Social Class & Family Station

Now that we know the circumstances, where does the character’s family fit into the greater framework of medieval society in general?

Scholars and theologians of the era described medieval society by means of the religious theory of the Golden Chain. This theory states that every thing and every one in the world has a right and proper appointed place and function or role to fill, according to the Divine Plan, and that everyone should know their place and function and stick to it. The constituents of medieval society are most earnestly concerned with maintaining the status quo. The world in is generally believed to be in its perfect form according to the Divine Will by those of the medieval era, simply in need of a little maintenance ­– otherwise would the divine mystics be sent to instruct? Between this popular theology and the practices of feudalism and the manorial signeurial system, society in the period of the game is divided and regimented.

The system of medieval social classes is based first and foremost upon three elements known as the “Three Estates”.

These are comprised of:

  • Those Who Fight (the nobles whose duty it is to defend the land and it’s people)
  • Those Who Pray (the clergy whose duty it is to care for the souls of the people)
  • Those Who Work (everyone else, whose duty it is to produce the food and goods that all must have to live).

The Three Estates are the broadest classifications of the social classes that determine one’s wealth and influence in society in the (medieval) fantasy gameworld.

This makes social class very simple, but there are some additional factors of importance that can significantly affect a character’s opportunities in career and skills. There is a great deal of difference in the way of life in the rural countryside and the society within the towns. The society of the towns is distinguished as a social arena with its own characteristics and singular set of opportunities. The humble Freeman Commoner origins, particularly those from a rural district, but including the rural districts surrounding towns and belonging to them for their support, represents the largest portion of any medieval era population, demographically.

The nobility comprise only 1%, members of the Clergy actually sworn to vows in the service of the Church only 2%, while Freeman Commoners specifically dwelling in towns account for only 10%. The landbound class accounts for 15-25% of the population from one shire (county) to the next, so this still leaves 72-83% as rural Freemen Commoners.

It is truly an agrarian world.

The Nobility and the Clergy of the period of the game must also deal with the growth of a class of wealthy freeman – wealthy franklins (large-scale farmers) often descended from cadet lines of knightly houses in the rural districts and the wealthy merchants and the institutions of their chartered towns, both members of the free commonalty who work and are beginning to wield great economic power. These can be seen in the breakdown of family stations within the classes. Land is wealth, and the nobility and the Church are the greatest landholders across the realms. Both the nobility and the Church maintain strong presences in the towns as well as circulating among their estates, the nobility especially in the capital of the realm and the chief shire towns where they hold lands so they can maintain access to the local royal courts and also in order to attend the monarch as a part of his court. Town-fiefs are jealously guarded among the nobles for the great amount of revenue they can provide.

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Quick Method

To determine Social Class, choose one of the three “Free” entries on table 2-6 that is noted as having “0” DP cost,

OR

Roll d100 on table 2-6.

  • IF you don’t like the result rolled on table 2-6, you can ask the GM if he is willing to allow “best out of three throws”, or you can always fall back to choosing one of the three default “Free” entries.

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Custom Method

The player of the Custom Method character continues spending the DP’s he has been allotted, purchasing Social Class on table 2-6, noting that only the Noble Class carries a DP cost.

  • The entries in parentheses marked with a “+” are rebates or bonuses added to the DP’s the player has left to spend, due to the fact that such a class is considered disadvantageous, hobbled by restrictions to freedom for adventuring that must somehow be overcome or explained away by the player.

  

2-6. Social Class

d100 DP’s Class Result
01 – 02 15 Noble (see 2-7.a)
03 Clergy, townlands (see 2-7.c)
04 – 05 Clergy, rural (see 2-7.c)
06 – 11 0 Free Townsman Commoner (see 2-7.d)
12 – 45 0 Free Rural Commoner (see 2-7.e)
46 – 55 0 Free Rural Commoner, townlands (see 2-7.e)
56 – 60 (+1) Landbound, Villein, townlands (see 2-7.f)
61 – 80 (+3) Landbound, Villein, rural (see 2-7.f)
81 – 82 (+6) Landbound, Bordar, townlands (see 2-7.f)
82 – 92 (+10) Landbound, Bordar, rural (see 2-7.f)
93 – 94 (+15) Landbound, Serf, townlands (see 2-7.f)
95 – 00 (+20) Landbound, Serf, rural (see 2-7.f)

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The percentages on the social class table, 2-1, reflect the demographics of medieval England as closely as could be determined from Domesday Book, and the balance of the Social Class and Family Station information provided here is similarly drawn from English sources, as that is the basis assumed for the setting.

