Mandate of Blood
Chelish society is exceptionally hierarchical. It is a hellish mound of bodies scrabbling to get past each other, pushing down and kicking those beneath them, and crushing the thousands of poor souls trapped at the bottom.
At the lowest tiers are slaves. There are many ways to become a slave in Cheliax; debtors, criminals, political prisoners are all often forced into slavery. Most of these slaves are term slaves, protected at least in word by the government to serve for some period of time before they are released free. In reality of course these terms can continue nigh indefinitely. They are however protected from death or disfigurement during their term. As all term slaves are considered the primary property of the state, on loan to their owners, causing the death or disfigurement of a term slave is a fairly weighty charge. (Not as weighty as assault or murder mind you…)
Unfortunate then are the life slaves, Halflings, prisoners of war, heretics and dissidents. Life slaves are owned in entirety and are entirely at the whims of their masters.
Above the slaves are serfs, farmers who live on and work a noble’s land in exchange for a giving a portion of their production to the noble lord whose land it is. Most serfs are uneducated, rarely find reason to leave the lands they work and generally live and die within 10 miles of the land they were born on.
Next there are laborers of all sorts, scribes, servants, craftsmen, dockworkers all inhabit this rung. They are free to move as they wish (neither owned or tied down by contract) though most find their lot in the slums, brothels and vice dens that litter cities. Hired soldiers and mercenaries are considered laborers.
Above simple laborers there are craftsmen. Generally educated craftsmen are free to live as they please though often they find themselves tied down by the debts and burdens of education, mortgages and guild fees. Of course, they could leave whenever they want, but the there are many openings in debtor’s prison and the Order of the Chain to deal with.
The highest rank of common folk is that of the Guild Master or Merchant. Small time speculators and the managers of capital risk, the purse of Cheliax is filled by the pockets of the thousands of merchants. In exchange for tithes and taxes, merchants are sometimes given the smallest seats of political power and authority.
The highest rank for a commoner, is that of the wealthy. Families who have had the time and resources to accumulate wealth and have the leisure time to invest, relax and plot. Most wealthy have great aspirations of nobility and many go to extreme lengths to achieve them. It is well known by mages and sell-swords that they real market for adventurous skills in cheliax is amongst the wealthy, who can afford both the coin and the risk.
Above them are the nobles. Old noble houses may still retain their holdings from before the thrune ascension, which comes of course with respect, wealth and power. Those families who have not proven themselves to the crown tend to stay in westcrown fading into decay and obscurity with the city itself.
Newer nobles are the arm of the Chelish government, constantly vying (through blackmail, extortion and murder) for attention appointments and power through various noble courts throughout the country.
The next in line is the Church of Asmodeus. Technically removed from nobility and commoners alike as the second estate, the church administers the day-to-day operations of the state. Clerics serve as judges, magistrates and lawyers, creating, judging and debating the infinite permutations of the absolute law.
Above them all is the royal family, House thrune, whose absolute rule of the nation has remained for the last 60 years. The lineage of the house is not direct; various clans within it maneuver for power, seeking to place one of their own upon the throne, though they unite against outsiders who seek to move beyond the status of “pawn.”