The Village and Peasants

The Peasants

Five hundred people depend on a vassal knight. These include the commoners, the knight’s family and steward (if he has one), and perhaps a few religious folk. Note: the upkeep of these people are already accounted for in the manor income, upkeep listed is for information only!


Their backbreaking daily labor grows the food, makes the goods, and provides the services that makes a knight’s life possible. In return for their labor, the knight’s duty is to protect them, organize them, provide them justice, and represent their interests to the realm. The knight is their leader,
with unquestioned privileges. Inferiors always resent their betters, and naturally begrudge them payment and honesty.
They obey, but a lord must prove himself worthy of them if he wants their respect and admiration rather than just obedience. Despite this, most knights don’t know much about them, as long as they give up their annual food and do their work. He is elite, they are common. He is a noble; they,
commoners. He leads, they follow.

Commoner Classes

Three legal statuses define all commoners: serfs (“unfree” in legal terms), yeomen (“free”) and slaves. Most (80-95%) commoners are serfs. By ancient tradition they are not allowed to leave their homes, must get permission of the lord to marry, pay rent in food, and do work for the lord of the manor. In all affairs that don’t affect the lord they follow their own rules and laws. Yeomen (0-5%) are free from most work that serfs owe to the lord, and have some special rights, but they are still commoners. Their free status does not give them any extra boost socially, or in income, or opportunity to get an overseer job. Finally, the slaves (0- 20%) are property, with no rights whatsoever.


The “poorest-of-the poor” commoners are the cottars (or bordars). Most of them are serfs. They do not own any land and only plow their lord’s fields. They subsist by gardening (“more cabbage, less bread”), and hire out as unskilled laborers when they can. Their annual family upkeep is about £1/10, or 24 d.


Most commoners are farmers, called villains (i.e. villagers). Many are serfs; some are yeomen. Villain families own some part of an ox team or a plow, work their own barley fields, and spend a day per week (or so) working the lord’s fields. Their annual upkeep is about £1 for a family,
with a few rich families doubling that.


Several commoner families on each manor have specialized jobs that do not require them to work in the fields at all. Craftsmen generally live slightly above normal villain status. Your manor automatically comes with these skilled commoners. If you hired one at their usual standard of living, it would add £¾ to manorial costs.

  • Baker
  • Blacksmith
  • Miller
  • Carpenter
  • Cooper
Manorial Specialists

You may be fortunate enough to improve your manor and improve chances of sufficient food and income by making Improvements, whose caretakers are listed here. If you hired one of these people at their usual standard of living, it would add £¾ to manorial costs.

  • Beekeeper
  • Ferryman
  • Falconer
  • Florist
  • Garthkeeper
  • Huntsman
  • Jeweler, Goldsmith
  • Master of Hounds
  • Olivier
  • Stable Master
  • Torturer
  • Vintner

The commoners who live on the lord’s own property and eat at his board are the famuli (servants, singular is famulus). Their proximity to the lord makes them a touch higher in class than other commoners. Every manor has a dozen or so famuli, plus their families, if they have been allowed to wed. Their upkeep level is £¼ per year each.

Some positions of the household could be bittler, cook, house keepr, kitchen wrench, lackey, laundress, leatherworker, groom, tailor


The bailiff (or reeve) is the intermediary between the lord’s household and the field hands. He is always a commoner, and always sits among the famuli. He is the “chief field boss” who keeps track of the seed, makes sure plows are workable and worked every day, etc. A main duty is to see that villagers report for duty on the demesne. Finally, he helps to make sure that all food, goods, and services are collected. A bailiff’s upkeep is about £¾ per year.

Commoner NPC Data

Should the need arise to personalize Manor Personnel, or use them in game play, use the following guidelines:

Key Skill. All commoners who are Manor Personnel, and do not have a special skill, have the Key Skill of Farmer, or possibly their job title, although for the Steward the skill is always Stewardship.

Obtaining Manorial Personnel. Jobs on the manor are filled by the son of the person doing it. That is the feudal class system. Thus any villain, cottar, craftsman, or famulus is automatically replaced. The starting skill for an adult commoner is 3d6+6. Adjust it upward for elders.

Skill Progression. The Key Skill progresses at the rate of 1 point per year, up to 15. Then, roll 1d6 and on a roll of 1 the skill goes up one point.

Holy Folk

Every manor, Christian or Pagan, has religious figures who tend to the spiritual needs of the commoners.


A Christian manor has its priest, who has a servant or householder. He was appointed by a bishop in a distant city, to whom he sends obligatory gifts each year. He probably cannot read, knows only parts of the liturgy, but is adept at mouthing the morality, piety and Wrath of
God that keeps his flock in order. He is probably kind and helpful and tries to do only good for his flock. He lives entirely upon donations from his parishioners, which are dictated by tradition, and total about £1 per year.


