Aaaand we’re back!
Dwimmermount is a big book. A really, really big book filled with lots of details. Many are fleshed out in depth, such as the history of the megadungeon and the nature of dwarves, while others are left open to allow the dungeon master to develop them, or not, as best fits his or her plans.
One of these elements that caught my attention is an emphasis on rival adventuring parties. This isn’t a new idea, any megadungeon near a populated area is likely to draw attention from groups other than the PC’s. Rumors and evidence of rival groups venturing into the dungeon is an old DM’s tool for bringing the world to life and giving the PC’s a sense of urgency.
Dwimmermount takes this further than other published books I’ve read by including a section that details several rival adventuring groups. These groups come in different levels and have different motivations. Some are independent adventurers while others have been hired by various powers-that-be to explore the newly opened dungeon. There is also information provided in case the players themselves wanted to hire another party, either to bolster their numbers or to carry out some other task. Which, depending on the alignment and temperament of the characters could be very interesting indeed.
“Dr. Jones. Again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away.”
-Dr. Rene Belloq
There is even a table included in the Restocking section to cover the activities of these rival groups. This includes the possibility of encountering another adventuring party in the midst of a battle with the denizens of the dungeon, opening many possibilities for the players. An interesting omission is not having a reverse result, where the rival adventurers encounter the PC’s while they are engaged in combat.
Note to self…
This level of emphasis on competing adventuring parties is interesting enough, but one line in particular caught my attention. It’s in the history section:
“High Priest Saidon alerted the Despot of Adamas. The Despot has not yet committed his own hireling adventurers, the Crimson Band, much to the consternation of the temple of Typhon.”
-Dwimmermount, PG. 21
While not explicitly stated in the description of The Crimson Band, the implication from the above statement suggests that they are not just another band of freelancers. Instead they are directly linked to the Despot of Adamas. It could be that they are on retainer to the Despot, paid a regular fee to be available when he needs them, or perhaps their relationship is more direct. The Despot may be the group’s patron, making the Crimson Band his personal adventuring team.
This is an aspect I have not considered in a Dungeons & Dragons game, the idea of a wealthy patron financing a personal band of adventurers, and the more I think of it the more I like it. A powerful patron offers more than money and supplies to adventurers, he or she can provide protection once they return to civilized lands. The patron’s authority can give the characters a claim to hospitality from various nobles and officials. He or she can provide an outlet to sell treasure such as jewels, artwork, and magical items. After the patron has has their pick of course. Patrons can also provide valuable information.
This kind of relationship also makes sense from the patron’s standpoint. Aside from the obvious benefits of a share in the recovered wealth the patron also gains an elite team of troubleshooters, capable of defending the patron’s interests. A group of hardened explorers makes a fine fast reaction force to monsters that threaten the patron’s holdings, or a show of force against a rival noble, or a personal guard.
Or thieves and assassins.
Possibly the biggest attraction from a patron’s standpoint is the fame a successful adventuring company can bring. Historically it was important for nobles to demonstrate their wealth and power and the more ostentatious the display the better. A common practice among European nobility was to build large collections of exotic luxury items. This often crossed into obsession, with cash-poor kings taking out fantastic loans in order to further expand their collections of fine china, or sculptures, or even spoons.
In a Dungeons & Dragons world, what better display of wealth and power could a noble ask for than to have a famous adventuring group at their beck and call? As the players rise in level and fame so too will the prestige of their patron. Bards in the patron’s employ will make sure that the PC’s legend grows, making sure that they are recognized wherever they go.
Renown is a double-edged sword, but a very attractive one to most adventurers.
In my next post I’ll list a few ideas for adventures that could develop based on this kind of patron/party relationship. I’ll also include a couple historical and gaming resources that can be mined for ideas.
“Finally, as a referee, rival adventurers provide an opportunity to role-play with more depth than one is typically afforded by most monsters. I love playing the role of venal, self-interested antagonists; it’s fun in a way that playing Pig-Face Orc #231 is not.”
Grognardia, March 7th, 2009 (Note, this is incorrectly listed as March 31st in the book)
Dwimmermount is now available from Drive Thru RPG.