The Culture of the Heaven’s Gate game setting is quite similar in tone and feel to the Early Middle Ages of our history leaning towards the end of that age. The dominating factor of culture in this period is the might and influence of The Holy Roman Church. The Church’s power permeates almost all aspects of culture from dress, law, and societal roles to art and entertainment.
In the 19th through 21st Centuries man tried to create equality across Religion, Race, and Gender; this practice was wiped out when The Church rose to power. Race is not too much of an issue unless a person’s race is intimately connected to a specific religion like the Arabic people. Religion and Gender are not only discriminated against, but it is commonly seen as foolish for any man to believe that a woman or a Muslim are in any way equal to a Christian man. The further one gets from the Core Worlds, the more the social mores breakdown.
As a general rule there is no Middle Class. There is the Upper Class, the Lower Class, and the Fringers.
It is best to break down the culture of the known systems into three categories: Core Worlds, Labor Enclaves, and Fringe Systems.
The Core Worlds are the most developed and civilized worlds throughout the galaxy. They are most commonly the seats of power for the most powerful System Lords, and are seen as the bastions of human society. They are also the locations where The Church has the greatest influence over human society. Core Worlds offer the richest centers of learning and commerce, they are homes to the Interstellar Corporations, and the social elite.
The Church requires a great deal of social formality, and rigid adherence to the most modest of dress. Men wear suits that have a distinctly military style to them, and women are expected to wear long dresses with high necked collars. Men are to behave like gentlemen, and women like proper ladies.
The best foods and entertainment can be acquired on the Core Worlds for high prices. Import and Export rule the commerce of Core Worlds, and while they rarely produce any raw materials, they are the main sources of industrial production of the end products.
It is on Core Worlds that the decisions that shape the galaxy are most commonly made.
Labor Enclaves are not only the sequestered locations on Core Worlds where the Lower Class live, but also refer to whole planets and systems where manual labor is performed. Shortly after rising to power The Church reinstated a galaxy wide ban on contraceptives and abortion, the resulting boom in population created an unemployment rate of overwhelming proportion. The Church responded to this by decreeing that all work capable of being done by a man could not be taken by a machine, and could only be done by a woman if it was beneath a man’s dignity to do it. The social upheaval this created was extreme, and it basically destroyed the Middle Class. In the aftermath though it created a large pool of Lower Class workers to draw on, and the Labor Enclaves are where the majority of them will be born, live, work, and die. Most citizens of the Labor Enclaves will never travel more than a few miles from the place of their birth, and almost never leave the Labor Enclave they were born in.
Labor Enclaves exist in the squalor of human society. There is barely enough food and potable water to go around, and little is ever spent on entertainment. The Lower Class are never formally educated; illiteracy is commonplace, and most only speak the language of their world of origin. The misery of the Lower Class is often only brightened by the presence of a Temple or Church, and the joy of the half day off each week that a citizen receives to go to worship.
The Lower Class dress in hand-made clothing, and the work uniforms associated with their employment. Women are still expected to dress modestly, but since most women rarely leave the home, the rules are a bit more lax in regards to how much skin they must cover.
While many goods can be acquired within Labor Enclaves, most can only be bought with Corporate Vouchers, so the Labor Enclaves are often home to massive Black Markets. While they are usually not the headquarters for any major Criminal Organizations, they are often home to arms of bigger Criminal Syndicates. Add in the smattering of low level thugs and gangs, and the Labor Enclaves can be a fairly brutal location.
Leaving a Labor Enclave is the dream of many Lower Class citizens, but very few achieve it by any means other than becoming a colonist or mercenary, and moving to a Fringe System.
Fringe Systems are the newly discovered systems that are populated by colonists and mercenaries. They have no central government, and ruled by little more than the will of the strong. Almost no laws regarding behavior or decorum exist in these places, but for many people a life lived outside of the watchful eye of The Church or a System Lord is a mercy in and of itself.
People who live in Fringe Systems are called Fringers, and are considered to be barbarians by proper society. There are no rules governing the roles of any individual Fringer, and their numbers are drawn from all races, sexes, and religions.
Fringers wear whatever they want, and eat whatever they can get. Fringe Systems possess little in the way of refined goods, and thus their economies are based solely on the exchange of raw materials for refined goods. Colonists fare the worse in this regard as they are mostly subsistence farmers, and have almost nothing to trade. Mercenaries do very well though, and as long as their luck and strength hold out, they can enjoy the finest fruits of other mens labors.