Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feudalism in GURPS and Random knight Generator

Feudalism is very tricky and difficult to reflect in RPG system. It is not as much “ranks” of status but more about oaths of duty. A powerful lord may have a title to give a name to his status, but it is the Oaths of loyalty that truly define where his place is in the world.

In GURPS terms, a knight swears oaths (Duty B133) to a Lord (Patron B72), who in return provides the character with assets (Wealth: Wealthy B25), station and privileges (Status 2: Knight, B28).

As the Character advances, he acquires more holdings (+20 to +50% incremental increase of wealth) and vassals (Allies) of his own. Achievements and Holdings of great significance would naturally translate to more privileges and station (Status).

These vassals are acquired in the same manner, the Character was acquired by his Patron: through the pledge of duties and rents to be rendered in return for the character's own duties, grant of rights, and holdings to the vassal. Typically these estates are acquired displacing defeated, fallen, disgraced, or obsolete retainers.

Yeomen Vassals, who can serve as hand-to-hand combatants or archers, would gain estates (Wealth: Average), rights and privileges (Status 0: Yeoman) as his sworn man. These is both a reward, a hiring fee, and basic capital for maintenance. In return, this retainer mus render armed assistance and contribute some rents.

Man-At-Arms, who can serve as horsemen are given much larger estates, access to the Character's household resources, or small manors (Wealth: Comfortable) as well as some privileges and rights (Status 1: Sergeant Man-at-Arms).

The Players and the GM should be primarily concerned with the opportunities, and not the conversion of these matters into points.

The feudalistic system is too complicated to be reflected with a rigid set of rules. Once the character is made and is in play, it is better to ad hoc the goals and consequences of his/her actions. Very much like in Real Life, the good and the bad is thrown together and unexpectedly. A character may acquire a loose band of horsemen, orphaned by a fallen lord only to also acquire the debtors and the troubles that come with it. He may acquire a new holding, a village, which is suddenly a center of fomenting unrest and harboring enemies.

With each success, there is that escalation of problems and challenges. The character may clear up the debtors or clean up the fief, only to be called into duty by his lord.

Bowmen (75cp) 2cp or 6cp for an element.
  • Heavy Infantry (75cp) 2cp or 6cp for an element.
  • Light Cavalryman (110cp) 3cp or 18 for an element.
  • Horse Archer (120cp) 4cp or 24cp for an element.
  • Medium or Heavy Cavalryman (150cp) 5cp or 30cp for an element.
  • Steward (75cp or 110cp) 2cp to 3cp.
  • Bureaucratic Team (75cp or 110cp) 12cp to 18cp.
  • Specialist (75cp or 110cp) 2cp to 3cp.
  • Specialist Element (75cp or 110cp) 12cp to 18cp.
  • $4,200 estate ($120 Cash annually)
  • $8,400 estate ($240 Cash annually)
  • $16,800 estate ($480 Cash annually)
Why not Keep the Fief and its rents?

There are interesting economic principles at work when an estate is handed off to a vassal. First and primarily, there is a great loss of value as you convert resources to something more tradable and portable (like in the laws of conversions in Physics). Having someone directly benefit from these resources instead of converting them to lower but more portable valuables is significantly more efficient.

Second, security, efficiency and organization improves by having someone directly benefit from the resources of this fief. A bailif or the estate "manager" can only go so far and there are levels of diminishing returns in one's own stewardships. Even hiring more bureaucrats doesn't improve the efficiency of management because of the level or complexity, medieval bureaucracy is able to take on (especially with expensive paper or parchment; and more of a mess to get away with cheating). Consider also how much an already wealthy lord can benefit from the one additional estate, compared to that of a vassal.

In GURPS terms, it may be a $42,000 estate (wealthy), but of that annual income $12,000 in goods redundant to the Character's own resources and perishable or $1,200 in cash. What would rather have: A Heavy Cavalryman or $1,200. Don't forget that the Characters still has duties to his own Lord, taken from 1/3 his cost of living.

Random Knight Generator
Here is another Random Character Generator, tailored for making Knights fitting 12C Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Land beyond the Sea. I'm hosting it in Google Docs, I had to convert it into a PDF because it was written with columns and the format reverts back badly in google docs.

This is primarily meant to roll up Knight Characters quickly. Just add the medieval load-out packages from previous posts to speed up the shopping process.

1 comment:

spielmeister said...

You hit it right there- Feudalism is very much about oaths and duties. I think playing this up tends to make this more meaningful in one's games. The stock image of a knight as just another fighter with flashy armor is just too brainless. it really goes much deeper than just that image.