Beyond ‘Fred’: Ancient Greek Names for Games

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Greek writing from ancient greek red figure pottery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking for a character name that sounds distinctive but doesn’t look like it came out of a random name generator? How about one from Ancient Greece? Often the best names come from real life. Beyond ‘Fred’ is an occasional series that provides lists of names from real-world cultures, both past and present. In other posts, I’ve covered everything from Italian to Ancient Egyptian.

An important note: I’m listing names that I think sound cool for rpg game purposes. I’m not worrying about historical accuracy. If you’re looking for a name for historical re-enactment, please check out my list of sources at the end of this post. I also don’t usually cover name meanings, but again, most of my sources list those. Finally, I tend to stay away from names that are currently in common usage. I figure if you were interested in those, you wouldn’t be looking at this list 😉

Ancient Greek Names


  • Abantes
  • Agapetos
  • Akakios
  • Aktis
  • Alexios
  • Bakis
  • Basileios
  • Bion
  • Burrhus
  • Daetor
  • Dareios
  • Diodoros
  • Diokles
  • Dryas
  • Echemmon
  • Eirenaios
  • Epiktetos
  • Eustorgios
  • Eyrx
  • Galenos
  • Gennadios
  • Glykon
  • Gurgos
  • Harpagos
  • Hesiodos
  • Hyakinthos
  • Hylas
  • Iasos
  • Iphitus
  • Isidoros
  • Itheus
  • Kadmos
  • Kallias
  • Karpos
  • Kyrios
  • Laomedon
  • Linos
  • Loxias
  • Lykos
  • Makarios
  • Melampos
  • Metrophanes
  • Myron
  • Narkissos
  • Nereus
  • Nikias
  • Nyctinus
  • Okytos
  • Olympos
  • Origenes
  • Orthaeus
  • Pammon
  • Pankratios
  • Phaidros
  • Philokrates
  • Sabyllos
  • Seleukos
  • Skiron
  • Solon
  • Talaemenes
  • Thales
  • Timaios
  • Tros
  • Xanthos
  • Xenokrates
  • Xenon
  • Xuthos
  • Zagreus
  • Zenodoros
  • Zopyros
  • Zosimus


  • Achaia
  • Agape
  • Aikaterine
  • Anthousa
  • Basiane
  • Berenike
  • Bito
  • Briseis
  • Damaris
  • Delias
  • Demetria
  • Drosis
  • Eirene
  • Euantha
  • Eudokia
  • Euthymia
  • Evadne
  • Gaiane
  • Galatea
  • Galene
  • Glyke
  • Haidee
  • Hagne
  • Helike
  • Hypatia
  • Iaera
  • Ino
  • Isidora
  • Issa
  • Kallistrate
  • Kallixeina
  • Korinna
  • Kynna
  • Lais
  • Lasthena
  • Ligeia
  • Lyra
  • Megara
  • Melitta
  • Mykale
  • Myrrine
  • Nemerte
  • Nesaea
  • Nikaia
  • Nysas
  • Oitane
  • Olympias
  • Oreithyia
  • Otonia
  • Pales
  • Pelagia
  • Phile
  • Pylia
  • Raisa
  • Rhene
  • Rhode
  • Rhodope
  • Sebasteia
  • Semele
  • Sostrate
  • Sotera
  • Thalassa
  • Thais
  • Timo
  • Tryphosa
  • Xanthe
  • Xanthippe
  • Xene
  • Xenia
  • Zenobia
  • Zita
  • Zosime
  • Zoe

Hints on pronunciation

  • Always pronounce the final “e”– it makes an sound like “eh”.
  • “Ch” is always pronounced with a “k” sound.
  • “Th” is pronounced smoothly, like in “this”


Other Beyond ‘Fred’ Posts:

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Characters for Brand New Players

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You’ve gotten your group and your new player both ready to play. He’s sat in at least one play session and thinks this “roleplay thing” looks pretty cool and both you and your players think he’ll be a good fit for your game.

So now, with all of the prelims out of the way, it’s time to sit down with your brand-new  player and build his character. But what’s the best way to build a character for a brand-new player? That’s what this article, the third in my series on introducing new players to your game group.

