Friday, March 12, 2010

Sacred Oaths

The humble Serf, as well as Husbands and Wives, to entrepreneurial Peasant and Yeomen, to loyal Retainers and Vassals, the Knights, Lords, Dukes and Princes... all these people have one thing in common: Promises.

I have said before promises are cheap, in game theory and in human behavior they are worthless unless you have a way to enforce it. Their unreliability is where conventions of law, justice and mutual stability and gain comes from. But before such degrees of cultural sophistication and efficiency we had oaths, obligations and duties.

I pointed out before in my previous posts that wealth was not what made the Lord, Duke or King. It was the promises he was able to gain and make others keep, by any means he can get away with. Here I plan to point out how frequent these oaths occur, how they evolved, what was so important about them, and how you reflect it in game.

In ancient times, these promises were relatively simple because people of a nation were of a fairly homogeneous tribe or ethnicity. Barbarians or Outsiders, were not trust worthy simply because they had different conventions of honor and promises. Even when the unifying culture, that was Romanitas, was weak in uniting so many diverse people because it could not meet them half way.

Promises were a big deal, especially when there was no 3rd party, like government, to arbitrate on the matter. When people made promises, it was to those who were powerful and who held authority. They made promises to their community, fellow men, to their elders, or to their parent's name. Later, religion played a role as things deeply personal found form in religion organized and private.

People lived with promises everyday, these took on forms of roles. There was Master and Servant, Vassal and Lord, Cohort and Chief, and Husbands and Wives.

Before the it became a religious sacrament in the 13C, Marriage was an oath between two families. Just because there is mutual gain to be had in such marriages across the spectrum of class, it doesn't mean there wasn't real love and family at its center. Expectations were just very different, but love flourished.

Between masters and servants, there was oaths that reciprocated. A master actually had some duties to a slave, they were dependents. Despite the abuse they endured, common sense made it clear such slaves could not function effectively with harsh treatment and failing to feed them. Man-power costs as they were then made slaves valuable. Cultural convention was that a master who could not provide, has no business owning a slave and might consider being one.

Slaves, who were entirely dependent on the master, evolved to serfs or indentured servants. They gained small levels of independents, allowing them to fend for themselves while remaining profitable. They depended on their masters for protection, and often these promises failed. This systemic failure is what allowed for the personal freedom to bear arms to develop. In some laws, a serf was considered free when his lord asks him to fight and gives him a weapon.

Peasants, Plebians, or the working class were the next stage of this evolution. In the Ancient times man-power demands to sustain the citizen army drew heavily from the working class. It became a "duty" or a promise made by the generations before them that they will serve to fight in the name of the state.

Barbarians, freemen in their own culture, made these same promises to their more civilized and powerful overlords. Rome founded many military colonies, drawing from the feoderati to fill ranks in their armies. A promise which the succeeding generations were expected to keep.

In medieval times the same system can be found in the duties of peasants to fight under their lords banner. In return for their lord keeping their freedoms, their limited personal property and what is rightfully their own they lend their services. The levies we hear about are these common men, who have no business fighting but do so for their what is their own.

Yeomen, Sergeants, and freeholders is what has come close to our modern concepts of employment. They are still peasants with better gear, a family background that prepared them for their duties, enjoying the ability to make a career out of the work and being highly valuable. Sometimes they climb up the ladder and become gentry.

Merchants, very successful peasants, filled their obligations by paying someone to do it for them. Some merchants became bankers, using sacred oaths, paper, and the self interests of authorities to keep promises in check. Wealthy merchants can marry into dynasties.

Up the food chain, when we look at the gentry, nobles, equites, and patricians we see a different set of promises. The most common promise we can see is the marriage (or in medieval times: the corporate merger). The Vassal, is when near social equals have oaths between each other.

Vassals can get really messy because these very oath-bound men can rise, equal, and surpass their lord. We see this in the Norman kings of England do that allowed them to make a claim for the rulership of France in the Hundred Years war.

I would like to point out: Duke, Barons, Counts, Earls, Prince, Marquise... etc. are all titles of various antiquated customs of leadership. As the Duke came from Dux, it just so happens to be a higher rank because of its association with the Roman division head. The same goes with all these titles. They don't really mean much, it is just a cultural preference. These meanings are inconsistently applied through out the ages for the very good reason that culture has changed a lot and often. A Chief can be a King, an Emperor, or a Lord. It just really depends on the size of his "Tribe".

