I sadly don't have the time for another game, fun as this looks, but I do have a suggestion:
Everyone, what are your thoughts re: players designing their own noble houses, vs choosing from an already-prepared list? It seems to break down like this for me:
- Players make their own
- Pros: less pre-game work for DM, guaranteed to be fits for PCs (by definition)
- Cons: harder to balance, less organic
- Players choose from existing list
- Pros: easier for DM to balance, has better with in-game logic
- Cons: more pre-game work for DM, no guaranteed fit for any given PC (mitigated by PCs built to take advantage of a given house's strengths/weaknesses)
When I ran a bunch-of-competing-noble-houses game, I found that a hybrid approach of "assembling" a House from smaller components (kind of like building a normal character) worked best. I came up with six categories to describe the outlook and strengths of a House--Cultural Inclination, Economic Focus, Magical Tradition, Military Strategy, Political Stance, and Technological Strength--and, because we had seven Houses (5 player, 2 NPC), came up with seven roughly balanced traits for each category, like "Inventive" or "Decadent" for Cultural Inclination and "Fleet Dominance" or "Monstrous Allies" for Military Strategy.
Then the players got to choose the traits for their Houses in each category through a bidding process to determine in what order players got to choose their traits. Everyone had a certain number of tokens to spend, but could also barter things like starting funds, number of starting provinces, quality of starting territory (river delta vs. rocky cliffs), starting NPC faction attitudes, and the like. Someone could attempt to build a lean, mean, military-industrial machine at the cost of starting with a single unfarmable province and everyone hating them, but in practice no one did more than trade away one starting province or some starting platinum. Once everyone had their House perks figured out, they could come up with appropriate flavor and names and such.
This gave all the benefits of PC-built houses (PCs do the heavy lifting on flavor and background, players are attached to the houses) and DM-built houses (DM-enforced balance in the traits, well-rounded houses to start) while avoiding major pitfalls of either.
In this particular case, I'd suggest building the houses like any other Fate object, with Aspects, skills, and the rest. Come up with a list of aspects in various categories that you feel are roughly balanced, equally good for invokes and compels, and so forth, and have players distribute them however desired, then come up with some templates like "is beloved by the public" or "controls a really valuable trade nexus" or the like and have those cost the house's own Refresh to take.