Roleplaying Quest Contest Entries
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #233
- Mediation…Large Scale
- It’s All Relative
- The Mining Dwarves
- Excelsior Atrophic (Glory Slowly Wasting Away) Of The Noble House Of Damren
- Brokering the Deal
- Mayor’s Wife’s Brother
- Secret Vows
- The King Is Dead…Long Live The King!
- Child’s Play
- Not Without My Pooky
- Over My Dead Body!
- Bounty Hunters
- A Strange Week
- Anyone tried using the NPCE NPC generator?
- 10 Tips For Solving PC Block
- Tips About Social Networks
- More Filing Cabinet Tips
- GM Trick: Death’s Grace
A few issues ago, we had a contest where readers submitted Roleplaying Quest ideas and synopses. Below are a few hand- picked entries. I’m putting just about all the contest entries in a future Supplemental Issue. Also, you can view most of the contest entries at randomrpg.com where you can output them as a long list or have them served up randomly to you one at time to help your planning or inspire you with cool ideas.
From Ross Tony Shingledecker
Two huge armies (representing nations, kingdoms, wizards’ colleges, merchant factions, rival galaxies, or whatever) are on the brink of a terrible war. If the war commenced, which a majority of people in both parties believes is inevitable, thousands will die fighting, and tens of thousands of others will perish from disease, famine, looting, and the other horrors of war.
As a last ditch effort to keep the peace, the leaders of the two factions request the PCs to mediate between them (or among them if there is more than 2 factions). Why? Perhaps the PCs are famous, perhaps they were chosen because of their neutrality, perhaps they were chosen for their past deeds, or perhaps they were chosen by lot to ensure a fair mediation; for whatever reason, the job is theirs–prevent a war.
How the PCs should handle this situation would be specific to the factions about to engage in war, but here are some general strategies:
- Declare immediate moratorium on conflict/contact
- Set up a ‘neutral zone’ (Romulans?) or demilitarized zone
- Meet with leaders separately
- Hold a summit
- Set up a sort of tribunal where each side presents their case
- Set up a negotiation where each side brings list of demands and concessions they’re willing to make (preferable with the rulers present so decisions and compromises can be made swiftly)
- Go on a goodwill tour of the areas to drum up popular support for peace
- Participate in a trade of personnel/technology/knowledge, maybe even of nobles’ children or the like
- Create and spread anti-war propaganda
- Propose an alternate threat (like space pirates or a third encroaching army—shadier PCs might actually create an alternate threat for this purpose)
- Point out the horrors/scars of the last war
- Force everyone to read ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (a very nonpolitical, nonpacifist, but VERY antiwar book written by a WWI German soldier, later banned by Hitler because it taught that war was bad)
Monkey Wrenches that might disrupt the PCs efforts:
- Demagogues stirring up popular support for war (shadier PCs might assassinate them)
- People who claim the PCs really work for one side or the other
- People dredging up past information about the PCs to support a wild claim
- People resenting outside influence
- Units of the military associated with a faction going rogue and attacking anyway
- Units of anyone’s factions crossing the wrong border
- Proof of espionage/assassination on the part of one of the factions
- Agents of an (apparently) neutral party trying to stir up unrest (like a third merchant house that stands to gain if the other two fight to the death)
- One faction demanding something that the other refuses to compromise on
- A surprise attack by someone
It’s All Relative
From Michael Erb
A long-estranged family member shows up unexpectedly wanting to mend ties and become part of their brother/sister/cousin/ son/daughter’s life once again. Their motives are sincere and they terribly miss the relationship, but old habits die hard and things are still strained between the family members.
The visit comes shortly before a player character is supposed to undertake a quest or adventure, and the relative wants desperately to know ‘what you are doing with your life’ and hopes to shadow the PC on their mission. Their outlook on life should be quite at odds with that of the PC however.
For example, if the PC is a fighter, the relative may be a priest or pacifist. If the PC is a mage, the relative may not consider such bookish behavior to be a ‘real man’s work’ or may be anti-magic altogether (‘It’s of the devil, I says!’ while Mom is hurling spell components down a well). The PC may also spend more time protecting their family member than doing their job. Regardless, it will be up to the player to decide how important family is and whether the two can find common ground and rebuild their relationship.