GURPS 4e and all these duties.
In the previous post, I gave an example of a lord who had the regular amount of vassals, retainers, and yeomen. It is easy to see how BIG a deal these oaths play in the power of the lord. His property may be small, a motte and bailey supported by a large village but it is his vassals that determine his power.

Vassals are allies of fairly close to the peerage of the character. They can be made a 3-5cp ally that has a Frequency of appearance of 9. At 9, this means seasonally has something to see his lord, offer tribute and socialize with his family. The vassals family has to get to know the lords family so that the future generations can remember the agreement.

the Duty Disadvantage, is a catch-all term for responsibilities and how much time they take up. To save on purchasing and keeping track of separate duties, it is best to imagine them as: how much responsibilities keeps the character busy. Anything outside of duties is personal, or what counts as person to the character and not exactly work. This can be raising a family (or families), hobbies, parties, and soirees.

I want to point out that oaths are not an employee-employer relationship. These vassals grew up with their lords. Their parents try to make them, as kids, like each other and become best of friends. There are religious and spiritual aspects associated to it and very long tradition that spans into the ancient era. In the old English poem the wanderer I realized the fraternity of such relationships are much like great generation-spanning friendships.

This very relationship is what makes for a perfect adventuring party material. Consider it a "free" ally advantage, but there has to be a glue that binds the group. While a particular leader in a group might be offensive to some members, it doesn't mean he has to be role-played like an authoritarian or bully. Some naturally take on the Eisenhower or Kennedy style of leadership.

One serious problem of the Ally advantage is how it gets really messy when representing such relationships. You have the Ally and the Rank ways of doing things in one game system. I feel it would be best to use the Rank system to represent various Roles of the title holder. Especially since large group of allies, that become faceless multitudes, can get pretty complicated when grouped into hundreds. The a culmulative progression of size is easier to manage in point-wise.

A powerful character can have fief through this system instead of using his income. Nobles tend to have their own assets, separate from their tax base. Some nobles generate olive oil, spices, wine, silk, linen, wool, and other high capital and highly profitable goods with their own estate. Such administrative ranks grants the man power available from this population. You can just call this a Fief rank.
1 Small village 10-50 families
2 Medium to large village 50-200 families
3 Small town 200-500 families
4 Large town 500 to 1,600
5 City 1,600+
6 Province 20,000 families
7 Kingdom 200,000+ families
8 Empire 2,000,000+ families
As an administrative rank, the character gets status and cost of living bonuses.

The army is basically an oath based body because they are made up of peasants sworn to fight. Use the standard below to see how many forces the character can levy. These numbers are not strict just a helpful guideline.

1 Sergeant (and other non-com officers) (squad) 10
2 Sergeant Captain (company) 20-50
3 Sergeant Captain (company) 80-100
4 Knight Commander (one company, with 3-4 sergeant captains ) 300 to 400
5 Constable or Marshal (one battalion) 2,000 to 3,000
6 (one division) 6,000 to 7,000
7 (one army) 24,000+
8 (all the armies) what ever amount that is.
The terms get pretty redundant after a point. There was very little military standardization in medieval armies, so the terms get used a lot.

As a general rule, competent character like are worth 1cp ally 2cp as a retainer (freq-12 x2cp), seasoned or professional sergeants and yeomen are 2cp or 4cp as a retainer, and those who are wealthy enough to serve a cavalry role are 3cp or 6cp when serving in the character's household. Over time these allies grow in number becoming Ranks or these allies grow in power with the character becoming "peers" at 5cp.

Vassals of great power, should be generated as separate advantage. I would use the Patron advantage system to represent various "allies" since it acts more of an upper limit extension of the Ally advantage. So another lord of x1,000 wealth is 10cp and 20cp when regularly working with the character.

Status is purchased in character creation or after doing something "distinguishing". Status 1 is Noble or Gentry, 2 some old and distinguished line like Patricians, and 3 is for a Royal house or dynasty. Characters who fail to purchase the wealth that goes with it become pawns, for the machinations of others. Either they will forced to marry into a line to legitimize their claim or used to rallying point of a movement for the old status quo to reclaim. Most likely, their family were the losers of the previous regime and are supposed to be exiled or imprisoned.

Names and Titles only get special treatment when they can enforce it. Without any power, all one has is the enemies their family made ruling and getting to the top. This makes Status 3 end up being a Secret (imprisonment or exile) -15cp.

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