Do we have resources for non-feudal setups?

Okay, so as far as I understand it, feudalism relies on a huge number of oppressed peasants supporting a small-to-tiny warrior caste. However, some Tribunals are set in areas where feudalism hasn't been established.

Since Lords of Men is for Western Europe, are there any fan-made resources for other areas? Especially math-heavy ones? I'm good with math and my inner Ebenezer Scrooge screams in hate every time 5th edition assumes the fans of a game as fundamentally math-heavy as Ars Magica couldn't possibly be interested in Double-Entry Bookkeeping: The Penny-pinching.

(Seriously, people. If you're going to go to the trouble of mentioning that herding sheep works because the price of wool is up and a lot of the expenses are minimized compared to farming . . . maybe we'd like enough BLEEPing detail to work out stuff like that for ourselves? Make it a little easier to come up with clever magic solutions because we can actually see which issues affect the bottom line? Make magic mean more than the default 'save one pound per magnitude per year'? Sheesh.)


This sounds more like the Industrial Revolution. Feudalism is more an exchange of protection for service. As the land grew richer, the service became a joke. In the 1200s, life was prolly the easiest of the 400-1900 period.

City and Guild covers this pretty well. Being rich is all about shoing how rich you are by spending it.

Why? The issues that affect your bottom line are the ones you want stories out of. So you develop better feeding for your draft animal and save on your mining operation or whatever you find fun. If you want true reasons, read on the Middle Ages; I like heavy maths but still enjoyed this greatly.

I don't think you understand correctly what feudalism was.
It was not a minority oppressed peasants...
If they were poor, they had rights as others.
he had right of protection which had to be given by the noble on which territory he was living
he didn't have to battle during war, as it was what the noble was for
and other things I don't remember.
Feudalism was really a society of giving and getting : also see the vassals, they had to give there army maximum a month a year, to give advice to there master, but in return they had his protection, and if it was not correctly followed, it was very serious

Now there were nobles who where oppressing others, but more than often they finished badly... in a way or another

(sorry for difficulties to express myself in English...)

Not to continue the derailing of this thread, but, just in response to the other people posting, Albert is, in my view, completely accurate in his rather pithy one-sentence summary of feudalism. Of course there were rights of certain kinds available to peasants, both in theory and, to a much lesser (but nevertheless sometimes real) extent, in practice; and of course the apologists for the system liked to emphasise that the warrior caste was bound by certain obligations to those beneath them, and of course those obligations were sometimes taken seriously enough to matter in practical terms - but to say that the system wasn't basically oppressive is to totally ignore its fundamental character.

This is not to say that all the noble lords and ladies were personally bastards, or that all the peasants were miserable every day of the week; that's by no means true. But the very fact that you have a very tiny class of people who control and benefit from almost all the wealth and power of the society, supported by an overwhelming majority of people who have virtually no control over any real sources of wealth or social or political power, means that you can fairly describe the system as oppressive.

Rant over!

Back to Albert's question:

I'm no help here :smiley: - I don't know of any. But do you have a specific area outside Western Europe in mind? Because if you're really keen to do the economic math, then you'd have to begin by saying that in 1220 there were a lot of quite different political/economic systems operating in different parts of the world, all of which would have to be modelled quite differently.

Just my two cents! :smiley:

That description can just as well be used to describe the norm of today. Actually, the concentration of wealth is more extreme today in many democracies than it was in medieval times.

Feudalism certainly has its bad sides, but you´re essentially taking the worst exceptions and claim them as the norm.

I don't know to what extent it's addressed in TC&TC, but the Mythic Middle-East certainly isn't under a feudal system in 1220

It's been years since I read South of the Sun, but I don't recall the society described therein as being particularly feudal either.

Now Direwolf, let me get this straight. You're arguing that because the evident inequalities of wealth and power that we see around us today can't possibly (horrors!) be taken as evidence that the system we live under is in important ways oppressive, the inequalities of wealth and power in the middle ages can't be taken as evidence that feudalism was oppressive, either?

Is that right, or have I maybe misunderstood you?