The Mining Dwarves
From Chris Young (An idea from a friend)
What the PC group knows: the old dwarven mine has been abandoned. One day the usual tenday messenger went up the mountain to the dwarven mine and discovered the miners were gone–no message, no farewells, no nothin’.This would have disturbed people but for the healthy metal works trade coming from the new human realm to the east. Eventually, as years passed, human settlements sprung up on the mountainside, and there’s even a village of reformed trolls occupying the first level of the old mine. Everything’s just wonderful now.
What the PCs don’t know, and may find out in short order: the dwarves have disappeared, but they aren’t extinct or dead in any way either, contrary to popular rumor/gossip. They simply found something better to mine than iron and mithril: a mithril alloy!
Back on level ten of the old mines, the dwarves discovered an underground river that led to an even larger complex of caverns that were home to frogmites, even more mithril ore, and a water dragon. Since then, the frogmites live comfy lives by providing the dwarves with fish to eat, and the dwarves have learned to make weapons, armor, and all manner of other things with the new alloy by having the dragon breathe on the mithril.
The dwarves have no idea why this works, but they intend to capitalize on it by stocking up on magic armaments, re- entering the outside world soon, and making war to take back their mountain!
Only a few problems:
- The humans already suspect that something fishy is going on in the old mines.
- Humans are resilient buggers and wouldn’t appreciate the dwarves attempting to rout them from their homes.
- The reformed trolls want to keep their homes too.
So, how to stop the dwarves? The PCs will have to become the central diplomats between the dwarves & friends, the human settlements, and the mercantile troll village. Eventually, a peace treaty may be wrought, but otherwise things could get bloody in a hurry.
The frogmites definitely don’t want to lose their easy life. The dwarves want to keep their mountain and their metals. The humans want money and could be willing to set up trade agreements. The trolls will insist on being the go-betweens for the humans and dwarves.
The dragon is Neutral. When the dwarves free it as part of their agreement, it becomes Chaotic Neutral, with a main goal of finding out what the heck went on in the last thousand years or so. If any of the PCs look particularly scholarly or elven, it might ask them for information.
If the dragon is angered, it might take the dwarves’ side in the ensuing conflict, or be manipulated to fight for the humans. It might not take any side and simply blast everyone. It’s up to the GM.
The PCs have a total of 72 hours game time to eliminate the threat and save everyone. If that fails, they must fix the problem after war has already started.
The only combat involved should be the monsters inhabiting other levels of the mines (both old and new). The main focus should be diplomacy and roleplaying here.
Excelsior Atrophic (Glory Slowly Wasting Away) Of The Noble House Of Damren
From Chris Young
The noble house of Damren has lived in Waterford for as long as anyone can remember. They aren’t truly a house of note except for one thing: ten years ago, the then nine-year-old daughter of Augustus Damren disappeared in a fire that consumed the old family manor. Her body was never found, and magical attempts to find her all failed, save for one thing: Saria Damren was still alive, somewhere.Now it is ten years later, and suddenly Augustus is plagued with nightmares and fears of a slowly gathering darkness consuming his waning house’s power and life.
He hires a group of adventurers to find his daughter, who he is confident is still living in Waterford or the immediate area surrounding it. He wishes to pass the leadership and power of the house over to her, and to apologize for not being able to find her in the house when it was burning.He is only a shell of the imposing, charismatic man he once was, and is slowly wasting away along with the glory of the house.
The source of the slowly gathering darkness in Augustus’s mind is the many scrolls of Nightmare spells-from the secret cache of angry pyrokinetic sorcerer, Saria Damren. She believes that her father did not care enough for her to rescue her, and, seeing his outwardly happy life later on, believes he never cared about her. She wants to make him suffer for that…or so she tells herself.
In truth, Augustus is a broken man, and Saria just wants to know that her father loved her, and still loves her now. (Her mother died when she was 6, so she was kind of sad about that too.) After questing for Saria’s whereabouts in the undercity, the PCs will most likely have to help the troubled family patch up their emotions and lives, and most likely prevent Saria from burning down the manor with Augustus inside. There’s only one catch. If the PCs don’t prevent the fire, the Order of Magists and Protectors will hold them responsible for the fire, and the PCs may end up being fined or incarcerated.
