Country Living 4 – People

I love it when people do something that makes me start thinking about social structures in my world. I, sort of, know all of this stuff in advance – but writing it down makes me consider it more fully. In the process of writing this blog, I amended the rules for manufacturing developments slightly, revisited Divine Adepts – and added ‘dog’ as a custom familiar for Divine Adepts dedicated to a nature god. All-in-all, and excellent return.

Commoners

Most of the people in the countryside are commoners. These are people who haven’t had very much going for them, and who haven’t managed to ‘escape’ into one of the other classes – most of the people in the game world are commoners.  They live in a world of barter and copper pieces, where a couple of silver pieces is a good day’s wage – but they are both resourceful and hardy.

In my game commoners get full HP at first level then progress at average HP, and my NPCs have a basic 5 point build.  They don’t get traits, and I have removed Craft and Profession from the class skills list – nor can they take the Skill Specialization feat.  They are the ‘Salt of the Earth’ who provide the labour needed to do … just about anything.

It isn’t all bad :}  Most commoners have a roof over their heads,  clothes to wear, food to eat and aren’t too cold in winter.  They just don’t have any luxuries, or even any particularly nice things.  Like other classes they progress, but few go beyond Level 3.

L1 Commoners are Young Adults –  Probably 14-17 with few skills, no traits and no skill points in Crafts or Professions. They are kids setting out in life – unskilled, as yet, but ready to learn.  These are the guys you can employ for 1sp per day or hold your horse for a couple of coppers.  You will also find them doing the washing up, mucking out the stables or doing similar unskilled jobs.

L2 Commoners are Adults who have learned the basic of their job, and probably work somewhere as a labourer. They get average HP, and have learned one or two craft or Professional skills.  They might also take a trait, from my Commoners Traits list.  These traits represent ‘extra’ training and include some basic military skills, hunting skills, housekeeping skills.   They make up the majority of commoners.

L3 Commoners are well established.  They are the people who run the stronghold, act as foreman on work-gangs or oversee tasks.  They probably make up 30% of commoners in an area and are the backbone of the rural community.

L4 Commoners (and above) are rare – and all have their own character sheets.

This is a fairly standard template for my NPC Commoners :-

Str-11, Con-11, Dex-11, Int-11, Wis-11, Cha-11
Feats= Toughness, Endurance and Great Fortitude
HP 10 (L2, 13) (L3, 16)   (includes 1hp/Level for Favoured Class)
Skills (Includes 1 Skill Point/level for Human)
L1 – Climb, Swim & one at random.
L2 – 2x Profession or Craft & one at random.  (eg Prof:Farmer, Craft:Leather)
L3 – Often just extra points in the same skill areas as before (BUT – sometimes I get inventive)

That probably doesn’t look very useful – however, they can Take Ten on skills where they have spent points.  That puts DC10 tasks comfortably within their skill set – which means farmers can grow the common crops, woodworkers can make basic furniture, smiths can make everyday items, etc.

Those commoners with traits that give weapon proficiency will generally be proficient in one more of Sling, Club, Staff or another free weapon as well – as will any commoners who travel regularly or might find themselves in a tough spot.  Those with ‘Military’ traits will probably own a home-made Reinforced Tunic as Armour.

Clothing is basic – drawstring trouser or skirt, with plain jacket or vest, probably fastened with ties, laces or a simple belt.  Most are made of cheap wool, although some are of leather.  A shirt and breech-clout of a softer material probably finer wool (rarely linen) are prized items and are the only items washed regularly.  Wooden soled clogs and boots (more expensive) are the favoured footwear.  Beanie hats, socks and gloves are probably knitted wool, while cloaks, hoods and other coats might well be made of hessian.  Colours are often muted greys, greens, browns and yellows – all of which can be dyed fairly easily.

Food is basic as well.  Vegetable stew is the staple, perhaps with meat or fish a couple of times a week, while eggs can be hard-boiled and accompany apples or even raw onions.  Herb teas are a common drink –  Nettle Tea is a favourite, because nettles are readily available and can be dried for use through the year.  Hooch, is a weak fruit wine, fermented enough to make sure the water used in the process is safe and disease free.  Small ale serves the same purpose, but grain is harder to come by.  Bread costs money (or at least the grain does), so many commoners eat pease pudding instead.  It is a sort of porridge made from peas,  which solidifies when cold to make a bread substitute.

Inside the house will be some simple furniture – table and benches, a dresser for the pots and crockery, simple bed frames with straw filled mattresses.  Blankets and drapes will be rough wool (perhaps crocheted) or hessian.  There will be a single fireplace for heat and cooking.  Light comes from cheap tallow candles.

This equates to a ★ or ★★ living standard, depending on the status of the individual.  It is a basic existence – but one that provides enough food, shelter and warmth.  For most of the people, most of the time.

Warriors

Every village has some warriors, who are employed by the local lord, to patrol the village and its hinterland.   Villages with a watch tower just have a unit of guards, but larger villages might have scouts and cavalry as well.

Most are level 3 warriors, although their officer may be level 4, and if so probably has a level of Aristocrat, to represent his experience of management, leadership and command.  The officer is usually the magistrate for the area and the Lord’s bailiff, with responsibilities for collecting rents and assessing taxes as well.

The stats for the light troops I use in this role can be found here

Some Troopers live in barracks, while some live in cottages in the village and have the same standard of accommodation as most of the villagers.  However, they are paid in cash and have a slightly better standard of living.  Shoes and clothing is a slightly better quality, blankets are thicker, they have bread instead of pease pudding, meat is served more frequently, and they generally have some coin left over for a night in the tavern.  Not a huge change, but enough to be significant in a rural environment they are comfortably into the ★★ rankings, with some junior officers pushing towards ★★★.

Many troopers come from a similar background as the people they patrol –  and while they don’t get posted to their home village until they have proved themselves elsewhere, they have sympathy with, and understand, the people of the village.  Officers get paid more, have better accommodation and an even better standard of living.  In many cases the Local Officer is the wealthiest and highest ranking person in the village. …. While most officers come from a ‘better’ social class, it is still possible for someone from commoner stock to get promoted to that level.  An officer is the likely to be the only person in the village with a noticeably better standard of living  (★★★) as they are looked after by servants (Military Auxiliaries) almost as if they were a knight or a noble.

This is one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways for a commoner to move up the social ladder.  Lords are always looking out for likely lads (and lasses) to join their forces – the recruit is trained, equipped and paid, regularly, in real money – and it is likely that their offspring will be able to follow them into a similar role in the future.  Many commoners see it as a first step on the social ladder, and if they can make it as an officer … the world is their oyster …

Adepts

Almost all the smaller religious establishments, like those found in villages and hamlets, are overseen by adepts.  Great Shrines, Graveyards and Holy Houses are prevalent in Villages while simple shrines are sometimes found in Hamlets, however, there are exceptions.  Some religious orders develop hamlets that are primarily religious sites so, occasionally, you might run across a hamlet built around a Priory.  While there is normally one main deity in a hex, you can find shrines dedicated to other deities close by. 

The type, and level, of community support will vary according to the deity represented.  Pharasma, for example, concentrates on funerals, but will also help celebrate weddings and namings.  Erastil is more involved with the community, encouraging active participation in all sorts of events from the whole community.  Sarenrae’s priests, concentrate on community health, with advice and their healing skills. It is rare to find other deities’ houses in a rural setting – however, larger defensive buildings, such as a Fort or a Garrison, may well have their own Military Chaplain to support the troops and, perhaps, to help run militia training sessions.

Nearly all rural priests live at about the same standard as their parishioners, although they are normally comfortably into the ★★ rankings, in the same way as warriors are. These rural priests are almost built as Collegiate Adepts and come from a similar background to their flock.  While Rural priests get some of their stipend in cash, they also receive ‘collection plate’ donations in kind (perhaps a rabbit, or a bag of apples) from the local community.

This is another way that Commoners can move up the social ladder, although chances of promotion it is limited.  This is because most religious buildings (from Chapel Upwards) have a Cleric (rather than Adept) in charge.  At best, an adept might hope to become second-in-command at one of these larger establishments.

Of course, some rural religious buildings are home to PC clerics – and then all bets are off. You are unlikely to find many arcane or spontaneous adepts in a rural setting, as most gravitate towards towns and cities.

Experts

Experts are a different kettle of fish.  They are all different and unless you have family connections, it is difficult to become an expert.  Most Experts learn their skills in the family business, although some have parents with enough clout (or cash) to arrange a suitable apprenticeship.

Any business with an Econ value is run by an Expert, so every village and most Hamlets will have a few experts in residence. The farms are managed by expert farmers, the tavern by expert Inn keepers, the mill by an expert miller and even the market has its own expert merchant. In wilderness areas there will be expert hunters, trappers and guides.  While Commoners provide the labour that keep the economy working, Experts are the managers, supervisors and specialists.

Developments with Econ +1 (Tavern, Mill, Craft workshop) are normally run by an Expert-3 with +7 in the main skill that relates to the business. Developments with Econ +2 (Road House, Brewery)are run by an Expert-3 who has Skill Focus and (if appropriate) masterwork tools – which gives +10/12 in their main skill.

Along with the main expert there will be a spouse (probably Commoner-3) and a couple of other experts (possibly an Expert-2 and an Expert-1) who are either children of the ‘master’ or outsiders taken on as assistants.  The development makes work for a number of the local commoners, with a few taken on as permanent labourers, and many others finding part-time work here.

There is probably an apprentice or two as well.  L1 commoners who are learning the basics of the trade- in return for acting as gofers, servants and menial labour.  These apprentices can find themselves doing anything including sweeping the floor, pumping bellows or carrying fence posts.  Some develop as commoner-labourers, a few lucky ones might learn enough to become an expert themselves.

Most experts have the same sort of living standards as Warriors and Divine Adepts, although their exact place in the Village Hierarchy depends on ‘status’ of their developments

Example Hierarchy

Outpost and its hamlets

  1. Cdr Ress
  2. Lt Pickering, Brody (manager of the hopyard)
  3. Garrison Sergeants, Sub-Prior of Pharasma’s Holy House, Market Manager, Innkeeper (Tavern), Farm Manager (Westfarm), Manager of Roths Local Ales (Rothyard).
  4. Warriors, Adepts & Experts
  5. Smallholders and labourers.

Country Living 3 – Villages

Villages

Villages are the centre of rural life.  They act as a hub for smallholdings and hamlets that surround them, providing security and other basic facilities.  A ‘classic’ village has the church, the pub and the local market –  the main source of Security, Faith, Socialising and Trade  for everyone who lives in that hex.  It is the heart of the community.

Outpost, described below, fits that model – the garrison patrols a larger area that most and a lot of troops.  Under my Campaign Rules,  that takes up space so some other facilities are ‘smaller’ than they could be.   However, the better the defence/security the more hamlets it can support – so Outpost can support three hamlets rather than the (more normal) one or two.  As each hamlet is able to support at least one more business, with (perhaps) a local brewery, mill and blacksmith are probably first on the list for Outpost.  With a bit of thought, you can develop a thriving rural community – distributed among the hamlets but centred on the main village.

Then there are the smallholdings.  The various maps of the hex show the small holdings closest to the Village and hamlets, but there are others scattered around the countryside as well.

Example:  Outpost

This isn’t the Outlook of the present, but represents the plans for the Village of Outlook.  There is no Tavern at the moment, and the Holy House is still only a graveyard – however, this is what it could be. It currently has two dependent hamlets, West Farm and Rothyard, and has the potential to add a third.  However, it could be expanded – building a palisade around the village proper would increase its ‘Defence’ to four, which would permit the development of a fourth hamlet.

The Village of Outpost

The Garrison (1) The garrison buildings house three separate units of troopers – Guards to patrol the local area, Scouts who travel further afield, and Light Cavalry who patrol the roads.  Lt Commander Ress is also magistrate for the town and Lord Henry’s bailiff for the area, his assistant Lt Pickering oversees the patrols and day to day running of the garrison.

The Outpost Tavern (2) A simple eating and drinking house provides the village’s only real social space, and is busiest on market days, when more smallholders come in from further afield.  Its main stock-in-trade are local ales and wine, along with simple meals.  You are most likely to see tables of locals playing cards or dice, rather than hear a musician or entertainer.  However, there are occasional entertainers, and the Tavern often allows travellers to sleep on the common room floor for a night or two.

