The Sage's Plan

Author: Phil Scadden <>
Length: Long
Genre: Any
Type: Guarding, Intrigue
Setting: Any, Cave

The Plot

Part 1:

Chief honcho feeling old, needs to test suitability of daughter as heir. A crafty sage NPC called to help.

Sage's plan: A honcho's man will pretend to turn traitor and with PC's will kidnap daughter. (Big deal - everyone is cooperating). They will tell daughter she is to write note saying father to come alone with ransom. He will be bumped off by ambush and they will see daughter confirmed as heir but she will take orders from rival evil honcho. They have permission to scare her with anything short of real torture. She passes test if she refuses to write or finds a way to warn, or manages an escape. A largish group is hired as daughter normally well protected and PC will really be acting as a guard and protect her whatever her choices...Pretty boring easy money for players huh since all set up?

Catch: The man chosen to play traitor really is a traitor in pay of uncle. The opportunity to dispose of daughter and become heir is seized. The traitor will suggest a cave in isolated area (which just happens to be moderately fortifiable - not by design; he just likes the isolation) as place for the hold-out and the father (anxious to be fully informed) agrees. PCs may have a better idea but unlikely they will be in a place unknown to the traitor or father. Traitor is a coward and won't attempt on the life of the girl himself but will use any excuse to leave PCs with girl. Uncle will bring large force to bear on the PCs to wipe her out. (and them). Traitor to blame the PCs.

The daughter: Really a good choice. Will not at first agree but will grovel and pretend submission. Will write note but encoded to warn. If no other opportunity has arisen, the traitor will say he will take note. If the players later tell her its a setup (when trouble begins), she will demonstrate fine combat skills.

Baddies: Whatever number to test your PCs. Will (treacherously) offer free passage if they will hand over girl. (PC's may think the daughter worthless and be tempted to hand her over - mine were! If they do, they will not be allowed to leave alive since they are to be blamed with it. Dead men tell no tales. Fortunately mine remembered orders to protect no matter what and girl will reveal the actual contents of her note when she realises the PC are on her side). The negotiation delay will give some time for setting up defences if it occurs to players to hedge. Too bad if they don't. If the PCs can hold out 2 days, a concerned father will arrive with relieving force.

Part 2:

[This was an extension as players grumbled about tiny pay (it was supposed to be an easy job) and here the sage helps.] I made an earlier post on the net frp conference on moral dilemmas and here is the detail.

In reward for services, a sage offers this little test to a group of PCs. This is a variation of the famous Prisoner Dilemma based on an essay by Douglas Hofstadter in Metamagical Themas. This will work best with a group that are really involved with their characters and have played them for some time.

Players given a counter which is red on one side, black on the other. They are to hand it secretly to the sage either red side up or black side up. They will be rewarded according to how all play.

If a PC returns the piece BLACK side up he/she gets: For every other player turning in a RED side: A Big reward. For every other player turning in a BLACK side: Nothing or very small

If a PC returns the piece RED side up he/she gets: For every other player turning in a RED side: A moderate reward For every other player turning in a BLACK side: Only a small reward

It is important the player really understand the reward system before they make the choice. It is also very important that they can't discuss with each other what they will do and the returns are made in secret. When I did it, I had the sage claiming (quite wrongly) he could magically increase basic attributes and the matrix was:

BLACK choice: For every RED piece: Attribute of choice increased by one unit. For every BLACK piece: nothing.

RED choice: For every RED piece: 50s in money For every BLACK piece: 5s in money

The advantage of offering an attribute change, is that to the players (more than the PCs) it was a very real temptation to offer BLACK. Of course, if they all chose black, nobody would get anything. If only one chose red, that player would be fairly annoyed while the rest get one attribute bumped up. If you were the only player to choose black, then you sit very pretty...the details of this dilemma are well discussed by Hofstadter. He tried it for real money on his friends, here's your chance to do the same. For once, the game is as interesting if the player is trying to choose for a PC or doing it for him/herself.

Of course, all hell breaks loose when the sage reveals he is lying and just gives each a little more than if all had chosen red.....

The GM should decide what reward matrix the game balance can handle and whether the sage is honest, but do recommend the attribute lift as bait.

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Email: Alexander Forst-Rakoczy