Patrons & People of Power

“…and then of course there was that incident with the Warforged Charger in Upper Dura, that was a mess.” Ah there you are! Looking good, is that a new cloak? Stopped by the market huh? Well, you’re going to need some fresh equipment, I’m sure you have plenty of adventures lined up already. No? No money either? Sounds like your group needs a patron!

No, not the warlock kind, I told you that already. A patron for the entire group. Patrons are people with power, influence, and money. They’re often nobles, or church officials, maybe the head of a Thieves’ Guild, you get the idea. Patrons have the money to outfit a group like yourselves, and the connections to find good jobs. 

Sure, the archmage of Waterdeep can blow up any bandit camp they come across. But the archmage is a busy wizard and they have things to do, so it’s much easier to hire a band of fresh adventurers like yourselves to go and clear them out. You get a job, the bandits are dealt with and the mage pays you. Now if your interactions with the archmage end there they aren’t much of a patron, just a quest giver. The difference is that a patron is someone you go back to, again and again. Maybe not for your whole adventuring career, but they are people who you establish a rapport with. You learn their name, their habits, you talk with them and they help you all grow as adventurers.

Naturally not all patrons are the same. One patron might be a kindly innkeeper who keeps a group of fresh adventurers on hand as bouncers and general fixers. Another is an aloof and imperious nobleman who keeps a group on the payroll to deal with his enemies and their agents quietly. A third would be a reclusive archmage who maintains the portal to a vast dungeon, and sends you all in as explorers, tasked with bringing back exotic specimens or relics. Now the thing that unites them is that they all have more power, in one way or another, than the party of adventurers. 

Adventurers can be a mixed lot, but by and large they can respect power. It doesn’t have to be hard power. That innkeeper may not be able to brawl it out with the barbarian, and the noble might not be able to win in a duel with the fighter, but they do have the power to make the adventurer’s lives better, or much worse. Dungeon Masters designing a patron should make a figure that the players, as well as the player characters, can respect without making the players feel overwhelmed. 

Dungeons & Dragons is a game, and many of us play it to live out fantasies, not to have another boss, just with pointy ears. A good patron is respected, maybe even beloved by the players and characters, someone who they will reminisce on fondly even after the campaign has ended. A good patron shouldn’t have to flex their power over the PC’s, but when they do decide to step in (often best as the cavalry to get the Player’s out of a sticky situation) it should be enough to astound the characters. 

Maybe the adventurer’s have gotten in serious legal trouble (not uncommon), but before the magistrate can order them life in prison the noble pulls some strings, getting the characters released on bail, or perhaps if they’re trapped by a massive monster in the depths of the dungeon the archmage could appear in a flash of light and utterly decimate the monster. If the players wake up to find themselves in the torture room of the local crime boss, maybe the lowly innkeeper shows up with a small army of the bar’s regulars, intent on setting the characters free. Patrons shouldn’t be used to fix every problem the PC’s have but showing that the players should respect the patron is a lot easier when they show off once or twice. 

And that’s why you need a patron! Someone to fund your adventures! Me? Oh no, I don’t take on adventurers anymore. Though I do recall a friend of mine who was looking for some brave explorers. We’ll go visit him, in the great metropolis of Sharn, City of Towers.