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We are in a far future. Humanity has widely abandoned technology, and effectively reached medieval level (so things need not be true to an actual medieval setting).

We are in a larger town. In that town lives a man who served in the military and lost an arm. Since he was given a dishonourable discharge, he won't get any veteran payment, so he needs to earn his living.

What realistic options does he have in that setting to earn his living?

Ideally it should be something where he doesn't need more than casual contact with other people, because he is very introverted.

Clarification: Like I already wrote in the comments, “medieval level” above refers to the technological level. So in first approximation, a technology exists if it existed at some point in medieval time.

Another commonality to medieval time is the presence of a powerful religious organization (actually, two competing branches of it), roughly comparable to the Catholic Church.

But everything else isn't fixed yet, and need not be the same as in the actual medieval time, unless dictated by the two conditions above. For example, I currently don't plan a medieval-style inherited nobility. Rather, the non-religious ruling is based on a meritocracy (but restricted by the religious organization). But that's not set in stone; apart from the technology level and the religious organization, almost everything can still be changed at this point.

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    $\begingroup$ Without knowing anything at all about the society in question how could one possibly answer the question? You explicitly say that in your question the world "medieval" does not mean medieval. So, what does it mean? (Please note that the phrases "dishonorable discharge" and "veteran payment" do not have any meaning at all in an actual medieval setting. In an actual medieval setting a former soldier, who is now no longer a soldier because of invalidity, who was foolish enough not to accumulate wealth, and who does not have relatives, has only one source of income: begging in the streets.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 31 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ He can spin thread with one arm, using drop spinning. But mostly he'll probably have to rely on charity. I hope your world has a strong church, for his sake. $\endgroup$ – Ryan_L Aug 31 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ The economic base determines the social superstructure. In other words, it is not possible to have a world with a medieval technological base and with modern laws, customs, expectations, etc. You need to explain how that world with a medieval technological base functions. Hint: in a first order approximation, everybody was dirt poor. Even those people who thought they were rich in their world were actually dirt poor from our perspective. There was no light at night, there was no medicine to speak of, the judicial system was barely noticeable, there was very little money in circulation. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 31 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ @dhinson919: Of course, of course. But then we fall back to the common cliché of "western European medieval but not really". It would be so much more interesting for the querent to think about how their post-telematic world functions... There is no reason to believe that it would have to be a poor copy of the old medieval world; the conditions which gave rise to the western European medieval world were unique, and they most certainly won't happen again. Consider how different were the Byzantine, Arab, Persian, Indian, Chinese or Japanese medieval worlds. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 31 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ Unless he finds work in a position where he can apply his knowledge (e.g a tactician for a Lord), he'll die. Not much else to do in medieval times. No matter the year you set your medieval time... $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Aug 31 at 16:41
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There is a book that is commonly referenced for medieval life questions called Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies. If you're interested in realism you should be able to draw a lot of inspiration from it.

The book focuses on a English village called Elton around the 13th century. Among the manorial court records there are references to at least the following occupations:

"Miller, Smith, Shoemaker, Carter, Carpenter, Chapelyn, Comber, Cooper, Dyer, Webster (weaver), Chapman (merchant), Shepherd, Tanner, Walker, Woolmonger, Baxter (baker), Tailor, Painter, Freeman [freelance labor], Hayward, and Beadle."

Your character could be successful with a number of these but in particular I believe the last one, Beadle. That's not the beadle related to church functions but rather they were essentially the keepers and guards of the seed stock for a manor. They also served as deputies to the manor reeves (which serves as the root for the word sheriff -- shire-reeve). So the job was part law enforcement and part administration and hard labor is not necessarily required. That's not unlike the kind of occupation that modern-day handicapped veterans are particularly suited for.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, also for the book suggestion. I'm not sure if a beadle-like function serves my story, but it is at least an interesting option to consider. Anyway, I'll probably know more after I've read the book. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Aug 31 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ I would think someone with a dishonorable discharge would have a hard time being hired to any official post. at least so long as the DD came from the military protecting the current town. Of course, given medieval tech levels he could simply move a short distance and lie about that that and it would be unlikely to be uncovered (unless the military were to brand the discharge into the offender's body). $\endgroup$ – SoronelHaetir Sep 1 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ In a medieval society, most of those occupations are either controlled by a family (10th generation shop keeper) and or guilds. Neither of those look kindly on an outsider butting their head into their business. Not to mention that he would need to do an apprenticeship first if he doesn't have any pre-war experience (back then, knowledge was a lot harder to come by and only few people wanted to share it without apprenticeships or other assurance that they wouldn't spread it to competitors). He'd be best off trying to make do with what he knows - Beadle, maybe smith, farmhand etc. $\endgroup$ – subrunner Sep 2 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ This is a too rosy view of the village. The reason Freeman is listed with 3 occupations is that he needed to pick whatever work in order to survive. You don't have a full-time beadle in a village. And all (including beadle) included hard work. With little tools and no machinery, everyone was expected to do hard work. And there wasn't such a separation of jobs as it is today. Everyone needed to care for animals, saddle a horse, chop wood, fix a roof. Life for a disabled person was anything but easy. It's more likely he was begging and living a life of misery. $\endgroup$ – Sam Sep 2 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Sam that is factually incorrect. Not only did Elton have a full-time beadle his "compensation consisted of partial board at the manor house plus exemption from his labor obligation". A number of a lord's tenants might be exempted from demesne labor by either fee or service in kind. The wealthier villeins such as millers and baxters with exclusive licenses to serve a village often earned enough from their trades to hire cotters for their own and any obliged labors. That was a vital aspect of the economy. As for the other things you mention, the OP was looking for a trade not an easy life. $\endgroup$ – dhinson919 Sep 2 at 17:59
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He could do many jobs but with military training and very scarce contact with people, he could be a trapper, hunting small game for furs and meat.

