On The Other Parts of Feudalism

Continuance from here.

Not everyone wants a cushy government job. Working in the feudal system gives you connections, a liege lord who’s looking out for you (or at least for themselves, which ideally looks out for you!), and a bunch of serfs.

There’s three more very medieval-feeling power structures: Guilds, Free Cities and “The Church”.

Historically, these are just things like the potters guild, the stonecutter’s guild, the weaver’s guild. In a fantasy campaign, it probably includes the Guild of Thieves, the Guild of Wizards, the Guild of Assassins. They’re organizations of mutual aid and union bargaining — for them to be interesting, I think they need to be less rigidly stratified than the feudal system. You want a hierarchical guild made of apprentices on the personal sufferance of their masters, use the previous article and run it as a little kingdom of nobles. Ignore those. Conversely, a Guild is a pretty good model for a capitalist egalitarian society, too.

The important facet of a guild as compared to a feudal society is its more democratic decision making process, and lack of single ownership of assets. They’re owned by the guild, and so can’t be disposed of at any single member’s will. But if the guild votes to deploy an asset in one way or another, then that’s that.
Petitioning the guild (such as for access to a held resource or to take action) requires three phases:
1) Petition to be heard
2) Determine price and time in a hearing, which can be repeated after a new petition if you like
3) Pay and execute

Another important aspect of guild membership is that members and their households can have their disagreements resolved in a guild court instead of a feudal one. Certain crimes (felonies: murder, rape, theft, poaching) can’t be, and are crimes against the king. Others are ecclesiastic crimes.

Fixing a petition
A character has a level of investment in the guild: unknown, apprentice, member, master, officer, founder. The player can select whichever level they prefer, and use that role to determine next steps.

Anyone with no relationship with the guild qualifies as an unknown. They are denied use of the guild resources and may have a hard time requesting the guild act as they wish.
Unknowns can generally not engage in any project more than 1,000gp.
Initial Petition Time: d20 days
DC 20: At price
DC 15: Double price
DC 10: Quintuple price
DC <9: Rejection

Becoming an apprentice in a guild represents a sort of associate-membership — a forester for the woodcrafter’s guild, an herbalist for the apothecary council — or a literal apprentice. It requires proficiency in an appropriate tool, and 60 gp or 30 days of downtime per year. Knights generally have enough importance that they come in here as well.
Apprentices can generally not engage in any project more than 1,000gp.
Initial Petition Time: d12 days
DC 20: At cost – 10%
DC 15: At cost
DC 10: Double price
DC 1: Quintuple price
DC <0: Rejection

Member or knight
Becoming a full member of the guild represents dedication and service in the interest of the collective. It requires proficiency in an appropriate tool, 180gp and 90 days of downtime. The days of downtime can be purchased out at 10gp each.
A member can generally not engage in any project more than 2,000gp.
Initial Petition Time: d10 days
DC 20: At cost – 20%
DC 15: At cost – 10%
DC 10: At cost
DC 1: Double price
DC <0: Quintuple price

A master of the guild is a member in good standing who has demonstrated mastery of the craft before a council of the other masters. There are multiple tiers of master: a working equivalent to a rare item (limit of 5,000 gp), very rare items (50,000 gp), or legendary (500,000gp).
Initial Petition Time: d4 days
DC 20: At cost – 30%
DC 15: At cost – 20%
DC 10: At cost – 10%
DC 1: At cost
DC <0: Double price

Officer or noble
Becoming an officer of the guild requires presence as a member but an inordinate donation of time: 360gp and 180 days of service. The days of downtime can be purchased out at 50gp each.
The limit for an officer is 50,000 gp.
Initial Petition Time: d8 days
DC 20: At cost – 30%
DC 15: At cost – 20%
DC 10: At cost – 10%
DC 1: At cost
DC <0: Double price

Founder or royal
One becomes the founder of the guild by purchasing shares in the guild sufficient to cash out the previous founder, and taking over their work. This is a dedicated role, consuming 720gp and 360 days of service each year. Each day of downtime can be purchased out at 100gp each.
The limit for a founder is 500,000 gp.
Initial Petition Time: d6 days
DC 20: At cost – 50%
DC 15: At cost – 30%
DC 10: At cost – 20%
DC 1: At cost – 10%
DC <0: At cost

Free Cities
I just threw this in to have 3 things to list, above. I recommend resolving a free city effectively as a guild — the apprentices are basically citizens, and the petitions represent a campaign to pass some resolution through the Council.

The Church
This is going to be tricky. D&D doesn’t have a strong stance on The Church. Really, it has an antistance, as the presence of a henotheistic base class really puts the thumbscrews on any attempt to model a medieval church. If you worship Corellon, does that imply there’s a Pope of Corellon (and Gruumsh, and Pelor, and Wee Jas, and…), each with their own ecclesiastic structure? Madness.

So there’s a small number of faiths. The old one the druids follow. The quiet one the “village priests” preach. The foreign one by which the kings are advised, and with which there is a shaky relationship. The old AND foreign one which pretty much everyone’s prejudiced against. Each of those has its own hierarchy.

In the church, advancement is determined by learning and service. Sale of titles is generally frowned upon, or possibly a mortal sin, depending.

Acolyte (1st level spells) (other titles: Apprentice, Neophyte)
Uncommon items.
Adept (2nd level spells) (other titles: Zelator)
(no advancement, just another title)
Priest (3rd level spells) (other titles: Magician, Practicus)
Rare items.
Bishop (5th level spells) (other titles: Mage, Adeptus Major)
Very Rare items.
High Priest (7th level spells) (other titles:Adeptus Exemptus)
Legendary Items.
Archbishop (9th level spells) (other titles: Archmage)

Demonstration to a council of the rank above ones masteries of the mysteries is sufficient to attain that rank, and also to petition for items of the indicated rarity, generally in exchange for quests or goods of equivalent value.

Maintenance of ones rank requires service to the organization in mysterious ways: Obedience to the synod of clerics, undertaking quests, taking on students. These requests are generally issued reactively: after buying goods, one will suddenly be returned to the view of one’s masters, the source of those goods. Their demands are not selfish, but they are self directed: any lower-ranked member must take every quest given them or risk excommunication, and every higher-ranked member must justify every rejection they issue lower ranked members to those who are higher ranked. In other words: quests, quests in every direction, in response to trying to engage with the system in the first place.

The relationship between the feudal powers and the church is sometimes rocky. Magical crimes and philosophical crimes are tried in the ecclesiastic court, better specialized to deal with these issues. Members of the church in good standing can often appeal to be tried in a church-based court for any crime except against the crown itself.


About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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