Building an empire

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I'm playing a character who intends to take control of the party's hometown. He's gone through many alignment shifts (allowed by my GM after pivotal events), and is currently Lawful neutral. He's the last member of a formerly great house because cliches are awesome and he wants to rebuild it.
In the most recent session, the GM granted the party a mansion with servants' quarters, and the party (four people, plus one of the PC's wife and my adopted child) moved in.

Another party member has bought a fruit stall (?), but I intend to make a bigger impact. So far, I've hired a blacksmith (with apprentices), a steward, and a cook/nursemaid/etc. I've also established a make-shift postal service and am in talks to create a for-profit hospital.

My next act will be to own a mine and a lumbermill, but I'm pretty lost after that. There are no guilds in the town,  except the thieves' guild. How would my character best be able to expand his influence/ control the town quickly (without a violent revolution)?
In a medieval economy, agriculture is the key to wealth. Whoever owns the land (and can thus collect taxes and tithes from tenant farmers) owns the wealth. Of course, obtaining land may not be so simple as buying it; it may require a noble title or land grant from a high-ranking noble.

In a fantasy setting, it's quite possible that magic functions in a way similar to technology. This would be true of both druidic magic that influences weather and crop production and arcane magic, around which whole industries could be built (see Eberron for how this might work).

Also, I think you are playing a system other than 4E (you mention Lawful Neutral, an alignment that doesn't exist in 4E), and so you may find a legacy forum to be a more appropriate place to post and obtain responses for the game you're playing. 
How is the town run currently?

If there are elections, you could use the services you provide, along with bribery and threats to garner votes or control those who are elected. You already got the basis of a Roman-type clientela going, with the blacksmith, servants, and other people who depend on you for healing and services such as the post.

If there is a local landlord or noble, either make yourself indispensible enough to become his reeve or appointed representative or join the family. Marriages of convenience were common in upper classes. Of course, the PC who is already married might have a problem. Depending on the age of your PC's child, that would be an option (or not; pre-industrial age ideas about 'age of consent' would land you in jail today). If you don't mind shifting closer to evil, you could arrange the marriage, murder the nobles, inherit, or, at any rate, become the regent for a young heir.

If the town is tied to a larger power, use that to your advantage. Remove, discredit, or simply show yourself more capable than the current representative in the eyes of his superior. The ways to get rid off the powers-that-be without open violence are limited only by your alignment, imagination, and the political skills of your oponents.

As Darkwarlock says, power in the middle ages depended on land. Between rents and produce, as well as a tradition to consider those who made their living by trading to be dishonourable, this was the main socially acceptable way of gaining power. But in the towns, merchants could gain a lot of influence. Not cobblers and smiths, who gained power only through the guilds, but the patrician houses like the Fuggers who controlled continent-wide trade. Another big power as the clergy, though in order to get one of the good jobs (your village priest did not have many advantages), you need to have the right connections and probably be a second or third son of a noble house, or else rich enough to outright buy the position (which also worked in the army; by the time it became professional, many officer commissions were bought rather than earned).

We'd need more details about which setting you are playing in, or at least, how things work. If you want a lumber mill, for instance, you might run into problems in a medieval town, because quite often only the local noble had the right to own one (and rent it out to those who want to use it). What Darkwarlock said about obtaining land, essentially.

Edit: You might find it useful to check into the Borgia family. Bribery, marriage-alliances and utter ruthlessness got them not only the position of Pope (Alexander VI), but made them one of the most powerful families of Europe for a time. See if you can get hold of Horrible History's song about the Borgia Family for a quick and entertaining lesson (but for historical detail, read a book!).

This is the second campaign of the same setting, so I am woefully ignorant to the reasons that many of the GM's variant rules are in place. In any case, this may make it a bit clearer:


  • Land is 'rented' from the government (a monarchy), and even though it can be owned, nonhumans (all of the players) can have their land seized at any time by the government. 

  • The alignment I provided was for clarity's sake. Technically, I'm unaligned.

  • The daughter is an 8 year old sociopath (my GM has a weird sense of humor)

  • My character is betrothed to a noble lady, but must complete a certain quest before the marriage is done

  • The main city is ruled in tandem by three lords, an industrialist, a mage, and someone who I am yet to meet.

  • I am sworn to my original king, and one of my overlying goals (and a big reason that I want to own this city at all) is to overthrow the king of this land in the name of my leader. If I saw him, I'd have to kill him on sight. So no sucking up to him.

  • There are two temples in the town, neither of which particularly like me. A temple of Ioun and one of Sehanine.  (I follow the tenets of Erathis)

  • The mages' guild was run out of business by a company called the Collegiate, who essentially industrialised magic.

  • The fighters' guild was eliminated by the royal standing army (in the last campaign, ~200 years ago).


I can't find much about the Borgias in how they rose to power, but more about what they did with the power they accrued. The history of the Fuggers is much more helpful, though obviously took many years and marriages to forge their position. At this time, I have no-one to barter with. And I intend to buy favor in time, but still need to create my economic weight / prestige before I can do this.

Land is 'rented' from the government (a monarchy), and even though it can be owned, nonhumans (all of the players) can have their land seized at any time by the government. 


 Interesting. Are there any other laws which target or single out non-humans? If so, you could secretly obtain some allies by building up a resistance group or a lobby. It will be rather difficult, though, since you want a smooth takeover rather than a bloody coup. You could also abuse the system: by somehow ‘owning’ the person who gets to make the decisions about the confiscations, you could obtain the land by proxy, remove rivals, and further resentment against the government amongst powerful non-humans. Though, as you say, you have currently no-one to barter with, you could try and find someone with a secret they do not want shared... any if they don't have a secret, setting them up first could work.


My character is betrothed to a noble lady, but must complete a certain quest before the marriage is done


Good. It may not be quick, but with one foot in the nobility, you’re on the right path. Provided there are no stigmas against newcomers or marriages with non-humans.


The main city is ruled in tandem by three lords, an industrialist, a mage, and someone who I am yet to meet.


Divide and conquer? If possible, get them to suspect and fight each other. If nobody is plotting against the other, frame one of them. It may only take a couple of pushes to get the feuding started. The problem is, of course, that you need to make sure that no two of them get along well enough to create a lasting alliance. If one of them is a moderating factor which keeps the other two from tearing one another up, remove him – whether it’s outright assassination or a smear campaign, making him seem biased where he isn’t etc. Perhaps using anonymous pamphlets and setting up an underground press could work. That should destabilise the system, hopefully create a power vacuum... so long as you have a plan to get yourself chosen by the people to step in and help.


I am sworn to my original king, and one of my overlying goals (and a big reason that I want to own this city at all) is to overthrow the king of this land in the name of my leader. If I saw him, I'd have to kill him on sight. So no sucking up to him.


I assume that the current king is a usurper, at least from your character’s point of view? You could, if your morals allow it, make yourself useful to that king, though. To stab someone in the back, you have to get behind them. Eliminate all his other supporters (by discrediting them, as murder tends to make people look up). Be the loyal servant above all suspicion. Make them rely on you. Then turn on them.


Looking at history, another period which you could use for inspiration is end of the Roman Republic. Some used influential patrons to rise in the ranks, then turning on them (Caius Marius and the Metelli); the same works with political alliances (the Triumvirate). Bribing enough people also helps, but naturally requires you to have money; if you do not, find someone who does and offer to share power: as an adventurer, you have certain qualities which that person might need. This could work by throwing your weight behind one of the three rulers of the city (though your ultimate loyalty is elsewhere). In these cases, appear to be easily led and used, willing to do their bidding and tell them how great they are. Until you reveal your true colours.