Murder Hobo Insurance and the Guild of Abjuration

 In the Beginning, Fire Insurance

Albrecht Gerber was not an adventuring Abjuration wizard.  He was a portly, balding, sedentary, entrepreneurial wizard with less interest in magic than money.  He supported himself with a small in-town service.  For a fee, he would come to a house and cast Protection for Fire.  The Orks kept raiding and wooden houses with thatch roofs burned.

It was a Bard named Stefan who offered Albrecht some advertising advice: when he protected a house from fire, mark a house with a symbol.  Not only could Albrecht see which houses he protected as he walked down the street, he could figure out which houses were not protected and offer the opt-outers peace of mind.  After all, the orks kept lighting the town on fire.  It was a small investment in wood, paint, and craftsmanship but it would pay off.  What better way to drum up business?

Next week, as Albrecht walked through town assessing and renewing his customer’s protection contracts, he hung small wooden plaques above doors showing a flaming sun – the Sunfire Company.  After a few weeks, he noticed two things:

  1. Coverage was patchy at best.  Most houses had no Fire Protection coverage.
  2. Someone else also started hanging signs on houses – a sign of a hand holding a torch.  The Torch Company.


Albrecht angsted about someone muscling in on his territory and putting him out of business.  Stefan suggested a simple solution: wait until the Protection from Fire elapsed on the houses with the Torch Co. symbols and then pay the Thieves Guild to burn them down.  Swoop in as the house burns and let the home owner know they could use Sunfire Protection from Fire spells.  See how the Sunfire houses are fire free?   With a spell, Albrecht can put the fire out and offer a new policy to the beleaguered homeowners.   Torch Company fail. Sunfire Company rises. Albrecht wins.

The plan was perfect.  Stefan the Bard was brilliant.  What could go wrong?

The Thieves Guild burned down Torch Co. houses.  They burned down Sunfire houses.  They burned down unprotected houses.  People, in a panic, bought new Protection from Fire spells from both companies at inflationary prices. A new Fire Protection company, the Hand to Hug Company, appeared, and the Thieves Guild burned those houses down, too.  As entire blocks blazed, the Thieves Guild made money in kickbacks, bribes and double-blinds.

The Municipal Government stepped in.

Companies may offer to accept fees for a fund and pay to rebuild when the house burned down, they said.

The municipal government would protect houses and put out fires.

No more competing Fire Protection companies.

Albrecht Gerber rethought his business.  It wasn’t a bad business.  It was the wrong business.

Murder Hobo Insurance

Meanwhile, the continuing ork invasion provided economic incentives to invest in local Adventuring Companies.

The Adventuring business was high risk, high reward but if the Murder Hobos paid out, they paid out big.  It was mania.  Everyone wanted in on the game.  But the Adventuring business needed a large spread of financial capital.   Murder Hobo initial training and starting equipment wasn’t cheap. Companies losing their teams to the machinations of orkish blades were going out of business as fast as they went in.

But the capital outlay deterred no one. Rumor floated around town about one Company’s Murder Hobos who managed to cap a Hill Giant with a major hoard.  The Murder Hobos brought back the gold, jewels, and magic equipment and paid out serious dividends to the Company’s financial investors.  The Murder Hobos, higher level now and better equipped, turned around and went back out into the field.

Albrecht, urged by Stefan, approached his Protection from Fire competitors, fellow Abjurers all, with an idea. Rich financial backers from their old customers and Transmuter Banker loans seeded an initial pool of capital.  Then, the Abjurers financially “protected” Adventuring Company expeditions.  Should Murder Hobos die on campaign, the Abjurers covered the initial financial outlay. Adventuring Companies paid the Abjurers a continuing fee for this service. Abjurers rolled collected fees back into their capital pool.

Adventuring Companies stayed in business if, say, their wizard die in the first five minutes after stepping outside of town.  Murder Hobos would murder orks.  Money rolled to investors.  And Abjurers collected fat paychecks.

It was a great business idea.