Brokering the Deal
From Chris Young
The PCs have been enlisted as assistant brokers, accountants, or enforcers for the next deal to be cut by the wealthiest merchant in the area. He wants their help to ensure that no funny business goes on. Unfortunately, the merchant has lost his voice. To that end, he is going to have the PCs be the bargainers at the location for the business deal. They will have to actually cut a deal with the buyers and make sure that they meet the quota set by their employer. Once his quota is filled, the PCs are free to go.
Nothing sinister, no ulterior motives. It does, however, help to have someone who knows economics and accounting in the group so that you can get the best bang for your buck (or gold piece). It’s also a great way to introduce shady/flamboyant characters, all of whom might have something going on, or a job that needs doing by a group not adverse to shady dealings.
Mayor’s Wife’s Brother
The players have witnessed a random crime. The players may either report it or not, for as they sit preparing for the next day and breaking fast, they are approached by a middle- aged man, thin and weedly. He approaches with an officious air, and the backing of two large guards. He demands to know the players’ part in the affair, writing everything down in a huge book.
This particular official is an investigator for the town guard. He gained his position by being related to the current head of town, or the guard. He loves to abuse his power, and can and will make the characters lives miserable for any imagined slight.
From Julia Pope
At the wedding of an important noble, a female peasant steps forward to object, claiming that she and the noble in question were already married in a secret ceremony. She asks the PCs to help prove the truth of the matter by seeking out the only witnesses and persuading them to speak out.
The noble’s family, not wanting to see their family member lawfully married to a commoner, will seek to quash the PCs’ efforts by threatening/bribing the witnesses, and perhaps, as a last resort, threatening/bribing the PCs themselves. and what about the noble’s own feelings – were the couple really in love and the noble was pressured into an aristocratic match, or do they regret their hasty elopement and seek to put it behind them? if it turns out that the couple is truly in love, are the PCs willing to risk incurring the displeasure of a powerful clan to help them be together?
The King Is Dead…Long Live The King!
From Julia Pope
The mausoleum of a great leader from a former dynasty, upon being opened for its once-a-century cleaning and maintenance, is found to be empty. The PCs are hired by the current ruler to find where the body went.
The body has been stolen by a group who are dissatisfied with the present ruler, and who wish to raise the great leader from the dead. If the PCs don’t manage to prevent them from achieving their goal (assuming they even want to – maybe the present leader is a real dud!), this could cause civil war as some people join the great (formerly-deceased) ruler and others’ side with the rightful, if less- celebrated, monarch. And what if the great leader turns out not to be that great after all?
From Julia Pope
The PCs come across the tomb of a long-dead princess, who was buried with many magical, semi-sentient toys that can walk and talk to keep her company. The toys, after so many centuries in disuse, ask that the PCs rescue them from their boredom and give them to living children.
If the PCs take the dolls, the princess’s spirit will haunt them or haunt the new owners of the toys. The haunting will be harmless but annoying, until the PCs find some way to keep the Princess entertained in the afterlife. She’s a spoiled brat, but also very lonely. Persuading the magical toys to return to her is an option, but might be difficult once they’ve had a taste of freedom.Another option might be to find her some ghostly playmates. And yet another option would be to figure out how to put her spirit to peaceful rest.
Not Without My Pooky
From Jeff Lucarelli
Shortly after arriving in a new town, the PCs hear about a large troll living under a bridge who’s harassing passers-by and scaring the town’s children. The mayor of the town asks the PCs to get rid of it, offering the PCs copious (or even ridiculous) amounts of flammable liquid and torches to do the deed.
The troll in question is very powerful, but he doesn’t want to kill anyone. PCs who question the mayor or the townspeople will find out that, even if the troll is scaring children and yelling at travelers, he hasn’t _hurt_ anyone. But the troll is very mean and will cruelly make fun of people who approach him (including the PCs). The troll is upset because local children have stolen his best friend, Pooky — a small, mud-encrusted doll made of straw that wears a little pair of pants.
Over My Dead Body!
From Jeff Lucarelli
The PCs are surprised to find a week-old dead body lying in the middle of the road. The body sits up, surprised to see the PCs staring at him. The undead man begs them not to kill him (again) and asks them for their help.
The undead creature is a revenant, a man risen from the grave to avenge his own death. The revenant was formally a prestigious knight who was killed by his wife and his lord so that they could be together.The revenant wants the PCs to help him expose the murder, bringing the wife and lord to justice and allowing him to rest in peace. But it won’t be easy. The PCs will need a lot of evidence for their word to be believed over that of the much beloved lord and his new lady.
