Adventurer Roleplaying

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This page is meant as advice for both adventurer players and those dealing with them (judges, local lords, etc).

What it Means to be a Commoner

Most of us modern-day people have no idea about the day-to-day reality of class differences in the middle ages. Fact is that common men and nobles were living in two different worlds. Here's a few ideas, taken from the real world, just to give you the idea:

  • If a noble wounded or killed a commoner, he might be liable for damages to the commoner's lord, but never to the commoner.
  • Commoners could be killed on the spot for the smallest crimes against their lord.
  • Most nobles would've considered it insulting to the extreme to have to share a room with a commoner, up to and including dungeon cells.
  • For a commoner, even talking to a noble without being asked a question first was often considered a major breach of etiquette.

You can categorize commoners into two general groups. First, the serfs. They are basically slaves. They're the vast majority of the population, and live just about their entire lives working on a farm, or in a mine. They are completely subject to the will and laws of their local lord (whom they are vassals of by birth). They're the ones that produce food, and they're the ones who starve to death when a region is without food.

Second, though, the freemen. They are still commoners, but have a bit more mobility. They don't owe allegiance to a specific lord, and so they have to earn their keep by travelling from place to place and doing specialized work. A blacksmith, a trader, or a freelance mercenary might be considered a freeman. And of course, an adventurer.

The Why and How of Adventuring

Adventurers are not nobles. Reasons for this could be:

  • The adventurer's father or mother was a commoner
  • The adventurer was born out of wedlock
  • The adventurer's claim to being part of the noble family is hazy at best (I was adopted!)

As for why the adventurer does what he does, going from place to place, looking for trouble and usually finding it? Your character's motivations are your own, but here are some ideas:

  • You feel some sort of religious obligation to smite "evil." Zealotry!
  • You feel a sense of penance for your dirty past and want to make up for it.
  • You want to become a powerful warrior, famed throughout the land. Fame!
  • You want to just get rich. Greed!
  • A family member or loved one was killed by monsters or undead. Vengeance!
  • You want to become a Knight someday and this is the way you think it'll work. Ambition!
  • You just have really bad luck. Everywhere you go, you wind up doing battle with beasts.
  • You started out as a mercenary, but the pay wasn't good and they usually wind up dying for some stuffed-up noble's war

Dealing with Nobles as a Commoner

  • Be respectful, at least on the surface. It could cost your head to be openly disrespectful of a noble.
  • Try not to draw too much attention to yourself. Even if it is for heroic deeds, nobles might consider you competition.
  • When you have to deal with them, always try to please and be useful. Nobles like useful servants.

Dealing with Nobles Indirectly

Some nobles will ask you to keep them updated on monster activity. Even so, it is unthinkable that your dirty pig farmer huddled in his tent in the woods would be writing personal correspondence to the great lords of the realm. Instead, you might get messages to a noble through roleplaying:

"I beg you!" cried the adventurer. "Please get word to His Grace the Duke! I've seen monsters everywhere in this region! They may rise up to attack the city at any moment!"

"Aye, sure," barked the gate guard, "and I wager you want me to tuck you into bed so the monsters don't get you. Now begone, scum, or I'll set the dogs on you!"

This can be sent as a roleplay to every noble in the region, simulating the word-of-mouth spreading of the story about the crazy adventurer who tried to get in to see the Duke. What nonsense! But now the nobles all have your report and you never once had to break character to talk to someone above your station.

Dealing with Commoners as a Noble

If you are a noble and have to deal with commoners, i.e. adventurers, here's a few guidelines:

  • Avoid dealing with them if you can. They stink, they can't even talk in a properly elevated language, they stink, they are dirty and probably diseased, there's nothing you can gain from dealing with them anyways, and did I mention that they stink?
  • Be short, to the point and blunt. First, they don't deserve any better and second, they wouldn't understand a sentence with more than seven words anyways.
  • Never forget that you are a nobleman and they are commoners. You don't request, you order. They don't ask, they beg.
  • Be quick and strict in dealing with any and all kinds of disrespect. Where one commoner is being disrespectful, there are always at least two others watching, and you absolutely don't want the word to spread that one can disrespect you, do you?

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