Thursday, March 26, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part 5

Continuing a series of posts detailing how I developed the feudal system of the City-State in my Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

Remember this is a broad overview focused on concepts that are gamable as opposed to being focused on recreating history.

Historically the general view of medieval society was that the it was divided into three major segments; those who toil (peasants), those who pray (priests), and those who rule (nobles). The major exception to this orderly view of society were the towns.

Towns are large settlements of people. Many towns in our Middle Age were surviving urban settlements from the Roman Empire along with some newer settlements. Their existence depended on trade. Because of that, and because that the cost of transport by water is an order of magnitude less than transport by land, most towns were on a navigable river or the coast.

And the size of the town were a small portion of the overall population. Medieval agriculture did not have the surplus to support a large urban population. The percentage of Urban population ranged from 5% to 10% through the medieval period.

Here is the magic and fantasy assumption of D&D and similar games will have the biggest impact. My general rule of thumb is that D&D style magic allows for a 20% improvement in the overall quality of life as an average for everybody. The reason that it isn't higher because people don't realize all the things they could be doing with magic in the way that an individual from 21st century would know. Also the life of the wealthiest and the life of certain narrow segment of society (like mage's guild) would approach 18th, 19th century levels of quality.

So what makes a town a town. While population helps what really makes the town is its market. Or rather it right to hold an official market where people and buy, sell, and trade. It is the market that drives the town's existence and as a right it is highly prized. Also it can be a point of contention especially if two sizable markets are close to each other.

Market's are lucrative sources of revenue. Often a market grant is a prerogative of the sovereign alone. The demands of administering markets was one of the major reasons that lead to the centralization of royal power in the late middle ages.

Finally markets are so lucrative that towns are often able to purchase their emancipation from any feudal overlord except for the sovereign. Anybody who lives in the town is considered a free man and entitled to the sovereign's justice.

Also because of the more sophisticated economics of a town, the legal system is more focused on economic crimes particularly crimes of privileges. A lot of medieval economics are about monopolies. People pay the sovereign the right to make X or to trade in X, or to handle trade in a specific region. And they expect that right to be enforce against competitors.

Like much of medieval society markets have a hierarchy. As the lowest level are the market villages. They are ordinary villages that have the right to hold a periodic market. These markets are the first tier in funneling what the manor produces to the nearest town. Also they are the last stop for goods going from the towns to the manor. Market village will typically be twice the size of an ordinary village, have around a dozen shops compared to the 3 to 5 shops of an ordinary village.

An ordinary village may have a smith, carpenter, charcoaler, miller, and a tanner. Possibly a tavern catering to the local. A market village would have these and a selection of what could be found in the towns however likely none of the businesses engaged in a luxury trade. For example scribes but not goldsmiths, chandlers but not jewellers. An exception would be if the market village is in a region whoes economy is devoted to producing a specialized item. For example Noresun is the hub of several gold mines and has 3 engineers and 4 goldsmiths working in the village.

Next step are the local towns. These are the hub of a region and funnel the trade of three to eight market village. They won't have everything a city would but there is a high chance that several of the luxury trade shops would be present catering to the local elite.

Finally there are the cities. These are at the center of a far flung trade network funneling the output of a dozen towns, dozens of market villages, and hundreds of manors to the city's markets.

I recommend using S John Ross' medieval demographics to get a sense of how many settlements of different sizes there would be in a realm. There are several on-line calculators like this.  D&D fantasy setting tend to have lower populations and just as important lower population density then historical societies.

Also note if you want to generate what in the town, you can use Medieval Demographics or my own Fantasy Demographics which is my take on the sources that S John Ross used. Note that I don't cover population density like Ross' Medieval Demographics.

Finally there are the fairs. In one sense they are just markets but only held one or twice a year. Fairs were the great events of medieval economics and like the hierarchy of markets there were a hierarchy of fairs. Also some fairs are specialized for example many English fairs were centered around the wool trade.

