THE CASTLE GUIDE | Designed by Grant Boucher, Troy Christensen, Arthur Collins, and Nigel Findley | Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Table of Contents | Chapter 1: The Feudal Setting | Social Classes | The Role of the Church | Politics and Churches | Crimes and Punishments | Death by Taxes | Paying for the Castle | A Day in the Life of a Peasant |
Chapter 1: The Feudal Setting
Merging Fact and Fantasy Many of us got into role-playing games when we met some friends who simply asked us to "come by and watch." Little did we know that we had already watched plenty of role-playing games in our all too short lives. In fact, the films and novels we've read over the years hold that same spark of imagination that drew us into these crazy games in the first place. When setting up a new campaign world, there are two basic schools of thought: those who feel the game should be very historically accurate and those who do not. Of course, the introduction of magic into the historic world is a mainstay of the AD&D game and cannot help but distort an otherwise historic setting.
So, which do you choose in your campaign? Is your world going to be classically accurate, as it was seen in the great Roman and Biblical epics we've all watched on TV? Or will the world have an element of magic and superstition lurking just out of sight (or even in full view), like the great epic stories of ((Excalibur)) and ((Conan the Barbarian))? If you choose the latter, you must decide how far to take the magic. Very popular in recent fantasy literature are the "no holds barred" magical worlds where everyone and their brother lives and breathes magic. In many ways, this is similar to the way in which the average person sees technology today. After all, most people have no idea how a television set works, but they accept it as a common part of their daily lives.
The average AD&D campaign remains somewhat in the middle, along the lines of Tolkien's works and the stories of King Arthur. In this book, we will assume that this is the norm. Of course, because the AD&D game is ((your)) game, no single style of play is considered to be ((correct)). If you and your players are having fun, then you're playing the game properly. As with all things in the AD&D game, your interpretation is what matters, so feel free to pick and chose, discard and exploit. The more excited you get about your choices, the more your campaign will thrive and grow. Hopefully, this information will give you a wealth of adventure ideas and add life to all your future gaming.
Notes on Campaign Politics
In many campaigns, the problems of national politics fall into the background for lower level characters. After all, the majority of first level adventurers are not able to cope with problems like major wars, thwarting the ultimate evil, or slaying that most horrible of horrors, the dragon. At this point in their careers, the characters are not going to be overly concerned with the ramifications of the king's political alliances for the same reason that most of us are not experts in the details of our country's own foreign relations: it simply doesn't enter into our daily lives. As they progress in levels, however, things will begin to change. At first, this will be only a passing thing. Perhaps one adventure brings their actions to the attention of a local baron who, for better or worse, makes a mental note to keep an eye on the characters.
By the time they have reached ninth level, the characters are usually fairly well known and have acquired the status of folk heroes. As he begins to attract followers, the character cannot help but come to the attention of the local government. It is almost certain that, given time, they will become as well known in their homelands (or the region in which they adventure) as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or the Wright brothers are in the modern United States. Of course, this may also mean that they are expected to undertake tasks which seem impossible and confront unstoppable armies as a matter of routine duty to their king. Oh well, that's what they get for giving up the simple life of a blacksmith. In any case, it is important to note that relationships with the local nobility (even for those who are a part of it) are not always cordial. Just as the king can be a very valuable friend, so too can he be a deadly adversary.
The basic element of feudalism is simple enough to understand. All in all, it is nothing more than an agreement between two men, a lord and a vassal, to work together for their mutual betterment. The lord, who is the recognized owner of a piece of land--gives it to the vassal, who will manage and live on it. In exchange for such a favor, the lord is entitled to certain duties and favors from the vassal, which include the payment of taxes and the requirement that he support the military forces maintained by the lord. In most cases, the owner of the land is the king and the vassals are his nobility. Of course, one can't expect the nobility to work the land themselves, so we come to the serfs and common folk. The vassal, in an agreement similar to that he which he has with his king, turns the land over to the peasants and serfs to farm and live on. Like the vassal, they agree to work the land and provide their lord with income and food from it. Of course, the serfs expect to earn enough money to live on and to be protected by the lord in times of unrest or military conflict. The lord knows this, just as he knows that he can expect the same from the king, and is only too happy to provide it.
While this doesn't mean that life for the serfs is wonderful, it does allow them to live without fear of extreme repression or exploitation. The feudal system works well so long as everyone in it recognizes their own responsibilities and the rights of others. Since they are in a position where it is in their own best interest to do so, they almost always do. Those who ignore their duties or seek to take advantage of their own position are quickly pegged as trouble-makers and may well be strongly disciplined by the leadership of the society. The reasons for this are simple enough to understand. While the King may not care too much about the life of a single serf, he must concern himself with their overall happiness. Without the serfs, his vassals have no power or income. Without the power and income of the vassals, he himself is impotent. Each block in the pyramid of power rests very solidly on those below it in the feudal system. Without the support of the base, the entire structure will collapse.
Of course, the key to the whole thing is land. Whoever owns the land has the power. While there are certain regions which might not belong to the king (a yeoman's farm, for example) these are insignificant when compared to the vast stretches of land owned by the king himself. Even such small patches of independent land will be forced to recognize the power of the king, of course, if they are to expect any protection or assistance from the crown during times of war or calamity.
One important aspect of the feudal system is its clear and almost absolute recognition of social classes. Anyone born as a serf can expect to die as a serf. There is no provision in such a society for the advancement of individuals from a lower class into the higher classes. This is not to say that it is impossible, only that it is very difficult.
How might someone in a lower class make the jump to a higher place in society? Usually by doing a great service to one's lord or church. In some societies, in fact, any knight has the right to bestow the rank and title of knighthood on any individual who proves himself worth on the field of combat. Of course, the problem with such an approach is that it often ends up in the would-be knight's death at the hands of a better trained and better equipped warrior. As we said, it is not easy to improve your place in such a system.
In the following section, we will examine the many levels of society which characters in an AD&D game will encounter.
By the time of the middle ages, slavery had gradually fallen out of favor in feudal europe. While there are certain to be isolated pockets of slave trading in most worlds, the vast majority of a chivalric campaign world should not be a party to it. While the distinction between a serf and a slave may be obscure to many, the most important thing to understand is this: the serf had certain rights. While he did not own the land which he worked and did not have a say in the local government he was acknowledged to own ((himself)). Unlike more primitive societies, where members of the lower class were thought of as animals or property, the poor in a feudal society are recognized as having a right to fair and just treatment by the nobility and society in general.
Most feudal estates have laws to protect the local serf population from abuse or mistreatment--even by members of the nobility. While these laws may be more or less enforced, depending on the disposition of the local lord, the fact that they exist at all is a major turning point in cultural evolution.
Unlike the serf, who spent his days laboring on land owned by his lord, a yeoman was recognized as the owner of his own farm. As a rule, it was not a large estate, but it was enough to provide for his needs (and those of his family). If times were good, it might even provide a surplus which could be sold or bartered for a few choice items or luxuries. In many cases, of course, a yeoman will swear loyalty to a near-by lord and pay him or her some tribute each year. This serves two purposes. Primarily, it allows the yeoman to keep on good terms with the lord and provides assurance that his land will not be taken from him. Secondly, it obligates the lord to help protect the yeoman's land in the event of a disaster or attack. In short, the gesture simply assures that the two will be "good neighbors."
