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View Full Version : 101 Red Herrings: let's screw with the party!



sengmeng
2017-05-04, 09:06 AM
The goal is unsolvable miniature mysteries that look like plot hooks but aren't.

1) A normal looking person is standing in the corner facing the wall in a dungeon. He's well dressed and not visibly armed. He doesn't seem to be breathing but shows no other signs of being dead and does not detect as undead- or anything at all for that matter.

CharonsHelper
2017-05-04, 09:09 AM
2) Anyone coming up to the PCs with an intricate conspiracy theory he wants them to prove. Only it turns out he's as wacky as the grassy knoll theorists and it's all BS.

hymer
2017-05-04, 09:31 AM
3: The room is completely empty and meticulously clean. Lying exactly in the middle is what appears to be a highly polished gold coin, sparkling in the party's light source.

Some parties can expend upwards of an hour in this room, which basically does nothing. You can even have the coin be fake.

Edit: Having it radiate some sort of magic (evocation is always good for a scare, but Divination or Necromancy can be more ominous) can be useful. Nystul's Magical Aura is a great spell.

sengmeng
2017-05-04, 10:50 AM
4) the town drunk says he drinks to block out visions of his dead wife demanding he avenge her. No one else remembers him ever being married.

Crisis21
2017-05-04, 12:43 PM
5. Some random merchant talks about his woes, sounding like the lead in to a juicy and convoluted (and potentially wacky) soap opera sidequest. Ultimately, after much prying and investigation, it turns out he's just angry over being stiffed two copper by some completely random and unimportant NPC.

Cazero
2017-05-04, 01:23 PM
6) perfectly mundane anatomicaly accurate statues.

sengmeng
2017-05-04, 02:14 PM
7) A secret door reveals a ten foot hallway, terminating in another secret door. Behind that, another ten foot hallway with another secret door. Repeat until players give up. Bonus points if mapping it out reveals that this hallway is jutting out into the same space as other rooms and passages.

Cealocanth
2017-05-04, 02:41 PM
Some old legends are circulating around this backwards farming village that all permanant members are cursed. There aren't many children here compared to most villages, and the villagers are known to gather in the town center for odd rituals praising some old and ancient god that nobody's ever heard of.

Bohandas
2017-05-04, 03:51 PM
9.) An NPC is accompanoed by a smell like brimstone, but it turns out this is merely because he farted

thamolas
2017-05-04, 04:08 PM
7) A secret door reveals a ten foot hallway, terminating in another secret door. Behind that, another ten foot hallway with another secret door. Repeat until players give up. Bonus points if mapping it out reveals that this hallway is jutting out into the same space as other rooms and passages.

I used this one once. The party eventually were convinced that it was some kind of trap.

thamolas
2017-05-04, 04:10 PM
10. The party encounters a few handfuls of mindless undead. Instead of their usual moaning and shambling, they repeat an ominous-sounding name in unison. But they're just random undead with a quirk.

Sredni Vashtar
2017-05-04, 04:51 PM
11. It starts to rain frogs, for no particular reason.

Crisis21
2017-05-04, 05:14 PM
12. The party finds a fiend (as in 'bonafide 100% evil from the lower planes' fiend, not just some misunderstood being that looks like a fiend but isn't really evil like a tiefling) in the marketplace... shopping. All attempts to determine what said fiend is 'really up to' wind up revealing that, yes, they're really just out shopping. If they try to attack the fiend, the party is the one arrested because the fiend wasn't the one breaking the law, the party was (bonus points if a paladin is the one who arrests them).

sengmeng
2017-05-04, 05:19 PM
13) An obviously long-dead corpse is found clutching a scrap of paper with nothing but the current date written on it.

hymer
2017-05-04, 05:46 PM
11. It starts to rain frogs, for no particular reason.

I guess their parachutes didn't open.

14: Five-pointed stars are found painted hastily on walls throughout town during a murder investigation. They are actually a half-orc's tag.

Crisis21
2017-05-04, 06:18 PM
15: The party's (or at least one member's) pants go missing. They were stolen by a local animal for 'nesting material'.

sengmeng
2017-05-04, 07:26 PM
16) A random NPC is revealed to be changing his appearance via magic (if they use detect magic or true seeing). When questioned, he says he had to flee his hometown and change his appearance because assassins were after him. If pressed to elaborate, he'll eventually reveal his natural appearance is just ugly.

Lo'Tek
2017-05-04, 07:54 PM
17. A metal door, mundane, complete with wodden frame, locked, standing in the open with no walls anywhere near it, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Opening it and going through allows a character to get to the other side (dramatic pause) where those of the group who went around it are waiting. The frame is attached to the ground but with sufficient force the door could be knocked over.

Placed there by the owner of a robe of useful items to make a terrible pun long forgotten.

Yes RAW describe the door a bit different, but i had no part in its creation, i too just found the stupid thing standing there.

Draconium
2017-05-04, 08:20 PM
18) The party discovers an ancient tome, heavy and locked shut. Should they manage to open the lock, they discover that the pages are filled with archaic runes, a long-dead language that nobody remembers any longer. Should the party, through study or magic, manage to translate it...

It's a cookbook. Apparently, the ancient culture it came from jealously guarded their kitchen secrets.

scalyfreak
2017-05-04, 09:29 PM
18) The party discovers an ancient tome, heavy and locked shut. Should they manage to open the lock, they discover that the pages are filled with archaic runes, a long-dead language that nobody remembers any longer. Should the party, through study or magic, manage to translate it...

