the headmaster is in charge of allowing children entry, they could set tuition fees so high that opposing families have no option, if they wish for children to attend, but to offer up reams of knowledge; whilst their own families and those of their confidents are allowed entry for a knut.
     
  9. Seratin

    Seratin Proudmander –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    In the absence of land based strength you could write a system where it's knowledge based.

    If a family have a few generations of talented, motivated Wizards they could amass a hoard of creations, enchanted items, magical secrets, inherited abilities.

    The Longbottom heir might be weak but he has a ring that can turn people to mist at a glance and is somehow invulnerable to physical damage so we best not revolt.

    The McLaggens might be insufferable but they can impregnate your wife with a touch so we'll leave them be.
     
  10. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    The Problem with such things as family grimoires or the general hoarding of magical knowledge, is that it would require these noble families to focus on magical research, and while that fits the classical fantasy wizards, it doesen't really fit the wizards in Harry Potter.

    Like think of Lucius and Narcissa, who are probably the first that come to mind when somebody thinks of Wizarding Nobility, do they really seem like the kind of people who devote a significant portion of their time into reasearching magic that they could add to the 'Malfoy Family Grimoire', instead of enjoying their life as upper class wizards and manage whatever buisnesses and properties they own?
     
  11. Seratin

    Seratin Proudmander –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    I mean, that's sort of the point of an AU.
     
  12. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    I am not saying it's a problem because it changes canon, I was refering to the tone shift of noble and upperclass wizards having to be scholars in general.

    I was not referring to your idea of them hoarding powerful magical items though, it's not like my Idea of them passing down wands with ever inreasing power is that different.
     
  13. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Dark Lord

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    No, you're right that the canon Malfoys don't fit the idea of 'magical researcher' at all.

    I suppose it would link in with how the family makes money (if they do), or general hobbies. For instance, if the Malfoy family tends to make money from selling pure-bred Abraxan pegasi as transportation and meat, then you would maybe think that Lucius has perhaps done some work on parasite removing charms, or a conjuration for a more flexible measuring post. Or perhaps they've done research into whether Abraxan down can be substituted for Gryphon feathers (Yes, in a 2:1 ratio, but only when working towards a fire-aligned end result, or on the summer solstice, to make up for their less aggressive nature).

    Perhaps even that is going too far, in which case it could well be that the nobility patronizes scholars, or trains up branch members as such.

    It's not exact, but you can imagine Lucius inheriting a company, and then as CEO making himself even richer on profits, whilst the developers see a 1% pay-raise.

    EDIT
    If it's seen in the same way as art - then patronage is probably the way it would move. Sure, learning to paint yourself is possible, but you could also hire ten students to learn everything and then do it for you, and by showing you can afford such, it demonstrates you have that wealth to spare
    /EDIT


    On the other hand, if a house arises when a conglomerate of semi-related wizards can defend themselves and decide on a leader, perhaps being well-educated and doing your own research is a virtue? Rather than being an influential member of the wizengamot being the best measure of a wizard's power, but their contribution to academia is, then that would be reflected within the way people behave. We're not talking about a change last week to the wizarding world, but on a longer term (albeit with probably the same characters acting in semi-similar manners, because otherwise it's just original fiction).
     
  14. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    You could take the Idea with nobles funding wizards to do research even further, and go with something like the Citadel in A song of Ice and Fire.

    Basically a higher learning institution that send out members to serve and educate nobles, and have that institution in exchange funded by them.

    This would result in Nobles having access to have access to a notably better magic than most common wizards, who probably barely advance at all once they leave Hogwarts.
     
  15. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think the idea works best if you just embrace the AU: a world where wizards can transfer (quantifiable) magical power between each other, so magic is used as the wizarding world's currency, and old wizarding families have accumulated generations of stored magical power. Other means to magical power would be possible - you could say that Dumbledore had gained access to a huge amount of magical power through going on a quest in his youth to obtain a phoenix, for example - but the wizarding world would be dominated by the old families with their huge pools of inherited magical wealth.
     
  16. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    You may as well just go for the Fate method and have Noble Wizards cut out part of their magic circuits(magical core) and tattoo it onto their heir, increasing the holders magic power as well as giving them access to all the Spells store inside the Magic Crest
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Heosphoros

    Heosphoros Fourth Year

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    The economic route is further weakened by the fact that the more capable the wizard the less valuable money is for them. Not only their expertise can bring loads of cash, but they can, if pushed to it, be almost completely self reliant so long as they have a wand.

    I've had an overly ambitious AU running through my mind for a while in which I struggled for a reasonable reasoning for a Wizarding Feudal system. In my plot bunny's case I wanted a extreme AU where wizards ruled the world directly and there was constant competition between houses. Basically Wizard GoT but more High Fantasy. In order to justify both war and aristocracy, some sort of scarce resource had to be implemented. Something that everyone wanted enough to obey the guy on top and clash with their neighbors for more, but that was also difficult to just steal or rob.

    My choice was to make wizarding reproduction far less certain. Instead of squibs being incredibly rare they where closer to being the rule. A magical couple would, naturally, have maybe a 10% chance of a magical child, maybe more if several magical means are used. But only one kind of magic juice (or whatever) could guarantee that the child wouldn't be a crippled abomination. So controlling the source of this resource would be the source of the elite's political and martial power, after all, numbers would be on their side. The specific means I had for how this resource was to be acquired changed over the time.

