Season 3, Episode 8: "Marriage Between the Houses"

In this blog, we take a look at the world of A Song of Ice and Fire through the lens of the hit HBO series A Game of Thrones and the game systems of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for some ideas on how to incorporate themes and elements of the show into your own SIFRP Chronicles. There may be spoilers for both the books and the show, so be warned!

Season 3, Episode 8: "Marriage Between the Houses"

In Episode 8, "Second Sons," there is all manner of talk of marriage. Not only do Robb Stark and his allies journey to the Twins for the alliance of his uncle Edmure to an as-yet unknown Frey girl, but there is also a wedding in King’s Landing: an unlikely union between Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark.

Marriage in Westeros is more than just a man and woman finding one another and starting a life together. Much more. In many ways, it is how alliances are cemented between the Houses. As a result, the children of the nobility often have less say in their futures than do the meanest of the smallfolk they rule. Marriage is a pact between Houses, a way of creating allies for the future, and the whims of impressionable young men and women aren’t allowed to have any play in that.

Of course, the laws of the land say that no one can be married against their will. Ultimately, they themselves must speak the words that create the bonds of matrimony. The flip side of this, of course, is that there are many ways to force one’s children to agree to such a union. Sansa’s fear of what might happen to her if she refuses is an example of this. In the A Song of Ice & Fire series, Ramsay Snow actually captures the widow Lady Hornwood and imprisons her until she agrees to marry him.

Though small weddings that are not major affairs are certainly known, most of the Houses choose to make a major affair of their unions. At the very least, there is a grand feast where the two families may be in one anothers’ company. Many Houses go further, throwing great fairs, domain-wide celebrations (including a processional of the newly-married couple so the smallfolk can see them) or even sponsoring a tourney.

Weddings are also a great opportunity for intrigue, as it’s one of the few instances when nobles of different Houses meet together and have plenty of opportunity to pursue their own ambitions and desires. With that in mind, here are a small handful of rules and suggestions for facilitating such events in the A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying system:

  • Betrothal Negotiations (Complex Intrigue): Arranging marriages is a long process, filled with courtesies, negotiations and compromises. This is a Complex Intrigue, with one victory point required per individual in the other House who has a say. Frequently, this is a mother and a father, but sometimes other relatives or advisors must be convinced of the wisdom of the arrangement. If the Houses are from different realms, and thus serve different Lords Paramount, sometimes even their liege must be convinced to the union as well.
  • Wedding Preparation (House Action): During the month in which a wedding occurs, it is usually the major concern of the House. Accommodations for myriad guests must be arranged, lavish feasts planned and prepared, entertainment of all kinds must be secured and a household must be presentable before guests. All of these thing take effort…and coin. Part of this process are the invitations to one’s guests, as well, convincing them to attend. The roll for this Action is a Status (Steward) test, with a Routine (6) test for Minor Houses, Challenging (9) test for Major Houses and a Formidable (12) test for Great Houses.

Success indicates a wedding that is free from any sorts of embarrassments or disasters: no one is seated next to their arch enemies, there is plenty of good food to go around and the minstrels do not sing mocking songs about any of the guests or their allies. (This does not, of course, preclude any intentional havoc, planned by either hosts or guests.) A successful wedding costs 1 Wealth for Minor Houses, 1d3 Wealth for Major Houses and 1d6 Wealth for Great Houses, but they result in an Influence gain for the host equal to 1d3 Influence for Minor Houses, 1d6 Influence for Major Houses and 1d6+3 for Great Houses. This is, of course, in addition to the Resource gains that come from the simple act of Houses joining (see below).

  • At A Wedding (Intrigue Environmental Quality): Weddings create a certain type of environment. While at a wedding event, a Narrator might choose to grant a –1 Disposition Rating against the Charm and Seduce Techniques, as well as against Convince Techniques that attempt to forge alliances.
  • Newly Joined Houses Resources: Once a wedding has occurred, both the bride’s House and the groom’s House see a change in their House Resources. The bridal House loses an amount of Resources equal to the bride’s Status, given over as a dowry. However, they gain a point of Influence if their bride joined a House that is equal or lesser in Status, or gain one Influence plus one point of Influence per point of difference in their respective Status. So, a House of Status 4 that marries a daughter into a Major House (Status 6) gains 3 points of Influence (1 + the difference in their Status ratings).

The groom’s House gains an amount of Wealth equal to that lost by the bridal House. Additionally, if the daughter comes from a House of higher Status than the groom’s House, the groom’s House gains 1 point of Influence.

  • Wedding Vows (Destiny): When speaking their vows, a couple may spend (not burn) 1 point of Destiny. For the next year, until their first anniversary, they gain a +1B die on all actions they take to strengthen their personal union. This might be used to defend their beloved physically from danger, to engage in Intrigues to resist seductions or attempts to convince them to take actions to betray or harm their beloved or even in Endurance tests to survive difficult pregnancies or sicknesses.

In case you just can’t get enough about weddings in Westeros, why not check out The Wedding Knight? (In our newly-redone online store!)

Joseph Carriker is a game developer for Green Ronin, responsible for the Blue Rose AGE line, as well as working on other games such as Fantasy AGE and the Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting books. He has worked in the gaming industry for over eighteen years, including doing work for Wizards of the Coast, White Wolf, and Onyx Path Publishing during that time. He is an outspoken queer gamer, having helped found the annual Queer as a Three-Sided Die panels at Gen Con and other conventions. He is also novelist, with his first novel, Sacred Band, about a team of LGBTQ superheroes, garnering starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. His second novel, Shadowtide, is set in the Blue Rose setting, and is available from Nisaba Press. Joseph lives in Portland, Oregon with his fiancé A.J.