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D&D 3E
Beautiful mysteries... 
8th-Oct-2008 11:12 am
Disney-Bambi Reflection

Thanks to everyone who offered me advice on how to handle the artifacts. I have a new question - I'm looking for ideas for strange or mysterious events or sights that might happen to the PCs. The catch is that if these events have any trail that the PCs can follow, they WILL follow it, thus derailing the plot and frustrating them when it doesn't go anywhere (in their defense, they are usually trying to be loyal to the plot and assume that anything odd that happens is a plot hook). So, these events need to be things that the PCs have to make note of but can't act on, something to keep them puzzled and off-center. Please offer some ideas? Here are some examples, from www.roleplayingtips.com

A phantasmal image just on the edge of the vision of 1 character
A voice in 1 character's head (IMing messages to that player, so that it's more mysterious)
A feeling of deja vu in one or more characters
A ray of light seems to surround 1 person
It's eerily quiet

When I say that my players will take any trail and follow it, I really do mean that. If a beggar tries to sell them a ring from the sewers, they will interrogate the beggar, buy the ring and then intensely analyze it for any magical or historical clues. If an ox died in the street and caused a block in traffic, they would probably assume it is the work of Chemosh (god of death) and insist on doing a autopsy on the ox to find out why it died. Then they'd get frustrated when I told them that it died of natural causes.
8th-Oct-2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh, there was an old expansion called the ruins of castle... well, I forget the name but it was in Forgotten realms that encouraged this. I actually made a d100 chart and rolled for random effects. Now this was a dungeon, so there was more to it than that, but...

A skull is found on the floor.
You feel a shiver for a moment
A cold wind blows by one character.
See an image from the past
A rat walking by looks at you with strange intelligence.

Stuff like that. Anything that would be creepy and is of little importance...

I feel your pain. My PC's follow any clue to death as well, researching things with little information and expecting good results, even going into ancient dungeons based on a hunch.
8th-Oct-2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
I remember a room that stymied the group for hours and hours: it was an empty, clean room with a single gold piece placed in exactly the middle of the floor. That's it, but they were so certain it was a trap it took them forever to move on.

Besides that, Dragon 259 had some nice "random encounters" of odd but perfectly normal things that I believe would fit your criteria. (I can e-mail these to you, if you'd like.) Another good resource for ideas are the Central Casting books. They're inteded as random background-generation for PCs, but the results can be very kooky. However, they're fun when used sparingly.

Carnivals, horse fairs, and street players are always worth a mention. Everyday stuff like marriages, births, deaths of common or important people, duels, taxes, and disease could give your PCs cause for thought. Rarer things like natural disasters, accidental fires, eclipses, comets, or other astrological events are sure to get their attention, too, but give them little or no outlet to act on what happened.
8th-Oct-2008 07:30 pm (UTC)
In your player's defense, in a good story every element is important in some way (otherwise, why have it be there?). Thus they're simply acting on the reasonable assumption that if you point it out as odd, it's there for a reason.

So what's the reason for these strange occurrences? If it's just to set the mood, the weather is probably a good way to go ("it's cold and grey"), or nice long descriptions of the surroundings to play up the tone. If there is some plot reason, then that's there and the PCs could (and possible should!) take it as a hook.
9th-Oct-2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree, absolutely. I mean, I would MUCH rather have a group of PCs that follow every clue than a group of players that ignore every clue I give them and do their own thing, completely ignoring my plot. I guess the reason for these occurances is to keep them guessing. I feel like everything that at this point, every thing that happens they are capable of completely explaining.
9th-Oct-2008 12:00 am (UTC)
Sympathizing, my players are the same way...they either completely miss subtle clues, or spend an entire session chasing one down. x_x I think it's a common problem for DMs, trying to figure out how much emphasis to put on a clue, without giving too much away.

Thanks for the link, by the way, I've never seen it before, looks like it will be quite useful. :P
9th-Oct-2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
Sure thing. I'm still very new at GMing, and I've found the internet the best source for blogs and such about becoming a better GM.
9th-Oct-2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
Old issues of Dragon have many such examples, tables, etc., developed by DMs of yore. You might consider purchasing Dragon Magazine Archive on CD and scouring the back issues there. There are numerous tables that do exactly what you asking for. Goodman Games also published a few such playing aids, too. You might look at their product lines for supplements that provide this kind of color.

I recall one encounter that a DM pulled on me that was a little more than mundane but had nothing to do with the plot we were pursuing. We came upon a bridge over a deep chasm with a brass cauldron hanging by a chain at the bridge post. It had a sign that said something to the effect of "Place toll here." We were expected to place a few gold coins in the cauldron. Seeing no guard there to enforce this, I took the cauldron, which had coins in it, from its hanging perch, and was then beset by a band of quicklings, who then insisted that I return the cauldron, place my toll within it, and have my comrades place 100 gp per person into the cauldron or forfeit my life. I cannot believe the reluctance my comrades had to fork over 100 gp per person to keep me alive....
9th-Oct-2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
OMG, I can clearly visualize that in my group.

Andy: *tries to be diplomatic*
Stacy: "Can I kill them?"
Andy: *fails at being diplomatic*
Stacy: "Can I kill them, now?"
Andy: "FINE!"
Stacy: *kills them*

*facepalm* So, you see what I'm up against.
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