Librium – 70 Grey Plots

Just... a little... further...

It’s so much easier to see the world in black and white. But grey? I don’t know what to do with grey…

– Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 2

Most storylines in roleplaying games are very, very straightforward. The noble, righteous good guys are under attack by the malicious, evil bad guys and we must stop them. Because the bad guys are so bad, it is okay to do so with gratuitous force. Reality rarely works this way. Everyone has motivation for their actions and no one considers themselves “evil”. Just talk to your social media about politics and I’m sure you’ll find some opinions you find reprehensible or people that find your opinions appalling. In our own mind, we are right.

Incorporating this moral gray into your game can have some… interesting effects. Not all players will like it since the correct path isn’t clear, but it will leave them with a memorable event and they will see how their decisions matter. To get things started, I’ve come up with 100 narrative hooks that offer some sort of complication to the players. Things might start out pretty straightforward, but something changes along the way that may have the player’s shifting sides.

Most of these plot hooks are designed to focus on a specific racial group, such as auralei or volkmyr. I’ve written 5 hooks and complications for each race. A lot of these plot hooks can be modified to work with other races as well.

Auralei

  1. An important, one-of-a-kind history book was stolen from the library and must be returned (Complication: The book is the thief’s grandfather’s journal. It was taken from him through legal duplicity and he is trying to get it back.)
  2. Shadow beasts are loose and roaming the halls of a local academy. (Complication: The beasts are acting merely in defense and confusion; they were brought into the academy by the staff for study, experimentation, and student education. Killing them or allowing them to return home will deprive students of education, but they will not be happy or treated well if they remain here.)
  3. People believe demons lurk within the city. Angels show up to hunt them down. (Complication: The demons are here to help people in a way that Celes, the god of light, does not appreciate. The Angels are merciless will kill anyone that has come into contact with the demon’s “corruption.”)
  4. A wounded angel is found in a small village. She has an important mission, but is weak and needs assistance. (Complication: She is not an angel of Celes and so is considered a demon. The villagers want to kill her as her mission goes against the belief of their god.)
  5. A “field trip” to a well-known archeology site has ended with a group of students missing inside a dungeon. (Complication: An artifact swept them to another realm. An enemy force discovers them and wishes to use the artifact to invade. They must decide between using the artifact to get home, or destroying it and finding their own way.)

Dwarf

  1. A dwarven clan accidentally burrowed into an ancient shah’ren vault. It has since been sealed off due to the hostile, still active machines inside, but an entrepreneur is interested in a certain artifact. (Complication: Old tech is extremely valuable, but also extremely dangerous)
  2. A old dwarven temple and outpost has been overrun by goblins.  The dwarves want it back. (Complication: The goblins have lived in the outpost for over a decade. They have right to it and are merely defending themselves.)
  3. Two dwarves are interested in the same lady. She isn’t sure who she likes more, so keeps demanding they do things to win her affection. The dwarves want you to help them or sabotage their enemy. (Complication: Besides choosing who to help, the players will find out that the lady isn’t actually interested in either of them and is just using them for material gain.)
  4. Dwarves have found a very damaged ersatz. They want to get it functioning again, but need parts. (Complication: The parts they want are from another functioning ersatz)
  5. A senate member has fallen into a coma only a few days before an extremely important vote. It is believed his rivals did it, as he has the swing vote (Complication: They didn’t do it; he’s just sick. They might try to stop him from waking up, though).

Ersatz

  1. Crime has increased significantly in an area and the local ersatz are blamed. The ersatz claim they were in standby mode during those times. (Complication: They know they are guilty. They have been blacking out and stealing, but they don’t have the loot! (Double Complication: They are being controlled by a powerful remote by a mob boss or something.))
  2. An ersatz is known to have some very important piece of information, but is damaged. They can either try to repair it to get the information, or scrap it for parts.
  3. An ersatz is being worshipped by a small group of manakin and he considers them his little army. (Complication: They eventually turn on him.)
  4. A friendly ersatz needs assistance traveling through safely through gnomish or dwarven lands, for fear of dismantling. (Complication: The ersatz is smuggling something illegal.)
  5. A dwarf or gnome has created a device that can control ersatz and is using them as labor against their will (Complication: The ersatz are proven criminals and are serving their time.)

Gnome

  1. A group of rowdy kender are distracting and destroying the gnomish library (Complication: They are searching for information on another plot hook.)
  2. A dwarven smith is upset that he is losing business to a nearby gnome smith. He has sent threatening messages and the gnomes want help shoring up their defenses (Complication: The gnomes have stolen designs from the dwarf and he wants them back.)
  3. It is discovered that a gnome cleric is practicing necromancy and may be raising an army (Complication: She is authorized by her government.)
  4. Goblins have moved in on gnomish territory and they want the goblins removed (Complication: The goblins have been there for ages. The government just wants to annex that land.)
  5. Gnomes at an an important archeology site have gone missing, perhaps kidnapped (Complication: Kobolds are attempting to steal and protect ancient relics that belong to their race. They are questioning the gnomes.)