Character creation for the brand-new player

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to creating characters for brand new players:

  • start with pre-generated characters
  • start with character creation

Starting with pre-generated characters

In this situation, you give your brand new player a pre-generated character to play until he’s comfortable enough with the game to build an effective character. The advantage of this approach is that the player doesn’t have to struggle through two (often very different) sets of rules and can immediately jump into play.

Character creation can be confusing and seemingly unrelated to the game itself to the brand new player. He doesn’t yet know what kind of character he likes or is good at playing. That makes it hard to build a character he enjoys, because he doesn’t yet know what he enjoys. In his ignorance, it’s all to easy for him to create a character he hates.

The downside of this option is that none of the available characters may interest the new player

Starting with character creation

The other school of thought says to start by walking the new player through character creation, step-by-step, if need be. This way, the new player will have  (hopefully) a character he likes from day one. What I’ve found, though is that most brand-new players have no idea what kinds of characters are out there, making it difficult for her to come up with a character idea.

The best of both

As a middle ground , I’ll ask  her what kind of character she’d like to play. Then I ask her she wants to create the character herself, or if she just wants to give me the details and let me worry about creating the numbers to match those details.

Even if she chooses to create the character herself, you’ll need to walk her through the character process step-by-step.  At the very least, she’ll probably appreciate some advice about the choices she needs to make, such as which weapons are most effective and which skills would be the most use to her. Remember though, you’re giving suggestions, not mandates. Give her the choices, explain the pros and cons of each for her character, then let her decide for herself.

Before play–the prelude

It’s helpful to sit down with your new player before his first actual play session.  At this time, run him through a one-on-one play session working out his character’s background. This serves two purposes: it gives the a player a dry-run on the mechanics and it helps him learn about his character, both of them will help make play run more smoothly at the official first game session.

Talk with your group

Ask the new player to arrive 15-30 minutes later than the rest of the group. This will give you a chance to talk to your existing group. Let them know if you’re suspending or modifying any rules for this session, especially table rules. Also layout how you expect them to treat the newcomer.

Remind them they were once brand-new players and ask them to be sympathetic if the newcomer makes “newbie” mistakes or doesn’t seem to know how to do things. We forget that we actually had to learn many of the in-game actions we do automatically now (like looking for secret doors or testing the floor with a 10′ pole). Also make sure they know the game will likely move much slower tonight because you’ll have to stop frequently to explain things.

Ask your group to be especially welcome and to keep in-jokes to a minimum (or at least explain them). Reiterate that you want the new player to feel comfortable and welcome. Warn them to be especially conscious about not interrupting him and to be patient while he figures out his character’s actions. Also tell them if there’s anything they shouldn’t say, such as background information the new character wouldn’t know.

Ask (or choose) one player to be a mentor to the newest member. Make sure she has a lot of patience, knows the mechanics and can explain them well.

During the game session

Don’t let the mentor take over playing the new character–it’s great for her to suggest possible actions, but the decision must reside with the new player. If you find the mentor insist the newcomer take certain actions, find a new mentor.

Don’t overlook the new player when asking for character actions. A brand-new player is likely to be very quiet and hesitant to speak out of fear of doing something wrong. He could easily be overlooked in the flurry of activity, especially at the outset of combat. If your group uses a caller, ask the caller to pay special attention to the newcomer.

Be prepared to provide a list of possible actions for the player to choose from. Many brand-new player have no idea what’s even possible for their character to do. But try not to make him feel “on the spot.” If he’s completely stumped, give him two or three possible actions and tell him you’ll come back to him later, so he has time to think things over. Don’t give him more than about four possibilities–two many choices can be as overwhelming as too few.

That’s all for this segment. Next time, I’ll cover adding an experienced player to your game.

[Image courtesy of SmartBoyDesigns via Flickr Creative Commons]

Posts in this series

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Adventure Creation Handbook now on Kindle

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Just a quick note today letting everyone know that The Adventure Creation Handbook is now available for the Kindle.

Obviously, I wasn’t able to include the worksheets and the whole book is stripped down to the text information. I did list the worksheet and checklist questions at the end of the Kindle version and anyone who purchases a Kindle copy will be able to download a free PDF copy of the “Adventure Creation Worksheet” from the website.

Just in case the above link doesn’t work, here’s the actual page address:


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Then There Was One: Introducing a New Player to an Established Group

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Do you remember your first game session? Yeah, I know it’s probably been a while, but I bet you remember how overwhelmed you felt.  You had this sheet plopped down in front of you, covered with numbers and strange acronyms that may as well have been ancient Egyptian for all you understood it. And then there were some of the strangest dice you’ve ever seen. But worst of all, everyone else at the table was shouting out things in a strange garbled tongue.

Remember that feeling? Good. Now hold onto it as you read this next post, the second in my series on introducing new players to roleplaying. Last post, I covered what to do if you’re running an entire group of new players. Today I’m covering how to introduce a new player to a group of experienced roleplayers.

Before Adding a New Player

First and foremost, you need to make sure the rest of your players are okay with the idea of new players. Many experienced groups become very insular and can be unwilling to accept a new player into their ranks, especially if the the player is brand new to roleplaying.

Talk with your group. Ask them how they feel about adding another player. If they’re not comfortable with the idea, you may have to consider other options, if you really want to bring this new player into the hobby and you have the time and energy to run more than one game. You’ve got a couple of options:

  • Run a one-on-one game with just her and you
  • Try to find more new players to form a beginners’ game

Know Your Limit

For the purpose of this post, I’m assuming that your group is okay with adding a new player. But what about you? You need to make sure you’re okay with the added responsibility of adding a brand-new player to your game. Is your game under control? Can you handle the extra workload?

Every GM has a optimal number of players he feels comfortable running.  This ideal number varies depending on:

  • the game system you’re using. Some games work better with smaller or larger groups,
  • how familiar you are with the system,
  • the current mix of players in your group,
  • how high-maintenance you’re current players are.

For example,my optimal group size is around eight players; my games have a lot of PC interactions and politics. Many other GMs prefer smaller groups of four to six players. However, when I run LARPs, my optimal size is around thirty players and when I run FASA’s classic Doctor Who game, I prefer a group size of three.

Think back over other games you’ve run. At what point (in number of PCs) did you feel like you started to lose control of the game? On the other hand, was there a game you felt didn’t really work because you didn’t have enough PCs? Usually having too many PCs is more of a problem than having too few, so if you’re in doubt, don’t add any more players. Especially brand-new players who will require more of your time and energy than an experienced player would.

Preparing the new player to play

Assuming you’re able to handle another player and your group is okay with the idea, you can go ahead and talk to your brand-new player about joining. Let her know that kind of game you’re running. Go beyond naming the system and stay away from describing mechanics. A “near-future variant of the d20 system, only using spell points and increased technology to give it a Shadowrun feel” won’t tell her if she’d be interested in playing.

Describe your game in plain words. A better way to describe the above game would be “a dark, cyberpunk-type game set in an alternate near-future that has slightly more advanced technology than we have now, but also has magic and magical races, such as elves, ogres, and dwarves. If you can, find a movie or TV show you can compare it with. That gives the new player some basis to know if she’d be interested or not.

Try to give her a feeling for the mood and themes of your game. It’s great that it’s a near-future game with magic, but are the PCs a dedicated group of cohorts who can trust each other completely (like Babylon 5) ? Or are you running a game where people’s minds are messed with on a regular basis, the enemy has spies planted inside the group of PCs, who, themselves, may not be who they think they are (like the most recent Battlestar Galactica).

Encourage your prospective player to come watch a session or two of your game (provided the other players are okay with this). That will give her the best of idea of what your game is like. Tell you current players that she’s coming and ask them to make an effort to welcome the her.

Once your potential player tells you she’s interested, let her know what she needs to have. Does she need her own dice and book(s)? If so, let her know in advance of her first play session. Tell her where she can get them and exactly which books she needs to buy. It’s also a good idea to let her know what books she won’t need, if any. Game books aren’t cheap these days and it can be frustrating to pay out $20-50 on something, only to discover you’ll never get a chance to use it.

Consider letting her borrow books and dice for the first few game sessions, until she knows whether or not she likes the game enough to stick with it. Or you can pass the hat and have your current group chip in together to buy her a set of dice and copy of the core rules. Many games have PDF versions of their rules, which are usually much cheaper and allow a player to print out only the section of the rules she needs. If you go the PDF route, give her a range of pages to start with (i.e., “print out the character creation rules–they’re on pages 18-36”).

It’s also helpful to create a “cheat sheet” of the most basic rules a player needs to know. I’m not talking about copying whole sections of the book: just create a one or two page sheet of the most common mechanics. This will give her something to look at during the game section (it would also help to page note this sheet so she can look the rules up in the actual book, if she needs to). That way, she doesn’t need to be flipping page after page to find how to role for initiative in the middle of combat.

Fill her in on any house rules you use, as well as any behavior expectations any “table rules” you may have. For example: “if a die rolls off the table, it must be rerolled” or “once the game starts, I assume everything you say is in character.” Don’t forget to include any group traditions, such as “everyone in the group chips in for pizza.”

It’s also good to give a brand-new player a glossary of common gaming terms. We, as experienced players, tend to forget that not everyone knows what “hit points” are or what “NPC” stands for. We forget that it sounds like a foreign language to someone brand-new, who’s still learning that AC has nothing to do with electricity.


Next time, I’ll cover character creation with a brand-new player, as well as tips for bringing that character into your game without ruffling feathers.

[Image by JGNY from Flickr Creative Commons].

Other posts in this series:

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So How Do You Win? Explaining Roleplaying to Non-Gamers

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Explaining roleplaying to a non-gamer is one of the hardest things we’re asked to do. We want to share this hobby we love so much, but we often find ourselves in a catch-22 situation: it’s extremely difficult to explain roleplaying to someone who’s never done it, but once someone’s done it, they no longer need the explanation.

Below are several posts that could help when you’re called on to do the impossible:

[Image courtesy of pasukaru76 via Flickr Creative Commons]

Passing it On: Introducing New Players to RPGs

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We love this hobby of ours so much, it’s only natural we’d want to spread the word. We do our damndest to get our non-gaming friends to give this “roleplaying thing” a try. This is especially true if we’re far from other gamers and the only way to get a group is to build one ourselves.

But how do you run a game for an entire group of brand-new players? Especially when you’ve been playing so long, you can’t remember what it feels like to be brand-new?

This is the first in a series of posts with ideas to help you introduce new players to our illustrious time sink …er, pastime.

When Your Whole Group is New


Do the planning for them

New players are often overwhelmed by the character sheet alone. Are we expected to know all those numbers? How do we actually use the stuff that’s on there? Give brand-new players pre-generated characters, especially when you’re teaching an entire group of first-time players.

By using pre-generated characters, you make a lot of overwhelming decisions for the players. They don’t have to worry about choosing effective skills, powers, spells or weapons, because you’ve already done that for them. Too many choices become intimidating. Even first-time players realize that some choices would be more effective than others, but which ones?

Limiting choices was part of the success of the original D&D game, IMHO. And I think it’s one of the reasons D&D was wildly more successful than Traveller, another early RPG. Traveller had (and still does) an open-ended character generation system. Sure, you chose a branch of service and rolled randomly for skills, but you still had to create a role in the party.

Being from the Navy didn’t give a new player any ideas on how to actually play his character. It was entirely up to you to define your place in the universe. Great for an experienced player with a strong character concept and goals. But if you’d never played an RPG before, you really didn’t know what kinds of things your character could do. If you’d never played Traveller before, you really didn’t know what kinds of things your character could do.

Original D&D took care of that for you. You had only four classes (well, really six—dwarf and elf were treated like classes), each with a very distinct role in the party. Fighters fought, magic-users cast spells, clerics healed and thieves disarmed traps and opened locks. Each class had a built-in purpose that made them very accessible to brand-new players and this worked really, really well new players.

Choose your game system carefully. When you’re introducing a group brand-new players who’ve never roleplayed at all (as opposed to experienced players learning a new system), you want something that’s simple, without being too simplistic. Pick D&D over Rolemaster, Star Wars over Traveller, and anything over Amber (unless your entire group are die-hard Zelazny fans).

This is not the time for you to run a system for the first time. Pick something you’re very familiar with, so you don’t waste valuable teaching (and playing) time looking things up. Plus, if you’re constantly having to look up things, you make the game seem much complicated than it actually is. When you use a system you’re very comfortable with, you give the impression “See, this isn’t so hard. I don’t even have to look up the rules, it’s that easy.” It makes the system much more accessible.

