Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Technology 10

This is the sixth in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world. The purpose of this framework is to create unique, regional settings for player interaction. A realistic simulation of the actual world is not a goal of this system and will not be given credence when approving comments.

Regions with a technology of 10 will have an average population density of 3,334 to 7,000 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

152 regions, scattered through every part of my world.  This technology accounts for 3,860.3 hexes of my world, occupied by 18,800,751 humanoids.  Only 1,409,396 of these are non-human.

Available Technologies

See tech 9.  I don't have much to say at this point, so let's get right into it.

Feudalism.  Because all my world takes place in 1650, many of the lower techs have had a sort of land tenure, but with this tech the peasantry are fully enslaved to the land.  Rural land is now wholly ruled over by manors - even remote areas in the territory are owned by someone.  No person, anywhere, can set up in the wilderness without eventually butting up against an authority.  At the same time, titles among the nobility are now fixed and rigorously managed - so that the monarch or the oligarchy has the power to strip a person of their privilege and their land if fealty is not properly given.  At lower tech levels, this would have to be done through a civil war; at tech level 10, a given lord would willingly let themselves be deposed, knowing they'd receive no support.  Of course, disputes over heredity, like the War of the Roses, are still possible.  In rural areas and for war, the long bow becomes a terror weapon, largely wielded by peasants.  

Construction.  Roads throughout the region improve and are maintained continuously.  Arenas for sport or games appear in many cities.  Towns and cities have built walls, separating the inner city (trading, upper classes) from the exposed suburbs.  Private walls can be found around homes and gardens, along with specific neighborhoods, to segregate some populations (particularly foreigners).  Siege engines are placed on walls and used in wars and elephants become platforms for missile warfare.  Griffs are trained and raised in cots.  Public buildings and temples are recognizably more ornate and profound than lower tech levels and palaces are popular.  Manor houses grow large but castles are reserved for a higher tech level.

Machinery.  The primary influence is the industrialization of the rural, as manors begin building much bigger mills that are run on water and wind-power (those of tech 9 would be largely manual and small).  Artisans are supported by lords and can be found in hamlets associated with manors, churning out materials for the lord's benefit and accumulation of wealth.  Crossbows, requiring less practice to use, are the preferred missile weapon for urban infantry.

Compass.  The two-masted brigantine can be found as the preferred ship, a square-sail and lateen sail together, while deep water travel defines both the merchant and military fleets.  Ports are full of foreigners, who are more respected there than inland.

Currency.  Coins are minted locally.  Usury is a common practice but is usually available only to those with credit.  Bonds, partnerships, promissary notes, monopolies, the transfer of debt and foreign investment are common features of the economy.  Markets cease to be haphazard collections of peddlers and sellers and traders become a class unto themselves.  It requires a license to sell goods openly; players are permitted only to sell their goods to traders at a pre-set price.

There would be other adjustments to magic, based on sage abilities, but as those are not well defined at this point, I reserve the right to let these go for the present.  I'm definitely feeling a stronger pressure to do something about at least getting a total outline of all sage abilities (they are taking far longer to define one by one than I would have ever dreamed).

Lifestyle - Rural

This is fairly well defined already by the existence of calcified feudalism.  Players travelling through rural areas would encounter haywards, reeves, wardens and a host of residents that would make harassment of strangers common.  On the other hand, the lowest peasants would tend to be more forgiving of outlaws and less likely to turn players over to the authorities.

Even a well-built road might turn out to be private, so players should recognize that the manor lords may not be forgiving - at all - of interlopers who would be seen as thieves, saboteurs, agitators or some other threat to the established money-making machine the lord has set upon upon the domain.  Any movement off road, therefore, should be pursued carefully, exactly the same way one might case a house.  For those who know the land well, it is easy to discover tracks or signs that someone has been moving through even a forested rural area who shouldn't be there.  Of course, a ranger might cover the party's tracks . . .

Lifestyle - Urban

The restrictions on rural life has turned towns and cities into places where refugees would desire to go - so these have built walls to keep such riff raff out.  Fees to enter the town walls are designed to deny entrance to those without wealth, though they cannot be so high that it restricts trade.  Still, any rural dweller able to steal or accumulate enough to enter a town immediately sets out to remain there, creating a considerable unemployed population.  This is made worse by the intense competition that now exists between various artisans (a guild still has not been established) as different groups fight to obtain a monopoly over various products.

