Monday, September 29, 2014

Further Uses for K&K

In between regular sessions over the last week, I've had my players engage in a number of skirmishes using K&K (that's Knights and Knaves, for the uninitiated, which can be found here). Rather than simply let off-screen events play out whatever arbitrary way I felt (or using dice and probabilities to determine what was "likely" to happen) I decided that, at least in the case of the dwarves of Hammerval, to give some of the control to the players. Not that the PCs were actually involved, mind you, merely that they would help develop the world and its events in a non-PC capacity.

Some background may or may not be in order here, so feel free to skip the next section if you want to get to the meat and potatoes of using K&K to decide battles, the idea of having players influencing the game world substantially without playing or any other element.

The Background

The city (or folkhall) of Hammerval lies in the imperial Duchy of Auruxol (also called Goldhook, if you speak English and not a fantasy variant of Latin). It remains one of the most lasting and substantial monuments to the ancient alliance between the city of Miles and the dwarven people. The dwarves of Hammerval are highly Mileanized. Though they are Iron Dwarves of various tribes and though they retain much of their clannish nature, they are more inclined to trust imperial citizens than Iron Dwarves of other folkhalls.

When the House of Galoen were made kings in Thyrnesse, the old family of Auruxol (who had previously given Thyrnesse several kings of their own) was destroyed. The Duchy attached to the royal heartland and Hammerval's Hallkonungr (Hall-Prince) was elevated to chief authority over all the dwarves in the area. However, King Tamerin III gifted Auruxol back to one of its noble families—the Anarjents (who took their name from the royal mint-town of Anarjenor) in return for Darius Anarjent's support in mining gold from the mountains. The dwarven folkhall and its Hallkonungr were given the task of minting and mining all the gold that would flow into the royal (and later imperial) coffers. Suffice to say, Hammerval, as the center of all gold minting activity in the empire, is very important to the emperor.

Darius Anarjent, Lord of the Coffers, is never present in his duchy to rule it. This would normally be no major issue, but of late the orcish population that dwells high upon and deep beneath the Auruxol Mountains has exhibited the alarming propensity of raiding the outlying mines and homesteads of Hammerval.

Operating under the well-founded assumption that an orcish chief is attempting to make a name for himself and, in so doing, gather up more and more of the vast but fractured orc peoples. The Hallkonung's fear is that the orcs will ride from success to success, growing in ferocity, training, and number, until they spill forth from the mountains and sweep into Hammerval and the Hammerdeep Vale proper. This isn't as alarmist as it seems: forty or fifty years ago, in the emperor's youth, such a thing did happen, albeit on the eastern side of the mountains.

The PCs are dealing with this situation currently, having been dispatched by the emperor to see if the rumors of the raids are true and, if so, to inform him what they believe should be done. The PCs have just finished scouting out the situation and are even now delivering their report to the emperor. Meanwhile...

The Skirmishes

We used K&K to simulate the Gaethaff Elda Goldhar (essentially the chief defensive general of a dwarven folkhall) doing battle against an advance party of orcish raiders, defending a minehead, and then marching on the advance party's camp.

One player took control of the dwarves and another of the orcs. The result was a mixed bag, with the dwarves winning an overall victory, but the Gaethaff dying in an ignominious and inglorious fashion. 

The Idea

After playing through these skirmishes we discussed the way K&K represents the granularity of combat. It doesn't represent it as well as AD&D; though your men are named, they die relatively easily. There is, of course, no consideration of improvisation. Death or incapacity are always a hair's breadth away. We've determined that we don't want to use this for any skirmish in which the PCs are actually present, because it will give them very short shrift.

Here are some rules we did decide on for when they aren't present:

Orcs receive a -1 morale penalty to all rolls (as per the K&K morale system) if they are forced to fight in daylight.

Dwarves move at -2" (or as though they had +2 armor).

Many more of the changes (how high the orcs morale are, the essential stats of each unit) can already be determined within the ambit of K&K without making major exceptions.

Our other idea for incorporation is to lift the AI rules that govern how units respond to orders they've been given (hold here, defend here, attack until) when their "commander" (IE, the PC) is no longer present. This will definitely be made use of during large scale battles.

Long live the union of K&K and D&D!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Imperial Civil Service Part II

Thyrnesse has always retained the ancient palatine civil service in the form of the Knights of Miles, who are belted knights, courtiers, and civil servants rolled into one. These second sons have served the kings of Thyrnesse since time immemorial and continue to serve the emperor in that capacity. However, in the time since the foundation of the Third Empire in X.501, the civil service has expanded rapidly. We have spoken of the roles that may be played by outstanding members of the civil service and wizards of the Imperial Schola. Now we must turn to the roles of the vast numbers of secretarii and exactly how they function.

