Monday, September 20, 2010

“Meanwhile, back in town…”

The last game session saw the PCs beginning to look around at the larger world picture and realizing that there may just be more to the Kinan-M’Nath than that old prison up in the hills. I’m hoping this is the start of a trend.

The adventurers have learned that Stonehell is not a static location that patiently waits for them in between their expeditions. Things are occurring down in its depths all the time, and some of those events have lasting effects on the dungeon as a whole (which reminds me that I need to make the latest batch of changes to the site). Obviously, the town of Blackpool is also a dynamic place that changes over time. I have a randomly determined a few big events that might occur in the future of the overall sandbox, but haven’t dabbled with the idea of local events. Until now, that is.

What follows is a rough draft of random notable events that could occur in and around the PC’s home base. I’m still tweaking, but this is closer to finished than not. I’ve riffed on the results to give them possible adventure seeds or unexpected twists, but I don’t plan on doing more with them until they come up in actual play.

I’ve experimented a bit with probability of these events occurring and decided to go with a 1 in 8 chance of an event occurring each day (rather than my original plan of 1 in 6). That seems to ensure that at least one interesting event occurs each month, but not so many as to turn town into a madhouse. I also considered staggering the results to make some more likely than others, but decided to make it a straight d20 progression just to keep me and the players on our toes. I plan to roll at least two weeks if not more in advance so that I can give the events a proper lead in, making them appear to happen naturally, rather than be spontaneous occurrences (except in cases where the very event is unexpected). Since I often get asked to do this anyway, you can find a PDF of the following table and its explanations here.

What’s Going On? Roll a d20 to find out!
1) Fire
2) Child goes missing
3) Accident
4) Bandit attack
5) Murder
6) Monster on the prowl
7) Theft
8) Destruction of property
9) Illness
10) Birth/death
11) Execution
12) Festival
13) Sign from the Gods
14) Mustering the troops
15) Windfall
16) Visitor
17) Magic!
18) Rumors
19) Quarrel
20) High weirdness

Accident: A worker is crushed by falling stonework at the keep or someone is grievously injured at one of the sawmills. If a PC cleric is nearby when this occurs, he or she may be able to save their life, earning them the undying friendship of the victim and her or her family.

Unexpected twist: If the victim dies, his or her survivors blame the overseers at the job site and want revenge. An unscrupulous PC might be approached to handle that task.

Bandit attack: A merchant caravan is attacked on its way to or from town. Many are slain. There is a 50% chance that the caravan was carrying needed supplies or that word of the attack spreads outside the immediate area, resulting in a slow-down of traffic on the roads. Prices of all important goods (read: anything the PCs are likely to buy) is increased by 10%-20%.

Unexpected twist: The caravan was carrying an important MacGuffin that someone of importance needs recovered immediately. He or she is offering a reward if the item is retrieved before the next sunset.

Birth/death: Someone comes into or goes out of the world. There is a 10% chance that this event occurs to someone the PCs know in town. Otherwise it is simply a popular topic of conversation for the next day or two.

Unexpected twist: The PCs find themselves involved in some manner. If they have recently done great deeds to assist the community, a newborn child might be named after one of them and one PC is named as the baby’s “sword-uncle (or aunt).” This will require attending a special ceremony and the purchase of a gift (the more lavish the better) for the child and/or his family. If it is a death that occurred, the departed might be of the same faith as one of the PC cleric and require him or her to conduct the funeral, or the deceased may have left one or more of the adventurers something on his deathbed. Why they did this remains to be determined.

Child goes missing: One of the local children fails to return home after heading into the forest or down to the river. A search party is forming in the town square. PCs who willingly join in on the search will find that the residents hold them in slightly higher regard afterwards.

Unexpected twist: Rather than find the child, a crudely written ransom note is discovered. What the kidnapper wants in return is highly unusual.

Destruction of property: For some reason, something breaks. It could be a fishing pier swept away by a rain-swollen river, a stretch of road collapsing into a sink hole, a statue shattered, or the local cemetery defiled. Depending on the exact nature of the damage, the townsfolk might pitch in to repair the damage, demand the Lord Warden take action, or sit around grumbling that “things aren’t what they used to be.” PCs who pitch in or pay to help repair the destruction will earn the respect of the residents. Those who were nearby when the damage occurred will be watched carefully and whispered about.

