Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Roleplaying As Defenders - Beyond The "Murder Hobo"


Fallout 4, with the intricate settlement defense and the Minutemen faction in particular, has got me to thinking about how to turn the stereotypical adventuring party on its head. Instead of itinerant swords for hire or adventurers, is there a way to have the player characters be a sort of militia or home defense force?

On the surface, it seems easy enough to conceptualize. Like with adventurers, a starting militia 'unit' would be low level and poorly equipped. Beginning adventures usually begin small, like clearing out a nearby cave or farmstead of low level critters, goblins or kobolds or that ilk. That is something a small or medium village in middle ages Europe would reasonably expect to be undertaken by town watch or guard. So far, so good.

The problem becomes one of how to scale level growth. If you are used to playing low power campaigns, this might not be a problem at all, but a lot of gamers expect to keep dealing with enemies of increasing complexity, and being rewarded with increasingly sophisticated weapons or magic.

Perhaps a game system like Swords & Wizardry, where Gold Pieces equals XP, could help mitigate this? As in "Well, the loot was appropriated by the local [guild, gentry, lord, magistrate], but the benefits of the action do trickle down to your unit, and you feel that you will be better able to tackle more threats in the future."

Another problem, however, that the 'XP as rewards' approach does not answer is one of Story. Why do increasingly difficult threats cross the players, if said players are not going out looking for trouble? Perhaps early encounters uncover something which marks the village as something of previously undiscovered import? Or maybe as the player characters increase in strength, they become the equivalent of a 'Dungeon Boss' that Monster 'Adventurers' will seek to slay, now that the shoe is on the other foot?

Now the idea of Hobgoblin and Gnoll adventurers getting ready to sack a sleepy village becomes more interesting.

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