Social Structure in Navarre 


In Mystwood, no particular difference is recognized between men and women in law or custom. All occupations are open to either gender, and no preference is given to males in inheritance or marriage.

At the top of the social structure in Duchy of Eastmarch in the Kingdom of Navarre (where the Mystwood game is set) are the nobility- the Duke and his extended family, and the barons and their families. Their positions are hereditary and derive, in theory, from ancient claims of descent from legendary kings and queens. In their own minds, their power is near absolute. In practicality, it often extends no further than their reach. Nobility are bound by only one law- that they must keep their oaths. It is common, therefore, for them to be forced through various political maneuverings to swear to uphold certain laws or practice. This effectively grants various rights to the lower ranks of society, but these same rights are subject to change from generation to generation.

Each noble holds a castle as their seat of power, and extensive lands, which are often somewhat intermingled with those of other nobles. Nobles theoretically own all land, but parcel most of it out to others in return to for service, much like the feudal system of historical Europe. No player may be a noble in Mystwood- after all, why would a noble dwell in a timber fort in the midst of a monster-infested forest?

Nobles do not collect taxes as we understand the term in the present day. Instead, they must earn the money to run their affairs through the renting of their land, most often in the form of collecting a portion of the harvest, charging of various fees for the use of their roads, forests, mills and so on, and through various monopolies, most notably control of all brewing.

In certain cases there may be “levies”- cash payments demanded from every person in a domain for wars, weddings, castle building and so on. These are one time occurrences, and generally very unpopular- often enforced at the point of a sword.

The true backbone of the kingdom is not the nobility however, but the Knighthood.

Knighthood in Navarre, by ancient custom, is NOT hereditary. Instead, anyone can become a knight through acts of valor and proving their worth. Since only a knight can inherit stewardship of a knight's land, this means that land changes hands frequently from generation to generation. The Knighthood of Navarre is the kingdom's elite, and has been the bulwark of its defense against enemies both within and without. Knighthood is bestowed by the nobility, but it is required that the College of Heralds concur. Abuse of the system, such as knighthoods being purchased or knighthood denied in order to “break” a knightly family is rare, but not unheard of. Truly virtuous and courageous Knights are favored by the gods themselves, and such is the kingdom's pride in this system that it is rarely corrupted.

By law, knights are given a number of privileges- leadership in time of war, bearing arms in almost any situation, and the right of Trial by Combat. Knights are entitled to an honorific before their name- “Sir” if a man or “Dame” if a woman.

A Knight Errant, rewarded simply for their service and deeds, often has nothing but their rank. They may struggle even to maintain their armor and keep their belly filled. If they prove themselves, they may be awarded a fortified hall called a manor house, land of their own, and serfs to till it, thereby becoming a knight of the Realm.

The children and spouses of landed knights, though not guaranteed a knighthood themselves, do enjoy many advantages in wealth and education. They form the majority of the clergy, scholarly, and mercantile occupations. Theirs is a somewhat amorphous social class- technically free commoners but actually more privileged than most.

No player may begin the game as a Knight- it is an honor earned in time, though they may be the children of knights.

Below the knights are free commoners, who comprise perhaps half the population. They practice trades such as blacksmithing, herding, and tailoring, and may hold land directly from a lord themselves. They are generally free to pursue any path they wish, and travel more or less freely. They provide the bulk of the armed forces of the nobility, and in time of war form militia bands to defend their homes. They are generally well armed, but rarely own armor, which is unsurprising given that a suit of armor costs about the same as a car in modern terms. Most player characters are free commoners.

Last and lowest socially are serfs, slaves and thralls. Most were free peasants who were forced, in time of famine, to voluntarily bond themselves to a lord in exchange for food. Others are those who have become debtors in other ways, children of serfs, or (rarely) prisoners captured in war.

Their status varies a great deal. In some villages, the difference between free folk and serfs is merely a legal point, and you cannot readily tell who is who. In others, serfs are not permitted to bear arms, and are ground down into abject poverty by the demands of their lord or lady. Serfdom is hereditary, as debts are inherited by children from their parents along with property. No serf is allowed to leave their land without their lord's permission.

By a custom as ancient as that of knighthood, any serf can purchase their freedom for a cost of equivalent to the cost to feed a family for a year, generally equal to what caused their family to become serfs in the first place, or about 200 crown. A thrifty and fortunate serf can save this amount in a few years, but a poor harvest can easily cast down a free family, forcing them to place themselves in their lord's hands in exchange for grain from the castle stores.

Slavery and thralldom are practiced in unpleasant, out of the way places throughout Europa, often practiced by Chaos worshippers and Skandians. In the Duchy of Eastmarch, the buying and selling of men is variably punished, and most nefarious folk who would desire to own the lives of another name it serfdom and find legal precedents.