There is a social order. Everybody participates in the system. Those that live outside the rules are driven from society, shunned, and treated with hostility or violence.
The four social classes are as follows: nobles, clergy, commoners, and slaves. Each person is born into the social class of their parents (except slaves), and passes their class onto their natural offspring. For a family to move social classes is a difficult thing and happens rarely.
Nobles rule and their word might as well be law for commoners. The family name is the most important part of the life of a noble. Everything one does reflects on the family, and status is everything. A son or daughter can be striped of their status by their family via the process of disowning, which is the ultimate form of humiliation and shame. Someone that has been disowned cannot expect any help from their family, or their family’s allies. They no longer have a home or a source of income and can expect a life of rejection from both the noble and common classes.
Noble titles are divided into two groups: Hereditary and non-hereditary. Hereditary titles are those that pass from parent to first born (e.g. A Count may pass his title to his first born daughter and when he dies she would inherit his title, lands, and responsibilities becoming the new Countess). Non-hereditary are those that do not pass to the first born (e.g. Knight, Counsel seat, titles of fame,
Clergy operate under the nobles in a strict hierarchy, but in matters of the divine hold sway. For some people the laws of men transcend the laws of the gods, but for most people in the world they feel more connected to their deities than their lords which gives tremendous sway to the words of the clergy. Often times younger offspring of nobles families with nothing to inherit and no desire to join the army end up as priests. Monks and abbots are formed typically from the children of skilled laborers and artisans.
Nobility and clergy are sometimes at odds with each other and have been known to have their tiffs from time to time but it is almost always the common man who suffers in the end.
The common man is bullied, pushed aside, ignored and taxed. It sounds rather horrible but there is a simplicity that some find very reassuring. Every day, every man, woman and child wakes up and knows who they will be that day. They know their role in the world, they know what they’ll be doing in 20 years, and they know life will not change.
Slaves have few rights. It is against the law to kill a slave without just cause, but the punishments for doing so are minimal - a few weeks in the dungeons or a few days in stockades. Slaves are almost exclusively captured soldiers or citizens from other areas. The one rule that pervades society is that no person may be born into slavery. They must be captured, and they must be of at least 15 years of age.