It's a cookbook. Apparently, the ancient culture it came from jealously guarded their kitchen secrets.

Alternatively....

It's the diary of miserable and very bored wealthy woman who was nursing a deep crush on her husband's head groom for over a year. Nothing ever came of her feelings, and she spent a lot of time agonizing over whether that was a good or a bad thing. She was also terrified that anyone would ever find out, and had an unusual aptitude for magic.

ImperatorV
2017-05-04, 09:54 PM
19) Several of the locals note that the lord of the nearby castle has begun acting strangely, staying inside his chambers most of the time, with a sort of glazed-over look in his eyes when he does emerge. He also has been making questionable decisions and giving more and more power to one of his advisers.

If the PCs investigate suspecting mind control, it turns out the lord started taking drugs. This explains the strangeness and why he made some weird decisions, and the adviser in question is the one who's the best at explaining things to the lord when he's out of it and as such has been given more authority then the others, who struggle to interact with the lord when he's stoned.

Strigon
2017-05-04, 10:18 PM
20: A large number of X are found in or around Y, where X is a perfectly natural animal, that simply has an ominous reputation (Crows, Ravens, Wolves, etc.), and Y is a likewise normal place with superstitions surrounding it (Swamps/moors, graveyards, abandoned mines...)

Velaryon
2017-05-05, 12:06 AM
21. The party learns of a maze, at the center of which is said to be a valuable map. They find the maze and go inside, navigating its numerous twists and turns (though few traps and no monsters are inside), and reach the center.



The map leads back out of the maze.

Aneurin
2017-05-05, 03:15 AM
22.) The party hears of a wise old mystic living in some remote cave up a nearby mountain. In the event the party go for a visit, it turns out the hermit froze to death the previous winter and none of the locals have been up the mountain since.

hymer
2017-05-05, 06:16 AM
21. The party learns of a maze, at the center of which is said to be a valuable map. They find the maze and go inside, navigating its numerous twists and turns (though few traps and no monsters are inside), and reach the center.



The map leads back out of the maze.

Profound. Like finding a locked chest, managing to open it after much trouble, only to find that the key to the chest is inside.

Edit: This is number 22 23, retroactively.

Fri
2017-05-05, 06:56 AM
https://www.poorlydrawnlines.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/treasure.png

sengmeng
2017-05-05, 07:26 AM
So that's number 22 lol?
Profound. Like finding a locked chest, managing to open it after much trouble, only to find that the key to the chest is inside.

hymer
2017-05-05, 07:33 AM
So that'sumber 22 lol?

Sure, why not? :smallsmile:

Crisis21
2017-05-05, 07:45 AM
Profound. Like finding a locked chest, managing to open it after much trouble, only to find that the key to the chest is inside.

Edit: This is number 22, retroactively.

Or maybe #23? Considering it followed #22 (even though it was quoting #21)?


24. A noble promises the party a great reward if they can just deliver an item that's been a bit hard to find lately, like a bottle of milk. The party goes and after much effort tracking down the item (because wouldn't you know it everyone except one person is out of this item that should be common), they deliver... okay, let's say it was a bottle of milk... to the noble who takes a big drink with satisfaction and gives the party the promised reward... which turns out to be the empty bottle he just drank from.

Da-na-na-naaa.

Strigon
2017-05-05, 08:19 AM
Or maybe #23? Considering it followed #22 (even though it was quoting #21)?


24. A noble promises the party a great reward if they can just deliver an item that's been a bit hard to find lately, like a bottle of milk. The party goes and after much effort tracking down the item (because wouldn't you know it everyone except one person is out of this item that should be common), they deliver... okay, let's say it was a bottle of milk... to the noble who takes a big drink with satisfaction and gives the party the promised reward... which turns out to be the empty bottle he just drank from.

Da-na-na-naaa.

... Is that really a red herring?
It's massively irritating, sure, but I don't see how it was any sort of diversion.

sengmeng
2017-05-05, 09:28 AM
25) ten zombies attack. One is wearing a fancy red cape.


... Is that really a red herring?
It's massively irritating, sure, but I don't see how it was any sort of diversion.

I tend to agree: a very trivial quest with an equally trivial reward is barely a red herring. But, it is in the same spirit of time-wasting.

Crisis21
2017-05-05, 10:20 AM
Eh, I thought it would get a groan or two out of the group (been playing Legend of Zelda lately).

26. Have the party make perception checks to hear a strange sound behind them, but whenever they turn around nothing is there. If they take the time to thoroughly investigate, they discover that one (or more) of their packs are squeaking.

Cealocanth
2017-05-05, 10:24 AM
27.) There is a mysterious old man sitting in the corner of the tavern. When he is inevitably approached, he will explain that he requires the service of an adventurer. He will then proceed to hire the party to clean up after his dog, babysit his niece, and plough his fields, all the while explaining how he's very surprised that the heroes of the realm don't have more important things to do, and that he would have probably hired the farm boy next door had he not run into the party.

sengmeng
2017-05-05, 10:45 AM
28) a courier brings an invitation to the party for a museum opening (a la Skyrim) but there's nothing more to it. Just fantasy world spam.

Joe the Rat
2017-05-05, 11:24 AM
29) The party encounters two different "workers" (cook/ tavernkeep/ craftsman/ servant) from the homeland of the character who has traveled the furthest. This is merely a coincidence. Or one of them is trying to kill you.
30) A slightly creepy minstrel performing at the party's location takes a keen "interest" in a party member. What, only PCs are allowed to be horndogs?
31) A noble is acting odd, and disappears whenever trouble brews. He's just fooling around with one of the servants.
32) The party discovers a barrel of dried, smoked fish. Actual red herrings.

Bohandas
2017-05-05, 11:26 AM
33.) The strange monster spoken of in local legend turns out to be just that, a legend

34.) While in a cave the PCs discover a vein of what turns out to be iron pyrite

LordCdrMilitant
2017-05-05, 11:29 AM
Here's one I used:

The Dark Heresy party deployed to a small star system that contained a planet, a mining station taken over by Genestealers, and a Space Marine fortress monastery. They had got wind that the Ordos Malleus was going to put the system to the torch in two weeks. The Space Marines are hideously understrength, having just had their first three companies go renegade with their battle barge and having pursued them to bring them to justice, taking massive losses while doing so, and were trying to prove their loyalty and earn their redemption. The party has orders to track down and eliminate Eldar harassing presence on the embattled hive world, and not be there when the Exterminatus arrived.

Of course, with all this information, the party sets out to prove the Marines innocent and halt the exterminatus, ignoring the primary mission objective. The marines were actually tzeenchian heretics pretending to be loyal, and had the whole system corrupted, hence the reason the Ordos Malleus was going to burn it all.

They weren't irrelevant to the plot, but it definitely mislead the party from their primary objective.

hymer
2017-05-05, 11:46 AM
Or maybe #23? Considering it followed #22 (even though it was quoting #21)?

It was sengmeng that made me do it! :smallredface:

Edit:
36: The PCs ask for direction, only to find out they've encountered a deaf person. Much embarassment should be pursued. The next person they ask is also deaf, and so is the next.
Turns out there's a convention for the deaf in town.
Douglas Adams claimed this happened to him once.

malachi
2017-05-05, 12:01 PM
37. The party wakes up to the inn burning down around them. Turns out that the couple next door got too excited at night and knocked over their lantern.

Cealocanth
2017-05-05, 01:05 PM
It was sengmeng that made me do it! :smallredface:

Edit:
36: The PCs ask for direction, only to find out they've encountered a deaf person. Much embarassment should be pursued. The next person they ask is also deaf, and so is the next.
Turns out there's a convention for the deaf in town.
Douglas Adams claimed this happened to him once.

What happens when you get to DeafCon 5?

Spojaz
2017-05-05, 01:32 PM
38: The sword held in the statue's outstretched hand radiates a faint aura of magic.
Turns out the marble sword kept breaking, and the sculptor had it magically reinforced. Watch as the party tries to find what the statue is pointing at!
39: The party sights a small island where the map indicates only open water, while that island on the map is nowhere to be found!
Cartography error. Medieval maps are not known for accuracy.
40: The villagers are acting uneasy and watching the party closely around a strange round stone platform or altar in the center of town.
It's the village well, covered and disguised because the villagers are paranoid about strangers poisoning the local water source.
41: Strange nonsensical voices are heard high in the trees in the distant woods.
escaped speaking parrots/ravens nesting.

Mr. E
2017-05-05, 02:35 PM
42. The party enters a town which is full of shambling, swaying humans who constantly repeat slurred unintelligible mutterings. Turns out it is the harvest festival and everybody is just really, really drunk.

Squiddish
2017-05-05, 05:55 PM
After fighting constructs and recovering a mysterious treasure, still in its locked box, they hear rhythmic clicking noises. No matter how fast they run, it always seems to follow them... or more specifically, the box. If they ever open the box, they find... a clock.

Socksy
2017-05-05, 06:00 PM
The local noble's bastard child, who is in her early teens, stopped leaving the manor house during daylight a couple of months ago. Recently she has rejoined society, but only under a thick cloak that allows no light in or out, and a heavy veil over her face. If the veil is removed, her skin looks somewhat pallid, yet she seems strangely beautiful, and different to before somehow.


Turns out her mother was an Orc, and puberty caused half-Orc traits to hit her like a brick. Between shame at her appearance and shame of having sex with an Orc, the girl and her father decided it would be best for her to remain hidden during the daytime until he could have a Cloak of Charisma made for her. She hides her face out of fear that people will notice the changes, and she's pallid because she hasn't seen sunlight in two months.

thamolas
2017-05-05, 06:23 PM
45. A fortune-teller reveals to a PC that s/he is part of an ancient prophecy and the fortune-teller provides details of the party's recent travels and the prophecy sounds big and important. Like most fortune-tellers, this fortune-teller is a con artist; and, like most prophecies, the prophecy is total nonsense.

Bohandas
2017-05-05, 07:01 PM
46.) The PCs receive what seems to be an urgent letter from a nobleman, but kt turns out to be a 419 scam

CharonsHelper
2017-05-05, 11:26 PM
46.) The PCs receive what seems to be an urgent letter from a nobleman, but kt turns out to be a 419 scam

So, something like "I am a svirfneblin prince, and I'm having trouble getting all of my gems and enchanted gear out of the underdark so that I can start a new life for myself on the surface. I need you to give 5,000 gold pieces to a contact I have on the surface, and he'll work to get all of my treasure to the surface, at which point I'll give you half."

