Combat in the Old World

Society of violence

This will be the introduction text to my combat rules reworking. A bit rough and ready with lots of typos and it wanders a bit but covers most of the basics of unarmed combat and how it will fit into city life;

Combat in the Old World: Many disputes among the lower classes are settled with straight up fist fights, and all young men (and women!) are expected to be able to look after themselves. With military grade weapons within city bounds being restricted to the authorities, everyone else has to make do with concealed knives or fists. Generally common disputes or flash arguments are ‘expected’ to be settled with a fist fight, and indeed a good display of skill is a quick way to make friends in the rougher parts of town. Knives are reserved for far more serious situations where the other person intends robbery or murder (or gang fights – stealing territory). If a person pulls a knife in a common dispute down the local (pub) against an unarmed regular, it’s entirely possible that the spectators will actually rush the knife wielder disarm him (or her) and then ‘throw them back in the ring’. Conversely, if you are being robbed by armed bandits and you’re unarmed it is possible (Fel test) that someone will throw you a knife to even the odds; in the Old World this is a social norm, even a lowly peasant would throw a blade to a stranger even if facing the powerful crime lord. The crime lord wouldn’t complain, and may even thank the peasant for making the kill ‘fair’.

Between status and survival combat: Most civilized people have ritualized combat and violence in some way, and serious disputes that boil over into violence are resolved with fists rather than using lethal force where only status rather than life is lost. As the results of a status fights are only temporary in nature where only the ego is bruised the bad feelings can forgotten in time. I person may not like taking a beating, but the fires of hate do not last in the same why as hatred born of death of a loved one.

Real combat, the survival fights are reserved for enemies of the community at large. As these combats result in death they will give birth to long running feuds as relatives and friends of the person killed will seek revenge, and they may seek it for their lifetime and even pass on that hate to their children.

In order to stop this situation from spiralling out of control the authorities intercede and imprison/ execute the killer. The takes it out of the hands of those initially involved in situation, and as the other family didn’t take revenge, they don’t get the blame the authorities do. That’s not to say the families won’t fight, but it is more likely to be back to fist fights and express anger than getting stabbie and murderous.

The division between ‘status fight’ and ‘survival fight’ is clearly marked with social customs, laws and cultural taboos. The authorities impose weapon restrictions in order to push the majority away from possible survival conflict (were one party or both are armed) and towards status based conflict.

The practice of Pugilism: is regarded as a manly and gentlemanly pastime in the larger cities. It is the ritualised status combat and is a harsh disciple yet it still attracts many a young man to the ‘pure life’ where men can enjoy being men and beating the crap out of each other. Even young aristocrats love to learn boxing in popular gyms in the Old World roughing it with the commoners, and by association commoners who show flare may get backing from the aristocrats for prize-fights. A successful prise-fighter can earn serious money and elevate themselves for the ranks of the working classes and start climbing the social ladder. It is believes that combat exposes the noble side of a gentleman, but is it also true that some of the most popular fighters are no more than savage brutes, However is you’re winner and maintain your wits you can go far.

Social lynch pin: Gyms form social centres in these cosmopolitan cities, Usually several pubs and inns surround a good gym and business is always brisk, attracting many a rogue and ladies of low cunning.

In the military a mixture of Pugilism and street fighting is taught as self defence to professional soldiers, and every village has a few men who know how to fight, though it is often taught to sons by their fathers (though daughters who grow up with many brothers may be quite good at fighting too!).

Social Structure: As most unarmed combat happens among the working classes, most of the combat the PCs face are when dealing with the working classes and lower middle class. On the surface the working classes of big cities look like one cohesive group to the middle and upper classes, but this is not the case. The city is divided up into manors run by a strong family and all their kin, each manor is basically an area owned by one giant extended family.

The families act like little independent kingdoms and the politics of these manors is incredibly complex, with their own hierarchy, customs and enforcers. The whole city can be linked up with marriages and alliances and this keeps an uneven peace. By and large the working classes a self governing, but disputes and wars flare up between manors just as they do between kingdoms. Keeping order between warring factions is where the authorities step in, and this is generally triggered when people start turning up dead in the street. If the wars are conducted out of sight the authorities really don’t care; as long as the money from taxes keeps rolling in.

Relationship between those within a manor are ‘family’ orientated. The community is cohesive, and everyone knows everyone else. To get along with these people your have to be family or you need a recommendation; someone who will vouch for you or as ‘all right’. Getting someone to vouch for you is difficult and generally can only come from someone you’ve known for a long time. Army buddies are the most common newcomers to a manor, and after a bit of match making they’ll settle down. The other way of getting ‘in’ is by doing the little things that enable the working class to survive; the jobs that keeps everyone’s head above water under the harsh tax system. The authorities call it criminal activity, the working classes call it survival. The irony is that these criminal activities are how a lot of the power over the working classes is enforced by the upper classes (bypassing the middle classes). The simple fact is that in the Old World the head geezer of a manor is basically an untitled noble. Often a bastard child of a real noble from his slumming days and someone who has worked their way up the ranks by being very ‘useful’ to those in power (though they would dare to make a direct claim of blood – that way leads to death).

On the whole the system runs very smoothly, and well ordered parts of the city are safe if you are a local, you can even leave your doors unlocked as no one with steal from you. The problems arise when people from outside the society turn up, often desperate and in dire straits, such strong emotions can drive a person to act in a rash manner.

Outsiders: Country folk attached to the big cities with the fantasies of riches first run into these families, these families refer to these uninvited and unintroduced new comers as outsiders or ‘ya an’t one of us’. The families do not consider the outsiders as ‘equal’ in fact they seem them as social invaders and potential cause of problems in the future. The are a whole range of outsiders, but they will get treated badly unless they have some skills or worth. Many a female outsiders ends up in prostitution rings and male outsiders in a shallow grave; unless they prove themselves to be very tough. Often it is outsider males trying to prove themselves the local boss that they have a pair, that perform the majority of the fetch and carry jobs and hits on other outsiders who are acting up on behalf of the family as they are ‘expendable’ these outsider males typically are seen as thugs, they only operate because the head boss allows them to do so. A particularly effective and loyal thug may one day traverse from outsider to insider, and that’s the goal of most thugs as at the end of the day they’re just men who want a little patch of dirt to call their own.

It is in the outsider parts of town, the slums and shacks of the desperate that racketeers flourish, and true ‘inhuman’ chime starts to turns up. Often criminals in these parts are outriders preying on other outriders with criminals higher up the scale are like comic book super heroes in that they have a day to day persona and then their secret identity. Some very well to do business types also double up a crime-lords of the slums.

Further up the ladder shops are set up by the families, so an outsider opening up a shop can expect trouble especially if it’s in direct completion with the locals. Exotic shops or those offering new services may be tolerated, but all outsiders are expected to pay ‘protection’ though this may actually be legit ‘tithes’ stated in local law left over from before the city was a real city. Just as family run shops give kick backs (loan repayments) to those further up the family line, so the outsider have to do likewise. Though it is often the case that the outsider pay a lot more. After a few generations and once the children have intergrated with the local community they become insiders and get the ‘special rates’ and the offer of backing for new enterprises.

There’re middle class and there’re middle class: professionals often related to the upper classes in some way form the bulk of the middle classes, these are also joined but land owners of working class background, the first group have skills the second group have money they should get on nut they don’t, only paying lip service to each other and pleasantries. This is the glass ceiling, that stops most social climber from the lower middle classes advancing to the upper middle classes. However those from the lower middle class understand that sending your child to a posh school will ensure that their child makes the jump, the parents may always be lower middle class but their children may more to the upper middle classes.

