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Top Ten Tabletop Role-Playing Game Scenarios

Locating items or magic potions, discovering a mutant squirrel hideout, or finding a weapon against a demon are all role-playing game scenarios. More or less tricky or exciting. Here is my personal top-ten order; judging fun, originality, playability and player and Game Master expectations. Do your scenarios have the S factor?
Steve Dean on Top Ten Tabletop Role-Playing Game Scenarios
Finding a weapon against demons as a scenario for a tabletop role-playing game?

Welcome! Today, I’m going to count down the top ten role-playing game scenarios, judging fun, originality, playability, player and Game Master expectations, and something I like to call the S factor, which is similar to the X factor but slightly different. It’s an undefinable and often arbitrary quality, reflecting my random and often nonsensical thought processes. Most of these scenarios cover a wide range of genres and are all interchangeable, with a bit of thought.

10. Take Item A to Location B

This is a classic and sometimes maligned scenario, often the first quest undertaken by newly-created characters. The item can be a simple message, a trade sample, a small payment or something equally unimportant, or a coded order to a spy, an explosive device, or smuggled contraband.

When the party delivers the item, they can succeed, fail because they’ve been set up, or be whisked away on a quest from which they’ll never return. Or a combination of the above. It’s a simple but flexible start to any campaign.

9. Fetch Item A from Location B

Another classic, this time a little more advanced. The item is usually guarded, might not be where it was supposed to be, or might already have been taken by a rival group of adventurers. A chase of some sort is usually in order, which can vary from a few hours to a lifetime spent cruising the dark places most people fear to enter. Once the item is secured, it will need to be delivered intact to the quest giver, which is often a whole scenario on its own.

8. Find Missing Item, Person, Alternate Dimension

Another mainstay of the tabletop role-playing arsenal. Things are always going missing, in games as in real life. In this reality, it’s things like keys, mobile phones and my sanity, but in the game world, it can be anything from a ring to an entire galaxy. If it’s the ring it’s probably down the back of the sofa or been stolen by a notorious cat burglar. If it’s a galaxy, I’d go with super-powered aliens, although you might want to check the sofa. Imagine chasing the aliens across time and space and finding it next time you move the furniture to decorate.

7. Escort Person A to Location B

This is much like the deliver an item to a place quest, but with the added complication of them being alive, and needing to stay that way until they return. As this is a role-playing game, that person will be completely witless, wandering off on their own, sneaking out at night and putting their hands where they shouldn’t. As an added complication, the person is also going to be the relative of someone powerful, who can make the characters’ lives a misery if anything goes wrong, which it probably will.

6. Assassinate Person A

The thing I’d say about this scenario is, don’t do it! Right from the start you just know it’s a set-up. Everyone involved is lying to you. Even the target isn’t who they appear to be. And the more powerful the quest giver, the less they can be trusted. They’ll offer you all the support, enough gold to bathe in and even some nice weapons, as well as their favourite bodyguard. The bodyguard is actually there to make sure you don’t run away and to plant the evidence, the weapons will be linked to some dastardly crime, and you can’t spend the gold because you’re rotting in a dungeon/labour gang/orbital facility. Unless you have absolutely no other choice, avoid this quest.

5. Find Magic Potion, Antidote, Laxative

This quest starts with you hearing about the disease/poisoning/clogged up colon of the local big cheese, which can only be relieved by the special substance found only in the swamps of far Wettpattch, which lies across the desert of hurting and beyond the hills of extra-hurting and next to the tower of bloody-eyed screaming souls. You know at this point you’re in it for the long run, with some side quests, special favours and painful detours on the way. Some of you, players and characters, won’t make it to the end, but you will be remembered, faithful warriors.

4. Locate Gang, Cult, Mutant Squirrel Hideout

This one is often a fairly major side quest within a larger one, sometimes a single session sneak-and-kill fest to separate scenarios with not much action. Sometimes, one of the gang will escape to start again or seek vengeance on the party. Typically, this scenario will contain a boss fight, the leader of the gang/cult/drey having extra powers or some special alien tech that makes them harder to beat than the grunts. They will almost certainly find a mysterious map or some rhyming doggerel in a sock inside the false bottom of a chest.

3. Kill Monster Terrorising Village, Trade Route, Terraforming Station

An absolute classic, this story has been around for centuries, before writing or farming, probably. The monster could be a rabid wolf, a troll under a bridge, an ogre or even a dragon. Or maybe a rogue AI, an alien being, or a renegade robot. The relevant details are the lone and very powerful monster, and the helpless, and poor, villagers/travellers/settlers. Yep, you’re doing this one pro bono, and that doesn’t mean for the lead singer of U2.

2. Rescue Kidnapped Princess, Village Beauty, Grand Moff

This particular scenario usually goes one of two ways. Either it’s a genuine kidnapping, the victim taken in the night by goblins/gangsters/Martian Tactical Wombats. Or the missing person actually ran away, often from a forced marriage, with the true love of their life, who has a 75% chance of being a villain themselves. The first case is a matter of chasing the kidnappers down and rescuing the victim alive and intact, often the hardest part of the quest. The second part is more tricky, as the so-called victim will be conniving with the kidnapper to escape.

1. Find The Weapon to Kill A Dragon, Demon, Dreadnought Battle Cruiser

This is usually a sword or a spear, sometimes an exotic weapon that folds up. If it’s an SF you’re playing this might be some kind of control system or computer virus, usually in the form of a glowing crystal that will open up and change shape in some impossible way. Whichever it is, you know it’s going to be as far away from your location as it can be, guarded by a series of cunning traps and a beast that might need a special weapon of its own. How it got there is usually a mystery, but one thing’s for sure, the party will be calling in all kinds of favours, spending all their money and collecting lots of mental baggage along the way, if they make it out alive.

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