A town guardsman walks into a tavern and sees a shop owner being served some dwarven ale from the bar maid. A town guardian… a shop owner… a bar maid… Eureka! You’ve identified 90% of the NPCs who are used to dispense clues or information in D&D adventures.
But should you want to add some professional flavor to your Dungeons and Dragons townsfolk, here are 12 medieval professions for you to sprinkle in for your PCs to meet. All you need to do is roll a d8.
An atilliator is a crossbow maker. Who do you think makes all those crossbows that are used in your D&D campaigns? An atilliator, that’s who!
Maybe the atilliator just cranks out the crossbows in two styles – heavy and light – or maybe your atilliator partners with the local wizard to add a little +1 flavor.
Perhaps you’ll want to role play him like Daryl from the Walking Dead. Of course, maybe your atilliator doesn’t work alone…
A fletcher is an arrow maker or – if working with an atilliator – a crossbow bolt maker. Maybe he offers bundles of 100 for brave adventurers, tossing in a rumor or two free of charge.
I can imagine the fletcher sharing a tiny shop space with the town atilliator. I also think of the word fletch, which reminds me of the movie Fletch with Chevy Chase. If you are at all familiar with that 1985 movie, then you know it lends itself to some funny role play.
The magic of a cleric’s healing spells unfortunately render some really gnarly medieval medicine pretty meaningless. But what if your D&D town still practices some of ye olde medicine? It would be led by a bloodletter, who carries around a jar of leeches, of course.
If you aren’t familiar with a bloodletter, I’ll give you a brief synopsis, plus point to to where you can read more, because it really will make you appreciative of modern medical science.
Bloodletters operated for thousands of years, whether you were an Egyptian with migraines or a feverish Greek, chances are the first treatment your doctor would try would be to open a vein, causing blood to flow out and into a waiting receptacle, or they might let leeches perform the gruesome task.
A bloodletter sounds like a pretty eccentric NPC to me.
Maybe the bloodletter partnered with a medieval surgeon, a chirurgeon. Brandishing a bonesaw and needle and thread (but not anesthesia), a chirurgeon’s workplace would be a grisly place.
Perhaps this is why D&D skips all the talk of medicine and just lets a Cleric perform a miracle healing spell – medieval medicine could make your stomach turn.
But with a little imagination you can picture a chirurgeon as a wickedly evil NPC, amputating limbs in inhumane experimentation or offering peasants ‘miracle medicine’ that ultimate only serves to maim. Or perhaps I’m just too cynical. A town without a cleric might have a chirurgeon who is nothing more than an honest doctor trying to stitch up the townsfolk as best he can.
All this talk of leeches and bonesaws makes me think we need to spend some times with unicorns and fairies dust. How about you introduce a florist NPC to your next D&D campaign.
This farmer could use their land not only to grow crops to feed his family, but he grows beautiful flowers as well, which are bundled together and sold in the market square.
Perhaps the florist’s young daughter hands the PCs a flower in appreciation for them saving the day. A D&D world shouldn’t always be a dark and terrifying place. After all, if there is never any flowers or goodness in the world, why bother saving it?
A tinkering gnome would make an excellent NPC. Perhaps he’s a clockmaker and has a shop that’s simply cuckoo, with clocks chiming all along the walls.
In his hands would always be little tinkerer’s tools and he could always wear a magnifying monocle, giving him a wild, fisheyed look. He’d be a sight and could make for some fun role play beyond the typical getting adventuring clues from the local town guardsman.
Not only would a clockmaker have an interesting profession, it would be a prime opportunity to make a quirky NPC.
Any good sized D&D town might have a farrier. A farrier cares for horses hooves, which makes him half veterinarian and half blacksmith, considering the farrier would likely make his own horseshoes.
A farrier might rent horses to PCs or give information as to which horses may have dropped a shoe. He’d always have a pair of hoof nippers in his hand and he might challenge the PCs to a friendly game of horseshoe in front of his shop. In other words, he’d be an excellent NPC for adventurers to interact with.
Next to the farrier’s shop would be a gluemaker.
Some of the earliest glues were created via boiling the connective tissue of animals into a protein substance similar to gelatin. The proteins would form a molecular bond with the glued object. In fact, the word “collagen” itself derives from Greek κόλλα kolla, glue.
Stereotypically, the animal in question was always a horse, so much so that horses that were put down were often said to have been “sent to the glue factory.”
It would be a ridiculous sight to have a gluemaker with a big boiling pot of horse tissue right next to a farrier who is working to care for the hooves of the horses. Much like the fletcher and the atilliator or the bloodletter and chirurgeon, the farrier and gleamer would go together and create some interesting NPCs, which would be beyond the typical bar maid.
Bring your D&D town to life with interesting people and places. I hope these additional professions provide a spark for just such a thing.