Limit choices, but make sure you give some

If you’ve ever had toddlers, you know how effective an empowering it is to let them choose something from a limited and predetermined set of options. Do you want to wear the green pants or the new skirt? The same goes for new players. Do you want to use a healing potion or have the cleric use her last spell?

Don’t be afraid to make suggestions during play. Most brand-new players will be grateful for the advice, especially if you explain the reason behind your suggestions. Just remember that the players are free to choose something other than what you suggested. That’s part of the  learning experience.

Don’t make them feel stupid or wrong because they made an ineffective choices, just let the results of their actions catch up to them in-game. If one of their choices doesn’t work, explain afterwards why it didn’t work well and what might have worked better. Never imply it was a stupid or bad decision. Instead, use language like “less effective”.

Take it slow

Plan a short adventure. While you may consider a mission to stop an ogre from carrying off the nearby town’s livestock dull and routine, the players have never done it before. They’re not going to feel cheated because the “dungeon” is nothing more than a three-room abandoned farmhouse and the “treasure” is a masterwork (non-magical) sword and a single healing potion. And if your adventure doesn’t look like it will fill and entire game session, remember that you’ll be stopping frequently to answer questions and give explanations. It’s much better to end too soon than to go too long.

Give out information as the players need it

Don’t try to explain the entire character sheet at the beginning of the adventure. You’ll just confuse the players and they won’t remember the explanation, anyway. Instead, explain each section just before the players need to use it. Explain initiative as they’re getting ready for combat. Explain lock-picking when they encounter that first chest. Because they then immediately use that information, they’ll remember it better the next time they need to use it.

When you explain something, also explain why it’s done that way. Explain that you roll for initiative because you need to know in what order things will happen. Explain that you go around the table in initiative order because faster characters get to act first and because it helps you make sure you haven’t missed anyone. While this will help the players remember what to do next time, you’ll probably still need to remind them of the details the first several times they do something.

Follow their cue

Go through the adventure at they players’ pace. If they’re having trouble with combat, add in a few more easy fights. If they mastered skill use on the first go, make the next set of skill challengers a little bit harder. If they want to spend 40 minutes real-time looking for secret doors, let them, as long as everyone is having fun with it (and, if they look that hard, consider letting them find one, even if it just leads back to a room they’ve already explored). Be prepared to change things to fit the group even more than you would for an experienced group.

Make learning the goal

Don’t get hung up on finishing an adventure in the first game session. Your goal should be on teaching the game, not accomplishing the mission. If you’ve chosen a small enough adventure, this probably won’t come up. If it does, remind yourself that your real goal is to encourage these players to come back for more. Sure, the players will feel great if they save the day, but it’s much more important that they have fun.


This post is a slightly expanded version of a post on the homepage: Some Tips for Introducing New Players to RPGs. Next time we’ll cover adding a brand-new player to a group of experienced players.

[Image courtesy of tim_and_selena via Flickr Creative Commons]

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Now on Kindle

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Just a quick note this week to tell everyone that Evil Machinations is now available on your Kindle.  Just search the Kindle store for “Evil Machinations” and it should pop right up. And, as usual for Kindle blogs, you get a free 14-day trial subscriptions, after which you pay $0.99 per month.

I’m also looking into the possibility of making it available for the Nook, as well. Can’t say when that will happen, though…


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Top 11 for 2011

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I can’t believe the end of the year is on us already. It’s been a good year for me and I hope for you, too.

Here’s the eleven most popular posts this year:

  1. Character Questionnaire: Just what the name says–it’s a character questionnaire to help GMs and players alike flesh out important characters. This has been the number one favorite page since Evil Machinations began in 2009.
  2. Where are we again?” Creating Unique Fantasy Cities and Towns: List of on-line resources that can help you create cities and towns for your game world.
  3. February Blog Carnival: Worldbuilding: Check out the comments of this post for great links to blog articles about worldbuilding. This was the introductory post for when I hosted the RPG Bloggers blog carnival in February of this year.
  4. Building Better NPCs III: Character Webs: What are character webs and how can you use them to help bring your NPCs to life. Also a perennial favorite post.
  5. X Marks the Spot: 11 Map Making Tutorials: Another list of on-line resources, this one on making great maps for your game.
  6. And *Then* What Happened?: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas: Ever come across an adventure seed you really wanted to use, but you couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a full adventure? This post is the first in a series that can help.
  7. Creating the Adventure Outline: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 9: Another post in the above series, this one on how to develop you idea into game outline or flowchart to make running that adventure a little easier.
  8. Handling Problem Players: A list of web resources with great ideas on how to handle problem players.
  9. Finding Events: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas,  pt. 8: How to come up with the encounters and challenges that make up an adventure.
  10. Campaign Worksheet: The campaign worksheet I use when creating a new campaign.
  11. Beyond ‘Fred’: Russian Names for Characters: A list of Russian names for PCs and NPCs.

