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    Canonfire :: View topic - Serfs and Classes in Gran March
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    Serfs and Classes in Gran March
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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 13, 2002
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    From: Orlane, Gran March

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    Tue Dec 20, 2005 1:00 pm  
    Serfs and Classes in Gran March

    Hello all,

    Wolfsire has agreed to help point up the Laws section of the project. One of the areas that has not been well detailed is the Law for Commoners. One of the reasons for this is that the role of Commoner's is undefined. The role of traditional serfs from the European past do not fit very well as GM has a strong and proffessional Standing Army, something that did not develop in Europe till later.

    With everyone going off to serve in the army, if life at home is too miserable, they could just stay away. And with every person in the March being reasonably able with arms, oppression is more difficult.

    So, in our Laws section, there are two broad distinctions in GM society, Petitioners and Non Petitioners. Petitioners are all males who have served in the Military (or fulfilled their obligation as a noble/priest/mage etc.) or the wives and daughters of same. Non petitioners include all foreigners and those who refuse to serve.

    If you are not a petitioner, you cannot appeal to magistrates or charter cities or own land or a multitude of other rights. If you are a petitioner, then you have rights under the Laws. GM is one of the most lawful places in the Flaness, with detailed codes for most things.

    The entirety of the Petitioners are part of the 6 Institutions... the Knights of the Watch, The Nobiity, The Army, The Temples, The Guilds and the Commons. The Knights are not above the law, but they are subject mainly to Order discipline. Each institution has their own jurisdiction, and will bow to the jurisdiction out of precedent.

    Example: A blacksmith assaults a Priest on the Street in a Town who has a Guild Charter (i.e. the town was started and built by a Guild upon approval of the Commandant and the Baron). The Blacksmith can and probably be tried under the Laws of the City. However, if the priest turned out to be the High Priest of the Temple, the temple might request that the blacksmith be tried under temple law.

    So, how do the Commons fit into a quasi feudal system with Commandant elected by the nobility? Are there serfs? This doesnt make sense. Are they peasants? Somewhat.

    How I am envisioning it is that the average commoner has the freedom to leave the Noble's lands and go to the City, or to Keoland or to where ever. However, the relationship with the Nobles must be pretty good for the Nation to have survived 650+/- years without revolution.

    So, the Commoners have the right to leave. Maybe they can agree to tie themselves to the land, in return for the right of ownership. This agreement is binding on the Petitioner (until death) and all offspring (until the age of recruitment).

    I envision the Nobility as the most powerful and the Commons as the most numerous Institutions. These two groups have the most interaction with each other.

    The Army is concerned with the borders, the cities and the roads as that is all they are tasked to defend.

    The noble must protect their barony and the countryside. They are actually in charge of common defense from such things as goblin bands. The army will help if it does not affect the overall war/defense effort. The Noble is also concerned with his status, wheather he might become a Baron, wheather he can retain his lands, the direction of the March, wheather or not he has collected taxes, etc.

    The Temples are concerned with their temples and any town which they have chartered.

    The Guilds are concerned with their trades and any town which they have chartered.

    The Commons are concerned with their day to day lives and their relationship with the other institutions. They are the only Institution that is not a cohesive organization.

    So, what is the role of these people in the March. What rights and responsabiities do they have?
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 20, 2005 2:25 pm  

    AM: “… Petitioners and Non Petitioners. Petitioners are all males who have served in the Military …”

    In relation to the Commons, that made me think of the citizen and civilian distinction from Starship Troopers. Whatever anyone thinks of the movies (or book, which I have not read), I think there is something valid to exploring the social ramifications of the distinction for GM. Aside from the rights granted to petitioners, I think there might be fair amount of indoctrination going on to make the most out of the army. To the extent that the commoners have free time, perhaps it is taken up with “voluntary” things like parades.

    Below is some text from http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/kwiatkowski1.html. I took out a lot of the irrelevant and the modern political commentary.

