Today, I’m going to take a look at something that should really come up more often in games. Namely the reaction of ordinary people to the fact that, from their point of view, nothing bad tends to really seem to go on until some adventurers turn up. sure, a child or elderly person goes missing every now and then and the woods occasionally have strange lights in their depths, but nothing bothers the town as a whole.
Let’s be honest about it – adventurers, in the original RPGs, were effectively glorified tomb raiders and grave robbers. They went – and still go – into places that no sane and right-thinking person would even consider; originally because some dead people left valuable things down there that they can pwn off on someone else for some cash, and today generally because some dead people locked up dangerous things and they might get out.
So the adventurers go down there and let the things out on purpose, trusting that they’ll be mighty enough to stop the things from getting all the way out. Or they go down hoping to get the treasures without waking the things up. Either way, they cause trouble and stir things up – monsters run from the fights when they’re hurt, restless spirits are disturbed, and if the adventurers return they’re going to either have piles of ancient coins they want to spend or relics they’re going to want to sell. Or, perhaps, both. They’re an economic disaster in the offing.
The only thing is… The townsfolk probably aren’t going to turn them down. Here are these heavily armed and armored people, probably with access to strange powers well beyond the scope of anything the people have had to deal with, shoving around sacks of treasure and covered in blood and bone dust. Instead, they’ll accept the coins – ancient, probably debased, and almost certainly not worth anything – at a marked-up rate, and send the coins to whoever looks likely to have to deal with buying the antiques they dug up in the tomb.
Meanwhile, everyone is digging through their memories of gossip, trying to think of anything that might sound enticing to a group like this while making their own town seem boring and dull. The last thing anyone wants is for their home to become the base camp for an adventuring party – that kind of place tends to draw all kinds of horrible situations as the enemies the party makes decide to exact vengeance by attacking the hapless folk of the town. Don’t mention that an alchemist used to live behind the tavern, or that the forest nearby has a sacred grove – they’ll see that as evidence that this is a good place to set up.
Then, when they finally leave, the townsfolk take all the old coins and relics left behind and take them to the entrance of whatever they were looted from so that the restless dead and leftover monsters can reclaim them, in hopes of avoiding reprisal from those entities. If the place is really emptied out and cleansed, it might get turned into a nice town-sized root cellar and then metals of the relics and coins turned into a gift for the local lord along with a request that maybe he could send the adventurers somewhere else, far away.
And then they all heave a sigh of relief, until the next band of would-be heroes comes along to do it all over again. If only they’d close down those orphanages in the big cities, it might happen less often – everyone knows that orphans go on to be adventurers looking to find their place in the world. That’s why towns like these go to pains to settle orphans with new families – unless they look likely to be an adventurer when they grow up anyway, like a half-elf or half-orc, in which case they might get sent off with a merchant to a city or otherwise sent far away.
And that’s why towns in RPGs are always happy to take the dusty old loot from the dungeon and tell wild tales of quests in far-off places. Adventurers are a hazard to society, and the townsfolk know it better than anyone.