Thursday, July 28, 2016

Social Level for Old School RPGs

Social level indicates a character’s overall status in society. Members of a family share the same social level, and a character generally retains his social level throughout his life. It is possible, however, to gain or lose social level based on significant changes in circumstances, such as being granted a title or estate, losing land, being stripped of a title, or being convicted of a serious crime. Changes to social level are at the discretion of the referee.

A character’s social level determines his general social class and his specific rank or title. The social level money multiplier is applied to a character’s starting money (base 30-180 groats) and his minimum monthly upkeep cost (base 10 groats). Social level affects NPC reactions at the referee’s discretion.

Social Level Table

Social Level
Social Class
Rank or Title
Money Multiplier
0
Slave
n/a
1/8
1
Serf
Cottager
1/4
2
Serf
Cottager
1/4
3
Serf
Half-villein
1/2
4
Serf
Half-villein
1/2
5
Serf
Villein
1
6
Serf
Villein
1
7
Plebeian
Laborer or tenant farmer
1
8
Plebeian
Laborer or tenant farmer
1
9
Plebeian
Guildsman or yeoman
1
10
Plebeian
Guildsman or yeoman
1
11
Plebeian
Wealthy guildsman or yeoman
2
12
Plebeian
Wealthy guildsman or yeoman
2
13
Patrician
Gentry: knight or esquire
2
14
Patrician
Gentry: baron
4
15
Patrician
Aristocrat: viscount
6
16
Patrician
Aristocrat: count
8
17
Patrician
Aristocrat: duke or marquis
10
18
Patrician
Aristocrat: prince
12
19
Patrician
Royalty: king
14
20
Patrician
Royalty: emperor
16

Social Classes

The main division in society is between serfs (bondsmen; SL 1-6), plebeians (freemen; SL 7-12), and patricians (nobles; SL 13-20). Serfs are tied to the land they work, and may only leave with their lord’s permission, while plebeians are not so bound. Patricians bear titles and own estates (with associated feudal dues) passed down from parents to children, while serfs and plebeians lack such titles and estates.

Serf (Bondsman): Serfs are peasant farmers bound to a particular manor. They are required to render services to the lord of the manor, which vary based on local custom. Typically, they include working the land in the lord’s demesne, or giving the lord a fixed portion of the annual harvest.

There are three kinds of serf: villein, half-villein, and cottager. Villeins are the highest-status serfs, who have the right to work more land than other serfs. Half-villeins have about half as much land as villeins, and typically hire themselves out to villeins to make up for this. Cottagers have even less land than half-villeins—generally only enough for a small cottage and garden. Most of their livelihood comes from hiring themselves out to work the land allotted to villeins.

Plebeian (Freeman): Plebeians are men of common birth who are not bound to a particular manor. Rural plebeians (peasants) live in the country, while urban plebeians (burghers) live in towns or cities.

There are two main kinds of rural plebeians: tenants and yeomen. Tenants are farmers who do not own their own land, and who pay rent to a landlord (whether patrician or yeoman) in exchange for the right to work it. Tenants are legally permitted to leave an estate, but economic necessity often forces them to remain. Yeomen are independent landowners. Unlike nobles, yeomen lack a noble title, and receive rents but not feudal dues from tenants.

Urban plebeians include laborers and guildsmen. Examples of laborers include day laborers, midwives, seamstresses, and household servants. Guildsmen are members of a merchant or craft guild, and have three general ranks: apprentice, journeyman, and master. The highest ranks of urban plebeians include guild masters and city councilors. Guild masters (not to be confused with master guildsmen) are the heads of merchant or craft guilds. City councilors are members of the city government, including the lord mayor.

Patrician (Noble): Patricians are members of families in which noble titles and estates are passed down from generation to generation. Inheritance of title and estate is usually from father to eldest son, but the practice varies based on local custom. Patricians fall into three main kinds: royalty, aristocrats, and gentry. Royalty include kings and emperors who are sovereign and independent, and who do not hold their land from another lord. Aristocrats include dukes, marquises, counts, and viscounts. They hold their lands directly from a king or emperor, to whom they owe fealty and feudal dues. Families of aristocrats own many estates, often in different provinces, sometimes in different kingdoms, and have lesser lords or gentry who owe them fealty and feudal dues. Gentry include barons, knights, and esquires. A baron rules a small territory called a barony, which includes a dozen or more manors. Each manor includes one or more villages, and is governed from a manor house or castle. A knight either owns a single manor, or maintains a manor on behalf of a baron or other higher-ranking nobleman. An esquire comes from a family of knights and owns or maintains a single manor, but has not yet formally received the title of knighthood.