A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    ElfWarriorGuy

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    Default Clan Chieftainship

    Thought about posting this to the 'Real-World Armor, Weapons, & Tactics' discussion thread, since the fictional government I'm writing about is of course interlinked with military organization, but it ultimately seemed more germane to this sub-forum. I'd appreciate some evaluative feedback on a political system for a fantasy clan, as described here.

    First, some preliminary notes on scale, which is small. Geographically speaking, this clan inhabit an area of land that a single rider on horseback could traverse in a little over a day, on good roads (of which there are few); I would estimate an area of about 1200 square miles. Assuming three-fourths of that area is land unsuitable for farming (this being rugged highland-midland transition area), I produce a population figure somewhere around 210,000 people. We're talking a level of technology on par with the Iron Age.

    Spoiler: How I produce my figure
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    400 square miles is equal to 256,000 acres; that's our total area of arable land. I assume an average household to be supported by 10 acres of land; most farms are smaller, but I imagine a number of larger estates controlled by important families which drag the average up somewhat. Therefore we have approximately 25,600 households. I assume an average household size of eight (married couple, four working-age children or siblings, two people either too young or old to do much work); thus a population figure of 204,800. Rounding up to 210,000 adds in shepherds, herdsmen, hunters, and others dwelling on marginal land, as well as a few non-farming tradesmen in the towns.


    Spoiler: Households
    Show
    With all that established, let's look at the political system itself. Political power is tightly connected with head-of-household status, which can be passed on to a blood relative (of either sex, though for reasons articulated below it tends to bias male), but not a spouse. Note that property itself is not subject to the same rule of inheritance; whoever inherits head-of-household might not inherit all or even the majority of the family property.

    Households are banded together into two often-but-not-always overlapping political units: the kletoi (made-up word) are groups of families which are used to organize and assign public obligations, namely sacrifices & military service; the kletoi have different numbers of families based on wealth (mostly land), such that a very wealthy household might constitute an entire kletos by itself. The dainoi (also made-up word) are all groups of 100 families, who function as representative units in the clan-wide assembly. Should a family be extinguished or a new one established, the dainoi have to be reshuffled to maintain rough parity of numbers, and close kinship bonds tend to be respected; over time this has made the map of the dainoi into a very patchwork affair. Enslaved or non-land owning tenant families are not counted for this purpose, but as dependents of a free family.


    Spoiler: The Assembly & Appointing the Chieftain
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    The assembly is not really a legislative or governing body; it has three main functions. The first is to conduct a quintennial census to divide people into the kletoi and dainoi. The second (and most important) is the election of the chieftain who holds the actual governing power. The third function is as an advisory body to said chieftain which he can (and is expected to) call up to deliberate on great matters.

    There are two formal requisites for chiefdom. The first is that the chieftain must be the head of his or her own household; the second is that said household must claim blood descent from Cul the Great, the semi-mythic divine ancestor of the clan. A slim majority of families in the clan can rightly claim such; see the section on the chieftain's responsibilities for how other families have come to be included in the clan. Thus it is possible for a family to have the right of standing in the assembly and choosing the chieftain who would never be eligible for the chiefdom itself. Having ancestors who were chieftains in the past is not a requirement, though it certainly helps; in practice, only twenty or so families have the resources and prestige to be serious contenders for the post, making a de facto aristocracy.


    Spoiler: Side-note on sex bias
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    No formal law or custom restricts the sex of the chieftain, or of an assembly member. However, proven military skill is vital to being taken seriously as a candidate, especially for the chiefdom. This creates a cyclical effect that biases the system strongly towards men: sons are far more likely than daughters to go to war, and therefore prestigious households tend to bias towards passing their head-of-household status on to their male members in order to maximize their household's chances of political success. This pattern is somewhat replicated in lesser households, less so those that are ineligible for the chiefdom anyway, or those that for some reason are ineligible for standing in the assembly; thus things become more sharply patriarchal the higher one goes in this system: female heads of household are reasonably common, female assembly members less so, and only a handful of women of exceptional fortune and ability have become chieftains in the clan's recorded history.


    Spoiler: Powers & Responsibilities of the Chieftain
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    The chieftain holds his post for life. Though his powers are not formally limited, strong custom binds him to consult either with the assembly or with a representative council of senior households for decisions of great import, mostly wars. His chief responsibilities are of course military, being expected both to serve as war-leader for the clan, and to maintain and organize the core of its chariotry, many of whom are members of his own household equipped and maintained at his expense. To defray this cost he has certain revenue-raising privileges: river-crossing tolls, marriage fees, duties on bulk trade with foreigners. (Note these are all in goods, the clan having no formal money system.)

    The chieftain's judicial authority is also paramount, extending even to the power of life and death over any free clan member, though any chieftain of sense knows better than to involve himself too much in the individual affairs of the people. Individual families and groupings of families dispense justice on their own terms; only when a dispute rises to the level of pitting entire groups against one another does the chieftain typically involve himself.

    The chieftain has various religious duties beyond the scope of this post, but he is also generally expected to delegate some of the more specialized cult functions to deserving individuals. The most politically charged of his religious responsibilities is approving the creation of new households (either of migrants, annexed peoples, freed slaves, individuals who perform some exemplary service to the clan, or in very rare cases a family member suing for emancipation) and conducting the rituals which will join their blood to the sacred blood of the clan.

    Although there is a fixed meeting place for the assembly and certain other official functions, there is no fixed residence for the chieftainship; the center of government is simply wherever the current chieftain resides.


    So, criticism welcome. Does this seem like a sensible and sustainable system for a population group this size? Are there any additional features you would expect to see in such a system? Ways it might evolve and change over time? Any changes you would make to render it more believable? Analogues, historical or fictitious, that you would consider valuable points of study?

    Sometimes I look at this constructed system and think it seems clunky and awkward. Then I read about real historical societies, and think it's not clunky and awkward enough! Hopefully we can find a middle ground.
    Last edited by Catullus64; 2022-01-11 at 01:42 PM.
    The desire to appear clever often impedes actually being so.

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Your farms look a little small; a hide was considered enough to support a family, and it ran about 60-120 acres. Since your land isn't too good, you're more looking at 100 acres, rather than 10.

    Overall, your system looks pretty good; you've got some complexity in there, and room for machinations, especially if a chief dies.

    I think the only alteration I would suggest is some way for a chief to be legally deposed. Lifetime appointment is great, but it can also lead to civil wars if the chief goes too far... some definition of "too far", even if it's a "we know it when we see it" version.

    Despite the chief's religious power, it might go with "the priests can depose the chief at the will of the gods". The chief, being the titular head of the religion, would have some influence here, but the priests might take the bit in their teeth from time to time. A removal of the priests from the line of succession could be good, especially if there were ways for the chief to remove that restriction. Throw in family politics and you have a semi-chaotic stew of conflicting interests.
    The Cranky Gamer
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    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Catullus64 View Post
    First, some preliminary notes on scale, which is small. Geographically speaking, this clan inhabit an area of land that a single rider on horseback could traverse in a little over a day, on good roads (of which there are few); I would estimate an area of about 1200 square miles. Assuming three-fourths of that area is land unsuitable for farming (this being rugged highland-midland transition area), I produce a population figure somewhere around 210,000 people. We're talking a level of technology on par with the Iron Age.
    This is a population density of 175 people per square mile, which is roughly equivalent to the 21st population density of Ireland (179) - a nation that seems to be a decent match for the geography you describe - and slightly above current global population density (presently 168 per square mile). This is much too high. Even a very high end estimate for Ireland's peak population in the 7th century at an unsustainable level was 3 million, or ~92 per square mile. Lower end estimates for much of the middle ages put the island's population below a million, with a density as low as 20 per square mile. Your scenario, depending on factors like climate and crop choice (rice and potatoes both allow you to goose density above wheat, a subtropical climate allows for double-cropping, etc.), can probably defend any density number between 20 and 100.

    Spoiler: Households
    Show
    With all that established, let's look at the political system itself. Political power is tightly connected with head-of-household status, which can be passed on to a blood relative (of either sex, though for reasons articulated below it tends to bias male), but not a spouse. Note that property itself is not subject to the same rule of inheritance; whoever inherits head-of-household might not inherit all or even the majority of the family property.