Next I will talk about religion in a feudal and then finally into the specifics of the Majestic Wilderlands.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part 4

Continuing a series of posts detailing how I developed the feudal system of the City-State in my Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

First a comment on historical accuracy. My notes on feudalism and the specifics I use in the Majestic Wilderlands are grounded in history but they are not historically accurate. The history of feudalism in Europe is several centuries long (7th to 15th century at least) and was adapted differently in the various regions of Europe. Using the work of N. Robin Crossby, the various authors of Ars Magica, Life in a Medieval Castle/City, and several other sources I picked out the details that I felt provided interesting circumstances for the NPCs, added verisimilitude, covered common PCs questions/actions, and  above all approachable for 21st century gamers.

While I have a wealth of details is rarely comes into play all it once. Just people living in the diversity for the 21st century, the players in the year 4460 BCCC of the Majestic Wilderlands only experience a specific and narrow slice. And I deliberately try to keep it narrow so not to overwhelm the players at any one point. What the mass of details allows me to do is to make the next campaign different as I will be using the same setting again. It allow me even to reuse the same region and keep it fresh by focusing on a different slice of life than the previous campaign.

Onward with the notes. This is a general overview of the great feudal officers. It will be repeating information that I will cover in the specifics of the City-State but I feel doing this way will make it easier for you to adapt the information to your own campaign.

The great feudal lords of a realm have to manage dozens of subordinate vassals and estates. To do this they need the help of subordinates. Subordinates that may be nobles but are not feudal lords. Their focus is to help manage the duties and affairs of their sovereign. A typical way of breaking down the issues of a feudal lord are

The Chamber: The lord's personal household and affairs. This is usually run by the Chamberlain. The manager of a specific house is usually known as a stewards. A king would have a single Chamberlain with a number of Stewards under his authority. However for your campaign you could just go with Steward and gloss over the detail.

Things like your court wizard, perhaps even special agents would be found as part of the Chamber. If an individual serves the sovereign directly and perform an skilled job then that individual is likely part of the Chamber.

The Chancery: The lord's system of courts where his subject can have their disputes resolved. This is usually run by the Chancellor who administers the various courts under the lord's authority. The Chancellor is also serves as chief judge of intermediate court of appeals. The typical patterns of appeals is that a regular court renders a judgment, it is appealed to the chancellor, and if the parties are connected enough or the dispute is important enough it may be appealed to the great lord himself for a decision. Also the great lord will often have the Chancellor pick a limited number of cases to be heard directly. This is part of the annual cycle of duties that a great lord does to show he cares about the plight of his people. You could omit the Chancellor as judge from your campaign and make the NPC just a manager of those who want to appeal to the great lord.

Also note that over time feudal kings, and emperors tended to reserve any cases involving high justice i.e. death to themselves and limit the authority of lower level vassals to cases of low justices (fines, enslavement, or rarely prison). You may opt to decided your campaign is just emerging from a dark age in which case every feudal lord has the right of high justice. The exception being if two parties of equal rank (knight vs. knight, baron vs. baron) the case would be heard by highest lord they have in common. In this case the king's justice is limited to his personal subjects and the estates he personally controls. Note that merchants really don't like this situation and historically have pushed for greater royal control of justice. The churches are indifferent except they wish their rights to any gifts or bequests to be enforced. This also resulted in the churches supporting greater royal control up to a point.

Next is Exchequer or Treasury. It is run by the Exchequer Royal or Treasurer. It is in charge of collecting, storing, and managing the income due to the feudal lord. It is also in charge of minting coins if the feudal is an independent sovereign.

In medieval times, the sovereign's rights are not absolute particularly in the case of revenue. Typically the sovereign is limited to whatever personal income he has and what is customary for his vassal to give. What is customary for vassals depends on what their initial grants said. As the medieval economy improved and there was more coinage in circulation, a trick the sovereign would use is to accept cash payments in lieu of actual military service. However for extraordinary expenses the medieval sovereign had to rely on his vassal agreement to pay him extra money. In England this led to the development of Parliament. In contrast France the monarchy had a unbroken father-son succession for several generation. This is allowed the Kings of France accumulate large estates. Also they broke the power of regional nobles like Brittany Burgundy and other areas of France and gathered their rights to revenue along with their titles. This left French Parliaments weak and unable to check the French Kings through denying them tax revenue.

Also with the improved economy, merchants found it profitable to loan money to sovereigns. Outside of the churches, the various feudal lords had the largest sources of income in the economy. They could borrow and pay back vast sums and the merchants would profit on the interest. Although in our history this was altered and called damages owed to the merchant for not being able to use his money because of the Catholic Church prohibition against usury. The usury ban did not apply to the Jewish community who became an important source of loans to European sovereigns.

Depending on the nature of the feudal system Royal Agents, Secret police, etc. Are employed by the Chancery or Treasury or sometimes both.  In the former they are out there to find out any unreported murders or other high justice crimes. Vassal lords had a habit of dealing out personal justice so this needed to be kept in check. Treasury agent are looking for people hiding income, stealing tax revenue, etc. Both types are not popular among the vassal lord who view their activities as encroaching on their own rights.

Next is the Royal Army, Royal Guard, etc. This is usually headed by an appointed Marshal. More often than not this position was vacate or did not exist because of the enormous potential threat it represented. Feudal states had limited standing armies but once formed they needed managing. The office is the skeleton staff handling paperwork, logistics and is fully manned in wartime.

By late medieval times, the improving economy and the conversion of feudal duty to cash payment allowed the King to hire mercenaries. In practice this mostly amounted to hiring people from his own realm but instead serving a required 90 days or a season, they got paid and served for as long or short their sovereign needed them to server.

Finally there is a hierarchy of administrators managing the King's estates and affairs in various regions of his realms. In England there were Sheriff in charge of an entire county, each county was divided into hundreds each with a Bailiff of the Hundred, and finally the manor itself with a bailiff. A point often missed is that that a sheriff does not have the authority to order a local lord around. He is the sovereign's representative. If he has a specific writ or decree in hand. Or there is a specific law or custom, then the sheriff can act as if he is the king himself. The same with the Bailiff of the Hundred on a smaller scale.

You can gloss over the Bailiff of the Hundred if you don't want to go into that level of details. Just have the manor, barons, and the local sheriff. The sheriff is the king's representative.

Understand while the position itself has limited authority the individual occupying the office of sheriff may have great importance socially or economically. In which case they may be able to do things anyway even tho they don't have any law saying they can do it.

Finally there are the marches. Marches as usually established on an expanding frontier of a realm. Or next to a contested area that wars have been fought over. England had a march on the Welsh frontier, Germany on their eastern frontier, Spain on their borders with the Muslims. Marches differs in that they have a standing army present to guard the frontier. A typical title for the king's representative in a march is Warden.

To summarize, the basics are that the sovereign needs people to manage his household, courts, treasury, military, and regions of his realm.

Next post is about how markets, towns, and cities relate to all this.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part 3

The continuing a series of posts detailing how I developed the feudal system of the City-State in my Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

The feudal lords need assistance in managing their estates and domains. The job is simply too big even at the manor level for one person to handle.

The basic unit of feudalism is the manor. Anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000 acres it averages around two dozen households farming enough land to support a mounted warrior along with his squire and two to four yeoman on foot. It is managed either directly by its holder, usually a knight, or by a baliff who is paid a salary and sometime a portion of the annual income.

The knight or bailiff also acts a judge and jury for the manorial court. It deals with civil offenses (grazing animals where they shouldn't be, collecting wood or plants at the wrong times, etc) and misdemeanors (drunk, late to work, breaking tools, fighting). The usual punishment is usually fines with the occasional shaming punishments (like stocks). More serious offenses like murder are handed over to higher level authority. Although lynching is not uncommon paralytically if the accused is unpopular for some reason.

To assist the knight or bailiff are the following

The Reeve: The overall manager of the villagers. The office is usually given to the peasant with the largest number of acres or rotated annually if there is a number of peasant with equal large holding.

The Beadle:This is a peasant, usually a yeoman, in charage of keeping the peace in the village/hamlet, and to collect any fines imposed by the manorial court.

Woodward: In charge of managing the woods and wastes of the manor. Makes sure there is no unauthorized cuttings, that herbs and plants are harvested correctly, and that animals are grazing in the right areas.

Hayward: In charge of the croplands. Making sure that the boundary stones are set correctly, that common tools like the plow are in good shape, and inspecting the day's work to make sure it done right (like weeding, plowing etc.) Usually the most experienced peasant is the hayward.