Unless I'm mistaken, the Italian city-states were not feudal in nature during the period. For that matter, even in the rest of Europe, ever more cities obtained a royal/imperial/ducal charter, giving them a semi-independent existence outside of the feudal system. More or less.

Unfortunately, I can't point you to any document regarding the economy of such areas. I expect it's much the same than in feudal land as far as peasants go: whether they pay taxes to a feudal lord or rent of some sort to a merchant prince is probably irrelevant to the basics of farming.

You are correct. The concept of the independent "city state" was rearing again, in a variety of forms and degrees.

(You're right, but he'll claim you misunderstood him.) :wink:

That was my first impression too - altho' the OP may just have been handwaving rather than worrying about perfect accuracy in portrayal.

"You know- that "feudalism" thing..."

The main element was land-use-rights - who owned the land, and what they wanted for someone else to work/live there.

There were two main deals that constituted the feudal system.

One was peasant/warrior: "I'll work for you to protect me/I'll fight for you to feed/clothe/etc me." The "working" part required land to live on and/or farm.

The other was warrior/warrior "I'll give you land to fight for me/I'll fight for you if you give me land". (This is not far from the above, just a different set of skills for sale.) The "land" then gave these lesser nobles to enact the first deal, above, for themselves. This is what created the big pyramid where the king was on top and the peasants were the ones all covered in shit (to paraphrase a certain academic movie, ahem).

There were many variations on this - but that's it in a nutshell.

The "oppressed" part?... that's a matter of sensibility. Starvation and lawlessness are also oppressive, and compared to that it was a cakewalk (most of the time).

As to the question in the OP... no.

The problem is marketability. Altho' some people enjoy this, most do not.

Worse, that small percentage who do often are (semi-)educated in the field in some way, and so disagree with the economic, social or mathematical premises of that detailed system. (See last several posts, above, as partial supporting evidence.)

How can you put 1000 years as one Dark Age? It would be like saying democracy is oppressive because of the Industrial Revolution.

Which feudalism? The "kill a Norman, wipe a village" English system? The early Roman-like Carolingian system? The Holy Roman Empire?
When? 9th century, 12th, 15th?
Who? The heathen slaves, the villeins, the free men?

How much have you read to come to that conclusion, have you read anything that refers to normal-life documents of the 1200s to see how unfair and oppressive their lives were? Are you an apologist of ignorance?

Okay, so now we have officially derailed this promising thread, and turned it into a debate about feudalism. Big apologies to Albert! :smiley: :smiley:

Tugdual, I get the sense that you think I'm saying something pretty silly - which I may well be (it wouldn't be the first time!) - but I'm not quite %100 sure what it is, precisely, that you find silly about it. Could you perhaps clarify?

I totally agree with you that in any serious discussion about feudalism we need to make some pretty fine distinctions about the specific type, or types, of feudalism we're talking about. As you say, this is perhaps a whole millennium, in some places, that we're talking about, with many different kinds of systems at different places and at different times. And, ultimately, in a serious discussion, you'd have to be very careful about generalising from one to the others, or about all of them.

I just didn't think we were quite at that level of discussion yet! :smiley:

All I meant initially was that, as far as one-sentence summaries go, Albert's was pretty good.

I don't at all mean to say that the whole period of true feudalism was a "Dark Age" - that's a term that's outdated even for the 5th-10th Centuries (or so, depending on where you're talking about) which it was once commonly used to describe. So I think we agree there! But you can acknowledge the richness and interest of the time, and its complexities, and still think that the peasants were given a pretty rough deal in a lot of important ways by this thing that we describe, when we're speaking generally, as "feudalism".

Haha thanks for that! Chuckle chuckle. Though, in his defence, he hasn't claimed anything like that yet! :smiley:

I liked your whole description of feudalism, Cuchulains, so I thought, since we're all mercilessly derailing the thread, I take you up on this comment, just for mutual fun.