A Pagan manor has someone, priest or priestess, who leads the rituals celebrating the cycles of the year. A general British Paganism unites their practices, based on ancient Druidical rites, Roman practices, and especially on whatever local spirit must be appeased. The person may be a Druid, a Lady of the Lake, a Roman Flamen, a witch, or some other kind of Pagan priest or priestess. They usually know much local lore, always say they know some magic, and often do. Their upkeep comes directly from the commoners, and is about £1 per year.

Wise Woman

Every manor also has a Wise Woman who makes small charms, potions, and heals the “what-ails” of the commoners. On Pagan manors she may also be the priestess, her assistant, daughter or teacher. She lives on the good will and donations of community, and she has her own garden, which generally provides about £1 per year.

Holy Folk NPC Data

If you need holy person for game play, use the following guidelines:

Key Skill. The Key Skill for a holy person is Religion. The starting skill begins at 6+1d6.
Skill Progression. The Key Skill progresses at a rate of 1 point per year, to 15. Then, roll 1d6 and on a roll of 1 the skill goes up one point.

Dealing with your peasants

Peasants, commoners, serfs, villeins, bondsmen, socmen, yeomen, copyholders, cottars—whatever they are called, the people who work the land have a touchy relationship with their overlord.

New Passion: Concern (my commoners)

The attitude of the nobleman towards his people affects their attitude. Concern (my commoners) is the measure of how much a noble cares for his peasantry. It is a Passion that every land holder gets upon his acquisition of his manor. How the lord feels about his people is reflected in his every move and interaction with them.

Starting Value

Knights who have land, even if just one manor, get Concern (my commoners), with a value of 7. If you prefer random numbers, then the starting value is 2d6. This Passion is used primarily in calculating various landholding options and reactions.

Special Rule

This Passion does not go down on a failed roll, and does not drive the landholder mad or melancholy when Fumbled. The passion is unaffected by a normal failure, and is reduced by one point on a fumble.

New Passion: Hate (Landlord)

Commoners do the hard labor and heavy work, and the knight doesn’t, yet he gets food from them and a portion of their labor. Certainly, his duty includes risking his life to protect them, but this is an occasional danger, or one that occurs far away. The privileges he enjoys are in their faces
every day, and he gets fed even if they are starving. There is a natural resentment they bear, quantified as Hate (landlord).

Starting Value

If the new landholder is the son of the previous one, then family history affects Hate (landlord). The new Hate (landlord) is equal to ¼ Hate they previously held for the father.
However, peasants give the benefit of the doubt to new landlords. Unless the new landlord has previous history with these commoners, the peasants always start with a fresh slate of Zero to their Hate (landlord).

Increasing the Hate

Several factors can make the peasant’s attitude worse.

  • Bad Treatment
  • Foreign Overlords
  • Property Destruction
  • The Squeeze
Improving Relationships

A landlord probably wants to reduce his peasants’ hate. Content commoners work harder, cheat less and generally cooperate for the mutual benefit of themselves and the landlord. Landlords can try to improve relationships with his peasants through active intervention.

  • Replacing Structures
  • Adding Developments
  • Justice Events
  • Reduced Taxes
  • Generosity
  • Protection
  • Spousal Affinity (for foreign overlords)

It is possible to change Hate (landlord) to a negative number, which is the equivalent of “Like (landlord)”. In this state the peasants are happy, work harder, and cheat less. The only methods that can take Hate below zero are: Developments, Justice Events, Generosity, and Protection.

Village Structures

A common structure is anything that is practical and necessary, such as villages, mills, etc. These are present in any village and are maintained as
well as possible by the commoners themselves. They earn no Glory and have no maintenance cost. These structures may be destroyed in a raid by enemies or simple bad luck during the Winter phase. Knights cannot build an extra mill or hamlet just to diminish his peasants’ Hate (landlord).

Effect On Game

When a structure is destroyed by invasion or natural disaster the peasantry is in a very bad way and will naturally hold it against their landlord, whether he has the capability of replacing it or not. Each common structure has a “Hate (landlord)” number. If the building is destroyed, add this to the Manor’s “Hate (landlord)”. When the building is rebuilt at the landlord’ expense, subtract it from “Hate (landlord)”

Spontaneous Rebuilding

Landlords are smart to set aside funds each autumn to fund rebuilding, rather than leaving it to chance. As a prepaid Expense it assures that the Structures will be built and his peasants will be grateful to him and Hate is reduced. But if he does not, they may spontaneously rebuild their own
homes at no cost to the landlord. They won’t rebuild the manor for free, but they will rebuild their own houses and resources.

To see if they have rebuilt, in cases the landlord did not see to (and pay for) the rebuilding:

  • Make a list of what was destroyed, in this order: Each cluster of huts, Mill, Bakery.
  • Roll 1d6, where: 01-03, the top item on the list was rebuilt; 04-06, it was not. Stop rolling when a structure is not built.