The last is not a formal office but a feature common to many manors and that is the village priest. The priest will have a home,a site of worship, and some land to support him. The priest would be expected to put in some labor towards plowing, planting and harvest but would be excused from other duty in favor of his religious duties.

Yeoman are similar to the village priest except they are excused for training and military duties. Often they are considered to be free and are not technically subject to the manorial court. Any dispute between a knight and his yeoman should be handled by the knight's feudal overlord or even the king's justice. However in practice with everybody living in the same small village the yeoman will defer to the manorial court particularly if it is a civil offense or a violation of one of the customs of the manor.

Above the manor are the great feudal lords (barons, counts, dukes, kings ,etc) who are concerned with dozens of estates as well as their own personal affairs.

I will talk about this in the next post. Also I will be talking about market villages, towns, and cities.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part 2

The continuing a series of posts detailing how I developed the feudal system of the City-State in my Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

I debated about how to order the posts in this series. I think it would best to give you the finished structure and then following up with the history and the why.

The realm controlled by City-State is more of a confederation than a kingdom or empire. The Overlords rule over a realm consisting of three major cultures each with their own laws and traditions; Tharians, Elessarians, and Ghinorians.

The Tharian Horselords are a clan based society with each clan prizing their independence and authority. But after the conquest they had enemies on all sides and most of the clans choose to unite in a confederation to defend themselves. The clans appointed a Overlord to adjudicate disputes between them. And appointed a Clanute (now known as the Senate) to adjudicate disputes between the clans and the Overlord. This structure was flexible enough to incorporate Ghinorian noble houses and the smaller clans of the Elessarians.

The basic foundation of Tharian society is the clan. Tharian clans can have a number of members in the hundreds or thousands consisting of everybody who can trace descent from the founder. Prior to the formation of the confederation, a hundred years ago, the Tharians conquered the territories they controlled. They turned the native Elessarian and Ghinorian population into serfs.

The Elessarians invaded the region two thousand years ago driving the orc tribes into the mountains and wastelands. They established the first widespread human civilization in the City-State Region. Pre-dated everybody else except for the Elves, Dwarves, and their allies. The Elessarians are organized in clans as well but much smaller than the Tharians. They are about the size of an extended family and focused on a single occupation. There are military clans, religious clans, merchant clans, and crafting clans. The Trehean (i.e. druids) are the keepers of the Law. Elessarian nobles are more military officers with little in the way of legal authority.

The Ghinorians entered into the region a thousand years ago as part of the expansion of the far flung Ghinorian Empire. Caelam (City-State's original name) was a colony of that empire. When the Ghinorian Empire collapsed, Caelam was left to find for itself. Eventually the Ghinorians of Caelam allied with the Elessarian and formed the Dragon Empire. The collapse of the Dragon Empire and the Tharian invasions left the economy in ruins leading to the rise of manoralism along with feudalism.

The Ghinorian realms that remained independent did not make serfs of the peasantry, largely because of the influence of the Church of Mitra and its views on slavery. Instead a system of sharecropping and debt peonage grew in its place to keep the peasants tied to the land. Ghinorian noble titles originated in the various imperial offices. Titles that became hereditary rights over the decades. A quirk of their culture is that their highest ruler is a Prince not a King. Even when the empire was flourishing their ruler was known as the Imperial Prince of Ghinor.

The structure of the confederation was largely the work of Lucius the Great. First working under his father, Halius the first Overlord, and then under his own authority when he reigned as the second Overlord. The full title is the Overlord of All Tharians and of the City-State. The title in theory is elective but in practice hereditary.

The Overlord has two major duties. First to defend the clans of the confederation from any external and internal threat. And to estabilsh courts where he can adjudicate disputes between the members of different clans.

The Senate is an assembly of representatives from the various "clans" who are members of the Confederation. At first clans meant a Tharian style clan, but as the confederation expanded the definition became looser to encompass how the Ghinorians and Elessarians organized themselves. The present day Senate comprises of 50 senators. Five senators from "clans" in each of the five major regions of City-Stae (Bernost, Laknost, Gaenost, Halnar, and Dearthmead). 15 senators from small but important clans, and 10 senators sent by various guilds and religous institutions. The traditional Tharian clan holds the lion share of the seats. Also allies of the Overlord are invited to sent a Senator. Currently there are four, one each from Thunderhold, Sotur, Viridistan, and Modron.

