Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part 7

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

In the last six posts we covered the general ideas of incorporating feudalism into your campaign. Looked at the nobles, the peasants, the military, the towns, and the religions. Now on too how I implemented these ideas for my Majestic Wilderlands specifically the City-State of the Invincible Overlord.

The City-State is ruled by the Overlord. His full title is Overlord of All Tharians and of the City-State. This popular title is the Invincible Overlord of the City-State. For the past hundred years the Overlords of All Tharians have involved an unbroken string of military successes. This is partly due to the genius of Lucius the Great and party due to the fact that all of the larger realms in the region have broken up into successor states. For much of that time the only serious rival to the Overlords was the Empire of Viridstan. It was the threat of conquest by the Viridians that led the to the Tharian Confederation and the crowning of Lucius' father, Halius, as the first Overlord of All Tharians. The father-son team of Halius and Lucius the Great were so effective at stalemating the Viridian that the Emperors of Viridstan gave up on expanding to the east for two generation. And by the time they were ready again the empire was in the midst of the conflicts that would lead it own descent into civil war.

The Overlord's power rest on his being the Overlord of All Tharians. The Tharians are horse nomads who invaded the region 400 years ago. They are a clan based culture with the clans being on the large size with hundreds of members all related to a founder or a group of related founders. They have a strict honor code and the ownership of horses is the defining mark of status. They believe in a god of the skies called the High Lord and the Lady of Plenty they call Dannu. However their worship is focused on the Lars. The Tharians believe that High Lord and the Lady of Plenty gathers all of the clan's ancestors into a senate to advise the living members of the clans and to aid them with supernatural powers. That senate is called the Lars. The clerics in charge of proper veneration of the Lars are known as mystics.

There are two other prominent characteristics of Tharian society. They have a thriving merchant class that originated in the buying and selling of horses. They are known as Bondbuyers. Last there are the Beggars. Those who have dishonored themselves, committed crimes that made them outlaws, or lost all of their horses. Over the last 400 years they have developed into a underclass that wanders from place to place in the region. They engage in a lot of smuggling, and trade in information including blackmail.

The Tharians swept into the region taking advantage of the collapse of the Dragon Empire 400 years ago. The heart of the Dragon Empire was an alliance between the Ghinorians, the chosen people of the goddess Mitra and the Elessarians whose religion was centered around the druids of the Trehaen.  Some of the Ghinorians and the Elessarians were able to retain their independence and establish independent realms but the rest were conquered and enslaved as peasants for the Tharians.

The Ghinorians believe themselves to be the chosen people of Mitra the goddess of Honor and Justice. In their early history this belief strengthened their identity as a nation separate from the surrounding tribes of their homeland. Later this was altered into that they were to serve as heralds and example so all people can learn of Mitra and follow her ways. This crusading ideal propelled the formation of a Ghinorian Empire and expanded it into the largest empire in the history of the Wilderlands. This expansion led to the Ghinorian to plant colonies throughout the Wilderlands included Caelam which will be known as the City-State of the Invincible Overlord a thousand years later.

The Elessarians are the original human inhabitants of the region. Before them, the region was dominated by Orcs with a enclave of demi-human realms in the northeast. The Elessarians swept in and drove out the Orcs. Within several generations they established petty kingdoms. Like the Tharians, the Elessarians are a clan based society. However their clans were much smallered and centered around an extended family. Later the clans incorporated the idea of businesses, military companies, and served the origin of the traditional structure of a D&D adventuring party.

After driving out the Orcs, the Elessarian developed friendly contact with the demi-human cultures. So friendly that the outside of the clan, they adopted elements of Elven culture wholesale. This led to the rise of the Trehaen and their druids. And led to the strict separation of military, religious, and judicial responsibilities.

This background is important for me because in actual play the realm ruled by the Invincible Overlord of All Tharians and of the City-State is fusion of these three cultures. And the fusion is not yet complete and has resulted in a complex clash of cultures which serves as an excellent source of adventures.

So why three cultures and why these three cultures?

You have to remember that the Majestic Wilderlands was developed over thirty years. And is still being developed even in the campaign I am running right now on Mondays. There are only a few times in this where I start with a blank piece of paper and develop a complete background from scratch. Instead what usually happens is that the players do something or ask about something I don't have notes for. The first stop is to look at the original Judges Guild material to see what it has to say. Usually is it is not much and what there is a bunch of names and their personalities. So then I look at anything I written that is related. With that in hand I draft the new bit of background and incorporate it into the campaign.

Tharian came out of Judges Guild from a series of articles in the last issues of Pegasus. I misspelled the name, in the articles they were the Tharbrians. In the articles the Tharbrians occupied the same regions the Tharians dominate in the Majestic Wilderlands. The idea of the Tharians conquering City-State, their clan structure, Lucius the Great, all came from Mayfair's version of City-State. About the only thing I liked about that not City-State product. (Note: the Mayfair CSIO adventures were very good).