Bohandas
2017-05-06, 01:07 AM
Yeah. That sort of thing.

47.) One of the PCs recieves a prophetic vision from Olidammara in a dream. This is also part of an advance fee scam.

Inevitability
2017-05-06, 03:27 AM
48) The party comes across a mysterious castle a fair distance from civilization, inhabited by a noble who drinks a mysterious red fluid ("It's medicine for this condition I have."), doesn't go outside ("I sunburn really easily"), hates garlic ("Allergies"), and doesn't own a single mirror ("I'm a catoptrophobiac.").

Of course, the noble is just someone who actually suffers from all these problems, but the PCs aren't going to assume that.

TeChameleon
2017-05-06, 09:34 AM
49. Basically anything that fits in just fine in whatever setting the party is in, but isn't in the right place, particularly if it's reflective and in a darkened area. As an example, my Shadowrun party was in what was basically the ruins of a fancy private school, and upon reaching the auditorium, a gold pen was mentioned as being on the stage. The party moved very cautiously towards it, never once realizing that the dusty toys that I had also mentioned, (with exactly the same level of detail, mind you) were rather more important than the shiny, but otherwise entirely ordinary, pen. (For the curious, the toys had been animated as quasi-demonic guard golems via blood magic. Not terribly threatening, necessarily, but given that they only moved when not directly observed, they scared the crap out of my players a few times :smallamused:)

50. Attaching the word 'suspicious' to just about anything. Done judiciously, the party can be turned from adventurers to gossipmongers in a surprisingly short time.

Archpaladin Zousha
2017-05-06, 09:51 AM
51. The PCs notice several townsfolk exchanging suspicious hand-signs and religious-sounding phrases that lead them to believe a secret cult is operating out of the town. When the teenage son of the mayor disappears and all evidence points to the cult, the PCs infiltrate their hideout to discover...there's nothing actually sinister about the cult. It's just a mystery cult of a harmless local deity, little more than a religiously-minded social club, and the mayor's son went voluntarily because he was finally old enough to join. While they're annoyed at the PCs' breach of their protocol, they assume the PCs went to all this trouble to get initiated themselves, and happily offer to do so.

sengmeng
2017-05-06, 12:41 PM
52) a single goblin attacks the party... armed with high end magical gear that's almost enough to make him a threat. Following his backtrail leads the party about 30 feet, where he seemingly teleported in.

Socksy
2017-05-06, 06:16 PM
53) Strange things are going on in town. Chickens are vanishing, clothing is changing colour while drying on the line, milk is curdling, strange noises and lights.

A local kid has just had his 15+1d4 th birthday and is starting to get sorcerer powers :smallbiggrin:

Bohandas
2017-05-06, 09:15 PM
54.) In the city the PCs just arrived at there is an event with a name like "Challenge of Heroes" or "Test of Champions", or something like that. It's a hot wings challenge.

Crisis21
2017-05-07, 01:05 AM
55. Something that sounds like a massive quest involving the retrieval of a royal crown turns out to be a local beauty contest. Even better if you can somehow get one or more of the party to enter before knowing what they actually signed up for.

Bohandas
2017-05-07, 02:23 AM
56.) While trying to obtain some macguffin the PCs are sent out by it's holder on an epic quest to defeat a powerful villain and/or retrieve a different macguffin as a condition for receiving it. When they come back it turns out he doesn't actually have it and was just bull****ting them to try and get them to go away (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZR64EF3OpA)

57.) The servant of a powerful nobleman claims that his master has the macguffin the PCs seek, but he's actually just messing with them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8yjNbcKkNY)

58.) Traditionally at high levels of D&D's early editions players would have opportunities to acquire various pieces of real estate; keeps, strongholds, guildhalls, temples...a crappy 1 room shack in Nulb...Lavok's planar sphere...various pieces of real estate. Anyway, somebody offers to sell the PCs a castle which they later discover if they take the deal that he didn't actually own or have anything to do with and wasn't his to sell

Lvl 2 Expert
2017-05-07, 02:30 AM
I'd enthusiastically research most of these, on the off chance the DM was willing to change them into actual plot hooks. Some of these sound like the beginning of really good stories.

Bohandas
2017-05-07, 02:46 AM
24. A noble promises the party a great reward if they can just deliver an item that's been a bit hard to find lately, like a bottle of milk. The party goes and after much effort tracking down the item (because wouldn't you know it everyone except one person is out of this item that should be common), they deliver... okay, let's say it was a bottle of milk... to the noble who takes a big drink with satisfaction and gives the party the promised reward... which turns out to be the empty bottle he just drank from.

Da-na-na-naaa.

In the videogame Postal 2 by Running With Scissors, there actually was a quest to get a bottle of milk. All the quests in that game were like that. They were all just normal everyday chores. But they all had some crazy twist to them. In the milk quest there's a terrorist cell operating out of the back room of the grocery store. When the protagonist goes to his job at a videogame company he finds it being attacked by a violent gang of concerned parents, when he goes to he bank it's being robbed, when he goes to wish his uncle a happy birthday his uncle is in the midst of a shootout with the police, when he goes to buy a steak the butcher shop is run by cannibals, etc.

Fri
2017-05-07, 09:15 PM
59. A chicken. But a reaaallly evil looking chicken. Like, a chicken that looks like the concept of evil itself. But also a chicken.

