Thursday, June 27, 2019

Societal Castes - A Status System

               In many societies one’s place within that society is tightly governed. People tend to naturally know who is above and below them in the social structures of life. For most, this is a ridged caste system that has little flexibility, but for adventurers and heroes the system is a bit more elastic. All Status radiates down from the top. The rulers of great nations are at the top, and everyone else falls into a place all the way down to the beggars on the street. This is an attempt to apply a mechanic to that social structure and have it reflected in game. A person is expected to show deference to a person of higher Status, the wider the gap in Status, the more deference is expected. 

               Status is measured as a number up to 15, which reflects someone’s tiered position. The supreme monarch of a land, and only the supreme monarch, has the Status of 15. Character’s Status is reflected by their current level, up to level 9. This represents the culmination of reputation for the deeds they achieved and the respect that has been earned. Status beyond nine can only be acquired via money and position. Status cannot exceed 14, unless you are a supreme monarch of an area. Below is a list of positive modifiers.
  • +1 for maintaining a monthly lifestyle of 500GP+
  • +1 Minor Nobility, Local Positon, or Commendation 
  • +1 Holy Man or Monk
  • +2 Middle Nobility, County Position, or Commendation
  • +3 High Nobility, Regional Position, or Commendation
  • +3 Revered Religious Figure or Sect Leader
  • +4 Monarch Court Position, or High Commendation
  •  Misc. Modifiers the GM perceives as important

               PCs are one of the few people in most societies that can adjust their Status in life. Most people and almost all NPCs are born with the same Status as their parents, and they will pass that Status to their children. GMs should assign an appropriate Status to NPCs based on their role in the campaign. A general guideline is that everyday people should range from 1 - 4, respected local officials range between 5 - 9, and nobility range between 10 - 14.

Most monsters will not respect Status, but the Djinn are a different case.

               Whenever a person of lower Status is acting on behalf of someone of higher Status their words and actions hold more social weight. When someone of lower Status directly acts at the request of someone with higher Status, their Status will increase to half of the higher Status (rounded up) plus 1. If this would actually lower the person’s Status, just make it a flat plus 1 bonus. This might sound confusing so I will provide a few examples.

Example #1: The lowly Status 1 guard is going to arrest a local noble who has a Status of 7. The guard is acting under direct orders from the Sultan’s Vizier who is Status 14. The guard will have temporary status equal to 8 (Half the Vazier’s Status 7 plus 1 equals 8). Normally the guard would be expected to show great deference to the local noble, but when representing the Vizier he can speak with more authority.

Example #2: The Status 14 Vizier is requesting that an old friend of his, Sahib Rasheed, to take a contingent of guards and arrest the local noble. Sahib Rasheed’s Status is 11. Since half the Vizier’s Status plus 1 is only 8, and his is naturally higher, Sahib Rasheed just adds the plus one to his own Status for the time being. While acting under the Vizier’s orders Sahib Rasheed’s Status is effectively 12.
               Status is a mechanic that should mostly be roleplayed, but for PCs it can have mechanical weight. Whenever a PC makes a reaction check with an NPC, subtract the NPC’s Status from the PCs and have that as a modifier for the roll, whether positive or negative. The GM has discretion on when/how this is used. If the PCs have a low Status, but are staying as guests in a noble’s home Status the mechanic might not be needed. If the PCs are threatening a person of higher Status, or testifying in court against them, then the mechanic will certainly play into the proceedings. 

Money and Status has its advantages.

               It would not be far from historic precedent to have different codes of law and punishments for people of different Status ranks. Nobles might have the right to not be accused of a crime by people significantly below them. They might have the right to trial by combat, or to only be put to death by beheading. On the other side of the coin, those of significant Status might not be allowed to associate with people significantly below them, or to travel into certain areas of the city without notice. Certain marriages might be forbidden due to a gap in status between the couple. Certain articles of clothing, or even certain colors might be forbidden. The owning of certain items might be illegal unless one is of a certain Status.
               Status can be lost in one of two ways; being convicted of a major crime or losing all of one’s wealth. Status cannot go below 1, unless the person falls prey to one of these conditions. The first, conviction of a major crime, is subjective to the setting and for the GM to have final word. What is a major crime in one area, might be a rather pedestrian offense in another. Losing all of one’s wealth, and being deeply in debt can rob you of all station in life. Becoming a beggar on the streets is one of the simplest ways for a society to completely overlook you. Once the character has paid down their debt, and “reestablished” themselves their Status can be restored. In either of these cases, the person in question Status is reduced to zero. 
               Being a stranger in a strange land can also effect status, in that your status is always considered one less than a native in a similar position. Thus, a 3rd level foreign born fighter, would only have a Status of two.  Even with this rule though, foreign born people cannot go below one Status, without being convicted of a major crime, or becoming penniless. 

My Dad was not happy with my major.
               I think some people will say, "Why bother with these rules, this should be purely roleplay." Which I agree to an extent, but you make a mechanic for something in order to emphasize it. These structures in life are real, but often in RPGs are ignored. My undergrad degree is in Sociology, and I taught it for several years. You cannot get away from the three P's of Sociology in a society; Power, Prestige, and Privilege. I think that the Status mechanic is a crude representation of all these, but one that can actually work in the structure of this type of game.


  1. I like it! My campaign gives interaction the same weight as combat. They roll Charisma/Intelligence/Wisdom as often as an attack roll. I agree that mechanics are useful for emphasizing the importance of certain aspects of the game world. To me, strictly roleplaying leads to directionless chatter and goofing off. Every time the character wants something, whether it's information or a favor or something like that, they roll, and then it's the next player's turn. Your mechanic adds the importance of a person's clout.

  2. Thank you for the compliment. Yes, if you want it to be an emphasis on your game, tie a mechanic to it.

  3. This is very helpful. One of the nations in my world has the wear clothing colored to their station. The nation is controlled by a LE Succubus, who is very open about what she is. Her favorite color is purple and only she and her children my wear it. Death is the reward for defying this. This will help me for working out the PC's place mostly, I have yet have anything from there but they have visited. Thank you for this.

  4. You're welcome, glad you enjoy it.