Yes. It is almost certainly coincidence. But it’s a coincidence that makes me very happy, so I suppose I’ll take it.
Final Fantasy XIV makes a big deal out of jobs, classes, and cultural underpinnings, but one of the things that I also see as being a source of great misunderstanding is how those jobs work in the lore of the setting. So today I want to talk a bit about the lore behind jobs, job stones, what these occupations mean, and where all of these jobs exist in the setting. It’ll be fun for the family.
What are jobs?
In Final Fantasy XIV, a job is not the same as a class conceptually, even if they’re functionally identical past a certain point in gameplay. A class is simply a discipline associated with a specific tool, but a job is a specific art.
Let’s use one of the more common weapons as a point of reference: swords. A sword is the province of the Gladiator class, and there’s a guild dedicated to its study in Ul’dah. But players encounter numerous individuals all across Eorzea making use of a sword and shield. Ishgardian knight, Redbelly thieves, Serpent Reaver sailors, all manner of beast tribes, Garlean soldiers… the list goes on. Gladiators are just those using the sword and shield.
By contrast, most of these individuals are not Paladins. Paladins have a specific blend of divine magic and combat prowess which blends a few disciplines in with a very specific set of techniques. Paladins are found in one place, Ul’dah, and exist as part of one tradition: the Sultansworn. Haurchefant may be a paladin in the societal sense, but his job isn’t Paladin. The jobs are specific.
We also now have a handful of weapons that only exist alongside jobs: Machinist carbines, Dark Knight greatswords, and Astrologian star globes. These are weapons so unusual that they are found more or less in one place and one place only. Anyone using a star globe is trained as an Astrologian; there’s no general practice that has been refined. (Curiously, several members of the Heaven’s Ward wield greatswords, implying more to the matter… but we never see them in battle without external circumstances limiting what can be said about their classes.)
What is a job stone?
A shortcut. Consider the opening to Final Fantasy Tactics:
Ironically, none of that preamble about engraving techniques into the stone actually shows up in FFT at all. But it does show up in FFXIV. Job Stones are a shortcut that allows individuals to have the benefit of years of practice without actually getting years of practice, to shortcut the training that would otherwise be required.
Job Stones do, on occasion, impart some degree of additional power upon the user. But the stone itself is simply a way of imparting additional knowledge that would be necessary to take someone’s knowledge of a class to the next level. Every job that spins off of a class requires the character to have understanding of two other classes which can be integrated into new practices. Becoming a Dragoon requires understanding of the lance as well as the axe and the fist, along with a bunch of other specialized training that is more easily imparted by lobbing a job stone at someone.
How rare are job stones?
It depends a lot on the job itself, but the stones themselves aren’t rare. Or at the very least, they’re not so rare that a noble house of Ishgard can’t produce a bunch of them.
The Machinist job quests make it clear that job stones are at least reasonably common; certainly nothing implies that it is particularly difficult for Skysteel Manufactory to produce several stones for the use of whomever may want one. While there are jobs that have rarer stones, much of that comes not due to the stones but the simple rarity of the knowledge necessary to make use of the stones and attune with them. The Scholar and Summoner stones, for example, are rare because they center around largely forgotten techniques.
One can reasonably assume that by this point, most of the job stones that exist can be replicated with some reliability. They’re not being used to pave the streets, but neither are job stones pricelessly rare artifacts that no one dare use. Player characters are given them as a matter of course, after all.
So why are jobs rare?
To some extent, they aren’t. Paladins, for example, aren’t inherently rare so much as they’re limited; that’s like asking why Marines are rare. Those which are rare often have external reasons. Ninja are rare in Eorzea because their art originates in Doma and rarely spread beyond that region, with most of the practitioners subsequently eliminated. They’re quite a bit more common in Othard, presumably.
Beyond that, some rarity is simply due to the nature of what is required. In order to become a Paladin, an aspirant needs training that simply isn’t available in Ul’dah on a reliable basis, necessitating a great deal of travel which isn’t particularly common. It also requires the approval of the individuals who can distribute the necessary soul stones and training, which isn’t always easy to acquire either.
Adventurers like the player characters in the game are not usual. The fact is that there’s every reason in the world for adventurers to have access to these things, and that doesn’t make the items in question common or even reliable to locate. They are still rare, even if the majority of adventurers have access to them to some degree.
But what if I don’t want my character to have a job stone?
As it happens, that’s fine. There’s also every reason to have a character who, in-character, either has no job stone whatsoever (and is technically a member of a class) or is a member of the job due to long hours of practice. Your character could plausibly be pretty much any job without the benefit of a stone.
It’s important to note and understand that job stones aren’t simply objects that exist within the game mechanics;they’re also real things that exist in the world of Eorzea. In one sense, that is a bit limiting, because it means that you have to explain things that might otherwise be obvious. But there’s an assumption in the game’s community that job stones are inherently rare things, that your character’s getting one is the result of you being the Super Special Savior with something no one else has.
None of that is the case. In most cases, job stones are not actually half as rare as people seem to think. There’s plenty of space for your character to have one or not, whether or not your character happens to have a job in practice. And that’s part of what I like about the game, to be completely honest.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; this column was a bit different than normal, so telling me whether or not you liked it lets me know whether I should or should not do more like it in the future. Next time around, assuming no major news that derails matters, I want to talk about the new jobs from Heavensward and how they’re integrating with player culture.