Doomed Slayers - A campaign framework justifying roving bands of adventurers

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I came up with this idea one week ago on RPGNet, and now I am seriously considering writing this up as a systemless miniature setting and selling it on DriveThruRPG as an ebook. But until then, I'd like to get some feedback on the basic ideas and concept. Basically, I wanted to come up with an in-setting justification for why all those armed bands of adventurers are running around in a typical fantasy RPG setting...


Terrible dangers lurk in the world. Monsters lurk everywhere. From hordes of orcs and goblins hiding just behind the next hills, ratmen and serpent people lurking in city sewers to dragons, demons and worse dwelling in remote areas and under the mountains, all of them could suddenly emerge destroy a village, a town, even an entire nation. Civilization hangs by a thread, always. Sure the nobles maintain their armies and the cities have their militias, but while they can deal well enough with the occasional goblin menace, they are often unprepared for when years of deceptive calm erupt into bloody and devastating violence.

No, somebody has to go out there and stop the monsters before they destroy innocent lives - or at least contain an outbreak before it gets worse. These somebodies are the Slayers - and they are usually called the Doomed Slayers because their life expectancies are so short.

People choose the lifestyle of a Slayer for all sorts of reasons. Often, especially among the more impressionable youths, it's a desire for adventure. Sometimes it's to avenge themselves against specific types of monsters that killed relatives and lost ones. Sometimes it is simply to get away from everything - a broken heart, a slandered reputation, or a criminal past are all reasons why someone would become a Slayer. Regardless of who and what they used to be, upon becoming a Slayer they stand outside the normal structure of society and operate by a different code of behavior. In fact, many communities ritually pronounce newly-proclaimed Slayers to be among the honored dead, thus severing all ties with them. This generally makes it easier for everyone involved, and some Slayers even take on new names during such rituals.


Regardless of how they came to become Slayers, these are the rules they all live by:


Go where you are needed, help where you can. Slayers have far more freedoms than just about anyone else in their societies. This is justified by their heavy duties - they are expected to slay monsters so terrible that they could slaughter entire villages with ease. While Slayers can refuse to help others, they are only expected to do so either when those asking for help could easily accomplish the task on their own - or when the threat is so terrible that the Slayers would be overwhelmed, in which case they are often asked to find someone who can deal with it. Obviously, few Slayers like to admit that they cannot deal with a challenge...

Don't tarry where you are not needed. Slayers are a rowdy lot whose mere presence disturbs peaceful communities. Thus, whenever Slayers have dealt with any threats to a community, they are expected to move on. Certainly they can stay long enough to recuperate from injuries and to partake in any celebrations in their honor, but after that they will hit the road again. The only locations where adventurers tend to stay for longer periods are monster-infested frontier regions or communities located next to a really big dungeon.

Own only what you can take with you. Slayers are forbidden from owning any land, houses, or other non-mobile property. All they can own is what they (and a pack horse or two) carry with them. While in the case of some really successful Slayers this still makes them fantastically wealthy, this and the other rules prevent them from becoming threatening to nobles, merchants, and other members of the local power structures, and their disruption tends to remain purely temporary.

Fight the Monsters, not your kin. Slayers are supposed to fight the enemies of civilization, not nobles, merchants, and other members of the local power structures, ensuring their political neutrality. However, in reality this part of the code often gets blurred, as Slayers are often too useful not to use in political machinations, and thus they get swept up in politics regardless of their intentions and wishes. Furthermore, many ambitious nobles and others with grand aspirations resort to using monsters and fell magics in their schemes, which do make them legitimate targets according to the code, for consorting with the enemies of civilization - although proving that might get tricky.

If you stop living by these rules, then you are no longer considered a Slayer by society, and thus the rest of society will no longer allow you your freedoms and privileges. So, how does the rest of society treat Slayers?


Pay them what you can, appropriate to what you ask of them. Slayers deserve generous rewards for their deeds, which benefit all. Of course, not everyone can give equal rewards - if a poor, remote village can only give free food and a place to stay, Slayers will still be obligated to help them by their rules. However, if you are a noble or a rich merchant and need a Slayer's help, you are expected to give generously - and the more dangerous the task, the higher the reward should be. There is a pragmatic reason for this - if you develop a reputation for stinginess, Slayers will come up with all sorts of reasons to avoid you, and that will be very bad for you and everyone around you when you really need them.

