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 Magical Medieval Fuedalism

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JulianAmici
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PostSubject: Magical Medieval Fuedalism   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:22 am

What follows are direct excerpts from the book which pretty well defines how I do fantasy government, aside from the occasional republic or democracy (few and far between).

What follows is a rather dry, but expansive look at how government, justice, and wealth are handled in a magical medival society. I'll expand further on this initial post in a bit.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)
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PostSubject: Feudalism   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:22 am

Feudalism is the basis of aristocratic magical medieval societies. Feudalism is a social, economic and political system in which a subservient peasant class, bound by obligation, works the land for the benefit of a lord. The lord holds the land and the rights associated with land from another lord in exchange for military and other services. Though feudalism is subject to variation, the above is a useable definition. This section addresses the feudal relationship between a lord and his vassal. Most of the bounty of a magical medieval society resides in the hands of the aristocracy. Nobles control vast amounts of land and subsequently, vast amounts of wealth and power. Beneath the nobility, a large gentry class controls much of the land as vassals of the nobility. Beneath them all, the peasantry toil to produce the fruit for their betters. In a magical medieval society, gaining control of land is gaining self-determination.

“Every lord a land, every land a lord,” is an old saying. Feudalism develops to meet the needs of agricultural production and defense in uncertain times. Strongmen gain and hold land through strength and service to stronger men. Magical medieval feudalism has progressed far from the rough days of its inception, but it is still the obvious child of its parent.

Vassalage
The core of feudalism is vassalage. Vassalage is swearing an oath to a lord in exchange for protection. Vassals usually receive land and the power it brings in their benefice, though there are men who swear vassalage without receiving land from his lord. In return for land, the lords gain warriors to defend their lands. The methods of vassalage and the rights associated with land ownership vary according to need, but certain basic similarities exist in all feudal relationships.
The ceremony of commendation seals the feudal relationship between lord and vassal. The ceremony is usually between two free men, limiting vassalage to non-servile people. The commendation ceremony is composed of five distinct actions. Each action is important, as they are the actions of free men, a legal and social status taken seriously in such times.

The first actions are homage, the ancient magical medieval concept by which a man self-surrenders to another. Typically, the prospective vassal makes a statement of intent to become a vassal of said lord. Once the lord accepts the statement, the prospective vassal places his bare hands within the bare hands of his soon-to-be lord, swearing, “I promise by my honor that from this time forward I will be faithful to [lord’s name] and will maintain towards him my homage entirely against every man, in good faith and without any deception.”
The second action is a visible gesture calculated to impress the ceremony on spectators, insuring the action is memorable. Usually the two men kiss, the lord saying, “Now at last you will be mine.”

The third action is investiture, the symbolic handing over of the land to the vassal. After the kiss, the lord presents his new vassal with a token, usually a stick, a knife, or a stalk of wheat, to symbolize the vassal’s investiture.

The fourth action is fealty, or the swearing of an oath. The two men swear upon a holy object, which solidifies the vassal’s and the lord’s fealty. Swearing on holy symbols impress upon the two men and the spectators the serious and severe nature of the oath. The fifth action is the written word, recorded proof of the relationship. A charter is drawn up recording the ceremony and the precise obligations incurred by the two parties.

As always, there are exceptions within magical medieval societies. Some places do not follow the classic commendation ceremony. In some societies the kiss is absent. In others the act of homage is forgone, because the vassal is an unfree knight, common in certain forms of feudalism. Sometimes the ceremony is simply condensed into a swearing of oaths before witnesses. As in all things magical medieval, consistency is a mutable term. For example, homage is supposed to countries where lords are very strong, a great lord can compel his vassal to do homage to another lord. Such exchanges of vassals are rare, but can seal a treaty or ensure goodwill. The ceremony described here is a good generalization, but it only that.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)


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PostSubject: Vassal’s Obligation   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:23 am

Vassal’s Obligation
Vassalage is an obligation not to be entered upon lightly, for the lord as well as the vassal. Each party has rights and obligations to the other, with serious consequences should either fail to perform their promised duties. A vassal’s oath follows these five words: safe, sure, honest, useful, and pliable. A lord must have a safe vassal, who does not cause his lord physical or fiscal injury. A lord must be sure of his vassal’s discretion, leaking none of his secrets, such as castle locations, magical resources, or alliances that are his security. A vassal must be honest to do no injury to the rights, prerogatives, and justice of his lord. A vassal must have useful resources, perspective, connections or skills to add to his lord’s resources. And lastly, a vassal must to pliable, ensuring his lord has no difficulties from his vassal in accomplishing his desires.

A vassal swears more than the absence of harm to his lord. He holds his lands from his constant right action towards his lord’s interest. A vassal provides his strength and wisdom to his lord’s abilities. A vassal provides counsel and support to his lord. If a he fails to do any of these things, his lord can accuse him of bad faith and take back his benefice. There is much that remains to be said concerning the role of the vassal. His oath is just the beginning of his obligations to his lord.

Military Obligation: The crux of feudalism is a vassal’s obligation of military service to a lord. A lord parcels his land to vassals obtaining warriors at his disposal that he does not support year-round. A vassal is responsible for his equipage, as well as the equipage of
others if his obligation entails more than just his military service. Some obligation includes several knights, which a vassal usually raises by acquiring vassals of his own.
Military service usually takes place between planting and harvest, lasting 40-90 days. Lords use their military service in different ways, usually towards important matters. Duty of escort, duty in the administration of the lord’s manors or household, duty of securing the safety of road travel, or simply carrying messages are a few ways a lord allots his warriors
raised from military service. Some lords engage in chevauchees, raiding at another lord’s expense and gaining wealth while avoiding combat.

As times change, vassals more commonly pay their military service in money payments, known as
scutage, to avoid serving military obligation. Scutage is advantageous to both the lord and his vassal. It allows vassals to avoid the uncertainty of military service and provides their lords coin to hire more professional soldiery. Few lords do not accept scutage from certain
vassals, namely those whose counsel and bellicose abilities are too valuable to forgo. But the majority of vassals pay scutage instead of physical service.

