High Death Campaigns and How to Bring New PCs in Fast
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0521
- A Brief Word from Johnn
- High Death Campaigns and How to Bring New PCs in Fast
- 5 Things to Do with Food
- Riddleport Session 22
- Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters
- How-To Game Master Books
- One More Tip
A Brief Word from Johnn
A bit of a longer issue this time around, and hopefully you get a nugget or two out of it that helps your GMing.
I especially like the food tips from Rachel Beck. A few uses I had not thought of before. I guess you could say, I ate her tips up.
I am playing in a new Pathfinder campaign this week. I have not yet decided on a character. I created a dwarven druid with an eastern accent who rides a spitting camel. The camel has the same charisma as the druid, which is why I gave the dwarf an accent – so you can tell them apart.
However, I’m not sure if druids are my thing. I might play a magus. I always did well at spelling in school.
I might build the magus and then let a dice roll cast my fate. I’ll let you know how it goes. On an unrelated note, if you like zombies, you should check out Silveressa’s Zombie Apocalypse campaign series at the site.
High Death Campaigns and How to Bring New PCs in Fast
Over at campaignmastery.com, Mike and I offer an Ask the GMs service for game masters who need help with their games. Ask the GMs.
We have built up quite a backlog of questions, so I thought I’d address the next item in the queue in this week’s RPT newsletter.
James S. asks:
“If death is to have a consequence, if a PC dies permanently, are there any ways to quicken the generation of a new character, and might you have any tips to integrate those new characters into the party?”
Thanks for submitting your Ask the GMs question, James. Here are five tips.
Create A Bench of (N)PCs
Run a campaign rich with NPCs. Characters always add depth, interest, and story value to any campaign.
Ask players to make basic NPCs for you. These should be characters close to the party, who would interact with the group semi-regularly.
- Minions and servants
- Past customers or clients
- Drinking buddies
Have players design or help flesh out just the important aspects of these characters:
- Motives and goals. What do they want? Think short term and long.
- Personality. When roleplaying the NPC, what makes them instantly recognizable to everyone at the game table?
- Main location. Home base or favorite hangout.
- How do they get by? How do they feed and shelter themselves, or if more affluent, how do they afford luxuries?
- Enemies. Who crosses swords with them? Who competes for the same ambitions? Who dislikes them just *because*?
Create some kind of record keeping system for these details. Index cards work awesome. I use My Info. Pick your poison, create NPC entries, and fill out their details as the campaign progresses.
No need to develop a lot of NPCs immediately. Just note names to start. Add details as you plan or play. Prompt players to fill in details, as well.
As you pick off PCs in your high-death style game, draw from your vibrant cast of NPCs for new adventurers.
The benefits of this are:
- The new (N)PC is already familiar to the group (somewhat handling the awkward “Why should we trust a stranger” issue)
- The replacement character already has ties to the party, and hopefully is involved in the story so far, even if it’s been just a small role to date
- A large variety to choose from
- Already integrated into the world (experienced groups may grow fatigued of yet another stranger hitting town looking to group -this method offers more realistic and meaningful brotherhood)
For example, the PCs deal with a merchant a couple times for repairs and purchases. Using the iterative design method outlined above, you and the players know a more about him than you would normally know about a throwaway NPC.
Then a PC goes down in the wilderness and the group returns one member short. The merchant hears this and decides to switch cash register for great sword. He approaches the group, and the dead PC’s player takes over.
The group gets a new companion, the story gets a little bit deeper (merchant turns adventurer – that’s pretty interesting), and the player gets a head start on PC creation.
Two secrets accompany this tip.
First, GMing in a vacuum sucks. The PCs thrive on hooks, and so do you. More details give you more brain food to riff off of to create connections, situations, and stories.
A growing cast of NPCs who have more than just a name and race fills up your toolbox fast. Every NPC is an opportunity. The more you know about the NPC, the bigger the opportunity. Sometimes the opportunity will be to strike the N off NPC.
The second secret is more NPC interaction gets you more NPC details, which gets you more NPC interaction. It is a positive feedback loop.
Key is to reuse NPCs as much as possible. Even if the group is on the road, you can tie new NPCs to old ones by way of family, acquaintances, fraternity, and reputation, fleshing out the old NPC in the process.
Most of the time, you’ll be able to reuse NPCs directly. In each interaction, first consult your card or entry for consistency, and then game on. Note details as you or players make them up.
Some players will not like drawing from a pool. This might be because they want more ownership. A previously shared persona now feels used, and some players want shiny new.
Encourage these players to develop their own stable of NPCs, and run them closely with just you and the designated player adding details to the non-player character. This will work in nearly all cases.
Have an Integration Plan Worked Out Ahead of Time
Know you’re going to run a high turnover game? Check with players first. If they are ok with it, then brainstorm with them a list of new PC introduction events and methods.
Getting player buy-in and ideas in advance takes a lot of pressure off you.
Make your ideas list public to players. Let each choose their new PC’s intro. This takes even more pressure off you.
Dungeons and remote wilderness is especially tricky for party recruitment. Pre-planning party refreshment will give the whole group inspiration when new PCs join.
- “They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”
I’ve run this premise before to facilitate PC swaps with success. The PCs quest on behalf of a divine being. We’ll call him Elwood.
When new PCs are needed, Elwood makes it happen. No limits here, because you can use godlike powers as rationale for any situation, such as the new PC getting yanked out of bed 10,000 miles away and plunked in the middle of an ice cavern.
- Magic portals
A riff off Ultima IV. Portals tied to moon phases, ancient technology, or random weather make collisions with replacement PCs easy.
- Lost communities
Settlements isolated and previously unknown spawn rugged adventurers galore.
- Pathfinders Guild
Something akin to the Pathfinder Society gives you a group of people dedicated to being in weird places at the right time for PC intros.
- Vision quest
Ideal for spiritual PCs. The new character has a dream, follows a prophecy, or experiences a vision that guides him to the party.
These ideas are for more difficult scenarios where the group is hard to reach and not interacting with NPCs regularly. In civilized campaigns, all your standard match-ups apply.
Just take a few moments at campaign start to create your plan for PC replenishment, with player input, and you will be fine.
Ask Idle Players for Help
If you are lucky enough to have a chronic character builder in your group, ask that player to start cranking out stat blocks.
When idle during games, ask the player for character builds at current party level.
Between sessions, ask the player for more builds.
File the builds away and let players choose from the pile when they need a new PC. This speeds up char gen mid-session tremendously.
Builds left unused become NPCs.
Ask Players to Create Backups
This might work for some groups. Ask each player to have at least one PC waiting in the wings.
This might require players to update their backup PC from time to time. Send out reminders accordingly.
Also ask players to connect their backup PCs to other PCs in the group.
If your group can handle it, run the backup PCs concurrently for help, such as information gathering. If you think players will abuse this, such as by offering free crafting, buffing, or income pooling, then put restrictions on things and come up with reasonable in-game reasons for the restrictions.
A mature group could get a lot of benefit from operating shadow PCs, however, without ruining game balance. And when a PC goes down, the backup gets activated and the player starts creating a new backup.
Tap Pre-Built Builds
Another way to handle rapid PC gen is to use characters and NPCs built by others.
Can you get character generation software for your game?
Can you get products with NPC builds and profiles for your game?
Are there forums or bloggers who post characters and NPCs?
A great option is to offer trades. Their NPC for yours.
Better yet, post your builds publicly to give back to the
community and to encourage others to share their creations.
Readers, what do you think? How would you handle faster PC creation and replacement in your games?
5 Things to Do with Food
From Rachel Beck
Someone on the GITP forums once pointed out to me that GMs are people who like to host and build things. Not only does this serve them well in tabletop gaming, but it also often equips them to be amateur chefs.
Regardless of your cooking expertise, here’s five ways to use food to bring something new to the gaming table.
This one should be fairly obvious and requires little explanation. People get hungry. I have ten ever starving college students as players; they descend upon anything edible like locusts.
Chips and soda usually suffice for shorter games, but beware cranky players if the game stretches on too long and the caffeine-high dies.
Heavier foods like pasta are good for longer games, but in moderation else players get sleepy.
The most obvious application of food as a prop is to offer the aforementioned munchies only when PCs stop for a bite at a tavern, are invited to a banquet at the noble’s manor, and so on.
This keeps the PCs attentive to their daily needs as mere mortals, and gives barren wastelands devoid of food a bit of an edge.
Take it a step further though.