He would find good places to place traps (which he could do with one arm, feet and teeth, as lassos used for rabbits don't require a lot of strength) and he could use dogs, ferrets or similar animals to help him in the chase or inside the burrows.

He would only need to sell the meat from time to time (not very often if he smoked and/or salted it himself) and the furs every couple of months or so. And during closed season he could live in the outskirts, taking care of the woods (organized woods are Ancient inventions), preventing fires and even exploring in search of sources of water or minerals.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. I was imagining him to live in the town, but actually making him live near the town and only coming in for the market is not that bad an idea (he certainly would more easily avoid people there). And experiences from that sort of job might later come handy when he will have to hide from the religious institutions. Definitely a possibility to consider. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Aug 31 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk With medieval farming technology, each citizen needs 1.5 acres (0.6 ha) of arable land to live, 2.5 acres (1 ha) if we count for a varied diet, barren lands, fields for cattle, forests to get wood and roads. So a lot of people in a medieval city actually live near it, providing it with food. Your character won't be strange by living in the outskirts. $\endgroup$ – Carlos Martin Aug 31 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ He could also be a hunter, using a sling for hunting birds or small game. The sling is operated one-handed and relies on experience, a great weapon for a one-handed veteran. - It could also serve the story well, if some bad-guys underrate the primitive weapon and are in for a surprise. $\endgroup$ – Falco Sep 2 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ In medieval Europe, hunting was reserved for the lords (and the rich). It wasn't like anyone who wanted to live off the forest could do it. "Normal" people were farmers (often on the lord's land), with a few specialized jobs around toolmaking and clothing. $\endgroup$ – Sam Sep 2 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Sam "Normal" people could hunt, too. In the communal lands and small game. It even existed the figure of the "forest ranger" to watch over the amount of animals hunted. I wrote a short story about the forest ranger of Medieval Spain because I loved its name: ballestero de monte, "crossbowman of the hill". $\endgroup$ – Carlos Martin Sep 2 at 19:52
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Anything he wants

I worked with a hardware store manager who had one arm. He could lift anything. Move anything. Manipulate any tool. He wasn't held back at all.

Missing one arm is incredibly inconvenient. Certainly a disability. It means things are more difficult. But it wouldn't stop anybody from doing almost anything. (I'm actually having trouble thinking of any job that absolutely requires two arms....)

One leg, on the other hand...

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    $\begingroup$ +1. While I don't have a quote handy, I recall Roald Dahl writing that his one-handed father could do anything alone except tie a knot $\endgroup$ – sq33G Sep 1 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ As of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Shaquem Griffin is a professional (grid-iron) football player for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. His left arm was amputated at the wrist when he was four years old, in order to mitigate a painful birth defect. He actually learned how to tie his shoes and climb trees before his twin brother did. His twin brother Shaquill also plays for the Seahawks, as of the 2017-2019 seasons. $\endgroup$ – Jasper Sep 2 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say 1 leg is even less of a problem. Be it modern or ancien tech level, there are thousands of menial job where you'd just sit and use your hands. Basically, you Don't need hand to craft a mail armor $\endgroup$ – Madlozoz Sep 2 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Madlozoz that's a good point. I'll modify my answer. What we're all saying is that almost no disability is severely limiting or can't be worked around. Quadriplegic paralysis might do it, but that limitation wouldn't stop a determined person. Maybe the real issue is how others would treat the disabled ... and we've been fighting that since day 1. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 3 at 13:25
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If you look at historical stories of miracles, those often have good portrayals of the disabled. Religion is wrote about in detail, and disabled people are normally not written about but when some miraculous healing is given that is an excuse to write of them.

