View Full Version : [Social Class] Is there any consistency to the class your characters belong to?

2011-03-24, 10:02 AM
It was an observation of mine in the thread about what makes being a player fun for you (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=567675) that I noted a consistent feature of my characters. Even aside from the fact that there are certain archetypes I like to play, they are almost always proletarian:

It's funny, I've noticed I've got a real thing about playing someone of importance...who has little or no social status or formal authority.

My longest-running character is a peasant who was conscripted into the army after getting caught poaching (and was due to be hanged before the recruiters passed through), who then became a refugee on demobilisation. He's basically a rabble-rousing, revolutionary, peasant-hero who regularly has to deal with nobles, rich burghers, worthies and other important people. Some of whom scorn his humble origins.

Its like playing proles is thumbing my nose at social class in a setting, because in that instance he has the force of arms and nous to make them listen to him.

I never play nobles/aristocrats. Not ever, I have no interest whatsoever in playing a character from a privileged background, the heir to a throne/estate/title or the like. I think part of that is because I'm totally ambivalent to wealth in a setting, I don't care how much money my character has. If a system offers points for taking disadvantages, I'll happily go with lower social status and poverty for getting benefits. Because my characters have everything they need within themselves.

Anything set in essentially a version of our past doesn't tend to have much scope for playing a middle class character either (unless you're a merchant/skilled tradesman), and again they're rare. Not only that, they're just not as appealing.

I think it's because I like my characters to be pushed into adventuring by their backgrounds. Either hardship generally, or a specific tragedy that makes them break with what is normal and take up a roving life of danger. Both of those point to someone with less, rather than more privilege and shelter from the vagaries of life. Plus I like more physical characters and in most settings poor people don't have the luxury of being non-physical.

What about you? Is there any consistency in your character's social class? Do you tend to focus on any particular level or vary it depending on the game?

2011-03-24, 10:22 AM
Interesting question. My characters tend to have artisans for parents and stay middle-class-ish by working for the church or being specialists for the military. I've never played a real aristocrat (though I've played a few bodyguards for the rich), and the only impoverished characters I've played are a) from families of hunters or b) this one wizard who was based on Raskolnikov.

2011-03-24, 10:39 AM
All over the place.

From the intelligence-lacking Barbarian beggar, to a the noble wizard who attended the same academy as his parents.

2011-03-24, 10:43 AM
All over the place.

From the intelligence-lacking Barbarian beggar, to a the noble wizard who attended the same academy as his parents.

Ditto. The only consistency I have is that they're always different from the one prior.

2011-03-24, 10:48 AM
I think I play significantly more upper-class people than lower-class people. I honestly find them more interesting. The ultimate meaning of RPGs is to affect the IC world for me, and the most natural way to do that is to be influential. There are other ways, of course, and those are also interesting to explore. But the first metagame goal of any non-influential PC I play is always to become influential.

Why would you want to play a PC with no stat above average? No strengths = nothing to contribute = no fun.

Why would I want to play a PC with no influence beyond their own person? No strengths = nothing to contribute = no fun.

2011-03-24, 10:54 AM
Ditto. The only consistency I have is that they're always different from the one prior.

My friend is the same way.

In fact, right now he's playing an artificer. He originally wanted a specific backstory, and he wanted the feat nymphs kiss. So i told him, how about this:

If you want nymphs kiss, your wife is a nymph. Best not cheat on her, cause she will find you and rip the feat from your cold dead hands.

He agreed, then noticed that nymphs can blind people. He then asked if he could have a bonus to listen and a negative to spot because, having spent so much time with his wife, he would have been blind for a good majority of it.

I gave it to him.

Nothing I like more when DMing than an actual backstory, even more if they have a hint (not too much), but just enough to make it interesting.

2011-03-24, 11:00 AM
I tend to play murderous hobos but in our games titles and wealth and standing do matter. There's this one player that always pays character points to play a prince. He seems to like it so good for him. Makes for some interesting roleplay when the palace guards are like "Would you like me to take care of this cretin?" (referring to my character who has like 10 levels on the guard.) Sometimes the prince defends me sometimes he lets the guards learn a lesson :)

2011-03-24, 12:19 PM
Interesting. While I've played characters from murderous hobos (I do like that phrase), all the way to priviliged society brats, I do tend towards the 'professional' type. People who are reasonably well educated (with respect to their cultural background), and who have a trade or profession that takes training and skill.