GMs frequently run into the problem of their flavor text being ignored by meta-gaming PCs. One solution to this is to increase the stakes a little.
At one point, my players were in an enchanted house for the night. They came across a table ladened with food and cheerfully ignored any description of how good the food looked and smelled because, as players, they knew better.
I then set a plate piled high with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at the center of the table and declared it to be the food on the table.
Suddenly, PCs started to wrestle with the question of whether or not to eat the food a lot more seriously.
Play with Your Food
Yes, I realize this flies in the face of everything your mother ever taught you about dinner etiquette. When applicable, consider building a set for an encounter out of food.
Gingerbread houses are the first thought that springs to mind, but different types of pasta, shaped bread dough, cakes, and other foods also work well.
I once built a dungeon using kit-kat bars held together by toothpicks for walls, M&Ms for rocks and debris, gummies for monsters, and a tissue paper base with a grid on it.
Given how small most miniatures are, building encounters out of food doesn’t take that much material. It’s a fun way to get players to interact with their environment more than usual, especially if they get to eat any monsters they beat.
You don’t have to have an adventure set in Candy Land for this to work (though that might be a fun, one-shot adventure). I struck upon this idea when building a one-shot encounter centered around the story of Hansel and Gretel.
Using food as building materials allows you show the destruction of a castle under siege piece by tasty piece, or lend a three dimensional element as a bridge crumbles beneath a hapless party’s feet. In short, you can break food without feeling bad about destroying reusable props.
A few words of caution on this one. This is not a good option for GMs who are short on time. Also, expect your creation to be consumed at the end of the session.
Also be aware that it may turn players more destructive than usual if they realize they get to eat what they break.
Bored players are the bane of every GM’s existence. I run a game with ten players. Suffice it to say, I can’t be paying attention to every person at the table at all points in time, particularly when they decided to spread out in a city.
GMs I’ve talked to with smaller (saner-sized) groups who run sandbox worlds have expressed similar problems.
Even if you only have three players, if they all go different directions someone’s going to end up waiting while you narrate for someone else.
Try putting a pot of soup or stew on to simmer towards the beginning of the game, or set out sandwich ingredients. That way, players can slip off for a bite one or two at a time while they’re waiting for the GM to get to them.
It also helps cut down on the number of breaks you need to take in during the course of a session, to let people stretch their legs and so on.
Love and Loot
Food makes a great incentive, especially if you’re playing with 16 – 24 year olds. If you want to reward players for cleverness or roleplaying without unbalancing the game, get a treat bag or make a plate of cookies to be handed out at the GM’s desecration.
On the flip side of things, it can sometimes be hard to get people to bring food to a game.
GMs spend hours building an adventure, and then often end up footing the bill for snacks. Consider rewarding people for bringing food by letting them draw from a deck of mundane or minor loot or giving them small amounts of exp.
In the end, do what works best for you and your players. Some groups I know like to get together for dinner and a game, others deliberately schedule their adventures away from meal times.
If feeding people is a problem, let them bring their own snacks. If you have some aspiring chefs, give them a forum to practice and show off their culinary skills.
Riddleport Session 22
The Caverns Beneath
What seems ages ago, the Chalice Bastards were warned never to step foot into the abandoned lighthouse. Terrible things there would tear them apart.
In session 22, the group finally girds their loins and enters the tunnel they discovered beneath the abandoned mariner’s signal tower.
Welcome New PC Hrolf
The session begins with the group taking care of some business around town. Velare the wizard earns his first cohort, an impeccable bard named Braggi. He is an old family friend and is on a divine quest to retrieve a magical helmet rumoured to be in Riddleport.
Velare gives Braggi his first task: find a bodyguard not corrupted by Riddleport factions. Braggi returns shortly with Hrolf, a 6’6″ string bean warrior with ugly pink scars all over his face and a missing ear. An obvious veteran, Hrolf is interviewed and then joins the party.
(Last session, Thorne’s player asked to switch characters. I said no problem, a player needs to be happy with his PC. So we benched Thorne, who still works for the PCs in the background. I wanted to introduce new PC Hrolf into the session as soon as possible, so that was our first order of business before tackling the lighthouse.)
