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Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide


Chapter 2: Tools / Settlements / Settlements in a Game

Power Structures

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 132
Outside of city limits, adventurers spend much of their time operating on their own terms, accountable only to their own moral code. But in a settlement, the heroes become part of a larger system with its own codified laws, procedures, and enforcement. The details of a settlement’s power structures shape the party’s interactions within that settlement.

Government

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
The government of a settlement often reflects the nature of that settlement. A lawful, militaristic city likely has a hierarchical government with a single figure at the top, a crossroads market town might be under the control of its wealthiest merchant families, and a farming community might simply look to the oldest residents for leadership as necessary.

That said, the lawful and publicly recognized ruler of a settlement isn’t always the one calling the shots. They may merely be a puppet to a secret entity that silently pulls the strings from the shadows. Some settlements are ruled by hidden cabals, from strange religious sects to thieves’ guilds. A settlement might be swayed by politically powerful residents, such an occult vizier or a political savvy high priest. In some cases, the legitimate authority may seem to govern but has actually been replaced by a faceless stalker, a devil in disguise, or another powerful shapechanger.

Legal Codes

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
Most civilizations agree that laws are necessary to ensure a functioning society. The specific laws range from one settlement to another, and they might be as simple as a prohibition against murder and theft to exceptionally convoluted regulatory schemes dictating everything from clothing details to available confections. How well known these laws are can further flavor a party’s interactions with that settlement, as it’s likely easier to navigate a well-documented system than one in which the rules are learned only through experience and word of mouth.

Much like a government, the legal codes reflect the settlement’s alignment and overall nature. Generally speaking, a more lawful settlement is likely to have more complex laws, and a more lax locale to have fewer and simpler laws.

Law Enforcement

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
Most settlements have systems in place to enforce their laws. In a small village, the residents might just police themselves, holding one another accountable to their shared values. Towns and larger settlements usually have some system of guards, whether that’s a post filled by a rotation of volunteers or a city guard of professionals paid by the city’s government to maintain order. Most settlements have some way of dealing with criminals, from fines to public stocks to prison cells, as well as individuals responsible for meting out those sentences.

Organizations, Churches, and Factions

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 133
The government isn’t the only influential factor in a settlement. Prestigious organizations, prominent churches, and specialized factions all wield power as well, often in conflict with the official government or one another. Religious congregations usually wield significant power in communities where faith is strong. A wizard, sorcerer, or bard of even moderate magical talent would be a rare and influential member of society in a small settlement. An organization can wield overt influence over the community where they’re based, or subtle control, as the Pathfinder Society does in Absalom. Other notable factions may include noble houses, wealthy merchants, innkeepers, and retired soldiers and adventurers.

Corruption

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 134
In any settlement, it’s possible for officials to put their own interests before those of the people they serve. Corruption might be as simple as a clerk willing to accept a bribe to expedite some paperwork, or it might be as sinister as selling civilians into slavery.