Tradesmen make up the lower classes of a feudal town. They include the common laborers, lesser craftsmen, and small businessmen. As individuals, they hold little power. Because of their overall importance in society, however, they are treated fairly well by the lord of the manor. As a rule, tradesmen make enough money to support themselves fairly well and to provide a comfortable home for their families. In a modern sense, they might be described as the middle class.
In order to counter the power which a lord maintains over his holdings and make certain that he does not abuse his status, the members of many professions form guilds. In essence, they function like the thieves' guild which is so much a part of many AD&D game campaigns. Guildsmen, the leaders of such groups, have much power in a town, for they can call on workers to stop key activities or delay important projects. Likewise, they can urge increased quality or quantity in times of strife.
In addition to the important members of the various guilds, this class of citizens includes unusually gifted artisans or those who work with precious materials (like a gem merchant). This class may be the most diverse of any because it serves as a buffer between the nobility and the common folk. In modern terms, the guildsmen might be considered to be the upper middle class.
As a side note, some guildsmen might have more actual power in a region than the nobles they serve. Such power is probably not openly manifested, but used in subtle ways to help the friends and family of the guildsman. The most important members of this class might be considered nobles who just haven't been given a title yet.
The lowest rank of the nobility, the chivalric class is made up of knights and barons who have been given a grant of land to administer. In some cases, they have earned the land themselves through wealth, power, or service. In others, the land may have been awarded to one of their ancestors and they have inherited the title and responsibilities which come with such an estate. Members of this class are endowed by their own lord (usually a duke, count, or earl) with land of their own and a manor house or keep in which to dwell. In return, of course, they swear loyalty to their benefactor and vow to serve his interests in their daily lives. As such, they pay a portion of their own incomes to him as a measure of their respect and gratitude. In a time of crisis, they are expected to come promptly to the aid of their superiors.
The nobility are second in status only to the royal family. In practice, they are perhaps the most powerful of the classes. Members of the nobility, most of whom bear the title of Count, Duke, Earl, or Marquis, are each entrusted with a large section of the king's land. They swear loyalty to the crown, just as the members of the chivalric class swear loyalty to them. It is their responsibility to see to it that affairs in their lands are orderly and that all taxes and revenues due to the King are collected in a timely manner.
Members of the nobility have a very close relationship with the royal family, but they can claim no direct blood ties to the throne. In the event that a great disaster were to decimate the ruling house, the successor to the throne would certainly come from this class. The means by which such an individual came to power might be very controversial and a political power struggle is sure to erupt whenever the throne is left unclaimed.
At the top of it all is the royal family. Members of this group can trace a direct family relationship to the ruling monarch. When the current king dies, one of them will be next on the throne. In any feudal culture, members of this class are the absolute upper crust. Everyone, even the most powerful members of the nobility, swears fealty to the royal family and to the king in particular. In the event of a dispute between the king and a member of the nobility, either in the form of a political challenge or an outright rebellion, members of lower classes are expected to side with the king and royal family. For example, if a powerful count decides to make a grab for the throne, many of the knights and barons who serve him may well be forced to turn against him. Failure to support the king in an internal struggle can be disastrous if the king should prove to be triumphant in the dispute.
As a rule, the king will be replaced by his first born male child when he dies or steps down. If there is no such heir, then a preestablished pecking order exists to decide who has claim to throne. In the event that no clear successor exists, the nobility will step in to select which member of the royal family will become the new King. In such cases, a great deal of political manipulation and deal making can be counted upon.
The Imperial Family
In some cases, there exists an element of society above the traditional royal family: the imperial family. Where a king is the recognized ruler of an individual country, an emperor has united several nations under his own banner.
Empires are very rare indeed. The power required to hold one together is almost impossible for one man to attain. In most cases, an empire is formed by conquest. When one nation becomes so powerful that it can overrun a number of neighboring states, its king is elevated to the status of an emperor. There are other ways in which an empire might be formed, but these are rare in the extreme. Several nations with the same religion might be united in a holy war which causes them to select a single individual as their leader. If things go well and the new leader has acquired the power to hold this alliance together after the war, an empire may be forged.
There will always be men who claim to rule empires which exist only in their own minds, of course. It is not uncommon for a king to refer to himself as emperor and his lands as an empire. For our purposes, however, these people are no more than kings with delusions of grandeur.
Members of the Court
Any good noble will surround himself with advisors. Each of these men (or women) will be an expert in areas which the king may not be knowledgeable about. By consulting them when he is forced to make a decision in some area, the lord can render a fair and competent ruling. Because of the modular nature of feudal governments, each of these offices is likely to be repeated at different levels of the government. For example, the local baron is certain to have his own seneschal, as does the count he reports to and the king above them both. Some position, such as the Lord High Wizard, will not be found in most estates due to the expense of maintaining such an advisor.
Lord High Chamberlain
Of all the positions in a lord's court, none is more trusted or important to the daily activity of the estate than that of the Lord High Chamberlain. In modern terms, the chamberlain is the lord's right-hand man. He controls all access to the Lord and can act on his behalf in any instance. Orders which are issued by the Lord High Chamberlain are assumed to come directly from the lord and must be obeyed without question. A number of individuals will report to the Lord High Chamberlain. It is his job to coordinate reports from numerous lesser officials and present his lord with the information needed to make wise decisions. The Chamberlain enjoys the absolute trust of his monarch and can act in his behalf on any matter. In many cases where an audience has been requested with the lord, the chamberlain will be able to resolve matters without having to "trouble his royal highness."
Lord High Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor is entrusted with the day to day operations of the government. He is the absolute head of the civil service, answerable only to the lord himself. The only exception to this would be in cases where his actions might have to be cleared with the Lord High Chamberlain. The relationship between these two officials is close, if not always cordial. Nearly every member of the lesser bureaucracy is under the direction of the Lord High Chancellor. His people organize tax collections, internal political relationships, and the posting and distribution of all royal decrees and proclamations.
Lord High Justice
The Lord High Justice is in charge of all aspects of the legal system. It is his responsibility to see to it that laws are enforced and that criminals are hunted down and detained. He oversees the actions of the local judges, all of whom answer to him, and the town militia. Among the people who report directly to the Lord High Justice are the High Sheriff (who heads the town watch), the High Prosecutor (who handles the prosecution of criminals), and the High Forester (who oversees the lord's woodlands and prevents poaching).
Lord High Marshal
This individual is the head of the lord's military forces. He commands the armies and directs the actions of the city watch in the event of an attack. In all matters which require the use of the lord's troops and knights, the Lord High Marshal is in absolute charge. In addition to the lesser military personnel in the manor, the Lord High Marshal is in charge of the Royal Armorer and his armory, the hiring of any mercenary troops or adventurers, and the acquisition of new military technologies and strategies from other kingdoms. Because of his dealings with adventurers and mercenaries, it is probable that the Lord High Marshal is the first individual which player characters will come into contact with as they rise in levels.
