Monday, June 8, 2009

Day Jobs for Player Characters

You've heard the old adage 'Don't quit your day job'. I'm here to talk about those PCs who don't have the skill set to take down Roberto the Ogre Magi or the latest necromancer to raise a rotting abomination. To earn money they slosh beer into tankards, pound steel into a breastplate or scribe an esoteric tome into another language. These guys and gals are the blue collar branch of the adventuring class.

Day jobs can serve to be a launching place for several great adventures. These adventures do not have to be in dungeons or castles or swamps or some dark god's temple on a mountain top. Nope, everything can be served up in between the walls of the business. This is definitely a different sort of campaign, but done correctly can become a favorite. It helps to have a skillful GM. I am spoiled to have Rob and Dwayne as mine. And you need the players willing to play a non-hero character.

With the adventures being based in a business setting most the adventure is going to be within the community. The different types of conflicts that occur can vary from a rival shop, an unhappy customer, lack of supplies, or personal problems. I'll give a few examples from past campaigns where I have been the working class adventurer.

Devon, he was a blacksmith. He had skill using a war hammer, but I can't remember one fight with him. Most of his days were spent toiling over an anvil improving his skill. His one big adventure was going into enemy territory. I was hired to discover the enemy's secret weapon. The enemy had developed a rudimentary form of gunpowder. I learned the formula for the gunpowder, but the real asset was how to develop cannons. They had some knowledge, but it was my character who figured out how to make it work. My character returned with not only the knowledge of the gunpowder, but a weapon of great destruction. During my time spying, not once did I get into a fight. My character became a master within the guild and Rob and I decided his storyline had ended. Now for a guy who hardly lifted his war hammer he changed the face of the campaign.

There was my acolyte priest, Allen Hess. He was a meek little man whose skill set was more to the literary. He took care of a handful of children at an orphanage. He had basic knowledge of how to use a staff, but just enough to hurt himself. A vampire had been sneaking through the trapdoor in the roof and sucking the blood from the children. I, and a group of other very low ability characters, took on the vampire. There were no holy swords or magic spells whizzing through the air. Nope. When the vampire dropped through the door my character threw a pot of scolding water at the vampire and the others threw a blanket over him soaked with holy water. In this case Allen found his adventure protecting the children. He did not need to leave his home.

The finally example I'll give is one of twin brothers. I played one who had a job in a tavern he liked while Dwayne played my trouble making brother. My brother was always trying to get me involved into his schemes and most of the time I didn't get involved because I didn't want to lose my job. It was the only source of income the family had. Then my brother got an offer from a baron to return a family heirloom. He wanted him to steal it back from the Thieves Guild. He knew I wouldn't go for it so he pretended to be one day and got me fired then managed to blame it on one of the guild members. I was distraught he told me how we could make money and get back at the thieving bastards. So my Chuck Bronson gene kicked in and I found a low level footpad, beat him up so he would tell me who was next in command. I did this with such brutality that it shocked my brother. I was furious I had been fired. In the end the Thieves Guild returned the heirloom to the baron plus a good amount of gold so when we reported into him he would kill us, which he did. All this was done in a city. We never left the confines of the walls.

Sometimes it's good to get away from the high adventure aspects of gaming and get dirty with an everyday person. It's good to get the perspective of people your adventurers pass everyday without a thought. It was a lot of fun developing that side of things. Doing this makes a GM flesh out his world in more depth. One last example for this was when I ran a campaign where all the players were city guards and they had to deal with the rowdy adventurers in the taverns. They got a taste of their own medicine. Try it sometime if you haven't already. You might find running a potion shop is just as fun as breaking down the door of dark god's temple on the mountain top.


  1. This has been an inspiring post. My wife agreed to try a solo game/campaign, and this kind of basic building block seems just right for her!

  2. Thank you for the compliment and I hope she has a great time. We have to run a lot of solo campaigns and city adventures are just as fun as any dungeon crawl.

  3. I was skeptical when I started reading this post, but you've got my gears churning for another day. For some reason, I want to try this using FUDGE as opposed to D&D.

  4. Yeah this is tough with level based systems. My group mainly plays GURPS so being a point based system its easier to develop low level 'professionals'. Good luck with giving it a try. It is a lot of fun.

  5. I once played a 3.x game where among the group of fairly high powered (if under optimized) characters, I played an expert from the DMG. I ended up playing the party face for any social encounters, much to the bards annoyance. It was a lot of fun!