By default, player-characters are assumed to be members of the aristocracy or minor nobility. They may certainly come from a lower class if they wish, or (with the GM’s blessing) a more prominent noble rank. There are distinct barriers between social ranks, and each higher rank has privileges over the ranks below it. Social mobility is difficult, and status makes a big difference in how people treat you and what opportunities are available.
Nobles have the right & the obligation to rule and dispense justice within their domain. They maintain power by keeping a monopoly on military power. Most noble born males are trained as knights, though magical, clerical, and mercantile paths may also be open, and training in statecraft is part of any well-rounded noble education. They have the blood of heroes in their veins, and their familial spirits are strong.
In game terms, those of noble blood are higher-level characters, reflecting their inherited potential as well as the training and opportunities available to them. At the top of the noble hierarchy are the royals. It is often the case that someone not of the noble class with remarkable ability, turns out to be a long-lost or illegitimate heir of a noble lineage.
p.In barbarian and nomad communities, there are rarely any nobles higher than the chieftain, though occasionally a minor king can unite several tribes or clans under his rule.
A step below the nobles, aristocracy is usually inherited, but can sometimes be attained through excellence in a profession. This rank includes knights of non-noble families, guild leaders, master artisans and mages, priests and high-ranking clerics, wealthy merchants, and others with important positions.
This class has disposable income and opportunities to pursue exceptional career paths. A few may be wealthy enough or possess a critical skill or resource to make them as influential and powerful as nobles, but they still are counted inferior in official precedence.
The great bulk of the population are peasants working the land, or unskilled laborers. Those with the skill and opportunity can become tradesmen, and potentially even enter the aristocracy. Commoners owe taxes or labor to their lords, but are guaranteed some basic rights both by law and by custom. Commoners by and large may not leave their land or take up a new career without leave from their lord.
Slaves and Outcasts
Slaves rank below even commoners; truly considered property without any rights. Large-scale slavery is fairly uncommon in the west. Barbarian or nomadic tribes are more likely to take war captives as slaves. The Dragon Empire has multitudes of slaves, made up of conquered peoples. Some people can also end up in slavery as punishment for a serious crime, or failure to pay debts.
Outcasts may be foreigners, infidels, or members of some other despised race or group, or simply criminals. They have fewer rights than ordinary commoners do, and can often be taken advantage of or even killed without reprecussion.
Most civic institutions, such as law enforcement, tax collection, sanitation, maintenance of public works, etc. are the personal property and responsibility of the reigning noble, a private guild, or a religious order. For example, The town guard would be hired by and loyal to the Lord of that town. Participation in these institutions is often compulsory for members of the aristocracy or certain guilds, but depending on local custom and personal temperament, a noble may hire a professional civil servant. Public property is something normally found only in tribal communities. Guilds and religious orders with official standing in the realm usually have the responsibility for justice and discipline within their own ranks.
Men and women have different responsibilities and expectations. Women have greater opportunities in Arekhan than in the historical medieval world, but nothing like the equality we see in the real modern western world. Men, too, are restricted from certain careers and positions by law and tradition. Elves often have matriarchal governments, for instance, and certain religious orders are reserved for women.