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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DrowGuy

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    Default Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    The story there got way off topic but one of the posters brought up some very interesting points I'd like to repeat. Basically, how does society in a Dungeons and Dragons society works.

    Where the following things are true.

    1. The Gods are interventionist, morally opposed, and demonstratively real.

    2. Criminal Behavior in one society might be rewarded in another or even encouraged with tangible rewards in exchange for it (human sacrifice, etc)

    3. The majority of the lands are utterly lawless and untamed.

    4. Specific Effects created by individuals studying Books and Diagrams can be performed at will.

    5. Monsters wander around, pretty much destroying at will.

    6. Humans are surrounded by individual races that seem to naturally veer towards their worst excesses and brightest hopes.

    (Contrary to popular opinion: I know a lot of guys who'd prefer Orcs to humans)

    7. Pretty much anyone can force themselves into the position of Kingship through force of arms.

    8. Human Society isn't young but demonstratively Old with Atlantean style ruins all over the place.

    9. Humans and other individuals can achieve ridiculous strength through enhancing their Ki or whatever you want to term levels as.

    So, that to the untrained observer, most high level fights probably resemble anime compared to how the real world works (even without the Book of Exalted Deeds).

    10. No one really worries that much about Good and Evil since both have their cheerleaders.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    Except there's always someone who is stronger than you and even the Strongest might fall prey to someone who is Smarter, Faster, Braver, Sharper, a better leader, Trickier, or even just Luckier.
    Yeah, that's D&D in a nutshell. The Evil Overlord takes 90% of your grain, leaves you 10% of it, and then you get to keep your houses and villages from being burned to the ground. Eventually, Sir Puff'N'Stuff the Paladin comes and kill the Evil Overlord.

    Is it extortion? Yes, pretty much, but it's without the legal system we have to protect the real world except for some nice gods.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    And if the villages band together?
    I point to Seven Samurai as a general example of what I think is the situation in most Medieval D&D worlds. Basically, the problem isn't the villagers banding together. It's the fact that the majority of the Evil Overlords and would be tyrants out there are trained soldiers while the peasants are just a bunch of guys who can't do anything against men on horsebuck.

    With luck, you're like Conan's people in the movie

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jy0RzZ18LYY

    Where you kill some of them but the majority of you are wiped out before your children are carted into slavery.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    What if the villagers simply flee and set fire to everything they didn't take with them so that Overlord gets NOTHING!
    Then they starve to death.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    But they always, always, always have to justify it.
    I think, in D&D, "I won't kill you if you do this and you can still get along with your lives" is enough for most of the cowardly peasants that exist out there. The majority of them are a downtrodden and beaten lot thanks to the fact that there's monsters over one hill, malevolent gods, and folk like the Evil Overlord.

    That's why heroes are so rare and precious.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    I don't know what "Lord Overlord" is lord of, but if he is nothing more than a thug, he stands the threat of people getting wise to the fact that he wants it all. If he is an outside threat, Lord Overlord's mercenaries will one day feel the righteous fury of soldiers who actually believe in something and are a heck of a lot more motivated than they are. If he is an inside threat, then he is stealing from his peasants over time, and he has to slow down the public realization that he is really an overaged bully, and that he will never be appeased until he has it all. What slows down this realization is a little thing in between the citizen's ears called "legitimacy."
    In most D&D games, Legitimacy is not really the issue that it is in the real world. Most of the Ancient Empires are extinct or Lawless Frontier. There's no strong Kingship system and Feudal heirarchy like there was during the Dark Ages. Honestly, it's really much more of a massive anarchy of unrelated villagers pecking it out when they should be banding together.

    But they don't.

    Take Thulsa Doom from Conan the Barbarian. Thulsa Doom is the High Priest of Set and his legitimacy comes from being the Chosen of that God. However, 2000 years or not, he mostly runs a bunch of bandit gangs that he eventually builds up into an army while expanding his religion.

    In D&D, if you murder King Osric and say your King with the guys to back it up, most people will say "okay."

    I get the impression that in D&D, most people are ******.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    Revolution is all about attacking this legitimacy by letting the air out of the ideology. Lord Overlord heard from a friend: "I fought the law, and the law won." So he hopes to use the law to win a few fights for him. To do that, he needs to rewrite any troublesome laws and exploit loopholes, and he can't do that for very long without appearing to have "legitimate" reasons for the things he does.
    Like I said, I think the issue is not legitimacy but Force in D&D. The peasants are a caclulating and unemotional bunch in D&D. They weigh the options for rebellion (death, starvation, or a slim chance of winning with many causalties) versus obedience (remaining poor but otherwise unharmed).

    Most choose option B until Galahad more or less Single handledly defeats the Overlord's armies by himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    You're right, a people might simply nominate who is best to lead based on nothing holier than the levels on his character sheet or the muscles in his body. They might decide that they like that system, in which case, the ruler is both Mighty and legitimate-because the people say you have to be strong to be legitimate. If you preferred he had to be just or rational to be legitimate, he better be just or rational, or he better step down. For instance, the primary reason they would want a strong leader is so that he can defeat their enemies. A much more important criteria than not being weak; not being an enemy yourself. Call me one dimensional, but I would figure that by the time a ruler registered as evil, he would likely abusing his power in such a way that he is a threat to at least a few members of the society he's representing who didn't necessarily do very much to deserve such treatment.
    In general, I think most rulers both good and bad in D&D rule without the consent of the masses and more like the ASSENT. Even Lawful Good Paladin King George the Holy collects a tax of 10% of the grain that the majority of the peasants wouldn't pay if they think they could get away with it (even if its genuinely going to go pay for the army to protect against the Goblin Hordes).

    They're like the people in the Empire when the Emperor killed the Jedi. In other words, morons.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    Even a roving band of murderous thieves (who would most likely be more accepting of an evil leader, since they probably have come to terms with being evil themselves) demands a certain quality of job performance. Pirate captains were chosen by the crew, and only the captains that delivered the goods. Of course, pirate ships are not a self-sustaining community. They are parasitic-they steal what they need, they don't produce it. For communities that actually produce stuff and where people just try to get by, people tend to mellow out, and become neutral, if not good. And neutral people might very well correlate evil with dangerous.
    This is another matter. In general, I think most of the Bandit Kings and Future Evil Overlords probably (ironically) tend to recruit peasants and make levies from the locals as much as anything else. In terms of the problem, it's easier to get Humanoid Bands because they probably have no love for the starving peasantry because of racial divides than anyone else. The Evil Overlord might be human and you're an Orc but he'll let you take 10% off the top of the Grain Taxes to divide amongst your village.

    Really, an Evil Overlord only has to play nice with his SOLDIERS rather than the peasantry.

    Even then, if he has the Power of Bane or Hextor then often most of them will serve out of fear themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    You see, its much for likely that the people who worship evil gods don't take an "Evil is Holy" look at things. Its much more likely that the Dark Priests respond to a Paladin's accusation of "he's evil" with a simple "He's lying. And also, he's not a Paladin. Because after all-Paladin's don't lie." Unless the common people can understand magic and alignments and confirm for themselves who is lying (Zone of Truth, anyone?), then Evil Religions will assume that they can't win with a "Bad is Good" idealogy, and instead project a "Good is Bad" accusation against the Good religions, and any neutral ones that don't keep their mouths shut.
    I tend to think that most people don't really view the Gods as Personified Beings. Everyone knows that Talos or Loki is evil. They're monsters that cure you with plagues, windstorms, and locusts. However, their priests will be able to keep these away if you give them bits of gold and slaves for themselves. Also, if you want to string him up, half your village might die because that;'s the supernatural at work.

    It only becomes worse when Thulsa Doom is a priest of Set AND the Bandit King/Evil Overlord.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    My point is: if there really ever was a threat of Bane burning the village, then why isn't it a threat that a Good god wouldn't be similarly ticked off? I mean, isn't giving into Hextor, defying Hieroneous?
    Yes, but I tend to think that's where Patron Deities come into play. Your gods protect you from retribution but no one wants to really chance it and placating the Gods of Evil is as good a strategy as relying on the love of the Gods of Good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtbot360
    Also, if gods are really both active and omnipotent, than whats the point of fighting religious wars?
    Because if Tiamat controls all of humanity, then pretty much she wins. Gods are strange that way.
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    RedKnightGirl

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Makes sense to me, especially considering those that have the rebelling spirit among the commoners would die really quickly.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Phipps View Post
    I point to Seven Samurai as a general example of what I think is the situation in most Medieval D&D worlds.
    Except it's much worse than that. Their not just trained soldiers; they have Hit Dice.

    The difference between a peasant and a soldier is adequately reflected, in D&D terms, by giving the peasant a STR of 10 and a pitchfork, and the soldier a STR of 14, a sword, shield, chainmail shirt, and Weapon Focus.

    If you want to make a "realistic" hero in D&D, give him stats of 16 or better.

    Once you start layering on Hit Dice and BAB increases, you have left Planet Earth.

    the peasants are just a bunch of guys who can't do anything against men on horsebuck.
    They can't do anything against men with Hit Dice.

    I think, in D&D, "I won't kill you if you do this and you can still get along with your lives" is enough for most of the cowardly peasants that exist out there. The majority of them are a downtrodden and beaten lot thanks to the fact that there's monsters over one hill, malevolent gods, and folk like the Evil Overlord.
    Actually, that works pretty well in RL, too. It just doesn't work as well as some alternatives. But if none of those alternatives are around...

    In most D&D games, Legitimacy is not really the issue
    D&D revolves around "Might makes Right." Strength is legitimacy.

    I get the impression that in D&D, most people are ******.
    Yet another way in which D&D accurately reflects real medieval history.

    Even Lawful Good Paladin King George the Holy collects a tax of 10%
    More like 50%. Not because he's mean, but because he has to. Without farm machinery, you need 75% of your population growing food. That means to feed the 25% who aren't growing food, you have to take at least 1/3 of what the peasants make. And that's if you want to live like a peasant. If you want any luxuries at all (like eating 5000 calories instead of 2000) you're going to need to take more than a 1/3. Even if you're a paladin.


    The moral of D&D is very close to the moral of RL: Don't be poor.

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    D&D Society largely equals the society presented to us in the Greek and Norse myths, or in the Arthurian legends. The gods, demons, wizards and the undead walk the earth, heroes are those who go out and kill the local man-eating beast in the cave (see Heracles or Gilgamesh), and political power extends as far as your effective reach.

    The world is, by-and-large, not even properly proto-feudal. You give the local boss your harvest because he could just kill you and take it anyway if he felt like it. Then you hope to Pelor he sticks around long enough to stop the local Orc horde when they come barrelling over the pass in the spring.

    Rule of law? Democracy? Justice? Happens when the local big man says so. If he's a Paladin you might get these things; if he's an evil overlord, you get the choice of hanging, flaying or burning alive.