    “We see it in the constant stream of patriotic, flame-fanning war news …. We see simple heroes made of our soldiers … comments of "I’m proud of what we are doing here" … morality is the result of training for instant unthinking obedience …
    “The path to citizenship – concretely through military service – is a key theme in Heinlein’s novel. "Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part . . . and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live."
    “This, of course, is precisely how the arachnid enemy in Heinlein’s imaginative universe functions. Centered on a hidden, physically weak and uncourageous yet ominously powerful giant insect brain … it remotely directs the actions of a million machine-like bugs of destruction.
    “Trooper-style citizenship – as Heinlein satirizes – is a condition that sounds free and honorable but is actually impossible to exercise with free will or honor.
    “Heinlein’s citizenship is granted for soldiers who have made it through boot camp, where they have learned not to question authority, to follow all orders from above instantly and exactly, and who have no other allegiance than to the all-wise central state.
    “Their experiences ought to be highly informative and educational to the masterminds of war and conquest and propaganda …”
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 13, 2002
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    Tue Dec 20, 2005 5:36 pm  
    THe Down Side

    Well there always is a down side isnt there?

    I remember the Alignment axis in the old D&D books from years ago. I always thought it interesting how similar good and evil could look when balanced across law.

    There absolutely could be indoctrination involved in the army. However, I also see opposing forces. The nobles, at least in one version of the "laws," were allowed, and sometime expected, to stay out of military service, as they are leading the home guard against raiding lizardmen or kobolds or bandits. If they go in, they are immediately officers possibly.

    I think that anyone joining the hierarchy of a church could avoid service, provided the church agrees to provide aid and healing to the army. I see the guilds gaining relief from combat service for their members. After all, what idiot wants to put the blacksmith on the frontline. And then there are the Knights, who are the very symbol of the March in many ways, and yet there has to be strong tension between the two institutions. After all, the knights keep loosing, the army keeps winning and the Knights get all the glory. And the army is 6 times the size, at least.

    However, this is possibly the most militant and lawful society in the Flaness. I imagine that every Petitioner is willingly a member of the local veterans militia. I think each would be participating in the parades. And I think that there is room for all this to meld without becoming Heinlens extreme.

    Also, remember that every male serves, from every race. Every daughter or wife of a veteran is a Petitioner, and every woman who serves is a Petitioner. So, basically, everyone is a petitioner, even if the qualify under an exemption.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:57 pm  

    Where to start?

    First, you got a lousy source for explaining Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Of course being from Lew Rockwell would explain that, as his basic politics are demented.
    The movie so utterly perverts everything in the book Heinlein's widow forced them to remove his name from it.
    The short explanation consists of two elements:
    First, the book is not about the government but about the men serving. It contains no government satire at all. Rather it reflects the attitudes of men serving as grunts as to how they'd like the government and officer ranks to have to treat them.
    Second, the government makes no pretense to being better, it merely reflects the attitude of the group that established it. That attitude being, they were a bunch of vets who had fought and bled, watching their friends die, because a bunch of political jerks who had never been anywhere near such had felt they needed to have a war. As such, this time around the government would be limited to those who had served. The issue of better or worse was irrelevant, this is what it was going to be.
    Third, the issue of going through boot camp is a complete red herring. Service was required. That service did not have to be in the Mobile Infantry, which was in fact far down the food chain. People in the fleet, who didn't go through any such training, got to vote too. Even those in the level below it, which was basically guinea pig for science experiments, or contstruction specialist in a lethal environment, got to vote.
    So don't imagine anything from the movie, or what the woman wrote being relevant to what Heinlein wrote. Her essay might be applicable to the movie, which is Paul Verhoeven's prurient and anti-military fantasy writ large, but it has nothing to do with the meaning of the book.

    OK, that out of the way.

    Why do you imagine the GM wouldn't be conducive to serfdom? Even with required service, it is not impossible. Nor are serfs completely without legal rights. They simply have a larger number of obligations than others. Note also from the canon history that Knights of the March organized the inhabitants into military units. That strongly suggests they did so without giving them a choice. It was serve or die. Now it is serve or have no rights at all.

