Some time back (about a month ago, actually), I read about faction balance in terms of competitive balance and yadda yadda, bored now. Anyway, while in the process of reevaluating the factions I devised to stratify social groups in the Rumors of War ‘verse, I returned to an important point: the factions as presented are intended to represent social classes.

It’s weird to come back to a point that should have been clear, no matter how clear it was, and be surprised by how more clear it might be now than it was before. I looked at explorers and adventurers and tried to figure out how they might be classified as pirates and bandits … and while it’s true that adventurers might not be all that different from bandits … there’s still something different.

Explorers, pilgrims, exiles, and adventurers all make their living outside of society, but generally do so without infringing on the society they came from. They might harm it indirectly by reintroducing large quantities of wealth into an economy based on scarcity (a common problem with adventurers), but they don’t seek it.

Bandits, pirates, and slavers continue to exist within society and make their living within society, by operating from the outside. They “liberate” goods (like treasure) and services (like labor) and introduce them elsewhere. It isn’t particularly nice way of life — it’s a destructive and ultimately self-defeating economic model — but that doesn’t stop anyone from making their living by raiding, abducting, and pillaging.

I think the important part of this was seeing how they might potentially have a positive influence on society. They are the incarceration and reeducation system, even if their methods are barbaric and they knock over the occasional merchant vessel, hire themselves out as mercenaries, or imprison an entire village or innocent people.

It’s difficult to imagine a world where slavery isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. But no, there are plenty of worse things than enforced servitude. It takes some bending of the mind to get there, but there are still worse things to endure. And the slavers still aren’t the worst people in the system — that takes even more mental acrobatics to comprehend. A new goal of mine is to write some sympathetic slavers.