Do not bar their way. Unlike many members of society, Slayers can go where they will and visit any village, city, noble fief, or even a war zone (though some specific areas might still be restricted - they don't have to be admitted to the King's Castle just because they want to see it!). What's more, the property they carry with them may not be taxed or confiscated on a whim of the authorities - again, such actions would make other Slayers very reluctant to visit such a place, to its ultimate detriment when it faces the next monster attack. Of course, this doesn't prevent innkeepers, craftsmen, merchants and the like from suddenly raising their prices drastically when their customer is a Slayer, but at least in theory nobody forces the Slayer to accept those prices.

What they find, they keep. Many monsters amass considerable treasures in their lairs, and if the Slayers manage to kill those monsters, the treasure is theirs, no matter how much you claim that the treasure originally belonged to you or an ancestor. If it really did belong to you originally - especially if it's an important heirloom - you may offer them a "reward" for its safe return, which Slayers are generally expected to accept (smart people will negotiate this in advance - it might even be sufficient to tell them about the location of the lair...). Again, trying to stiff Slayers over this is unwise. After all, they managed to retrieve the item in question despite dangers that you were too afraid to deal with.


I will leave it at this for the moment. Any comments, suggestions, addendums so far?
Righto.

1. How do the Slayers function as a monster killing fraternity? It sounds like you are favoring a decentralized organization so far so my question is how do they function other than random wandering? How do they get jobs? How do they recruit and train the noobs? Where do they get their gear from?

2. For that matter, what is the heirarchy of the Slayer organization? What happens when someone breaks the rules, Slayer or outsider alike? Who decides and enforces?

3. What happens when the threat is too big for a small team to confront? Do they have the power to form an army if need be? If so, who commands it?

Righto.

1. How do the Slayers function as a monster killing fraternity? It sounds like you are favoring a decentralized organization so far so my question is how do they function other than random wandering? How do they get jobs? How do they recruit and train the noobs? Where do they get their gear from?

2. For that matter, what is the heirarchy of the Slayer organization? What happens when someone breaks the rules, Slayer or outsider alike? Who decides and enforces?

3. What happens when the threat is too big for a small team to confront? Do they have the power to form an army if need be? If so, who commands it?


1. To be clear, the Slayers aren't even a decentralized organization - they are a distinct social class that transcends nations and regions, like "merchants". They tend to get jobs primarily by following rumors of monster activity (which often seems to involve hanging around in taverns for some reason...). New Slayers are rarely actively "recruited" as such - they are drawn to the lifestyle for a variety of personal reasons (think of it as the equivalent of joining the French Foreign Legion). Some have had prior training (the ex-mercenary, the former thief, the wizard's apprentice), but others start out simply by picking up an old sword and buying a rusty chain mail from their life's savings.

Most get killed quickly, of course.

2. As they are not an organization, there is no formal hierarchy - there are simply some Slayers who are more famous than others. The rules are enforced by the legal authorities - and other Slayers. who like their current status with its privileges and don't want someone to ruin it for them (and likewise, nobody wants to seriously upset large numbers of Slayers.)

3. If the threat is large enough to need armies, then armies will face them - which do exist and are led by nobles. Slayers tend to act as more-or-less independently acting Special Forces in such situations, taking out high-value targets (and looting them, of course...)
What makes this world different than any generic adventuring world? Seriously, replace all instances of 'Slayers' with 'Adventurers' and it's not different. Especially since it's legal authorities and other Slayers that are enforcing their rules.
Go where you are needed, help where you can. - Kind of the standard MO for an adventurer, simply because that's where the work tends to be. If you aren't doing this, then you aren't really an adventurer.
Don't tarry where you are not needed. - Adventurers are a rowdy lot, if they start causing trouble in an area, you can expect the guard or other adventurers to kick them out.
Own only what you can take with you. - This one is pretty silly. Even if you are legally prevented from owning land, a successful adventurer/slayer is going to bury some loot in the woods just in case they get robbed or lose something. Or just give it to someone else that you trust on the sly and kill them if they try to steal it from you. This is highly unenforceable.
Fight the Monsters, not your kin. - If an adventurer starts attacking civilization, guess what? They are now evil guys and will be attacked by, guess who? Other adventurers and legal authorities!
Basically, I wanted to come up with an in-setting justification for why all those armed bands of adventurers are running around in a typical fantasy RPG setting...


There already is a justification:
Terrible dangers lurk in the world. Monsters lurk everywhere.

Adding rules doesn't make it an in-setting justification or at least a better one than found in the Points of Light setting (in most settings, the rules actually make it less believable).

