The question of "shared knowledge" popped up during my last post.
There are some who allow the printing press in their Greyhawk, but I am one of those who are still uncertain. The printing press was the "death" of the Scribe in our own Real World and yet Scribes are still plentiful in Greyhawk and other gaming worlds. Scribes spent a great deal of time copying manuscripts. This "career" proved unnecessary with the advent of the printing press. (see link)
As any familiar with Greyhawk knows, "learning" is not so easily accomplished. For instance, the students of the University of Magical Arts arrive at an appointed spot outside the wall and are then teleported inside by their teacher. There is no gate in the wall, nor is there a door in the pyramid. One does not simply walk up, then walk in, then knock on the door of the dean's office and say; "I'm thinking about attending school here. How much is the tuition?"
In addition, the various schools and colleges are located in the major cities of Greyhawk, usually the nation's capital. So one does not simply go to "any" city for an education either. That's why the master/apprentice relationship is still strong in the World of Greyhawk. It's still the way most people learn there.
It's one of the reasons why – in the World of Greyhawk – you still find Heralds and can hire your own Herald! Why? No printing press, apparently. Heralds no longer exist in our Real World thanks to the telephone, television, radio, newspaper and fax . . . among other things. Internet anyone?
So there is a question of "shared knowledge." How prevalent is it? I'm guessing it depends on how "real" a DM wants to play it.
If shared knowledge is so prevalent, why does one Scholar boast knowledge that another does not have? Why go to him instead of the other?
Why does one Apothecary boast a cure that another does not have? Why go to him instead of the other?
Why does one Alchemist boast of the ability to create the Elixir of Life when another cannot? Why go to him instead of the other? I mean, surely they "share" their knowledge?
I say that knowledge is jealously guarded in the World of Greyhawk, else, why does any Scholar know something another does not? Why does any Apothecary possess a cure that the other does not? Why does any Alchemist possess a potion that the other does not?
Many of our "character" Wizards find spells in their journey that they cannot yet cast. The point? A person's level does not accurately reflect what that person knows, but rather, what that person can do. A 4th level Wizard – through adventuring – has the spell Fireball in his spell book, but, at 4th level, he cannot cast the spell. So, the 4th level Wizard knows, but he cannot do.
So character level, or NPC level, would not reflect what a Scholar knows, or what an Alchemist knows, it would only affect what that person could do. And this filters down to "lesser" knowledge too, "blue collar" jobs.
I spent two years in a wood working shop learning to build furniture by hand. The Lathe became one of my favorite tools. I actually built a dining room set for a person who thought it was "great." I've built more clothes trees than I care to think about!
So, why isn't everyone in the town/city/village proficient at building their own furniture? Not that rough, carved out stump looking thing, but a real chair? Could it be that the Master Craftsman passes his knowledge on to his apprentice, but not to everyone in the town/village/city? But what about "shared knowledge?"
I would say that it's not so "shared" after all and that means that "knowledge" is not so wide spread as a person might believe. And that's how I like to play it.