Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Post In Which Guilds are Sundered in Twain

For the last few weeks I've been at an impasse as to how to proceed with highest levels of economic activity for my game world. My original idea was to create a plausible system of economics linking the small scale of manorial production of actual goods to the larger, playable game pieces of Birthright style guilds. My feeling has been that guilds have been rather poorly defined in both description and game mechanics. Are they confederations of several small livery companies? If so, how deep down does the regents control extend into, say, the inner workings of the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and Cake Frosters? The Hanseatic League seems like the best historical analog for a guild but along a more mono-despotic vein. The regent acts as both CEO and Chairman of the Board of a holding company composed to numerous sub-guilds who shoulder the gritty responsibility of the realities of production and labor. That leaves our regent free to... to what exactly?

I had assumed to make money. It's becoming clear with research that is a false assumption. Or rather it's better to say, their ideas on the production of wealth are far from my modern views on wealth. Guilds practiced mercantilism, not capitalism. They were strict monopolists wielding letters patent to force out and stifle competition and innovation. Foreign trade was considered a bane unless the exports always, always exceeded the imports. (An unrealistic as well as undesirable goal.) They imposed strict social order to control the balance of haves and have nots. They saw ruthless development of internal markets as the only route to wealth and when these markets stagnated, acquisition of foreign markets by force of arms was the common solution. Guilds were less concerned with money than they were with control.

And here I was trying to figure out how they profited on the free market. Under the guild system, the free market and the black market are both the same and criminal. Guilds are really a type of urban law holding. Criminal networks and the traditional D&D thieves' guilds are where the real inter-realm economic trade action is at, which is good as far as dramatic purposes are concerned. It looks like I'll be splitting the Birthright guild into two pieces and repurposing them into new roles.

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