    Households are banded together into two often-but-not-always overlapping political units: the kletoi (made-up word) are groups of families which are used to organize and assign public obligations, namely sacrifices & military service; the kletoi have different numbers of families based on wealth (mostly land), such that a very wealthy household might constitute an entire kletos by itself. The dainoi (also made-up word) are all groups of 100 families, who function as representative units in the clan-wide assembly. Should a family be extinguished or a new one established, the dainoi have to be reshuffled to maintain rough parity of numbers, and close kinship bonds tend to be respected; over time this has made the map of the dainoi into a very patchwork affair. Enslaved or non-land owning tenant families are not counted for this purpose, but as dependents of a free family.
    In general, making up words, especially when there's a functional English equivalent, is bad practice. Your kletoi and dainoi correspond perfectly well with standard sociological and ethnographic usage of 'clan' and 'tribe' respectively. I would strongly advise you use those or risk your player's eyes rolling over.

    So, criticism welcome. Does this seem like a sensible and sustainable system for a population group this size? Are there any additional features you would expect to see in such a system? Ways it might evolve and change over time? Any changes you would make to render it more believable? Analogues, historical or fictitious, that you would consider valuable points of study?
    Your government setup is fairly standard for a society at the 'chiefdom' level of societal organization, and bears some resemblance to the overall chiefdom structure of pre-contact Hawaii (a fairly well-studied case, and the descent from the ancestral founder requirement is an almost perfect match). Note that if you are wedded to the higher population number a Polynesian style climate - mild, with comparatively abundant food resources requiring less intensive cultivation than cereal grains - helps to get you there. One thing to note is that chiefdoms are not traditionally especially stable, especially in a case where warfare is seen as a major source of prestige (as it was in Hawaii) and tends to lead to endemic warfare, especially if revenge is an accepted part of the culture (common in many human cultures, especially non-monotheistic ones).

    One tricky thing about chiefdoms is that their relatively low level of organization and limited governance power makes it difficult to produce large scale projects that cannot be handled by a small group of dedicated craftsmen. A key issue here is the production of metal goods, which requires a complex supply chain in order to happen. Additionally because of the military advantages of metal goods for those that have them over those that don't, any chiefdom that manages to centralize sufficiently to produce them (or in the case of a chiefdom like Hawaii, trading for them with outsiders) is capable of achieving swift and ruthless dominance over its neighbors. Now this is presumably a fantasy setting and there may be fantasy reasons why this doesn't happen - a magic enhanced forging process, superior non-metal goods due to divine blessing, etc. - but it's something to consider.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    ElfWarriorGuy

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Good feedback! I definitely felt that something was gumming up the works with my numbers, and kept ending up with populations that felt too large-scale for the level of civilization I was imagining. I think the flaw may have been that my estimates for farm size were derived from Roman agriculture, which I think are calibrated around much more fertile land (and maybe more sophisticated farming) than is really in play here. So maybe something more like the Anglo-Saxon hide will work better when I play with the numbers a bit more.

    I see the relative instability of tribal chiefdoms and the lack of mechanisms for removing chiefs from power short of "have a civil war" as a feature rather than a bug. That's exactly the kind of conflict that makes for good stories. I'll take it.

    The problem of metallurgy raised by Mechalich is an interesting one. (I take the fact that I get pointed towards Dr. Devereaux's blog so often to be a sign I'm asking the right questions). This may be the sort of thing for which to bust out some fantastical device to explain how such a relatively sparse and decentralized society can produce metal goods. Either that, or just stick to bronze rather than iron; I think in real (pre)history bronze goods had many advantages over iron in terms of how easy they were to produce, but were limited by the scarcity of tin, but it's my world, so the place can be lousy with copper and tin both.
    The desire to appear clever often impedes actually being so.

    What makes the vanity of others offensive is the fact that it wounds our own.

    Quarrels don't last long if the fault is only on one side.

    Nothing is given so generously as advice.

    We hardly ever find anyone of good sense, except those who agree with us.

    -Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Catullus64 View Post
    The problem of metallurgy raised by Mechalich is an interesting one. (I take the fact that I get pointed towards Dr. Devereaux's blog so often to be a sign I'm asking the right questions). This may be the sort of thing for which to bust out some fantastical device to explain how such a relatively sparse and decentralized society can produce metal goods. Either that, or just stick to bronze rather than iron; I think in real (pre)history bronze goods had many advantages over iron in terms of how easy they were to produce, but were limited by the scarcity of tin, but it's my world, so the place can be lousy with copper and tin both.
    There are various ways to cheat this that aren't too disruptive. One of them is to create a sort of 'bio-smelter' and animal that can essentially eat rock/gravel, conduct some sort of complex chemosynthesis in its gut, and then excrete out more or less pure chunks of iron as feces (in D&D, for example, a Xorn can be summoned to do this). An alternative is to create a metal-replacement for tools and weapons (you don't need one for armor, since quite effective non-metallic armor is already possible and was predominant at an iron age level anyway). What you really want is something that naturally breaks into a variety sharpened and edged forms, but that is also extremely hard and able to hold an edge for a long period of time. Knives and saws and axes can be made from stone, bamboo, horn, and other materials fairly easily, the problem is that they dull/break very fast. Classically, dragon bone/teeth/spines has been very suitable for this purpose, but there are plenty of options.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    My impression is you're describing a non-state people without cities or writing.

    Questions
    Which aspects are most important to you? I noticed some discrepancies, and I have suggestions, but they depend of which parts of you society you most want to keep.

    Discrepancies -the word clan
    200,000 is too many to be called, or organized like, a clan.

    A clan is ( in the Celtic sense) is going to be 1-10 thousand people. Other definitions exist, but are usually the same or smaller.

    For 200,000 people, I'd expect to be divided into many tribes/clans unless there was a lot of other social structures to replace tribal level governance.

    Discrepancies -Density
    In 1500, Scotland had a population of about 15 people per square mile. So with your area you'd have about 18,000, which is near the upper limit of what could reasonably be called a clan.

    200,000 people in 1,200 square miles way too much with European crops and without massive import of food.

    Notes - Economics
    The chief (and their people) need food, clothing, steel, and miscellaneous (salt, dyes, luxury goods, et cetra).

    revenue-raising privileges described seem like a fine way to get the miscellaneous. Maybe steel or clothing. But not food.

    Markets collapse often in pre-modern societies and sustenance farmers (most of them) won't sell to the market in a famine year. The chief needs a guaranteed food source, which means a chain promises of specific amounts of food going back to the farmers. So either the chief has enough land to feed all their people, or the clans pledge food.

    With clothes and steel the chief will need so much more than merchants typically have and plan A will be to organize production rather than to organize the market, or employ buyers to deal with individual smiths/ seamstresses.

    Notes - Stability
    A non-state society can potentially be much less stable than a state society. So in terms of realism this seems plenty stable.

    Agriculture
    Wikipedia says that a self-sufficient household would have about 26 acres in Scotland.

    Also, if 3/4 of the land isn't arable (but is grazable) you're going to have a lot more than 3% of the population being herders/ ranchers. Probably about one herder per 4 farmers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Your farms look a little small; a hide was considered enough to support a family, and it ran about 60-120 acres. Since your land isn't too good, you're more looking at 100 acres, rather than 10.
    A hide didn't support a peasant family, it supported a man-at-arms (and family) who could live off rent and be away at war for a whole season.
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    My impression is you're describing a non-state people without cities or writing.

    Questions
    Which aspects are most important to you? I noticed some discrepancies, and I have suggestions, but they depend of which parts of you society you most want to keep.

    Discrepancies -the word clan
    200,000 is too many to be called, or organized like, a clan.

    A clan is ( in the Celtic sense) is going to be 1-10 thousand people. Other definitions exist, but are usually the same or smaller.

    For 200,000 people, I'd expect to be divided into many tribes/clans unless there was a lot of other social structures to replace tribal level governance.

    Discrepancies -Density
    In 1500, Scotland had a population of about 15 people per square mile. So with your area you'd have about 18,000, which is near the upper limit of what could reasonably be called a clan.

    200,000 people in 1,200 square miles way too much with European crops and without massive import of food.
    The term clan, implying a shared sense of ancestry and kinship, is definitely key to me, much more so than population or area statistics. I'll definitely be scaling back my population numbers, probably by radically increasing the amount of land assumed to sustain an average household. A smaller population suits me better anyway.

    Notes - Economics
    The chief (and their people) need food, clothing, steel, and miscellaneous (salt, dyes, luxury goods, et cetra).

    revenue-raising privileges described seem like a fine way to get the miscellaneous. Maybe steel or clothing. But not food.

    Markets collapse often in pre-modern societies and sustenance farmers (most of them) won't sell to the market in a famine year. The chief needs a guaranteed food source, which means a chain promises of specific amounts of food going back to the farmers. So either the chief has enough land to feed all their people, or the clans pledge food.

    With clothes and steel the chief will need so much more than merchants typically have and plan A will be to organize production rather than to organize the market, or employ buyers to deal with individual smiths/ seamstresses.
    Something to be considered. Certainly anyone able to get him or herself appointed chieftain is going to be sitting on very big farms & herds, but it can be a source of good ideas to figure out how else they ensure a surplus of food that can sustain their arms & status symbols. Maybe a kind of political spoils system, wherein a chieftain secures pledges of food from his supporters in exchange for handing out priesthoods, places of honor in the chariotry, and other offices. These supporters, probably of moderate property and status themselves, probably do the same with the smaller farmers & herdsmen in their orbit.

    The other option for securing these things is, you know, war (I'm working on fleshing out the clan's various neighbors of similar scale and organization, as well as a nearby big, rich, centralized kingdom hungrily eyeing all of them, but presently allied with our main clan), but I suppose that you need surplus to have the resources to go to war in the first place.
    Last edited by Catullus64; 2022-01-12 at 07:33 PM.
    The desire to appear clever often impedes actually being so.

    What makes the vanity of others offensive is the fact that it wounds our own.

    Quarrels don't last long if the fault is only on one side.

    Nothing is given so generously as advice.

    We hardly ever find anyone of good sense, except those who agree with us.

    -Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Catullus64 View Post
    The other option for securing these things is, you know, war .....
    One thing that's possible/optional is that the chief perpetually raiding other groups for cattle and/or slaves. And is potentially collecting tribute from those he has promised not to raid.
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    A hide didn't support a peasant family, it supported a man-at-arms (and family) who could live off rent and be away at war for a whole season.
    Bede disagrees.
    The Cranky Gamer
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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Catullus64 View Post
    The other option for securing these things is, you know, war (I'm working on fleshing out the clan's various neighbors of similar scale and organization, as well as a nearby big, rich, centralized kingdom hungrily eyeing all of them, but presently allied with our main clan), but I suppose that you need surplus to have the resources to go to war in the first place.
    Actually, it tends to be the opposite, at least below certain technological benchmarks. War can actually produce a surplus, through several different means.

    First is that a lot of primitive 'warfare' is actually systematized raiding wherein the victor hauls off a lot of useful resources from the defeated, whether in straight up foodstuffs, durable goods, slaves, or ransom-able captives. Now, there are logistical limitations on this, in that the people you raid either need to be shockingly close by, or there has to be some easy means to transport the goods back. Note that livestock can transport themselves back to the camp of the victors for subsequent slaughter and a number of famous Iron Age conflicts - mostly notably the Tain bo Cuailnge - were essentially large scale cattle raids.

    Secondly, warfare casualties reduce resource demands. Lots of dead young men are mouths that no longer have to be fed, and if you society had a labor surplus but not a food surplus this is actually a resource conserving measure (note that societies that rely on cereal grains are less able to take advantage of this than societies reliant on rice, root crops, or other sources due to differences in the labor distribution necessary to process these goods). There do tend to be knock-on consequences of this approach, however, notably polygyny, since reducing the proportion of young men in a society means the smaller number of remaining high-status men will gain control over the 'surplus' female population.

