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Basic Information

An apprentice is a person - usually a child or young adult - who is at an entry level position in a guild, studying under a master to learn the relevant skills of their trade.

Apprenticeship was normally an indentured position, purchased from the master and lasting for a set period (six or seven years being quite common), after which the apprentice would be examined on his skills for true membership in the guild as a journeyman. During the term of the indenture it was normal for the apprentice to receive no pay (except, possibly, for a small allowance), but to be fed, clothed housed and trained by his master in return for his work (and the initial payment).

Apprenticeship also existed under other names in unguilded occupations - the most obvious being the squire as, effectively, an apprentice knight. In later history, the naval midshipman and army ensign were both, essentially, apprentice officers.

Most historical apprentices were male - although guilds did occasionally accept women members, they would generally be the widows of a dead master rather than passed apprentices. This need not necessarily be the case in all cultures - and some ahistorical guilds such as courtesans might be mostly female. An obvious form of female "apprenticeship" would be the role of lady in waiting - effectively a form of squirage for the daughters of the upper class.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The indenture would tend to mean that this is not normally a good job for a PC unless you are aiming to play a campaign from very early in the PCs lives (the party start out as apprentices of various masters, kicking about town together and getting up to what they can in their free time).
  • Might be a good way for an inexperience player to learn the ropes - their character as an apprentice to a more experienced PC and player.
  • A experienced PC might well be expected to take on an apprentice - and might find that they offend people by refusing (or by accepting and getting the apprentice harmed or killed). Passed apprentices can make for useful allies later on in the campaign.
  • In the same vein, a PCs old master can be a useful mentor, quest giver, contact … or even enemy - as can fellow apprentices.
  • A medieval parent could spend at least as much time worrying about getting their children apprenticed to the right people as a modern parent worries about getting them into a good school - any PC with children should probably consider this or suffer the wrath of their spouse and other relatives.
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