Follow TV Tropes


Fantastic Caste System

Go To
TLDR: Leaders, Administrators, Technicians, Laborers, Crappy Job Laborers. Oh, and the latter three are mass-produced clones.

"They build. You pray. We fight."
Neroon, Babylon 5

In real life, social inequality and social stratification can be problems. However, in science fiction, things are often a lot worse. Extreme Speculative Stratification is what happens. This type of fictionalized society generally consists of some measure of central planning by elites, with all of the "dirty work" being done by workers. Expect for the latter to be thought of as a different culture, and in some cases may even be a different species.

Rest assured that if this system is particularly oppressive, the heroes are not about to let this lie without trying to reform the system by convincing the rulers to change things. Or, if necessary, instigating or at least supporting a lower caste revolution.

India's caste system is a popular provider for analogies. This trope might also owe a debt to both Plato, whose utopia in The Republic was highly socially stratified, as well as Karl Marx, in his conception of the relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat. The feudal "three estates" system of warrior, cleric, and laborer is another common inspiration. Might also have Color-Coded Castes. When a fantasy or alien race has specialized castes with physical dimorphism, as with worker and queen ants or bees, that's Hive Caste System. When reputation is the basis for castes, see Socially Scored Society. Compare with Extreme Speculative Stratification, Fantastic Racism, and Urban Segregation, which have some overlap with this trope. Settings where the political system is based on alternative ruling methods like Magocracy or Theocracy will inevitably have one of these systems to systematically organize what happens to everyone who doesn't have the traits desired of typical citizens. See also Divided States of America, which similarly extrapolates on a real-world situation. For caste systems and the like in Real Life, see Type Caste regarding varna and jati in India, and Knight Fever regarding hereditary peerage and the associated noble titles (along with non-hereditary titles) in Britain.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Clover Kingdom in Black Clover is split into three realms based on magic power: Noble, Common, and Forsaken. This causes a lot of class prejudice, which pops up a lot.
    • The other Kingdoms (Spade, Diamond, and Heart) also have their own versions of castes. The Diamond Kingdom in particular tortures children to death so the survivors can become super-soldier nobility.
    • Devils are similar, as commoners are obsessed with pushing the weakest among them around for fun, while nobles command enough magical power to level entire nations and still want more, mainly by stealing it from the nobility of other countries and causing as much death and destruction as they can.
  • Cells of the Body in Cells at Work! and its spinoffs Cells at Work! CODE BLACK and Cells at Work and Friends! are depicted as delivery people, policemen, geothermal power-plant workers, etc, with only stem cells and Naive-T's able to become something else, and once they do, they can't do anything else except their purpose-bred tasks. This is extremely visible with the Immune System, with all its subcastes cripplingly over-specialized to fight or identify certain threats (except for neutrophils-ie, police officers who are dab-hand at fighting most bacteria).
  • In Dawn of the Arcana, humans with black hair are nobles or royalty. Humans with other hair colors are peasants, although red hair is considered the lowest. Ajin- humanoids with the ears and tails of animals form the lowest caste below that.
  • The Saiyan race of Dragon Ball Z had one of these during the brief period of time between them forming an organized society under King Vegeta and being driven to near-extinction by Frieza less than a decade later. It's a 3-tiered system, with King Vegeta and his son unsurprisingly at the very top as Super Elites, then the Elite Class which is numbered at around ten or so individual Saiyans (Nappa is the only confirmed member of this class, though Paragus might have been one as well), and then at the bottom the Low-Class Saiyans which are... well, everyone else. It's not clear if there are actual biological differences between the classes or if they amount to no more than cultural preening on the part of King Vegeta and his inner circle — Nappa and Vegeta have the ability to retain their reason in their Great Ape forms and have stronger tails than low-class Saiyans, but it is unclear if these are genuine biological advantages or simply trained feats that any Saiyan can master (Nappa mentions training his tail to overcome its weakness in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2). Turles from Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might also states that low-class Saiyans "only come in a few types", of which he and series hero Goku share a type (explaining their uncanny resemblance).
  • Gene Shaft has a society where the artificially birthed citizens are stratified into various genetic types classified into colors based on their physical and mental capabilities, like Sofia having a calm personality due to her "purple" genetype. The lowest strata being the "white" genotype — which the protagonist Mika is a member of and suffered mockery for by many members of the society.
  • I'm the Evil Lord of an Intergalactic Empire!: The setting is a Feudal Future in a nutshell, set within a galaxy spanning empire. The Emperor and his (many) sons sitting at the top, a wide variety of noble ranks making up the majority of the elite, knights below them, and then everyone else. The top ranks have access to Neural Implanting education, which Liam publically admits to being the main difference in ability between the upper classes and laymen. Nobles vary in morality widely, while Knights are each Blood Knight Super Soldiers who generally look down on commoners as disposable. Liam upsets the class balance somewhat by providing improved education to the underclasses for what he sees as Pragmatic Villainy.
  • Magi: Labyrinth of Magic features a Magocracy example, Magnostadt where the headmaster of the nation and university is the ruler, magicians are full-fledged citizens, and non-magicians (labeled as Goi by the very racist and vengeful headmaster) are segregated to live in the slums of the city and exist only to function as the back-up mana battery for the nation when demands are high.
  • Though barely explored, the aliens in Niea_7 have a caste system. The underbar in the title actually contains the words "under", which refers to eponymous character's caste level: "Under Seven", a very low caste. The highest is called Plus Five; a minor character is a Plus Five and is a TV presenter. In the end, he regresses to Under Five and is drinking in a roadside stall.
  • In Sword Art Online, the Underworld's human civilization assigns each person a Calling at a young age, determining their purpose in life, and anyone who accomplishes this is free to choose another. There are also nobles of various ranks, with higher-ranked nobles having the judicial authority to issue punishments to commoners and lower-ranked nobles.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Different nations have their own systems:
  • Voltes V: The Boazanian Empire consists of two classes, the Horned Boazanians, who form an aristocratic elite, and the Hornless Boazanians, who are forced to live as slaves. A long time ago, both Horned and Hornless Boazanians co-existed harmoniously until this change occured. The plot of Voltes V is triggered when a Hornless Boazanian leads a slave rebellion, but is forced to flee Boazania to Earth for his own safety.

    Comic Books 
  • The Kalen in Atavar have at least a combat and science caste. The combat caste is bigger, broader, and have more square faces than those of the science caste.
  • Superman: The Infinite Crisis-to-Flashpoint version of Krypton has society divided into Guilds. While it's possible to choose a Guild, most people are expected to enter the same Guild as their parents, especially the Workers' Guild, who seem to have fewer opportunities to qualify for the others. (The others are Religious, Artist, Military, and Science. Science is, of course, the most important.)
  • In Xanadu (Vicky Wyman), society is divided into three castes in descending order: "Noble" (Fantasy Animals), "Freeborn" (Wild Animals), and the Domestique (Domestic animals). Dealing with this system is the feline Gentleman Thief, Tabbe Le Fauve, who is determined to find his own way against this system and finds that the seemingly flighty Empress Alicia agrees with him, and is determined to reform the system in a politically astute way that will have a real impact.
  • Requiem Vampire Knight: Your actions in life determine your fate on Resurrection: Infanticidal mothers become harpies, religious fanatics become werewolves, rapists become centaurs, Mad Scientists become Archeologists, people doing evil thinking they did good become ghouls, the suicidal become trees. Vampires form a superior caste (the criterion seems to be general evil, including such individuals as Attila the Hun, Nero, Vlad Tepes, Elizabeth Bathory, Aleister Crowley, and Robespierre), whereas zombies are generally those who didn't do much with themselves in life and keep doing so in death.
    • Lemures can only leave Resurrection when their killer/person ultimately responsible for their death has been expired.
    • It varies, however: Alexander the Great, Saladin and Napoleon (and a Martian conqueror) are preserved in jars until Dracula needs tactical advice, while Dystopians are people who committed evil in the name of empire (coincidentally or not, they're led by King Arthur and Queen Elizabeth).
    • You're probably wondering why Hitler isn't on the list. He's a Person of Mass Destruction kept in stasis by Dracula until he breaks his neck to quell a Lemure uprising, taking out six million in one shot.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: On pre-war Cybertron, all Transformers were assigned a class based on their alt-modes by the insanely fanatic Functionist Council. Construction workers are one of the lowest classes, Science class are higher, and the elite class rule with sleek alt-modes. At the absolute bottom are the Disposable Classes, the 'bots with modes so common they are essentially considered property. On occasion, someone could earn freedom from the status and do whatever they liked, but it had to be for doing something truly important. So far, only one known being did this, Momus the mine-foreman who went on to become a Senator thanks to finding a Point One Percenter spark (he didn't personally find it, two of his subordinates did, but when they asked what their reward was they were informed that the energy pulse it had emitted before Momus and the Senate representatives arrived meant that they were going to be dead in less than a day). This caste system plays a massive part in Megatron's origin. He protested against the system, repeatedly, and nearly got killed and brainwashed for it, which led to him making the Decepticon movement so militant.
  • Five Weapons is set in a universe where assassins are famous celebrities and community leaders; meanwhile, it's illegal for domestic servants to own weapons or even fight.
  • The alien Evronians from Paperinik New Adventures have a somewhat fluid one. In theory, the system has, from top to bottom, the two-headed Emperor, the Imperial Council, the High Caste, the Medium Caste, the Lower Caste, the members of subjugated species that for whatever reason weren't drained of all emotions to feed the Evronians and power their technology, and the Coolflames (the members of subjugated species who were drained of all emotions, transformed in Slave Mooks without any intelligence and recognizable from the cold, blue flame around their head), with Evronians of the High, Medium and Lower Castes furtherly divided into Warriors and Scientists and gifted with emotional ability and intelligence that grows with their caste (Evronians of the High Caste and above have above-average and sometimes genius-level intelligence, and the Emperor and the Council have a full emotional spectrum). In practice, however, the Evronians have made adjustments depending on the situation, with two-headed Evronians in the Council and Councillors and even Medium and Low Caste Warriors (in the latter cases it was Super Soldiers who, due to their mutation, had full emotional ability) making a grab to the Imperial throne (usually unsuccessfully), generals put in change of scientific researches and scientific branch chiefs commanding military operations, and, in one notable occasion, the Emperor putting a slave in charge of the operations to defeat Xadhoom (admittedly, only after military force and native Evronian scientists had miserably failed, at which point they were ready to try anything), with the only thing remaining forbidden being an Evronian that is not a member of the Council showing excessive decisional autonomy (outside of extenuating circumstances, the Evronians answer to that with overwhelming military force to put down the guilty party).
  • Judge Dredd seems to take its cues from several Platonic ideas about state governance. The Judges are effectively a separate ruling class with absolute power, but their entire life is dedicated to serving the city. Citizens are all non-Judges, who live under constant surveillance but can have all the luxuries that the Judges don't. Judges are selected at a young age and raised as Tykebombs; they can quit their job, but an adult citizen cannot become a Judge. All the work is done by robots, mostly removing the issue of a disenfranchised proletariat class common in most of these sci-fi stories. The founder of the system, Chief Judge Eustace Fargo, came to regret ever doing so. He wanted to bring order, not oppress people. Fargo believed he had killed the American Dream.
  • In PS238, the planet Argon, a Captain Ersatz of Superman's home planet of Krypton, has a society that works this way. Argonians possess varying degrees of Flying Brick powers, and one's position in society is based on how powerful your powers are: The most powerful bloodlines and noble houses have superhuman abilities across the board, with the royal house having Superman-level powers, while less prestigious families and bloodlines barely qualify as metahuman. The non-powered are called "softies" and belong to a permanently disenfranchised underclass whose lives belong to the nobles, much like serfs in medieval times. On top of that is what happened to all the other metahuman powers that arose on Argon, just like it did later on Earth: The Flying Bricks "culled" them for being a threat to their power. Anyone with a non-Flying Brick metahuman power is referred to as a "feral", and never in a present tense.