For example, the miracles of St. Bertin tell of a man who was not able to see outside well enough to do manual labour but could see close up quite well, and so did embroidery and weaving with the women all day. Your hero could do some activity like that, or writing if they have some skill with words.

Many of the disabled relied on family. There are many stories of mothers dressing their adult sons and families taking their disabled children to shrines. If he has family there they may support him.

Likewise, there are tales of disabled beggers dragging themselves to shrines on crutches. Being a beggar is likewise a possible career choice.

Gleaning was commonly picked as a career of choice for the disabled, picking up the leftovers from fields. It is not especially physically demanding, and often the children, elderly and disabled did it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Only accurate answer, IMO. Life in the middle ages was brutal. The concept of veterans did not exist. Due to lack of machines and sophisticated tools, (almost) any job required hard physical work and in order to survive everyone needed to pitch in for wood cutting & chopping, building, etc. Only alternatives for disabled person were supporting family or begging (and a life of misery). Light effort jobs like weaving would not be enough without family support. $\endgroup$ – Sam Sep 2 at 15:52
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Ok, according with things we know about the "medieval", meaning ~1000 years of time, it was pretty common to have some physical defect.

Poliomyelitis, poor medicine skills, poor hygienic conditions, terrible birth procedures, and more, made really hard to create individuals like a modern person would consider "healthy".

Sure, most of population was more or less "healthy" and well formed, the trick here is "more or less". The spectrum of "healthy" was little larger than today.

So, unless you had a very hard impairment, just having a single arm working wasn't sufficient to make you a plain clochard. Remember that, in the medieval european time, there was a plague who killed lot of people, and finding workforce was hard. Is very unlikely they dumped you completely.

First, you could have joined some religious order. Plus, you could work as a home servant in many fields, where two hands aren't 100% necessary: actually people with one arm are capable to do lot of stuffs.

So I don't think in medieval time this was such a big problem. Sure it was a problem, but since it was pretty common to have physical defects, it was a common problem.

You would have been able to survive: sure not the most paid artisan , but very unlikely to die of starving.

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One arm is all you need to be a scribe.

And any sort of management, overseeing or inspection job doesn't require a lot of arms.

With his military background though, maybe he would be a good night watchman? Minimal interaction with people, all he needs are sharp eyes and a bell to ring if there's trouble. Also, even one-armed he's probably a match for most evildoers.

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According to oral history (sorry for not providing proper sources) after WW2 in my country (Austria), veterans with disabilities (e.g. a lost arm or leg) were given preferential treatment in regards to physically not-demanding jobs, i.e. opening a kiosk for tobacco or newspapers, or opening a cinema.

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  • $\begingroup$ A cinema is obviously not possible (the closest possible with medieval-level technology probably would be a theatre, but I guess running a theatre is nothing for introverts), but a kiosk might work. Even newspapers might work, since the purely mechanical nature of the printing press makes it plausible that it survived. Newspapers would probably be more expensive than in our world, though, which makes them a less plausible good to be sold at kiosks. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Sep 2 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @celtschk : while my answer does not directly apply to a medieval-ish setting, the gist of it still applies. Find physically non-demanding jobs, and prefer disabled people for these kinds of jobs. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Sep 2 at 12:26
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Since he was given a dishonourable discharge, he won't get any veteran payment, so he needs to earn his living.

He needs to find a living, but not necessarily earn it. It seems to me that as a disgraced ex-soldier, the natural thing would be for him to become an outlaw, hiding in the forest and scraping together his food by gathering nuts and berries, hunting, trapping, and robbing incautious pedestrians on the roads through the forest.

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I honestly don't see this individual as being severely disabled in all honesty. He has two working legs and one arm. If socialization is the largest issue, I can immediately see him being a herder or ranch-hand of some sort, either of sheep, goats or pigs. This is including riding horseback to carry out his tasks. Writing from personal experience, you largely steer a horse with pressure from the legs, heels and your weight forward and back in the saddle, the bridle is just for fine-tuning any maneuvers (watch dressage, no real rein movements should be seen in a good run).

Working for someone who owns a rabbitry, poultry or other type of small-animal keeping system would also be worth-while. Mucking underneath hutches can be done one-handed with a shovel, or the hutches themselves are mobile as a form of rotating manure fertilizing plan.

If that's still too rural, there is also the option of scribe/messenger for this person. Having two hands makes writing easier, but so does a clipboard. You didn't mention educational level, but if he is literate and that's out of the norm, he could write down/deliver messages for other people. While human interaction is involved, it's of the impersonal sort, and that might be enough to stave off loneliness for your person, without getting them embroiled in actual relationships as seems to be the goal with the introversion trait.

Accounting or money-changing is also another occupation you can consider, as you don't need two hands to operate a scale.

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