NPC Occupations

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This is a list of my favorite Medieval Occupations for RPG NPCs. With these an overburdened DM can avoid the knee-jerk cliche of a commoner being a dirty farmer, a blacksmith, or a tavern drunkard whenever it suites him (unless it suites him).

Occupations in Medieval Societies:

ON THE ROAD or inside THE BIG CITY

The following table is for encounters in or near an urban setting.

Roll 1d20 to find a random urban NPC’s station in life.

1: Lesser Nobility
2-3: Religious
4: Legal/Judicial
5-7: Military
8: Academic
9-15: Merchant/Servicer
16-18: Agriculture*
19: Entertainer
20: Scoundrel/Underclass**

*This bumpkin is from out of town to sell his wares at the local farmer’s market.

**Roll again to determine this deviant’s cover or secret identity. If a 20 is again rolled, he is an infamous suspected criminal who can somehow walk openly in the streets.

The following table is for encounters in more rural areas removed from larger populations

Roll 1d20 to find a random rural NPC’s station in life.

1: Lesser Nobility
2: Religious
3: Legal/Judicial
4-6: Military
7: Academic
8-9: Merchant/Servicer
10-18: Agriculture
19: Entertainer
20: Scoundrel/Underclass

Lesser Nobility (1d8)

1) Adventurer – a minor scion of a noble house who’s chosen to wander the world
2) Dilettante – a minor scion of a noble house who dabbles in various interests
3) Diplomat – a representative of his house in dealings with other noble houses
4) Knight – a well-trained warrior, skilled with sword and lance
5) Minister – a political figure appointed by the ruler to govern a specific area or to oversee a domain; also lesser but important officials, such as a reeve or judge
6) Nobleman- A member of a well-known, perhaps powerful family.
7) Page – a very young noble beginning his training to be a knight
8) Squire – a young noble progressing on the path to knighthood, perhaps himself a capable warrior

Religious (1d8)

Lower level positions are available in the religious community for any devout and pious citizens. The higher levels are almost exclusively gentry.

1) Beadle – subordinate with menial duties
2) Curate – clergy assistant to the rector
3) Reeve – time keeper charged with beginning and ending services
4) Sexton – custodian for church property
5) Theologian
6) Acolyte – entry level priest
7) Ward – a child who is under the care of the church, oftentimes an orphan
8) Cleric

Legal & Judicial (1d8)

Professions in the legal and judicial system present opportunities for high status in society without being born into the aristocracy. Some of the gentry might hold these positions, but most of the people who hold these professions will not have a title.

1) Bailiff – presides over arrests and executions
2) Chamberlain – custodian of a royal or high noble residence
3) Chancellor – secretary to a king or noble
4) Constable – head of peace-keeping law enforcement
5) Diplomat
6) Exchequer – administrator of royal funds
7) Jailer
8) Judge

Military (1d20)

Within the armed forces can be fond many classifications of professions. Soldiers have the opportunity for advancement through the lower ranks (stopping at Sergeant) if they volunteered, were drafted, or were pressed. Higher ranks are usually reserved for the aristocracy.

1) Aid-de-camp – assistant to a superior officer
2) Archer
3) Bodyguard
4) Bounty Hunter
5) Cavalry
6) Engineer – designs and builds war machines, such as catapults, and ballistae
7) Forester – a ranger or game warden, often empowered to act as law enforcement within the forest
8) Gatekeeper or Toll Keeper
9) Jailer
10) Mariner
11) Mercenary
12) Navigator – special class of mariner
13) Scout
14-18) Soldier
19) Torturer
20) Watchman

Academic (1d20)

Academics typically only come from wealthy or titled families, although the aristocracy may reserve a place for an exceptionally gifted common citizen.

1) Alchemist – chemist
2) Architect – a master builder
3) Ascetic – a hermit or wandering monk
4) Astrologer
5) Barber – a doctor, surgeon, bloodletter, dentist, and haircutter
6) Barrister – a lawyer
7) Bureaucrat – a local functionary, servant to some more powerful political figure
8) Cartographer
9) Engineer – a builder of roads, bridges, castles, fortifications, and siege engines
10) Herald – an announcer and deliverer of news on behalf of a lord
11) Historian
12) Illuminator – paint manuscripts
13) Librarian
14) Mathematician
15) Monk/Nun – an academic devoted to prayer and spirituality
16) Philosopher
17) Sage
18) Scholar
19) Scrivener – scribe skilled in taking dictation or copying documents
20) Tutor

Merchants & Service (1d8 to find ten’s range, then 1d10)

Perhaps the most diverse sector of society, merchants have the ability to interact with almost everyone. Business owners can become very wealthy and establish reputations with or without titles.

A Note About The Guild System

For merchants and craftsman, the guild was a crucial part of life. By being accepted into a guild, and particularly as Master, a craftsman earned higher social status. The guild also provided support to its members’ families in times of need. Guilds are comparable to modern labor unions.