Human

  1. An innkeeper’s heart was broken by the love of his life when he spotted her with another man. He wants his engagement ring back, but she refuses to see him or return it. (Complication: She doesn’t have the ring as it was stolen by the man she was seen with. He is blackmailing her and she is selling everything she can to try to buy it back.)
  2. An old witch outside of town is kidnapping children and turning them into animals that protect her. (Complication: She’s an old shaman and trying to train the next generation.)
  3. An old doctor has information or a relic the player’s need. He refuses to give it up because it can be used for great evil and he is using it for good, secretly. If they take it, he can no longer use it for good. (Complication: They can take it by force, but they’ll have to kill him.)
  4. A player obtains a very powerful weapon. The weapon speaks to them. It wants them to grow more powerful. (Complication: The sword demands sacrifices and other things. It claims to be a trapped angel and it must feed the sword to allow it to escape.)
  5. A merchant wants the players to protect their trade goods during travel, for insurance reasons. (Complication: The merchant allows the trade goods to be stolen so he can collect on the insurance, but the players are witnesses).

Kobold

  1. City kobolds are going missing. The town guard doesn’t care and are glad they are gone. The kobolds are being kidnapped by the vespa, which is causing their hive to grow. (Complication: The guards are necessary to wipe out the vespa hive, which is also destroying local farm land, but they don’t want to because it is solving their kobold problem.)
  2. The group is hired to get rid of a group of kobolds that is squatting in someone’s house (Complication: The house has been empty for months. The kobolds are protecting their eggs.)
  3. A kobold requests the party deliver a small package to a noble or government member. They say it is for their eyes only (Complication: The object curses the first individual to read/wear it. The players must then find a cure and confront the kobold, if they can find him. If they delivered it themselves, they are held responsible. If they opened it themselves…)
  4. Kobolds regularly demand tributes from a small town for the dragon they represent. The town always complies, but wants this stopped. (Complication: Though there is a dragon living in the hills, the kobolds to not represent it. However, they do keep it busy and prevent it from attacking the village.)
  5.  A kobold merchant’s wears is being denied entrance to the city simply because they belong to a kobold. (Complication: One of his rivals is responsible for stopping the shipments.)

Kender

  1. A older kender is interested in some very specific brewing materials that can be found deep in the forest (Complication: The materials are part of a plant sacred to the sylvari)
  2. A kender is upset that someone took an something of value from their house (Complication: The object is cheap and easily replaceable. (Double complication: Despite not being unique, that particular object has sentimental value, which is why the kender wants it back (Triple Play: The person who stole it is its original owner and a friend to the kender’s family)))
  3. After staying at a kender inn, a small cat is constantly following the party and won’t leave them alone. (Complication: Good fortune seems to follow those who possess the cat. Why return it when it is so valuable? (Double Complication: The kender is glad the cat is gone and doesn’t want it back, but everyone else seems to be willing to do anything to possess it. (Triple Play: The cat keeps getting more demanding and when it is unhappy, bad things happen. (C-c-c-combo: The cat is actually the avatar of a deity and is trying to convince someone to “free” it in some way.))))
  4. A kender and a human child have ventured into the mountains to visit a dragon. The parents of the human want him back. (Complication: The dragon is actually friendly, but will attack the players to defend the children and its nest.)
  5. A kender is extremely upset about being pulled into this terrible world and wishes to return to the paradise from which he came (Complication: No one can go back)

Krothgar

  1. A group of marauders repeatedly harass the settlement, burning things, and causing chaos. (Complication: It is dwarves that want the krothgar to pay for their history.)
  2. A young shaman must go through his trial of ascension. He must fight his way through wild animals to complete the ritual while his allies defend him. (Complication: Something goes wrong and he ends up corrupted by abominations. He claims he is in control and he understands the abominations now. Do they kill him and the sin, or allow him to remain fused?)
  3. A krothgar weaponsmith was kidnapped by orcs and forced to make weapons for them (Complication: He feels compassion for them and voluntarily makes weapons so they can protect themselves.)
  4. The ceremony of a new shaman is to begin, but two competing students want the role. They have opposing viewpoints and one is clearly “good” while the other seems darker. (Complication: The “good” one is willing to yield to trickery to win the role. Is he still worthy?)
  5. A krothgar and volkmyr tribe have been warring over land for months. The krothgar are willing to discuss peace treaties but demand ambassadors (Complication: A third party has arranged the meeting to destabilize both sides.)

Lagamo

  1. Lagamo crops are dying to an unknown disease. The sickness has since spread to the children.  (Complication: It’s just a disease. Even though they blame others, they aren’t guilty. The Lagamo just need to deal with it.)
  2. A lagamo warren has descended into marshall law. By order of their leadership, no one is allowed in or out of the town. Not even for trade. (Complication: The leaders are concerned about a disease (or abominations) that has been spreading nearby. It could ruin their crops if anyone brings it in.)
  3. A potter wants clay from a lake nearby said to have special properties (Complication: The lake is a nymphs pool. He is paid (in materials) by the nymphs to lure people to their doom (Double Complication:
    He is using the materials to create golems to protect his people.)
  4. An extremely large lagamo, clearly interested in consuming meat, wants the players to bring him a kitty as a pet to keep him company. (Complication: The implications!)