It would all work.

Murder Hobo insurance was born.

Lowering risk meant lowering barrier to entry and the new Albrecht’s Adventuring Insurance had no barrier to entry.   Adventuring Companies bought into this new crazy financial plan from the urging of their financial backers.  The standards on quality of Murder Hobos fell as risk fell and reward stayed the same.  More Murder Hobos meant more chance at rewards from killing things.  Possible fat loot!  Let’s go!

Adventuring Companies laid hands on plenty of capital and, covered by their insurance policies, shamelessly gambled. The tanner over could wield a broadsword.  Certainly the traveling entertainment group could throw a few sorcerous fireballs.  The local chaplain would make a fantastic War Cleric. Let’s put them together and hang some scale mail on them!  Then shove them out the door and wait for them to come back with chests and chests of gold!  Fantastic!  We will make all the money!

The orks were suddenly awash in basic long swords, light crossbows, daggers, and simple maces.

Albrecht’s new scheme was in danger of going bankrupt from the sudden inflated bubble in Murder Hobo investment and high payouts on insurance policies.  He had to stop the bleeding.  Albrecht dissolved the Albrecht’s Adventuring Insurance and formed the new Society of Albrecht’s Friends, a Guild of Abjuration for Abjurers and by Abjurers.

Murder Hobo Insurance required standards.

The Guild of Abjuration and the Book

Albrecht and his fellow Abjurers met in darkest secret and wrote the Book, a guide to policies and procedures to underwriting the Murder Hobo occupation.  They used their existing pool of capital to fund the underwriting of insurance for various Adventuring Companies. They demanded Murder Hobos conformed to the regulations as recorded in the Book.  The Book’s rules adjusted premiums based on the composition and coordination of the Murder Hobo party. Insurers paid out on a policy if the death of the Murder Hobo met the stipulations in the policy’s teeny tiny font.

Abjurers protected their pool of capital like they once protected houses from fire.  They weaved together arcane and unknowable rules to form a shield of protection from unruly speculations. They wrote them down.

And, as the Society of Albrecht’s Friends were a dark, secretive cabal of Abjuration Wizards, no one knew what they wrote in that Book.  The Book was not published or made public.  The Book was not casually accessible. Only members of the Society even saw the physical Book.  Those who spoke of the Book’s contents often found their homes locked with Arcane Lock and their possessions Banished.

The Society of Albrecht’s Friends maintained a monopoly on what was and was not considered “safe.”

The Adventuring Companies, urged by their rich investors to hold insurance policies on their Murder Hobo employees, fought the insurer’s tangles of unknowable bureaucracy and lost.  They capitulated.  In their misery, they formed theories about what the Book contained based on feedback from the quarterly visit from assessors (implacably Dwarven, all of them, the bastards) sent by the Society of Albrecht’s Friends – later known as just Albrecht’s.

They knew:

  • Fighters, Rangers and Paladins, being of a highly murderous bent with high armor classes and damage output, were easy to insure under the new rules.  Premiums would lower for any major fighter classes added to the party and continue to lower if assessors found the Fighters had access to one of magic weapon, magic armor, or magic protection amulet.
  • Rogues were a wash. They died easily but they were easy to replenish and often made up for their low hit point risk in returns on investment from removing traps and picking locks.
  • The Book demanded a party Cleric with access to proper and codified healing spells but only insured a Cleric from a major supported Insurance Franchise or Corporation with a suggested franchise list stipulated by policy.  Insurance did not cover costs for Cure Poison, Cure Disease, Remove Curse, Raise Dead, or Resurrection from Out of Network Clerics performing healings from Unauthorized Small Gods.  They considered Clerics of Lesser Gods who may vaporize while on campaign High Risk.
  • Assessors for the Abjuration Guild visited the Adventuring Company headquarters for audits and regular assessments on the Wizard’s spellbook. Should the Wizard’s spellbook lack basic utilitarian offensive spells like Magic Missile, the Murder Hobos were in jeopardy of a major hike in rates.  Conformity kept rates low and made wizards easier to insure. The Assessors provided lists of recommended spells regardless of the Wizard’s magic specialization or focus.  Sure now all Wizards were the same, but isn’t peace of mind worth it?
  • Wizard spellbooks were separately insured under a different policy in case of fire, water, toxic gas, or associated damage.  The Wizard often carried the financial burden for this separate policy, making Sorcerers more attractive than Wizards for damage output in a party simply due to financial obligations.  Sorcerers were cheaper.
  • However, Wild Magic Sorcerers caused rates to strongly rise.  While Adventuring Companies felt Wild Magic Sorcerers increased the chance for a payout due to being mobile death turrets, the Dwarven Assessors pointed out it was impossible to accurately assess risk and cover Wild Magic in a policy.  The Assessors had to assume that, at some point, a party member covered by the policy would be accidentally fried by the Wild Magic in a sudden burst of oops.  Here were the risk tables for Wild Magic clearly presented on policy page 2,476 footnote B.
  • Bards were right out. Want a bard in a party?  Better pony up some cash. For some reason never entirely explained by the Dwarven Assessors or by the Society of Albrecht’s Friends, even “listening to your friend, the Bard, for advice,” a guy not even in the party, raised party high risk.  Want to keep rates low? Avoid Bards.

The Price of Protection and Piece of Mind

The Society of Albrecht’s Friends, focusing on underwriting, rules, and their Wizard’s Guild and less on sales, allowed a healthy insurance market to form. Sure, they insured fewer Murder Hobos but quality dramatically improved.  Adventuring Companies took time in training, starting equipment selection, and careful party composition to ensure only the highest quality Murder Hobos scavenged the land for quick riches by killing intelligent monsters and rolling their bodies for stuff. Old Men in Inns providing side quests insisted Murder Hobos provide proof of insurance before offering quests.  Wizards only bought found magic items off properly credentialed Murder Hobo teams.

Getting new into the Murder Hobo business was hell.    Fresh new Murder Hobos without the capital to pay the high risk premiums were frozen out of the market.  How does one get well-paying side quests without being properly insured?   And who is going to insure 1st level character?  What happened to the days of the open and free markets where a new fighter trained for two days and then went out in the field and was promptly massacred by goblins?  Man, those days were good.

Adventuring Companies went all corporate.  To help defray this new cost of business, the Adventuring Companies picked up marketing, advertisement and sales.  They sold t-shirts and mugs.  They made collectibles of their most popular and famous Murder Hobos.  And there was the fighter, standing on the plain, in his shiny magic plate mail and sword, cutting down goblins, while his cloak, imprinted with an enormous advertising logo, fluttered behind him in the wind, hoping to pick up business to cover this year’s insurance hikes.

“Protection is what it is all about,” Albrecht Gerber said many years later.  “Protection for the investors.  Protection for the Adventurers!  Now we have, say, a well-regulated market in Raise Dead from properly credentialed Clerics.  No more shoddy half-raises where the rogue returns as a ghoul.  The Murder Hobos are safer. The world is protected for everyone.  It’s a better, safer place.”

Business limps on.

In a small town on the edge of the frontier occasionally beseiged by orks, with a little help from a loan from the Transmuter Bankers, both the Sunfire Company and the Torch Company not only survive but thrive merged together into the great global juggernaut, Sunfire Torch Company. It quietly gobbles up both insurance and Adventuring companies into one enormous faceless corporate power.  Its CEO, an ex-Bard named Stefan, looks out from the window of his newly built skyscraper and thinks to himself: this worked out pretty well.


  1. Just binge read all your dungeonomics articles. Hilarious and awesome all around.

  2. strokeybeard says:

    This would explain all the annoying fetch-and-carry/rat killing quests – just trying to lower the insurance premiums a bit.

  3. This is beautiful and hilarious. In an advanced fantasy setting, adventurers become increasingly more optimized over time in response to competition.