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General Day Jobs For Adventurers

Many early game play forays into the Forgotten Realms were library “mini-campaigns.” That is, free programs provided to the public at the public libraries I worked at (first at the Don Mills regional branch, and later at the smaller Brookbanks community branch). Aimed at young adults, though I stretched that a bit when both bright children and interested (or suspicious-of-witchcraft) adults wanted to play, too. These were weekly four-hour slots, for the same day on thirteen (why thirteen? I haven’t the faintest; ask my now-deceased bosses) consecutive weeks. Which meant that if I was a railroading-type DM, I could happily build to a predetermined climax, knowing when things would end, but also handed me the problem of getting things rolling quickly, and maximizing enjoyment for the players by getting them to mesh as a team as rapidly as possibly.


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That’s why I hit upon the idea of charters for adventuring companies, so the Player Characters would have a “set” initial goal or mission (which was included in the charter; which amounted to a formal written version of this verbal explanation, which was actually given by a Court clerk in Cormyr to the party: “We’re letting you potential troublemakers wander about our kingdom armed to the teeth because we need this, ah, dangerous little problem taken care of, and our soldiery and local Watchfolk are busy”). I also gave them pregenerated characters to play because the back stories of the characters set out clearly why and how they’d come together as a group, and firmly established that they trusted each other, and because it saved time. I minimized player dissatisfaction with the characters through two means: providing twice as many pregens as were needed, to hopefully give everyone a wide choice of character class, gender, gear carried, and backgrounds with personal skills and interests, and an encounter with a magical effect in the first “dungeon” that altered them (simulated by allowing them to re-roll some or even all ability scores, if they wished).

The nice thing about writing up detailed backgrounds for the characters is that I was able to build in sideline skills for each PC: this one has apprenticed as a blacksmith, that one was an accomplished weaver, this one could forage and trap game (and prepare and cook the results), that one was a stonemason, this one was a skilled archer, and so on.

These skills invariably got called upon during adventures, in a sort of Boy Scouts Go Hunting Monsters manner, but they also gave the PCs something to fall back on when they needed coin to buy food or rent a roof over their heads or buy tools or weapons: everyday jobs.

Which in turn kept the PCs tied to local communities, gave me chances to feed them hints as to adventures, approaching perils, and so on through local gossip (overheard at work), and let me build a supporting cast of Non-Player Character locals (the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker) that the PCs could go an consult, or buy a spare dagger from, or ask to interpret something old, written in a tongue they didn’t recognize.

Over time, this supporting cast becomes the equivalent of regulars on a television show or movie series: familiar faces who can be relied upon to add colour, move the story along, gripe or jest or fulminate and in so doing make the setting feel more real and plant adventure hooks or opportunities in the minds of players, and make everything that happens “feel more real” and the achievements of PCs matter—because their heroics aren’t being done in front of a featureless backdrop to and on behalf of imaginary placeholder characters, but people they feel they know.

Some of whom may even become friends—and we can never have too many friends. Even imaginary ones. Or, the writer within me may add fervently, especially imaginary friends.

In the Realms, I simply put into the law of Cormyr the royal decree that outlander (foreign) wizards had to register (and part of that registration was a promise not to work spells within the realm without authorization), and that anyone carrying weapons beyond a belt knife that weren’t part of their daily work gear (soldiers could of course go armed, woodcutters would have their axes, hunters with permits their bows and arrows or quarrels) had to have their weapons tied with peace-strings to prevent swift and easy arming (archers had to carry bows unstrung, with their strings carried separately from the bows)…and that adventurers couldn’t “go adventuring” (seek adventure or go bounty hunting) without a charter. They could hire on with Cormyrean citizens as warehouse or caravan guards, or personal bodyguards, but if they wanted to go on forays on their own, they had to seek a charter from the Royal Court (the big building full of courtiers, behind the Royal Palace, in Suzail) or from “local lords,” the King’s Lords (or Lady Lords) in other communities around the country (not “Lords” or “Ladies” who held those titles because they were nobles; much of the reasoning behind restrictions on outlander adventurers wandering Cormyr heavily armed was to stop nobles hiring them to use on each other or the Crown, creating trouble and then denying, plausibly or otherwise, that they had anything to do with it). So my limited-duration library campaigns had a first mission built in…the undertaking of which would lead the PCs into half a dozen other adventure hooks to entice them, and usually uncover a dark conspiracy (or even their own framing for something!) that would point energetically at follow-up adventures.

