Adventurer as a Culture in Tabletop Roleplaying Games
Salutations, nerds! Today we’re gonna rhapsodize a little bit about adventurers as a culture in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. A little definition delve first off. Any time more than one person participates in and shares something they are participating in a culture. It could be a super small one. Your local comic book store where you go to play Magic: the Gathering has a culture made up of the references and inside jokes that have come up there and that is a culture you participate in.
Vocational RPG adventurers
We’re going to talk about what Adventurer Culture is like in your setting. How do the people who go out and hunt the monsters treat each other when they meet in the wild? How are parties sorted out? What are considered to be desirable traits in someone you’re adventuring with? Of course these only matter for settings in which adventuring is done widely enough to be considered a profession (though if there is only one party doing it the party is still a small culture by definition). Today we’re going to be talking about the macro of Adventurer Culture.
What’s in style
First a shout out to Jezi who wrote this amazing post on fashion in D&D. This is what got me thinking about the topic and clothing is definitely a big part of it but it doesn’t end there.
In the real world you can walk into a store and get an idea of what era a jacket is from based on the colors, cut and fashion trends. This is probably going to be true of your game world too. Are the kids today favoring more simple or ornate pieces? If your hero wields his father’s sword what are the telltale signs other characters might pick up on that it’s out of date? What spells were all the rage a generation ago compared to the ones people tend to pick now? Why did they fall out of fashion? Is it popular for spellcasters to go flashy or subdued?
What’s considered traditional and what is considered avant garde?
Are there any bars in your world well known among traveling adventurers? The Yawning Portal inn is almost certainly well known among travelers of the Forgotten Realms for example, and it’s a place you can go and be sure to find a few other members of the trade.
Are there any phrases adventurers are prone to saying of which layfolk might be less aware? Shadowrun has an excellent example in the form of “never make a deal with a dragon.” Actually Shadowrun does an excellent job illustrating what the culture of characters is like and how they talk to one another. It’s one of my favorite things about the setting.
When you run into another gamer unexpectedly there’s probably going to be talk about natural 20’s and critical failures. Talking about pwning is kind of old but people still do it sometimes. It’s only natural adventurers in your world are going to have some of their own jargon to fall back on when they’re among their own kind.
Adventurers talk to each other. Who’s well known? Who’s infamous? What did they do to deserve this and what can characters do to meet the same fate?
I’d advise some of the questions to ask players during session zero are:
- Have you ever worked with other adventurers before?
- Who did you run with previously?
- How did your previous situation turn out for your character?
Of course no to the first question is a valid response and makes the follow ups moot but it can be interesting to see what the players come back with in terms of people their characters used to know and work with. The party is your entire lifeline right now but they don’t always last forever. Ex-party members are a bit like ex-significant others in this regard. They know you well and you did not necessarily part amicably. They have an effect on how others perceive you.
All right, I’m going to cut this one off or I’m going to be going on about this all day. Please let me know in the comments below if this is something you’ve talked to your group about and how you see the adventurer culture in your RPG world working! And as always, stay nerdy.
*Featured image — A monk of the Cobalt Soul sheds light on Wildemount’s past for a band of young adventurers as seen in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]