5. Occupations

“All work is honorable. Always do your best, because someone is watching.”
—Colin Powell

For our purposes, occupations in pretty much every civilization can be characterized as one of a dozen. The specifics of what each can do will depend upon the actual culture and the level of technology.

Your job as a player is to use the general categories below to invent a specific occupation, something to bring your character to life and give the game host enough to work with for making task decisions. A few samples are provided with each category below.

  • Artisan: An artisan is someone with a “skilled trade.” That is to say, the main difference between an artisan and a laborer (see below) is one of formal training or apprenticeship. Examples: Architect, Blacksmith, Brewmaster, Carpenter, Glassblower
  • Counselor: Everyone needs a good listener from time to time. The more advanced a civilization, the more likely it is to have people whose career is just that. Examples: Advice Columnist, Bartender, Geisha, Jester, Priest, Psychologist
  • Healer: Not all of the difference between a Stone Age shaman and a modern physician is the tools, but equipment certainly makes a big difference. Well, that and scientific knowledge. (Better to take your chances with a 21st century physician who has lost her medical kit than a Stone Age shaman who has found it.) Examples: Anesthesiologist, Chiropractor, Dentist, Neurosurgeon, Stone Age Shaman
  • Laborer: Throughout history, someone has had to do the heavy lifting. This sort of work requires little skill, other than perhaps a tolerance for tedium and/or pain. Examples: Factory Worker, Field Hand, School Janitor, Walmart Greeter
  • Leader: Whether duly elected or reigning by terror, a leader makes the big decisions for a civilization. (Of course, as War and Peace points out, those decisions are largely constrained by the nature of the civilization itself.) Examples: Baronet, Chieftain, King, Mayor, School Principal, Senator
  • Merchant: Only the earliest, simplest societies could survive without some form of money. And with money comes long-distance trade, advertising, insurance, and banking. Further, new monetary inventions are constantly being developed, a tribute to humanity’s fascination with wealth. Naturally, there are plenty of occupations to be had in this field. Examples: Banker, Insurance Adjuster, Marketing Manager, Salesperson, Store Owner
  • Outcast: Civilization is based on order. Some people profit from that order; others benefit from subverting it. Still others have no choice but to dwell on the fringes. Examples: Beggars, Grifters, Hackers, Smugglers, Thieves
  • Peacekeeper: While leaders make the laws, someone must enforce them. While merchants accumulate wealth, someone must protect it for them. These peacekeepers risk life and limb for the call of duty. Examples: Armed Forces Personnel, Police Officer, Private Detective, Spy
  • Performer: Without the arts, a civilization is little more than an ant colony. Performers offer entertainment, while also exploring and conveying a society’s myths and mores. Examples: Actor, Football Quarterback, Game Designer, Musician, Painter, Puppet Master, Sculptor
  • Scholar: When humankind transitioned from a hunter/gatherer existence to an agrarian society, one of the first benefits was being able to maintain a class of scholar priests. Over the centuries, secular and religious studies separated, and countless fields of study and research developed. Examples: Chemistry Professor, Marxist Literary Theorist, Necromancer, Pharmaceutical Researcher
  • Servant: Without butlers, cooks, drivers, and scullery maids to take care of mundane chores, the movers and shakers of the world would have no time to move and shake. High society depends upon this serving class. Examples: Butler, Cook, Driver, Scullery Maid
  • Student: The occupation of young people is learning. Sometimes this gives them ready familiarity with obscure bits of knowledge that most adults have forgotten—such as quadratic equations and the diameter of Pluto—or trivia of comic book story lines. Examples: Grade School, Middle School, High School, Undergrad with a Fine Arts Major, Tech School Student for Web Design, Doctoral Student of Narratology in the Kennedy Presidency

Use one of the example occupations above or invent your own. Consider how your character became involved in that occupation, and what the character likes most and least about it. The more fully you can envision your character in the occupation, the better you’ll be able to play the character in the game.

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