At the outset of this series on how to roleplay one's professions, Leatherworking struck me as the most difficult profession to write about, even more than skinning, herbalism, or mining. This was in spite of (and in fact maybe because of) the fact that it was the first profession I ever chose in WoW. My very first character, who was a druid, wanted to choose leatherworking in order in order to make her own armor as well as prevent the dead bodies of all those animals she had to kill during her quests from going to waste.
At that time I didn't know a whole lot about roleplaying, or how to play the game, and I knew even less about the background lore behind everything I was seeing. I originally roleplayed with my friends that my night elf had been born in Darnassus, only later to find out that would have made her about 3 years old -- a fact none of us had known, because WoW was our first exposure to the lore of Azeroth. This was actually my inspiration for writing these articles, so that our readers wouldn't have to go read pages and pages of books and websites or play old and (to me anyway) less enjoyable games.
As I played the game more and more, the leatherworking armor seemed less and less useful and seemed more and more difficult to make. I also started imagining what skinning all those animals and then stitching together parts of their dead bodies would actually feel like, and suddenly I felt more like a kind of Dr. Frankenstein than a peaceful druid. It turns out, however, that I knew as little about leatherworking back then as I did about the game itself.
The art of leatherworking
These days I'm entering a time of my life when I'm increasingly interested in leatherwear. I don't want to become an emo heavy metal rock star or a Harley Davidson biker or anything, but I'm interested in little bits and pieces of leather (maybe a bracelet here or a pair of shoes there), which really have that special classy look only leather can provide. Doing a bit of searching on the internet taught me a little about how leather goods are made and showed me a depth of love many leatheworkers have for their craft, all of which made me realize that real life leatherworking is an unsung hero of the art world. People don't often think of leatherworking when someone mentions the word "art," and yet one of the main reasons people wear leather nowadays is simply because of how beautiful it can be. Playing WoW, I certainly never realized that leather could be more than a way to get cheap armor for my druid, or that my armor could be a finely crafted work of art, complete with intricate patterns, beautiful colors, and maybe even images sculpted in.
If you are a leatherworker who makes gear for yourself or for others, it would make sense to tell people about the designs you made on your work, and let them know what they mean. Also, think of all the other things you can make with leather in real life, and think of some way to represent them in the game. You may not be able to make guitar cases for example, but at least perhaps you could roleplay making bracelets and such as leatherworking-specific bracer enchants in the game. This sort of leather accessory could be very valuable. While you're at it, you could craft various hats or other items people could wear as accessories. Even though you may not find one-to one correspondence with various crafted items in the game, you could roleplay that you craft everything you use from scratch with animal skins, such as water canteens, leather bags and such.
Nature's cycle of life and clothing
Another type of leatherworker could be the outdoor trapper type who doesn't care a whit for art or fashion, and who wears animal clothing because he or she is a part of the environment, and he uses that environment as a part of his life. Wearing animal skins as clothing seems like one of the most "natural" ways to dress, as it could bring a sense of connection to the laws of nature -- especially that great contest between the hunter and hunted which has driven life on this world for many millions of years. A leatherworker who hunts and makes use of the bodies of his prey plays a part in that grand cycle of life and death, not only consuming the meat of his catch, but wearing the skin as well.
A rugged trapper might feel this connection only as a subconscious, primal sort of thing, something like the satisfaction one can get from exercise or other positive physical activity, but some others might see it as an extension of the sacred, an important element of their own faith. Shamans and druids in particular could see leatherworking an as expression of worship. They may thank the spirits of the animals whose bodies they eat and wear, and understand the "art" of leatherworking less as the kind of thing you would put in a gallery or fashion boutique, and more the sort of effort that another culture might put up in a cathedral. One's armor could literally be a temple, and ones activities while wearing it could be prayers.
Drums of battle
A third kind of leatherworker isn't interested in wearing leather clothes or getting close to nature so much as he just wants to get into his rhythm. Especially towards the close of The Burning Crusade expansion it was becoming more and more popular for hardcore raiders to take up leatherworking as their profession just because of the bonus they got when they used the "Drums of Battle" and such energizing instruments in a fight. They're not quite as useful for the gaming aspect as they once were, but drums still make a beat. If your character has a sense of the beat and has other uses for leatherworking as well, then a drum-making could be your "thing" that not many other roleplayers have taken advantage of. Drums are one of the only playable instruments in WoW.
All this shows that leatherworking is not just a way for leather and mail-wearing classes to make their own gear, it's also a way of life for people who have some connection to nature (or even to music!). A leatherworker probably wouldn't be able to get into D.E.H.T.A., or share their values about what protection of nature means, but he or she would have their own sense of the role of animals in life, either as an exploitable resource, or as a link in the chain of living energy that has stretched back all the way to the beginning of time.