Monday, October 5, 2015

Unwelcome Guests

A new month means a new topic for the RPG Blog Carnival. This month, Of Dice and Dragons has made the theme "What Walks into Town". My first thoughts go to that iconic scene from old westerns of the mysterious stranger who pushes his way through a pair of saloon doors. Of course, mayhem and death weren't far behind and this was a great place to start when I shifted genres and starting thinking about it in a fantasy setting.

What follows is a collection of twelve guests that may follow your mysterious strangers PCs into town. Of course, they also make great plot hooks that could draw your the party to town as they seek to answer some or all of the questions these unwelcomed guests raise.

1. Pack of hellhounds. As the sky burns pink and orange with the setting sun, the distant howl of a lone dog can be heard. Other canines pick up the call as the day's light continues to fade. Their foreboding chorus comes from every direction, but always getting closer. Moments after darkness settles over the land the flickering light of flames and the smell of sulfur can be detected. A pack of hellhounds materializes on the fringes of the town, ready to run down anyone foolish enough to be outside. Who has summoned these fell beasts? Why do they appear night after night?

2. A masked murderer. As if from nowhere, a stranger appears on the road leading into town. He is plainly dressed in travelling clothes, and this goes almost unnoticed compared to his most striking feature. Piercing blue eyes peer out from behind a stone mask that bear the unflinching expression of disapproval. He does not speak, but draws a sickle from beneath his heavy cloak to wordlessly cut down any who approach him. Even when wounded, he utters nothing more than an annoyed grunt. He may force his way into one or more buildings and slay its occupants before taking his leave of the town. Who is this man? Is he even human? What is his purpose? Where is he heading? Does his mask, or his sickle, give him supernatural powers?

3. Migrating fey. Twice a year, a host of faeries, sprites, and other fey descend upon the town. The first time they come from the east, causing mischief and mayhem as they make their way westward. Several months later, they appear from the west, apparently returning to where they had originated in the east. The townsfolk have adapted to this annual pilgrimage and incorporated it into their local customs. Charms, wards, and even gifts decorate the town in hopes that the meddlesome creatures will leave the residences, their homes, and their businesses unmolested. Where do the fey come from? Where are they headed? Why do they travel like this so regularly? What does it mean if they do not make their annual migration?

4. An opposing army. An army of men, bearing the heraldry of an opposing lord has made camp just outside of town. Their numbers are sufficient to encircle the town, preventing anyone from arriving or departing without their express approval. Patrols monitor the surrounding terrain. At night, bonfires can be seen from every direction. Why have they come? What are their demands? Why have they not attacked outright?

5. A messiah. A plain looking stranger arrives in town. Although humble and soft spoken, he claims to speak for a divine power. He preaches regularly to the residence of a coming disaster and how only he can save them. Through the use of charisma, guile, and perhaps a touch of spellcraft, he gradually begins to build a flock of faithful devotees. Those who begin to oppose his increasing influence disappear. Does this man truly have the favor of a god? What is he planning for the town and its residence? What is happening to those that disappear?

6. The monarch's army. Soldiers in the regional lord's army march their way into town under banners of the liege's iconography. With practiced formality, the commanding officer makes a declaration to the gathering villagers - as faithful servants of their monarch, the community is expected to provide the appropriate hospitality to his host of fighting men. What this equates to is providing food and boarding in the homes of the residence, as well as tending to their mounts, repairing their equipment, and providing whatever other services they require - at a fraction of the normal cost. Why have the soldiers come? How long will they stay?

7. A raving madman. A dirty and scarred man has collapsed just after enter town. His clothes are in tatters, his hair and face are matted with mud. He mumbles incoherently at no one in particular as his gaze is focused on some far off illusion of horror. Those that take the time to understand him may be able to decipher some of his cryptic rambling, but eventually he turns violent. With a fury born of madness, he strikes out anyone near him with whatever implement he can obtain. His insanity is such that he fights until slain. Who was this man? What was it that drove him mad? What was he uttering and what did it mean?

8. A gift. Every morning, a bouquet of beautiful flowers is waiting on the doorstep of a local villager. The assortment of flora is exotic, certainly not a local variety, and carries a pleasant fragrance. On the night after the third gift is left, the individual targeted disappears from their home without a trace. Attempts to watch a targeted resident or their home has revealed nothing. Who is leaving these bouquets? Where do the flowers coming from? What is happening to the villager when they disappear?

9. A horde of undead. A mass of the walking dead have aimlessly shambled their way into town. With no clear direction or control, they begin to decimate the town as they break down doors, slaughter livestock, and feast on the villagers. The herd is vast and possibly outnumbers the population of the village. Can the villagers escape with their lives in time? Might the zombies be driven off or drawn away from the town? Where did they come from?

10. The murder hobos. A motley group of five men and women drift into town. Their clothing and armor represent an assortment of regional styles and each is visibly armed with an array of weapons. Their first stop is the local tavern. They spend their coin readily and behave as if the establishment was theirs. Anyone who does not please them is swiftly cut down, their corpse scoured for valuables. What are these people doing here? How long do they intend to stay? What trouble may follow them here?

11. A bounty hunter. A large, burly man arrives in town by wagon. Aside from an assortment of weapons and restraints, the wagon carries a steel cage just large enough to fit a man. He says little, but if questioned, will admit to be actively tracking a bounty although he refuses to divulge specifically who or what he is looking for. Is the stranger's quarry somewhere in town? Or is he waiting for his bounty to arrive? What collateral damages will the town suffer if the confrontation occurs here?

12. An oracle of death. A vagabond has found her way to the town. She offers to read palms and tell fortunes in exchange for a bit of coin before continuing on her travels. Her insights into the future typically portray a tragic or peculiar incident that will result in the customer's death. Within 48 hours, the events she described are coming to pass. Why is she predicting so many people will die? Is this woman causing the deaths she is foretelling? Has something else sinister befallen the town?

No comments:

Post a Comment