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Pinjata
2016-02-16, 06:17 AM
I admit I like tossing an occasional feels/moral quandry subquest at my players and it does wonders for group cohesion and memorable events. In most cases, these quests do not involve loot or monsters, but they still enhrall my group beyond most "orcs are attacking the village". here is an example:

A battered barmaid

PCs come into an Inn and order beer the sommeliers they are. In this case, unlike in most others, they are served by a battered barmaid. Her eye is swollen shut and her face is a mixture of black, blue and yellow. Now, in my group there are often some players who go "I just drink the beer, am not interested in local troubles, i have 100 more HD of monsters to kill to my next level", BUT! ... there is always some guy who starts to talk to the barmaid, rolling Insights and such. Barmaid claims she has hit the door. If bartender (her employer) is asked, he admits she has an abusive husband, but hey, she seems to like it that way. They are still togehter. If PCs dig deeper (and they do), they figure out she is in an abusive relationship and, for things to be worse, defends her "true love" to the death.

I used this twice, on both occasions with massive sucess. (In one case Bard went full Freud on husband and eventually got to the root of his (and her) problems, in the other case rogue just stabed her true love, which had rogue arrested and her wanting to kill herself. It took three sessions, some bribes, tons of RP, Persuasion rolls and social engineering to solve the mess, but I have to say I have not seen such happy faces after most BBEG slayings in my campaigns)

So. My question is: Do you guys have any similar ideas? Something irrelevant in the scale of 10d10 monsters spitting fire on the world, yet something that gets the players' heart strings?

thanks

lacco36
2016-02-16, 06:34 AM
I admit I like tossing an occasional feels/moral quandry subquest at my players and it does wonders for group cohesion and memorable events. In most cases, these quests do not involve loot or monsters, but they still enhrall my group beyond most "orcs are attacking the village". here is an example:

A battered barmaid

PCs come into an Inn and order beer the sommeliers they are. In this case, unlike in most others, they are served by a battered barmaid. Her eye is swollen shut and her face is a mixture of black, blue and yellow. Now, in my group there are often some players who go "I just drink the beer, am not interested in local troubles, i have 100 more HD of monsters to kill to my next level", BUT! ... there is always some guy who starts to talk to the barmaid, rolling Insights and such. Barmaid claims she has hit the door. If bartender (her employer) is asked, he admits she has an abusive husband, but hey, she seems to like it that way. They are still togehter. If PCs dig deeper (and they do), they figure out she is in an abusive relationship and, for things to be worse, defends her "true love" to the death.

I used this twice, on both occasions with massive sucess. (In one case Bard went full Freud on husband and eventually got to the root of his (and her) problems, in the other case rogue just stabed her true love, which had rogue arrested and her wanting to kill herself. It took three sessions, some bribes, tons of RP, Persuasion rolls and social engineering to solve the mess, but I have to say I have not seen such happy faces after most BBEG slayings in my campaigns)

So. My question is: Do you guys have any similar ideas? Something irrelevant in the scale of 10d10 monsters spitting fire on the world, yet something that gets the players' heart strings?

thanks

I agree, it provides also a colour to the world and provides the feeling of "living" world if you do it sometimes.

Kid, in the middle of a street, looking lost. Can be a smart pickpocket, but also a lost kid. Or orphan.

Two men, arguing in the tavern over a sword. It's an ordinary sword, no magic or nothing, but it's family heirloom, passed on first son - yet the father gave it to second son.

Female, trying to persuade a nobleman to free her husband, who was imprisoned for stealing eggs from the neighbors... the man can be unjustly imprisoned, or it can be true - but he only tried to feed his kids, because the nobleman didn't need his services anymore...

In one city a woman asking people around her for help because her daughter ran away from home with neighbors' son... in other city? A pair of lovers, enjoying their time together - waiting to get married so they reconcile the families.

A priest holding a sermon on the street about selflessness, while a homeless man tries to ask him for some coins for bread...

A priest in other city telling the players as they arive to watch around for vampires who suck blood, look pale and are afraid of sunlight... enter the tavernkeeper of the only empty tavern - pale, smiling only with his lips closed, darkened windows, etc. Is he the vampire? Well, no. He has a rare condition - is albino, has very sensitive eyes and is very serious about everything...
...or does he? :smallbiggrin:

Oh my...I read my examples and I seem to be GMing really dark games :smallsmile:

Jormengand
2016-02-16, 08:38 AM
These ones are maybe a bit bigger, but sometimes you need big moral decisions as well as little ones, and they can always be downsized:

Orcs are attacking the village...

...and you have to choose whether to save the aristocratic power centre which is the only thing keeping the village in order, the common folk, the pacifistic priests, or your own skin. Due to the low numbers of orcs, the aristocracy with their medium base attack bonus, the large masses of commoners or the elite temple guards will be able to drive them off, but it won't be without blood.

A revolutionary group is rising against the aristocracy...

...but actually, neither side is the good guys. The aristocracy are a lawful evil tyranny, whereas the revolutionaries viciously attack the complacent bourgeoisie without regard for said middle classes' inability to do anything.

A warlord with 10,000 men threatens to attack the kingdom...

...and technically, he is the rightful king.

You hear of a plot to assassinate the queen...

...but then, her daughter will almost certainly be a better ruler. Of course, the queen isn't a bad person, but she's an ineffective ruler.

Bulhakov
2016-02-16, 10:25 AM
Finding a dead body is a great way to start subquests.

The victim might have died in an unusual manner (e.g. drained of blood, specific organs missing, strangely warped, dropped from large height or drowned in the middle of a grassy field etc.)
The identity of the victim and/or method of death might lead to "feels" motivating the team to action (e.g. it's a young child killed with a sword).
Clues or mcguffins can be found on the body (e.g. a treasure map, a letter, a magic relic).
The PCs might find the body just before local law enforcement, making them suspects and thus forcing them to cooperate to prove their innocence.


Local events and festivities are a great way to tempt the players into a subquest. (e.g. players arrive at a small town along with a huge delivery of beer and wine, I can guarantee they'll stay for the harvest festival, might accidentally get engaged or married due to weird local customs)

Family members in trouble - even evil PCs will usually react to a message from a relative that needs help (e.g. mafia shaking down grandma's inn).

Jay R
2016-02-16, 12:19 PM
The PCs come upon the site of a recent battle. It appears that nobody, or nearly nobody survived; there is no mass of footprints walking away, and the bodies haven't been looted.

While the PCs search the bodies, they hear a cry.

In a blanket, off to the side, is a baby - the only human left alive, as near as you can tell. The blanket and the baby have no identifying marks of any kind.

You are miles from any town or village.

Having a baby in the party changes what you can do when wolves attack. Somebody has to hold the baby, who is the weakest, and therefore an obvious target for meat-eaters. Intelligent enemies will try to capture the baby to make you surrender.

[Another complexity you could add - it was a battle between orcs and elves. Why is there a human baby there at all?]

Several adventures after they get to a town and find foster care for the baby, when they've traveled a long way from there, they should hear rumors about a lost heir to the throne, or a prophecy about an unknown child with no family growing up to conquer the world.

Sam113097
2016-02-16, 04:11 PM
Sidequests that introduce a moral quandary provide a welcome change of pace from most typical combat-focused adventures. One thing I like to do is have my players stumble on a situation that forces them to make a messy choice.
For example, I once had my players stumble upon a group of orcs in a standoff with a party of army deserters. Both sides had different stories about a treasure chest in the possession of the orcs. Eventually, the players sided with the soldiers, and drove off the orcs. However, they later found out that they had made the wrong choice, stolen an orcish tribal heirloom. This came back to haunt them later when they had to travel through orcish territory

Typewriter
2016-02-17, 12:24 AM
I've got a whole bunch of random things I use for random encounters and small sub-quests. One of my favorites that I've used a couple times (against different groups) is:

"You're travelling along and you hear a sudden blood curdling scream. Just as quick as it started it immediately cuts out."

When the party goes to investigate they find a small home. When they investigate or go inside they find out the place belongs to a Gnome. The Gnome is cooking and very distressed at the interruption. He's not 'bad' or anything - just awkward. He doesn't know why they're bothering him, he knows nothing about any screams. He will share his meal if requested and answer any questions that are asked. He lives by himself because he doesn't like people and never really gets to see people. The entire time I role-play this guy heavily. Hand wringing, stuttering speech, confusion, etc. etc.