    Third, victory in war may allow for the victors to claim resource-producing locations that are limited in space but have relatively low labor requirements. Common in this regard are water-dependent resources such as fishing grounds, fish-producing streams (a river suitable for a large weir can have massive seasonal production in something like salmonids or eels), or even lakes that attract large waterfowl migrations. In coastal areas this may include fish nursery zones, sea stacks full of birds, or beaches full of seals. This sort of thing is all highly important at the small scale. A tribe's control of a beach full of seals that offers caloric levels capable of supporting 500 people a year at a sustainable taking is huge for a 10,000 person tribe (since its 5% of their total needs), but of little consequence to a 200,000 person city-state.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    The definition changed. This shouldn't be too surprising since the word is older than English.

    One one point it meant support for a peasant family and X acres. Although, at that point "acre" was an economic term, not a strict geometric one.

    At another point it meant 120 acres and an obligation to provide an man at arms.

    60 acres is well beyond what one family could directly work themselves before automatic machinery. If we contrast early America, land was allotted in 40 acres with no guarantees about it being arable, no common lands for grazing, foraging, or wood, and labor saving technology and larger draft animals that didn't exist in the past. Still, this looked downright utopian compared to Europe and was only possible because America was "empty".

    If we look at an example, the village had 13 hides and 113 tenants. Even if we assume every adult man was a tenant, that comes out to way more than 13 families. If we assume the other way, that every tenant was a head of house, and take out the lord's demesne, that leaves 12.6 acres per farmer, which is still much more than Mediterranean examples.
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    If we look at an example, the village had 13 hides and 113 tenants. Even if we assume every adult man was a tenant, that comes out to way more than 13 families. If we assume the other way, that every tenant was a head of house, and take out the lord's demesne, that leaves 12.6 acres per farmer, which is still much more than Mediterranean examples.
    So, you're using an example several centuries after what I'm talking about to try to show I was wrong to use the definition of the word before it picked up extra meanings?
    The Cranky Gamer
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    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, you're using an example several centuries after what I'm talking about to try to show I was wrong to use the definition of the word before it picked up extra meanings?
    You, yourself originally used two definitions when you said "a hide was considered enough to support a family, and it ran about 60-120 acres. "

    I brought up that English example to show how big actual family farms were. They were not 60-120 acres of arable land at any point before the invention of the mechanical reaper.

    The hide in the example was slightly larger than your definition allowed, but switch to calling a hide 60 acres and it's still very clearly nowhere near one hide per family.
    Last edited by Quizatzhaderac; 2022-01-14 at 03:57 PM.
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfWarriorGuy

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    Sep 2016
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    Default Re: Clan Chieftainship

    So, having received some useful feedback about the basic social structure of this clan, and having made some adjustments accordingly in my notes (particularly in demographics, but also in fleshing out some of the political mechanisms) I thought it might also be fun (useful, possibly, but mostly fun) to get some opinions on the conflict which will compose the main backdrop of the story.

    Since I'm aware that story outlines are generally more interesting to their authors than to any readers, I'll try to keep this brief.

    Spoiler: Wow, I did not keep this brief.
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    It should be first noted that none of the characters described here are the actual protagonists of the book; that distinction belongs to a trio consisting of a shepherd from the clan, a barber-surgeon whose family is a new entrant to the clan, and a poet who is a household retainer to the chieftain; people who, if the history of this conflict were written, would at most receive a small footnote.

    The first figure of note is Gairne, chieftain of Clan Culde. She is the descendent of two august lines, such that between her maternal and paternal descent, she can name no less than nine chieftains as her ancestors. She is popular and generally successful; though an effective military commander, she relies heavily in this sphere on the support of her uncle Gaired, one of the clan's most experienced soldiers. She is most noted for her conspicuous piety and religious learning, having curried favor with the local gods which has led to many plentiful years.

    Also key to the story is Lybaron, a rich and populous kingdom situated around a major river valley to the east of the Clan's territory. Clan Culde has often been a valuable ally to Lybaron, serving as a buffer between it and a rival large kingdom in the further west. Lybaron is markedly different from the clan and others like it in political organization; it has a powerful hereditary aristocracy who hold land in vassalage to its king. Notable among such vassals is Frenga the Tall, heir to vast estates in the western part of Lybaron. Frenga, due to his wealth and military excellence, secures a marriage to a sister of the king. They are not married long before she dies giving birth to his only son.

