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Society and Culture

Society and Social Roles

The social structure of Shalazar is heavily interwoven with its history and religion, and as a result does not change rapidly. For the last four hundred years, each generation has been likely to be very much like the last, excepting perhaps that a Great Family may rise or fall, and that over time the city has become more opulent and fantastic.

Social Classes

Fantastic as the land of Shalazar is, the lot of life for most of those born is mundane and short. A fair lifespan is a mere fifty years, and those years will, for the most part, be filled with toil, hardship, and little in the way of rest or education. Outside the city of Shalazar, life is even less merciful. The great desert surrounding the city is unrelentingly harsh, and little grows there. Even the City-States surrounding Shalazar are but fertile oasis's in an otherwise unforgiving wasteland. Whatever one's social position, it is better to live in Shalazar than outside of it.

The Bulk of Humanity

For the bulk of humanity, life is what we would consider nasty, brutish, and short. One day in seven is a day of rest and worship; all other days will be spent toiling, normally in agriculture or some small cottage industry. However, sporadic religious feast-days and occasional festivals dot the calendar in Shalazar, and it is on these days that people have a chance to rest, let their hair down, and enjoy their life. Most PCs will not come from this rank of society, unless they choose the Poverty or No Family traits.


The Great Families, the Aristocracy, and Vassal Families

Commanding the loyalty of the vast bulk of humanity are the Great Families, for whom most of them work. (Those who do not may work for the Calipha directly, or for a vassal family.) The Great Families obtain most of their wealth through control of land and agriculture, with a not insignificant amount coming through trade or their special skills. They live longer, are better fed, spend more time in entertainment, and are considered socially and spiritually superior to the lower classes (all else being equal-a poor priestess is still more holy than an Emira).

Vassal families owe their allegiance to a Great Family, although that allegiance may change from time to time-generally when the woman at the head of the family changes. Their wealth tends to come not from land (which they cannot afford) but from small roles in trade or manufacture-ironmongery, textiles, etc.

Inheritance within a great family is a sort of primogeniture through the female line. The eldest daughter will inherit the position of family head, while all other female children will be given a small stipend and a one-time payment from the estate. It is with this that they must make their way in the world, either marrying into another family or establishing their own branch. Men will be married to other families with a dowry attached-the head of the family or family branch is responsible for arranging adequate dowries.


The Priesthood

The Priesthood is somewhat outside of the social structure, although within the ranks of the Priestesses there is a definite hierarchy. Within the church, a Priestess is expected to bow to the will of her superiors and respect their rulings. Outside the church, any priestess has sufficient rank to be respected, even if grudgingly, by a member of a Great Family. Control of the courts means that the Church has considerable power in temporal affairs.

Men who have become Eunuchs are considered ritually pure, and gain certain advantages in religious society. They may enter the Great Temple, though not its most holy areas, and indeed serve as clerks and servants to the Elders. They may also act as scribes within Courts, and debate scripture and religious interpretation with Priestesses as equals, although they have no deciding voice in the outcome of these debates. There are many eunuch monks whose words have, through persistence, cunning, and faith, made their way into the Theopneustic Tomes.


Magi and Academics

Members of the Visible and Invisible Colleges, even if they are not men of wealth or standing, are respected for the powers at their command. The medallions that mark these men and women mean that common people give them a wide berth. Given the fact that magic, if used incorrectly, can be disastrous for immediate bystanders, they have some good cause.

Indeed, as society has become more religious, so even the Invisible College has come to be less trusted. It is a fine line between those who use the wonderous powers given to man by Shaliq, and those who blaspheme with them. Membership of the College still confers status and an assumption of innocence, however, and very few magi practice their arts openly if they are not part of the college.



Small traders rank barely above agricultural labourers in the social pecking order. Having a small shop or market in the Bazaars mean you will likely have enough food on the table tomorrow-nothing more.

However, there is nothing inherently dishonourable about trade-great traders, the owners of the Bazaar, the leaders of the Free Men's Trading Guild, and caravan travelers who have seen strange and foreign lands with their own eyes are all the subjects of stories and wonder.



Slavery is common in Shalazar, either as something one is born into, or as a penalty for debt. A slave is generally used for manual labour, though they may be given less menial tasks if they have the skill.

Most slaves are freed upon the death of their master-while not illegal, it is considered very poor form to accept a slave in inheritance. Slaves are normally not allowed off their master's premises, because if they should stay removed from them for more than three days, they may claim their freedom. The penalty for escaping their captivity, however, is death, so any 'slave escape' holds the risk of execution.

In general, one cannot be considered a slave merely because ones father was in bondage, provided you are a servant of Shaliq. For this reason, most children of slaves in Shalazar are freemen; however, the pygmy slaves of the Jerezad in the south pass their status on to their children.



Certain trades and occupations can make a woman and their families social outcasts. These include executioners (even among the Yildun), nightsoil merchants, trash collectors, and other 'dirty' jobs. Because their outcast status means they tend to go unnoticed, many of the criminal element work within their ranks.


Marriage and Family

Marriage customs in Shalazar are unusually liquid for a society which values sexual purity. Both men and women are allowed multiple partners, although the legal standing of these partners varies. Please note that 'concubines' are, for all intents and purposes, slaves:

  • Women are allowed up to five husbands, with one husband as the "primary" husband. His daughters inherit all property. They may have any number of concubines, but children of these pairings do not inherit, and take their father's family name.
  • Men may have only one wife-however, they may have concubines, provided that the concubines are 'approved' by their wives. (Unmarried men may have as many concubines as they like, but may be forced to discard concubines upon marriage. Such 'discarded' women may become social outcasts.)

A main husband is a potentially powerful role: only a primary husband may become a Widower, and he may look after the needs of his wife after her death until his, at which point inheritance passes to his eldest daughter. Note, however, that a Widower may not remarry, and as a mark of respect must dismiss his concubines and live as a celibate.

On the other hand, the role of concubine is particularly onerous: concubines may not be discarded without cause (there is some burden of responsibility upon the owner), but may be dismissed for infidelity or other violations. Female concubines, particularly, occupy a low ranking on the social order, as they can be dismissed at the order of their owner's wife. Discarded concubines of either sex are stigmatized, and if they ever do become respectable, will do much to hide their past.