Call To Agriculture
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"I came home to raise crops, and God willing, a family…
…and I'm just about out of crops."
- a critical scene from a Braveheart / They Live cross-over fan-fic

"If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn't dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."
(former) Emperor Diocletian

Basic Information

Call to Agriculture is a characterization trope where a character who is badass becomes a retired badass and works (or owns) a farm or garden. They trim bonsai or grow vegetables and peacefully work the earth. They may be suffering from PTSD. They may have taken on an assumed name to hide their past. They've converted their swords to plowshares, at least for a while. Woe be to he who disturbs their new career path or digs up their past. Where relevant marriage and/or religion may have removed the character from their previous profession.

A common trope in The Western. "Shane, come back!"

The "boring" town sections of Oldschool D&D Modules are also full of such characters, as well as their close relatives the retired adventurer bartenders and blacksmiths. The villagers say they can't fight off that Orc tribe and need you to save the day, but if you decide to plunder their Keep or Hamlet for yourself before the Orcs can beat you to it, you may find the villagers are surprisingly resilient.

See Also:

As a subtrope, you could even feature a reluctant killer who has a real talent for violence, but only really wants to be a farmer. He may not be very good at farming.



Game and Story Use

  • Works well as the backstory and immediate starting situation for the oldest and most skilled PC in the group. He's "getting too old for this", but "they keep pulling me back in"! It's another form of refusing the call in the heroic journey.
    • Players, make sure that you do eventually (and even pretty early on in the campaign) answer the call to adventure. Unless your play group is super patient and your rule system has a surprisingly deep farming mini-game, you're going to need to engage the plot before people get frustrated. A character who acts like a hero while mugging about how much they just wanted to settle down and raise a family, is a lot of fun. A character who's still watering the soybeans while the rest of the party goes adventuring without him is a waste of time. If your campaign were a TV series, you'd expect the hero to be forced to take action by the final minutes of the first episode, so you should generally be prepared to cross the rubicon no later than the end of your first session.
    • Some systems actually expect PCs to have a life and career that doesn't involve home invasion, murder and robbery - and in most contexts, this will involve agriculture … even if someone else does the actual work … to take place over what might well be long in-game years between adventures.
  • GMs can have fun with it too. You don't want to overshadow the PCs, so the secret badass who saves the day when the chips are down is probably the wrong way to go with this. A reformed criminal or retired badass whose deadly past is catching up with him would be a lot of fun as the thing that sets the initial plot in motion. Especially good if he's too old (or hunched over from decades of farming) to stand up for himself anymore.
    • He may have treasure under the floorboards, or a macguffin stashed in his hayloft.
    • His old enemies may come to settle the score, or all this trouble might be inherited by his widow or children.
      • Speaking of which, a villain could just as well retire as a hero, whether becoming The Atoner or not. PCs looking for the man that killed their mentor/father/chia pet or some other backstory villain may be left with an interesting conundrum. Generally, whatever the character of your retired badass, you poke the sleeping bear at your peril.
  • As with the old-school D&D modules cited above, you could seed such characters into the background of your campaign either for verisimilitude or as a form of booby trap for careless or nosy players.
    • I have fond memories of one old adventure for low-level characters that had a hidden high-level evil cleric. There was no guidance or plotline for how the PCs might discover or expose this character, but if they did (provoke the priest / make themselves a tempting target / just get lucky while spamming "detect evil" in the middle of town) they were in for a heck of a "out-of-our-depths" fight scene. Fun times.
  • See also various literary characters: David Gemmell's Waylander the Slayer makes repeated attempts to pack in the killing and go back to farming, the Arthur of David Cornwell's Warlord saga wants nothing more than to retire to a quiet country estate and learn blacksmithing (for which he has no aptitude at all).
  • For a feudal character, agriculture - or at least agricultural management - is most people's core job. A knight, for example, has not so much a call as a default to agriculture - if he isn't at war or hanging around someone's court meddling in politics he will probably be back home managing his estates.
    • Effectively relocating to your country estates and eschewing the social scene was most of what retirement consisted of for such people - even a king might potentially leave most of the ruling to his heir and take himself off to some remote manor or castle (religion can also do this, as retirement might instead consist of prayer and contemplation rather than farming). All sorts of terrifying old beasts may be living on rural estates, leaving day to day business to younger men - those who, forgetting they are still alive, seek to trouble the land may wake some sleeping (or at least napping after lunch) giants.
      • This is suggested to be the reason that Daniel (from The Bible) became "the third greatest man in the land" after becoming the King's right hand man - the King himself was technically only regent for his own father who had taken up a contemplative life at a remote oasis community.
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