For instance, one barbaric character from a savage tribe trains hunting animals and mounts, and who is a 'lay preacher'-equivalent.

Or the sci-fi character who is a geological engineer working for the government to assay asteroids prior to mining.

2011-03-24, 01:16 PM
I'm pretty variable. Have played everything from slaves all the way up to nobles, though never anything really high up like a king. I like to try different things, depending on the game.

2011-03-24, 03:57 PM
On average I gravitate to the second son of minor nobility, bastard princesses and the likes. Basically, those who would have the money to become adventurers but with little chance of simply having some land or title land in their lap. I have also included the son of Upper Middle class dyers, an orphan taken in by an order of stealthy clerics and paladins, a former blacksmith turned street preacher, a son of a gunsmith,, and an exiled Mongol-expy prince.

2011-03-24, 04:02 PM
I tend to play characters from the lower end of the social scale - I don't know why, but I suspect it's because they have a) fewer responsibilities and b) less to lose, making them more likely fits for the adventurer lifestyle.

I've branched out on occasion, but that's my tendency.

John Campbell
2011-03-24, 04:14 PM
My current 3.P character is a barbarian from a tribe of orcish nomads, who started the game without a gold piece to his name, but rich in the ways that mattered to him - two horses, a war-trained wolf, a steel saber, and a bow that no elf ever born could pull. His general attitude towards money is that it's shiny, but too soft and heavy to be good for much, but if you give it to stupid humans, they'll give you things that are actually valuable. This is sometimes better than just killing them and taking what you want. We ended up in the Dark Sun world for a while, where we were seriously stupid-rich, because all of us but the wizard, even my animals, were literally covered in mithril in a world in which any metal is rare and valuable, and I did a whole lot of mocking of the "broken pots" the people there use for money. It's not even pretty! The humans there are clearly stupider than most...

The character before that (Deadlands) was from a rich Boston family, a doctor - both MD and PhD - and very much upper class. He was accompanied on his adventures by his faithful manservant, whose family had served his for as long as they'd been in America.

Then there's the Battletech character, who's captain of a mercenary mech company, which means he's incredibly rich in capital, usually broke in actual cash, and foolish enough to take all of that capital into battle and get it shot at. Class is a little tricky... he's Lyran minor nobility, but he's also a mercenary, which reduces his standing to a greater or lesser degree, depending on who he's interacting with, compared to people whose loyalty isn't to the bottom line.

Then there was the dwarven fighter/thief in the AD&D game... "thief" here was just his character class; he was an engineer, artisan, and a respected (and respectable) member of the Locksmiths' Guild, with the standing that implies in a dwarven society.

Then there was a Westerosi from the North, who was Captain of the Guard, retainer to some of the other PCs' lord father. I was the only commoner in a party where everyone else got to put at least "Ser" in front of their names - which got kind of irritating at times, not because everyone else in the group outranked me, but because the GM's idea of "role-playing" was "having audiences with important canon characters", where all I was really supposed to be doing was standing around looking intimidating. I ended up fairly rich - ransom money, mostly; I was the combat monster of the group, too - but still a commoner. A commoner who owned his own custom-made full plate (it had to be custom-made; I was seven-plus feet tall), but still a commoner.

Before that, I had a 3.5 rogue who'd grown up an orphan on the streets, and had a serious problem with privilege and authority. I ended up trying to incite a Communist revolution in Cormyr, and came within a hair's-breadth of assassinating the king. We have another guy in the group who always, always plays the Chivalrous Noble Knight, and I spent pretty much the entire campaign trying to provoke him into challenging me to a duel so I could set the terms to allow me to entirely legitimately beat him to death with my bare hands. 'Cause just murdering him in his sleep would've pissed off the paladin, who I got along with.