Due the long history of infeudation, many variations of military obligation arise. Some vassals entertain yearly visits from their lord and his household as service, paying for the food, lodging, and entertainment of the entire entourage. Others have simpler tasks, such as carrying the high priest’s palanquin during his yearly rituals or holding the head of the king as he travels by boat. There are even vassals entirely lacking service obligations, but the most common type of alternate service is castle-guard. Under castle-guard, a vassal sends a contingent of men to a nearby castle providing a permanent garrison for a set period of time. Castle-guard is also commonly substituted by
scutage.

Counsel: A vassal is also required to provide counsel to his lord. Almost as important to a lord as military service, a vassal is obligated to appear when summoned by his lord. Lords take this obligation seriously. Vassals who refuse a summons may even lose their benefice. A vassal is required to serve time in his lord’s court as an advisor, as well as judge disputes brought before his lord. Scutage cannot abrogate a vassal’s obligation of counsel. A suzerain requires his vassals to gather and listen to the opinions of their vassals, especially concerning important legal disputes. There are, of course, relationships where scutage abrogates counsel, but these are few and far between.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)


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PostSubject: Lord’s Obligation   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:25 am

Lord’s Obligation
In vassalage, lords are also obligated to their vassals. Although the ceremony of commendation does not specifically mention these duties, they are written down in the vassalage charter. Like vassals, lords are obligated to keep good faith with their vassal and not act in any way that would injure the life, honor, or property of the vassal. A lord must also materially support his vassal with protection and maintenance.

Protection: Protection is one of the older feudal obligations a lord pays to his vassals. Feudal protection requires a lord to come to the assistance of his vassal if he is unjustly attacked, requiring a lord to defend his vassals against their enemies. Such obligation may even propel a lord to war in defense of a vassal. Explicitly stated in the vassalage charter, a lord’s protection is usually in the form of military or magical protection. Another form of a lord’s protection is legal. In disputes and infringements, lords vouch for their vassals, offering counsel, advice, and greater resources and wealth to the vassal’s corner. Such legal protection can even extend to the king’s court, and in rare cases, the lord is required to replace his vassal as the defendant if any case is brought against his vassal.

Maintenance: Maintenance is another obligation of lords, which entails providing their vassals the means to support themselves. A lord usually gives his vassal a fief, allowing vassals to become lords themselves. These land-holding vassals are called knights and are the typical type of vassal. Some vassals are supported at court, called domestic vassals, bachelor knights, or household knights. Bachelor knighthood is usually a temporary affair until the lord can arrange a fief after a few years of good service.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)


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PostSubject: Types of Fiefs   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:26 am

Types of Fiefs
There are two types of fiefs: those held independent of the feudal system and those held from another lord. Fiefs held independent of the feudal system are called allods. Allodial land is free from all obligations (close to a modern concept of landownership if one did not have to pay any taxes associated with the land) and is a remnant from a less civilized past. Allods are rare since most land ends up in the feudal system. In some feudal society, strong barons still hold large amounts of allodial lands, hampering the development of a strong, effective kingship. Fiefs held from another lord are the most common type of fiefs. A brief example explains this clearly: Lord A owns allodial land X. Lord A grants X to lord B who then grants part of X to lord C. Lords B and C hold land in the typical magical medieval manner. There are two parts of a magical medieval lord’s land. There is the land he directly controls, called eminent domain, and the part of his land he has used to enfeoff others, known as the utile domain. Using the same example as above: lord B holds all of X as eminent domain except the part he gave to C, which he holds as utile domain. Lord A holds all of X as utile domain, even the part held by C.

Personal Nature of Vassalage
Though vassalage creates a series of relationships ending with a king or emperor, it is ultimately a relationship between two freemen. The suzerain does not receive or give feudal obligations to his vassal’s vassal. The phrase, “the vassal of my vassal is not my vassal,” is understood by all, though a man may support his lord in his lord’s obligation. The only notable exception to this rule is when a lord dies without any potential heirs. The deceased lord’s vassals are then considered the vassals of their ex-suzerain.

Recourse for Loss of Faith
If either lord or vassal feels the other is failing his obligations, there is little recourse available. A public declaration of loss of faith is the most common recourse, but purely social in nature. In an attempt to remedy such failure, declarations inform society that someone is not performing his promised duties, exerting great social pressure upon the accused. Although social pressures are very strong in a magical medieval society, the accused typically responds with an explanation of his actions. In magical medieval law, which is more customary and less book-bound than modern law, a public explanation often removes much social pressure, allowing others to see that the accused has not acted as badly as his accuser has stated. Despite its challengeable nature, a declaration of loss of faith is an effective method for addressing and amending wrongs between lord and vassal.

If a public declaration does not remedy the situation, the most common recourse is military action. The accuser sends a messenger to the other party, throwing wheat or another symbol of investiture upon the floor before the accused. Throwing away is a physical demonstration of breaking the vassalage. Once the wheat is thrown, the usual outcome is combat.

Multiple Vassalage
Originally, magical medieval vassalage was an exclusive relationship. At one time, a vassal had a single lord, but in a magical medieval society, homage to many different lords is common. So common, in fact, that there are men known to be vassals of more than twenty different lords. There are a few men who refuse multiple vassalage, but they usually suffer from their inability to acquire land rapidly. Owing feudal obligations to multiple lords creates unusual situations in vassalage. Most aspects of vassalage are clear and fairly inflexible, but paying homage to multiple lords creates complexity in social and legal obligations.
The obvious problem with having multiple lords is when they fight each other. A vassal may be forced to choose between his lords, or he may behave as if he were the vassal of neither. Sometimes a vassal benefits when his lords fight each other, playing each side of the conflict for more reward.

Liege Lord
To counter the effects of multiple vassalage, lords created a new class of lordship known as liegeancy. Liegeancy is accepting one lord as the primary lord, or as liege lord. By creating a higher level of homage and fealty, lords hoped to establish a recognized hierarchy among a man’s lords. Unfortunately multiple vassalage roots itself into liegeancy as well. Men have as many liege lords as lords, swearing to hold every liege lord in more honor than the others. A few strong kings manage to usurp the concept of liegeancy, making every vassal swear allegiance to the king during their commendation ceremony. Most kings do not have such power, and those that do continually deal with the complexities of plurality within the feudal system.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)


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PostSubject: Six Rights of Land   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:27 am

Six Rights of Land
Land in a magical medieval society is not just crude earth and vegetation. It is the method of gaining selfdetermination. That is how lords maintain their vassals through giving them fiefs. Holding land has many advantages, food and shelter the most obvious. The social and legal aspects of land ownership are more important that fulfilling physical needs because they create feudal power. Land provides six main benefits, considered rights in a magical medieval mindset.

Homage and Fealty
The first right is homage and fealty. By holding land, a vassal can become a lord to his own vassals. Through such subinfeudation, men build up networks of social, fiscal, and military responsibility.

Knight Service
The second benefit of lordship is knight service. Once a lord acquires a vassal, he receives all the rights of obligation under vassalage. His vassal must perform military service, or pay scutage to alleviate such service, and provide counsel and justice duties.

Feudal Aids
A lord’s third benefit, feudal aids, gives the man the legal right to enact taxes upon his serfs and vassals for various reasons. All magical medieval societies acknowledge a lord’s right to collect feudal aids for the knighting of the lord’s eldest son, the marriage of the lord’s eldest daughter, and for ransoming the lord if he is ever captured. There are many other feudal aids depending upon local custom: aids for the knighting of any son, aids for the marriage of any daughter, aids for a crusade (in a strong patron god society), aids for a journey to the royal court, and aids for other extraordinary undertakings.

Social Rights
The fourth right involves the lord’s social rights. Certain social events are sole property of the lords, such as festivals, fairs, and tourneys. Fairs and markets are fiscally beneficial to the lord, receiving coin from merchants, peasants, and buyers of manorial surplus. These are so lucrative that a lord must be given the right to host a fair or market by his lord. Social events with his peers are another matter entirely. It is not uncommon for lords to spend vast amounts of money on tournaments to visibly display their wealth and power. Other social events are also the right of the lord.

If any person or organization wants to have a festival or celebration within the lord’s benefice, the lord must first be consulted. For example, lords have rights over religious festivals. The lord may not have an iron grip over religious activities within his fief, but having such power asserts his authority preeminently within his demesne.

The last social right of a lord is the right of entertainment. With this right, a lord may visit his vassal’s manor. When a lord travels, his entire entourage travels with him, including family, advisors, administrative staff, body servants, grooms, horses, hunting dogs, hunting falcons, falconers, huntsmen, lesser staff, and sycophants. During the length of the lord’s visitation, his vassal provides food, lodging, and entertainment for his lord and the entire entourage. This right is so favored by lords that a common punishment for insolent vassals is indefinitely hosting their lord.

Justice
The fifth right of a lord is justice. Most benefices contain a small community or manor to which a lord provides justice. Lords receive coin from settling civil disputes among peasants and fines when peasants do not follow the lord’s manorial laws. If a lord has vassals, he also gains the advantage of their counsel. He also exerts his counsel upon the fiefs held from him.

Feudal Incidents
The sixth and final right of a lord is the right to feudal incidents. The most common are forfeiture, relief, wardship, and escheat. This handful of rights is integral in the definition of a lord, namely because of the social power he wields among his peers. Forfeiture, the sundering of vassalage due to loss of faith or felony against obligation, is the only incident that does not deal with feudal inheritance.
The rights of feudal incidents mainly regard inheritance of fiefs because of the importance of holding land and being lord of the land. Contrary to most modern depictions, primogeniture is not a guarantee of inheritance. Fiefs and benefices are a part of the lord’s maintenance obligation to his vassal. That obligation only exists upon the social and legal relationship between a lord and his vassal created at the ceremony of commendation. Vassalage is a relationship between two particular people. It does not recognize inheritability or obligation between the descendants (legal or genetic) of the two parties involved. All vassalage and everything associated with the relationship ends at the death of either the lord or the vassal. In most magical medieval societies, a lord is legally obligated to accept a direct heir of his deceased vassal as the new vassal of the land. This is not the case in all lands, and strong lords may bend or break magical medieval laws.

Relief allows lords to charge one year’s gain as an entry fee on the potential inheritor of a fief. Some magical medieval societies have fixed relief payments, but the fee is at least one year’s gain or often higher. Wardship allows a lord to hold the fief as eminent domain until an heir of his deceased vassal comes of age, commends himself to the lord, and claims his fiefdom. Escheat reverts the fief back to the lord when his vassal dies without heirs.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)


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PostSubject: Added Complexity   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:28 am

Added Complexity
In a magical medieval society, feudalism is not a simple pyramid of vassalage and landownership eventually ending in a king. As in all things magical medieval, complexity seems almost perversely preferred over simplicity as decades of local custom contradict other
decades of local custom.

Alienation
One universal complication of magical medieval feudalism is alienation. Alienation is giving or selling land to another lord or institution, such as a church or arcane order. Alienated land is usually given by the allodial holder, though lords have been known to alienate land enfeoffed to them. Selling and giving land to other feudal lords typically remains in the feudal system, as lords enfeoff the land to acquire more vassals. If the allodial holder alienates the land, a simple transaction occurs. If an enfeoffed holder wants to alienate the land, he surrenders the land up the chain of feudalism until the allodial lord receives it. The allodial lord then relinquishes the land to the new allodial landholder in exchange for a relief, usually 3-4 times the yearly gain of the land. This is the ideal method of alienating land to institutions. Enfeoffed lords who alienated land without going through the proper channels create conflicts between the allodial holders of the land and the lords to which it is alienated.
Problems arise when institutions receive land as vassals of a lord. Feudalism is a personal contract for the life of both parties; however, the life of an institution far exceeds the life of individual lords. This effectively alienates land, because the land never escheats back to the lord. The lord of land held by an institutional vassal loses income from feudal incidents involving inheritability, namely escheat, wardship, relief, and rights of marriage.
To offset this loss of income, lords practice mortmain on institutional vassals to ensure relief payment. The practice of mortmain selects one person from the group, acting as a representative of the group. Once that person dies (even if that person is resurrected), the institution mortmain. For example, if a lord has a monastic order as a vassal, a single monk from the monastery on the fief is selected for mortmain. When that monk dies, the monastic order pays relief to the lord and chooses another monk from the monastery. This same practice is used when lords enfeoff long-lived races. In these cases, mortmain simulates the life of a human. A human member of the enfeoffed populace can stand for mortmain. This person’s life is considered the life of the feudal pledge.