    Fan Works 
  • Be the Sea Dweller Lowblood: A fan adventure based on Homestuck, the concept of a caste system based on blood colour is explored by imagining what life would be like for a, well, sea dweller lowblood if the Summoner had succeeded in turning the hemospectrum backwards. In this Alternate Universe, the world is lead by Red Bloods, with orange, yellow, and green being nobility and the sea dwellers being at the absolute bottom. The comic starts off focusing mainly on Eridan trying to survive in a world where pretty much everyone is against him just for having fins on his face. The whole demographic seems much more harsh and better kept than in canon, though it's unclear if this is because the Summoner just made it more strict or because it takes place several sweeps after when the events of the original story would have happened, on a different planet, with everyone being much older than the teens in Homestuck.
  • What Hath Joined Together depicts an Alternate Universe Equestria with "the Order" in place, putting alicorns as royalty, unicorns as nobles and the upper-class, pegasi as soldiers and skilled craftsmen, and earth ponies as the laborers and servants. It functions as smoothly as what people who believe in a caste system imagine it to be, serious oppression is rare, and the only recent challenge to the Order came when a unicorn noble attacked Princess Twilight in a rage because she refused to let him marry his earth pony fiance whom he'd loved since foalhood. Celestia, the main pony with the power to influence society against the Order, supports it as Utopia Justifies the Means to keep Equestria running safely due to some ancient tragedy in her past.
  • In the Lilo & Stitch fan fiction, Aloha, the entire Swarm society is built upon the idea that the color of their exoskeletons determines their role and rank.
    • Red: leaders
    • Orange: warriors, guardians, soldiers
    • Yellow: scientists, strategists, weapon designers
    • Green: weapon builders, factory workers
    • Brown: overseers of foreign slave army, caretakers of young
    • Blue: maintenance, menial worker
  • A Changed World deals heavily with the old Bajoran D'jarra system as a source of discrimination, with Federation Starfleet Captain Kanril Eleya, worker caste by birth, getting accusations of working above her station from a Fish out of Temporal Water (not to mention her technically inter-caste relationship with Reshek Gaarra). Eleya quotes a prophecy at her that predicted the D'jarra's abolition, and comments in her Internal Monologue that she's had to deal with casteists over her career choices before.
  • The Tayhil in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World are genetically divided into Fighter/Workers, Priest/Wizards, and Leaders. Only Leaders are truly intelligent and capable of planning; the lower castes are genetically compelled to obey them. George takes advantage of this arrangement to get a Leaderless tribe of Tayhil to clear out.
  • Escape from the Moon: In this universe, there exist Pures/alicorns and Thirds/the other three tribes. Despite having reached the stars, the three tribes were considered and treated like second class citizens. This reached a boiling point to where they rebelled against the Pures. This eventually resulted in them recruiting Spliced Genome/Doa…
  • Forged Destiny: Has four general castes which, in order of importance, are: Noble, Hero, Soldier, and Labour. Jaune's desire to seek out and forge his own destiny outside of what is allowed by the caste system is what forms the basis of the entire story.
  • Cybertron had this in TFA Kaleidoscope prior to the Great War. You are born for a specific class and are to stay there for the rest of your life. There is no choice in this system and what class you're born into determines how you are treated. Optimus and Ratchet lived through this and the system's cruel treatment of the lower classes was a part of what lead to the Decepticon rebellion and Great War. The Post-War Cybertron has completely abolished this, and Optimus is determined to make sure it stays that way.
  • Daria in Morrowind explores the fantastic caste system(s) presented in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind from a ground eye view and in closer detail.
  • Psychedelic Epiphany Series: Mentioned in Psychedelic: "Before Oblivious Now Grasping Objectives", when the older-than-a-millenium Discord is talking about pony history:
    "I mean, when I first came around I just screwed around because the ponies of the time were just so... boring. Did you know, old Equestria had this whole caste system going on? Bleugh!"
  • Stars, Eyes of Heaven: The stories Welcome To The SPW Foundation, and to a lesser extent, Stand Slightly Closer, allude to some from of psychological dominance hierarchy specific to Stand users, one of the many ways Stands change the psychology of their hosts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The MST3K-featured film, The Mole People, featured a race of evil albino Sumerians ruling over the titular mole people (who looked nothing like moles) and "Marked Ones" (people with normal complexions) in an underground kingdom.
  • The Soviet cult sci-fi/satire film Kin-Dza-Dza! featured a caste system based on arbitrary colours appearing when you point a machine at someone, the number of match-sticks you possess, and the colour of your trousers. Yeah, it's that kind of film.
  • In Planet of the Apes, the gorillas are the military, the chimpanzees are scientists, and the orangutans are lawmaking aristocracy. It's mentioned that the caste system was abolished, but that only pertains to it being officially institutionalized. In practice, it's still very much in effect. As Taylor observes, "Some apes seem to be more equal than others."
  • In Man of Steel, Kryptonians aren't merely sorted into a caste system (leaders, soldiers, scientists, etc.), they're genetically engineered and raised within these castes. Kal-El represents the ultimate rebellion against this system: he is Krypton's first natural-born child in centuries, and is able to choose his own path.
  • The Painting takes place inside an unfinished painting with various inhabitants. The Alldunns are fully painted and the elite, the Halfies are partially painted (no matter how close to complete) and are the poor, and the Sketchies basically sketches and are reviled by everyone else.
  • Sky High (2005): Sky High employs a "Hero-Sidekick" caste system where those with traditionally useful and convenient superpowers are placed on the Hero track while those with less useful and/or no powers are placed on the sidekick track. The former frequently pick on and/or act condescending toward the latter, and there's a strong undercurrent in the film that this arbitrary way of deciding who becomes a hero is the true source of conflict in the superhero community. This system is also what lead to Royal Pain's Start of Darkness due to being a Technopath Born in the Wrong Century where everyone failed to see her full potential, leading to her being relegated to Sidekick and treated like a science geek.

  • The caste system of Tanagura in Ai no Kusabi where the elite are genetically engineered humanoids and the highest-ranking are called Blondies. The elites themselves are ranked by hair color to distinguish their classes. The humans born naturally in the slums are "mongrels" treated as the lowest of the low that can't even attain citizenship.
  • The Faata in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark are a race of Human Aliens from the Perseus Arm of the galaxy. After a second The End of the World as We Know It, returning Faata astronauts found their planetbound brethren in a state of savagery. Using genetic engineering, they have restructured their society into a rigid caste system, where each caste is, essentially, a Human Subspecies. On top are the Bino Faata, the fully-sentient caste (it's heavily implied that they're all males). All servant castes are collectively known as T'ho, which stands for "partially-sentient". The Bino Faata live for centuries, while the T'ho have extremely reduced lifespans. Among the named castes are the Ksa (fertile females perpetually kept in gestation-inducing stasis) and the Olks (the warriors/guards). After discovering a Precursor organic computer, they have further refined their castes to have the Bino Faata be those with great psychic potential. Naturally, there is a hierarchy among the Bino Faata as well. The leader of a colony or ship is called the Pillar of Order. The next in line is the Strategos (AKA Guardian of the Skies), the military leader. The Intermediary, or Speaker with Bino Tegari (sentient aliens), is third. The Holder of Communications is fourth in the chain and is responsible for the telepathic communications with the organic computers and, through them, the T'ho.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • The End of Eternity: The Eternals (time travelers) are stratified into Maintenance (the largest group and lowest caste), and each Specialist (Sociologists, Computers, and Technicians). The protagonist becomes a member of the Technician caste. Said caste performs ALL of the actual time changing work, but as a result is despised by all other castes. Since Eternity is a male-only organization, it becomes rather unhinged when an attractive woman named Noys takes up temporary habitation in Eternity...
    • "Profession": There's a vast and complicated social structure in this future, which includes multiple planets (the planets themselves are graded, implying classism of birth planets). At the very bottom, George learns, are a class of people who cannot be taught by computer downloads. They are instead kept as wards of the government and separate from the rest of society. What he doesn't realize until later is they're actually the highest class of society. People like him who can learn on their own are able to arrange meetings with foreign diplomats and VIP tickets. People who create the computer downloads inadvertently direct society.
    • "Strikebreaker": The people of Elsevere have a complex caste system, where each Elseverian has a social niche to fulfill. We only see three categories of people; Elsevarians, Outworlders, and Ragusniks. Mikhail Ragusnik was one of the founding members of Elsevere, and they handle the sanitation machines, which turn the world's waste into fertilizer and water. The current Ragusnik, Igor, tries to go on strike, but an Outworlder volunteers to learn the job, breaking the strike. Upon leaving the Ragusnik estate, the Outworlder learns they've been exiled; they're now a permanent member of the Ragusnik caste.
      "Each individual Elseverian fits into a comfortable niche. The appearance of a stranger without fixed caste is unsettling."
  • Bravelands: Baboons have a hierarchy with four ranks: Deeproots, Lowleafs, Middleleafs, and Highleafs. The lowest rank, the Deeproots, do menial labor for the other ranks. Inter-caste romances are forbidden. Children inherit their parent's rank, but when a baboon reaches six they're able to get out of their rank by performing the Three Feats. They're a once-in-a-lifetime series of challenges where for each feat completed they go up a rank.
  • Brave New World has different classes of people produced through embryonic manipulation (specifically oxygen starvation and alcohol poisoning of Delta and Epsilon caste embryos to physically and mentally retard their growth) and the slaves of the lowest class are created to be practically simian (and everyone is psychologically conditioned to accept this ranking, as applied to self and others, as obviously and unquestionably justified).
  • Carrera's Legions: Dystopian United Earth has organized its society in a hierarchical pyramid that virtually combines the worst features of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. They use less hard biological conditioning, so there is some limited mobility between the castes, mainly through military service, but even there it is highly restricted.
    Earth was peaceful, as well, and had been for more than three centuries. The structure ensured peace, with the half-million or so Class Ones supervising perhaps three million Class Twos, who in turn supervised twenty or so million Class Threes, the entirety lording it over the half-billion proles of Classes Four through Six. The proles didn't really matter, of course. They were non-political now, living in peace, growing the food, and obtaining what raw materials could not be gotten from recycling. They did the limited manufacturing still permitted and possible. They knew their place.
  • Subverted in the Children of the Star trilogy by Sylvia Engdahl, the Scholars live in a walled city in which they have sophisticated technology, while the Workers try to scratch a living from the soil without even being allowed to use metal tools, except when the Technicians, the intermediate caste, bring their machines round. It turns out that entrance to the ruling caste, the Scholars, is non-hereditary. Scholars' children are given up for adoption to be brought up as Workers, and both Workers and Technicians can earn the right to be Scholars only by denouncing the injustice of the Fantastic Caste System. This is the qualification because the system exists only because of the physical limitations of the planet, and the Scholars dedicate their lives to finding a solution.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In Narnia, what rank you are depends on the class of creature you are. Dumb beasts (non-thinking animals) are at the bottom and it's expressly said you can eat them or do whatever else you want with them, as long as you're not cruel. Talking Animals are ranked above them and have rights, such as they can't ever be eaten, and can't be ridden except in times of necessity and only with their permission because it's considered disrespectful, but they can be knocked down a rank by becoming dumb beasts if punished by Aslan. Satyrs, mermaids, centaurs, and other human-like entities are presumably next in line. Humans are not always present in Narnia, but when they are, they have the right to rule over the others. (Jadis, a half-jinn, half-giant, lied and claimed she was human to get the authority to rule Narnia.) Aslan is above humans despite being an animal, because he is also a god, and his father the Emperor Across the Sea is above him. This is a rare case that is portrayed as positive; every (good) creature is content with this system, mostly because it is the word of Aslan, and only evil creatures question, argue with and oppose Aslan. Where the other deities (and a few others, like the humanoid star-people and the tree people) fit in is not clear.
  • Circleverse: The city of Tharios in Shatterglass has one, based on the Hindu caste system. The lowest level, the Untouchable equivalent, is the Prathmun, composed of people who handle the dead (Tharian culture considers death to be unclean). The second-to-lowest caste is the Yaskedasi, who are entertainers. The caste system becomes a serious problem when a serial killer starts targeting Yaskedasi, and since they were low-caste no one really cared enough to investigate (people were more concerned that their bodies were being dumped in public places).
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: Charisat is divided into wealthy patricians, scholars and traders, non-citizen humans, and foreigners. Crucially, non-citizens aren't allowed to handle currency, which goes a long way to limit class mobility. Even methods of execution for condemned criminals are decided by caste rather than the nature of the crime.
  • Clocks that Don't Tick has one. Though it's not legally enforced, the distinctions are pretty clear. The Bosses, immortal oligarchs who live in mountain mansions, are at the top. Under them are their mercenaries. Then there're Thralls and Travelers. Thralls were once normal people asides from their paralyzing fear of death. Said fear lead them to take out an enormous loan in order to pay for the setting's procedure to become immortal and immune to disease. However, the loan is impossible to pay off due to its high interest rates, making Thralls essentially undying slaves. Travelers are clones of historical figures made for the Bosses' amusement. They go from place to place, passed from oligarch to oligarch, and treated as they see fit. At the bottom are common people, diseased, bitter, and short-lived.
  • Jim Butcher's Codex Alera:
    • The Canim: There are three known castes: The makers (farmers, blacksmiths, etc.), ritualists (sorcerers), and warriors (Exactly What It Says on the Tin). The warriors are the ruling caste, something which the ritualists resent, but both warriors and ritualists claim that their class is actually subservient to the workers; they fight (and work magic) for the benefit of the populace. How much they genuinely mean this/live up to it varies from individual to individual.
    • The Alerans themselves have a system that effectively works out to this; theoretically, your social position is supposed to be determined by your strength in furycraft, but since crafting abilities are hereditary (and sometimes individual furies, though passing them on is a conscious act), social classes usually are too. At the bottom are slaves (Exactly What It Says on the Tin), then freemen (the bulk of the population), then Citizens (upper-class people who have demonstrated a high level of furycraft ability, traditionally by besting another Citizen in a Wizard Duel) and nobility (Citizens who hold titles). Nobles are further divided into Counts, Lords, High Lords and the First Lord. At the end of the series, slavery is banned (both for moral reasons and practical ones), and it's heavily implied that Tavi made a deal with Alera that, as her final act, she'd unshackle furycraft from being inherited, so that anyone can earn furycraft, no matter how high or low they're born.
  • The Cosmere:
    • The Final Empire from Mistborn has a very strict and oppressive social system that goes, in order from least to most influential, skaa (peasants / slaves) —> Terrismen (a subjugated nationality who serve primarily as elite servants) —> nobility —> Obligators —> Steel Inquisitors —> Lord Ruler. There's a degree of movement in the upper levels — the Obligators recruit from the nobility, and the Inquisitors from the Obligators- but the lower levels are absolutely static. There's also a couple of nonhuman races that fulfill specialized functions — Kandra are spies, Koloss are shock troops, and both are under the direct command of the Lord Ruler (although he allows nobles to hire Kandra for a fee).
    • The Stormlight Archive: The populations of the nations that follow Vorinism are divided into darkeyed common people, and the lighteyed leaders. Within these categories, the people are further divided into ten nahns (the darkeyes) and ten dahns (the lighteyes) with the tenth being the lowest and the first the highest. It's possible to work your way up the ladder, through work such as military service, or through marriage, well-off darkeyes can sometimes marry into a lighteyed family, and thus possibly have lighteyed children. Also, anybody that has a Shardblade and/or Shardplate is automatically important regardless of their birth, and it's commonly believed that a darkeyes who wins a Shardblade in battle will have their eyes change color, which is proven true in the second book. Notably, "light" colors aren't limited to the ones usually found on Earth — there's mention of nobles with pale purple and light yellow eyes, with no indication that this is at all unusual.
    • In the later books of The Stormlight Archive, we also see a caste system among the Voidbringer singers. At the bottom are the "common" singers, who get their forms by bonding natural spren and are not directly influenced by Odium. These are primarily used as workers and Cannon Fodder. Above them are the Regals, singers who have bonded a non-sapient Voidspren and gain limited supernatural powers (stormforms can throw lightning, envoyform can speak and understand all languages, etc). They technically retain their minds but are heavily influenced by Odium. Above the Regals are the Fused, ancient singer spirits who return from the dead by stealing the bodies of other singers (which displaces the original soul, killing it). These are subdivided into nine brands, each of which can bind a different Surge, and have a complex heirarchy among themselves determined by skill, force of personality, and the degree to which any given Fused retains its sanity. Sapient Voidspren occupy a variety of positions in this heirarchy depending on their power and level of intelligence, with some outranking Fused while others are roughly on the level of Regals. Humans are by and large slaves below even the common singers, though a rare few are elevated to higher ranks.
  • The ship in Sandy Mitchell's Dark Heresy novel Innocence Proves Nothing is full of hereditary jobs with fancy titles.
  • In the Deathday and Earthrise duology, the invading Saurons are divided into three castes: the black-scaled Zin, who are the administrators, scientists, lawyers, etc, and basically do everything important in society; the brown-scaled Kan, who are warriors; and the white-scaled Fon, common laborers. This is aided by the fact that the Kan and Fon do not possess reliable long-term memories, and forget most things after a couple of weeks. The Sauron invasion leads to opening up old racial divides among humans, as the Saurons are naturally predisposed to treat darker-skinned people better than lighter-skinned ones, even if they consider all humans to be slaves anyway.
  • Decades of Darkness contains one of the most nuanced examples. An Alternate History story inspired by The Draka below, it centres on a scenario where the Northern states secede from the USA due to disputes over the Embargo Act of 1807. The Alt!USA is dominated by the Deep South and evolves into an expansionist, slaveholding empire. Like in OTL they annex areas of Mexico with large white populations, but then decide to keep going, conquering vast swathes of South America and the Caribbean. They develop a race-based caste system with different levels of citizenship and bonded labour, welding together Ancient Roman society and New Spain's racial classifications to Antebellum slavery. At the top are free voting citizens, who are white, property owning men (mostly Anglo-Christians but including a minority of Jews and Spanish-speaking blancos); below them are free non-voting citizens (poor whites and mixed white/Latinos who can pass for white); and free non-citizens (white immigrants, free Latinos, Spanish-speaking whites and white Carribeans). Below them are various classes of bonded labour: at the top debt-slaves, indentured servants mostly used for skilled work or as overseers, they have wide ranging legal protections and a decent chance of earning their freedom (mostly Latinos and a few poor whites); then the peons, who are agricultural labourers tied to the land, they have some legal protections (not always fully enforced), including fixed hours of work and immunity from physical punishment, they are exclusively Latino and can achieve freedom, mostly through marriage between a free man and a peon woman; below them are serfs, Indigenous people who fill the same role as the peons, but can never be free. At the absolute bottom are the Black slaves, who are used for the worst physical labour and, unlike the other unfree people, are not even considered human under the law and are treated as property.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series has the Grik, most of whom are the Uul, more beasts than sentient beings, whose only wish it to hunt and kill. Those who live long enough gain a measure of intelligence and become the ruling class called the Hij. The Hij do not allow themselves to descend into the beast-like mindset and give over to the hunt and claim it's a great sacrifice for them. At the top is the Celestial Mother, a large female Grik who rules all. The Hij spend their time running the Grik Empire and finding more prey to hunt (otherwise, the Uul will get restless and turn on each other).
    • The Lemurians had a pretty rigid guild system, with each guild hoarding its secrets from the others. On the other hand, there doesn't appear to have been a restriction on who could join a guild. They had to abandon it when the Grik arrived en masse.
  • The Draka series has a weirdly dysfunctional one. Originally, the division is between a large unskilled worker caste ("serfs") and a small, hyper-militarized capitalist and professional one ("citizens"), in which the former are essentially the slaves of the latter. Which has its own problems, but sort of makes sense. In later stories, however, the distinctions are muddled by introducing state-owned serfs, who are promoted well into the upper-middle classes and supposedly become critical to the functioning of the Draka state, even as engineers and astronauts — all the while they nevertheless still remain legally subhuman slaves, whom any jumped-up private or corporal in the military caste can abuse, rape or kill on a whim and pay only a small fine for destruction of public property.
  • In Flatland, a person's intellect is (supposedly) dictated by the degrees of their angles (for triangles), or how many angles they have (for polygons). A perfectly equilateral triangle is the equivalent to an Intrepid Merchant in brainpower; a square is smart enough to be a lawyer. People with "irregular" angles (One example given was a parallelogram) are predestined to criminality, similar to how some people thought of XYY-Chromosome Disorder patients back in the '80s. Females, being straight lines and therefore having no angles, are universally dumb as posts.note  Polygons go up one caste every generation, and triangles have a chance at producing a square son, who in turn have a chance of producing pentagonal or triangular sons.
  • Futuretrack Five, a 1983 Dystopia by Robert Westall has Britain divided up into the Ests (establishment or established persons), the Unmentionables or Unnems and the Techs, who keep the country's technology functioning. Unnems are further sub-divided into the six different 'futuretracks' or careers of Singer, Fighter, Pinball Player, Thief, Racer, and Harlot.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Genome is set around the idea of people in the far future being set into a specific career path before they're even born via the use of genetic engineering, essentially turning them into Gattaca Babies. While parents can buy their unborn children whatever specification they can afford, in practice, most parents usually go with their own spec for their kid. This is because each Spesh loves his or her job implicitly. There is plenty of bad blood between Speshes and Naturals (the un-modified). There is also a planet called Heraldica, populated by the descendants of aristocrats and the Speshed servants. And yes, the servants love their jobs and turn their children into servants as well. The nobles often have hunting games, chasing servants, shooting them with stun guns, and then raping them.
