A Magical Medieval City Guide (3.5e Other)/Social Order

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The patriciate forms the upper crust of urban society. Socially, financially, and politically, the patriciate distinguishes itself from the common burgher, creating the immense class tension found in the later magical medieval city. Although members of the patriciate may own land, they are usually not large landholders. Instead, they gain status from movable wealth and lots of it. The patriciate often has social tensions with the landed aristocracy because their wealth does not come from landownership. Much like the English viewed late 19th century America's wealth, magical medieval aristocrats see the patriciate as upstarts who have little refinement and distinction in their methods of attaining wealth. Comprised of wealthy merchants and other city dwellers, the patriciate rarely contains members of the peerage. However, as in all things magical medieval, the complete opposite is also true. Such distinctions are a measure of individual magical medieval societies. The patriciate are the best families in the city. They create fashion and wear it, they speak with a distinct accent and vocabulary, they live and associate with the well-to-do portion of town, and they have immense power in many regards. Members of the patriciate are usually in the city council and have greater ability to benefit from civic manipulations. Patriciates are usually leading members of the merchant guild.

City Council[edit]

The city council is the municipal head of the city. The right to have a city council and the rights of the city, which the city council oversees, are spelled out in the city charter. Almost all cities have the right to tax and form a militia for civic defense. The right of taxation includes levying various taxes, such as poll taxes, gate taxes, taxes on luxury goods, tax on magical items, mercantile taxes, war taxes, and emergency taxes. The right to levy taxes creates an entire financial system for collecting taxes and accounting, as well as other financial practices like forced loans. Forced loans are loans to the city from a merchant or patriciate by physical force, revoking special privileges, or threat of confiscation or exile. Although the name implies unpleasantries, most of the time wealthy merchants and patriciates pay forced loans without too much duress. They even earn interest on the loan from the city. City councils have been known to over-tax their citizens, pay their town lord, and pocket the difference. However, the city treasury is usually in debt from military expense, poor financial practices == On the Magical Medieval City == (toll/tax exemptions granted in recompense for personal gain), and inflation. The right to form a militia includes stockpiling weapons, magic, food, other logistic materials, and men for military use. Most city militias are just burghers who bring their own simple weaponry. Cities with more to protect often develop their military forces into a professional standing army. Cities also hire mercenaries to man the walls, especially in the later magical medieval period, when burghers opt out of guard duty. Cities usually have their own judicial system separate from their lord's court. Although a city's jurisdiction is only within city limits, city courts generate income and give the city leaders more power over the city and its inhabitants. They also make city ordinances on sanitation, curfews, guilds, and nightly patrol of the streets. They oversee city projects and city planning, and in free cities, the city council can even charter guilds. Everyone belongs to a family, a manor, a lord, a guild, a religious order, or some other form of group identity. In the time of uncertainty that precedes the magical medieval period, safety and survival comes in numbers. One's craft, familial relations, and interests are not merely a means of understanding through classification; they are protection for the individual from a society that tends to persecute others who are different from them. It is not far from modern times, except that the modern mindset allows for a greater diversity within definition. Groups police themselves, vouch for their members, and create smaller communities within the bustling city. Similar to the early 20th century American cities, living on Baker's Street, being a member of the butcher's guild, or attending certain churches define someone's personality. Within every group, there is further stratification. It is not enough to know that a person is a member of the clothier guild. Are they a master, journeyman, or an apprentice? Who did they work under as an apprentice? When did the guild make them a master? Who does that person associate with from the guild? Do they work with linen, silk, or course cloth? Stratification does not stop at craft specifics, but continues on to include economics, social factors, and community involvement. Citizenship has its own importance. People in the magical medieval period are not nearly as mobile as modern people. Generations of the same family farming the same land, being a master of the same guild, or living in the same city is typical in the magical medieval period. Rooting a family in a social network dependent on geography means that the family is subsequently rooted to that specific geography. This is why exile from one's city is one of the most heinous kinds of civic punishment. It is the immediate removal of identity, definition, and social understanding, both personally and externally. A person may travel because of business and spend long periods of time away from home, but most magical medieval people only feel truly at home in the place where they were born. This sentiment is not to be confused with nationalism per se. Nationalism does not develop until after the magical medieval period.

Town Lords[edit]

The lord who originally gives the charter to the city is the town lord. Due to feudalism, it is possible to have multiple town lords through one city existing within multiple fiefs. Both the town and the rights of its inhabitants exist by the grace of the town lord. Though the town lord may relinquish some of his privileges (see on "Peasants' Interest"), he may remain an active force in the city if he wishes. Choosing key officials, packing the city council with favored burghers and merchants, and taxing more money out of the city (ground rents, fees, and payments) are a few of the traditional methods town lords exert their influence in the city. Cities are also crucial to the town lord because of the density of spellcasters in the city. On top of coin, the town lord demands magic services, items, scrolls, and potions from the city. In some situations, town lords never revoke feudal obligations or they re-instate them on their cities and its inhabitants. This is especially true of cities in the beginning and end of the magical medieval period.


Kings wield power as town lords, but they have the force of the crown behind them, which gives them significantly more power. Even weak kings are as strong as the most powerful of his lords; otherwise he would not be king for long. Kings give and revoke royal charters, and even overrule another lord's charters for a city. Only kings give cities free status, removing the feudal yoke off the town. This means the city no longer has a town lord, and subsequently, no longer makes payments to a town lord. Kings declare cities free as a method of controlling unruly barons and strong lords who oppose them. Kings can also take away free status, or at least threaten to, for additional coin, magic, particular local specialties, or to curb strong power centers in the city. Cities who feel unjustly burdened by their town lord can petition the king for relief. Conversely, cities can also seek strong barons and lords if the king is the town lord tyrant.


This begs the question of what to do about adventurers, both NPCs and PCs. Adventurers make a profession of taking jobs that others do not want or are unable to do. They do not have a social definition, yet the core rules state that adventurers do not stir any extraordinary attention by virtue of being adventurers. There are a few ways to resolve the magical medieval mindset and the social reaction to adventurers listed in the core rules. The best way of understanding adventurers from a magical medieval mindset is calling them mercenaries.

The Social City[edit]

The cornerstone of a magical medieval society is definition and classification. Although a truism on the manor, this is especially true in the city, where many people live in close quarters and where new people are moving in all the time. They travel and act as sell swords and solve problems for wealthy people. Some also do some pro bono work, saving the occasional village from orcs or rescuing the farmer's daughter from the goblins' lair. Some wreak terrible damage for personal gain, slaying and pillaging as they go. Like mercenaries, PCs are heroes in armed conflict, but worrisome when the conflict ends. They are a dangerous lot by virtue of their mobility, their paucity of social sponsorship, and de facto, the lack of social restraint. More than likely, PC adventurers draw at least some attention. First, most PCs usually wear armor and are fully equipped for combat and adventuring. This is not very common in a city, unless it is a time of war or a fort city where most people do soldiering. Even then, having a person in full armor with multiple weapons who is not an aristocrat or a knight is rather rare. Anyone showing up at a city's gates in full armor and fully armed, and who wishes to enter the city in such a state, has a lot of explaining to do. Unless they have a writ or badge identifying their social sponsor, most PCs probably have to surrender martial weaponry and all but light armor into the custody of the city until they depart, at which time, they can collect their things. Second, PCs have backpacks stuffed with interesting things that jingle. As they try to enter the gates, such loot attracts attention of sellers, pickpockets, and the guards collecting taxes at the gate. On top of paying an entry tax (see Mundane and Magical Taxes in Appendix V- Magical Medieval Miscellany), PCs pay for the goods they bring into the city, even if PCs claim they are not selling anything in town. Bribery, intimidation, bluff, diplomacy, and magic are always options for bypassing the gates and taxes, but PCs must remember that they are subject to the city laws and the force behind them. Third, should someone have the power to look (in larger cities gate guards are always equipped with detect magic) PCs have lots of magic. Cities tax PCs for the magic items they have, and PCs should obey the civic rules on holding and using magic in the city. Some cities have strong groups that regulate the use and abundance of magic in the city. Some cities require people to surrender certain types of magic items and restrain the use of certain schools of magic in the city. PCs would do well to always get the specifics when entering a new city. Large trade cities through which many people travel through are more acclimated to adventurers, mercenaries, and the shady lot of society. But for the most part, adventurers stick out in society. Retired adventurers are understandable, seen as wanderers who settled down and entered society at that point. Even if they adventure again, the retired adventurer has roots and social connections that tie him to a locale. There is an undercurrent among the urban powerful to invite wandering PC adventurers into social obligations, and in effect, a social classification. Adventurers that accept such invitations become agents of a certain lord, religion, or ideal. Such relationships are also beneficial for PCs. Social connections are very useful, if only in tax savings alone. PCs who establish such ties have home bases, relinquishing rented beds and tourist prices for dinner invitations, choice gossip, and surety should something strange happen in their presence. Another truism of the magical medieval city is that news travels fast, especially bad news, and it seems like everyone knows everyone else's business. When PCs roll into town, it does not take long for everyone to hear about them, know what they look like, and learn how many pitchers of ale they had at lunch. This can make subtlety and covert operations difficult for outsiders. People also know that PCs have lots of money, as displayed by the 50 pounds of metal the fighter wears, the goods they carry into the city, and the amount of magic on their person. This affects the prices they pay for goods and services, the number of touts and beggars that follow them around, and thievery attempts. If the PCs look rough and seasoned or if they come with a social connection, it is possible that no one in town wants that much trouble.

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