Society has predominantly been divided into two classes, the nobility and the servants. Recent growth of cities and of the merchant classes has created a middle class and as such social structures are settling into three social classes: upper class, middle class and lower class.
Each of these groups has its own ethics, ideals, and etiquette. There are also certain advantages and disadvanteges that come with being a member of each group.
Race has some bearing on one’s initial place socially and one people’s initial assumptions, but there is usually some degree of latitude (particularly for PCs). Initially beastmen, halflings, orcs, and ogres begin in the lower class and it is almost unheard of for them to be members of the upper class. Initially dragonborn and elves are born into the upper class (exceptions exist). Clockwork men are initially created as bound servants owned by a person or group. As in all things PCs are exceptions. There are some countries where this racial breakdown is different (Kislev for example has Beastmen in the noble upper class and elves in the lower class as a general rule), but the above is true for the Empire and the majority of countries.
For all the prejudice that one class might evidence against another, each class is proud of its own self. Thus the lower class does not think less of itself because it is called the lower class, they rightly recognize that the countries would not function if they didn’t do their jobs and they are proud of the work they do. Similarly each of the other classes is proud of being who they are.
Upper Class Characters
The upper class is an extension of the medieval nobility, an extension of the nobles and the peerage combined with the wealthiest of the middle class that have elevated themselves to near nobility. They include the royalty, the nobility (both landed and landless), the idle rich, military officers, and the church leadership. A few members of the upper class start businesses or other enterprises, but this is considered somewhat beneath them and instead of a career most will instead take up a hobby such as science, sorcerery or adventuring.
The upper class have many privilages and assets but they also have greater responsibilities than the lower classes. Tradition dictatates that the first-born son takes control of the estates and businesses of the family, the second born son take a command in the military, and any further sons get a guilded education and/or enter the clergy. In the Empire, womenfolk do not typically inherit the family estate or business but otherwise will follow a similar expectation with the education typically being in the arts.
Within the upper class there are three strata (or four depending on how your define things). The first is the nobility. The nobility do not work per se though they do serve their country in their position (King, Queen, Prince, Duke, Marquis, Viscount, Earl, Baron, Baronet, and Knight). A subgroup of the nobility is the royalty which are those nobles who are in line for the throne. The second group is the squires. Thes are not titled nobility, but are from families with a recognized family crest and who have land. The lowest and largest sub-group of upper class is the gentry. A gentleman has many meanings but all acknowledge that it is not just good manners and caring about the welfare of others. Such a person also has at least one of the following: from a family with a recognized coat of arms; a degree from a recognized university; perform a recognized profesion (doctor, lawyer, clergy and accountant are the most common); or are a Justice of the Peace.
The upper class have untold wealth and it is they who sponsor the military, the government, and colonial expansions. They also sponsor the arts and magical and scientific innovations.
The upper classes own the world, they are better than any of the other classes, and blue blood, breeding, money, and power are the whetstones of upper class society.
- Money is an ugly subject to bring up in polite conversation
- Education is wasted upon a woman.
- The middle classes are trying their best to ape your breeding.
- The lower classes are nothing but sloths and crooks, which is why they have so little
- Religion is fine provided that the preacher gives you the respect that your heritage deserves.
- Marriage is for securing the bloodline. Marriages are usually arranged to ensure breeding quality – many men consider it to be an instituion which only applies to the woman, and which is best entered with a mistress waiting
- Honor is the mainstay of society (maintaining a facade of honor, that is…)
Middle Class Characters
The middle class characters provide professional and entrepreneurial skills for society, those skills that the lower class can’t master and the upper class would rather not have to deal with. These are the professional tradesmen and guildsmen. This class has only recently become a significant force within society. In the past there were odd individuals here and there who represented this class, but it has only been within the last hundred years or slightly more that the class as a group has come into existence. These are the doctors, lawyers, tailors, tinkerers, enlisted soldiers, shopkeepers, craftsmen, adventurers, bankers, lesser clergy, guilded wizards and other academics, and so on.
