Back on the subject of my woodcutter and both skilled and unskilled labor. I remember playing Sim Isle back in the day, where you were put in charge of a small island’s economy and you had to balance tourist development with ecological conservation and stuff. It was pretty interesting, but came with no documentation whatsoever.

My brother and I fiddled around with the game for a long time trying to figure out how to play. It wasn’t anything like Sim City, which we didn’t know how to play very well either, and it was significantly more complex out of the box. We loved islands though, we had played Myst. It was like managing a Myst Age. Except totally not.

That was the first time I encountered the concept of “skilled” and “unskilled” labor in fiction. I didn’t get it of course, except that it meant I hired lots of workers who wouldn’t do the jobs I wanted them to do. Not sure if we ever really sorted that one out. I don’t remember getting very far in the game, come to think of it.

Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons has an incredibly convoluted Skill System (despite being what I understand to be an improvement over previous systems) that provides characters with more ways to interact with the game world than most game masters are willing or interested in using in their games. Two words: pick pocket.

Several skills, such as Craft, Knowledge, Perform, and Profession, break down into innumerable (and ever-expanding) skill point sinks for the unwary player, and are often so incredibly context-sensitive as to be utterly useless in the majority of adventures and campaign settings. How often do you make Knowledge (Architecture) checks?

The idea that an unskilled laborer earns a silver piece a day is another one of the Third Edition oddities. A craftsmen using the Profession skill (like a blacksmith), earns a number of gold pieces a week equal to their Profession check. This makes it necessary to list every bloody Craft and Profession to lend them validation.

But there are more ways for players and NPCs alike to earn unskilled wages than a game can innumerate, and that gives me reason to think that only the skilled, or “trained,” professions need be listed. You can go ahead and provide sample listings of unskilled work if you like, maybe even relative to the various trained professions.

The woodcutter, which I’ve brought up, isn’t an especially trained profession unless you’re playing in a setting that puts lumberjacks in the limelight. Instead, you’re more likely to have Creation heroes who turn cut wood into other things. Even fletchers and bowyers are verging on unnecessarily specific, making arrows and bows.

But you know, it’s worth mentioning these other unskilled professions. I mean, technically what I do for a living is unskilled labor. I do invoicing, filing, and data entry. It’s nothing, really, but at least I get my one silver piece per day, right? I wonder what would an Academics Hero make of my work? Would my blog count? The comic?