Fantasy RPGs

Ardish Feudalism

Context: This was written primarily for the players of one of my current RPG campaigns. No effort has been made to provide further context, but I may eventually publish more about the setting.

Ardland, the country in which the town of Blightmoor exists, is a quasi-mercantile feudal society. Land ownership is divided between the crown and the church, which each parcel that land out to nobles and high priests, who in turn parcel the land out to knights and local priests, and on to the peasantry.

Peasants are generally free to roam as they like, settling on any land in any fiefdom. Peasants do not own the land on which they live and work. Rather, in exchange for working that land (and giving a measure of its produce to their lord) they are granted an exclusive lease to that land so long as they remain in their lord’s good graces, which typically means keeping up with the rent. Many lords set production quotas for specific things of which they have need (food, shoes, tools, whatever) but will usually accept coin, spices, etc. as alternatives, since these things can be readily traded for whatever is needed.

Towns fall outside this structure, having their own charters either directly from the crown or the church, or from the local lord. This charter affords the town and its residents the freedom to more or less govern themselves (electing a mayor, establishing and enforcing ordinances, etc.) in exchange for a cut of the town’s profits, which are often substantial. Towns and cities in Ardland exist in a power struggle against the clergy and aristocracy, in which competing influences have to be carefully balanced to maintain peace.

Blightmoor is one such town, founded under a frontier charter to operate within the Parish of Saint Meliora in exchange for being governed by a sheriff appointed by the church. This unique circumstance has led to Blightmoor being a haven for misfits and scoundrels, as the presence of the law is fairly minimal and the church does not engage in capital punishment. (Note: The inquisition is not actually part of the church. It is an entirely separate organization which answers directly to the reigning monarch.)