Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Page Plot: Challenge of the Exiled Lord...

Good Morning:

I've decided that I need to push myself a little creatively, so I've decided to try writing up a One Page Plot in an hour or less, from conception to completion. Below is the result of my Self-Challenge a few hours later, amidst a number of interruptions, based on the results of a set of random chart to determine the basic plot synopsis.

Plot Name: Challenge of the Exiled Lord

Synopsis: The party must protect an one-legged, greedy trader from the actions of a branded, slovenly noble, who is motivated by love.

Adversaries: Exiled from his homeland through the machinations of a romantic rival, Lord Calic bears a prominent brand displaying his status to the world. Broken by the loss of his land and the love of Lady Sandremona, Lord Calic has ceased to care for his general appearance, and wanders listlessly about in pursuit of information that would prove his innocence in the crimes of which he has been accused. Recently, the exiled lord has learned that the one-legged merchant Cheremanthos the Lame was the man who coordinated the actions that framed him. Lord Calic's immediate goal is to capture Chermanthos and interrogate him for information; the lord's ultimate goal is to prove his innocence and reunite with the woman he loves, Lady

Other NPCs: Cheremanthos the Lame is not a nice man. He's a greedy merchant with numerous ties to the local Thieves' Guild. The one-legged man was hired by Calic's romantic rival, Lord Zerin, to frame Lord Calic for treasonous acts against their mutual liege, whose daughter both men desired. Cheremanthos brokered the contract, and has since used the information as blackmail against Lord Zerin to place himself in a prominent position among the local merchants.

Lord Zerin is an ambitious noble of the courts seeking the hand of Lady Sandremona, so that he may become heir to his liege's lands "should something untoward happen to the old man." In order to deal with a romantic rival, he hired the rogue Cheremanthos to broker arrangements to frame Lord Calic for treason. In the years that have passed since, Lord Zerin has come to regret working with Cheremanthos, but is mostly focused on his upcoming nuptials to Lady Sandremona, which will secure his place as the heir to his liege. He has no love for his bride, nor she for him.

Lady Sandremona truly loves Lord Calic, but is ashamed of the treasonous acts attributed to the lord, believing them to be true. A secret missive from Lord Calic recently informed her of his plans to kidnap the one-legged merchant Cheremanthos, prove his innocence and interrupt her wedding to Lord Zerin in order to properly claim her hand. Afraid that Lord Calic will be executed if discovered within the liege's lands, Lady Sandremona secretly seeks champions who will protect Cheremanthos and, should they discover Lord Calic, escort him outside the region for his own safety.

Locales: Scenes for this plot likely involve the crowded streets of the city, as well as the ballroom of the sovereign's palace, where the wedding between Lord Zerin and Lady Sandremona will take place.

Plot Hooks: The PCs could become engaged in the plot in a number of ways:

* Lady Sandremona may hire them to protect Cheremanthos the Lame, in hopes of having them locate and escort Lord Calic safely from her father's lands.
* The party may witness an unkempt man, branded with the mark of exile, attack a peg-legged merchant, who calls out for help from any of the passers-by.
* Lord Zerin, tired of living under the thumb of Cheremanthos the Lame and fearful that the merchant may attempt to interfere with his wedding, hires the party to "deal with the merchant," only to have them arrive at the same time as Lord Calic.

Basic Outline: Some preliminary scenes may involve the party being hired to protect or "take care of" Cheremanthos the Lame. The plot starts when the party meets Cheremanthos, and witnesses Lord Calic's attempt to kidnap the merchant. In the first true scene of the plot, Lord Calic accosts the merchant Cheremanthos the Lame on a side street. The party has the chance to intervene. If the party succeeds in subduing Lord Calic, he will tell his side of the story. If Lord Calic escapes with Cheremanthos, then the party will need to investigate further. If Lord Calic escapes without Cheremanthos, the party will hear Cheremanthos's story about the treasonous acts of Lord Calic, and told of a reward for him, dead or alive.

The plot can develop in a number of ways, depending on which way events go. With or without the PCs' help, Lord Calic will continue to attempt to capture Cheremanthos. On the day of the wedding, he will attempt to interrupt the ceremony and challenge Lord Zerin to a duel. The PCs can either aid him or hinder him in his efforts.

If the PCs capture Lord Calic, they can either escort him from the region or keep him holed up somewhere until after the wedding. He will, of course, try to escape and gather information so he can interrupt the wedding ceremony and try to win the hand of Lady Sandremona. If the PCs side with him upon hearing his side of the story, they can become his accomplices.

If the PCs save Cheremanthos but do not capture Lord Calic, the lame merchant will hire the party to track down the exiled lord and present him to Lord Zerin so that Lord Calic may be killed for returning from exile.

If the PCs fail to save Cheremanthos, they will find the local Thieves' Guild very helpful in trying to track down the merchant, as he has become a valuable ally to the current Guildmaster. They will likely also discover that Cheremanthos has some form of control over the liege's future son-in-law, Lord Zerin.

In all cases, this plot ends after the wedding ceremony is concluded, whether Lord Calic was successful or not in interrupting it.

Complications: Depending on where the party places their allegiance, there are a number of complications that could arise.

* Thieves' Guild: The local Thieves' Guild has a vested interest in seeing Lord Zerin marry Lady Sandremona, and protecting Cheremanthos, due to his influence over Lord Zerin.
* Lord Zerin: As the future son-in-law of the liege, Lord Zerin has a lot of political clout. He wants to see Cheremanthos dealt with, if it can be done safely, and wants no interruptions of the wedding ceremony.
* Lord Calic: Fanatically driven by his devotion to Lady Sandremona, he will stop at nothing to prevent her from becoming Lord Zerin's wife. Unless he is on a full tilt course in pursuit of that goal, he will work against whatever may be hindering him.

Rewards: Depending on who they are working for and who they appease, the party may find themselves earning any of a variety of rewards. If they aid the victor of this bizarre contest for Lady Sandremona's hand, they will likely earn the grudging approval of the liege, as well as the victor. If the party is known to have aided Cheremanthos's goals at his behest or in his name, they will earn the favor of the local Thieves' Guild as well. Lady Sandremona and Lord Calic will be forever in the party's debt should they prove Calic's innocence, allowing him to regain his lost lands, his family's wealth, and the hand of his lady love.

If, however, the party decides to back a losing party to these unusual circumstances, likely they will find themselves without pay and with a sudden need to leave town quickly and not return. Should they hinder the progress of the local Thieves' Guild, they may gain the Thieves' Guild as an enemy for any future efforts attempted within the city.

Please let me know your thoughts on the above. What did you like from the above example? What did you not like? How can I make this better?

With Regards,


cr0m said...

It's a neat idea, but it's a lot longer than I wanted it to be, and I had a very hard time remembering who was who.

My suggestions:

Don't worry about the subtleties in the relationships between the NPCs.

The DM needs the basic info, plus a few ideas to riff off of, not subtlety. (In your own campaign, subtlety is fine! But not a one-pager.)

Check this simplified restating of your plot:

Bad Lord hired Lying Merchant to frame Exile for the Crime, using this Evidence.

(Remember to specify the Crime and the Evidence. Specific details help busy DMs! "Treason, using a forged letter plotting to murder the King at his wedding to Bride.")

NPC Goals

Bad Lord: Marry Bride. Keep conspiracy secret.
Lying Merchant: Sell info to the highest bidder.
Exile: Clear my name.
Bride: Get out of marrying Bad Lord.

All the hooks should be in the service of those goals, since the PCs need to align themselves with one of them to really have anything at stake. Defending a helpless merchant is not enough (and many players aren't interested in that).

Hooks: ("hired" can be rephrased as "asked", etc if the PCs have a relationship with the NPC in question.)

Hired by Exile/Bride to kidnap/interrogate Lying Merchant.

Hired by Bad Lord to kill Lying Merchant.

Hired by Lying Merchant to protect him from Bad Lord's assassins.

Hired by Exile to protect him from Bad Lord's assassins.

Then list the resources of each NPC and let the DM use them as the game goes on, not worry about contingency planning.

Bad Lord: a fortified manor in the country (site of wedding), a town house, a personal bodyguard, two squads of soldiers, 4,000 cash, a carriage, a court wizard (L3).

Lying Merchant: a warehouse, a wagon and driver, a personal bodyguard, 6,000 cash, line of credit for 10,000, an office in town, contacts with a smuggler's crew, personally skilled at forgery, a bribed guard captain, a hideout in a bar he owns.

Exile: 5,000 cash, a personal bodyguard, a huge estate in the country (unavailable while exiled), a good horse.

Bride: 3,000 cash, access to her father's estates, a line of credit for 5,000, a sexy servant girl, a childhood friend of the king, a brother in the clergy.

Then let the players do whatever they want, and use the resources of their allies/enemies accordingly.

If they work for the Bad Lord, everyone else uses their resources against them. If they work for the Exile, the Bride helps. If they work for the Bride, the Exile helps. If they work for the Merchant, everyone opposes. Etc.

cr0m said...

I apologize! I didn't read your original post about the one-page plot, and realize now that you're following a format.

That said, I do think that distilling the plot down to a single "elevator pitch" type sentence will help DMs get their heads around it.

The rest of my advice might or might not be useful... :)

Flynn said...

I greatly appreciate it, and will look at doing a rewrite in my personal notes soon. :)


cr0m said...

Thanks for being understanding. Your post got me working on my take on a one-page format that could work for someone weaned on the one page dungeon... I blogged about it here: