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I'm running a Pathfinder (think Dungeons and Dragons) campaign, and I'm creating a country which has a centralized government that is responsible for many major cities, ports, etc throughout the country.

The world itself is your typical fantasy setting with medieval-esque technology and creatures. Typically in these settings, you don't see a centralized government running a country, but instead, each city is a kingdom of its own, ruled by a king.

I want to make the government play an important role in the daily lives of its people such that the quality of living in this country is much greater than living in other, non-centralized parts of the world. However, the only service I can think of offering on a country-wide level is a form of "public transportation" -- caravans accompanied by country guards that travel from city to city in order to offer safe journeys to merchants and travelers within the country.

What other services could be offered by a centralized government in this setting that would significantly increase the quality of living for its citizens?

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    $\begingroup$ Most medievel countries in the real world had countries (with multiple cities) ruled by a king...then lesser rulers (Barons, Dukes, Earls, etc) running the smaller parts of the country. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jan 23 '15 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB I've never seen that in a fantasy setting. Kings rule countries, sure but usually the king's city is huge, with a castle and large market, while the rest of the country is little nothing-villages. I don't know anything about history, though. Either way I'm just wanting the king's influence to be clearly visible to my players. $\endgroup$ – EFrog Jan 23 '15 at 9:14
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    $\begingroup$ Related to "public transportation," consider roads $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Jan 23 '15 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Efrog - there's been numerous historical empires and countries with more than one city. Just look at Rome for instance. $\endgroup$ – CoolCurry Jan 25 '15 at 22:40
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Law enforcement

Specifically, the state would protect the commoners from abuse by the nobility. This would allow more wealth at the bottom which would allow a more diverse and inclusive economy, which would help create a healthy middle class or artisans and merchants. State would also keep kings roads safe from brigands and "tolls" by local strongmen, allowing more trade. Better law enforcement would reduce level of corruption allowing businesses to succeed on their merits which in the long run improves economic efficiency.

Food management

Local famines used to be relatively common. A strong state could secure the food supply to protect population from such. This would improve agricultural productivity. It would also allow the agriculture be more diverse, which would increase trade.

Stability

Increased stability promotes investing in the projects that need a longer time to be productive. This would typically include infrastructure such as harbors, roads, mines, dams, irrigation systems and so on. Building more of those obviously improves future productivity. Increased stability also reduces the risks of lending money, which lowers interest rates, and makes all investments cheaper to make.

Regulation

Within reason people who do not die in building collapses, fires, or epidemics from tainted water sources or food are more productive than people who do. Even after you account for the cost of regulation. Same goes for many workplace regulations. Employees without rights are cheap and you can make them work hard, but only make the owner rich. Employees with rights make the entire community wealthier and more productive.

Just some examples. Should get you started in thinking up examples that work for your campaign.

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    $\begingroup$ "people who do not die... are more productive than people who do", I'm framing that. $\endgroup$ – Black Jan 25 '15 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Merchants don't have an incentive to kill their customers. If they do, they will find themselves out of business very quickly. $\endgroup$ – Chloe Jan 25 '15 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Chloe Not sure what you are referring to. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Jan 26 '15 at 7:30
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Water

Aqueducts and other engineering projects to bring clean water into the cities. For the money, that will bring the biggest bang for the gold piece in terms of public health and welfare.

Sewer

Similar projects to get waste out of the city, to help prevent outbreaks of disease.

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Infrastructures:

if we consider the construction and the maintenance of large infrastructures as a service, yes this is a great way to improve the life of the people. The canals help the economy by linking different regions and can also be used for irrigation. Road also facilitate transportation. Building and maintaining a transportation system is something hard to do with a decentralized government.

Education and art:

Under peace, a centralized government can invest in education and the arts. They build institutions accessible mostly for the nobility. The number of places are limited because the state probably can't afford to educate everyone. Who can enter? is all up to you, you don't have to limit it to the nobility.

Most centralized governments also promote the arts. This can be seen as a service like it is today. Some civilizations considered a proficient artist to be as equally important as an educated person. They could open arts academy or simply finance the artists at the courts or create national contest to promote creativity.

Security:

Building and maintaining defensive structures to prevent invasions. While decentralized states can also do that, it lacks coherence. It must be considered as a system taking in consideration the fortresses and the armed forces.

Social security:

This might seems uprising but to some extend, it's possible to have some measures even in medieval times. The Tang dynasty used to provide aid to the homeless in the capital. This could also be extended to help other people like the poorest or the very old. Old persons were very vulnerable : with no pension systems most had to work til their death even if their health was bad. Your state could provide help to these needy people without ruining himself.

If you have a professional army, you could consider helping the families of fallen soldiers. Not only it helps the people affected but it also help to improve the prestige of the army as an institution. With better conditions, your likely to attract the good talents.

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Coins:

Many role playing games use generic "gold pieces", but different kingdoms would have different coins and accept foreign currency from traders only at a discount. The central government will be different. Also, they'll go after counterfeiters.

Measures:

All towns will have the same bushel, foot, or pound. Again a boon for traders.

Possibly a Postal Service:

Messengers or coaches going from town to town on a regular schedule, supervised by the government to make sure they're mostly honest.

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