Open Discussion on all things C&C from new product to general questions to the rules, the laws, and the chaos.
Sat Jun 22, 2019 11:44 pm
Since looking at Medieval city guilds, I’ve had more free time (boy there is lots of free time when you have to rely on 3 other people to do their job well and quickly, and they tend to not do their job in anything other than first gear & still mess things up), so I have done some more looking and kicking around ideas
As I listened to some lectures about England leading up to the War of the Roses, and read more about late medieval society and the transition to more renaissance/early modern I came across something interesting
A Nobel/Lord’s Affinity … I understood earlier feudal society’s retainers etc and the tie between King, Duke, Earl, etc down to the common ‘knight’ , and the common laborer, all tied together by land grant and obligations of service labor etc. However, I had never thought about how that morphed in the late medieval era.
In a role playing game context I could really never see how an adventurer could fit into the feudal fief system. Sure easy enough in the beginning, when to be a noble meant you were effective at the skill of arms and had others willing to follow you – how may famous Vikings were first farmers or sons/grandsons of farmers. So, it is easy enough to see an adventure and his friends killing some orcs, getting their loot, killing a troll, finding a magic sword, winning a bit of fame, and shouldering their way into the local aristocracy. (I remember reading in some novel about a local hero knight pointing out that his grandfather had been little more than a skilled brigand who got lucky and ambushed some Moors. Then from their loot bought his group better armor, and then was able to lead bigger and better raids and get more wealth. Then after 2 generations the family is considered ‘noble/genteel’ and he is a knight in service of the king (maybe duke I can’t remember), but just a few generations earlier …)
However after the late 1000 - 1100s that system became more structured and stratified and harder to enter or move up the ladder. With that, yes the adventurer just may be able to beat up the local monsters and get all the loot and magic weapons, but they will still more than likely be barred from being a peer, or if they are allowed in even as a knight, they will still be outsiders in the nobles’ clique.
But as I read about the medieval English Affinity, I saw a good option to put lowly adventures back into the strata of the nobility – maybe still not at their level, but not as outside as they would be in high feudal settings. Also, it looks like existed earlier than the normal ‘late medieval’ society – mentioned specifically in writing as early as late 1100s, so could exist earlier than that – and it would exist alongside standard feudalism. SO that is even better to allow adventures to rub shoulder with the manor born.
The big difference is that with feudalism the lord had his household knights and retainers, and the peasants serfs and laborers working the land, and it was all a semi closed circle. Plus they were all tied together by land grants and usage. With the affinity, it could include knights retainers etc, but also had other jobs and social standing in the affinity – a knight errant could be in a lords affinity, but so could a lawyer, a magistrate, a town mayor, and even more lowly yeoman and the like. For them instead of land usage, it was money, influence, prestige, etc that tied them to the noble lord
The lord did not have to parcel off a sliver of land to bring the knight errant into his circle of supporters. In the affinity, some payment (money always helps tie individuals together), a little authority or duties the knight would not have without the patronage of the lord (a knight errant could hardly afford his own arms armor and horses etc, but in an affinity, he could be leading a troupe himself, or be the lords representative with the local town’s magistrate, represent the lord in a neighboring earls court, or even be in the capital to help support all the other members of the lords affinity in and around the king’s court and capitol city. All things on his own that a lowly knight errant would never achieve on his own.
Similarly, other lawyers, professionals, etc would be included in the affinity – how do you make sure the local merchant guild plays nice, have 3 or 4 members in the circle of affinity ; the local town goes easy on fines on the son of a favored retainer knight, have some of the town’s lawyers and the bailiff in your affinity. How do you make sure your manor lands are well protected, have some of the extra sons of the local yeomen in your affinity.
Plus, it is a 2 way street. If things in the realm are going sideways, and the lord needs extra power, the affinity is there to become an instant army. However, the affinity would also expected to come together with the lord to be advisors and supporters and give him information that his classic feudal household knights and retainers may not have. In a true feudal set up, no Duke would be expected to listen to the advice of a common yeoman (a wise one may but noble and wisdom don’t often go hand in hand), but if the yeoman is a trusted well serving member of the affinity, not only can he advise, but he is expected to!
Another difference between the feudal retainer and the affinity is that the affinity relationship can easily start, stop, and then start again. If you are in Duke X’s affinity, but then he has less need for you, it is perfectly acceptable, to gravitate to Duke Y’s circle of supporters, but then if Duke X needs you again, you could return back to his affinity. This is especially true with the knight errant types. A warrior knight that is in the affinity of Duke X, but that Duke has no big pressing need for extra swordsmen this season – those pesky Scots to the north are behaving for once – can easily join another duke’s forces (normally fighting in a different area). Of course, the knight should not switch to Duke X’s main enemy (being in the Affinity of a Lancaster but then changing to be in the Yorkist Affinity would make you a traitor to the Lancaster nobles and their supporters – then joining the Tudor Affinity would make you a common mercenary sell sword ! )
Oh yeah, for an affinity, it was more of a legal bargain / indenture arrangement. Some had true, in-depth legal contracts with specific duties, actions, tasks that were expected, with a specific fee for each. Sometimes the contract was even specific on how the person was to act and behave in public (to make sure they upheld the respect and dignity of the lord they were representing). However, it does sound like many affinities were more on a verbal hand shake relationship and were more loosely defined.
Plus the monies on the contract may not seem like they give the retainer a prophet, but remember, there were other ways for the underlying to make a prophet instead of just off the contract. ‘Greasing the skids’ was not only acceptable, but expected. So a contract that was for only 4 L per year for the underlying to act on the behalf of the Lord may actually result 8 L additional a year in payments on the side. On the other side, some contracts (written or verbal) could give the underling a handsome profit for the job required, maintenance fees etc. This ensured the loyalty of the contracted member of the affinity, and gave the noble a reputation for being good & generous, and cultivating a significant affinity.
However, with a lower paying lord, and with the associated ‘greasing of the palm ‘ again it is expected, but when taken to an extreme it can be an issue. Some families could be notorious for requiring more than the acceptable ‘bribe’ . This can cause issues for the ones requiring excessive bribes, or if they are an underlying, it can be an issue with making the lord whose affinity they are in look bad. Which, no surprise here, can result in more bad things. Again, a family tied to a king that was notorious for reuired excessive bribes was one of the main reasons that one of the latter iterations of ‘The War of the Roses’ kicked off.
Another interesting tidbit is that Affinities were not just tied to noble men. Queens, duchesses, bishops and the like also had affinities of their own. On the surface that doesn’t sound that important. However, a King / Duke etc would have their Affinity, and the Queen / Duchess would have their Affinity, and these different Affinities could be working at cross purposes (behind the scene of course) while everyone puts on a show of being one big happy family
Oh yeah, the Affinity was to be support for the noble, but at the same time, but reading between the lines to me, it offered a layer of plausible deniability for the noble. Where in more classic feudal set up, (crud I can’t think of the English King’s name) a King was having issues with the Bishop of Canterbury, so 2 of his ‘drunken over enthusiastic’ retainer knights went and killed the bishop, which tied the murder painfully close to the king. “I swear the 2 knights were in their cups and I have no idea why they went and killed the one man that I said I wish was DEAD while we were at my royal feat table”. However, with a tie through an affinity, there is a much less direct line … “The 2 knights errant did what ??? Oh of course they had been on campaign with me against the rebel Welsh lords, but that was 2 years ago and the contract ended. I thought they had traveled to Bristol, or was it out to the Hanse League cities … I’m not sure. I’ll have my steward check to see if there is any official notes on them. I am so sorry for your loss … ”
Now for the Affinities to be useable in a setting, the setting has to be more developed than a standard hack and slash, raid the dungeon, loot the monster setting. It implies a well-developed social structure with multiple players and each player having desires goals etc of their own.
I almost went down the path that a world like Middle Earth wouldn’t have affinities, but then I thought about Rohan …. The king was dominated by the evil whispers of Wormtongue, some of the kings retainers remained loyal, other retainers were tied to Wormtongue, but other retainers had left and were following the King’s nephew and raiding fighting the orcs etc despite the kings (well Wormtongue’s orders through the king) orders to not attack them. So there is at least 3 Affinities, and you could argue that the nobles in the outlying areas had their own affinity, so yeah it works even in ME.
Sun Jun 23, 2019 12:06 am
OK, back ground is all well and good, but what specifically could an adventure do in a lord’s , a duke’s, a king’s (and remember the female standing beside each could have her own affinity too) Affinity. What are some adventuring ideas?
The pesky Scotts are actually making overature of peace this season. As part of the move for peace, the Lord you are tied to is hosting a group of them for an upcoming holy feast day and associated games and festivities. Can you and your adventures make sure the trip from the border to the lords holdings are safe … can you make sure the Scotts are well cared for and enjoy the feast and games … Can you make sure those pesky members of family H (horse thieves and poachers each and every one, and rumored to be in the neighboring Count So & So’s affinity) do not cause problems and do not win any of the games (they are known cheats, so you will have to stop them & then cheat yourself) … Are those Scotts truly looking for peace or is this a good way to sneak in a raiding party deep into this side of the border …
Count so & so’s cousin is going to be presenting a case at the local city’s judiciary … If he does, then the lord you are tied to will lose power influence etc in the city government and guild counsel. The adventures in the lords affinity need to make sure he DOES NOT win the claim … (please don’t kill a cousin of the count though, that will be unseemly) … can you hamper his travel to the city and make him late … can you convince him to ‘forget’ key items …. Can you trick him into missing the court … can you find something that will humiliate him into not presenting the case, or presenting it in a way that ends up supporting the lord you are tied to ????
Your lord’s cattle and sheep have come down with black hoof disease, he HAS to have replacements on the cheap or his estate will lose money this year. (If he looses money how will he pay for your expert services) … Can your band of adventures pull some stings with friends across the border and buy them cheaply and get them to the lord’s lands … or raid across the border and get the livestock for free … can you find a druidic cure for them in time to heal the flock … Can you find a way for the pesky bankers in Fairshire City to give your lord a ‘interest free loan’ to make up the losses due to the sick cattle …
The niece of the Duke R is traveling the country. Does your lord want to make sure she makes it through the area safely (or dose his wife want her slowed so her younger brother can be ready when her retinue crosses out of the area and has to ford the river into a rival’s county) …. Do those pesky Scots across the border see an opportunity to get a bit of leverage on the Duke R and other local nobles ….
The Lord King’s grandson has been accused of treason (but executing the grandson of a king is no simple matter) so he is under house arrest and is being moved from castle to castle. … Your Lord’s in the Affinity of one of the secret coconspirator Duke. …. Will it help if the grandson is freed to flee over the border and across the channel … will it help if he dies in an accident … Will it help if he is kept alive despite the planned accident … Will it help if he dies as he flees across the border (giving a reason for a new season of fighting those pesky Scots) …Will it help to let him know he is not alone and others still care that he is alive (and remind him to not divulge the conspirators additional plans or the care will evaporate and there may be an accident)
Your lord has a family of wool merchants in his Affinity. They are having trouble with the cloth merchants they sell to across the channel being harassed and robbed. …. Helping the cloth merchants catch the robbers helps your lord … Can you protect this season shipment of wool … Can you find the thieves and brigands that are targeting the cloth merchants …. Can you secure a new safer port for the wool and cloth merchants to work out of and trade at … can you prove the cloth merchants are faking the problems and trying to renege on the trade agreements (and reap a double profit).
The king is dead … long live the king … Duke L’s working behind the scenes of the court and parliament to stack the voting to make sure the Queen Dowager is separated from the underage 1st prince of the realm and to make sure nobles friendly to Duke L are appointed as Lord Protector of the Realm, Ist Chancellor, lst Advisor of the Privy counsel to the prince, and given positions of influence and importance (read places to take bribes and punish enemies of Duke L) in the young prince’s new court. Your lord is on that list of enemies … can you keep key member of parliament that are bought and paid for by Duke L from attending the session …. Can you find (or create) evidence that will discredit Duke L’s choice for Protector of the Realm … Can you convince or goad the pesky Scotts into attacking across the border (hopefully not into your lord’s county) so the parliament will be inclined to vote for a more militaristic noble – everyone knows Duke L and his family are al fops unskilled in the art of war – …. Can you help the Queen dowager and the other 3 living sons of the king escape the realm (because Duke L is really close friend with the dead king’s youngest brother Duke E, and Duke E is a very cold blooded Machiavellian noble)
Your lord is a bit strapped for cash, but you have been good trustful profitable members of his Affinity. He has a friend of a friend of a friend across the channel that could use a group of specialist just like you. If you help that friend of a friend of a friend, which will help your previous Lord (and others of the Affinity that your previous lord is in with the Duke) there may be a opening for you here in the duke’s court (maybe even a peerage of your own maybe even a county for you … there are multiple implications on the table not being spoken out loud) … Can you go put a stop to the orc raids out of the Black Forest / the Moorish pirates that raid the far side of the Great Bay … Can you recover a free hold ‘wrongly’ annexed by the Marquise B and hold it long enough that Mq B looses the income he desperately needs form the lands … can you locate and convince extended family to Duke L to be a little slower in providing him mercenary support and safe harbors to merchants and traders in his expansive Affinity … Can you avoid an incident that will set into motion the latest rounds of fighting on the long costly “3 Generations’ War”