Gamemaster last edited by administrator
Society consists of three strictly separate social classes — nobles, clergy, and commoners. Everyone participates in this system. People are born into a specific class and enter the same occupation as their parents. People do not usually expect to change their status.
Strict social classes are not inherently wrong or bad. Many people find comfort in avoiding responsibilities and knowing that their daily routines will be predictable and unchanging. It is not being in a caste that is bad, but rather being in an exploited and abused caste. Thus, although many miserable serfs would like to have their condition improved, they know they will always be serfs, with all the advantages and disadvantages of being
a man or woman of the soil.
The ruling class of nobles jealously holds its prerogatives. So insistent are noblemen on maintaining class differences that a knight is likely to lose his status for engaging in non-knightly behavior, such as physical labor or money lending. The inarguable belief in “might makes right” allows noblemen to maintain their prerogative at everyone else’s expense.
It is important, however, to remember that these are social classes, not strictly hard castes. For instance, any knight may attain the status of the lord by being richly rewarded by his own lord. Furthermore, even a lowly commoner may attain knighthood through the prowess of arms displayed on the battlefield. Finally, the clergy fills their ranks with people of all classes.
Admittedly, every age has people who do not fit into their class. Such people are exceptional and, like exceptional people at any time, will find a way through or around the system to their advantage. In the Middle Ages, exceptional commoners usually join the Church or become personal employees of a nobleman. Exceptional members of the ruling class may become saints.
The Noble Class
The nobility is the upper class. Nobles are the leaders and warriors of society. They do not work for their own maintenance but acquire the food and goods of their life from others.
However, within this class not all persons are equal. Two distinct divisions exist, commonly called the higher and lower nobility. The lower nobility is the knights, while the higher nobility is called lords. Lords include all knights who have their own vassals and includes all hereditary landholders. Lords are also knights, of course, but are usually referred to by their higher rank.
This division is common among most feudal cultures. In English, the terms for higher and lower nobility are lords (higher) and gentry (lower); in French, they are barons and chevaliers; in German, Herren and Ritter; and in Spanish, grandes and hidalgos.
Further, within the category of lord are several ranks of noblemen. Among the British, these ranged from lowest to highest as follows: banneret, baron, earl, duke, and king.
The knights’ primary responsibility is to serve as the military force for their lord. They have many privileges and freedoms, which are not available to the lower classes, gained in exchange for the pledge to die, if necessary, for their lord.
Knights fill the most advantaged class and thus have the greatest freedom and most privileges of anyone else in the game. This campaign concerns itself primarily with this class of characters.
The Clerical Class
The clergy includes all members of the Christian Church, a powerful institution that owns considerable lands and has many rights of its own. Churchmen are exempt from most ordinary laws and claim loyalty to God, a higher authority than the king — a claim that is a source of great conflict between clergy and royalty.
The clergy, supposed to be chaste, can hardly be expected to reproduce itself, so it draws members from both the nobility and the commoners. It is not unusual for younger sons of the nobility to join the clergy rather than be landless knights, seeking whatever opportunity the Church can give them. For bright and ambitious commoners, the Church provides the best opportunity for advancement.
Churchmen may be secular clergy or monastics. Secular clergy includes bishops and the village priests who administer the sacraments to commoners, and who oversee the spiritual development of their parishioners. Monastics are men or women who have taken the religious path of isolation and joined special communities that practice devotion apart from the ways of ordinary mankind.
The Common Class
Everyone who is not of the nobility or clergy is a commoner. Commoners are the basis for society and make up 95% of the population. They are the ordinary people who provide the food and goods that allow noblemen and clergy to pursue their specialized functions. Commoners are mostly farmers, whether poor serfs without any freedom or rich landholders who maintain
the right to change lords at will. However, the artisans who populate cities and make their wares are also commoners, as are the merchants who act as middlemen and brokers for trade across Britain.
Members of the nobility can become commoners. A squire’s sons are considered commoners, though of good status within the broad spectrum of commoners.
Commoners can sometimes enter the ranks of knighthood, as well. Anyone who can acquire weapons and employment in the ranks of mercenaries might rise from soldier or sergeant to squire or knight through recognition by his leader. Commoners who perform outstandingly, even off the battlefield, can be raised to the status of squires or even knights by their grateful lords. Sometimes lords desperate for money sell knighthood to rich men. More often, though, lords’ daughters marry wealthy commoners, who thus share their wealth with the lord in return for the chance for their own children to become noble.