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 Post subject: Power structures
PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 9:36 pm 
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Hi all!

I'm asking for advice how to handle power stuctures in-game. What I mean is, I'd like to have quite clear picture what positions and jobs are necessary to keep a kingdom (and in a smaller scale, a city) running, who does what and why is one's position important. My gaming environment is loosely based on mid-renaissance Europe and the culture-area has many German influences. That said, I'm aware that majority of this board is probably mainly interested in earlier time periods, so I'd also be also happy with info that doesn't closely match the era. :)

I tried to google, but I may simply have failed of inserting a proper keyword. So, I'd also be happy with links to relevant web-pages.

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 Post subject: Re: Power structures
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:45 pm 
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Anything? Anything at all? Come on... :)

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"Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else."
- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: Power structures
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:14 pm 
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higgins wrote:
I'm asking for advice how to handle power stuctures in-game. What I mean is, I'd like to have quite clear picture what positions and jobs are necessary to keep a kingdom (and in a smaller scale, a city) running, who does what and why is one's position important. My gaming environment is loosely based on mid-renaissance Europe and the culture-area has many German influences.


How close to the real-Earth historic position are you trying to get?

I have no idea how the areas of what is today Germany ran their country, counties, or cities. I do know though that it was completely different to the way it was handled in France, which was in turn completely different to England, which was completely different to Spain...

In France:

Civil administration is distinct from military administration which is distinct from religious administration. This means that the County of Lyon is a completely different area to the Senechausee of Lyon which is a completely different area to the Diocese of Lyon.

From Lyon's perspective, the structure of the King's court and the central government is largely irrelevant. What is relevant are the King's representatives in the city and the county. This in turn is quite simple yet vitally important -- there is no substantial military presence, there is no onerous taxation regimen, there is only the Court of Appeal. When the civil courts in Lyon have made their determination in a case the plaintiff may appeal the decision and have their case heard at the Court of Appeal. The presence of this court is so contentious that it isn't even located in the city, but is located nearby.

Within the city itself there are many who hold power, some obvious some not so obvious.

Militarily there is the guet or city watch.

Religiously there is the Archbishop and the canon-counts of the Cathedral Chapter of St John the Baptist.

From the civil order perspective there is the court and its officers -- the judges, the courier, the prevot, and his sergeants.

There is the city council, the aldermen if you like. They are the heads of powerful Guilds, each with their own structure.

Finally there are those who live on the fringes of society. They are powerless, externally, but within their own social grouping there are power structures.

Keep in mind that in France, by 1350, the Knights of the Church are lawyers not military men. France is a country where disputes are settled in the courts. As such, all of its power structures reflect this kind of bureaucracy. While completely realistic, this may not be what you are after for your game.

This subject is too large to make a single post, particularly when my area of (limited) knowledge is only marginally relevant to your own preferred gaming area. Happy to answer questions though!

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Power structures
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 10:37 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
How close to the real-Earth historic position are you trying to get?

In that particular chronicle... not really. It's a fantasy setting. Basically there's no real background in that area and mostly any system could be fitted, but some things have been established. There are a lot of merchants whose influence is so large and increasing that even a considerable umber of nobles have etered the business. There are three godesses in the pantheon (with fertility and sea godesses being most prominent, and night goddess basically representing the mafia). Magic also exists, it isn't particularly widespread. Chruches aside, magic is monopolised by the mages' guild. If a magic user isn't part of the previous organisations, he'd be better off not making himself known as one as he'd be feared by the wider public. Since there is a pantheon, no singular religios organisation exists, but that role, if I can say so, is mostly potrayed by the mages' guild who simply outweighs the religious strucures.

There are two major differences between my city of Brülen compared to the Lyon:
a) Lyon isn't the capital, while Brülen is;
b) Lyon is located inlands, while Brülen has one of the largest and most important port in the area.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Civil administration is distinct from military administration which is distinct from religious administration. This means that the County of Lyon is a completely different area to the Senechausee of Lyon which is a completely different area to the Diocese of Lyon.

These are the main powers that I figured... In Brülen the religious administration would be sort of sub division of magical administration. While formally it may be other way around, this is the real truth.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Within the city itself there are many who hold power, some obvious some not so obvious.

Militarily there is the guet or city watch.

Religiously there is the Archbishop and the canon-counts of the Cathedral Chapter of St John the Baptist.

From the civil order perspective there is the court and its officers -- the judges, the courier, the prevot, and his sergeants.

There is the city council, the aldermen if you like. They are the heads of powerful Guilds, each with their own structure.

Good, this is what I've had basically so far. Only two differences -- one is the aforementioned mages' guild, which vastly replaces the religious organ you listed, plus, as it's been peace time, the military has been also involved in law enforcement... I'm not too sure about how much sense the latter makes, but it seemed like a reasonable idea a few years ago.

Now, I'm very glad to see that I wasn't too much off compared to what you told me. But you've listed power groups (which is a great start) while I asked about their structure. The real mystery to me is that how they all are organised and who takes orders from whom and who are disconnected of whom. How direct is the king's control over the military? Who has the next best influence? Who would have the best chance (or means) of opposing king's unpopular actions? Is Archbishop expected obey his king, or the Pope first? I'd like to form a stucture that would help me to determine things like that.