Maybe some cultures in a fantasy world have a practice of creating 'Slayers', but it is only really meaningful in certain types of settings, which you haven't explored here. One way I see it working is in highly authoritarian and oppressive systems, in which there is no social mobility and most of the populace is owned by an elite minority.  The Slayer's agreement is mainly between them and the elite. The Slayers would likely need a way of being distinguished from the normal populace, probably a brand (most likely magical), and would likely be required to announce their presence when entering a new territory or town, otherwise they would likely be killed as being a rebel or spy. Slayers are only created by a powerful organization (The Ministry) that directly serves the crown, or perhaps is even above the crown, that ostensibly serves the greater good, but is really looking for a way to keep the best warriors out of the hands of the nobility and ensure stability.  The Ministry uses the brands to track the Slayers, making sure they aren't breaking the rules and keeps a quiet eye on the jobs they take and the wealth and status they achieve. Unbranded or rogue Slayers are systematically eradicated, because if anyone can take up a sword and leave home, that would cause a great deal of unrest and undermine what it means to be a Slayer. The Ministry works to police the nobility, to prevent political abuses of the power of the Slayers, sometimes blacklisting towns or nobility from hiring Slayers. In most towns of any size you can find a Ministry servant, who provides community services, including arrangements with Slayers, since the townsfolk are usually too poor to hire them on their own. These servants serve as the flip-side of Slayers, staying in one place but enforcing civilization and order in the towns and villages.

Anyways you need something like that, which would actually necessitate the rules, not just an explanation about the social behavior of adventurers. I wouldn't buy what you have now, when I can read the first chapter in my player's handbook and get pretty much the same information.
Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type
What makes this world different than any generic adventuring world? Seriously, replace all instances of 'Slayers' with 'Adventurers' and it's not different. Especially since it's legal authorities and other Slayers that are enforcing their rules.



The difference is... that there is actually a social context in which adventurers operate. With D&D 4E, there is an explicit assumption that society at large collapsed some time ago - the standard "Points of Light" setting. However, older settings, as well as settings for other fantasy games, don't make that assumption, and usually base the world on some variant of the European Middle Ages, or some other form of larger-scale civilization. Yet in such cases the question arises: Why would nations tolerate powerful, armed individuals running around that they do not control or even tax?

This framework attempts to have it both ways - it has an existing social structure, and yet a separate class of adventurers doing all the usual things still exists and makes sense.

Go where you are needed, help where you can. - Kind of the standard MO for an adventurer, simply because that's where the work tends to be. If you aren't doing this, then you aren't really an adventurer.



"Adventuer" tends to be a a rather broad term. At least historically, it has been used to describe "dubious individuals who travel a lot and make their income from equally dubious sources". Actually helping others was not required, and it's certainly not strictly necessary for D&D games either.

Don't tarry where you are not needed. - Adventurers are a rowdy lot, if they start causing trouble in an area, you can expect the guard or other adventurers to kick them out.



But this begs the old question for games like D&D where adventurers can get so powerful: If they are so much more powerful than the guards, then why should they allow the guards tell them what to do?

In this framework, you have both professional pride and pressure from their peers contributing to adventurers moving on once their task is done.

Own only what you can take with you. - This one is pretty silly. Even if you are legally prevented from owning land, a successful adventurer/slayer is going to bury some loot in the woods just in case they get robbed or lose something. Or just give it to someone else that you trust on the sly and kill them if they try to steal it from you. This is highly unenforceable.



Burying part of the loot is a common tactic - of course, this technically means that they are "giving up" on the loot, even if they are only planning to do this temporarily, so they don't have legal recourse if someone else digs it up first. Giving it someone they trust also works, though finding someone they can trust with large amounts of treasure may be tricky. Promissary notes will likely be useful here.

Ultimately, you are right, of course - this is unenfoceable. Yet that also isn't the point - the point of this part of the Code is to prevent Slayers from buying property in a specific area so that they don't become a threat to the power base of nobles, merchants, and other powerful land and business owners. If they use dodgy methods to hide away some of their wealth, then that's strictly speaking a violation of the Code - yet since it doesn't threaten those other groups, it can be safely ignored.

Fight the Monsters, not your kin. - If an adventurer starts attacking civilization, guess what? They are now evil guys and will be attacked by, guess who? Other adventurers and legal authorities!



True, blatant attacks will be dealt with, but there are grey areas - such as hiring out as mercenaries to nobles and other powerful factions, or even getting into the building of their own power base themselves, without being blatantly evil about it.

Ultimately, nobles and the local authorities in general will need to perceive adventurers as at least politically neutral, or else they will start seeing them as a potential threat - after all, they are armed and highly dangerous individuals...

Basically, I wanted to come up with an in-setting justification for why all those armed bands of adventurers are running around in a typical fantasy RPG setting...


There already is a justification:
Terrible dangers lurk in the world. Monsters lurk everywhere.

