Masks of Magic: Plots and Plot Hooks

I hope you’ll find a fair number of plot hooks and suggested plots for your roleplaying games in the adaptation material from the last article, but here are a few more to round things out. These are necessarily a bit vague, as I prefer for you to be able to easily adapt them to your own group of player characters (PCs) and players. I try to present enough options and ideas that something should work well with what you’re already doing.

Alive and Well

The following plot seeds assume that the game takes place during the time at which Eva’s story unfolds.

Sabotage

The PCs have been sent to spy on the warlord and his advisors, and to sabotage them if possible. Somehow they hear a rumor that the wife of the warlord’s eldest son has reason to hate the warlord, and might be able to help if approached carefully. [This information could come from some of the Lady’s exiled family, or from a loyal servant in search of someone who can help the Lady.]

From there, what happens is up to you and the PCs. Perhaps the Lady believes her husband wouldn’t send the masks to her victims, and she needs someone else to smuggle them out and deliver them. Perhaps she still needs several rare materials to complete them (a dragon’s scales, for instance, would make a fine quest for a party — simply look through the descriptions of the masks for ideas). Alternatively, the party could find a way to smuggle her out of the country; after 17 years she’s picked up quite a bit of valuable information regarding the warlord. She could also stay where she is while giving information to the party that helps them to go on sabotage missions.

Hooks: The PCs could have been hired by a country that fears the warlord’s incursions. If they’re high-level, they might hold lands that look as though they’ll eventually attract the warlord’s interest. If they have ties to royalty, they might be asked to do this as a personal favor, or in order to aid their countrymen. If they’re money-grubbing bastards, someone could instead tell them tales of the warlord’s plundered riches, perhaps including some specific item(s) the PCs might want.

Revenge!

What if Cort hasn’t killed the warlord in revenge for his father’s death? Perhaps he simply hasn’t tried yet; maybe he can only use the mask for a limited time, and needs the PCs’ help to get close enough to the warlord to put it on and use it. Maybe he tried once and almost got killed; he’s too injured or frightened now to try again. Perhaps he fled instead of returning, the warlord’s men killed him too, or he’s with Eva and she won’t risk him by allowing him to return.

This means Eva needs her revenge, and she could use some help getting it. She isn’t going to be willing to risk herself (and perhaps her son) by doing the deed herself, so the party will just have to do the job for her. Do they kill the warlord? Do they ruin and humiliate him? Do they capture him and turn him over to someone else for justice? All are possibilities here.

Hooks: You could set things up so that the warlord harms the party, and they want revenge for themselves; Eva’s information could help them get that revenge. Eva could hire the party, blackmail them, appeal to their better nature, or take something they care about hostage. If they have any particular interests, she could tell them of some relevant item the warlord has that they could take when they kill him. A mutual friend could bring the party together with Eva. Eva could send the party dreams and visions using her sorcery.

Needing Eva’s Help

Perhaps it’s a few years later. The warlord is dead and his empire has crumbled, but the masks still wreak havoc. Work them and the people who serve them into a few of your plots, making them the bad guys. Let the first mask seem like an isolated incident until the party encounters more of them. When they investigate the phenomenon, allow them to uncover information about Eva. They hear legends and rumors about the woman who single-handedly destroyed the warlord and his empire. They hear whispers about a powerful sorceress, a king’s daughter, who could make masks that changed people.

Eventually their investigations should lead them to two different places: the home that Eva’s family fled to, and the castle where she lived with Lane and created the masks. At the castle they can find people to tell them stories about how Eva put her mask on and turned into a hawk; Cort used his to turn into a shadow. By now the party should know enough to recognize that this is very unusual — most people only have a very small chance of achieving such fantastic results when they put on one of Eva’s masks. If this doesn’t suggest to them that Eva has some way of controlling the masks, then perhaps one of the servants might suggest it to them.

Eva’s old family, on the other hand, is the key to finding her again. The party could use magic to get the information out of them, befriend a member of the family and convince them to help, follow a family member on a visit to Eva, or any number of other things.

Once they find Eva, then they have to convince her to help. And how she helps depends on what sort of plot you want. Perhaps the masks simply listen to her as their creator, and she needs to accompany the party as they collect the masks (or the party needs to capture the masks’ “hosts” and bring them to Eva). Perhaps she has an artifact which allows some amount of control over the masks. Maybe she can’t help them control them, but she can tell them about weaknesses that will help them destroy the masks or send their spirits back into slumber. Tailor the exact means to your party’s preferred style of play, and remember — the masks probably don’t want to give up their new-found lives. Once they realize what’s going on, they might try to gang up to put a stop to it.

