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Old 09-19-2022, 12:42 PM   #1
Michael Cule
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Default [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

My last GURPS game was set in the early days of the reign of the Emperor After The Demon.

The new Emperor is ambitious and a man of conscience. Why? Well, perhaps he wants to be someone different from his father, a man so wicked that when he was replaced by an actual demon nobody noticed for nearly fifteen years.

He's mostly concentrating on keeping the Empire together and defeating those pesky Templars. But in my game someone is going to come to him with a modest proposal of replacing the current system of manumitting slaves (which requires a personal petition to the Emperor and a lot of cash to lubricate the wheels of the bureaucracy) with a simpler, cheaper system that might actually get used.

Now, what the person bringing the idea to him (an idealistic member of the judiciary) would really like to do is to abolish slavery entirely. So, secretly, would the Emperor. Neither of them dreams of doing it quickly.

But what I'd like to do is to take the trigger of the proposed reform and the reaction against it by the more conservative part of the population and parlay it into a full scale conflict, perhaps using the Templars and/or Abydos as sponsors of an actual civil war.

Given the lack of modern communications and the insignificance of the abolitionist movement in the Empire, what are the ways I can make this work.

What are the ways the Emperor could move towards abolition?

What are the stories I could generate from this?

What would this look like to average subjects of the Empire? To highly placed political figures?

Would this be fun?
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Old 09-19-2022, 12:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

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Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
What would this look like to average subjects of the Empire? To highly placed political figures?
So the easiest negative spin is that the emperor is trying to curry the political support of the lowest of the masses by freeing slaves that belong to his most powerful rivals, the aristocracy.

The "Average subject of the Empire" is a serf working an ancestral plot of land. They are legally bound to the land, rarely see slaves, and the emperor focusing on the plight of the slaves rather than of the peasants may provoke some jealousy, or at the very least apathy.


On the other hand, that jealousy may provide leverage to get aristocratic support for the slavery project. It pits the urban elite, who are more likely to own slaves, against the rural elite, who will see their relative position rise.
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Old 09-19-2022, 01:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

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What are the ways the Emperor could move towards abolition?
Martin Padway instituted a heavy tax on slaves. I would find and support those within the Church who emphasize that Christians should not enslave Christians and a good master should convert any non-Christian slaves (that was one of the major factors in the collapse of slavery in the former Western Roman Empire).

Hire legal scholars to discover important edicts of Old Earth emperors limiting the powers of masters which have been shamefully neglected (every few emperors, the Romans made the legal status of slaves less awful because even the Romans knew that their slave laws were repugnant- these precedents will be in the Megalan copies of Justian's laws which any scholar of law has to study, just like the Church fathers who did not approve of enslaving Christians are in every theologian's library).

The classic failure modes are that liberalizing by autocratic fiat is a contradiction in terms, and that ancient and medieval kings don't actually have the kind of power that a 20th century state has. If local authorities don't like a decree they will just ignore it.
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Old 09-19-2022, 01:13 PM   #4
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

Well, first, what is the nature of slavery in the Evil Empire? Is it a punishment for crimes? The lot of those on the losing side of a war? An option for paying off a large debt? A way to leave your family better off than they were before (you sell yourself - or your parents sell you - into slavery, your family gets a decent sum of money)? Is it racially based? What kinds of jobs do slaves typically work - do they just provide raw muscle for unskilled labor, or can you find them working just about any job? What kinds of people own slaves - are they a curiosity for the superwealthy, commonly owned by landowners, or does any family above the means of a peasant typically own one as a general-purpose servant? How you go about disentangling your economy from any degree of reliance on slave labor (a necessary step to abolish it, unless you're fine suffering an economic recession when you do), and how the populace and elites will respond, is going to be heavily dependent on the above.
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Old 09-19-2022, 01:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

An important limit on manumission in Rome was that there was a substantial tax on the process of freeing a slave. If the new emperor were to waive the tax, or to use his own wealth to pay it, that could encourage the freeing of slaves.
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Old 09-19-2022, 01:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

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Well, first, what is the nature of slavery in the Evil Empire? Is it a punishment for crimes? The lot of those on the losing side of a war? An option for paying off a large debt? A way to leave your family better off than they were before (you sell yourself - or your parents sell you - into slavery, your family gets a decent sum of money)? Is it racially based? What kinds of jobs do slaves typically work - do they just provide raw muscle for unskilled labor, or can you find them working just about any job? What kinds of people own slaves - are they a curiosity for the superwealthy, commonly owned by landowners, or does any family above the means of a peasant typically own one as a general-purpose servant? How you go about disentangling your economy from any degree of reliance on slave labor (a necessary step to abolish it, unless you're fine suffering an economic recession when you do), and how the populace and elites will respond, is going to be heavily dependent on the above.

This is explicitly Yrth, so see banestorm page 42. Slavery by law, by war, by birth, and by choice* all exists.



The majority of farm labor in Megalos is done by serfs, not slaves, as far as I can tell. The sources of slaves in Megalos tend towards it being more common in the cities. Megalos has a facade of old rome built on top a manorial system: thus you get serfs in the country-side, and slaves in the cities. There are, of course, some slaves who make it out into the country side, but I think that's more the exception than the rule. The advantage of having slaves rather than serfs is you can move them around and send them to new places, which again leaves slaves as more of an urban phenomenon.



Christians cannot enslave other Christians. Enslaved Criminals are excommunicated to get around this, and "slavery by choice" takes the form of indentured servitude. This probably excludes the possibility of an educated class of slaves, and makes them more likely to be used for manual labor.



*sometimes being your parent's choice, in all cases the money goes to the family
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Old 09-19-2022, 01:59 PM   #7
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

Yes, the first unexpected reaction would be from the serfs! "Why are you giving Those People Over There the chance to be free when we aren't?"

Which leads to the rural nobility reacting against reform because they see their workforce melting away If This Goes On.

(Historically, the Empire reacts ferociously to serf revolts or 'petty treason'.)

The appeal to Roman precedent would need some research but might give the reformers some sort of coherent intellectual status.

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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Well, first, what is the nature of slavery in the Evil Empire? Is it a punishment for crimes? The lot of those on the losing side of a war? An option for paying off a large debt? A way to leave your family better off than they were before (you sell yourself - or your parents sell you - into slavery, your family gets a decent sum of money)? Is it racially based? What kinds of jobs do slaves typically work - do they just provide raw muscle for unskilled labor, or can you find them working just about any job? What kinds of people own slaves - are they a curiosity for the superwealthy, commonly owned by landowners, or does any family above the means of a peasant typically own one as a general-purpose servant? How you go about disentangling your economy from any degree of reliance on slave labor (a necessary step to abolish it, unless you're fine suffering an economic recession when you do), and how the populace and elites will respond, is going to be heavily dependent on the above.
Well, all of the above. Slavery in the Empire isn't racially based (nor species based) though there are a lot of war captives from the Nomad Lands.

All of the above uses for slaves are possible but the largest numbers are on jobs that free people want just Too Much Money to do. Physically hard jobs like mining and forestry. There aren't so many slave staffed agricultral estates as in the Roman Empire: there are serfs for that.

The best way to end slavery would be with a technolgical advance that makes it less and less profitable. But on the other hand look at what the cotton gin did and on the third hand this is Yrth: the Ministry of Serendipity is very down on all kinds of technological advance.
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Old 09-19-2022, 02:18 PM   #8
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

The core question is "what are the large political factions that support this plan?". Because if there aren't any, either the will of the emperor gets ignored (failure to enforce, etc), or the inconvenient emperor gets replaced in a palace coup.

Assuming there is a major faction in favor, it's not hard to result in violence, because even if the Emperor is secretive about his motivations, his supporters aren't going to be.
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Old 09-19-2022, 03:51 PM   #9
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

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Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
The core question is "what are the large political factions that support this plan?". Because if there aren't any, either the will of the emperor gets ignored (failure to enforce, etc), or the inconvenient emperor gets replaced in a palace coup.

Assuming there is a major faction in favor, it's not hard to result in violence, because even if the Emperor is secretive about his motivations, his supporters aren't going to be.
The Church is the faction that would be in favour. At least the part that isn't the Templars.

The Templars are still in revolt against the Emperor and still denying their Grandmaster's responsibility for the summoning of the Demon Emperor. And still sulking on their island base in the west.

They just attempted (and failed) to trigger a slave revolt in Teridar but I don't think that would prevent them from allying with the anti-Imperial faction when they started to oppose the new regime.

Hmm, yes the Church. And the Hospitallers would relish the chance to go against the Templars. (How very unChristian of them.)

But I think this needs to grow slowly, perhaps over several seasons of gaming in which the story is in the background.

The reform of the manumission law can be the start. Then when owners start manumitting their slaves at the end of their useful lives the Church can lead the protests and insist on further changes in the law.

Debt slavery would be the next point of attack I think. (It was for the Romans according to my superficial research.)

One problem is that I'm not sure where serfdom comes from on Yrth. In the early days of the human settlement of Yrth there would have been few places for serfs to flee to but plenty of settlements happy to take people in and not enquire what their status was back on Earth. The Romans imposed serfdom over several generations.

I think I'm going to blame that on Simon Menaleus, the first Emperor. Having the right to keep your farm workers down would appeal to some people and having a central authority that would bring back runaways would make them more inclined to sign up to the Empire.
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Old 09-19-2022, 05:26 PM   #10
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Default Re: [BANESTORM] Ending slavery in the Evil Empire

Actually it is strictly forbidden to release anyone from slavery in the empire. the only person who can is the emperor himself, if asked by the owner. A Ok is very rarely given.

First you have to make it legal that a master can free his own slaves, if he wants to.

This first step is not such a big problem, because people who have hope to be rleased , work normally harder, and the masters are not unhappy because nobody orders them to set valuable property free.

Slavery is heriditary in the empire, changing this can be a step to reduce slave numbers, but it is also likely that children are just dumped in the streets at night to die. Because the owners have no monetary reward for raising them.

The usual ways of freeing slaves in history have been discusssed here. So I want repeat them.
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