User:Trevyr/Law Holdings

It always helps me, when I get stuck thinking about [provinces where the regent doesn't hold the law], to remember just how different the feudal system is from the law/governmental/judicial systems we are all familiar with. I read a lot of words like "courts" and "police" and "tax collectors," and I have to remind everyone that these terms have somewhat to very different meanings in a feudal system. Take the word "court," for instance. For us, a court is a place with a judge and a jury, but in a feudal system, the sole source of judgment/justice was the lord, and when he "held court" he would
hear the complaints and claims for redress from the people of his fief. Now, a ruler of a large amount of land wouldn't want to deal with all the problems that might come up from everyone all across his land; he simply wouldn't have time. So instead, he limits his own court to a "High Court" where he only hears the complaints of the nobility and perhaps the wealthy non-noble middle class. Instead, he allows the nobility under him to hold courts of their own, where they hear the complaints from the lower
classes. This is what I think of as "law holdings." Essentially, they are
lesser nobles than the regent who have been given the right to hold court
and pass judgement on their own for the lands under their control. Some
regents prefer to keep as much control as they can, and so outsource very
little of their law responsibility (i.e. Coeranys), while others
(particularly with large province sizes), prefer the efficiency that the
court system allows them. However, this also means that the power is in
the hands of on man--the local lord. He has, of course, sworn vassalage
and fealty to the regent, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he is
actually loyal to the regent. In fact, most "courts" (medieval sense) are
divided up into factions. It is entirely reasonable that factions "out of
favor" or disagreeing with the regent might instead be more loyal to an
outside regent, particularly in return for money or favors from that
outside regent. THIS is how I think of "law holdings" owned by outside
regents. The local lord who is holding court is actually more loyal to
someone else than the province regent.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the disloyal lord will go into
rebellion. He just doesn't like the status quo, wants to see change, and
is willing to obtain assistance from elsewhere to aid his cause. The
disloyal lord will still collect the taxes from his fief and sent them on
to the regent, UNLESS his outside friend pressures or convinces him that
the friend will protect him. THEN he may decided to make "law claims" on
the province taxation, and keep most of them for himself.
Does that perspective help you to make sense of law claims?
Well, the Rjuric are an interesting case. They are caught in a tension
between having "kings" and having more-or-less automonous "cheiftains." I
would say that Law Holdings in Rjurika (my shorthand) represent the
leaders of the people, either the cheiftains of the tribes or the (more or
less) elected leaders of the towns and villages. In this case, the extent
to which the holdings are loyal to the Regent depends upon the extent to
which the Regent earns/coerces/buys their loyalty. Different culture
requiring the game to be played in a different way, but the result is the
The Khinasi, if we use the Persians as an example, probably have
professional judges appointed over a small unit of territory by the
Sultan/regent (or her Vizier). They serve at the whim of the Regent, and
can be removed from office as easily as instated, and the position is
highly respected, and highly sought-after (as much for the opportunity for
graft as for the respect of the position at times). The judges are
essentially members of the Sultan's court, detached to the local area, and
are expected to attend upon the Sultan regularly (at least once a year) to
keep appraised on the status of laws in the land. Although they do not
represent the same locus of power that a lord's court does in Anuire, the
sheer number of them and their dispersion means that it's fairly easy for
a rival lord to "sway" a number of them to his control (through argument
and reason or bribery and threats).
Brechtur I'm not entirely sure of. My inclination is to make it somewhere
in between Anuire and Khinasi: a Judge, with a Courtroom (usually located
in one of the larger towns/cities of the province), and black robes, etc.
The position would be a fairly centralized one, but would be appointed by
the regent. Perhaps the appointment would have to be approved by the
Coucil of Nobles (Council of Electors?) for the area. A rival regent could
then sway the choice of a new judge through the manipulation of the
On Sat, 20 Nov 1999, GeeMan replied:
This is quite correct, but I'm just wondering... should it be that easy for a vassal to break his agreement? I'm kind of spitballing here, but it seems like a vassalage agreement should not be so easy to sever. The Investiture action is, in effect, the same as a realm spell in relation to it's RP/GB cost and time investment. The magical connections required to transfer the RP take a whole month to set up. Maybe it shouldn't be all that easy to break.
Well, like I said, I don't think that "law holding" representatives are
themselves vassals in this sense. I would treat them as part of the
regular vassalage system, subservient to the land-holding regent, and they
in no way "intercept" the RP as it makes its way to the Regent, except
perhaps in the sense that a length of pipe "intercepts" the water on the
way to your faucet. Vassalage Investitures are for the special case where
the vassal is ALSO A REGENT, i.e. also drawing RP from the lands under
his control. Then you need a special connection between the two for the
exchange of RP's. As a side note, I would say that while the Vassalage
Investiture is inherently one-way (from the vassal to the lord) as it is
currently described, there is no necessary reason why it MUST be one-way.
I suspect that it could easily be designed such that RP's could flow in
either direction, as an arraingement between equals (potentially allowing
triumvirates, or even Republics). However, I don't think anyone on
Cerilia has thought in this way yet: it's easy for us to "think out of the
box" in this case, but with the possible exception of Brechtur, every
culture on Cerilia is firmly engrained with a heirarchical system.
Further, I suspect that Haelyn himself would be VERY resistant to such a
newfangled idea, and might forbid such an Investiture spell to his priests
unless it became clear that it was necessary to do so.
In RL, of course, it is quite easy for a vassal to break his agreement. He has only social, economic and military considerations to concern him. In BR, however, there is an actual transfer of magical energy that took a significant amount of effort to arrange. A BR vassal may very well want to break his vassalage in the same way and RL one might, but given the existence of the Investiture action should it be as simple as just saying "I'm breaking my agreement" and that ends what took a domain action to set up? Why not some sort of Geas or similar effect compelling the vassal to obey the terms of the agreement as part of the Investiture? Shouldn't it take more than a simple decision to break the agreement to end the transfer of RP? Maybe it should take a domain action by one of the parties to break the agreement?
Perhaps you are forgetting the importance that Anuirean society places on
personal Honor. As a DM, I would feel perfectly justified in having
priests of Haelyn refuse to conduct Investiture ceremonies for persons
with a taint on their honor. In fact, in my campaign, priests of Haelyn
will not conduct the Designation Investiture (I think that's the term) for
an heir until that heir has come of age, and has proven that he/she has
the necessary sense of honor for leadership of the people of Haelyn. I
would think that unless the underling has a very good reason for breaking
faith with his lord, and perhaps even then, the stain on his honor would
cripple his hopes for further advancement. If it was sufficiently bad, the
Church of Haelyn may even call for his removal from "office" (in favor the
next acceptable kin).
Nothing is preventing you from using a form of geas as part of the
Ceremony, but I don't think it's necessary. My inclination is to let
social pressure do the job for you (it's also less effective, and so can
lead into interesting stories...). In fact, I would say that most
Anuireans would see it as a insult to their honor if their lord insisted
that they undergo a magical geas as part of their vassalage ceremony. It
implies that the lord cannot trust them, and holds them to be
untrustworthy. I would have the Church of Haelyn side with the vassals on
this one: "honor" can be a two-edged sword, I guess.
Someone describes holdings as something the regent loans to his vassals.
I don't think of this as so much "lending out" the holdings, as much as
exactly what the term "holding" and its game-mechanic simplification would
actually mean in terms of a real, living, breathing world. I think of it
as more akin to the description of what a temple holding consists of as
per the Book of Priesthood. What exactly does it MEAN that a regent
controls a Law Holding? What does it mean, in terms of character-level
dirt-and-bone things that PC's can interact with during adventure-style
gaming sessions? To me, it means the court of a lesser noble (I usually
style them "Counts" to then correspond with the "Counties"=provinces).
Thus, if the PC's were to travel to a Law Holding, they would encounter an
influential overlord with his own opinions and goals, which may or may
not conflict with those of the regent, but who is legally accountable to
that regent and honor-bound to use his position as befits a servant of
Haelyn. I have similar views toward Guild Holdings.
Mark VanderMeulen
November 1999

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