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  • Rethinking Marriage in the Realm

    So, I've been following the discussion on marriage in the Realm in the Ask the Devs thread. I see that they've done a lot of thinking about how marriage would work in a matriarchal aristocracy. However, one question that jumps right out at me is, why the hell would anyone participate in this? Like, at all? Where is the incentive? It makes no sense. What does a woman want a husband for? Any child she has is legitimate, and it's not like an aristocratic woman needs him to provide any resources beyond the, ah, biological foundation. What does a man want a wife for? In this society, there's no real expectation of fidelity, so it's not even particularly likely to be his children that he's... not providing for. I suppose there is the expectation of the House, but... why? Marriage doesn't bind two people together particularly closely this way, so why should it bind allies to the House? It feels like a cultural artifact, there because it's expected, not because it makes sense in context. If two Houses want to work together as allies, they appear to be stuck with finding mutual interests and making a deal, because, at least as discussed in the Ask the Devs thread, Dynastic marriage sucks. Admittedly, the books may go into a lot more detail, but I'm not sure what you could even do to make this style of marriage compelling, even for the participants.

    So instead, for my games, I'm expecting to continue swapping out canon Realm practices for Rokugani practices from Legend of the Five Rings. Much more interesting and dramatic.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Ren9077 View Post
    it's not like an aristocratic woman needs him to provide any resources beyond the, ah, biological foundation.
    Raising Dynastic children is very expensive.

    ​For everything else, it's an alliance between Houses and a partnership between individuals.

    ​Look at Ragara Szaya and Ledaal Kes and ask me why somebody would want to be married.

    ​It's possible that there's still a thing in which there's matchmaking to the effect of trying to pair people expected to produce particularly good Dynastic children, but the whole reproductive angle has always had too much emphasis. The important thing is the formalised relationship of it.

    Originally posted by Ren9077
    at least as discussed in the Ask the Devs thread, Dynastic marriage sucks. Admittedly, the books may go into a lot more detail, but I'm not sure what you could even do to make this style of marriage compelling, even for the participants.
    ​Saying that it sucks seems to be going past the far side of seeming to lack a benefit and into the zone of being outright detrimental. It's curious, to say the least.

    Why do you think modern people get married?

    Originally posted by Ren9077
    So instead, for my games, I'm expecting to continue swapping out canon Realm practices for Rokugani practices from Legend of the Five Rings. Much more interesting and dramatic.
    What do you mean by that?


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

      Raising Dynastic children is very expensive.

      ​For everything else, it's an alliance between Houses and a partnership between individuals.
      Raising Dynastic children is very expensive. Dynasts have the resources. The husband is expected to contribute, but with the lack of expectation that the child is his... why? What benefit is marriage to him?

      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      Look at Ragara Szaya and Ledaal Kes and ask me why somebody would want to be married.
      My point. The setting has arranged marriage, but there is no reason for marriage in the first place, so the institution seems like a relic of our expectations.

      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      It's possible that there's still a thing in which there's matchmaking to the effect of trying to pair people expected to produce particularly good Dynastic children, but the whole reproductive angle has always had too much emphasis. The important thing is the formalised relationship of it.
      The reproductive element was always supposed to be central to the premise. What point is there to the formalized relationship otherwise? Just make a treaty between the factions.



      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      Saying that it sucks seems to be going past the far side of seeming to lack a benefit and into the zone of being outright detrimental. It's curious, to say the least.
      It sucks in that it lacks rationale and story potential. In short, why do people even care in this setting?

      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      Why do you think modern people get married?
      In Western culture and several others, marriage evolved as a formal agreement. A woman agrees to carry and raise a man's offspring exclusively. In return, he agrees to provide for and protect the woman her offspring, expecting them to be his own. You bring in witnesses and have someone important officiate, to swear to your community that your offspring will not become a burden on them. That way, the community has incentive to pressure you to remain with the parent of your offspring. In modern times, it's... well, as I understand it, it's still a statement of intent that you'll still be with this person this time next year, or something? Seems to be a mostly-vestigal cultural touchstone, at this point.


      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      What do you mean by that?
      There's a lot of horse-trading involved. Both members of the family are part of the same Clan, and which one that is depends on how the deal is structured and how much you want what the other family is willing to trade.