I totally agree that being at the bottom of the ladder in a feudal system was no doubt preferable to starvation and lawlessness, as you say. But - taking up once again this word "oppressed" that we seem to be stuck on - just because something is better than starvation doesn't mean it's not oppressive. Otherwise we're setting a pretty low bar for describing something as 'oppressive', no? There are plenty of situations someone can be in where I'd feel pretty justified in calling them oppressed, even though they're not actually starving.

Are we actually arguing about feudalism, I wonder, are we perhaps just arguing about the meaning of this word 'oppressed'?

Well, if "completely accurate" and "apologists" sounds silly, I don't want to know what is offensive to you.

Had Ars Mag covered the 1500s or the Industrial Revolution, "oppressed" would have been accurate. But around 1200 there was a strong evolution in techniques, the apparition of the merchant class and free cities, a huge population growth and a land productivity that wasn't reached until the 1950s. Old lands had payment fixed when the land was poor, new land had bonuses to bring colonists in. How could you believe that an "oppressed" people could grow faster than any other time? Is it the same baseless "oppressed" that capitalists and communists accused one another?

So, I am asking again: what do you have that supports your claim that people were "oppressed", moreso than lets say the Industrial Revolution?

Well, the first dictionary definition of "oppress" that I could find was "to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints; subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority or power".

Under this definition, would you still maintain that peasants were not oppressed, generally speaking, under feudalism? Not, mind you, in comparison to the Industrial Revolution, but in comparison to our current sensibilities?

Any regime is oppressive to some degree. Any tax is burdensome, any authority often harsh, enacting unjust laws and at times with cruelty. But we speak relatively to our own standards. Almost by definition we find many laws of the middle ages unjust, as otherwise we would adopt them. We also often find them, and middle-ages society as a whole, cruel and harsh - capital punishments were not only far more common, for example, but so were various animals fights. While the tax burden in some democracies is high, it is not as burdernsome (to my knowledge) for most people, especially the poor, as it is for the many poor peasants in the middle ages (or, for that matter, throughout the agricultural age). And so on.

These are certainly generalizations and there are shades of gray and aspects in the opposite direction, but still, to the best of my limited knowledge and as a general observation, I do believe that it's fair to characterize feudalism as "oppressive".

As you said, any regime is oppressive to some degree. The lower class has always been oppressed to the point of making the word meaningless. If you choose a baseline definition that covers 50% of the population of the last 2 centuries, you cheapen the suffering of those who are truly oppressed, be it by their feudal lords or modern warlords.

Now, the problem here is not the more-or-less ironical use of the word, but the seemingly ignorant (still no reply on that front) "completely accurate" trollish response. I will repeat here the exchange that prompted it.

OK: there some problems with this:

  • We know lords are moving from crops to sheep, because the price of wool is high, because writers at the time tell us so. That's what they say. They genrally do not then give examples.
  • There's no set of prices for even one place in Medieval Europe. The closest I can think of is Diocletian's list of maximum prices, which is Roman law far predating the period.
  • Even for goods where we have prices for a single commodity, they do not agree with each other, if either the place or time of year changes.
  • You paid very little for your book. I was paid 2.5 cents per word for the tables in City and Guild, which is generous by RPG payment standards. Pay Atlas more and they might pay me more. In my public life, I charge slightly over 1USD per minute for my time, double on weekends or if its a one off job. You want a universal price list? I doubt one is constructable, but if you want to pay me $60 an hour to try, I'm happy to. You'll note I'm offering my bulk rate, there.

I do have a slightly more complicated system somewhere, which uses fractions rather than Labor points, but its for merchants, not for Covenants. It certainly won't go to the penny, in the way you seem to be suggesting.

Oh woah - sorry Tug - I've just realised that you thought I was being aggressive/'trollish' in my first post. Sorry about that! I didn't mean to give that impression at all.

I didn't mean 'completely accurate' as an attack on anyone - I just meant that I liked Albert's turn of phrase, and thought it was pretty much right. I didn't at all mean that as a slight to anyone else!

To the extent that I was trying to have a bit of a (friendly, I hope!) debate, I was sort of more responding to to Lady Marlina's comment that:

It just seemed to me that Albert's very quick description matched my impression of feudalism better than Lady Marlina's view, which seemed a bit rosy to me.