    Century spanning empires? These are either ruled by immortal wizards/elves/whatever who don't want noisy trouble in their playpen. Or they are the result of a quasi-byzantine local conspiracy/government with a really good PR/human resources dept ("let's get this guy on our side before he's powerful enough to bring things down around our ears").

    Beyond the lands we know, it's *all* a Hobbesian-Darwinian nightmare of cyclopean ruins, ancient forgotten evils, alien cultures and sheer "devil take the hindmost" savagery.

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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    It seems to me that there are some significant deviations from the 'life's a bitch and then the heroes show up' formula.

    There is, for instance, the Isolated Utopia, generally separated by mountains, which holds a higher level of technology and generally standard of living than other areas. Of course, technology equals plunder, so the major enemy of the Isolated Utopia seems to generally be the Evil Empire. It can often take quite a bit of the Evil Empire's resources to overcome the small but effective defenses of the Utopia, but in the Empire's eyes, all the casualties are worth it.

    A variation of the Isolated Utopia is the Ancient Isolated Utopia, which is generally elven or of some other long-lived arcane-oriented race. Aside from all the general awesomeness of the Isolated Utopia, there's probably also access to a gigantic superweapon about the area, as well as better adventuring possibilities.

    Another example is the Industrializing Power. You know, that one rennaisance-level nation in your otherwise middle ages D&D setting (See: Ravenloft campaign setting), from which single-shot firearms and steam-vehicles can be obtained. The standard of living in such nations is generally starting to creep upwards, and social stability is practically guaranteed, as it is mandatory in order for the culture to retain what it would be valued most for - its' infrastructure. As such, it's not the fields but the courts which are inundated in chaos, as intrigue storms the country but raiders and petty warlords who aren't in the know get crushed by the nation as a unified front.

    A major variant is the Magically Industrializing Power. Similar, but there, your technology is sufficiently advanced magic. See: Iron Kingdoms campaign setting. Note that the more Industrializing Powers in your world, the weaker your deities are likely to get. Gods don't get along well at all with steam power.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by bosssmiley View Post
    Beyond the lands we know, it's *all* a Hobbesian-Darwinian nightmare of cyclopean ruins, ancient forgotten evils, alien cultures and sheer "devil take the hindmost" savagery.
    But in what real way was that different than war torn Dark Ages Europe? In the few centuries after Rome left Britain, but before things resettled into what we see today, your statement pretty much describes daily life. And that, in part, is what D&D was based on (of course, ask Gygax and he'll tell you that D&D was based more on the worlds of Vance and Moorcraft, and tell the truth I'm more inclined to go with him on the subject): the darkest days our civilizations have ever seen where the rule of law was governed almost entirely by the guy with the most swords and the most arms to wield them.

    It's also important to note that in the time frame we're talking about, entire armies would frequently consist of no more than 100 men and most often much less.

    I think this opens up a lot of new vistas for play that have been frequently ignored since the advent of third edition. The idea that civilization does not dwell here and that traveling outside of the comfort zone (say the next three towns over in any direction) was an extremely dangerous thing to do.

    Though Experiment: Posit a geographically isolated region that is approximately 500 miles across in any direction. Said land was once widely settled and connected by roadways and towns and cities. Since that time, an upsurge in undead activity has driven back the forces of civilization, killing off all divine casters (since they are most often the first on the front line against undead), and forcing the remnants of humanity (and dwarfanity, elfanity, whatever) into a handful of walled and huddled fortified towns no more than a day apart from each other. How would that society function?
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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    Though Experiment: Posit a geographically isolated region that is approximately 500 miles across in any direction. Said land was once widely settled and connected by roadways and towns and cities. Since that time, an upsurge in undead activity has driven back the forces of civilization, killing off all divine casters (since they are most often the first on the front line against undead), and forcing the remnants of humanity (and dwarfanity, elfanity, whatever) into a handful of walled and huddled fortified towns no more than a day apart from each other. How would that society function?
    Specifically, it wouldn't - at least not for very long. Medieval society was primarily a rural agronomy. With the undead stalking the lands, all the 'good' races forced back inside fortified towns and with no divine casters to call upon, the populace would quickly fall victim to starvation and disease.

    I guess I'm taking your experiment to an extreme conclusion, but it's important to remember medieval cities required a large agricultural hinterland to support them and if they suffered siege conditions the death toll merely from disease was terrible... especially when the besieging force would exacerbate the situation by catapulting plague corpses into the city... and an undead force doesn't even have to worry about death in their own ranks from disease - and each death in the living army is merely a potential recruit.

    It's all doom doom doom I'm afraid... :)

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormwolf View Post
    Specifically, it wouldn't - at least not for very long. Medieval society was primarily a rural agronomy. With the undead stalking the lands, all the 'good' races forced back inside fortified towns and with no divine casters to call upon, the populace would quickly fall victim to starvation and disease.

    I guess I'm taking your experiment to an extreme conclusion, but it's important to remember medieval cities required a large agricultural hinterland to support them and if they suffered siege conditions the death toll merely from disease was terrible... especially when the besieging force would exacerbate the situation by catapulting plague corpses into the city... and an undead force doesn't even have to worry about death in their own ranks from disease - and each death in the living army is merely a potential recruit.

    It's all doom doom doom I'm afraid... :)

    That's what makes it a great setup for a campaign (or in older editions, a campaign arc). I'm a player in a campaign with a setting just like this and the PC's have arrived in the proverbial nick of time as the remnants of society were finally drowning after 200 years of seige. Though to be fair, it wasn't a constant, zombie apocalypse type seige.

