I’ve written before about class-by-concept, in which a character class represents a distinct role in the game world. The king of this kind of design is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, in which every career represents an actual profession.
What about the larger idea of the adventurer, though? In your worlds, is being a wandering sword or a dangerous archaeologist a recognized job that exists outside of the immediate player group? Do kids aspire to it like they aspire to be police officers, pimps, or computer programmers? How many adventurers are there, and how are they viewed by more settled people?
6 thoughts on “Open Monday: Does “adventurer” go on your resume?”
I certainly wanted to be an adventurer when I was growing up. A certain cinematic dangerous archaeologist had a definite influence on my being a history geek. And in history there have been times when people we’d call adventurers were fairly prominent, so pretty much any setting I come up with has room for such figures. They might become inspirations, or end up on wanted lists, depending on their actions and environments. But I wouldn’t have a Neverwinter Nights style “adventurer school” where there are teachers for all the classes, scheduled lessons in disarming traps and the like. I’d want them to still be a bit unusual, a bit apart from ordinary swords for hire. “It’s not a job, it’s an adventure.”
Have you seen IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons comic? It comments on this in issue 1. It posits adventurers being a recognisable social class, with the local lord commenting: “Let’s be frank. This town has adventurers. I expect a certain amount of murder. I encourage it, as long as it’s properly directed, outwards. At brigands and goblins and such.”
The adventuring school in Neverwinter Nights bugged me. Its more tongue-in-cheek counterpart in Hero’s Quest/Quest For Glory never did. The humor probably makes a difference, but it was also the presentation. In Quest for Glory, being a hero was clearly something your character aspired to, but had to find his own way towards. The shortcuts promised by correspondence schools were dubious at best.
When I ran The Adventures of Hackan and Marek in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, one of the conceits was that adventuring parties were a reasonably common sort of small business. The characters only even had their own office in the last few sessions… that was why they had to meet mysterious men at bars. The bar, in turn, did a good business on adventurers, and offered amenities like magic detection and private conference rooms. It sounds like the IDW comic went a similar direction.
(The earliest game I’m aware of that supposed a full-time adventuring class was, unsurprisingly, Tunnels & Trolls.)
These days, I tend to want enough hired swords in the setting that the group isn’t singled out as the only people who do That Sort of Thing. I do, however, tend to view it as a second career. Adventurers are mostly people who learned another trade, like soldiering or wizardry, and then began to take up other, riskier jobs. People like Captain Alatriste, in other words.
You’ll have a fair number of adventurers in any urban setting, and more who do the job part time. Burglars who travel with dwarves part of the year, veterans who occasionally hire out as caravan guards, and so on. There may be segments of the economy that serve them specifically, but very few people make their entire living supplying adventurers with swords (or even wine).
“Adventurer” was an insulting term until Gygax. An adventurer was a person who tried to personally apply the Monroe Doctrine, a person who tried to hijack diamond mines in South Africa, a person who pretended to be the Prince of Sumatra. It was a negative term that implied a sort of con-man personality, the sort of thing you’d slip into an editorial about Cecil Rhodes.
Which, not to put too fine a point on it, makes “adventurer” an excellent term for most player characters of my acquaintance. Even the really upright ones pretend to be the Prince of Sumatra from time to time.
I find the question impossible to answer on a “world” scale. Within a given world, I tend to run more tightly themed games when I can get away with it, so everyone has a common reference point and can generate appropriately themed characters. If a setting is based on chivalric romance would you call a group of a knight, a priest, a yeoman, an enchantress and a scoundrel “adventurers”?
Actually, I guess that answers the question, in the negative. Although my players definitely want to go on adventures, the character motivations range too widely. There are plenty of mercenaries and sellswords available in the world, but if the PCs aren’t playing wizards and paladins who hang around in taverns looking for high-paying jobs, it makes NPC wizards and paladins who do seem all the more suspect. (And probably not really wizards or paladins at all: alchemist mountebanks and bloody-handed reavers who staple religious icons to their armor, more like.)
When I started the process of pitching D&D games and allowing the group to vote on what they would most like to play, I actually did include “traditional adventuring party” as one of the possibilities: very old-school, embracing the tropes. It just doesn’t get voted for, though; more tightly themed games have won out every other time.
I actually once had a discussion on a german website about that.
We figured adventurers are kinda like gangster these days.
Society wants and to an extent needs there service, idolizes those who are successful will despising those that don’t do well (who tend to die young) but still holds to be ‘a dirty profession’.
The adventures keep the monster population at bay, serve as easily discarded wild cards in intrigues and disputes and bring a lot of money to the settlement. At the same time they bring a certain instability and violence… which is accepted as long as their use is more than their needs.
Their was even an idea for ‘Knaves’ a kind of ‘The Boys’-like undercover operation designed to keep heroes in check.