Workshops and artisans have begun to take over large parts of the inner city, moving their processing inside the walls to avoid fees for entering the towns, creating considerable amounts of filth.  Now a significant part of the people are employed in the management of this filth: gong farmers, haulers, rat catchers, collectors of the dead, gravediggers and so on.  Clean water becomes a premium, regularly hauled into the city.  Disease is rampant.  Slums are everywhere

Those unable to get work turn to desperate activities.  Seasonal workers are indigent and threatening at times, beggars are supported by gangs, assassination becomes a profession (but not a class, not yet), as does widespread prostitution, gambling, fencing of goods and forgery of paper, permitting movement around the city or past the walls.  These activities are taken over by corrupt authorities, who protect their existence rather than taking steps to end it.


The oligarchy has formed themselves into a legitimate body with which the monarchy must now share power.  The nobility is above the law of the lower classes, but every strata of society has their own set of values and rules that they must follow.  Oppression and exploitation of the lower classes is the norm.

The nobles in particular will be remote in their activities, preferring to do everything through agents, who in turn will seek to recruit anyone who will further the nobles' power.  Foreigners are popular recruits, as they are expendable and unknown entities.  Hiring mercenaries to commit oppressive acts against enemies of the upper classes is normal.  The party, if they establish themselves for more than a few weeks, are certain to be approached - after all, if the party does something nasty, the noble involved is untouched, the agents are protected by the nobles and everyone hates foreigners anyway.

Players can make good money if they don't mind beating up or killing innocents or agitators.


The state, now organized, is getting interested in using the military to affect the actions of foreign territories or acquire power in foreign theatres (recognizing that we're defining another province in the same empire or kingdom as 'foreign').  Obviously, these warmongers would prefer to attack lower tech levels, but population is a consideration and often a tech 9 or 8 region can be much larger and more populace than one of tech 10.

On the other hand, a tech 11 to 13 region might be much smaller and vulnerable . . . but as there are many tech 10 regions that are interested now in foreign policy (along with all the other techs above 10), the higher tech lands tend to play these off against each other.  There are so many 'players' in the game that interest in maintaining a level of stability in order to achieve long-term goals has become the order of the day.  Figuring out what these alliances are and how to exploit them forms a potential campaign full of intrigue for higher level players, if this is what interests them.


This is a very dirty tech level.  Many of the techs above this one include 'reforms' to control some of the problems that are occurring, though others will of course make things worse.  The trick in developing higher tech levels from here, I can see, are founded more upon the problems created by the technologies rather than the solutions.  Disease, for example, or the rattling of sabres.

I've been thinking about the cost of entering a town or city - I've always felt that a gold piece was just too small an amount (particularly since the party can easily afford it).  I wonder if it shouldn't be an amount so onerous that no one in the world would willingly pay the money.

One way to control it for the players might be to limit the cost upon things like being a resident of the territory or town (show papers), writs of free travel (show papers), "Do you intend to wear that armor or carry those weapons inside the walls" (that's gonna cost you), "Do you have a spellbook to declare?" (oo, expensive) and so on.

Perhaps I could build a system that enabled a low-level, unarmed, familiar person to pay 1 s.p. to enter while charging the party 40 g.p. per person.  Sounds like fun.


Zrog (ESR) said...

I personally don't see why the player characters WOULDN'T get charged large sums for entry - anything the gate guard can do to bring in more money to the city would look good on him, and someone might even be skimming some of that money off the top.

Players characters also tend to cause trouble, or at least disturb the usual functioning of a city in some way (bothering high-end merchants with strange requests, interrupting the sages, etc). Why shouldn't the guard get compensation for the trouble they know is inbound? Also, the guards being commoners, they probably (not that secretly) despise those who've made their fortunes, and without political allies, the PCs really can't get back at the guards for the extortion.

Players hate it, and they may even refuse to go into the first city that taxes them this heavily, but if it becomes the norm, what else can they do?

Alexis Smolensk said...

More or less my thoughts too, Zrog.

"Do you have proof that you're a citizen of Russia? Thank you. Do you have any evidence that you possess residency in the County of Orel? No? How about anyone who might vouch for you. I see. Well, then, do you have a writ granting you the right to enter the town gates to conduct business? No, that's only good for passage across tolls upon the County's roads. Do you have a writ permitting you to carry that weapon? Wear that armor? How many animals do you have with you? That one there looks like it has an injury; have these animals been inspected? Do you have a writ for that? Do you have a spellbook to declare? Will you be using an inn? Buying property? Will you be buying weapons? Will you be buying animals? Do you plan to stay more than three days? Very well. That will be 35 g.p. per person - go stand by that table for your three day visa. Next please."

maxwelljoslyn.com said...

Oh I love that spellbook entry fee!. Maybe in some nasty or extra-bureaucratic places they charge by the quire or by the ten-quires or something -- the longer the spellbook, the more spells or the more potent spells the mage has, after all.

Alexis Smolensk said...

An excellent idea!