I love it when people do something that makes me start thinking about social structures in my world. I, sort of, know all of this stuff in advance – but writing it down makes me consider it more fully. In the process of writing this blog, I amended the rules for manufacturing developments slightly, revisited Divine Adepts – and added ‘dog’ as a custom familiar for Divine Adepts dedicated to a nature god. All-in-all, and excellent return.
Most of the people in the countryside are commoners. These are people who haven’t had very much going for them, and who haven’t managed to ‘escape’ into one of the other classes – most of the people in the game world are commoners. They live in a world of barter and copper pieces, where a couple of silver pieces is a good day’s wage – but they are both resourceful and hardy.
In my game commoners get full HP at first level then progress at average HP, and my NPCs have a basic 5 point build. They don’t get traits, and I have removed Craft and Profession from the class skills list – nor can they take the Skill Specialization feat. They are the ‘Salt of the Earth’ who provide the labour needed to do … just about anything.
It isn’t all bad :} Most commoners have a roof over their heads, clothes to wear, food to eat and aren’t too cold in winter. They just don’t have any luxuries, or even any particularly nice things. Like other classes they progress, but few go beyond Level 3.
L1 Commoners are Young Adults – Probably 14-17 with few skills, no traits and no skill points in Crafts or Professions. They are kids setting out in life – unskilled, as yet, but ready to learn. These are the guys you can employ for 1sp per day or hold your horse for a couple of coppers. You will also find them doing the washing up, mucking out the stables or doing similar unskilled jobs.
L2 Commoners are Adults who have learned the basic of their job, and probably work somewhere as a labourer. They get average HP, and have learned one or two craft or Professional skills. They might also take a trait, from my Commoners Traits list. These traits represent ‘extra’ training and include some basic military skills, hunting skills, housekeeping skills. They make up the majority of commoners.
L3 Commoners are well established. They are the people who run the stronghold, act as foreman on work-gangs or oversee tasks. They probably make up 30% of commoners in an area and are the backbone of the rural community.
L4 Commoners (and above) are rare – and all have their own character sheets.
This is a fairly standard template for my NPC Commoners :-
Str-11, Con-11, Dex-11, Int-11, Wis-11, Cha-11
Feats= Toughness, Endurance and Great Fortitude
HP 10 (L2, 13) (L3, 16) (includes 1hp/Level for Favoured Class)
Skills (Includes 1 Skill Point/level for Human)
L1 – Climb, Swim & one at random.
L2 – 2x Profession or Craft & one at random. (eg Prof:Farmer, Craft:Leather)
L3 – Often just extra points in the same skill areas as before (BUT – sometimes I get inventive)
That probably doesn’t look very useful – however, they can Take Ten on skills where they have spent points. That puts DC10 tasks comfortably within their skill set – which means farmers can grow the common crops, woodworkers can make basic furniture, smiths can make everyday items, etc.
Those commoners with traits that give weapon proficiency will generally be proficient in one more of Sling, Club, Staff or another free weapon as well – as will any commoners who travel regularly or might find themselves in a tough spot. Those with ‘Military’ traits will probably own a home-made Reinforced Tunic as Armour.
Clothing is basic – drawstring trouser or skirt, with plain jacket or vest, probably fastened with ties, laces or a simple belt. Most are made of cheap wool, although some are of leather. A shirt and breech-clout of a softer material probably finer wool (rarely linen) are prized items and are the only items washed regularly. Wooden soled clogs and boots (more expensive) are the favoured footwear. Beanie hats, socks and gloves are probably knitted wool, while cloaks, hoods and other coats might well be made of hessian. Colours are often muted greys, greens, browns and yellows – all of which can be dyed fairly easily.
Food is basic as well. Vegetable stew is the staple, perhaps with meat or fish a couple of times a week, while eggs can be hard-boiled and accompany apples or even raw onions. Herb teas are a common drink – Nettle Tea is a favourite, because nettles are readily available and can be dried for use through the year. Hooch, is a weak fruit wine, fermented enough to make sure the water used in the process is safe and disease free. Small ale serves the same purpose, but grain is harder to come by. Bread costs money (or at least the grain does), so many commoners eat pease pudding instead. It is a sort of porridge made from peas, which solidifies when cold to make a bread substitute.
Inside the house will be some simple furniture – table and benches, a dresser for the pots and crockery, simple bed frames with straw filled mattresses. Blankets and drapes will be rough wool (perhaps crocheted) or hessian. There will be a single fireplace for heat and cooking. Light comes from cheap tallow candles.
This equates to a ★ or ★★ living standard, depending on the status of the individual. It is a basic existence – but one that provides enough food, shelter and warmth. For most of the people, most of the time.
Every village has some warriors, who are employed by the local lord, to patrol the village and its hinterland. Villages with a watch tower just have a unit of guards, but larger villages might have scouts and cavalry as well.
Most are level 3 warriors, although their officer may be level 4, and if so probably has a level of Aristocrat, to represent his experience of management, leadership and command. The officer is usually the magistrate for the area and the Lord’s bailiff, with responsibilities for collecting rents and assessing taxes as well.
The stats for the light troops I use in this role can be found here.
Some Troopers live in barracks, while some live in cottages in the village and have the same standard of accommodation as most of the villagers. However, they are paid in cash and have a slightly better standard of living. Shoes and clothing is a slightly better quality, blankets are thicker, they have bread instead of pease pudding, meat is served more frequently, and they generally have some coin left over for a night in the tavern. Not a huge change, but enough to be significant in a rural environment they are comfortably into the ★★ rankings, with some junior officers pushing towards ★★★.
Many troopers come from a similar background as the people they patrol – and while they don’t get posted to their home village until they have proved themselves elsewhere, they have sympathy with, and understand, the people of the village. Officers get paid more, have better accommodation and an even better standard of living. In many cases the Local Officer is the wealthiest and highest ranking person in the village. …. While most officers come from a ‘better’ social class, it is still possible for someone from commoner stock to get promoted to that level. An officer is the likely to be the only person in the village with a noticeably better standard of living (★★★) as they are looked after by servants (Military Auxiliaries) almost as if they were a knight or a noble.
This is one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways for a commoner to move up the social ladder. Lords are always looking out for likely lads (and lasses) to join their forces – the recruit is trained, equipped and paid, regularly, in real money – and it is likely that their offspring will be able to follow them into a similar role in the future. Many commoners see it as a first step on the social ladder, and if they can make it as an officer … the world is their oyster …
Almost all the smaller religious establishments, like those found in villages and hamlets, are overseen by adepts. Great Shrines, Graveyards and Holy Houses are prevalent in Villages while simple shrines are sometimes found in Hamlets, however, there are exceptions. Some religious orders develop hamlets that are primarily religious sites so, occasionally, you might run across a hamlet built around a Priory. While there is normally one main deity in a hex, you can find shrines dedicated to other deities close by.
The type, and level, of community support will vary according to the deity represented. Pharasma, for example, concentrates on funerals, but will also help celebrate weddings and namings. Erastil is more involved with the community, encouraging active participation in all sorts of events from the whole community. Sarenrae’s priests, concentrate on community health, with advice and their healing skills. It is rare to find other deities’ houses in a rural setting – however, larger defensive buildings, such as a Fort or a Garrison, may well have their own Military Chaplain to support the troops and, perhaps, to help run militia training sessions.
Nearly all rural priests live at about the same standard as their parishioners, although they are normally comfortably into the ★★ rankings, in the same way as warriors are. These rural priests are almost built as Collegiate Adepts and come from a similar background to their flock. While Rural priests get some of their stipend in cash, they also receive ‘collection plate’ donations in kind (perhaps a rabbit, or a bag of apples) from the local community.
This is another way that Commoners can move up the social ladder, although chances of promotion it is limited. This is because most religious buildings (from Chapel Upwards) have a Cleric (rather than Adept) in charge. At best, an adept might hope to become second-in-command at one of these larger establishments.
Of course, some rural religious buildings are home to PC clerics – and then all bets are off. You are unlikely to find many arcane or spontaneous adepts in a rural setting, as most gravitate towards towns and cities.
Experts are a different kettle of fish. They are all different and unless you have family connections, it is difficult to become an expert. Most Experts learn their skills in the family business, although some have parents with enough clout (or cash) to arrange a suitable apprenticeship.
Any business with an Econ value is run by an Expert, so every village and most Hamlets will have a few experts in residence. The farms are managed by expert farmers, the tavern by expert Inn keepers, the mill by an expert miller and even the market has its own expert merchant. In wilderness areas there will be expert hunters, trappers and guides. While Commoners provide the labour that keep the economy working, Experts are the managers, supervisors and specialists.
Developments with Econ +1 (Tavern, Mill, Craft workshop) are normally run by an Expert-3 with +7 in the main skill that relates to the business. Developments with Econ +2 (Road House, Brewery)are run by an Expert-3 who has Skill Focus and (if appropriate) masterwork tools – which gives +10/12 in their main skill.
Along with the main expert there will be a spouse (probably Commoner-3) and a couple of other experts (possibly an Expert-2 and an Expert-1) who are either children of the ‘master’ or outsiders taken on as assistants. The development makes work for a number of the local commoners, with a few taken on as permanent labourers, and many others finding part-time work here.
There is probably an apprentice or two as well. L1 commoners who are learning the basics of the trade- in return for acting as gofers, servants and menial labour. These apprentices can find themselves doing anything including sweeping the floor, pumping bellows or carrying fence posts. Some develop as commoner-labourers, a few lucky ones might learn enough to become an expert themselves.
Most experts have the same sort of living standards as Warriors and Divine Adepts, although their exact place in the Village Hierarchy depends on ‘status’ of their developments
Outpost and its hamlets
- Cdr Ress
- Lt Pickering, Brody (manager of the hopyard)
- Garrison Sergeants, Sub-Prior of Pharasma’s Holy House, Market Manager, Innkeeper (Tavern), Farm Manager (Westfarm), Manager of Roths Local Ales (Rothyard).
- Warriors, Adepts & Experts
- Smallholders and labourers.