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Basic Information

A labourer is a person who is employed to provide physical labour, absent any defined profession or craft. These people are generally at the bottom of the social hierarchy and will be expected to perform hard physical work for limited reward. Job security varies from day labourers for whom each morning is a lottery, to those on annual contracts for a given employer (some of which may be, de facto perpetual by annual renewal). Given the wide range of the class, many members of it will also have a skills set that their culture takes for granted - agricultural labourers in particular having a knowledgebase that is assumed right up until the point you try to substitute an urban day labourer for them. Labourers often specialise - where the job market permits - and may be sorted into sub categories of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour, but will almost certainly not be part of a guild, even if they work in a guilded craft for a master craftsman. Besides trade and craft specialities there will also be jobs like porters and longshoremen in contexts where the same kind of labour is in routine demand.

In context, labourers from some Asian origins (especially China) may be referred to as coolies (see under chinese laborer), although this term is considered derogatory by some people.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • In a vaguely congruent setting, PCs will encounter - and likely hire - a lot of these people. Examples may include porters, torchbearers and the sort of general dogsbody that digs latrines and fetches and carries around camp. Most craftsmen will employ at least one labourer for unskilled work, especially where strength is needed and their apprentices are still young.
  • Large projects will require a lot of labour - perhaps at a scale of dozens per skilled craftsman employed. Finding enough labour may be a problem, and at most times of year, using your peasants is likely to be a false economy as taking them away from the fields can have a drastic effect on the harvest. Labour supply may turn out to be rate limiting on many projects.
    • Mass importation of foreign labour - where possible - is likely to cause discontent amongst the native population who will consider themselves at risk of being undercut or replaced in pretty much all cases.
  • In an urban setting, the lower end of the class will be found hanging around the marketplace - or other designated rendezvous - a little before dawn. Any still there at noon are liable to be desperate and/or close to unemployable. This sort of day labour can still be found in the modern era if you know where to look (not counting "gig" sites which are far more casual).
  • Era is important - a stonemason is a guilded craftsman, a bricklayer is skilled labour, likewise a joiner is a craftsman, but someone who assembles factory made furniture (or services the machines that makes it) is a labourer.
  • Not a bad origin for a PC in a campaign where not all PCs are expected to be professional killers from day one - not the best start for a smart character, but for a tough and/or strong one it will do fine.
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