  • Gor: Gorean society has a strict caste system divided into two categories of caste: High Caste and Low Caste. High Castes consist of Initiates (spiritual leaders; men-only), Scribes, Physicians, Builders and Warriors. Low Castes consists of every other caste, like Bakers, Cloth-Makers, Musicians, Merchants, Sleen Trainers, and more. Castes are primarily determined by birth and patrilineal, but women can join the caste of her husband, and those who want to change their caste must get permission from the High Council. There are also several Castes which cannot be not born into and must request to join the caste. such as the Initiates, Players and Assassins.
  • Grimoire's Soul: In Kesterline it breaks down for the most part by class and gender, with nobles having their cores revealed at the age of 14:
    • Male:
      • Mage: The only caste believed capable of using magic, their job is serving as a combination of both police and military. They also have numerous subcores within the main Mage core.
      • Spearhead: Politicians and general leadership positions.
      • Gaslamp: Core with a focus on finances, laws, and writing.
    • Female:
      • Lighthouse: Raise not only their children but the children of others.
      • Chatelaine: More or less quiet but skilled wives.
    • Towers are the only noble core that people of both genders can be, most well known for being the best family men and women, though male Towers get to be doctors and teachers.
    • Within the working class there are Pillars, who do every job that isn't covered by the Chisels, who serve as craftsmen.
  • Harry Potter:
  • Mythal from Hell's Gate has a caste system. At the top you have the Shakira (no, not her): the magic-using caste which totally dominates and controls the culture of Mythal. They are the researchers, theoreticians, etc., and control virtually all of Mythal's "white collar" occupations. Next you have the Multhari: the military caste and the second most important caste group of Mythalan society. Some multhari are also shakira. These normally tend to dominate the upper ranks of the Mythalan military. Lastly, you have the Garthan: the non-magic users of the Mythalan culture. They make up at least eighty percent of the Mythalan population but possess only extremely circumscribed legal rights, handle all the "blue-collar" work and serve as cannon fodder for the Mythalan army.
  • Early in his career, Piers Anthony wrote a short story, "In The Barn", about a parallel Earth where all non-human mammals had gone extinct millennia ago. Rather than go without milk, the inhabitants developed breeds of humans to serve as milk cows, with too-bloated-for-anime breasts and tongues clipped at birth to ensure they'd never learn to communicate. An Anvilicious parable by a vegetarian, it would've been followed by two more stories — one set in a slaughterhouse (eek!), the other at a rodeo (urk!) — if he could've sold them at the time.
  • The Ai-Nadar of Kherishdar have a caste system based on childhood testing (with the occasional adulthood retest) rather than hereditary, with the exception of Nobles and Regals. All three POV characters thus far have been osulkedi (public servants) in the direct service of the Emperor: Farren, a talented calligrapher and artist whose duties have occasionally taken him to strange places; Shame, the empire's sole priest of the god of Shame whose duty is to prescribe "corrections" to those who have lost their place in Civilization; and Haraa, a former fathrikedi (living decoration/concubine) whose House collapsed after her lord fell in love with a pair of humans and is now assigned to study the odd furless aliens the Ai-Nadar must now have dealings with.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the Hexarchate government is divided into six factions: the Rahal (leadership, law), Nirai (technology), Andan (culture, diplomacy, finance), Vidona (doctrine, education), Shuos (espionage, sabota, assassination) and Kel (military). Many — if not majority — of Hexarchate citizens don't belong to any faction, but if you want to have any career in the "faction specialities", you have to join one. Faction members (with exception of Shuos) are additionally gifted with exotic abilities.
  • In the Merry Gentry series, Faerie Courts are highly stratified. All the sidhe and only sidhe are nobles. Demi-fey, brownies, and other magically strong but physically weak types fill domestic servant roles. The incredibly strong but magic-less goblins are designated shock troops. Though some of the lesser fey can be nobles in their own courts, they are all subordinate to the sidhe nobles of the high court.
    • There are instances of humans becoming fey, and fey becoming sidhe, but the subject's taboo (and in the case of humans kind of overlaps with Ambition Is Evil). There are also strong hints that the caste system's so strict as a result of human population crowding the supernaturals together; there are fewer sidhe Courts and fey societies than there should be.
  • Metro 2033: Polis Station note  is divided in 4 castes based on the Indian castes. At age of 18, Polis citizens choose which caste to join, the Brahmin (scientists, teachers, artists and general intellectuals), the Vashiya (dedicated Polis merchants), the Kshatriya (former Russian Federation Army troops, special forces and other government officials) and the Shudra (generic laborers and servants).
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four uses a caste system similar to Plato's Republic (make the philosopher-kings psychopaths and you have the Inner Party). It also flirts with this caste idea, as while the Proles are the underclass neglected as animals, this has the advantage of giving them unlimited Bread and Circuses and freeing them from Big Brother Is Watching. In this way, they are better off than the "no pleasures allowed" Party members such as Winston Smith (assuming they're not sent to die in the war).
  • The foundation of the society of Pangaea, by Lisa Mason. People of different "pures" are born to specific career fields and have a measure of genetic engineering to suit them to it, and the various purities are not supposed to mix; in the books, we see angels (the highest caste, priest-artists who create dreams and share them with all of Pangaea), magisters (government officials), physicians, academes, servs (who do menial tasks) and druds (who do jobs even the servs won't take), as well as the un-engineered, naturally-born "impure" and various Human Subspecies who are even lower than the druds. Meanwhile, within each pure are several "subpures" of distinct status, and keeping the status of the various subpures straight is a large part of Pannish etiquette. When the first book begins, though, the system is already starting to break down.
  • Paratime: The population of Home Timeline is divided between 'Citizens' and 'Proles' the latter being descended from Fourth Level tribesmen settled on 'Service Sector' and trained to perform jobs requiring initiative and imagination but too menial for Citizens to be willing to perform. Wealthy citizens flaunt Human servants instead of mere Tin-Can Robots. It is possible for a Prole to achieve Citizenship by being adopted into a Citizen family. They must also pass assorted intelligence and psychological adjustment tests.
  • The society of Red Rising is divided into a color-coded hierarchy of fourteen different castes. At the top are Golds, the ruling class. Beneath Gold are Silvers (accountants, bankers, other financial workers, and innovators), Whites (priests and priestesses), and Coppers (bureaucrats). The third level consists of Blues (pilots and navigators), Greens (computer technicians), Yellows (doctors and scientists), Oranges (mechanical engineers), and Violets (artists). Underneath are the Grays (police and soldiers), and beneath them are Browns (household servants), Obsidians (genetically engineered super soldiers), and Pinks (massage artists and prostitutes). The lowest level in the society pyramid is the Reds, who are slaves in all but name.
  • As mentioned above Plato's The Republic suggested a caste system based upon a "noble lie" that when the gods created men they infused some with gold, silver, bronze, or iron. The castes are divided into three: the lower-class common people (viewed as animals but allowed basic pleasures), the guardians (who are not allowed to have any freedom at all, and conditioned from birth to only have nothing but State loyalty), and the philosopher-kings (recruited from the best and most loyal of the guardians, and who are expected not to want any pleasures other than the satisfaction of a job well done and good philosophizing). Interestingly, a common reading of The Republic is that this system is designed to protect the commoners from the depredations of the guardians, who (in this reading) would be driven by their innate ambition to run roughshod over the rights of the commoners if given freedom to do so.
  • In Liliana Bodoc's La Saga de los Confines, The Sun Lords have a strict caste system in which the ruling prince is at the top of the pyramid, then the royal family, then the nobility, the priestly class, the scribes and bureaucrats, the warriors, the peasants burdened by high taxes, and finally the slaves.
    • Misaianes, in his empire in The Ancient Lands, has also created a similar caste system, only more simplified and crueler, at the top (literally, since he lives on the top of a mountain) is Misaianes, The Son of The Death, then a small elite of magicians and nobles, artisans of all kinds, such as jewelers or armorers, then the soldiers, the cowardly and debased rabble and at the bottom of all millions of slaves who do not even have a name.
  • The Garth Nix series The Seventh Tower features a large, towerlike complex which is home to an entire society with a color-based caste system, based on their color-based magic system, where a more powerful color in magic equated to a higher rank in everything else. A person who was designated Green, for example could use magic, visit floors of the complex, and engage in hobbies associated with Green and all lower-ranking colors, but couldn't do anything or go anywhere more highly ranked without special dispensation. At the bottom of the stack (and on the bottom floors of the complex) were an uncolored servant caste; being made a member of their ranks was considered the ultimate punishment. It is at least more meritocratic than most caste systems since the higher levels are based at least in part on competence and promotion up them is quite common.
  • Shades of Grey: Society in Chromatacia is strictly divided by what colors you can see — people who can't see any are the bottom of the social latter and basically slaves, Reds are the lowest rung of actual society, Oranges to Greens form the middle class, Blues are generally wealthy and well-off, Purples form the ruling class and the rare Ultraviolets are treated almost as nobility.
  • In Shaman Blues, the ghosts have their own caste system based on intelligence and — partly — power. On top, there are the oldest ghosts, who over time amassed enough power to call the entire city their haunting grounds. Below them are ghosts ruling several streets, ghosts able to move only along the Ley Lines, ghosts tied to their resting place; and finally the "gutsies", ghosts with formidable power, but next to no intelligence. The wraiths are sort of "next to" the entire system, due to their predatory nature.
  • In the Spaceforce (2012) books, the Taysan Empire has developed this trope to an extraordinary degree. Everyone is born into a specific caste which determines their occupation for life, from street sweeper to imperial, and nobody is permitted to convert to another — whether they have an aptitude for the profession of their caste, or not. Of course, the series' Taysan protagonists end up subverting this system.
  • Space Trilogy: Played with. The three species of Mars each have different roles, but this is presented as simply being based on their own natures; each species simply acknowledges that the others do certain tasks better (the fact that they're "unfallen" and thus not inclined to evil largely helps keep things peaceful). It may not count as a "caste" system, however, especially since they tend to keep their societies separate, making their cooperation more akin to different nations trading with each other. The fact that they are so physically different would make it more of a Bug Caste System anyway.
  • The Star Trek Novel Verse is full of them:
    • In Star Trek: Vanguard, alien Precursors the Shedai are divided between the ranks of the Nameless, each confined to only one body, and the elite Serrataal with individual names, e.g. The Maker, The Wanderer, The Myrmidon, who can take multiple forms simultaneously.
    • As a result of the Quch'Ha plague seen in Star Trek: Enterprise season four, many Klingon families of the 22nd-23rd centuries lost their forehead ridges. A division between those who retained them and those who lost them resulted in an unofficial caste system within the Klingon Empire. The ridgeless Klingons — the Quch'Ha, or "unhappy ones" — were somewhat undesirable in the social hierarchy. Some Quch'Ha disguised their status with artificial foreheads. The two Klingon races are discussed in depth in Star Trek: Forged in Fire and Star Trek: Seven Deadly Sins in particular.
    • In Star Trek: Typhon Pact, the Gorn caste system is explored in some depth. It includes Political, Warrior, Technologist, and Labourer castes. The Tzenkethi also have a caste system of sorts, with different echelons into which their citizens are placed after testing in youth. However, they dislike it when people use the term "caste system" to describe it.
    • The Yrythny in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch are divided between the Houseborn and the Wanderers. Yrythny breed by laying eggs in the water, which develop as tadpoles before coming ashore later in childhood. Those young which come ashore at the same House at which they were laid are Houseborn and make up the ruling caste. "Wanderers" are considered inferior on account of having gotten "lost". Tensions between the castes are high, and a full-blown revolutionary war is threatening to erupt.
    • The Naxerans from Star Trek: The Lost Era have three castes, named for mythological figures that also correspond to the stars and moons of their home system. The G'Dok are the clan of the stronger brother (and the first star), and rule the planet with a great deal of arrogance; the Leahru, clan of the weaker brother (and second sun), are subservient and tread carefully around the G'Dok. Then there's the Efram, apparently wretched slaves who are seemingly identified with eclipse.
    • The Orishans in Star Trek: Titan have a caste system developed by their mysterious Oracle. It involves (among others) Weavers to do the building, Dreamers to study science, and a Guardian caste to oversee the others and protect Orishan culture.
    • In Star Trek: Stargazer, there's the Balduk, with their High Order, Middle Order, and Low Order militaries. Also the Pandrilites, whose elevated and lower castes are supposedly now united by their adherence to the Three Virtues. Pandrilite protagonist Vigo has come to question this, though; an old mentor became involved with a radical sect insisting oppression of the lower castes is ongoing, and Vigo's faith in his people was shaken.
    • Rihannsu, expands on the Romulan society, and gives them one composed by Senators, commoners (further subdivided depending on the prestige of their jobs and their wealth), and slaves. It's rather fluid, as people can move up in their caste for merit (as shown when Arrhae (a slave) is freed and made a Senator for an act of incredible valour) or down for dishonour or just selling themselves as slaves.
  • The Star Trek: The Lost Era novel trilogy Terok Nor expands on the Bajoran D'jarra caste system from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Accession", listing castes for (in ascending order) undertakers, laborers and lawmen, pilots, sailors and teamsters, merchants and landowners, and artists at the top. The Cardassians take advantage of the discrimination between castes to Divide and Conquer, which is one of the reasons Vedek Opaka Sulan starts advocating for the D'jarra's abolition.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the New Jedi Order books, the Yuuzhan Vong use a caste system: there are the Intendents (bureaucrats, basically), Warriors, Priests, Shapers (Mad Scientists with Organic Technology), and Workers (the largest and least respected caste), and finally the Shamed Ones, outcasts to the bottom rung of the Workers who basically share the same level as the Vong's slaves. The Supreme Overlord (who usually comes from the warrior caste) is actually considered a caste unto himself, combining elements of all the other castes barring Shamed Ones. He also usually shares his caste with a dozen or so potential successors identified by the priests, but the current Supreme Overlord, Shimrra, had them all killed in a fit of paranoia sometime before the series began.
    • Another group of Scary Dogmatic Aliens are the Ssi-ruuk, who have one based on scale-color. Blue-scales are nobility, gold-scales are priests, yellow-scales are scientists, red-scales are military, the rare black-scales are spies or assassins, green-scales are laborers, and brown-scales (the result of inter-caste mingling) are outcasts. Below even the browns are the P'w'eck, the Ssi-ruuk's smaller cousins who are used as slaves.
    • The Yevetha live in a highly stratified hierarchical society with many different castes. A member of a lower-ranked caste cannot rise higher. However, those from higher castes can also be "demoted" into lower ones for failures. The killing of an inferior from a lower-ranked caste is not considered murder, only killing a superior from a higher caste. Such "dominance killings" were common if subordinates failed in their duties (along with suicide done as penance).
  • Feral dog and wolf packs in Survivor Dogs have a rank system that goes from Alpha to Omega. Canines can advance in their rank, but most stay as is. The Omega are treated the worst, are only referred to as "Omega", and are forced to clean up after the others. Sunshine (a Maltese and thus weaker than the others) is seemingly permanently an Omega, but she's learned to enjoy her poor rank. Lucky dislikes the system and attempts to replace it with a democracy, however it's too confusing for his pack-mates and they end up reverting back to the caste system.
  • Sword of the Spirits is a series of YA novels set in a post-apocalyptic Britain which has reverted to a medieval society made up of warring city-states. The Princes are the rulers of the cities and are considered "first among equals" of the Captains, high-ranking noblemen who lead the armies. Below them are other nobles, who are almost all professional soldiers, and free commoners, who are peasants/tradesmen/servants in peace time and levies during the war season. There's a limited amount of social mobility among these groups mostly through martial valor; for example a minor noble can work his way all the way up to Prince, which is generally a hereditary position but the Captains can vote to pass over the previous Prince's son/heir with another candidate. After the "true men" are two classes of mutants: Dwarfs and Polymufs. Dwarfs are humans with dwarfism, which has become far more prevalent, and fill the standard fantasy Dwarf role of blacksmiths, jewelers and metalworkers. They take pride in "breeding true", i.e. being a generally stable mutation, are free and have guaranteed basic rights, including to own property and wealth, and the most skilled ones can become rich and respected; however, they cannot carry weapons or serve in the army, which cuts them off from positions of prestige. Polymufs are anyone born disfigured or with a birth defect and are slaves. There are also a priestly caste known as "Seers" who are feared and respected by all but generally stay out of politics; and Christians, a persecuted religious minority.
  • In Francis Carsac's Terre en fuite, the Second Civilization has subdivided its people into two groups: tekns and trills. Tekns, as the name implies, as the scientists and technicians (according to Haurk, though, the similarity between the names is purely accidental), while the trills are everyone else. This doesn't mean that trills are considered lower than tekns. In fact, each group has its own government body, overseen by a joint council. Additionally, fraternization and intermarriage between the groups is not forbidden (one of Haurk's parents is a trill, and the other is a tekn). The only thing is forbidden is for a tekn to reveal unapproved technological or scientific information to a trill under the penalty of life imprisonment on the Pluto Penal Colony. When a child is of a certain age, he or she takes an aptitude test, which determines whether he or she is best suited for a tekn or a trill career path. It's also possible, but unlikely, for a trill to become a tekn later in life. A similar divide exists on Venus, although the colonists there aren't as strict about the division.
  • H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is one of the creators of this trope, having the protagonist explicitly comment that the two species, the Eloi and Morlocks, were a result of social inequality reaching an extreme. It does differ from later examples though, in that both the elites (Eloi) and workers (Morlocks) are dehumanized and there's more "quid pro quo" (Morlocks hunt Eloi).
  • "Tomorrow Town" has one created, like so much of the town's structure, by science fiction writer Varno Zhoule and instituted by his associate George Gewell. It determines whether one is a zenpass (citizen passenger, or person who has been restricted from having a vote) or zenvol (citizen volunteer, who has at least one vote based on applied intelligence). By an astonishing coincidence, Gewell himself is a very senior zenvol, with 15 votes.
  • Transformers: Exodus starts with a caste system that ends with the uprising. Interestingly the lower caste workers fill the Decepticon ranks.
  • In the tie-in book Bogus to Bubbly about the Uglies series, Scott Westerfeld tells about the strict age-defined hierarchy in the society. Littlies (age 0-11) lived with their parents and were the only people allowed to have traditional family bonds. In fact, parents were encouraged only to have one child every 10 years to keep the population down and stop sibling bonds from forming. Uglies (12-16) were forced to move away to dorms and socially programmed to hate themselves and anticipate the upcoming "Pretty" surgery. New pretties were people who had just had the surgery to make them prettier and more complacent, and they were encouraged to live a crazy lifestyle. Middle pretties were pretties with children and jobs. Late pretties or crumblies were the elderly, who often lived to their middle hundreds.
  • Evident in the Moroi society in Vampire Academy. The royal Moroi have all the wealth and privileges, such as having a guardian assigned to them and being represented when there is voting for a new monarch. Non-royal Moroi tend to be working class, have to care of their own safety, and do not have a say in the electoral process. Dhampir guardians are trained their entire lives to serve the Moroi, do not inherit wealth, and receive modest payment. Non-guardian dhampirs are at the bottom of the social ladder. Either forced to leave Moroi society and work with humans or occupying marginal positions in Moroi society (mistresses and sex workers).
  • Takisians in Wild Cards have a bit of this, each caste being kept genetically distinct by rigid selective breeding laws. The upper class, to which Dr. Tachyon belongs, is bred to be the The Beautiful Elite and they all have Psychic Powers; families in this class pass time studying science and assassinating each other. At the very bottom, there's an exploited laborer class. Then there's a few subspecies specially engineered by the Psi-Lords, including Morakhs and some more exotic breeds meant to be courtesans.
  • Titan's Forest: Canopian society is divided into a number of strictly distinct social classes, generally divided by how much of the immense trees' canopy they do or don't directly control. Below the gods and their immediate servants, there are crowns who own the tops of entire trees, then internoders who own sections of trunks between two branches, then citizens who own the houses they live in. Below them are the stricken, impoverished laborers who own nothing and lead largely hand-to-mouth existences, and then the slaves.
  • Wind on Fire: In The Wind Singer, Aramanth is divided into color-coded castes: Grays at the bottom, then Maroons, Oranges, Scarlets, and the elites are Whites. These colors are marked on their clothes and homes and determine the kinds of jobs they can do. The Emperor wears blue.
  • The Summer King Chronicles: Aesir gryfon in the Dawn Spire live in a strict Tier system that they inherit from their parents. Gryfon can move up a rank by accomplishing certain deeds. Your tier decides many things, including how high up your den is.
  • In Have Space Suit – Will Travel, Vegans are divided into psychological castes, connoted by what kind of "Thing" they are. A Mother-Thing, for example (the Vegan the protagonist meets first is a Mother-Thing working as a Space Child-Welfare Officer) is the platonic ideal of motherhood, and they're are good at jobs that involve being around and nurturing children-up to and including young races, such as humanity. The Father-Thing he meets later in the hospital after almost freezing to death on Pluto is like his own father, writ large enough to guide and encourage an entire country to make everyone proud-basically, The Good King right out of a fantasy novel, despite having less authority.
  • The Belgariad: Deconstructed. During the centuries that Torak was asleep, the people of his holy city Cthol Mishrak developed the standard three class system: Murgos (warrior-nobles), Nadraks (merchants and craftsmen) and Thulls (peasants and labourers). Their society was so rigidly stratified that by the time Torak woke up they were completely culturally and physically distinct from each other, so much so that Torak mistook them for separate ethnic groups rather than castes and split them into three artificial kingdoms, none of which ended up working too well.
    • The Thulls had been kept deliberately uneducated for generations and lacked the capacity to organise themselves, so their "kingdom" is a totally agrarian society consisting of a series of isolated villages and hamlets. Their "capital city" and only port would be a market town in any other country.
    • The Murgos are a Sparta-esque theocratic military dictatorship whose economy is totally supported by slavery or raiding, because Murgos consider labour beneath them. The whole country is just a few fortified cities and vast slave plantations to feed the army.
    • The Nadraks were self-interested capitalists and had a natural middle class skepticism to religous fundamentalism and authoritarianism. As such they undermined Torak's Grolims and forged diplomatic and economic ties with the West against Torak's orders. By the time the books are set they're closer to their trade partners than their cousins to the south, and are a largely liberal and secular society who only pay lip service to Torak and the King of the Murgos, their nominal suzerain. They end up betraying the others when Torak is killed and divine retribution is no longer a threat.
  • Elven society in Tinker has an extensive caste system, and thanks to magical genetic engineering by their Abusive Precursors, the differences between castes are more than just cultural; for example, the ruling domana are the most powerful spellcasters, the sekasha are sturdily-built peerless warriors, and the intanyei seyosa are seers. Inter-caste mobility is limited because of this, but it's established that elves can occasionally be elevated to domana for some great service.
  • In the Omegaverse (various authors with a very Loose Canon), humanity is divided into dominant Alphas, baseline Betas, and submissive Omegas. Alphas and Omegas are susceptable to heat/rut cycles, much like dogs, and in some works, all Omegas regardless of biological sex can bear children and all Alphas can beget them. Some works have Sigmas (outside of the wolf-inspired caste system) who act like worker bees, being the living embodiment of "fuck bitches, get money." Unlike most examples, people aren't assigned castes, they grow into them naturally, the whole thing being based on a (now-discredited) study of pack dynamics.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Nation: Tenctonese society was divided among the Overseers (named Kleezantsun in their language), the vast majority who are slaves, and on the bottom, Eenos, an untouchable group (disparaged even by other slaves) who do the most dirty work (e.g. waste management).
  • Babylon 5 examples:
    • The Minbari have three castes: Religious, Soldier, and Worker, which each have three representatives on the Minbari ruling council. The Religious and Warrior castes constantly fight each other for dominance while the workers are ignored or even forgotten, including by the story. The Anla'shok (Rangers) were often considered a fourth caste, separated by all the others. The Minbari system was consciously modeled on the Medieval European idea that society was divided between those who work (peasants, serfs, and craftsmen), those who fight (knights and other members of the aristocracy), and those who pray (priests, nuns, and monks).
    • The Centauri have their own caste system, composed of Noble Houses (further divided between the emperor's own House, the eleven Great Houses, and the various Lesser Houses), commoners, free members of conquered races, and slaves (including both Centauri and members of conquered races). Social mobility is guaranteed by the individual Centauri ability for machinations allowing commoners to rise to nobility and nobles to push their own House above at the expense of someone else (notably, the series shows Vir Cotto's rise from lesser nobility to emperor, and the RPG mentions that Emperor Fetaro Bricona was originally a Space Pirate of commoner origin), and a number of ways for someone to be Made a Slave and for slaves to be freed and become commoners (with due exceptions for two genetically engineered slave subraces of the Centauri). In an interesting twist, Centauri law allows anyone free to own a Centauri slave, with the Golians (a former Centauri subject race) often buying Centauri slaves as a status symbol and a form of payback.
    • In Crusade the Drakh are shown to have a caste system, with the type who turned up on Centauri Prime in several Babylon 5 episodes as the leaders, and a better-designed version of the variety who appeared as the "speaker" in their introductory episode as the grunts.
  • Blake's 7: The Federation has a rigid hierarchical system divided on either intelligence/merit or function— Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta grades are specifically mentioned. Blake is an Alpha, a privileged group who apparently act as the leaders (which is likely why his role as a Rebel Leader is treated so seriously in the pilot episode). Vila is a Delta service grade, claiming to have faked his IQ test to avoid a higher grade and the requisite military service. There's also a Labour grade who are regarded as expendable slaves.
  • Brave New World: New London is divided between those who live in luxury on the surface and those who work diligently in underground bunkers as the main source of labor. Every person is genetically engineered as embryos to fit into the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon castes (each one also possessing Plus and Minus variants) for specific roles.
  • Parodied in an episode of Community where the campus tests a rating app called Meowmeowbeenz. Within one week, the college descends into a science-fiction dystopia-esque setting where one's social rank is determined by their rating, where the "Fives" (people with five Meowmeowbeenz, or "stars" in a typical rating system) rule the place with an iron fist and the "Ones" are banished to a place deemed the Outlands.
  • In Defiance, Castithans are born into one of several "liros". The system is apparently highly complex but barely explained. And it was somewhat fragmented by the arrival on Earth, with many of the younger generation (at least in Defiance) showing little regard for it. Crime boss Datak Tarr was born into a low-ranking liro, while his wife Stahma was a bit higher up. It is mentioned that a Castithan can change their liro, usually by marriage (the lower-ranked partner is boosted to the same liro as the higher-ranked).
    • At one point, Stahma points to Datak's origins in the lower liro and asks if this is really the sort of culture he wants to maintain on Earth. Datak angrily replies that, yes, he does, since he is now on top, "pissing on those below".
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Time Lords are the upper rung of society, divided even further into rank and ability with politicians at the top. Then there's the ordinary Gallifreyans, and all the way at the bottom there's the Outsiders, who choose to live outside of Gallifrey's modern society. Time Lords consider them to be as good as savage. Canon is inconsistent as to whether the "Shabogans" are just another name for the Outsiders, or whether they're political dissenters and protesters (the only reference to them in the Classic series is a line suggesting they like to take potshots at the Seal of Rassilon, which signifies the Time Lord President). Canon is also inconsistent on where the Doctor slots into this— most of the Classic series, Expanded Universe, and the RTD era implied he was a child of great privilege, but the Moffat era showed him living in a barn and with Outsiders regarding him as a friend. And the Third Doctor claims he used to hang out with a hermit on a mountain.
    • "The Robots of Death":
      • Uvanov and Zilda have a complicated antagonistic relationship because of their social classes. Zilda is higher class than Uvanov, due to being from one of the "First Families", and the less privileged Uvanov resents her for it. But Uvanov is financially better off than Zilda, and Zilda is just a trainee navigator while Uvanov is Commander, meaning he's in charge of her by all practical standards. He's also sexually attracted to her... and let's not even start on the fact that Uvanov is a white man and Zilda is a black woman...
      • The robots have a caste system— Supervocs are commanders with near human-level intelligence, Vocs can talk and make basic decisions, and Dums cannot talk and can only perform basic drudge work. The heroic robot in the story is a Dum that can talk; the Expanded Universe explains that he is a Supervoc that was deliberately misbadged, but the television serial implies that Dums' inability to talk is more of a social imposition than anything to do with their programming.
  • Dominion has the Number system that organizes all life in Vega. While not fully explained in-show, the virtual handbook created by SyFy lists exactly how the Numbers are organized and how the system operates.
  • Inhumans: Attilan runs on a superpower-based system, with those who receive impressive powers being rewarded and those with weak or nonexistent powers being essentially slaves. Maximus exists in an odd place in the system; he has no powers himself but is protected by his status as the king's brother. For some reason, we're supposed to think the ones at the top are the good guys.
  • The Decade version of the BOARD Corporation from Kamen Rider Blade uses a caste system modeled on playing cards to determine your privileges, pay scale, and even the kind of lunch you get at the cafeteria. Promotions and demotions seem almost arbitrary and sometimes run against common sense; in the first episode of the story arc, Kazuma/Blade is demoted because he went out of his way to protect Mutsuki rather than focusing entirely on fighting the Undead. Originally Tsukasa more or less got Kazuma demoted for the lols, but with some prompting from Yuusuke, they all end up changing the system so it's fairer.
  • Krypton: Kandor is segregated between the 'Ranked' nobles and the 'Rankless' commoners, and further stratified between the priests and everyone else.
  • Planet of the Apes: Lampshaded in "The Tyrant" and "Up Above the World So High". Gorillas do army and police work, chimpanzees are doctors and bureaucrats and the orangutans control upper-level posts in government, education, and religion.
  • Raised by Wolves (2020): Mithraic society apparently includes a religious caste. Hunter states that he is from a high-ranking clerical family and demands to be spared work that requires slaughtering animals because it would make him "unclean." The soldiers of Mithraic society are obviously lower on the hierarchy. It's unclear if there are other castes in normal Mithraic society, since only high-ranking people were permitted into the Ark in the first place.
  • Stargate SG-1
    • There is a pyramidal system with Goa'uld as rulers, Jaffas as priests/warriors and Humans as workers. The Goa'uld life cycle involved both of the lower species.
    • There is this within the Goa'uld too. The Supreme System Lord rules on top, followed by the System Lords, each System Lord has a retinue of Underlords, who have their own retinues of Goa'uld Scientists and courtiers. Queens are generally not "true" lords and are often regarded as prizes for actual lords to be kept as mates.
    • There was also an episode where the worker caste were forced to mine and provide energy for the higher class and didn't even know that the upper caste existed. It wasn't explored if the common upper-class people even knew there were workers (it is implied that they aren't though), as SG1 were sent to the mines for being contemptuous of the system.
  • Stargate Atlantis had its major villains the Wraith situated in a system which was more of a hive caste. See that page for more information.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Cloud Minders", the Stratos cloud city dwellers believe that the "troglyte" (troglodyte) miners have race-based inferior intellects and use them as slaves, but the miners are actually suffering from zenite gas poisoning.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • The Bajorans once had a caste system in which one's caste (called a "D'jarra") dictated one's profession, rather like a Crystal Dragon Jesus version of Hindu castes. During the Cardassian occupation, the caste system was abandoned so that everyone could devote themselves to the task of fighting off the Cardassians, and the Bajorans did not return to the system after the occupation ended. Season four's episode "Accession" has a time-traveling Bajoran, claiming to be the Emissary, try to restore the caste system, which would have cost Bajor its chance at Federation membership due to the historical version of the D'jarra violating anti-discrimination laws (and would also have allowed Kai Winn to seize power from the laborer-caste First Minister Shakaar Edon). Sisko, despite his reluctance to fulfill the Messianic Archetype he had been previously bestowed, eventually challenged the time-traveler for the Emissary title after caste-based discrimination led to violence on the station.
      • Founders > Vorta > Jem'Hadar > "Everyone else" was the most basic rule in the Dominion (often referred to or summed up as "the order of things"). Though, if you ask the Jem'Hadar, they don't feel the middleman is strictly necessary. But, as the Founders wish it, they go along willingly as long as the Vorta don't go so far as to question their loyalty.
  • Utopia Falls: People in New Babyl are divided through sectors. These are different regions of the city representing occupations where they live together. Additionally they also wear different colored uniform jumpsuits to distinguish them. The four sectors are Progress (blue, the scientists), Industry (the (industrial workers, wearing orange), Nature (green, horticulturalists) and Reform (mostly criminals undergoing rehabilitation, with gray). The government is run by the Tribunal, a body with members from each.

