Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Understanding Feudalism

I've been tinkering with simplified political systems for awhile (complicated enough that players can fuss with them, not so complicated that they overwhelm the campaign), and I've been tinkering with simplistic kingdoms and my research has lead me deep into feudalism, which ties surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) well into the Status system.


GURPS Fantasy discusses "Manoralism." The idea is that a manor is a noble's estate near a village. The village does the farming, and the noble in the manor collects a cut of the taxes and acts as a defensive force if they are attacked. A typical village has about 500 people, though you end up with a 2/5 split between the people of the manor and the people of the village.

If I pop over to Matt Riggsby's Lord of the Manner in Pyramid 3-52: Low-Tech 2 and we look at what a typical CR 4 TL 3 nobleman with about 500 villagers under him (that's about 100 households) earns in taxes, we come to about $15,000 a month. This is more than enough to support Status 3 "Landed Knight" which costs $12,000 a month. In fact, if we look at typical jobs, we find that a Very Wealthy TL 3 person makes about $14,000, which is also in lock-step with "Status 3."

Elsewhere on Wikipedia, I discovered the Knight's Fee, which is "the equivalent to a manor." It's between 1,000 and 5,000 acres, though much of it will be "waste" and not properly civilized (forests and hills and such). This is seen as the land necessary to support the knight. And if we go and look at the amount of land necessary to support 100 households, we come to about 1,200 acres, which matches nicely with this Knight's fee.

It also matches with a subdivision of the Anglo-Saxon shire, which is "the Hundred," which is literally "100 house holds."

So that's literally what a Knight is: Someone who has been given the right to tax one "Hundred" as his personal manor, which grants him Status 3 and Very Wealthy. He's able to swing about $1000 a month, which according to Pulling Rank, is not enough to consider him a true Patron. He's a nice Ally, though.

Barons, Earls and Counts and Marquess
The next step up from a village is a town, according to Fantasy. It's about 1000-5000 people, and interacts with lots of smaller villages. This is 2-to-10 times as large as a village, and presumably the ruler of a town has a similar jump in power.

Status 4 requires $60,000. If we look at the number of households necessary to support that, we find that 500 households will net us about $75,000 a month. Similarly, a Filthy Rich person at TL 7 brings in about $70,000 a month, which keeps us in lock-step with our expectations. Such a character would be a 10 point patron, able to swing $10,000 a month.

We find that if a hundred (that is, 100 households) is a Shire, then unsurprisingly, a Shire would be our next step up in organizational unit. And indeed, according to wikipedia, Anglo-Saxon Shires tended to have fortified towns at their center. But the Anglo-Saxons lost to the Normans, and they brought the name "County" with them. The ruler of a County on the continent was a "Count," unsurprisingly. The ruler of a Shire was an "Earl" and that name stuck in England. Thus, Status 4 nets us a title of Earl or Count.

But what about a Baron or a Viscount? Well, from what I can find, "Viscount" just means "Deputy Count," so he's someone in the service of the Count, or the Earl, and thus one rank below. He might also be Status 3, but with a Courtesy Title (a perk: Viscount) that lets him lord it over the other Status 3 people in court, like those poor Baronets/Knights.

But what about the Baron? This one is confusing: A Barony seems to be a grant of land to a Baron that contains multiple Knight's Fees, that is, Manors within it. So far, so good: That means we're definitely up one level from the Status 3 person, putting us solidly at Status 4. Only the British peerage system places a Baron beneath a Viscount, suggesting that he's status 3. Moreover, baronies seemed to be quite different than counties: they could be sliced up and located in several counties, and they seemed to entail some kind of unique obligation. They could also be huge: 20+ knightly fees in one barony entitled one to special privileges, and 20+ fees is vastly more powerful than just "Filthy Rich."

Or, reading more deeply, perhaps that's all a bunch of nonsense:
Initially those who held land directly from the king by military service, from earls downwards, all bore alike the title of baron, which was thus the factor uniting all members of the ancient baronage as peers one of another. Under King Henry II, the Dialogus de Scaccario already distinguished between greater barons, who held per baroniam by knight's service, and lesser barons, who held manors. Technically, Lords of Manors are barons, or freemen, however they are not entitled to be styled as such.
So Earls and Counts are Barons, or they were. Now Baron seems to denote "A Lord of the Manor," making him... a landed knight. I suppose, then, that a "Knight" would be Status 2, and a Baronet would be a Status 2 person with a cool Courtesy Title, and a Baron, if we follow the modern peerage system, would be Status 3, a fancy name for the Landed Knight.

It seems with further research that the next step up the Peerage chain, the "Marquess" is just the lord of a March, which is like a County, but on the borders, thus super-special because he's a front-lines kinda guy and he gets a better seat at the table. Status 4, Courtesy Title, then.

Status 4 is an Earl or a Count, or a Baron in the much older system. Or, said differently, someone who rules a Barony is definitely Status 4.

Palatine Lords, Dukes, Marquis, Margraves, and more Barons

Status 5 requires us to earn $600,000 a month. IF we have 5000 households under our thumb, we can rake in about $700,000 a month, which is consistent with a TL 3 Multi-Millionaire, which is consistent with Status 5. So far so good. We can throw around $100,000 freely, so this level of character/organization is a 15-point patron.

Fantasy lists cities as at the center of lots of towns. 5000 households is a population of about 25,000, which puts us right in the middle of "City" territory.

I can't find any specific reference to what this level of power would be, but we do have the County Palatine, which is a unique County that has special privileges and autonomy from the throne. I note that the people who ruled these were also called Earls (thus some Earls might be Status 5) and would make their own baronies within their Counties (possibly explaining why Barons are inferior). Perhaps if a County contains a powerful city, the Earl of that County would be sufficiently independent and powerful to be Status 5. Similarly, most of your Holy Roman Imperial Provinces were ruled by similarly powerful rulers (Hertogs and Margraves) suggesting that those who rule over a major city are Status 5.

