In my Jewel of the Desert game, "adventurer" is a relatively recent development. Prior to the last ~10 years or so, most folks who would consider "adventure" today would have just been simple mercenaries. The desert is vast and full of riches, and also full of nasty nasty monsters and bandits and perils. So a thriving mercenary tradition has served to protect caravans and deal with unexpected monster threats that aren't really something the city-state militaries are equipped or trained to deal with.The problem of "What actually is an adventurer?" had been hounding me for probably 10 years. The typical image of an adventurer makes sense as a videogame character or a third-rate anime protagonist, but it very quickly starts falling apart if you try imagining a plausible work inhabited by plausible people that doesn't run on game mechanic logic. It can work perfectly as a game, but doesn't hold up as plausible fiction. Ultimately I gave up on the idea altogether. The Hero for Hire who goes from town to town asking if there's any monsters that need slaying or kittens to rescue doesn't work for me.
- Guardsmen who have a permanent job to be on standby to deal with dangers to the community work.
- Mercenaries who take high risk jobs for high pay from powerful people works. They do it for the money, and the people hiring don't try to ask for charity.
- Treasure hunters who go into dangerous places to loot riches work. If they happen to kill some beasts that have been bothering locals recently, that's a positive side effect, but not why they are doing it.
- Wasteland Wanderers who are searching for resources to stay alive and better protect themselves work.
In the past 10 years, though, some political upheavals in Al-Rakkah (by far the largest and wealthiest city-state) coupled with the recent discovery of an enormous number of hidden sites out in the desert has transformed part of the extant mercenary class into "adventurers," folks known for deeds of derring-do and being (on average) slightly more "upstanding" (or at least more faithful to the spirit of their contracts than the letter) than typical high-threat-response mercs. This popularity exploded about two years ago, when Sultana Thuriya was saved from a coup attempt (pursued by a traitorous faction within the Waziri mage order) due to the timely intervention of a small band of plucky adventurers. With royal assent behind them and riding high on a wave of good publicity, "adventurer" has become a sort of temporary social institution. Eventually, the crises of the day will abate, the secret sites being uncovered in the desert will mostly be documented and new ones will stop being found, and most of the current adventurers will retire to a life of opulent luxury (or, y'know, die, since this is NOT a safe "profession.") At which point things will shift back to the old model, mercs for hire, hunters stalking the wastes for those big nasties that dwell far from the cities and prey on caravans, etc.
I think of it as equivalent to a gold rush: there's a sudden, temporary spike in a very specific and unusual employment area, which only lasts as long as the social and physical conditions remain in place, and which will fade with time. The (successful, retired) adventurers of today will become the legendary heroes of the next thousand years, their deeds magnified into epic poetry and impossibly cool sagas, much as Jason and the Argonauts or Odysseus, Achilles, and the other Greeks and Trojans became titans of myth.
The party has actually met one such retired adventurer, a man by the name of Rasil Berrada. He gave our party Bard his badass longboat (which is enchanted so it keeps the wearer cool, even in the scorching desert sun, but it doesn't need no steenking enchantment to make him LOOK cool) as thanks for convincing a genie princess not to try to keep him as her, ahem, "toy" (it was one last job, meant to be an easy one, but he got in a bit of a pickle and the party got him out without difficulties...such as "not pissing off a noble genie princess.") Mr. Berrada is independently wealthy and quite capable of living the quiet squire's life for the rest of his days, he just occasionally gets the itch to do stuff (sort of like rich British dudes getting the hankering to go on safari, but without the crappy colonialism.) That's the ideal end-state for most city-dweller adventurers.
For our party, it's a bit weirder. Most of them are naturally very save-the-day hero types, so as long as there are major perils threatening Al-Rakkah or the Tarrakhuna at large, they're gonna keep fighting the good fight. But the plausible retirement scenarios for our group right now appear to be:
- The party Druid settling down and becoming a teacher. Player has already soft-retired this char for exactly this purpose, as he is currently learning how to become a proper priest, attending what is effectively seminary.
- The Bard settling down into an academic position as the region's foremost expert on cryptozoology and a leading researcher on First Sultan-era and Genie Rajah-era archaeology, marrying his long-term girlfriend and continuing his secret efforts to rehabilitate an assassin cult that reveres him as a prophet (it's complicated, but he has good reason to want to reform them, not simply eliminate them.)
- Battlemaster returning to regular military duty and becoming, most likely, one of the foremost strategic minds of his generation, either working for the Sultana whom he respects deeply, or becoming the right-hand man of the Ranger (see below) and helping out with all his stuff.
- The aforementioned Ranger's ideal end is founding his own brand-new city-state, claiming his birthright as an heir of the First Sultan and inheritor of his nomad clan's chiefdom from his orcish grandmother. But this could change rapidly as he is torn between his newfound love of luxury (something that makes him more like his human maternal grandfather, whom he despises), and the commitment to faith he discovered while on his journey (becoming a devotee of the Resolute Seeker, the aspect of the One that surges forth into the darkness to fight it and save those lost in it.) Sadly, player is on indefinite hiatus, so this might go unresolved.
- The Spellslinger, a sort of hybrid wizard/gunsmith/engineer/artificer/alchemist. I'm not yet sure what her end state is; she's a bit of an enigma to me at present, but clearly interested in a similar situation to the Druid, namely looking to found a school and teach others how to do what she does and fight the good fight against crime and villainy.
- Finally, we get the new character, a Fighter who is replacing the mostly-retired Druid. He's only had two sessions so I don't entirely know what his end state will be, but I suspect it will be more similar to Rasil, just without the "socialite" aspect. Philanthropy and possibly seeking a civil service job, stuff like that.