The Senate doesn't rule or legislate, it functions as a succession council for the title of the Overlord and as a supreme court for any dispute between the Overlords and a member of the Confederation. Each clan of the confederation is sovereign and responsible for justice between their membership. After each session the Senate establishes Shield Courts throughout the five regions of City-State. These Shield Courts are the first forum where the first attempt to resolve a dispute is made. From the Shield Courts the losing party can appeal to the full Senate.

The exception to this is the City-State and the Overlord's marches. These are the Overlord's personal territories and any legal dispute is handled by the Overlord's system of justice and has no recourse to the Senate. Although as a matter of political necessity the Overlord allows clan members get help from their clan leaders. The average adventurer or commoner rarely if ever gets involved in a Senate or Shield Court trial.

The head of major "clans" are granted the title of duke. In 4460 BCCC the current present of my Majestic Wilderland campaign there are seven dukes. the Duke of Laknost, the Duke of Bernost, the Duke of Gaenost, the Duke of Halnar, the Duke of Dearthmead, the Duke of New Caelam, and the Duke of Rhyl. In 4436 BCCC, the date of the supplement, New Caelam, and Rhyl did not exist as titles. In Halnar, Dearthmead, Rhyl, and New Caelam the title is a formal office as well. For the three Tharian Dukes (Laknost, Bernost, and Gaenost) is a symbol of authority as head of their clans but is not a formal office in of itself.

Below the dukes are the barons. Among the Tharians it marks the individual as a head of a small but important clans with major holdings. Among the Elessarians is an office holding military command, and legal enforcement powers. For the Ghinorians, Baron is a title associated with lands and legal authority over that territory. Regardless of culture a baron typically holds a keep.

Between the rank of duke and baron are the counts. In the case of Tharians they are the wealthiest and most powerful clan in a small region. The Elessarians use Count as a command rank in charge of a castle and a small region. The Ghinorian it is a title associated with a small region and a castle. Usually the defining difference between a baron and a count is the fact that the count is wealthy and powerful enough to own and maintain a castle. Like dukes, counts can have barons serving them directly.

Finally there are the knights. In Tharian clans they are individuals of importance noted for their fighting ability and granted authority and responsibility. In Elessarian society a Knight is a command rank officer and with honorable service the holder is allow to use it for life. For the Ghinorian it is a status symbol marking the individual as being committed to the defense of the land and the Ghinorian people. It makes the person eligible for a variety of privileges and offices among them the right to hold an estate if one available.

Parallel to this are the Overlord's personal territories. The first is Bulwark the home of the Overlord's clan. The Overlord is not only leader of the confederation but also of his clan and has the same rights as any clan lord when it comes to matters within his family and the lands they own.

As part of the office, the Overlord controls two dozen keeps and several castles scattered around the five regions of City-State. These were granted to act as homes for the Overlord's courts and as bases for levies to defend specific regions.

In addition to Bulwark and the Overlord's keeps are the Overlord's personal territories won by the right of Conquest. The first was the City-State itself, then the Northern March, by 4460 several marches have been established; Northern, Eastern, and Southern Marches. Also the Prydon March, Southern Reaches March, and the Dearthwood March have been established. In 4436 BCCC start date of the supplement, the Southern Reaches March does not yet exist.

The Overlords do not appoints dukes and counts to rule over the marches. He does appoint barons and grants them the right to build keeps. In the place of dukes and count the Overlord has established a series of appointed offices. In charge of the entire march is the Sheriff. Magistrates are appointed in charges of keeps that the Overlord personally owns. Finally for the individual manor or estates he appoints bailiffs to manage the manor in the same manner as a resident knight.

As a general note, bailiffs are widely used by all higher nobles like barons, count, and dukes to manage estates and manors they personally own. Unlike a formal grant, being bailiff is an salaried office. The estate's owner can dismiss the bailiff for whatever reason. And when the bailiff dies the manor is not passed down to the bailiff's heirs. Socially the bailiff position is viewed as a stepping stone to bigger and better things for second sons and newly knighted commoners.

