"To those who come and go...never lose sight of your destination, and I wish you godspeed."
- --Alan Smithy, To Those Who Come and Go.'
Alternately known as Diggers, adventurers, Dream Chasers, brigands, and other less desirable names, Drifters are a rare breed on Filgaia and Lunar: individuals tied to no specific town or nation, who wander the world for their own purpose. They have a freedom that many do not; they are not tied to jobs or national loyalties, and are able to go where the wind, their heart, or their desire for money and fame lead them. However, they are also individuals without a home, who often have no one besides a few comrades to turn to.
They are the protagonists of Dream Chasers.
There are numerous types of Drifters, with vastly different goals, levels of organization, and moral leanings. Nonetheless, nearly every Drifter explores the ruins of the past to find ancient relics. Even Drifters who have become outlaws often seek artifacts of the past; they differ, rather, in where they take them from, how they use them, and who they might sell them to. Drifters inherently compete with one another while doing this, but many also form small bands to cooperate and pursue similar goals together. Some join larger organizations, often because of these organizations’ reach and power.
People become Drifters for a variety of reasons. Many are driven into the trade by greed and desire for fame, seeking to find that one ARM that will set them for life. Some are driven into it by desperation; when their town perished because of dry wells, warfare, or banditry, they entered the lifestyle. Some wanted to escape their past and decided to become lost in Filgaia's badlands. Others joined out of a simple desire for adventure or high-minded ideals.
Settlements often have a tempestuous relationship with Drifters. Many, especially smaller settlements, find the wanderers immensely handy for tasks that are dangerous or just painfully menial, and welcome them gladly. Larger settlements often view them as useful mercenaries at best, and dangerous vagrants at worst. But no matter the heroism or helpfulness a Drifter provides, when things go wrong, the Drifter has never truly stopped being an outsider. A Drifter hoping their generosity will be remembered when they finally break an unexpected taboo will usually find their hopes dashed.
Most Drifters are independent, operating in small bands of three to six people. They often value their freedom above all else, so they find the notion of joining an organized group distasteful. Their gangs come in two kinds. The first are temporary ones, organized around doing a particular excavation of a ruin, and tend to end once the job is done. The second are longer lasting, as groups of likeminded Drifters decide to work together.
Whether they are true loners or operating in a small band, independent Drifters enjoy a great deal of freedom. They do not have to report to anyone about their activities; even if they disagree with members of their band, they can choose to leave it (whether with words or a firefight). However, they have less protection, too. They have no resources to fall back on and more than one lone Drifter has died in the badlands alone, from a wound that could have been healed, had someone dragged them to safety.
Characters can create their own gangs. Ones that last longer will be treated as coded groups. They require an application and should generally have some thematic tie and loose organization, which keeps them together in the long term.
Filgaia is an unsettled world. The major nations have carved out little oases of order and civilization, but outside of their capitals, the land is troubled. Bandits plague even major roadways, and most merchants are unwilling to travel without a contingent of guards. In the border regions, the situation is worse -- monsters and demons roam the countryside, and the ruins dotting the landscape occasionally belch forth a horror from a time beyond memory.
But where some see danger, others see opportunity.
The Adventurer's Guild was founded in Guild Galad nearly 50 years ago by a lancer named Java. It began as an informal arrangement whereby Java and a few companions would hire themselves out to merchants seeking to travel in relative peace, but grew quickly as Drifters seeking profit were introduced to people who had both problems and money.
The Adventurer's Guild is now firmly established in Guild Galad, with small offices in many other cities (often just a single person operating from their home). Contrary to what some believe, the Guild does not hire Drifters -- they simply post requests from clients and facilitate payment to whomever accomplishes the tasks. The Guild accepts almost any kind of paying work. Bodyguarding, deliveries, excavation, and monster hunting are most common, although if someone wants to pay to have their cat found, hey, it all spends. The Guild also pays well for stories and detailed descriptions of unexplored locations; their mapmakers are the best in the business, and the Guild intends for them to stay that way.
The Adventurer's Guild has only three rules, but they are absolutely ironclad. The first is that they will not post jobs that involve the theft of property or hurting people (exterminating outlaws being the sole exception). The second is that Drifters cannot attack other Drifters who are competing for the same contract; the Guild encourages competition, but has no love for street fights. The third is that they always pay, and are paid, what is owed.
It is through these rules that the Adventurer's Guild maintains a reputation for professionalism and neutrality that is essential for their continued operation. Clients or Drifters who violate any of the Guild's rules, even once, are put on a permanent blacklist. There is no appeal process.
As noted above, there is some work that the Adventurer's Guild just won't take... but needs doing all the same. And there are a fair number of blacklisted Drifters who still need to eat.
"Geohound" is a term used to describe mercenary Drifters who don't operate with Guild scruples in mind. They generally have one rule, and one alone: they do the job, whatever it is, and they get paid. No matter what.
There is no formal guild or organization governing Geohounds; they are all independent operators. Individuals interested in hiring one tie a note to the branches of a tree (or other suitable landmark), detailing the job and rate of pay. A Geohound who finds and pockets the note has accepted the job; if they refuse it, they simply re-tie the note and go on their way.
While the motivations and character of individual Geohounds can vary, as a group they have a sinister reputation across Filgaia. Most people consider them mercenary dogs, barely a step removed from outlaws and highwaymen. This is not undeserved -- a lot of their jobs involve stealing things or hurting people for money. If the job was nice, it would go to an Adventurer. Some few Geohounds may be Drifters who simply don't play by other people's rules or who made one (sincerely regretted) mistake. But these are generally exceptions rather than the rule.
Sometimes, Drifters go bad. Many a Drifter has occasionally smuggled contraband into a city or fought a fellow Drifter to secure an artifact. Some, however, become outlaws: they start stealing and robbing as a way to get by, supporting their excavations from money and goods plundered from towns in the frontier regions. These individuals often still enter ruins and claim ARMs from the past, but they do so not to sell them, but to use them against their enemies.
Outlaws give Drifters their bad reputation. There is a perception, not entirely unfairly, that today's Drifter is tomorrow's outlaw. Many Drifters do not make ends meet and turn to banditry; others were always greedy. Those who openly become outlaws are a scourge on smaller towns, raiding and stealing from them while Aveh and Kislev's armies focus on their war instead of protecting the frontier's people. Because of this, stopping outlaws often falls to Drifters, who may be the only group of well-armed fighters around.
Primarily a phenomenon in Aquvy, with its proximity to the ruins of Zeboim and the awesomely powerful Reaverbots that patrol therein, the Diggers' Guild is more of a certification system than the employment center of the Adventurers' Guild. A local Diggers' Guild assesses the threat of ruins in the vicinity of a particular settlement, assigning it a letter grade. Only Diggers certified by the Guild to meet or exceed that grade are permitted entry. There are, arguably, few teeth to it -- the honor system is the primary method of enforcement, with a threat of revocation of Digger privileges after the fact -- but the Guild has gotten quite, quite good at assessing threats, and typically the Reaverbots see to anybody who gets too big for their britches.
Still, being in the Diggers' Guild does have perks. Most people willing to pay for the sorts of treasure to be found deep in a ruin don't want to truck with people who don't have a Digger card, and the Guild can direct a Digger to rumors of new sites to plumb. The Diggers' Guild is headquartered on Nino Island, a part of Meria Boule's domain.