[The following is an excerpt from an article on Gnome Stew. I encourage you to check out the full version and other great articles to be found there]
What’s more realistic?
A group of heroes waits in a tavern until adventure finds them …
… or a rich, well-connected patron provides them with the means to set out on the next adventure?
One of the things I’ve learned is that patronage was an essential component for the real-life explorers who ventured into the frontier in the nineteenth century.
I think, following the explorer model, a GM can create scenarios that better reflect the role of a patron.
Casting Call: Groups of adventurers, all with their own projects, appeal to a single entity with an interest in exploration. This requires the party to “audition” their idea and compete with others. Maybe having a party not be chosen during a couple of these might mean the party will be more appreciative of a patron that eventually choses them.
Shared Vision: A patron seeks them out because word is they have a shared vision for an expedition. There’s just one hook: the patron’s help comes with strings attached. The patron (or someone the patron knows) has to tag along, the patron has a theory needing testing, or the patron wants first dibs on some of the treasure.
Rich Widow: There is one person with means and rival groups both seek the patronage. Which group will curry favor and win that patron’s good graces? The patron usually has some peculiar preferences that need be satisfied.
Dirty Money: Not every patron is on the up and up. Does the party know they are dealing with an unscrupulous fellow? You betcha. But are they willing to overlook an indiscretion here and there? Sometimes it helps having a patron who doesn’t play by all the rules. If anything, this can sometimes result in having a colorful character as a patron.
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