caste

What is a Caste and why should I care?

Unlike the highly decentralized European World, where people had the same general kinds of rights (with more or less privelege given to individuals), in Asian cultures Rights were monopolized. For example, a peasant in Feudal Europe could own a home, buy a tavern, buy tools to enter an artisanal trade like blacksmithing, and even buy weapons and armor so long as he could afford them such as swords or heavy armor to become a man at arms. Not so for the peoples of the Orient. The Samurai are the only people allowed to carry Katanas and No-Daichi, anyone else whom dares to touch one (with a few notable exceptions) has committed a crime punishable by death. The highly centralized Oriental world allowed for the strict adherence to law. Of course, the right to do something, and the ability to do something, are very different. I have the right to learn how to fly a plane, but I may not have the ability. A Samurai has the right to kill anyone not of the Imperial Family for any reason, but if faced with a very powerful Wu Jen, may not have the ability to kill him before the Wu Jen’s dark magic slays the Samurai. The caste system in Oriental Adventures is over a thousand years old, and like the caste systems of times and places in the real world, was designed to keep any one group from becoming too powerful to change the system. Beside your class make sure to write down your caste as well!

What are the Castes in order from Highest to Least?

There are 10 castes

The Imperial Court (Family and Magistrates)

“When all know their place, there is clarity & righteous harmony.”

Quick Reference Relations to other Castes:

Samurai: The Samurai are not the “ruling” caste. They comprise the Lords, yes, and taxes are paid to them and laws are executed by them, but the Imperial Family, it’s Magistrates and Champions, are the ruling caste. All Samurai must swear fealty to the EMPEROR FIRST, and then to their Daimyo second. It helps that the Imperial Magistrates are the source of the salaries of the Samurai. Samurai may enter the Imperial City, and the Forbidden City but cannot enter the Imperial Palace without being summoned by a member of the Imperial Court. Of course the Imperial Court has it’s own Samurai defenders. Only the most honorable and excellent of Samurai are invited to become part of the Imperial Court, at which point they are adopted into, and must forsake all former family, friends, and allegiances to Clans (or so it is said). The Imperial Court retains no less than three families dedicated to the protection of the Emperor, the Imperial City, and the Imperial Court itself. Even Daimyo do not outrank the magistrates of the Jade Throne, as said magistrates are sent to deal with matters for the Emperor himself and thus speak with his voice. All Samurai must bow before the Imperial Court and kneel before the Emperor. Samurai are allowed to look the Emperor in the face when speaking to him and all Samurai are allowed to enter the Forbidden City, but cannot enter the Imperial Palace unless summoned. Samurai can choose to live in the Imperial City, but only the Imperial Family can live in the Forbidden City. Only Imperial Court members can so much as enter the Imperial Palace. Samurai may freely speak to any member of the Imperial Court (including the Emperor) to which they have an audience.

Scholars: Magistrates of the Daimyo rank below those of the Imperial Court. Only members of the Imperial Court, or a direct superior of a Daimyo’s Scholar, can arrest a magistrate of a Daimyo. All Magistrates are technically samurai, and thus can be challenged to duels by other samurai. To make sure that the Magistrates of the Daimyo are being honest, itinerant Imperial Magistrates wander the lands of the clans, looking for crimes both large and small.

Priests: Unlike in most societies where priests are either on top, or in a separate system, Priests in Oriental Adventures are very much part of the system. The Emperor is The Chosen of Heaven, and as such is technically the leader of the “religion” of the Elemental Kami. Moreover the Imperial City has a large school of theology where many priests are trained. However, the priests of the Imperial Court belong to the caste of the Imperial Court. This designation is for priests not of, or adopted into, the Imperial Court. Magistrates of the Daimyo can arrest or order the execution of a priest, even moreso can the Imperial Court, whom speaks with the voice of a Living God. Priests are the only people that may speak out of turn with the Emperor, and not perish. However, they are not granted this power with Samurai. Priests are usually given preferred treatment in terms of audiences with the Imperial Court.