    Oral Tradition 
  • Examples include mythological pantheons, kings and queens of The Fair Folk, and so on.

  • When ensemble comedy group The Burkiss Way performed a parody of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, protagonist Winston Smith listens to an explanation of how the brave new world is socially structured:
    (Robotic Voice) Alpha: Big Brother. Beta: The Party. Gamma: the Proleteriat. Delta: People who read books by Jilly Cooper. Ipsilon: People who write books by Jilly Cooper...
Smoth is eventually introduced to members of the lowest caste of all, Omega Double-Minus, who are trained from birth in their destined role as underarm perspiration.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The Elves in Lorwyn aren't just smug, superior jerks to everyone else, but also to each other. They base their entire worldview and value system on physical beauty, and how beautiful you are determines your place in society and which of their four social classes you become part of. Faultless elves make up the bottom, "commoner" tier, followed by Immaculate dignitaries and functionaries, Exquisite hunt masters and nobles, and finally the rare Perfects, who rule elven civilization and to whom only Exquisites are allowed to speak. Other races and disfigured eleven are labelled Eyeblights and can be slaughtered with impunity.
    • The Bant shard (the shard composed mostly of White mana with Green and Blue supporting it) in the Shards of Alara set employs a rigid caste system based on the acquisition of sigils, marks of great valor. While it is possible to move up depending on how many sigils one obtains, it's still monumentally difficult. The lack of black and red mana — meaning virtually no magic can cause unnatural deaths or aimless destruction, but at the same time no magic that supports ambition, desire, or emotional contentment — doesn't help.
    • The Signet of the Orzhov Syndicates states that if it's worn as a trinket, the bearer is a master. If it's worn as a tattoo, the bearer is a slave. Interestingly, other than this little tidbit, Ravnica as a whole is freed from any sort of caste, with a person from any species or vocation very much welcomed to join another guild or job without much prejudice (well, except from their former guild).
  • RuneQuest:
    • The Brithini are divided into five castes, the four castes of men founded by the legitimate son of Malkion (Dromal, Horal, Talar and Zzabur) and his wife's caste Menema (the caste of women). Dromali are commoners, Horal are warriors, Talar are diplomats and coordinators (there is no leader, even though people often make derivatives), and Zzabur are wizards and intellectuals (spiritual power, like the Brahmins of India).
    • The dwarves are divided into ten castes. These are the Rock dwarves (miners, builders and masons; they're the most rocklike and least humanoid), Lead dwarves (plumbers and glassblowers), Quicksilver dwarves (chemists and alchemists who create potions, poisons, chemical weapons, medicine and dwarf food), Copper dwarves (creators of tools, coinage and magic-conducting parts), Tin dwarves (summoners of earth spirits, creators of golem-like constructs, and makers of prosthetics), Brass dwarves (metallurgists and forge-tenders), Silver dwarves (enchanters and sorcerers, goblin-like and flat-nosed), Gold dwarves (teachers, guides, lore-keepers and diplomats, the most humanoid and the closest to their creator god's mind), Iron dwarves (warriors and weaponsmiths, always clad in armor) and Diamond dwarves (exemplars of the other castes). Only the first eight were created by Mostal, the dwarves' creator god; the other two were created later to adapt to the rigors of life during and after the Gods War.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Tau Empire have four castes loosely based on the four Hindu Varnas but with some twists and an elemental Theme Naming: the "Fio" (Earth) caste performs manual labour as well as scientific research, the "Kor" (Air) caste covers piloting and transportation, the "Por" (Water) caste deals with politics, diplomacy, and bureaucracy, and the "Shas" (Fire) caste serves as the Tau military. There is also a fifth caste: the "Aun" (Ethereal) caste, who govern the empire. In addition, caste members have a rank for their place within the caste. In ascending order from lowest to highest: Saal, La, Ui, Vre, El, and O. For example, a "Fio'La" is the equivalent of a factory labourer, a "Shas'Vre" is the equivalent of a military veteran or officer, and an "Aun'O" is the equivalent of a king or emperor. A Tau's caste and rank make up part of their name. The Tau castes are also racially defined, and are thought to have their origins in the distinct varieties/subspecies that made up the Tau race before the Ethereals united them. The Fire Caste are the largest statured and most aggressively-minded, for example. Air caste are the most extreme, having hollow bones and weaker muscles due to living almost exclusively in space; according to some lore, before space travel their ancestors had limited flight capabilities. Unlike a traditional caste system, only one's rank within that caste decides one's social standing, ranks can be gained or lost on basis of merit and service to the system, and none of the castes outside the "Aun" are considered superior or inferior to each other by virtue of caste alone (at least on paper).
    • The Craftworld Eldar, unlike most depictions of fantasy elves, live very strict and disciplined lives, according to a "Path", which is basically a career choice. There are several, but of course, the civilian paths tend to fall by the wayside in favour of the Path of the Warrior, the Path of the Seer and the Path of the Outcast. They need to do this because the last time they acted like loose and free-spirited elves, their civilisation fell into barbarity and caused the creation of a Chaos God. Unlike many caste systems, a Path is not a permanent choice. Most Eldar will change Path multiple times in their lives, moving on once they feel they have sufficiently mastered their current path. Some Eldar do get stuck on a Path, unable to put it aside and focusing on it to the exclusion of all else. While such Eldar are naturally very skilled at their chosen Path, getting stuck like this is very dangerous since the obsession with their Path goes against the controlled lives of other Eldar. If one becomes obsessed on the Path of the Warrior, they literally cannot leave, becoming Exarchs and joining their souls with the local warrior shrines previous exarchs.
    • In Dark Eldar society, your position is directly related to birth; natural-born Dark Eldar are so treasured that they're automatically elevated to elite units regardless of their combat prowess, while vat-cloned Dark Eldar must work their way up (assuming they survive that long). Hellion riders also occupy one of the lowest, but most dangerous positions within Dark Eldar society as they are a combination of street thugs and small-time Mafia in Commorragh.
  • Warhammer has the Lizardmen, whose castes are biological: the Slann resemble giant frogs and are the original servants of the Old Ones, with the survivors being the most powerful mages in the world (hell, Lord Kroak's mummy is still a better caster than most living mages). The small, wiry Skinks are the priest and artisan caste and act as attendants to the Slann, in addition to managing the day-to-day running of the civilization and acting as skirmishers and assassins during war. The strong, physically imposing Saurus are the main warrior caste, acting as frontline warriors and guarding the Lizardmen's treasures and temple-cities. Finally, the Kroxigor — colossal, hulking and dim-witted brutes the size of tanks — perform heavy labor and construction in times of peace, and in wartime join the Saurus on the battlefield, wading through enemy forces to pound their targets into pulp with their bare fists or colossal bronze cudgels.
    • The Kingdom of Bretonnia has its own version of the three feudal estates: Nobles, who thanks to Bretonnia's warrior culture all have to be anointed knights and serve as warriors and rulers, Damsels of the Lady who serve as priests and consists of female children with magic taken and trained by The Fair Folk (male Bretonnians with magic, noble or not, disappear and are never seen again), and finally peasants, who do everything else. Changing one's caste (unless you're taken as a child) is nigh-impossible because only the Fay Enchantress (essentially the Pope, chosen from among the Prophetesses, elder Damsels, as the Lady's mortal representative) can ennoble a peasant. Beyond that, being a noble requires all your grandparents being nobles as well, hence the children of an ennobled peasant are themselves peasants unless an absurdly lucky couple forms. This promotion happened only twice across Bretonnia's near 2000 year history since the Lady revealed herself to the old Bretonni tribes, once to a man who died in his first battle and once to a woman, Repanse de Lyonesse who as the resident Jeanne d'Archétype was celibate for her entire life.
  • Traveller:
    • The entire Third Imperium depends on the team spirit of the ruling class. Unlike other empires, the Third Imperium does not have an ethnic group as its cadre. Instead it has a caste.
    • The Zhodani have psionics, semi-psionics, and "proles". The proles are always happy because if they are so presumptuous as to be unhappy arrangements can be made.
    • The Vilani Ziru Sirka was divided into the food-producer caste (Naashirka), the industrial caste (Sharurshid), and the government caste (Makhidkarum) but their relationship is complex and tangled. This system bears some resemblance in concept with the Minbari religious, worker, and warrior castes respectively of Babylon 5 especially when one considers that chefs double as priests and medics in Vilani society. Like the Minbari the Vilani were engaged in constant turf wars between castes and clans.
    • The K'kree group their castes into servants (farmers, factory workers, unskilled labor), merchants (skilled workers, scientists, merchants, businessmen), and nobles. Unlike most systems members of all castes are expected to serve in the military.
    • The Droyne are classed into workers, warriors, drones, technicians, leaders, and a "jack of all trades" sport caste.
  • Exalted:
    • The setting as a whole has a few examples, namely because most of the titular Exalts are split up into Castes as a result of the Exaltation (save for the Dragon-Blooded, who merely take on "Aspects"). A more mundane example is the country of Varang, however, which believes so strongly in astrology and the importance of time that a person's role in life is determined mainly by when they were born.
    • While not so much social castes as power-based strata, the whole setting can be divided into four levels, basically; mortal non-Essence-Wielders (basically Muggles), Terrestrial-level Essence-wielders (enlightened mortals, Dragon-Blooded Exalts, lesser gods, and first circle demons), Celestial-level beings (Lunar, Alchemical and Sidereal Exalts, major gods and second circle demons) and Solar-level entities (Solar Exalted, the Celestial Incarnae, and third circle demons). Primordials hover somewhere around Solars, with more inherent power but nowhere near the flexibility.
    • The Realm is basically divided into slaves, peasants, patricians (wealthier mortals with blood ties to the Dragon-Blooded host), and Dynasts (Dragon-Blooded families). Dynasts who don't Exalt are usually treated like red-headed stepchildren, and members of lower castes who become Dragon-Bloods are adopted by the Dynastic Houses ASAP. And of course, any who Exalt as Solars or Lunars are hunted down like dogs, this is the Realm we're talking about.
    • There's also the nation of Varang, which uses an elaborate caste system based on astrological prediction. Newborn children have their stars read to determine what their talents will be when they grow up, and they are given a caste and corresponding tattoo to identify them. The ritual actually does work, in mechanical terms identifying what the child's favored ability will be. However, the ritual is not always performed by a competent astrologer, who are loath to admit when they realize they can't do it. As such, some unlucky individuals are mis-casted, or even denied a caste altogether, leading to a permanent semi-exile in their own nation.
    • Autochthonia employs a caste system, consisting of Populat (workers), and the Tripartite (threefold ruling caste) of Olgotary (secular administrators), Theomachracy (spiritual and morale maintainers), and the Sodalities (technical experts), with caste being assigned at birth through an assessment based on aptitudes displayed over one's past lives (one nation also has a professional military caste, the Militat). Differs from most, since there's actually a fair degree of social mobility within the actual castes (high ranking Populats can have more authority and privilege than low ranking Tripartites), and many nations incorporate a noteworthy degree of caste mixing; relationships between members of different castes are not uncommon, major social events tend to be shared experiences, and familial kinship (although generally a minor concern) can connect different castes (and, in the one nation that places strong emphasis on family bonds, even the highest-ranking Tripartite can be dominated by their lowly lever-pulling parents). They also have the Lumpen, the lowest caste who are given the most degrading jobs, have few personal rights, and are often victimised by others. Unlike the others, nobody is born to that caste; assignation to it forms the main criminal punishment (for any caste) in Autochthonian society.
    • The term "Caste" is typically used to describe where an Exalted's talents lie, rather than their prescribed role; there's nothing stopping, say, a martially-minded Dawn Caste from picking up Sorcery. The one person who takes it most seriously is the Deathlord Walker in Darkness, who expects his Abyssal Deathknights to fulfill every aspect of their assigned Castes. This is something of a problem, as he'll except a Daybreak Caste who's skilled in necromancy and necromancy alone to also be a loremaster, assign control of his armies to a warrior Dusk Caste despite the fact that he's insane, or expect a Moonshadow Caste who was a gladiator in life to serve as the best ambassador to the dead.
    • The Fair Folk are divided into a series of castes based, essentially, on how central a role they play in the Wyld's all-encompassing narratives. Noble Raksha, who rule Fair Folk courts, possess the strength of will and list of accomplishments necessary to be notable as central players in their personal narratives; Raksha commoners are the servants and masses of limited relevance, lacking the impact necessary to be more than bit characters' swept along in others' narratives and barely even objectively real; hobgoblins are expandable, barely sapient troops created by nobles as cheap cannon fodder, servants and assorted supporting roles; wee folk are the least of all Raksha, created as little more than living props.
  • BattleTech: The Clans have their own caste system, with the warrior caste as rulers. The scientist, technician, merchant, and laborer castes all basically exist mainly to provide for the warriors so they in turn can focus upon fighting for the Clan. Whether the warriors are honorable protectors or authoritarian jerks varies between Clans, and sometimes within a given Clan, but most Clans tend to have harmonious (or at least tolerable) working relationships between warriors and civilians.
    • What sets the Clan caste system apart from others is that merit and testing determine one's placement as much as (if not more than) parentage, though for most part civilians end up in the caste of their parents by default. In most Clans civilian-born members can also attempt to join the warrior caste, although even the successful ones rarely rise above mid-level rank.
    • There is also a second cut-off point on whether or not a warrior can obtain a Bloodname: Those who are Bloodnamed are guaranteed lifelong membership in the Warrior Caste and can ascend to the highest ranks. Warriors who cannot become Bloodnamed by age thirty-five are reassigned to solahma units or demoted to garrison or police duties, and are usually first on the chopping block when new aspirants seek entry to the Caste.
    • There's some variation within the castes as well. In the warrior caste, the Freeborn (those born the old-fashioned way) are always below the Trueborn (those born in the iron wombs via the Clan's controlled breeding program). Among the Trueborn some of the Elementals who are bred to specialise as Powered Armor infantry tend to see themselves as superior but that varies a lot from Clan to Clan. Both the Elementals and the Mechwarriors are superior to the Aerospace Pilots since their breeding program never worked out all that well. Among the other castes, those among the scientist and technician castes who specialise in supporting the warrior caste, either through designing or maintaining the weapons of the warrior caste, or overseeing the warrior caste's breeding program, have higher status than other the rest of their caste.
    • While most Clans adhere to the classic martial-oriented caste system, there is some variation. Clan Diamond Shark has castes, but it is the most egalitarian of the Clans, and considers merchants to be "warriors" in their own right. Clan Nova Cat, being strongly into spirituality and finding your own path in life, allows a lot of leeway to their scientists and merchants as a result. Clan Ghost Bear emphasizes family bonds; a Trueborn warrior has lifelong friends, even among those that flushed out during their brutal training to join civilian castes. Clan Hell's Horses is one of the few that hold tank crews in just as high esteem as their Humongous Mecha pilots or Powered Armor operators. Finally, Clan Star Adder considers Interservice Rivalry to be counter-productive and have ombudsmen known as "Adders' Adjutants" who serve as ambassadors between castes to minimize friction. Clan Smoke Jaguar, on the other hand, was notoriously riven by inter-caste problems and economic dysfunction because the warriors were so scornful of anybody who wasn't martially-oriented.
    • The Clans also have a sixth, unofficial caste called the Bandit caste, or Dark caste composed of renegades, pirates, criminals and those who refuse to join the other castes.
    • Similarly, some of the Inner Sphere and Periphery states have caste systems, most notably the Capellan Confederation, which has a rigid, though semi-mobile, system of castes, with the Directorship caste note  at the top, followed by Intelligensia note , Supporters note , Artists, The Entitled note , The Commonality note , and finally the Servitors note . Interestingly, these castes are not determined at birth, nor are they for life. A person can move between castes as their circumstances and qualifications dictate. The castes also act as an unofficial Weird Trade Union, as the groupings advocate for the members of the caste and act as social security systems for their members (well, except for the servitors who are at the mercy of the other castes). In fact, in the lore, it is not unknown for members of a caste to be stoned to death by other members for denying aid to a fellow caste member.
  • New Horizon has the Medeans, who have established a sort of monarchy.
  • The "security clearance" system in Paranoia is essentially a caste system. One's security clearance determines not only what information one has access to and one's level of authority within the system but the quality of one's food, one's living and working conditions, and how much the regime values one's very life. The system is meritocratic, with everyone starting at the lowest level and working their way up, but corruption is rampant and the "merits" by which one advances in practice include butt-kissing ability and aptitude for political scheming and skulduggery. It's based on an interpretation of the light spectrum, starting at Infrared (the lowest, rendered as black for practicality's sake) and working up through Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and Ultraviolet (rendered as white, to contrast Infrared, and also known as High Programmers because they have clearance to alter The Computer's programming).
  • Legend of the Five Rings mirrors feudal Japan's.
  • In Rocket Age the Martians began creating the current caste system during the Canal Era using eugenics and genetic engineering, to the point that members of different castes are usually infertile with one another.
    • The Silthuri are the ruling caste and closest to the Ancient Martians genetically. Most of them serve as the bureaucracy; there is only a small ruling sub-caste in any principality.
    • The Kastari form the priesthood and are incredibly similar to the Silthuri; they may well be a sub-caste who used religion to gain power.
    • The Maduri are the tusked warrior caste.
    • The Pilthuri are a mixture of merchant and diplomat.
    • The Talandri are an entire caste of craftsmen, with different occupations done by specific sub-castes.
    • The Julandri are the slave caste, bred for specific purposes. The main sub-castes are the labour slaves, the service slaves, a very diverse class, and the courtesans.
    • The Julandri Courtesan sub-caste are best compared to Geishas.
    • The Chanari are desert folk, falling outside the caste system.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The races of giants in are bound by a caste system called the Ordning, which is rather unique in that it measures status on an individual basis; there's a large-scale Ordning ranking all the Giant breeds, but a Giant's loyalty to their tribal superiors always supersedes loyalty to other Giants, no matter how high on the Ordning they may be.
      • The Grand Ordning is based on the giant breeds' placement in the old Giant empire of Ostoria, going as follows from top to bottom: storm giants (seer-kings), cloud giants (nobility and generals), fire giants (soldiers and engineers), frost giants (warriors and shock troops), stone giants (artisans), and hill giants (family embarrassments).
      • Individual tribes' Ordnings are based on some sort of talent or quality that the old Ordning castes were built around. To storm giants it's omens, to cloud giants it's extravagance, to fire giants it's a combination of fighting and engineering skill, to frost giants it's pure physical strength, to stone giants it's artisanship, and, while hill giants are too dumb to actually realize there is an ordning, they tend to follow the biggest and fattest of their tribes. Social mobility is determined by a pretty simple system- challenge a superior to an appropriate contest. If you win, you swap Ordning ranks with the guy you bested.
    • Goblins have a rough caste system where goblins are ranked in order of usefulness to the tribe's survival; those with specialized skills such as craftwork, smithing, tactics, or magic are Lashers and get to lord over the others, those who have skill in combat but not much else are Hunters and are the next rung down, goblins who can gather plants, filch things, and/or cook are Gatherers, and goblins with no useful skill whatsoever are Pariahs. While social mobility is possible, goblin families generally maintain their status by not teaching other goblins their special skills.
    • The yuan-ti caste system is based on physical appearance: the more an individual looks like a snake, the higher their standing in society. The human-looking Purebloods are at the bottom, the Malisons (who are random mishmashes of human and snake) are in the middle, and the Abominations (human-sized snakes with arms) sit at the top.
    • Modrons live in a complex and perfectly ordered hierarchy, where each caste performs a specific task, possess precisely the level of complexity needed for its purpose, and is only able to communicate with the castes immediately above and below it due to lacking the intelligence to comprehend anyone more than one rank above them. Each caste is visually identified by its resemblance to a specific geometric solid — monodrones are spherical, duodrones resemble a pair of hinged rectangular solids, tridrones are inverted tetrahedrons, quadrones are cubes, etc. — and when a modron dies, a member of the next caste down is instantly transformed into its replacement.