From Marcus Clay
A group of bounty hunters called The Nine hunt and kidnap high-powered PCs for anyone willing to pay their exorbitant fees. They are specialists in their field, like a Doppelganger Spy Master, or a Nightshade Shadow Dancer, where their class skills play off their inherent abilities. They travel around on a flying ship called the Cortogan, which is mostly a modified slaver ship. Their prices allow kingdoms and villains the means to deal with a region’s hero, or securing their bid for the throne, or what have you.
This idea is mostly a vehicle for high-level PCs to have a form of a challenge in any campaign. Simply create 9 maxed out creature/class combinations and bring them in unexpectedly. If the PCs can be fantasy super heroes, then they need super villains. It would also be an idea to develop weaknesses for the PCs and have the villains know it and try to exploit them.
A Brief Word From Johnn
A Strange Week
This week was quite unusual, hence the delay of Issue #233. My apologies for that. #234 will still go out Monday even though this issue is a few days overdue.
Anyone tried using the NPCE NPC generator?
Just wondering if anyone’s had the chance to download and try out the NPC personality and background generator by Jean-Michel Bravo. If so, did you find it useful? Have any tweak ideas?
The generator is freeware and you can download it here:
Have a game-full weekend!
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Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters
Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!
10 Tips For Solving PC Block
From Joel Fox
Some people get stuck in a rut when it comes to making their PCs: they make the same basic character over and over again. If you (or your PCs) have this problem, there are two things you can do: get ideas for changing your current concept or create a whole new concept. Most of the methods below should work for either approach.
- Use a disassociated stereotype. In other words, use another stereotype, but one associated with another race or class. For example, maybe a wizard that’s out for cash (wizard with rogue stereotype) or a dwarf who speaks quickly and has an affinity for mechanics (dwarf with gnome stereotype).
- Change the character’s alignment. What if the character was of a different alignment? Instead of the chaotic neutral ranger who seeks revenge for his parents’ murder by killing goblins, how about a neutral good cleric who turned to religion when his parents were killed and brings faith to those in similar times of trouble?
- Add some traits. Add another trait (or several) to your PC. The DMG has a table to roll randomly, or you could just pick some. For example, the dwarven cleric who aspires to become king could have a stooped back (#39 on the table) from years of slavery. He wishes to become king to have slavery outlawed.
- Dictionary Jamboree. Pick a word randomly out of the dictionary, and base a character on it. For example, I just picked ‘lacuna’ (look it up). A character based on this could be a cleric who searches for the lost holy scripts of the first prophet of his religion. The DM could help by giving the PC Decipher Script as a class skill.
- History. Borrow from history. In ancient China, whole villages would sometimes support a single child as he grew up so that child could succeed spectacularly and help out the village. Maybe the stereotypical greedy rogue sends all the loot he steals back to his village when the rest of the party isn’t looking.
- Mythology. Borrow from any myth. Hercules undertook his labors hoping he would die in the process, as he had murdered his family. Maybe the grim fighter has a similar goal.
- Fiction. Take something from your favorite book. Haplo from the Death Gate Cycle was a spy from another dimension on a surveying mission from his powerful wizard master. Maybe the cheery sorcerer is similar, but was sent by a dragon lord.
- Use your character’s name. Always use the same name? Like a specific name? Look up the name in a name dictionary or similar resource. For example, if you always name your character Julian, know that Julian means ‘soft-bearded; youthful’. Use that to alter Julian for the better.
- Hobbies. Create a character with a hobby, possibly the same hobbies as you yourself possess. If the hobby doesn’t exist in the campaign setting, create an equivalent. For example, if you like creating model planes, have a wizard who uses magic clay to create small construct creatures such as birds and dragons.
- Roll randomly. As a last resort, roll your character completely randomly. Roll his stats straight (if you don’t already), roll a d12 for class (12=multiclass), and 2d3 for alignment. Or just pick something randomly; either way, just change as much as you can.
Tips About Social Networks
From Kenneth Gauck
My favorite way to hand out new information is to use social networks. We all know from our daily lives that most of the new people we meet or the jobs we acquire are accomplished through people we already know who have contacts or information that are useful. Unless a campaign is based on the idea that the party is a perpetually unrooted group of strangers, social networks are an excellent way to pass on in-game information. The old tavern set-up is one kind of social situation, but there are so many more, richer potential social set-ups.
