Monday, 1 June 2015

More Slaves (Awkward Treasure #4, part two)

Or not strictly slaves, but captives. If there is one thing that RuneQuest taught us (and it taught us lots of things) it is that an enemy defeated and held for ransom is worth more than a dead one. And having someone willing to stand for you PC's ransom might just well save their lives.

Obviously, the PCs might seize a ransom-able captive in the course of their usual adventuring. Indeed, if your PCs are of the murder-hobo variety they may make a healthy business out of kidnapping. Such is mundane human traffic, which warrants little more discussion, for now, than to simply say, 'give your players a choice'. Choices are the material of the roleplaying game, and presenting the players with an opportunity to spare an enemy's life in exchange for GP, or ending their enmity once and for all (Raise Dead notwithstanding) is an interesting in game choice. 

No, here we are talking being given the opportunity for the PCs to seize a high ransom individual who is *already* a captive. In a world in which people of status are ransomed on a regular basis, it would surely not be that unusual a circumstance for the PCs to raid a stronghold, fort, or lair and find that valuable prisoners make up part of their enemies wealth. What would a band of PC knights do, for instance, if they stormed Durnstein Castle and ended up with Richard the Lionheart in their hands? Sure, they could win his favour by releasing him, but they could also raise 80,000 marks of silver if they were of a mind to hold him prisoner. But would they offend the Pope, holding such a noble Crusader? What would happen when they next encountered English knights in the Holy Land? &c.

King Richard held captive

So, Awkward Treasure #4.3 is Noble Captive.

The PCs complete clearing out the [adventure site]. As the last of their enemies gurgles bloodily on the floor, the PCs find a trapdoor that opens into a oubliette. Inside is the bedraggled, but recognizable [opposing noble/potentate/bishop/whathaveyou]. He is not the PCs outright enemy, but has frustrated their plans in the past/supported their rivals/is the agent of a polity currently in a tense state of peace with that the PCs represent. What to do? The captive is effusive in his thanks - he believes he has been rescued. But any PC with a passing knowledge of local culture will know that the captive carries a ransom of 20,000GP*[1], if only it can be realised. But to demand such a ransom will come with unknown political (and personal) consequences. How will the PCs own people react to such a hostile act? What will their status in the captives territory be? What will they do with all that money - if the players are canny, this could be a way to feed an excitingly destabalising amount of wealth into a low level campaign, which will turn into a cross between A Simple Plan, Raising Arizona, and Brewsters' Millions if I know D&D players. But simply freeing the captive has consequences too.

And at least one player will, more than likely, want to simply kill the bastard and throw the whole place into turmoil.

[1] 20,000GP will buy you a fair sized sea-going ship in most OSR D&D-alikes.

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