Next, Velare sends a fake note through the Red Caps to the villain Scab. Dubbed as Operation Pirate Scum, the message hinted at a conspiracy. This was a smart move by the PCs. Scab is currently in hiding, an outlaw with his own crime family. This note might flush Scab out, or cause him trouble with whoever might intercept and read the note.
The group now heads to the lighthouse. Despite yet another storm approaching the city, the PCs spot pirate ships fleeing the harbour, racing to beat the head clouds. The city has experienced a continuous month of storms, curtailing all pirate activity, resulting in scarce food, loot, and money.
Previously, the heroes vanquished a fire-breathing, magically self-healing, five-headed dragon beneath the lighthouse. The creature’s cave lead to an older cavern with numerous exits and a talking stone mouth at each claiming it was the best path.
The PCs destroyed these mouths and were promptly attacked by terribly strong golems of flesh. They almost died in this encounter before fleeing.
This time into the cavern, the group opts to head in the direction furthest away from the golem tunnel. [I showed the players this pic: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/cave1 ]
And now they find themselves waist deep in guano. Keeping dark and silent, they wade through the feces, knowing 10,000 bats sleep overhead.
The Demon Guard
After hundreds of feet of this, the group emerges into a large cavern of pillars. A demon jumps out at them and warns them to turn back. The path home is not a fun one, so the PCs decide to stay and fight.
The abyssal nightmare promptly summons a fiend friend for help and the battle is on. [For battle details see http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/timethief ]
Though the outsiders fight bravely, they are soon dispatched and the PCs journey on. The battle attracted swarms of bats, which complicate the fight, and the PCs are forced to block off the entrance tunnel to stop the frenzied creatures.
The pillared cavern leads to the prison of an aerial servant who claims allegiance to the god Ragathiel the paladin Vigor’s god. Vigor interrogates the creature, but gets little information from it. The party chooses to free the servant, who has been trapped and guarded by the demon for the past 100 years.
Dead end. The PCs must return, but smartly wait a few hours for the bats to calm down. Their tactic works, and they tread through the guano again while the winged creatures dream bat dreams peacefully above.
A Magic Boat
Taking a side cavern leads the group to a river and lake. Using rope to help swim the dangerous waters, the group finds a beached magic boat. After a bit of experimentation, the party figures out the command words and can now sail the river and lake without problem.[The pic I showed players: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/cave2 ]
A Terrible Secret
Sailing along, the group comes to an intersection of dry tunnels. They drag the boat ashore and explore the left tunnel.
To their horror, they blithely discover a cavern filled with row upon row of golems, standing at attention. Ulfen guards watch over Cypher mages building and tinkering with the constructs.
What does this mean for Riddleport? Such an army would surely conquer the factioned city with ease.
Backtracking in silence, the heroes opt to take the right tunnel. [This pic I showed players]
This branches, and soon the group hears a roaring creature ahead. They approach carefully, and while still in the long tunnel they catch a glimpse of something moving in a cavern ahead. A creature of some sort…. A massive creature three storeys tall cuffed in gargantuan chains covered in runes.
A closer look and the PCs cannot believe their eyes. They flee immediately. [The pic I showed players: http://images.elfwood.com/art/a/m/amandagreen/tarrasque01.jpg ]
A Strange Abode
Taking a different tunnel now, the group hears a deep male voice ahead and approach carefully. “Yeah, that’s it baby, a little to the left. Ohhhh yeah, that’s the spot. Now a bit to the right. Ohhhh yeah.”
Fane the dwarf scouts ahead and sees a small cavern filled with sumptuous furnishings. A small, stout creature lies back on big pillows while a beautiful woman straightens out a painting hanging on a stone wall. [Pic I showed players: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/vizier ]
Fane stays a bit longer, and the creature starts muttering about how Crixus will soon be getting his just desserts. More threats against Crixus, the PC pit fighter, sends Fane back down the corridor with the news.
The PCs have their backs against the clock. They entered these caverns looking for two people. First was Lady Warren, who they spotted approaching the lighthouse in the dark last night. Second is Scab, who they tracked to the lighthouse and who stole their 15,000 guilders.
Having found neither, the group worries about the clock. The owe their Crime Lord Rictus 15,000 guilders tomorrow. The caverns only seem to hold terrible monsters and enemies, but no gold.
The group decides to return to the inn and regroup, their deadline just hours away….