There they are: the top eleven posts for 2011. Thanks to all my readers–you’re the reason I’m still here and looking forward to a great 2012.

Need Ideas? Check Out Sea of Stars

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In my continuing and irregular series of my favorite blogs, we come to Sea of Stars. This is great site for items and ideas to steal and use for your own games.

If your the kind of GM that gets inspiration by reading campaign logs of other people’s games, Sea of Stars has several for you to choose from. From Pathfinder to Legend of the Five Rings to Shadowrun, there’s a wide variety of genres and systems to look at.

Sea of Stars also has several good articles on game theory and gaming advice. For some solid advice on playing evil characters, check out Moral Dilemmas: Playing Evil (and I’m not just recommending it because he links it back to this blog 😉 ). Genre Resources is just what it says it is: a list of resources for various gaming genres.

But where this blog really shines is its collections of things–magic items, monsters, people–that you can use in your own games. I like to check the blog for it’s Tuesday Magic Items. The site’s owner, Sean Holland has described over 100 different magic items, from books, to rings, to wands, weapons…even a box of servants.

Sean’s also creating the Sea of Stars game setting and is a fellow member of the Gamer Lifestyle program. You can check out the progress of that here: Sea of Stars RPG

So if you’re needing some item to round out a monster’s hoard or a new monster to challenge your players (complete with 3.x/Pathfinder stats), this is a site to check out.

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18 Adventure Archetypes

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In The Adventure Creation Handbook, I talk about using adventure archetypes as a way to help you develop plot details. Below are 18 adventure archetypes, along with the plot elements each one generally needs to be successful.



Babysitting Someone or something to watch over, someone trying to capture what’s being baby sat, a map of the “sitee’s” location
Escort Thing or person to escort, place to escort them from, place to escort them to, map of route, something or someone trying to prevent them from getting there.
Raid Place to raid, item(s) to obtain in raid, guards, map of location, defensive measures/traps.
Kidnapping Someone to kidnap, guards, traps, and other defensive measures to prevent kidnapping, reason for kidnapping the victim, Location to bring victim to once kidnapped.
Exploration Unknown area to explore, random encounter tables, perhaps reason for exploring
Rescue Someone to rescue, a place to rescue them from, defensive measures to prevent rescue, reason why rescuee was taken
Robbery Place to rob, item to obtain (can be specific item or general type of item, such as “valuable”), defensive measures to prevent theft.
Bounty Hunt Person(s) to hunt, bounty reward, person or organization that wants huntee found
Breakout/Escape Jail, defenses to prevent escape, person to break out (if not the PCs themselves), reason why prisonner(s) is/are being held, locations of other prisoners, location of target in prison.
Assassination Person to assassinate, location of victim, person who wants assassination done, reason for assassination
Hijacking Vehicle(s) to be hijacked, driver(s) and passengers of vehicles, person who wants the hijacking done, reason for hijacking, hijacker’s demands, location to take vehicle(s) to.
Bug Hunt Critter to hunt, reward for successful hunt, location of critter, any defenses critter may have built
Smuggling Item or person to smuggle, authorities looking for same, authority checkpoints and personnel to carry out inspections, vehicle to smuggle with, location to take cargo to.
Salvage Wreck in hard-to-reach location, map where wreck is located, treasure to salvage, possibly rumors of treasure’s existence, possibly other group(s) also trying to salvage treasure.
Scam Marks (people to scam), a plan, possibly assistants
Spying Information to gain, plan to get same, people/location to get it from, people who want the information
Tournament Events to compete, other competitors, location of tournament, reward(s) for winners
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