Lord High Inquisitor
One of the more sinister sounding offices, the Lord High Inquisitor is in charge with maintenance of the lord's intelligence network. He controls the numerous spies which have been placed in the other branches of the castle's power structure. In addition, he receives reports from his agents in the holdings of those who serve the inquisitor's lord and from men stationed in other realms. The nature of the feudal system makes the use of spies and counterspies almost a necessity. The king wants to know what his counts and dukes are up to, so he has men planted in their courts to provide him with information. The counts and dukes, of course, want to know what the knights and barons who serve them are up to, so they send their own spies to investigate. In addition, they want to know which of their own men really work for the king, so they employ counterspies to root out the informants. As you can see, this tangled web of agents can become quite complex. If used correctly, though, such intrigue can add a great deal to any chivalric campaign.
Lord High Wizard
One of the least commonly encountered, the position of Lord High Wizard serves two purposes. First and foremost, it allows the Lord to have access to powerful magical spells. Perhaps more importantly, however, it shows the wealth and power of the lord. After all, keeping a wizard on your staff is an expensive practice. Such advisors are known for their ability to drain large amounts of revenue to fund their experiments, spell casting, and research. Since only the wealthiest (and therefore most powerful) of lords can afford such a burden, any court with a Lord High Wizard is highly respected. While the court of a king or emperor is certain to have a very powerful Lord High Wizard, lesser estates may have only a token spell caster. Of course, since the average non-wizard does not understand the importance of various spells, a flashy spell of minimal power will often be perceived by the lord as more valuable than a more powerful spell which is less impressive in practice.
Lord High Chaplin
The Lord High Chaplin is a representative of the religious community in the lord's territory. In most cases, the Lord High Chaplin will be a member of the most powerful church in the kingdom. In cases where two faiths of equal power exist, there may be two separate offices. In manors where the lord is not religious, the Lord High Chaplin will be in charge of handling relations between the lord and the church. A similar state of affairs exists when the lord is religious, but is not of the same faith as the majority of his subjects. In most cases, the lord will, at the very least, pay lip service to the religion of the Lord High Chaplin.
A Note About Magic
Of course, our own medieval period was not marked by the practice of magic, although superstition was widespread. In the typical feudal court, magic (either clerical or wizardly) are both looked upon with skepticism. To the average warrior or bureaucrat, magic is both unimportant and unreliable. The noted cryptic nature of advice acquired from such spells as ((augury)) lends credence to their doubts. In kingdoms where magic is more common, these crafts may be looked upon with awe by those who cannot control them. While knights might recognize the value of a magical or holy weapon, they will consider the use of spells like ((fireball)) to be less than honorable tactics. After all, they reason, a dispute should be settled by fair combat with warriors testing their metal and their skills. Duels between wizards are considered fair, since both sides are using the same weapons. Combating a knight with spells (or cutting down an unarmored wizard) is considered a violation of the Chivalric Code.
The Role of The Church
Although we have touched on he importance of religion in feudal society, we have not taken the time to examine it in any detail. In this section, we will do that , although we will only delve into the matter briefly. For those who wish to have greater detail on the various churches represented in the typical AD&D game, we suggest that you consult the ((Complete Priest Handbook)) and take the time to research the various holy orders in place during the middle ages.
It is important to note that holy orders in a feudal society tend to mirror the political systems in place around them. For example, an acolyte who works in a small temple located in the poor part of a town swears his oath of loyalty to the priest who is in charge of the religious order throughout the town. The priest swears his loyalty to the curate or canon above him, and so forth. In this way, it is easy for us to draw a connection between members of a church and their counterparts in the nobility. Of course, in any society which has a dominant religion, all members of the church, be they acolytes or the high priest himself, will be due some respect from any member of the nobility.
The lay brethren are not actually members of the religious power structure, but they do deserve mention here. This group includes all those persons who are of an unusually pious nature and spend some (or much) of their time working with or for the church. Examples might include those who sweep the temple out after services or even the cook who makes meals for the priests at their homes. Lay brethren do not expect great monetary rewards for their efforts, they work for the honor of serving their church in the only way they can. While it is true that many of them are paid some token salary for their efforts, most do not depend upon the church for their living. As is often the case, of course, there are exceptions to this. A secluded temple might require a full-time groundskeeper or a permanent cook. In both cases, the individual would be paid a living wage and, probably, be provided with room and board in the church's facilities. Because of their great love for their church, many members of this group tend to adopt a "holier-than-thou" attitude. While this is certainly not always the case, it is easy for a person who has no other claim to fame in a feudal society to focus on the one thing they do which makes them feel valuable. This is understandable, but the PCs may not always find such aggressive followers of a faith to be pleasant company.
Acolytes are students of the faith who hope, through great study and devotion, to become active members of the church in time. As a rule, they are young (generally in their mid-teens) and very eager to show their devotion to their superiors in the church. Acolytes tend to draw the least interesting assignments in a given temple. They are in charge of copying holy documents and assisting in religious services, but they have no true power in the church. Acolytes are assumed to have the powers of a first level priest, though are usually not as fit for combat or adventuring as a player character at first level would be. In other words, where most player character clerics represent members of holy fighting orders, the NPC acolyte is assumed to be a non-fighting individual. Still, they have begun to acquire certain holy powers, and are often called upon to employ their healing powers on the faithful of the church.
The postulant is an acolyte who has proven himself to be true to the church and devoted in his vows. He is generally older (in his late teens or early twenties) and has attained the third level of experience. Upon reaching his new level, the former acolyte is expected to take on more responsibilities. In addition to overseeing the training of the acolytes he has left behind, the postulant is now expected to play a greater role in the worship of the deity. In fact, lesser holy services may actually be wholly under the supervision of the postulant. In terms of social level, postulants are generally accepted as the equals of yeomen. They are awarded some respect, but have no real decision making power in the church. Still, their devotion to the faith is noteworthy, and they are accorded their share of social privileges. A postulant will usually have 1-6 acolytes assigned to him as students. Of course, while they are under the charge of the postulant, they are expected to follow his instructions in all matters and often end up acting as private servants. This is usually alright, as it teaches the acolyte to be humble and show respect to their betters in the church. If this power is abused, however, it may result in the Postulant losing his status or being assigned to a highly undesirable assignment as a disciplinary action.
The priest is the backbone of any religious order. Without them, there is no church. Each temple is assumed to be under the guidance of one priest, who is in charge of all that goes on within the temple he is associated with. A priest is usually in his late twenties or early thirties and has the holy powers of a fifth or sixth level cleric. Priests are selected from the ranks of the postulants and assigned to serve in areas where the church needs to establish a new temple or replace another priest for some reason. Each priest will oversee 1-6 postulants and (by default) 1-6 acolytes for each postulant. In the feudal social pyramid, priests are roughly equal to townsmen. They are accorded more respect than the lesser members of the faith, but are not recognized as true power figures. This is often an unjust assumption, as a charismatic priest can have a strong influence over those who worship at his church, but it is nonetheless the case.