    Now, it's a race to see if the players (with no cleric of their own for the longest time) can turn the tide against the undead, find a source of the undead plague, and restore civilization. Or at the very least evacuate as many people as they can to some sort of safety.
    Last edited by hamlet; 2008-01-29 at 05:23 PM.
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    frown Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet;3858633[b
    Though Experiment:[/b] Posit a geographically isolated region that is approximately 500 miles across in any direction. Said land was once widely settled and connected by roadways and towns and cities. Since that time, an upsurge in undead activity has driven back the forces of civilization, killing off all divine casters (since they are most often the first on the front line against undead), and forcing the remnants of humanity (and dwarfanity, elfanity, whatever) into a handful of walled and huddled fortified towns no more than a day apart from each other. How would that society function?
    Your thought experiment cannot be applied to a medieval society. During the middle ages there were no true population centres - population was evenly distributed along fertile land, each close to the lands they were meant to work. There were small farming villages, likely with a defensive fallback position close by (say, the wooden palisade-and-keep of a local nobleman and his 4 soldiers). Big cities simply didn't exist, except around the most powerful castles and churches, which could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    The walled fortifications you suggest could not contain food enough for any amount of time (refrigeration came much later, sieges were fairly brutal situations were both sides raced to see who starved last), and certainly not if many people took refuge in them. In most wars, peasentry was left alone, if nothing else because only particularly idiotic and brutal nobles would kill the peasants - they were as much part of the land as the cows or the trees. Young ones got rounded up to be used as fodder, but otherwise peasants were allowed to keep growing food to pay for the wars in the first place (in religious wars, like the Spanish Reconquista, they *were* expelled and substituted for peasants of the correct belief, though).

    None of that applies to undead, which do not eat, have infinite patience for sieges, have no reason to want fields cultivated, etc. If it got to the point you describe, were undead roam the lands between keeps, and there is nothing left that can reliably attack them, human life would be extinct within the year.

    Hope that helps,

    Grey Wolf

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    Your thought experiment cannot be applied to a medieval society. During the middle ages there were no true population centres - population was evenly distributed along fertile land, each close to the lands they were meant to work. There were small farming villages, likely with a defensive fallback position close by (say, the wooden palisade-and-keep of a local nobleman and his 4 soldiers). Big cities simply didn't exist, except around the most powerful castles and churches, which could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    The walled fortifications you suggest could not contain food enough for any amount of time (refrigeration came much later, sieges were fairly brutal situations were both sides raced to see who starved last), and certainly not if many people took refuge in them. In most wars, peasentry was left alone, if nothing else because only particularly idiotic and brutal nobles would kill the peasants - they were as much part of the land as the cows or the trees. Young ones got rounded up to be used as fodder, but otherwise peasants were allowed to keep growing food to pay for the wars in the first place (in religious wars, like the Spanish Reconquista, they *were* expelled and substituted for peasants of the correct belief, though).

    None of that applies to undead, which do not eat, have infinite patience for sieges, have no reason to want fields cultivated, etc. If it got to the point you describe, were undead roam the lands between keeps, and there is nothing left that can reliably attack them, human life would be extinct within the year.

    Hope that helps,

    Grey Wolf
    You are incorrect in almost every way.

    There were MANY population centers throughout the world during the Middle Ages. These include Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, London, Paris, Berlin, Alexandria (just about any of them really), Giza, Memphis, Stockholm, Mecca, need I go on? These cities still existed after the fall of Rome and were heavily populated by people seeking extra safety. Yes, much of the populace lived in villages that were little more than half a day's travel away from each other, but large populations did gather in cities for mutual defense and commercial benefit. Those cities are what founded the Guild society that eventually lifted much of Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Middle Ages (yes, there is a distinction).

    It is certainly possible that as the undead activity surged (and I have explicitly stated that it is not "zombie apocalypse" style, but just increased activity that smaller, less well defended towns and villages fell and only those cities with strong enough walls and enough manpower in them to fight off the lower level undead and a wizard or two to manage high power undead would manage to survive.

    Of course, this can't happen in the "real world" since the dead don't walk in our world (unless you count those of us working in cubicles).

    In war, peasants were routinely targeted. They could be conscripted, or slaughtered to prevent their conscription by the foe. Peasants had food that armies needed. Their fields could be burned and their homes destroyed to keep those resources out of the hands of the foe. Nothing says lovin' like the chaos of peasants put to route by an advancing war party that your foe suddenly has to deal with. At the very least, many armies found it "fun."

    The walled fortifications could, in fact, contain enough food for a population of a hundred or so. All you need to do is keep your lands about the walls for a distance of about 2-3 miles clear of trampling zombies and skeletons and you can farm during the day and haul your butt inside by nightfall.
    It doesn't matter what game you're playing as long as you're having fun.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    There's one thing people seem to be forgetting: any huddled mass of humanity that's still alive is going to have some sort of spellcaster to call upon.

    A castle without any sort of magic is going to be overrun by zombies or orcs or evil sorcerers pretty quick because mundane fortifications simply do not work against the sorts of threats hanging around the DnD universe. But if they're still alive long enough to worry about running out of food, it means they have some sort of magic to call upon, and what's one thing that spellcasters and magic items can do? Create food. Or at least store a whole hell of a lot of it.


    This is just one example of why it's so hard to come up with a simple vision of how society works beyond "might makes right". For every advantage the average joe has, there's a dragon out there wanting to eat him. For every unstoppable zombie swarm trying to snuff out civilization, there's a magic item or spellcaster or just badass fighter ready to oppose it.
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    True, magic (and dragons and zombies and etc) do tend to throw in a major monkey wrench when trying to create semi-realistic medievial type settings.

    However, I'm a great fan of trying that by a simple adjustment*: severely tempering the amount of magic available. NPC casters over fifth level should be quite rare and, more often than not, directly in opposition to the party. The odd higher level caster who is "friendly" should be difficult to access and not very eager to trade spells with an inferior wizard (though if said wizard could offer up a rare spell of his own would be interested in making a deal). PC casters do not gain automatic spells upon leveling, but must find them and/or trade for them. Or steal them.

    Most important, magic items are rare and are not available for sale.

    The vast majority of the world is mundane, unwashed, unlearned, and in real danger if they stray too far from their doors.

    This, for me, is far more enjoyable than the golf bag D&D style that seems to have developed of late. Characters shouldn't have so many items on them that they actually have to catalog and index them. They shouldn't have to depend on them at all except in infrequent circumstances.

    Creating a realistic medieval feel is more difficult in third edition (and I imagine 4th until proven otherwise).



    *This is not really possible in 3rd edition since it's mechanics specifically rely on the ready availability and plentifulness of magic, but other systems can replicate this.
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    PC casters do not gain automatic spells upon leveling, but must find them and/or trade for them. Or steal them.
    I do like the concept low-magic settings (especially low-magic-item availability and reliance), but this rather makes playing a ranger/paladin/bard/cleric/druid/sorceror difficult-to-impossible, as they have no mechanic for learning spells other than levelling. Divine casters get them all by default, spontaneous casters pick and choose at levelling and that's the end of it.
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talya View Post
    I do like the concept low-magic settings (especially low-magic-item availability and reliance), but this rather makes playing a ranger/paladin/bard/cleric/druid/sorceror difficult-to-impossible, as they have no mechanic for learning spells other than levelling. Divine casters get them all by default, spontaneous casters pick and choose at levelling and that's the end of it.
    There's a player in our current campaign who's been playing a wizard for four years now. He's found it neither difficult nor "unfun" in any respect.

    He will grumble about how long it took him to find a copy of the Magic Missile spell, but that's mostly good natured.

    It's not difficult to play a caster or magic using class in a low magic setting. On the contrary, it means that a well played caster will be a power house in the party, but not in the way that full casteres do in 3rd edition (honestly, I think that third edition bungled full casters and badly).
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    My perspective is that in a D&D world where one person can be stronger than an army is that:

    1) There are no hereditary titles. The only people who rule are those strong enough to hold what they have.

    2) Mage & Cleric types > melee types. In the fight for power, the versatility and range of the Mage and Cleric types means they'll beat the pure melee types for rulership.

    I would expect to see therefore:

    -More theocracies. The highest level priest rules, and priests are all functionaries of the government.

    -More Mage cabals ruling, or single mages of enormous power. They would milk the country for money to fund their magical researches.

    -Many more immortal kings, either because they're evil/neutral and don't want to die, or because they're good and don't want to leave their people unprotected.

    As a consequence of the power of the leaders, war would be more about assassination and intrigue than it would be about armies, since either side could destroy the other side with spells. Since you want to keep those people around to plow fields and make money for you if you're successful in conquering, obliterating them on the field is less of a good idea.

    -Conquering uninhabited lands, peopled by orc/goblin/whatever tribes who lacked a powerful magic leader would be much easier than a real other kingdom.

    -Adventuring parties would be popular with rulers as strike teams to take out enemy state leaders, or to break the leadership of orc/whatever tribes.

    -fortifications matter only when dealing with mundane things like orc/whatever tribes, or if hugely magically enchanted. Usually you've got better uses to put your magic to than enchanting a keep.

    Overall, I don't think the medieval thing is completely out, but it would have a very different shape than many typical D&D games.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    There's a player in our current campaign who's been playing a wizard for four years now. He's found it neither difficult nor "unfun" in any respect.
    ...That's probably because he's a wizard, and can learn spells from scrolls and borrowed spellbooks, which is exactly what the classes Talya lists can't do. Essentially, if you can't learn spells by leveling, you have to be a wizard, archivist, or erudite.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    ...That's probably because he's a wizard, and can learn spells from scrolls and borrowed spellbooks, which is exactly what the classes Talya lists can't do. Essentially, if you can't learn spells by leveling, you have to be a wizard, archivist, or erudite.
    Miscommunication. There's no functional change to the cleric or paladin classes. Only the magic user class.

    We're playing in 2nd edition anyway, so we don't have sorcerers, but there would probably be no change to them in the event that we did.
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    However, I'm a great fan of trying that by a simple adjustment*: severely tempering the amount of magic available. NPC casters over fifth level should be quite rare and, more often than not, directly in opposition to the party. The odd higher level caster who is "friendly" should be difficult to access and not very eager to trade spells with an inferior wizard (though if said wizard could offer up a rare spell of his own would be interested in making a deal). PC casters do not gain automatic spells upon leveling, but must find them and/or trade for them. Or steal them.
    Its interesting but Eberron specifically calls this out. High level characters are rare in the extreme. Being 5th level is a big deal in Eberron since you're one of the more powerful people in the world from the stand point of pure physical might.

    That said Eberron has a lot of low level and highly available magic in the world to the point that its been suggested that farming village might actually high a spellcaster to make them a control weather item that can be used a few time a year.

    This, for me, is far more enjoyable than the golf bag D&D style that seems to have developed of late. Characters shouldn't have so many items on them that they actually have to catalog and index them. They shouldn't have to depend on them at all except in infrequent circumstances.
    One of the reasons I like 4E stuff. They are moving away from item dependency to a system that really only requires three items: a weapon/ability focus item (wizard staff sort of deal), armour, and a "saving throw" item. Everything else is available but not strictly necessary, and should give the character more tricks rather than provide most of their power.

    *This is not really possible in 3rd edition since it's mechanics specifically rely on the ready availability and plentifulness of magic, but other systems can replicate this.
    The rules are only predicated on ready availability of magic to the PCs so that they can stay competitive with the monsters as they level up. If you're willing to do some wonking with monsters then you its relatively easy to do little to no magic (relatively is of course relative based on what you're trying to do).


    To examine Charles' initial post though D&D is largely based on being stronger then everybody else. Thats the basic assumption of the game. That said there are in setting reasons why this wont work. In Eberron you can't just walk up to King Boranel, stab him in the face until he stops moving and claim sovereignty of Breland. The default setting assumptions for 4E seem to cleave very closely to the way Charles describes. Civilized people are bound together in small communities that are separated by tracts of uncivilized monster infested lands and that they require brave adventurers to go out and keep them safe.

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    Post Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    You are incorrect in almost every way.
    Obviously, I disagree

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    There were MANY population centers throughout the world during the Middle Ages. These include Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, London, Paris, Berlin, Alexandria (just about any of them really), Giza, Memphis, Stockholm, Mecca, need I go on?
    Actually, yes, you need to. Lets define the playing area. D&D is heroic fantasy, low-tech world that is most clearly placed in what you call the "Dark Age" which I would call "High Middle Ages" or "Early middle Ages". Say, between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Hundred Year's War in which knights were phased out.

    Also, we are talking about Western Europe. I will agree right now that China had great cities and so did the Bizantian Empire and the Muslim Empire - but those were not medieval; they were burgeoning civilizations with levels of culture that simply are beyond D&D scope. When we speak of middle ages, it is Western Europe alone. If you disagree, then we can part ways, because I assumed we were talking D&D standard setting.

    During that time, Rome had a population of 20k people, London reached a peak of about 90k, Berlin about 10k. That is not big cities, by any stretch of the mind. In the mean time, population in those countries was:
    England 5-7 million
    Kingdom of France: 18-20 million
    Overall Europe: over 70 million
    (all numbers taken from wikipedia, like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_demography )
    So it was not lack of overall population, but the fact that cities with medieval technology are simply unviable: food could not get carted far enough, fast enough, to feed all those people. Guilds didn't start becoming powerful entities until the Low Middle ages, after the black plague robbed much of its power from the kings and churches of the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    These cities still existed after the fall of Rome and were heavily populated by people seeking extra safety.
    Patently False. Cities were the most unsafe place imaginable: impossible to defend, on the brink of starvation. Villages could be defended (they were small enough). But not cities, which were easily vanquished, since they were too big to defend, and easy to starve. Noblemen would not even try, and I cannot recall a single battle were the defenders attempted to defend a whole city, instead of simply withdrawing to the nearest castle.

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    Yes, much of the populace lived in villages that were little more than half a day's travel away from each other, but large populations did gather in cities for mutual defense and commercial benefit. Those cities are what founded the Guild society that eventually lifted much of Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Middle Ages (yes, there is a distinction).
    So you agree that guilds came when Middle Ages stopped being the heroic version (kings, nobles, knights, castles) and became the long road to modern world. In the "heroic" middle ages when D&D is set, 90%+ of the population live in villages of less than 10k people, most in small farming comunities.

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    In war, peasants were routinely targeted. They could be conscripted, or slaughtered to prevent their conscription by the foe. Peasants had food that armies needed. Their fields could be burned and their homes destroyed to keep those resources out of the hands of the foe. Nothing says lovin' like the chaos of peasants put to route by an advancing war party that your foe suddenly has to deal with. At the very least, many armies found it "fun."
    An armie that stopped to try and conscript or kill every peasant in enemy land would quickly be surrounded and killed to the last man. Check the movements of the England army leading to the battle of Crecy. They did engage in burned land and attrocities, but it was actually fairly contained to a small area since they had to be on the move or risk getting stuck in the middle of burned lands without food (it takes a lot of food to keep an army moving). Engaging in casual cruelty breaks down discipline, and no army lasts long without it. Most of the "fun" was had by recently victorious armies in nearby *cities* which of course could not defend themselves since a city, as I explained above, is virtually undefended.

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    The walled fortifications could, in fact, contain enough food for a population of a hundred or so. All you need to do is keep your lands about the walls for a distance of about 2-3 miles clear of trampling zombies and skeletons and you can farm during the day and haul your butt inside by nightfall.
    I think I see what your problem is: you think, for some reason, that "100" is the number of people in a big city. A city is numbered in the thousands (see my little "k"s above). 100 people cannot defend London, or Rome, or anything except a small keep. Also, distances are what kills your model. Land enough to feed a population centre is simply huge - 10000 people require a lot of food, and they cannot all grow it in the lands around the city. Not even in a 3 mile radius. Which is precisely why there were small farming comunities all over the place, close to their lands.

    Now, you have quite toned down the campaign with that comment were you just have a few mindless, roaming undead. Unfortunately, if they are just a few, I have to ask how every last cleric got killed - you spoke of armies being defeated by the huge numbers of undead, and suddenly there are only a few uncoordinated undead here and there? That makes no sense. If there are few and uncoordinated, a few minor clerics can easily keep them away (and you can bet that getting clerics trained would be a priority everywhere!). If there are armies of the things, no amount of handwaving is going to stop your society from collapsing.

    Hope that helps,

    Grey Wolf

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    You are incorrect in almost every way.

    There were MANY population centers throughout the world during the Middle Ages. These include Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, London, Paris, Berlin, Alexandria (just about any of them really), Giza, Memphis, Stockholm, Mecca, need I go on? These cities still existed after the fall of Rome and were heavily populated by people seeking extra safety. Yes, much of the populace lived in villages that were little more than half a day's travel away from each other, but large populations did gather in cities for mutual defense and commercial benefit. Those cities are what founded the Guild society that eventually lifted much of Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Middle Ages (yes, there is a distinction).

    It is certainly possible that as the undead activity surged (and I have explicitly stated that it is not "zombie apocalypse" style, but just increased activity that smaller, less well defended towns and villages fell and only those cities with strong enough walls and enough manpower in them to fight off the lower level undead and a wizard or two to manage high power undead would manage to survive.

    Of course, this can't happen in the "real world" since the dead don't walk in our world (unless you count those of us working in cubicles).

    In war, peasants were routinely targeted. They could be conscripted, or slaughtered to prevent their conscription by the foe. Peasants had food that armies needed. Their fields could be burned and their homes destroyed to keep those resources out of the hands of the foe. Nothing says lovin' like the chaos of peasants put to route by an advancing war party that your foe suddenly has to deal with. At the very least, many armies found it "fun."

    The walled fortifications could, in fact, contain enough food for a population of a hundred or so. All you need to do is keep your lands about the walls for a distance of about 2-3 miles clear of trampling zombies and skeletons and you can farm during the day and haul your butt inside by nightfall.
    Um, I'm quite sure that Berlin wasn't a large city in the Dark Ages. I think it rose with the Prussian Empire, not sooner than, say, the 1700s.

    Wikipedia corrects me on this. Berlin used to be the residence of a Kurfürst since the early 1400.
    More classical centers of population during the Dark Ages/Middle Ages would of course be Cologne, Trier, Regensburg, Hamburg or Lübeck. And this is only Germany. As mentioned, London, Rome and Paris were already big cities, although they didn't rival the population of ancient Rome, which at times nearly reached 1 million.


    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post

    Patently False. Cities were the most unsafe place imaginable: impossible to defend, on the brink of starvation. Villages could be defended (they were small enough). But not cities, which were easily vanquished, since they were too big to defend, and easy to starve. Noblemen would not even try, and I cannot recall a single battle were the defenders attempted to defend a whole city, instead of simply withdrawing to the nearest castle.
    While I generally agree with your assessment, there were instances when larger cities were besieged, for example Constantinople, Jerusalem, or various French cities during the 100-year war with England.
    Last edited by LCR; 2008-01-30 at 03:47 PM.
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    This site might be of use.

    In 1000 CE:
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    1 Cordova, Spain 450,000
    2 Kaifeng, China 400,000
    3 Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey 300,000
    4 Angkor, Cambodia 200,000
    5 Kyoto, Japan 175,000
    6 Cairo, Egypt 135,000
    7 Baghdad, Iraq 125,000
    8 Nishapur (Neyshabur), Iran 125,000
    9 Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia 110,000
    10 Patan (Anhilwara), India 100,000


    No European city (other than Cordova, which was then part of the Muslim conquests) cracked the top 10; #10 was sitting at 100,000 people.

    In 1500:
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    1 Beijing, China 672,000
    2 Vijayanagar, India 500,000
    3 Cairo, Egypt 400,000
    4 Hangzhou, China 250,000
    5 Tabriz, Iran 250,000
    6 Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey 200,000
    7 Gaur, India 200,000
    8 Paris, France 185,000
    9 Guangzhou, China 150,000
    10 Nanjing, China 147,000


    Paris made the list, at 185,000. (Amazing to me that Istanbul was that high at the time - it had just been conquered by the Turks about 50 years before).

    There are widely varying estimates about the Black Plague, but the Wikipedia article is a fairly good compilation. It contains population estimates for pre- and post-plague populations.
    Last edited by Telonius; 2008-01-30 at 04:07 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by LCR View Post
    [S]While I generally agree with your assessment, there were instances when larger cities were besieged, for example Constantinople, Jerusalem, or various French cities during the 100-year war with England.
    Yep, the cities of the Holy Land were certainly besieged on numerous occasions during the Crusades. During Richard I's campaigns against Saladin he besieged and took Acre for example. Acre was a walled city and would have a population in the tens of thousands. Mind you by the very nature of the Middle East large walled cities make sense, and Acre more so since it was port city.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    Actually, yes, you need to. Lets define the playing area. D&D is heroic fantasy, low-tech world that is most clearly placed in what you call the "Dark Age" which I would call "High Middle Ages" or "Early middle Ages". Say, between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Hundred Year's War in which knights were phased out.
    So you agree that guilds came when Middle Ages stopped being the heroic version (kings, nobles, knights, castles) and became the long road to modern world. In the "heroic" middle ages when D&D is set, 90%+ of the population live in villages of less than 10k people, most in small farming comunities.
    The problem is, that's wrong. People think D&D is in the Middle Ages, when it's in the Iron Ages. The fact that you do have people more powerful than armies prevents the system from naturally evolving into more.

    2) Mage & Cleric types > melee types. In the fight for power, the versatility and range of the Mage and Cleric types means they'll beat the pure melee types for rulership.
    This is a problem with the melee system, not a sign of how an actual world like this would work. In a balanced game, melee would be equal to magic, and this wouldn't be true.

