The medieval and colonial occupation of Pinder is most similar to our modern dog-catcher. Dogs and Cats were not the only animals likely to get loose or go feral back in the day, and so this animal control officer of the Middle Ages would have to contend with errant cattle, horses, goats, chickens, and maybe even a stubborn Aurochs if you go back far enough.
The Pinder's job was to round up animals that were on the loose, and take them to the Pinfold, which was the medieval equivalent of a modern Animal Pound. The animals would be stored there until the rightful owner arrived to pay a fee to get them released. If no one came to claim them, or if the owners chose not to pay the fee, then the Pinder would drive the animals to the nearest market and sell them.
If an animal got loose on someone's land and did damage, the animal's owner not only had to pay the Pinder a fee to get it back, but they also had to prove to them that you had paid proper restitution to the land owner. This was often shown by way of a split-tally tally stick. The Pinder would carve a stick with notches equal to the amount that should be paid to the land-owner. Then he'd split the stick down the middle so both halves had the notches. One half he'd give to the land-owner, and the other half he'd keep for himself. When the animal-owner paid the land-owner the correct amount, they'd be given the land-owner's half of the stick as a receipt. You'd present that to the Pinder, who'd check that it indeed matched the half a stick he had. If it did, he'd let you pay your Pinder's fee and take your animal home.
The Pinder might work in conjunction with a Hayward, especially if there's public lands in or around the community. In at least some jurisdictions, the Pinder position was an elected official, and had to answer to the voters. In other areas, the Pinder might be appointed by a local Lord of the Manor.
The Pinder job is quite hazardous. You've got wild animals, large domesticated animals, angry land-owners, desperate animal-owners, and possibly cattle rustlers to deal with. Pinder's frequently lived on the Pinfold property in an adjacent building called a Pound House, so they could keep an eye on the animals and make sure nobody made off with them. Living at this property (and maintaining it) was often part of the payment (and responsibilities) of the Pinder.
Game and Story Use
- If the PCs are sloppy about where they leave their horses when they go into a dungeon (or other building), they may return to find them impounded by the local Pinder. It'll cost them a few silvers to get them back, but at least the horses didn't get munched on by ogres while they were gone.
- A cattle baron style of villain might rig an election or bribe a corrupt Pinder to use that post to their advantage. Such aggressive Pindering of your rivals' livestock is more legal than cattle rustling, and if aggressive enough could drive your rivals to debtor's prison.
- A historical murder-mystery might start with a dead Pinder lying in the road just outside an empty Pinfold. Whose animals were inside the fences yesterday? Did their owner kill to get his goats back? Or was the livestock theft just a red herring to hide the true motives behind the murder?
- Or, a body is found elsewhere that has half a tally stick in it's hands, hinting that the motive for the killing might be to avoid paying damages to the land-owner.
- In a fantasy setting where strange monsters roam the lands, the Pinder is likely to be a high-level semi-retired adventurer, and well paid for the risks associated with keeping feral cockatrice off the streets.
- For a lower stakes sort of game, consider a conflict caused by the livestock of one village ending up in the pinfold of another.
- Complications may include someone deliberately releasing animals so that they get impounded - people may suspect a corrupt pinder, but the actual culprit might be a malicious peasant, a greedy landlord after more fines or even a fairy engaged in its own habits of wierdness.