Occupational outlook: Porters, pack bearers, and related trades

Continuing our Bureau of Labor Statistics series: Pack Bearers.

Porters, pack bearers, and related trades

Nature of the Work: Porters* carry various burdens for adventurers, typically in a dungeon, cavern, tomb, or other underground setting.  Ideally these will be iron rations, flammable oil, and other consumable goods on the way to adventure and recovered loot on the way back. They may also be expected to take turns at campsite watch duty, and defend themselves from monsters**.

*”Porter” and “pack bearer” were once distinct professions represented by separate guilds but since the two job descriptions have been amalgamated by the Hireling’s Guild, these terms will be used interchangeably throughout this report.

**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.


That’s gonna hurt!  Don’t carry a chest this way.  Your triceps will give out after a few miles.

Up on your shoulder– that’s better, but hell on your lower back and hip.

These experienced Porters share the load. Note the metal helms, mail waders, and most importantly one hand free to hold a weapon.  They are ready to drop the chest and flee or put up a fighting retreat.  They have belted swords and hold throwable hand weapons (a hand axe and a dagger).

Work Environment: Porters usually find themselves in extremely hazardous environments and face a high on-the-job mortality rate. The casualty rate is high because porters and pack bearers usually lack armor, experience, and weaponry, and also because they are carrying heavy burdens which encumber them and reduce their movement rate.  Moreover most porters are considered a convenient source of protein by monsters.

In the dark days before the Hirelings’ Union, unethical employers often made unreasonable demands of their Porters. (Not my figures; reposted from catalog site. Ral Partha did a similar chariot but with just two yoked men.)

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement: Porters and pack bearers generally require very little training, although the ability to lift at least 500 GP or the equivalent is required. Experienced pack bearers are likely to develop skills in self-defense and quickly dropping burdens and fleeing. After a series of successful dungeon delves, a pack bearer may expect to be promoted to potion taster, scroll caddy, or muleskinner. In rare cases, the death of employers may even result in porters 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.  In other cases, deaths simply add “human hearse” to the job description.

Job Outlook: Porters and pack bearers are in relatively high demand among optimistic adventurers and in games that have detailed encumbrance rules. Employment opportunities depend to a large extent on the nature of the local adventure sites and adventurers.  Logistics-heavy, old-school games are more likely to have call for this profession.  However, newer-school games may have less call for treasure porters  due to storytelling technologies that de-emphasize logistics, and the general promotion of missions rather than looting expeditions.

A pack ape.   One must admit the superiority simians enjoy regarding physical strength.  Their inability to speak coherently and primitive minds suit them to subservience.  For little more than the price of a few bushels of bananas, a pack ape will transport huge weights in any non-marine environment.

The Hirelings Union is trying to raise awareness of the pack ape’s propensity for poo flinging and running amok — known as ‘going apeshit’ in technical terms.  Accept no simian substitute, hire only accredited professionals!

Earnings & Wages: Despite the relatively valuable cargo ported by bearers, the supply of willing workers tends to outstrip demand and cause relatively low wages. The modest requirements to enter the profession (average physical strength, stoicism, 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 porter earns 1-3 gp per day. This is sometimes pre-paid as a bounty of 50 or 75 gp at the beginning of an expedition.  Certain non-human or demi-human porters may command higher or lower wages.  For example, Dwarves are notoriously strong-backed and may make up to 5 gp per day, while Halfling porters are lucky to make 1 gp per day in this profession.  Wages are also depressed by the prevalence of Pack apes (who work for bananas and have the highly valued skill of climbing extremely well) and Undead or Unseen servants created by magic users, which have a slightly higher initial cost to make but work for zero pay.  Other pack animals are available as well, which effectively provide slave labor but do require expensive specialist muleskinners.

Undead servants. They rarely unionize and work tirelessly, making them the scourge of the profession.  The Hirelings Union would like to remind all adventurers that Necromancy is frowned on in most municipalities and higher planes.

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 3:38 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: ,

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. (more…)

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,
Wayne's Books

Game Gallery ~ Photo Blog

Ann's Immaterium

Writing, gaming, miniature painting, physical culture, and other dark procrastinations.


Collecting, modelling, painting and wargaming in 28mm

Dragons Never Forget

What were we talking about again?

This Stuff is REALLY Cool

Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Tabletop games and adventures

Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

Hey Did You Know I Write Books

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut


Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs


The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Miniature wargaming and the occasional zombie

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.


Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.


Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Dagger and Brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.


I bought these adventure and review them so you don't have to.

9th Key Press

Maps, supplements, and inspiration for roleplaying games.

The Rambling Roleplayer Archives

This site is no longer being updated. Check out the new site at www.rpgrambler.com

The History Blog

History fetish? What history fetish?

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Probably not the Justin Howe you were looking for

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time


Just another WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: