Division of Labor

Survival and trade are often linked concepts but nowhere is the success of these two concepts more linked than in a desert, where every resource is scarce and sometimes water and food become more valuable than gold or diamonds.

The desert holds opportunities for profit; rare animals and plants have juices and coats that are craved by the outside world and valuable gems can be found in underground caves and even just cast upon the sand from the constant churning of the landscape by the elements. Sometimes there are even treasures from the dead civilizations that inhabited the land of the desert, when it was once fertile. But this profit comes at a price: to walk the desert requires food, water, and strength of will, all of which are very hard to find in a desolate wasteland.

Walking the wastes is not a task for loners. In the desert one needs to be able to find and uncover wells, hunt for extremely elusive food, keep one’s pack animal in line, fight off the dangerous creatures and brigands that make their homes in the wastes, be able to put up and pack one’s camp on a moment’s notice, repair clothing … even the most mundane tasks become important because in a wasteland, you cannot simply hire someone to do the grunt work.

Therefore, there is a division of labor among the tribes who walk the sands. A partial list of the most common jobs follows along with the abilities that they can bring to bear:


A Wellsman spends his time working with water. Novice wellsmen learn the importance of not spilling when drinking from a well while more experienced professionals can spot hidden wells and can even unclog sabotaged wells – as well as clogging those that one does not want others accessing while one is away. The economy of wells is extremely important to dunes and those that have the manpower to truly control their own water supply have a distinct advantage.
Basic: Locate Well
Advanced: Clog/ Unclog Well
Expert: Dig Well/ Trap Well


Tents and water are heavy and few men have the strength and endurance to carry their shelter on their own backs. As such, most tribes use some sort of beast of burden to help bear their loads. After all, one can carry many more trading goods on a camel than in one’s back pocket. In addition, many tribes take herds of animals along with them, to provide food for the long journey through the sands. A handler c an also take care of these animals as well as dogs and other animals that might be used to assist the herding process.
Basic: Keep 3 Camel/ 6 Sheep
Advanced: Keep 5 Camel/ 10 Sheep/ Heal Basic Wounds/ Deliver Foal
Expert: Keep 10 Camel/ 20 Sheep/ Heal Serious Wounds/ Break Wild Animal


There are few plants of the desert, but those few that exist are precious. Whether it be the curative aloe plant or the life giving water stored in the occasional cactus, most plants of the desert have special properties that only experts know how to tap. A midwife has usually been taught by his or her grandmother or father the art of finding which plants are edible, which are not, and how to employ their special properties in either case. Also, people are frequently harmed in the desert, and even normal healthy processes such as birth much be watched over. A midwife, as the name suggests, can handle such problems.
Basic: Determine Edible Foods/ Prepare foods/ Heal minor injury/ Deliver child
Advanced: Prepare Minor herbal tinctures/ Treat disease symptoms
Expert: Make Poisonous food edible/ Prepare Major Tinctures/ Heal Major Injury


In the cities blacksmiths, silversmiths, jewelers, and tanners all have their own individual stores where they have all the space the need for forges, vats, and other such pieces of infrastructure. In the desert, there is neither the space nor the manpower for a single man to have such an narrow craft. Instead, the craftsmen of the desert must be able to make weapons and repair saddles from what tools they can carry with them and what is on hand. A craftsman should get a specialization in one area to begin with, and be able to gain additional specializations as he advances.


A tracker is trained to hunt the sparse game of the desert. They can pick up footprints in the sand, catch the smell of a desert kit on the wind, and trace a caravan for miles through the wastes. Trackers are trained to hunt for food, but many use their abilities to track … more profitable game as well; no self respecting bandit horde would be without at least one expert tracker.
Basic: Hunt/ Track/ Clean game
Advanced: Hunt/ Track humans/ Cover tracks
Expert: Stealth/ Silent Kill


One member of the tribe keeps the lore of past generations. One member knows how to lead the others, how to motivate them, and how the fate of a single small family of nomads is inextricably woven into the tapestry of the desert, a strand among the gods and myths, the cities and stories that make the dunes what they are.
Basic: Morale Boost/ Map Desert/ Dispatch Orders
Advanced: Predict Weather/ Order Forced March
Expert: Knowledge of Other Tribes/ Desert Lore

Note the lack of a soldier class. In this desert, a person without combat skills last about five minutes. As a result, all members of a tribe are expected to know how to fight. Likewise, one who is trained only in the arts of war has little use in a small tribe where each person is required to have a constant useful function.

Concluding Thoughts

Every tribe must have at least one member able to perform each of the tasks above, as well as at least one, and frequently many, diplomats. However, in addition to working members of the tribe, there are also the children.

The children are an important aspect of the tribe system because, compared to the resources that they consume, the tend to produce very little. Only after the child is about ten years old can she be expected to perform manual labor, and not until a few years even after that can they be expected to learn enough skills in a trade in order to be able to perform it. On the other hand, a small child consumes much less than a full grown adult, and can assist a tracker in finding the evening meal, if he cannot perform the task himself.

Children in nomad bands are expected largely to entertain themselves when there is not something they are being called on to do. However, there is some minor instruction of children that goes on before that child reaches puberty and apprenticing age. One of the mothers (or fathers in some tribes), generally the oldest one with a child below apprenticeship age, takes all of the children in the village aside every evening and tells them stories. Sometimes the stories are educational, sometimes not. But through this process of storytelling, each child learns his culture and the basics of desert survival. This mother is generally excused from her job due to the strain of her task, but she must be trained as something for as soon as her child becomes apprenticed in a job, she is expected to go back to work. This mother also takes care of the very young children throughout the day, while traveling and other such activities are going on. She often employs some of the older children to help her tend the younger.