Well, Murder Hobo went back on the menu. I just discovered the RPG Hobomancer exists (which sounds like Manly Wade Wellman’s Silvee John stories the RPG (and a tiny bit of research showed that they were a big influence on the game) But, you say the word hobo to your gaming friends and Murder Hobo become the topic at hand.
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Another serving of Murder Hobo
Which led me to ask: Is Conan a murder hobo? What about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? How about Aragorn and Gandalf? And what about Robin Hood?
It was immediately pointed out to me that I missed the fundamental point of a Murder Hobo. It isn’t that they have no fixed abode or that they solve all their problems with violence. It’s that killing things is as far as their characterization goes. (I was also told shame on me for labeling Robin Hood a Murder Hobo)
Frank Castle, the Punisher, pretty much just exists to violently kill criminals. But the fact that he does have a motivation, that he has a reason to be a murder machine, is what makes him good for more than one story. He isn’t a Murder Hobo even though I think he sometimes live in a van.
But here’s the thing. When you’re a preadolescent first reading Howard or Lieber or any given Punisher comic, what you get out of it is that they make violence cool and seemingly without consequence. And you take that to your first RPG games. So, when you simplify the sword and sorcery genre, you get Murder Hobos.
First Edition had characters get strongholds (appropriately themed for their class) when they got high enough level. When I was eight, that seemed a terrible waste. I have to look after a church when my cleric could be in a dungeon? Now that I’m not eight, I realize that there’s a wealth of story telling and character development in becoming landed.
And, if you are looking for an iconic medieval European fantasy concept that doesn’t involve being a Murder Hobo, you don’t have to look any further than King Arthur and the knights of the round table. It can still be a dungeon crawl-based campaign, just have the dungeons be quests.
Being a Murder Hobo doesn’t just mean walking the earth and killing things. For many gaming systems, that’s the default mode. It means doing it with no back story and no motive.