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      • #4
        Well it's not strictly that any kid by the woman is of her house and that's that its more of a default statement for figuring out how to handle bastard offspring while also potentially limiting a house's growth. Afterall women need to go through each pregnancy and can't really start on another during the current one, a male can impregnate another woman the same day its confirmed the first pregnancy is a thing. Think of it as a means to prevent a house from trying to drastically increase their number by having their men go off and cause a lot of pregnancies banking on a surge of new dragonbloods even if it thins the blood.

        What's in the contract is also important as other things considered of need and value are being given with the idea that the various benefits of fiance* are of roughly equivalent value. Not to mention even if the person is married into a new house they're still likely to maintain some loyalties to their old house and try to represent those old loyalties. Add in how well getting along with one's spouse might influence their behavior or opinion on and a good marriage can be a way for a house to gain an advocate in other house's matters. This is before we get into the potential for an individual to marry up and get a marriage between a member of a cadet house and a great house.

        As a last note probably safe to say that while The Realm doesn't care too much about love in a marriage I doubt this is entirely duty before happiness unless a situation is desperate. In other words "I don't love [x]" is probably not going to persuade against a marriage, whereas, "You don't understand I utterly loathe them, the last time we were in a room together for more than 5 minutes I had to leave because the effort I was putting into not throttling them was actually starting to call my element to my defense." Will probably get the situation reevaluated.

        *Companionship to the marriage partner, skills, abilities, potential offspring, etc.
        Last edited by nalak42; 12-24-2017, 03:08 PM.

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        • #5
          You know, I think there's this weird thing to me that one can look at marriage customs on Earth, how awfully lopsided they have been historically, and kind of realize that a big thing is marriage isn't for the married a lot. Save when it was, and then it was for the husband, historcially.

          The big thing about Realm marraige that makes it kind of awful for men is kind of just...okay? It's kind of light compared to Earth for women thorugh history. ANd yet, we still had marriage.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Blaque View Post
            You know, I think there's this weird thing to me that one can look at marriage customs on Earth, how awfully lopsided they have been historically, and kind of realize that a big thing is marriage isn't for the married a lot. Save when it was, and then it was for the husband, historcially.

            The big thing about Realm marraige that makes it kind of awful for men is kind of just...okay? It's kind of light compared to Earth for women thorugh history. ANd yet, we still had marriage.
            A terribly modern view of marriage not shared by most of human history.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Ren9077 View Post
              Raising Dynastic children is very expensive. Dynasts have the resources. The husband is expected to contribute, but with the lack of expectation that the child is his... why? What benefit is marriage to him?
              ​I think you're vastly overestimating the likelihood of Dynasts having children by multiple different fathers, as well as weirdly fixated on the idea of marriage being primarily about producing children that you get to claim ownership over.

              Originally posted by Ren9077
              My point.
              ​Szaya and Kes seem like a significant refutation of your point, so you'll need to elaborate.

              Originally posted by Ren9077
              The reproductive element was always supposed to be central to the premise.
              ​It's there, but in First Edition it wasn't so vastly overstated in the books, even if it clearly became a fixation of readers.

              Originally posted by Ren9077
              What point is there to the formalized relationship otherwise? Just make a treaty between the factions.
              Treaties of that kind are effectively formalised and embodied by a union between individuals.

              On that note, there might still be an incentive to primarily have children with one's married partner in the sense that it firms up that alliance and preserves their investment in it. Your children with your concubine might be legitimate, but your concubine probably has less to offer you and your House than your husband.

              Originally posted by Ren9077
              It sucks in that it lacks rationale and story potential. In short, why do people even care in this setting?
              Ahh, I see; I thought you were expressing a perspective on how it would be experience by characters, not an overly emphatic statement of dissatisfaction.

              ​Mind, your second sentence would seem to provide a hint to the answer, in its reference to the wider setting; presumably, the custom of marriage is something that is older than the Realm of the Scarlet Empress, so she might have been taking some cues from that, in addition to everything else.

              Originally posted by Ren9077
              In modern times, it's... well, as I understand it, it's still a statement of intent that you'll still be with this person this time next year, or something? Seems to be a mostly-vestigal cultural touchstone, at this point.
              ​If this is your perspective on a cultural expression of an interpersonal relationship, I fear we have little common ground for further discussion.