James Bond often got his adventure started by contriving a social meeting, typically over some kind of game. His meeting with Strangways’ old card group connected him up with both Prof Dent and Quarrel. He first met Goldfinger over golf. He made his contact with both Domino Petachi and Largo at a charity function where he danced with Domino and played “world domination” with Largo.
The Empire Strikes Back is driven by social connections in which Ben advises Luke to find Yoda, and Han opts to go to the Cloud City because of the presence of his old friend, Lando.
Social connections break down into three general groups:
- Family and friends
Family and friends are people who you know and trust and who can provide the context for rumors, contacts, and meetings through visits and parties. If family and friends are regular people (not adventurers) their contacts are friends of friends or they are just specialists. For example, at your cousin’s dinner party you may meet Dr Shaw, the new university botanist. Later on you visit Shaw to identify a strange leaf that turns out to be found in some exotic place, giving the party a clue to the main villain’s location.
Professional contacts are those people who you know because of your profession. Policemen know other police, and even in a strange town, it’s much easier for a party member with a police background to get information or recruit allies from the police than it is for the party’s ex-jewel thief. If you need information from soldiers, you send someone with a military background to socialize with the soldiers, whether in a neutral place, like the local tavern, or by passing yourself off as a member of their organization.
The way Rosa Klebb recruited Tatiana Romanov to unknowingly work for SPECTRE. Princess Leia infiltrated Jabba’s palace by posing as a bounty hunter. Priestly networks are often very useful for acquiring assistance. Other kinds of professional organizations or places where you can find people who will recognize you as “one of them” will facilitate professional contacts.
Business contacts are people whom you have done business with in the past. Perhaps the duke whose daughter you rescued will provide information about the evil count Ramius, and may be able to arrange invitations where the PCs can meet Ramius. Characters who don’t leave a trail of destructions in their wake should accumulate a long list of people who did business with them and would be willing to offer information or assistance in the future.
More Filing Cabinet Tips
From Kate Manchester
I personally look at filing as a ‘necessary evil’, but here’s a few tips:
First off, try not to use folders that all have the tabs in the same place. Buy the third cut folders, or at least alternate between left and right tabs (it’s simple enough to refold the tabs). If you don’t, it can be hard to see.
Clearly mark your folders in a way that makes sense to you. This should be a no-brainer, but what makes sense to one person might not be the same. For example, looking up check vouchers for garnishments. While I think it might make more sense to simply have a “Garnishments” file, my co-worker files them alphabetically, and often ignored “State” in favor of filing by “Department Name”.
If possible, consider having one drawer for “Active” and one for “Inactive” and/or “Future”. That way, you’re not cluttering the papers that you’re currently using with ones that you’ve either used or are planning to use. Even better, since they’re in a specific area, if you chose to use them again (say the party goes back to a previously visited town) it should be easy to track them down.
Consider also color coding your files. Colored file folder labels in assorted colors are pretty cheap to come by.
Lastly, try to file things right away. Nothing’s worse than having to deal with a pile of papers that you haven’t filed in months. Worse yet, that paper you’re looking for could be in the pile.
Hope those help. Happy Gaming!
GM Trick: Death’s Grace
From Daniel G.
I always thought that a PC’s death was frustrating. This idea is simply to allow a character a short speech (or perhaps one action) before actually dying, even if he should be dead according to whatever game system is in use.
In a fantasy setting, this means that the character is effectively dead, and as such, no amount of magical healing can bring him back. However, through the grace of the Death God (or whatever legendary figure you want to use), she is allowed to make the classic speech to her friends, or perhaps even make a final move (such as pulling the Big Bad Evil Guy down into the lava pit or mortally wounding her opponent).
In a modern setting, this means that the character has suffered a mortal wound that can’t be treated by modern medicine.
Another option is to have a “pre-recorded” message delivered to the surviving characters afterwards, such as a letter or a video tape. The Trekkers out there probably remember Tasha’s farewell in the holodeck, in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In a fantasy setting, you could have all the characters share a dream about their lost friend.
I’m convinced you can think of countless ways to make this fun and bring some impact to a character’s death…beyond the “Hmmm, (starts rolling new stats) I think I’ll play a dwarven warrior this time!” ?