Eva in the Distant Past

These plot seeds assume that you’ve located Eva’s story in the distant past of your game world.

Demons and Devils of Legend

If you’re starting at the beginning of a campaign, then consider working the masks into the background of your game. Read through their personalities and descriptions, and turn them into mythical beasts, demons and devils, and angels of legend. Work them into the religions and mythologies of your game. The concept of a creature that is slain and then rises up again later, different than before, is a staple of mythologies, and that’s what these masks do. They bond with someone, and then when that person is killed, they revert to being masks. Eventually they take another host and the whole cycle starts all over again.

The abilities, wants, and desires of these critters should then give you plenty of ideas for tasks the PCs’ “gods” can send them on, “monsters” the party can slay, “demons” that can cook up terrible plots to foil, and so on. Somewhere in there, once the party is used to the idea of these things being their gods and devils, allow them to discover the masks behind everything. Let them uncover bits and pieces of mythology, piecing them together until they know the story of the masks. Then see what they do with that knowledge. Do they preach against the false gods? Do they try to destroy the masks? Do they decide to participate in the cycle themselves, finding and acquiring masks to wear?

Cycles

Perhaps in your world the masks have kept a lower profile. They aren’t demons and angels, but they are caught in their own endless cycles. Over and over again they act out their desires through a host, perhaps caught in certain patterns with other masks. Then they are sent back into slumber, and when they waken and take a new host, the whole pattern repeats itself.

If a party member enjoys historical research, perhaps he has uncovered some odd patterns of events. (Otherwise, have a non-player character (NPC) present his findings to the party.) He believes that a particularly dangerous pattern is beginning again, and that if the party doesn’t stop it, devestation shall befall the land.

Cycle Suggestion: Dragon’s Glimmer and the Hawk of Barra-Moor could be locked in a revolving struggle–the Dragon using its ruthless cunning to take all the things it wants (power, luxury), and the Hawk eternally seeing the Dragon as the target of its revenge. Beware those trapped on the battle-ground between them; they’ll be used as pawns or, worse, swept underfoot in the tide of battle. And what if the real problem is not the Hawk and the Dragon, but rather the Shadow’s Path, who plans to use the distraction presented by the other two to achieve a terrible goal for its own host?

Time of Greatest Need

Many games these days seem to have some apocalyptic element to their setting, some mention or legend of the end of the world (or at least some great cataclysm). Everyone loves the occasional save-the-world plot, after all.

How better to take advantage of the masks? They’re powerful artifacts with unusual powers (and you could easily tailor those powers to the grave danger at hand). Perhaps there’s even some special power or effect that can be activated if several specific masks are brought together and pushed into Overdrive at the same time. Seed the world with the masks and the cataclysm. Send the party on quests to find the masks and properly prepare them. Then drag out the final battle and let the fireworks commence!

Entire Campaigns

Take a look at the third entry under “Alive and Well,” near the top: “Needing Eva’s Help.” With a little bit of work, that plot seed could easily be the genesis of an entire campaign or story arc of adventures. First note which masks still exist in your game world and which have been destroyed. Write up any new masks you want to use, and make any appropriate alterations to the ones I provided in the other articles. Next, detail the people who’ve been taken over by each mask, along with a little background story as to how and why. Write brief notes about what you expect each of these people will try to accomplish during the course of the campaign.

Think about how it is that Eva can help the party to defeat the masks. Make sure it isn’t too easy; make sure it leaves room for the party to do some serious ass-kicking of the type they most enjoy (whether that involves research, puzzle-solving, creative solutions to odd problems, or combat). Then plan out the original hunt for information: make some notes on how the party can find out all the information they need to get started, and what that information consists of. Finally, plan the first few incidents that lead them to the plot in the first place. If possible weave them into some other plot, so that they seem like something else at first.

That should be all you need to start with, and you can leave some of the details about the individual masks and their hosts to fill in later. The rest you can come up with as the game progresses.

Similarly, “Demons and Devils of Legend” would make a great campaign or story arc; you mostly need to do some front-end work on the mythology of your world to make the masks fit into it seamlessly. “Time of Greatest Need” would also make a good campaign, of the end-of-the-world variety. Start with what’s here, and let your imagination do the rest!

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