The Market (3) The market is busiest of Market Day (held twice a week) when people fetch in their wares from outlying smallholdings.  On those days you can buy a large range of local produce –  mainly foodstuff,  although there are other locally produced items as well.  There are always a couple of local smallholders with stalls, so you can buy fresh veg most days of the week.  And there are a few enterprising who buy up the left-over stock, and hold it to sell on over the rest of the week.  One trader has taken it a bit further, and buys up minor items to sell on his stall, and you can generally get an eclectic mix of wooden spoons, clay bowls, lengths of home-spun material, simple cloaks, hats, gloves – all sorts of basic accoutrements, available every day of the week.

Pharasma’s Holy House (4) A small religious community run by Broth Amos – who oversee the spiritual needs of the community.  They can offer simple weddings, namings and funerals – and have a small cemetery plot attached to their mission.  Pharasma isn’t big on ceremonies (except for funerals) so weddings tend to be a formalized hand-fasting and ‘namings’ tend to be little more than a recognition of the new villager.  They do, however, keep the villages records of births, marriages and deaths.

Workers’ Cottages (5) Terraced rows of cottages that are little more than a one up, one down – they often house a family of five or six people.  Each of the two rooms is about 20×10 – the ground floor often contains separate spaces for living and working, while the upper room can be partitioned with curtains or screen to give some element of privacy.    Each terrace (about 5 houses) has a couple of privies to service the block.  While not ‘comfortable’ by modern standards, it is often better than they would find in a town or city.

Country Living 2 – Hamlets

Hamlets

A Hamlet is little more than collection of smallholdings that are close to each other – but with something that gives them common goals and sense of community. 

Smallholdings are often built close to larger settlements (Village, Town City) which offer better protection, more work opportunities and a central market to see their goods.  This mean that the smallholdings near the settlement are closer together than those located further away – and that means that the people of the smallholdings have more chance to mix with each other and develop a sense of community. 

Very occasionally this will lead to the smallholders getting together on a communal project that benefits them all mutually – such as a community hall or a shrine (if they all share the same faith).   More often, someone else sees that smallholdings are close together, and sees that there is a ready supply of labour for a ‘country’ business, so starts a local business.  Once a hamlet is established, it can attract more smallholders, and develop into a living thriving community.

Country Businesses make use of whatever resources there are in a region – mostly they are farms of some type, although quarries, fisheries and lumber camps all have a place, if the terrain is right.  If there are suitable mineral resources, it might even be a mining hamlet, although in that case it is often the mine that comes first and the smallholders follow.  There are a few ‘special cases’ where a Lord or a Cleric  builds a hamlet for their own purposes –  much like a mine, the smallholders follow, knowing that there will be work available for them.

Example 1 – West Farm

This is an example of a basic hamlet, just starting out on its development.

There is a farmyard, with a row of cottages for the regular farmworkers.  It is a mixed-economy farm – in other words it grows vegetables, a cash crop (normally cereals) and keeps a few head of livestock for milk, eggs, wool and leather.

There are a couple of smallholdings nearby, and they provide casual and part-time labour to help keep the farm running.  Although they still maintain their normal smallholding practices at the same time, the steady supply of casual work gives them a bit more financial stability.

A win for everyone.

Example 2 – Rothyard

Rothyard started out in much the same way as the farm described earlier, but has grown. 

First it added fields of hops as an extra cash crop, along with the extra buildings needed to process the hops. Then, as more smallholders moved to the area, they added a small brewery making a beer for local consumption and a community hall to help bind the community together.

Now it is a nice, compact, hamlet.  There are a number of permanently employed staff living in cottages, and enough local smallholdings to provide part-time and casual labour when they need it.  However, it has grown as much as it can, and can’t really develop any further without losing its character and status as a hamlet.

Country Living 1 – Smallholdings

A couple of characters in The Stolen land have been building an agricultural rural stronghold – which started me thinking. While very little of this is new, I have spent some time pulling things together, and tweaking them slightly. Expect posts on Hamlets, Villages and the Urban Hinterland at some point 🙂


Smallholding

A single small holding, some distance from the nearest settlement is known as a thorp.  However, they are also the main type of housing found in hamlets and villages, and the most common housing in the hinterlands of towns and cities, as well.  Most of the population are small scale, subsistence, farmers and labourers.

A smallholding is the smallest unit of Country Living, which produces enough for basic living, and  is often a home for one extended family of, perhaps, 10-12 people. A smallholding is often a single room dwellings, perhaps with curtains or screens for privacy that serves as a living room, work room and kitchen – with cooking over a fire (perhaps in a fireplace).  Building materials depend on the environment – wattle and daub, sod/earth, logs – or a combination. There will be a few simple outbuildings, mainly sheds of some type, for tools, storage and animals.

Smallholders use hand tools to cultivate small plots of land, where they  grow common food plants,  and generally have a couple of goats and a few chickens to provide milk, eggs and (occasionally) meat.  There is often a small herb and fruit garden, growing crab apples, green plums and blackberries as well.  A well-established smallholder will have a few more goats, grow different varieties of fruit and may even have a donkey as a pack animal.

Foraging and small game hunting supplement this diet.  Game birds and rabbits might be taken with a sling, fish can be taken with a net and wild foods can be collected locally.  Occasionally a smallholder might have (and be proficient with) a light cross bow, and use that to hunt larger game

Many smallholders also have craft skills, although only at skill +4 or +5, which supplement their income.  They can often make a few coins by making baskets or simple furniture – or even shoeing horses.  These items are either bartered locally, or sold in a local market to make a few coins.

There is always work available in hamlets, villages and urban settings.  Much of it is casual or seasonal work, and there is never enough to go around – but it pays in coins, and they can be used to pay taxes of buy the few items that they can’t make for themselves.  If nothing else, there is often work available maintaining roads, bridges and other infrastructure – the local lord might pay in coins, but will probably take labour in lieu of taxes.

Smallholders work hard and might not be rich –  but they are self-sufficient.  Generally, they can feed themselves, clothe themselves and have a roof over their heads.  There might not be much in the way of luxury, and what they have is often basic, but they stay dry, warm and fed – for most of the year.