Peasants: There are multiple peasant families that serve the Imperial Court as Ashigaru foot soldiers and farmers. They live in the Imperial City or the surrounding hub villages producing foodstuffs, livestock, fine horses, and manning the defenses of the four “hub” villages surrounding the Imperial City as well as the outermost walls of the Imperial City itself. Unlike most peasants, they do not pay their taxes (in gold or goods) to a Daimyo, but directly to the Imperial Court’s Magistrates themselves. Each village selects a “mayor” known as a “village head.” Only the Village Head of one of the many peasant families that grows food for the empire may enter the Forbidden City at the heart of the Imperial Capital, and even then only to deliver a petition to the Emperor himself. Unfortunately, the cost of an audience with the Emperor is not cheap, as when a peasant addresses the Emperor, someone must die. Peasants are not allowed to look their Emperor in the face, or to speak to him unless asked a direct question. The only exception to this rule is at the Imperial Festival held every 12 years. Touching a member of the Imperial Court, including their magistrates, is to forfeit one’s life for a peasant. Peasants must keep their eyes firmly fixed on the ground when in the presence of the Imperial Court, and must remain kneeling to them unless ordered to do something by a member of the Imperial Court. Peasants may not live inside of the inner walls of the Imperial City, and no peasants save Village Heads may enter the Forbidden City. All peasants of the Imperial City live in one of the four hub villages.

Craftsmen: Like any city, the Imperial City has it’s craftsmen, all of which live in the hub villages, and can only enter the Imperial City proper if summoned. They may not enter the Forbidden City at all, on pain of death. If a craftsmen is approached by any member of the Imperial Court he must throw himself on the ground as if in supplication to the Imperial Court. Moreover, any craftsman must close their eyes unless ordered to open them. Craftspeople may not speak to Imperial Court members unless asked a direct question.

Merchants: No merchant

Foreigners:

Branded:

UnTouchables: If the Emperor so much as lays eyes on an UnTouchable, that person must be put to death, for having sullied the Emperor. Most members of the Imperial Court would slay an UnTouchable that they saw. However, technically UnTouchables whom are full covered with a beehive hat (tengai), are allowed to live, unless they have been seen by the Emperor. UnTouchables learn to make themselves scarce when Imperial Magistrates are about. Some people are surprised to learn that there is a village of UnTouchables in the sewers underneath the Imperial City, and even the Forbidden City. After all, someone must empty the chamber pots of the Imperial Court. The very rigid routines make sure that only Samurai see the UnTouchables as they do their duties around the Imperial City, and even then, they may only move in very proscribed ways, or suffer the tortuous death of their entire family.

The Samurai (Hereditary Warriors)

“The way of the warrior is the resolute acceptance of death.”

Not all Samurai are warriors, and not all warriors are Samurai. The Samurai are the nobility of the Oriental world. A Samurai that commands other Samurai in a region that is under their protection is known as a Daimyo. The Samurai get to carry the full set of daisho the only ones allowed to do so. Some Samurai choose to become Priests or Scholars. In such a case they give up their Katana, and No-Daichi, but keep their Tanto and Wakazashi. A member of a Samurai family can chose to do either of these things without bringing dishonor to his family, but any other move (except marrying into the Imperial Family) will bring grave dishonor to not only himself, but his family as well. All Samurai have the Right-of-Cut-Down, this means that they can kill any person below them in station (in other words anyone but their Daimyo or the Imperial Family) and it is not considered murder. All a Samurai must do, is shout Right-of-Cut-Down, draw his / her weapon, and then slay whomever defended them. While an explanation is usually given (to prevent the offending behaviour from being repeated) it is not legally necessary, not is it a crime of any sort. The Samurai are also the only caste allowed to use such excellent weapons as the Katana and the No-Daichi, as well as being able to wear Samurai Armor. Excepting those whom make these items, to so much as touch one with the naked hand is punishable by death. However, these are not Lords in the European sense. Yes the Daimyo make the tactical decisions and can make and enforce laws. However, Samurai are forbidden from investing money (the merchant class), owning land (the peasnats), or owning businesses (craftsmen and merchants). A Samurai does not own the land he protects, nor is he allowed to tax it. The Samurai must collect taxes and pay it to his Daimyo whom will then pay it to the Imperial Family. The Samurai recieve their pay as a salary that is paid by the Imperial Family to the Daimyo to distribute to their individual Samurai Retainers. Masterless samurai are called Ronin, and are not to be confused with the character class of the same name. A samurai with a Daimyo must obey his / her daimyo or else lose great honor (as well as their stipend). Ronin caste are still Samurai, but without a master they must make ends meet by the only means allowed to them, the pen or the sword. Samurai may enter the Forbidden City.

Quick Reference Relations to other Castes:

Imperial Court:

Scholars:

Priests:

Peasants:

Craftsmen:

Merchants:

Foreigners:

Branded:

Untouchables:

The Scholars (Administrators and Magistrates of the Daimyo)

“When people are ruled wisely they seldom realize it until wisdom is gone.”

Imperial Court:

Samurai:

Priests:

Peasants:

Craftsmen:

Merchants:

Foreigners:

Branded:

Untouchables:

May enter the Forbidden City.