In the middle class, men are expected to take up a trade or busines that will keep the family in good repute and keep their dependents in the manner to which they are accustomed. The middle classes include educated people who are not members of the gentry. This is particularly true of semi-professional people such as writers, journalists, and school teachers. Women are expected to marry and produce an heir as soon as possible, just like those in the upper classes. But many young women also hold positions as clerks and secretaries.
A common vocation amongst the lower middle classes is missionary work. While the Universal Church of Truth has been in existance for ages now, there are still many who either do not know of its teachings or who cling to the old ways so the church trains and sends out missionaries to evangalize.
Middle class characters have a good balance of privilages and assets and no great burdons of responsibility. They have decent access to both other levels of society. In the middle class, how much money you make is an indicator of your success.
The middle clas do not have the huge resources of the upper classes, bu theare not poor, and often have enough money to employ servents within their homes (typically one housekeeper or butler and one maid or footman).
If the upper classes own the world, then the middle classes run it. They have maintained their status by innovation, hard work, and often, a little luck.
- Money makes the world go around, the discussion of its use is alway of interest.
- Education is a wonderful thing, but most women are too frail to deal with a full education.
- The upper classes gave you or your predecessors the initial backing to obtain the wealth that you now possess, they may have a heritage, but your family supports itself now and lives just as well as you ned.
- The lowwer classes live in squalor. It is shameful to see, and if any struck you as honest then you would gladly help them out of the gutter as best you could.
- You always attend church, the Universal Church of Truth preaching is very important to you, for you it defines civilization.
- Marriages are usually arranged, most consider marriage to be a sacred institution, not to be taken lightly. The most important things for a middle class marriage are the prospects of the husband to be and the dowry that can be provided by the bride’s father.
- Honor is an idea to be respected and adhered to.
Lower Class Characters
The lower class are those in the rural areas who are either serfs or freemen and in urban areas freemen or sometimes indentured servants who are the workers the ones who get things done. The lower class is the manual labor force for society. They are all the people not born into wealth. The are a hard working class that prides itself on being the backbone of society. They are miners, farmers, factory workers, servants, conscripted soldiers, and all sorts of unsavory professions (thieves, prostitutes, assassins, poachers, thugs, raiders).
In the lower classes, men make a meager living by doing whatever they can. Some vocation are for life, such as mill workers, but other are temporary where a casual laborer might work for a couple weeks or maybe just a day until the next job appears. Often women of the lower classes have to work as well. This is scandle to the upper and middle classes as it suggests that the family cannot look after her otherwise. Her potential desire to improve herself or help her family is immaterial. Many (especially in the cities) have to supplement their incomes by street vending or prostitution. In rural areas, young women and girls are typically found working the fields along with the menfolk. Once married, they are responsible for the home and bringing up the family and educating the children.
Rural life is less harsh for the lower classes in some ways. There is less crime and vice than in the cities.
Lower class characters typically don’t get a lot of privilages or assets, but not much is expected of them other than doing their job which they do with gusto. Another advantage of most lower class individuals is anonymity. No one notices the lower classes or pays them much attention or cares what their names are (unless they start comitting crimes then the constables are trying to get your name). But even then if a lower class character is spotted, eyewitnesses will have paid him little attention and reply, “Well he was a ruffian of course, they all look the same”
A lower class man has no resources to speak of; neither have his friends (unless they are criminals). Not many people do have resources on the poverty line.
The lower classes make up the manual and military labor force of the civilized world. They are downtrodden by all, and the majority actually struggle to survive on an “honest” wage.
- Money is hard to make, there’s no point in talking about it when you should be earning it.
- Education sounds wonderful, you wish that you could afford it.
- The upper classes are pt above you for a reason, it’s always been that way, and it alway will be. It’s not for you to question the likes of the aristocracy.