Unexpected twist: The damage unearths a new mystery. A drowned body might be found chained to one of the remaining pier posts, a tunnel found under one of the overturned headstones in the cemetery, or an interesting find is discovered hidden inside the statue’s hollow form.

Execution: If a prisoner is being held in the keep on serious charges, his execution is schedule for today. If no one is being held, a local outlaw has been caught and is bound for the gallows. An aura of macabre anticipation hangs over the town and most residents plan on attending. Business will be closed for an hour before and after the execution. There is a 10% chance the something unusual occurs to the condemned’s corpse in the days following the sentence.

Unexpected twist: A new development occurs just prior to the execution. This could be the unearthing of new evidence that questions the guilt of the condemned or it could be a last minute rescue effort launched by the convict’s companions. The PCs may easily find themselves in the thick of things.

Festival: Today is either a minor holiday or the day that a celebration such as a wedding, coming-of-age, or funeral is to be held. As such, the town is adorned with decorations and business as usual is suspended. If it is a religious holiday, there is a 75% chance it is a day sacred to one of the faiths in town. If it is not that of one of the settlement’s religions, there is a 15% chance it is one sacred to one of the PCs’ religions (provided they follow a faith not represented in town).

Unexpected twist: There is a 20% chance that something eventful occurs during the festival. Roll or choose from the event table above, ignoring any result that seems unlikely.

Fire: One of the buildings in town catches fire. There is a 66% chance that the structure is destroyed by the blaze and a 40% chance that any adjoining buildings catch fire as well (with similar chances of being destroyed).

Unexpected twist: Someone was seen fleeing the area immediately before the fire. It appears to be arson. Who did this and why?

High weirdness: Something so strange or unexpected occurs that nobody could have seen it coming. A gargantuan helmet falls from the sky and lands in the town square. A purple worm erupts from the ground and swallows the butcher’s shop. One of the residents gets a nocturnal visit from the “dwarfs in black.” In any case, things are going to be most unusual in town for the near future.

Unexpected twist: This entire event is an unexpected twist.

Illness: A sickness is making its rounds through the town. On a roll of a 1-3, it is a minor aliment such as the flu or chicken pox. On a 4-5 is a more serious ailment such as cholera or dysentery. On a 6 it is the plague. Roll again on a result of 6. Should the die come up another 6, the disease is magical in nature and could even be a curse such as lycanthropy or vampirism.

Unexpected twist: Some mastermind is behind the illnesses. It could be goblins bathing in the water supply, a mummy sorcerer getting his long-delayed revenge, or even be caused by the innocuous looking doodad the PCs picked up on their last adventure and sold to the local curio shop.

Magic!: A magical event occurs to brighten up the dreary lives of the townsfolk. A wandering wizard comes to town with his pyrotechnics show, a local mage inadvertently transforms himself into a strange form or blows up his lab, or a magic artifact is discovered in the course of daily life. The Lord Warden’s sorcerer is bound to investigate such matters.

Unexpected twist: It is one of the PC magic-users that becomes the focus of this attention—deservedly or not.

Monster on the prowl: Some creature (determine randomly) was detected close to town. Depending on the threat level, the townsfolk might form a posse, called out the guard, or hire adventurers to hunt down and remove the threat.

Unexpected twist: The “monster” is of a neutral or good alignment and may be seeking assistance on some matter. Or it could just appear to have good intentions…

Murder: Someone in town dies by violence. This could be due to a brawl, a duel, or an assassin. There is a 50% chance the murderer is in custody at the keep. If not, the culprit is either on the lamb or unknown. This will be the topic of conversation for the next several days.

Unexpected twist: Someone swears they saw the victim alive and well after they were killed. This could be a case of simple misidentification, the result of disguise magics, or a doppelganger at work.

Mustering the troops: The local military is assembled. This may be a simple case of the twice-yearly mustering of the militia to ensure their readiness and inspect their weaponry or it could be an actual military conflict. In the later case, a portion of the keep’s soldiers are needed to combat a threat. This might be a matter of assisting another nearby settlement to deal with a problem, or it may be that a great threat to the security of the settlement has been detected and must be dealt with immediately. In either case, the PCs could become drawn into the conflict, be hired as mercenaries, or find they need to lie low to avoid being pressed into service.