Another example of this would be a Duchy Palatinate. The Duchy of Lancaster comprises 46,000 acres. Divide that by 12 to see how many households it supports, and we clock in at about 4000 households... of the same order of magnitude as the 5000 noted above. A Duke is definitely Status 5.

I would note that their relative autonomy and their scope is similar to the size of the "Kingdoms" of the Heptarchy. I think you can make the case for the "King" of Wessex or Northumbria or even Mercia being Status 5, rather than 7. Lords of this stature and wealth might represent "small kingdoms," especially of a Ruritanian flavor.

Grand Duke, Archduke, Prince, Kings and Emperors

Status 6 is noted as "Royal Family." It requires $6 million a year, and a job as a Multi-Millionare 2 will net us $7 mil, leaving us with $1 mil to throw around, making us a 20 point patron. The number of households necessary to support this would be roughly 10x our previous number, giving us about a population of 250,000... which is Imperial City size.

This suggests the person rules over a complete country. He has 10 cities beneath him, effectively, drawing all of that power to him. The Prince of Wales, the Archduke of Austria, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, might all fall under this level of power.

Status 7, a king, is 10x more powerful, giving us a 25 point patron. This seems more an appropriate descriptor for the King of France or the King of England than the King of Mercia or Faroffia. A city like London or Paris is definitely on the "Imperial City" scale of power.

Status 8 would represent an Emperor and a 30 point patron. He would have approximately 10 kingdoms under his thumb, which fits what Roman or Chinese emperor could pull off.

A Meditation on GURPS Tech Level and the Scale of Damage

I've been tinkering a lot with Ultra-Tech, and since Pulver said he's finalizing some of his beam weapon damage tables for VE2, I thought now might be the time to discuss them.

A typical Low-Tech weapon deals between 1 and 10 damage (before applying bonuses), depending on the strength of the wielder.  Most LT armor also applies a DR of between 1 and 10.  Given that humans have 10 HP, this means there is an element of HP whittle: That is, you can be cut by a knife without instantly dying, or even falling unconscious.  They are inherently i-scale weapons.

Size matters, of course (I feel confident in assuming that a catapult will deal more than 10 damage without bothering to check my books), but when it comes to the "average man" wielding a weapon appropriate for his size and scale against another man, he tends to exist on an i-Scale (1-10).

A typical HT weapon, such as a pistol, starts close to an average of 10 damage.  Rifles typically deal 20.  DR remains relatively low, but by TL 8, you start to see some simple, light (as in "less than platemail") armor that is DR 10+.  By TL 6+, we're definitely getting into "d-scale" weapons.  This is why gun fights become so lethal: A single hit can wipe out all ten of your hitpoints, and easily toss you into requiring survival checks.  People survive thanks to cover, dodge checks, and armor, not on "sheer toughness," though it might be possible at this point to do so.

A typical UT weapon still deals 10-20 damage, but it's armor penetration starts to rapidly scale up: a TL 10 beam weapon will penetrate 20-60 points of armor, a TL 11 beam weapon will penetrate 50-100 DR,  and a TL 12 beam weapon will penetrate 100 to 200 DR (or vastly more).  Personal armor remains in the 10s (d-scale), but heavier armor (hardsuits, space armor, battlesuits) quickly reach into the hundreds, and man-portable weapons are expanded by battlesuits to easily get into the many tens of damage and even into the hundreds (a semi-portable fusion gun deals an average of 100 damage and will penetrate an average of 200 DR).  If HT weapons brush against the d-scale, UT weapons are solidly in it.

This is why many people throw up their hands at UT combat, because 10 HP is nothing against, for example, a plasma battle rifle or a portable railgun, both of which inflicts an average of 50 damage, which is nearly an instant kill against an unarmored target.  Humans are effectively i-scale characters in a decidedly d-scale conflict.

When cosmic weapons like disintegrators are introduced, we hit the c-scale.  A disintegrator pistol deals an average of 120 damage, ignores physical DR, and penetrates 1200 points worth of force screens.  A semi-portable disruptor inflicts 800 damage (8000 vs force screens), which is the same amount of physical damage a high-end anti-matter bullet will deal.

At this point, we're absolutely in the c-scale and human-scale HP becomes a footnote.  Weapons at this scale can, if they are explosive, miss you and still instantly kill you (even to the point where you're just dust), even setting aside knock-on effects like radiation.  Surviving this sort of battlefield even goes beyond the scope of most armor (someone in a Warsuit is still instantly dead if struck by an antimatter bullet, though he'll survive a miss by one yard) and even most shields (a tactical conformal force screen only provides 150 DR.  A hypothetical cosmic shield that provides 1500 will at least hold off a disintegrator pistol for a little while).

Ever scaling DR is one solution for this, but it requires people to wear them, and it doesn't really deal with the binary nature of combat at this scale, as is visible with the warsuit (if you're struck by an anti-matter bullet, you'll take 800 damage, which leaves 400 damage unaccounted for after you apply your DR, which means you're dead.  If you manage to step to one side and take "only" 300 damage, then the armor will absorb all of it, meaning you're perfectly fine).

Another solution would be up-scaled HP.  Supers do this with injury tolerance: By dividing all damage by 10, they lift themselves up to the point where a pistol round becomes like a dart, and a grenade becomes like the blow from a mace and only a bazooka poses a serious (if survivable) risk.  Force Fields offer a similar solution, albeit a slightly strange one, thanks to the nature of how semi-ablative DR works (which is why I've seen several house rules that propose treating force fields like HP)
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