The curate is recognized as the head of all church activities in a given town or city. Depending upon the size of the town, he will usually have 1-6 churches in his jurisdiction. Because the curate is one of the most powerful members of the local religious community, he is assumed to have roughly the same rights and privileges as an important guildsman. As you might expect, a request for favors from such an individual is always taken very seriously by the local nobility. In many cases, a town which might otherwise be in unrest can be kept in check by the actions of the local curate. In addition to their sway with the local populace, Curates are respected for the powerful magic which they can employ. In times of crisis, a local noble who could not afford to maintain a powerful Lord High Chaplain or a Lord High Wizard will petition the curate to act on his behalf. If the request is reasonable, serves the interests of the church, and is accompanied by an indication of the lord's devotion (that is, gold), then the request is likely to be granted. Of course, this also places the noble in debt to the church, a situation which is highly desirable.
The next rung in the ladder of church affairs is occupied by the dean. This powerful individual is accorded all the respect and influence due to a knight or similar member of the Chivalric class. In his hands is placed the supervision of all church holdings in 1-6 towns. The dean is an important link in the church structure, for he often acts as an interface between the church's highest officials and the local representatives of the faith (in the person of the local curates and priests.) Deans will tend to be in their mid-thirties, having devoted most of their lives to the service of their deity. As a result, they have acquired the spell casting abilities of a ninth or tenth level cleric. With such power and influence, the dean is clearly a force to be reckoned with in any feudal nation. The dean is, obviously, entrusted with a great deal of authority. In the absence of clear direction from his superiors in the church, the dean is permitted (indeed, expected) to make very important decisions regarding the practice of the faith. As such, they tend to be very conservative people who seek to avoid making any decisions which might be viewed as radical by their leaders. In times of crisis, such resistance to change and the desire to avoid "going out on a limb" can often cause serious problems.
The primates of a church are second in power only to the high priest. They are able to command such mighty power and have so much say in matters of the church that they are assumed to be fully as important as any member of the noble class. Obviously, the years of devotion and study required to attain this position means that the primate will tend to be quite old. As a rule, the youngest of primates will be in their forties. While in modern society this is not "old" by any stretch of the imagination, it represent a good portion of a man's life in a medieval setting. Of course, the healing powers of the faithful tend to result in very long-lived members of religious groups . Each primate is entrusted with the supervision of all church affairs in a given region. As a rule, any kingdom will be spit into 1-6 regions, each of which will be under the guidance of a singe primate. Primates, having the powers and abilities of an 11th or 12th level cleric, are recognized by their noble peers as being very useful friends. Conversely, they are also acknowledged as very dangerous foes. Just as the primate's favor can be important to the operation of any noble's holding, his wrath can be swift and eternal. Few are the nobles who will not try to avoid a clash with this level of the church.
At the top of every religious order is the high priest. This person is the absolute ruler of the faith in a given kingdom. Because, in many cases, a faith is popular only in a single kingdom , the high priest is usually the absolute ruler of the church. In cases where the same deity is worshipped by more than one culture, a schism tends to develop along culture lines which causes the faith to splinter into two or more groups, each with its own high priest. If this is not the case, then the high priests will answer to a patriarch who oversees the church as a whole (see below). Each high priest will command the powers of a cleric of no less than 13th level. Because of this, they are generally treated as if they were members of the royal family itself. Only a king who is insane or absolute in his power will directly challenge the authority of the high priest.
The average high priest is well into his fifties by the time he assumes offices. The rigors of his life have been such that he is respected as the final authority on all matters of faith. In many churches, the word of the high priest is assumed to be divine and must be taken as the word of the deity himself. No member of the church may refuse to obey the instructions of his high priest without risking the wrath of the deity himself. To be sure, this is not something that any member of the church should take lightly.
In the case of an empire, where several kingdoms have been forged into one governmental unit, a single church leader must emerge to manage the affairs of the religion as a whole. This person, selected from among the high priests of the various states, is known as a Patriarch. A Patriarch will also be found in those rare cases where churches of the same deity exist within several non-united nations and no schism has resulted. In both cases, the patriarch has clerical powers of at least 15th level and will assume the role of church leader from any of the high priests. The existence of a patriarch does not reduce the power of the high priests by very much, as the church is so large that they must all manage the affairs of an entire nation. A patriarch, who will almost always be at least 70 years old, is accorded the respect due a member of the imperial family. As one might imagine, a call for revolution or patience by a person in this position is so great, that many emperors will openly court the favor of a patriarch with gifts and oaths of loyalty to the doctrines of the church.
Politics And Churches
The Divine Right of Kings
Because of the awesome power of churches in any feudal society, it is important to both the government and religious leaders that both recognize each other's power. The government recognizes the importance of the churches by consulting with them on any important issues and seeking their guidance in most social matters. This trust is best seen in the appointment of a Lord High Chaplin to the king's staff of advisors. In addition, many societies grant the church certain privileges (like tax exemptions or free use of the lord's land) to further secure their friendship.
For their part, churches promote a belief in the divine right of kings. In short, this policy simply reflects a belief that any king (or emperor) is himself a vassal who holds his own lands (the kingdom) through the grace of whatever deity he worships. This is generally accepted by the royal family because it bestows upon the king and his actions an illusion of divine guidance. It is because of this belief that many nations have gone to war with the thought that "the gods are on our side." Of course, who would want to fight a war in which the gods supported the other side? By holding a special coronation service whenever a new ruler ascends to the throne, the church recognizes him as the rightful leader of a nation. The major drawback to such an act is that the church must strip a king of this divine blessing if it should become important that they oppose him on a major policy issue.
Usually, any king who is declared to have fallen out of favor with the most important faith in his kingdom will find himself quickly opposed by a powerful noble who has the backing of the church. Such conflicts can often lead to a civil war and are thus avoided by both sides whenever possible.
Politics Within The Churches
Just as there is a great deal of political intrigue and activity in the feudal government itself, so too is the typical church hierarchy a hotbed of power struggles. While this is not as true in the lower ranks of the church structure, it often becomes the case at higher levels. This is due mainly to the lack of true power which lesser officials have and the fact that many of them are not overly ambitious. Once one reaches the level of curate, however, political savvy begins to become an important part of a religious leader's job. In addition to dealing with the local chivalrics and nobles, the curate must manage the affairs of his own staff, many of whom may have designs on his job. On the other hand, he may well have his own sights set on the job of the dean above him. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because the same sort of thing is a regular part of the affairs of the nobility. Beyond a certain point it becomes almost impossible to tell a church official apart from a politician.
In most kingdoms, the major faith will be determined by the beliefs of the king himself. If the King is a worshipper of the Egyptian pantheon, then that is likely to be the state religion. If the King is not religious (seldom the case), he will still find it wise to pay lip service to a popular faith and adopt it as the state religion. In most cases, a king who opposes religious practices in his realm or who actively confronts the various religious orders popular among the serfs is going to find himself with a revolution or a revolt on his hands.
In some cases, however, it is difficult to say where the line must be drawn. If the royal family has strong ties to two religions, then it may be difficult for a ruler to maintain a stable government. In some cases, a civil war or internal power struggle may erupt, with each side being supported by a powerful church. In such cases, it is almost certain that both sides will, in the end, turn out far worse for the whole affair. In cases where the faiths are not incompatible, it may be possible for an agreement to be reached. As a rule, however, most religions are prone to dislike and distrust those with differing beliefs. Even in the rare case where supporters of similar, but different, faiths reach a consensus, there is usually too much suspicion and political maneuvering to make any lasting alliance possible.
