It's worth noting that during the Middle Ages, having a job was not strictly necessary. Yes, you needed some sort of income, but that didn't always mean you had to work at a single profession. Nobility could often get away with just owning enough land to provide for their households - and leave the actual working of the land to their servants. Yeoman might have a bit of land they work - not to get rich, but just to provide for the daily needs of themselves and their family. Commoners might have a few jobs each, and switch between them by season or as demand comes up - see Grain-based Local Currency for a discussion of how this works. The traveling life is also quite common in the era, with people going where the jobs are this month, and living lightly as a result.
On the other hand, some kingdoms in the era have established a system of Monopoly by Royal Decree which may make certain professions illegal unless you happen to be working for/with a particular nobleman who owns the contract on that industry. Between that and Trade Guilds (and the various laws stemming from them), it's always a good idea to a make a few inquiries before you set up shop in a new town.
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Many RPGs are Fantasy games, and will use some blend of this list with one or more other lists.
- For eras before this, see List of Ancient and Classical Professions, or List of Tribal Professions. Either may be used for particular cultures or species within a setting, as it's quite common to depict some "barbarians" at the edge of The Empire.
- For eras after it, from Reformation to Colonial Era and Golden Age of Piracy, and into the start of the Industrial Revolution, see List of Colonial Era Professions.
- For more cinematic occupations, see List of Fantasy Genre Professions.
Game and Story Use
- Knowledge of professions can lend verisimilitude to your game.
- In the Middle Ages, there's no concept of convenience store or department store. Even something more like a general store would be extremely rare - the closest concept would be a common marketplace, or possibly a traveling peddler or tinker who carried his or her wares on their back. In general, when you want to buy something in this era, you go straight to the source / specialist. Middle-men are few.
- Not that most groups really want to spend a lot of time on the complexities of shopping. So, don't over-do it.
- But still, a couple little flavorful flourishes can make the game more real. Having a plot involve a particular merchant (preferably one with a narrow or unusual specialty) will really drive home the point that this is a more primitive and less commercial age.
- Some adventuring possibilities are opened up by these concepts.
- If a community lacks a particular business, the PCs might make some quick cash as merchants, or as bodyguards to a merchant convoy.
- In a remote region, certain supplies the PCs have previously taken for granted may be unavailable. This village has no apothecary, so healing potions and curative spells are not available. This community has no fletcher, so your arrows are precious and cannot be restocked. This sort of thing results a short-term boost to the challenge of an adventure, and can result in the PCs having to shake up their tactics a bit.
- Just be careful you don't overuse this notion (it'll get annoying, and provoke your players to really press the limits of the encumberance rules.
- Also, make sure you don't unfairly burden one PC over the others. If everyone carries a bow, an arrow shortage is interesting. If just one PC uses a bow, and that PC's character concept is the Archer with Improbable Aiming Skills, then things may not go so well.