I'm not sure how common it is in the OSR/Post-OSR/NSR/[whatever you want to call the remnants of the blogosphere that exists] spaces, but a common refrain I have seen in more WFRP/BRP leaning rpg communities is that the idea of the "adventurer" is a purely pop cultural phenomenon without a basis in reality, with a usual corollary that as such it should not be simulated in our games. I want to deal not with the corollary, which I think the bulk of my readers will find stupid on its face, but rather the initial sentiment: that people of violent means who were largely unmoored from social structures and walked the world doing violent things for wealth and survival, largely did not exist. I want to argue that the historical record is replete with such people and provide a rather unorthodox example to help us better contextualize PC types in our games.
In case you cannot tell from the title of my post, I have picked for my example Otzi* the Iceman.** If you did not have a father who was as interested in the archaeology of pre-literate peoples as mine was, or if you just lack similar interests to me, Otzi is the name given to a natural mummy discovered in the Otzal Alps at the Austro-Italian border in 1991. His actual name is unknown, as is any biographical details that cannot be gleaned from his corpse. In the broadest strokes he was a man in early middle age who lived sometime during the Copper Age, most likely sometime between 3200 and 3100 BCE. Some of the details of his corpse are interesting if we think of him as a PC.
Otzi also seems to have had a fair amount of wealth for a copper age "pastoralist." Most notably is the copper axe mentioned earlier, which is made of over 99% pure copper and would've been incredibly rare at the time. Obviously this axe could be a simple tool, but given evidence later it also could've been involved in acts of violence. He also seems to have eaten extremely well - his digestive track contained the contents of two meals, both of which involved a significant amount of meat (chamois and red dear) as well as nuts, fruits, herbs, and einkorn wheat bread. This means he either had significant enough wealth to buy meat or, more probably but no less-PC like, he hunted in a period that was becoming more and more agrarian. Therefore we can conclude (at least for my stupid thought experiment) he subsisted at the edge of society.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our man Otzi was a man of violent means. DNA analysis of his gear showed that he had the blood of at least three other people on him when he died - one on a knife, two on a single arrow head (meaning that they were killed before the incident that caused his death) and one on his coat. The arrow head is further interesting because it implies two separate fights before his final one, as I think it unlikely he would retrieve and fire the same arrow again in rapid enough succession for it to be considered a single fight. He also, of course, has an arrow wound himself that is almost assuredly the cause of his demise. Notably here too, the arrow has been removed and Otzi's somewhat characteristic arm folding in death may have been due to someone turning him over to get their arrow back. Why they didn't take his fine axe, I don't know.
Ok I lied. That wasn't the final one. Let's do the most preposterous one: he was a regular recipient of healing magic. Otzi possessed a number of tattoos made by rubbing charcoal into an incision in specific points. This seems to have been done on more than one occasion, as is shown by the pigmentation in and repeated nature of the incisions. Some have said these incisions match up to acupunctural points designed to help with stomach pain, and indeed it seems that Otzi had whip worm. I guess it was AD&D after all. Sorry about that disease roll.