View Single Post
Old 06-17-2019, 07:43 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
So I feel like I'm coming up short in terms of explaining why small groups of four to six PCs can regularly get work that doesn't involve working with an army of lower-ranking fighters.
It's a lovely question. This may be unhelpful, but it occurs to me that this becomes less of an issue when the PCs are acting as independent agents.

I'm thinking of the classic dungeon crawl scenario "To the East lie the Ruins of Gargolan - only the brave and foolhardy dare venture there...". If that's the setup, then the PCs often don't have an employer at all - they're a small group, rather than a big army, simply because they're the only folks brave, desperate, crazy, or stoopid enough to face those insane risks, for the promise of a very uncertain reward..

But when we're talking about someone actively hiring the PCs, I guess I tend to fall back on many of the reasons that real-world armies use special forces rather than standard troops. I don't really claim to understand this, but I guess it's stuff like:
  • You need stealth during the operation.
  • You need social discretion before and after the operation. I think the importance of this is often overlooked.
  • Related to the above: you want the whole operation to be deniable if discovered.
  • An army is good for holding a wide frontage, but perhaps you need to hit a very small frontage, very hard (this is true of many places where there are narrow choke points, tunnels, etc - thus many classic dungeons. E.g. if you can secure an area just by securing a particular door, then having a few really, really great troops is better than having many, many low quality ones. And if the whole environment is made up of choke point after choke point after choke point... well, maybe then what you really need is a few great heroes!)
  • The task requires extremely specialized expertise. Maybe it requires the ability to travel to the target in an unusual way, or the ability to survive in an unusual environment, or the ability to do something hyper-specialized once you get there....
  • Related to this: maybe the job requires resources that are in short supply, so only a small number of people can be properly equipped/supported. Modern example: if you wanted to carry out a military operation in space, you'd send a small group of highly trained people rather than an army, partly because you need expertise, but partly just because it's so damned hard/expensive to get people there. In Dungeon Fantasy, the same may be true of sending people via portals, gates, teleportaion spells; or flying them to the Cloud Kingdom on pegasi; or making water-breathing amulets to send them down into the Sunken City of SharkAttacks, or whatever.
  • The task requires a very high level of discipline, courage under fire, willingness to take immense risks or endure great discomfort etc - and you simply can't manage to train vast numbers of ordinary troops to that standard.
This all makes the PCs seem really special, but of course there's also the other side of the coin - the PCs may be "the Expendables" - the only ones gullible, stupid, or worthless enough to send on a particular mission...

Just a few thoughts.
My (ahem... hugely entertaining... ahem) GURPS blog: The Collaborative Gamer

Last edited by Joe; 06-17-2019 at 07:57 AM.
Joe is offline   Reply With Quote