Yet they knew, going into battle, that at any time they could retire, either temporarily (while healing, or to lie low for a bit) or permanently, to earn coins with their other skills. And all the time they were poking into ruins or dungeons or wilderlands and battling monsters, they were acquiring skills for yet another potential profession: that of guide, for hunters or prospectors or merchants who wanted to get from Hither to Yon in one piece, with their trade-goods more or less intact.

Which, circling around again, made everything at the gaming table seem more real. The setting felt like a real place, with taxes and rent to find, and the next meal, and laws and the enforcers of such laws to respect—only hopefully more exciting and dashing than real life.

But then, as one of my players said, “I can’t fly on the backs of dragons in real life. Or buy a castle. Besides, I like your chip dip, so I’ll be back every week.”
 
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Ed Greenwood

Comments

imagineGod

Adventurer
Thank you, Ed Greenwood, for letting us remember the mundane in worlds of the fantastical.

Your Forgotten Realms is still my second best every fantasy setting, simply because I grew up with Keith Baker's Eberron, he gets top spot. :)
 





univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
I always like the idea of my players having day jobs but, in later versions of D&D at least, the wealth gained from adventuring is so much more than the money gained from profession and craft checks that it makes doing those jobs seem somewhat pointless beyond the first couple levels. I would love to hear if I am looking at this wrong or that I have been missing something all these years.
 

I have always given out much less cash than the published adventures. All the characters in my games have jobs (adventuring is not a profession in my game). Sometimes, its just clerics being priests and mages doing minor magical services for people. Other characters practice their professions as bakers, armorers, etc... and go adventuring as a sabbatical from work.

I have never enjoyed wandering around and having adventures (despite my love for Kwai Change Caine). I prefer lots of downtime between adventures and lots of things happening in the background of the world. This is why I detest Adventure Paths.
 

practicalm

Explorer
In a medieval society, people need to be in a community or they are outsiders and do not receive the protection of the community.
The king or local lord would never allow random adventuring parties around if there wasn't some benefit to the crown or kingdom.

Charters should specify how the adventurers are taxed and in my charters, the adventurers are required to come to the aid of the crown in times of need (at specified rates)
 


DMMike

Game Masticator
Waits tables by day. At night, she raids tombs!
This. My head took this to another level, and instead of just having primary vocations, I thought of PCs who adventure only at night, because that's when they're not working their day jobs. It puts a pretty neat cap on the amount of prep that a GM must do, and guarantees a Long Rest (if you're playing with those resting rules). Edit: Short Rest...

I always like the idea of my players having day jobs but, in later versions of D&D at least, the wealth gained from adventuring is so much more than the money gained from profession and craft checks that it makes doing those jobs seem somewhat pointless beyond the first couple levels.
This is more true if PCs are metagaming: "at higher levels I earn greater loot." Because a character's thoughts might be, "when I work my day job for subsistence, I have an almost zero chance of dying that day. I'll take those odds."
 

univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
This is more true if PCs are metagaming: "at higher levels I earn greater loot." Because a character's thoughts might be, "when I work my day job for subsistence, I have an almost zero chance of dying that day. I'll take those odds."
I agree though, one dip into a 3rd level dungeon, by using the proposed wealth by level scale, the bard will never work another day singing in the streets.
 

Livemike

Villager
I agree though, one dip into a 3rd level dungeon, by using the proposed wealth by level scale, the bard will never work another day singing in the streets.
I think PCs should have a reason they want to adventure. Perhaps they want to get strong enough to retake their lands from the evil usurper, repay a debt to the village that raised them after they were orphaned, prove their martial arts school is superior to that jumped-up group of grabblers across the road* or prove that their disgraced family deserves to be let back in to decent society.

I mean realistically adventuring is a very dangerous game for people who already have enough to live on. Just cash isn't a very good motivation.


* Martial arts rivalries in some worlds are serious business.
 


Livemike

Villager
I agree though, one dip into a 3rd level dungeon, by using the proposed wealth by level scale, the bard will never work another day singing in the streets.
If she lives, that is.

If we play realistic economics dungeons need to be brutally lethal.
But if someone dips into a 3rd level dungeon, why would they go into a 4th or 5th level dungeon? I mean unless you have a "bailing out whole governments" habit why not just rest on their laurels.
 


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