The World of Ark

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: Fantastic Feudalism

When I say "Fantastic Feudalism" I mean two things: it is great fun AND it is Fantasy Feudalism as well. A few questions should be asked by the DM about their fantasy setting:

1) How do those Knights afford their armor and mounts if they aren't adventurers?

2) Exactly how are the various governments ACTUALLY run in my campaign world?

3) How is the setting's economy affected by the government; and how is the government affected by the economy?

4) Is it easy to allow my players to have an estate of some sort...or even a barony if they desire it?

Those are the four main questions I had going into establishing The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk; but believe it or not, the answers were SOOOO easy after I found only two things.

The first thing I found was an article about changing the AD&D monetary system into something more like our own Western Europe experienced during the Medieval Era. I put up a post about that particular monetary system HERE. If you haven't read it yet (as well as the article I got a great deal of the information from) I encourage you to read that before going even a sentence further!

The second thing I found had absolutely NOTHING to do with AD&D. It is from a fantasy game though, and well worth your time: Harnmaster. Within the Harnmaster game system is a book called HarnManor (you can find HERE at the company site or HERE on Amazon) that gives you all the information you need to allow both you and your players a better look into a feudal society...and particularly the feudal society I'm running for my Glittering Isles campaign. Now, I should say here, I don't expect anyone to run out to grab this particular book, because frankly it isn't always to be found cheap! But if you DO want to get it, I think you will love the experience!

I can summarize briefly here what HarnManor can do to help your AD&D games: it gives a simple village generation system (based on the Feudal Manor system) that not only gives a population (in great detail!) for your various habitations of humanity, but also details easily the money to be made (gross and net) from a feudal manor. The ONLY change that needs to be made to HarnManor to make it fit into the Aerdy Pound/Glittering Isles monetary system is to cut all values of "d" (pennies) in half from the HarnManor supplement. Then it fits smoothly into the system detailed in Todd's Aerday Pound article from Footprints 15 at Dragonsfoot. Yep, that is all you have to do.

Now, for those of you not wanting to buy HarnManor, you will not have as great of a detail as I plan to use, but you can still get a solid feeling for the AD&D Feudal Government I plan to use. Instead of using HarnManor all you need to do is convert the numbers in various places for the DMG (Dungeon Master's Guide), PHB (Player's Handbook), UA (Unearthed Arcana) and the various Monster Books (I, II, Fiend Folio) into the Aerdy Pound monetary system. You will then be able to run a Player Character focused gaming experience just as easily. Most of the conversions are straightforward (X now equals Y); but the treasure tables are a little different. I personally shifted all things "up" one category for my treasure tables: Copper takes Silver's place, Silver takes Gold's place, Electrum becomes more silver, and Gold takes Platinum's place on the charts. What takes Copper's place? More Copper...just roll for copper normally, then convert it to the new monetary system. Pretty straightforward like I said.

For those of you that DO get HarnManor (or already have it?), the paperwork does indeed increase a small amount; but it is worth it. By generating villages (and have literally every settlement on  your map detailed) ahead of time, the work you have to do will be actually less during game play. I know, not everyone has time to devote to this...I understand that completely. However, if you do this instead of binge-watching Daredevil on Netflix then you will be surprised at what you can get done right?! Well, that is what helped me.

Just as an example, lets look at a Manor as generated by HarnManor; not in detail, but in the abstract so that everyone can follow along. I'll use my very primitive map of Mathghamhna as a basis for the idea so you can follow more easily. The Thorp of Mathghamhna is near the city of Widdershin; only 3 miles away in fact. An ancient ruin (that we don't need to detail at this point; but it WILL come up in a future article about Mathghamhna) sits near the tiny village, and in the village are the following things:

1) A fortified tower that holds a half dozen Men-at-Arms and their Captain. Their job is to tax anyone going into the ruin and out...although nobody has ever made it out.

2) There is a Council Storehouse (the Council of Widdershin owns the land here, and so a sizable portion of all crops grown goes to the Council and they are stored here before transport to town.

3) Two Grain Storage barns that hold the grains recently harvested by the peasants; as well as various tubers, apples and etc also grown/found here.

4) A Mercantyler who is part of the Mercantyler's Guild. He is only here because it saves a great deal of time for locals to buy things here instead of going into town (picture the medieval version of the corner market near your house).

5) A Tavern owned by a member of the Tavern Master's Guild. He is the only individual in town allowed to brew ale or beer; though alewives from the peasants families are also allowed to brew for their personal needs as it is better to drink small beer than water in a medieval village...including children.

6) A Shrine (and attendant "holy house") to Berei where a minor cleric of that god is to be found who tends to the needs (both spiritual and medical) of the thorp.

7) A Councilor's Manor. This building is not owned by the man and his family that inhabit the place. They are instead part of the functionary government of the Free Seaholds hired to oversee the interests of the Council of Widdershin. Normally in a feudal society, this would be the home of some minor lord or knight; but in a Republic such as the Free Seaholds many such thorps and villages are now the property of the Council of Widdershin which appoints a minor functionary to take care of things locally.

Last, but most importantly, 17 peasant homes/families. Without the 17 families of Mathghamhna, things just wouldn't get done in the thorp! With an average of 5 members per family, this puts approximately 85 peasants living in the place. Most of these are what are called Villeins; and they owe their lives to the local lord (in this case, the council's representative). Others are called "Cottars" and they have very little land, and instead supplement their meager income and food by doing menial labor around the village; though some probably go into Widdershin to do work as well.

Because the thorp is so close to Widdershin, there is no need for some of the usual things you would find in a feudal manor: no metalworker/smith, no mill and no woodworker...all of these individuals are so near at hand in Widdershin that they are not needed for the daily functioning of the thorp at all. Also, unlike in most medieval settlements, there are no Yeoman at all. A yeoman is an individual who farms land much like a Villein, but instead of owing common labor (shoving shite from the stable, tending the needs of the noble family and etc.) the Yeoman  serves a certain number of days each year in a military capacity. Because the place is garrisoned by Men-at-Arms with loyalty to the Council, there is no call for Yeomen from this village...though in some settlements there probably is such a need so that the Council has a military to call on!

Other functions normally had in a village are: Reeve (who sees to the direction of the village's farming and other needs, essentially the Foreman of the place), Beadle (who is the law enforcer of a village for minor matters, but here overseen by the Men-at-Arms by direction of their Captain) and some few others.

There are many other aspects to the feudal life that can be helpful to know about when running your AD&D or other fantasy games; but there you have a brief summary of what is to be found. There are woodsmen, millers, woodworkers, smiths, innkeepers, and so much more. If you want to read more, without buying HarnManor (which I still encourage you to do) then I suggest you go to your local library, go into the children's section (yes, there are solid books there!) and get any of the "Eyewitness" books such as: medieval life, viking, knight and etc. They are an invaluable resource to me in running my games because of the pictures alone!

I hope you decide to get HarnManor...and remember to cut all values in "d" (or pennies) in half; including the costs and the incomes. I think you will find that it really helps flesh out your fantasy campaign!

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