Saturday, December 11, 2010

Centralized Bureaucracy in Medieval War Campaigns

Centralized Bureaucracy. This is the wonder of the Byzantine Throne to the Crusader Lords. The ability to Tax their subjects and impose their will to the farthest holdings and the more absolute control over their vassals. This meant less Vassals and autonomy and more of the resources concentrated to where they choose to have their center.

Vassalage is a Social organizing system. This is similar if not identical to the Roman Patron and Client system. Bureaucracy I'm defining is different from the social organizing system methods because it more of logistics, human resource, and accountability.

The reason why Centralized Bureaucracy is an important topic to deal with before going into the Income generating assets like Fiefs, Counties and Principalities because it lets me understand why armies are organized in the way they are vassalage system.

Fall of Rome. In the Rome and the Barbarians by Professor Harl, I learned that Civil Wars and the depletion of the skilled manpower was a symptom of a poor or inadequate succession system. This sparked Civil Wars which weakened the Roman Empire that eventually lead to its fall. This understand begins to draw the fine difference between Organization, Leadership and Economies. As Innovations per aspect of a Culture may vary these 3 separate groups make it easier to understand whats going on.

If your in the school that say Rome done itself in with their Civil Wars then it would be easy to see the difference as to why other instances of civil wars were not as lethal to other civilizations. The economic factors are harder to ignore in this perspective, especially when you compare the productivity Medieval Europe had but without Roman Organization. Each farm roughly produced 30% more with the 3 field crop rotation system. In my lessons, grossly they add up to 50% more production... but I don't know how the math got that way. Anyway that much production and the expansion into areas that were once unpopulated made for a greater population density and human resource boon for the civilizations after Rome.

In comparison the Roman Economy was more organized allowing farmers greater access to metal tools and resources to make their quotas. While the western farmers had the 3 crop rotation system.
Complicated Logistics. The last time armies carried expeditions as far as the Levant or Asia Minor, all the way from Italy or Western Europe was during Rome's Central bureaucracy in the days of Empire. The Crusades marked the organizational ability that has returned, allowing for long range campaign although not at the same logistical and numerical scale the Romans were capable. When Europe could do this more frequently and at far greater range we entered TL5.
Vexillatio. Armies are complicated organisms to maintain, these men are inclined for their own happiness and many pursue the path of having a family. The state encourages this, of course, because the need future man power. Allowing soldiers to settle gives them motive to defend their lands and family BUT makes it harder to send them out, to prevent trouble or cut it off early.

The tradition of the Vexillatio came to serve this need of a bachelor force that can be sent to far flung regions. The armies who were settled or dug in roots were the "frontier" or the home army, while the Vexillatio was the mobile force.

Understanding the complication of having an army, helps underly the evolution towards the vassalage and increase in individual rights of the common folk. In the end things got difficult and it was cheaper to grant some peasants the freedom to protect themselves so that they will be able to serve in the military duties expected of their lord. Coincidental this is very similar to Pre-Marian Roman Citizen duties and responsibilities, showing it was not a new idea.

TL in Organization and Logistics
TL 1 - Cities and Low-literacy Bureaucracy
TL 2 - City States, Bureaucracy, Vassalage, Patron and Client System.
TL 3 - Bureaucratic Elite and Centralized (The Mandarins, the Senatorial Class at Ceasar Augustine's Era, the Equestrians in the Late Roman Era). - Send Armies to Campaign for 1 to 2 Years or in great distances .
TL 4 - Professional Bureaucracy, which is not limited to the literate elites. ( Third Dynasty Ur, Renaissance Bureaucracies, Imperial Chinese Bureaucracy). Send armies to the edge of the known world, allow to maintain a force for years abroad.

Whats the importance of this with the RPG?
I've been rattling my head as a way to make Provinces, Counties, and Fiefs as assets worth taking. I figured out as much as to make them a Card for players to Win, but I had to understand why Lords gave up 2/3rds of their land assets to retainers instead of taxing them for cash. The answer was Centralized Bureaucracy - why its more cost effective to hand out land to vassals then keeping them all to bank roll your own forces. Without Centralized Bureaucracy Vassalage was the best option, with skilled bureaucrats (the intermediary) this becomes more possible.

Roger II of Sicily. He is the template of the kind of success a character can achieve in such an era. He got Byzantine and Muslim Bureaucracy to run in his Principalities and 30,000 on call. When a Prince or Duke can only summon 3-5,000 and a Count and Lord can only summon 2 to 3,000. As an example of what a character should be capable, he combines strategic use of Human Resources management and Cunning we associate with the Mafia.

Last time anyone had this kind of force access was during the time of Julius Caesar. Caesar early on could summon 4 legions or 16-20,000 while Pompey would only stomp his feet and legions would appear all over Italy. Depending on the accounts its from 6 and up.

Special NPC Cards. One of the more important resources characters are out to win are not just treasure but key NPCs who can work in their Bureaucracy. Its not a simple as kidnapping, although it is an option. So other than Income Generating Land as a Card, we have valuable NPCs to be collected. There should be a easy GURPS compatible system that allows for the acquisition and employment of these human resources.

Mobile Resources. Mobile Resources is a very important factor in logistics. Cash and Coinage is the most mobile or Liquid of resources. When Characters choose to be absentee rent collectors this basic challenge should be reflected in the system. Without it one cannot recreate the necessity of centralized bureaucracy or vassalage.
  • At default rent comes in $2,400 a year per productive struggling to poor family. This is roughly 1/3 of the family's Cost of Living, but duties are very complicated as they are also made up of labor and not just goods.
  • Lose 2/3rds of resources when converting them to movable goods. Absentee land lords earn roughly 10% of the Gross Product of their Income Generating Holdings. This is true even in eras as early as Axial Age. (Multiply Rent by 0.333... or divide it by 3)
  • Lose 4/5ths resources when converting them to cash, gems or highly liquid commodities. (Multiple Rent by 0.2 or divide by 5).
An Overall System Ideally. I'm still working for an overall system to consolidate these rules and its going to take a while. Hopefully the final product is a bunch of easy to make Cards to represent forces, NPCs, and holdings. Hopefully players only have to worry about as many of 30-60 cards and a special character sheet.

Mass Combat resolves by a Poster Printout of Maps with the use of the Cards and GURPS Mass Combat. After mass combat, organizing resources would be simplified by some of the cards, spreadsheets and few special notes.

It would be interesting when Archaic battles are about the same thing as that of old: blood, money and power. Hopefully an affective way to go towards Macro with less work for the GM and give more insight regarding Historic Situations.

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