- The middle classes are no better than you really, no matter how little they like it with their high and mighty airs.
- You always attend church when you can; it is a solace in a hard life.
- Marriage between two folk in love is a wonderful thing, but not something to be taken lightly.
- Honor is fine for those who can afford it; you just try to be honest.
Interacting With Other Social Classes
Characters have no difficulty interacting with NPCs within their own social class. However, when interacting with an individual from a different social class they have disadvantage on any social checks.
If a PC lives in a lifestyle that is appropriate to the social class for the previous session then they avoid the disadvantage check during the current session. For example, if Byron is from the middle class but knows that he has a meeting with Lord Halfred next month he decides that he is going to pay for a Aristocratic lifestyle this month so that next session he will be able to avoid the upper class penalty.
Sometimes there may be an NPC that will be unapproachable if you are not from the correct social class. For example, the king may be unavailable to anyone not from the upper class (regardless of the diplomacy roll or the threat at hand), you will just have to speak to one of his advisors and the chamberlain will relay the message. Similarly, the king of beggars may not trust anyone not from the lower classes and might refuse to speak to anyone to mighty for him.
|Society||Lifestyle (Monthly Cost)|
|Upper||Aristocratic (300 gp)|
|Middle||Modest (30 gp), Comfortable (60 gp), or Wealthy (120 gp)|
|Lower||Wretched (free), Squalid (3 gp), or Poor (6 gp)|
If a person does not come from a class and has not spend their time living a lifestyle, they can attempt a disguise to appear as a member of another social class. The disadvantage to doing this versus living the lifestyle is that the person exposed to the disguise has a chance to see through the disguise whereas the lifestyle is not an act and can’t be seen through.
There are no school laws passed by any countries yet, so educatoin must be bought by anyone wanting it for their children. This means that the working classes are primarily uneducated. Some are educated and literate, either from parental tutelage or from the efforts of charitable institutions, but literacy among the masses is rare.
All upper or middle class children are educated. This normally takes the form of a governess through infancy (0-6 years) and then a chapel school for 7-11 year old children. At age 11 or 12, children are sent to boarding school until the age of 16. Those with the aptitude carry on their education at university, usually for 3 years, and finish their education at the age of 19. Some pursue degrees or doctorates.
Children are gender segregated throughout education, usually in gender-specific schools.
The Fairer Sex
Upper and middle class women are treated as ornaments. Their first duty is to marry and their second to give birth. They are expected to be shy, naive, elegant, and well spoken, and to be found lacking in any of these traits is disaster for a young woman. Often it mans being sent to an asylum, a distant relative, or sometimes simply being sold into the gutter ot of sight to avoid social embarrassment.
In the Empire, no woman can own property. Before marriage her father owns it, after marriage, all her property passes to her husband. In the unlikely event of a divorse, the husband has every right to throw his wife out onto the street, as any property owned is his.
Generally, society considers women to be less intelligent, more emotional, and much frailer then men. This is, of course, rubbish. Granted, many women have been known to faint quite often, but this is due to a tight corset restricting breathing rather than any innate frailty. Sadly, it should be pointed out that not only men but also many women believe this prejudice. Plenty of women allow it to limit them, convinced of the truth of it. However, others have used it to their advantage, creating a façade of respectability to pursue secret desires and adventures. Given the prejudice shown women by society, no one would even consider such a thing possible. If her secret life were discovered, her accusers would assume a man was behind it all. Many a clever female criminal mastermind will line up such a man just in case she needs a patsy.
You may be wondering why we’re putting all this stuff about sexism and racism in the game. It’s possibly controversial and certainly politically unpopular – that’s why it’s here. The game is a game about revolution; corrupt laws and the bitter taste of a corrupt society’s values. Player characters are among the rare individuals who see society for what it is. Without all this stuff about sexism, exploitation, class stigma and poverty there isn’t much to fight against – so use it as intended and fight the good fight against it!