If the party pokes around they notice a fairly large cellar door in the floor, under a rug. If asked about it he explains that it's where he keeps his food, nothing of interest. Again, awkward, weird, etc. etc. If/when the party goes down to look around they find that it is a food cellar but most of the food is gone. However, what they do find is a troll that is chained to the wall. The troll absolutely freaks out if any of the PCs who come to see him are a gnome. The party generally puts together, rather quickly, that the Gnome is using the troll as an infinite source of food, cutting off chunks to eat while the troll regenerates them.

The Gnome legitimately doesn't think this is a big deal. Trolls are evil, he was hungry, etc. etc. He'll defend his choice stating such facts as, "I treat him humanely - I mean, I fed him and everything", which of course implies that he's been force feeding the troll bits of himself. If questioned about how he capture the troll he'll explain that he found it crushed by a fallen tree or buried in some rocks from a mountain slide. At this point he beat it far into unconsciousness, dragged it 30 or so feet, then went back and beat it some more. He put a lot of hard work into bringing this thing home, and he doesn't appreciate the party threatening to take his property.

The Troll, if anyone is able to communicate with it in anyway craves death. It just wants to die, to be buried in fire or otherwise done away with. If pushed he eventually bashes his head against the wall until he falls unconscious, at which point he heals but remains asleep.

JNAProductions
2016-02-17, 03:53 PM
I've got a whole bunch of random things I use for random encounters and small sub-quests. One of my favorites that I've used a couple times (against different groups) is:

"You're travelling along and you hear a sudden blood curdling scream. Just as quick as it started it immediately cuts out."

When the party goes to investigate they find a small home. When they investigate or go inside they find out the place belongs to a Gnome. The Gnome is cooking and very distressed at the interruption. He's not 'bad' or anything - just awkward. He doesn't know why they're bothering him, he knows nothing about any screams. He will share his meal if requested and answer any questions that are asked. He lives by himself because he doesn't like people and never really gets to see people. The entire time I role-play this guy heavily. Hand wringing, stuttering speech, confusion, etc. etc.

If the party pokes around they notice a fairly large cellar door in the floor, under a rug. If asked about it he explains that it's where he keeps his food, nothing of interest. Again, awkward, weird, etc. etc. If/when the party goes down to look around they find that it is a food cellar but most of the food is gone. However, what they do find is a troll that is chained to the wall. The troll absolutely freaks out if any of the PCs who come to see him are a gnome. The party generally puts together, rather quickly, that the Gnome is using the troll as an infinite source of food, cutting off chunks to eat while the troll regenerates them.

The Gnome legitimately doesn't think this is a big deal. Trolls are evil, he was hungry, etc. etc. He'll defend his choice stating such facts as, "I treat him humanely - I mean, I fed him and everything", which of course implies that he's been force feeding the troll bits of himself. If questioned about how he capture the troll he'll explain that he found it crushed by a fallen tree or buried in some rocks from a mountain slide. At this point he beat it far into unconsciousness, dragged it 30 or so feet, then went back and beat it some more. He put a lot of hard work into bringing this thing home, and he doesn't appreciate the party threatening to take his property.

The Troll, if anyone is able to communicate with it in anyway craves death. It just wants to die, to be buried in fire or otherwise done away with. If pushed he eventually bashes his head against the wall until he falls unconscious, at which point he heals but remains asleep.

That is evil. I like it.

NRSASD
2016-02-17, 04:34 PM
@Typewriter: I did something similar once with my main group. They discovered an alchemy shop in the capital that had smuggled in a live troll arm and were using it to grow more troll for supplies. Unfortunately for the shop, a bit of troll escaped their notice and grew enough of a troll to escape just as the party showed up. We played it for laughs, but after the incident was resolved the PCs were uncomfortable with what the store was doing that they turned the store over to the authorities. Even passed up some bribery to do so. I was impressed.

@Bulkahov: I strongly recommend incorporating local events and festivals into your campaign. Not only do they add an opportunity for building on your world's lore, but they also make any kind of adventure set there much more interesting. Recently, the PCs had to break into a villa looking for evidence, but a massive week-long Mardi-gras-inspired festival was in progress celebrating the end of a bad plague 100 years ago. Instead of breaking in classic Thief style, the party decided to go full native and got costumed. Half the party detained the guards by holding an impromptu street fair (with free beer) of their own, while the other half slipped in the back and grabbed what they needed.