Example

Gurford is a smallholding situated at one of the few crossing places on the Gur River.  It consists of three dwelling huts, a work hut and a storage hut.  At night the compound is guarded by two large dogs.

There are a few ‘gardened’ areas around the village – a well tended and maintained radish and cabbage beds as well as wolfberry  and cloudberry  patches.

They make a few coins selling leather and reed baskets.

1 Arvon Fisher  is a fisherman!  He travels in a coracle – uses a net to take shoals of the small fish known as silver grunters, traps for eels and uses rod and line to fish for trout, pike and other larger fish.  The eels are normally smoked to serve as winter rations, while grunters are pickled in their own juices.  Old Arvon is a bit of a loner, he loves being on the water and will happily spend all day alone in his boat.  Since his wife died, a couple of years ago, his daughter (Mila) runs the holding.

2 The Tanners are a young couple and who have a son called Tigan (14).  Ramo Tanner smokes the eels, pickles the grunters and plucks the game, as well as curing hides and skins.  Mila Tanner (Arven’s younger daughter) cooks meals for the family, brews hooch and small beer, preserves the fruit, and patches clothes when needed.  She also oversees the gardening and basketwork.  Tig looks after the goats and helps out with the gardening.

3 Work Hut.  Is really just an open hut that is used as a work space by the family, mainly Ramo.   It is generally filled with food and hide that is being preserved one way or another – smoked eels, pickled grunters, or skins that being cured.

4 Storage, is another empty hut that is used to as a place to store provisions against the winter, however, it can serve as a second working area as well.  Depending on the season, there may be a barrel of pickles radishes, salted cabbage, a basket of dried cloudberries, an urn of wolfberry hooch and root vegetables ready for winter.

5 Besh Hunter is a Male half-orc trapper who married Arven’s older daughter – she died in child birth many years ago.  Besh works the local river banks, mainly for eels and small game, but also brings back reeds for basket making, sale and building maintenance.  His two daughters, Snaga(14) and Ush(15), tend the fruit and vegetable patches – although they sometimes go out on trips with Besh.  The Hunters have two large dogs, one of which stays with each of the girls during the day and guard the compound overnight.

Duelling

Questions from a couple of my players has encouraged me to think about duelling in a bit more depth. My ‘Stolen Lands’ game is heavily based on Paizo’s Kingmaker AP, which introduced the Aldori and their duelling style –  so duelling classes are important to the game.  We haven’t actually had any duels yet, but we are getting close to the point where I think we might – so I need to be prepared.

Styles

There are three duelling styles available to players in my world –

Aldori

Considered by many to be the most effective duelling style it was introduced by Sirian Aldori, the Sword Baron of Rostand. It is a delicate and acrobatic style based on a specialist ‘duelling’ sword and it taught in Brevoy (mainly in Restov and amongst the Khavortorov) and  Mivon by descendants of the original Aldori Swordlords.

There in no formal mention of a Real life equivalent – in my game the Duelling Sword is based  Katana and the fighting styles based in oriental martial arts.  The description of the duelling sword is katana-like and it fits the story given for Sirian Aldori.  He left Rostland in disgrace after he lost a duel, but then came back years later with a new and better style to reclaim his lands – and we know (from the Jade Regent AP)  that there is a path to oriental lands across the crown of the world.

The Duelling Sword is a ‘hand and a half’ weapon, that can be used in either one, or two hands. It is the ability to change grips, that gives the weapon it speeds and flexibility.  When duelling, the Aldori just use a single weapon and no shield.  Sometimes, when they are in combat, they might choose to use a second weapon in their ‘free’ hand, but their Duelling Sword becomes a lot less effective. Many of the  Aldori specialist archetypes, prestige classes, feats and traits become less effective when the Duellist is using a weapon or shield (including buckler) in their free hand.

An Aldori Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with an Aldori Duelling Sword –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Aldori Duellist might just study for proficiency with a Duelling Sword, but to be recognized as a master, and a swordlord, is more difficult.  There are three main routes to becoming a Swordlord.

Swordlord (Fighter Archetype) – the mainstream approach used by the majority of Aldori  families and their troops.   When they achieve level five they are known as a Swordlord Elect (Think Brown Belt).  Level six gains them full Swordlord status  (Think Black belt)

Swordlord (Prestige Class) – The best route for anyone who didn’t follow the Swordlord  archetype – and even some that have.  Qualifying for and achieving a single level of the Swordlord Prestige Class earns you Swordlord Status.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  An unusual way to qualify, but still possible.  Someone trained in a different class, but proficient with an Aldori Duelling Sword, may well be given Swordlord status when they qualify as a duellist.  However, they will have to prove their ability in a duel.

There are many  Feats and Traits are specifically helpful to Aldori Duellists. 

Traditional

A fast and furious fighting and duelling style from Taldan that is based on the Falcata and Buckler – it is also known as Rondolero. The style is common among fighting men across many areas where Taldan settled originally and is seen as a link to the ‘Old Days’.  However, duels are more gladiatorial than in the other styles.  It is taught in Silverhall, Restov and New Stetven.

Its real life equivalent has to be the Rodeleros of 16th century Spain, but with a nod towards the legionary soldiers of the Roman Empire.

A falcata is a fairly heavy slashing sword, an (in the games rules at least) a buckler is a small shield strapped to the arm.  Although you can grasp something in the Buckler hand –  you lose the defensive benefits of the buckler if you do that – and you also lose all the class benefits  that are based on the buckler.

A Traditional  Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a buckler and falcata –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Traditional Duellist might just study for proficiency with a falcate and buckler, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the traditional style.

Buckler Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – the approach chosen by most characters who choose to make a career as a Traditional Duellist.  When they gain Level Six they are known as master Dualists.   

Duellist (Combat Feat) – This feat give a character with basic falcata and buckler skills a boost.  Someone with this feat and, at least, BAB 6 might be awarded Master Duellist status.

Modern

Also known as ‘The Light Blade Style’ in some areas. The rapier is the primary weapon of the Modern Duellist, but the style is flexible enough that it can be used with any light blade.  It doesn’t have the long history of the other two styles, but has been adopted by the aristocracy as a ‘Noble Sport’ and many young nobles get their first taste of swordplay in a duelling area.  Because of this it has become widespread and is available in many places, and is often learned by the middle classes as a way of showing their status.  General seen as the least effective style of Duelling, it tends to be looked down on by hard-core duellists.

