Many experienced players will be well aware of the common childcare method used by most settlements. Bushes, a field, and a bunch of lost-looking youths. But what if there was another method of organising and protecting the children?
I thought about this and came up with an idea loosely based around marriage. Instead of taking care of children as a community, individual parents will look after children. A male and a female will be assigned together so that the male needs to supply the female with the resources she needs to properly look after and teach the children that can be born often in the most inconvenient times, while also perhaps doing some locally based jobs like smelting and building. These two would be responsible for one another’s survival as well as that of the kids. All of this would be organised and enforced by a “Bishop” who would assign people to these practical marriages and make sure that they looked after each other properly. The Bishop would also allow children to move between families if they so choose, keeping the respective village trades alive. Such a union would only need to last when the female is between the ages of 14 and 40, after which the twosome could go their own ways. It would also add a real sense of purpose to a village’s citizens which is otherwise lacking.
While this method would require significantly more organisation than the current nursery system, it might prove better in the long run. Especially for larger settlements where simply doing any odd job that becomes available is no longer a practical way of doing things. Under this system a new player would be certain, from birth, what they were going to spend their life doing and their childhood would be used for being taught how to do it. If they had other ideas, then the Bishop could assign them to a different role.
However, it does come with its disadvantages. A lot of responsibility would be placed on the Bishop to remember everything and enforce the renegade husbands and wives who do not fancy helping each other or their children out, something that is particularly dangerous in this system where everyone is so reliant on each other. Each death would mean a whole reshuffling of the matchings and there is always the risk that there would be someone who slips through the wide holes in this system’s metaphorical net. Not easy to maintain, especially over successive generations. Yet maybe no harder than the original system. At least this one would be more interesting to be born into. For such an organised system, I would also advise the creation of a Town Square, a space where people can meet at the centre of the village to discus and learn about messages, rulings and hereditary shifts from the source of authority.
Also remember that such marriages would be made on a practical basis. Don’t marry people who will not work together at the trade they share, a hunter and a smithy won’t be able to raise a poet. And remember that parents have the responsibility to look after each other and their children, but if that fails then the community will need to step in to fill the gap until the Bishop can fix it up properly. Ask young children what their specialities (or lack of) are so to get trade assigning out of the way quickly. You might decide to combine the leader role with that of the Bishop, but I would advise against it for larger settlements. That’s just too much to expect one person to have to deal with.
Anyway, I hope this was useful. Good luck trying to actually make it work as I will.