Adventurers are, in their purest form, heavily armed parties of personally powerful individuals who amass great personal fortunes very quickly, and have a tendency to disrupt the status quo when it offends their somewhat arbitrary and often inconsistent sensibilities.
What’s a despot to do?
What a despot is to do
The first instinct of many a ruler is to prevent the formation of the adventurer class by outlawing the activities that lead to their creation. It becomes illegal for adventuring companies to form, and trespassing in ancient ruins becomes forbidden.
However, this is an insufficient measure in two respects. Firstly, there are many other crucibles for Adventurers to test themselves than whatever the powers that be might choose to prohibit – indeed, a lack of legitimate ruins to explore may only encourage them to meddle in local politics. Secondly, enforcement is almost impossible, as these ruins tend to be situated in the most remote and forbidding places, beyond easy reach.
Since prohibition is prohibitive, the remaining solution is regulation seeking to mitigate the problem. Instead of preventing or eliminating Adventurers, the wise leader incorporates them into society.
The Role of Adventurers
Accepting Adventurers as a class is necessary to contain them. They are, in a way, like mercenaries, and often can be found doing the same sort of work for the same pay. However, there are sufficient circumstance that we should consider them a separate legal case.
As a legal class, Adventurers can be taxed, their rights to carry weapons and wear armor within civilized settlements can be curbed, and they can be pressed into military service as the need arises. Adventurers go from being a problem to being a resource.
The solicitation of Adventurers can also be regulated, limiting the compensation they can be offered, and what causes they can be employed towards. This runs into issues of enforcement as well, but if those who offer Adventurers work are regulated, this creates a second opportunity to keep control.
And as perhaps a final benefit, creating a recognized Adventurer class enables society to regulate and keep tabs on those operating within a ruler’s lands. Known Adventurers can be watched and monitored should there be reason to think they may stir up trouble.
The natural recourse for members of a profession who find themselves regulated is to form trade organizations to combine their political and economic leverage. This is the basic function of an Adventurer’s Guild, providing its members some manage of protection against the laws of those who would control them. While an Adventurer’s Guild may not have as many members as a Merchant’s or Craft Guild, the individual guildmembers will often have more wealth and more power.
Fortunately for the beleaguered ruler, an Adventurer’s Guild does much of the regulatory work for them. Guilds seek to maintain their own monopolies as a way to control pricing in the market, and as such, will rarely tolerate independent operators. This concentrates Adventurers into one place, and stricter regulations against non-guild adventurers will not only be tolerated, but requested.
As an added benefit, given the individualistic nature of Adventurers themselves, an Adventurer’s Guild will have little directed political focus other than keeping its own members safe. The Guild itself will seldom seek greater influence or power, compared to other trade guilds.
The final consideration that must be taken into account are the commoners’ perception of Adventurers. While in rare cases Adventurers may solve otherwise unsolvable problems for the peasantry, their disruptive nature cannot be overstated. The coin they recover in their activities can easily overwhelm the local economy, driving up prices well beyond what the common folk can afford.
However, when properly managed and taxed, the Adventure economy can build its own industry around it in the form of services catering to Adventurers, from trade in rare artifacts, to hireling management, to entire ‘Adventure Boomtowns’ springing up in the vicinity of dungeon locales.