Post Game Analysis
The session moved along at a fast pace, with lots of interesting revelations. Several players complained about 1st Edition style tunnels, but nobody seemed too serious about the issue.
I wish the group had interrogated the aerial servant more, but as I noted in a previous log, one or two no’s seem to stop the players. I’m not sure why. So, if I want to deliver critical information in the future, I’ll need to hide it behind one block, max.
The combat went well, but I need to study the rules a bit better for my bad guys. That’ll help them live longer, pose a great threat, and make me even faster at combat.
I was surprised the group decided to leave the caverns, retreating back to the lighthouse entrance. In life, they say those who fail do so because they stopped just short of reaching their goal. Drill that one foot deeper to discover the oil, or dig that foot further to find gold.
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, they will do with news of their discoveries. Even if the PCs never return to the caverns, the caves will play a role in background events.
And I think that’s what I liked best about this adventure. I am using the AD&D Module, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
I am using the base encounters for the most part but converted to Pathfinder, and integrating several Riddleport plot elements within it. The caverns are more than a crawl; they are home base for a couple factions and NPCs, and part of the city’s ecosystem of villains and operations.
The natural encounters (bats and others) blend in nicely with the updated Riddleport plot encounters. And Gygax did a great job injecting plot and interesting encounters easy to convert to my campaign’s needs.
I am getting great private pleasure in injecting one of my all-time favorite modules into my current campaign.
Same as session 20. http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/riddleport20
- Pathfinder Bestiary
- S4: Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
- Dual monitor, with second facing players with my initiative system running for them to see
- Photos of caverns scooped from the net
I counted on a creature revealing more plot to the PCs. However, that failed. Always have at least two methods to deliver important plot hooks and clues. In my case, the aerial servant was attempt #2, so maybe the advice is having at least three methods. 🙂
For new game elements, go into great detail. Then pull back and quicken the pace when those elements become repeated or common. The initial cavern description was fun, and the pics I selected online helped players picture what terrain and environment their PCs were exploring.
After that, I shortened the descriptions and kept the PCs moving through the caverns as fast as I could so the exploration phase of the game would not drag.
Warn players ahead of time if killer encounters are coming up. I sent an email before the session warning players the caverns were filled with critters too powerful for the PCs to fight and live. The group encountered the tarrasque and wisely backtracked. They might have retreated anyway, but better safe than sorry.
If your players are not inclined to flee, or if you have served up encounters the PCs have always defeated in the past, it is good to offer a heads-up when impossible encounters lie ahead.
Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters
Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!
Handling A Shy Player
From Mark of the Pixie
Make sure shy players have the power to invite and accept suggestions.
Other PCs should not advise without invitation, or should at least ask “Would you like a suggestion?” first.
Also make sure shy players have the final say about what their PC says and does. It is easy for a shy player to accidentally lose control of their character to a more social or aggressive player.
Use Tri-Ox Compound to Simplify In-Game Tech
From Roger Barr
My Traveler doctor will often administer the “Tri-Ox Compound,” which is the medical-ese in our group for whatever is needed to resolve the affliction.
9 times out of 10, the GM is okay with that as we move on. If he is not, he will reply with, “That doesn’t fix this one.” Then we shift into the “What do we need to do to get what we need?” mentality.
It works for advanced tech level stuff with limiting the technobabble.
We also have an informal phrase of “Blah.” This one word tells all of the gamer group and GM that the one or two characters who know something secret (usually just learned in game play) share the information with the rest of the party.
Usually it is something observed, a clue leading those who observed it in a different direction than the rest of the team. If someone does not share that information, the rest of the players will doggedly continue on in a different direction until they are updated with the new information.
Typical comment in a game: “Did you guys ‘Blah’ my rogue? If not, he is not going that way. It makes no sense.”
From Earl, Lothar Loc’Nar
How do I control encounters without railroading?
I know the items, powers, and abilities the characters have. I role play the encounter out if it is a non-combat encounter.
If it is a combat encounter, I have players test the waters, so to speak, with descriptive phrases and possibly sound effects, as well as the possible intimidating intensity of the setting.
I let them roll some spot checks and related intelligence checks concerning the environment, NPC descriptions, and possible witnesses if in a populated area.
I allow them to escape the encounter, if they feel it might be a bit too tough, through good role playing.
