With inspiration from RPG writer Ryan Macklin. Ask of each character:
- What does he or she want? (That could be to change something or to maintain the status quo. Don’t fight for change 100% of the time).
- Why can they not just have that? (That could be adversity, incomplete needs, a bit of both).
- Point to another character when answering these questions (either or both of them).
- Quest giver: The heroes are a team of bodyguards hired by the local lord to protect his cousin and superior, the duke. The duke came to your city with his own set of guards — you are backup. The duke is kind but cheap, and his guards aren’t very loyal. You are paid well by the lord.
- Early encounter: While out hunting, the duke wanders off and is attacked by a monster. His guards flee or are killed in the battle.
- Clue to final confrontation: Searching the bodies of the monsters, you find the mark of a wizard from your city. If the bodies aren’t searched, indications of a spy watching the battle are noticed by one of the heroes or an ally.
- Secondary encounter or challenge: With the threat to his life, the duke is confined to the castle until the lord conducts an investigation. The heroes are assigned to the investigation and head to the wizard’s tower. An illusion of him appears to speak with the characters, and when they ask him about the monsters, he disappears and sends them into a portal to battle a monster.
- Secondary challenge or encounter (the opposite): Escaping the battle, the characters rush back to warn their lord and the duke of the treasonous wizard. But the wizard emerges from the shadows to the surprise of the heroes and the duke. The lord and wizard have conspired together to overthrow the duke, and the heroes weren’t supposed to get this far.
- Final boss: The wizard fires spells at the heroes. For an extra challenge, the lord can be a skilled warrior or even a shapechanged monster like a doppleganger or a lycanthrope. If the heroes win the battle, the duke rewards them by inviting them to his court… and a smaller than expected reward.
This is a classic “team of heroes vs. a villain”-type story.
- Quest giver: Each hero is in their secret (or public) identity when they see a news report or get an alert that the First National Bank has been robbed in broad daylight, and millions in bills and paper securities has been taken.
- Early encounter: A trail of destruction leads the heroes to an abandoned steel-mining factory on the east side of the city. Inside is Catastrophe, the Mountain of Muscle, and/or Commander Pulsar, who fires beams of solid light. They’re ready for a fight.
- Clue to final confrontation: Only some of the stolen cash can be found in the factory, in a pile that Catastrophe and Commander Pulsar were building. The rest is being carried away on long, withered vines — the sign of Blight, the Queen of Pollution.
- Secondary encounter or challenge: The heroes know McArthur Park is where Blight usually makes her hideout. Getting to her is difficult, with dozens of traps and plant-based minions in the way.
- Secondary challenge or encounter (the opposite): Blight is in the park, as expected, but she’s not hoarding the money. Instead, she’s transformed the paper fibers in the cash and securities into a giant plant creature that joins her in the battle.
- Final boss: Blight and her monster have to be defeated together before she can, of course, be sent to jail.