List Of Medieval European Professions
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Basic Information

The following lists are of occupations appropriate to the Medieval and early Renaissance eras, particularly in Europe.

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.

Note: Most of the links below are currently dead. Links in Red do not have pages yet, and clicking on them will make a new empty page. Links in Blue go to an actual existing page, most of which have useful material for gaming.

Category Sub-Category Specific Occupations See Also
Agriculture farmer ackerman, cowherd, crofter, dairymaid, dung carter, farmer, Freibauer, gardener, goatherd, hawker, hayward, Herder, horse trainer, ostler, Peasant, plowman, reaper, Serf, sheepshearer, shepherd, swineherd, thresher, tillerman, Vintner, Woodcutter, woolcomber, woolman, Yeoman merchant and craftsman (below)
Agriculture Hunter falconer, fewterer, forester, fowler, gamekeeper, hawker, hunter, huntsman, master of hounds, molecatcher, parker, rat catcher, sperviter, trapper merchant and craftsman (below)
Aquaculture fisherman fisherman, oyster raker, oysterer, seaweed harvester merchant (below)
Artist Visual Art Artist, artisan, fresco painter, glasspainter, illuminator, limner, painter, sculptor craftsman (below)
Artist Literary Art Artist, composer, illuminator, limner, playwright, poet, writer entertainer (below)
Craftsman Most common types in Paris in 1292, in order from most to least common shoemaker, furrier, tailor, jeweler, pastrycook, mason, carpenter, weaver, chandler, cooper, baker, scabbard maker, hatmaker, saddler, chicken butcher, purse maker, meat butcher, buckle maker, blacksmith, roofer, locksmith, ropemaker, tanner, rugmaker, harness maker, bleacher, cutler, glover Source: Magic Jar [1]
Craftsman Leatherworker bottelier, cobbler, cordwainer, currier, girdler, lorimer, malemaker, saddler, scabbard maker, shoemaker, tanner, thonger, vaginarius,
Craftsman Armorer or Weaponsmith armorsmith, arrowsmith, blacksmith, bladesmith, bowyer, fletcher, grinder (occupation), gunsmith, gunstocker, knifesmith, lancier, linen-armorer, mailmaker, merchant taylor, poleturner, scythesmith, stringer, swordsmith, vaginarius, weaponsmith
Craftsman Smith Blacksmith, blacksmith's striker, brightsmith, bronzefounder, buckle maker, coppersmith, farrier, foundryman, goldbeater, knifesmith, locksmith, redsmith, scythesmith, silversmith, smelter, smith, swordsmith, spooner, spurrer, tinker, tinsmith, Weaponsmith
Craftsman Miscellaneous accoutrement maker, alabasterer, architect, arkwright, Artisan, Baker, balancemaker, basketmaker, beekeeper, beerbrewer, bellfounder, bellmaker, besom maker, billier, bleacher, blockcutter, bodger, bonecarver, bookbinder, bookprinter, brazier (occupation), brewer, bricker, bricklayer, broderer, broom-dasher, brushbinder, builder, Butcher, buttonmaker, cabinetmaker, Calligrapher, campaner, canvasser, carder, cardmaker, Carpenter, Cartographer, cartwright, chainmaker, chandler, charcoalburner, cheesemaker, chicken butcher, clockmaker, clothier, coiner, combmaker, compasssmith, confectioner, Cooper, corsetier, cutler, delver, diamantaire, disher, draper, drycooper, drywaller, dyer, embroiderer, engraver, fabricshearer, feltmaker, fewtrer, fuller, furniture maker, furrier, gemcutter, gilder, glassblower, glazier, glover, gravedigger, grinder (occupation), Guild Master, hacker, harness maker, hatmaker, hatter, horner, ivorist, Jeweler, joiner, knacker, knapper, lacemaker, lampwright, lanternmaker, lapidary, latoner, leadworker, limner, linen-armorer, linener, linenspinner, lutemaker, luthier, mailer, mapmaker, marler, marleywoman, Mason, master builder, meat butcher, Miller, milliner, miner, miniaturist, minter, mintmaster, moneyer, mirrorer, nailmaker, nedeller, netmaker, oilmaker, papermaker, parchmenter, pasteler, pattenmaker, Perfumer, pewterer, physician, pinmaker, plasterer, plattner, plumber, pointer, pot mender, potter, printer, purser, purse maker, quarryman, quilter, rectifier, reedmaker, roofer, roper, ropemaker, rugmaker, rugweaver, sailmaker, saltboiler, salter, sawyer, seamstress, shingler, shipwright, siever, silkmaid, silk-dresser, silk-maker, silk-mercer, silk-dyer, silk-carder, Spinner, stonecarver, stonecutter, Stonemason, tailor, tallowchandler, tapestrymaker, tapicer, tasseler, thacker, threadmaker, tile-burner, tile-theeker, tile maker, treen maker, turner, typefounder, upholder, vintner, waxchandler, Weaver, webber, wheeler, wheelwright, wiredrawer, woodcarver, woodcutter, woodturner
Criminal Thief Bandit, Boothaler, Burglar, Charlatan, Conman, Cutpurse, Diver (criminal), Fence (criminal), Footpad, Pickpocket, Poacher, Quack, Shill, Silk-snatcher, Thimblerigger
Criminal Prostitute Bawd, Camp Follower, Courtesan, Prostitute, Stewsman,
Entertainer Musician Bard, fiddler, harper, jongleur, lutenist, Meistersinger, minnesinger, Minstrel, Musician, nakerer, piper, Singer,
Entertainer Actor, Bard, barker, bear-ward, Dancer, fool, Jester, Juggler, mummer, player (actor), playwright, Poet, Skald, Storyteller, Trobairitz, Troubadour, tumbler Commedia dell'arte
