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Basic Information

A climmer was an egg-hunting profession that involved raiding the clifftop nests of seabirds for food (and for use in the tanning process to condition leather). The guillemot and razorbill birds laid the prized eggs, on narrow ledges] and in rocky crags high on the coastal cliffs of the British Isles. To gather these eggs required a team with ropes, so you could dangle a climmer off the cliff to where they could reach the eggs. The birds, as you can imagine, did not like having their eggs stolen. Picture yourself dangling a hundred feet above the rocks from a rope and harness made of seal-skin, with angry birds pecking and clawing at you as you reach a hand into their nest. Those have to be some pretty valuable eggs to make it worth the trouble.

After a while, as word of the climmers methods spread, the cliffs became a bit of a tourist attraction as well, eventually drawing crowds to watch their daring work. Apparently they would also dangle you off the cliffs for free if you asked, but you had to pay to be pulled back up.

Environmental and wildlife protection laws made it illegal to be a climmer in the UK after 1954 … up until that point, climming had remained an important food gathering activity for many remote coastal communities, with some going so far as to row men (or boys) out to isolated skerries and sea stacks that they would climb (and, indeed clim) for eggs. Scottish islanders were particularly well known for this sort of thing.


Game and Story Use

  • This job was dangerous enough to take the #1 slot on the Worst Jobs of the Dark Ages video linked above, so it makes for a great side job or hobby for a truly badass character.
  • In a fantasy world, this job is either much easier (because you can cast a levitation spell) or much harder (because it's harpy or dragon or stymphalian bird eggs that you're after).
  • An NPC climmer might discover something exceptional on the cliffs that puts your plot in high gear. It could be a secret door in the cliff face, or a treasure map wadded up in a nest, or the egg of some unusual mythic creature that functions as a mcguffin.
  • The PCs might arrive at a site where climmers are working (and tourists are watching them go about their work?) just as a rope snaps or catches, and a climmer is suddenly imperiled. It's a heroic spotlight moment where the PCs are the only ones who can save him. Roll camera.
  • Climmers were also in reasonably high demand as sailors - if you can skin up a cliff after birds eggs, working the tops of a man'o'war should be comparatively easy … and if the captain happens to need some climbers for a special job ashore…
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