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Local Politics

Gamemasters should choose how much local politicking they wish to impose on their players. GPC makes two assumptions that are significant. First, it presumes that no significant officers survive to provide support for Lady Ellen. This thrusts the player-knights into the forefront of decision making and activity and gives them considerable power of action. Second, it is concerned entirely with conflict against the Saxons. This provides a clear objective and field of action.
These assumptions were chosen to keep the actions simple and focused. It is a deliberate noncomplex challenge for players who are still learning the ground rules of politics and game play, yet still keeps activity that is appropriate for an Arthurian setting. Gamemasters must determine whether more complications will enhance the campaign, yet still keep pace with the annual passage of years that the campaign is designed for.
Other political options can be introduced including seasoned leadership, lead the peasantry, local conquest, internal dissidence, additional external enemies and allies.

Seasoned leadership

Seasoned leadership begins with one or more experienced knight officers surviving the disaster of the St Albans feast. If the players are young, foolish, inexperienced, or otherwise prone to seek disastrous outcomes in this dangerous situation the gamemaster characters are the mouthpiece for the gamemaster to help steer the events towards a reasonable action. KAP is a game that delivers consequences for player actions, delivering appropriate outcomes for foolish choices. For instance, if the players decide their knights will take all the foot soldiers and march into a Saxon kingdom they should be opposed by the resident enemies, resulting in a much larger army capable of blocking all escape routes. Gamemaster shouldn’t simply slaughter everyone haphazardly, but use the game systems to present a neutral and usually response. If the player-knights win a battle against an overwhelming then they deserve the fruits of victory. But the nature of the game demands that the gamemaster not present a weak and inappropriate force to oppose foolishness. KAP is a deadly game with deadly consequences, which makes victory more powerful and meaningful. Leaders, providing knowledge to the player knights, help to shape the realism of the game.

Lead the Peasantry

The commoners have followed the count and his family for generations and are used to their methods of control. They are not passive, and know that they have been able to use the good will of their counts and local courts to keep them from being overly exploited. They are aware that they provide the life-giving produce that keeps the nobles and knights alive and without that the knights will die.
However, they also rely entirely upon the knights for protection against armed foes. Survival is the key factor to any group. They will not slow work, hide goods and food, or actively (and futilely) rise up in arms.
But their obligations have always been to the counts. Without one their survival becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, in the face of Saxon conquest. They have to make a decision on who is most likely to keep them safe and alive. They may not believe that the countess and her infant son have enough actual power to warrant support.
The commoners need to be convinced. The way to do that is to visit them during their monthly moot which is the time they all are used to coming together to make community decisions. The count or his people usually sit in to make decisions. Player-knights need to provide justice and protection. They might have to make some choices about which commoner gets a cow, which peasant gets to marry the prettiest girl in the village, and what to do when one has stolen food from another. Player knights will have to decide whether or not to hang thieves—an act that is usually reserved for the king or his great lords. And they must defend these farmers when the Saxons invade. Preserving their huts is not important, but preserving their lives and livestock is.
Ignoring them in these circumstances will bring disaster. Rival lords will get the food and support more troops. The hungry player-knights will have to steal grain, or conquer the people who have it. Dealing with the peasantry is a critical, but difficult thing to do.

Local conquest

Local conquest means taking over nearby hundreds that have been outside of the count’s previous domain. Ten hundreds lie within Salisbury county itself, and many more are just over the border. Some of them have their own local lords, such as Wereside which is its own little barony, or Ambrius Hundred controlled by the Abbot of Ambrius Abbey. These places are intact and with their own leaders who may, in the case of Wereside, or who definitely survived the St Albans slaughter, such as the abbot who was not even present.
All of the other hundreds have been under the command of local stewards who normally report to their distant lieges. The peasants are familiar with those men. The commoners’ attitude toward the stewards will reflect upon their willingness to change lords, with good lords or stewards retaining loyalty, and bad stewards or lords inclining the workers to hope for a better leader.
These hundreds may also have a resident garrison, even if there is no castle or fortified manor house. Fee farms will almost certainly not have resident knights, save for the steward. Others will likely have knights and foot men, perhaps as many as it can support. In other cases the fees collected for the hundreds may have paid for the military to be stationed at more domains. In no case, however will there be more combatants than it can afford.
Just as the outliers of Count Salisbury become lost to their central command, so these outliers of other lords lose contact. The steward alone will have to decide what to do. Most of them will voluntarily follow whoever is most likely to protect them from the Saxons or raiding neighbors. Some of them may be canny veterans themselves. Gamemasters will choose which of these may be important.