(Note, this was me deliberately being a jerk. After five campaigns in a row - in four different systems! - where Sir Knight played the exact same character - different stats, but the same character - and a party cop at that, in most cases as a DMPC, I got sick of it and made a character that wasn't going to put up with any party-coppery. When we started our current campaign (with the half-orc barbarian), I just told him up front that if he introduced another party cop DMPC, I wasn't even going to wait for an excuse; I was just going to kill it on sight.)

Then there was another Game of Thrones game, set a couple hundred years before the books, where I was playing a Stark. A cousin to the Stark, and not one of those who, by canon, inherited the North, but still a member of one of the Great Houses, and in line for it.

Before that was the dwarven fighter/mage, who started with whatever social standing a dwarf who's a good fighter, an excellent smith, but is considered kind of odd because he's an arcanist has (uncomfortable enough that he didn't stick around at home, in any case), and ended up with whatever social standing a dwarf who doesn't care about money, except as a means to create things of real value, and doesn't care about anything as trivial as political influence, because he can literally kill you with a word has.

So, yeah, everything from street rats to upper nobility to guys who have transcended merely mundane notions of wealth and power.

2011-03-24, 04:19 PM
None. None whatsoever.

I'm currently playing two characters. One is paladin/somewhat noble. Uses money effectively, and is well dressed. The other has a perpetual lack of money, and any sudden windfalls are used on beer and hookers.

2011-03-24, 05:15 PM
Well, there are some games where you CAN'T be consistent. I've played D&D, shadowrun, but also Houses of the Blooded and Rogue Trader. From rich hobo to noble-born leader of men, the system often encourages one style of play.

2011-03-24, 06:53 PM
Most of my characters are the children of either artisans or farmers, with a few merchant house or poor nobles in the mix, when they aren't street rat orphans or savage barbarians.

Okay never-mind, I think the only thing I haven't played is exiled/disguised royalty.

Wait, does half-breed 2nd son of an Elvan Queen, by her second husband, a human druid, count as royalty? I wasn't really in line for the throne.

Maybe I have played people from every station in life after all.

2011-03-24, 07:14 PM
I've played characters from backgrounds all the way up to really high nobles, though no actual royalty. In each category, I've had current straits similar (from the impoverished lotto winner who couldn't manage his money to the noble son in exile. Also just impoverished people and the very rich.) I tend towards poorer characters, largely as a result of the preferences of the GMs I usually play the games of.

2011-03-24, 10:14 PM
The characters I've played or plan to play appear to gravitate towards the middle classes. At the lower end of the class system there's a rogue/artificer who originated in a very poor proletarian family in an industrial town in a sort-of steampunk setting, but this distinction is complicated because, in his plot to overthrow the monarchy and aristocracy he's had to fit in with them to a certain extent and has thus began to life the life of a wealthy gentleman (although he still spends a lot of time trying to kill of the other aristos and set off a revolution). On the other end of the scale, in a more classical medieval setting, a knight who started out as a member of a powerful noble house, but, as the kingdom was effectively destroyed by a blight of undead and the rest of his family was killed, he really doesn't have access to the usual benefits of his position, because, well, the noble house he belongs to doesn't exist any more. Other than those, there's a large number of mages, who, as academics, would be considered middle class, so for me, yeah, my characters tend to gravitate towards a sort of halfway point.

2011-03-24, 10:27 PM
My standard is to go with the default. I've done a few arrogant noble types. I've also done chivalrous noble. No poor characters that I can recall. For the most part though, I'm more interested in a character's personality than his financial status so I ignore the finances unless they're totally relevant.

One of the things I enjoy about RPGs is getting to try personalities and behaviors I can't use in real life. I actually have a lot of fun being an arrogant jerk who talks down to everyone. But I don't want that to be me. So I use RPGs as my chance to be an *******. Granted I don't do that all the time, only with groups I've played with before and am confident won't take in game insults personally.

2011-03-24, 10:35 PM
I tended to play magic-less middle class. Mostly because I like a challenge and saying mumbo jumbo and waving hands around has never interested me. That said, I have played magic before when it was a character I found interesting, as I've played Wat the commoner and a noble.

Really the only defining characteristics have been: they're all fairly tactical, because I enjoy planning out battles, and they're all sarcastic because I am sarcastic. I once tried to play a character that was sheepish, that lasted for all of 1 session before I was cracking insulting jokes at the other characters.

2011-03-24, 11:12 PM
I tended to play magic-less middle class. That said, I have played magic before when it was a character I found interesting, as I've played Wat the commoner and a noble...they're all sarcastic because I am sarcastic.

Same for me...

2011-03-24, 11:31 PM
I think the only constant thing I have is my Tiefling Swashbucklers almost always have a merchant background...

2011-03-25, 12:02 AM
I almost always have either an escaped slave or a complete outsider/outcast from whatever the dominant society of the setting is. A bit odd now that I actually think about it, I may make my next few characters some kind of entrenched nobility.

2011-03-25, 12:18 AM
I've played an homeless orphan rogue raised by other orphans and became a vampire so she wouldn't have to die and be alone again, to a noblewoman swashbuckler who's family was rapidly losing status, to an elf ambassador on the run, to a sorceress who accidentally destroyed her tribe's housing, to a wealthy merchant's daughter who willingly abandoned everything she ever knew rather than inherit her parent's trade empire, to a typical halfling commoner who became a warlock and sold her soul (though she doesn't know it) literally the day before the campaign opens.

So...no, not really.

2011-03-25, 01:31 AM
I tend to bounce around with characters I make. The two main archetypes I can think of that I have used a good amount are the impoverished noble (social status, but no wealth), the merchant's son (lots of money, but less political clout than the nobility), or the retired military officer (varying wealth and social status). Rarely do I play characters from the lower classes, though there are of course exceptions.

2011-03-25, 03:44 AM
For the most part though, I'm more interested in a character's personality than his financial status so I ignore the finances unless they're totally relevant.

It's not solely, or even necessarily about financial status. Money isn't the sole determinant of (or by some people's definition even a measure of) social class. There's a load of other factors like aspirations, heritage, upbringing, education and so on.

Doktor Per
2011-03-25, 07:30 AM
Social standing is something all of my characters care about in different ways. They like to be in a position of power.

I'm playing a dwarf Diviner/Rogue (Police Detective) who is currently dealing with an actual terrorist threat, with a police chief who just threw him under the horse carriage. Upper middle class sort of guy. He's made it quite clear to the mayor, king's men and the army that he intends to have his job, if his team can save the city.

I used to play another detective, in a WoD game. He didn't really get a chance to get a foothold in anything that resembled a real social situation because of the ST. He had anti-social tendencies.

An accountant in DnD. Took on adventuring to raise capital for his future endevours (and to demand money from a King for war crimes committed against him (he was thrown in jail with the party, who had been involved with a siege of some sort))

Daughter of a former bandit king and a paladin, living in the lap of luxury. She tries really hard, even on 9th level, to hang out with commoners and relate to the common man. An utter delusion when put in context with the people she interacts with on a daily basis now.

A mad mass murdering, shape shifting ninja. He's one of four lords, and wanted by several large factions for disregard for human life in the quest for the cozy life. (Kill people and take their life over until he gets bored, and leaves with their things.)

A DJ from the Vault. Sociopath who just wants to lord over everyone, and have everyone like him. Destroys people using psychology, voice recordings and critical fails, even when he makes them.

A vow of poverty monk, who ran off to boss orcs around, teaching them how to read and lead good monogamous relationships. He was a fascist who believed in the good of everyone and it was the burden of those with more intellect, to guide our less gifted friends. He never did any lethal damage, but he caused so many deaths :(

2011-03-25, 07:38 AM
I often play the highborn brought low, so to speak, wither because the family lost status (my current charcter is my favorite example of this,) or they entered an organization where their blood either didn't stack up to the bluer blood of the otehrs, or didn't matter much in the first place.

2011-03-25, 05:07 PM
I've played characters from all over the social spectrum, but I find I have the most fun playing those from the lower strata. (This may just be a side effect of liking to play rogues, though.)

One interesting thing I've noticed is that my characters never seem to notice a change in their social status. If a character started out as a sneakthief guttersnipe, she may have (over the course of play) earned land, wealth, a title, be on first-name basis with the king, whatever - in her own mind, she's still a sneakthief guttersnipe, and whenever anyone calls her "Lady," has to stifle the urge to look around and see who they're talking to.

2011-03-25, 05:25 PM
I have noticed that I have never played a character from the middle class. No monks, merchants, priests, craftsmen. I either play the lowest of the low (orphans, mercenaries, criminals, vagabonds) or nobles.

2011-03-25, 10:01 PM
In games I've played where class has mattered, I apparently tend to play nobles. Ish.

-A distant relative to a powerful noble family, without land or income of his own but high appearances to maintain. The system had a mechanic for "mooch", but he was so good at it I never had to roll :smallcool:

-A swordsman who grew up thinking he was an orphan. His father was actually the noble who "adopted" him; His father found his wife cheating on him, and thought his son was not HIS son, but his brothers son. He was proclaimed a bastard and kept from his father, but was well taken care of because even if he was the son of his fathers' evil brother, he was still family.

-A petty baron who had nobility thrust upon him for outstanding service on the battlefield. He has absolutely no idea how to run an estate, and leaves it entirely to his seneschal. He adventures to prove to himself that he still can, dammit.

-A "doctor" (:smallamused:) who made quite a comfortable living selling snake oil to peasants, and was quite a sprinter. Somehow, a voting member of the merchants guild, so upper-middle class.

2011-03-25, 10:45 PM
Upper-middle to upper class, all the way.

I like playing knights. Knights aren't peasants/proles. Peasants/proles don't get the cool toys.

2011-03-26, 02:37 AM
If the question is whether my socialistic tendencies display themselves through my characters, then the answer is yes, yes they do. My "conservative" friend (usually DM) gets annoyed, my "libertarian" friend laughs, and my "meh" friends don't care. It seems natural for people to identify with the socioeconomic class that they grew up in.

Also, apparently having a distrust for monarchy is frowned upon. I mean, really...

Though I have played characters with a variety of beliefs (often not matching my own), I don't believe I've ever had an aristocrat or rich character (rather, character from rich family; they can get rich through holy beer brewing that breaks the game and makes the DM kill everybody).

2011-03-26, 03:52 AM
Not really any consistancy. Although two of my favorite characters where both nobility. One was an actual noble, with responsibilities and everything. In fact the whole group he was with were nobles and he was the leader of the group, despite the fact he was the lowest ranking noble. Fireballs are fun like that. :smallbiggrin:
The other was the half-elven son of an elven queen (third child, second husband). He didn't visit home often, although he was welcome to do so, and he only used the royal connection once.
While my most memerable death was of the murderous hobo variety, PvP with a player just want to be an jerk.:smallfurious:
Most of the rest fall somewhere in between those extremes.

2011-03-26, 10:09 AM
I seem to gravitate towards the low end of the noble class, or upper-middle class in some cases. The guy in my avatar is the second son of a destitute land-owning knight. I also tend to play educated characters - another one I'm playing is even a teacher.

2011-03-26, 05:36 PM
Both of my current characters are social climbers. The first one was an elf and I somehow always imagine that they just live in an egalitarian welfare society so he wasn't very preoccupied with this whole class thing but becoming a baron sounded cool and it's nice having a castle and fancy clothes. The second is a human of a very low social status that somehow managed to get an education and pretends that he's a noble.

It' not so much that class matter but sophistication and it's easier to justify with a middle or upper class backgrounds. As a reflection of myself I imagine my attempt at a socially aware character would be champagne socialist. Nobility also allows for all sorts of intrigue. I also think most player characters are such outsiders that they'd always subvert any kind of a social hierarchy, either because they have very abnormal backgrounds or because they're murderous hobos that eventually get powerful enough not to worry about class.

The Dark Fiddler
2011-03-26, 07:36 PM
I tend to play characters who exist outside of social classes; hermits, forest-dwellers, orphaned hobos, and similar. The only exceptions were a low-ranking member of the church of Pelor and a circus performer... both of which died. :smallconfused: