Risus Mediævalis

A long time ago, in a land not so far away...

Adventuring in the Middle Ages is a lot of fun, not least because of its tendency to traipse freely across the line dividing what is known from what is mystery. From Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to the legends of Robin Hood, there is a wealth of stories for GM's and players to draw from.

Generally speaking, four social clichés dominated medieval Europe, each populated by a colourful variety of characters and professions:

  1. Nobility

  2. Clergy

  3. Merchant Guildsmen

  4. Craftsmen & Laborers

Out of the last two, a unique kind of association arose during the High Middle Ages.

I - The Thing About Guilds

Guilds originally formed as "brotherhoods" of tradesmen operating in a single city and covering a single trade with the intention of safeguarding their common interests. There were several types of guilds, including the two main categories of Merchant Guilds and Craft Guilds, but Frith Guilds and Religious Guilds existed as well.


Guilds were organized as something between a Professional Association, a Trade Union, a Cartel, and a Secret Society. They sometimes depended on grants of letters patent from a Monarch to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and materials supply. But generally, guilds were overseen by the City Government.


In many cases, guilds rose to become the governing body of the town, in which case the guildhalls used for meetings doubled as magistrate seats and town halls. A notable consequence of the guild framework was the emergence of Universities at Bologna, Oxford and Paris in the 11ᵗʰ to 12ᵗʰ centuries. These originated as guilds of Students (Bologna) and Masters (Paris).

Guild Rules

In medieval cities, a key “privilege” was that only guild members were allowed to sell their goods or practice their skills within the city. There might be controls on minimum or maximum prices, hours of trading, numbers of Apprentices, among many other things. Guild members found guilty of cheating the public would be fined or banned from membership. Guilds of Textile Workers, Masons, Carpenters, Carvers, Glass-workers, etc. carefully controlled the impartation of their technological secrets—the “arts” or “mysteries” of their craft. Sometimes this had the effect of maintaining a good quality of work. Other times it reduced free competition, with rules making it difficult or impossible for women and new immigrants to run businesses or find work (note that Jews were a class of their own during the medieval period). Not all city economies were controlled by guilds; some, like Nuremberg, were “free.”


By the mid-13ᵗʰ century there were no less than 100 guilds in Paris, a figure which by the 14ᵗʰ century had risen to 350. Individual kinds of metalworkers—Farriers, Knife-makers, Locksmiths, Chain-forgers, Nail-makers)—and armourers—Helmet-makers, Escutcheon-makers, Harness-makers, Harness-polishers—often chose to form separate and distinct corporations. Some cities grouped trades functionally—e.g. Butchers, Leatherworkers and Furriers—while guilds that were not large enough to sustain a full complement of officers were linked in peculiar combinations. At Cologne, the Saddlers were grouped together with the Artists, Escutcheon-makers and Glassblowers, probably because they decorated their saddles. The guild of Doctors and Druggists at Florence included Painters, who in turn included subgroups ranging from Artists to Mattress-workers to Box-makers. Some guilds grew more powerful and wielded greater influence than others. Later, the merchant class increasingly came to sway the means of production and venture capital away from the more conservative craft guilds.

Greater and Lesser Guilds

At one point, in Florence, Italy, there were 7 to 12 greater guilds and 14 lesser guilds. The most important of the former were the Judges and Notaries, who handled the legal business of all other guilds and often served as dispute arbitrators. Other greater guilds included Woolmen, Silkmercers, Moneychangers, Doctors, Druggists, and Furriers. Among the lesser guilds, were those for Bakers, Saddlemakers, Ironworkers and other artisans. The latter did have sizable membership, but lacked the political and social clout necessary to influence city affairs.

Game Note: In a campaign, just before the PC's enter a new town, the GM might roll at random against VI. Big List of Medieval Clichés to determine the rank and composition of its greater and lesser guilds. A little discussion with your players on how those guilds may have risen to the top could lead to some inspirational roleplay.

Women in Guilds

For the most part, medieval guilds limited women’s participation, and usually only the Widows and Daughters of known Masters were allowed to join. Records show women as members of the Glassblower, Mailmaker, Silkmaker, and sometimes Surgeons’ guilds, though nearly all Healer Guilds forbade women (medicine being thought a male-only practice). Entertainment Guilds did have a significant number of women members, e.g. Musicians. Most businesswomen, however, were independent traders of low status and poor pay—a tax return from 1381 shows a large number engaged as Hucksters, Spinsters, Shepsters and Laundresses.

II - The Guildsman's Journey

Hired as an Apprentice

A guild’s Founder was usually a Free and Independent Master Craftsman who hired Apprentices. Apprentices were typically not taught more than the most basic techniques until they could be trusted by their peers to keep the guild’s secrets, and were usually unpaid. In fact, families of would-be Apprentices were known to pay Masters to take them on. Nonetheless, this began a lifetime progression of Apprentice to Journeyman, and eventually to the widely recognized status of Master and Grandmaster.

Journeymen Years

Unlike Apprentices, Journeymen could work for other Masters and were generally paid by the day. After being employed for several years, and producing a qualifying piece of work, the Apprentice was granted the rank of Journeyman and given letters which certified him as such. This entitled him to travel to other towns and countries to learn the art from other Masters, a three-year voyage called journeyman years. These journeys could span large parts of Europe and were an unofficial way of communicating new methods and techniques, though by no means did all Journeymen travel this way.

Received as a Master

After this journey, plus several years of experience, a Journeyman could be received as a Master Craftsman. This required the approval of all Guild Masters, a donation of money and other goods (oft omitted for sons of existing members), and the production of a Masterpiece. This masterwork was to evidence the full abilities of the aspiring master, and was retained by the guild.

III - Creating a Medieval Character

Choose a Profession

Want to try rolling an occupation for your character?

  • Roll 1d21 and find that category number in VI. Big List of Medieval Clichés.

  • Roll 1dx where x is equal to the number of professions in that category.

  • Find your profession and incorporate it into a suitable cliché.

Compose a Fictional Name

One method for creating a made-up name is to take your real name and

  • change every consonant to the next consonant in the alphabet, and

  • do the same for every vowel, with u or y circling back to a.

For example, rolling 1d21 I get a 12, which corresponds to Craftsmen (Mining & Stonecraft). This category has 19 professions, so I roll 1d19, getting a 6. Checking the list, it turns out that my character is engaged as a Diamantaire, a highly skilled craftsmen capable of turning rough diamonds into finished gemstones. That's pretty cool. Economically, the PC should be sound as diamonds were treasured as gemstones since they were used as religious icons in ancient India. They're also in demand as engraving tools for as long as anyone can remember.

For the second step, I decide to use my own name. Colin MacIntyre becomes Dumop Nedopvasi. Sounds like it's of some obscure Indian origin, perfect for my ideas for the character. But first, what about going the other direction, alphabetically? Hm, Bikem Lybemsupa. Shades of Africa perhaps? But, alliteration wins out and my first cliché is clear (excuse the pun): Dumop Nedopvasi the Sharp-eyed Diamantaire (4).


1 - Ranks 'n' Titles

(from greatest to least)

Peer Nobility

  • Emperor/Empress

  • King/Queen

  • Archduke/Archduchess

  • Prince/Princess

  • Marquis/Marquess

  • Count/Countess

  • Viscount/Viscountess

  • Baron/Baroness

Landed Gentry

  • Baronet/Baronetess

  • Knight/Dame

  • Esquire

  • Gentleman


  • Yeoman/Franklin

  • Free tenant/Husbandman

  • Serf/Villein/Bordar/Cottar

  • Domestic servant

  • Vagabond

  • Slave

2 - Craftsmen (by Frequency)

The following is derived from a 1292 Paris tax list found in the book Life in a Medieval City. It's a glimpse into another world, at the craft occupations common to the period:

366— Shoemaker (1)

214— Furrier (1)

197— Tailor (1)

131— Jeweler (1)

106— Pastrycook (1)

104— Mason (1)

95 — Carpenter (2)

86 — Weaver (2)

71 — Chandler (2)

70 — Cooper (2)

62 — Baker (2)

58 — Scabbardmaker (2)

54 — Hatmaker (2)

51 — Saddler (2)

51 — Chicken butcher (2)

45 — Pursemaker (3)

42 — Meat butcher (3)

36 — Bucklemaker (3)

34 — Blacksmith (3)

28 — Roofer (3)

27 — Locksmith (4)

26 — Ropemaker (4)

24 — Tanner (4)

24 — Rugmaker (4)

24 — Harnessmaker (4)

23 — Bleacher (4)

22 — Cutler (4)

21 — Glover (4)

The number to the left indicates the reported number engaged in each craft, while on the right I’ve appended a rough cliché rating. This could be used against characters contesting a search for a needed service (if you count Paris as typical of a medieval town). Unlisted crafts might be given an even higher rating.

3 - Big List of Medieval Clichés

1. Officials

  1. Ale-conner ensures the goodness and wholesomeness of bread, ale and beer

  2. Bailiff, Reeve, Shire-reeve, Sheriff an officer responsible for carrying out the decisions of a court, serving summonses and orders, and executing warrants

  3. Captain of the Guard

  4. Castellan a manager of a castle’s operation and defence on behalf of an absentee owner

  5. Catchpole in exchange for a lump sum, a man authorized to collect taxes from a given area

  6. Chamberlain

  7. Chancellor

  8. Chancery Clerk

  9. Cofferer

  10. Coin-stamper

  11. Constable

  12. Diplomat

  13. Exchequer the man responsible for the king's revenue

  14. Hayward, Hedgewarden a protector of livestock and crops from livestock; a cross between a herdsman, inspector, groundskeeper and lookout

  15. Herald

  16. Jailer

  17. Judge

  18. Keeper of the Privy Seal

  19. Keeper of the Rolls

  20. Keeper of the Wardrobe

  21. Landed Gentry

  22. Landlord

  23. Liner an officer in charge of tracing property boundaries in the city

  24. Lord High Steward

  25. Master of the Revels

  26. Notary

  27. Pinder a rounder up of stray animals, including cattle, horses, goats, chickens, etc. into the pinfold

  28. Pursuivant an officer of arms

  29. Steward, Seneschal an officer having full charge of domestic arrangements and the administration of servants in a royal household

  30. Summoner officer of the court who serves subpoenas

  31. Tax Collector

  32. Toll Keeper

  33. Town Crier

  34. Treasurer

  35. Watchman

  36. Woodward

2. Clergy

  1. Abbot, Abbess the head of a monastery and convent, respectively

  2. Almoner a chaplain or church officer in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor

  3. Anchorite, Anchoress one who withdraws from secular society to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, or Eucharist-focused life

  4. Archbishop, Metropolitan

  5. Beadle an official of a church or synagogue who may usher, keep order, make reports, and assist in religious functions