Its ‘real life’ equivalent (in this game) is European duelling culture, and the fencing/duelling schools of the 17th and 18th century.

Based on the rapier and light weapons generally, the Modern Style lends itself well to two weapons fighting techniques.  Where a Traditional Duellist uses a Buckler in the off-hand, the  Modern Duellist can use a second weapon, although the Parrying Dagger is the favoured weapon, certainly among nobles and those who ape them.  Note that all the normal rules for two weapon fighting still apply.

A Modern Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a light blade, most often a rapier. However, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic modern Duellist might just be proficient with a rapier, or other light blade, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the modern style.

Learned Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – This is a career path taken mainly by fighters with an aristocratic background, of one sort or another.  It is a good way to improve your status in aristocratic society.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  this is the most common career path for a Modern Master Duellist, as it offers a straightforward route into high level duelling for characters from many classes.  Rogues and Bards are the obvious beneficiaries by any ‘combat’ character will have proficiency with rapiers and light blades, and most other classes can learn proficiency with at least one light blade. It is a common route for NPCs with the Aristocrat NPC class, as it can help them gain and maintain status in Aristocratic Circles.

There are many general feats and traits that will help a Modern Duellist improve their duelling ability.

Types of Duel

All duels follow the Paizo duelling rules – or they are not recognized as proper duels.  However, there are many ways they can be interpreted.

Sparring Duels

Duels intended for practice.  These are part of the everyday world of the duellist, and they help the duellist improve and learn better duelling techniques. They generally take place in a duelling salon somewhere in a duelling or sword school. They are fought to the first blood – and there is always a cleric or medic standing by.  Participants used matched weapons and rarely use armour – duelling salons normally provide a selection of weapons for participants to use.  More skilled duellist may use masterwork weapons –  however, both participants will use weapons of the same quality.

Formal Duel

Again, these may take place in a Duelling Salon although they may also happen under the watchful eye of a number of ‘seconds’.  While each participant supplies a second to support them – many duels are watched by a number of independent seconds, who can act as legal witnesses if the outcome of the duel is called into question.  Equipment is agreed between the participants, but should be equal or equivalent.  Formal duels can be fought to First Blood, Unconscious, or Death. 

In my games – first blood requires a medic present, unconscious requires the presence of a priest capable of raise dead or the equivalent, although ‘To the Death’ does not require any medical support available.  No formal duel can be started without the specific OOC consent of both players.

Combat Duel

If a Duel is called, and accepted, in a combat situation – weapons, armour and external assistance are only controlled by the ‘honour’ of the participants.  If an opponent cheats – so be it.

Property Law

You wait patiently for a post, and then suddenly two come along almost at the same time. However, one thing leads to another – and it was the last post on settlements that made me think about property. While much of this post could be generally useful – all the examples come directly from the game I run at RPoL. In part that is because I am in the middle of developing a new element for my house campaign rules.

Land Ownership

This section refers to large tracts of land that are owned by Kings, Nobles and Aristocrats.  This ownership is heritable, and can be passed down from generation to generation.

Alloidal – this is the absolute land ownership enjoyed by absolute monarchs.  The land is held by the grace of The Gods and The Sun – or by conquest.   There is no higher authority who can make laws or take the land away from its ruler, except by conquest.

  • This is how Coral the Conqueror held Brevoy.
  • Before Brevoy existed – Lord Surtova,  Lord Olovsky and Sword-Baron Aldori held their land Alloidally. 

Palatine – Palatine states are one stage down from Alloidal states – the ruler owns the land but has a responsibility to a higher authority.  Palatine states are generally required to follow military  policy set by their overlord, use a national currency and pay Simple Tax.  Beyond that, they are free to rule their land as they see fit – they decide the laws, run the courts, tax their people, award titles and make any other decisions they want to.

  • Examples – House Lodkova’s lands.

Manorial – Manors are land granted by a higher ranking authority.  The owner can charge taxes and rent, sell or lease land and properties as they see fit. However, they are required to follow military policy set by their higher ranking authority, use a national currency, pay Simple Tax and follow all the laws of the land.   Manors are a single hex – but an individual may own more than one manor, which combine to create an Honour.

  • Examples of manors include – Ringbridge, Oston, Silverton.
  • Examples of honours include – the leMaistre estate (Newgate, Eastgate, Westgate) and the Vallani estate (Feyfalls, Whiterun)

Tribal Ownership – land owned by a particular tribe and the land is used for their communal benefit.  There might be a chief, and there is probably an elite – but the land belongs to the tribe.  There may well be a treaty arrangement between a tribe and the surrounding manor.

  • This fits the Sootscale Enclave (Kobolds) in Midmarch.

Property Ownership

This section applies to individual properties, rather than to parcels of land. However, It can also include livestock such as farm animals, mule trains etc, wagons, ships, boats and personal property such as weapons and armour.

Freehold – The owner has the right to sell or lease the property onwards but must pay Ordinary Taxes to their higher authority.  The authority normally retains the right to take it back into ownership if the property is abandoned or unused.  This type of ownership is normally reserved for the aristocracy and can be passed down through the generations.

  • Examples include – Henry/Adoven’s estates in Tusk –  and every other building listed in the spreadsheets. 

Leasehold – The owner buys the right to build and use a property for a limited amount of time (often 100 years).  For that time the owner has all the same rights of a freeholder.  However, the property must be returned to the authority at the end of the lease or a new fee paid for an extension. Many buildings in towns and cities are leasehold and are often ‘owned’ by low ranking aristocrats, or NPC craftsmen. They are not recorded in the financial spreadsheets and don’t affect their town’s balance/stats in any way.

  • Examples include – Many of the tenement buildings in Tusk are leased by House Hananki and Lily Teskertin,  who are junior members of the Tusk Aristocracy.  They are then rented out to commoners and other NPCs alike.

