Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Adventurers as Celebrities (or in this case, Rock Stars)

This is a repost from April of 2010.  I sometimes go back through posts and see what I liked and what I've changed.  This post I think still resonates with my attitude toward adventuring parties in my game.  So here it is again.  Coming up on 5 years man.  Who knew?

In most campaign worlds the adventurer would be the rock star. It's not the nobles, they are busy with bullying the populace with their soldiers and knights taking away their food, money and time. It's not the guildmasters because those s.o.b.'s control how much this or that can be sold for. Merchants, not a chance. They are only a half a step above a thief. An adventurer does not take anything from the common man and adventurers do what most wish they could do.

An adventurer is not tethered to any one location. The travel is frequent and sometimes into lands that locals can only imagine. Adventurers go to these places knowing they may have to battle some of the worst creatures ever to exist. The power adventurers demonstrate in skill of arms, the power of the arcane and the connection they may have with a deity. The wealth they amass. The possessions they collect. But the main reason is an adventurer's complete lack of fear to stand up against anything or anyone.

Commoners and nobles alike follow the tales of this adventuring party or another. How that common farmer would love to be Thandor the Lich Slayer for just a day so he could punch that little weasel of a baron right in the nose. How that little weasel of the baron wishes he was Hydril the Fire Master so he could expand his power and claim his own kingdom. Adventurers are outside the social system in many ways because of the freedom of travel, power and money they possess.

With this admiration comes the negative aspect. Those who worship the adventurer, devoting their time and thoughts, expect something in return. Mainly this will come in the form of inclusion, attention, confirmation of their devotion. A slight or insult could cause this same person to turn from devotee to enemy. While this may not seem a threat an unsuspecting enemy can be more dangerous than an awaken dragon. Adventurers need most of their everyday needs taken care of by others, so there are many opportunities for one of these slighted fans to become a problem.

Local authorities don't like adventurers because of their entitlement state of mind. Adventurers often come into places believing they are above the law and should be allowed to do whatever they wish, even if includes burning down a tavern or two. Adventurers prove to be a challenge to keep in check and many resources need to be used to 'watch' them. There are entire graveyards filled with the corpses of city guards who tried to protect their homes from angry adventurers.

Nobles like the stories, but don't like them coming into their realm because adventurers stir up the passions of the common man. How many times has a party of adventurers seen a noble as the cruel master when all they demand is that the people do the work they have promised to do?

Even local villagers can be hesitant by allowing a group of meatheads to stay. They may be the kindest adventurers who are generous and helpful, but then they go traipsing into the countryside, stir up a shit storm and once they get what they came for are off to the next location. Meanwhile Ma and Pa Kettle need to deal with the aftermath.

Whether your campaign sees adventurers as rock stars or not, there will always be a variety of different groups. You have the garage band variety, where they have some talent, but keep their day jobs. These guys usually stay local and rarely travel too far out. They are content with being a farmer or craftsman, but need a little excitement. Once the wife and children come along they usually retire from such activities.

Then you have the filler bands. They are out on the road with the big boys, but never seem to get the big score. They tend to hit known areas close to civilization. They don't have the talent or money to do any extensive adventuring, but do well enough to keep up their lifestyle.

The one-hit wonders are adventurers that don't have that much talent and lucked out with a situation, but because of their lack of talent or ambition they don't do much afterwards. Often these one-hit wonders buy taverns or sponsor other adventurers. Or can be found half in the bag boring everyone around them with the retelling of their only adventure.

The steady adventurers are calculating and methodical. They plan each adventure figuring out the risk and reward ratio. They are not afraid to bail out from a situation that seems too difficult. They are not the most glamorous of the groups, but they provide results.

Lastly you have the superstars. They have the talent, luck and ambition to do it all and do it in style. Sometimes they will sacrifice a sure paying gig for one that has the possibility of being glamorous. Sure they could take down the tribe of trolls that has been bashing caravans for the past three months. All that money and supplies sitting there, but trolls are not sexy. There is a rumor going around about a blood god cult in the mountains sacrificing people and monsters to their god to gain enough power to bring their god into this realm. Not much of a pay off, but sexy as hell.


  1. I think this is a terrific analogy. I've never been too keen on the idea of profesional adventurers or "Monster Hunters, Inc."-type adventuring guilds, but this casts things in a totally new light for me.

    I just saw The Runaways this weekend, so rock stars have been on my mind a bit. The story of The Runaways, actually, maps pretty well to what you're talking about here. The band is your typical low-level group that gets together with dreams of wealth and fame. Some do well and "level up" (Joan Jett, Lita Ford), others fall (Cherie Currie), still others attain that sort of utility position you were talking about.

    Now of course I'm picturing that in a world with printing presses there'd be "adventurer broadsheets" in the vein of Rolling Stone or Creem that follow famous adventurer's exploits or expose up-and-coming adventuring guilds.

  2. I just read the Evernight campaign for Savage Worlds; I was interested in the structure of the plot, as well as the general idea of an alien invasion in a fantasy realm. It turns out that it's not a great bit of writing, but it did play around with this idea of adventurers-as-celebrities, with kids in awe of the adventurers, and wanting to be like them when they grow up. Bards and minstrels travel around telling the stories of these heroes, and there are even places where you can buy portraits of them to put up on the wall of your hovel. I think the Evernight writers were going more for a sport analogy than anything else, but it still fits well, and while it is a bit hokey, I like it a lot, and will be stealing it for my next fantasy game.

  3. Adventures as celebrities certainly has some resonance. Games with reputation systems can really play up those sorts of themes.

  4. Good read, and very topical. I like the view of adventurers as rock stars back in the civilized lands. I'm just starting a new campaign loosely based on Mythic Greece in a time right after the great heroes of the epics. The newer crop of great heroes is emerging from explorers of the mythic underworld. Adventurers are totally be the rock stars of the age.

    One thing that's cracking me up is that I'm putting an actual 'scoreboard' in the game that helps drive the fame and celebrity of adventurers. Since XP is gold, the amount of gold a group has retrieved from the underworld is a good barometer of their level and overall success and power - just what the adoring public wants to know: Scoreboard Post