Finery and social class

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How people react to a character in a social situation depends heavily on how that character is dressed. Is the garb appropriate for the occasion? Does it signify similar station to that of the interlocutor? Does it show respect, or perhaps arrogance?

There are six levels of finery (seven including impoverished).

  • Impoverished (0 GP). Scavenged rags.
  • Poor (10 GP). Worn but functional.
  • Respectable (100 GP). Tradesperson.
  • Prosperous (500 GP). Official or dandy.
  • Wealthy (1000 GP). Rich merchant.
  • Noble (5000 GP). Aristocrat or hierophant.
  • Kingly (10000+ GP). The garb of emperors.

The primary benefit to wearing expensive clothes is a reaction modifier, based on your finery relative to that of any interlocutor. For example, if you are wearing poor clothes, and interacting with someone garbed in prosperous finery, the reaction roll will be at -2 (due to the two steps of difference). If you are outfitted in finery equal to your interlocutor, there are no modifiers to the social reaction role. If you are wearing clothes of a higher station, there is a bonus, but capped at +2 (the penalty is not similarly limited, however; impoverished clothing imposes a -6 reaction roll penalty when talking to a king).

Adventuring in the underworld or wilderness will quickly ruin clothes of value higher than poor unless supernatural measures are taken (some wizards are exceptionally vain and prefer impractical clothing to show their power, much the way nobles do to show their wealth). Well-crafted clothing meant to stand up the elements can be had for 50 – 100 GP, but marks one out as an explorer or scout. Fashion dictates that particularly valuable clothing must be altered and replaced with some frequency (exact replacement schedule is a function of location and referee ruling). The finery of one place may not be appropriate in another place (assume one category less, though this is also subject to situational rulings).

Ceremonial armor is also available for the prices listed above, and may be made functional as well as elaborate if desired (double the cost, you must find a master armorer, and repair costs will be high). If well maintained, standard light armor is automatically treated as poor clothing, while standard medium and heavy armor is considered respectable. However, if armor is worn in an inappropriate situation (an audience with a lord where you are not that lord’s general or mercenary, for example), it is considered to impose an additional penalty (probably -2).

First level characters and retainers begin with the equivalent of poor clothing. I don’t expect that concerns about status and clothing would come up that often for low level adventurers, but I think this nicely encapsulates social dynamics, is another way to engage the world, and could make a difference in a diplomacy-heavy domain game. This system also leverages the 2d6 reaction roll, which is my favorite RPG social resolution system.

5 thoughts on “Finery and social class

  1. Gus L

    Ahhh – This is great, and works with Beni’s already existent white snakeskin “fancy leathers” – which cost about 600GP marking him as a dandy of some sort (likely the Pahvelorn equivalent to a Joe Pesci character) when worn.

    Nice stuff. I wonder though if one would get negative reactions for wearing clothing “too fancy” for the situation. I.e. poor merchants try to sell stuff for more if you look like you can afford it.

    1. Brendan

      I thought about having the bonus for wearing fancier clothes “wrap around” so that if you were wearing stuff that was too ostentatious it would actually be negative, but the numbers didn’t work out as elegantly (0, 1, 2, 1, 0, -1 requires 5 levels of difference to really be noticed). So I decided to keep the basics simple, and assume that specific situations could always have rulings. I suppose one coud have something like 0, 1, 2, 0, -1, -2.


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