Let Local Lawbreakers Do Your Leg Work

How do you bring your towns and cities to life? By populating them with people and events that your PCs can interact with! But sometimes coming up with those events can be difficult. When you’re looking for inspiration, where do you turn?

Gerald_G_Police_manI’m going to suggest something you may not have thought of previously. Your local police blotter. Blotters offer intriguing gold mines of campaign ideas.

You may be scratching your head a bit, but let’s take a look at a local police blotter for the county that I live in. Here’s the link for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Now you probably are wondering what in the heck I”m suggesting you do with this thing. But let’s walk through a simple process and take 10 kinds of events from this blotter.

As I write this post, I see the following types of incidents being reported:

  1. Traffic Stop
  2. Suspicious Incident
  3. Warrant Service
  4. Privately Towed Vehicle
  5. Alarm Residential
  6. Recovered Stolen Property
  7. Alarm Panic
  8. Follow Up
  9. Motor Assist
  10. Citizen Contact

So how do I map these modern-world events to something in my fantasy campaign world?

  • A traffic stop could equate to an incident on a crowded motorway. Perhaps an injury occurred due to someone not paying attention. Got kicked by a horse or knocked over by a careless rider. Perhaps a cart was where it shouldn’t be and the driver was taken into custody.
  • A suspicious incident might be a guard noticing someone behaving strangely. Maybe a pedestrian is deliberately running into people and looking over their shoulder to see if they’re being followed.
  • A warrant service could be a local guard or sheriff bringing someone in for questioning about a current case. Robbery. Assault. Breach of contract. Whatever it may be, someone is going to jail to be interrogated.
  • A privately towed vehicle problem might be that a cart driver left a cart blocking the road too long and it was impounded.
  • An alarm residential could be that a local noticed some things stolen or destroyed and asked the local guards to investigate.
  • Recovered stolen property hints that a thief was caught on the street with stolen goods that may need to be returned to their owners.
  • An alarm panic could be that a home or business was being invaded, destroyed, or robbed and the victims were screaming loud enough to attract attention.
  • A follow-up could be to make sure that a particular event (theft, assault, etc.) was resolved.
  • Motor assist could be as simple as some guards helping get a broken cart off to the side or repaired.
  • And citizen contact could mean that a citizen has walked into a guard station and reported a crime.

Orange,_10-sided_dieThese could be used as random events in town. I wouldn’t want to overuse them, but perhaps roll a d10 any time the PCs are on the street. On a roll of 1 or 10, roll on the chart and figure out what’s going on. Here are some possibilities I can put into a quick table to have handy during a session…

  1. Pedestrian knocked over by passing horse and rider.
  2. Passerby behaving strangely, moving quickly through the crowd and looking over their shoulder.
  3. Guards suddenly rush and surround someone on the street, taking them into custody.
  4. A cart left on the side of the road is being taken by the guards.
  5. A local has flagged down a guard and is asking to investigate a crime at their home or business.
  6. Someone on the street is caught and searched. Stolen property is found during the search and guards are asking for help locating the owners.
  7. A small fire has caught at a local business. All hands on deck for a bucket brigade.
  8. Guards are helping a local cart driver replace a broken wheel.
  9. An animal (horse, goat, cow) has gotten loose and is running down the street, followed by some guards and locals.
  10. A fight has broken out on the street and guards are attempting to intervene.

Any of these could be hooked to existing story lines or start new ones. But each adds a bit of movement to what could be an otherwise stagnant stroll through town and the incidents should change weekly, if not daily (or even hourly if you’re in a big city).

A quick Google search should turn up links to any local police blotters you may have near you. Or you might want to research small, rural communities for small town events or big city police departments for big bustling cities in your campaigns. Really it’s a never-ending array of inspiration!

(I have to offer some thanks to Brian Liberge, Jim White, and the rest of the gang at Gamer Assembly. They were instrumental in coming up with a fun headline for this post!!)

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