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When Things Get Broken: Some story ideas for your RPG


Nice Fella.
A little excerpt from my micro, oh so tiny newsletter : Burn the Tavern Down.

I’m always trying to think of problems that aren’t necessarily a monster, but something that looks like a small inconvenience, but ends up wrecking a place. Think about if a well gets poisoned. Ugh. Terrible. No source of potable water.
But what if you could strip basic stuff from your setting that had major consequences that no one thought of?
Example: In this city and three miles out, fire doesn’t work all of a sudden. You can’t light a candle, torch, or anything. Oh, you try and cast a spell that has fire? Nope. Nothing. At night, the place is pitch black. Crime goes up. City watch is overwhelmed. People are panicked. A troll got into the city (they are hurt more by fire.) Something has to be done. But here are some of the hooks:
  • Even more trolls show up. They somehow know that fire doesn’t work.
  • The clerics that serve the deity of fire are sick or missing. Their entire chapel is gone as if it was never built.
  • Perhaps the city has been relocated (no one has left the city and no one has entered it).
  • The mage tower that is miles away has a torrent of fire reaching up into the sky. Saddle up.
Try taking an inconvenience and then stretching it out to a huge, huge problem. It’s easier than you think. (Metal starts rusting at a rapid rate. . . . Ooooooh.)
If you have a space game: somehow the form of travel around a certain planet has winked out. Everyone is stranded there. What’s hampering the ability to “warp out”? . . Or whatever your game calls it.

What else is super convenient that can be completely broken and the

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I really like the concept. At least for me, its much easier to think of Sci-Fi scenarios (I mean, there must be ~100 episodes of the various "trek" franchises that are like this.)

I think some of this might depend on how long you want this "curse" to take while it plays out. I mean, if everyone quits aging....that might take a while for folks to notice. Once they do, expect an exodus of families and an influx of vain or old people.

For a fantasy setting, I think we can all imagine any number of "natural disaster" scenarios: blight, famine, drought, plague... I think the nature and impact of an "unnatural disaster" might depend on how much magic there was lying around. Like, if Divination quits working...will anyone other than casters know, or will the legal system quit functioning?

A few I can think of that have more general application:
  • People stop dying
  • People stop needing to eat
  • a plague of uncontrolled telepathy (everyone nearby hears your thoughts, like it or not)
  • taste and smell quit working ("Is this cheese bad?")
  • gender/sex is no longer a thing, like you stop being male&orfemale, bonus points if your gender/sex is randomly assigned when you leave or the effect ends
  • wood becomes crystalline and brittle
  • gravity fails, sorta. people can swim around the air and float gently down. Which is fine until everyone starts weakening and sickening due to atrophy, and there's a windstorm.
Just my musing.


Maybe something that repels all metal in a certain area. Or enforced total silence, meaning not many spells can be cast.

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