Burst of Insight

Burst of Insight—8 Weird Prompts for GMs

Sometimes you need a weird idea to get through a momentary GM block. Here are eight several prompts to spark your imagination. Some are novel, some cliché any or all of them might give you some fun ideas.

  1. Working for Crumbs The PCs might notice they’re being followed through town and watched from a distance by several local children. Despite their initial nervousness and reluctance to approach the PCs, these kids have a problem that requires serious adventurers. Unfortunately, these children have no gold. The group’s speaker, however, is the daughter of the local baker and they offer the heroes baked goods in payment anything from cookies to delicious bread.
  2. Pet Slime While exploring the PCs encounter an unusually clever and friendly ooze. This ooze has an animal level intelligence and the playful attitude of a puppy. It dances around the party, plays fetch, and simple mimicry games. If the PCs don’t attack it and wander off the ooze follows. Eventually, it becomes too friendly (probably when the PCs have their guard down) and the ooze attacks. In reality, the ooze is just playing but doesn’t understand how its action will injure the affected PC. Furthermore, it sees most responses to this attack as more playing. If it suffers more than 5 hp of damage it retreats and mopes as if scolded. If it suffers more than 10 hp of damage it retreats in fear.
  3. Ghost Glasses The PCs discover or inherit a pair of spectacles. These glasses while not magical are directly tied into a haunted structure in town. Only while wearing the spectacles can the visual portions of the haunt’s be witnessed and several key clues to unraveling the mystery and putting the haunt to rest can be seen if someone is wearing the spectacles. GMs should encourage PCs to pass the glasses around. Maybe some clues are written in spectral blood in different languages that not every party member can read or a PC wearing the glasses becomes more susceptible to possession or certain haunt effects if worn for too long.
  4. The Forgotten People are vanishing from town and only the children seem to notice or remember. Those adults who suffer a loss only seem to grieve but have no understanding as to why they are depressed, lonely, or tearful. This pairs very well with entry 1 above. Why are people vanishing? Are these abductions? If so who’s behind it and how are they making everyone forget the missing townsfolk.
  5. Granite Minions A villain uses animated stone statues as his minions and foot soldiers. During a particular battle, the PCs notice one of the statues resembles an old friend who disappeared. Suddenly they realize that the statues are animated from the petrified bodies of innocents. Now they’ll need to find a way to disable the statues before turning innocent people into rubble. Points if the villain isn’t a medusa.
  6. World of Silence While exploring a dungeon or other location the PCs discover a tear in reality. The other side looks just like this side but it’s twelve hours earlier or later and empty. There is nothing there but eerie silence. The point is, you need to make it creepy this could be a world of native invisible stalkers or a world overrun by shadows. Whatever it is even if the PCs can get the rift closed what has already crossed over?
  7. Back to the Future Tapping into 6 and more for a one-shot or short game. What if the rift leads to a world where everything the PCs can see at first turns out to be fake? Props in a futuristic movie being filmed on Absalom Station somehow the heroes have crossed the gulf of time.
  8. Glimpse the Past While handling items in a dragon’s hoard the PC’s are given a vision of the distant past. A vision so real you could run a separate adventure with either pre-generated characters or let the players use their normal PCs but the rest of the world sees the historical figures the PCs replace for the vision.
  9. Bonus Prompt, Distant Past II Alternately, you could run a secondary adventure set in the past to simulate an event the PCs are researching. The PCs take on the roles of the historical heroes who did whatever the PCs need to finish in the present.
  10. Bonus Prompt, Lost and Found An item of importance to an NPC or possibly even one of the PCs likely a magic weapon goes missing without warning or explanation. It reappears sometime in the future in the possession of the PCs at a moment when they most need it. Where did it go? Then later, how did it get here?

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.