Adolescence by Social Class

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2007

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"In feudal societies, there is a place for every man and every man is in his place"

Introduction

A long time ago in the 1980s, I discovered the Dragon Warriors roleplaying game written by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson and published by Corgi Books as a set of six paperback books. While I have long since abandoned the game rules, I have used the game's setting, a medieval world known as Legend for many campaigns and scenarios using Rolemaster and HARP, ever since as my default fantasy setting. Back in the 1990s when I was still using RM2, I created a series of Adolescence skill packages for the diverse possible backgrounds of characters according to their parents' social status, from landed noble through the urban middle classes to the lowliest serf, with specific subpackages for individual types of craftsmen, professional, tradesman and freeman. My a5 notebook from that era survives and the notes are unbelievably still legible, so I decided that I would translate some of this material into HARP terms.

Feudal Social Classes

In feudal societies, there is a place for every man and every man is in his place. Social class is important and those in the "lower" social orders are expected to defer to their "betters". The social class of a child's parents will, in many cases, determine the education and future career of that child. A blacksmith's son is more than likely to follow his father's craft. In many feudal societies, upward social mobility is limited and only grave disaster can expel an aristocratic scion into life as a commoner. Such inequalities can be the spurs to drive an adventurer to greatness, regardless of social provenance.

The upper classes of feudal society are the landed nobility. A few families are royal, sovereign rulers of their own kingdoms, but most are the loyal vassals who hold territory in fief to their royal masters. Dukes, earls, counts, barons and their families form the nobility. Below them are the gentry, who may hold subfiefs in vassalage to titled nobles and administer one or more villages from their manor. Others simply own their arms and armour, a warhorse, and an ancient name. The nobility and the gentry are the aristocrats; they differ in wealth and influence but share a common perspective and enjoy similar education.

Below the ruling aristocrat families, the commoners of the towns and cities may be divided into five social classes. The professionals (administrators, clerks, doctors, lawyers, scholars, etc.) are highly respected as a result of their learning. At the same level are the craftsmen (armourers, carpenters, masons, shipbuilders, weaponsmiths, etc.) who are the backbone of urban society. In some locations, the craftsmen organise themselves into associations known as guilds for mutual benefit and to regulate who can practice a trade in a specfic town. Below professionals and craftsmen in the urban order are the tradesmen (bakers, butchers, chandlers, grocers, vintners, etc.). The menials (to use the Dragon Warriors term) are the servants, laborers, and guardsmen of the cities who will accept any gainful employment. Underneath the menials are the riff-raff, the urban underclass of street thieves, beggars, prostitutes, tramps, and criminals.

In the countryside, the freemen are the rural middle class, entitled to own property and bear arms (in some case, required to practice their weapon skills regularly) in return for yearly periods of military service in support of their lord. Freemen include artisans (rural craftsmen such as the local blacksmith), men-at-arms, millers, innkeepers and so forth. Finally there are the serfs, or villeins, who have few, if any, rights. These peasants are tied to the land in that they may not leave their home village without their lord's permission and must work in the lord's fields several days each week, tending their own plots at other times.

Adolescence Skill Ranks

The following table replaces the Urban and Rural columns of Table 5.5 Adolescence Skill Ranks (HARP core rulebook). Use the column which best matches the character's parental social class. Note the language skill ranks are not modified by this table.

Social Class Skills Nobility & Gentry Professionals Craftsmen Tradesmen Menials Riff-raff Freemen Serfs
Ambush 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Animal Handling 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Appraisal 0 1 2 3 1 1 0 0
Armor 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Attunement 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Climbing 0 0 1 1 2 1 0 0
Crafts * 0 3 3 0 0 0 3 3
Duping 0 1 1 2 1 1 0 0
Endurance 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Foraging/Survival 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Healing 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Herbcraft 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Horticulture 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3
Jumping 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0
Locks & Traps 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Lore (Local Region) 2 2 2 2 2 1 2 2
Lore ** 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Navigation 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Perception 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1
Pick Pockets 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Riding 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Runes 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stalking & Hiding 0 1 1 1 2 2 1 1
Streetwise 0 1 1 1 2 3 0 0
Swimming 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Tracking 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Trading 0 1 2 3 1 1 0 0
Weapon Skills *** 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 1
Weapon Skills **** 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 0

* - select one Craft skill
** - select one Lore skill (typically Heraldry, History or Religion)
*** - select one melee weapon group
**** - select one missile (including thrown) weapon group