Living in the West Wood
 
As promised, here's a closer look at the setting of The West Wood. Specifically, we're taking a nice long gander at where folks live, and how they make their living.

 

Settlements

Settlements on the frontier can range from a single-family farmhouse with a garden plot to a large town with multiple thriving industries. Most are villages or small towns, typically with a central tower or fort where the people can hole up and defend themselves if necessary. Buildings are mostly made of wood, though brick and stone are not unheard of -- especially in settlements where folks can easily shape it with magic. Settlements are populated mainly by humans, but have a their share of the more personable fairy folk too.

Settlements are usually one of two types: dominions and freeholds.

Dominions are tied to the feudal system of government so common in the Kingdoms of Man. Dominions are ruled by local lords or ladies, who in turn are ruled by their own lords (who may live a day's ride or more away). People of a dominion owe taxes and loyalty to those above them, while the rulers owe their people protection and the rule of law.

Most dominions are ruled by descendants of the nobles who came to the West Wood generations ago. Some can trace their feudal chain all the way back to the Kingdoms of Man. A few are controlled by fairy folk, such some elves, who have adopted the human style of government.

Freeholds owe nothing to any outside lord. They rule themselves. They have their own laws, traditions, and ways of defending themselves. Many freeholds are family-run, with inherited rulership, but larger holds are often more democratic, with leaders elected from among the population. If a freehold is large enough, it may even have its subordinate settlements… which are technically its dominions.

Economy

The folks of the West Wood are more concerned with keeping their bellies full than fueling industries or playing the export markets. That said, no one's opposed to getting a little extra gold if they can.

Farming is the main industry in the eastern grasslands of the frontier. The grasslands aren't true prairie, but the trees here are few and far enough apart that folks can grow fields of crops and graze herds of oversized cattle called voxen. Some grasslands are naturally-occurring but others are the result of earlier settlers clearing away swathes of forest. Farmers pay surplus produce as taxes or sell it at market. Herders drive voxen to the eastern market in the spring, where they are turned into meat, leather, and bone.

Mining is common in the rugged hills of the West Wood. Miners dig for gold, silver, and gems, and often count on the fairy folk to tell them where the best veins are to be found. (The most valuable gems, "lightning stones," are used in crafting magic, and the fair ones prefer to keep these for themselves.) Boomtowns are common in the hills. So is claim-jumping and bushwhacking. New strikes are often in lawless territory, beyond the reach of any dominion or lord. Freeholds spring up here, but it takes a strong hand to keep them from falling into chaos and bloodshed.

Logging in the West Wood is a tricky business. On the one hand, trees are plentiful and healthy, perfect for harvesting. On the other, the magical creatures who live in and around those trees are often vehemently opposed to folks chopping up the neighborhood. Wise loggers make deals with the fairies and other critters in the area; in exchange for gold or other promises, the locals let them take the wood. Greedy loggers just chop away, and count on their teams of gunslingers and mercs to keep the natives from getting in the way. Stupid loggers make deals, then renege on them. Pity the fools who break a fairy contract!

Trading takes a lot of start-up capital, but can be quite lucrative. Settlers are willing to pay a premium for items from back east they can't get on the frontier. And merchants will gladly part with their gold in exchange for fairy-crafted wares or magical goods. Some traders travel the frontier, buying and selling out the backs of of their wagons. Other set up shop in settlements for a season, a year, or or until retirement or bankruptcy. 

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