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D&D 3E
I need ideas. 
23rd-Jan-2008 01:19 pm
What kinds of situations can I setup for players to get stuck in and jailed over?

I'm looking for things where the players do the right thing, but either through miscommunication or just bad circumstances or bad timing, everyone else thinks they're guilty of doing something wrong.

Like attacking the old woman in the bar for no reason. Except the old woman in the bar was casting magic on everyone and making them buy more beer at obscenely outrageous prices, and getting a cut of the profits from the bartender.

Or something. Doesn't even have to be in a bar.

Most importantly, I need ideas for low level (1-3) groups. I'll take them for any level though.

Thanks in advance :)
23rd-Jan-2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
- Rescuing someone who didn't really need it so it becomes assault

- Returning a "treasure" that was cursed and was allowed to be stolen deliberately

- Accidentally breaking a protection charm for a village
23rd-Jan-2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
A bar brawl where the drunk bully they beat happens to be the local sheriff's brother.

A couple of "thieves" stealing from the local mayor's office in the middle of the night, only it turns out they are actually part of his staff and are sneaking a birthday gift for his wife in hopes she won't see it.

A tribe of humanoids (Goblins, whatever) is noticed in the woods. Are they raiding the village or just minding their own business?
23rd-Jan-2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
I always like "non-payment of taxes".

"Lewd and lascivious behavior" if you can sucker them into chatting up a wife of a baron or something.
23rd-Jan-2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
Adventurers are pretty blase about taking items left lying around as "treasure". A group of mine found a shiny sword stuck in a tree just over the hill from a low-level insect encounter. They took it as loot.

Two days down the trail, a group of 300 orcs came charging up shouting something about "defacing the holy ground" - turned out that was where Dregnar the Mighty thrust his sword after a momentous battle, just before dying of his wounds.
23rd-Jan-2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
I love it. Mind if I steal that?
23rd-Jan-2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Not at all. I stole it from someone roundabout 10 years ago.
23rd-Jan-2008 08:17 pm (UTC) - Reframing the issue
Instead of possibly railroading them into doing something that will get them jailed, just have an NPC frame them. Suddenly, they're accused of a crime they didn't commit. Not only do they end up in jail (where, I presume, you have all kinds of soap-droppingly good fun planned for them), but they also get to figure out who framed them and get even. Yay!

To answer your question directly, though, here are some ideas:

They break a weird custom or law in a place where they are outsiders.

The group must choose between breaking the law to save a child, or obeying the law and letting the child die. The law they break could be as simple as trespassing over a noble manor fence.

They need to exhume a body to solve a murder. At night. Without anyone catching them. Oops, they get caught.

No one believes them that the mayor is a vampire/werewolf/doppleganger/incognito-evil-mage. They stake him anyway. Now they're on trial for murder.

The party "rescues" a princess. She changes her story afterwards and says she wants to be with the evil overlord. The locals charge the characters with kidnapping.
23rd-Jan-2008 10:11 pm (UTC) - Re: Reframing the issue
This was the answer I was about to type.

I like having an NPC give them a "gift" which turns out to be stolen. The obviously can't prove that it was a gift and that they didn't steal it themselves, so...
23rd-Jan-2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
If you want them to be deliberately set up, anything will work, and when the cocky law-enforcement types show up to lay these obviously spurious charges, and arrest the PCs, any action they take other than coming along quietly becomes resisting arrest.

Another option is to go the "Braveheart" route. Have them rescue a damsel from the unwanted attentions of a member of the city guard, or object to a guardsman extorting "protection money" from a shopkeeper.

If you don't want to make the guards corrupt, there are other options... lessee...

Come into town late at night, and the gate-keeper who lets them in forgets to tell them about a "peace-bonding" requirement for weapons (or is too lazy/tired to do the work involved). Then have them stop obvious criminal(s), only to be arrested by the city guard for unlawfully brandishing weapons.

