*Infant mortality and plagues were the main contributing factors. If you made it to 20 in a city, you were nearly as likely as someone in the country to make it to 50.
|Boccaccio, Des cas de nobles hommes et femmes (French version of De Casibus), France c. 1470|
|69||Katherine||Miracle Play Actor||G||Diseased|
Generally, membership in a guild was limited to men, but every system has an exception, and the sources sometimes show guildmaster's wives giving wise advice, interfering, supporting, or occasionally wreaking havoc.
|1||Supplies of a vital material or resource are running low.|
|2||The treasurer absconded with the guild's savings.|
|3||Feud with a rival guild is nearing a bloody climax.|
|4||Desperate drive to recruit new members.|
|5||Preparations for an annual procession paralyze guild.|
|6||Factions within the guild fight for power and control.|
|7||Disaster cripples both guild members and guild finances.|
|8||Guild has earned the wrath of local rulers.|
|9||Rival town seeks to undermine and bankrupt guild.|
|10||The lower ranks of the guild are in open revolt.|
|Bible Historiée, France c. 1250|
Concentration of wealth was moving upward in the 14th century and enlarging the proportion of the poor, while the catastrophes of the century reduced large numbers to misery and want. The poor had remained manageable as long as their minimum subsistence could be maintained by charity, but the situation changed when urban populations were swelled by the flotsam of war and plague and infused by a new aggressiveness in the plague’s wake.
As the masters became richer, the workers sank to the level of day labor, with little prospect of advancement. Membership in the guilds was shut off to the ordinary journeyman and reserved under complicated requirements and fees for sons and relatives of the master class. In many trades, work was farmed out to workers in their homes, often at lower wages to their wives and children, whose employment was forbidden in the guilds. Obligatory religious holidays, which numbered 120 to 150 a year, kept earnings down. Although forbidden to strike and, in some towns, to assemble, workers formed associations of their own to press for higher wages. They had their own dues and treasuries and connections across frontiers through which jobs and lodgings could be secured for members, and which doubtless served as channels of agitation.
They worked at fixed wages, often below subsistence level, for sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and their wages might be withheld to cover waste or damage to raw materials. The alliance of the Church with the great was plain enough in a bishop’s pastoral letter declaring that spinners could be excommunicated for wasting their wool. Workers could be flogged or imprisoned or suffer removal from the list of employables or have a hand cut off for resistance to employers. Agitators for the right to organize could be hung, and in 1345 ten wool-carders had been put to death on this charge.
-A Distant Mirror, Tuchman
Naturally the merchants, whose rise preceded the coming of industries to Siena, lead the way in the formation of a general society planned to protect their common interests... But the crafts were not slow to follow suit, and presently the masons, carpenters, inn-keepers, barbers, butchers, millers, and other classes of workmen and artisans were organized as arti, with the usual apparatus of constitution, officers, regulations, prohibitions, and fines... Among many excellent regulations which concerned themselves with obtaining for the consumer a full measure and an honest product, were to be found others which, by paralyzing the free activities of the workers, must have caused grave harm. Thus the statues of the wool guild required that only one pieces of cloth be woven at a time, that it be neither longer nor shorter than a certain standard, and that only native wool be put on the looms; and all guilds alike pursued a selfishly exclusive policy, imposing a heavy tax on all candidates for admission, and positively forbidding the exercise of their respective occupation to all but guild members in good standing. Add minute regulations regarding the hours and quantity of labour and the observation of so many church festivals that about one hundred and thirty days of the calendar year were devoted to enforced rest, and we get some idea of the mischievousness of that spirit of over-regulation which characterized both the guilds and the government.
The proletariat of [the wool] industry, concentrated largely in the quarter of Ovile, numbered several thousands. In the recurrent periods of industrial depression or in time of high bread prices, their condition must have been terrible. That they organized in 1371 and sought redress by violence proves that they were growing desperate; decimated for their pains by a cowardly massacre... they and other workingmen of a too independent leaning were expelled, to the number of four thousand, from the city. This almost ludicrous act of party fury may be taken to mark the end in Siena of capitalistic production on a large scale.
-Siena, Ferdinand Schevill
Other Useful Tables
Horrible Peasant NPC Generator
1d100 Peasant Grievances
Horrible Baron NPC Generator
1d100 Baronial Grievances
If you want a more refined sort of person, from a different age, try the Dickensian NPC Generator. If not, try the Table of Camp Followers.