    This, for me, is far more enjoyable than the golf bag D&D style that seems to have developed of late. Characters shouldn't have so many items on them that they actually have to catalog and index them. They shouldn't have to depend on them at all except in infrequent circumstances.
    This is a fault of the magic item system and the game design team. Make sure it's them that you're blaming for this.

    (And what is it with this love for "low magic" settings? Is it a reaction to the bad design of 3.5?)

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    You'd think, given the versatality of mages, they'd be way more common than soldiers. That is, even with a base or lower than normal INT, a wizard or a cleric is going to be FAR more useful in day to day life.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by hamlet View Post
    NPC casters over fifth level should be quite rare.
    Even one 5th level cleric per 20,000 people really changes everything. The average death rate for 20,000 people is about 400 people a year (given a lifespan of 50 years). In any medieval setting, at least half those are disease. Yet a single 5th level cleric will save all of those people. Bam! All of your demographics are different now.

    Most important, magic items are rare and are not available for sale.
    Letting players buy custom-made magic items is the quickest way I know of to destroy a campaign.

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    smile Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Ok, first of all, the Dark Ages were not as Dark as Dnd is. In the Dark Age peasants didn't know anything about life but what their parents and neighbors knew. Therefore, Lords could do whatever they wanted with their peasants. Wars were between Nobles who needed those peasants later. Secondly, Medieval Europe was full of Monastaries... which in DnD equals Clerics (and Monks but nobody likes them as a class). So every town would have a cleric (village preist) who could in all likelyhood, heal light wounds (most peasants die from those you know), and possibly turn undead. And those previously mentioned Monks are better fighters than commoners. So a DnD village isn't totally helpless. Add the fact that Zombies need a leader, who isn't focused on a village (a castle maybe), so Clerics and Monks can kick ZOmbie butt. And a village has a Palisade normally. With Goats and such inside.
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    I add that some of those peasants do some hunting, and probably have at least 1 level in Ranger or Scout. Also peasants were often called up in a feadal levy. So it possible they've seen and survived military action. So they have probably gained enough xp for a level or two. A few of them may've even taken a level as a Fighter.

    So those peasants are really likely to be a bunch of people with 2-3 levels, some of which include a level of Fighter, Ranger or Scout along with the Commoner levels.

    Sure, the 20th level PC may not care, but other's might. For that matter a 20th level Fighter might not be to happy if he doesn't have freedom of movement and a 100 2-3 level character swarm him for grappling and then coup de grace him. With d20s eventually someone will grapple and pin him, and then a coupe de grace with the x4 Scythe for the kill.

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    smile Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    I like that idea. 200 warriors, scouts, and commoners with improvised weapons, Scythes, and shortbows, swarming over an epic level... Mwuhahahahahahaha!
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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen_E View Post

    So those peasants are really likely to be a bunch of people with 2-3 levels, some of which include a level of Fighter, Ranger or Scout along with the Commoner levels.

    Sure, the 20th level PC may not care, but other's might. For that matter a 20th level Fighter might not be to happy if he doesn't have freedom of movement and a 100 2-3 level character swarm him for grappling and then coup de grace him. With d20s eventually someone will grapple and pin him, and then a coupe de grace with the x4 Scythe for the kill.

    Stephen
    I don't think that actually works unless you're using the Cityscape mob rules and/or they all have Swarmfighting, for some reason. About the best you'll get is one grappler + 8 Aid Another checks from the immediate adjacent squares, which doesn't even get you high enough to counter a 20th level Fighter's BAB let alone his superior Strength and assorted magical crud. The grappling swarm gets one grapple check a turn to try and start a grapple and then get a pin. The Fighter gets four attempts a turn to escape, if that's what he wants to do, and his first check is better while his second check is likely about even.
    Last edited by tyckspoon; 2008-01-31 at 06:08 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's discuss how society in D&D functions (was Post Alignment world)

    It depends a bit on our pedantic you're been on the RAW rules, and whether you have special rules for 20's and 1's in opposed checks.

    If you're playing 20's are auto successes, roll up, or +10 (and the reverse for 1's) all various houserules I've seen, then it's relatively simple.

    Otherwise you need to rule that an "Aid other" combat action helps all people trying that action that is been aided. Not an unreasonable interpretation.

    The other interpretation useful is that a prone chracter and a standing character can share the same space. Given that youcan share space with an unconcious character this is again quite reasonable.

    So you can get16 people adjacent to the target, although 8 of these will be at -4 to attack.

    The 1st few in soak any AOOs and cease to take space.
    Then you do the Aid Other action, hit AC 10, then drop to floor as a free action. With Charging, flanking ecetre, most should get the AC 10 to aid. Of 8 assume 6 make it.
    +12 to grapple.
    At this point with another 8 coming in, all getting flank and charge, you have to decide whether to get a few more Aid Others, or whether to start going for the grapple checks. Once you get the mod down to no more than worse than the Fighter he's probably finished.

    Ok it takes a few interpretations, but hell, it's worth it for the sheer joy of the image.



    As a side note on peasant/yeoman revolts. Aristocracy/rulers justly feared them and historicaly the possibility did affect the actions of the smarter ones. While they ussually failed, even in failing they ussualy killed nobles in the area, and even if you put them down you're destroying your own wealth doing so. You have to balance your demands carefully. Afterall using magic to kill all the peons is all very well, but whose going to do the work. You can do some animating, but then some Paladin or Cleric adventurers will come around and beat you up. You can animate objects to do the work, but then why not do that in the 1st place, in which case their won't be a peasant revolt.

    Stephen

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