Adventuring is weird profession, isn’t it? As an adventurer I wander around the region looking for monsters to kill and ancient treasures to grab. If you’ve ever heard the term (“murderhobo”)[http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Murderhobo] , you’re starting to see where I’m going, but I want to go even deeper into the awkwardness of adventurers.
First: who is letting all of these very powerful people roam their kingdom doing as they will? Gritty fantasy constrains the impact of a small group of individuals, but in heroic fantasy, what king or queen wants a party wandering within the borders who can create an extinction level event? I’ve always felt that, unless a group of adventurers quickly aligned themselves with rulers and power brokers, they’d gain as many enemies as they have people thinking of them as saviors. There is no way that those with power can allow powerful people to just snowball into huge problems for them later.
The next issue is what you’d expect from me: who is it that pours power and skill into people and then says “you’re free to leave! Enjoy your life”? Historically, this did not happen. You were trained, you apprenticed, you served some person or organization’s purpose. There are always people who made their own way of course, but I doubt there were many people who left these organizations with a smile on everyone’s face. Similarly, I care most about how our characters got our skills and what connections that acquiring those skills gave them. If you were a member of the guard, then who do you still know? If you still work for them, what do they ultimately want you to do?
Taking this further, what I want in my games is to take away adventuring as a “profession”. What I’d rather have is adventuring as something that emerges from the result of my crazy job, and the crazy people that I meet. I want to keep mobility so characters can travel freely, but I want to give characters a purpose in the world besides gaining power and money. Rather than being the sole purpose for taking action, adventure becomes an emergent part of characters engaging in activities they are doing.
The real trick is: what professions do the characters take? There are any number of low-fantasy games that actually address what I am talking about, but I want to deal specifically with heroic fantasy as a genre. To do that, I need to make the scale of my professions scale. In a world where magic is a real thing, our professions need to embrace this. I’ve got two basic rules for professions that lead to adventure:
- Travel is a must. The job must have a high amount of travel involved, whether by choice or necessity.
- Personal judgement placed highly. This profession can’t be one where you are forced to follow orders to the letter. You are given general orders or specific missions and then you are left to decide how they are done.
- Community built in. this profession comes with a built-in community. Whether it is an official organization or loose affiliation of like-minded people, this is who you know and who you may have learned from. It’s a source of connection, drama, and also plot as you move forward. Sometimes you need things from the community, sometimes it requires action from you.
- Feed into fantasy. These professions don’t need to echo mundane real world professions. We can assume mundane professions exist, but we want to make professions that drive the fantastic and unreal aspects of the world.
Here is one example of what I’m talking about.
Gravemen. The Sacred Order of Headsmen is a guild for those trained as executioners and gravediggers. Though the guild has higher aspirations, its members are typically pulled from the lowest ranks of society. The work is grim, brutal, and lucrative, offering a chance at rising in station for those with the stomach for the work. Gravemen are not popular, and sometimes must retreat from mobs incited by more politically-charged executions. The guild provides safe-houses to gravewomen, and any other member of the guild is obliged to help anyone who can give them a “sword” or “shovel” coin, given to members of the guild after the apprenticeship period is over. Gravewomen typically serve at a station for a few months at a time before moving to the next assignment, though political realities can shorten that time period.
Gravemen have a bad reputation, as many think of them as psychopaths who also rob graves instead of digging them. The latter notion is somewhat true: Being specialists as digging graves and burial rites, gravemen are given access to location of tombs and mausoleums filled with riches. Those who like to take their life a little easier avail themselves of this knowledge, but gravemen are also the first suspects when tomb’s riches go missing.
Despite their bad reputations, Gravewomen are considered indispensable for their burial rituals that ensure a body cannot be woken with necromantic rituals, and for political expedience when a ruler must make an unpopular execution. Often unfairly, an executioners take the blame for the killing. A King’s executioner can be masked and therefore have his identity hidden, but a Gravewoman cannot be masked. Any retribution from a mob can and usually does fall squarely on her shoulders. This relieves the pressure from the person who ordered the execution, and can normally settle down even the most volatile of situations.
Gravewoman similarly serve a purpose of providing an neutral outsider to dispense the most brutal justice. Some communities will not dispense the proper justice to criminals because they risk censure from the community. Having a member of a smaller community be an executioner often meant isolating that person from everyone else so that she would not become to attached to those she might later have to kill. The lives of these executioners were bleak and miserable, and created distrust in the communities.
For these reasons a gravewoman is always begrudgingly welcomed into a community. A hardened outsider who will do what is needed and move on in time is seen as the perfect way to dispense justice and put people to their final rest.
What “adventure-ready” professions would you put in your world?