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Every society is built and maintained by various people who perform needed functions and tasks. In medieval society, a person's profession was often the most important aspect of their life. So much so, that when a person found a craft or profession many would take it as their last name. This is where last names like Smith and Shepherd came from.

Many professions were passed on from father to son, mother to daughter. To train someone in a craft was to provide them with the tools necessary to survive. To keep the skills within one's own family ensured that any trade secrets were not given out to competitors.

It's important to remember as well that most peasants and commoners were not officially employed or trained in a craft. Poverty and homeless was a common trait among the masses. A great many people would work odd jobs to earn a few coin for their family or to feed themselves and nothing more. This was less of a choice, but rather the result of a system that kept the various classes separate and in their place.

Governance and Administration[edit]

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These positions were most often filled by literate people of higher social station and privilege. Royalty was not something earned; you either were or you weren't. Even then it was not uncommon for rulers to keep detailed records of their lineage so as to ensure that their claim was not disputed. Despite that, it was also rather common for disputes over lordship of certain territories to arise, and because of the intricate social hereditary structure there were often many conflicting claims. These sort of issues commonly resulted in war or skirmishes to obtain "rightful property". A Noble, for all intents and purposes, is considered "better" than a peasant. They can ask for anything within the law and expect it to be fulfilled or a good reason given. If a noble or person of higher social standing decides they want an occupied position, despite the merits of the person currently holding it, they would be well within their rights to do so. The nobility have an unsteady relationship with those below them though, and a good Lord should never push his people too far.

Reeve Judge Messor
Hayward Woodward Afferor
Ale Connor Pinder Tithingman
Catchpole Beadle Jailor
Crier / Bellman Coroner

Military and Law-Enforcement[edit]

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Examples of this kind of occupation include: Jailers (responsible for caring for the jail and containing the criminals within it), Foresters (responsible for patrolling the woodlands on a lord or noble’s property), Constables (responsible for keeping the peace within castles or fortified towns), Armorers and Weapon smiths (Usually a blacksmith as well but as war became a more frequent event, many blacksmiths could afford to relinquish their skills of crafting metal works and strictly pursue the field of making armor or weapons. A very lucrative profession). For many, the Military was a path by which one may be able to advance within society.

Watchmen Archer / Bowman Deputy
Guardsman Pikeman Mercenary
Sapper Scout Sky
Sargent-at-Arms Sargent Drummer
Camp Follower Spearman Pioneer / Engineer
Squire Knight Arbalestier / Crossbowman
Constable Night Watch Knifeman


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Thieves, bandits, con-artists, smugglers, and various other Outlaws. While being a criminal was not considered a reputable line of work, or even a real profession, criminals tended to be rather common during this period in history.
Thief Burglar Pickpocket / Diver
Boothaler Fence Footpad
Poacher Stewsman Thimblerigger

Religious Occupations[edit]

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Faith and religious devotion were prominent ideals in the 13th century. It was not uncommon to send sons or daughters to be schooled in the ways of the clergy. Nuns, Priests, Friars, and Knights of Holy Orders are examples. Again, we recommend that you do some research to familiarize yourself with Dark Ages Christianity.
Abbot / Abbess Parish Priest Prior / Prioress
Monk Nun Friar
Clerk Chaplan Chantry Priest
Almoner Cantor Canon
Beguine Curate Ostiary
Pilgrim Sacristan Sexton
Beadle Summoner


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Members of various religions orders (Christian or Pagan) will often be skilled with healing herbs. These people worked directly within their Church. Other times they were just folk within the community with a large knowledge of which herbs and plants to take when someone was sick or injured. Those who have a background with the Clergy often take vows of poverty, but a layman healer can make a fine living indeed. Physicians were very highly regarded and respected. Though their positions were deemed prominent it took about a full century before their work was completely accepted.


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Bowyers, Dressmakers, Weavers, Carpenters, Brick Layers, Jewelers...everything is hand made in the Dark Ages. Craftsmen were renown throughout the medieval world and sought out by nobility and wealthy citizens for a variety of different commission. A rare and risky craft is engineering. With zero technology and lots of superstition to work from, Engineers did most of their work by ‘trial and error’ and though kings and nobles recognized and acknowledged the wide margin for potential failure, such could end the life or career of a skilled Engineer.


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Farmers, Herders, Miners, Woodsmen, Salters, and Farmhands were some of the most common ways for people to make a living. An honest wage for an honest days work. Medieval society functioned because of the everyday efforts of people who made these jobs their professions.

Service Occupations[edit]

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What truly keeps a society moving are those who provide services for others. Moving resources, providing food, and delivering messages are but a few examples of what is needed to keep life moving along.


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In the markets and streets of every major city you will find Merchants selling a variety of different wares. As craftsmen and farmers will sell the fruits of their labor, Merchants are geared more towards the process of selling whatever they come across.


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Entertainers were an intrinsic part of medieval society, whether it was the artist painting the mural or the performer panhandling on the street. Storytellers and bards carried news from place to place as well as offering some wonder to the hard and drab lives of common folk. Whores are a kind of Entertainer. While the Church is more than happy to revile them, they would still rather a man sow his wild oats with a common whore than a nobleman's wife. The King's men generally ignore it, or may even be customers.

Hunters and Gatherers[edit]

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The bounty given by nature was not just a profession for many of these people, it was a way of life.


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The academic profession during this time period primarily concerned itself with religious studies, the accounting of business affairs, and legal practices. Barristers, clerks, illuminators, and philosophers were common professions of learned individuals. These professions required the ability to read and write, and were difficult to break in to unless vouched for.


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Whether for fishing or transport, the livelihood of many hardy folk rested upon voyages over rivers and seas.


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Readers of the stars, cards, and lines in the sand; Everything had a deeper meaning. Fortune-tellers were often looked upon with disapproval from the ruling classes but their services were highly in demand. The Medieval Ages were full of superstition and very real belief in supernatural forces and powers. Most things that could not be explained by science or technology was thought to be the direct influences of these powers at work. The common people were normally quite stressed economically and therefore they viewed the Fortune-teller as a potential advantage to overcoming future difficulties. If their future could be revealed they believed they could take steps to improve upon it.

Notes and Citations