Copyhold – most commonly found in the country side, Copyhold is a way for commoners to own property.  Normally this comes in the form of a small piece of land that can be used as a small holding, in return for a fixed service.  That might, for example,  be a responsibility to maintain and repair a section of road.  So long as that obligation is met, the Copyhold remains valid and the commoner holds onto their land.  It can be sold, or passed on to the  next generation –  although that must be approved by the local lord / authority.

  • Examples include –  most of the smallholdings in rural Midmarch.

Owners

There are many ways that a property’s owner can be defined – here are some examples.  These  types of ownership apply to  Letters Patent and can be a signatory of a contract.

Personal – Cass Mordane owns land at Silverton (with Manorial Rights) as well as a Hotel and a Tavern (both freehold property).

Family – DELEM trading is the property of the leMaistre family.  It owns freehold property in Midmarch and across the southeast of Brevoy.

Joint – WSM is jointly owned by Domitius Solanus and Kendrick Winters.  It also works well for established adventuring parties and mercenary companies.

Charity – The Three Ladies School was set up to be self-funding and self-supporting.

Administrative – The Governor of Midmarch own a small estate that provides services to Midmarch.  Tusk Council owns a number of buildings in the city.

Communal – some properties are built and owned by the whole community,

Letters Patent

Letters patent are a way for a ruler to assign titles, land or a privilege to people, groups or families.  In many cases they can be granted by a representative on behalf of their ruler.

Patents of Rights – A Patent of Rights is a document that confers a specific right on an individual, often as a reward, or as payment for a service.  Patents of Rights are heritable and can be passed on to succeeding generations.

  • Examples Include Marik’s exclusive right to negotiate business with the Sootscale Kobolds.

Land Patents – Patents of Palatine land ownership must be signed and delivered by a ruler.  Patents of Manorial land ownership are often signed and issued by the ruler’s representatives.  Other types of land or property ownership do not need a Patent, just a contract with the Local Lord –  as they do not confer any special rights.

Patents of Nobility – The document that confers a title on an individual.  Peerage Titles (such as Duke or Count) are only conferred by Kings.  Kings, Dukes and Princes can all appoint Barons.  Lord and Lord-Dominus titles are often issued by the king’s representatives against given criteria.  In Midmarch the Governor can award the title of Lord-Dominus and can recommend the title of Lord – according to The Military Policy.  Patents of Nobility are heritable, but normally contain a clause that links them to the manors that triggered the ennoblement.  (Those manors / resources are inherited alongside the title – other properties may be left to other hiers)

The Terms

In Midmarch, Lord Henry LeMaistre, Governor of Midmarch is the ‘overlord’.

Simple Tax –  In Midmarch,  Simple Taxes are paid to the Governor to support provincial running costs. They are the fee you pay to ‘buy’ the land from Henry the Governor and the income from any roads that pass through your lands.

Ordinary Tax – in Midmarch Standard Tax is set at 29% – and is calculated and paid automatically (by your business managers) within the Campaign Rules.  It goes to fund and support the settlement the building is in.

Military Policy – Different levels of Noble title are awarded to those who provide different levels of military support to the state/province when required by the Overlord\Governor.  (Lord Dominus = 5 defence points, Lord = 10dp, Baron 15dp)

A quiet month …

Wow.  That has been an interesting month.  A cold followed by a bit of a cough (no, not coronavirus) slowed me down, and a whole series of other bits and pieces as well.  My wife is preparing to start a new job, so we have had all the up and downs of interviews and preparing to leave a long-term employer.  The government have added yet more paperwork for the training providers I work for (Part Time) and that inevitably gets pushed down to me.  However, this is just  …

There was a rant here that I took out  J  But you get the idea!

It has, on the other hand, been a quiet month on the game front.  I spent a few days thinking about building the Rules Website that I spoke about in the last post.  I even went as far as creating a game and a Wiki at RPoL so that I could think about structures and start putting some content together.  It didn’t go well, as I soon realized that I wanted to do a number of different things.

  1. I want to include the rules changes I have used (or have considered) to make my D20 games work faster, or more easily, on RPoL.  Anything that delays a player posting holds the game up.  Effects that run for more than one round, may need tracking over weeks of real time.  There are lots of little tweaks.  (Note:  I run slow games with a once-a-week post rate)
  2. I want the site to only contain ‘Core’ rules, but I also want it to be usable for both Pathfinder and 3.0/3.5e.  So whose core rules?  I suspect that this is not an insurmountable problem – but it is one that I haven’t thought about yet.
  3. I started putting my own tweaks in.  For example, Gnomes haven’t had a strong ‘persona’ across the game’s history, and every new version /publisher that comes along chops them about a bit more. Because of this, Gnomes don’t really feature in games worlds I write, and I found myself writing an article justifying why I wasn’t going to include them as a PC class on the website.  Now this is something I do want to do for my games world site –  but I don’t know that I want to mix the two up together.

So that project has been put on hold and sent back for more consideration.  One day I will learn to separate the three things – either that or I’ll just publish a whole new games system with an integral world …   Well, a man can dream :}

However, there have been some real positives this month.  We recently finished the Kingdom Round and I promised the players that I would start up a couple of pure RP threads for them to play around in.  These are ‘Fuzzy Time’ threads that run alongside the adventure threads.  The PCs are still out adventuring, slaying monsters and exploring deserted strongholds – but they are also doing social / RP things that are outside the normal timeline.  I monitor ‘Fuzzy’ threads, to make sure that they  don’t cross over with the ‘Adventure’ threads, but the players, generally, understand the concept and I don’t have to interfere all that often.  It has  worked really well as a way of letting players develop their characters, without interrupting play.

One thread took a group of  PCs into Restov, where they have been meeting up with their families, shopping and politicking.  That particular group gave been exploring their backstories and (in some cases) forging strong links and relationships between their characters.  A second group took a boat south to explore Jovvox  (Yeah!  Gnomes.  But this is Paizo’s game world, rather than mine) and Mivon.  So far we have got to Jovvox, and we are about to go and have dinner with a gnome merchant.  There are others who have been in the woods trying to catch a thylacine.   They have all been great fun to watch, and they have given me (and the players) an opportunity to understand the characters better.  And the ‘Boat Trip’ thread gave me the opportunity to wheel out one of my favourite NPCs – Helga! 

Helga first appeared in my Kingmaker table-top game, when I needed someone who knew their way about boats and Mivon.  As she was going to be a recurring NPC, she had to have a character sheet of her own, and that meant I could be a  bit more flexible within my own NPC guidelines.  Helga is a Half-Orc commoner, who grew up on the Mivon dockside and finished up working on the docks and as a sailor in The River Kingdoms.  And as everyone knows, River Kingdom sailors are not far short of Pirates ….

Helga is now L5 and has some nice gear for a commoner – including hand-me-down magic items passed on to her from her previous employers. She has a very low charisma, negative mods for Diplomacy and Bluff –  but a decent Intimidate modifier.  As a Ship’s captain she barks at her crew, threatens them –  but is always there alongside them with her Masterwork greataxe (or her Brass Knuckles) if ever they are in trouble.  Her Str and Dex  are high enough that she doesn’t get pushed around by the everyday folks of a city.

But she is great fun to play.  She is never very diplomatic in what she says to her bosses, and tends to tell things as she sees them, rather than prettying them up.  And then she shouts at her crew, and (potentially) anyone else she  is lower down the pecking order than she is.

I like playing Helga!

Troop Types

Posts and messages between a couple of my combat oriented characters, discussing what they could do with troops, has made me start thinking about troop types again.  While my basic troop types work  for my kingdom system, they don’t leave the PCs with a lot of ‘flavouring’  when it comes to RP posts or customizing their own troops.  So now I want to find a middle way, something that will works with the mass combat system I use – and something that allows PCs to customize and tweak things in ways that meet their RP needs.

Mind you, any rules that allow reskinning of troops will be an ‘Optional Extra’. It is important that the basic system in’t any more complicated that at present, so that less combat oriented players (or characters) aren’t disenfranchised.

My mass combat rules are based on mythological Celtic warfare models – the armies clash in the background while the heroes fight it out between themselves.  If the heroes win their particular fights, then their army gets a big psychological boost and the enemy is liable to rout.

There are reasons for this:-

  • I can use Defence Points to define the size and ability of an army and build the background combat around a D20 roll using army size as a modifier.
  • I don’t have to try to run a Minis-type wargame in an online forum.  A decent RL wargame can take hours to play out, online it would take forever.
  • The standard pathfinder Mass Combat rules are almost as complicated as a mini-figs game – and needs quite a lot of work to manage each round.  It becomes a focus to the game, rather than a background element.
  • A wargame style battle is only relevant to the one or two military character who have an army to command. Every PC can be involved in the ‘heroes’ part of the battle.
  • Not really an advantage,   but just about every ‘story’ medium uses the same model.   Most good war films concentrate of a selected group of characters, while all hell breaks loose around them. The same is true for most books set during a war.

The reason this matters is that Defence Points are one of the key values that help define a settlement, or personal estate, in my Kingdom building rules.  That means I have to understand the effects of a whole range of different troop types have within that system – and (because I like to make things a challenge for my PCs) I want to work out how I can fit that into the development side of those rules.

The system I have used so far is loosely based on the CR value of the troops involved, and uses the ‘Unit of light Foot’ as a measurement.  It makes a unit of Veteran Infantry or Light Cavalry equal to two units of Light Foot and one unit of Heavy Cavalry equals three units of light foot.  It is fairly rough and ready and doesn’t deal with any other troop types.  But how to refine it?

My basic Light Infantry NPC is Cr2, which means a unit of 10 of them, according to the encounter tables, counts as CR8 – however that feels a bit high to me.  I don’t think they would prove much of a challenge to a party of four PCs at L8  –  L5 or L6 maybe.  I can see I am going to get into ‘best judgement territory’ already …    …   and this is getting difficult!  I have played with a number of different concepts and formulae –  and I can’t find one that makes sense across a range and works consistently.  If I tweak a formula to make it fit in one place –  it makes it silly somewhere else!  There isn’t even a consistent ‘Best Judgement’.   

So a change of tack, and I found  that, at low levels, the formula [(20/CR) Rounded up] produces the same CR as ten CR2 light infantry.  And ten CR2 Light Infantry makes up one defence point.  That means that I can allow PCs to recruit any sort of troops, within the rules, in 1 Defence Point Units.

So now, one Defence Point can buy

  • A unit of Ten Light Infantry (CR2)
  • A unit of Seven Veterans  (CR3)
  • A unit of Five Light cavalry (CR4)
  • A unit of Four Heavy Cavalry (CR5)

And the unit numbers are the same for any other troop at the same CR.


House rules to support the extra flexibility.

  • Troops must be intelligent humanoids found within the civilised area, which pretty much means core races.  They will be warriors and cannot exceed L4.
  • Mounts must be Int 2, available in the area(*) and trainable.  Lower Int animals can’t learn enough tricks and higher Int mounts are too independent to serve a cavalry unit.    That doesn’t stop PCs coming to an arrangement with higher Int creatures to act as a personal mount.
  • Creatures trained for Combat Riding add +1 to their CR value (for  purposes of working out Defence Point values for troops) 

(*) You can’t just go out and order half-a-dozen trained hippogriff (for example) through a mail order catalogue, so you need to establish a breeding and training programme for them.  But before you can do that you have to gather some Hippogriff to start your programme.  Etc, etc.


The next job is for me to go away and rewrite all of my standard troops and unit types to match the new rules.  After that I will be able to tweak the buildings in Kingdom rules so that PCs can skin them for different troop types and RP scenarios.

Winterfest

Midwinter celebrations, based around the time of the winter solstice, have been going on forever – well for a very long time, at least. Now midwinter is dominated by Christmas, but many old and ancient traditions still exist, incorporated into our modern celebrations. This is the time when the days are darkest, the wind is coldest, times when farmers can’t really work on their land – and people stay indoors a lot. A time when people need cheering up and reminding that things WILL get better.

These are some of the motifs that I use for Winterfest, the midwinter feast and celebration, in my game worlds.  They are fairly general, but give a feel for the modern Holiday Season, hopefully without treading on anyone’s religious beliefs.

