You often see lists of random towns with everything from hamlets to cities run in all ways: monster theocracies to run of the mill monarchs, and everything in between, except for anything without a government. Well, I suppose they are included, unless you mean the crazy, violence filled ‘anarchy’ a la Mad Max. As an anarchist myself, I do have to say that this is more than a little inaccurate. Let me blur the line between anarchy and gaming a little bit.
This is a form of anarchy I should know the best and understand the most. I will be trying to present this from a fresh angle so I do not give too biased or rosey a picture. Let me attempt to cover this type of anarchic town from the same perspective as all the others.
The people that live here long ago realized that beaurocrats and nobles were the least responsive and most abusive. It was the local shopkeepers, hard working merchants, and regular folk that had the most to gain from helping and being kind. Whether it was a violent revolt or a peaceful disbanding, the government disappeared and has since been replaced by completely private and voluntary interactions.
The town’s ‘laws’ are based on private arbitration between dispute resolution companies. These companies are set up to voluntarily bind people to the generally accepted rules of conduct like not murdering or stealing. Those that violate have their punishments, as well as the systems of judging, enshrined in a contract they agreed to. Breaking a contract is a dangerous thing to do here, as it makes it hugely unlikely that one can get any other party to offer a new one, except at a steep premium. Starving criminals and scoff-laws of house, food, and even water. Most citizens are not afraid to defend themselves. Citizens are wary of anyone without any sort of contract stating agreement to common law.
The economy will be a varied mix of small and large businesses. Companies here will often re-invent themselves and the whole town is innovating towards best serving their customers. This has resulted in a lot of diversification of every manner of service, however the vast majority of this is directed at those just poor enough to have money to spend but not much in the way of taste.
Organization on a larger scale takes place between neighborhood, block, and land owners coordinating through magical contracts to fund mutually beneficial projects. Some of these even offer to pay for crime protection services for those too poor to afford them in order to keep crime low in their property. The wealthy often seek to absolve their guilty consciences before death, granting portions of their estates to fund orphanages and homeless shelters in town.
While the word capitalist would lend the idea that the architecture and stylings would be gaudy and expensive, the town is usually quite the opposite. Without tax subsidies and free land usually granted to the wealthy in other societies, grand buildings are too expensive to be commonplace. Buildings will be well designed and easy on the eyes, due to the need to please the desires of tenants, but only gaudy or opulent for the most successful innovators with high profits and little fear of competition in the short term while their competitors catch up. Most places are trying to find a balance between the appearance of good design and expense and the actual cost of the building.
Everyone here is looking to get a quick buck, but most of them realize that the only way to do that is by providing value to someone. This leads to people falling over themselves to help others. Usually this means offering a free service that is then offered to be continued for a fee.
Anarcho-capitalist towns make no alliances, as they have no one who could claim the power to speak for everyone in town. While this could seem to make them easy targets, the lack of authority also means an expensive occupation for any conqueror. Any would be ruler must thereby setup their own tax collection, resource extraction, and policing over a very hostile and armed population. Trade and social events are the main relationships that an anarcho-capitalist town will maintain with its neighbors. Often, these towns and cities will be left alone both for the cost of invasion and the benefit their trade will bring. Anarcho-capitalists hope to use this trade leverage to slowly work their fellow common-folk away from their oppressive governance.
If you are looking for innovative, interesting, or cheap goods, look no further. These towns will have the most impressive marketplaces, the most niche shops, and very grand festivals. People here are free and take full advantage of their liberty.
There are good jobs to be had here. Lots of valuable goods come in and out, looking for protection, sellers, buyers, and raw materials hunters. Magistrates here will often contract out evidence discovery and for help in retrieving scoff-laws. Take care not to get involved in disputes, as it may make the party liable to the litigant.
d6 Encounters in an anarcho-capitalist town
1. Insurance Salesman! A press-gang of insurance salesmen wait near the gate, and seeing the new faces of the party peddle their wares. The players are offered over a dozen different policies at varying prices and durations, but the salesmen are all talking over each other. Soon they start to get rough and a fist fight breaks out. A peace officer eyes them while chuckling to himself.
2. An unscrupulous litigant runs into the party and fabricates a claim of offense on the party. He is willing to settle out of court for a small fee. If the players complain or begin to investigate, enough people will come forward to finally convince a magistrate to get rid of the jerk. The players can get charged a small fee or make a moderate fee in reparations from the magistrate.
3. An orphan who takes advantage of outsiders’ opinions of capitalism crawls to the party in dirty rags. Begging for food, water, and coin, the attractive young woman is pulling one over on the party. If they come to the town often, they may see her in fancy clothes and drinking expensive wines at the taverns in town at night. She may attempt to bolster her story of the town’s uncharitable nature by showing how little regard the townsfolk give for her, saying they claim she isn’t really poor and just doesn’t want to work.
4. A well heeled young man sees the wealth the players are carrying and demands proof of ownership. If they hesitate or blow him off, he will fetch a peace officer claiming they stole from him. He assumes out-of-towner’s will be unfamiliar with the system and will settle for reparations when brought in front of a magistrate. Contested with actual proof, he will break down. He is actually just a desperate business owner looking to stay afloat after his cobbling business started getting out-competed by another cobbler across the street that grows shoes on trees.
5. Peddling from a garishly purple cart, a snake oil salesman is offering a miracle tonic that will heal wounds, improve beauty, lengthen your life, or sharpen your wits. His claims are actually true and if the players do not act quickly he will be sold out soon. His prices are high, but reasonable for what is offered. The tonic can do any of those things but each use can only do one at a time; whichever the imbiber wants most when drank. If the players come around often, he will offer to hire adventurers to gather more raw materials for the next batch in return for some tonics.
6. Players come up on a going out of business sale, where a frumpy old woman sells the last of her goods out of her old adventuring goods store while a gleaming young woman inspects the store with new signage under one arm. The old woman rests comfortably behind the counter, counting up her retirement savings. The players found it right as the sale started, so the prices are good and most things are still in stock.