Tuesday, April 10, 2007

City of Coil IV: Daily Toil

A Day in the Life
Since most people in Coil spend their hours working at mindless labor, the toil and drudgery of life can be seen on the faces of everyone. People mill about, traveling from place to place, as quickly as they can on the crowded streets. They rarely make eye contact with strangers and in the poorer districts people keep a weapon handy... or an armed guard. No one trusts anyone and the only thing people can offer one another is work or food.

Otherwise, you're useless.

Because of this anti-social behavior, most people turn to the solace of their family and friends at the end of the day, closing off their homes to the rest of the world. The average peasant works nearly 14 hours a day, trying to make a living for himself. There is little rest and if it weren't for the church, there wouldn't even be a "day-off" to go to church. And those at the top continue to trim a from each person's coin-purse.
To get a better sense of this in historic context, refer to Carl Marx's theories on the Industrial Revolution and the damage that non-creative, repetitive work does to the human psyche. Better yet, if you don't like to read, check out John Ford's How Green is my Valley.
The Government
Coil has a centralized government, but its role in the day to day life of the citizens is insignificant compared to the impact of the Guilds. The city levies taxes, like any government, but this money is used to keep city guard employed and roads paved (wherever they exist). What little else is left makes its way into the pockets of those looking for a handout.

While the bureaucracy of the guilds is beyond comprehension, the city offices aren't nearly as dense... or trafficked. It is necessary to obtain a license to do business in the city, or practice a trade, but the application process is painless and the fees nominal in contrast to the guilds' mafia-like taxation system.

Also, most public crimes are handled by the civil courts and not the guilds. The courts are as fair as they can be, having lost any ties to a system of feudalism or constitutional monarchy . The judges are elected, not appointed and the every person (that can afford one) is allowed a barrister. In this arena, the guilds have been unable to assert their influence, allowing one semblance of justice to remain in Coil.

But, for some, this system is no more honest or fair than any other in Coil. Anyone that has upset the wrong person or stolen from a powerful estate is better off dead, then in the hands of any court. While the guilds may not hold sway over everything, money and power are not ignored here either. Those who can afford a dozen barristers are in a better situation than the man who can barely afford one.

Of course, all this really means is that one is better off killing a city guard, then forgetting to pay his guild dues.

The City Guard
Mostly uneducated and unenthusiastic, the city guard go about keeping the peace through force, presence, and a forceful presence. Usually, patrols number four to eight guards, each wearing sturdy, but lightweight armor and armed with a fast bludgeoning weapon (like a mace). Guards that try to carry too much or who wear bulky armor can be taken down easily by a small gang that knows what its doing.

Certain sections of the city have been deemed "unworthy" of protection and others only see a guard once an hour, if not once a day. The more money a district has, the more taxes it pays, and the more protection is receives. The most powerful districts, however, require the least amount of protection because of The Watch.

The City Watch
Not to be confused with the city guard, the 'Witch Watch' (as it is sometimes called) is another force patrolling important portions of the city. Compromised of wizards from the various mage guilds, alongside warriors, and sell-swords, the Witch Watch roams the streets and secures the boundaries between important districts.

Of course, the City Guard also patrols these areas, but the Witch Watch has access to places the City Guard cannot go.

The Underclass
Because of the extent of poverty, many portions of the city are still underdeveloped and few ever see a guard patrolling their neighborhood. For these people, the city is nothing more than an elaborate prison and everyone has committed the same crime.

Those living in abject poverty, below the standards of the working class have slipped through the "social net" of the government and guilds. Devoid of notably skills or value to the upper class, the poorest people scrap out a life either through begging, crime, or worse. Their districts look war-torn and most spend their days preying upon one another. To the rich, this is how it should be and people killing one another to eat says the upper class the dilemma of what what to do with them.

The Underground
There are those who seek to undo this unnatural order of things. Orders, clubs, movements, secret societies. The names do not matter. Their objectives are all the same. To turn the power back over to the people and take it away from the guilds.

The Value of a Thing
While the price of goods is no different in Coil than any other fantasy city, the income of the average person is much lower, helping to increase the general poverty and deflate the value of people.