The Priests (Holy Men & Women not of the Imperial Court)

“I seek not to know the answers, but to understand the questions.”

Imperial Court:

Samurai:

Scholars:

Priests:

Peasants:

Craftsmen:

Merchants:

Foreigners:

Branded:

Untouchables:

May enter the Forbidden City.

The Peasants (Land Owners & Men-at-Arms)

“What use the field without peasants? What use the peasants without the field?”

The Peasant class is composed of fishermen and farmers, whom are allowed to enlist in the miliatary and become the Asian equivalent of men-at-arms known as “Ashigaru.” They are allowed to wear armor and use any weapon save for the Samurai Weapons (in other words most swords). This meant many Ashigaru used axes, spears, bows, and pole-arms. Craftsmen and merchants often retain Peasant Ashigaru to guard their shops if they cannot afford (or find) a ronin available. Moreover, the peasants, not the Samurai or the merchants or even the Imperial Family, own the land. Thus Craftsmen and merchants had to pay a tithe to a peasant family for the shops they setup. As the producers of food, they are considered the most honorable of all producers, and their preferred rank is proof of this.

Imperial Court:

Samurai:

Scholars:

Priests:

Craftsmen:

Merchants:

Foreigners:

Branded:

Untouchables:

The Craftsmen (Service and Industry)

An important exception to the rule of no-Non-Samurai Touching Swords or Samurai Armor was, of course, Swordsmiths and Samurai Armor Smiths. These were the only people allowed to touch swords and armor other than samurai themselves. HOWEVER, they were still forbidden to ever use either. Hence, a Craftsmen would pay a samurai, perhaps a ronin, to test the swords or armor that were made.

Imperial Court:

Samurai:

Scholars:

Priests:

Peasants:

Merchants:

Foreigners:

Branded:

Untouchables:

The Merchants (Traders & Entertainers)

“Although it cannot hold an edge, gold can cut a man’s soul.”

Asian cultures had a very ingenious method of preventing the rise of a merchant class that could dare to threaten the monarchy: the merchant class is not allowed to so much as touch a weapon other than a dagger. While the merchants are the only individuals allowed to lend or invest money, they are also one of the lowest. In europe the Merchant class intermarried with the warrior caste and supplied men-at-arms leading into the renassaince when it was wealth, not titles, that brought power. In Oriental Adventures anyone above them may strike a merchant, and it is not a crime (it is still a crime to kill unless one is a Samurai or Imperial Family). This served to keep many merchants honest. Of course, merchants could hire peasant Ashigaru or Ronin Samurai to gaurd them and their goods (and often did). Ironically, they also had the greatest freedom of movement as it was expected of them to go from one place to another. As merchants often deal with foreignors, all merchants are considered somewhat suspect. In addition as being only transporters and sellers of goods, instead of producers, they are seen as almost a parasitic if necessary evil.

Imperial Court: Never enter the Imperial City, we are not allowed there. Pay the town head to go if you must, but never so much as look towards the Forbidden City if you value your head! If they wish to trade with us, they will come down to one of the Hub Villages, to our shops. If a magistrate visits offer him a gift befitting his station. Fortunes are made on the fads and fashions of the Imperial Court. You must kneel to them, even if mounted on a horse you must kneel to them, and press your head upon the ground. If you are in a palanquin then you must leap out from it and into the mud. A new kimono is cheap compared to a new neck. It does not matter how rich or poor this samurai or magistrate is, you must do this. Gold can buy many things, even the lives of others, but it cannot buy a life already lost. You may only speak when spoken to, may only rise when commanded to do so, and you must never touch them or their weapons. Keep a craftsmen and an Ashigaru or two at hand at all times, if you wish to show them arms and armor. Always be a good friend to the Village Head, and the local Daimyo.

Samurai: Be the sole of politeness if a Samurai visits. If he likes something in your shop, he may choose to pay for it with your blood instead of his gold after all. This is why we pay taxes to the Daimyo, and taxes to the Yakuza. Never let him think you are boasting of your wealth. For all their honor, the salaries and stipends of the Samurai are very small, and likely to make them testy. Kneel with your head to the ground, do not speak or move until addressed. If you are asked to rise and show your goods then do so with haste and abandon, but never be rude.