Internal dissidence

Internal dissidence is other groups within the county who vie against the player knights for power and influence. They need not fight directly against their fellow Salisbury followers. Their leaders will vie for the countess’ ear, provide superior advice, and use their connections toward gaining the upper hand. They might refuse to come to battle with their kin and followers, taking the risk of endangering the entire county in order to take command for themselves. They might engage enemies to enrage foes and provoke action that is uncomfortable or dangerous for the player knights.
Remember that other power groups may play a passive aggressive part in this political mess. They will shift their allegiance to whichever group provides them with whatever they desire. Foremost will be preservation of their lives and property, and support the faction that seems most likely to achieve that. They need to be complimented, cajoled, or perhaps even threatened with loss of their lands, execution of hostages, or even an attack by their foes.
Also, remember that even within friendly hundreds holdings probably include knights loyal to foreign lords. They present the same type of problem, but much smaller in power. Being aware of the imminent danger they are most likely to not resist the dominant local power. The question is, which one will they obey?
Finally, these lesser leaders will probably agree to be followers only with an oath that includes the phrase “until my rightful lord returns to claim his land.” This will allow them to follow Salisbury without a loss of honor.

External foes and alliances

The Saxons are the most obvious external foe. The kings sometimes fight among themselves, and sometimes they will ally with each other. Their general activities are documented in the GPC.
The primary opponent is Duke Ulfius. His Silchester stronghold is powerful, and he has many men under his command. His experience and influence will assure that the stewards of hundreds close to his territory will follow him.
As the strongest local leader Duke Ulfius need not pay great heed to those beneath him. He will certainly settle old grudges and favor his loyal followers. One of those is the Lord of Levcomagus, whose dislike of Salisbury is legendary. Furthermore, Ulfius will want to regain territory that he has lost. One fo these is in Salisbury.
Annaswater Hundred was a dowry for Countess Ellen, granted by the former Count of Silchester who reigned before the duke. Duke Ulfius wants it, and his lord Levcomagus has the motivation to take it. Levcomagus hopes that him holding the territory will convince Lady Ellen to marry him at last. Ulfius will visit it early in the Anarchy Period and convince the peasants to follow him. This detracts from the wealth and security of Salisbury. The player knights must decide whether to contest this or to fight for it against a superior warlord.
Ulfius is not fool, and he will try to get Salisbury to sweat loyalty to him. If they do not then Duke Ulfius treats them as another minor power, perhaps even as an enemy. In GPC he allies himself with the Saxons when it is necessary and suits his purpose. He is not above opening conquering Salisbury to force them to follow—the gamemaster needs only to decide if that occurs.
One of the big problems of the Anarchy Period is how the knights of Salisbury relate to the duke.
The other significant power who is close enough to contest against the Salisbury knights is the King of Summerland. Normally he is content to keep to himself, refusing alliance with Salisbury or any other local power. Gamemasters may choose to treat him differently.

Targets of Opportunity

A couple of significant resources lie close to the Castle of the Rock. Player knights should determine whether to act upon this, or not.
The most obvious one is the Royal Treasury that is kept at Llud’s Hall. The castle is stout and well built, and its garrison is intact since the men there did not go to St Albans. Its leader will be a castellan, a steward, the Lord Treasurer, or even the Sheriff of Salisbury and Gentian. The castle is well equipped to stand off a siege, and the commander is certainly wealthy enough to purchase whatever they may need.
Gamemasters need to make a couple of decisions concerning this site. First, what it the leader’s attitude about the treasure? Is he willing to share the money at all, or preserve it all for the king (excepting of course what is needed to be spent for defense.) Will he buckle under Duke Ulfius? Second, what do the Saxons do about it? They know what is there, and want is as badly as everyone else.
The Salisbury knights will have to decide whether or not the garrison infantry from Salisbury will continue to periodically man its defenses. Those individuals may even defect to the keeper of the castle. The knights also need to decide whether they will ally with the leader, or possibly try to take the castle. If the latter, they will need help. Do they trust Ulfius enough to join him in an assault? Can they bear the losses they will certainly suffer to try to take it? It is a big, fat and powerful temptation awaiting the gamemaster’s decision.
Another major resource is the baron of Wereside. He has held the right of extracting iron from the Salisbury Plain and environs, and he has the facilities to process it. This is the only source of local iron, and all imported iron trade will stop when Anarchy begins. No more armor or weapons can be made. Losses of personal gear will be damaging since it cannot be replaced. Basically all of the options open to dealing with the treasury are found in Wereside as well.
The abbeys close to Silchester are another potential source of income. They do not have garrisons, having relied on the king for protection. They are an easy grab. The player knights must decide how to do that, whether through negotiation or simple force.
The forests are a final resource that is available. The royal foresters will have to find protection, and they can be a huge resource to provide food and forest goods. Perhaps more importantly they know all the places to hide and all the best sites to set up an ambush against invaders. Once again, who will they follow?

Conclusion

Gamemasters should decide which of these options to use in the campaign, and explain to the players what the options are. Not all of them have to be used, and not all of them ought to be used. Becoming involved in all these details will probably slow down play significantly.
Don’t try to throw every option on the players at once. On a session to session basis, gamemasters present one or two occurring events or possible options at the start of the session and let the player-knights decide which challenge they will deal with. Many of these options need not be introduced until they become a scenario. The campaign season allows for only one significant action, while those that are ignored move ahead in their storyline. To do more of these in a session is unlikely because the campaign season is limited. Pace events and keep the campaign moving forward annually to exploit the unique long-term portion of the campaign.

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