Adaptations representing other (continental) cultures are planned to be provided in supplements to follow but, in the interest of depth and detail, only the English medieval culture is represented for the time being.

A Clergy connection in origins may well give the character a leaning towards formal education, appropriate for use with those characters taking on one of the Scholastic trades.

Half-elfs always come from rural backgrounds.

The specific class of a Landbound Commoner of the race of elfs is always treated as “Villein.” Elfin societies do not have any form of obligations of service lower than that. The restriction of freedoms to any greater degree would violate their most basic beliefs.

For any character of the Landbound class, the specific station of the lord to whom any Landbound Commoner family is bound is up to the GM’s to determine, and the GM’s to generate, as needed.

The “Class Result” entries on table 2-6 are linked to the descriptions of what the classes mean in terms of defining the strata of society in which the character grew up in the medieval gameworld, if you care to click through.

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Family Stations

Each of the social classes is, in turn, divided into a series of family stations, the specific level within the class that the character’s family occupies. The following tables embody the stations into which the character may be born. The player must understand that the station he chooses now is the level of society his PARENTS have achieved in life, under whose customs and morés he was raised, the level of society that recognizes the PC as one of their own. Knowing one’s place in the world is VERY important in the context of medieval gameworld society. If desired, the player may work his character into a position where his station may be improved, and perhaps in time, even his class. But such goals are for the long-term only, for characters the player is sure will be in regular play for some time.

The social class and specific station indicate the extent of the resources to be drawn on in getting started in life, on which he may call when he has exhausted what he has (so long as the family is willing), and what the character stands to inherit after his older male siblings have all passed away (non-humans may be subject to different inheritance traditions). Only in some cases will the character be expected to step in and assume control of the family estate/fortune after any other heirs are exhausted (i.e., noble/royal heritage), and those factors are completely under the player’s control here in the Background section, at least in regards to Custom Method characters. The Background options available to new characters, at least as a starting point, have been chosen to leave the character as much freedom as possible in the context of the medieval milieu to go and become whomever he wishes, to travel and pursue his own agenda and adventures rather than being tied to one locality in home and hearth and family obligations. But then again, adventuring in one’s own backyard can strengthen one’s value to the family, and can provide an opportunity to get to know and explore familiar territory and local society until the players come to know them intimately.

The craftsman station results direct the player to table 2-8, and may from there direct the player to the 2-8.a-g sub-tables. These are used to further refine the specific station results in regard to the family trade.

  • IF the player does not like the result rolled on table 2-9, he can ask the GM if he is willing to allow “best out of three throws”, or he can always fall back to choosing one of the three “Free” entries, as stated.

Alternately, the player might check with the GM to see if he can stop once Social Class has been determined and skip the rest of the background information to move on to Step 3 and the rest of Character Creation.

The point here is for the player to create a character that falls in line with his basic concept, but it is the GM’s task to provide a hedge against those players who are only interested in putting together as much of what can only be called an unfair advantage over not only the NPC’s of the gameworld but also his fellow PC’s.

  • IF the player is inclined to come back to it after the character has been brought into play, he should always check with the GM to see if it has already been taken care of. Either way, so long as the GM ends up with a copy of the information for his use. This background adds depth to the persona now and then in little but meaningful ways. Who knows? It may well even provide a plot element in an adventure at some later date.

The entries one the Station tables have been arranged from greatest to least by rank in social precedence, and so may be of use as a reference during play. This is a general rule that was followed in compiling them, however, in some cases, especially in regards to the Freeman tables, many of the entries grouped closely together may be equivalent in terms of social precedence.

It is not wise to press issues of precedence when roleplaying freemen PC’s among freeman NPC’s, as the waters are not so clear as among nobles or churchmen, between the classes from which the stations are derived (1st vs. 2nd vs. 3rd Estates).

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Those Who Fight

2-7.a The Nobility

d10

Noble Station Result

Monarch

Prince

1

Duke/Marquess*

2

Earl

3

Lord (Baron)

4-6

Knight (2-7.b for type)

7-8

Squire

9-10

Gentleman
(Outlaws)
Champion/Brigand
Knave/Assassin (see Notes)

* When this result is achieved an additional d20 is rolled. A result of 1 on the d20 will raise the station to Prince. Princes are not always in the immediate line of succession. Should the rank of Prince be indicated, an additional d20 may be rolled. A result of 1 will then raise the station to Monarch, putting the character in the immediate line of succession.