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              • #8
                So just some of the ways marriage and sex function within the Realm in my campaigns:

                I tend to run with the idea that the Realm's marriage customs are somewhat similar to those of ancient Rome's. Most marriages are made for political purposes - it's basically a way of formalizing business negotiations, and divorce is extremely common. In fact, it's expected that most Dynasts will have been in at least two or three different marriages over the course of their lives - with Dragon Blooded, a half-dozen is the norm.

                More permanent relationships are much lauded, but also very uncommon. Marriage is simply a political and economic institution among Dynasts, and it's expected that individuals will have lovers of of their own whom they are emotionally attached to, though relationships also tend to be kept somewhat discrete, if only for the sake of not embarrassing or offending your spouse and his or her family (important when your marriage was a political/business arrangement).

                In general a Dynast's first marriage and second marriage will be for the sake of their House and whatever political arrangement their parents or other family members want, whereas by a 3rd marriage the Dynast is usually considered "adult" enough that they will be entering into an arrangement for their own purposes rather than for their Houses. Sometimes a first marriage works and the two end up liking one another but have to get divorced and remarried to other spouses. Such couples will frequently get remarried to one another years down the road.

                The Realm is matrilineal, and children generally stay with the mother on divorce (except in mortal/dragon blooded relationships where the children will always go to the Dragon Blooded if he or she wants them) but sometimes the children will go to the husband in a divorce depending on what kind of an agreement the two spouses come to. Ultimately everything is up for negotiation. Older children who Exalt as Dragon Blooded and display characteristics common to the House of their male parent will usually be adopted into that House, even if they were originally kept as their mother.

                Divorce is as much political and economic as marriage is. Money is usually not shared, and each spouse tends to leave the marriage with whatever they brought to it and sometimes you'll have major feuds in divorces, especially when one-of-a-kind artifacts are involved. For this reason in the Realm any time a present is given to a couple the gift will usually name a specific spouse as the recipient ("So-and-so and her husband" or "So-and-so and his wife") to make it clear whom that present belongs to in the eventual event of a divorce.

                In theory women hold power in the Realm, and there are various strains within the Immaculate Order that hold that the female, as the creator and nurturer of life is a spiritually superior being to a male (something which puts it at odds with Lookshy's variant which holds men and women as equal) but in reality power is held by those with money, age and connections, and males have held political power as House leaders or in the Deliberative just as often as women have. Woman holding higher political power is quite common among the un-Exalted, though again family connections matter more than anything else.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ren9077 View Post

                  A terribly modern view of marriage not shared by most of human history.
                  Sure. Most of human hsitory women didn't get a say in things really much at all. Like, one of your lines is "Why would a man want a wife?" is missing the point that again, in the Realm, marraige isn't for them. And it's less for him specificaly. Marraige in the hsitory of Earth, especially in large complicated cutulres, was very often political and very often utility. Women didn't have a lot of say on the consequences of it either, or are you not aware of the idea of arranged marriages, political marriages, child brides, dowaries, polygamy, and the general property-relationship women have had especailly in the West throughout history?

                  Like, I still feel a fundemental aspect of your argument and post to me reads like, "The husband gets a raw deal in this." To which I say, "Sucks don't it? Wonder what that must be like." How, again, is the Realm's practices to men all that different than say, China was to emperors and lots of concubines throughout history, the treatment of bastards in European nobility, or Victorian era wedding practices where woemn had no right to anything in the househould and basically were consdiereded ependents of their hsubands on the level of children?

                  LIke, again, the fairly nakedly legalistic nature of the Realm is to me at least, fairly nice compared to a lot of this stuff. And jsut because folks in the past thought it was fine doens't mean it was you know. Is-ought and argument from traditon and all that.


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                  • #10
                    Breeding is socially important enough that the Great Houses will want some measure of assurance that offspring will have good bloodlines, marriages do forge alliances between the Houses by stabilizing loyalties, it's a good way to poach talent from another House and eliminate a potential arrival, it's a good way to dump someone with good breeding and little else to offer, it's just a thing Dragon-Blooded do because their bloodline defines their Exaltation and family is extremely important to them...



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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​I think you're vastly overestimating the likelihood of Dynasts having children by multiple different fathers,
                      The Realm's wink-and-nod culture, such as what's being discussed in the Ask the Devs thread, seems to suggest that I am not. Regardless of the actual likelihood, the attitudes toward lineage and legitimacy detailed there suggests that the expectation for mothers to avoid being impregnated outside the marriage isn't nearly as strong.

