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Old 06-17-2019, 12:10 AM   #1
Michael Thayne
 
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Default Why adventuring parties?

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. PC and monster power grows more or less exponentially with level. Even at mid levels, area effect attacks, immunity to non-magical weapons, and similar monster abilities tend to make those 1st-level warriors next to useless. In Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, on the other hand, the gap between highly skilled characters and average folks is not quite as great. This can raise questions of why quest-givers even think to hire groups of 4 to 6 PCs when you can send a small army of men with crossbows and halberds.

I Smell a Rat actually does a pretty good job with this. The quest-giver (Lee) wants the job handled discreetly, and if the party relies on buffs to get past the rune-lined hallway, buffing an army of spear-carriers is out of the question. Those tricks could be recycled a few times, but eventually they'd get old. A few monsters are tough enough to make spear-carriers mostly useless, though those monsters are rare. Few monsters have DR high enough to protect against bodkin points, and Diffuse monsters often have crummy attacks to the point of not being obviously more dangerous than a simple orc. Supernatural Durability maybe does the trick, especially when the spear-carriers witness the thing shrugging off impaling by a spear and they all run away.

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. Does anyone have some favorite tricks they'd like to share?
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Old 06-17-2019, 04:59 AM   #2
Refplace
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Good question.
If the target is far off supplying a larger group can be more expensive then a small party.
Most people dont want that kind of work and using up your own troops can weaken you if enemies attack.
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.
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.
Undead or others may convert troops so sending in a lot of troops without protection could be a problem.
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Old 06-17-2019, 07:43 AM   #3
Joe
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Quote:
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.
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Old 06-17-2019, 07:44 AM   #4
martinl
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
This can raise questions of why quest-givers even think to hire groups of 4 to 6 PCs when you can send a small army of men with crossbows and halberds.
If the problem is important and can obviously be handled more cheaply with an army, it probably should be. Such adventures ("Kill 500 orcs, 20 ogres, and a wizard") tend to be boring anyway.

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.

Also consider that a lot of traditional adventures are some variation of "everyone else who has tried to resolve this problem didn't come back." PCs are usually willing to take these sorts of missions on for some reason - regular folks ... usually resist.
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Old 06-17-2019, 10:01 AM   #5
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

What about treasure? Maybe a small group would each get a larger share of the treasure than an army would.
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Old 06-17-2019, 10:35 AM   #6
Kromm
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

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."

There are exceptions, of course, when the job very clearly calls for specialists. A lot of quests pretty much need something like "a couple of champions aglow with the power of Good, a professional slayer of demons, an expert on magic, and someone who can defeat the trap that killed the last 100 people to try." An army can't cover that ground. The sponsor might not have any real guarantee that the delvers are capable specialists, but there's usually a way to establish that they at least have the right specialties, and then the sponsor will be inclined to pay them extra for that, which probably still won't be as costly as an army.

Also to be considered is the fact that there aren't infinite numbers of people available for silly quests. Most people have families to feed and lives to live, and take up arms only when pressed into service during times of war. Going off into the demon-, dragon-, and undead-infested wilderness is either too dangerous or not a steady source of income for hundreds or thousands of men-at-arms. So the would-be men-at-arms mostly become porters and farmers and smiths and so on, because piddly pay every day at a safe job beats bigger payoffs on rare occasions at a job where people die.
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Old 06-17-2019, 12:42 PM   #7
DemiBenson
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
Good question.
If the target is far off supplying a larger group can be more expensive then a small party.
Most people dont want that kind of work and using up your own troops can weaken you if enemies attack.
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.
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.
Undead or others may convert troops so sending in a lot of troops without protection could be a problem.
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.
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Old 06-17-2019, 01:20 PM   #8
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DemiBenson View Post
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.
Especially when those good terms are based on pay that only arrives if the LoM keps making a profit and remains unmolested.
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Old 06-17-2019, 01:35 PM   #9
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Broadly speaking, the reasons for using a small group of elites over a larger group of less elite forces are
  • Stealth: it's a lot easier to sneak up on a dragon with six people than with twenty people.
  • Logistics and Mobility: the difficulty of transporting a unit is generally proportional to its size, as is the effort of getting through many obstacles, the amount of food and shelter it needs, and so on.
  • Organizational Speed: the more people you have, the longer it takes to get organized.
  • Concentration of Force: in constrained quarters, it's hard to bring the full power of a large unit to bear. An army is going to do a lot better in an open field than at getting through a tunnel ten feet wide.
If those things don't apply... maybe this isn't an adventurer job?
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:08 PM   #10
martinl
 
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Default Re: Why adventuring parties?

Additionally, for 90% of folks playing a delving RPG, justifying dungeons and adventuring parties is frivolous time taken away from raiding dungeons with adventuring parties. I am personally vulnerable, as a GM, to spending a lot of effort making sure that the 27 doomchildren that the PCs are about to slay make sense in context. The players, however, are uninterested in this information and instead focused on having a blast slaying them.
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