View Full Version : DM Help Have greater events planned out, but need a way to get the party involved

2016-01-15, 01:50 AM
So I have a story in mind and I know what is happening in the setting, but I have only a vague idea of how to get the party involved. We've had a few sessions now and the party is involved, but getting into it was a little cumbersome and as the story goes on I feel more and more like the ending won't be satisfactory. I would like to fix the beginning so I can run it again later and i would like to make sure the end has a good payoff, so looking for ideas.

The barebones story is this: The adventurers are visiting the city of Crocano during the Festival of Swords, one of the biggest events of the year, drawing crowds and taking over the city for a week. While this is happening the Mercers Guild (Merchant Guild), a powerful group that holds 5 seats on the Supreme Council is the oligarch that rules the city (the only guild to hold multiple seats) and it has become divided (a rare event). As the adventurers are enjoying the festivities the ministers on the council have a split vote, an event that hasn't happened for a decade. The city becomes a-buzz with rumors, and it's hard to separate fact from fiction.

Basically what the story boils down to is a secret group called the Magpies (for years there has been all but a rumor of there existence in the city) has one minister on the council. This minister is attempting to get a vote through in the council to divert funds to the northern trade route, in essence to weaken the xenophobic government of the country to the north, so they can greater free access to it. So far they have made inroads in the southern half of the country to the north, but not the capital. For the Mercers Guild, the purpose of the funds is greater access and therefore greater profits. For the Magpies, the purpose is to access the city's school of magic and massive library and to gain allies within the city in order to gain access to an item they know to exist there. And there's also a catch, the head of the Magpies is not who the Magpies think she is. She is a shapeshifting outsider that wants nothing, but to gain access to her home realm, while those under her think the item is just a powerful magical artifact they can use. The problem there is if she is able to gain access to her realm, there is a chance that she will open a gate that can be both an entrance and exit, so suffice to say in an instant the whole Material Plane could suddenly find it home to millions upon millions of aberrations.

Now what I've planned out is a series of events that happen over the course of a few days. First there is the split vote, which is voted down. That sets off a series of events where basically an artifact, which is a symbol of the Festival is stolen. A day later, it is found in one of the knightly schools (basically a Daimyo) and its grandmaster is arrested and the minister heading up the investigation is poisoned. Basically what ends up happening is the master is framed and a second shapeshifting minister from the Magpies is voted in as minister and the original vote for funds is later passed.

Some of the clues I've left are the new minister is actually the boss of one of the players, so she has been acting strangely lately, if he broke into her office he would find strange correspondence letters with the shapeshifting minister. If he broke into her house, he'd find the real lady dead in the basement. Second, one of the artifacts the Magpies want access to in the Free City is actually in Crocano. This is actually where the party ended up going, because in the spirit world there is a vortex of energy swirling around this city square (and one of the party members can see that sort of thing). A second group within the Magpies is exploring a way of getting to this artifact that they suspect is there.

So the goal of the thing is to prevent them from getting this artifact or the other and to uncover the two shapeshifting ministers. Now obviously I think this has become a convoluted mess. I try to incorporate a lot of real world complexity into stories, but I think in essence it becomes something like how I described above. How would you guys go about involving normal people in a story of political intrigue?

Note: The system we're using is essentially 3.5, but we use very little magical items, no one optimizes, and there is maybe one fight a session (if that).

2016-01-30, 02:27 AM
What are the general motivations of the PCs? How can you use any of these to get them into the plot?
Maybe one of the PCs has a relative that would be affected by the whole mess and asks them to investigate.

Or maybe you do the "yelling madwoman tells them the End Is Near and that the minister is possessed by lizard people" schtick.

2016-01-30, 04:38 AM
The same way all of these stories start: have someone the PCs know/trust hire them to 'look into matters'. A mentor calls in a favor, someone from the guild is willing to pay them, a family member gets killed trying to look into it and leaves a cryptic message behind- so many options.

If all else fails and the PCs get stuck, have the Magpies send some agents to kill the PCs for their meddling. The attackers are carrying whatever clue the PCs need to point them the right way, and you're back on track.

2016-01-30, 07:51 AM
It's always a good idea to provide a personal plot hook that drives all players to the conclusion of the story. A mutual friend is in danger, everyone has lost someone and the evidence hints to a certain guild, they suffer from a rare disease and look for a cure...

Also, take your time to play the personal tune properly. Invest a scene or two for the mutual friend to make him likeable, describe the burning pain and the icky smell of the boils that form on their hands while other people look at them with disgust.
Make it personal, not just something that happens while the characters are nearby.

Darth Ultron
2016-01-30, 04:01 PM
Simply put, you need a way to bribe the characters. What do they get if they pick a side?

If you have good characters, they will simply do good as they are good. Otherwise the characters need something.

Politics like you describe are nice, but can be hard to fit in to D&D. A combat adventure game does not fit politics. And even more so is the players might not like it.

2016-01-31, 03:18 PM
Players get involved in events because they care about what is going on, or they will get something they want. The story and the motives of the NPC participants are well thought out, but why should the players care about any of it?
If political intrigue is what you intend the game to be about, you need to make sure the players have a strong understanding of the setting and the people involved prior to the game, or have a reason to want to learn about them in-game. You likely will need to determine the characters' backgrounds for them, write up the information they ought to have about the political situation and to tell them what each of their motives are in regards to said situation.

You need to ask yourself, what do I intend the players role to be in this game? I mean that on a meta level, not a story level. What is it the players actually do in this game? What is their goal in the game? Figure that out, and you will have a better idea how to involve them in your story, or how to change your story to be more appropriate for the game.