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Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow,
The cow's in the corn;

(from) Little Boy Blue. Trad.

Basic Information

A hayward (or hedge warden) is a medieval-era job that was something of a cross between herdsman, bureaucratic functionary, grounds-keeper and look-out. He or she was in charge of hedges, fences, and similar enclosures especially in regards to common land, and might be in charge of trimming or repairing such boundaries. They were likewise charged with protecting the local livestock, but also with protecting the community's crops from said livestock. The hayward might have minor police or prosecutorial powers to aid them in these various tasks. In areas with a grain-based local currency, the hayward will have a lot of power and importance.

The hayward carried a special horn that was both a badge of their station and a useful tool. Various blasts of the horn could be used to alert or call together the community, for reasons ranging from the regularly scheduled harvest, to some exotic danger to the livestock. A fairly common signal might be whatever blast of notes signifies "somebodies livestock have gotten into somebody else's crops" which would draw the attention of anyone who owned either. If the owner of the animal in question did not respond to that horn blast in a reasonable time, they should expect to have their animal impounded.

The hayward is also something of a manager or supervisor. They usually coordinate any harvests or sowing of common lands by the community, and possibly teams of peasants building or repairing a boundary-marking fence or wall. They may also supervise some other local village officials, such as the local Pinder (sort of a dog-catcher for livestock of all types). The hayward is probably supervised in turn by the Reeve - or possibly directly by the Lord's Steward if he is hayward for an entire manor rather than a single village. The hayward was appointed to his task on a local level - either by a Lord of the Manor or by the community/village at large. So they may beholden to a particular land-owner, or answer to the voters.


Game and Story Use

  • Player characters are often skulking about at the edges of villages. If they're trying to sneak about in rural areas, the Hayward is the minor NPC they'll most likely be making those contested rolls against.
    • Likewise, the Hayward may be the one finding the dead bodies the PCs hide.
  • For that matter, the hayward may be the logical witness to whatever crimes the local badguys are up to at the edge of town. Or, the first victim if someone thinks they'll need to be able to skulk about unwatched.
  • Many an adventure in a rural community might begin when the sound of the Hayward's trumpet echoes through the town. Does this alert noise mean an orc attack? A dragon flying over the horizon? Or just farmer brown's goats getting into the cabbage crop again?
    • If the PCs are from an urban community, they might hear completely mundane Hayward horn blows, and assume something far more dramatic is afoot than actually is. They arrive to the [red herring / minor agricultural incident, sword in hand, and the locals have a good laugh at their paranoia. Later, you switch it up and the PCs totally ignore an actual danger because the think it's just another case of the hayward tooting' his own horn without reason. (Some players will find this amusing, others will be annoyed by it. Use with caution.)
  • The hayward's signaling could be like a Cant or Code. The blasts of the horn convey information to a Milkman Conspiracy or Town With A Dark Secret.
  • A hayward's horn might be the basis for an interesting magic item.
    • A few possible powers: creates or destroys hedges or fences, makes plants grow, summons animals, makes animals make morale saves, sends a warning message a very long distance, etc.
    • If your game has druidic magic, the hayward's horn might be enchanted with / to emulate a druid spell.
    • Mass brainwashing plot lines might use a hayward for a Pied Piper role. Instead of taking the children, they might take the livestock, or the farmers. Perhaps the players arrive at a devastated village, and need to track down the angry hayward.
  • Switch up the horn for some other loud, carrying noise - yodelling might be a possible alternative.
  • A powerful landowner or cattle baron type might bribe a corrupt hayward to redraw land boundaries, penalize rival farmers, kill livestock or commit other mischief or overlook crimes that fall under a hayward's jurisdiction.
  • The hayward may be the only "police" a small community might have. He may be able to roust up an angry mob to aid him on arrests. "Stop, or I'll blow my horn!"
  • As a keeper of community boundaries, they are likely to be on the front line of (admittedly fairly parochial) local disputes.
  • This may be a role for an older villager who is no longer up to a full day in the fields, but is quite capable of walking the boundaries keeping watch and dispatching fitter labourers to do any work required.
  • Hedge and ditch law is often some of the oldest in a given community's lawbook - even into the modern era there may be hayward responsibilities devolved on someone, possibly through copyhold of a property.
    • Minor criminals, defaulters on their obligations or indigent wanderers might well be set to doing maintenance work on the village's ditches and hedges under the supervision of the hayward.
  • Some of the hayward's duties may have Ward Magic related properties - much as the village priest will be required to beat the bounds on Ascension Day (or Rogation Sunday, depending on the parish), so the hayward may have his own responsibilities for keeping up spiritual and symbolic boundaries. Which may have significant magical effects - check your local folklore.

Building This Character

Character Level

  • Probably low level. It's not a particularly adventurous occupation, unless the local grazing herds are of a particularly dangerous species.


  • Perception or whatever trait is used for notice / awareness rolls in your system will be the most important.
  • Endurance or Constitution will be useful if you have a lot of territory to patrol, and Strength might be an issue if the local fences are made of stone.
  • Social Attributes and Mental Attributes in general will be important to coordinate the community efforts.


Special Abilities

  • Keen Eyes or other senses-based feats and special abilities would be good to keep an eye on the herds.
  • Given that demihumans often have infravision or some other specialized sense, the hayward of a mixed species fantasy village is likely to be a non-human.

Flaws and Hindrances
Other than a duty and the long hours it might bring with it, nothing springs directly to mind as being an especially appropriate flaw for this sort of character.

  • some low level of social status/regard and/or low level legal powers would probably serve.
  • may still be unfree - they could well be reasonably well off for a peasant, and entrusted with these (admittedly minor) powers by his Lord, but still be an indentured serf.

Combat Role

  • While they are likely to be the villages scout outside of battle, once combat is joined this will probably be a support role coordinating efforts instead of engaging in melee. Possibly the Party Leader.
  • In a game with followers and leadership benefits, they might be The Petmaster, with low-level peasant villagers filling the role of the "pets".
  • In reality, probably a non-combatant civilian with little or no training unless they are also part of a militia or feudal levy.


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