Before the revolution, the Nobility of Acryn, consisting of those related (at various degrees of distance) to the royal line, or those who had been elevated by the kings and queens over the years, enjoyed considerable legally backed rights and privileges, which they generally used to accumulate wealth and power. The kings and queens are gone, but not all the nobility has gone with them. Prominent members of the families closest to the royal line lost their lives, and the survivors fled into exile, but the presence of some the minor nobility among the orchestrators of the revolution allowed them to prevent the bloodlust of the victorious populace extending too far, and most of the houses and families who could plausibly disavow their connections to the royalty survived in some form. A few more were turfed out or assassinated as secret royalists in the next five years, but by the end of that time the nobility were largely accepted as just another facet of city life. Legal rights and privileges associated with membership are no more, and any titles that individuals might claim are only as legitimate as they can convince their fellows of, but the sheer volume of wealth and resources the nobility possessed at the time of the revolution has stood them in good stead in a changing city. The mercantile middle class now have a considerable share of the pie, but the nobility are very good at training their sons and daughters to lead and rule, and can provide them with all the backing they need to succeed.
The families have always tended to strengthen ties between them through inter-marriage, and charting the geneology of the main families is a trial indeed. Since the revolution, some families have begun seeking similar alliances with powerful mercantile factions, while others have resolutely attempted to stick with tradition. Their success in this regard has been mixed - the number of those who can remember the time of the monarchy and their own ascendancy is decrementing by the year, and a new generation who have only known the modern status quo have begun to hold more and more of the power. To the horror of some of their parents, they care little about comparing titles and carefully crafting marriage-based alliances, instead turning the resources and drive to control their birth and education has gifted them and attempting to make their own success in the city, rather than building up the power base of the family as a whole. Internal family power struggles have sharply increased in the past twenty years, with more than one ended only by an assassination or the flight of one or more members from the city.
Duelling with swords has long been a tradition among the nobility. Like a lot of other things about the nobility, it used to have a legal role - the results of a duel were legally binding so long as no foul play occurred during it, and duels could be fought to the death if both parties agreed. Both of these things are no longer the case - a death during a duel would attract the attention of the city watch and any agreement made prior to a duel is only binding in so far as considerable shame would fall upon anyone who didn't hold up their side of an agreement.
Originally defenders of the crown. Noble families would train a member of the family from birth to be a body-guard to the King or Queen, and those in the line of succession. This was generally considered a fairly good way for a noble house to win favour, the closer the Knight was to the house's head the better.
Since the revolution, the surviving noble houses have been careful to avoid any appearance of training knights. However, the image of Knights in Armour has been deeply engraved in the public consciousness and has been adopted by both the churches (who were heavily involved in the training of the original Knights) and almost any organisation who maintains a fighting force (where a “Knight” or Standard-Bearer would lead the force into battle as part of Acryn's army). Traditional Knights were usually fully armoured in gleaming metal plates. This tradition is maintained by those trained by the churches, but for practical reasons those trained by other organisations tend to use mostly leather, with a few metal plates in key areas.
House Crest: A Wyvern
House Graves are rather iconic of the popular perception of Acryn's nobility. Large enough to have weathered revolution without change being thrust upon them and under the leadership of Duke Corlo Graves, a staunch traditionalist in his sixties, the family has changed its behaviour little for hundreds of years. Their wealth springs mostly from overland and river trading to the north and west, dealing in wines, spices and clothing with the merchants of Margush and Trantia, often backed by agreements with mercantile groups going back tens, or in the case of one established northern route, hundreds of years. A child with Graves name is unlikely to want for anything, and it is rare that the council does not feature at least one family member (though not Duke Corlo himself, who is rumoured to consider such a position beneath him). Unchanged as it is, however, the power of the Graves dynasty has begun to wither somewhat. While happy to trade with foreign merchants, Duke Corlo is reluctant to work with Acryn's own merchant classes, and many other families have significantly larger presences in the city itself. Some of the younger members of house Graves are rumoured to be unhappy about this state of affairs, as the success of their peers in other houses starts to make their birth look like more of a hindrance than a help in making a splash in the modern city. This has only intensified since the upheaval - the massive increase in the difficulty of trade, especially in the first six months after the Upheaval, rocked the foundations of the house, and Duke Corlo is rumoured to have seen off several attempts on his own life from within before business picked up. Apparently in deference to pressure from within, the Duke has recently signed a long term partnership with the Wayfinder's guild.
House Crest: a Ram.
