Encounter Design: A Couple of Examples of Story Seeds

Wow. I really can’t let this encounter thing go at the moment, so we’ll ride it to see how far we get. Using a couple of different approaches, I’ve come up with these two story seeds. Really I’m not describing individual encounters as much as I am the ideas for an adventure or series of adventures.

So using a set of three lists I’m toying with, I’ve come up with two combinations of words to explore.

The first involves the three words – “wall,” “monster,” and “art.”

The second involves the three words – “plains”, “terror”, and “guild.”

The wheels are already turning…

Wall, Monster, Art

  • Photo from http://theargusa.com/Photos.htm

    Photo from http://theargusa.com/Photos.htm

    Place – The crumbling remains of a freestanding wall on the outskirts of the kingdom.

  • Players – The PCs and a Monster
  • SetupA faded mural on the remaining stones depicts a horde of creatures from the wilds beyond held at bay beyond a mighty wall. Once, the wall stretched from the sea to a rocky mountain range protecting the kingdom from invasion by a monstrous herd of dangerous beasties, all teeth and claws. But as civilization flourished, the people of the kingdom forgot all about the monsters their forefathers protected them against by building a wall. In fact, the wall may hold a bit of magic maintaining the line created generations before or the herd animals may simply know not to cross it from some generational memory. But when the final stones fall, the horde will descend upon an unprepared population.People on edge of the kingdom have begun hearing noises beyond the wall but have been unable to find anything but tracks. They have asked the PCs to go beyond the wall and determine what is stalking them from afar.
  • Strategy – The horde has been testing the boundary, noticing that it has weakened. The PCs may notice that an occasional scout hits the barrier and turns away. They are waiting for the last stone to fall so they can begin an invasion. They may in fact taunt the PCs into battle near the wall in an attempt to weaken it further. There are three key stones. If they are damaged or moved, the barrier falls and the horde is free to cross at will.
  • Outcome – Do the PCs realize the importance of the wall? Can they convince the kingdom to rebuild it? Or is the significance lost and the people left to fend for themselves against a horde of hungry beasts?
  • Possibilities – The horde is cunning and cruel, sacrificing members of the herd for the greater good. The PCs launch a campaign to rebuild the wall, encouraging people on the edges of the kingdom to lend a hand. The PCs must then protect the builders from impending doom.

Yes, I could play with this. The PCs would have plenty of rope to hang themselves and allow the invasion or stop it before it starts. True power could exist in the hands of a small group of heroes. What will they do?

Plains, Terror, Guild

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IlkhanidHorseArcher.jpg


    Place – Out on the broad plains between a loose confederation of city states, with a few trade roads and hunting trails connecting them.

  • Players – The PCs and a Guild of Caravan Guards
  • SetupThough the city states think of themselves as bastions of civilization in a savage land, they are not the only people to occupy the plains. Bands of nomadic horse tribes roam freely, living off the land and trading among themselves as they have done for hundreds of years. The city states view these people as barbarians unworthy to be traded with due to their lack of sophistication and technology. The horsemen consider those in the city states to have abandoned the old ways and become disconnected from the spirits of the land. They are not feared, but are instead pitied.A guild of caravan guards has formed over the years to protect shipments and trade delegations between the city states against animal attacks and occasional incursions by the horsemen, but business has fallen off because the horsemen don’t really have any interest in attacking the traders. Some caravans have even gone so far as to hire non-guilders to protect them from the occasional wild animal on the trail. This has the guild worried.Guild leadership has created a small force of their own to act as an “evil” horseman tribe that has begun harrying caravans. At first they would only attack, steal goods, and flee. But recently some caravans have suffered from brutal injuries and even deaths from these attacks. As a result, guild business has been on the rise.

    The horsemen are concerned. They have seen these attacks and attempted to stay neutral, but now there are outcries from the city states to go on the offensive and either drive the horsemen off the lands or exterminate them. They may approach the PCs and ask them to investigate what is actually happening and to stop it if they can.

    Another possibility is that the traders themselves have noticed that only those caravans without “guild protection” are being hit. They ask the PCs to investigate as an independent third party or to protect a caravan to see if they can do any better than the locals who have attempted and failed.

  • Strategy – The guild-sponsored terrorists have grown more and more bold, but are only attacking caravans without guild support. Their hit-and-run tactics have become less effective as some traders have hired larger groups of non-guild guards. Thus, the attacks have been trying to discourage further non-guild members from accepting these duties. The PCs are attacked as guards of a caravan and either drive them away or take losses, getting more involved in the process.
  • Outcome – The PCs may gain fame with the horsemen and the traders if they stop the attacks, but will become enemies of the guild and be hunted down as troublemakers. Or the PCs may root out the guild leadership at the heart of the matter and stop it from within.
  • Possibilities – The PCs could become involved in city state politics, working with leaders and uninvolved guild members to determine the depth of the corruption. The PCs could become enamored by the horsemen and attempt to hunt down and exterminate the group terrorizing the traders. The PCs could become sucked in by the guild itself and find themselves at the center of the controversy.

Again, lots of places to go with this and a small group of heroes could really change the tide of events.


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