Of course, no king or high priest (except for a fanatic or a fool) wants a Holy War or a religious dispute to erupt in their kingdom or church. In addition to being expensive, it makes them more vulnerable to their adversaries. Thus, even in cases where a dispute exists, it is sometimes possible for those on both sides to "agree to disagree" and let things go at that for a little while. Such compromises are, by and large, a good thing for both sides. The major problem with them, however, is that they do not tend to survive the test of time. A good assumption to make is that any large kingdom which has been around for a long time will have a single powerful state religion. Other faiths, although they may be legal, are not usually popular. Although it is often almost impossible to utterly destroy a faith which has gotten a foothold in a given society, it is possible to discredit it and drive it underground. In such cases, the unified actions of the state and its official religion are generally effective.
The Church and Magic
An important question which must be answered when setting up a campaign world is this: what is the church's view of the practice of magic? In some cases, the church will sanction such efforts and may even fund spell research and similar projects on the part of wizards. This is the case with temples to such deities as the Egyptian goddess Isis or the Greek goddess Hecate, both of whom are the patrons of magicians. On the other hand, some churches look upon the practice of magic as an evil thing. In their opinion, use of magic is often seen as an attempt by man to steal the powers of the gods and attain a divine status for himself. Obviously, they cannot allow such blasphemy to continue unchecked, so they will often harass or even declare a virtual Holy War against those who employ magic.
This can be an important consideration. A priest character who worships a deity that considers all magicians to be enemies of the faith, may well find himself at odds with a fellow party member who is an illusionist. Further, a king or lesser lord in a nation with such a religion is not going to have a high wizard on his staff of advisors.
Crimes and Punishments
Feudal societies are often depicted as having harsh and unfair judicial systems in which the defendant has little or no chance of justice or mercy. In actuality, this is seldom the case. The same codes of honor, duty, and responsibility which pervade the rest of feudal culture also dominate the legal profession. Thus, establishing the truth in a case, either criminal or civil, is considered to be a matter of great importance. A justice takes pride in his work. There are a few concepts which are important to understand about feudal justice. For one thing, the penalties for those convicted of serious crimes are quite severe. The death penalty is quite common, as is branding, whipping, or even dismemberment. While this is not a pleasant thought, it is the way things are. On the other hand, penalties are not generally overly cruel. Torture, for example, is almost never employed either to obtain confessions or punish the convicted. The following is a list of various crimes and the generally administered punishments for those convicted of them. In some places, the penalties will be more severe, while in others they will be more merciful.
The crimes, all of which are considered to be the most vile of acts, are all subject to the death penalty. As a rule, any given society will have a standard means of execution which is used for all offenders. Typical measures include hanging, beheading, and burning at the stake.
This is defined as any setting of a fire which causes a loss of life or property. Exception is made for those fires which are accidental, but not those which are purposefully set and get out of hand.
This includes any attempts to make plans against the king or local lord. It includes plotting an assassination, making ready to stage a coup, or (in very strict realms) even making casual remarks about deposing a monarch. As you can see, this class of crime is very open to the whims of the local lord and his justices.
Most feudal societies hold a great respect for the dead and the places in which they rest. Thus, desecration of a tomb or burial area (a popular pastime with many adventurers!) is ranked among the violent crimes and violators are subject to the death penalty.
Drawing a Weapon
There are two ways in which this law is enforced. The first, and more serious of the two, is ((Drawing a Weapon on Gentility)) . This includes any threatening use of a weapon against any member of the chivalric, noble, royal, or imperial classes. The second aspect of the law is intended to protect the common folk from rough treatment at the hands of trained warriors. Anyone who has been trained in fighting and threatens to use their skills against someone without such training is breaking a major tenet of the Chivalric Code. Because it is considered very improper to use superior weapons against a fairly defenseless serf, this is also a death offense. In both cases, however, self defense is considered to be an exception to the law.
Technically, this law applies to all persons who act in a covert manner to obtain the secrets of a realm. However, it is seldom used against the spies of one's lords, which are an accepted part of feudal life. However, the laws against espionage are enforced when the criminal is a spy in the payment of a hostile government or other faction. Such persons, when they are captured, are sometimes tried, convicted, and then traded back to their masters for a ransom. I cases where the spy's master holds one of the lord's own men, an exchange is often made. It is important to note the difference between espionage and treason. Both crimes involve the giving of information to the enemies of the realm, but they are very different. Espionage refers to citizens of another realm who are sent into a foreign nation as spies. Such individuals are considered to be simply "doing their job" when they act against a rival power. Treason, on the other hand, refers to citizens of a realm who sell its secrets to a foreign power. Since they are betraying the nation of their birth, their's is by far the more serious crime.
This group of laws is a sort of "catch-all" for law breakers who use force in their actions. In short, major assault refers to any use of violence in which the life of the victim may have been in jeopardy. Further, any attack with a weapon of any sort (either an actual or improvised one) falls into this category. In short, anything more dramatic than a fist fight is probably going to be major assault. Of course, there are exceptions. As with many of the other laws, self defense is not a crime.
This crime, often considered the ultimate violation of the law, includes any act which causes a loss of life. It can be applied in matters where criminal intent was involved, but is also used to prosecute persons who have caused a death through extreme carelessness. In realms where chivalry is the absolute rule and all citizens (or, at least, all warriors) are expected to act in defense of the weak, this crime can be charged against someone who has failed to act to save another person from death.
As has been stated, the feudal courts will almost always try very hard to determine actual guilt or innocence before passing sentence. One of their most important tools in this quest for knowledge is personal testimony by witnesses. Anyone who provides false or misleading evidence is subject to execution as a perjurer. In addition, anyone who withholds evidence which is vital to the court can also be tried under these laws. Distortion of the facts is also considered to be perjury.
One of the most serious crimes in feudal society is that of taking arms against one's lord. In a culture which is built on mutual trust and intricate webs of political and socialites, such a violation of trust is very dangerous indeed. In order to make an example of those who take such drastic action, the means of execution employed on convicted rebels is usually very unpleasant.
The crime of treason is regarded as the lowest act which any criminal can undertake. In many cases, even hardened criminals are loyal to the crown and will turn in traitors to the local constabulary. As described previously, treason is the selling of one's own nation's secrets to a rival power. It is important not to confuse treason with espionage.
Crimes of Theft
These crimes are all considered to be of a non-violent nature. In cases where a criminal uses violence in his crimes, he is certain to be tried under one of the violent crimes and executed if convicted. Unless otherwise noted, the following crimes have a graduated scale of punishment. The first offense results in 10 to 60 lashes for the criminal. A second conviction results in branding, the loss of a hand, or similar physical marking and 20 to 120 lashes. A third offense will result in the execution of the criminal.
Despite its name, this crime does not imply the theft of any object. A person can be charged with burglary simply for breaking into a home, shop, or other building without permission. In modern terms, this might be taken as breaking and entering.