  6. Beguine, Beghard Christian lay religious orders active in Northern Europe

  7. Bishop, Primate

  8. Canon

  9. Cantor

  10. Cardinal

  11. Cathar perfect

  12. Chantry priest

  13. Chaplain

  14. Clerk, Clark a church secretary

  15. Colporteur a distributor of religious tracts and books esp. during the religious controversies of the Reformation

  16. Curate assistant to a parish priest

  17. Friar

  18. Hermit

  19. Monk

  20. Nun

  21. Ostiary, Porter a church's doorkeeper

  22. Pardoner

  23. Parish Priest

  24. Priest

  25. Prior the deputy of the abbot or the superior of a monastery that did not have the status of an abbey

  26. Sacristan prepares all the objects and religious clothing required by the priest for mass

  27. Sexton, Verger charged with the maintenance of church buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard

  28. Summoner to episcopal courts

3. Artists & Scholars

  1. Alchemist

  2. Amanuensis

  3. Artist

  4. Astrologer

  5. Calligrapher

  6. Cartographer

  7. Composer

  8. Dean

  9. Fresco painter

  10. Glasspainter

  11. Herbalist

  12. Illuminator a decorator of manuscripts and books

  13. Librarian

  14. Mathematician

  15. Miniaturist a painter of miniatures, i.e. small paintings decorating icons or books

  16. Limner a painter of portraits and miniatures

  17. Painter

  18. Philosopher

  19. Poet

  20. Sculptor

  21. Scribe, Scrivener

  22. Tutor

  23. Writer

4. Soldiery

  1. Arbalestier wields a larger crossbow variation, introduced in the 12ᵗʰ century

  2. Archer, Bowman

  3. Argolet, Argoletier a light mounted soldier; a mounted bowman

  4. Bodyguard

  5. Captain

  6. Crossbowman

  7. Drummer

  8. Guardsman

  9. Halberdier

  10. Knifeman

  11. Knight, Chevalier

  12. Knight Errant wandering in search of chivalrous adventures

  13. Knight Hospitaller

  14. Knight of St. Lazarus

  15. Knight Templar

  16. Mercenary

  17. Militia

  18. Page a boy in training for knighthood, ranking next below a squire in the personal service of a knight

  19. Pikeman

  20. Scout

  21. Sergeant

  22. Sergeant-at-arms

  23. Spearman

  24. Spy

  25. Squire a young nobleman in training for knighthood, acting as a knight’s attendant

  26. Teutonic Knight

  27. Watchman

5. Medicine

  1. Alchemist

  2. Apothecary, Druggist

  3. Barber-chirurgeon a performer of minor surgical procedures, e.g. bloodletting, cupping therapy or pulling teeth, as well as the work of a barber, e.g. bathing, cutting hair, shaving or trimming facial hair, and giving enemas

  4. Chirurgeon, Surgeon

  5. Cunning man, Folk healer, Wise woman practitioners of folk medicine, folk magic, and divination starting from the 15ᵗʰ century

  6. Doctor, Physician

  7. Leech, Bloodman, Bloodletter

  8. Horseleech a veterinarian

  9. Midwife, Accoucheur (m.), Accoucheus (f.)

  10. Nurse

  11. Pissprophet a doctor who diagnosed disease from a patient's urine, specifically the sight, smell, and taste

  12. Toad doctor practitioners of medicinal folk magic, operating in western England, known to heal "the King's Evil" (a skin disease), though also other ailments including those resulting from witchcraft

6. Merchants

  1. Acater a food provisioner

  2. Alewife

  3. Banker

  4. Beer seller

  5. Boothman one who mans a booth, such as at a fair or Thing

  6. Cloth merchant a distributor of cloth, incl. overseas trade

  7. Costermonger a seller of goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a handcart in the street

  8. Drover one who drives cattle or sheep

  9. Eggler a dealer in eggs

  10. Fishmonger

  11. Fueller a supplier of fuel to feed fires

  12. Glass seller

  13. Greengrocer, Fruiterer a dealer in fruits and vegetables

  14. Grocer, Purveyor a wholesaler of spices, peppers and sugar

  15. Guild Master

  16. Haberdasher a dealer in sewn and fine fabrics, e.g. silk

  17. Hay merchant

  18. Hetheleder a provider of heather for fuel

  19. Huckster

  20. Innkeeper

  21. Ironmonger, Feroner a dealer in metal hardware, such as pokers, fire-shovels, tongs, jacks, spits, locks and hinges

  22. Linener, Linen-draper

  23. Mercer a dealer in fine cloth not produced locally

  24. Milkmaid

  25. Moneychanger

  26. Oil merchant, Oynter

  27. Old-clothes dealer

  28. Peddler, Chapman a dealer of goods; usually itinerant

  29. Pie seller

  30. Plumer a dealer in feathers

  31. Poulter

  32. Ragpicker, Chiffonnier, Rag-and-bone man, Bag board, Totter a collector of unwanted household items for sale to merchants

