Under The Yoke Devlog 22: Crime & Punishment
Welcome Serfs and Villeins to another Under The Yoke Devlog.
Today is something of a part 2 to last weeks deep dive into Hallmotes. Hallmotes not only served as a chance for villagers to elect members to office, it also was a chance to air legal disputes from within the village.
The Hallmote acted as something of a local court where villagers could air grievances not only against each other, but also against their Lord.
They were generally held by the Steward, though the Lord could hold it in the event that he was present (not a frequent scenario). Villagers would lodge suits against other villagers for a variety of infractions, such as stealing virgates in the open field system, grazing animals on someone else’s land, inappropriate extra-marital relations, violating contracts or any number of other things. Larger cases on the other hand, such as murder, would go to more senior courts.
The Lord's law was also imposed through Hallmote courts, fines and penalties could be handed out for failing to work on the lord’s domain or for brewing beer that was too weak. The peasants though could lodge their own grievances against their Lord if they felt they had been wronged, for instance to prevent the enclosing of common land into the Lord's domain or to demand payment for additional work. Surprisingly there are a number of cases where the peasants won out against their Lord, likely because the lord would prefer a happy and compliant village to an extra acre in his domain.
There was a particular focus on trying to keep cases from going to court, with both parties encouraged to settle out of court before a trial, though they would still be expected to pay some fee as a portion of the agreement.
Cases that did go to court were seen by a jury of 12 men with the Steward acting as a judge. These men would most likely be familiar with the parties involved and were not likely to be impartial.
In Under The Yoke
As a medieval life-sim we have done our best to stick to the real history of the Hallmote and the local manor courts therein.
Players will experience trials from all angles, whether they are the ones being sued, the ones doing the suing, or just a member of the jury on a case between two of their neighbours.
How is a case brought against a player character?
In the event that a player character has trespassed against their neighbour a certain level of evidence will be held against them. Depending on the likelihood that the other villager may win the case and their opinion of the offending character they may choose to either bring the case to court or to forgive it.
How can a player bring a chase against another character?
If a player has evidence of another villager’s crimes then they may bring them to court or forgive them, both of these obviously carry their own social/opinion consequences.
How do trials work
For a trial each juror is randomly selected from the village, they will then decide based on their opinion of each character and the strength of the evidence, as well as any relation (remember, these juries weren’t impartial) on guilt or innocence. Player characters who were selected for the jury will also get to vote, receiving a bonus in opinion for whichever side they vote and a malus on the other side.
Medieval law could be both enlightened and barbaric. There is a litany of evidence of fines being forgiven for those too poor to pay them, particularly widows not having to pay the weak beer fines. There are also corporal and even capital punishments. These will be modelled in game, from the humiliating and stressful stocks to the brutal flogging.
If this sounds like something of interest to you, you should take a long hard look in the mirror, and then you should subscribe to the mailing list below for more medieval history and Under The Yoke directly in your inbox every fortnight!