Any act which deprives another person of their rightful property is considered theft. It can include shop lifting or a clever swindle. In addition to the penalties indicated above, the criminal is expected to return the stolen objects or, if that is not possible, reimburse the owner for their value.
Any act of violence is considered to be at least minor assault. A fist fight or beating is the most common offense, but physical restraint of an individual during a robbery is also considered to be minor assault. In any case where a weapon is used, however, the crime is elevated to major assault and may well result in the death of the offender. Only self defense is considered to allow one to use force against another person.
The crime of poaching is defined as hunting on another's land without permission. As a rule, the severity of the punishment is determined by the success of the poacher. A criminal who sets a few small snares might be treated fairly lightly, while one who brings down a deer might expect to see a severe sentence. In cases where the land has been set aside for use by the local nobility or is deemed to be the King's Woods, the penalty for poaching is death.
Crimes of this sort are generally applied to dishonest merchants or traders. As a rule, even dishonest businessmen will not cheat those who live in their town. In a small community, only outsiders will be victimized because the merchant knows he must deal with his neighbors on a regular basis. In larger towns and cities, the merchant may see so many customers in a single day that he can cheat many of them without concern for such matters.
Breach of Contract
Contracts in a feudal society are far less exacting than they are in our own world. As a rule, a contract is assumed to include any agreement by two parties, whether verbal or written, which can be verified by a third party. In cases where a third party presents a false accounting of the transaction before a justice, he or she may well be tried as a perjurer.
Once a court rules on a breach of contract, the losing party is expected to live up to their part in the bargain and pay a penalty to the opposing side in the case. This penalty will be determined by the value of the contract and the magnitude of the offender's violation of it.
Anyone who is unable to pay their debts to a merchant or tax collector may find themselves tried for the crime of indebtedness. A conviction in such cases will result in the violator being required to sell off any personal belongings which they have to pay their debts. If they are unable to raise the money they need, they may be ordered into service for a period of time. The length of such service will be determined by the amount of the debt.
Fraud & Forgery
These two crimes cover a broad range of violation which include any attempt to obtain money, favors, or the like by false representations or trickery. Possible examples include the use of incorrect scales in weighing goods, use of low grade materials in construction, inept labor, or the outright falsification of a legal document (including coinage). The greater the money involved, the greater the penalty. Persons who are convicted more than once face the possibility of execution. In all cases, a criminal must repay the money lost by his victims (if possible) in addition to the rest of his sentence.
Death by Taxes
The Royal Exchequer's Office oversees the collection of all of the king's revenues and answers directly to the Lord High Chamberlain. As a rule, the exchequer's office assigns Agents of the Exchequer to each significant portion of the realm, either a county or shire. They are responsible for seeing to it that the king's goal of "a copper for every gold" is collected and passed on to the royal coffers. Because it is possible for any given gold piece to be taxed more than once, however, the treasury often fares far better than this. In some regions, it is not uncommon for a tax collector to take a little bit extra from the local populace for himself. So long as he does not push the people to the verge of revolt, the king often allows such "minor abuses" to continue. However, revolutions like those detailed in the classic tales of Robin Hood are born from just such "minor abuses."
The following is a fairly complete list of the common fees and taxes for a feudal fantasy campaign.
This section details the taxes which are collected whenever they are applicable. Unlike some taxes which are charged once a month or once a year, these might be collected every day.
This is a typical sales tax. It is charged on all goods and is common to most economic systems. It is paid to a merchant in addition to the normal transaction cost. Merchants are then charged this percentage of their profits separately. The standard rate for this tax is 5%, or copper piece for every silver piece spent.
Certain items, like rare furs, jewelry, or ornamental crests, are considered to be luxuries. Their purchase is taxed a further copper piece per silver piece of price. Thus, someone buying a fine fur coat would be required to pay the normal Consumption Tax and then the Luxury Tax on top of it.
All wealth and property inherited by a person is subject to a tax of 1 silver piece for every gold piece of value, or roughly 10% of the estate. This is a one-time tax only. However, if the same property is further passed on to a new beneficiary, the estate can be taxed yet again.
The toll paid at most bridges, roads, and toll booths is 1 copper piece per person or horse and 2 coppers per vehicle (if any). Monthly Taxes These type of taxes are due about once a month, as described below.
Every town and city has a monthly Market Day, when all the local citizens come from far and near to see the latest wares for sale by the oddest assortment of merchants. Every person or beast entering the town or city on Market Day must pay 1 copper piece for entrance. Since Market Day in towns is the common equivalent to the tournaments of the nobility, this small charge is usually worth the wide variety of entertainments.
These taxes are only collected once a year, during a given season. The final payment to the king is due on that season's day of high festival. Often, the tax collectors are busy many weeks, if not months, in advance.
Spring--Hearth Tax Every dwelling, whether serf's hovel or duke's castle is assessed a Hearth Tax. Naturally, the amount paid varies according to means.
Type of Structure: Tax
Simple dwelling: 1/2/6 cp
Large dwelling: 1/2/6 sp
Inn: 5 sp per room
Manor: 1 gp
Castle: 10 gp
In those entries which have multiple listings, the first is for a typical dwelling, the second is for a dwelling in an unwalled town, and the third is for any dwelling within a walled town.
Summer--Land Tax: This is a big money-maker for the king, and he can always count on at least a certain amount of income from his estates. It shows quite clearly why land is such a valuable commodity in the feudal society. Every acre is assessed a function and the legal owner of that acreage is assessed a rated tax. In general, the more useful or developed the land is, the more it is worth, and therefore, the more it is taxed.
Land Type: Tax/acre
Barren: 1/2 cp
Pond or Lake: 1 cp
Uncultivated: 1 cp
Woodland: 1 cp
Cultivated: 2 cp
Town: 6 cp
Fortified: 1 sp
On the above chart, land which is owned within a non-walled city is deemed to be in a "town" for tax purposes. Land within the confines of a protective wall is deemed to be "fortified."
Summer--Nobility Tax: Each family that wishes to display a crest or coat-of-arms within the kingdom must pay 5 gold pieces per year for the king's graciousness. This is part of the reason the king likes creating new nobles whenever he can, whether or not they can afford their own castle, or even own their own home!
Fall--The Tithe: All produce, rents, and profits from the lands themselves are taxed at a rate of about 1 silver piece per gold piece earned, or about 10%. This mostly affects rich landowners and, therefore, the nobility.
At the same time that the Tithe is being collected from the rich, just about everyone else is paying an Income Tax much like our own system today. Each person's income is assessed by the local exchequer's office and taxed at a modest rate of about 1 cp per gold piece earned, or only 1%. While this may seem extremely fair to our eyes today, the combination of all of the fees and taxes collected over the year, and other manorial charges tend to eat up almost half of a serf's income!
Winter--Poll Tax: Every head in the kingdom is taxed according to the following scale. Importantly, while serfs are considered slaves by many societies, they are usually considered free men in the feudal society. So, usually the serf himself is taxed. However, in richer lands the lord is taxed instead. Some less reputable tax collectors tax both the lord and his servants (who never know any better and are ordered never to complain about anything).