Fief Layout
The fief’s patchwork nature is another complication of feudalism. A lord may hold a total of twenty square miles of land, but it is more than likely held in the form of many small, disconnected plots as opposed to one large contiguous territory. If a man is lucky enough to have a large contiguous holding, he usually splits it up into many smaller holdings as he subinfeudates his land to acquire vassals. A magical medieval land is patchworked by individual benefices, some merely being the right to the output of a single mill, which usually results in large landowners having land in many different places. It is not unusual for large landowners to be vassals of more than one king and to hold land from them in territories separated by long distances.

Resurrection Magic
A distinct aspect of divine magic in a magical medieval society is resurrection magic, changing the way feudal society operates. With the variety of religious institutions in a magical medieval society, lords have numerous sources of resurrection magic, should the need arise. Prudent lords hold multiple charters from different religions without informing their ambitious progeny about all of them. Unlike historical medieval societies, magical medieval feudal law must address the complications of resurrection within feudalism. Many societies decide that a dead lord brought back is the same as a lord that has never died. However, it is not uncommon for resurrected lords to pay the same relief that an inheritor would. In some situations lords will hold land in two cultural regions and he will pay relief in one and not the other upon his resurrection.

_________________
"Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits." (Marauders of Gor, p.10)

After the lights go out on you/After your worthless life is through/I will remember how you scream
I can't afford to care/I can't afford to care ("Lights Out" Breaking Benjamin)
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PostSubject: Feudalism Example   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:29 am

Feudalism Example
The following is a typical scene in magical medieval feudalism. Lord Byron has just received land X from Lord Alfred for a knight service of 20 knights. Land Xanadu is composed of 25 manors spread out in 10 separate holdings. No 2 holdings are closer than 5 miles from each other.
Lord Alfred can hold all his benefice as eminent domain, or demesne, if he wishes to spend a large amount of his time traveling to each of his holdings to dispense justice, watch over his lands to ensure none of his rights are encroached upon, and perform the innumerable other tasks required of a manorial lord. He decides to enfeoff 5 adventurers (Charles, David, Elena, Fiona, Garret) with 2 manors each in exchange for 2 knights each. He also grants 5 manors to a cousin (Henry) in exchange for 5 knights. He maintains the remaining 10 manors as his demesne, leaving him with only 5 knights to supply to his lord. Lord Byron has now secured his fief, ensured his rights will be protected, relieved himself of a difficult burden of administration, and increased his social standing.
Next year Charles dies in a bizarre fish farming accident. He has one heir, a young son, and a widow. Charles' Fief reverts to lord Byron under the feudal incident of wardship, but widow Cynthia wishes to secure her and her son’s status, fearing that lord Byron may marry her off at fee to another who wants her land. She knows that once she is married, her new husband may decided to replace her son’s position with one of his own sons.
The widow of Charles pays a relief to lord Byron to ensure that he won’t force her to remarry. The fee she pays is 4 times the amount Charles' fief produces in one year. She is lucky she can afford it; her husband was a successful adventurer. Lord Byron is very happy as Charles' fief has now generated 4 years of complete income in a single year, comparable to holding the land in his demesne. He is also glad that he properly judged the widow’s resources when he upped the traditional relief from 3 times to 4 times.
During the same year his cousin, vassal Henry, suffers an attack of conscience and decides he wants to found a monastery to ensure they will pray for his soul every day for centuries. He discusses this desire with lord Byron. Lord Byron is none too pleased, but accepts his vassals desires and promises to speak to lord Alfred about Henry’s alienation.
Lord Byron speaks with Alfred upon his delivery of next year’s scutage, and Alfred is not pleased. Alfred argues with Byron, accusing him of not controlling his vassals because he didn’t talk Henry out of his silly desires. By this time, Henry has made a somewhat preemptory agreement with the local church and has started to build the monastery. Lord Alfred hears of this while lord Byron is at his court.

After an exchange of words, the church’s representative in lord Alfred’s retinue diplomatically resolves the matter before tempers flare - double magic tithe from his church retainers for the next 5 years, lord Alfred relents and accepts from lord Byron the land relinquished by Henry. Lord Alfred then accepts vassalage of the church, using the abbot as the mortmain. Though Lord Alfred is still the allodial lord, he considers this land alienated. Lord Alfred, however, is irked with lord Byron and makes him swear to provide the same 25 men, ensuring that lord B cannot argue this point at a later time. Lord Byron swears his word and a charter is written to witness. Lord Byron then informs his cousin, lord Henry, that even though he now only holds 4 manors from him, he will still have to provide 5 knights.

After the New Year, more trouble arrives for fief Xanadu. Lord Alfred dies, leaving no heir or widow. Lord Alfred’s lord, Zana, escheats all lord Alfred’s land. Lord Byron goes to swear fealty to lord Zana, but lord Zana has already enfeoffed a new lord Aman. The new lord Aman has had continual disagreements with lord Byron for the past 5 years, and he is not willing to simply accept lord Byron as a vassal without a fee. Lord Byron is outraged and demands that lord Zana force his vassal to follow custom.
Unfortunately, lord Z has never particularly liked lord Byron either. Lord Byron quickly realizes he may have right to exert forfeiture against lord Aman. However, besides not being a bloodthirsty man, lord Byron realizes that if lord Zana supports lord Aman, he has no way of winning. Lord Byron reluctantly agrees to pay a technically illegal relief to lord Aman in the amount of 1 year’s gain of fief Xanadu. Lord Aman accepts, and lord Byron returns to his fief to force his vassals to pay additional taxes to support his latest expense. A few years after the investiture of the new lord Aman, the powerful lord Zana dies. His holdings are thrown into turmoil when 2 of his cousins claim right to his land. A war breaks out and lords David, Elena, and Fiona perish in the fighting. Lord Byron is then forced to deal with a similar scuffle over their fiefs by their relations, but on a much smaller scale.

As this example shows, feudalism should not be interpreted as a deterministic system. “If this happens then that happens,” is not a proper way of thinking about feudalism. There are customs and laws in feudalism, but laws and customs often bow to social strength and persuasion. A magical medieval society is understood through its laws and customs, but defined by its exceptions. A liberal use of favor and coin, what modern society may consider bribery, is a typical occurrence among magical medieval aristocracy.

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PostSubject: Aristocracy   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:30 am

Aristocracy
The magical medieval aristocracy has four distinct groups: the gentry (landed and unlanded); the nobility, also known as the peerage; and royalty. The lowest station in the aristocracy is the gentry. Members of the landed gentry are knights who hold land and exercise justice, feudal aids, and lordship upon another. There are some knights (bachelor knights and unfree knights) who do not have these rights. They are known as unlanded gentry. They receive social standing by virtue of their knighthood, holding what little social status that can be attained without land and feudal rights. They are considered the least appropriate among the aristocracy for marrying purposes. It is worth noting that knight in this sense is not just a traditional knight in shining armor, but can apply equally to the woodsman warrior or the master of magical intrigue. In this case, knight is a badge of office, not just a type of warrior.

Nobles, peers in parliamentary magical medieval societies, occupy the mid to high levels of aristocracy. Usually measured through comparative land ownership within the same kingdom, all nobles are large landowners. When comparing nobility from different kingdoms or nobility that own land in multiple kingdoms, land ownership is not the best way to determine precedence. A noble owning less acreage, but the majority of land in a small kingdom may be more prestigious than a noble with more land from a larger kingdom. In all cases, the history of a familial line and the deeds of ancestors partially determine the prestige of nobility.

Royalty lies at the top of feudal structure. Composed of the blood relatives of a kingdom’s sovereign, royals enjoy a close association to the ruler as well as the benefits of nobility. They are large landowners, some families having royal blood from other kingdoms within their veins. The old saying, “royal blood is ambitious blood,” is apropos of magical medieval societies as much as historical medieval ones.

Commonality
Aristocrats all share certain experiences and thinking, despite their different stations. They share similar experiences gained in exercising feudal rights and the privileges of lordship. Every aristocrat has their station, and they must perform the duties of their station. Even the meanest gentry understand the rights, powers, and responsibilities they wield. The aristocracy also has an implicit and ingrained understanding that they are separate from the common cotter, craftsman, or merchant. Such separation is the natural state supported in all things. The combination of these two shared phenomenon creates the crux of magical medieval feudalism: some people have more rights than others, there are no basic rights of humanity, and anyone who does not agree is trouble.

Education: Aristocratic education is the primary way aristocrats pass down their understanding of the universe and their natural place in society. Both the gentry and the nobility learn the methods and rights of rulership through a more experienced mentor. The nobility have an immersion system of education. Young nobles learn what nobility is by watching and mimicking elder nobles. Their early years are usually spent with their mother. After six or seven years they follow their fathers around, learning how to manage affairs and social interactions, which are direly important in aristocratic circles. Some nobles send their children to a greater noble’s household to learn these same skills. During this time they are inculcated with music, poetry, dance, athletics, horsemanship, archery, hunting, gaming, and magic. Noble youths who reach the age of twelve either continue their education at court or pursue religious or legal studies. Generally nobles do not attend schools or universities, as private tutors provide them what rote or magical learning they need. The exception is younger sons destined for religious, legal, or other livelihoods. A young noble is considered fully-grown when he engages in his first tournament at 16 or 17 years of age.

The young gentry also learn what they need to know by following their father around while he performs his daily routine. They learn to dispense manorial justice, and the traditions and customs of their area. Children of gentry gain what refinement the family can afford. The young gentry engage in hunting, athletics, gaming, and horsemanship, but music, poetry and dance are often glossed over due to fiscal restraint. Unlike the nobility, children of gentry are often educated for religious, legal, or governmental service. The education of aristocrats focuses upon very practical matters. Besides management and financial concerns, aristocrats’ education largely involves the duties of one’s station. Young aristocrats learn the social obligations of their station and the particular relationships between stations. For example, sending the first harvest of grapes to the church of the patron god to make the sacramental wine, or the right of the first hunt belonging to the suzerain are passed down from generation to generation through educating young aristocrats in precedence and social order.

Budding aristocrats must also know the proper method of addressing others, their order in precedence, the genealogy of great families and their heraldry, what entertainments are appropriate for different visitors, current social alliances, and eligible aristocrats for proper marriages. This is the bulk of aristocratic education, especially of the nobility and royalty. A member of the gentry learns what is appropriate for his social station and tries to prove worthy when interacting in the realm of nobility. A noble learns how to interact with his peers, the sovereign, and the gentry as befitting his noble birth. Kings and imperials learn the art of ruling through example.

Household: Every member of the aristocracy supports a household. Households are collections of servants and other supporters, normally living under the same roof as the lord, whose purpose is to cater to his needs, advertise his status, and create the mode of life that he desires. This typically includes ladies-inwaiting, the sons of other nobles, their body servants, and any other people the lord supports in his main manor. The size of households varies on the status of the individual but a rough estimate of 10 to 30 for a member of the gentry, 20 to 50 for a member of the nobility, 50 to 200 for a great landowner, and over 200 for a king.

Households have two tiers: the officers and the lesser servants. The upper tier is composed of stewards, treasurers, chamberlains and the head of each function in the household, namely marshals, kitchen clerks, butlers, and chief chaplains. Larger households often have a separate secretariat to manage the lord’s correspondence and writs, which are also included in the upper tier of the household. Officers are usually from a social class similar to their lord’s. A noble’s officers are usually from the gentry or minor nobility, while a king’s are solely from the nobility. The lesser servants perform the mundane tasks associated with running the household and caring for the lord and officials. This includes household menials, valets, grooms, pages, carvers, waiters, and footmen.

