Thursday, January 1, 2009
From the perspective of the peasantry, much of the nobility are probably nothing more than the heads of the biggest gang in town, using force to deprive them of the fruits of their hard labour and offering only nominal "protection" in return. Grasping churchmen or greedy merchants are probably viewed in the same way by most of the people. Vagabonds are those more readily labeled as outlaws, pirates or brigands by those in the more "respectable" social strata. It's a land where the hinterlands are infested by Raubritter (Robber knights) who exacted tolls using a stronghold as a base. Ships and crews are chartered as "Privateers" by one royal house to prey on the merchants of another. The rivers are so choked with toll points set up by the local lord barring passage with chains that merchants preferred the slower overland routes. Soldiers and even knights spent a good proportion of their time as bandits between more legitimate activities and "honest" guildsmen dealt with rural competition by force. All of these are "robbery" or "organised crime" by today's standards, some groups will be out and out thugs and the enemies of all (probably selling even their own mothers) but many others will be always jumping back and forth over a faint line that shifts depending on who you ask.