artisan vs craftman


Can you explain the reasoning behind the distinct apprentice artisan -> artisan / apprentice -> journeyman -> master craftman paths ?

From what I understand there was a distinction between being a blacksmith and mason. One was a craftsman, the other was an artisan. One was well-regarded, one was one of the most sought after positions in society.

Good point Luke.

Mason’s had a union/guild/fraternity to protect their working conditions & pay.
Artisans produce product for the upper echelons of society & got to charge more because of this. You can’t charge that much for Horseshoes.

I heard an interesting podcast from NPR’s Planet money where there was an analyses of how guilds operated. According to the scholar guilds harmed innovation within their respective areas of concern. They made sure that followed techniques that everyone could perform and cracked down on anyone trying to come up with new and improved methods of production. I know that this is slightly off the topic of the thread, but i found it interesting to see negative effects of guilds. It will help inform my use of them in my games.

I feel a little bad about going super off-topic on my socialist hobby horse but I’d take Planet Money’s take on Guild/Union activity with a grain of salt because of the show’s ties to the banking industry.

Back to talking about guilds.

I have a socialist hobbyhorse too… i named him Karl.

Yeah I agree that, even in the case of “interesting historical economic trivia” an information source is not immune to any kind of ideological baggage. Regardless of the veracity of this particular trivia, it inspired me to take another look at how one can run guilds in an RPG. Much of the time, and I’m guilty of this as well, guilds seem to either be based upon a caricature of contemporary unions (pay us dues and we will protect you), or a temp agency ( pay us dues and we will tell you about a job). The podcast inspired me to take a more complicated view of a guild while trying to stay away from making an anachronistic group and putting a historical label on it.

I hope this post doesn’t make me sound like an ass trying to stir something up. If it does, i didn’t mean to say it that way.

In the context of medieval society, blacksmiths and masons tended to serve different populations, and therefore ended up with different levels of respect. A master mason was often building castles, palaces or cathedrals and his journeymen and apprentices would be working on the same projects, just on easier stuff. A master blacksmith might be a master armor or weapon-smith as well but he’s likely to take the job of shoeing a Lord’s shoe for himself. Certainly a master blacksmith might produce some extraordinary work for the church, or a journeyman smith’s master-work might be donated to the Church, but regular interaction with a smith would not involve the artistry that a master mason is putting in to a building.

Either way, to become a master, you would have to have created an acknowledged master-work. If you were playing a master craftsman, I would want to know what your masterwork was; it was often the pinnacle of a craftsman’s achievement, and it’s something that could be significant in play.

Amusingly I am the beneficiary of one of the last vestiges of the medieval apprentice / journeyman / master system: on matriculation to University, I was considered an apprentice to the church. On graduation, I was considered a journeyman, and could give sermons as a guest. Seven years after matriculation, I gained an MA, and as a master could preach unsupervised. The practice was ended a few years after I got my (essentially meaningless) Master’s.