Upon reading the D&D 5E Basic rules I can’t help but feel (sans any further information in the Player’s Handbook or the Dungeon Master’s Guide) that D&D 5E missed the boat with an opportunity to create a very simple social class system that would have added one simple step to character generation. Part of this system is the understanding that this is merely the social class that the character has the most experience with. So you could take the Lower Class Noble for a disgraced and disposed Noble, or Upper Class Criminal for a Noble with a criminal background or enterprise. As a further example, someone from the Upper Class could be a noble, or they could be a well-regarded servant, or they could be the agent of some noble family.
Allowing the characters to designate having come from either the Lower, Middle, or Upper classes would add a fair amount of color to characters, grant them additional abilities related to each social class that wouldn’t ruin game balance. Here is my take on what this would look like.
Starting Gold: 2d4x10 GP
Starting Clothing: Common
Feature: “Streetwise” – The character is experienced with the streets and the underworld. As a result they know who to speak to, where to go, and how much things are valued in such settings. They are adept at ferreting out such things in places familiar and unfamiliar.
Starting Gold: 4d4x10 GP
Starting Clothing: Travelers
Feature: “Thrifty” – The character is well-skilled in trade and negotiation, as well as knowing the value of goods and services that are available on the market. As a result they have advantage when negotiating the prices for goods and services that are legal and/or non-magical in nature.
Starting Gold: 6d4x10 GP
Starting Clothing: Fine
Feature: “Intrigue” – The character has lived a life surrounded and immersed in intrigue. They are knowledgeable of the factions and power structures and adepts and detecting the machinations thereof, often being able to discern the “hidden hand” that moves groups and society.
I must admit, there is a part of me that thinks that Streetwise and Intrigue should actually be proficiencies rather than features. I might actually change that when I see what the Player’s Handbook actually looks like.