City Creation: Government

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I’m going to skip over the “City’s Look” category for now; currently, Meadowbrook isn’t developed enough for me to have an idea of how it looks like yet. Which brings us down the list to “mayor”, “police chief”, etc. What do all these positions boil down to? Government: who governs the city, what they do, and how they’re chosen. Unlike in a modern game setting, we can’t just look up Meadowbrook in an atlas or city website to determine what governmental structure it has. We’re going have to come up with it on our own.Since Meadowbrook’s world is based on medieval Europe, we can use history to help shape our town’s government.

It would be highly unusual for a medieval town to not have a mayor and a town council, so that gives us our first two government offices.

Mayor

Let’s make the mayor an elected office — majority vote from among the town’s adult citizenry. It’s a form of government most players and GMs can relate to. We could have two mayors — one for the halfling quarter (let’s call it “Littletun”) and one for the human quarter (we’ll call that “Bigtun”) — but I feel there should be a single office for final decisions, a “buck stops here” position. But we could have two “submayors” — let’s call them magistrates — one for each quarter, who report directly to the mayor. Since the town’s population is split nearly 50-50 human- halfling, we can have the mayor’s office change hands periodically, say every two years, between the Littletun magistrate and the Bigtun magistrate. The “promoted” magistrate would have an assistant (his deputy magistrate) to take over his magisterial duties while he serves as the town’s mayor.

Town Council

Most towns were built on commerce, meaning that merchant and craft guilds often strongly influenced, if not outright controlled, the town’s government. Since we’ve already determined that our town is a trade city, that will work well for Meadowbrook. The town council, then, could be made up of the town’s most influential guild masters and split between the merchant guilds and the craft guilds. We could split these up between Littletun guilds and Bigtun guilds, but I’d like more integration than that — guild membership will be based purely on ability (and, probably, politics). So let’s state that guildmasters are the most senior member of their respective guilds, whether they’re human, halfling, gnome or whatever.

Below the town council will be the guildmasters, who have responsibility for maintaining and policing their guild members. Not everyone in Meadowbrook would necessarily be in a guild, but in a town ruled by the guilds, it wouldn’t be too far fetched for guild members to be the only people with a voice in the city’s government and policies.

Guilds could have their own courts for trying and punishing guild members who broke city and guild laws. Those not members of any guild would then have to appear before the town council (and any interested citizens), who would determine punishment (usually fines). Serious offenses by guild members could be escalated to the town council for determination, at which point the accused’s guild will provide legal council; non-guild members would either have to hire a guild counselor or do without.

So far, our town government consists of:

  • Mayor
  • Magistrates
  • Deputy Magistrates
  • Town Council
  • Guild leaders

This gives us a good overview of our town’s political structure. Obviously, we haven’t determined any details yet (like who is the mayor), but we’ll flesh that out as we go along. Since the guilds form the basis of our town government, we’re going to need to determine what guilds exist in this town and to do that, we need to determine what businesses Meadowbrook has.

Tomorrow: businesses

Sources for medieval town government:

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