Government Ale-Conner, Bailiff, Captain of the Guard, Catchpole, Chamberlain, Chancellor, Chancery Clerk, Cofferer, Constable, Diplomat, Emperor, Exchequer, Hayward, Herald, Jailer, Judge, Keeper of the Privy Seal, Keeper of the Rolls, Keeper of the Wardrobe, King, Knight, Lady, Liner, Lord High Steward, Master of the Revels, Pinder, Noble, Nobleman, Prince, Pursuivant, Reeve, Seneschal, Sheriff, Steward, Summoner (law), Tax Collector, Toll Keeper, Town Crier, Treasurer, Watchman, Woodward List of Noble Titles, Standard Royal Court
Merchant acater, alewife, apothecary, banker, beer seller, boothman, chapman, collier, colporteur, costermonger, drover, eggler, fishmonger, fruiterer, fruitier, fueller, glass seller, greengrocer, grocer, Guild Master, harberdasher, hay merchant, hetheleder, innkeeper, ironmonger, lighterman, linen-draper, mercer, milkmaid, oil merchant, old-clothes dealer, oynter, peddler, pie seller, plumer, poulter, ragpicker, shrimper, skinner, spice merchant, spicer, stationer, taverner, thresher, unguentary, waferer, waterseller, weirkeeper, wine seller, wood seller, woodmonger, wool stapler Intrepid Merchant, Shill
Military Soldier Arbalestier, Archer, Argolet, Bodyguard, Bowman, Captain, Captain of the Guard, Crossbowman, Drummer, Guardsman, Halberdier, Knifeman, Knight, Mercenary, Militia, Pikeman, Scout, Sergeant, Sergeant-at-arms, Spearman, Spy, Squire, Viking, Watchman
Military Siege Engineer Cannoneer, Pioneer (siege), Sapper, Siege Engineer
Military Officer Admiral, Captain, Captain of the Guard, Marshal
Military Camp Follower Armorer, Bowyer, Camp Cook, Camp Follower, Cartwright, Fletcher, lancier, linen-armorer, knifesmith, Mercenary, merchant taylor, Pioneer (siege), poleturner, Prostitute, Sapper, Scout, Siege Engineer, smith, Spy, vaginarius, Weaponsmith,
Religion abbess, abbot, almoner, anchorite, archbishop, beadle, beguine, bishop, canon, cantor, cardinal, cathar perfect, chantry priest, chaplain, clark, clerk, colporteur, curate, friar, metropolitan bishop, monk, nun, ostiary, palmer, pardoner, parish priest, pilgrim, pope, priest, primate (religion), sacristan, sexton, summoner (law), Theologian Cathedral, Chantry School, Convent, Indulgence, Monastery
Sailor bargeman, boatman, boatwright, canaller, ferryman, Fisherman, hobbler, lighter man, mariner, navigator, Riverboat Pilot, Sail Maker, sailor, sea captain, ship's captain, shipchandler, ship provisioner, Shipwright, waterman
Scholar Alchemist, Apothecary, Astrologer, Barber-Chirurgeon, Bearleader, Calligrapher, Cartographer, Courtesan, Courtier, Dean, Herald, Herbalist, Librarian, Mathematician, Poet, Philosopher, Professor, Quack, Scribe, Scrivener, Tutor, Theologian
Service Industry Most common types in Paris in 1292, in order from most to least common maidservant, Barber-Chirurgeon, restaurateur, water carrier, laundress, porter, doctor, bather (profession), copyist Source: Magic Jar [1]
Service Industry accomptant, accoucheur, accoucheus, accountant, actuary, attendent, bagger, bailiff, Barber-Chirurgeon, barrister, Bartender, bath attendent, bather (profession), Bodyguard, bodyservant, butler, Camp Cook, Camp Follower, carman, carter, cartier, carver, ceiler, cellarer, chamberlain, chimney sweep, chirurgeon, clouter, Coistsell, cook, copyist, Courtesan, Courtier, cowherd, currier, dairymaid, dapifer, ditcher, diver, doctor, dog trainer, drayman, dresser, dung carter, executioner, famulus, farrier, Ferryman, Fortune Teller, gentleman's gentleman, gong farmer, groom, Guide, harlot, Herald, horseleech, hurdle maker, Innkeeper, lady's maid, laundress, lawyer, leech, Legerdemainist, link boy, link man, maid, maidservant, marshal, Messenger, midwife, miller, napier, nurse, panter, paperer (needlemaking), pavior, pavyler, pissprophet, Poet, porter, potboy, privycleaner, procurator, prostitute, quartermaster, rag and bone man, raker, Rat Catcher, restaurateur, riveter, royal food taster, sawbones, scullion, Scribe,seneschal, Serf, Servant, Smelter, solicitor, sperviter, Stablehand, Stabler, stainer, Steward, stillroom, surgeon, tapster, teamster, toad doctor, trencherman, userer, valet, wagoner, waller, water carrier, wattler, weeper, wetnurse
Unemployed beggar, buffoon, crofter, gardner, hermit, housewife, Landed Gentry, landlord, noble, pilgrim, spinster, tenter, transient, urchin, vagabond

Other Eras

Many RPGs are Fantasy games, and will use some blend of this list with one or more other lists.

Sources

Bibliography
1. Website: Magic Jar - The motherlode. Had I found this site first, I wouldn't have bothered with streaming through RPGs.
2. RPG: 7th Sea RPG - From the lists of Skills and Knacks
3. RPG: Dungeons and Dragons - In particular a few ideas came from looking over the Non-Weapon Proficiency lists from Oriental Adventures, but also the Wilderness Survival Guide and Dungeoneers Survival Guide
4. RPG: Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay - From the lists of Character Roles
5. Website: Wikipedia
6. Non-Fiction Book: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again

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.
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