Getting Social with Social Classes for RPGs

Social classes and RPG classes are two very different things, but when they start to mix things can get really sticky very quickly. Just look at the barbarian in Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. Almost always represented as a class for tribal berzerkers, the class could just as easily be used to build an urban gladiator. Take it a step further: the berzerker could be the king of a tribe or a landless peasant.

Social Class in Action!
Photo by Lou Levit

Why’s this important? Social classes were an important aspect of the medieval age, and navigating social classes can make for interesting interactions at the table.

RPG Classes are Jobs

Think about RPG classes as jobs. As a first level fighter, you have some on-the-job training, and are on the path to learning more, through leveling. When you multi-class, you’re effectively learning two jobs.

Most RPGs I’ve played blur the lines here, and as you level you also rise in status. Effectively, the social class you’re born into has very little impact on a character unless the GM is using a specific system to represent it.

And Social Classes?

Each social class contains a number of jobs, similar to how you could be a cat burglar rogue, a bandit rogue, or an assassin rogue. Could you be a level 1 noble or a level 7 peasant?

The hierarchy of European feudal society goes something like this:

  1. The Church
  2. The Monarchy
  3. Nobles and Barons
  4. Knights
  5. Tradesmen
  6. Peasants

We can simplify this into three groups that are representative of the largest portion of the population:

  1. Those who prayed – the clergy.
  2. Those who fought – the knights.
  3. Those who worked – the peasantry.

Here’s my first attempt at defining each of these as RPG classes, compatible with the fifth edition SRD:

Clergy Class

As a member of the clergy, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per clergy level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (5) + your Constitution modifier per clergy level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Brewer’s supplies, calligrapher’s supplies, cartographer’s tools, or clerical supplies
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose three from History, Investigation, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, Religion, and Literacy (yip, Literacy is now a skill)

Knight Class

As a knight, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per knight level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (6) + your Constitution modifier per knight level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Perception, Religion, Stealth, and Survival

Peasant Class

As a peasant, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per peasant level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (5) + your Constitution modifier per peasant level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Carpenter’s tools, cobbler’s tools, cook’s utensils, glassblower’s tools, leatherworker’s tools, mason’s tools, potter’s tools, smith’s tools, weaver’s tools, or woodcarver’s tools
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival

Design Notes

The clergy class is quite similar to the cleric and the knight to the paladin, for obvious reasons. I figured the clergy would have a d8 Hit Die, representing their better living conditions. Peasants get a d8 for being hardy, but a d6 Hit Die could also make a lot of sense.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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