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Old 06-17-2019, 02:22 PM   #11
Black Leviathan
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Price is the big consideration. Half of our Dungeon fantasy adventures have probably paid us less per day than serving in the army. It's those rare one-off missions where we salvage rare material or exotic weapons that made a difference but an Army would need to be paid up front.

The other consideration is time. Approaching the four adventurers in the tavern to deal with the rat monsters underneath means this gets dealt with tonight before there's a big to-do and the tavern loses customers. Hiring a dozen halberdeers and crossbowman probably means sending word to a mercenary company in the neighboring city, waiting for them to be recalled from wherever they're camped, marching them to your city and camping until they're ready to take on the rat men. Potentially months where this infestation is wreaking havoc on your business and threatening the lives of people in the town.
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:43 PM   #12
DouglasCole
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Originally Posted by Joe View Post
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 number seven is magnificent for this, though a dozen is perhaps dirty. On the upper end, 300 seems apt.
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Old 06-17-2019, 03:54 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
Discretion of adventurers vs, your own troops might be needed if retaliation is feared. Or fear of looking too powerful and a potential threat to the crown.
There's something to this but hiring random strangers might not be the most discreet option either. OTOH, you could have an interesting campaign where the PCs' employer starts off giving them small tasks and gradually escalates to more sensitive ones, such that the initial adventures are more of an extended job interview than anything.

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Monsters may have powers or get guards who have powers against large numbers. Terror, Swarms, Disease, parasites, even traps may be more effective against larger units.
Hmmm. The standard Terror ability only has a 50% success rate vs. Will 10 spear carriers, and at first I thought you'd just double the number of dudes, but if panicking spear-carriers get in the way of non-panicking ones, you have a reason to send in online crack troops. Disease might work if there's a widespread expectation among mercs that they'll get a Cure Disease spell cast to rid them of any magical ailments picked up on the job. Whether "traps" work for this is highly dependent on the nature of the trap.

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Undead or others may convert troops so sending in a lot of troops without protection could be a problem.
Oooh, I like that one.

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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:

<snip>
I feel like the things you describe here are hard to justify unless the PCs are part of some sort of medieval special forces-eque unit (the "King's Men" or whatever). Not what every group wants, but could be an interesting premise for the campaign!

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Originally Posted by martinl View Post
PCs get sent on things where large masses of troops are impractical. Terrible terrain is a standard reason for this - Dungeons are usually terrible terrain.
There's some truth to this but I think it's most true only if you have monsters that can't be dealt with by ranks of spearmen or crossbowmen three deep. That describes some DFRPG monsters, but not as many as you might think.

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First, if you want an army, you have to pay an army! An army wants as much per person as a party of delvers – and maybe more, if they're numerous enough to pose a serious threat to ordinary civilians and their property, and can therefore hint that something bad might happen if they're left hanging around town with idle hands. That's the power of collective bargaining, dungeon-fantasy style.

And why would someone pay an army that rate? Because the idea of "rank" or "level" or "point value" is totally invisible in the game world. Sure, the delvers know they're more competent than Joe Spear Carrier, but their sponsor really has no way of knowing they're x times more capable, so their sponsor isn't going to pay each of them x times what they'd pay Joe. Likewise, Joe isn't going to charge less because he secretly knows he's terrible and not worth the price.

So it comes down to sponsors saying, "I'm seriously underpaying for this work because, frankly, I can't afford the army it would take. Is there any smaller group confident enough, perhaps overconfident enough, conceivably foolhardy enough, to take what I can afford to pay for the job? Or just to work on spec, because I hear there's, um, treasure. Yeah, that's the ticket."
Ah, hmmm. Now that I think about it, you used this approach in I Smell A Rat too, didn't you? $400 isn't really enough for 4-6 adventurers to deal with the mystery of Uncle Merle, and Lee (the quest giver) only tries it because she tells the PCs it's just about some rats. But this aspect of the adventure caused problems with me when I ran it. Once the PCs realized there was more to the adventure than met the eye, they tried to shake Lee down for better compensation.


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Originally Posted by DemiBenson View Post
Agree.

In a pre-DF game I ran, the league of merchants were getting raided quite heavily by a group based in remote wilderness. They clearly wouldn’t send their own troops marching through the jungle looking for a city of monsters, because then their caravans elsewhere would be raided too.
But the LoM could easily put up a bounty of a prince’s ransom to be disbursed across 10 years as long as the monster-raids stopped (and the party provided proof that they stopped the threat). The LoM didn’t have to pony up anything upfront, and only had to pay from the profits of trade that was no longer being raided. And if a small band of specialist mercenaries succeeds, then the LoM would be happy to have a standing arrangement to have those powerful people nearby and on good terms.
Bounties are always a good premise for an adventure, though it might be hard to justify bounty hunters finding a steady stream of interesting adventures as bounties, as opposed to just "hunt down this one monster".

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Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post
The number seven is magnificent for this, though a dozen is perhaps dirty. On the upper end, 300 seems apt.
Except in original The Magnificent Seven (and Seven Samurai, on which it is based), much of what the titular protagonists were doing was organizing the villagers and training them to fight!
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Old 06-17-2019, 03:57 PM   #14
DouglasCole
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Except in original The Magnificent Seven (and Seven Samurai, on which it is based), much of what the titular protagonists were doing was organizing the villagers and training them to fight!
Valid!

One reason, though, that a small number of adventurers might work where an army won't is because the Army of Ultimate Evil will kick The Poor Good Guy Mob's butt.
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Old 06-17-2019, 04:04 PM   #15
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The number seven is magnificent for this, though a dozen is perhaps dirty. On the upper end, 300 seems apt.
Broadly speaking, it's the point at which we shift between Lanchester's Linear Law and Lanchester's Square Law.
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Old 06-17-2019, 04:20 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
There's some truth to this but I think it's most true only if you have monsters that can't be dealt with by ranks of spearmen or crossbowmen three deep. That describes some DFRPG monsters, but not as many as you might think.
Maybe your dungeons are less cramped and twisty than mine, and/or your monsters weaker, but my experience is that formation fighting in a dungeon is nice but not decisive and large mook groups are similarly nice but not decisive.

Sure, if you throw endless waves in, eventually you'll overwhelm most things, but the cost will be prohibitive, and as others have pointed out there is some stuff that will actually get stronger.

That said, it might be interesting set a delve in a dungeon that an army has recently failed to assault. Reeking carrion everywhere, many monsters and soldiers slaughtered, and the things that feed on death running amok, greatly increased in numbers and power.
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Old 06-17-2019, 05:11 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by martinl View Post
Maybe your dungeons are less cramped and twisty than mine, and/or your monsters weaker, but my experience is that formation fighting in a dungeon is nice but not decisive and large mook groups are similarly nice but not decisive.

Sure, if you throw endless waves in, eventually you'll overwhelm most things, but the cost will be prohibitive, and as others have pointed out there is some stuff that will actually get stronger.

That said, it might be interesting set a delve in a dungeon that an army has recently failed to assault. Reeking carrion everywhere, many monsters and soldiers slaughtered, and the things that feed on death running amok, greatly increased in numbers and power.
I'm almost tempted to write a parody setting involving a mega-dungeon which the local baron claims the right to exploit much as one would a silver mine. The baron's strategy for doing so involves swarms of 62-point hirelings with a few 125-point hirelings mixed in. His attitude towards his employees is that of a gilded age robber baron. Then instead of dungeon delving, you could focus the campaign on organizing a rebellion against the evil baron.
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Old 06-17-2019, 05:34 PM   #18
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
In Dungeons and Dragons, PCs usually don't need to be persuaded not to take all of their 1st-level warrior followers into the dungeon with them.
They don't? Very high-level characters have more followers than they can fit into the dungeon, making this impractical, but taking some into the dungeon is part of why you have them.
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Old 06-17-2019, 05:45 PM   #19
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And why would someone pay an army that rate? Because the idea of "rank" or "level" or "point value" is totally invisible in the game world. Sure, the delvers know they're more competent than Joe Spear Carrier, but their sponsor really has no way of knowing they're x times more capable, so their sponsor isn't going to pay each of them x times what they'd pay Joe.
Assuming the PCs are nobodies who've never adventured before, sure, but you don't really reach the competency level of DF PCs without developing a reputation.
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Old 06-17-2019, 05:52 PM   #20
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They don't? Very high-level characters have more followers than they can fit into the dungeon, making this impractical, but taking some into the dungeon is part of why you have them.
Different gaming groups have different experiences with this sort of thing, but IME the big draw of the Leadership feat in 3.X was the cohort two levels lower than yourself, whereas the horde of 1st level warriors was cool but not as practical. I'm less confident about other editions, which may have worked to make the low-level followers more useful.
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