  33. Salter a dealer in salt

  34. Silkmercer a dealer in silk

  35. Spice merchant, Spicer

  36. Stationer

  37. Taverner

  38. Thresher

  39. Unguentary

  40. Waterseller

  41. Wine seller

  42. Woolman, Wool stapler a dealer in wool, who sorts it according to the staple or fiber

  43. Woodmonger

7. Craftsmen (Clothing & Textiles)

  1. Bleacher a mill worker who whitened textiles or paper

  2. Canvasser a maker of canvas

  3. Carder disentangles, cleans and intermixes wool

  4. Clothier a producer of cloth (often wool)

  5. Corsetier

  6. Draper, Drapier retailer or wholesaler of cloth used mainly for clothing

  7. Dyer

  8. Embroiderer, Broderer a decorator of fabric with stitched designs

  9. Fabricshearer

  10. Feltmaker

  11. Fuller cleans and thickens cloth by beating it

  12. Furrier, Skinner a dealer in furs and hides

  13. Hatmaker, Hatter

  14. Lacemaker, Pointer

  15. Linenspinner, Tasseler

  16. Marleywoman a maker of marli, a type of gauze used for embroidery

  17. Milliner a maker of womens’ hats and clothing

  18. Napier a maker of table linen

  19. Pursemaker

  20. Quilter

  21. Rugmaker, Rugweaver

  22. Sailmaker

  23. Seamstress, Shepster

  24. Silkmaid

  25. Silk-dresser readies silk for market, i.e. smoothing, stiffening, and folding it

  26. Silkmaker

  27. Silk-dyer

  28. Silk-carder

  29. Spinner, Spinster

  30. Tailor

  31. Tapestrymaker, Tapicer

  32. Threadmaker

  33. Upholder an upholsterer who makes seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers

  34. Weaver, Webber

  35. Woolcomber

8. Craftsmen (Food & Drink)

  1. Baker

  2. Brewer hangs a green branch over their door to signify the beer's ready

  3. Chicken butcher

  4. Cheesemaker

  5. Confectioner

  6. Cook, Trencherman

  7. Meat butcher

  8. Miller operates a mill, a machine used to grind grain to make flour

  9. Pastrycook, Pasteler

  10. Rectifier a distiller of alcohol

  11. Saucemaker

  12. Waferer a maker of wafers, a kind of cake

9. Craftsmen (Leatherwork)

  1. Bottler, Bottelier a maker of leather bottles

  2. Beltmaker

  3. Bender a cutter of leather

  4. Braider a maker of cord by twisting together leather threads or strips

  5. Cobbler a repairer of shoes

  6. Cordwainer, Shoemaker a maker of new shoes

  7. Currier cures leather to improve it after tanning

  8. Fellmonger a remover of hair or wool from hides in leather making

  9. Girdler a maker of girdles and belts, chiefly for soldiery

  10. Glover

  11. Harness maker

  12. Malemaker a maker of leather trunks

  13. Parchmenter

  14. Saddler

  15. Scabbardmaker, Vaginarius

  16. Tanner a preparer of leather

  17. Tawer, Tawyer, Whittawer a preparer of white leather

  18. Thonger maker of leather straps or laces

10. Craftsmen (Metalwork)

  1. Bellfounder a caster of large civic or religious bells

  2. Bellmaker maker of little bells that go on sleighs and clothing

  3. Blacksmith

  4. Brightsmith works with white or bright metals, e.g. tin.

  5. Brazier worker of brass

  6. Bronzefounder casts objects from bronze

  7. Bucklemaker

  8. Chainmaker, Chain-forger

  9. Coiner, Minter, Mintmaster, Moneyer a minter of coins

  10. Compass-smith

  11. Coppersmith, Brownsmith

  12. Cutler a maker or seller of cutlery

  13. Foundryman a caster of metal

  14. Gilder one who overlays with gold

  15. Goldbeater a pounder of gold into thin leaves for use in gilding

  16. Goldsmith

  17. Grinder a sharpener of knives

  18. Knife-maker

  19. Latoner a worker in brass and latten (a brass-like alloy)

  20. Leadworker, Plumber a worker in lead

  21. Locksmith

  22. Metalsmith

  23. Nail-maker

  24. Pewterer a maker of utensils in pewter, an alloy of tin and, usually, lead

  25. Plattner beats out sheets of metal

  26. Potmender

  27. Scythesmith a maker of hand tools for mowing grass or reaping crops

  28. Silversmith

  29. Smelter

  30. Tinker itinerant tinsmith who mends household utensils

  31. Tinsmith

  32. Typefounder designs and produces metal printing type for hand composition

  33. Wiredrawer maker of gold and silver wire

11. Craftsmen (Mining & Stonecraft)

  1. Alabasterer a worker of alabaster, a typically white, fine-grained, translucent form of gypsum often carved into ornaments

