Occupational outlook: Lantern bearer & related trades

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, sadly, covers only real-world occupations. This disappointed me once before, in 7th grade, when we had to research a profession for Social Studies. I couldn’t find anything about becoming an alchemist, assassin, or sword for hire, and had to content myself with writing up a mercenary’s occupational outlook (which my teacher, Abraham Stein, did think was pretty interesting). Fortunately I’ve been able to pick up the slack and humbly offer this prospectus for aspiring hirelings.

(left to right: a Heritage Dwarf, a Grenadier Halfling, a Grenadier human, a Citadel Dwarf, and a plastic Citadel Dwarf. More of these guys in a later post.)

Lantern bearer, torch bearer, etc.

Nature of the Work: Lantern bearers and torch bearers carry light sources for adventurers, typically in a dungeon, cavern, tomb, or other underground setting. They may also be expected to carry some portion of the recovered loot in such adventures, take turns at campsite watch duty, and defend themselves from monsters*.

*Some employers will expect hirelings to open questionable doors, chests, and otherwise probe for possible traps. This falls outside the the job description and should be reported to your steward, if possible.

Work Environment: Lantern and torch bearers usually find themselves in extremely hazardous environments and face a high on-the-job mortality rate. The casualty rate is high because lantern and torch bearers usually lack armor, experience, and weaponry, and also because they are carrying light sources which attract the attention, and ire, of most underworld denizens. Moreover most lantern bearers are found by monsters to be highly edible.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement: Lantern and torch bearers generally require very little training, although the ability to light fires quickly is a plus. Experienced lantern and torch bearers are likely to develop skills in self-defense and fleeing. After a series of successful dungeon delves, a lantern or torch bearer may expect to be promoted to man-at-arms, body guard, or muleskinner. In rare cases, the death of employers may even result in lantern bearers being promoted from non-player character (NPC) to player character (PC) which can lead to vast increases in standard of living, ability to express free will, and further advancement opportunities.

Job Outlook: Lantern bearers are in slightly greater demand than torch bearers, due to their marginally more sophisticated equipment. Employment opportunities depend to a large extent on the nature of the local adventure sites and adventurers. Parties of humans are most likely to employ torch or lantern bearers, while demi-humans need only employ them in the earliest edition of the D&D game. Logistics-heavy, old-school games are more likely to have call for this profession. Due to extremely high turnover and casualty rates, lantern and torch bearers are always in relatively high demand.  However, newer-school games may make the profession obsolete with easily obtained light spells, unlikely but conveniently-placed phosphorescent underground mosses, or other storytelling technologies that de-emphasize logistics.

Earnings & Wages: Despite the level of demand for lantern and torch bearers in most settings, the supply of willing workers tends to outstrip demand and create relatively low wages. The modest requirements to enter the profession (a torch or lantern, flint, and greed marginally exceeding cowardice) allow the market to be somewhat crowded; however, the most capable and best-equipped job seekers can demand higher pay. Like most dungeon-oriented professions, though, even relatively low wages for the industry are much better than the rewards of honest labor in other industries. The typical torch bearer earns 1-2 gp per day, and the typical lantern bearer 2-5 gp per day. This is sometimes pre-paid as a bounty of 50 or 100 gp at the beginning of an expedition. Non-human and demihuman lantern bearers can expect better wages commensurate with their abilities.

(Sifl, a Pixie, risen to the lofty status of Henchman due to his ability to fly and to cast Sleep, Charm Person, and Invisibility! Supernatural, invisible and/or flying hirelings always have a higher survival rate.)

Does your campaign feature hirelings? What sort of pay do lantern bearers and other hirelings command? The Bureau of Labor Statistics could use your help.

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Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I rarely used hirelings, but I can see how much I was missing out on. Your description though was fantastic! Are you planning on doing a series?

    • Thanks!
      As long as I’m finally getting around to painting all my hireling figures, I guess I could make it a series, that’s a great idea!

  2. Awesome post!

    The faery lantern bearer is genius…

  3. Don’t leave your dungeon illumination to mere linkboys. Always look for the union card when you hire torch and lantern bearers.

  4. Ditto Roger’s comment. Look for example at how that halfling is about to set his own head on fire with his torch. Obviously not a member of the local.


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