If peasants rebuild their own buildings this way, Hate (landlord) is not reduced.


A manor needs only one mill, which is owned by the lord, and to which all the peasants bring their grain to be ground into flour. A mill may be water-driven, wind-driven or oxdriven.
The miller gets a percentage of the flour made as payment for his labors. Another portion goes to the lord.

  • Cost to Build: £15
  • Personnel: Miller and family
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 2

A manor has a communal bakery for all bread making. It is owned by the lord, who receives a fee for its use; and is operated by a baker who receives food in return for his labors.

  • Cost to Build: £10
  • Personnel: Baker and family
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 3
Church, Village

Each Christian village has a little church where the peasants worship (the lord usually has his own chapel). This is wood framed, wattle and daub, with a thatched roof. It has a staff of one priest, usually barely literate, who faithfully reports to his local bishop.

  • Cost to Build: £10
  • Personnel: 1 priest
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 5
Temple, Village

Each Pagan village has a sanctuary, a sacred place where the peasants make votive offerings and worship. This could be a free-standing building, much like a Village Church, or it could be a well, spring, pillar, standing stone, or patch of enclosed green. It has a staff of one priest or priestess.

  • Cost to Build: £5
  • Personnel: 1 priest or priestess
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 5
Cluster of (Commoner’s) Houses

A cluster is 5-10 commoners’ huts (about a quarter of a hamlet). These peasant hovels are house, barn and byre all in one so that the people can stay warmed by small fires and the presence of their animal and rotting hay and cabbage.

  • Cost to Build: £8
  • Personnel: Eight or so farmers and their families, each approximately 5 people, plus a few animals.
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 1
Hamlet, or ¼ Village

This includes the structures for approximately 100 people, including outbuildings, animals, etc.

  • Cost to Build: £30
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 3
Entire Village

This includes the structures for approximately 500 people, including their outbuildings, animals, etc. but not the village church, bakery, mill, well, etc.

  • Cost to Build: £150
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 15
Village Developments

Developments are “extras” that make life easier for the peasants. Building Developments will reduce Hate (landlord) and, since they are favors to the commoners, can reduce Hate (landlord) below zero. If destroyed they increase Hate (landlord), and reduce it again when rebuilt. Villages do not start with these developments!

Bridge, Wood

This is a bridge approximately twenty feet long, and wide enough for an oxcart, or two horses side by side. This bridge crosses a narrow and shallow river or a stream. Longer or wider bridges are proportionately more expensive. Raging or deep waters cost ×2, and raging deep waters
×4 to build over. Many rivers are simply too deep or wide to bridge, and require a ferry instead. Engineering marvels like the famous London Bridge were built by the Romans and the technology has been lost.

  • Cost to Build: £2
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 1
Bridge, Stone

This has similar dimensions as the wooden bridge, but is of made of stone.

  • Cost to Build: £10
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 3
Carpenter & Joinery

A carpenter does all kinds of wood work. Everyone does some wood work at home, like shacks and fences. The carpenter or wood worker makes his own lumber, to create quality furniture, cart bodies, plows, tool handles, pegs, and on Sundays carves statues for the local church or nearby

  • Cost to build: £10
  • Reduce Hate Landlord: 3

A cooper makes barrels, buckets and other waterproof wooden containers. The particular bend of the wood, perfection of fit and waterproofing make this an exacting and specialized job. A cooper provides barrels for his own village, and several others locally as well.

  • Cost to build: £15
  • Reduce Hate Landlord: 2
Generosity to Peasants

Manorial lords may wish to reduce their commoner’s Hate by giving them something significant and rewarding. Lesser rewards to them net nothing. For instance, giving a feast for 100 of them (£1) gets the donor 1 Glory, but no change in their Hate.

  • Cost to Perform: £10
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 1
Road, Normal

This is a dirt road that is cleared, leveled, and maintained for use by carts and wagons. It is about 6-10 feet wide. There is no point to make a road unless it connects two places. The road is maintained by the peasants as part of their service to the manor.

  • Cost to Build: £1 per mile through fields, £2 per mile through forest.
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 1
Road, Paved

This is to improve a normal road to make Roman-type road. These have a gravel foundation, sloping fitted stone surface, and are about 18 feet wide.

  • Cost to Build: £5 per mile
  • One-time Glory: points equal to the £ to build
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 1

A manor blacksmith works for all the people, both commoners and nobles. He makes common tools, pots and pans, horseshoes, nails, etc., and also repairs armor and weapons for the lord. He receives food in return for these labors.

  • Cost to Build: £15
  • Personnel: Smith and family
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 3
Well, Enclosed

Villages and manors are always built near water, but a well close by is a luxury. It includes a low stone wall around its rim, a little roof, and a bucket on a rope.

  • Cost to Build: £5
  • Reduce Hate (landlord): 1

The Village and Peasants

Knights of the Realm DerkG DerkG