Alias Unknown
2017-05-08, 06:27 AM
60) When a party member picks up and rolls a random barrel it rolls until it hits something and then rolls back until it hits something then rolls away again untl the party stops it, when opened there are some very scared mice.
I did this with a party, terrified two of them, raised and crushed the hopes of the other two.

sengmeng
2017-05-08, 06:55 AM
61) a perfectly edible perishable food item in a sealed tomb.

Potato_Priest
2017-05-08, 08:19 PM
59. A chicken. But a reaaallly evil looking chicken. Like, a chicken that looks like the concept of evil itself. But also a chicken.

Looks something like this, for anyone who's having trouble:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/20/81/6a/20816a582e6c22455709c17ae722b600.jpg

From Wallace and Gromit: the Wrong Trousers

Alias Unknown
2017-05-14, 11:07 PM
62) A village where every third person has a goatee. It's simply a trend in the village.

denthor
2017-05-15, 10:11 AM
A vast treasure lie within a vault full of traps at the end of the adventures is one copper piece . The traps ate all the gold and the owner died before he could restock the vault. Nothing to daunting but just frustrating.

Squiddish
2017-05-15, 12:12 PM
Dozens of stone statues of frightened adventurers and dangerous creatures ring the rundown mansion in the middle of a ghost town. When the party works their way to the center, they find an old gnome carving statues of frightened adventurers. If pressed, he mentions they were to keep the Homeowners' Guild away, but they worked too well and scared everyone off. With the right prodding, he decides to start a business selling them and gives the PCs a cut of the profits. So, not a complete loss.

Havelocke
2017-05-15, 03:07 PM
I used this in a Star Wars campaign. Party is on a lush forest world not unlike Endor. I provided some description of the area they landed in, lots of trees of various types, evergreens and conifers, some rocks. After their engines whine down they start to hear a nearby stream and some distant birds. The party could not agree where to go, so I started to add "ambient sounds". They were discussing where to travel and how while I quietly starting to say "rowr", sort of like what a cat might vocalize. Not a roar, not a meow, but a "rowr". This goes on for about 15 minutes of real time until one player caught on and starting asking questions about the sound. I increased its frequency and volume. The party went from calm to paranoid in a heartbeat and started blasting the forest all around them.

Samzat
2017-05-15, 04:28 PM
65. Not sure if this counts, but the PCs travel into the mountains to visit the Oracle fighting many gruesome creatures. The Oracle says: "you darn kids and your fate talk! Back in my day, there werent all these chosen ones running about, no sirree! We had to WORK for our legendary status. Damn whippernsappers!"

Edit: this is 65 because there were two that werent numbered above

Braininthejar2
2017-05-15, 07:49 PM
66. A man gets randomly stabbed ina brawl he didn't intend to take part in. Stumbling in a blood loss-induced daze, he falls on one of the PCs, mumbles some coded message he was supposed to pass to his contact there, and dies.

Sadly, while this seems like a set-up for a battle of competing espionage networks... the message is incomplete and ultimately useless.

sengmeng
2017-05-16, 07:01 AM
67) Tell one player his character had a bad dream. The details do not matter, they will never believe you had them have a dream that didn't matter.

Kami2awa
2017-05-16, 12:01 PM
68) At the edge of the creepy little town is a single forbidding standing stone with an odd symbol on it (it's just a boundary marker and doesn't do anything at all).

69) The townsfolk are gathering for a strange ceremony in masks and costumes (it's just their equivalent of halloween and totally harmless).

70) No one will tell you what the meat is that's served in the local tavern (some of it is poached from land reserved for the aristocracy nearby, an open secret that's nevertheless not discussed in case the PCs are agents of the aristocrats).

71) A man claims to have found the body of a monster (it's a composite of several normal animals stitched together, and he is a con artist hoping to make money from exhibiting it).

72) There's one building in town that appears abandonned - yet people are seen going stealthily in and out at night and no one in town in willing to talk about it (it's a brothel/gambling den or similar).

Bohandas
2017-05-17, 01:14 AM
73.) An NPC that looks just like one of the PCs but with a goatee. He's not an evil clone, merely a distant relative the PC didn't know about.

Socksy
2017-05-17, 10:48 AM
The party see the same symbol on the walls whenever they botch a spot check - "You can't see anything significant, just a scrawled symbol on a nearby wall."

It's the rather abstract signature of a local graffiti artist.

Bohandas
2017-05-27, 01:44 PM
75.) The recent cattle mutilations are the result of 2 rival ranchers sabotaging each other, not a cult or otherworldly beings

AnBe
2017-05-27, 09:49 PM
76) A man wearing only his underwear running through the streets screaming, "I'm a Vampire! I'm a Vampire! I'm a Vampire!"

Bohandas
2017-05-28, 02:28 AM
77.) What appears to be a vampire is actually a well dressed ghoul. Still planning on eating you though.

sengmeng
2017-05-28, 03:07 PM
78. Mention some of the coins they recover after a fight were minted in a kingdom no one's ever heard of.

Kami2awa
2017-05-29, 02:18 AM
79) One from an old White Dwarf Call of Cthulhu adventure:

Out in the countryside is an isolated compound. The people there are highly secretive and try to get rid of outsiders, and often seem distracted, almost as if in a trance.

It's a hippy commune, led by a man named Tom Bombadil (he legally changed his name to this). Everyone there is harmless, but hidden among tomato plants in the small farm they have inside is an illegal (at the time) marijuana plantation - this is why they are secretive, and also why they are generally stoned.

