Raamin caste system is silly

The caste system allegedly prominent in Raam doesn’t make sense. Perhaps I don’t have the big brain of people for whom it makes sense, but to me having a caste system while also having a ubiquitous institution of slavery undermines the reason for existence of castes.

With a caste system, caste identification cannot be erased and status is dependant on caste. What then of an enslaved highborn? A high-born person who becomes enslaved would be in an ambiguous position, disrupting the integrity of both the caste and the slavery system.

Worse, managing two different systems of social stratification might be an unnecessary burden. It would require significant administrative resources to maintain a caste system on top of a system of slavery.

Of course, there are people that say that the caste system of Raam is “problematic” due to the “cultural appropriation” that it represents of caste systems in places like India. To me, this is an irrelevancy to the in-setting problem that the caste system of Raam is not fit for purpose. And for what it’s worth, in the original campaign setting boxed set, there is not even a hint that Raam might have a caste system. Indeed, most of the “problematic” content, whatever the reasons for them, come from the later products such as the revised campaign setting. As an originalist, I disavow.

Caste + institution of slavery are an unlikely pair. If someone wanted to rid Raam of references to caste systems, this would be the right reason to do it.

It does present a real problem. I can see one way to solve it that makes sense to me. No one who is a participant in the caste system can be sold into slavery in Raam and anyone from Raam who was captured and sold into slavery somewhere else is ‘freed’ and returned to their caste position if they are returned to Raam. However anyone who is not of the Raamin people has no stable place in their caste system and thus can be brought and sold as slaves.

One way I can see this failing is that Raam is presented in some sources as being very multicultural. But I guess that would just mean that maybe only half of the population actually officially and fully belongs to the caste system.


I’m fairly certain there’s free downward mobility in the Ramman caste system. For example, its canon that one of the SM’s daughters lives as an ‘untouchable’ in the city crematorium to hide her VA cell. And surely an enslaved foemer noble would happily hassle any other slaves as being their “better”, despite having to haul the exact same (literal) sh** all day long.

I think you’re thinking about the idea objectively and logically, which is not how people set up or enforce socal systems - they do it like insane weirdos (aka, humans)

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Is she an untouchable, or disguised as an untouchable?

But that would mean that the highborn could be owned by a member of a lower caste. In which case, it’s not a caste system at all.

Hold up a minute. These systems may not make sense (especially looking from the outside in), but they are internally consistent, and logical under their own logic. Systems that that have internal contradictions, like the caste + slavery system ostensibly prevalent in Raam, soon fall apart.

Anyway, IMHO the caste system of Raam was a lazy addition to the lore that wasn’t well thought out. And yeah, this is one of the “problematic” parts of Dark Sun, besides slavery, that is identified by people that say Dark Sun should no longer be published. Unlike slavery, the Raamin caste system is not a central trope to the setting, and isn’t even a central trope to Raam. I will defend the fictional depiction of slavery in Dark Sun, but not this.

Raam’s caste system allows for some very interesting cultural interactions. Since members of a caste have no ability to change to another caste (except by becoming Unclean, the lowest caste) and do not marry or even like to associate with other members of other castes slavery has taken on a unique twist at some levels.

The Priests, Vizier, and Nobles/Tradesmen castes often keep slaves of their own caste in order to deal with other castes. Even the Laborers caste sees high ranked members and guilds use slaves to deal with other castes.

The key difference between a slave and a freeman isn’t their caste, but rather who they can interact with without losing face. Slaves are ordered to interact with others in so their master doesn’t need to, either saving them from interacting with a lower caste or providing a layer of protection between a higher caste and the slave’s master. Often it is the slaves themselves who do the actual interaction, allowing both masters to be a step removed so they do not soil themselves.

A slave has pride in it’s caste, but doesn’t have much control over who they interact with.

With the racial diversity found in Raam, it can be even more complicated, a human noble prefers to deal with a human noble, slave or not. When venturing into dwarven trading areas, the human noble may have a personal human noble slave, and since going into a dwarven district, may take a dwarven noble slave for his human noble slave to interact with, so the dwarven slave can interact with the dwarven slave of the (slightly) lesser ranked but still same caste as the noble dwarven slave of the dwarven tradesmen. If the noble had not taken a dwarven slave with him, the dwarven tradesmen would make an attempt to find a human slave to interact with the noble’s human slave, but would then have the advantage both for providing the connection via a human slave and for being asked for his services.

It is not unusual for masters to own a personal slave of their own race and caste plus human, dwarf, and half elf slaves of it’s own caste, with each interacting with their own race and with half breed’s of their race. Depending on the whims of the master, they may even delegate half breeds to a slave of the parent races that isn’t their personal’s slave’s race (and by extension their own), just to add an extra layer of protection to the interactions. This means an interaction by the human noble with a mul tradesmen might go through the human noble, the human noble slave, a dwarven noble slave to the mul’s dwarven (or human) slave, to the mul’s personal slave, to the mul. Less common races such as Thri-Kreen are often not given so many layers of protection due to the difficulty in matching the race and caste for those races.


These are very interesting ideas… but also very bizarre ones. I wanted to disagree with the entire idea of a noble caste slave, but then I thought of courtesans. I do think you are taking the idea of the castes not interacting too far. Not sure where you got that from. From what I understand members of a caste don’t really have any problem with interacting with those of one caste above or below them it’s more about how and when the interact.

Historically, it’s not accurate the way I have the castes interact, and it’s still within the realm of plausibility for castes to interact with each other and across racial lines within Raam, I took it to a bit of an extreme when I ran some adventures in the city just to make it more memorable for my players based on the line about castes not marrying or associating with each other.

Getting things done in Raam was very difficult for them until they managed to meet the right people with the right resources. It wasn’t impossible, just difficult and they always got the short end of the stick until they made some good contacts. Obviously not everyone followed the cultural norm, but in general it made for some interesting stories.

I like to tweak things so they aren’t entirely as expected. It’s one of the reasons I love Dark Sun so much… none of the races are what you expect, nor is the history or the playstyle. I had a Indian friend join a few games when she was in country and she loved the twist, especially since she got to play the contact (who insisted on joining for the duration) and enjoyed helping me make up some social oddities and misunderstandings that put my normal group through a few extra hoops.

When they went back to Raam to battle Dregoth’s invasion, they got a look at how some of it had broken down while others remained steadfast in interactions.


A solution to the caste issue is just removing it and going with Raam in the original description that was included in the OG DS wanderer’s guide (pg.72-73) where it follows the typical Athasian societal strata (SM, Templars, Nobles Freemen, Merchants and Slaves).

Another solution would be to alter the first paragraph of ‘Social Order’ in the Veiled Alliance book on Raam from :

Inviolable social strata, or ‘castes’, embrace the whole population. Citizens born into a caste never leave it. Members of one caste cannot marry into another, nor even associate with other castes without becoming unclean. Each caste may include members of all races.


Inviolable Social strata, or ‘castes’, embrace the whole population. Citizens born into a caste typically never leave it. Members of one caste cannot are strongly discouraged from marrying into another caste, as any children derived from that marriage inherit the caste of the lower status parent. nor even associate with other castes without becoming unclean. Each caste may include members of all other races, although most non-humans and humans of other cultures are assigned no social status and must work through native Raamins for caste sponsorship. A group made up of all castes, but populated mostly by templars and supporters of the Grand Vizier. This group, called the Serene Council of Seven Stars, has the authority to raise or lower a person’s caste for various reasons that include crimes and service to the city-state. In reality, the council is subject to the whims of the templars who control it and mainly used to justify their actions.

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I’d just go with the OG DS Wanderer’s Journal version as you have suggested. I was not sold on the fantasy stand-ins for real life cultures that came about in later DS publications, and since these are frequently under attack by critics as being problematic or racist or whatever, it’s just not worth the trouble. None of those ethnic tropes are a core part of the setting. None are included in the “what is Dark Sun?” descriptions.

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