[cross-posted at indie-rpgs.com]
I'm fascinated by the Three Orders of medieval European society - the laborer, warrior, and priestly castes, or laborares, bellatores, and oratores, respectively.
I've been meaning to check out Chronica Feudalis, to see the extent to which it covers the entrenched classes of euro-medieval culture, but for now, I know this: I would like to make a game that focuses on the tensions between these three groups. I think Joan of Arc and the Knights Templar provide a fine example of what I want to do - the former was a peasant whose military leadership and religious fervor propelled her to new heights, but ultimately pushed her up against adversaries she never would have encountered, otherwise, and they were the death of her.
The Knights Templar were pilgrim-guardians who ended up quite fabulously wealthy from their labors, the envy of both noblemen and the Church. This led to their branding as heretics and their dissolution and deaths.
What I've got so far is, more or less:
- characters of the peasant caste have the virtue of Industry - whatever labor they may put their minds to, rest assured that they will see it completed.
- characters of the knightly/noble caste have the virtue of Courage - any daring deed they put their minds to, they will be victorious.
- characters of the priesthood/other clerics have the virtue of Piety - if they put their trust in God, He will provide.
Also: no idea about the whole death/not death thing, when it comes to both succeeding at and surviving a grand deed. I'm thinking that the better the rating in your Order's virtue, the better you are (somehow) at handling any fallout/complications that arise from doing the thing (simplest way of mapping that could be to start out at a high number and tick down to a flawless "one" rating).
And also: I think that it's possible to start developing another virtue, but the complications you develop around it relate to people who find your actions presumptuous - what's wrong with the role God saw fit to give you? Complications would actually be more difficult to fend off when using this "cross-virtue", though you would still be able to get what you want (it's just that the situation would go all pear-shaped in the process).
One last thing: it's somehow a tossup when two people of the same caste do something either outlined or forbidden to their caste - any two non-knights fighting, for instance, would have to be settled based on their relative levels of virtue. But there's no question at all that most any knight could beat a peasant, or a priest, in a test of arms.
On reflection, I think this basic idea could also work for crossing gender/culture lines, too - if you set it up that the women of a family (the family being the focus of the story?) can readily get what they want through family and family-friend connections, but cannot, say, physically defend themselves (against men) without being seen as presumptuous, that could be very interesting, indeed. There could be an odd trick to playing this in a way that doesn't feel icky - you set up the things that your characters feel limited by, the ways in which your culture blocks your free actions, and then keep acknowledging that *society* feels one way, and *you-the-player* feel differently (or not, I guess). The extra-icky part would probably come from fetishizing or objectifying some not-your-own-culture, and using it for a milieu for the game. Historical distance is one thing, but it could be akin to Blackfacing to set such a game like this in 21st century Afghanistan. Buuut that's a whole topic, unto itself.
That all aside, I think that a given game would really have to focus on a fairly close-knit community or segment of a community; I'm imagining a man who has really racked up points in Comforting Others, which, in his community, is considered a not-men behavior. As a result, he can definitely push some physical boundaries with others in order to settle a conflict, all non-violently of course, but there's the chance that people will react angrily or with confusion to him for doing so. At the outset of a possible bar-fight, he might bring a guy to tears instead of having to knock him on his ass, but there's a chance he might get his ass beat by the same guy, *at another time*, for making him look "like a fag" in front of the whole damn bar. The player still has the satisfaction of stopping the initial conflict, but now things go in a different direction. It's tough to go against the social grain, even if you do get what you want in the short term!
I'm now debating whether auto-success should happen or not, but I'll see where that goes.
Wow, okay. Cool! Here's hoping you found reading this interesting, while I worked out some of these ideas. Any and all thoughts and comments are welcomed!
[edited for HTML issues and an addition to the bar-fight idea]