The Overlord retains the sovereign right administer justice within the marches as part of the same prerogative enjoyed by the other clans of the confederation. Only in the Overlord case it is on a much vaster scale.

So what does all of this detail mean in terms of the campaign? In general the player characters come in semi-regular contact with magistrates, bailiffs, and knights.

As far as the law goes, there are two types of situation that the character will face while adventuring in the lands of the City-State. The first is that they are in City-State or one of the marches. In this case the courts they will be dealing with are run by the Overlord. Like all medieval courts there is plenty of bias and corruption, however in general the Overlord wants people to PEACEFULLY do business in his territories. So the Overlord's courts really don't care which clan or noble house you belong but they do care about your social status (commoner, merchant, nobles, etc)

However if the character run into trouble in a clan or noble house's territory it is a completely different picture. They really don't like trouble being caused by outsiders and are very biased in favor of the locals. One the other hand if a character has an "in" because of their background or how the campaign developed, the character may enjoy a limited legal immunity. Think of the worst stereotypes of small town justice and you won't be far off on what happens when the character run into legal trouble in these areas.

The exact form that justice takes varies on where the infraction takes places. The Overlord has courts setup pretty much like how most referee would do courts in a bog-standard D&D campaign. There are judges who listen to testimony and their judgment is absolute. If knights and city guard will be sent after a character if an arrest needs to be made.

Lucius the Great used a lot of Ghinorian legal procedure in setting up his courts. There differences despite similar setups. Under the Overlord, corruption is rampant as giving bribes and granting favors are not considered morally wrong. One of the things a clan chief to establish or keep his position is grant his followers lots and lost of gift. So gift in general are treated as a sign of respect. Overlord's justice is about fixing things so that the peace is restored. Not about what is right and wrong.

For the Ghinorian, the belief that they are to be examples of Mitra's teachings make their legal proceeding a lot more about the morals of the situation and what right and wrong.

The Elessarian have a completely different legal proceeding involving the druid of the Trehaen. However they have the same focus on determine what is right and wrong as the Ghinorians do. Also their nobles only have law enforcement powers. The Elessarian nobles do not make laws or run trials.

More differences from the Ghinorians is that Elessarian use a common law system of precedents while the Ghinorians use a formal code of law defined by decrees from the Princes and the Church. The Tharians rely on a haphazard system of customs, decrees by clan chiefs, and proclamation made by the clan as a whole. Their priests, the Mystics of the Lars, are supposed to memorize it and recite what relevant during a trial. The Overlord uses decrees that are entered into a Code of Law first written down by Lucius the Great.

In the management of a campaign, the players rarely, if ever, run into the details of all this. It a guide for me for when they players deal with a knight, or any number other number of low ranking officials that they could run into. Some of the higher level details will come into play later in the campaign as the character establish themselves.

Also while it is seemly complex with four parallel social structures and legal systems during a campaign it boils to two things, do the players run into the locals who are biased in favor of their own, or do they run into the Overlord's minion with their broader outlook and attitude. Also as these cultures cover rather large areas, the main region of most campaigns take place in an area dominated by one culture. For example the current group is in the March of Dearthwood which is controlled by the Overlord.

The few time when the players have characters become rulers they fall into one of two broad categories. Either they rule by decree with few checks on their powers. Or they rule by consensus. Rule by consensus happens when only one PC is able to hold a title but the entire adventuring party played a major role in securing that title. In both cases the players will mine my campaign background for law codes but generally chafe at any other type of restriction (other than consensus if that applies).

When Tim Shorts established the Duchy of New Caelam, it took a lot of roleplaying to get him accept some of the conditions of joining as a Duke of City-State. After he conquered half of the Elessarian Kingdom of Antil, he refused to work with the druids of Trehaen until they accepted his absolute authority. Even then he still had to break them as an organization before he was satisfied that he had peace.