However, sometimes the good role playing of one’s character has gotten some characters killed simply because they were steadfast that their character would do such and such, even though they as a player knew it probably would be the death of that character.
I have a small opaque cup with three plastic skulls in it. Two are white, one is dark. If a PC dies, the player gets to blindly pick a skull from the cup. If they grab the darker one, they stay dead – even if a resurrection is attempted.
With this rule in place, players with high level characters tend to be careful since they have been playing them for many real years!
If they do die permanently, the others usually role play through the burial or burning ceremony, dependent on the deity the character worshipped, possibly donating gold to his or her loved ones.
How-To Game Master Books
In addition to doing this newsletter, I have written several GMing books to inspire your games and make GMing easier and more fun:
Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for any game system and genre. This book will make a difference to your GMing.
Free preview: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/npceprev
Filling the Empty Chair
How to find great gamers fast and easy online with my list of the best gamer registries and player finder websites. Recruit offline quickly with 28 new and easy ideas to find gamers in your local area. And attract the best players with my tips and advice on how to create the right kind of ads. http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/chair
Inns, Taverns, and Restaurants
How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG’s most popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice, plus several generators and tables: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/taverns
Adventure Essentials: Holidays
Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not only expand your game world but provide endless natural encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks. http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/holiday
One More Tip
How to Handle a PC Business?
I continue to read with great interest the updates to your Pathfinder campaign.
One thought that occurred to me is how the business of The Silver Chalice is dealt with? Did the players hire a manager, or do they run it themselves? And what do you do with the profits?
If my lot got access to an inn or tavern, they would quickly start coming up with money making devices. And before I knew it they’d all be millionaires.
Being a Corporate Banker by day, I should be able to come up with answers to that, but the last time I let them loose on an enterprise (they set up a distribution network for a drink of melted chocolate mixed with hot milk) I struggled to keep the cash to a reasonable level and got lots of upset players any time I messed with what they rightly declared was their hard earned cash!
The problem is half of them are cleverer than me and trip me up whenever they can. I vowed never to let them anywhere near a business again.
I’d be interested to hear what you did in your campaign, as it’s inspired me to want to put in an inn or tavern as a home base.
I had similar worries before the campaign but had some plans in the wings in case things started to spiral out of control.
First, the history of the inn is that it has burnt down three times. I am prepared to burn it down a fourth. There was full disclosure of this history before the campaign, so they game with this in mind.
Second, we determined revenues before game start. 1000 gp /month with the inn/tavern rocking. That gave us a baseline. So, regardless of change effected, the PCs could not expect a massive bump. i.e. Unrealistic to expect any improvement to bring in more than a few thousand gp/month, and probably just hundreds.
And, the PCs took over a thriving business, so if they were good inn owners, they could mostly hope to just keep current income level (i.e. not a whole lot of room for growth unless they do something radical).
Third, rival inns and taverns litter the city, and owners are not afraid to get rough with the competition. If the PCs start to get rich, competitors will swoop in and deal with it.
Fourth, I made some plans for what the PCs would buy. Likely, magic items. The day the PCs start showing off their bling is the day thugs, thieves, and assassins crawl out of the woodwork with the goal of robbing (not killing) the PCs.
Fifth, the city is facing an income problem. Storms have closed the port for nearly a month. Food, water, and gold are slowly drying up.
Six, and most important, I decided that business in Riddleport was a zero sum game. Unlike Earth, where near infinite wealth creation is possible, Riddleport only has a finite amount of gold. Credit is rare. So, wealth levels are fixed. When someone gets rich, it means one or more NPCs have become poor – and that won’t sit well with the nouveau penniless.
While pirate activity brings in new wealth, it is usually consumed or wasted away. Pirates are not good investors. Plus, the storms give me a good throttle on those guys.
For the PCs to be wealthy, they must find buyers and they must protect their property. Both are at the GM’s mercy.
In your drink example, I’d have competitors steal shipments of ingredients, poison the drink so nobody could trust it, or steal the PCs’ profits. I’d have con men offer to sell magic items that are cursed, and have competitors steal or copy the recipe so the PCs’ customer base diminishes. I’d have a wealthy noble with croplands geared to making ale bribe the King to make cocoa production illegal. Etc. etc.
Hope this helps!