Mutazoia
2017-05-29, 10:19 AM
Pulled this one on a group once, during a game of Amber Diceless ....

A little background info, just in case....

The main NPC's and PC's use "Trumps" (magical playing cards) to instantly travel to any person or place pictured on them.

I gave my PC's a Trump depicting a red line drawing of a fish (think ichthys or "Jesus Fish") on a black background, pointing nose up (as you would hang a herring while smoking it). They literally spent weeks of IRL game time (meeting every day). trying to figure that one out....

sengmeng
2017-05-29, 12:33 PM
Pulled this one on a group once, during a game of Amber Diceless ....

A little background info, just in case....

The main NPC's and PC's use "Trumps" (magical playing cards) to instantly travel to any person or place pictured on them.

I gave my PC's a Trump depicting a red line drawing of a fish (think ichthys or "Jesus Fish") on a black background, pointing nose up (as you would hang a herring while smoking it). They literally spent weeks of IRL game time (meeting every day). trying to figure that one out....

*sniff* That's... beautiful.

Largo833
2017-05-31, 12:45 PM
Here's a fun one that I remember reading about years ago-

81) An eight-sided stone pedestal sits in the center of a room. On top of it is a face-down sheet of paper that is protected by a near-unbreakable glass dome. Each side of the pedestal has a lever on it, that when pulled, deals 1d6 points of lightning damage to the person who pulled it. And that's it. The levers don't do anything else, and there is no mechanism to open the dome. If the players do manage to make the extremely high strength check required to break the glass, they find that the paper just says, "Greetings traveler. I prepared explosive runes this morning."

FreddyNoNose
2017-05-31, 03:53 PM
82) man wants to hire the group to save his wife. She has been kidnapped by an evil cult.

The truth is she ran away from him. :D

sengmeng
2017-05-31, 05:05 PM
82) man wants to hire the group to save his wife. She has been kidnapped by an evil cult.

The truth is she ran away from him. :D

I actually used this as an adventure hook. Both parts were true; she had very poor taste in who to run away with.

King539
2017-05-31, 05:11 PM
83: A dungeon where everything, the walls, ceiling, floor is incredibly, spotlessly clean.

Best used on veteran players who know about gelatinous cubes.

The boss just has a bunch of permanent unseen servants, and is a germophobe.

Mutazoia
2017-06-01, 02:39 AM
82) man wants to hire the group to save his wife. She has been kidnapped by an evil cult.

The truth is she ran away from him. :D

Isn't this a side quest in the SW:TOR MMO?

Vknight
2017-06-01, 06:53 AM
84 : A local mage has vanished and only recently appeared more skeletal then previous being very sickly in appearance, with a raspy voice and wearing large robes to hide a balding head looking for various items.
The truth is he's just sick(the ingredients are his favorite herbal tea) and he recently shaved his head. The skeletal stuff is because he's also been thin and with being sick he looks far worse.

85 : A Noblewoman asks the party to kill her husband as he plans to sacrifice there child on the next full moon.
The truth is she just wants to inherit the estate before the husband can declare his bastard son the heir to his lands. You could go with more levels and have him setup a spell that sends his will to the king on his death so he wants his wife to kill him as she would be sent to jail for the crime.

86 : The local bartender returned to well tend his bar a week ago but everyone says he died 3 years back and he looks different.
The truth is he got resurrected by a Druid several dozen times till they got close enough and now he's a half-elf instead of human.

Beleriphon
2017-06-01, 02:15 PM
Isn't this a side quest in the SW:TOR MMO?

And an episode of Murdoch Mysteries. It isn't exactly and uncommon trope of fiction.

Potato_Priest
2017-06-01, 10:52 PM
And an episode of Murdoch Mysteries. It isn't exactly and uncommon trope of fiction.

And a quest in skyrim (although in that case she goes to join bandits)

JeenLeen
2017-06-02, 11:07 AM
87. The players get a magical sword, which is of great value to two factions in the area. They likely trade it to one of them, since its magic doesn't really help the players and they need help. Later on, tell them a legend about magical swords being united. See if they think that sword they traded away is one of them.

This happened by mistake in a WoD game I was in. We were mages, and found a sword that was a great boon to either vamps or werewolves. Later on, we heard a legend about these magical swords we needed to find and unite to beat the big bad. I got it stuck in my head that the sword we traded away was one of the swords, and spent a lot of time IC trying to retrieve it from the vampire Prince. Eventually the DM just told me out-of-character that the sword was not important. I think its backstory was that it was made during a war between vamps and garou; gave a vamp-wielder the ability to be in sunlight safely, and helped a garou control its rage or something like that.

I don't actually recommend a red herring like this for a real game, but it was kinda amusing.

Braininthejar2
2017-06-02, 01:15 PM
88: While investigating an evil cult in the mountains, the party hears rumors of a grisly murder - one commoner from the next village was apparently found with his heart ripped out.

Going there results in finding the body ready to be buried already - if the party wants to examine it, they'll have to disrupt a funeral and negotiate with a grieving family.

The man's chest seems to have been ripped open by talons.

He ran afoul of a peryton. No link to the cult whatsoever.

Jay R
2017-06-02, 07:46 PM
... they deliver... okay, let's say it was a bottle of milk... to the noble who takes a big drink with satisfaction and gives the party the promised reward... which turns out to be the empty bottle he just drank from.