Adding rules doesn't make it an in-setting justification or at least a better one than found in the Points of Light setting (in most settings, the rules actually make it less believable).



What if a group doesn't want to use the default "Points of Light" setting, but one with a more established society? How do they reconcile stratified social structures with the more anarchic and independent elements that adventurers represent?

This is what I attempted to answer.

Maybe some cultures in a fantasy world have a practice of creating 'Slayers', but it is only really meaningful in certain types of settings, which you haven't explored here. One way I see it working is in highly authoritarian and oppressive systems, in which there is no social mobility and most of the populace is owned by an elite minority.



Which is the standard for the rather more common "pseudo-medieval fantasy setting", where most people are serfs or at least ordinary peasants.
What makes this world different than any generic adventuring world? Seriously, replace all instances of 'Slayers' with 'Adventurers' and it's not different. Especially since it's legal authorities and other Slayers that are enforcing their rules.



The difference is... that there is actually a social context in which adventurers operate. With D&D 4E, there is an explicit assumption that society at large collapsed some time ago - the standard "Points of Light" setting. However, older settings, as well as settings for other fantasy games, don't make that assumption, and usually base the world on some variant of the European Middle Ages, or some other form of larger-scale civilization. Yet in such cases the question arises: Why would nations tolerate powerful, armed individuals running around that they do not control or even tax?

This framework attempts to have it both ways - it has an existing social structure, and yet a separate class of adventurers doing all the usual things still exists and makes sense.

The European Middle Ages, or at least the Feudal ages, was a setting in which society at large had collapsed. Certainly this is not the case for the whole of the Middle Ages, but Points of Light is actually quite grounded in European Dark Ages, in which traveling any significant from the quasi-safety of your own village was highly dangerous, because bandits, barbarian hordes, great wild beasts and all manner of 'monsters' inhabited these wide gaps between 'Points of light'. But that is beside the point really.

The answer to the question in here is that they wouldn't tolerate powerful individuals. They would tolerate them only up to the point where it became more worthwhile for them to be controlled and taxed or eradicated. Often times the nations (or rather more powerful individuals, like Kings) would grant rights for some measure of control, and often times these rights would be better than what money could buy at the time. Indeed things like titles, land and favors are often worth giving up a freewheeling lifestyle, and at the same time you have at least the promise of an alliance for protection. Most of the time it is totally worth it, especially if your competence will allow you to continue to rise through the ranks.

I personally don't believe that there needs to be an entire seperate class of adventurers, and I doubt that if there was, that they would all follow the same code. Adventurers make more sense as individuals, extraordinary individuals, who leave the existing social structure for a time, then reintegrate, often at a higher position than they started. Has adventurers doing all the usual things, and makes sense


Go where you are needed, help where you can. - Kind of the standard MO for an adventurer, simply because that's where the work tends to be. If you aren't doing this, then you aren't really an adventurer.



"Adventuer" tends to be a a rather broad term. At least historically, it has been used to describe "dubious individuals who travel a lot and make their income from equally dubious sources". Actually helping others was not required, and it's certainly not strictly necessary for D&D games either.

Not strictly necessary, but for the most part assumed. Anyways my point here is that a Slayer who is making income from dubious sources has the same concerns as an Adventurer making income from dubious sources, the long arm of Johnny Law and rival Slayers/Adventurer's that are interested in do-gooding. The same things that give a good reputation to an Adventurer give a good reputation to a Slayer and the same for a bad reputation. 

Don't tarry where you are not needed. - Adventurers are a rowdy lot, if they start causing trouble in an area, you can expect the guard or other adventurers to kick them out.



But this begs the old question for games like D&D where adventurers can get so powerful: If they are so much more powerful than the guards, then why should they allow the guards tell them what to do?

In this framework, you have both professional pride and pressure from their peers contributing to adventurers moving on once their task is done.

If PCs are more powerful than guards, they either don't listen to the guards, or they acknowledge that the guards are representatives of a power that IS greater than them and one the that they don't want to piss off. It's all about whose team you are on, since few players are going to listen to the BBEGs meek henchmen guards since they don't care for the BBEG, but they are much more likely to listen to the guard of the city that they are working for, since it would otherwise complicate their business. 

In the extraordinary individuals framework, players don't move on unless it is in their interest to do so. Some of this interest comes from professional pride and pressure from peers, but these might also compel the party to stay. In addition there are all sorts of other factors that influence an individual's choices whether to stay or leave. Certainly some neighborhoods would love to have an adventuring party take up residence, and a rival adventuring party might be more of reason to stay than to leave.

