Campaign Setting: Icehold (Government)

Here are more Icehold campaign notes. You can read the first entry and Icehold Index here.

The people of the region of Icehold all consider themselves part of a single culture, generally called Icehold, but not all of them are part of the only large settlement in the region, the fortified harbor and trade town of Jokullnaf. Even so, understanding the government and laws of Jokullnaf (which, confusingly to newcomers, is also often just called Icehold) is crucial to understanding the region as a whole.

Jokullnaf was originally built some 200 years ago as a fortified base of operations for the Drakull Campaign, a religious expedition that sought to destroy the creature belived to be the First vampire and, after several decades, appeared to succeed in destroying it. This lead to a slow conversion of Jokullnaf from a military fortress to a settlement. It is the only major settlement within hundreds of miles of its location, though a few small family enclaves exist in the surrounding caves and valleys. Most are friendly with Jokullnaf.

A few are not.

But even those who are somewhat hostile to the townsfolk accept that the closest thing to law in the land of Icehold is the Jokullnaf Council of Principals.

Council of Principals

Jokullnaf is ruled by a Council of Principals, which serves as the only executive, legislative, and judicial authority within the town. The official motto of the council is “Secure in Body, Belief, and Self.” Councils argue often about what exactly that means, but in general it’s accepted that the job of the Council of Principals is to keep everyone in all of Icehold safe, without bothering them too much. 

The size of the council is currently 12 seats, but it has been as small as 6 and as large as 18 over the past century. Changing the council’s size requires a petition be brought by the population with at least 1,000 signatures, and then a vote in which at least 1/3 of the council agree with the change.

Each seat on the council is assigned to a “Principal Interest” within the population of the city. The current seats are (in order of seniority) Crusaders, The Guard, Landowners, Masons, Alchemists, Citizens, Churches, Scouts, Fishers, Gatherers, Merchants, and Service Guilds. A single councilor holds each seat, and terms are 24 months, offset so a new councilor takes a seat every 2 months. All matters are handled by an open vote among the councilors, with the oldest councilor who has held their seat for at least one full year being given the tiebreaking vote in case of stalemate.

Councilors are not paid for their labor, but do receive a few personal assistants for the term of their membership, generally young members of rich families and trade groups that wish too teach their children how Icehold is run. A councilor is not officially required to appear for the weekly meetings of the council, but one who shirks work without good reason is likely to be penalized by the grumpy councilors who do go to meetings, and eventually thrown out of the council.

Each group represented by a Principal Interest is responsible for keeping a list of enrollment current with the names of everyone considered part of that group. Each group is allowed to petition the Council of Principals to approve a charter that defines membership in an Interest, which almost always includes being of age of majority, mentally sound, not sworn to a foreign secular government, not convicted of a serious crime against Icehold or its population, and being considered an actively involved member of the Interest. 

For example, a Citizen likely only need be a competent adult in good standing, but a Mason must be of at least Journeyfolk skill level, and still an active participant in the profession of masonry.

Nearly all the seats are filled by sortition — each time a seat opens, a councilor is selected at random from the enrollment list of people who qualify. (This is not true for Crusaders, the Guard, or Masons). In most cases a person cannot sit in the same councilor seat two terms in a row (although members of the Guar and the Masons can). Further, the council can dismiss any member from their seat with a 2/3 vote, though that seat is then immediately filled by a new member of the same interest. (And only a more-than-half vote is required to unseat a council from the Guard or the Masons). 

The general definition of each Interest is as follows:

Crusaders: Individuals with ties to a known group that still seeks to destroy the powerful undead that exist in the far north. In most cases, modern crusaders are those who have been trained by someone who was trained by someone who was one of the original members of the Drakull Crusade.

Because Crusaders often leave Jokullnaf for long periods, they are allowed to elect a council from within their ranks, and may select a retired member who i no longer active in crusading.

The Guard: The region of Icehold is dangerous, and Jokullnaf is a fortress town for a reason. The Guard are responsible for walking the walls, manning the watch-towers and gates, organizing defense of Icehold in times of attack, watching for and organizing efforts against fires (especially at the harbor), enforcing degrees of the Council of Principals, and generally being the armed branch of Jikulnaf. However, there are only 30 or so full-time members of the Guard, with any major effort requiring rounding up armed citizens.

Because the Guard has a Guard Commander and a chain of authority is considered important for it to function, the Guard seat is appointed by a vote of the rest of the council, and can be held repeatedly.

Landowners: People who own land within the walls of Jokullnaf, or bowshot of its walls and harbor. Most landowners are families that date back to when Jokullnaf made the transition from armed camp to independent town.  The council restricts ownership to a single person per building, and doesn’t count any building too small for a person to live in, or that doesn’t serve a useful function for the betterment of the region. Unlike most Interests, Landowners are qualified for Council membership if they are  able to speak the oath of loyalty, regardless of age.

Masons: The walls and towers of Jokullnaff are considered crucial for the long-term survival of the town, and they require maintenance and protection from people prying rock loose for use in other projects. There’s no mason’s guild within Jokullnaff, just a very protective, skilled community of people who work on the town’s stone, some of them old enough to have helped build it to begin with.

Because masonry projects often take longer than two years, and require continuity of direction, the masons are allowed to vote for their councilor, and may vote in the same person each term. 

Alchemists: Access to cheap Firestone and Blue Iron, along with natural materials unknown in warmer climes, has caused a small but vibrant alchemist community to develop in Jokullnaf. After a few explosions in the early days, the Council of Principals determined anyone wanting to work in alchemy required the council’s approval. This led to the council and the alchemists working closely together to keep the town safe from experiments and, eventually, that expertise proved useful enough to earn a seat on the council. 

Citizens: As the town grew, the fact landowners had a voice in government but other citizens did not lead to unrest. A citizen’s seat was added to settle things down, and remained for the past century.

Churches: Several churches have moved into Icehold, and often wish to have holy day celebrations, perform loud or odd ceremonies, or otherwise act in ways that seem questionable without some advanced discussion. The Council decided to set aside a single seat for all church leaders in the region. If a church leader fails to appropriately represent the interests of all churches in Icehold, the Council dismisses them and gets a new church leader to sit in the seat.

Scouts: Dangers to Jokullnaf often begin elsewhere, and sometimes you need someone to run to outlying enclaves or put together search and rescue parties. The town scouts are the only people crazy enough to do it all the time, and were granted a seat.

Fishers: Fish makes up a huge part of the Jokullnaf diet, and after a few council decisions made fishing more difficult and led to long, hungry winters, a Fishers’ Seat was added.

Gatherers: Added the summer after the Fisher’s seat, this seat represents those who gather barks, needles, and lichens for foodstuff. It also currently covers rangers with strong family ties to the town, who want their own seat, but aren’t currently numerous enough to convince the council to give them one.

Merchants: Only a few decades old, the Merchant’s Seat is a grudging acknowledgement of how much of Jokullnaf’s comfort, if not quite its existence, depends on goods being brought in by sea and through dangerous mountain passes. Most people on the merchant enrollment lists are also on the Landowner and Citizen lists.

Service Guilds: When the Summer Trade Season opens, hundreds of members of guilds dedicated to servicing the needs and wants of the tradeships, caravans, and merchants that briefly flood the town with money and new people. These cooks, courtesans, dancers, guards, musicians, and scribes, work in small, tight guilds that must follow council rules. Despite most guilds owning property, they are not allowed on the landowner’s enrollments and have often been seen as “outsiders,” leading to unfair treatment. Shortly after the Merchants gained a seat, the Service Guilds held a strike at the beginning of a Trade Summer to prove how important they were to Jokullnaf’s prosperity, and gained a seat.


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About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on May 22, 2023, in Appendix O, Microsetting, System Agnostic and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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