That might be a reach though, so you could go with the young orphan con-man bit. It's a bit complex, but can lead to several adventure hooks:

The group find a young beggar boy on the street (in an alley, behind the inn, whatever). He's in rags and obviously suffering. His father or someone is sick, and he needs money for the cure. Rather than take charity, he'll gladly sell the group a "family heirloom" at a fair price. If you want to get devious, have the kid (or an accomplice) cast Magic Aura on the thing, but offer the item at a ludicrously low price - as if he doesn't know it's magical. Then the party can either "rip the kid off," or be honorable and buy the thing for what it's "really worth." If they go the former route, they deserve what's coming to them. If the latter, they'll pay for their kindness.

Turns out the item is nonmagical, and stolen. The kid is nowhere to be found, and the authorities accuse the party of stealing the item. It could be really valuable, or just important to someone (perhaps stolen from a visiting dignitary, and the town wants to "send a message" to cover their embarrassment). If the group tells the truth, that they just bought it, they can still be in trouble for buying "obviously stolen property" (have a secret catch on the thing engraved with the owner's initials, or something).

Or you could go with the classics: Mistaken identity, wrong place/wrong time, or "rescuing" someone's fiance who just had cold feet, etc.
(Deleted comment)
23rd-Jan-2008 09:44 pm (UTC)
Feel free. It's a variant I've used several times.
23rd-Jan-2008 08:59 pm (UTC)
Many of these suggestions are very good. My favorite is a slight variant of the suggestion of the NPC framing the party: the NPC not only frames them, he also slanders the PCs to everyone in town, and all the PCs' contacts believe the NPC. The PCs are not only gaoled, they also have to deal with the fact that they have lost access to their contacts. They not only need to clear themselves of the crime they've been accused of, they also have to clear their names and reputations.
23rd-Jan-2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
That seems a little railroadish to me. Not to mention the probability that the PC's contacts would probably try to at least get the PC's side of the story before believing a random NPC...

Unless the NPC was someone who was local, and (until now) had always been a supporter of the PCs (or seemed so, anyway).
24th-Jan-2008 12:24 am (UTC)
Actually, I had my name slandered IRL only recently. I was accused of making physical threats and even connected to child pornography. None of the people who called me friends bothered to get my side of the story. My wife and I went to our pastor, and he had talked to the people who slandered me before we got to speak to him, and he did not even listen to what we had to say, which was about people lying about me. If the slander is bad enough, it apparently doesn't matter. The railroadishness of it really depends on how you look at it. If an NPC can lure your characters into a situation that makes them look bad and then create a story around that situation that is a believable enough lie, you would be amazed at the number of people they thought were friends would suddenly abandon them. Really, only close contacts and friends would bother to get the PCs' side of the story, but even then, if the situation could jeopardize the NPC contact, they might publicly distance themselves from the PCs until the whole blows over or is resolved.
23rd-Jan-2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
The players kill one/several zombies or skeletons who were surrounding a poor innocent old man/woman.

Poor innocent old man/woman is a necromancer, but not an evil one. Their undead are either revered as the dead come back to aid the living, or simply a useful tool at a time when the energy is really needed elsewhere. ("We are but simple peasants, mostly boys and old men. Most of us can barely lift a pitchfork against the orcs. But these... these shall fight them, without tiring, and shall teach them why they fear the daylight.") At any rate, destroying the undead isn't as altruistic as first thought.
27th-Jan-2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I like the alternative undead idea!
24th-Jan-2008 04:03 am (UTC)
The mistaken identity gag often works. Its cheap and makes for a good story considering the way these things can go wrong.

Have them arrested for a crime they didn't commit and don't give them the opportunity to explain themselves (or have it fall on deaf ears)

Just a thought.
24th-Jan-2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
"Please deliver this package for me."

Meanwhile, the package is highly illegal contraband.
24th-Jan-2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
I used this hook to get a character vested in the campaign arc. The character who delivered the package delivered it without knowing what it was, and then when he met up with the other PCs, they informed him that they were looking for the contents of a package that was smuggled into the city because said contents were key to the destruction of reality. The character (a rogue) then realized he had stepped in it and felt a bit obligated to help the rest of the party obtain the contents of the package he delivered several days prior.
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