A Magical Medieval City Guide (DnD Other)/Types of Cities
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The commune is a community in which the members pledge allegiance to the other members of the community. Much like cooperative living, the commune treats itself as one entity, sharing the work, woes, and rewards among people who are bound together by oath and mutual affiliation. Communes spring up across the countryside without an official lord or protector. Lords do not favor such communities, because they receive no financial benefits from them. Some lords disperse and destroy communes as they are commonly seen as seeds of dissent in their demesnes. Other lords give charters to substantiate the commune's existence. Bringing a commune under a charter provides payments and taxes to the lord, but not all lords are willing to chance the fidelity of communes.
The city is the birthplace of magical medieval citizenship. Although people previously held associations and social ties to their home, the citizen as a member of a civic society only develops with the rise of the city. Only free persons can become citizens by belonging to a guild and taking an oath to the city. Numerous privileges come with citizenship. The most common privileges are tax exemptions on certain goods sold in the city, some toll exemptions, and advantages on wholesale goods. Citizenship also creates social distinctions that fuel the class tensions common in later magical medieval cities. As guilds fill up and more peasant immigrants enter the city, guilds close their doors to new members by only allowing new membership through heredity; by reducing the number of apprentices, journeymen, and masters in the city; or through high guild entry fees. This effectively closes citizenship off for many peasants in the city, creating social stratification re-enforced by economic discrepancies.
When a lord wants a city in his demesne, he can found a city. A lord founding a city does not require permission from his lord or from the king, but he may be pressed for more men in military situations and more taxes. Most of the time, founded cities have little to no city development, but through the lord's concessions, peasants, buildings, and walls soon take root. Founding cities is particularly useful for creating fortified lines, for generating income off unused land, and for populating borderlands.
Lords and kings grant charters to towns and cities. Charters assign land and rights to a group of settlers forming an urban community. Charters officially recognize pre-existing cities, like communes, or charters create new cities as colonies in recently claimed land. Charters define the city's specifics: the rights of the city and its inhabitants, money owed to the town lord, and when the charter begins and ends. A lord can revoke a charter, refuse to extend a pre-existing charter, or refuse to draft a new charter for an old city. If any of these cases occur, the city reverts to the town lord, and he controls the city and all its holdings and inhabitants. A lord can then re-instate all the feudal obligations, restrictions, and justice on the city. Although strong, larger cities may fight to remain free, smaller towns have problems sustaining revolt against a strong town lord.
Free cites have no lord to which they answer. Either their lord or the king granted them status as a free city with independent justice, administration, and municipal government. In practice, free cities still have monetary ties to certain lords and kings, but are not under legal obligation to them. There is a subtle but important distinction between a lord or king's yearly 30,000 gp gift from a free city and a lord or king's yearly right of 30,000 gp from the city. Free cities can wage war against neighboring cities, own land surrounding the city, and in cases of a weak king, eventually become oligarchic city-states, as with Italian cities. Sometimes kings or strong barons declare cities or communes within the demesne of other lords or kings as free cities. They also provide charters to cities within other's demesne. This hampers the lesser lord's ambitions by lowering his income and by forcing him to deal with potentially rebellious communities.