  2. Bricker a maker or baker of bricks

  3. Bricklayer

  4. Ceiler an installer of ceilings

  5. Delver, Ditcher a ditch digger, or worker in a stone quarry

  6. Diamantaire a highly skilled craftsmen responsible for cutting, polishing and transforming a rough diamond into a finished gemstone

  7. Gemcutter

  8. Knapper one who mines flint in order to make arrowheads

  9. Lapidary works with precious stones, usually other than diamonds

  10. Limeburner one who burns limestone in order to obtain lime

  11. Lorimer a maker of bits, spurs, and metal mountings for bridles and saddles

  12. Mason

  13. Miner

  14. Quarryman

  15. Roofer

  16. Shingler

  17. Stonecarver, Stonecutter workers of stone, everything from etching tombstones to carving tools and statues

  18. Stonemason

  19. Tilemaker, Tile-burner forms clay into tiles and bricks

  20. Tile-theeker a roofer of tile

12. Craftsmen (Weapons & Armour)

  1. Armoursmith

  2. Arrowsmith

  3. Bladesmith, Weaponsmith

  4. Bowyer

  5. Escutcheon-maker a maker of shields

  6. Fletcher

  7. Harness-maker

  8. Harness-polisher

  9. Helmet-maker

  10. Lancier

  11. Linen-armourer

  12. Mailmaker

  13. Poleturner a maker of polearms, e.g. spears, pikes, halberds

  14. Stringer a maker of bowstrings

  15. Swordsmith

13. Craftsmen (Woodwork)

  1. Arkwright a maker of chests, boxes, and coffers

  2. Barker strips tanbark from trees to supply bark mills

  3. Blockcutter hand-carves wooden blocks for printing fabrics or hat-making

  4. Bodger a maker of chairs in the forest from felled trees

  5. Cabinetmaker

  6. Carpenter

  7. Cartwright

  8. Cooper, Drycooper (dry goods), Wetcooper (liquids) a maker or repairer of casks and barrels

  9. Furniture maker

  10. Joiner constructs joined frames and panels in room and furniture-making

  11. Papermaker

  12. Pattenmaker a maker of wooden-soled overshoes for use in muddy streets

  13. Plasterer

  14. Sawyer a cutter of timber, e.g. in shipbuilding; few had all ten digits

  15. Shipwright

  16. Treenmaker a maker of various small wood items

  17. Turner a lathe worker who makes turned wooden objects, like chair legs

  18. Wheeler a maker of spinning wheels

  19. Wheelwright

  20. Woodcarver

  21. Woodcutter

  22. Woodturner

14. Craftsmen (Other)

  1. Architect, Master Builder

  2. Bagger

  3. Balancemaker

  4. Basketmaker

  5. Besom-maker a maker of brooms

  6. Bonecarver

  7. Bookbinder

  8. Bookprinter

  9. Broom-dasher a seller of brooms

  10. Brushbinder

  11. Builder

  12. Buttonmaker

  13. Cardmaker

  14. Cartographer

  15. Chandler, Waxchandler a maker and seller of candles, soaps, oils and paints

  16. Charcoalburner

  17. Clockmaker

  18. Combmaker

  19. Disher a potter who makes dishes

  20. Enameller, Mailer

  21. Engraver for printing, not to decorate items

  22. Farrier a trimmer and shoer of horse hooves

  23. Glassblower

  24. Glazier maker of windows, bottles, goblets, alembic, etc.; among the richest craftsmen

  25. Gravedigger

  26. Hacker a maker of hoes

  27. Horner works with horn to craft spoons, combs, musical instruments, etc.

  28. Ivorist a carver of ivory

  29. Jeweler

  30. Knacker removes animal carcasses from farms or highways; makes by-products such as fats, tallow, glue, bone meal, bone char, sal ammoniac, soap, bleach and animal feed

