Now I forget if it was this morning or last night that I thought of this, but I recall that it follows a long, complicated train of thought about the purpose of adventurers in The Ascalon Horror. What do the heroes do when the world isn’t in danger? My thinking brought me to the concept of “advancement.”

During their downtime, heroes work hard to get better at what they do, and when they’re “on the clock,” as it were, they’re still seeking to better themselves. It’s those “experience points” and “level up” mechanics being put to work for them.

Heroes are in many ways “better” than “normal” people. Taken to its logical extreme, you get the “Protagonist-Centered Morality” trope. Only the named characters and the people they care about are important. Within reasonable parameters however, heroes are better than normal people, and have always enjoyed this position in storytelling.

…What this means to players and their characters, is that when there isn’t a primary antagonist, it’s the goal of every character to become more powerful.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and adventurers have to get incrementally more powerful until they die. They just can’t help fighting, training, and studying. That’s what I mean about heroes being “better” than normal people from a narrative perspective. Normal people are content not doing anything to better themselves.

Heroes do it out of habit. Somewhat. Mostly.

Depending on where the story sits on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, on the idealistic side, heroes are “better,” and almost godlike in their heroism (whether that’s the heroic champion or dastardly villain), and on the cynical side, heroes have more flaws and are more human-like. You go to work, heroes work out.