Da-na-na-naaa... Is that really a red herring?
It's massively irritating, sure, but I don't see how it was any sort of diversion.

The crucial fact is that three months after they dispose of it, they hear the legend of the bottle carved out of a single diamond.


18) The party discovers an ancient tome, heavy and locked shut. Should they manage to open the lock, they discover that the pages are filled with archaic runes, a long-dead language that nobody remembers any longer. Should the party, through study or magic, manage to translate it...

It's a cookbook. Apparently, the ancient culture it came from jealously guarded their kitchen secrets.

The title is, "To Serve Man".

Velaryon
2017-06-02, 08:01 PM
And a quest in skyrim (although in that case she goes to join bandits)

Isn't it also basically the plot of the game Braid?

Vknight
2017-06-03, 11:01 AM
Isn't it also basically the plot of the game Braid?

The girl is an allegory for the guy trying to make nukes or something. The games nonsense and not worth the money but close enough yeah

89: The Party finds a parchment with there names all written on it in a skeletons hand.
The Truth - Its just a note nothing special. At worst a divination specialist lich left it to see if his guess on the next people to beat the dungeon was right.

Jay R
2017-06-04, 05:09 PM
90. They find a sword stuck into a stone and anvil.

[It can't be removed, ever, by any means. No, not by a perfect paladin or son of the true king. Nothing.]

Potato_Priest
2017-06-05, 12:54 AM
90. They find a sword stuck into a stone and anvil.

[It can't be removed, ever, by any means. No, not by a perfect paladin or son of the true king. Nothing.]

Alternatively, it can be removed by a DC 30 strength check, but doesn't do anything special.

Inevitability
2017-06-05, 02:29 AM
Alternatively, it can be removed by a DC 30 strength check, but doesn't do anything special.

Alternatively, the sword-in-an-anvil is part of some artist's avant-garde sculpture symbolizing peace or whatnot, and if the PCs ruin it he shows up and demands a considerable financial compensation.

Mutazoia
2017-06-05, 02:45 AM
The party finds a treasure map.

It was drawn by some kid for his game of "Adventurers". There is no treasure. Alternatively, the PC's dig at the indicated spot and find a simple, unlocked box. Inside the box, there is a piece of paper with the word "Treasure" written on it in a childs simple handwriting.

FreddyNoNose
2017-06-08, 05:37 PM
Isn't this a side quest in the SW:TOR MMO?

It may be but I used it back in 1981 for a traveller game.

Bohandas
2017-06-09, 01:07 AM
94.) The PCs find a treasure map. When they get to the indicated location they find that the treasure has been dug up a long time ago

95.) The PCs find another pirate treasure map, this one much more recent. So much more recent in fact that all of the items are still way too hot to fence.

96.) Another treasure map actually leads to a store or some kind of tourist trap

Bohandas
2017-06-09, 09:53 AM
https://www.poorlydrawnlines.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/treasure.png

http://www.channelate.com/comics/2010-11-05-treasure-hunt.png


http://www.channelate.com/2010/11/05/the-treasure-hunt/

Bohandas
2017-06-20, 12:07 PM
90. They find a sword stuck into a stone and anvil.

[It can't be removed, ever, by any means. No, not by a perfect paladin or son of the true king. Nothing.]

97.) A sword. In a stone. With a prophecy associated with it that it can only be removed by the rightful king. All set up by a conniving wizard as a means to place a patsy on the throne.

Mutazoia
2017-06-20, 06:27 PM
97.) A sword. In a stone. With a prophecy associated with it that it can only be removed by the rightful king. All set up by a conniving wizard as a means to place a patsy on the throne.

That would actually be a valid plot.

More like the sword and the anvil are one piece, and the stone was molded around the sword using a spell such as stoneshape.

Potato_Priest
2017-06-20, 09:36 PM
97.) A sword. In a stone. With a prophecy associated with it that it can only be removed by the rightful king. All set up by a conniving wizard as a means to place a patsy on the throne.

The plot of the story of King Arthur from some folks' perspective.

Bohandas
2017-06-20, 09:46 PM
98.) There's a wizard who claims to live backwards and remember the distant future. Actually he has dementia.
99.) A legendary oracle or guru who turns out to speak in vapid or irrelevant but vaguely deep sounding statements that resemble a mix between fortune cookies and snapple facts

Mutazoia
2017-06-21, 12:48 AM
100) A series of arrows, carved into standing stones...that lead in a giant 10 km circle.

Bohandas
2017-06-21, 01:55 AM
101.) (This is like half red herring; the beginning;s a red herring but the end part could turn into a quest, albeit a radically different and lower level one than what the beginning part looks like it's going to be) The party's cleric is mobbed by people claiming to be afflicted by evil spirits. There seems to be a rash of posessions going on in this town. Except none of the people are actually posessed. It seems some charlatan has convinced much of the town to buy a book he's written which claims that pretty much all personal problems that anyone has are the result of posession by ghosts.


90. They find a sword stuck into a stone and anvil.

[It can't be removed, ever, by any means. No, not by a perfect paladin or son of the true king. Nothing.]

