From: David Cake (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed 07 Jun 1995 - 05:48:47 EEST
I agree with Nick and Sandy that the Hrestoli are unlikely to degenerate into a typical feudal state. It is worth noting that a meritocracy retains some hereditary aspects in practice, but while there are probably few farmers sons who end up as Kings, and few Kings sons who end up in the fields, there is still a great deal of social mobility. And there are enough farmers sons who end up as Dukes to keep the hope alive (say, 1 or 2 a generation). And yes, Ancient China had a largely meritocratic administrative class, who I have just been reading about in the excellent Judge Dee murder mysteries that have previously been recommended on this list.
I think trying to 'fix' an examination is considered a great crime by the Loskalmi Church and State. I don't think that all other forms of trying to speed your offsprings progress are considered necessarily crimes, but they are thought of as moral failings (though in the mildest forms are probably endemic). For example a Loskalmi noble would think it awful to try and promote someone who was not a master swordsman to the Wizard class, a real crime - but he might still end up hiring a private swordsmanship instructor for his clumsy son (and his neighbours will gossip about how awful it is behind his back). There are probably also cushier postings - I bet more nobles sons end up as squires or acolythists than farmers sons.
I think the biggest problem with the Hrestoli system is the Peter Principle, being promoted to your level of incompetence. I think that there are specific Hrestoli institutions around this. For example many people who proceed to the heights of the Knight class might make pretty dreadful wizards, and for such people there are institutions like the Grand Battle of the Order of the Flame, and perhaps some Loskalmi version of the Knights Templar, so that they can in theory be Wizards, but in practise be elite knightly orders that study magic and religion in their spare time. Similarly, there are special church hierarchy positions that make great retirement posts for doddering or unpleasant wizards incapable of inspiring or competently administrating, and positions of 'knight' rank that do not involve much actual retaining for peasants that attain knight rank in middle age (Sheriff, for example, is probably knight rank, but seldom occupied by a young man).
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