In order for this rule to be compelling to me, you need to tell me why a Slayer, who has fallen in love with a local girl, rescued all of the town's orphans from a dragon, befriended the mayor while saving him from a troll, should be forced to leave or give up being a Slayer (*UNLESS of course, there will be no more threats in the area or close by, which your description of the setting implies is unlikely). What if the whole party had similar reasons for staying? Would other Slayers really come along and say "Hey, you guys are keeping it too peaceful around here, with you guys protecting and enriching the area with the spoils from your victories. You need to get the move on out of here, so it can be our turn!"

Own only what you can take with you. - This one is pretty silly. Even if you are legally prevented from owning land, a successful adventurer/slayer is going to bury some loot in the woods just in case they get robbed or lose something. Or just give it to someone else that you trust on the sly and kill them if they try to steal it from you. This is highly unenforceable.



Burying part of the loot is a common tactic - of course, this technically means that they are "giving up" on the loot, even if they are only planning to do this temporarily, so they don't have legal recourse if someone else digs it up first. Giving it someone they trust also works, though finding someone they can trust with large amounts of treasure may be tricky. Promissary notes will likely be useful here.

Ultimately, you are right, of course - this is unenfoceable. Yet that also isn't the point - the point of this part of the Code is to prevent Slayers from buying property in a specific area so that they don't become a threat to the power base of nobles, merchants, and other powerful land and business owners. If they use dodgy methods to hide away some of their wealth, then that's strictly speaking a violation of the Code - yet since it doesn't threaten those other groups, it can be safely ignored.

If that's part of the Code, then I think I will just become a guy with a sword who wanders around and kills monsters for their loot. Then when I have enough wealth, I will invest in real estate. Why become a Slayer? pssssssssh. Although it doesn't really matter, because if I am a successful Slayer, all the loot I stored in the back of that trapped cave, well, guess who just paid for an army to take over the Kingdom? Safely ignored? I doubt it. Keeping the adventuring class out of the nobility is about the least stable thing a society can do. If you let them into the property system, in exchange for their wealth, they will work to uphold it. If you keep them on the outside, well, that will only last for so long.

True, blatant attacks will be dealt with, but there are grey areas - such as hiring out as mercenaries to nobles and other powerful factions, or even getting into the building of their own power base themselves, without being blatantly evil about it.

Ultimately, nobles and the local authorities in general will need to perceive adventurers as at least politically neutral, or else they will start seeing them as a potential threat - after all, they are armed and highly dangerous individuals...

THEY ARE A POTENTIAL THREAT! They should be seen as one! Just as much as the non-Slayer Warlord over there who is gathering an army of mercenaries (Individuals who are paid to fight and SLAY things for money according to some sort of code or contract, sound familiar?). You will need to sufficiently clarify what the difference between a mercenary and a Slayer is in your setting and give me some good reasons why I should be a Slayer and not a mercenary. 

What if a group doesn't want to use the default "Points of Light" setting, but one with a more established society? How do they reconcile stratified social structures with the more anarchic and independent elements that adventurers represent?

This is what I attempted to answer.

If a group wants to use a setting with a more established society, I would still have them play with an extraordinary individuals framework for adventurers. They will spring from all walks of life and behave in a huge myriad of different ways. They won't follow the same rules, and they won't be treated the same way. They will be individuals that defy convention and stand outside stratified social structures, if only for a time. Many kings and nobles will be former adventurers, and many noble youth will be trained to adventure as a rite of passage, though they will often rely on the skill and strength of the best of the underclasses. 


Maybe some cultures in a fantasy world have a practice of creating 'Slayers', but it is only really meaningful in certain types of settings, which you haven't explored here. One way I see it working is in highly authoritarian and oppressive systems, in which there is no social mobility and most of the populace is owned by an elite minority.



Which is the standard for the rather more common "pseudo-medieval fantasy setting", where most people are serfs or at least ordinary peasants.

The thing is, you didn't provide a setting, or only a thin sliver of one. I can imagine plenty of common psuedo-medieval fantasy settings where I see the extraordinary individual frame work being much more descriptive and interesting than the social class framework. It's not that I don't think that the social class framework is void of promise. On the contrary, I think it could be rather fascinating, but you have to describe the social and political setting in which such a class would exist. If you wish to refute me in a meaningful way, paint me a picture of a world where your social class model is more powerful and meaningful than the extraordinary individual model. I think you can do it. Good luck

Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type
I thnk You should make a centralised organisation with it's own highly feared enforcers. Base the slayers on the Jedi or similar- without a central organisation most of what you say makes little sense.
Well, it's been a long time, but I've finally turned it into a published setting... and here it is.

It's a systemless supplement, but it should work just fine with any incarnation of D&D.
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