I’ve made a few passing references to the caste system of Bragonay in the past, but I’ve got a more fleshed out version to share. I’m pretty pumped about this. As I was writing it made me want to run a campaign with an entire party of Bragonian dwarves, which is a good sign to me. When it comes to gaming write what excites!
The Caste System
In Bragonay there is little hope of climbing the ladder of social status. Most dwarves are born into the caste system in the same position as their parents and they cannot hope to advance beyond their station. Dwarves live, marry, and have children within their own caste. Persons of higher castes have better quality of life, more money, more power, and their word is worth more than that of any with a lower station. Within the same caste the word of women is always worth more than men’s. The levels of the Bragonian caste system are, in order from most powerful to least, empress, warlords, nobles, soldiers, artisans, peasants, and slaves. In Bragonay only warforged can be slaves. The empress and warlords are all female, which means they can marry below their station, but only from the noble caste. Sons born from such a union are nobles, daughters are warlords. All members of Bragonian society must follow the rules of the caste, including the empress. If she breaks the caste, the warlord may vote to overrule and execute her. The only member of a caste who moves up due to a death is a warlord who becomes the empress when the previous empress has died. This warlord is the next of kin of the previous empress. All stations of Bragonay’s caste are assigned a clothing color. At all times a majority of the clothing they wear must be this color for easy identification.
- Empress – Black
- Warlords – Yellow
- Nobles – Purple
- Soldiers – Red
- Artisans – Blue
- Peasants – Green
- Slaves – Orange
Warlords serve as councilors and enforcers for the empress. Nobles serve on councils which are in charge of various settlements and soldiers serve as their enforcers and lieutenants. Artisans could be any merchant or seller of wares or services. They are well-trained in their respective skills and valued by nobles for the money they bring into the region (which is of course, heavily taxed). Peasants could be many different things, farmers, street cleaners, messengers, etc. Yet the most popular job for peasants is easily miner, since metal working is the backbone of the Bragonian economy. The use of slaves is on the decline since the warforged uprising and Bragonay has ceased production of the humanoids (even though some warforged have figured out a way to build new members of their kind). Still many nobles and warlords have loyal slaves who work as servants and bodyguards. Laboring is mostly handled by the peasant class, but occasionally a warforged slave might be brought into a mine or field to fill a very dangerous, low-level position. Some of these slaves are well-treated and have no desire for freedom, but there are those who abhor their bonds and plot their escapes. Since the uprising crack team of dwarf artisans assembled by the empress herself has been working on a new breed of living construct to replace the warforged as slaves. What may happen to the remaining warforged slaves once these new constructs are complete is anyone’s guess.
The Caste Rules
There are two rules which are the hope of all those in the lower stations, except for slaves who can never leave their station. These rules apply to even the empress herself.
- A Bragonian within a higher caste may initiate a status trade with a Bragonian of a lower station.
- A Bragonian of higher caste may force a status trade upon two individuals of a lower station.
The Caste Game
As a result of the rules above, The citizens of Bragonay are often engaged in a dangerous and deceitful game involving blackmail and manipulation. The lower castes use methods of blackmail to manipulate their way up the ladder of the caste. Threats of violence are usually no good, since a dead dwarf cannot trade castes. As a result of this blackmail, dwarves within higher castes are usually either very secret about any illicit dealings or lifestyle choices in which they engage, or they are extremely open about these goings on. Still, there is always a caste to which one may advance for there must be someone trying to keep an affair quiet, covering up a murder, having gambling debts, or stealing from their boss. In some cases, desperate dwarves will turn to kidnapping a loved one, though most dwarves cannot be manipulated in this way. A higher caste is more difficult to replace than a child or spouse. Sometimes manipulation of a manner more subtle than blackmail is required. Faked romances and seduction are a favorite ploy of young Bragonians, as well as servants trying to form close friendships with their masters in hopes that they will receive a boost up the ladder. As a result the higher castes look to the lower castes for only labor and services. There is very little mingling otherwise. These games are not for the faint of heart. Murder, blackmail, kidnapping, lust, betrayal, and more play into the dangerous caste game of Bragonay.
The Caste Gods
The religion of the Bragonian dwarves takes its cues from the caste system. This religion is referred to as Hierotheism. The polytheistic religion recognizes its goddesses organized into their own caste system. Each caste has its own priests lead prayer to their corresponding goddess. One may not pray to a goddess above his or her station and if caught doing so the penalty is death. Prayers to the goddesses below an individual’s station are acceptable, though not common. The empress is a special case. She has a goddess assigned to her caste of one and therefore is her own priestess. However, at the request of the empress only, a priest of the warlord caste may pray with the empress to her goddess. A ladder with seven rungs is the symbol used to represent Hierotheism. Each rung is a different color which corresponds with the clothes worn by a particular station. Here are the goddesses and their corresponding stations.
- Caramey The goddess of the empress is usually depicted as a female dwarf standing next to a throne of adamantine, wearing a mithral crown. She wears a huge great sword, Order-Keeper, strapped across her back. Legends say the just goddess has never had need to draw her sword, for all the caste goddesses know their place in the hierarchy and do not stray out of line.
- Meralla The warlord goddess is wise in the counsel she gives to Caramey. She suffers no foolishness and takes the lives of every Bragonian citizen as her personal responsibility. She wields a huge scythe, Head-Remover, which is used to bring swift justice to those who try to operate outside their castes.
- Zelti The beautiful goddess of the noble caste is often depicted holding a bag of coin in one hand and a dirk, Secrets Released, in the other. She protects the personal property of nobles and grants them strength to make secrets public so they may save themselves from blackmail and corruption. Zelti also carries a scroll tube on her belt, which is where she writes down the sins of dwarf nobles. Her priests encourage dwarves make these sins public, again to help avoid blackmail.
- Swarvune The goddess of soldiers and war is often depicted as the happiest of dwarves, smiling and reveling in battle. Her axe and shield, Judgement and Law, are always sharpened and polished, ready to defend the Bragonian people. She commands loyalty and respect from her worshippers as a commander would and asks that they lay down their lives in defense of the Bragonian way of life. It is said she dies for her people every night in a grand divine battle and is rewarded with new life for her sacrifice every day at dawn.
- Shalleal The artisan goddess is said to have taught the shardminds to create the dwarves at Caramey’s order. She works at a forge using her great maul, Dragonbane. Her worshippers say she speaks little, for her work is of the utmost importance. Craft and labor are the be all, end all for Shalleal and she expects the same of her worshippers.
- Berga The hearty goddess of peasants is depicted as a soot-covered miner wielding the pick axe, Servitor. Happily she supports the other goddesses, serving as a laborer and messenger. Likewise the other goddesses are grateful for Berga, for without her support they could not do their very important work.
- Almahad The only male god in the Hierotheistic pantheon, and so low on the totem pole that the dwarves refer to all seven as simply, the goddesses. Still, like the others in the pantheon, Almahad serves his role well. He has always been depicted as a dwarf, for Bragonay used dwarf slaves before the warforged came along. He carries a club, Worthy Example, as his weapon, which is allowed to him by the other goddesses for his loyalty.
It is rumored that the weapons of the goddesses have equivalents on the material plane that were given to heroes fighting against the chromatic dragons. The rumors say these items were lost long ago, but if they are true, the items are still on Canus somewhere waiting to be discovered.
Adventurers and the Caste System
Bragonay’s caste system is a wonderful rabbit-hole down which adventurers may travel. They could receive word from an old dwarf friend because he or she is being blackmailed. They could be hired to dig up dirt on another dwarf’s rival. They could get caught in a dangerous game of deceit and have to determine who is a real ally and who is false. If one or more PCs is a Bragonian dwarf, the possibilities are truly endless. If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!