Manakin

  1. A crafter is selling cheap, high quality dolls. Any other manakin can tell they are actually manakin. What can they possibly do to stop them or prove what they’re doing is wrong? (Complication: The dolls will return to life after a week, steal something valuable and return to their owner. He takes everything and flees town to repeat the process)
  2. Wood elves and druids express hostilities towards a mage or academy for the use, research, and creation of manakin (Complication: The wood elves land has been desecrated by the removal of dryad trees, the wood of which is used to make manakin)
  3. A important mage’s lab has been destroyed, the mage killed, and someone stole their manakin (Complication: The manakin killed the mage and destroyed the lab to get free.)
  4. A important mage’s lab has been destroyed, the mage killed, and someone stole their manakin (Complication: The mage transferred their soul into the manakin and destroyed the lab to hide his work.)
  5. A free manakin keeps having visions about a place and needs help finding it (Complication: The manakin is just trying to find some treasure and is using the party.)

Mau

  1. A mau settlement is under attack by another force attempting to retrieve information they have. The leader of the settlement was killed defending it (Complication: The current leader was the disciple and guardian of the previous; she let the leader die to retrieve information that has bought the clan a lot of time, but also made their enemy more desperate to recover the information. She is also praised as a hero since she has withheld the fact that she let the leader die.)
  2. A group of mau are occupying a small outpost and using it for their own purrposes. They are holding the villagers hostage (Complication: Someone in the village stole an artifact from them. They want it back.)
  3. A mau is found washed up on shore. She has lost her memory and does not speak the native languages (Complication: She’s a princess or something, and really important. Two groups are looking for her and determining which one wants her safety is important.)
  4. A group of mau refugees needs medical attention (one pregnant?) and must get into town, but mau are banned from the town for whatever reason (Complication: The players must choose between breaking the law or leaving the mau on their own)
  5. A mau has acquired something of value belong to one of the players (some information, or a person, or something they treasure with only sentimental value). They threaten its destruction unless the players do what they demand. (Complication: The mau keeps demanding more things. They aren’t demanding these things for personal gain, though, and they don’t actually have their alleged hostage. They let them go after the first task, as promised.)

Sylvari

  1. A sylvari clan is found unconscious, except a few acolyte druids trying to revive people. They need certain things from the forest to absorb the corruption. (Complication: They are using the mcguffins to allow them to absorb the corruption into themselves to use its power. Several of the items they need are in sacred locations)
  2. A favored NPC of the players has come down with a rare illness. The only cure is seed from a forest tree. (Complication: The tree is sacred to the sylvari. It does not produce seeds often and they are extremely prized)
  3. A sylvari settlement is found entirely razed. There are no bodies and no damage to the surrounding area. (Complication: That’s not complicated enough?)
  4. A nearby village requires the aid of the sylvari due to wild beasts encroaching on their land, the sylvari must be convinced to aid the village. (Complication: The sylvari refuse to help because the village has destroyed the creature’s natural habitat)
  5. The players are sent to secretly observe a transaction between a sylvari and a volkmyr. They are not to interfere with the trade. (Complication: One attacks the other. The players were strictly told not to interfere and their ally will die if they do not.)

Val’syr

  1. One or more murders have been committed and a val’syr is on trial for them. She admits guilt and explains how she did each one. She says they were crimes of passion. (Complication: She is covering for her sister, who is in a higher position of power.)
  2. A Val’syr wizard has opened a rift to the shadow realm and is summoning shadow beasts into reality (Complication: It was an accident and he was dragged into it. He is trying to close the rift as well (Double complication: Ultimately he will have to close himself into the shadow realm to ensure it stays closed))
  3. A guard val’syr is being tried for the murder of a diplomatic official. The players must find evidence for the case against him (Complication: He is not guilty. He is being framed by the church of Celes)
  4. A val’syr has received an omen of death, but no one believes her (Complication: She is so desperate to not be wrong she is willing to kill to make the omen come true.)

Volkmyr

  1. A group of volkmyr is hunting the players traveling companion. (Complication: They aren’t just bandits. They are attempting to capture them to try them for murder (Double Complication: It is a case of mistaken identity.))
  2. A band of volkmyr has been hitting up travelers. (Complication: If they determine the travelers are “worthy”, they send them off better than they found them.)
  3. A town is beseiged every full moon by werewolves. The players must figure out who is guilty before the next full moon (Complication: It’s just a band of volkmyr preying on the towns fear. (Double Complication: Someone in the town actually is a werewolf!))
  4. A clan of volkmyr has gone “feral”. The pack has split and they are hyper-aggressive. (Complication: It is against their will. The oil in a newly discovered species of plants causes it.)
  5. The pet wolves of the clan are missing and need to be found. (Complication: They left on their own to go fight for a druid. The volkmyr are willing to fight the druid to get their wolves back since it isn’t the wolves’ fight.)

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