Council: One of the benefits of lordship is council. Councils are composed of the high officers of a lord’s household, other landholders of independent political prominence, and lawyers. Councils provide guidance to a lord, they advise on the general running of his affairs, on administrative problems, and on legal interests of the lord. Council members are often attached to particular lords, but there are always a few wise or perhaps simply cunning advisors who counsel several different lords. Most councils have at least one spellcaster, often more than one, who counsel the lord on magical matters.

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PostSubject: Kings   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:31 am

Kings
Kingship in a magical medieval society is a personal power. The king wields power through his person and his divine grace, not through law or popular election. Kings are assaulted from all sides daily and must be tireless in maintaining their kingdoms. Kings exert their power through their presence in the kingdom. Strong kings constantly move from one place to another, not trusting the information they receive from their underlings. Though kings have the resources to magically travel, they spend most of their time traveling by horse, because their entire court travels with them. Court, the mechanism of government, is always in the king’s location providing him the ability to perform all the needed functions and priorities of kingship. Kings also bear heavy feudal burdens. They must perform their many responsibilities to their vassals if they wish to maintain their authority. Their duties solidify their power, but force them to long periods of hectic activity. Kings cannot sit in their favorite castle and expect to successfully wield authority from a distance. Although magic provides many ways of exerting authority at a distance, nothing is more impacting than the physical presence of the king. If he is to maintain or expand his authority, he must possess ceaseless energy and vigilance in every feudal sovereign relationship and on his frontiers. He must be suspicious of his intimates and continually circumambulate his kingdom. Kings who deviate from the above may still wield power and authority, but they allow the seeds of dissent to take hold in potentially fertile fields.

Divine Kingship
Kings have a level of authority that dwarfs all but the strongest of barons. Kings can levy taxes; order executions on the spot; and control vast forests, which are subject to swift and harsh forest law. They are the ultimate achievement of the feudal system, and all beneath them dream of becoming kings. Magical medieval kings sit atop the great net of feudalism while caught in the intricate twists and turns of obligation. Besides being the greatest landowner in their kingdom and having resources that far surpass the strongest of their barons, magical medieval kings are the elect of the gods. They are distinct from the rest of the kingdom by their "divine" right to rule. These divine abilities may come from various sources depending on the kingdom’s religious orientation. A king’s abilities are usually from a group of like-minded gods or from the election of the entire pantheon. More rarely a single god elects a king, who then combats other kings selected by other gods. Kings receive their powers when they assume their title, either through self-coronation or through a religious ceremony.

Tied to the Land
Magical Medieval kings share a close tie to the lands they rule. When the king is hale, the land is hearty, but when he ails, the land deteriorates. Conversely if there is trouble in the land, the king bears the troubles of the land on his person. A king’s tie to the land is strong and representative of the king’s standing as the guardian of his realm. With great power comes great responsibility. The specifics of how a king and land relate are solely the GM’s domain. Not all kings will have a strong connection to the land, while some with have a truly unearthly attunement to their realms. A few kings can sense unrest in their land through noticing their internal state in time to prevent rebellion, but most kings will not notice a wrong until the wrong bears its fruit.

The specifics of this dynamic should be worked out by the GM and should vary from kingdom to kingdom. Generally, strong kings from good lineage will have a greater sensitivity than new kings or kings of questionable descent. Evil kings share the same ties, but a GM shouldn’t assume that just because a king is evil his land will suffer. Tied to the land reflects the strength of a king’s land and reign. A king may be evil, but he can still be an excellent king, wielding his authority without question.

Multiple Kingships
Although kings display the grace of the gods through their unique abilities, others may receive the gods’ graces as well, leading to rival claims of kingship. The gods never revoke their gift. They prefer to provide another with the same benefits. This allows the gods’ chosen to triumph, regardless of the outcome. Occasionally a person claims a kingship by force. Though not under the direct blessing of the gods, they are quickly rewarded for their strength and effort. Any person blessed with divine kingship may decline the gift of the gods, but once chosen, kingship is only relinquished through the swearing of fealty to another king. There are the three main causes of multiple kingships. The first are kings who die leaving no direct heirs. This is the leading cause for incidents of multiple kingships. Several claimants with relatively good justice rise with the gods’ blessing in a struggle for the throne. The second reason is weak kings. The gods never look favorably upon weak kings, seen as a poor reflection of the gods and their will. Bad kings may rule for years, perhaps decades, before being opposed by a divinely ordained king. Sometimes it takes only a few years until the gods grow tired of an incompetent king, but more often the gods’ dissension of opinion prolongs the affair. The last and least prevalent reason for multiple kingships is kings who ascend the throne in their minority. Though the divine power of their parent transfers to them upon death, the gods occasionally wish another to be king. This is rare since the gods prefer to let a king come into fruition before making such a choice.

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PostSubject: Government as an Aspect of Kingship   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:33 am

Government as an Aspect of Kingship
The blessing of the gods does not secure a crown; those who rule do so through strength, custom, and law, in that order. Government is the mixture of all three traits. Though magical medieval government seems primitive compared to modern government, it is both complex and engaging. Unlike modern government, magical medieval government is solely concerned with two things: generating wealth for the rulers and peaceful dispute resolution. The more important of these two factors is generating wealth. Peaceful dispute resolution (justice) creates direct wealth through fees and dispensation of justice. Establishing peaceful dispute resolutions creates greater stability and security, increasing a ruler’s income and improving his chances of transferring his possessions and power to his heirs.
The only common form of government found in magical medieval society is monarchy. Although
there are city-states, communes, the very rare republic, and any of the many oligarchies (theocracies and magocracies being the most common), monarchies are the government of almost all magical medieval societies. Every person and society understands single, strong rulers, because they are a physical manifestation of power. Among the ruling class, government is considered a function of kingship. Centralized governments, such as monarchies, reflect
the ruler’s ability to exert his will upon others.

Types of Monarchy
There are three divisions within magical medieval monarchies, listed from least to most complex: the primitive monarchy, the traditional monarchy, and the representational monarchy. Each sub-division has different aspects, strengths, weaknesses, and possible governmental systems. Each sub-division’s traits vary depending upon the strength of the current, and/or most recent, monarch. All three types of monarchies’ different traits are discussed throughout the remainder of this essay.

