A classic trope of fantasy, is the idea of the adventurer. A person who travels the lands in search of things to do, people to help, and money to make. Often times these adventurers team up together, and make a party, such as Lord of the Rings or your Dungeons & Dragons game. Because this concept is so tied to fantasy, you might not realize that adventuring parties like this existed in the real world, even today to an extent.
For some, the job of the adventurer is to look through ancient ruins in search of relics and artifacts. This is exactly what Ron Wyatt did. Wyatt became known in the ’60s for claiming to have found the Ark of The Covenant, then later pieces of the Ten Commandments, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel, and even Noah’s Ark. Full on Indiana Jones levels here. While none of his discoveries have been proven to be wholly accurate, he still spent the last 30 years of his life making hundreds of trips to the Middle East to find these religious relics.
Perhaps your idea of an adventurer is to wipe out a nuisance to a town, perhaps goblins that are killing people and stealing their valuables. Well Jonathan Barnet had a way with this, as he was a pirate hunter. Famed for bringing in Calico Jack, that’s the equivalent of hunting down an NPC for a reward. Of course, in most games, if you play too long you start looking at playing the dark side. Barnet was no different, as he later became a pirate himself. After becoming wanted, he turned himself in, rolled a Nat 20 on his Charisma Check, and was granted a license to become a pirate hunter once again.
In medieval Italy, the word condottiero meant “contractor,” and later became the word for a military leader, because there were so many mercenary armies! These Compagnia di ventura, or Adventure Companies/Free Companies, would travel from country to country, and offer their services to the highest bidder.
The “White Company” was the most famous of these companies, even though it’s members were not only Italian, but also English, German, and Hungarian. They were involved in seven major battles between 1363-1391, plus multiple large skirmishes and sieges, with a team ranging from 250 members, to up to 5,500.
So while these are clearly larger than the nine-person Fellowship that you might be familiar with, it’s not unreasonable to assume that there might have been smaller versions of these Free Companies that handled smaller issues for smaller lordships. Even if this is not the case, the fact that medieval times had mercenary fighters still fits the bill in a pretty cool way.
Adventurers’ Club of New York
Modern day USA has self-proclaimed adventurers! These tend to be more akin to large scale adventurers, but as they are part of a club themselves, it works!
Founded in 1912, the Adventurer’s Club of New York had members that were involved in uncountable activities, including:
- Pioneer Balloonist
- Polar Explorer
- Wild Animal Collector
- River Explorer
- First Pilot to fly Non-Stop over Northern Pacific
- Robert Ripley (Ripley’s Believe It or Not!)
- Race Car Driver
- Military Intelligence Officer
The thing, though, about the Club, is that they don’t announce their meetings to the public, making it hard to know exactly what they talk about and do in their dinners and luncheons. While it doesn’t seem like they will stop you at the door, knowing where to go and when makes it a little difficult without a private invitation.
You are probably familiar with private military services, as they are in a number of TV shows and movies, including The Punisher on Netflix. After a military service combatant retires, many of them work for private military contractors, to be either bodyguards or security. However, a handful of them do go on to do missions, which is not unlike a quest, just set in the modern day. These men and women basically join adventuring parties. While some people see the Military-Industrial Complex as a sensitive issue, at the end of the day, these are just adventurers.