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NPC Random Encounter Immunity

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Ever paused to think about how all the NPCs get from place to place in a world with Random Encounters? Farmers live away from the shelter of the big city, and still manage to produce food. Two lowly guardsmen stationed at each gate are sufficient to guard an entire city from the local unending hordes of monsters. Traveling merchants use the same roads the heroes do, and yet are never troubled by any monsters (except maybe when the heroes are around to help). How can this be possible in a world where the heroes find themselves in several dozen fights to the death each time they walk from town to town?

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Of course, the meta-reason is that the NPCs aren't playing a video game, but you are, and to keep the game interesting, there needs to be a steady road of challenges (no matter how small) to overcome.

Sub-trope of Gameplay and Story Segregation. Note that usually, Cool Cars and Cool Airships prevent random encounters. Compare Already Undone for You, in which the NPCs have not only cleared the same challenges that face the hero, but then also put them back in place again.

As this trope is omni-present in RPGs, please limit examples to aversions, or at least examples of the trope being played with.


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Examples:

  • You're allowed to set your own encounter rate at any time in Bravely Default, so... maybe the NPCs just always turn random encounters off?
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Averted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: in the wilderness, foresters are threatened by the local wildlife, imperial legion soldiers face off against bandits, and townspeople visiting acquaintances in other cities sometimes meet fatal accidents.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
      • People are notoriously sturdy and used to hardship. Farms are usually located close to cities or towns, and their safety is taken seriously: guards include farmland in their patrol routes, and The Blades are dispatched to help when necessary. Merchants frequently travel in caravans, and make sure to bring some mercenaries. And if a mine or tomb gets taken over by monsters, the locals are quick to get the heck out and wait for a Player Character to deal with the problem before going back in.
      • In the Dragonborn DLC, the fact that the town of Raven Rock doesn't have monster-proof walls is a source of much anxiety for the populace, especially since Ash Spawn keep attacking the south bulwark periodically.
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  • Averted in Fable I, where Intrepid Merchants travel the forest roads and are frequently beset by bandits and hostile wildlife. Lampshaded in an Escort Mission when two traders argue over why they bother risking their lives on the trip instead of opening a shop in town.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Zig-zagged in Final Fantasy IX: the Mist that coats most of the world (or rather, the first continent) gives rise to monsters and prolonged exposure is said to be unhealthy, so all of the cities and towns are built high up in the mountains... where there are still random encounters!
    • Final Fantasy X is notable in how blatantly straight an example it is. As you walk along the Mi'ihen Highroad, carving your way through hordes of fiendish, super-durable armadillos and whatnot, you'll pass by a couple dozen civilians out for a peaceful stroll. If you talk to them, some of them will decide they have no use for a Hi-Potion and give it to the summoner and her badass crew of guardians.
    • Lampshaded and made into part of a quest line in Final Fantasy XIV: Mor Dhona is a high-level area, full of level 40+ monsters. This isn't usually a problem, since most of the people who go there are badass adventurers, including the NPCs. But when exhausted Doman refugees are forced to relocate to that area, you are given quests to escort them because they explicitly can't handle the local wildlife.
  • Averted in Fire Emblem Awakening: When the Risen start showing up, it's a big deal, and Chrom has to visit Ferox to request soldiers to help keep the citizenry safe, since he and the Shepherds don't have enough manpower to keep the entire country safe at once. There is also at least one Side Quest where you have to save civilians from the Risen. This sets up the random encounter mechanic... and then the plot forgets all about it because we have bigger issues to deal with, such as the wars against Plegia, Valm, and later the Grimeal.
  • Zig-zagged in the Kingdom Hearts series, where it's stated that Sora (and other Keyblade wielders) continuously run into Heartless because the Heartless are drawn to the Keyblade. With that said, the upshot is that NPCs don't run into the Heartless as often; the Heartless do sometimes attack towns. Just look at Hollow Bastion's defense system in Kingdom Hearts II.
  • Justified in Mabinogi: most of the dangerous creatures live in dungeons, or remote areas. Near cities, the biggest threats you'll face are rats or raccoons, or maybe a wolf, but a farmer with a stick can reasonably be expected to handle those. The roads in general are quite clear of threats, and in areas where this is not true (Iria, Bangor...), the population of nearby towns is noticeably smaller and hardier than in major cities. The exception is that, when carrying valuable goods around with the merchant skill, high-level bandits frequently ambush you... which is why it's left to the Milletians!
  • In later Pokémon games, someone will usually say that wild Pokémon only jump out at trainers who have tame Pokemon with them, (although this contradicts Prof. Oak, who stops you from entering the tall grass in the very first game until you have a Pokémon).
  • The Tales Series games are a noted aversion to this trope. The series is well known for deconstructing JRPGs, and the narratives often go out of their way to show that it's not just a gameplay element, but a facet of the world that the characters have to live with. Some examples:
    • Both Deconstructed and justified in Tales of Vesperia. Monster attacks are a serious problem in the world, enough that cities have to use giant barriers to keep 'em out. Now, this doesn't actually prevent people from traveling outside the cities, and many do, but it's considered a dangerous proposition; those that travel outside the cities are usually well-armed.
    • Justified in Tales of Xillia: people deal with monsters by carrying Lilium Orbs, which increase your combat ability hugely (and facilitate the Level Up system). Anyone without a Lilium Orb is strongly discouraged from leaving town; Jude wasn't allowed to go to medical school without one, and he would have been safe on a boat for his whole journey. Luckily, Lilium Orbs are fairly common.
    • The Lilium Orbs don't work anymore in Tales of Xillia 2, so they were converted into Allium Orbs, which are functionally similar.
    • Justified in Tales of Zestiria; Sorey is the Shepard, meaning that he can see the effects Malevolence has on the world, and the fights aren't to kill enemies, but to purify the malevolence. To the NPCs, your fights look like a kid in a dorky robe fighting pigs and gusts of wind with a wooden sword.
  • Inverted in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, where street thugs in Los Angeles harass NPCs but not the Player Character.
  • Averted in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: if you get into an overworld encounter while on a road, no enemies show up, meaning you can just keep walking.

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