Sometimes the group wants a break from rescuing royalty or delving the Dark Lord’s Tower. A lot of commentary in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game community revolves around the concept of “murder hobos” reducing the tales of heroism and adventure to a video game-esque “loot & kill” style of play (nothing wrong with that). While this view is often exaggerated in the extreme, a lot of groups can find themselves in ruts from time to time. Today we want to take a look at a Unusual Start concept that doesn’t run away from the “murder hobo” paradigm, but rather runs straight at it–The Monster Hunter campaign!
Unusual Start: Monster Hunters
Some people would probably wonder how this campaign idea is different from most. After all, it has PCs fighting monsters and probably taking their stuff, right? In the Monster Hunter campaign the PCs go entirely mercenary and are pay-for-play acquisitions agents. In an arcane world, the need for manticore stingers, cockatrice beaks and dragon’s heartblood are driving economic realities. The player characters don’t do it for heroism (or not all of them anyway) rather they do it to sell the “rewards” of their labor. So what’s so different about the Monster Hunter’s game? Let’s take a look:
- Hide and Seek: In many games, monsters are incidentally encountered on the way to whatever the real focus is. The Monster Hunters instead actively seek out their quarry. Making the sometimes challenge instead the end goal. Monsters become the literal treasure the PCs want and NPCs and other non-target monsters become the source of new complications.
- Shelf Life: A new factor of time enters play if a particular hunt results in materials with a specific rate of decay or forces the party to allocate resources to preservation magics. Dramatic tension can develop as complications force the PCs to balance critical action versus equally critical delays.
- Market Day: The business of monsters means having buyers and having to deal with those buyers. This opens the doors to all sorts of unique NPC allies not usually available to player characters. Someone is selling those cultists all that vampire ash and demon blood right?
- Rivals: If it makes money, there is someone else doing it.The concept of rival groups of hunters makes for fascinating roleplaying and encounter design. Strange bedfellows might make these on-and-off again antagonists switch their colors so often the PCs might not want to take their aid when it comes time to stare down Tyrannosaurs in the Southern Jungle.
- Ease of Preparation: The GM can have incredibly simple prep for a lot of sessions in this sort of campaign. The simple act of hunting and killing (or subduing) a creature can be the effort of a whole game night. This allows GMs who might not otherwise have time to still run satisfying and interesting campaigns. Also a great idea for novice GMs.
- Decentralized Characters: Without prophecies and destiny (necessarily) infusing the game sessions, players are free to change up characters as they see fit. A hunter loses his nerve has to be replaced, a monster gets the drop on a character and the mourning party recruits new blood… and so on.
- Indefinite Length: Monster Hunters hunt until they don’t. This style of campaign can go on as long (or short) as a group wants it to. This freedom also makes it an ideal choice pick-up games or to transform the campaign into something else…
Embracing the seek and fight rhythm of the Monster Hunter campaign can be a free and fun romp through the bestiaries of a Pathfinder campaign. Most players will eventually crave other story elements or a new game but it might be sometime until their not up to their elbows in Ogre blood.