  • Beast Wars: Uprising: The post-war Cybertron has one baked in (and judging by comments made by Blackarachnia in one story, had a prior brush with Functionism before). The Builders are at the top, with Micromasters underneath them, followed by Cyberdroids (Macro-scale Cybertronians who either don't transform or turn into heads and engines), and then the Proto-formers beneath all of them. The proto-races are then divided into their own separate class system, ranked on the alphabet (so Class A to Z). Class A are top, but considered foppish layabouts, but are still treated shabbily by Micromasters. Classes F and G are considered "lowly", so goodness knows how bad it is by the time anyone gets to "Z".

    Video Games 
  • Angels in Diablo are separated into five aspects: Valor, Wisdom, Fate, Hope, and Justice. Angels of Valor serve as elite soldiers, Wisdom guides and counsels others. Fate records what has and will happen. Hope consoles and heals, and Justice enforces the law. Heaven is ruled by the Angiris council, made up of the five Arch Angels who lead each caste, and vote democratically on all issues.
    • Gets worse when it's revealed that Malthael as the archangel of DEATH, Tyrael has a higher aptitude for Wisdom, and Imperius may be Hateful Justice (AKA Wrath). How did THAT get on the divine aspect list?
  • Dragon Age:
    • Humans are split between Nobles and Commoners, and then there's elves, who are segregated into an alienage and have few to no rights... unless they have magic, in which case they're thrown alongside other magically-strong humans into a Circle and lumped together as equal Mages with a scholarship, but are even more oppressed with a test of character that will result in death if failed and any illegal magic is grounds for execution. In most cases, the chain is Nobles->Mages->Commoners->Elves, while in Tevinter Mages and Nobles are swapped or merged.
    • The Dwarves of Orzammar practice a system in which each newborn is sorted in to one of eight castes dependent on the caste of their same-sex parent. Elevation is all but impossible. Those without a caste (criminals, exiles, and any children of the above two groups) are considered to be worth less than dirt and barred from obtaining any work or housing legally (unsurprisingly, this means the only work open to them is criminal in nature, thus intensifying hatred towards them). They will not be recorded in the histories, and so are deemed to not exist. Even aiding the casteless is considered a major social taboo for most dwarves, effectively ensuring that the casteless have to become criminals to survive. The only way to ascend the caste system (and the only way for the casteless to be less than dirt) is to marry a member of a higher caste and have a child of the sex of the higher caste parent. Since there's only a 50% chance of this method working, it's not surprising that the slums are full of single parents raising a child of the wrong caste. The only other way to break the system is to achieve some great recognition and become a Paragon. The elders then elevate that Paragon's family to Noble or semi-Noble status.
      Warden: How does the caste system work, anyway?
      Lord Helmi: Badly.
    • The Qunari have a form of caste system as their religion prescribes distinct roles to members of the race that are inseparable from their personal identity. As far the Qunari are concerned, if you reject your given role you reject your identity and might as well be dead. They are utilitarian and believe that individuals are essentially tools with assigned functions, a sword cannot become anything other than a sword and a warrior cannot become anything other than a warrior. Roles are assigned at a young age based on the child's abilities and inclinations, not based directly on birth; that said, the caste that directs breeding and rears children has had some limited success in creating specialist bloodlines.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition twists the blade with the reveal that all those elven forest clans are still running off old slave protocols, and their 'gods' were the ruling caste of the ancient elven civilization that drove itself straight to Hell.
  • Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future depicts a Bad Future in which dolphins were enslaved by humanity and used as underwater labor. There are three castes- note  the Crimson, the Circle, and the Movers. The Hero must persuade dolphins of each caste to work together, which he does by impersonating a pseudo-messianic figure.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Dremora, a race of intelligent lesser Daedra, have a complex multi-level caste system. They're divided into three "soldier" classes (Churls, Caitiffs, and Kynvals), two "officer" classes (Kynreeves and Kynmarchers), and two "noble" classes (Markynaz and Valkynaz). The former three represent the military ranks of lesser soldiers, with Churls being the untrained disorganized rabble that form the bulk of a clan's fighting force, Caitiffs representing shock troops, and Kynvals being soldiers that distinguished themselves in combat and displaying the potential to be future leaders of their clans, as well as being the equivalent of knights. The other four are more important, politically-oriented roles, as they respectively represent clan officers, grand dukes, lords, and princes. There are also many other ranks, such as Kyngald and Narkynaz, whose positions in the overall hierarchy is largely unknown. Oblivion includes one Dremora Feydnaz, but where this caste fits in is unclear (though he functions as a stronger Valkynaz).
    • Averted for Xivilai, a massive and powerful form of lesser Daedra that is otherwise culturally very similar to the Dremora. Xivilai have no castes stemming from their hatred of subordination and tendency for betrayal.
    • Xivkyn, however, are a hybrid of Xivilai and Dremora (who refer to themselves as the "Kyn" in the Daedric language) created by the Daedric Prince Molag Bal to serve as his Legions of Hell during the Planemeld. Like the Dremora, Xivkyn play it straight by having a caste system.
    • Aureals (aka Golden Saints) are another race of intelligent lesser Daedra in service to Sheogorath. They too have a caste system with an eight-tier hierarchy, ascending from lowest to highest in rank as follows: Auren, Auredel, Aurmok, Aurmokel, Aurig, Malaurig, Pelaurig, and Aurmazl. An individual's strength and discipline determine their place in this system.
    • Mazken (aka Dark Seducers) are also a race of intelligent lesser Daedra in service to Sheogorath. They have a caste system with a seven-tier hierarchy, ascending from lowest to highest in rank as follows: Kiskengo, Kiskella, Kiskedrig, Grakendo, Grakella, Grakedrig, Autkendo. Like the Aureals, an individual's strength and discipline determines their place in this system.
    • The Altmer (High Elves) have an extremely rigid caste system, as noted in the Third Pocket Guide to the Empire:
    "A hierarchy of classes began to form, which is still largely enforced in Summerset to this day. At the top are the Wise, teachers and priests, followed by the Artists, Princes, Warriors, Landowners, Merchants, and Workers."
  • The Polaris in Escape Velocity: Nova have an occupation-based caste system; citizens are assigned to castes based on aptitude tests (except for the Kel'ariy, who are selected from the other castes by the members of that caste, with the only criteria being that they have to be at least 100 years old — Polarans have long life-spans). The Kel'ariy are the governing caste, the Ver'ash are doctors and medical researchers, the P'aedt do most other science research, the Nil'kemorya are the military, and the Tre'pira are the labor caste (which ranges from construction all the way up to ship captains). Each caste is assigned governance of its own systems, with a prefix added to the name of the star indicating who owns it (for example, most border planets are Nil'kemorya worlds). Oddly the Tre'pira are the most honored caste because they're seen as the backbone of Polaran society.

    The odd man out is the Mu'hari, a caste created after the Polaris Civil War. These are made up solely of citizens who failed the tests to enter another caste (after an unknown cut-off point; it's indicated that you don't have to remain with the caste you start training with if you switch when young enough). They learn a little of everything, but their primary duty is to ensure the survival of Polaran society, which in practice makes them the Polaran diplomatic and intelligence service, as well as providing internal security. They are semiofficially the lowest-ranked caste, as no matter what they are doing they are required to drop everything to assist any other Polaran who asks them to do anything. They are not shown as looked down upon by other castes, but many of them consider their Casteless Caste a mark of shame for themselves and their peers (one usually bubbly Mu'hari is seen depressed on the day she must swear in new members to the caste).
  • Fallen London: The Great Chain is a caste system that applies to all forms of life, including cosmic forces of nature. The main goal of the Bazaar and the Masters is to allow members from different castes to love freely. The main goal of humanity is to destroy the chain and build their own, with them on top.note 
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The Garlean Empire has a very rigid caste system that shows in their naming scheme, specifically their middle name, and a person's hierarchy in society works in reverse alphabetic order: zos denotes an Emperor, yae is a male prince and/or heir to the throne, tol, van and sas denoting the top of the military command, and it continues on all the way down to aan, non-citizens of annexed territories and slaves. It is technically possible to go up in castes, especially in the military, but to even gain citizenship an aan must dedicate decades of their life of being conscript soldier of their oppressors, and even if they prove their worth non-pureblood Garleans will struggle to get high up in the chain.
  • Halo:
    • The Covenant work this way, with each race being in a certain rank. Before the Great Schism, Prophets were the leaders, followed closely by Elites, followed by Brutes, followed by Hunters, followed by Jackals and Drones, and followed by Grunts. Grunts received the worst treatment, being treated as a slave race by everybody. On the other side of the spectrum, the Prophets dominated the bureaucracy and clergy, while Elites and Brutes were largely responsible for military matters. The Jackals are technically mercenaries rather than part of the caste system per se, but in practice, this makes little difference outside Jackal-only ships. There's also the Engineers, who only desire to fix and build machinery, and are treated more as valuable tools than as the sapient individuals they truly are (to the point that they're often forced to wear explosive harnesses in order to prevent them from being captured).
    • The Forerunners had a caste system of their own, called the rate system: on top were Builders, responsible for construction and design, with the Master Builder becoming the true power behind the Forerunner ecumene towards its end. Next up were Miners, who obtained materials for the Builders. Then came Lifeworkers, the doctors, ecologists, and biologists of the ecumene. Then came the Warrior-Servants, soldiers who were seen as technically necessary but distasteful to the Forerunners, as they saw themselves as without conflict. Coming in dead last were the Engineers (who were technically not even Forerunners, given that they're the same ones used by the Covenant millennia later), who were engineered to be satisfied with just maintaining and fixing things. There was also a rate called Juridicals who were in charge of law enforcement and criminal investigations; towards the end of the ecumene, much of this rate had become nothing more than an extension of the Master Builder's will.
  • In Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, the Sura race has a caste system, with the lowest being the Ishkai (who are basically no better off than slaves). Alita encounters some Ishkai who have fled their masters but are now in danger of recapture, and she has the option of either helping the Ishkai (on the grounds that slavery is illegal in Corwenth) or the slavers (citing distaste for defiance of authority). Either justification can work with the fact that she's an Inquisitor and all.
  • The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante has The Lots. Arknians, who rule The Empire, are always noble at birth and rank above humans. Humans are divided into Nobles of the Sword (Warriors), Nobles of the Mantle (Civil servants who have to earn their title each generation), Priests (For teaching the world's religious system, the Lots and the gods, The Twins), and the Commoners being the bottom rung.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Batarian society is built on a highly rigid caste system, although the only thing known about it specifically is that slavery is integral to it.
    • Turian society has 27 different tiers of citizenship, each with its own set of rights and obligations. Unlike most examples of this trope, a certain level of upward mobility is not only possible but expected. For example promotion from first to second tier is automatic upon mandatory conscription on one's 15th birthday, and promotion from second to third upon completing the mandatory period of military service.
  • The Chozo from the Metroid series have got several castes, most of them chose Scientist. Adopted human Samus was the first one to pick Warrior in eons.
  • NieR: Automata: Humans designed Androids to worship their creators, who have been split between military-grade YoRHa units, armed militia, and regular resistance androids. Except the humans went extinct, and a central AI has perpetrated a race war with the Machines, who are also sapient robots created by aliens who also went extinct, so they can repeat human history and develop cultural data. They treat everyone they control as expendable in their pursuit of installing themselves with true human sapience.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV has Luxurors and Casualries. Luxurors are nobility, priesthood, and Samurai. Casualries are peasants, levies and serfs. There is only one way to leave your caste: if you're a Casualry, pass the Gauntlet Rite to be inducted into the Samurai. Luxurors are forbidden to intermarry with Casualries, and there's a lot of racism involved in the system. There's also Unclean Ones, but their existence is a closely guarded secret, for many more reasons than are readily apparent...
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: The end result of a society that has access to cloning technology and advanced social sciences. Citizens are sorted into three groups based on intellect levels: Talents are highly educated transhumans with full access to the benefits of their factions technology; Citizens, average joes with limited access to psychiatric education; and Drones, intellectually inferior humans treated as slaves and kept in line with Bread and Circuses, armed police, and lobotomies to prevent non-conforming thoughts. Note that every human faction regardless of political ideology ends this way.
  • Starcraft: The Protoss have three castes: Judicators (priests and rulers), Templar (warriors), and Khalai (workers, mostly unheard from in the game).
    • The Dark Templar notably reject the caste system along with the other rigid strictures of mainstream Protoss society.
    • In Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void we meet a distinguished Khalai, Phasesmith (Engineer) Karax, who is in charge of restoring the Spear of Adun. After he is required to lead an assault against the Moebius Corp's base while the Templar are defending the Spear from an attack, Artanis makes him an honorary Templar. And considers dismantling the caste system entirely.
  • Stellaris has a species rights mechanic that allows one to create a caste system in their empire. Rights for the empire's founding species can be set to either "Full Citizens" or "Caste System" where POPs on mineral or food-producing tiles are enslaved but the rest of the species are free. Other species may have rights ranging from "Full Citizenship", to "Residence" without voting rights, full Slavery, or even "Undesirables" who are Purged automatically.
    • Intensified horrifically with the Utopia expansion, which adds new and specialized slave castes, with the former mineral and food producers being filed under Chattel Slaves. Other new categories include Domestic Servants, a caste of butlers and maids, Battle Thralls, a caste of warriors and Livestock, which is exactly what it sounds like.
  • In Sword of the Stars, according to the appendix at the end of The Deacon's Tale novel, the Tarka are divided into three castes, which have some subspecies traits: the Urduku ("Common" caste) are the warriors and professionals (they predominantly speak Urdu Kai, "common speech"), the Gutter caste are the workers representing the majority of the population (they speak various Gutter dialects collectively called Horodu Kai), and the Kona ("Exalted" caste) are the ruling class (speaking Kona Kai, "high speech"). The appendix does not mention if there are any social unrest due to the inability of persons to move from one caste to another.
    • The Hivers also have castes, but these are clearly defined by biology. Unlike your typical Bee People, the Hivers do not possess a hive-mind. Each Hiver is a complete individual. The Warriors are best suited for high-risk tasks, such as warfare and security, and have varied physical shapes. The Workers cover the vast majority of jobs in the Hiver Imperium and are physically smaller and lighter than humans. Their jobs range from menial work to artistry and craftsmanship. The Royals consist of Princesses, Princes, and Queens. The Princesses and the Queens are the only females of the species. The Queens are fully matured and are able to bear not only Warriors and Workers but also Princes and Princesses. The Princes are the fertile males who are also generals. Unlike the Tarka, it's possible for a Hiver to move to a different caste, although this involves dying. When a Hiver dies, most of his memories are stored in chemicals in his head. If it's eaten by the Queen, she can then lay another egg, imprinting the new Hiver with the memories. In effect, the Hiver is reborn. For example, one of the main characters in the novel is a Hiver Prince named Chezokin, who used to be a Worker named Chekin (the "zok" infix is added to a reborn Hiver's name). This is only done to those who have honored the Queen with their service. The Hivers also have three main written languages, although these are not restricted to castes. K'en-k'en is a phonetic language (like Japanese katakana and hiragana), known by all Hivers. Ri'kap-ken represents words with complex symbols based on an ancient writing system (like Japanese kanji) and is mostly used by Warriors and bureaucrats. Tcho'to-ken is mainly used by the Royals to write poetry and personal diaries and is a form of calligraphy.
  • In WildStar, the Dominion separates Cassians into three castes based on possession of Eldan genes. The ruling Luminai are at least 50% Eldan, maintained via inbreeding. Highborn have some Eldan DNA and are essentially aristocrats. While Lowborn are completely Cassian and occupy most manual labor jobs.
  • The Burning Legion from World of Warcraft are arranged into a caste system based on species since the demons come from corrupted remnants of other races. Man'ari eredar are leaders and powerful spell casters, Shivarra serve as priestesses and military chaplains, Nathrezim are tacticians, Mo'arg are mechanics and engineers, and other races like ered'ruin and felhounds are used as cannon fodder.
  • XCOM 2: Obviously, the Ethereals are worshiped as gods in the Advent administration, and their representatives on Earth are the Elders from the race of Ethereals, but failed to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, while castes are generally broken up by danger level; Hybrids are the infantry, Sectoids are captains, Vipers and Mutons are specialists and military, etc. As for humans, they're god-sacrifices; meant to be melted down into component DNA to give the Elders the bodies of living gods.
    • While the old caste system is broken by XCOM: Chimera Squad, the new metric is now based on how well you re-integrate into society, with those who can adapt to human city life on the top (Humans, Hybrids, Sectoids, Vipers, and some Mutons), Crazy Survivalists and isolationistsnote  getting funny looks and generally lumped into the outlaw category, and those who suck at human customs being 'nationless'. This bites everyone in the ass when the latter turn to terrorism to steal a spaceship and leave a planet that hates them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa: The second game, prequel novel and sequel anime reveal that Hope's Peak Academy is divided into two levels. In the East quarter are the SHSL Talents/Ultimates, who were hand-picked by the school so their special skills can be studied and amplified by getting the best schooling possible. In the West quarter is the Reserve department, made of Ordinary High School Students who have to pay a costly tuition fee for the privilege of attending. Their campus functions as a completely ordinary high school, without any access to the perks the Ultimates get to enjoy and they are often viewed as nothing more than second-class students. The two groups are largely segregated from each other, with little interaction between levels.