Scholars: Yes they buy our goods, but often we must show them at a place of their choosing. If an magistrate visits, give him something as a gift, and show them your most prized pieces, for this is how fortunes are made. Always make sure you have an Ashigaru, or better, a Ronin at hand though. It will likely dissaude them from dishonesty. If, however, they demand another gift, acquiese to their demands. Hiring a ninja is cheaper than buying a new head. You must kneel to them, even if mounted on a horse you must kneel to them, and press your head upon the ground. It does not matter how rich or poor this samurai or magistrate is, you must do this. Gold can buy many things, even the lives of others, but it cannot buy a life already lost. You may only speak when spoken to, may only rise when commanded to do so, and you must never touch them or their weapons. Keep a craftsmen and an Ashigaru or two at hand at all times, if you wish to show them arms and armor.

Priests: Give them their alms and then be on your way. Their faith is their strength as our gold is ours. Besides, if everyone gave away their worldly possessions, how would we make our living?

Peasants: Yes, you must bow to the peasants, but you may speak freely. Remember though, gold can buy many spears. They may strike us if they choose, and we are forbidden to carry weapons, so always have a bodyguard, and a secret weapon. Cane swords are risky, the Magistrates use them too and know what to look for. Something that flicks out is best. A man that doesn’t carry a dagger is asking to be robbed. If you are a good friend to the Village Head and the local Samurai, you can charge what you like. If you are not, then your profit margins will be slim. Never show off your full wealth, always let the gifts be a surprise, we are the buyers and sellers, and a coin can turn a sword away. Still, do not be too greedy, rent must be paid to a peasant family for the stall that sits atop it. The Daimyo and the Yakuza, they are your best friends, and your worst enemies.

Craftsmen: The craftsmen need us as we need them. Yes, they are given more status, but without the iron and coal we trade what would the swordsmith do? Buy as many of these men as you can. Lend them money, be lenient in letting them repay at first, then when they fall behind ask the Ashigaru to go see them.

Foreigners: The foreigners are a blessing upon our caste, for they know not the value of anything, and in their barbarian ways do not value honor, but only coin. A Horse Lord Bloodrider or a Burning Sand Magician or even a Mountain Tribesman can make an excellent mercenary as well.

Branded: Another commidity to be bought and sold. Better yet, they carry not only themselves, but other goods as well.

Untouchables: Another blessing upon the caste, only we and the priests deal with them. Let the priests go first and purify, then buy their goods and sell them whatever junk you have laying about. Ask to see their most talented children, and you may find yet more slaves, or even better, you may find a Geisha or a ninja to sell to one of the clans that train them. Some make their money in this way only.

The Foreigners (Not Really Outside the Formal System)

“Do not let them gaze on the beauty of the Middle Kingdom, for if they see it’s splendors they will covet them. There is no honor in taunting them with glories they could never possess.”

Foreigners are treated, for all intents and purposes, as merchants that are allowed to keep whatever non-samurai weapons they happen to have. Foreigners are very much looked down on in the Middle Kingdom, which knows that it is most blessed by Heaven. Thus all outsiders are referred to as barbarians (nanban) when polite, or as foreign devils (gaijin) when not. Foreigners are given the most restrictions on travel, as it is known that they wish to steal the secrets to the glory and wealth of the Middle Kingdom. In many places they are forced to wear bee-hive hats (tengai) to cover their faces so that they do not frighten the populace. In this they combine many traits of the merchants and the untouchables. The local Daimyo decides what do with foreigners, and if they are really spies. Some Daimyo are more welcoming than others. The Unicorn, Turtle, and Crab Clans are all quite infamous for allowing foreigners into their midst. Other clans such as the Dragon, Lion, and Crane, are very quick to put Foreigners to death. Foreigners are not even allowed to see the Forbidden City on pain of death.

Imperial Court:

Samurai:

Scholars:

Priests:

Peasants:

Craftsmen:

Merchants:

Branded:

Untouchables:

Slaves and Criminals (The Branded)

“Law is both a club and a dagger.”

Known ninja are put into this caste, which is why it is so important to be an unknown ninja.

Imperial Court:

Samurai:

Scholars:

Priests:

Peasants:

Craftsmen:

Merchants:

Foreigners: The only difference between us and them? We’ve been caught.

Untouchables: At least there’s someone beneath us, that is unless we’re made into them.

The Untouchables (The Non-People)

“In silence may much be learned.”

Tanners, grave diggers, miners, and waste disposers. The Untouchables are unclean from their jobs, the constant handling of corpses and / or waste. They are the lowest of the low and anyone, even foreigners, may kill them. Merchants take their goods to the towns, being only a step and a half higher than they. They have their own villages on the outskirts or sewers of every major town and village in the empire. Someone has to dig the graves, clean the sewers, empty the chamber pots, and do all the dirtiest and smelliest work around. Many ninja actually come from this caste, as they are used to keeping themselves out of the way, and more importantly, out of sight. If an UnTouchable goes into town (to do their job, as only a merchant would trade with them) they must wear a beehive hat and cover themself from head to toe to be even allowed in. Even so, they are only allowed at Twilight and Dusk. During the day, or the night, they must leave. If an untouchable speaks to a samurai, let alone touches him, the samurai is obligated by honor to cut the untouchable down. If a member of the imperial family happens to so much as see an untouchable, then that person must be put to death.

Imperial Court: To be avoided at all costs, most of them would kill you before they’ld look at you. Hide. Even the UnTouchables that live in the sewers of the Imperial City are no different.

Samurai: Make sure you’re wearing your tengai, only speak when asked a direct question, if you are seen by one drop to the ground and wait for a few minutes. Be careful, if you move before they’ve left, or ordered you to do something, they’ll probably kill you. Some do it just for fun. Never let them see your daughters, or you’ll probably lose more than just your head.

Scholars: The magistrates of the Daimyo deal with us far more often. Someone has to tan the hides, empty the chamber pots, and bury the dead. Someone has to raise the pigs and dig the ore. That’s use. Sure, slaves do that work too, and then they become us. Do the same thing as if a samurai came, expect them to speak to you little, they only want to make sure that quotas are being met. For kamis’ sakes don’t touch them, and no quick motions while they’re around.

Priests: The only ones that show any compassion. Do not speak out of turn, you must kneel before them, but you need not wallow in the mud. If they ask a question they are inviting you to speak. Do not touch them, but they may touch you. They often come by for the purification rituals. Often they come to give alms, so beg as well as you can.

Peasants: Worse than the Samurai. After all, the mighty warriors dislike the mud and shit, so they only come to interrogate and then leave quickly. The peasants we live near, in our own seprate village on the outskirts of theirs, on the worst land they have. We “trade” with them, if you can call it that. Remember, you aren’t allowed into their village, but just outside it to trade, and that’s only if they come first and ask you to bring supplies. Never go alone. If some drunk peasants, or worse ashigaru come, then hide. Always hide, always. Especially your wives and daughters. Keep something heavy on your basement trapdoor. Maybe the drunkards will leave without burning anything. Don’t mouth off to them, they like to bully us to feel better about the oppression of their “Daimyo.”

Craftsmen: You’re unlikely to see one. Yes we have our tinkers, but I mean a blacksmith that can make a Samurai sword, not one that merely repairs what little tools we have. If he says he’s a craftsmen and he’s talking to you, he’s lying. Only the Priests and the Merchants visit us commonly, and often to our benefit. Whenever Samurai or Peasants come, it is to our harm nearly always.

Merchants: Not as nice as the priests, but far more profitable. The Badger clan are the most numerous, and the Sparrows most honest. They’re the only ones you don’t have to kneel to. Make sure to bow though, and to be very polite. You can talk without being talked to, but caution is best at all times. Often they travel with Peasants or Samurai after all. You’ve heard of the ninja, yes? Well where do you think they come from? Those that hide, those that can be quite… and who better than those whom don’t have any honor anyways? Show them your best sons and daughters, and you might receive their weight in gold. Sometimes a merchant will need you to hold onto something, to hide. Don’t open it, don’t look at it, you don’t want to know what it is. Hide it well, and avoid the magistrates, and ALWAYS take the payment upfront. The smuggling is how we keep the merchants honest with us.

Foreigners: Foreigners? I’ve never seen one, or even heard of someone who has, and honestly I don’t think they exist. How could someone come from beyond the edge of the world?

Branded: They will become us. It’s the last phase of their punishment, to be stripped of everything that makes them humans in the eyes of society. Remember always that the filth of society always finds it’s way to us, including the people. If someone new comes, let the Village Head deal with them, don’t trust any of them… though maybe you could grow up to become a bandit…

How does Caste affect Class and vice Versa?

Characters wanting to take levels in the Samurai Class must be of the Samurai Caste.

Wu Jen, due to their strange hermetic taboos, are all untouchables. Many are servants of the Oni, but not all. There are legends of Wu Jen that have forged powerful weapons. The Emperor the defeated the Daimyo of all Demons and forced his hordes into the Shadowlands wielded such a weapon himself.

Ninja are often recruited from the Samurai caste however being a ninja is most illegal, hence they can come from any background, and can dare to pretend to be of any caste, but if discovered as a ninja, they are branded as part of the criminal caste.

caste

Adventures Oriental: The Land of the Jade Throne JeLovins77373