    Frenga does not remarry until he is much older, when he meets and falls in love with Gairne of Clan Culde, who is at this point newly appointed chieftain of her people. Their marriage is warm and affectionate; though Frenga, as a husband, is socially superior to Gairne by the customs of his own land, he is respectful of her own sovereign authority. He abides most of the year with her in her house, leaving much of the management of his own estates to his now-teenage son (from his first marriage), who will later be called Frenga the Good. Their marriage also has several children.

    Several months prior to the beginning of the story, Frenga the Tall dies of a heart condition, leaving Frenga the Good sole heir to his father's land and lordship. Frenga the Good will be the source of the conflict here. He covets the land of Clan Culde, though his reasons are not avarice pure and simple; he has not spent much time in those lands, and doesn't fully grasp or honor their customs. In his view, and the view of the society he has grown up in, when his father married Gairne, she was incorporated into his household, and her possessions made part of his patrimony. On these grounds he views himself as rightful heir to rule over the Clan's land, or at least Gairne's possessions within it.

    Gairne obviously rejects this claim, because that's not how marriage, inheritance, or chieftainship work in the Clan. As a compensatory gesture, she offers to make him and his household members of the clan, though by the clan's customs he would still not be eligible for chieftainship, not being a blood descendant of Cul the Great. Frenga the Good has no formal choice but to respect this decision and accept the gesture, but inwardly he seethes, and in his resentment he begins laying plots.

    Frenga begins visiting with the King of Lybaron (his uncle, you will recall from earlier) and begins trying to secure the king's approval for a war against Clan Culde. The king, for his part, is wary of being seen to attack the Clan, his ally, but he also sees the value in subjugating them. He makes a private and informal agreement with Frenga; if Frenga attacks the Clan with his own forces and coerces them into accepting him as chieftain, then the king will take no action against him, and will recognize the acquisition as legitimate. If Frenga attacks and fails to secure control over the Clan, the king will disavow and publicly condemn the whole thing, and will withdraw any protection against subsequent retaliation. Frenga the Good is a bold young man, confident of his resources and military skill, so he decides to take the gamble. The king expects Frenga to fail (correctly, as it will turn out), but is glad to see one of his richest and most potentially troublesome vassals taken down a peg, all the while weakening Clan Culde for future subjugation.

    Thus Frenga begins preparation for war; he attacks and defeats one of Clan Culde's neighbors and rivals as a pretense for mustering & moving his forces. His strategic aim is to disable the Clan's forces, and then to capture his stepmother, as well as other key magnates & assemblymen, so as to coerce them into legitimizing his claim and handing over rule over their territory.


    Spoiler: Thematic Intentions
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    The broader theme which I intend to be realized through this narrative has to do with institutional change. In particular, the Clan is my attempt to portray a pre-state society that is, by the standards of its period and the standards of real history, relatively egalitarian with respect to gender, class, & ethnic divisions. Hence an elected leadership, representative government, formal equality between sexes, & systems for outsiders & enslaved persons to be included in civic life.

    The story, then, is meant to show such a society and its egalitarian aspects put under stress, as they face aggression from a big, developed state which is more class-stratified, more gender-stratified, and (though I haven't spelled it out here) more dehumanizing in its institutions of slavery. They will experience pressure to adopt similar institutions in order to compete & retain their independence, even at the cost of these more fair-minded institutions; they are, essentially under pressure to form a state, with all the human evils that can entail. This process has begun well before the events described above, but this is a crisis that brings it into sharp relief. Other aspects of culture and humanity are involved that I haven't included here, particularly the details of the Clan's religion, and how slavery functions in both societies; I felt those are topics are too tricky to discuss while still abiding by Forum Rules. I hope that the fictional society I've outlined, and the conflict which awaits it, are a good basis for such a tale.
    Last edited by Catullus64; 2022-01-15 at 06:12 PM.
    The desire to appear clever often impedes actually being so.

    What makes the vanity of others offensive is the fact that it wounds our own.

    Quarrels don't last long if the fault is only on one side.

    Nothing is given so generously as advice.

    We hardly ever find anyone of good sense, except those who agree with us.

    -Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

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