Again, I certainly didn't mean to be 'trollish' - apologies for that.

Oh, I agree. The question for people saying "Nobles had duties" is "if a noble refuses to do his duties, who forces him to do them?" Generally speaking, no-one does. Church landlords are even worse - becasue if your lord was bad you could resist him in certain ways, like hedging your taxes, but if you lord was the Church, you'd have a lower standard of living, you'd have fewer rights, and if the lord did the wrong thing and you resisted you'd go to Hell, because determining right and wrong was not something you were allowed to do. (It was for the Pope or his representatives.)

Your argument was that the concentration of wealth and power equals oppression. So, are you arguing that modern society is more oppressive or not?
And to your question, i said no such thing, as you already stated later that you did understand that i did not.

Essentially, your understanding of feudalism is extremely flawed. Your impression of it might be somewhat fitting on 18-19th century Russia(one of the things that fueled more than one revolution!) or 17th century Japan (not as bad as the former example on the issue of people ownership, but on the other hand, the "lower classes" had almost no real rights), but as a generalised description of Europe in the 13th century? You or Albert are not even close.
As Tugdual already wrote, 13th century Europe was generally a pretty ok time and place to live. It´s part of the high medieval times which saw more social, technological and economic development than would again happen for over half a millenia.

Was there oppression, hell yes. But really, people at the time very probably got more oppression from guilds, villagecouncils and other "non-rulers" than they got from their "lords".

She´s far more correct.

Well there was more or less of peer pressure in most places. Getting a reputation as an unjust, cruel or oppressive lord was generally a bad thing.

You´re not mistaken.

( Well, I also thought we answered it fairly early on. With "no", I believe... )

(Yeah, I really don't know what I was thinking when I chose that particular alphabet soup of an appellation. I had just returned from England - what can I say? :blush:

CH certainly works, or C-dog (esp if you know the etymology). (Someone was calling me coochy-coo for a while - can't say I'll encourage that, but really whatever works.)

My point was that the meaning is ultimately subjective...

...which is why I, too, used the word "sensibility". What we, today, subjectively judge as "oppressive" against our modern backdrop and the known spectrum and variety of history is not necessarily fair given the time and circumstances. We have long ago set a different bar.

If the best you know is "here, today", then there is really nothing to compare it to except "worse than this".* Some modern firebrands claim that any government is "oppressive" - and in many ways they are correct. Yet I doubt that's why Soviet dissidents escaped to the West during the Cold War years, to simply get a fresh type of oppression.

(* You can claim that "ideas of something better" would be more attractive, but not a lot of political theory going around back then. Humans tend to accept the premise they are given, esp. if they and everyone they know grow up with it. That doesn't make it "not oppressive" - what makes it not oppressive is their own common sensibility that it was not, or not enough to do anything about.)

Any modern judgement of "past practices" risks being coloured by an unrealistic modern sensibility - not "unrealistic" for today, but unrealistic compared to anything that was practical back then. Like saying that before the modern gasoline engine, all travel was slow and therefore "worse" than travel today - but not in their eyes. Steampower, by land or sea, just rocked. "I'm on a train, mother*&#$$#!" Woot!

Hence - my point was that the daily circumstances, which we view as oppressive today, would never have been seen as oppressive then, by any measure - so when did it change to become an accurate and useful assessment? And if it changed (as I argue it must have), what is the value of making that assessment of them today? That we know not to go there again? We got that one. :wink:

Generous and giving to a fault, that lad.

Well, the social sensibilities and morals (or lack thereof) of the day certainly had an effect on the system in practice, but not how it was laid out. The government imposed by latter-day Emperors of Rome was a far cry than the Republican experiment it started out to be - but the system was, in theory, the same.

When "Might Makes Right" is the rule of the day and nobility lies in title rather than conduct, we end up with the sort of hypocrisy and failure that some could point to in any governmental/social systems (but we won't mention any modern examples, because discussing modern politics would be a breech of the board policies, and just askin' for trouble, ahem.) :wink: