More than a few people that I have spoken to about the game have told me that they are unfamiliar with the word fealty, so I thought it would be good to say a few things about it here.
I like the way that conversation.com puts it:
“… if you think fealty sounds like a word King Arthur would use, you’re right: It’s really an outdated term that primarily describes a vassal’s sworn allegiance to a feudal lord.” (Vocabulary.com)
The defining characteristic of medieval feudalism was a small group of nobles had control over most of the land. Because they owned the land, and the economy was heavily agrarian, these nobles also had most of the wealth and power. However, the nobles needed someone to work the land and make it profitable. This is where fealty comes in.
A vassal was someone that had pledged fealty to a lord, promising their labor and services in exchange for the protection of the lord and use of the lord’s land. In this way vassals were dependent on the lord, but also the lord was dependent on their vassals.
Most vassals were commoners who worked on the lord’s land in times of peace and made up the bulk of the lord’s army in times of war. Other commoners might be tradesmen - blacksmiths, carpenters - which could be highly regarded depending on their skill.
Between the nobility at the top, and the peasants at the bottom, was third class made up of professional warriors and were called knights. Lords needed knights to act as their muscle: they would act as military leaders, and also strove to be great warriors.
The essential point in all of this is that the concept of fealty was integral to medieval society because it defined the relationships between vassal and lord.
At the heart of Fealty (the game) is a discreet simulation of these relationships in a living and breathing world. I believe that these relationships provide the context for varied and interesting challenges that will help players connect to the characters in the world and care about their fates.
So now you know where the name of the game comes from.