The basic geographic unit of Might & Fealty is the settlement, which consists of the actual village, town or city and the surrounding land that is used by the people of the settlement.
For simplicity, the lands surrounding a settlement are given a biome, a landscape definition. Settlements can be in the mountains, forest, grasslands or scrubland or one of several more biome types. The land around a settlement determines many of the basic economic features, such as how fertile the land is, determining food production, or how much wood can be cut, or if there is metal to be found in the ground.
Other geographic features, such as altitude, humidity or whether the settlement is near a river or coast (which allows for fishing) also influence the basic economic factors.
Finally, the biome type also determines travel speed through the area.
A settlement under control of a noble is called an estate.
Estates can be conquered or granted to others, and they can be part of one (and only one) of the realms. A settlement can only belong to any realm that its lord belongs to.
Within the settlement, the lord can use the permission system to grant rights to other characters, including whole groups. For example, a military center would want to allow all members of its realm to resupply there.
In addition to the basic economy determined by geography, settlements also have many buildings that influence the local economy, and probably the most important external factor: Trade.
With trade & tribute, a settlement can grow far beyond its natural limitations. In fact, very few areas allow a settlement to grow into a town without additional food imports, and no city can survive without food being brought in from surrounding villages.
Economic security represents the basic protections against forces of nature that prevents the loss of livestock and harvest to wild animals and roving bandits. A palisade will keep wild animals away, towers discourage bandits, a small number of militia helps against both. And finally, there is security in numbers, as wild animals avoid larger settlements.
This is covered more in depth under the Economy section.
Military and Fortifications
Settlements are also where soldiers are trained and equipped. With the proper buildings, all kinds of equipment and training can be provided, and the size of a settlement determines how many soldiers can be trained at once.
Settlements also have another important aspect: Fortifications. The game makes a difference between fortified and unfortified settlements. Anything that encircles the settlement completely, limiting entering and leaving to gates or forced entry will make the settlement fortified. In most cases, that means as soon as a palisade is completed.
Fortified settlements enjoy great benefits. Even the most simple fortification keeps wild animals and roaming bandits out at night, increasing economic security. It also forces looters and other hostiles to enter the settlement, instead of being able to pick on outlying houses. This dramatically changes the strategies of defending and attacking.
If the settlement is being attacked, fortifications grant a bonus to the defenders. The better the walls and towers, the higher this bonus is. A well fortified settlement can defend itself easily against superior numbers. Since food still comes from outside, siege and starvation become the weapons of choice against these defenses, which reverses the initiative (i.e. the defenders decide when to engage in a sortie).
In addition to their native population, settlements can also have thralls. These are peasants taken by force from other settlements near or far. Depending on the culture of the region, they can be considered slaves or forced labour or a lower class of peasants.
Thralls will work the fields, forests and mines, but they cannot be used for construction and both entourage and soldiers will always be recruited from the peasant population. They get slightly less food than peasants (three quarters) so they will also be the first to suffer from hardships and the last to benefit from good times, which means thrall population will generally decline faster and rise slower in reaction to food supply. Thralls also reduce economic security (see above).
The question of whether or not it is allowed or honourable to take thralls at all is a matter of realm culture and before doing so you might want to check in with your liege, king or whoever is above you.