    The most general responsibility people have is obeying the law. That includes being gainfull employed, paying taxes, stopping criminals caught in the act, and generally doing whatever other service might be required. (Like a yearly labor service.)
    Their rights include what is specified in their various contracts and rental agreements for the land they work or the guilds they are in, as well as the general rights granted by the feudal hierarchy. Those generally include a recognition of various property rights, as well as due process in judicial matters.
    And laws will simply be variations and expressions on that.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 9:08 am  

    I imagine serfdom is not impossible, but that GM wouldn't be conducive to serfdom. There would be too many peasants like Dennis:

    “Oh king, eh, very nice. An' how'd you get that, eh? By exploitin' the workers -- by 'angin' on to our outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an' social differences in our society! If there's ever going to be any progress— … We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. … But all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting. … Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!... I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away!”

    Well, maybe not quite like him, but enough with an attitude and ideas on government.

    I do not think a highly militaristic and lawful society with a large heavily armed and militarily successful peasant class, which feels oppressed when it comes to their rights and obligations. With regard to their military obligations, I would think that the state would indoctrinate the peasants to be highly motivated and loyal. Part of that would be allowing them to feel superior to the non-petitioners. If that subclass within GM is almost non-existent, that feeling could manifests in relation to the peasants of Keoland or the Bakluni. Another part of that would be feeling, if not equal to the Knights, at least deserving of a good dose of respect.

    I do not really know what serfdom could mean in this setting. I know that in different lands on earth various names and land related obligation schedules developed for the lower classes, but I doubt that history is greatly applicable to GM. I would think that some of it would be and the peasant class would have to have some obligations, which even if merely contractual would be sufficiently standardized and pervasive so as to create a class that would be somewhat like serfdom. But I doubt many ever said that they were proud to be a serf.

    For those reasons, I do not think GM peasants would be called or think of themselves as serfs, or have obligations closer to the more burdensome end of the spectrum. Consideration of the commoner’s history in the GM might be appropriate here. I do not know it well at all. I supposed in the early days, based upon what Samwise wrote, there would have been something like traditional serfs, but they would have, over time, been granted more under the law as the Army became a more profound institution. I think perhaps Samwise’s explanation of Heinlein’s work could be useful in that regard. There were probably also settlers who were encourage with favorable terms and never had within GM burdensome hereditary obligations outside of military service.

    I would think calling a petitioner-commoner a serf would fall under something like the fighting words legal doctrine such that the offended commoner would be lawfully entitled, and socially encouraged, punch the offender in the nose. What a pain that would be for the nobles.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 9:25 am  
    Serfdom

    Sam,

    Well, first I dont think Wolfsire was trying to write a review of starship troopers, but use the movie (good or bad) to identify parallels.

    As to serfs, the generally accepted definition is that serfs are bound to the land, cannot be sold apart from the land, and cannot leave the land, barring complex contractural arraingments in various countries in various centuries. You and could debate back and forth the niceties and complexities for some time.

    The problem with the term Serf, in this instance, is that our audience are players of a fantasy game, not historians. The use of the word in this work conveys an image that is incongruent from what we wish to portray. Most players will never get beyond the word/simple definition.

    So, to answer this problem, as proposed by IvorMac some time ago, was to select another properly obscure but medieval sounding term for the various classes of commoners, and then define them. This gives a clean slate, and allows us to define the Gran March relationship.

    However, before we assign names to it, we should generally detail how it is to work. That is what I am attempting to do here. I will say that serfdom and a central standing army do not generally go togeather. It is not impossible to construct a system where the two coincide I think it works better to avoid it, or do a highly modified system so different be unrecognizable.

    So... what are the rights of the commons?
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 10:15 am  

    No, I was not trying to review the movie starship trooper or even the essay. And I am thankful to Samwise for putting in his thought on what the book was about, as I think the different perspectives, top down manipulation and bottom up reform, are very relevant. I hope I conveyed that in relation to addressing elevation above serfdom over generations through service in the army concurrent with the development of that as a profound institution.

    As to the rights of the commons, I will have to jump into another written (to say literary to offend many) sources of controversy.

    Leo Frankowski wrote a series of books about an engineer from communist Poland who was sent back in time to the middle ages. I have read a few very bad reviews about his books, and I have to agree with them, but I liked the books nonetheless. Briefly, the main character used his knowledge, and the occurrence of the Mongol invastion, to transform not only Poland, but much of Europe into a modern society within his lifetime.

    The relevant point of this is that he did this through the use of “the Army,” elevated and indoctrinated serfs, as his principal institution and he established certain rights for members and the Army itself. After racking my brain, the only one I can remember is the Right of Departure, but I think there were at least two others, and incidental rights flowed from those. I will see if I can find the books and give some more detail.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 3:16 pm  

    It is much as Wolfsire said. My intent with the "rebuttal review" was to focus on the fact that if you use what he had quoted for the basis of the book you would be getting a warped view of the book, and a warped model to use. However, if you use the actual content of the book, you might have a reasonable model to use. (Although such a model is more applicable to the Yeomanry actually.)

    As for the term "serf", there was in fact a time when people were proud to be serfs. It meant they weren't slaves, and they had an absolute right to land to farm. Although we often view serfs as the bottom of the medieval social heap, there were in fact two classes lower than them, the aforementiond slaves and landless laborers. I did indeed suck to be a serf, but it could also get worse.
    Being a serf became a poor option as time progressed and people with more rights and less responsibilities appeared. Compared to a slave, a serf is a king. Compared to a free peasant, a serf is a slave. It is relative.

    I do agree that selecting a new term, without such historical baggage, would be a good idea.

    Back to Wolfsire, I have read those books too. I agree with the reviews (they are barely above the level of tripe), and I agree with you too (they are still fun tripe). And I agree with you about how the "uplifted" serfs could be a useful model.

    As for the rights of the commons, again, it depends on how many you want to give them. I would really suggest staying simple: right to property, right to trial, right to appeal, right to serve, right to achieve a higher social class. Beyond that you get into various modern conceptions of rights which would be severely anachronistic, and not particularly relevant.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 4:15 pm  

    On just a funny note, I did a net search to see if I could find out the other rights Frankowski addressed and found his web site. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but in it he said that he had almost a “holy” approach to Heinlein, by which I understood him to mean reverential.

    I fully agree that peasant’s rights need to be simple. Having them be anachronistic might not bother me that much, but lack of relevance would. IMO, it needs to entertain the DM and/or the players, which can mean different things, but outside a very unusual campaign (go anarcho-syndicalist communalism!), the rights of peasants are not going to go very far, as they might in this forum.

    AM: “You and could debate back and forth the niceties and complexities for some time.”

    I do not think it would be a good idea to undertake that debate, and think AM definition of serf is great for working purposes, but some GM historical perspective might be useful.

    Samwise, are you aware of anything in the history of GM that would inform the issue? Early slavery in the March or before it? The Keoish renunciation of it or its imperialism? Demi-human or Bakluni relations? Matters of economic significance that might drive the society in one way or another, such as to make a Right of Departure or other rights practically impossible?

    I know AM is not tied to canon, but likes to explain when and why there is a deviation from it.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 6:15 pm  
    Rights

    I agree the rights should be specific and limited. They are not nobles. However, just a few basic rights might well improve their lot far above those of persons in neighboring lands.

    As you have said, being a serf was not always bad, but the thing I see that is different in the March is the being tied to the land. Also, I see a more cordial and interdependant relationship between the nobles and the commons than many historic serf based societies had. I see a relationship much more Roman, of plebs and senators. I also see unspoken secret of non-petitioners being nearly slaves and legal codification of xenophobia.

