Victorian England’s Social Classes
In Victorian Dreadful there are seven Social Classes. They are, from lowest to highest, Destitute, Lower Working Class, Upper Working Class, Middle Class, Upper Middle Class, Upper Class and Nobility/Royalty.
Player characters will, by Default, start as Middle Class. It is possible to adjust this upwards or downwards by one level (see Character Creation and Bonus Character Points) Characters may NEVER start as Upper Class, Lower Working Class or Destitute (Though it is possible to become part of those classes during play!)
Character class is also affected by Social Class. (See the Table here.) The time, energy and financial resources needed to train and learn some Character Classes are beyond the ability of the Destitute, Lower Working Class and in some cases the Upper Working Class.
The Destitute are the lowest of the low. They have no job, no money, no property and are beggars or residents of the Work Houses. Many have suffered injuries that have left them maimed or crippled while others are brought down by any of a variety of diseases that are slowly draining away their lives. Though in theory anyone can become Destitute, most originate from the Lower Classes and often have few if any employable skills. What money they earn is often as prostitutes, mud larks (scavenge the banks of the river for valuables washed down the sewers) rat catchers, rag pickers, etc. Player Characters CANNOT start as Destitute (though they may become so!)
Lower Working Class
Sometimes referred to as the “Dependent Poor.” The largest percentage of the poor population. They lack regular jobs, lining up at the ship yards and construction sites every morning in hopes of getting work for the day. Others get by with jobs like gardeners, street sweepers, lamp lighters, chimney sweeps, knife grinders… Many ‘self employed’ include prostitutes, mud larks (scavenge the banks of the river for valuables washed down the sewers) rat catchers, rag pickers, etc. Generally have minimal education. Lower Working Class characters CANNOT BE Adepts, Sportsmen or Mystics.
Upper Working Class
Most of these are manual tradesmen and servants. Carpenters, masons, plumbers, cab drivers, maids, grooms, costermongers… Regular, though low paying, jobs. Stocking clerks, warehouse labor, railroad workers. Many more are employed in the vast factories and textile mills either operating or maintaining the machinery. Educated and literate, but no college or university background. Upper Working Class CANNOT BE Adepts or Sportsmen.
The Middle Class is made up of small to mid-sized businessmen, shop keepers, tailors, cobblers, highly skilled tradesmen (silversmith, watch maker, locksmith…) Some professions, Accountants, Teachers/Professors, Doctors (Surgeons) Solicitors (NOT Barristers.) Military Officers, Government employees, Ship Captains… They often own family businesses with some employees or apprentices. Also low to mid management level employees of larger companies and firms, banks, accountants, rail roads, shipping, manufacturers… Mostly University educated. Teachers/Tutors, Governess, Artist, Writers… are all acceptable jobs for women in the middle class. All Character Classes are available.
The Upper Middle Class is made up of Professionals, Doctors (Physicians), Barristers, Solicitors, Accountants, Engineers. They are always University educated. Some are Professors. Many hold high government positions in the various ministries. Some few may even be elected to the House of Commons (rare!) If there is a military background members were senior officers, Major or above. Many are factory and mine owners or have other profitable investments. All Character Classes are available. This is the highest Social Class that a player character may start at.
These are the landed gentry and Titled Nobles, Knights, Lords, Earls, etc. The Upper Class are not always wealthy, though it is common, and some Upper Middle Class families may indeed have more money, but money is not what makes you Upper Class. It is Breeding! No player characters may start as Upper Class It is REMOTELY possible that a character may be elevated into the ranks of the Upper Class.
These individuals have Royal Blood (though they may not be in direct line for the Throne.) These are Princes, Dukes and Counts etc. Generally wealthy, though individuals may not be fabulously so, their titles often come with financial stipends and lands. Players MAY NOT be of this class.
Social class is a powerful definition of intrinsic personal worth in Victorian England. Victorians will spare no efforts to uncover the social status and wealth of unknown individuals assuming new identities or responsibilities. In the absence of personal records, mutual trust and reliability of promise are extremely important. Characters who pass themselves off as what they are not run considerable risk!
Additionally, Social Class is a relative measure of a character’s understanding of social customs and mores, and reflects on a character’s chances of convincing or being convinced by an NPC of the same or different class.
Social class will modify Reaction Rolls, especially when dealing with lower classes. Generally, the higher one’s social class, the greater the chance he has of convincing someone of a lower class that what he says is true, no matter how unbelievable it might sound, and vice versa. Thus, an Upper Class baronet should more easily convince a Middle Class Scotland Yard CID inspector that the Queen’s Physician in Ordinary is really Jack the Ripper than would a Lower Class dock labourer.
Character’s reaction rolls will be increased by 10% when in conversation with a person one class lower than his own, or by 20% if the person is two or more social classes lower. When interacting with individuals of a higher social class, reaction rolls will be adversely affected to a similar extent. There is no modification with someone of one’s own class. However, Lower Class labor leaders, criminals, or anarchists could have such contempt for the Upper Class that an Upper Class character might have to suffer a 20% penalty to his Reaction Rolls rather than a bonus.
It is remotely possible, that a character’s social class might change during play. To increase it, the character would have to perform a deed inordinately important to the public good, in a way that is directly attributable to the character. To lower class standing, the deed would have to be disreputable or utterly despicable and attributable to the character. A Middle Class character that performed a truly heroic act that saved thousands of lives or protected the Empire, might be knighted by a grateful Queen. This would raise the character to Upper Class. Or, a person of Lower Class who made an honest fortune might be raised to Middle Class, but no amount of wealth alone will qualify you for Upper Class status – breeding is still breeding. On the other hand, a Middle Class character who spends all their time and money slumming and associating with the Lower Class, might be lowered to Lower Class, reflecting both depleted funds and lost peer respect.