Societal Culture

Over the last little while, I have continued to think about Dwarves and their holdings, but that made me think about cultures, overall.  These are my thoughts.  The example below is for a LG community, because that is what is most relevant to me at the moment.  As always, comments are welcome.  You are also welcome to have a go at designing your own alignment based culture for a holding – and posting the outcome here.

Overview

Each town, city or stronghold will have its own ‘culture’ created by its management, governance and structure, based on the overall alignment of the town’s rulers and major characters.  The ‘average’ alignment of the citizens (mainly NPC classes) will be Neutral,  as they try to keep their heads down and go about their daily life.  That doesn’t mean that a LG city won’t have thieves, murderers, conmen (etc) just that the majority, or the leaders in the case of guilds, will have PC classes and count as major characters.  Townsfolk will follow the example of their leaders (in some cases, just to survive) – while those with different alignment tendencies will be trying to keep their heads down.

So what are the distinctive indicators of a town’s alignment …

Law – Chaos

Lawful – 

  • Government – A cohesive central government where everyone works together with the same (or similar) sets of ideals.  It might be a Lord,  a council or some other structure.
  • Business – Businesses are regulated, and there may be guilds controlling who can (and can’t) work or trade in the town.
  • Social Structure – People know their place and how to behave.  That doesn’t mean there is no social mobility – you just have to follow the rules and do well, then you will rise up the social pyramid. Not following the rules, means you slide down the pyramid instead.
  • Laws and Punishments – are well established, the population understand the laws and punishments are consistent.

Neutral –

  • Government – possibly a council (or something similar) where different philosophies are represented, or individual local rulers, who all have a similar philosophy.  Somehow, they find a compromise solution that they can all live with.
  • Business – There are business regulations and standards, although they  may be skimpy and might not apply to every business. Caveat Emptor.
  • Social Structure – Social standing is fairly clear –  but there are a number of different ways to progress –  not all of them approved of, and some might even be fairly unsavoury.
  • Laws and Punishments – are written down, but are fairly weak with loopholes and ‘get out’ clauses.  Punishments are defined, but how they are interpreted depends on the judge/ magistrate/ guardsman.

Chaotic –

  • Government – There isn’t a strong central structure, and different areas of the town might be claimed by local leaders with different philosophies.  There will probably  be hidden leaders and secret societies (that are influential), or the town might have a madman in charge.
  • Business – Anyone can set up a business and start trading.    Buy and shop very carefully, you probably won’t have any legal comeback.
  • Social Structure – There is one, but as there is an ebb and flow between the leaders,  it is difficult to know exactly where you stand.  Most commoners try to keep their heads down, stay polite and keep out of trouble.
  • Laws and Punishments – are not clear.  What is a crime one week, might be acceptable behaviour the next – and the punishment will change, depending on who administers it.  There might well be a lot of ‘Street Justice’.

Good – Evil

Good – 

  • Government – The town operates in ways that support the whole community.  There are good public facilities  (wells, town dump, public baths) and support structures (hospital, alms houses, schools) for those who need them.
  • Social Structure – Residents are expected to be supportive of their neighbours (although some element of competition is good) and those who rise up the social pyramid are generally successful financial and have a strong social conscience.
  • Laws and Punishments – are proportionate, and probably not lethal.  They may, however, include exile, social or business restrictions, jail time and (in the most extreme circumstances) judicial execution.

Neutral –

  • Government – The laws don’t really benefit any particular group – but nor are ant groups disadvantaged either.  There are some public facilities, but they aren’t extensive or comprehensive.
  • Social Structure – Social standing is fairly clear –  but there are a number of different ways to progress –  not all of them approved of, and some might even be fairly unsavoury.
  • Laws and Punishments – are written down, and fairly consistent –  but not comprehensive.  The loopholes and get-out clauses often favour those who can afford a good lawyer or have contacts – but overall it works and is reasonably fair.

Evil –

  • Government – is there to benefit the people in-power, with little or no regard for the general population.  Very few public facilities
  • Social Structure – Climb the social ladder by being strong and powerful.  But watch out, there is always someone else that wants your place.
  • Laws and Punishments – Laws and punishments suit the rulers,  and they will probably be extreme.  Order is often maintained through fear. Punishments always strengthen the rulers –  confiscation of property and money, slavery, death of a rival etc etc.

Example

Startens Edge (LG)

A small mining town on the edges of civilisation.

Small Town – Population 240  Note: Population is smaller than normal under my Campaign rules as, there are no smallholdings or settlements outside the town wall.

Council: Sir Rodri Trevin (Paladin(Iomedae)-5, LG) ;  Dolmir Hafgrey (Dwarf Mine Overseer, Expert-4, LG);  Whitlock Rider  (Cleric(Erastil)-4, LG)

The town is made up of three distinct groups.  Dwarf Miners, Human and Halfling Townsfolk and the Starten Mission House.

The Key Players

The Mission House – Some time ago, this region was attacked a group of Orcs, who had summoned a demon to their aid.  A Paladin of Iomedae, and her followers, dealt with that incursion, and a small church – which became known as The Mission House – was built here to commemorate that event.  The church still stands and knights from the church still patrol the area, and even ride guard on the trade caravans that carry goods back and forth to the local market town. It isn’t a high-status mission, and the staff that are sent here are among the greatest of Iomedae’s servants.  That said, there is at least one Paladin and a couple of fighters stationed here, the rest are NPC classes –  but they are still a force to be reckoned with.  (Watchtower + shrine – size 1)

The Starten Mine – The mine is owned and managed by a group of Dwarves led  by Dolmur Hafgrey, the mine overseer.  The mine produces copper and tin, which is smelted on-site to produce ingots.   The primary ore is malachite, and there are occasional chunks that are pure enough to be sent for use as gemstones – although most is low grade and smelted.  It is the town’s most important economic commodity. Some bronze (A copper/tin alloy) is produced, to be used locally.   (Campaign rules – Standard Mine, size 1)

Elk Hall –dedicated to Erastil, the chosen deity of the local population, Elk Hall acts as both a chapel and a community meeting hall.  In between meetings it is used to host communal working sessions, such as a copper school, sewing bees, bulk jam making sessions or group basketwork. (Campaign rules – Holy House, size 1)

The Rest of the Economy

There are a few other Businesses in the town.

  • The White Stag Tavern  (Campaign rules – Tavern, size 1)
  • The Smithy –  working iron, bronze and copper. (Campaign rules – Craft Workshop, size 1)
  • The Tannery – preparing hides and skins for market. (Campaign rules – Craft Workshop, size 1)
  • Starten Mulers – carrying goods from Startens Edge to the big town (Campaign rules – Serai, size 1).
  • Mulers Market –  where all sorts of local goods are traded. (Campaign rules – Local Market, size 1)

The rest of the population are hunters, trappers and general countryfolk.  Between them, they have most craft skills (at a low level).  You can get food, baskets, rugs, clothes, household utensils and even basic furniture at the market –  along with simple weapons and leather armours. Rather than grow crops in fields (which are subject to raiding) the residents tend the local plants to make them more productive, keep goats for milk and cheese, and collect a good supply of fruit, nuts and berries to supplement their diet.

The primary export is copper and tin ingots from the mine – but that is supplemented by leather, furs and a few malachite gemstones.  The main imports are grains, vegetables, and ale.

Defence

The town has a ditch and palisade wall, which makes it an unattractive proposition for raiding – especially when it is protected by the soldiers from the mission, supplemented by a lot of experienced hunters who can put up an impressive flight of arrows.   The town has a communal stock of bronze tipped arrows, crossbow bolts, darts and javelins ready to supply defenders in times of need. 

Alignment Effects

Good

For a small town, Starten’s Edge has good public services. There are …

  • Copper School (run by the priests of Erastil)
  • Public Baths
  • Communal Animal Pens (to keep the goats safe overnight)
  • Communal Smoke House to help preserve meat for winter.
  • Dump
  • Well

The priests of Erastil are the first line of Law Enforcement, using persuasion, peer pressure and religious philosophy to keep people in line, but Iomedae’s guards will step in when there are regular transgressions.  At worst, a really persistent (or serious) offender will be escorted to the nearest large town for formal court hearings.

Lawful

There are a number of local laws in place.

  • No one is allowed to live outside the walls.
  • Every citizen must attend ‘Raid Drill’ every six months – where a community strategy, in case of a serious raid, is practised.  This is normally followed by a ‘Town Social’ where everyone comes together to eat, drink and socialize (often with dancing and other entertainment)
  • Every adult must have attended   Weapon Skills training, which is provided free of charge by Iomedae’s Mission.  For most people, this just involves learning how to use a club proficiently.   However, those who want  to take extra training can do so, and some residents learn the weapon and armour feats that they need to progress to Warrior or Expert’ at the hands of the Mission’s instructors.
  • Citizens who are skilled in using weapons and armour (Warriors & Experts), must serve in the local Militia and attend weapons practice and military training.  This isn’t too onerous, and while sessions are held every week, experienced militia members are not expected to attend all of them.  This covers most of the hunter/trappers, most of the teamsters from the serai and a few of the Dwarves.  Once the character has gained Profession:Soldier+1 (Normally via the Militia feat) they are classed as ‘Experienced’ and only need to attend monthly.
Posted in NPCs, Role Playing Aids, World Building.

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