How do you join the Civil Service?

Secretarii are a class of scribes and recorders who are chosen from amongst the scholarly class of the great cities of the empire. Appointment to the civil service is made by the emperor himself, with the assistance of a magisterial court staffed with clerics of the Quilian and Hierian temples. Only freeborn nobility (second and third sons, as well as any citizen born in an urban commune) are admissible to the civil service. Farmers and the like cannot join the civil service—but nor would they want to, almost universally lacking the ability to read and write.

Sacred Heralds are also members of the civil service, with ranks above the palatine secundi but below the primari.

What kinds of things do civil servants do?

Comprised mostly of Quilian and Hierian priests, the civil service provides many essential functions of the empire—tax assessment, recording and promulgation of law, assessment of the various repairs in the great cities, assessment of roads, and administration of the imperial system of wayhouses along the Pillar Road that runs as a highway from Miles all the way west to Byrne.

What are the ranks of the service?

The civil service has two branches—the Palatine Service and the Provincial Service. Palatine servants work as secretaries beneath the inner and outer curia, recording everything that's said and done. These are known as the sercretarii domus. Secretarii domus are divided into the tertii, secundi, and primari. Above the primari are the Secretarii Curiali, who serve the emperor directly and record the goings on of the court and help promulgate laws by hiring heralds and viators.

The Provincial Service is also divided into tertii, secundi, and primari, but the Provincial Primari are the chief servants of each Duchy and Imperial County, and report back to the Secretarii Curiali.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Manicipium in Miles

Legal jurisdiction is a complex construct in the Third Empire. In many places, the structure of jurisdiction is more implied than theorized, leaving who has command over whom a patchwork of common law and rulings where people just *know* things. For example, knights in most lands in Arunia have the authority to arrest or detain anyone below the knightly class. However, centuries of scholarship undertaken by emperors and clerics of Haeron have elaborated the system of manicipium to a much more carefully calculated degree. Indeed, it has been codified and written in the great lawbooks of the Lawkeeper's Temple.

So the first question is a simple one, namely: what is mancipium? It's a legal concept that determines who has the authority to arrest, arraign, judge, and detain whom within the Third Empire. In its most anceint and extreme manifestation, manicipium was the authority of a noble householder to dole out death to any of his dependents regardless of the law. The rule of the patrician was literally a rule over life itself.

A compilation of First Empire law known as the Codex Theolinus (supposedly commissioned by the third emperor, Theolon the Priest) set out a rudimentary attempt to curb the power of the great noble tribes under his command. By the reign of Fabarxus (to whom we owe the grand Faberlaine Wall surrounding Pillar Hill) the concept of manicipium had been fully extended to resemble the modern 10th Age notion.

Who has manicipium?
The notion of manicipium has been narrowed from its archaic form to one that is imbued in the imperial class system. Lords have direct manicipium over their demesne; all knights who serve them, all peasants who live in their realm, all merchants who's residences are found within their realm. These lords, the Magnas, Socioari, and Dynasren (Barons, Counts, and Dukes), have the authority to judge anyone who calls their demesne home as well as any peasants from any other realm.

Knights possess this self-same power; they act as direct agents of their lords. However, while a lord has manicipium over his own knights, they cannot judge the knight-agents of other lords.

Thus:

The Emperor
|
Lord
|
Lord's knights  ------  knights of other lords (outside manicipium) ------ imperial knights (outside the lord's manicipium, but under the emperor's)
|
any peasant

...wherein manicipium flows downward from the emperor, through the lord of a demesne. If a knight commits a crime within the realm of someone other than his own lord, the offended lord must plea to the knight's lord for restitution. Thus is established the rule known as Lex Agentia, the Law of Agents, whereby an agent can only be judged by his own master. Of course, this means that the emperor's personal servants are outside everyone's manicipium save the emperor's... and the emperor has manicipium over every subject of the empire (including agents of other lords).

Are there exceptions?
Yes. Many. The most important being the exception of urban communes and the very complex exception of the Special Commune of Miles.

Communes
Urban centers, known as communes, are generally governed by a council of merchants. Manicipium here falls under the Lex Mercantis, which was developed by merchants of that ancient Republic. Namely, all people within a city, no matter their origin, are under the manicipium of the municipal law courts... unless they are the agents of a lord from outside the city. Citizens of the communes fall under the manicipium of any lord who's lands they travel through and may be judged as though they were peasantry whenever they leave the city.

The Commune Mileas
The Commune of Miles has rules much like other communes, save knights and foreign agents committing crimes within Miles are subject to the judgement of the cities' courts. Unlike other communal citizens, people born within the circuit of the walls of Miles may only be judged by the law courts of Miles proper. If they are arraigned before a baronial, comital, or ducal court and they can prove they originate from Miles, they must be tried within the city by judges from the Temple.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Witnesses, Seals, and Contracts

Of course, now that I've started law school my mind is turned ever towards the things I'm reading about and talking about pretty much every waking hour of every single day. What's this latest topic? Why, it may be based on the ancient and modern laws of CONTRACT.

Ancient laws of contract (mostly what we would call common law outside of the regions influenced by Justinian's Roman canon) focused on a special, ritual space that separated out the act of signing the contract from the acts of every day life. These were liminal moments, powerful moments, when binding legal documents took force. IN modern contract law, you can make a contract simply by assenting to an offer verbally (as long as its not a sale of goods; Statue of Frauds covers that). Not so in the ancient and medieval world.

Contract as Oath
I. Seriousness of the Undertaking
II. The Seal
III. The Witnesses
IV. The Oath and Punishments

I. Seriousness
Contracts in the ancient, medieval, and particularly the post-Enlightenment world were entered into with a sense of seriousness. Ritual surrounded them. Documents were prepared, witnesses gathered, and oaths sworn. The written instrument was merely the expression of the contractual bargain. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why medieval abbots felt no shame in producing what we would commonly today call "fake" charters that detail sales of land to the abby. The abby knows the land is theirs—thus, the false contract merely confirms a deeper truth.

People did not sign contracts in a lighthearted or casual way. Promises were important, and thus swearing promises were often accompanied by involving the Gods (or God in Christian Europe). This illustrates the ease with which contractual agreements and promises are actually put aside (very easily, since there's no supernatural force behind them) in stark contrast to how difficult society wishes it were to put a contract or agreement aside.

II. The Seal
It is no longer true today that the written instrument of a contract really even requires signatures. The paper is something external. However, in the heyday of the Serious Contract it was required for every party bound by it to make their mark with a seal. In the Middle Ages this could take place in the form of a signature, but the entire document was usually sealed with some seal or other. It was very common (for extremely important documents) for the local bishop or perhaps even the regional king to imprint his seal in wax upon your parchment.

The seals (signature + imprint) give the contract validity.

III. The Witnesses
The gathering of and signing of witnesses was extremely important in certain types of charters. The more important your witnesses were, the more important your charter. You want your bishops and high ranking church members to witness for you because that speaks leagues about your own personal authority and respect.

IV. The Oath
Many contracts also included a number of cursing clauses, damning those who break the promise. It wasn't uncommon for charters, for example, to wish horrific punishments on people who alienated the land granted to an abby. Charter-cursing forms an entire subfield of study and is extremely inventive.

This supernatural sword of Damocles exists to lend force and weight to what is otherwise really just a piece of parchment and what, in reality, can be ignored with impunity. This element also bears a strong relationship to the verbal oath given in pre-literate societies.

V. So What?
So nothing, asshole. Why are you so rude? This is all interesting stuff to spice up the world of your D&D game. Contracts in the 10th Age, for example, must be sealed by an "official witness," that is a member of the Temple of Miles, so they are seen by the God of Law and Smithcraft, Haeron the Hammerer. This element of the semi-divine mirrors the ways in which medieval contracts invoked God.

You can do that too, if you want. It helps take your game away from the humdrum world of the mundane everyday and into the fantastic past.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Institutional Stupidity

In our modern world we have frequent recourse to interact with large institutions. Whether you're employed by one or merely have business with one, you've seen the kinds of deep-seated root-level stupidity that plagues them. And this isn't because the institutions are stocked with morons. Far from it, it usually appears that one or two uniquely incapable people reach a bottleneck and clog the arteries of communication, killing all the workers down the line by starving them of necessary information, assistance, or whatever is needed. This institutional stupidity is something that inheres only in strongly redundant organizations. What do I mean by this?

Where institutional power is weak and things are accomplished more by individuals taking initiative than by following the proper channels, individual people have a tendency to communicate more. Failure falls not on the fact that a message slipped through, but on the fact that someone fucked up if a message wasn't delivered. In a well-organized and redundant institution, this missing information is likely not to be fatal to the organization as a whole. This is why it has safety valves, catches, and redundancies. In a smaller or less well organized institutional structure, these safety valves don't exist and failure won't be caught by the net installed to make sure their big kindred can continue lumbering on. Indeed, it is the very inertia of powerful institutions that makes them immune to small-time scandals of this nature.

Why am I even talking about this on a blog about D&D? Because there was far less of what I would qualify as institutional stupidity in the ancient world and the middle ages. Institutional power simply wasn't entrenched well enough to allow petty bureaucrats to gum up the works with no negative results. When the gears began to stick, people noticed, because it could lead to the loss of lives and livelihoods. This is something of an overgeneralization, which I am loathe to make*, but generally institutions were extremely weak if extant at all.

Institutions as we know them require structure, legal backbone, organization, and precedent. Crisis in the pre- and post-Carolignian world (the Carolignian Renaissance, as it is called, saw the emergence of temporary but not particularly robust institutions for administering the will of Charles) was generally dealt with in terms of individual situations. Each problem was a problem for an individual solution. Of course, again, there are cases where this isn't true—the ealdormen and shire reeves of England, the vast canonical courts of Rome, etc. However, the scale of institutions was greatly curtailed, the types of problems they dealt with were extremely specific, and they were generally much more vital (accepting of and capable of reacting to change) than modern institutions are.

The upshot of this is that your PCs are less likely to be "forgotten" by an institution and let slip through the cracks. They are unlikely to weasel their way through loopholes and use the inertia of bureaucracy to escape the eye of those in power. On the other hand, they are more likely to obtain power themselves and be permitted to exercise it. The lack of institutional safeguards cuts both ways.

*And here's where I take it back piece by piece. The Romans, of course, had much stronger institutions, which were necessary for the governance of the empire. Even after the Western collapse, in the east the Romans continued to operate on a much more organized and, indeed, institutional level.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Law School and the Move

I may have to take a brief hiatus for a few weeks while I move into my first house and enter the first semester of law school. If not, then this warning is for nothing (save moving the next date I have a blog post up). If so... you have been warned!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Paying the Penalty

Medieval crime and punishment is different in many ways from modern crime and punishment. I've talked about medieval law before, but this is the first time I've ever set out to catalogue how it could affect your idea of a fantasy society in any kind of definite way.

The most important thing to note is that there were no penalties of imprisonment in the early and high middle ages. You might be reduced to slavery or forced to pay a fine or even executed, but you'd never become a prisoner as a result of lawbreaking—excepting, of course, the period where you were waiting for your trial. Even then, you'd likely just be kept in the undercroft of a local manor, not a special-built jail or prison or even (gasp) dungeon.

The Anglo-Saxon Dooms
Taking a look at the laws of King Alfred, it becomes apparent that there are essentially two types of punishment: paying the geld (or value) of the crime, or death. In some cases the value of the crime was determined by the value of the thing destroyed or stolen. This is descended from the wergeld, or man-value, of early Saxon times, which was a price you paid the family of someone you killed (based on their social status) to legally prevent a feud from developing.

If you're truly seeking to simulate a medieval society, what you should do is draw up a short sample of fines and then determine what constitutes a capital crime. Capital punishment in the English system (the only one I'm really aware of in great detail at the moment, having not refreshed myself on the customs of Frankia in a long time) can only be dealt out by the king. In his absence, it was the job of the royal assizes to roam the countryside and give trial to those being held for capital crimes (usually, as above, being held in the croft of a manner until the time came for the assizes to try them).

The Process of Trial
The old germanic continental custom of trial was for the families of the accused to gather together in a central place. The accused would swear that he didn't commit the crime and his family would swear also. This would prevent "justice" from being done unless the accused's family didn't back him up—which could be the case, if they knew the accused was a dick and he was constantly making life harder for them by, for example, getting involved in court cases.

In England, the situation was similar though not as clearly one-sided. The accused would be asked to assemble oath-takers from amongst the townsfolk where he was charged. If he could assemble five or twelve of them (I don't remember the circumstances surrounding how many were needed and don't feel like looking it up: if anyone is really interested, leave a comment and I'll go back to the books and get you an answer). Essentially, these oath-takers would swear that the man did not commit the crime. If enough could be produced, he would go free. This clearly favors the social fabric above individual justice, but what is the point of justice if not to knit together the social fabric?