Child: 1 cp
Marketable beast: 1 cp
Adult: 2 cp
Riding horse: 1 sp
In realms where magic is relatively common, magical items are considered signs of wealth and power, and therefore get taxed very heavily. The owner of any magic item can expect to be taxed about 1 gold piece per 100 experience points of value in the AD&D 2nd Edition ((Dungeon Masters Guide)). Thus, the owner of ((ring of invisibility)) would owe 15 gp while the holder of a ((vorpal sword)) would be taxed 100 gp. Note that all magic from scrolls to potions and even artifacts (if known) is taxable. This is one very good reason why player characters new to an area should keep their magical powers quiet, as even travellers and nonresidents just "passing through" can be taxed if the collectors catch up with them. It is therefore possible for characters versed in world-spanning adventures to get taxed many times in the course of a year. However, they can only legally be taxed once in any kingdom, and are given a receipt to prove the payment.
Every weapon in the kingdom is taxed, both as a means of making money and as a means of keeping an eye on the relative power of arms around the kingdom. People in trouble spots buy up weapons at an alarming rate and a good tax collector knows how to see the warning signs of revolution. Normal weapons longer than daggers and knives are taxed at a rate of 1 silver piece per weapon. Magic weapons are taxed as their mundane counterparts, but are also subject to the previously mentioned Magic Tax.
It is necessary for the king to keep a tab on the growth of industry, especially if he is to keep his personal monopolies in power. Even if he can't slow growth down, he can at least make some money from the expansion.
Believe it or not, begging has always been a fine way to make a living, and it requires a fair amount of skill and work. The fact that many beggars are actually spies, or are accomplished thieves, has not escaped the attention of the king's tax collectors. All beggars must have a license to beg, otherwise they get thrown in jail. The license costs 1 copper piece and must be renewed every season.
Manufacturer's License Any manufacturer of goods (i.e. carpenters, potters, etc.) must have a license. It costs 2 gold pieces per year, but does not insure you of fair competition (see "Monopoly Licenses" below).
Anyone who wants to open a school of any kind, or keep it open, must pay 1 gold piece to the state. This money is due only once a year and can be paid at any time. For a one-time fee of 100 gold pieces, any school can be granted a King's License which lasts indefinitely.
Much like the Manufacturer's Licenses above, tradesmen who create perishable goods like beer, wine, bread, etc., must also have a license to do so. Coincidentally, the fee is the same 2 gold pieces per annum.
In countries where many guilds have been formed, the guild will claim the right to regulate trade in its own area. As a rule, the crown will recognize this right and allow the guild to set prices, determine who is permitted to sell their goods or services, and establish minimum quality standards. Of course, the king expects to be compensated for allowing the guilds such power. This fee varies from place to place and depends on the goods and services provided, but 5% of the profits is customary. While seemingly high, the guild always boosts prices much higher than normal and guild members end up making more money than they would have without such assistance. In countries where such monopolies are allowed, the king usually must personally grant such a monopoly, and does so only to a favored friend or someone who has helped the kingdom in one way or another. The guild leadership is only required to contribute 10 gold pieces annually to maintain their monopoly in a given area, but often the personal gifts and free services accorded the king by the guild (privately, of course) usually account for a great deal more. However, the aforementioned price gauging and control over the local market still compensates for the lost revenue.
Legal Fees and Duties
To bring a suit to the royal court costs 10 silver pieces for the privilege. Also, the loser of a suit must pay the king 10% of the amount sued for, in addition to paying off the claim. However, no one gets off that easily, as the claim money is considered taxable income, which the winner of the suit has to pay off the top. Also, any legal documents prepared by the royal court cost 5 silver pieces each for the respective plaintiffs.
Anyone not a native citizen of the realm is likely to pay some kind of tax. Sometimes these are known as "good behavior" fees, because they allow the local authorities to monitor newcomers to an area. In most places, this tax is 5 gold pieces per level per year. Spell casters are noted trouble makers, and are charged twice the normal tax. All non-humans are assessed a tax of 8 gold pieces per year per level. This is one of the reasons why most non-humans don't like living in human lands if they can avoid it. If non-humans do decide to stay, they can become naturalized citizens after 2 years of residency and no history of criminal activity. The charge for naturalization is 2 gold pieces per level. Monsters are the most nonhuman of them all, and anyone possessing a monster or even a large animal must pay a fee of 1 gp per hit point of the beast every year! This is the primary reason why travelling carnivals travel so much, as they are always one step ahead of the tax man. Also, it makes owning any sort of rare beast another significant sign of wealth.
These taxes relate directly to doing business in a feudal society.
All goods imported into a kingdom are assessed an average tax of 1 copper piece per 100 pounds of cargo. While this may seem to be a minuscule amount, it adds up when shiploads of cargo are in question.
Every ship is charged 1 silver piece per day for a birth in the public harbor. Private marinas often charge much, much more. Import License Every shipment of goods brought into a country must have a license. Normal goods cost about 1 gold piece per shipment to register, while valuable commodities like spices and wines often cost twice that amount, or 2 gold pieces per shipment.
"Coming and Going" Tax
Naturally, any ship or caravan leaving the country is also charged 10 silver pieces per vehicle. Moneylenders' Surtax Bankers and other financial institutions are taxed about 5% of their profits per year. This is one circumstance where the Royal Exchequer often takes a personal hand in verifying the accounting books of an institution, especially a rich one.
Populating the Castle
Okay, your castle is a lonely place of stone and wood. You have a few advisors, a new bride or bride-to-be, and a town is springing up nearby. Now what? Well, here's a brief list of some of the people you're going to need to make your castle run. Without them, you'd be one busy knight.
Each king or knight has his own personal squire. Most squires are knights-in-training who take care of their lord's personal steed, see that his armor is repaired and polished, sharpen his sword and lance, and otherwise tend to the lord's miscellaneous knightly needs. Many of the noblest PCs will have been squired to a great noble or king. Note that many of the wealthiest lords have more than a few squires, and that such positions are rare and prized within the kingdom.
Marshal of the Stables
The Marshal of the Stables is in charge of all of the lord's horses, whether for war or show. He is always attended by many well-treated serfs and while he carries little or no power within the manor, a personal friendship with a horse-loving king is not to be taken lightly. Some kings have hunting dogs for chasing foxes in the nearby forests, or falcons for hunting small birds, and these duties also fall under the marshal's supervision or those of his staff. If the lord has a special mount like a dragon or a pegasus, the personal attention such a unique beast requires calls for the hiring of another Marshal of the Royal Steed, who is likely to have an interesting background to say the least.
The Chief Porter and his watchmen guard the castle during all hours of the day and night. As a rule, they answer to the Lord High Marshall.
If a lord is the sworn legal officer in an area, most likely a newly conquered frontier, or he is the king of a land, he will have on his staff a Chief Executioner to handle the messiest of trials. Such a man earns a great deal of respect as it is an ugly job he does, and his loyalty to the king is never in question. In his off-hours, the sworn executioner might be Captain of the Guards, but he is also likely to be the Master Torturer (if permitted within the castle walls) and/or the only practicing doctor for miles. His talents at breaking bones and severing limbs give him a lot of knowledge about fixing them as well.