Greenery

Decorating the house with greenery goes back a long way.  Holly, Ivy, Fir Trees and European Mistletoe are evergreen, and are examples of the few green plants that can be found across Europe in the deep midwinter. They were brought inside the home as a reminder that the days were getting longer, the year would be ‘reborn’ and the growing times were coming. In medieval times there are records of wealthy people using bay leaves and other ‘exotic’ greenery to decorate their houses

Gift Giving

Gift giving in midwinter goes back to Roman times and Odin, the king of the Norse Gods, was said to ride though the sky (as part of a hunting party) distributing gifts. St Nicolas is a late-comer to the gift giving tradition. It might not be Stockings by the Fireplace, but small interpersonal gifts were (supposedly) common – and there are records of Kings and rulers handing out significant gifts. The downside is, that recipients were expected to respond with a gift fit for a king ….

New Year

New Year is a bit of a strange one. The Romans celebrated it in the spring, others at midwinter. I can see logic in both – by spring you can clearly see that the new year is up and running. However, in the north, you can often see snow drops and other early flowers pushing through the cold, hard winter ground to brighten the world. For me, the winter solstice works best – days start to get longer, there is a bit more sun and the first plants are coming into leaf and bloom. For me, that is the start of the New Year.

Mince Pies

Well, not just mince pies, but just about every RL area has its own special mid-winter treats and eating rituals – many based around preserved fruits. Many fruits and vegetables are harvested in the autumn (or fall) and set aside for winter. Many veggies last well through the cold months and don’t need very much special preparation – but fruit tends to go off much more quickly. So they are dried or used to make jams and pickles – which are eaten throughout the winter. Normally, they are used slowly and sparingly, so that they last for the whole of the winter – but Winterfest is a time of feasting and celebration – so we need sweet treats to make it special. And the easy motif for me to use is a Mince Pie full of sweet rich flavours. Note: Mince pies originally had meat in them – but I tend to think of them as the more modern vegetarian version.

Mulled Wine

Basically, warmed wine mixed with spices and herbs. It works equally well with ale or cider which are the rural or ‘Country’ equivalent. Originally made by heating a poker in the fire and then using the red-hot poker to ‘scald’ the wine and heat it up. In makes a warming drink all the way through the winter season – and is particularly prevalent at parties!

In Game

So if you get invited to a Winterfest party in my games world, you have a rough idea of what to expect.

Businesses in RPGs.

This week, I have been thinking about businesses that I have run in FRP world, and how they have evolved.  I was looking for some old (RL) finance files and came across the Role Play stuff at the same time.

The first FRP business that I have on record is the Far Flung Trading Company (or FFTC as it became known) with a spreadsheet from 1998.  FFTC came from a table-top game where the characters captured a ship and wanted to keep it, rather than sell it.  We were playing in the Al Qadim setting, which contains some basic rules for businesses run by the Merchant-Rogue class, so we developed a trading organization based on those rules.  It stayed with us for a long time.  Characters died and shares were distributed according to wills and new characters spent good money to buy into the company.  It never really made any money for the characters, but it gave the group a focus.  Even when the playing group started to break up, when given a choice, players chose for their characters to retire into something FFTC related, and many of them went on to captain ships or become master of a merchant caravan.

FFTC has stayed with me ever since.  It provided the local shipping when I started my first on-line game, it has appeared in a Traveller universe that I ran and now it is the main trade outlet in a NWN world that I am building.  It always makes me smile.

Next was the Kassen Kompany, which runs from about 2009.  I was playing in a local Pathfinder game, where the DM had pulled a number of modules from different APs together, we had just taken down the evil guild running Falcon’s Hollow and I managed to blag the local barge shipping business as part of our rewards.  Again it finished up with trade ships, after all they are easy and give the party transport options.  However, we also finished up owning a hippogriff breeding (and training) programme and a library for all the books that we collected while we were out adventuring. It expanded to include a Sword School, quarrying business and rented accommodation – all in one village right on the edge of the civilized area. Again, it gave us a party focus, with characters dropping in and out or investing in personal projects – but all under the Kassen Kompany banner. 

FFTC was focussed on trade and was little more than a glorified Merchant House although one that worked well for the party – perhaps that was my fault because (as DM) I didn’t give the characters options to move into other areas.  Kassen Komany was different, trade and ships were there, of course, but we diversified into so many other areas.   This time around, I was a player looking for opportunities in another DM’s world – and I had a couple of willing accomplices.

Then there was Jahi’s Magic Store in about 2015.  I had joined a pathfinder game at RPoL (gone now) where the DM had allowed players to build NPC businesses (with secondary characters) using the Down Time rules.   So I set up a low level Magic Shop using an Adept as the main character.  That all went interestingly pear-shaped, quite quickly!   Adepts make clerical scrolls, and have a weird spell list – which means almost no PC classes can use their scrolls.  So quickly recruit a wizard as an assistant, and then a witch, because they can get Brew Potion at L1 ….  and the shop became a bit more useful.  However, as the shop grew, so did the book keeping.  Keeping track of the business became quite time-consuming and turned into a chore.  At the same time, my PC character (in partnership with his siblings) bought an Inn, that was easy to run and developed into a minor RP focus for a number of characters.  The moral of that story – keep it simple!


Which brings me to the rules I use in my game at the moment.  Paizo’s attempts at Kingdom Building and Down Time businesses were brave and exciting – but they didn’t really come off.  Both rule sets were complex, times consuming and intrusive, and they didn’t fit together very well – you try doing a cost analysis across the two sets of rules.  However, I wanted something that offered that sort of RP opportunity to my players – so I combined the two and simplified them.  However, rather than treating the m as two separate systems, I have rolled them into one – but all very much ‘Standing on the Shoulders’ of those who have gone before.

There is a fairly simple core mechanic that calculates income and allows businesses to grow, but which discourages characters from cashing their businesses in.  You can build Noble estates (which can be turned into Kingdoms), businesses or organizations.  A Cleric can build their own churches and religious orders, Merchant Houses can flourish and you can even set up charitable or community organizations.  The complexity varies, most things are easy to run –  but Merchant Houses and Noble Estates need planning, thought and some effort.

Most importantly, growth depends on RP between characters, if you want to build a new shop, you need to negotiate with the land owner.  All very simple and straightforward –  BUT it encourages conversations between characters, and that is the basis of Role Playing 🙂

The rules are still being developed – and they are growing all the time as player think of new ways to use the rules. You can find the current rules set here although a newer, streamlined, system is under development here.