Last time we set up the questions to our adventure seed-inspired adventure. This time, we’re going to begin answering them, starting with the “who” questions. This is where we start adding meat to the bare skeleton of the adventure seed. We’re still at the idea stage, so we can come back and change our answers at any time.
Who hired the PCs?
We’ve got someone who’s trying to infiltrate a high-security location. Normally, this would be a good point to back through PC backgrounds or past experiences in the campaign and choose an NPC from there. Do the PCs owe anyone a big favor? But in our sample adventure, we’re starting from a blank slate, knowing nothing about our PCs. We can think of this as the opening adventure to a campaign. In this case, I’ll come back to this question after I answer the next one:
Who is the national leader?
In a high-fantasy setting, such as we’ve stipulated, the most logical leader would be the nation’s king (Khan, emperor, whatever), but that seems too obvious for my taste. Instead, lets make this the kingdom’s eldest princess. Perhaps she is the oldest sibling, but the crown would fall to her younger brother, as the only male heir, much to her dismay. Let’s make her the most capable of her siblings–far more capable a ruler than her brother, the crown prince would be. Most of the court dismisses her because she’s female, but one king’s primary adviser–the court wizard–recognizes her ability and wants to completely discredit her so she has no influence over her brother.
Since I’m fond of Russian names, I’ll go back to my Beyond Fred: Russian Names list and choose one. We’ll call her “Darya”.
Who hired the PCs, take two?
Okay, given the little background we’ve cooked up above, the most obvious person to approach the PCs and offer them employment would be our court wizard, but that seems to obvious. I’d like to give the PCs to have to think beyond the immediately obvious. This would be another good place to call an NPC back from the PC’s past. But since we’re starting from the very beginning, we’ll have to come up with something “off the cuff”. How about the wizard’s apprentice, who we can give a crush on the princess to? It’s still obvious, but it’s one step removed. Or how about her brother, the crown prince? Perhaps the two of them, working together. Lets run with that idea.
First thing I usually do when creating NPCs is to give them names. I may change them later, but at least I’ll have some names to start with. Let’s call the apprentice “Fedor” and the crown prince “Alexei”. We still haven’t worked out why, but we can do that as we go along.
Who are the entertainers?
This we can bring back to the princess. What kind of entertainment does she enjoy? So far, all we figured out about her is that she’s politically very savvy. I want her to be an extremely competent character, all the way around, but it could be extremely useful to have the PCs underestimate her abilities. Perhaps she has a weakness for troubadour ballads. Lets make the entertainers the leading group of actors in the surrounding kingdoms.
Perhaps the current king doesn’t care for their repertoire and so has banned them from performing in the kingdom. That could make them all the more enticing for our young princess and explain why she would want them to perform in a high-security area. Let’s take it a step further and make the leading man of the entertainers a skilled bard (who could be a PC, if the party has one) and the play she wants them to produce a sappy story about forbidden love. Give the play a political undercurrent and you have a reason for it to have been banned.
Who wants the mission to succeed? and Who wants the mission to fail?
The logical choice for this would be the crown prince, Alexei, and the wizard’s apprentice, Fedor. But let’s throw another twist in there. Let’s say that Fedor actually wants the PCs to fail, which will throw an interesting hiccup into the prince’s plans. But then we come down to one of the most important questions: why? Let’s shelve this one for now and tackle it again with the “why” questions.
Who leads the entertainers?
We’ve already touched on this one a little. Lets make the lead of the entertainers a bard–a retired adventurer. We can even take it a step further and say that he was a companion of the current kings when both were adventuring in their youth. Perhaps the king actually won his kingdom during his adventuring years (we’ll figure out why and how if it becomes important to the adventure) and the two had falling out during that time, which explains why the bard and his troupe have been banned from the kingdom. Let’s call the bard “Kirill”.
Do the entertainers know about the PCs mission?
Not overtly, but Kirill is no dummy and has his suspicions. He’s been commanded by the crown prince to add this motley group of obviously adventurers to his troupe for the princess’ performance. It doesn’t take a great leap of thought to guess that they’re plants of some kind. He hasn’t come right out an asked the adventurers what they’re mission is. He’s enjoying the challenge of trying to figure it out on his own.
What does that leave us with right now?
We have several NPCs that need to be created:
- Darya: the extremely capable eldest child of the king
- Alexei: the king’s oldest son and crown prince who resents his older sister’s ability
- Fedor: the court wizard’s apprentice who has a crush on Darya
- Kirill: the bardic leader of the entertainers who had a falling out with the king when they were both adventurers together.
We also know that the king didn’t inherit his kingdom, but won it during his adventuring days; there’s bad blood between him and Kirill (we’ll figure out exactly what later); Darya would be the more capable heir to the throne, but being female, she excluded from the line of succession, and her younger brother resents her ability, putting them at odds; Kirill’s making it a point to discover the PCs mission.
Next time, we’ll cover the “what” questions.
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