To be honest with you, I’m addressing the matter of society and social class in RPGs to see if the automatic pagination feature I added actually works. But the way I have it set up, a post needs to be real long for pages to be inserted.
Then it didnt work as I thought it would, so I got rid of it.
The Real Introduction
This post is about society and social classes in RPGs.
We are a social animal. Even the races and species we invent for our stories and guides are social animals by and large. It’s what we expect, it’s what we are used to. To be honest with you, we really don’t know how to handle a non-social animal, such are just too alien to us.
So we form societies and we live in societies. It’s what we know, it’s what we’re used to. In addition, our societies will have set ways of doing things, matters that are expected of their members. These are most often there to keep things easy and simple between us. Our rules, customs, laws, and traditions are in place to keep us from making our lives harder than they need to be; though such are best when they actually have a reason for existence, and not just because we have to have them.
Another Matter to Consider
Then you have the matter of our differences. Tom Jefferson to the contrary, we are not all literally equal. As a matter of fact, Tom wasn’t thinking about literal equality, but equality under the law. The idea that we need to be treated as equal in court and similar venues for justice to be fair. But still, we have this idea that we are all equal even though life tells us differently.
To be honest with you we are not equal. Not in any real sense. We have our differences, and they will affect our place in society. Some are richer, some poorer; some are smarter, some dumber; some are stronger, some weaker. But we’re talking about people overall, people as individuals. As groups you can’t honestly say that different populations as a whole are superior or inferior to another for any real reason.
So we have our differences and those differences mean we will end up at different levels in society. To make matters even worse, we end up where we are in society thanks to an accident of birth, not because of our talents.
The Matter of Demographics
Add to that the fact that what we each have is not going to be evenly distributed. Not in any real sense. Some of us have a talent for gaining resources, others have a talent for squandering them. Some people are raised in an environment where they learn to be thrifty; they will either maintain their position in society or improve it. Some people are raised in an environment where they learn to be wastrels; they will either lose their position, or they will have no opportunity to improve it. This has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, or social class, just with how the person is taught to handle his resources.
The fact that some people will gather resources means that resources will tend to end in their hands. The fact that some people will squander resources means that they will end up at the bottom of the heap. Add to that the fact that some people will take every advantage they can to profit from a situation means that wealth and the like will end up in their hands preferentially. Even if they don’t cheat — and some do — wealth will still accrue to them.
This means that societies by and large will be pyramidal in shape, with those of little wealth comprising the bulk of the population, and those of great wealth but a few. So we get social classes.
These are most often divided into three broad categories; the lower class, the middle class, and the upper class. Each has one thing in common, that they are made up of people, but there is one significant difference. That is? The ownership of land.
The Lower Class
Those in the lower class have no land to call their own, they rely on another to provide them with a place to live, and the lowest of the low very often have to take a position with another to get anywhere to sleep. Those in the lower class have to rent a place to live, or live out on the streets. If they can’t afford to rent, then either it’s slumber on a park bench, get a cot in a shelter, or work for somebody else to get a bunk in a dormity or barracks.
The Middle Class
The middle class has land, but rarely more than just the one plot. With land they can build a residence, though the residence may actually be meaner than the one a lower class individual rents. The distinction here is, the landowner won’t get kicked out for he has rights the lower class individual can not have.
Well, unless there are laws and regulations in place that give the government the right to confiscate the land and any property on it, though most often there are supposed to be laws against the government’s abuse of such power.
Those in the upper class most often have more than one plot of land to use. They have multiple properties. They also tend to have greater access to resources they can use to further their position, or even improve it. Should the society they live in allow it, they can gain through blatant violation of any law, tradition, or custom meant to keep their avarice in land, and all societies allow it.
Yes, in the typical role playing guide society and social class will play a role, those of different classes will be treated differently. In D&D the character with the highest Charisma may be the leader of the party, but to society as a whole the party’s leader will be seen as the one with the higher class. If that happens to be the son of a duke with the personality of a brat, he’ll still be the approached first by outsiders. That’s just the way people are, we let matters such as class and position impact how we deal with people.
Another matter to keep in mind is the fact that your role’s position in society will affect how he can deal with society. He’s low class, he’s going to be expected to be at least polite and respectful to those of higher class. He may even be expected to be servile. For a lot of players that is going to give them problems, for they will insist on being special.
And This Means
That the GM will need to provide an example of how to behave according to a character’s social class. It also means that his characters will have to be careful about how they handle the player’s characters. This means more work for the guide master, and for the players.
But the advantage of keeping society and social class in mind means having more to do, and more to engage the players with. That is what RPGs are all about.