A few comments on Nobles in RQG. First thing is ALWAYS remember that the Occupation and Standard of Living rules in RQG are not intended as a sociological essay – they are there to support roleplaying!
With that in mind, there are two occupations that are considered “noble” in most of Dragon Pass. The first is if your family is “Noble”, the second is if your family is “priestly”. So what does that mean?
Let’s look at this from a Sartarite perspective as that is both the most common and arguably the hardest. The Orlanth cult respects lineage, but doesn’t consider lineage *alone* to be a source of authority. Nonetheless, lineage helps a lot – it provides Reputation, gives social ties with other families, and so forth. These distinguished families often have many tenants who provide them with part of their harvest in exchange for protection and support.
Some of these lineages are really significant and include many noble figures – first and foremost are those who can trace their descent from Sartar. After that comes the powerful tribal families – such as the Taraling-Ernaldoring marriage alliance that has dominated Colymar affairs for a generation.
Being a member of such a kinship group opens a lot of doors, but does not mandate success. In order to claim success, one needs to play the part – with companions, wealth, skill, and deeds.
The other type of noble family are the priestly families. Again, Orlanthi culture does not have truly hereditary priesthoods, although in practice many temples are dominated by families. The Clearwine Earth Temple is a good example of this – the Ernaldoring Clan treats the temple as a possession and most of the temple hierarchy comes from the same kinship group. The immediate kin of a priest share in the status – if your brother is a Rune Lord of Orlanth, you are going to be held to a higher standard and expectations.