    First I had a straight up feudal society, from controlling the land would this Reproduction Juice be extracted. The early chickens would have had set up some sort of magical Authority (like the ministry's, as often explained by Taure) over an area and through it they would milk some geographical magical feature of the world. Ley lines or some crap like that. This Authority would have enough generations of magic on it to make difficult to subvert, guaranteeing that it would stay in the family's control.

    This was a bit inflexible. Later I toyed with idea that the muggles could be the source of this Juice. Some wizard discovered that muggle worship could be hijacked to create the special substance that made magical birth a certainty. Thus the Noble Houses wold be the ones controlling the major religions (some special magical statues could be involved). Any wizard could set up their own religion, but achieving number big enough to see results would be difficult to hide, bringing the wrath of the established players. Conflict would then arise from managing muggles, both constructively and destructively.
     
  18. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    I think another example you could look at would be sects in xianxia novels (and wuxia, probably).

    Essentially, each sect is a fairly large collection of wizards (to borrow from HP terminology). There are disciples and elders; disciples are there to learn and eventually become elders, elders are there to teach, throw around their political power, and enforce the rules. Both have tiers (outer disciples, inner disciples, core disciples; elders, grand elders, enforcement elders, sect leaders, martial ancestors...) and these tiers depend on their powerlevel, which due to xianxia rules can be steadily grown.

    The important part is that these sects collect spells and resources, which are meant to be rewarded to the disciples in order to motivate them to become elders, as elders are invariably big political movers and shakers, have financial power far outstripping that of most disciples, and are also able to annihilate dozens of lesser wizards with the flick of their hand. Sects are often spread over some piece of land, which allows them to have medicinal gardens, areas where magical beasts are reared, hidden realms where ancient arts are hidden, etc.

    This structure could be applied to HP without much trouble, I think. Sects might revolve around a particular family or set of families, which are specialized in a given type of magic, and which regularly patrol the nearby muggle areas for muggleborns. These muggleborns are taught simple magic and given a chance to prove themselves. Most fail but invariably there will rise a Protagonist among them some day, with all the consequences thereof.

    To entice people into doing missions for them, sects have medicinal gardens full of potions ingredients, magical beasts which may provide parts for a new, better wand, a library of spells disciples may be granted access to in reward for meritorious service. They also fight with other sects in attempts to gain better resources, for economical gain or political power over more of the local muggle areas.
     
  19. RandyRanderson

    RandyRanderson Second Year

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    I think the best way to do this is a combination of many of the factors discussed previously. For example, the Malfoys:

    Land. They own magical land which allows them to grow food, raise livestock, and more importantly, produce magical ingredients from magical fauna and flora. This would be a bit of an AU, with greater emphasis on the importance of the magical nature of ingredients sourced from magical plants and animals.

    Money. They've accumulated wealth, which allows them to accumulate more. Money can be used to pay for many things such as labor, spellwork by talented wizards, magical objects and substances, and other things that might increase power. Money can pay for wizards to fight for you (labor). Sure, Dumbledore might be able to come along and beat your men, but even Dumbledore will probably hesitate to attack you if you have 50 wizards and another 20 to attack his supporters if he attacks you. They can also pay for people to become educated/

    Spell knowledge. The Malfoy's have accumulated magical knowledge over the years. They might not devote all their time to research, but they certainly have a few employees researching and less influential or younger members of the family might be performing research. This gives them an edge with regards to their land, which they can utilize more effectively, martial power, and business. And it also means each Malfoy is probably a better wizard on average. They can also afford to go to Hogwarts, which provides an excellent well-rounded education and also helps to strengthen the Malfoys.

    Wands. I like this idea. Instead of commoners simply burying their wands, however, I think it works better if commoners, who don't have money or social status, simply don't get educated as well and can't get access to better wands. Ollivander is one of the best wandmakers and I expect a wand from a lesser creator to learn less from the wizard and be inferior. The Malfoys have access to ancestral wands and if they require new wands, they can afford the best.

    Magical ingredients, money, knowledge, and wands all combine to allow for power. One factor might predominate in a specific situation but each factor adds up to give the Malfoys power. The Malfoys will have better access to enchanted objects and defensive charms because they can afford magical ingredients, can pay for better craftsmen or just the creations themselves, have more knowledge to utilize in their creation, and have better wands to create them with if a Malfoy is doing to creating. The Malfoys can pay for more labor and use money politically. The Malfoys have more martial power because they can afford more men, afford to train them up better, because they have access to more enchanted objects/charms, and have more educated family members.

    Sure, it still requires a few changes from canon. But by relying on a combination of all the factors instead of just one, I think it requires less drastic of a change.
     
  20. Shouldabeenadog

    Shouldabeenadog Order Member

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    Perhaps the ancient and noble houses are ancient and noble, and nothing more. They aren't magical powerhouses, but instead are the scrappy survivalists. Dark lords and witch kings and pandemics have scythed through wizarding society, but those families survived where others have failed. So I see them less as high nobility, but rather as barons and counts holding on to their land and fief even as they bow from one ruler to the next.
    When the ministry became established, they saw the opportunity and endorsed it, warning power. And the houses that did not were purged.
    The houses survived long enough to ossify themselves into the political structure, where even the ministry is subservient.
     
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