The Noble Families
There is only one way to become a noble within the Erathian Empire and that is for the Emperor to sign a Letter patent proclaiming you or your family to be of Noble heritage. Generally the title will be inherited by the Lords children and so on, unless the patent is rescinded by an Emperor. Nobility is expected to defend the throne by maintaining the Crown’s lands by mustering troops and generating taxes. In exchange for their duties to the Crown they are often given privileges not offered to the common class.
In Vel Scurra the elite (Great Houses) often refer to local nobles as members of Great Houses and the Lesser Houses. The Great houses having been servants of the Empire since its origins and the Lesser Houses which sprang into being when the Emperor Kitlan II entitled wealthy merchant families to speed up production and reduce the cost of mercurial manufacturing in the Hederan Colonies.