The life of a noble is not the leisurely idyll one might expect. There are fiefs to manage, rivals to crush and wars to wage. While there is much power to be gained, there is always the risk of humiliation or loss of holdings and position. It is no wonder that they know how to party: Their gala affairs are lavish and awe-inspiring - but also rife with intrigue, innuendo, backstabbing and even sword duelling. To escape such pressures, noble sons and daughters often take to the stars with only a small entourage of friends and retainers, to better know the worlds they wish to one day rule.
The Hawkwoods are proud that one of their own has become emperor, but all believe they are destined for greatness. It is both their privilege and their duty, and they act accordingly. They usually follow a strict code of honor and treat their serf and freemen subjects with relative benevolence for the most part. Many Hawkwood nobles are aligned with the conservative, Hinayana Orthodox elements in the Universal Church, but some Hawkwoods are aligned with the Church's Mahayana Orthodox, Amalthean, Hesychast, Eskatonic, and Obun Voavenlohjun elements. The Hawkwoods are ancient, long-time foes of House Decados, and often fight them with swords in duels. The Hawkwoods count the minor noble houses of Justinians, Trusnikron, and Juandastaas as supporters and are protectors of the alien race of Obun. Planets more or less under Hawkwood control include Delphi, Gwennyth, Ravenna, Lemenkainen, and the Obun homeworld of Velisamil. Current head of House Hawkwood is Princess Victoria Hawkwood of Delphi.
Some observers have suggested that the al-Malik grew out of a Second Republic merchant family, but now the house strives for nobility in all things. Of course, that doesn't keep its members from accumulating some of the best collections of Second Republic artefacts to be found this side of Leagueheim. The al-Malik, of all the major and minor noble houses of the Known worlds, are perhaps closest to the guilds of the Merchant League. Certain al-Malik aristocrats are rumored to be advocates of a democratic Third Republic. The more conservative elements in the Universal Church view the al-Malik as potential heretics. The house has a secret language and philosophy, the Graceful Tongue and Way of the Three Mountains, respectively. Planets more or less under al-Malik control include Istakhr, Criticorum, Shaprut, Aylon, and the Ukari homeworld of Kordeth (shared with the Merchant League). Current House head is Duke Hakim al-Malik of Istakhr.
A Hazat's pride in her soldiers is only surpassed by her pride in herself. Trained since birth to lead soldiers, she is at home in an army sleeping bag as in a feather bed. Still, the Hazat are extremely aware of their role in society, and will never let their inferiors forget it. The Hazat treat their serfs as a source of troops for their military. They are divided into several family branches: Eduardo, Justus, Rolas, Castadena, Dulcinea, and others, who often feud with each other for leadership of the house. The Hazat are similar to the Hawkwoods in that they have a strict code of honor and a willingness to use swords in duels with nobles both Hazat and non-Hazat. Planets more or less under control of House Hazat include the Hazat capital world of Aragon, Hira (whose ownership is contested by the Kurgan Caliphate), and two other planets, Sutek and Vera Cruz. Current House head is Prince Juan Jacobi Justus of Aragon.
Once renowned as the most decadent house, House Li Halan is now the most tied to the Church. Li Halan elders give readily to Church charities, and younger members of the house are the first to join crusades and serve in the Orders of Battle. While most nobles owe their loyalty primarily to their own house, the Li Halan owe it only to the Pancreator. The Li Halan are often aligned with the most zealous Universal Church elements, such as Hinayana Orthodoxy and Avestite Inquisitors, and can be intolerant of real and potential heretics. The house, however, is benevolent towards it's serfs not unlike the way of House Hawkwood. Current House head is Prince Flavius Lihalan, who rules from the planet Kish. Other Lihalan worlds include Icon, Midian, Rampart, and the Vorox homeworld of Ungavorox.
The family that many observers believed would win the Emperor Wars, the Decados are praised for their sophistication, wit and charm. They are feared for their malevolence, fury and treachery. To befriend a Decados is to ally with a viper. The Decados often are the worst noble house in the way they treat their serfs. They are also longtime rivals of House Hawkwood, and Decados nobles have fought countless duels with swords against various Hawkwoods. The Decados are also notorious for the way they use espionage and dirty tricks against other nobles (both Decados and non-Decados), Church clergy, and League guildmembers, especially with the assassins of the Mantis League and the agents of the Jackovian Agency. Decados vassels include the minor noble houses of Keddah (rulers of the planet Grail), Van Gelder, and Masseri. Current head of House Decados is Prince Hyram Decados, who rules from the planet Severus. Other Decados planets include Cadiz, Malignatius, Cadavus, and the former Lost World of Pandemonium.
In addition to the five Royal Houses, there are innumerable minor ones. Some of these used to be big, some are on their way up, and some have never gotten anywhere and probably never will. Thus, minor houses range from the most virtuous to the most vile, and gamemasters and players should get together to design their own.
History is littered with many Houses who rose to prominence only to find their power snatched away from them. Many have fallen into destitution or even extinctions. Three of the Great Ten are now extinct, while the other two are subjects of their former allies.