Alternately

102.) Sword. In anvil. In stone. Gets upended by some random coincicence (knocked over by crowd, kicked by horse, upset by minor quake, whatever) before anyone can touch it and the sword falls right out

Bohandas
2017-07-01, 09:37 AM
103.) A mystery religion turns out to be a scientology-esque scam

Jay R
2017-07-01, 10:01 AM
104. A sword appears in the center of town, stuck into a stone and anvil. There is a sign saying, "Whoso pulleth this sword from this stone and anvil is rightwise King.

One appears in the center of every town.

sengmeng
2017-07-01, 03:34 PM
105) Sword in stone, no explanation, no plaque, no one knows where it came from, and it slides out for whoever tries to take it. It's not even a very good sword.

Potato_Priest
2017-07-01, 04:47 PM
100) A series of arrows, carved into standing stones...that lead in a giant 10 km circle.

Absolutely wonderful. I've used standing stones a lot in my games, so that'd be sure to get the players.

Bohandas
2017-07-01, 05:23 PM
107.) A cluster of menhirs/standing stones that serves no purpose except to spell out a dirty word when viewed from above (or alternately it spells out "sucker")

108.) A sword in a stone whose successful removal entitles the aspirant to be mayor for a day

boomwolf
2017-07-01, 08:11 PM
Whats with all the swords in stones?

109)The party hears of an old tower nearby that was has become a vampire's lair lately.
Investigation will lead to the tower being infested with bats. regular bats. nothing more.

FreddyNoNose
2017-07-01, 10:05 PM
97.) A sword. In a stone. With a prophecy associated with it that it can only be removed by the rightful king. All set up by a conniving wizard as a means to place a patsy on the throne.

So it is the stone not the sword that is the real power!

FreddyNoNose
2017-07-01, 10:07 PM
105) Sword in stone, no explanation, no plaque, no one knows where it came from, and it slides out for whoever tries to take it. It's not even a very good sword.

In the good old Judges Guild world, various hexes had special notes. I recall one of them had a set of power armor. haha.

Bohandas
2017-07-02, 12:06 AM
110.) "You are the zombies" - Following the recent rumors of undead creatures stalking the streets to the source will lead the party to...themselves. Being high enough level that you can hobble back to town pincushioned fill of arrows, with half your face ripped off, and your limbs all broken and mangled from a 60 foot fall will lead to m8sunderstandings, especially if you come back at night when it's dark

111.) The cleric's deity appears to them in a dream to send them on some unpleasant mission. Halfway through the quest he appears again and reveals that he was just trolling them, like Abraham and Isaac

Thisguy_
2017-07-02, 01:53 AM
I love red herrings. The Law of Conservation of Detail (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheLawOfConservationOfDetail) is abused in order to throw the party for a loop. The best part being that what details were given were important, because the story at the moment was that the party went briefly mad and deeply, cautiously investigated a barrel or something.

112.) The party is informed by a local youth that mimics have become a problem in town. He just wants to watch them double check everything they interact with.

113.) The party comes across a stone with a hole in it. Upon careful observation, the ranger-type or perceptive party member manages to deduce that in 100 or so days, the sun will line up perfectly and shine through the hole. Those who view this event will remark on its beauty, but there's nothing special about any of it. The sunbeam traveling through the stone lands upon an innocuous fish in a nearby brook.

114.) The party, being paranoid, does what adventurers do. They acquire the keys to the room of their inn, lock every door, window, what have you. In a moment that could be seen as a red herring on its own, they discover a trap door, but find they can lock it, too, and do so (possibly after an hour of screwing around). In the morning, they discover that a chicken has appeared in the impenetrable room. None of the locks have been disturbed, and there is no orifice for entry. Offer them no explanation, for there is none.

Breitheamh
2017-07-02, 08:59 AM
104. A sword appears in the center of town, stuck into a stone and anvil. There is a sign saying, "Whoso pulleth this sword from this stone and anvil is rightwise King.

One appears in the center of every town.

This actually strikes me as the beginning of a crazy campaign. Every single town suddenly has a person claiming royal status. Hilarity ensues.

goto124
2017-07-02, 10:27 AM
In the morning, they discover that a chicken has appeared in the impenetrable room. None of the locks have been disturbed, and there is no orifice for entry. Offer them no explanation, for there is none.

"Someone here is chicken-infested..."

Vogie
2017-07-03, 11:06 AM
115: The party finds a giant transparent dome coming out of the ground, with snow on the ground despite it being summer. Those with high perceptions or spyglasses can see there's a town on the inside of the dome

There' nothing in the town - the buildings are all fake... because it's just a Snow globe that got hit with an enlarge spell, and just stayed that way, inexplicably.

116: The party member that has it in their backstory that they really do not like adventuring, and are doing this only because they have to, is given a compass that points them to the location they desire... which is their house.

TheYell
2017-07-03, 01:51 PM
117. A member of the party is asked to roll Sense Motive. On a DC 15 they realize that they dreamed the last five minutes, years ago.

Breitheamh
2017-07-03, 07:54 PM
Honestly, for a lot of these I feel like an experienced DM could use them seriously to great effect as a plot hook.

Christopher K.
2017-07-03, 09:05 PM
118. Scrawled into the dungeon wall are the words "Leave the black one." In the next room are a red, blue, and green sphere on pedestals, and an empty pedestal. There are black shards of glass on the floor.

Mutazoia
2017-07-03, 09:36 PM
118. Scrawled into the dungeon wall are the words "Leave the black one." In the next room are a red, blue, and green sphere on pedestals, and an empty pedestal. There are black shards of glass on the floor.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlIz0q8aWpA