House Terrec is almost the opposite of house Graves - young, dynamic and truly children of the times. This is largely due to the internal overthrow of the “old guard” of the house by Lady Galia Terrec, the current head of the house, which took place now nearly ten years ago. Lady Galia caused significant consternation among her family when she broke ranks to marry a member of the Engineers guild, but five years later, having significantly increased her already considerable wealth, and gathered many like minded members of the household to her banner, she made her move. For many inside the nobility and without, this moment, so long after the revolution, represents a true paradigm shift in the landscape of Acryn's powerful - a significant part of why Galia's power play was so successful was simply that no one had really tried what she did, as within the living memory of the rulers of most of the great houses the law would have simply swatted her down. In modern Acryn, however, her bloodless revolution of ruthless business moves and legal plays saw the elders of her family isolated and stripped of their temporal power before they really knew what was happening, and most chose to depart the city to live in comfort among the few external holdings remaining to them rather than stay.
What remains is a truly modern noble family - heavily interconnected with all aspects of mercantile matters within the city, and with representatives involved in the works of all four of the churches (Galia herself being a very public devotee of the Leader). On the one hand, this has lead them to have somewhat less resentment among the downtrodden of the city than most of the nobility (especially thanks to Galia's sister Waltha, who is rumoured to be the single largest donor in the city to the Tender church's coffers). On the other, quite a few among the nobility see them as sell outs, and not really “part of the team” any longer (especially the more traditional end). Such resentment is only increased by the niggling concern that Galia and her family might simply not care what they, with their hundreds of years of breeding and tradition, think.
House Crest: A Tyrant Lizard
House Darish were on the right side of the revolution - just. Initially non-committal, they turned against House Salic just as the tide of revolution became inexorable. That they did join, and on the right side, is difficult to dispute, but even before the revolution the family had a reputation for…pragmatism in matters of loyalty, and a decent few of the current high-standing members lost parents or relatives among the other families during the overthrow. The house professes full loyalty to the council, of course, but rumours will not go away of royalist plots originating within, and bitter plans for revenge against the city for the wrongs felt to have been dealt in the past.
The family have a reputation for producing excellent scholars, with many of their members having studied at one of the colleges, and certainly part of the wariness that many in the city feel towards them is due to the fact that the family claims a significant number of mages of considerable power within their ranks, certainly more than any other family and perhaps more than owe direct loyalty to the council.
These are just some of the more notable families within the city - the web of blood and loyalty ran rife within the city before the revolution, and has grown even more confused since - families split in half during the revolution, families torn down and raise up under different names, and families in hiding with a few bold sons and daughters willing to try and make a name for themselves and hoping the city has forgotten their names…for now. A noble character can come from a house made up just for the purpose - though once you have, it is considered fair game for others to use it to inspire PCs and NPCs.
House Crest: A Raven
House Salic, the Royal Family prior to the revolution, claimed to have played a part in the founding of Acryn and that they had divine mandate to rule, something which the Church of the Leader were supportive of at the time but are noticeably non-committal about now. Succession was not strictly hereditary, instead a great deal of political wrangling and interpretation of portents and divine will led to the current King or Queen selecting the next ruler from among their children, nieces, and nephews.
The last known member of the house, Elizabeth Salic, was killed in her sleep in a village 10 miles from Acryn about 5 years after the revolution. She had no possessions but the banner of her house (a black Raven) which she was using as a blanket. The bloodied banner is displayed in the City Hall to this day.
House Crest: A Rooster
House Cargan made the fatal error of choosing the wrong side come the revolution. They somewhat salvaged this by spotting the turning of the tide in time for a significant number of them to flee the city. House Cargan had always had significant contacts and holdings across the eastern ocean, and it was to these they fled, far beyond the reach of the common man, and far enough away that the newly convened council never quite achieved the impetus needed to hunt them down and wipe them out - especially as the rulers of Valyyd made it clear that they would not countenance a continuation of a foreign power struggle within their dominion. House Cargan survived, therefore, in significant numbers to rebuild a power base. For a long time, the people of Acryn paid them no heed, far away as they were. In the last ten years, however, the family has gotten bolder, with several members establishing an estate and trading emporium on the isle of Thys, and making overtures to Acryn merchants. Hastily established laws made trading with the family illegal for citizens, but given the web of commerce on the island such laws were essentially impossible to enforce, go-betweens being found for those willing to take the Cargan Riel. Up until the Upheaval, the presence of the Cargans remained a hotly debated subject in the council. The difficulty in reaching Thys since, and the troubles faced by the city closer to home, has taken many minds off them, but some few have pointed out that, now the Thys outpost of the family is cut off from the rest, the moment would be ripe to do something about this persistent thorn in the city's side.