“I take what I want,” said Frederick the Great. “I can always get some pedant to justify my actions.” — From “Business and Ethics“, by Edmund Opitz
Now, today’s intellectual pendants don’t see why they should be held to any standard outside of themselves, so they are quick to discuss Why You Should Never Defend, Explain Or Justify. But the Imperium is strongly rooted in honour – as even a half-wit Noble who can barely string together a few quotes from Machiavelli’s The Prince knows that you can’t control even a sprawling corporate concern, nevermind any reasonably profitable fief (like a high-pop planet or a subsector), with nothing but guns, threats, bribes, and mainstream media control.
Especially as it’s impossible (or at best extremely expensive, and thus unprofitable) to closely supervise everyone even on just a single, high-pop planet.
All that being said, Imperial Law remains precisely what the Emperor says it is: and all the lesser Nobles follow the example of the current Emperor as far s they dare, imitating power in order to gain power (without challenging the Emperor himself, naturally).
Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men. — Proverbs 22:29
Ir a PC is really, consistently good at their job – be it mercenary work, criminal investigations, opening new markets, even science and exploration – they will eventually catch the attention of the wise, the powerful, and the ruthless. These people always have a need for high-quality, precision instruments who can deliver results without excuses, and the PCs have just stepped into their line of vision.
Sadly, there is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run… and too much money (and valuable relationships & unspoken understandings) to simply turn away from.
And they aren’t used to hearing the word “no”, either.
Now, every Noble has a different personality: and a small but material percentage of Nobles – call it 1% to 5% – aren’t human, either. Each of these VIPs have a distinct personality, and are coming from a different direction, a different culture, with different strengths and weaknesses.
(Protip: If you know your Vilani protocols, you have a good cultural link with around 30% – 50% of all Imperial Nobles – including many Mixed Vilani nobles, and even a good selection of nonhumans who were first taught manners by the Vilani. Knowing it is indispensable: especially as the Solomani – the other major Noble demographic – is amazingly fragmented…)
Also, outside of the Vilani, most Nobles, even the best, tend to have a mild level of egomania/self-centered myopia. Remember: “Imperial Nobility starts at World Domination, and goes up from there.”
Nobles who have spent time being yelled at and ordered around in the Imperial Services in the lower ranks have the best handle on their ego, though.
There are Nobles who worship something other than themselves: but be wary of resting too much on their fear of God. In the Old Testament, the kings of Israel and Judah knew that God was right there, watching them: and their overall level of obedience and righteous behaviour was… *cough*… mixed, let us say.
It’s generally better to appeal to their self-interest, the more enlightened and profitable (in the long term), the better. The better sort of Nobles – all of the Vilani, and even (surprisingly enough) some of the Solomani – want to see their great-great-great-grandchildren rule from the family’s throne as well as themselves, and they know that they need to build a good reputation and familial honour if they want a shot at the big time.
Being a powerful and wealthy man, leading a network of powerful and wealthy friends, with their name feared and respected across local space (or better yet, Imperial Space), is a goal of many, many Nobles. Help them reach their goal, and most of them will help you reach yours, too.