_________________
"Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else."
- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


Last edited by higgins on Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Power structures
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 8:44 pm 
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higgins wrote:
Now, I'm very glad to see that I wasn't too much off compared to what you told me. But you've listed power groups (which is a great start) while I asked about their structure. The real mystery to me is that how they all are organised and who takes orders from whom and who are disconnected of whom. How direct is the king's control over the military? Who has the next best influence? Who would have the best chance (or means) of opposing king's unpopular actions? Is Archbishop expected obey his king, or the Pope first? I'd like to form a stucture that would help me to determine things like that.


The question "How centralised is your civil administration?" will determine all of what follows.

In France, the King is little different in some ways to a powerful Duke. He has complete control over his own lands -- control over anything else depends on the agreement of those that control those lands. In France, it's all about influence -- unlike say England, where government is strongly centralised by comparison with France (but weakly centralised by today's standards).

To give an example -- In France in 1350 about 10% of those entitled to become knights actually became knights. Why? Because it meant swearing an oath to the King -- in other words, handing over a measure of independence to the King. The vast bulk chose not to do so. This didn't change their actions in time of war whatsoever -- they performed exactly the same duties as a knight in times of war. It's just that they did so voluntarily, not as a duty. This attitude towards knighthood is cultural -- therefore, if you look at any other area of life where someone with authority over something is asked to give up some measure of independence in exchange for something else (usually worth far, far more financially) the offer is usually declined.

With this in mind ...

In the middle ages power structures are flat. You may have heard the old joke -- there are more layers of management between a new recruit at IBM and the CEO of IBM then there are between a parishioner and God in the Catholic Church? This is even moreso the case in the middle ages.

Take the Abbey of Saint Peter in Lyon. It is a large abbey with many daughter priories. There are precisely three layers in that organization. There is the abbess, there are 32 nuns most of whom control a priory or perform a specific function at the abbey, and then sometimes there is a layer beneath (those that control a priory control the staff of the priory, the teacher is responsible for the students at the abbey, etc). There are more than a hundred people in that organization, it is wealthy, and controls an extensive domain -- yet there are only three levels within the organizational hierarchy.

To continue the Abbey's power structure -- all abbey's hold their authority directly from the Pope. An abbey is established when the Pope creates the Order. The Order found their abbey somewhere and if successful may found daughter abbeys/priories elsewhere over time. Either way the religious Orders hold their authority directly from the Pope and therefore are independent of the regular priesthood. So the Abbess of Saint Pierre doesn't answer to the Archbishop and she certainly doesn't answer to the King. This is not to say that either of these wouldn't have a degree of influence that they might try to exert -- the difference is that they cannot command, only ask.

Look at the section on the Law in the Taveruun area. Again, a flat structure. Courier, prevot, sergeant. That's as deep as the structure gets, for the organization that runs the courts, administers the jails, and is responsible for law enforcement in a city of nearly 20,000 people.

If the King were to request an unpopular action many would oppose it. The problem for the King is that he can't be everywhere at once. Let's say he want to attack a neighbour. The border viscounts may or may not have any desire to see warfare on their borders. Those further away may not see a reason to get involved. The King (by 1350) has no right to free military service from his vassals, instead it must be paid for -- and few would answer the call to an unpopular war. They might send representatives but not a full compliment. Thus they meet their obligation but not to the extent required by the King to wage war successfully. The King and his close allies might then start visiting their peers to drum up support but this all takes time. In the end the King is really as beholden to his vassals as they are to him -- and that's the way everybody but the King wants it to be.

Regards,

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Ian Plumb
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 Post subject: Re: Power structures
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 10:47 pm 
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That's interesting and useful as a guideline. I'll have to digest the information.

But do you happen to have knowledge about other important positions, like say, a trasurer or a dockmaster? There's a probably bunch of positions in the administration and I'm at loss where to begin to filling it up. I'm simply worried I don't have too much of an idea what kind of "team" is needed to run a city or a kingdom.

_________________
"Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else."
- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: Power structures
PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 12:15 am 
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higgins wrote:
But do you happen to have knowledge about other important positions, like say, a trasurer or a dockmaster? There's a probably bunch of positions in the administration and I'm at loss where to begin to filling it up. I'm simply worried I don't have too much of an idea what kind of "team" is needed to run a city or a kingdom.


The medieval world runs very differently to ours.

Lyon is situated at the confluence of two large rivers, the Saone and the Rhone. This is the major north/south route through Western Europe, linking the Mediterranean with the Baltic. By ship the Rhone is navigable to Vienne, just south of Lyon. Lyon itself is on the major east/west land route linking France with Italy. It is trade that takes Lyon from being in the 10 - 15 largest population centres in France to being number 2 by 1450.

With this in mind you might imagine there is a bureaucracy around trade. Such a bureaucracy requires centralisation of authority -- a concept that is anathema to the hundreds of vested interests in operation.

To take but one example -- the docks in the city. There are hundreds of them festooning the river banks. There is no regulation of them per se. If you own the river bank you can build a dock, if you own the dock then you can charge for its use and you supply the muscle to ensure that the fees are paid. That's how it works. There is no oversight of who's bringing in what and where and how frequently. There is taxation of goods on entry to the city but that tends to happen at the individual gates rather than a centralised administration.

Regards,

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