I was going to name this post Who’s Mad as a Hatter, but I didn’t think you’d click on it. It really should be titled: Dangerous Jobs that do not involve violence.
So hopefully before I lose you, what are we talking about? You’ve heard the saying “Mad as a hatter” I hope. Maybe you know the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland or from Batman. Anyway, the urban legend goes - hatters in Merry Ol’ England used chemicals in the hat making process that probably drove them insane. (Something to do with the mercury fumes.) This happened and it happened so commonly that they pretty much expected it.
What about in your fantasy world? Chances are they aren’t using mercury in hat making (that was more 1700-1800s). The same might be said for the dangers of match making (1800s). But are there dangerous professions that are going on in your fantasy cities? Of course there are! Even just thinking about acrobats and other entertainers who would commonly be injured in their performances and no one really cared. But what I am thinking about is the alchemists.
Just like the hatters, alchemists are typically encountering vapors and fumes that are probably dangerous to their health. I have set up a lot of alchemists in Fletnern that have gone insane or are going insane and how it affects their business. Sometimes it affects the neighborhood too. When a crazy alchemist is trying to put together some form of fire bomb, things can go wrong - really, really wrong. It would probably be less common for alchemists specializing in healing potions than those doing fire and other “bombs”, but it’s not like they would be thinking about proper ventilation or other safety tips.
Who else can we suggest might be crazy because of their job? Necromancers! Whether it’s the embalming fluids, the bone dust or just the horror of creating undead creatures - these guys will likely be some pretty warped dudes! Maybe some of the research mages. I think we’ve all read some horror story about a guy who went nuts reading old books containing knowledge that was not meant to be known. What about mediums? Those who contact the dead or other supernatural spirits. Maybe they aren’t insane, but do they get possessed?
Back to the big question I always want to ask: Why does it matter? This is some great starter material for adventures, typically urban adventures. Did the crazy conjurer guy at the magic university read the wrong book and try the wrong spell and now the basement of the college is being overrun by demons (maybe little gremlin type demons - they sound fun). Did the alchemist mess up and start a magical fire that cannot be put out by mundane means, and it is starting to consume more of the city? Did the crazy necromancer give some powerful undead creation a command that doesn’t make any sense, like bring me a new born baby every night (forever) and the duchess is about to go into labor? Crazy is sometimes easier to game master - it doesn’t have to make sense. (But can be a whole lot of fun, at least for the GM)