  31. Lampwright, Lanternmaker

  32. Luthier builds and repairs stringed instruments with a neck and a sound box

  33. Mapmaker

  34. Marler a digger of marl, a type of soil used as fertilizer

  35. Mirrorer

  36. Nedeller a maker of needles

  37. Netmaker

  38. Oilmaker

  39. Perfumer

  40. Pinmaker

  41. Potter

  42. Printer

  43. Reedmaker

  44. Ropemaker, Roper

  45. Saltboiler

  46. Siever

  47. Thacker, Thatcher covers roofs with thatch

15. Agriculturalists

  1. Beekeeper

  2. Cowherd

  3. Dairymaid

  4. Dungcarter

  5. Farmer

  6. Goatherd

  7. Horse trainer

  8. Peasant

  9. Plowman, Ackerman

  10. Reaper

  11. Serf

  12. Sheepshearer

  13. Shepherd

  14. Swineherd

  15. Thresher

  16. Tillerman

  17. Vintner a maker of wine

16. Hunters, Gatherers, Fishermen

  1. Bog Iron Hunter finds and extracts iron ore deposits in bogs

  2. Climmer an egg hunter

  3. Falconer, Hawker, Sperviter, Austringer

  4. Fewterer a keeper of greyhounds

  5. Fisherman

  6. Forester a keeper and planter of trees

  7. Fowler a hunter of wildfowl

  8. Hunter

  9. Huntsman a master of hounds and hunting guide

  10. Leech-collector

  11. Molecatcher

  12. Oysterer

  13. Purefinder old women and young girls who gathered dog droppings off the streets for use in tanning leather

  14. Seaweed harvester

  15. Shrimper a catcher of shrimp

  16. Trapper

  17. Weirkeeper a keeper of fish traps

17. Labourers (at Sea)

  1. Bargeman

  2. Boatman

  3. Boatwright

  4. Canaller

  5. Ferryman

  6. Hobbler

  7. Lighterman a worker who operates a lighter, a type of flat-bottomed barge

  8. Mariner

  9. Navigator

  10. Riverboat pilot

  11. Sailor

  12. Ship’s captain

  13. Shipchandler

  14. Ship provisioner

  15. Waterman

18. Labourers (Other)

  1. Accountant, Accomptant

  2. Actuary a financial bookkeeper, a clerk

  3. Attendent

  4. Barrister

  5. Bath attendant

  6. Bather owner of a bath

  7. Bodyguard

  8. Bodyservant a valet or personal maid

  9. Butler the chief manservant of a house

  10. Carter, Cartier, Carman, Drayman a driver of carts

  11. Carver

  12. Cellarer a supervisor of the wine cellar

  13. Chamberlain

  14. Chimney sweep

  15. Clouter fixes things

  16. Coistsell a groom in charge of the care of a knight's horses

  17. Collier a miner of coal

  18. Copyist

  19. Courtier

  20. Dairymaid

  21. Dapifer the servant who brings the meat to the table at a meal

  22. Dog trainer

  23. Dresser

  24. Dung carter

  25. Executioner

  26. Famulus an assistant or servant, esp. one working for a magician or scholar.

  27. Gamekeeper appointed by royalty to protect deer and wild boar on their lands

  28. Gardener a specialist responsible for the upkeep and beauty of castles and estates, but also to build ditches and barriers in wartime

