This is part II of a short series on Modernisms in fantasy gaming. Here is Part I.
These are those "modern" or out-of-period things that trip up players who expect to find them . . . not always knowing they're out of period or "modern."
These aren't deliberate modernisms put into a game, rather what players might expect only to find lacking.
These aren't meant as historical articles, exactly - I'm not going to dig into research and post sources. It's just a light conversation about expectations of "reality" versus what the game might actually feature.
All monarchs are not absolute rulers, ruling over their subjects of any rank with total power. That is something that came later in European history for the most part. Throughout the Middle Ages and even later, Kings were often just the most powerful noble. He or she might have a significant amount of power but not full reign to order around the more powerful (or even minor) nobles of the realm. Getting things done could take a lot of negotiation, gifts (in effect, bribery), subtle political moves, and expending of political capital and leverage. Even then, the King might not be legally allowed to take some actions.
The King won't always have access to all of the resources of the country - or even a lot of them. Kings could easily be poor relative to nobles, and limited in what they could give away as a reward. A King might be able to give out ranks of minor nobility or a particular estate that belongs to the throne, but equally might not be able to due to politics or lack of resources.
Ancient world despots were absolute rulers, of course. The extent of "absolute" can be surprising to a modern audience, too. Rulers could give anything to or take away everything from their subjects. Property rights don't really exist in the same sense as we expect now - or even in those days of absolute monarchy in Europe. Sometimes the ruler owns what you own, just by you being a subject.
Often I find the expectation is the King or Queen can do anything . . . hand out anything, parcel out any resources, deploy any military force, etc. But equally the King or Queen can't take things away from you because, well, it's yours.
It's a weird mix of assumptions. It's worth checking - is the game your playing making the same assumptions about rulership that you are?