Trades & Character Concept

In RoM, Trades are intended to provide a flexible tool for describing as closely as practical the scope of knowledge, skills and abilities the players want their characters to have. The trades embody traditional, familiar fantasy character archetypes that most veteran gamers find familiar, but they also include some less familiar skill sets, to be used as “modules” or “building blocks”. Thus, the trades have been divided a little more finely than they might otherwise be. This allows your players to create heroes (or potential heroes) that more closely meet their needs and expectations and also to meet your simpler needs as GM in describing the MUCH more numerous NPC’s in your game world.

The Huntsman, often under the name of “Ranger” (actually very narrowly defined officers of the Forest Law in medieval England), is usually treated as a sub-class of Warrior, and conflated with the Husbandman Trade. For the purposes of RoM, all three are distinctly separate. This way, Huntsmen who are Husbandmen and Huntsmen who are not can be easily distinguished from one another in terms of trade/skill game mechanics, and Huntsmen that have been trained to survive on the battle-field as Warriors from those that have not.

Just because a number of fields of interest may (generally) lie within the scope of the knowledge of a particular trade’s practice doesn’t mean every character who is a member of that trade is skilled in all of them, much less equally good at all those aspects. Not all Warriors are Knights, not all Midwives or Barbers are Herbals or Surgeons, not all Knaves are Cut Purses, and not all Knaves are well-connected Rogues.

In his own eyes, and those of the medieval game world society in general, however, the Huntsman who cares for his master’s horses or hounds for the hunt in the stables in the countryside (Husbandman) and goes into battle in the retinue of his lord swinging a sword (Fyrd, Garrison, or full Warrior) practices only one Trade, and opts to be known as a Huntsman, as that is the more socially prestigious of the three.

The system of Trades is designed to show their commonly inter-connected nature, reflecting how some trades are closely enough associated with one another that their members commonly slide from one into another, or grow from one into another up through a hierarchy. In practice, medieval careers were really rather fluid and closely interrelated, especially in England, the basis for these rules.

This being the case, it may take more than one Trade as they are provided and described here to properly express the knowledge your players might want to equip their characters with for the start of play. The trades listed on the rosters in Character Generation are NOT the only possibilities available. The player can use his imagination to put together what is not already specifically represented, too.

A Brigand is a Warrior-Rogue, or Warrior-Knave (any), OR Warrior-Rogue-Knave. Simple.

There are many different ways in which one can be a Knave – a Knave-Husbandman or especially as Knave-Husbandman-Rogue can be a Horsethief. A Forger-Scrivener or -Clerk (Knave, Knave-Rogue or simply Rogue) is a Forger that can falsify official documents or correspondence, while a Forger-Gold/Silver Smith (Knave, Knave-Rogue or simply Rogue) is a Forger that can falsify dies for coins or official seals to affix to charters or other documents, while a Forger-Craftsman (Knave, Knave-Rogue or simply Rogue) can be a Forger that can create faithful reproductions of great works of art in his chosen craft or works in styles of foreign lands and/or ancient cultures.

Compounding the Warrior trade with Knave Trades such as Cut-purse, Draughlatch or Roberdsman results in a trade that has seen much popularity in the (medieval) fantasy genré, as seen in Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser characters, either with or without the Rogue aspect.

The Merchant-Adventurer commonly encountered in the historic record is a Merchant who had the courage and audacity to travel with his cargo and learn the skills of a Mariner, in addition, OR a Mariner with the temerity to beard his employer with requests to learn the Merchant trade, so a Merchant-Mariner in game terms. The approach depends on the player’s vision of his character’s origins or back-story.

Any Mariner can take part in waylaying other vessels and plundering them as a Pirate, with or without the connects of a Rogue. Old Yarmouth was full of pirates in the period, among other coastal towns, but a Pirate can be even more notorious if he can truly distinguish himself in boarding attacks as a Warrior. Again, simple.

A Custom Method character only allowed a single Trade might be cast as a Knave (any) but given the advantage of a wealthy background –– or even Noble (paying the extra cost for following so ignoble a skill set). Having enjoyed the advantages of Finishing School that Knave has a sound foundation for growing into a Courtier, hiding in plain sight. Of course, that character could start as a Courtier, or a Merchant with or without the advantage of the Finishing School. There are MANY different ways “to skin a cat”, so to speak.

Straight from the historical record, the maker of surgical instruments comes to his trade through his knowledge as a Surgeon-Gold/SilverSmith. Who better to design and execute the tools of the trade than a man who knows their use? Surgical instruments are the focus of his Smithcraft. This IS his ONE (1) Trade, and he does not practice his Smithcraft (generally, for the public, for profit) for any other purpose than this. It is the area in which his knowledge of Smithcraft is founded and centered. It is simply defined by two “trades” (skill-sets) rather than one for the purposes of the game to allow for the possibility of creating Surgeon characters who are simply Surgeons, NOT GoldSmiths making surgical instruments, and allowing for GoldSmiths who are not Surgeons who can make whatever sorts of things they like with their Smithcraft.

It’s all about where the player wants the emphasis. What is his character’s back-story/background.

If you’re making a Smith who likes to design and invent things like Leonardo da Vinci, he is probably best described as a Scholar, to get the firmest grasp on all the theories, and a Craftsman-Smith, equipped with the Artificer specialty so he can apply those theories, and also the Artisan specialty if you want him to grow to draw and paint as beautifully, also.

Put your head together with your GM and be creative!

The allowance of multiple Trades may seem at-odds with the express rule for medieval game worlds stated in the passages headed “The Medieval Mind” with the limitation of “One man, one trade”, BUT you and your players alike should look upon the Trade(s) chosen to define each character in the mechanical framework of the game as having a single focus, comprising only one trade between them in the eyes of society, and any other (unrelated) Trade(s) taken as providing context for that trade in the character’s life in the eyes of the denizens of the game world.

This is why a number of the trades that generally “go with” or “belong” together had to be divided up into their constituent aspects. Just because they are commonly associated doesn’t mean they should AUTOMATICALLY be assumed to be together.

Note that the Allied trades are ONLY suggestions for the character generation process, a means for further distinguishing and personalizing your character.

The players are encouraged to make the most of the various race, trade, and skill combinations in their Guide, to aim for making flexible well-rounded characters and seek the most complimentary combinations. Choosing trade bundles/skills that conflict with the racial and social point of view, attitudes, and disposition can easily make the character a misfit or even an outcast among his native people, but that can be fun to play!

The background generated for the character has a direct effect on how others of the character’s native class view his chosen Trade(s)/skills, and so should also be kept in mind. In general, battle is considered to be the province of the nobility, or a means of advancement for any free commoner who is not afraid to risk his life, but the large and strong among the landbound class might just as easily find themselves taken by his lord to serve in battle or man his castle walls and gain an opportunity to win freedom in return for loyalty in the heat of battle (Sacred Knight, Warrior, Huntsman). Farming, Husbandry and the provision of unskilled labor are the proper work of the free commoners and landbound classes, as are the manufacturing and processing craft trades in the towns (Smith/Artificer, Mason/Architect, Craftsman-Artisan, and so on).

Academia is the preserve of those with connections to the Church and who can afford it or those who have sufficient social contacts to find a sponsor. The Church owns and maintains all institutions of higher learning (Alchemist, Physicker, Scholar, Lawyer, Magister). The highly learned Scholar character has benefit of clergy at law, but are required to take no higher orders unless he wishes to pursue a career in the Church. This may include the trade of Wizardry (PhD in Natural Philosophy), but the GM may allow for that trade to be passed on privately, after the manner of a private or guild apprenticeship, as well, so the player MAY have the option to choose a Church connection.

Knavery and all the trades of the desperate and hungry who stand beyond the law or have been abandoned by the Church belong in large part to the disaffected of the landbound class (Roberdsman, Draughlatch, Cut-Purse, Horsethief, Forger-Clerk/ -Smith/ -Artisan), including the Hearth-Witches and Hedge-Wizards who are the last resort of those who cannot afford more or better magick to turn the tide of Fate in their favor.

When choosing a trade it is also important to remember that the character are viewed by society according to the trade with the highest social prestige, and in return are expected to act in accordance with the commonly accepted rules and conventions of that social circle. If a character is a Knight of some sort, he are treated by the medieval game world society at large as a noble with prestige according to the wealth he displays, and in turn are expected to behave like a knight. If he is a Courtier also, he are treated even more as an integral member of the upper social circles and he are expected to act like a member of the refined upper crust of society. The Trades/skills a character practices determines the social circles in which he is accepted, which social groups hold him in esteem.

The RoM system of character creation is primarily skill-based. While there are “trades” which can it appear like a “class-based” system, that is really a superficial illusion. The trades are really much more flexible and adaptable than this. They are intended to provide something more along the lines of loose character templates. Most people are more comfortable having general guidelines in which to work, and that applies to character creation for roleplay, as well. Thus, the trades are used as a framework into which the skills fit. The trades are nothing more than general labels used to break the whole spectrum of skills down into associated groups, to make the skills easier to deal with. The sum of each skill group provides a rough sense of identity corresponding to the nature and/or quality of the sort of character who might practice such skills, BUT because there is no requirement that all be taken (Custom Method characters), those practicing the same trade are not all identical. Because the trades can be bundled or Allied in various ways, along different paths to represent different types or flavors of a given trade concept, the permutations that can be achieved are quite diverse.

IF the GM or player doesn’t see the combination that represents the type of character he is trying to create, he should think about creating an additional trade with the selection of skills desired, or perhaps (for the sake of preserving the modular nature of the trades in the system) only a smaller off-shoot sub-trade module that can be bundled with an existing trade to achieve what is desired.

While the variety of trades and the various ways in which they can be bundled together in a single trade and also combined (Primary with Secondary) may be extensive, it is not considered to be exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. The GM and players are encouraged to make RoM their own, to add or subtract whatever they deem necessary to create and maintain the standards and gaming environment that suits their style of play best.

Spiritual Trades

A character may have as many as three trades that involve manifesting/casting magick, BUT these are arranged in three (3) tiers indicating not only proficiency but social prominence/precedence/importance. A character may only have one such Trade from each tier of expertise, i.e., one full trade (True Druid or Druid-Smith, Living Saint, Witch or Wizard, Alchemist True), one Hedge/Hearth Witch, Wizard, Alchemist, Beatific Mystic or any of the other Druid Trades save Fiana (which MUST be of a different variety/Trade of magick AND based on a folkway-format) and one Cunning Man/Wise Woman Witch, Wizard or Alchemist, Blessed Hero or Druid-Fiana Trade (which MUST, again, be a different variety/Trade and also a different folkway-format).

The “folkways” of magick are described under the Trade descriptions (Hearth/Hedge-Witch/Wizard, CunningMan/WiseWoman) to which they apply.