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Worldbuilding Through Perspectives on 5E D&D Adventurers

Salutations, nerds! How do the layfolk in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons settings react to adventurers coming to town? I’ve played in a lot of settings handling these circumstances in a lot of different ways and today I want to pick this apart a little bit because there are basically three schools of thought on the matter. Imagine you’re living a basic life in your home town and Superman comes to town. This is the frame of mind I want you in for this 5E D&D discussion..

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Worldbuilding layfolk in 5E D&D

It’s no secret 5E D&D adventurers aren’t typical citizens. In the economy of 5E D&D 10 gold pieces a day is enough to live an excessively lavish lifestyle — an aristocratic lifestyle of plenty and comfort. Now consider how much treasure a 12th level ranger nets in on the regular. Standard commoners have 4 (1d8) hit points. By comparison adventurers are superhuman and they get into wild situations regular people wouldn’t even consider on an average day.

Layfolk go about business as usual

This is the frame of reference most of the Dungeon Masters I’ve played with take. Adventurers come to town and it doesn’t particularly affect the way the townsfolk behave. In settings with a lot of adventurers or in very large cities this is a perfectly reasonable mindset to take. When adventuring parties show up in town dressed like normal people it’s the same sort of case.

The truth is most DMs I’ve played with have NPCs who don’t use standard commoner stat blocks — and this isn’t a problem. It says something about your setting. To me at least this feels like the homeostasis so it’s worth touching base on before we get to the rest.

Layfolk dislike adventurers because they bring trouble

Another thing coming up fairly frequently is a negative cast to adventurers who come calling. A lot of them have enemies for one thing. Superman comes to town and the odds of being attacked by a supervillain skyrocket suddenly.

There’s also the fact adventurers themselves have a tendency to cause problems. The barbarian who came in wearing animal skins and drinking mead out of the skull of one of his enemies? Yeah, he’s probably going to start a bar fight and if he starts throwing down there’s a good chance somebody is going to die. The guy in the robe all embroidered with runes? He’s doing weird magic stuff for sure and the layfolk don’t want this mojo in their nice wholesome town don’t you know?

In cases like these they’re going be cool to the adventurers coming through at best. Superman comes to town and no one wants to blatantly disrespect him because he might melt their face with his eye rays but they also don’t want to be too friendly and cause mistaken feelings of being welcome.

Layfolk like adventurers because they bring wealth

Remember how much wealth the hypothetical 12th level ranger boasts. It’s not uncommon for characters visiting a podunk town and asked to pay 1 silver piece for something they need to toss a gold piece across the counter. Do you ever walk into your local hardware store, buy a $5 box of nails, pay with a $50 bill and tell the attendant at the register to keep the change?

A whole gold piece doesn’t even register to an adventurer as an amount of money. Superman comes into town…well. No. Lex Luthor walks into town. And you know what? His evil plan isn’t doing anything bad for the layfolk. He pays a lot of money for a lot of simple things and doesn’t even think twice about it. These layfolk act casual because adventurers tip big. Maybe the layfolk aren’t completely fond of the adventurers but they’ll do wonders for the economy and if they cause trouble they’re just as likely to clean it up themselves, right?

So how about it? How do your layfolk feel about visiting 5E D&D adventurers? Is this a good thing for them? A bad one? Does it vary from settlement to settlement? If yes, good on you — that’s nuance! An A+ job Game Master. If you need something to chew on while you’re worldbuilding for your next session I hope you’ll give this some thought. And of course, stay nerdy!

*Featured image — In Waterdeep: Dragon Heist a gold dragon guards a pile of golden dragons. That’s a lotta days of living an aristocratic lifestyle! In the campaign adventurers are around 4th level when they encounter such wealth. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

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Robin Miller

Speculative fiction writer and part-time Dungeon Master Robin Miller lives in southern Ohio where they keep mostly nocturnal hours and enjoys life’s quiet moments. They have a deep love for occult things, antiques, herbalism, big floppy hats and the wonders of the small world (such as insects and arachnids), and they are happy to be owned by the beloved ghost of a black cat. Their fiction, such as The Chronicles of Drasule and the Nimbus Mysteries, can be found on Amazon.

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