  29. Gongfarmer cleans outhouses

  30. Groom

  31. Groom of the Stool male servant assisting the king in his toileting needs

  32. Guide

  33. Innkeeper

  34. Laundress

  35. Lawyer

  36. Linkboy, Linkman a torchbearer who guides people at night

  37. Maid, Maidservant

  38. Marshal a horse tender

  39. Messenger

  40. Ostler, Hostler, Stabler a carer of horses at an inn

  41. Panter a keeper of the pantry

  42. Paperer (needlemaking)

  43. Parker a keeper of parks

  44. Pavior lays pavement

  45. Pavyler puts up pavilions and tents

  46. Porter carrier of goods (low status), or a door or gatekeeper (higher)

  47. Potboy

  48. Privycleaner

  49. Procurator

  50. Quartermaster

  51. Raker a street sanitation worker

  52. Ratcatcher

  53. Restaurateur

  54. Riveter

  55. Royal food taster

  56. Scullion, Scullery maid a servant assigned the most menial kitchen tasks

  57. Serf

  58. Servant

  59. Sin-eater

  60. Stablehand

  61. Stainer one who stains wood

  62. Stillroom maid

  63. Tapster, Bartender, Barmaid one who draws ale, etc. at an inn

  64. Teamster

  65. Tenter an unskilled workman's assistant

  66. Treadmill worker

  67. Usurer

  68. Wagoner

  69. Waller

  70. Water carrier

  71. Wattler, Hurdlemaker a maker of wattle fences for sheep

  72. Weeper

  73. Wetnurse

  74. Whipping Boy a boy educated alongside a prince who received corporal punishment for the prince's transgressions in his presence

19. Entertainers

  1. Acrobat, Tumbler

  2. Bard pro storyteller, verse-maker, music composer, oral historian and genealogist employed by a patron to commemorate their feats or ancestors. Originally a lower class poet in contrast to the august fili.

  3. Bearleader, Bear-ward herds, trains or cares for bears

  4. Dancer

  5. Fiddler

  6. Fili a high-ranking poet employed by a monarch or noble

  7. Fortune Teller

  8. Fool, Clown, Jester a joker or trickster hired to entertain a court

  9. Harper

  10. Juggler

  11. Legerdemainist

  12. Lutenist

  13. Meistersinger a member of a German guild for lyric poetry, composition, and unaccompanied art song

  14. Minnesänger a German singer of Minnesang, or love songs, esp. courtly love

  15. Minstrel, (itinerant) Jongleur an entertainer

  16. Mummer an actor in a pantomime, performing through gesture and face

  17. Musician

  18. Nakerer a player of the naker, a small kettle drum

  19. Piper

  20. Player, Actor

  21. Playwright

  22. Singer

  23. Skáld a poet who composed at the courts of Scandinavian rulers

  24. Storyteller

  25. Troubadour (m.), Trobairitz (f.) a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (~1170-1260)

20. Criminals

  1. Bandit

  2. Bawd (f.), Stewsman (m.) a pimp or brothel keeper

  3. Boothaler, Robber, Freebooter

  4. Burglar

  5. Conman, Swindler

  6. Courtesan a prostitute, esp. one with wealthy or upper-class clients

  7. Fence

  8. Footpad a highwayman, but on foot

  9. Gambler

  10. Highwayman typically mounted, holds up travelers to rob them

  11. Pickpocket, Cutpurse, Diver, Thief

  12. Poacher

  13. Prostitute

  14. Quack, Charlatan, Mountebank dishonest claimer of special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine

  15. Shill (anach.) an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice others

  16. Silk-snatcher a stealer of bonnets

  17. Thimblerigger a sharper who runs a thimblerig (a game in which a pea is supposedly hidden under a thimble and players guess in which it is)

21. Unemployed, Enslaved or Hated

  1. Beggar

  2. Buffoon a publicly amusing person

  3. Busker sings or plays music in public for money

  4. Camp follower

  5. Dwarf, Midget

  6. Gypsy

  7. Hermit

  8. Jew

  9. Pilgrim, Palmer

  10. Transient

  11. Squatter

  12. Urchin, Vagabond

  13. Slave

What else would you like to see in a medieval cookbook for Risus? Give me a shout at colin@empress.cards

In the meantime, roll on to a retrofit of the basic rules built for heavier campaigns. With old-school illustrations!

Or treat yourself to S. John Ross' beautifully researched treatment on ordinary people:

Sources: Guilds (Wikipedia); Shawn Vincent's Medieval Occupations; RootsWeb's Old Occupations; The Arcana Wiki's List of Medieval European Professions

Created 03/25/2020 during COVID-19