2-7.b The Lesser Nobility

d10

Lesser Noble Stations

2

Knight Banneret

2

Law-Worthy Knight, Miles Literatus

3

Law-Worthy Knight

4

Knight Huntsman or Beastmaster

5

Knight Bachelor

6

Knight in Sergeanty

7

Knight of the Bath, in service

8-9

Knight Simple

10

Knight of the Bath

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The “Noble Stations” entries on table 2-7.a are linked to the descriptions of what the individual stations mean in terms of defining the strata of society in which the character grew up in the medieval gameworld, if you care to click through.

All being related and based upon the same station (“knight”), the descriptions of what the individual stations mean in terms of defining the strata of society in which the character grew up in the medieval gameworld have all been gathered together so they can be easily compared, and the heading “Lesser Noble Stations” on table 2-7.b is linked to them.

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Those Who Pray

2-7.c The Clergy

d10

Clergy Stations

Archbishop (T)

Bishop (T)

1

Monsignor

2

Abbot/Prior ††

3

Pardoner (N)

4

Friar (N)

5

Priest/Monk, Noble Service ††

6

Priest/Monk, Religious House Service ††◊

7

Priest, Parish- /Chaplain/Rector/Vicar * (R)

8

Clerk of Minor Orders **††

9

Monk, Common brother ***††

10

Cloistered Monk/Priest ††

† When this result is achieved an additional d20 is rolled afterwards. A result of 1 on the d20 will raise the station to Bishop. While most bishops are resident in a cathedral and city over which they have lordship, a few get the benefit of the income of such a feofdom while not having to administer it (result of 1 on a d10). These are “suffragan” or itinerant bishops,  traveling about the realm on the business of the Church, often keeping company with an archbishop or the realm’s prelate when not traveling. Should the rank of Bishop be indicated, an additional d20 may be rolled. A result of 1 will then raise the station to Archbishop.

†† This indicates the GM will have to determine whether the character is attached to a rural house or a foundation in or close by one of the Towns.

* This indicates that the cleric has received at least one benefice, the church equivalent of a knight’s feof. Chantry and chaplain priests are often retained to minister specifically to the needs of a wealthy or noble household, maintaining a private family chapel, taken with them when they travel. Chapels and chantries can be found scattered over the towns and countryside, chantries especially being built on or hard by bridges. These are all founded by social and trade guilds for the ease of the souls of their deceased members.

** Indicates the cleric, while still able to plead benefit of clergy in dealing with secular authorities, has only ever been given first tonsure and ordained only in minor orders, conferred upon seminarians studying for the priesthood – first tonsure and ordination as either an acolyte, lector (who reads), ostiary (doorkeeper), or exorcist.

*** Indicates the cleric maintains his tonsure, and has undergone the three vows : Poverty to guard him against the deceits of the world; Chastity to guard him against the lusts of the flesh; Obedience to guard him against the snares of the Darkness.

Religious House Service refers to the religious house (abbey, priory) in which the NPC resides or to which he is attached or with which he is associated. This may also be interpreted to mean the household of one of the princes of the Church : abbot, bishop, archbishop, or even high prelate, (GM’s discretion.

(R) on any of the background tables indicates that the station indicated is tied to a rural environment.

(T) on any of the background tables indicates that the station indicated is tied a town environment, city if the reference is to clergy.

(N) indicates that the NPC is itinerant and tied neither to town or rural environments.

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The Clergy Station tables here are provided primarily for the GM’s use, for his NPC’s, but also in order that they be included in the process of determining class and station for illegitimate characters.

The “Clergy Stations” entries on table 2-7.c are linked to the descriptions of what the individual stations mean in terms of defining the strata of society they occupy in the medieval gameworld, if you care to click through.

Those in the Clergy are forbidden to marry in the period of the game. But those results indicating parents in the Clergy should not be discarded, but directed to describing absentee parents when they come up on the dice. Children of the Clergy by necessity are illegitimate, and will by necessity have to be raised elsewhere by others as convenient, whether blood relations or not. Neither can the clergyman or woman ever publicly acknowledge the child.

If a character’s siblings are old enough to follow trades of their own, it is quite possible that a sibling will be sent to the Church at least to take minor orders to attend University. Once in the Church, it is possible for the parent to benefit the child if he has a mind to.

In medieval Iceland the lands and titles of the Church were heritable. If the GM intends to make this practice widespread in the Domain of the Light in his own gameworld, he will need to make copies of the tables containing the Clergy entries available to the players.

The GM is cautioned to consider such a thing carefully.

The Church in medieval England held approximately one full third of the arable land in the country, putting the arch-bishops of the Church head to head with the kings on more than one occasion, and making jurisdiction at law a constant struggle. The “princes” of the Church had to provide their servicium debitum like any other enfeoffed lord as it was. By making the Church into an equally endowed Church-loyal parallel feudal nobility, holy civil war would seem inevitable.