The Tharians are there because they are an original element of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Fleshed out over the years with various details that I liked. Some details original some are adapted.

The Ghinorians came about because I really like Jenell Jaquay's Dark Tower. I like the conflict between Mitra vs. Set, and I like the details like Lions of Mitra and Sons of Set. I also like Harn products from Columbia Games for their quality, consistency, and attention to detail. This led to an appreciation for real medieval culture.

With the Ghinorians I killed two birds with one stone. They were the means that I introduced the Mitra vs. Set conflict to my campaigns, and they also are the most medieval of all the cultures I created for my campaign. The major difference being that they don't have true serfdom rather tenant farmers tied to the land through debt peonage. Because of the Ghinorian's faith in Mitra they abhor slavery although some would say the debt peonage system of tenant farmers amounts to the same thing.

The Elessarian in contrast were developed keep the default culture of D&D fantasy within my setting. Like most referees I started out with the core books, in my case ADnD 1st edition, and just went along with the default. And DnD default is not the highly class-conscious socially stratified medieval culture of our own history that Harn depicts. There is social status but wealth and accomplishments (in terms of levels) play a bigger role in determining it. There also the multi-cultural all the default races get along aspect as well. Elvish dominated Elessarian Culture reflects that default with a few twists like the Trehaen, the small clans, and separation of authority.

Within the Majestic Wilderlands, this was the situation that Lucius the Great faced when he became Overlord after his father, Halius died. He had to weld a realm together out of a land dominated by three very different cultures. Do it in a way that he and his successor could continue to rule. Next we will dive in what Lucius the Great, the Invincible Overlord of All Tharians and of the City-State did to achieve this.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Of Overlords, Kings and Barons, Building a Feudal Setting Part 6

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

The last topic to cover before getting into the specifics of the Majestic Wilderlands is religion. When I work on settings I define religion as the culture that surrounds the worship of a deity or deities. This keeps my focus on things that are useful for roleplaying NPCs and creating locations rather than just coming up with magic items, artifacts, and monsters. And above helps me avoid treating the deity as nothing more than a powerful monster.

In our history feudal Europe was dominated by the Abrahamic regions, (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). For a short while in the very early middle ages just before the rise of Islam you had Zoroastrianism centered in modern Iran. Christianity had two main divisions the western or Catholic, and the eastern or Orthodox. Islam had it own division between the Sunni and Shiites. Understand I am simplifying a complex subject. What I am going to focus on is the role of religious culture within a feudal society.

Religion played a dominant role in the various feudal societies. And that role was handled in three main ways.

Theocracy - this is where the religious hierarchy is also the ruling hierarchy of society. In our history the Sunni Caliphate of Islam came the closest to a theocratic state during the Middle Ages. In practice, theocracies split secular and religious authority at each level of authority. For example the bishop ruling a region would have separate individual handing religious, military , administrative, and judicial duties. With people involved in the military, administration and judiciary are ordinary lay adherents of the religion. However the person in charge, in the case the bishop, would be a full priest/minister of the dominant religion. Also the judiciary may be split between ordinary courts to hear criminal and commercial cases, and a separate court run by the clergy to hear crimes against the moral order. The specifics of which differs based on the religion involved.

Caesaropapism - society has a separate secular and religious hierarchy however the head of state is also the head of the dominant religion. The Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox church is a good example of this. Later during the Reformation some of the protestant denominations fall under this category particularly the Kings of England after Henry VIII and the Church of England. The type of relationship between religion and society as a whole is characterized by a strong central government. A skilled ruler would use both his religious authority and his secular authority to keep both heirarchies in check.

Church and State - this is the situation of western Europe during most of the Middle Age. You have the state, the various kingdoms and other sovereign realms. Each with their own hierarchy, customs, and laws. Then you have the dominant religion in the form of the Church with its own hierarchy and its own leaders. In this setup, the church has a lot of moral influence but not a lot of actual power. However in many cases the nobles would have agreed to allow clergy to only subject to religious law. And for much of the Middle Ages the religious courts were much more fair than the secular courts. Also note that "clergy" in this case is far more expansive than what we are used to today. It covers just about anybody who is actively employed by the dominant church. They don't have to be anointed or ordained priests.

Specific to the DnD/fantasy style campaigns most of us run is the fact we use polytheistic pantheons. A legacy of Howard's Conan, Greek Myths, and other sources used by Gygax, Arneson, and other early RPG authors, campaign settings with Monotheistic religions are the exception not the rule. Obviously this is going to make the resulting feudal societies a little different than what happened historically. The good news is that there are ways to having both.

The first things to remember is the idea of henotheism. Henotheism is where  people are adherents of a specific deity or religion don't deny the existence of other deities and religions. In a way this makes sense for a DnDish setting where clerics have similar lists of divine spells. Something is fueling the other guy's healing spells right?