  • Homestuck: The Alternian trolls are arranged into a caste system called the hemospectrum, based on their blood color. It goes from burgundy and brown-blooded trolls as the bottom caste through the rainbow to blue, indigo and purple-blooded trolls at the top as the ruling castes. This caste system has biological repercussions as well: lower castes are more likely to have Psychic Powers, more vulnerable to others' psychic powers, shorter-livednote  and physically weaker. Since they are so numerous and low-ranking, the death of the members of these castes is considered a normal occurrence and hardly even a crime. Higher castes are more likely to be murderous and psychotic, have greater physical strength and longer lifespans (up to many centuries), and the royal castes (violet and fuchsia) are amphibious, tend to live underwater, and are so long-lived and hardy that they have been described as "basically immortal". Only the empress and her heiress have fuchsia blood, and they can live for thousands of years, upper lifespans being completely unknown. Candy-red bloods are considered mutant deviations and are often culled at a young age. Some trolls do not care so much about the system though, most notably Gamzee and Feferi, who are both within the top three highest ranks but aside from that expressing borderline-revolutionary beliefs is liable to get one culled.
    • The pre-Scratch trolls, who lived on planet Beforus, also have a hemospectrum, except that it seems to be based on noblesse oblige. The longer-lived higher-castes are expected to serve the needs of the lower castes, while those lower on the hemospectrum have less obligations the lower rank their blood color is. Culling, rather than killing weak members of the species, instead meant to take care of and coddle those seen as weak. The system as a whole is regarded as rather patronizing by both high- and low-blooded members. In both worlds, lime bloods (which is the un-mutated version of candy red blood) used to be a common caste, but after a series of revolutions they were hunted to extinction on Alternia because they supposedly possessed abilities that had the potential to upset the way the violent, oppressive society works, and were implied to have been historically oppressed on Beforus.
    • Both Hiveswap and Hiveswap Friendsim take place before the events of Homestuck, during a time when a different Heiress ruled Alternia much more ruthlessly than Feferi. There's considerably more Fantastic Racism against lowbloods, with most of them fated for jobs that serve highbloods should they even make it to adulthood. It also seems that even higher blood castes are limited to a similar type of profession. For example, a few Tealbloods are involved in Alternian law similar to Terezi and her ancestor, since tealbloods who don't do so are culled for abandoning their duties, and all Purplebloods seen so far wear face paint and appear to be part of the same religious following as Gamzee and his ancestor.
  • Cassiopeia Quinn: Triterrans, a three-armed species, determine their social rank by which side they have more arms on. Having two right arms is seen as a sign of intelligence and strong morals, and affords a higher social standing; having to left arms is seen as a sign of a sinful nature, and results in ostracism and discrimination.
  • The Cyantian Chronicles: The Fox Empire has a caste system based on fur color. Reds are commoners, Blues are scientists, Oranges are high-level workers and artisans, Golds are guards and bounty hunters, and Gouttouve (gutter foxes) are those whose colors don't fit their professions. Before King Rashon's coup Whites were the leading caste, Silvers were their advisers, and Blacks were elite guards. During the coup, Rashon convinced the Golds to wipe out the Whites, Silvers, and Blacks and declared himself a "Royal Red". In addition, the ancestors of the Whites, Silvers, Blacks, and at least some Golds were genetically experimented on by an alien race that invaded some 700 years previously. Blacks can manipulate energy like a Technomage, Silvers have a Healing Factor and Super-Speed, and Whites have both powers and Charisma.
  • Terinu: The Vulpine are a people who divide themselves into Farmer Lords (the Rulers), Military (the Fighters), and Commoners (everybody else). There's some give to the system, with Commoners able to marry up into the Farmer Lord class, usually by gaining recognition during their mandatory military service.
  • Unsounded:
    • The people of Alderode are divided into castes related to their hair color, which is the most visible of the various biological changes enforced on them by the Dammakhert.
    • Cresce promotes equal rights for all human citizens, though hypocrisy of having a royal family is not lost on neighboring countries, even if the royal family is added to via adoption rather than procreation. There are yet castes that have lasted due to the dominant Geffendur faith; twins are relegated to human sacrifice and priesthood.
  • In Quantum Vibe Terra has developed into a caste system through genetic engineering, with the attractive Execs on top and the short, ugly Associates on the bottom. As well as several castes in between such as managers, geeks, artists, and enforcers. Their primary means of enforcing this system is pheromones.
  • Alice and the Nightmare's Wonderland has four castes called Suits, based on cards, determining social standing and profession one should perform. In order, those are Spades (rulers and diplomats), Hearts (priests, teachers, and scholars), Clubs (farmers and hunters), and Diamonds (merchants and engineers). Since the Diamonds have a high death rate in combat, they tend to get discriminated to make the rest of the Suits feel better.
    • In addition to the above, there are also the 'reversed' versions of the castes, which Alice and Edith are part of. Since reversed suits are rare enough to be a myth and come with unique strengths and weaknesses, there's little discrimination but a lot of paranoia.
  • Outsider: Loroi society is rigidly stratified and subdivided, with a Loroi's career and place in society being heavily determined by which caste she's born into.
    • Society as a whole is split into three main social groups — the warrior class, the civilians, and the men. Warriors, in addition to the military, also make up the Loroi empire's government, while civilians are secondary in importance and position and the men — being about eight times less common than the women — are essentially sperm banks with citizenships.
    • The women's classes are further subdivided — the civilians are split between numerous specialized trade guilds, while the warrior class is further divided into six specialized castes: the Soroin (soldiers), Tenoin (spacecraft pilots and crew), Teidar (combat psychics), Torrai (commanders, admirals and generals, the title of Emperor being the caste's highest rank), Mizol (diplomats, intelligence officers and telepaths), Listel (scientists and analysts), Doranzer (medics) and Gallen (mechanics). There are also subtle but significant biological differences between different castes: the Listel, for instance, have Eidetic Memory, while the Teidar and Mizol are more psychically gifted than other Loroi.
    • The Loroi's highly martial culture also means that the more martially oriented a group, the more important they tend to be. In broad terms, the Loroi social pyramid has the Torrai at the top, then the Mizol, Teidar, Soroin and Tenoin, then the Listel, Doranzer, and Gallen, then the civilians. The men exist largely outside this system.
  • Slightly Damned: The angels are seperated into four elemental castes, and then further seperated between civilians, warriors, and the council. Kazai undergoes severe Sanity Slippage when he learns that everyone either rejects or looks down on the caste system that he worshipped, prefering to mingle with former slaver demons instead of their assigned roles.
  • Not What I Was: The rise of Bio-Augmentation meant that everyone but the mega-rich needed to mod themselves to remain competitive. Subsidies for certain humanimal genetic templates ended up tying "species" to one's socioeconomic status, with rats (the first subsidized template) at the bottom and rabbits, housecats, dogs, "exotics" (less-common species, nearly all custom jobs) above them, unmodded humans at the top. The story starts with a rat garbage scavenger finding an amnesiac cat girl in a bio-tank, who shows signs of having been an exotic or even human before.
  • In Anecdote of Error, every Batean child chooses a rite that will determine their rights and privileges for the rest of their lives. Atshi and Luntsha’s rite is the Housekeeper, and housekeepers are treated like second-class citizens, not being permitted to go anywhere without an escort and expected to stay home, do all the chores, and look after the children. Since housekeepers are designated long before adulthood, there technically isn’t a rule prohibiting them from attending school, but they are looked down upon if they choose to do so. Shimei treats Atshi like crap for this reason, and Atshi’s hopelessness with magic only makes it worse.
  • Welcome to Doomtlis: Everyone on the planet Doomtlis has a special mutation that determines what your lot in life is like. People with useless mutations are treated like dirt, but people with useful mutations are held in higher regard.
  • Shattered Glass Prime: Much like The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Cybertron has a strict caste system featuring manuals like the future Megatron, archivists such as Orion Pax, and "disposables" that included Soundwave and his Minicons that pigeonholed everyone into a designated "role" based on what job their alt-mode can handle. The Autobots continue to uphold it under Optimus Prime's regime, while the Decepticons have opposed it ever since their formation as a movement.

    Web Original 
  • Bosun's Journal: In the corpocaste culture, each role in society was filled by a Human Subspecies genetically engineered to be perfectly suited for it, which resulted in intense cultural stratification and pigeonholing. Some of these modifications were relatively conservative and primarily affecting psychological traits, such as corporate executives engineered with enhanced cognitive abilities and competitive drives or valets designed to have increased short-term memory retention, balance and dexterity. Others were much more extreme, such as maintenancers, people designed with prehensile feet and long, slender index and middle fingers to perform maintenance in low- to no-gravity areas of the spaceship, or the canmen, sessile Cyborgs designed as white-collar workers (and, somewhat ironically, a type with unusual amounts of career flexibility — their nature as ultimate desk workers and data processors meant that some were able to rise quite high in corporate ranks).
  • Hazbin Hotel: Hell seems to have a sort of caste system based on how much you can bully others into letting you have your way.
    • Lucifer, as Hell's founder and most powerful member, is of course at the very top. Charlie, being his daughter, technically follows him, but gets very little of the associated respect because of her generally kind nature.
    • Next are demons based on the Seven Deadly Sins (With Lucifer also representing Pride).
    • Below them are the Goetic nobility. Stolas is at this level.
    • Then there are the Overlords, who are damned sinners that have managed to amass a high level power and influence. Alastor is at this level.
    • The highest "commoner" ranking belongs to sinners damned to hell. Most of the main characters belong to this class.
    • Below them are natural-born demons, like succubi, imps, and hellhounds. Imps in particular are at the very bottom of the social hierarchy.
  • Lucky Day Forever: Whites are the lazy, hedonistic upper class and the Proles are the hard-working underclass.
  • Smash King has the tier system, which divides tiers into five classes based on their fighting ability: tops, highs, "mids," lows, and bottoms. The Tops/Highs are praised and revered, usually being the leaders or important figures of society, Mids are usually just treated as normal people, and the lows/bottoms are usually ridiculed and ostracized, often being beaten up for fun and not respected.
  • Unlikely Eden: All Coalition soldiers are engineered to be one of four castes. Visibly they are indistinguishable, but their abilities are all specialized for their combat roles. This governs everything from authority to the acceptable formation of friendships. The main characters are somewhat unusual for their cross-caste friendship.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The titular archipelago in the Islands miniseries has the human population governed by three castes marked by clothing colors: Seekers prevent anyone from leaving, have mechanical brain implants and Bio-Augmentation that make them strong, and wear shades of purple. Experimenters do scientific research and wear light blue. Helpers are medical and aid workers who wear white. Susan Strong, originally named Kara, was one of the Seekers. Finn's mother was a Helper, and he apparently would have been too if he'd grown up on the islands.
  • Amphibia: It gradually becomes clear that Amphibia is structured into a strict system of class based on species.
    • At the bottom of the totem pole are the frogs, generally regarded as farmers and peasantry. Looked down upon or exploited by the other castes and if Toadstool is to be believed, a frog has never beaten a toad in an election. Hop Pop's attempt to do so was considered an act of rebellion and sparked resistance movements across the valley from disgruntled, oppressed frogs.
    • The toads act as a warrior caste, who's main priority appointed to keep the frogs in line and collect various rewards. They remain convinced that toads should control every part of the valley. However, they ultimately serve the whims of the newts, a role they clearly chafe at, and their leadership is selected by the newt army.
    • Newts are revered as wise leaders and stay strong at the highest tier of society. They're often wealthy scientists or scholars and enjoy the pleasures of elite society. With that in mind, they look down at the other races and newts of lower classes are looked down upon with the caste itself. Poor newts are also more likely to treat frogs with respect, while the richer newts tend to get annoyed at the presence of frogs in their personal circles.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The city of Ba Sing Se divides its classes into three concentric zones, which also serve as Urban Segregation, with war refugees and the poor crammed into the Lower Ring, merchants and the middle class in the Middle Ring, the nobility in the Upper Ring, and the Earth King's palace at the very center of it all. (By The Legend of Korra, the situation has only grown worse, with an ever greater divide between the classes).
    • The Fire Nation's system is partly tied to its colonial empire. In descending order from highest to lowest on the pecking order, you have: the Fire Lord, the royal family, the nobility and Fire Sages, the managerial middle class, peasants, and then colonials at the bottom. In turn, the colonies divide into Fire Nation citizens and Earth Kingdom non-citizens, although in the colonies even earthbenders (otherwise disparaged by their Fire-supremacist occupiers) can become Fire Nation citizens if one of their parents was a citizen.
    • The Northern Water Tribe has three castes: The Royal Family, the warrior class, and finally, peasants. By The Legend of Korra, the warrior class appears to have been abolished in favor of a professional army.
  • Futurama was supposed to have one, but the creators abandoned it in favor of a corrupt plutocracy. Background Characters in season 1 could be seen with large numbers printed on their clothes, denoting their rank. While the concept was dropped, one of the characters was eventually used later in the series.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, years in the past the ponies followed this with the Earth Ponies being downtrodden serfs who grew the food, the pegasi being warriors who managed the weather, and the unicorns being like aristocracy who raised the sun and moon, with the three groups constantly at each other's throats. By the time of the show they've long-since gotten past this with the groups living in harmony with one anothernote , save for the occasional racist jerk of course.
  • The titular machines in Rollbots are divided into "tribes" by function. Main character Spin is an oddity, having no known tribe.
  • Thunder Cats 2011 features a caste system in a medieval Standard Fantasy Setting with Cat Folk. In Thundera, there's a ruling class at top, a servant class of priests and warriors, a working class, and a low class (slum residents, bums, and ruffians). Per Word of God, a Cat's status is determined by whether or not they have a tail. Tails are considered undesirable, marking one as a mongrel and 'genetic freak' which confines them to the Fantastic Ghetto of Thundera's slums.
  • Young Justice (2010): Martian society is divided into three castes based on color of skin. The Red B'lahdenn, who are the Nobility and Aristocracy, the Green G'arrunn, who are the Middle-class ethnic majority, and the White A'ashenn, who are the ethnic minority at the bottom of the caste system that are victims of Fantastic Racism from the other two castes. There is also a fourth group, the Yellow Y'ellonn, who are Religious Sorcerers. However, the Yellow Martians are technically outside the caste system since anyone can become a Priest or Priestess regardless of their caste, and unlike the other skin colors which everyone is naturally born with, the yellow skin is a ritual change done via the Martian transformation power whenever an Acolyte has completed their magic training and is officially accepted into the religious order.