    In my mind the commoners leave to go to the Army is the defining difference. They serve their time, they can stay or leave. This is the big crossroads. If they have only a tyrannical Noble to go back to, they would all choose to stay with the army. Or maybe they could go to the cities (under the laws as written, this would be the case). The noble would soon find his lands barren... a poor choice in a land as wild as the March.

    And though Sam may disagree, Gran March and it's highly militant population are the most cohesive military force in the Sheldomar, and possibly the Flaness. There are more numerous forces. But no Canon description describes a total population so disciplined and prepared for war. Imagine what Spartacus could do with this bunch.

    That said, the Commons are the 800 lb gorilla of the March, though they are treated like the elephant in the corner. So, I see a slightly feudal organization but one whose agreements are based more on respect and less on obligation and right. The commoner is not obligated to serve the lord after military service, and has no right to the land. The Noble has no right to enforce servitude, but no obligation to accept it either.

    Now.. the above is what I see as the written and formal law. I can also see how such a lawful people would have enough traditions, customs and rites to overshadow anything in medieval history. These shoud, it think, be treated in brief and passing manner. I think trying to detail them all could grow beyond the need or desire of any gamer.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 6:19 pm  
    Wolf

    As to Sam and I debating, I meant that we are both devoted medieval students, or I gather that he is such. There are entire university departments devoted to just such debates.

    I am looking to conform this to canon as much as possible. If there is any out there I would love to see it.

    Most references I have found refere to the March in passing.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2005 6:27 pm  

    Well the history is the Neheli sent the Knights of the March in to exterminate all worshipers of Vecna. Along the way they also turned any semi-followers of Vecna (that is to say, various freed slaves or subject villages, as well as assorted turncoats they spared) into labor and combat units, and made them fight to help subdue said worshipers of Vecna. They continued to make the descendants of those people serve, expanding slowly until the time of Tavish the Great. It was run on a purely military basis at this time.
    From then until the Short War, the Knights of the March were the knights of the Watch, and the focus was moved into Ket and Veluna. During this time the nature shifted, as the nobles became more entrenched in their feudal privileges, and began to resent having their peasants taken off to die as low grade levies whenever needed. This resulted in the change from an appointed Commandant to an elected one following the Short War.
    From then until the present the Gran March seems to be in a confused state. The Knights of the Watch count many rulers among their members. The pesantry is still required to do military service, but it is unclear just what they do. I would suspect they mostly serve as border guards between Ket and Bissel, along with patrols throughout the rest of Keoland, Geoff, and Sterich. It isn't clear how much the nobles try and assert their rights. The ruler is still a "Commandant", suggesting a military nature of the area. What you make of that is up to you.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:38 am  

    On the rights Frankowski had for his army, they were the Right of Departure, the Right of Transit and the Right of Purchase. They were rights of the army, not really the soldiers, and so, I do not think they would work very well for the GM commoners, although if you wanted they could be considered in relation to army’s political power. I will briefly explain them and leave it at that, unless you want to get into it. I do not think having the GM army have these would be that good of an idea as it would upset the balance of power. Departure granted the freedoms expected and perhaps then some, but it applied anywhere the army had a right to go. If that applied in GM, it would put at least a moral obligation on the army to prohibit serfdom, indentured servitude, slavery, etc. in all of its neighbors and would elevate non-petitioners. Transit was like a visa. Purchase was like limited eminent domain. I do not think it gave the right to compel sale, but rather was associated with terms of international territorial acquisition and termination of a nobles obligations associated with the land.

    Only Departure in the meaning that AM wrote would seem relevant. For GM, I would think that this would best be stylized and codified as the Right of Service, which would mean the right to join, stay in and re-join the army. That may very well be inconsistent with the history Samwise wrote: “the nobles became more entrenched … low grade levies …pesantry is still required to do military service ….” Perhaps some more history is needed to explain the transition from obligation at low grade to right with excellence.

    Thing would flow from that right to service, and with the idea of the elephant in the corner, I do not think those other things should necessarily be codified, although they could be standardized. It would give peasants the power to negotiate with his noble for better terms effectively making the commoners freemen. Over time that would add up as a collective knowledge of the army would prevent bad deals with the nobles, and if a bad deal was made, the commoner could just rejoin. Perhaps not always. Certainly the idea of a debtor’s prison and company store would occur to the nobles. I think it should be tied to something like termination by dishonorable discharge.

    AM: I reviewed the Law you provided and have some idea that I will work on. When you first posted it way back when, I indicated that I though an in character document describing the rights was a good idea. I still do, but I never got a clear idea whether that was what you wanted or whether what I though of as the document was an outline of rights to be expanded upon. Given the history, I am thinking now that the Right of Service may make a very nice amendment to a written constitution, which could underscore the elephant and gorilla idea.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Dec 26, 2005 7:25 pm  
    The Law

    Hello Wolfsire,

    I hope you had a nice Christmas. I have been doing fine, but terribly busy.

    My thoughts on what need to be produced is an "in character," document that can be expanded upon by an enterprising DM as they see fit. The concept of a Chartered City was specifically for that reason. If DM X wants to run a game with religious law, he can pick a town and give it a Hieronian Charter, or a Pholtun Charter. DM Y wants to run a political game, with Nobles at the center, and he can choose a Noble charter.

    The Laws as I sent them to you are verging on longer than I anticipated, and Maybe we should branch them off into a few sub sections, like the Laws Martial, or the Guild Law.

    As to Classes and the Nobility, I have come up with a few suggetions:

    Classes

    Nobility

    Baron - Noble holder of the 10 baronys of the March. Technically these all owe fealty to the Duke of Dorlain, but that is nearly forgotten by many.

    Knight Baron, or Baron's Knight - A Knight whose title was accompanied by lands or manors. Such a Knight has feudal responsabilites as well as rights.

    Queen's Knight (Free Lance) - An odd term of the March, a Queen's Knight is a knight with no lands and generally no direct feudal responsabilities. They often have lost their lord in combat, or for various other reasons have lost their feudal obligations. They are still expected to maintain knightly etiquette, and the Commandant has been known to call down those who behave poorly. Though there is no queen, this group behaves as if there is one, i.e. insulting the queen, or teasing them for following a non existant figure is a sure way to a duel. For the most part, these knights are exemplary in their performance and behaviour due to a strong self Regulatory feeling. This may be because it has been suggested in the past, when this or that knight misbehaved, that they should loose their noble titles and privaledges if they dont have the responsabilities. THerefore, a Queens knight who is known to Lord over commoners in a vain and villainous manner might well find himself pummelled by several others of his Order (order meaning rank, not an order of knighthood). In most social occasions, when a Knight Baron is outside their feudal barony, they are of equal rank as a Queens Knight (much to their chagrin).

    Udals -
    Udal- Lord of an Allod... A freehold not beholden to any baron, answering only to the Commandant. There are several dozen of these small demenses in the March, most of which predate the Knights of the Watch, and some of which predate the March. Generally these are Demi Human holdings. There are, however, a few in Flan Allods in Barony Hethiye and several in Holiford Barony, which was annexed more than conqured.


    Commons

    Boc Holder - A land holder with recorded charter, almost always a cottage and lands. These holders owe the baron tax only.
    Sokeman-a landholder or herder with only the barons agreement as charter. Generally this includes a cottage and land, but the holder owes tax and decendants will owe rent.
    Tofter - a farmer or herder who holds their land at the barons will, owing both tax and rent.
    Ceorl - a farmer or herder who holds no land but works for the baron, receiving food and shelter in exchange for labor
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 27, 2005 5:35 pm  
    Commoners

    I think we should add Tradesmen to the commoners class, which is a skilled tradesman, but one who is not, for whatever reason a member of the Guilds.
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