The Nobles: It is often said that today’s crime lord is tomorrow aristocracy, those from the lower middle classes may prove so adept that they just keep rising, even gaining a title of their own. The working class has a lot more in common with the upper classes than with the middle classes and vice versa, may nobles really enjoy the coarse humour and strong social bound found among they working classes, when compared to the dry stilted conversations of the upper middle class. The upper middle classes will do anything they can to stop such things with poisoned words and outright lies, but young nobles are hard to control and don’t respond to polite cajoling and manipulation and often find the whole idea of meeting ‘real criminals’ and ‘violent psychopaths’ too much of a temptation to pass up. It is on the direct excursions that the Nobles meet the working classes and often make lifelong friends! The great thing about this is that the working classes are everywhere, and once a noble has a few trusted friends high up in the local manors they can find out pretty much anything they want, and even receive warning of plots and generally skulduggery perpetrated by the upper middle classes after real power by ‘reclaiming lost title/ inheritance or something else they were cheated out of and is rightfully theirs’ or just blatant murdering sibling who are Nobles and therefore inherit their title. Obviously if someone from the upper-middle classes is up to no good on a grand scale, they really don’t want their intended targets getting a heads up, and will try everything to keep it secret but they know the best way is to keep the working and upper classes separate, often by destroying a persons character with trumped up criminal charges so those in power will not listen The upper-middle class are a minefield and Tzeentchian ways.

Consequences of inappropriate killing: If you are an outsider and go to a pub and start a fight, chances are they’ll let it slide if you are unarmed and wish to fight unarmed, however if you draw a weapon you will be killed – simple as. If you clear out a pub of hardened thugs you are not playing in the Warhammer world! If you are very young and look cocky rather than dangerous, you may get lucky and the locals disarms you and then you have to fight the main man and that isn’t going to be nice as you have just prompted a ‘punishment beating’, so you’ll be unarmed and he’ll have a nice set of brass knuckles, and brass knuckles don’t do any favours to your looks.

The Docks: Pubs down by the docks are usually filled with outsiders who collect in areas that the locals don’t much care for. The rules for violence in these areas are a little more lax and bodies can be disposed of easily, drawing weapons in these settings in usual, and knife fights can be very common. Here it s possible to kill someone and get a way with it, but is there are any form the manors from in town, there could be serious consequences, mainly from the fact that if they are their they usually turn up in force, and taking on one means taking on them all – nasty.

Woman of the manor: It is quite possible for a strong women with several strapping sons to rise up the ranks, also widows may not be as soft as her husband’s assassins had hoped and she can carry on in his stead. With the advent of firearms, women can be more than a match for most men; even hard core combat veterans! A woman with a brace of pistols is just as deadly as a man with a brace of pistols, and to top it of women can fight in the Old World society, often fighting other women, but also husbands, other men and spanking children, in the Old World women get a lot of combat experience among the working classes.

Handful: Women who are part of the manor families can be quite a handful and sometime a little to much for a man to cope with, so it is not uncommon for a man’s eye to wander over the ranks of the outsiders and pick a pretty one. One the plus side he gets an easy life as the outsider wife in isolated and he’s the boss and she’s trapped and he’ll let her know it. However this can backfire if the new wife makes friends, this being very difficult as all the Manor women’s noses are put out of joint, however if the outsider has spirit and a right sense of humour she may be accepted into the sisterhood and then the man’s plans for a submissive sex slave come servant fly out of the window!

Philosophical about violence: There is lots of reason for unarmed combat in the Old World cities and as mentioned at the beginning of this article, a lot status can be derived from unarmed combat and ones position within the social hierarchy. Those men who take their status combat seriously, seeing violence as a necessity in resolving the irresolvable disputes that crop up from time to time, and as a means to protecting their family; pugilism is the way to go. From a philosophical point of view most men feel that only a man who can stand up for themselves is worth listening to as he can’t be cowed easily and is not ruled by his fears, this strength means he can speak the truth and stand his ground, and as such if to be respected.

The society is based on force of arms, even children will get smacked to deter them from a cause of action that could lead to their deaths, as it is seen to be preferable in the parent’s eyes to inflict temporary pain though a sound beating then for another to inflict permanent injury or even death later in life. And in later life should a person do something that warrants punishment by the authorities and they refuse to go quietly, the City guard with beat them senseless and drag them off to the cells, at the end of the day society to kept in check by a man with a club (still holds true in our modern society!)

The next article runs through the rules of unarmed combat, rules for pugilist prise fights and then progressing from status combat to survivalist combat with the introduction of weapons and the killing arts.


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