Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Short Note on the Structuring of Monster Bounties

I recently had a prolonged talk with a senior clerk of a well-known Adventurers' Guild, and learned a great deal about the workings of monster bounties. While most of us will only understand bounties as being well-illustrated posters with a description of the task to be undertaken and a reward to be dispensed upon completion, there is actually an art to the creation of the bounty poster.

An uninformed person, such as I myself was before my conversation with the clerk, would think that the most important detail when creating a bounty poster was to accurately price the reward. I was quickly informed that this was in fact incorrect; the prize money was itself secondary; correctly describing and scoping the quest was an order more important.

The clerk then accounted to me several instances where the bounty task was improperly designed, leading to worse outcomes. Consider the most basic of quests available to adventurers, which is that of eliminating common pests or wandering beasts. Not only once has an inexperienced guildsclerk offered a reward on each rat or wild snake killed and brought in; the bounty was quickly exploited by unscrupulous adventurers who subsequently began breeding and farming the very creatures they were supposed to eliminate! Thus, it is a common practice nowadays for bounty descriptions to mention concrete outcomes such as the permanent removal of a specific threat.

Another mistake is to be too specific in the methods to be applied. As a general rule, bounties should not restrict the approach adventurers can take in handling a problem. For example, if one offered a reward for the defeat of a dragon in order to release the captive princess, it might be a long time before a sufficiently strong hero capable of slaying a dragon actually arrives. On the other hand, if the specific task (rescuing the princess) was presented as a quest, then other more feasible alternatives become possible, such as a stealthy operation into the dragon's lair. Of course, if the task were phrased instead as that of obtaining the princess' freedom, then even more possibilities present themselves, such as negotiation with the dragon itself.

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