I like to get as much feedback as possible from the players I GM for, both during the game and after. One of things I routinely here from players is how much they enjoy a “new take” on something familiar. I’m often inspired to take a classic genre trope and turn it on its ear in order to challenges players’ expectations and provide an experience that requires them to look at things from a new angle.
This week I’m taking a look at a variety of ways in which you can “switch it up” on your players. I’ll share several plot elements and details that might force your players to play outside their comfort zone and rethink their usual way of doing things. Remember, it’s all about taking the familiar tropes of your chosen genre and presenting them in a unique light or reversing the players’ expectations.
- The rescue of a child stolen away and locked in a tower turns out to be a jailbreak for a creature that only appears to be a child.
- A group of dark elves is looking to hire a band of surface dwellers to rescue their priestess. She is being held prisoner in a nearby town. They claim to follow a benevolent deity.
- The primitive highland orc tribes are in need of champions to help stop an invasion of humans and dwarves from decimating their ancestral lands.
- The ancient artifact needs to be hidden away by adventurers deep within a remote dungeon.
- The bandits the heroes are hired to stop turn out to be a group of unfortunate refugees that fled from a nearby kingdom after a bloody coup.
- The relic the heroes are hired to recover is not an object but is actually an imprisoned immortal that has gone mad over the centuries.
- The Baron’s sinister looking advisor is actually the only member of the royal court that isn’t a vampire. He has managed to resist domination but who can he trust?
- The lich dwelling in a forgotten ruin in the moors has actually been cursed and is in reality the true and rightful heir to the throne.
- The village is full of cheerful and optimistic dwarves that welcome outsiders with open arms and generosity!
- The “crazy” old street preacher is actually a gifted diviner and often speaks with amazing insight and clarity.
- The sisters at the monastery are all members of “evil” races trying to atone for the sins of their people.
- The angelic messenger of a good deity is actually a fallen worshipper of a twisted elder god from beyond space and time.
- Numerous adventuring parties have returned from the fabled Dungeons of Doom and eagerly share their tales of adventure. Although everyone’s story is different.
- The lost dwarven mines of Kazahd-Knar simply ran dry and the clans moved on to richer areas.
- The sewers beneath the city are home to a group of exiles that worship a benevolent goddess of suffering and mercy.
- The temple of light in a major city is built upon an ancient fount of necromantic energy. The catacombs beneath the city are crawling with the undead.
- The beautiful public gardens in the capital city hold a dark a deadly secret.
- The gothic estate on the hill overlooking town is falling into ruin and rumored to be haunted. However it is only occupied by a group of orphans wanting grown-ups to leave them alone.
Keep in mind that providing a unique experience for your players doesn’t necessarily mean making every element of your campaign totally original. Oftentimes you’re much better off using familiar, maybe even stereotypical elements but presenting them with a unique twist. This approach helps ground your game with the expected while at the same time keeping it fresh and exciting with the unexpected twist. In my experience players more often appreciate a unique look at the familiar than a totally unique element in which they may not have a frame of reference for.