Burst of Insight—7 More Weird Prompts for GMs

I’m fighting a bit of a bug so I thought I’d tackle something lighter today. Back in February, I presented eight…well, ultimately ten weird prompts for GMs. It was a fun exercise worth revisiting and a not too complex topic. So without further ado here we go again.

The Score of a Lifetime: The player characters begin to play with a sizable sum of wealth. Likely the spoils of a heist or con. Now the rightful owner(s) of the PCs windfall is out for payback. Front load your adventure with a level or two’s worth of gold. Maybe you give the players time to spend some of it maybe not. Maybe they aren’t even the crew that stole the money. It could be they are in the right place at the wrong time now the crew who stole the money are after the PCs as is the rightful owner putting the PCs in a very tight spot.

I Think I Know That Sword: A PC encounters an intelligent blade in a treasure hoard and is surprised that they know the blade…or at least its personality. Somehow an old mentor, childhood friend, or battle companion’s personality has become imprinted on this sword. How and why did this happen? Is it really their old friend? Can the PCs undo whatever has caused this or do they even want to?

Swift Travels: While exploring the PCs discover a crumbling marble statue of the region’s god most associated with safe or swift travel. The statue radiates magic and can be activated to transit to a similar statue in the middle of nowhere. The two statues appear to be all that’s left of a larger ancient fast travel network. What might the PCs find in the remote destination? Maybe they find a seer, an ancient ruin, or a simple farming village. The statues have significant age damage and wear, is travel between the statues even safe still?

Second Chances: Either the Lady of Graves is giving the PCs a second chance or they’ve been resurrected by a peculiar benefactor, either way, several heroes and/or scoundrels of various historical eras have been brought back to fulfill one last quest or solve a seemingly unsolvable mystery.

If you use this prompt, encourage the players to write their own legends. The characters need not live up to these mythical talents yet…they’ve been dead for a while it could be some time (and levels) before they’re back up to snuff. It is also possible to tap into the Quantum Leap/Altered Carbon tropes where it’s not even the character’s original body. If you use this last option it is best if you let the players decide what they looked like before and what they look like now.

I’m Keeping an Eye on You: The PCs encounter a large angry looking demon eye floating in a sealed glass jar. The eye floats and follows the actions of the PCs whenever it is out. Despite being just a floating eye it seems to be able to express a range of emotions from irritable to enraged. I used this once in one of my own games and it was far more popular than I expected. The players even named the eye…later in a (loosely connected) game run by one of those players we met a one-eyed demon. It was not a happy demon but quite well informed about events on the Prime Material.

FantasyWorld ™: Borrowing from themes present in the TV series West World an Illusory realm reminiscent of ancient Golarion has become THE vacation site for the rich and powerful of the Pact Worlds. Run “reality” in Starfinder and the illusory Golarion in your favorite version of Pathfinder or maybe all three as upgrades become available.

Maybe the PCs are employees of the park, maybe they are visitors enjoying a little R&R, or maybe they have an ulterior motive to be in the park. As a GM you don’t need to go into the questions of AI the show deals with, instead find other ways to tap into the ramifications of dual “realities.”

Old Warriors Never Die: A campaign veteran or expert in a current crisis long thought deceased fails to respond to all magical means to contact the dead spurring those in power to beseech the PCs into attempting to find the now aged hero so their related expertise can be brought to bear in the current crisis.

This is more or less the central plot point of one my favorite d6 Star Wars adventures Tatooine Manhunt and is worth reading.

(bonus prompt) A Mysterious Child: The PCs begin seeing signs of a mystery child. The child when glimpsed seems to be suffering from a few terrible burns but the more often they are seen, the less visible the burns. Other signs become noticeable small footprints around the party’s campsite. Half-eaten fruit with child-sized bite marks. When the child is directly approached they run and quickly vanish. Who is the child? Is it a spirit or ghost? What do they want?

In a recent campaign, our GM began hinting at a major shift in the direction of our campaign by introducing just this NPC. Ultimately, we discovered it wasn’t a child but a planar hoping Halfling who needed help in his world. What will such a mysterious figure portend in your game?

Have any weird prompts you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments!

Burst of Insight

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.

1 Comment

  1. Quo

    Great stuff! I really really like the Score of a Lifetime scenario. I could really see this working out nicely for a 1 GM and 1 PC game in an urban setting probably.