The lady of the castle is attended by a large number of serving girls, known as her waiting women. They tend to her every need, and help supervise the many household duties and chores under the lady's command.
The steward oversees the cooking staff and is busy almost all of the time. Feeding an entire castle is not a simple chore! The Chief Steward has a lot of personal discretion, but reports to the Castellan if any problems arise.
The Castellan supervises the basic cleaning and household management of the castle. His duties are many, and his knowledge of formal affairs and etiquette is second to none.
If the lady has a garden, it must be tended. Note that these rich gardens are often the personal groves of many retired druids, and are also the first training grounds for many young ones.
These are the soldiers that man the castle, protect the lands, and patrol the countryside.
Large castles have their own dedicated carpenters, barbers, surgeons, tinkers, potters, stone masons, blacksmiths, and so on. Staff craftsmen take the place of those in town who often have other obligations to attend to. Lords tend to hire the best craftsmen they can afford and many a feud has grown out of the refusal of a lord's employment offer that shouldn't have been refused.
Of course, even the mightiest lord depends, in the long run, on the support of his subjects. These are the "little people" who tend the farms, work the mines, and serve as cannon fodder in military campaigns. Although they are often part of the background in a feudal setting, they are as important as the unseen timbers which support the roof of your home. Without them, the entire structure collapses. For more information on serfs in a feudal society, see "A Day in the Life of a Peasant" later on in this chapter.
Paying for Your Castle or Kingdom
Naturally, all of these citizens must be paid. In this section we have presented a quick system for handling the financing of an estate or kingdom. Assume that a typical manor, kingdom, or town recovers in taxes and levees just enough to keep the estate operating normally, and within the bounds of typical inflation. However, any unusual expenditures (i.e. anything other than food, manorial upkeep, normal taxes, and wages) must be handled specially by the lord in question. If the duke wants to keep a dragon as a mount, then all of the dragon's expenditures must be covered somehow, either by the personal finances of the lord (gained either through inheritance or adventuring) or through an increase in taxes on the general populace. Naturally, the DM should refer to the American Revolution for some ideas about the effects of unfair taxation on the masses.
For PCs and NPCs alike, this system is the easiest to use on a large scale. It is assumed that the various exchequers, both royal and noble, are competent enough and suffer only from a minimum of corruption. This system allows both the player and DM to concentrate on the important changes made to the estate and get on with the game itself. Bribery is Your Friend As one might expect, bribery is a useful tool in dealing with often corrupt bureaucracies, tax collectors, and other petty (and often not so petty) officials. Sometimes it is cloaked in semi-legal things like political donations or monopoly taxes, but usually bribery is in the form of expensive "birthday" gifts, wedding presents to the father of the bride (as well as the young couple), or outright purses of gems passed in a handshake from briber to bribed.
Bribery is a most useful skill for characters. While anyone can make an offer of cash in exchange for favors, there is often more to bribery than that. For those of you who wish to incorporate bribery as a nonweapon proficiency, the following description should be used. Bribery 1 slot, Charisma, 0 modifier. This skill is open to all rogue characters. If the DM agrees, it may be available to other classes on a case-by-case basis. Attempts at bribery are not restricted to those familiar with its intricacies, anyone may attempt to bribe someone else. Those with this skill will be able to determine a "fair" price and avoid a potential double-cross. Whenever a character without bribery skill attempts to use this skill, they must make a Charisma check at -4. Failure indicates that the bribe is refused and that the character may be turned over to the watch for his actions. Those with this skill will obviously suffer no such penalty. It's important that the DM not allow the use of bribery skill to replace the role-playing aspects of such transactions. Players who role-play such attempts well should be given a positive modifier to their bribery check while those who do not should suffer for it. As you can see, there is much more to bribery than just saying "I'll offer him 10 gold pieces to look the other way." It's much more interesting to negotiate skillfully yourself, with phrases like "Hello, Sir Walter! I'm so happy you could attend. I didn't have time to get a gift for your lovely wife, so why don't you take this small gem and pick something up for her yourself?"
A Day in the Life of a Peasant
Okay, so enough about the rich, the powerful, and the important. What about the little people? What do the poor, downtrodden, oppressed masses think about all this feudalism? Surprisingly, for the most part the peasant underclass is relatively well-off in most feudal societies. They are always assured of work, their life spans hover around forty years or so, and they rarely go hungry. When things get dangerous in times of war, they usually have a place to hide and, despite the myths to the contrary, the nobility treats most of their servants extremely well. But aren't they slaves, pressed into service by the wealthy aristocracy? Well, sure they are, in a way. But the key point here is that the serfs understand the fundamental principles of feudalism, and so do their masters.
In truth, the majority of the serfs are not slaves, as open slavery of one's own countrymen is frowned upon in a feudal society. However, they are not completely free. In fact, most serfs are victims of economic slavery. While they don't wear chains or find themselves bought and sold on the auction block, they face no prospect of a better life. Like slaves, they work at seeking out an existence day by day. While they are able to pay their bills and such, they are unable to set aside money for savings. Still, that's the way the system works and most are willing, if not eager, to keep it that way. For example, while the serf works the land under a grant from the lord, all but a little of the produce from that land goes back to the lord as rent. Usually, a little bit of that food is left over to feed the serf and his family (who also work that same land). Some of that food can be sold for money at market, or back to the lord for a fair price, but the lord has charges for everything on his estate that a serf might need or want. There are charges for using the ovens, for using the tools on loan from the lord, for kegs of salt and spices, etc. In short, since the serfs can't afford to buy these things for themselves, they have to pay the lord for them, and because all of their money goes to the lord, they can never afford these things for themselves.
As you can see, we have a vicious cycle of inter-dependance. The serf is free to pack up his family and leave at any time. But since he is usually fairly well treated, has no money of his own, and no place which looks better to go to, why should he? You see, the lord needs his serfs as much as the serfs need their lord. Land is no good unless there's someone to work it, and no one is going to work dangerous land or land owned by a cruel taskmaster. Serfs expect protection from enemies in times of war, a fair amount of freedom (i.e. trips to Market Day, some privacy, enough food, and the like), no uncalled-for beatings or harsh treatment, and not to be taxed to the point of distress and starvation. The lord, in turn, expects good workers that will insure the continuation or growth of his estate. You see, without the money earned from the agricultural products of the serfs, the local manor would collapse quickly from the lack of revenue. Many a castle has fallen from a revolt of the serfs, as labor strikes are not an invention of the twentieth century. The serfs can also see that their labor goes into supporting the lord's army, which in turn protects them. As long as war is a common danger, and could come at any time, the better prepared the army, the safer the peasants. A fair old lord beats an unknown new one any day.
So, what's the down side? A serf's life is simple, dull, and unrewarding. The average peasant has no hope of an improved status in life. Likewise, his children will be born into the same lot that he was, and he can see no bright future for them. Those who do want something better, and are willing to risk everything for it, tend to become adventurers like the player characters. They either die, or they become heroes. Mostly, they die.
built by unclefester | sternzwischen | updated 14-05-29 23:15:25