[RPG] Why would I hire you


I'm designing a D&D 4E campaign (set in the Forgotten Realms) for my local gaming society, which may or may not spill out into bigger things, rpg.se has given me too many ideas!

I want the party to be hired by a noble house or government agency (in Faerun) to investigate the new continent 'Returned Abeir'. However, I've always struggled setting up this sort of opener, but I like the premise behind it.

I'm trying to gather reasons why the PCs would be hired in the first place, when professional agents might be preferable?

So how have people set this sort of quest up, in the past? Has it worked? What is the best way you've found to explain major organizations hiring adventurers for this kind of work?

In summary, What attributes make a (potentially disparate) group of PCs preferable for hire, over established agents of the employer?

Best Answer

Consider having the characters designed so that there is some meaningful reason for them to be the ones selected.

I remember one campaign I played (Planescape) in where some red dragon asked us first-level scrubs to go find her precious stolen dragon egg. My response to that was "You must not want it back very much!"

Contrast another campaign (Eberron), where one of the PCs was of the dragonmarked noble house, and the rest of us were retainers or otherwise friendly/bound to him. He gets sent not because he's "high level" (metagame concern) but because he's an important guy, and we get sent because we're his posse. That's a lot better story.

In other words, if these organizations would hire "professional agents" - why are they not generating characters that are professional agents? Or are in that nation's military? Et cetera? The whole "let people generate anything they want and then it's the GM's job to somehow shoehorn them into the party and the campaign" approach is old and busted; don't do it. See this previous question on forming parties for relevant advice.

Of course suitability doesn't have to be "best for the job," it can mean "disposable," "the only volunteers," "some power bloc wants them to go," etc. In the Pathfinder Society, the organized play society for Pathfinder, all PCs have to pick a faction that is then part of the motivating force (and that works behind the scenes to get its agents included in certain missions...).

At a bare minimum, if this has to be a "hire off the street" kind of thing, have them try to make sure that they are at least objectively hireable. I remember one spacefaring campaign where a player's new character couldn't explain any reason why our space freighter crew should hire him. In fact, he was pretty militant about it - we were looking for reasons to bring him on, since he was a PC... "So, what do you do?" "Things... That need doing." "Uh, do you have any specific skills we'd find useful?" "I have many... Skills." After about 15 minutes of that we took off and left his dumb ass on the planet. (We actually bounced the player from the group too, as being a muffinhead like that was a common character trait of his.)