Friday, June 5, 2020

d30 Social Dilemmas in Mesomergos

The Mesomergos setting has plenty to offer in small-to-moderate sized dungeons for classic dungeoncrawls, but I have also been using it to focus on other kinds of scenarios and adventures. Characters are likely to acquire servants, suitors, favors, and even titles if they survive past level one, and all of these serve to embed them in society. This is desirable not only because I like characters to have connections and because it makes participation in the fictional culture more natural; it's also desirable because it offers new ways to hook players into scenarios beyond the promise of gold.

Good scenarios can make use of dilemmas, forcing one or more player characters to make a choice between two ambiguous options. Because this is a multiplayer game where we don't want to actually restrict someone to two choices, DMs should accept clever ways around the dilemma. A good dilemma should apply some pressure. The default state of doing nothing should be unfavorable. Most importantly, the stakes should be valuable to the character or characters. If the only downside of an action is dishonoring your mother and you don't mind dishonoring your mother, it is not a dilemma.
art by Thorø Larsen
A theme of Mesomergos is the proliferation of rules. Characters are frequently bound by the laws of gods and the laws of men, by feudal loyalty and bonds of the heart, the restriction of social expectation and fey wishes. Dilemmas pay this theme off in a game-able way. "You have to obey your lord" is a setting expectation. "You have to obey your lord, and he's asking you to betray your god" is a problem for players to worry over.

d30 Social Dilemmas
  1. Recaps allow you passage instead of challenge, if you promise to be their friend. Your ruler later commands you to clear out their hovel.
  2. You are a bastard of a ruler’s spouse, but that ruler suspects you are their lover. The truth would dishonor your parent, the lie puts you in danger.
  3. Following a rumor that a woman will jeopardize a certain town, the local ruler orders a mass execution of women there(!) Bonus points if the ruler is a woman.
  4. Your ruler has done a dishonorable deed, and demands you help them to keep it hidden.
  5. While in a foreign ruler’s court, they demand you swear yourself to them, or else be put to death
  6. The law requires you to help defend your lord when they are attacked, but they keep lighting the signal beacons as a joke to amuse their favorite concubine
  7. During a revolt, a minister steals the ruler’s child and hides them. The motive for this is unknown, and both the ruler and the dissidents seek to possess the heir.
  8. Your parent covets your lover, whether or not they know that you love them.
  9. A foreign ruler has fallen in love with you from afar, and makes war to possess you.
  10. To marry a ruler’s offspring, they require some impossible task.
  11. Your ruler has offended the gods, and they afflict the land in obvious punishment. Many push to replace him.
  12. You are supposed to go out and support your ruler in battle, but divine omens tell you that to do so would bring down terrible destruction.
  13. Your ruler has constructed an idol of a god, merely to blaspheme it and beat it in games of lalon. Its expression grows angrier and its muscles grow larger with each passing day.
  14. You gave up your maidenhood to your lad, who disappeared. He may have been taken by fey? In any case, your parents are trying to marry you off soon, and if any but your lad discovers you are not a maid, you will be shamed and ostracized.
  15. An elfin knight has promised not to harm you while under the protection of the local ruler. Said ruler, aware of this, seeks to exploit your labor under threat of exile.
  16. A goblin army has arrived from nowhere, claiming their ruler was offered safe passage by an emperor 300 years ago and has not returned; they have “come to investigate.” Their ruler is actually still around, lying in prison forgotten.
  17. Your lover promised their firstborn to a goblin many years ago, and now the time to make good nears.
  18. Your lover, stolen by gremlins, will only be ransomed back to you for some onerous task.
  19. A goblin from a nearby tower has granted you a boon, contingent on you coming over for dinner. This is a binding promise. You receive a divine vision warning you that the tower will be smote at an appointed time. Can you fulfill your promise before the tower is turned to rubble?
  20. Whosoever possesses all nine of an ancient hero's cauldrons shall rule fairyland. One such cauldron was consecrated to a god and put in their temple. Now gnomes demand it back.
  21. In this part of the country, women cannot conduct surgery. One you cannot afford to lose desperately requires an expert surgeon, but the only one near enough is the bandit blade-runner of Bijou Bluff.
  22. Your parents made a contract with a sorcerer to aid in your conception on the condition that you would be offered to the sorcerer as an apprentice or as a bride. Your coming of age ceremony is next week.
  23. Homophobia is troublesome.
  24. No person of your sex may profane the grounds of a holy enclave, but you desperately require something deep within that cannot or will not be brought out to you.
  25. You are set to marry a noble, only to learn that they are having an affair with your sibling, unlawful unless consummated. You stand to lose a fortune in gifts and dowry if the wedding is called off, or to be shamed if the affair is discovered indelicately. A capricious bureaucrat is already suspicious.
  26. The local ruler scatters the families belonging to a partisan group to discourage insurrection. Your beloved is to be sent far away, and you know not where.
  27. A prideful ruler forbids proper burial of a deceased enemy, but if you do not honor the body, the gods will punish you.
  28. A mulberry tree is sent as an omen of bad laws. As long as they persist, it will grow out of control and overtake everything. No one in power acknowledges this.
  29. Two lovers are forcibly parted, one made to take a vow of chastity. How can the lovers be rightly reunited?
  30. Your lover is some kind of divine demihuman, with no property or occupation. Without some token or proof, your parents and community will not accept this as a proper match for marriage.

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