Development of Government
Monarchical governments in the magical medieval kingdoms develop as an outgrowth of land management. Handling issues and disputed over land forces a lord to create standard methods
of management borrowed from local custom. A lord takes these steps to keep the peace and ensure that he receives what he is entitled to. Eventually the methods for handling the more
common problems are codified. This codification of local custom and lord’s advantage form what eventually becomes law. The most rudimentary magical medieval government can only begin after this methodological codification. Most primitive monarchies do not develop past damage control in the face of emergencies; therefore the subsequent institutions of land management and following trends do not occur in primitive monarchies.

Religion Forming Monarchies
Religion is a prominent catalyst for centralized magical medieval governments. Again remember that magical medieval governments are simply extensions of powerful landowners’ households, mostly the king’s. Churches, often placing importance on law or on good, are potential rivals to budding governments, because they offer an alternate source of peaceful dispute resolution with moral authority. In societies with a strong patron god, the church is very influential. Bloody conflicts between the church of the patron god and the government are inevitable, fighting over whom maintains the peace in the kingdom. Warring over the right to maintain peace is a quintessential magical medieval paradox. In societies with a multiplicity of churches, bloody conflict with a budding government is less likely given the greater chance of bloody conflict between other churches.
Multiple religions are less of a catalyst toward the development of a centralized government, but they are often more difficult to fully integrate after the centralized government is established. A single church usually triumphs or is tamed by a government while multiple churches continue fighting with a tenacious obstinacy less typical of single patron god societies.

Treasuries
Treasuries are one of the institutions created after codification of land management. Treasuries account for the king’s affairs, ensuring the king has a codified method of generating revenue. Treasuries initially develop from the basic accounting on the lord’s demesne. Given the nature of feudalism, the accounting for the king reaches into the domain of many great lords. This eventually develops into a system of taxation control. Handling emergencies and unique situations provides the series of taxation precedents on which more robust treasuries are created. Treasuries account the king’s income. There is no kingdom’s income separate from the king’s income.

Courts
Courts are another institution following the rise of kingdom land management. The king’s private court relieves tensions and reduces warfare among the great lords. Eventually the king’s authority is strong enough that the king selects judges as his representatives. These royal judges dispense justice throughout the realm in the name of the king. Through this accumulation of authority, kings’ courts eventually enjoy the right to hear murder and other serious cases, because he is responsible for peace within his kingdom. He also enjoys the right of settling civil cases concerning land possession. He enjoys these powers, because murder and disturbing legal possession without due process produces disorder. Both of these rights develop and propitiate feudal suzerainty. Courts also provide the king with income as he maintains the peace. Both treasuries and courts generate revenue for the king and should not be confused with a modern concept of governmental income for governmental issues. Magical
medieval revenue is for the king and his desires alone.

Note: Unlike other subjects in the development of government, courts do not always originate from land management. Manorial, feudal and royal courts certainly do, other courts do not. See “development of law” in this essay for more information.

Bureaucracy
Running treasuries and courts requires a body of professional men and women trained in procedure. If a budding government is to last, clerks and their bureaucracy must develop concurrently with treasuries and courts. Creating standard operating procedures and consistent, carefully worded formulas for letters are the most important developmental processes within both treasuries and courts. Clerks replace vague words with specific formulaic wording that cannot be misunderstood, a significant catalyst for more complex magical medieval governments. Clerks and the needed professional institutions associated with them develop the chancery.

Chanceries
Chanceries are the first real magical medieval bureaucratic institutions. Chanceries coordinate the work of courts and treasures. They issue orders to judges and tax collectors, as well as deal directly with barons, local lords, churches and wizards’ guilds. Almost all other governmental institutions develop from chanceries, though the more complex ministries of defense, foreign affairs, internal security, intelligence, and trade do not develop until after the magical medieval period.

Each of the three monarchies (primitive, traditional, and representative) has a working chancery. Chanceries in primitive monarchies have barely finished creating acceptable formulaic wording, and their clerks are barely considered professional. Traditional monarchies have chanceries capable of serving the needs of the government and possess professionally trained clerks. Representative monarchies are like traditional monarchies but have more complex and robust chanceries capable of dealing with parliaments. But the chanceries of each vary greatly within their respective types.

The speed at which chanceries develop depends upon each kingdom’s circumstance. Chanceries develop faster in kingdoms where the king holds the majority of allodial land. They develop slower in kingdoms where the majority of allodial land is outside the king’s influence. Physically smaller kingdoms and their chanceries often develop faster than larger kingdoms, because there are fewer restraints to the king’s goals. Kingdoms built upon successive waves of invasion usually develop faster since there are fewer entrenched local customs or laws to be uprooted and replaced with the king’s will.

Parliaments
Parliaments allow some representation for the aristocracy. Magical medieval parliaments usually meet annually for a few weeks to discuss important issues. This does not mean that parliaments have the power to make decisions; parliaments merely allow representatives to voice their opinions to the king. The king still makes the final decisions on matters. Parliaments are usually composed of local representatives elected by local lords. Although most parliamentary elections have a façade of democracy, nothing is done without the full approval of the local lords. Often the local lords are the ones to travel to parliament.

Parliaments develop in two main manners. The earliest parliaments develop after particularly abusive kings push the aristocracy too far. The aristocracy rebels and force limitations on the king, if they do not simply kill and replace the king. Parliaments can also develop peaceably. After watching the affairs of a parliament in another kingdom and noting their advantages, kings realize it is more effective to address a parliament with his demands than it is to address every individual, i.e. kings tend to gain more taxation from addressing a parliament. Although conflict is the natural state between kings and parliaments, kings receive many benefits from a parliament. They can show they have taken feudal counsel for their decisions, and they gain the help of their vassals to impress upon the entire aristocratic station the needs of the king. The aristocrats also gain power since the king more often meets their wishes than if were they to ask separately. This situation of mutual benefit is short-lived once parliaments force enough concessions out of the king in exchange for immediate funds. Most kings find their sovereign power decreasing within 300-500 years of a parliament’s foundation.

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PostSubject: Diplomacy   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:33 am

Diplomacy
Magical medieval diplomacy is an ad hoc affair since there is no ministry of foreign affairs. In fact, magical medieval societies consider the idea of a ministry of foreign affairs ridiculous. To the medieval mindset, trained bureaucratic men lack the knowledge and power to make decisions that are only the concern of kings and great barons. The constant flux of power, alliance, and war also deter magical medieval kingdoms from having institutionalized diplomacy. The speed and complexity of feudal change surpasses the accounting ability of magical medieval men. Relationships form and change too rapidly to be accurately maintained in any sort of governmental record. This inevitably leads to more questioning and conflict concerning land and rights.

Most diplomacy in the magical medieval period begins and ends on the battlefield or at the altar. For example, Kingdom A and Kingdom B are currently at war. King A sends a peace treaty to king B to end their current conflict. On the same day, King A sends correspondence to King B concerning land X. King B is a vassal of King A for land X. Here, King A deals with King B in two different manners, according to two codified relationships. King B is a vassal of King A as well as a king. Being a good vassal and wishing to retain land X from King A, King B sent King A the required amount of men for land X to help King A fight against him in their current conflict.

In place of an ordered diplomatic bureaucracy, individual men are given the power to speak for the king for specific tasks. These men are most commonly dukes, counts, earls, or other particularly powerful barons. They have the social standing and prestige necessary to wield extended sovereign power for a king. The chancellor and his staff perform the secretarial work needed for diplomacy. All records of diplomacy are kept alongside the fiscal records within the chancery. Overt magic use is almost completely absent in diplomacy, since the use of magic by foreign representatives in the presence of a king or a king’s representative has caused more than its fair share of wars. Of course, this does not prevent or deter covert uses of magic.

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PostSubject: Law   Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:34 am

Development of Law
Magical medieval royal law generally develops in two different ways. The first method, known as single law, develops in smaller kingdoms or kingdoms formed from successive waves of invasion. Single law kingdoms develop faster and are more resistant to collapse. They tend to develop a sense of statehood earlier due to a communal identity throughout the kingdom. Unfortunately, single law kingdoms have more difficulty in assimilating conquered territories because they force their customs and laws on the defeated, displacing their customs and laws. The second development of law is layered law. Under layered law, the king appoints local administrators who perform their duties according to local law and custom. The law flows from local to regional to royal under layered laws, opposed to local to royal under single law. Layered laws handle the complexities found in large kingdoms with strong local cultures. Layered law kingdoms generally handle territorial acquisitions better than single law kingdoms, because they allow natives to retain their own laws and customs. Since local customs are more prevalent and strong in layered law kingdoms, they take longer to develop a sense of statehood and rebellions tend to last longer.

The Nature of Law
Magical medieval justice differs from modern justice in many regards. These ideological differences further root campaigns in a magical medieval mindset.

Inequality: Some men are better than others. This difference of worth is inherent, socially supported, and legally practiced. It is not evil or unlawful, rather good, just, and proper. Laws and determining guilt differs according to social class because the law is a tool of the powerful, mainly used to arbitrate disputes peacefully and generate revenue for landowners. Seeking the “liberty of men” or “justice” in its modern inception is not the role of magical medieval justice.

Custom: Magical medieval justice varies upon the king and custom. Customs determine what is lawful; kings interpret customs, change customs, or simply override them. Wise kings follow custom more than oppose them, but their comparative power grants them are insular in a magical medieval society. What is law and custom in one village may not necessarily be considered so in another. Kings and other power centers may attempt to homogenize local customs into single law models, but change comes slowly in a magical medieval world. Laws derived from custom give way to precedent-based common law as magical medieval societies become more mobile. Strong kings and landowners encourage this trend, preferring codification of law, which maintains their preferential authority in courts.

Fonts of Justice: Unlike the modern concept of the state having sole authority to determine justice, there are five primary sources of justice within the average magical medieval kingdom. Their precedence and jurisdiction are not always clear-cut. Manorial law, feudal law, king’s law, canon law, and charter (civic) law are the five fonts of justice in a magical medieval society. Law in a magical medieval society comes primarily from social customs and secondarily from precedence. The five different fonts of justice in a magical medieval kingdom develop concurrently, and each has its socially accepted realm of control. Unlike the modern concept of the state having sole authority, magical medieval people believe justice comes from different sources depending upon the judicial subject. Conflict through the years has given a slight ascendancy to the royal courts, but such ascendancy is far from complete, and most magical medieval people cannot comprehend the idea of justice being administered from only one source. Like everything magical medieval, there are exceptions or additions to this generalization. Each source of justice answers the basic questions of law raised in Aspects of Court.

Speed of Justice: Justice may take a long time in a magical medieval society. A beermaid accused of watering down her beer may wait a full year before being tried and fined in her lord’s hallmote. For major offenses like murder, the deceased’s family may have to wait years for a verdict, and even longer to receive restitutions for the life taken. The nature of dispensing magical medieval justice accounts for the delay from crime to court. Manors only hold court once a year, as the steward travels from manor to manor. The king’s judges travel from town to town, dispensing royal justice as they go. Dispensing feudal law, which settles disputes among landowners, takes time, because each landowner only serves a limited amount of time in council to his lord. Hierarchical maneuvering usually accounts for delays in canon law (i.e. trying lay brothers and priests in different places according to their station within the church, etc.). Dispensing civic law, though held in a permanent seat year round, sometimes takes a long time due to complications in court. Another factor delaying magical medieval justice is the shear number of suits. In general, there are too many trials that need to take place and not enough manpower to dispense justice, collect fines and fees, capture outlaws, and enforce the law. This problem permeates into modern justice systems as well.

Authority of Justice: Magical medieval law has less authority than modern law. The authority of the law is only as strong as the lord dispensing it. The lord must enforce judgments, collect fines and fees, and successfully settle civil disputes or his court holds little authority. Enforcing the law becomes more problematic as courts try influential, wealthy, or powerful people. Such people may simply ignore judgment.

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