The “classic adventuring” party seen in many RPGs tends to be composed of individualistic characters – sellswords and spellcasters who wander the wilderness in solitude and generally exist outside of the structure of civilization. RPGs like Pathfinder: Kingmaker or King Of Dragon Pass, in contrast, are about heroes who don’t just identify with a certain society or civilization, but actively work to build and expand on it through nation-building mechanics, diplomatic strategy, and the occasional punitive raid.
“Murder-Hobo” is a tongue-in-cheek term frequently used by gamers to describe player characters in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons who live as homeless adventurers, traveling across the land and murdering creatures for a living. “Murder-Hobo” can be used rhetorically to criticize the tendency of RPG players, Game Masters, and video games to create worlds where violence is the only solution to a story’s challenges… but it can also be used to critique player characters who lack families, homelands, houses, or cultural loyalties to make their stories more interesting.
The computer roleplaying games listed below do contain their fair share of combat sequences and battles – civilizations can be quite un-civilized, after all! In contrast to RPGs like Diablo or Final Fantasy, though, players won’t be able to win solely through the tool of violence; rather, they must create infrastructure establish diplomatic ties with other factions, build solidarity within their group, and use the plenty of good times to prepare for bad times. To paraphrase a classic saying from John Donne, “No PC is an island, entire of itself.“
King Of Dragon Pass, released in 1999, and Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind, both blend together strategy, RPG, and visual novel gameplay, with a story set in the world of Glorantha, the core setting of the RuneQuest tabletop games. In a Bronze-Age world of spirits, magic, and cult, players take on the role of a chieftain trying to bring prosperity to their tribal clan – the Celt inspired “Orlanthi” in King of Dragon Pass, and the steppe nomad “Hyalorings” in Six Ages.
The resource management, battle sequences, negotiations, and story-choice players make in these games are complicated by three factors: first, the player have an advisory council of clan nobles whose desires cannot be ignored. Second, gods and spirits are manifestly real in the world of Glorantha, and must be regularly appeased to avoid misfortune. Thirdly, the Orlanthi and Hyaloring cultures have ancient moral values that are alien by modern standards, but must be observed by the player in order to maintain their clan’s loyalty.
In the 2017 strategy RPG Expeditions: Viking, the player character takes control of the small Norse village of Skjern and tries to make it the most powerful clan in all of Denmark. Players can try to enrich their clan through canny trading with other lands, alliances with other clans, and upgrades to their homestead… or they can embrace the Viking lifestyle by taking longboats to raid villages and churches in Britain and Scotland, defeating Anglo-Saxons, Picts, and rival Norse through turn-based combat similar to Wasteland 3 or XCOM. Like King of Dragon Pass, players who want to gain the respect of their people and rival thanes must take into account the pre-modern Viking Norse mindset and cultivate a reputation for bravery, cunning, and keeping their word.
At first glance, the romantic co-op science-fiction RPG Haven seems to lean more towards the anti-social side of roleplaying games, focusing on the story of two renegade lovers who flee their repressive civilization to live an isolated life on a distant alien planet. Rather than being a game about “murder-hobos,” though, the story and gameplay of Haven is actually about two endearingly awkward love-birds trying to create a “two-person civilization” where they’re free to be themselves.
Like historical hunter-gatherer tribes, they carve out a “range of land” for subsistence, gathering building resources and food while taming the local animals. Free from the regimented live-styles of their “Apiary” home-world, the scientific Kay and mechanic-minded Yu are free to create their own traditions, artwork, cuisine, and stories.
If the Baldur’s Gate series is the quintessential video game adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons, then Pathfinder: Kingmaker is the quintessential adaptation of the Pathfinder tabletop RPG. In the scarred fantasy world of Golarion, a minor mercenary hero, through fortune and valor, becomes the ruler of a Barony in the schismatic Stolen Lands, saddled with the twin responsibilities of ruling their kingdoms and unraveling the mysterious machinations of the Fey Courts. Through a combination of building construction, the hiring of competent advisors, good decisions during story events, and old-fashioned dungeon-crawling, players can gain power, influence and wealth that can be used to create a golden age for their kingdom, or create a Mordor-style realm of darkness and dismay.
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