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The Adventurer’s Charter

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On October 25, 2011 @ 12:00 am In GMing Advice | 11 Comments

No, it’s not another article on the game charter (a/k/a the social contract). This is about an organizational charter or license for a group of adventurers. While I originally used this in a traditional fantasy game (it doesn’t get more trad than Greyhawk), it can be adapted to nearly any genre with a little manipulation. Call it deputizing the party, Letters of Marque and Reprisal, or a license to carry weapons.

I had each player sign their character’s name, and when new characters joined, they were added to the rolls. Maybe it was exuberance on my part, but the group seemed to enjoy that aspect of it.

Over the years, I found the Adventurer’s Charter resolves a number of issues that characters in fantasy games sometimes have:

  • Finders Keepers – Adventurers keep what they find, with few exceptions. Mayor Inyaface can’t confiscate his great-grandfather’s sword, that you recovered from the Dungeon of Discomfort.
  • Liability Insurance – Adventurers are not held responsible for the indirect consequences of their actions. Sure, you’ve still got to track down and kill that eldritch horror, but you’re not on the hook for all the cows it eviscerated.
  • “Papers, please” – When the local constabulary stops the party, and asks “What’s all this, then?”, just hand them the charter and carry on.

The Adventurer’s Charter does have some possible downsides, depending on the campaign:

  • Annual Cost – No government will pass up the opportunity to collect fees. In cases of emergency, this may be partially or completely waived. A flat fee plus a percentage sounds about right.
  • Standards – “Sure, you’ve all got swords and wands, but can we trust you with them?” An oath (possibly magically assisted) might be appropriate.
  • Possible Conscription – “I see that everyone here is armed and capable? Excellent. Be ready to answer the call when it comes.” ‘Nuff said!
  • Pass information to ruler – In addition to possible conscription, adventurers have a duty to keep the local rulers informed as to what’s going on in their own backyards.

And what would a Gnome Stew article be, without something just for the GM?

  • Threat of Revocation – Any number of bureaucrats and local rulers can threaten the status of the charter, and hold it hostage so they can have their own little army.
  • Don Corleone’s Patronage – A patron may pay for the charter, in return for ‘special favors’ to be defined at a later date.
  • Plot Hooks – Unchartered adventurers can be hunted down by licensed groups, who get to keep half of their ‘winnings’. Whether your group is on the legal or illegal side of things, a stand-up fight is always fun.
  • Run for the Border – Two neighboring countries may or may not recognize each other’s Charters. Or they may suddenly revoke each other’s Charters, while the party is ‘over the border’.

Most All of my experience with the Adventurer’s Charter has been in the fantasy setting, but it should be applicable to nearly any genre that features armed folk wandering around. Have you tried something like this? Got anything you’d care to share or add? Sound off in the comments, and let us know!

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."




11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "The Adventurer’s Charter"

#1 Comment By Ben Scerri On October 25, 2011 @ 5:20 am

A while back, my WFRP 2nd group decided to go ‘legit’ after completing a few odd jobs in Altdorf. I was absolutely stoked!

So, I pretended to be from the local merchants guild and had them come in for a meeting where we drew up the papers… It was actually fun GMing this part of the process, as the dice rolls and actions of the PCs shaped the future of their income and their quests. They outlined who they would work for, and for what charges and etc etc. In the end, they were funded and given armour and cloaks to signify themselves and earned a little fame before running afoul of another group of Mercs. Unfortunately I never got to finish that campaign, but we loved it none the less… I still remember the signing of the contract: one of the characters had really low Int, and we all joked that he would always write his name backwards and in large crayon… Well, when his turn came around he whipped out a blue crayon he had brought along and wrote a big “Hanz” in backwards and alternating case! Ah, memories.

#2 Comment By Hypnotoad On October 25, 2011 @ 9:39 am

I have had players do something similar when they started adventuring in a new region of my world. They didn’t like it, but the paladin enforced it.

#3 Comment By Vance On October 25, 2011 @ 10:00 am

I LOVE this idea! Got any examples of the actual charter itself? I’d love to…ahem…borrow it for my upcoming campaign.

#4 Comment By samhoice On October 25, 2011 @ 10:53 am

This does seem like a great way to give yourself endless plot hooks. I’m thinking I may use this for a backup story in my campaign. That way the heroes can keep chasing the Big Bad, but when I (or they) want something a little different, they’re on call for the local lord.

#5 Comment By CalebTGordan On October 25, 2011 @ 11:16 am

I am going to use this in my next home brew game. I plan on having lots of political obstacles due to the nature of the world the game takes place in.

The party will be given a general charter, one that licenses them to carry weapons, use magic, and go just about where they like in the countries that recognize the charter. Not everyone will recognize the charter though, and if they end up being caught where they are not supposed to there will be attempts to arrest them.

There will also be conditional charters or letters or marque. They are given permission to go to a specific area and accomplish a specific task. There are also going to be letters of marque that allow them to attack and loot certain groups from enemy countries.

It is going to be pretty fun to see how it works out.

#6 Comment By Svafa On October 25, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

I used a guild charter for an explorer’s guild, encompassing adventurers and thrill-seekers, but also cartographers and caravans. It gave them some of the same privileges and protections, but cost them a set fee plus percentages, and they were obligated to perform some activities in the interest of the guild (acquire this artifact, settle a dispute with that tribe, etc.).

The biggest immediate boon from my perspective was that it gave them a stable place in the world. They always had a bed to return to and could always sell their wares to the guild (below market value, but then they could buy from the guild below market value as well).

#7 Comment By Svafa On October 25, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

@Svafa – Oh, it also gave an easy way to add new characters to the group. New player or replacement character? They’re from the guild. Maybe they were assigned to a different guild house or are a new recruit. Maybe the character already know the person, but have been separated for some time due to assignments. It made for reasonably seamless integration.

#8 Comment By ggodo On October 25, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

The easy way in Shadowrun is to flat out give them corporate sponsorship. Or make them Feds, or try to set them up with a gang or. . . I think I’m gonna try this.

#9 Comment By Tsenn On October 26, 2011 @ 3:31 am

Had something very like this in an old homebrew fantasy game. The guild helped adventurers find jobs, share info, trade loot and siphon off cash for fees and training costs. It would also provide no questions asked healing, and resurrection charms for emergencies in the field. The reasoning was simple: dead adventurers can’t pay fees!

#10 Comment By Volcarthe On October 26, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

We did a (non-jedi) Star Wars game where we founded a Security corporation (aka fancy mercenaries) and had bylaws and all sorts of things.

It also had the added benefit of being able to swap in different characters depending on the jobs we took and the players who showed up at the time.

#11 Comment By Theodric the Obscure On October 26, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

Great idea!


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