It's a good thing that I'm well-read, otherwise this task would be insurmountable. I'll propose a question, one for which the answer was posted on the blog about two years ago. How is it that the presence of animal husbandry changed the shape and status of house building?
If you're a long-time reader, you'll hit on that immediately. But three years ago I'd have had no idea myself; I'd have needed someone to explain it to me. But I read and continue to watch documentaries, which steadily expand my perceptions about things past the usual associations we make.
If you want the answer, and some kind soul doesn't rush to put it in the comments, write me an email at email@example.com.
Let's take another example. What associations do you make with the development of Monarchy? Right off, the reader should connect the presence of a monarch with a more united kingdom, the rise of an aristocracy, the presence of a court, the inevitability of joint foreign policy and quite probably the creation of some kind of elite military, "the king's guard."
To put it another way, an organized government, which a less developed region would not possess. We should be able to think of lots of examples of inward-looking social organizations, without a system of government, where the rules of law came down to what your neighbors believed or what people accepted as tradition. Homesteaders in 19th century America, well ahead of the government, or large parts of Africa or the steppes of Eurasia, where tribes and clans vied with each other for resources but had little relationship with the outside world. The whole history of Australia, before the arrival of Europeans.
The arrival of a monarchy on the scene sets up a conflict with tradition; a government is there to arrest, manage or instigate change, depending on what is needed ~ whereas a traditional framework opposes change categorically. Once a "state" has begun thinking for itself, those beliefs previously held by the population are now under siege. The monarch has ideas of his or her own; and those ideas are not "traditional" much of the time. Largely because the problems a monarch faces are not traditional, but the necessity of event: disaster, increases in population, decreases in food supply, the incursion of foreign powers and so on.
These things, however, are very general ~ and they don't affect a party of player characters much. The point of the structure is to give effect to the actual campaign, not propose a history lesson on how the development of monarchies changed social structure.
It is easy to become enamored with the big picture and lose sight of that point. If the players don't feel a difference, there isn't one; it doesn't matter if the region has a monarch or not if there are no visible signs that compel the players to view the environment differently. So let's back up and ask, how does the monarchy affect ordinary people, here on the streets, who would probably never meet the local king or queen, nor attend court a single time in all their lives?
Well, the presence of the monarch does tend to bind together people: when the king is crowned, everyone parties; when the king dies, everyone mourns. When the king is unwell, everyone worries; and when the king is married or has a child, again, there is a huge celebration. The various aspects of the monarch take on the aspect that we sometimes identify with celebrity culture; it seems to matter that an acting couple has split up or a famous comedian dies ... this is a small taste of the sort of intensity people once had for the reigning family when there was little else outside of their worlds to seize their imaginations.
A second element to consider is the law. There are a series of effects now to consider associated with the way the local constabulary deal with crime. When the law is managed by locals, according to tradition, there is room for patience and mercy that are obliterated when the people in charge owe fealty to a power that is distant and removed. Now, the constable can't just "let you go," because there would be questions to be answered and responsibility to higher authorities. This makes the overall visitation of the law upon individuals a colder prospect. You're not dealing with a "man," you're dealing with the power of the state ~ and that power doesn't care that you're stealing bread to feed your family. You're stealing.
In many different ways, matters of culture are now cut that fine. Whereas the elders of the village or the town council might make room for you to pay your taxes when business improves, now there's an official, and outsider, who is there to ensure that everyone is paid up and in full. Taxes are no longer a matter of give what you can; it's been decided that all persons of a certain rank and capacity will give such-and-such, no matter who they are. The law has become faceless ... and frightening.
But players are far more familiar with a faceless law than the reverse, so that's not much of an adjustment for them. It is harder to make a group of players understand a law system that isn't faceless than one that is. That is a part of why films like The Wicker Man hold a fascination ~ because we find it difficult to relate to sweet, kind people apparently being able to live together and peace and harmony, yet able to burn outsiders to death because it's a necessity. We, living in the world we do, automatically identify cruelty with institutions, not individuals.
We need more, then. How else does the monarchy affect daily life apart from a drunken bash now and then and a tax collector that needs side-stepping?
It only came to me a couple days ago: the answer is fashion. The monarchy creates fashion the same way it creates the law. Whereas in a previous time, people wore what they would, the presence of that celebrity cult, the same way it does for us, induces people to grow interested in new clothes, new ideas, new habits ... and the most evident of those habits, the one that the players would most likely notice, is the presence of etiquette.
We normally associate etiquette with the 19th century (we do if we're westerners), but it goes back much further than that. Confucius, 2,500 years ago, is all about etiquette: right speaking, right acting, correctness of social relationships, correctness of justice and sincerity and so on.
I've often found myself in a position as a DM where an NPC is conversing with the player and the player is acting like a complete boor. In my mind, it's clear from the first sentence out of the player's mouth that they have just insulted everything that the NPC ought to hold dear ... and I've let it pass because I don't want to hold the player responsible for a clumsy attempt at role-playing. After all, the player isn't there; the player can't see the NPC as clearly as I can, and for that matter doesn't identify clearly the whole scene. If that same player were to find themselves transported to the Palace of Versailles in the 16th century, the player would rightly shut their mouth in terror of saying something wrong, particularly if they understood the consequence might be the experience of being whipped like a dog down a long hall full of mirrors, until falling into the hands of four or five guards, who would then drag the beaten victim into a cold stone cell for a few years of unreasonable punishment.
Players don't understand consequences like that. Why should they? They have no experience with the sort of non-egalitarian thinking that would condemn an individual to death for speaking rudely. Players retain their modern sensibilities with these things ... they just don't get that the local townspeople would demand a polite speaking voice and a careful choice of words because that's what the king does, and we all like the king very much and want to be like him.
As D&Dites, we're still dealing with players who answer resistance on the NPC's part with sword blows in broad daylight, followed by the sort of swaggering pride in their action like we would expect from Mad Dog Biff Tanner: "Look at me, I'm a bad ass." A moment like that in D&D needs someone stepping up behind the character and hitting them blind with a shovel.
We might try explaining to the players that living in a monarchy means there are now consequences for failing to speak politely, even to goodwives, even to beggars ... and everyone in the town is ready to step up and quietly see that those consequences are delivered. Save the rudeness for a democracy. We do not put up with that shit around here.