                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      as well as weirdly fixated on the idea of marriage being primarily about producing children that you get to claim ownership over.
                      It's called "the biological imperative," and it's sort of key to understanding anything about human behavior. Biology, psychology, anthropology, criminology... take your pick. It's a bit of an in-depth subject, obviously, but I'll oversimplify it a bit for you: it is a fundamental drive to produce one's own biological children, and you will favor your own biological children over other people's children. Whether it's emergency rescue, resource distribution, whatever, parents are instinctively compelled to favor their own children. Sorry if biology seems "weirdly fixated" to you.

                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​​Szaya and Kes seem like a significant refutation of your point, so you'll need to elaborate.
                      What are they accomplishing through marriage that they couldn't accomplish as... what are they calling the Brotherhood thing now? In a culture like the Realm's, it seems more sensible to abolish marriage, and let two friends hang out and do whatever.

                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​​​It's there, but in First Edition it wasn't so vastly overstated in the books, even if it clearly became a fixation of readers.
                      Kind of like you would expect it to be, considering that for 99.8% of its existence, marriage has varied between formal breeding agreement to idealized breeding agreement.

                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​​Treaties of that kind are effectively formalised and embodied by a union between individuals.

                      On that note, there might still be an incentive to primarily have children with one's married partner in the sense that it firms up that alliance and preserves their investment in it. Your children with your concubine might be legitimate, but your concubine probably has less to offer you and your House than your husband.
                      Yeah, they are, when there's some sort of expectation of union between those individuals, which the devs have downplayed significantly.

                      There's still definite incentive to primarily have children with your married partner: management of "generative potential." In a society where that was as important to the aristocracy as it is to the Realm's Dragon-Blooded, I would expect a much greater focus on breeding discipline than what has been presented, and House Cynis as presented would be an embarrassment. Emulation of Hesiesh would be considered extremely important.

                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​​Mind, your second sentence would seem to provide a hint to the answer, in its reference to the wider setting; presumably, the custom of marriage is something that is older than the Realm of the Scarlet Empress, so she might have been taking some cues from that, in addition to everything else.
                      I suppose, but that makes it an antiquated relic with no real narrative power.

                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​​​If this is your perspective on a cultural expression of an interpersonal relationship, I fear we have little common ground for further discussion
                      Tell me more about the value of this cultural expression of interpersonal relationships. My divorce lawyer friends could use a good laugh. It helps alleviate the drinking problems and the nihilism.

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                      • #12
                        There is a difference between being claimed by a House and being a legitimate heir.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Blaque View Post

                          Sure. Most of human hsitory women didn't get a say in things really much at all. Like, one of your lines is "Why would a man want a wife?" is missing the point that again, in the Realm, marraige isn't for them. And it's less for him specificaly. Marraige in the hsitory of Earth, especially in large complicated cutulres, was very often political and very often utility. Women didn't have a lot of say on the consequences of it either, or are you not aware of the idea of arranged marriages, political marriages, child brides, dowaries, polygamy, and the general property-relationship women have had especailly in the West throughout history?

                          Like, I still feel a fundemental aspect of your argument and post to me reads like, "The husband gets a raw deal in this." To which I say, "Sucks don't it? Wonder what that must be like." How, again, is the Realm's practices to men all that different than say, China was to emperors and lots of concubines throughout history, the treatment of bastards in European nobility, or Victorian era wedding practices where woemn had no right to anything in the househould and basically were consdiereded ependents of their hsubands on the level of children?

                          LIke, again, the fairly nakedly legalistic nature of the Realm is to me at least, fairly nice compared to a lot of this stuff. And jsut because folks in the past thought it was fine doens't mean it was you know. Is-ought and argument from traditon and all that.
                          Considering that I started with "why does a woman want a husband," and you skipped that and jumped straight for "why does a man want a wife" and proceeded as if the first point had never been raised, I'm not sure I want to engage with you. The ground here doesn't feel terribly intellectually honest. And I also don't feel like writing a dissertation on the history of gender power dynamics, but so much of this... wow, thank you.

                          Thanks especially for the "especially in the West." What are holidays for, if not laughter and merriment?

                          In the Realm's marriage system, there is precious little incentive for ANYONE to participate, man or woman.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ren9077 View Post


                            It's called "the biological imperative,"
                            And now we have no common ground.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                              And now we have no common ground.
                              So, you're, what, a Creationist? You believe that human beings aren't animals?

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