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Old 11-03-2019, 11:03 AM   #1
Pragmatic
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Default Tasks for a manservant

I was reading the Wax and Wayne series, and one of the things that struck me was the family butler asking Wax about his tastes, then brewing up the perfect cup of tea to suit his tastes.

Never thought of a manservant as needing such a skill, and wondered what other unusual skills he might need.
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Old 11-03-2019, 11:23 AM   #2
Andrew Hackard
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

Moving this to the RPG forum and asking people to keep this focused on tasks that a manservant might carry out in a roleplaying campaign.
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Old 11-03-2019, 01:23 PM   #3
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

By "manservant" do we mean a butler - as in the OP - or are we thinking more of a "gentleman's gentleman" - a valet like, for example, Jeeves?

The Butler is the manager of the household servants, with the additional job of serving as the family sommelier.
A valet, by contrast, is responsible for laying out his master's clothes and washing requisites in the morning, shaving his master and helping him dress, preparing anything is likely to need to have to hand during the day, including changes of clothes and sorting out his laundry. He may also keep his master's appointment book, handle his mail, journal and newspapers and, eventually, answer his telephone. If his master travels, the valet is responsible for packing and taking care of his luggage and seeing it unpacked and laid out at the other end.
If his master lacks other servants the valet may also need to be able to cook and clean, shop for him and run any other errands on his behalf. He may also serve as his driver or, in the pre-modern era, care for his horse.

The valet, and his distaff counterpart, the ladies maid, are fairly high status servants and a valet might well find himself promoted to butler once his master marries and establishes a household with a more junior man replacing him as valet. (The ladies maid's equivalent promotion path would be to Housekeeper). More junior manservants would be, for example, footmen.
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Old 11-04-2019, 12:16 AM   #4
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

And a whole bunch of different kinds of maid.
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Old 11-04-2019, 01:29 AM   #5
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
By "manservant" do we mean a butler - as in the OP - or are we thinking more of a "gentleman's gentleman" - a valet like, for example, Jeeves?

The Butler is the manager of the household servants, with the additional job of serving as the family sommelier.
A valet, by contrast, is responsible for laying out his master's clothes and washing requisites in the morning, shaving his master and helping him dress, preparing anything is likely to need to have to hand during the day, including changes of clothes and sorting out his laundry. He may also keep his master's appointment book, handle his mail, journal and newspapers and, eventually, answer his telephone. If his master travels, the valet is responsible for packing and taking care of his luggage and seeing it unpacked and laid out at the other end.
If his master lacks other servants the valet may also need to be able to cook and clean, shop for him and run any other errands on his behalf. He may also serve as his driver or, in the pre-modern era, care for his horse.

The valet, and his distaff counterpart, the ladies maid, are fairly high status servants and a valet might well find himself promoted to butler once his master marries and establishes a household with a more junior man replacing him as valet. (The ladies maid's equivalent promotion path would be to Housekeeper). More junior manservants would be, for example, footmen.
So basically Alfred is Bruce Wayne's butler mostly because it would seem weird for him to be Batman's batman?
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:17 AM   #6
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

A lot depends on the culture. In one domestics are there to advertise that the master is To Important to Dress Himself. In another they are functional, and are there to deal with the things he is likely to forget while he has a task that really is more important (such as writing a speech for Parliament). FDR might have one to push his wheelchair (who exactly did that by the way)?

If he is going into battle, the batman is watching over an officer's personal impedimenta that he is not using now. That is of course the same in peacetime but more important in the field.

Also, his job is to save his lord from embarrassment. That means having on hand any item which might be needed right away for some reason. It means having the fashion sense to make sure that the lord is keeping up with good fashion. It might mean rescuing a child from a wild party before the cops arrive.

There are all kinds of work a servant might do besides decadent decoration of master's slothful importance. He of course implies his master's importance but it may be because he has other work not because he is "leisured".

One variation I used in the Traveller section is a "Nearest Guard". That is a bodyguard specifically chosen for discretion and thus capable of operating close to the master without embarrassment. He expected to be secondarily a domestic. A lot of adventures can be made with that. The idea was partially inspired by Barrayar where it was told how the director of Impsec made sure that the Emperor's nannie was the only female martial artist on Barrayar.
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Old 11-04-2019, 01:41 PM   #7
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

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Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
Maids are specifically not menservants.
Puns aside, Bruce Wayne is neither British nor an army officer in service.
That pun was lost on me until you brought that up. Most stories about Alfred's origins were that he got his start as a butler serving officers in WWI, so he was actually a batman.
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Old 11-04-2019, 02:21 PM   #8
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

How a manservant is defined or what duties he has depends a lot on period and the size of the household. The term "Manservant" is usually equivelent to Batman or Valet more than butter but that doesn't mean there isn't overlap.

A manservant in the most general terms attends to the details of a gentleman's life. The big one is answering the door or phone and screening out people his master doesn't want to talk to. He helps him dress and brings him meals that he eats in private. That could mean shopping and cooking but more likely he orders and fetches food from the kitchen or a restaurant. A manservant isn't usually a launderer but he often attends to the details of a man's clothes, repairing buttons or cleaning stains. He ensure's his gentleman has fresh linens on his bed and fresh towels in the bath. He's not a maid but he does ensure house is kept to his master's liking with tableclothes folded as his gentleman likes, table arrangements as he likes, desk or bathroom laid out as he likes. A manservant keeps his master's bar stocked and prepares drinks when needed but chances are he only needs to know how to make one or two drinks. He attends to his master's errands and correspondence and in unusual situations he tends to matters when his master can't be in two places at once, like driving to the train station to pick up a guest. He makes travel arrangements or tries to get tickets for theater or other events.

Housekeeping
Sewing
Savior Faire-Upper class
Merchant

Despite the many things a manservant doesn't do, they do do them in odd circumstances. They may very well be expected to launder sheets or cook meals or drive their gentleman if staff is not available, for instance if they are travelling overseas. In odd circumstances a manservant tends to specific needs for his master, for instance a batman would personally maintain his officer's arms and in some cases oversee the maintenance of his airplane.
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Old 11-04-2019, 03:57 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Black Leviathan View Post
Housekeeping
Sewing
Savior Faire-Upper class
Merchant
I think that Savoir-Faire (Servant) is more crucial. I won't rule out the possibility that Jeeves or Bunter or Jarvis could act like a gentleman if it were necessary, but I think they get practice in acting like a servant every single day. Of course this may be like the old joke that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, backward and in high heels. . . .
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Old 11-04-2019, 04:34 PM   #10
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Default Re: Tasks for a manservant

I would add skills related to the local mode of transport. A 18th century manservant can probably ride and care for a horse, a 20th century one can probably drive and do basic maintenance like changing a tire.

A soldier's servant probably has Soldier/TL for arming his master, laying out kit just right in the tent according to regulations ...

Use a Professional Skill if you want something to cover being prepared for what their master might want, and looking up how and where to get it locally (whether that is a nice cup of tea, or "let me make some calls, I am sure the editor will understand why it would not do to have a McRae in the paper in such circumstances"). But if someone in a preindustrial setting just has one servant, most of the things they do are just Housekeeping if they are any skill at all. Having a gofer and someone to scrub your chamberpot, carry your water, and brush your floor was a big deal.

Senior servants will need Administration and social skills.
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