Sunday, November 21, 2010

Patrons of Adventure

I believe very strongly that adventuring parties need patrons or sponsors. Here’s my thinking: The local Duke’s daughter has been kidnapped and he needs someone to go rescue her. So he turns to this group of cutthroats who answered an ad in a bar somewhere and entrusts them to return his daughter to him safe, sound and still virginal. WHAT!?!? But that’s how adventures often times work, right? Someone needs something very important done and they hire a group of mercenaries that they have never met, but that they believe can and will kill for them in cold blood. Is that really who they want to trust? How many adventures start with, “I need you to do something for me, but you have to keep it a secret.” Right - Someone important has a secret to keep, so they trust a stranger, let alone a group of strangers?
I think adventuring parties need a sponsor or patron - a person or organization that frequently employs them. This lets the employer come to trust the group, and perhaps on occasion vouch for them to other organizations in need of help. But who am I talking about?
Merchants are probably the best for this. They have money and frequently need mercenaries for a variety of reasons. They are also masters at organization. They have allies among other merchants and often into the political arenas, so they can “lend” their teams to others.
Churches are good too. They may have various needs and are unlikely to have the right style of people who can take on the more dangerous or violent tasks. They also have allies among the other churches who might have needs as well.
Obviously, political powers can be patrons too, but they usually have standing armies of their own. This means that the jobs they need done would have to be something the army cannot handle on their own, which may put a heavy influence on what will and won’t work intelligently.
Let me give an example: The players find a treasure map on a mission and decide they are going to sail to the deserted island and dig up the treasure. They now need to go to the docks, find a ship and/or a captain, likely hire a crew, arrange for supplies and logistics, possibly worry about the import tariffs that will exist when they return and a whole slew of other really boring things that the PCs are probably not cut out to take care of in the first place. However, if their patron says, “I want you to go retrieve a buried treasure”, the patron will have already taken care of the ship, crew and supplies. If you let the PCs do it, what’s to say they won’t hire Long John Silver and his crew of pirates? While the patron is arranging for the ship and crew, he probably has arranged for the players to stay at a particular hotel and handled many of their living expenses.
Patrons shouldn’t make the campaign boring, but they help to pull it all together. When a new patron approaches, he will likely want to try them out on something less important and as he grows to trust them, then he uses them for the really important and profitable stuff. If they show loyalty back, they will find themselves tied to the patron and embroiled in whatever intrigues affect the patron (allowing for more adventures). A campaign shouldn’t have just one patron. Maybe after proving themselves useful to the Mayor, he tells the Baron about them, and later, the Baron tells the King, and as they grow in experience, they get passed up the chain of command.

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