Finally chafing at having to grant keeps and lands to the Overlord from the Duchy of New Caelam, Tim and Dwayne, as Draco-lindus and William Endril, organized an expedition to conquer a land on the other side of the Trident Gulf. They formed an army not only out of their own resources but added in those of their allied nobles in City-State. After the conquest they claimed the same rights as the Overlord did when he established his marches. The conquered territory was parceled out to all those involved and a separate Senate from City-State was setup to handle any dispute between the allies.

Next post I will detail the bureaucracy that has been established to help the Overlord manage all this.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings, and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part I

My last post was about feudalism in general. A generic overview simplifying a complex subject. This is useful if socio-economic-political element are not a big part of your campaign but you still need a dash of medieval to mix in with your adventures.

My preference is to flesh out the details of culture and society as I find this leads to more opportunities for adventure and act as a source of complications for the characters.

For example in the Monday Night Game, the players have received a number of clues about an evil force led by an ancient dragon named Pan Caulderax. But this is happening in the midst of a civil war within the lands controlled by City-State. The party is finding it a challenge to focus on what they discovered so far.

Several elements have to come together to make a successful campaign. Setting, and locations are important. But what makes it comes alive are the NPCs the referees run. And there are two main factors why a NPC acts the way he or she does, personality and culture. The culture aspect of a NPC behavior is why detailing history helps a RPG campaign. It explains in part, along with personality, the NPCs motivations, his goals, and why he does what he does.

The end result of this is not to hand a piece of paper to the players and ask them to read it. But to guide you, the referee, in how to roleplay the various NPCs as the players interact with the setting as their characters.

I think some will find something useful for their own games as I write these posts and my players will better understand why the NPCs act the way they do in the Majestic Wilderlands.

What made real-life feudalism so complex is that the people adapted it to different regions with unique conditions and histories. I also adapted feudalism to the conditions of City-State and the Majestic Wilderlands. But do so I had to answer the question of what where the conditions of City-State the Majestic Wilderlands.

First thing you need to remember I didn't do this overnight. Starting around 1980, the foundation grew bit by bit until the early 90s which was when I wrote my first summary.

It began with Judges Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy. In the Wilderlands City-State has a history with being founded by the barbarian tribesman of Altanis to the south. The impression you get from the original that there is a bit of clash of culture between the sophisticated inhabitants of City-State and the those that remained tribesman. This got vastly altered in my Majestic Wilderlands to point where there is no barbarians in Altanis. However the culture clash remained.

The first two things that got added was the Tharians and Mitra versus Set. Tharian came from the city-state histories from the Judges Guild's magazine Pegasus. I misspelled the name writing down Tharian rather than Tharbrian. The one detail that remain consistent was they were horse barbarians invading from the west.

Mitra versus Set came from reading Conan stories and more importantly the conflict outlined in Judges Guild's the Dark Tower written by Jennel Jaquays. The whole setup of Set vs. Mitra in the module was great along with the Lions of Mitra and the Sons of Set. I continued Dark Tower's portrayal of Mitra as a lawful good deity of honor and justice. But Set changed from being Dark Tower's Chaotic Evil demonic deity to a lawful evil god of war, and order.

To explain the conflict between Set and Mitra I came up with the idea of the Ghinorians. A human culture who believe they were the chosen people of Mitra. Whose version of the Church of Mitra functioned pretty much like the Catholic Church did in our own history. The conflict with Set came about from their early history when they were enslaved to a culture dominated by Set. Mitra liberated the Ghinorian and they considered themselves her chosen people ever since. The City-State back story shifted from being founded by barbarian Altainians to being founded by Ghinorians who were conquered by the Tharian horselords.

Next are the Elessarians. I always liked AD&D Druids. Because my family Irish I was also interested in Celtic history and culture. So I wanted to come up with a celticish culture that that explained the existence of Druid. I developed the Elessarians along with the Trehaen an organization of Druids. To fit them into the history I was developing I made them the original human inhabitants of the area. They swept the orcs out of the region and founded the first human settlements.

I wanted to keep some of Judges Guild's original background so I made the Dragon Empire an alliance between the Elessarians with their druids, and the Ghinorians with the Church of Mitra. The Tharian Horselords took advantage of a long past civil war and invaded. Eventually conquering City-State and becoming the rulers of the regions. From this starting point the details you read in my Majestic Wilderlands supplement were developed.

This is the broad background on which I developed the details of City-State feudalism. Because there are three culture making up the present-day City-State the resulting feudal society is not simple. But it does give ample opportunities for conflict as you will see in the next post.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mayberry or Notthingham? Shooting the Sheriff in Medieval times

In the latest 5e campaign session with the Monday they shot the Sheriff. Douglas Cole over Gaming Ballistics has the detailed blow by blow. I appreciate the detailed writes up he does as I have been lagging on posting mine.

The after game discussion brought an interesting detail. Apparently I didn't adequately convey the importance of a medieval sheriff. So some of the players, Mark the Paladin, and Keyar the Elven Ranger were acting like they were talking to Andy Griffith of Mayberry rather than Robin Hood's Sheriff of Notthingham. I figure would us this post to explain how the various feudal ranks work especially in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Feudalism means different things at different times. What I used is based on Columbia Game's Harn which reflect the feudalism of 12th century England. That time period is a good one on which to develop and adapt a generic feudal system. The legacy of the Conquest by William the Conqueror along with the pre-existing Anglo Saxon legal system meant that England of this time period had a particularly tidy feudal system compared to its other European neighbors.

Feudalism rest on the fact that land is power. The collapse of the economy in the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire meant that the only realistic place to invest in was land. To raise what they needed the early medieval kings made numerous land grants in return for military troops and annual tributes of resources.

Various regions developed variants, some (like North Italy) didn't develop much of a system. Eventually the whole thing evolved into a bastard feudalism where titles were important but the grants were prized more for the money they produced rather just the physical holding of land.

Overlord - Typically called a king, in feudalism this person is the ultimate source of power and land. Everybody's deed, titles, and charters can be traced back to some decree or writ the feudal overlord granted.

Duke This person holds a large slice of territory spanning an entire region. Much of his land is divided into smaller holdings granted to his followers.

Earl/Count This person holds a large slice of territory smaller than a duchy. Many dukes have vassals that are count as well as the Overlord.

Baron This is the smallest feudal lord with vassals. Typically has enough land to grant to support multiple knights. Overlords, Dukes, and Counts have barons.

Knight This point of the whole system is to give a guy enough acres to control so that he can equip himself with chain or plate armor, a sword, shield, and a warhorse. Along with 2 to 4 footman. This can range from 1,500 to 4,500 acres depending on how good the land is.

Even in 12th century England feudalism can be messy. One problem is the great vassal revolting against their king. For example the wars against King John that resulted in the Magna Carta. To combat the the Overlord do two things.  Own land outright in their name. And appoint ministers to enforce the Overlord's law in the territories of his vassals.

In the early middle ages some Overlords were always on the move. Visiting each of their estate and vassal in a years to deal with problems personally. As kingdoms grew and the economy reestablished itself this became too complex for one man to handle. So the overlords appointed ministers to handle things.

Sheriffs, these officers are the equivalent of a Duke or Count. They do two jobs, one they act as a chief administrator of a large number of the overlord's estates in a region. Two they administer the overlord's justice for a large area.

Bailiffs, Baliffs are in charge of a single estate, about the same size as what a Knight would get. Anywhere from 1,500 to 4,500 depending on the quality of the land.

Justice. The reason a feudal overlord needs personal ministers is that when two of his vassal have a dispute it is his responsibility to adjudicate the controversy. If the territory is large enough then he needs to delegate that to a representative. I.E. the sheriff. Since a king has only dukes but counts, barons, and knight serving him directly. This can come up quite often. Plus there are individual commoners not subject to a feudal lord and have the right to appeal to the king's justice as well. These became known as freemen.

I hope this was informative and useful to developing your own ideas about feudal society.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Revenge errr.. Return of Dwarven Forge

I am dooooomed

The third dwarven forge kickstarter is up and this time it is about the city.

I recommend watching the video and looking carefully at how Stefan Pokorny designed it. It pretty nifty in my opinion.

The only downside that it looks like it will take a lot of pieces to cover even a small segment of the city. But looking at the sheer number of building shapes in the video I have to say that Stefan and Dwarven Forge rea
lly did manage to come up with a truly modular city terrain system.