When generating a clergyman, the GM will need to determine whether he or she is bound to town or rural religious service. A result of 1 on a d10 indicates duty to an establishment in a town or its immediate environs; otherwise he will serve in a rural foundation. This will indicate what class the parent originally hailed from. Those in religious houses in a town or its immediate environs are primarily drawn from among the wealthy free folk, while those in the rural houses come from among the nobility. The GM can take this as his cue for determining the station of any others involved in the rearing of his child. In the case of the rural nobility, the NPC will have a connection to some measure of privilege, influence, and/or wealth, but with no real day-to-day impact on the NPC’s life. In extraordinary circumstances (wedding, kidnapping, etc.) this link might prove useful, if the character has the social skills to convince his relatives to lend aid.

The GM is advised to generate a background in keeping with the general parameters of the rural or town religious foundations. This will dictate what recourse and resources the NPC will have to drag into the fray if the PC’s should go toe-to-toe with him. It will determine the social ramifications of tangling with him.

 

Those Who Work

2-7.d Free Townsmen Commoners

d20

DP’s

Commoner Station

1

36

Steward (Sheriff) or Mayor (Shire Government Service, or Town Government, GM’s discretion)

2

28

Alderman/Councilor (Town Government Service)

3

21

Affluent Merchant *

4

15

Lawyer-Attorney/Pleader/Solicitor

5

10

Affluent Craftsman

6

8

Courtier, Noble Service

7

6

Courtier, Local Government Service

8

3

Constable/Beadle/Sergeant

9

1

Merchant/Chapman *

10

0

Craftsman

11-12

0

Common Farmer, town-dependent district

13

(+1)

Journeyman

14-15

(+3)

Dayworker/Laborer **
    (Criminals)

16

(+6)

Cutpurse/Padfoot

17

(+10)

Draughlatch/Catburglar

18

(+10)

Trickster/Confidence Man

19

(+15)

Forger (smith or clerk)

20

(+21)

Fence (merchant)

 

2-7.e Free Rural Commoners

d20

DP’s

Commoner Station

1

28

Government Service (Shire, clerk or messenger)

2

21

Gentleman

3

15

Franklin

4

10

Scholar/Lawyer (C)

5

6

Courtier, Household Officer

6

3

Courtier, Household service

7

1

Chapman *

8-9

0

Yeoman/Common Farmer

10-11

0

Craftsman/Farmer ‡

12-13

(+1)

Household Servant

14-16

(+3)

Dayworker/Common Laborer **
    (Criminals)

17

(+3)

Vagabond/Entertainer

18

(+6)

Horsethief

19

(+10)

Roberdsman/Knave

20

(+15)

Brigand/Highwayman

2-7.f Landbound Commoners                 

d20

DP’s

Landbound Station

1

15

Household Officer (to local noble)

2

10

Steward/Bailiff (on noble estate)

3

6

Village Officer (in noble village)

4

10

Steward/Bailiff (on clergy estate)

5

6

Village Officer (in clergy village)

6-7

3

Farmer/Craftsman

8

1

Ploughman

9

1

Herdsman

10

1

Dairyman/Deye

11-13

0

Simple farmer

14-15

0

Household Servant (in local noble house)

16-17

0

Dayworker/Common Laborer **
    (Criminals/Outlaws)

18

(+2)

Roberdsman/Knave

19

(+4)

Brigand/Highwayman

20

(+5)

Vagabond/entertainer

* indicates the player must consult table 2-8.f, as follows, and determine the sorts of goods in which the character’s family usually deals. Results of “Merchant Adventurer” indicates no such specialty, the family will deal in all the goods from a number of ports regularly visited, either within the kingdom or abroad. The player may choose or roll.

indicates the player must (follow this link to) consult table 2-8. Commoner Crafts & Trades to determine the actual craft in which the character’s family is engaged, simply click through the link here or on any of the tables where it appears above.

** indicates the player will need to consult table 2-8.d Laborer stations to determine the type of labor in which the character’s father/family is engaged.

(R) on any of the background tables indicates that the station indicated is tied to a rural environment.

(T) on any of the background tables indicates that the station indicated is tied a town environment, city if the reference is to clergy.

(C) on any of the background tables indicate the station has a link to the church, usually only minor orders – first tonsure and ordination as either an acolyte, lector (who reads), ostiary (doorkeeper), or exorcist, of which Acolyte is the highest in prestige. This generally has to do with the head of the household having attended a church-run institution of higher learning in training for his livelihood.

(N) indicates that the NPC is itinerant and tied neither to town or rural environments.

