Monday, July 6, 2009

Nine Worlds: Social Rank

Society in the Nine Worlds is structured along fairly strict lines, with clear distinction between its ranks. Social climbing is not unheard of in cases of personal heroism and initiative, and in-fact is considered an admirable trait. In all the cultures of the Nine Worlds, the following basic social ranks can be found:

Thrall

At the bottom rung of the social ladder is the thrall or slave. Chieftains, earls and even the freemen count thralls as part of their property. A wealthy landowner might have 30 or more thralls to work his land. Even a small property, it is felt, should have at least three thralls.
Thralls do much of the heavy farm work. The men spade fields, herd cattle, watch sheep, tend pigs, spread manure, dig peat, chop wood, build walls and harvest crops. Women churn butter, milk cows, grind grain and cook meals.
Thralls are not without rights, though they are few. Thralls lives are counted as no more than those of cattle, according to law. If they are killed, the master cannot pursue a blood feud nor demand a repayment equal to that of a freeman. Thralls can not inherit of leave property to their children.
Although unable to hold land a thrall can have possessions, money and time to do work for himself. Slaves are permitted to do business at public markets and to make private transactions if the value involved was less than 20 copper. In favorable circumstances he might hope to purchase, earn or be rewarded with his freedom. Marriage is permitted but the children are also slaves. Ill treatment of thralls is regarded as an undesirable quality and most masters treat their slaves quite well as happy thralls work all the harder. A slave is not allowed to bear arms except in the case of fighting off invaders; and the slave who killed such an enemy is to be rewarded with his freedom.
Racial Variants: Dwarves Trolde and Elves have no Thrall rank amongst themselves, using kidnapped humans to fill this role. Trolde and Hill Giants are often kept as thralls in giant-held lands.
Class Options: Thralls are most often of the Peasant and Adept NPC class (LL-peasant human monster entry).

Freeman
The largest social class are the free farmers, or freemen. The a farmers are truly free people with farmland that is owned outright. Earls and kings have no claim on a freeman’s land. A freeman enjoys full protection under the law, although lawsuits depend on power and alliances. Most freemen are farmers. While others are bards, retainers, smiths, warriors, merchants, shipwrights, woodcarvers, and any number of other trades.
Bondi: The Bondi are the wealthiest and most influential of freeman and have owned their land for at least six generations. Such individuals are always leaders in their community.
Housecarl: Housecarls are men and women serve as retainers to a nobleman, forming his household. These men also serve as bodyguards and the core of any army the noble might need to raise.
All player characters begin the game as members of the freemen class, unless the DM chooses otherwise. Player characters are assumed to have taken their inheritance in coin and equipment to set off on their own to make their way in the world.
Racial Variants: Dwarven freemen are the same as humans. Elves have no freemen, using magic, fey and half-elves to fill this role. Trolde society is centered around clans and family units, and thus freemen are their majority. Cloud and Stone Giants form the ranks of freemen in Jotun lands.
Class Options: Freemen can be of any PC class, as well as the Expert NPC class. More intellectual classes such as the Cleric or Wizard are most often Bondi or Housecarls.

Nobles
Above the freemen are the men and women of authority - local chieftains and earls. They are the men and women who keep Housecarls. They are the commanders in battle, have influence in the choosing of the local law speakers, collect tribute, tend the kings estate, and enforce the kings decrees.
Chieftains: The lesser nobles, sometimes called chieftains, are landed men, having received their authority (along with a grant of land) from the king. This position is not hereditary, with the king giving out the title. Once given, it cannot be taken away, but the title does not automatically pass on to the eldest son or daughter. The king has to confirm the transfer, by making a grant of land.
Earls: The Earl (or Jarl) is second only to the king, have a great deal of power and authority. Many are independent of the local kings and can do as they please. They keep large numbers of retainers, collect tribute of their own and rule over districts.
Racial Variants: All elves are considered nobles in their society. Dwarf and Trolde nobles are the same as humans. Frost, Fire and Storm Giants form the Noble class in giant society.
Class Options: Nobles can pursue any PC class and the Aristocrat NPC class. The Fighter, Paladin and Wizard classes are most common amongst the noble class, though Wizard nobles are greatly feared.

Kings
The highest level of society are the kings. The title of king is both hereditary and democratic at the same time. Kingship descends from father to son (or illegitimate son or even brother), but the freemen vote for their choice in king. Thus if there were three sons and a brother of a late king, all were candidates to become the next king. Since the freemen have the final say, , the choosing of a king is a highly charged and political affair. As with most things, the title goes to the strongest, most cunning, or most popular.
This system encouraged infighting and murder between contestants. Kin-slaying is a terrible crime in the Nine Worlds and thus all such activity had to be kept very secret. Of course hiding ones evil from the gods can be terribly difficult.
The kings most important function is to oversee the protection and honor of his subjects. Whether elected or hereditary, the king is still subject to the pleasure of his subjects. The king is their leader in war. He is the grand judge for disputes that cannot be settled in any other way. He also collects tribute from neighbors.
Racial Variants: The kings of the Elves are always Half-Celestial or Half-Infernal beings, and always spellcasters of terrible power. Kings of the dwarves are always half Earth-Elemental. Trolde have only Queens, whose nobles are always direct relatives and in-laws. Giant kings are the Jotun themselves, though they do not normally rule directly, preferring their Earls to handle most of the ruling.
Class Options: Kings are most often Fighters, though any class is possible. Cleric-chieftains dedicated to Odin are very popular, as such war-priests can inspire more than normal levels of loyalty, as well as gain the support of the gods.
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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan