League of Unsavory Gentlemen
See also: Peerage
There is no one king or ruler in Nameless, it is merely a collection of cities. In fact, while most around the world refer to Nameless as if it’s a single city on the island in the middle of Copo Deus Bay, it is in fact a collection of three main cities and the inhabitants of several surrounding islands.
Bailiff is an elected official (technically a mayor), but the name is held over from a time when the count appointed the position. Commoners will refer to him by both titles. The Bailiff appoints the Constable and Chamberlain. The constable is charged with keeping the peace and oversees the standing militia. The Chamberlain is the head of the Office of Customs and Tallages.
Northrock and the smaller towns on the island adhere to a more traditional feudal system, where the baron (or count) holds supreme power. Lesser lords are granted lands by the barons, and “own” it as long as the baron sees fit. If they displease the baron, they may have their lands stripped. Lesser lords are allowed to maintain a household guard, but not any sort of militia (that right belongs to the barons alone). Those not of noble blood (for example, lowborn merchants) are rarely granted land, and land cannot be purchased. One way around this for powerful merchants is to knight the individual and grant land, often in exchange for a “donation” (purchase price). Nonetheless, all the cities have a town charter that allows purchase and sale of small tracts of land (for businesses and houses) by people of any class.
South Rim operates differently. It was originally feudal as well, but since most of the land was the town, the town charter took on more importance. Long have East and West Rim had extensive charters, and an extensive retinue of officials, but over time the merchants (some highborn, some lowborn) grew so much in power that they were wealthier than even the counts. Once that happened, they would no longer consent to be “ruled” by the barons and counts. So the Bailiff became an elected official (by the nobility and powerful merchants, but not the common folk). The Bailiff is still technically a servant of the count, but he has limited ability to replace the position (like a Chairman of the Board who cannot choose the CEO, but is still technically his boss). The counts and barons are still the only ones who are supposed to support standing militias, but that rule is not really followed since the household guard of some merchant lords resembles a small army.
The barons in South Rim own estates, but not really a large amount of land (the town charters are technically using the count’s land, with the exception of that granted to a handful of barons and lesser lords). As a result, they’re more like glorified and titled merchants, also known as the “Merchant Princes” — a contrast to the “Merchant Lords,” powerful merchants who hold great sway because of their economic relevance, but live on swathes of land purchased from the count via the town charter (and who may be lowborn). These terms are used when someone wants to make a distinction, and to some of the most powerful merchants, it could even be considered a subtle insult to remind them that they are not, in fact, nobility. Either way, most of the time in Nameless the lesser lords, major lords, knights, and merchants are generically referred to as “lords.” For example, Lord Google, Lord Ostryd, etc. Although the tradition of using the correct title is stronger on the northern part of the island, the island is so small that customs are not highly differentiated between north and south.