Apprentice – In the early teen years, an apprentice began studying under a Master for a period of 5-9 years. No wages are earned, but food and the Master’s family provides a home. They are not allowed to marry.

Journeyman – The Journeyman earns wages. A “masterpiece”—evidence that the Journeyman is skilled in the trade—can be presented to the Guild. If it is judged well, the Journeyman becomes a Master.

Master – Only Masters are able to own their own shops and train Apprentices. It is difficult to reach this status. It requires as much charisma as skill to earn the acceptance of the other Masters.

1) Apothecary – seller of herbal remedies
2) Architect
3) Armorer
4) Artist
5) Baker
6) Banker
7) Barber
8) Blacksmith
9) Boatman – travel by lake or river
10) Bookbinder
11) Bottler
12) Bowyer – bow craftsman
13) Brazier – brass worker
14) Brewer – a maker of beer and ale
15) Bricklayer – a laborer skilled in the building of walls and ducts
16) Butcher
17) Carpenter – an elite tradesman, skilled in math as well as woodworking
18) Cartographer – map maker
19) Cartwright – a maker and repairer of carts and wagons
20) Chandler – candle maker, sometimes soap maker
21) Chapman – a travelling peddler
22) Clerk
23) Clothier – a garment-maker
24) Coachman – driver of a coach
25) Cobbler or Shoemaker – makes and mends shoes
26) Cook
27) Cooper – barrel maker
28) Draper – cloth merchant
29) Dyer – a maker of inks, paints, dyes, and stains
30) Engraver
31) Farmer
32) Fisherman
33) Fishmonger
34) Fortune Teller
35) Furrier
36) Gardener
37) Glassblower
38) Glazier – glass worker, including windows
39) Goldsmith or Silversmith
40) Gravedigger
41) Grocer
42) Groom – one who tends animals
43) Hatter
44) Herdsman – a keeper of livestock
45) Hunter or Trapper
46) Innkeeper or Tavern-keeper
47) Jeweler
48) Joiner – a maker of furniture
49) Laundress
50) Leatherworker
51) Link Boy – carries lamps at night
52) Locksmith
53) Maid
54) Mason
55) Mercer – textile merchant
56) Merchant
57) Messenger
58) Miller
59) Miner
60) Moneylender
61) Painter or Limner
62) Peddler – an itinerant merchant of goods
63) Porter/Stevedore – carries baggage/loads and unloads goods from sailing ships or caravans
64) Ratcatcher
65) Sailor
66) Scribe
67) Seamstress
68) Servant – maid, butler, attendant, steward, etc.
69) Shipwright – a builder of ships
70) Spinster-yarn and cord maker
71) Stringfellow – Maker and supplier of bowstrings for a bowyer
72) Tailor
73) Tanner – leather maker
74) Tax Collector
75) Thatcher – roof repairs
76) Tinker – a traveling craftsman who repairs tin pots and other small items
77) Tourneyman – an arranger of social events and spectacles
78) Trader – by land or by sea
79) Vintner – a maker of wines
80) Weaver

Agriculture (1d10)

The backbone of society is its agriculture. Even before the feudal system, the land was owned by the crown or nobles and worked by commoners in their employ. Typically, everything living in the realm is considered property of the crown, including game.

1) Cooper – a keeper of poultry and fowl
2) Farmer- a worker of the fields
3) Falconer – a hunter who uses trained birds of prey*
4) Fisherman
5) Forester
6) Herdsman- a keeper of livestock
7) Houndsman – a keeper of dogs
8) Hunter
9) Ostler – cares for horses
10) Woodsman

  • Falconers may also be in the service of nobility

Entertainment (1d10)

Although entertainers themselves may not hold prestigious positions in society, they nevertheless have the opportunity to stand beside the most illustrious company at court if they are well received. If not, then they are likely to perform on street corners and in taverns.

1) Acrobat
2) Actor
3) Clown
4) Dancer/Acrobat
5) Fortune-teller
6) Juggler
7) Musician/Minstrel/Poet (a ‘bard’ without the good stuff)
8) Player – actor
9) Prestidigitator – stage magician
10) Storyteller

Scoundrels and the Underclass (1d12)

1) Bandit, Mugger, or Thug – steals by force; often part of a gang of thieves
2) Beggar
3) Burglar – steals by breaking and entering
4) Fence – finds buyers for stolen goods, may serve as a pawnbroker
5) Gambler
6) Pickpocket or Cutpurse – steals by stealth
7) Procurer – streetwise specialists in finding whatever their client might be seeking
8) Prostitute
9) Slaver
10) Smuggler – moves stolen or illegal goods
11) Usurer – a “loan shark”
12) Wanderer – a “barbarian” nomad, drifter, or rover

NPC Occupations

Embyr: The Fifth Age polyroller