Unexpected twist: This assembly reveals that the local soldiery is woefully unprepared in some manner. The troops’ arms or armor have become unserviceable or perhaps even stolen, leaving the troops under-equipped. Clever PCs might take it upon themselves to go into business as arms-merchants, collecting the cast-off arms and armor of their foes and selling it to the local quartermaster at an inflated price.

Quarrel: Two parties in town find themselves in conflict. The reason for this could be mundane but scandalous (somebody was caught stepping out on their spouse) or serious and potentially fatal (two merchants are locked in a feud that comes to blows or a pair of soldiers prepare to duel over the affections of a woman). Depending on the conflict, the PCs could become involved if an ally (or enemy) is part of the quarrel or if their personalities make them the mediating-type.

Unexpected twist: This quarrel is the result of a much deeper scheme. The two parties might have been lured into conflict so that a third person can benefit from their feud in some manner. This plot could have severe repercussions on the security and future of the settlement should it come to fruition.

Rumors: One piece of information seems to be on everybody’s lips but nobody can identify where this information came from. To make matters worse, everyone seems to have heard a different variation on the tale. This piece of news could be joyous (“The Grand Price is coming to look for a bride!”) or grim (“The Armies of R’kee are marching east!”). In either case, not only will this be the talk of the town, making it difficult to learn more concrete and useful rumors, but it could affect day-to-day business (there is a run on arrows and bolts as townsfolk stock up for the imminent conflict they believe is coming, for example).

Unexpected twist: The rumors are true.

Sign from the Gods: One of the deities makes his/her/its presence known within the town limits. This could be a simple prophetic dream visited upon a devout worshipper, a minor miracle occurring around the temple, priest, or a layperson, or even an actual manifestation of the god(dess). The more impressive the demonstration of the deity’s presence, the more likely that word will spread and the town will become a destination for pilgrims. This influx of the faithful results in the swelling the town’s population for some time, causing increased difficulty in finding lodgings, fervent street-side sermons, and other mundane but annoying hassles for the residents.

Unexpected twist: The deity who manifests its power is not a good deity, but one of the darker powers. Who knows what sort of riff-raff this would attract and what this manifestation means to the future of the town?

Theft: A crime involving the stealing of wealth or property is committed within the town limits. This could be as simple as a fisherman’s skiff being stolen to the purloining of a merchant’s strongbox to a robbery at the Lord Warden’s keep. Even the PCs’ residence may be subject to robbery if it is not secure. There is a random 10%-60% chance the culprit has been caught. If not, he or she is either wanted or unidentified.

Unexpected Twist: This is just one of a string of strange thefts. The items being stolen are not particularly valuable, but are odd enough to make people wonder what’s going on. Clues could lead outside of town, resulting in the PCs being hired to track down the crime ring, find out their intentions, and bring them to justice.

Visitor: Someone or something interesting comes to town. This might be a nobleman come to visit the Lord Warden at the keep, the arrival of a Zutanni compania, or even a friendly monster taking up residence nearby. Half the town will be delighted; the other half will be suspicious.

Unexpected twist: The arrival is a band of renowned adventurers come to try their fortune in the local dungeon. The PCs now have some serious competition. How far will they go to protect “their dungeon”?

Windfall: Someone (or everyone) in town is getting rich, rich, rich! This could be the result of the sudden popularity and demand for a local product, the discovery of a rich cache of natural wealth, or the unearthing of a lost treasure. Costs could rise as much as 25% in the case of settlement-wide wealth, and such a windfall is bound to attract unsavory types if word gets out. In the case where only certain individuals become wealthy, the PCs might find themselves being sought as bodyguards, arm candy, or even gladiators to appease the money-crazed nouveau riche .

Unexpected twist: The wealth is the property (rightly-so or not) of another party who will come looking for revenge. This could lead to a simple beat-down in the street or escalate into a siege on the town itself.

1 comment:

The Iron Goat said...

These are great! I notice you didn't go all the way and include a "town is wiped off the map" option. Intentional? Returning to town to find it a vast, smoking crater could certainly be a game changer.