The descriptions of what the individual stations mean in terms of defining the strata of society in which the character grew up in the medieval gameworld are all relatively brief, so they have been gathered together for each of the Commoner stations tables 2-7.d, 2-7.e and 2-7.f  so they can be easily compared, if you care to click through the links at the heads of the tables.

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Results of “Household Service”, “Household Officer”, or “Steward/Bailiff” indicate that the parent works in the employ of a lord who happens to hold property in the same area or in the household itself for some lord whose honour (the primary residence from which he runs his estates) is in the area. The information to determine the nature of service or the household department, is provided for the GM’s convenience under the heading “PC’s & NPC’s In Service”, starting the “Sphere of Service” table, and the extents of the households and names of the positions of the officers are discussed starting from the top with the King’s Household under “Offices and Officers of Medieval Royal Government”, simply click through these links.

The GM must return to table 2-7.a to determine the specific station of the lord being served.

IF noted as “Crown” or “Gov’t” in nature, it refers to the household of the ruling monarch, his wife the queen, or one of his children, the royal princes or princesses in the immediate acknowledged line of succession.

All criminals are considered rootless unless they maintain a dual existence, in which they maintain their old lives and conceal their criminal lives. Such social misfits are forsaken by the Church, all lumped together with the rootless, lordless roaming entertainers in the minds of the people. It is recommended that the criminal background options be taken ONLY if the player plans on creating a character that he wishes to have access to that social sphere, in addition to those skills. Ties to a criminal family or parent can make the character’s life VERY difficult if it should become common knowledge.

IF the player does not like the result rolled on table 2-7, he can once again ask the GM if he is willing to allow “best out of three throws”, OR he can fall back to the Common Farmer, Yeoman/Common Farmer, Craftsman, or Craftsman/Farmer default results (as applicable by table). When it comes to determining the exact trade or specialty of a craftsman or merchant tables 2-11 and 2-12, the GM should be willing to allow him to pick.

The craftsman station results direct the player to table 2-8 Commoner Crafts & Trades, as follows, and may from there direct the player to the 2-8.a-g sub-tables. These are used to further refine the specific station results in regard to the family trade.

IF the player wants his character to be skilled in a particular trade or craft, he should go ahead and make the one favored for the character the same as that practiced by his father/family to show continuity in the family line, typical medieval tradition. This will give the character a distinct bonus to his degree of skill when being brought into play, as well. It will make the PC’s career path and progression in the mysteries of the craft easier, providing a distinct bonus to his level of skill at the start of play, if the player stipulates here that he is following in his father’s footsteps this way.

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The entries one the Station tables have been arranged from greatest to least by rank in social precedence, and so may be of use as a reference during play. This is a general rule that was followed in compiling them, however, in some cases, especially in regards to the Freeman tables, many of the entries grouped closely together may be equivalent in terms of social precedence.

It is not wise to press issues of precedence when roleplaying freemen PC’s among freeman NPC’s, as the waters are not so clear as among nobles or churchmen, between the classes from which the stations are derived (1st vs. 2nd vs. 3rd Estates).

Alternately, the player might check with the GM to see if he can stop once Social Class has been determined and skip the rest of the background information to move on to Step 3 and the rest of Character Generation.

The point here is for the player to create a character that falls in line with his basic concept, but it is the GM’s task to provide a hedge against those players who are only interested in putting together as much of what can only be called an unfair advantage over not only the NPC’s of the gameworld but also his fellow PC’s.

IF the player is inclined to come back to it after the character has been brought into play, he should always check with the GM to see if it has already been taken care of. Either way, so long as the GM ends up with a copy of the information for his use. This background adds depth to the persona now and then in little but meaningful ways. Who knows? It may well even provide a plot element in an adventure at some later date.

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All Class and Station results initially determined for origins/background describe the family by whom the character was actually raised, regardless of whether he is legitimate or illegitimate, and those results used as a guide for determining the station of the character’s true (absentee) parent(s) by birth

  • IF illegitimate, social class and station must be determined for both parents, who are likely to hail from very different social circumstances, or the character would likely have been born legitimate.
  • IF raised by someone other than the birth parent(s) (as applicable), regardless of the reason behind it, social class and station will need to be determined for the foster family or institution as well as the birth parents.

The player should be allowed to determine all origin and background information with which his character is acquainted. All background information that a character lacks, as decided by the player, the GM must generate and keep in trust in case the PC should discover it later, over the course of his adventures. 

The GM should note that he must be careful to conceal from the players all information concerning their characters of which those characters are ignorant, to maintain the integrity of any secrets that the player may feel compelled to search out the truth of later on, during game play. This is far easier to accomplish with those players who allow the GM to fill in the majority of background details for them.