The default situation would be the religion of a specific culture. The default religion would a pantheon and each deity covering some area important to that culture. A culture living on the coast would have a different set of deities than a culture living on the steppes.

If they are friendly to another culture than their two respective religions would be friendly. If not then the two religions are rivals. A wrinkle on this is when a less sophisticated culture comes into contact with a more sophisticated culture. Because the more sophisticated culture usually has answers for things that the original culture haven't thought of. And because they are now in contact as part of a wider world, the original culture need those answers as well. This can setup conflicts in the original culture that result in factions. Which of course can lead to various types of adventures.

One way to have a monotheistic style religion in your campaign and still retain a multitude of deities is use the idea of a deity's chosen people. In my Majestic Wilderlands the Ghinorians believe themselves to be the chosen people of the Mitra, the goddess of honor and justice. While they don't consider all other religion to be enemies, their belief as a chosen people leads to the Church of Mitra occupying a similar role to our own history' Catholic Church in the lands they dominate.

The last comment I will make is that you need to consider the influence of the elves and the other long lived races on religion. My own take is that the elves have a huge influence on the culture and religion of their friendly neighbors. Their longevity allows them the time to manipulate the shorter lived races to achieve security for their realms. And often that involves them filing away any objectionable aspect of their neighbor's religion. Or even just outright replace their neighbor's original religion with a variant of their own beliefs.

And if your elves are heavily influenced by Tolkein's works, like mine are, then the elves have a divine connection as well. In the fact they actually are witnesses to the words and actions of divine beings. In Tolkein's case that was the Valar and Maier as well as the "heaven" of the Blessed Realm of Valinor. In the Majestic Wilderlands I implement this as the Sylvan culture. Around each elven realm there is a zone where human cultures are heavily influenced by the elves and other demi-human races. Because of the elves, these cultures share certain deities and moral values even when they are thousands of miles apart.

To date we covered the general ideas of feudal society in regards to the nobles, peasants, towns, and religion. Next I will dive into how I implemented this for the City-State of the Invincible Overlord in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rolling for advantage and disadvantage in GURPS

The Fudge RPG I been working stalled partly because +1 or -1 is just too great a modifier using Fudge Dice. So I been looking at Heroes and Other Worlds by +c.r. brandon, an interesting mechanic that the game add d6s to represent difficult rolls like use of a untrained skill. If you are untrained you roll 4d6 and see if you succeed instead of the normal 3d6. It is an elegant solution to what GURPS does with modifiers like the ones for default skill use.

By now most of you heard that DnD 5e handles modifiers with its system of advantage and disadvantage rolls. For a positive modifier roll 2d20 and take the best roll. For negative modifiers roll 2d20 and take the worse roll. Again elegant.

For the following I am using the calculators at Any Dice.

The problem with adding 4D as a general negative modifier for system using 3d6 is that it radically changes the odd. Far further than what advantage/disadvantage does for DnD 5e. For example rolling a 10 or less on 3d6 is 50%. Change it to a 4d6 roll it becomes 15%. In contrast in 5e's rolling 11 or better on a d20 (50%) changes to  25% odds on a disadvantage and to 75% odds on a advantage.

Yes I realize 3d6 is a bell curve and the d20 uses linear probability. Regardless it is obvious that adding an extra d6 to a 3d6 roll low system is a major hit. And going the other way for a positive modifier (2d6) looks to be too generous. But then I figured out another way.

Why not roll 4d6 and take the three LOWEST when you want to grant a positive modifier and take three HIGHEST when you want a negative modifier?

I plug in the formula into Any Dice and found that the 10 or less odds of 50% now become roughly 73% for a positive modifier, and roughly 27% on a negative modifier.

Increasing the dice to the three lowest or three highest of 5d6 results in 86% for a positive modifier and  14% for a negative modifier.

Critical have 1.85% chance of occurring (roll a 4 or 3). On 4d6 take the highest or lowest 3 Criticals now go to 5.79% odds with a positive modifier, and 0.39% with a negative. With 5d6 it is 11.39% and  0.08%.

I like this, now sure how and when I will use this mechanics but I am adding it to my bag of stuff. If you like advantage and disadvantage in 5e and want to use it in GURPS, I think this is easier to implement than rolling twice. Plus the it has the virtue of working perfectly with all the quirks of a GURPS success roll as in the end you are still only totaling 3 d6s.

It was pointed out to me by +Douglas Cole that adding 1 die and taking the highest or lowest 3 is roughly equivalent to +1 or -1 to the 3d6 roll. This is a result of how the bell curve works with multiple dice.

For some adding d6s instead of modifier may be more elegant as you don't have to remember the rules for calculating the odds of a critical, 3 or 4 is always critical success and 17 and 18 is always a critical failure.

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.