Ideas for side-quests in a city


I need to hold my party in a city until they gain at least one more level (they are currently ~5). Having a major spot of trouble right now doesn't fit in the story particularly well, which eliminates a bigger storyline. So, small side-quests it is.

There are plenty of cliches I can throw at them (trouble from sewers! mysterious disappearances! strange sightings in the graveyard!)... but I'm wondering if some of you have a few less-well-used ideas you may be willing to share.

I like to tailor mini side quests to the characters. Can you give any of the classes/races?

Adventure Quarterly (Rite publishing) has something that might fit nicely to your needs.

Carry messages due to an overload on the local messenger service. Various factions are manouvering to gain status over other factions, or gain knowledge they can hold over other factions.

The owner of a local inn is requesting help. It seems he's run afoul of one of his Usual Customers (disagreement over a tab, or whatever), who then placed a Curse on his Inn. He's not too worried, but wants some extra help just in case. So he hires your crew.

The next night, around about midnight when the patrons are getting right drunk and disorderly, a legion of undead attack (15-30, or whatever total XP you need), encircling the inn and then trying to break in through every window/door. Make them all skellies to keep it easy, or whatever.

Popular traveling bard comes to town, and is interested in hiring muscle for protection from stalkers. Stalkers are actually debt collectors for money the bard legitimately owes. However, the bard is always one step ahead of them. What debt does he owe them? He probably hired them to protect him from other "debt collectors".

Pest control in the sewers which ends up being a ratfolk warren. Their leader has decided to cleanse all the surface dwellers by plaguing the city's water and it is up to your PC's to stop them.

Sovereign Court

The Blackros Museum adventures stick to the city. wangi the-Void

If you are not in Absolam you can convert it to another town pretty easily.

Side quests

1- Concerned wererat that does not want prolonged conflict with the surface approaches the party ask them to stop the new wererat leader before he causes havoc (yes this is ripped of from an AP)
2- The local tavern has a theme room that has items from a far tropical locale. The room is the only one available. Durring the night the party awakes to the sound of tropical birds and sees a figure step into the foot looker at the end of the bed. When the party investigates the bottom of the trunk glows. It is a portal to a small tropical island favored by pirates. Once on the other side they need to find the key. (Not my own hook it was a published adventure in Dungeon years ago but it was fun).
3- A town magistrates approaches the party. As it turns out he is crooked and is in the pocket of one of the towns crime families. He basically black mails the party into taking action against a rival crime family. The other family is up to enough heniousness that they might be willing to take em out but what do they want to do about the cres that has them working for em.
4- The party is pick pocketed by a group of street urchins when they catch one of the kids they learn that the kids are forced into a life of crime and essentially slaves of a local underground figure, the tales of abuse and horror move the hearts of the party to kill the jerk.

Liberty's Edge

Personally, I would custom the side quests to the characters back story. Can we get the party makeup?

One of the PC's is mistaken for a member of a local crime organization. He is slipped some stolen goods (someone walks up and just hands him a bag of goods). Have the person who handed him the goods either vanish or maybe even get killed right away.

From there you can have them arrested, or maybe let them hold the goods and consider their options, have them contacted by a different criminal organization looking to buy the goods.

If they go the guards right off the hop, have the guards ask the look-a-like PC if he/she will help them do a sting operation on the criminal organization.

Lots of options for PC's to show their alignments, lots of option for skill based play or combat play.

have the party deal with a local rat infestation...

and the quest giver is a ratfolk that makes chease and some rats are breaking into his shop stealing his chease.

the rats are ratfolk children who are bored and break into his shop for fun, the ratfolk merchant does not know this and all he wants is it stopped and or the names of those responsible.

really, did you think I meant actual rats?

Silver Crusade

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Setup A sergeant of the town guard, or some bureaucrat associated with city government approaches the PCs and asks to meet in a local inn after closing time. This works best if it is already someone they know and trust.

The Meeting Here, the "patron" (surrounded by half a dozen town guards) tells the PCs that the city is trying to acquire evidence against the local thieves' guild. They are growing in power, yadda yadda yadda. He asks the PCs to infiltrate the guild (or break in, or whatever) and obtain the accounting books from the guild vault. This all needs to be hush hush; the guild cannot know that the city government is involved. Moreover, the higher-ups in the government cannot know about this either; it is a serious breach in protocol. Besides, some of them might be involved. The payout for this job should be high ("that is how dedicated we at City Hall are in destroying the guild").

The PCs can arrange a meeting through the innkeeper when the job is done.

The Main Adventure The PCs infiltrate the thieves' guild, facing traps and thugs, perhaps the occasional spellcaster. They recover the documents, plus something more (pointing the way toward more sinister dealings within the guild). Afterward, they arrange another meeting at the inn after hours.

The twist The "patron" and the same town guards as before come in, and put a bag of gold on the table. They ask for the requested documents. Once the "patron" has them in hand, he thanks the PCs, moves to the door, and snarls, "kill them!" The guards spend the surprise round transforming into wererats. Combat ensues. The "patron" leaves before the PCs can stop him. Oh, and the bag of gold is mostly coppers with about 10% of the promised price in gold on top of the bag (in case anyone opens it).

Denouement The "patron" is a wererat who has infiltrated the government and wishes to take over the thieving operations in the area. To do so he needs to destroy the current guild, while simultaneously learning their organization so he can recreate it under his leadership. He has hired the PCs to help him with this.

Where to go from here? The thieves' guild should learn who broke into their headquarters and pursue the PCs as well. Depending on the other information the PCs discovered there, they might be able to persuade the guild to let them recover the documents for them. Here the PCs must decide which evil is lesser.

When I ran this for my group, all jaws dropped when the patron revealed his true nature and the players realized what they had done. I actually had to let them sit and recover for a moment before running the combat in the inn because they were stunned.

Thanks for the ideas, everyone! :)

For those who asked - the background: all-human party, pretty standard composition - wizard(going for Loremaster), cleric (of Law, no Gods answer prayers in this campaign), a bard, and a fighter.

The city itself is run by mageocracy, and is a distant (but still large and quite developed) outpost of the most powerful in-world empire. It includes a college of physicians, a local university (more like old Greek academy, training lawyers, public speakers, and scribes), and the local chapters of most guilds. There is also a fire-damaged area around the spot where the Alchemist's guild is being rebuilt (with hat tip to Sir Terry, of course).

The child of an honest, hard-working but "dull" tradesman wants to run off and become an adventurer! This child attempts to join the party - as a aprentice or torchbearer or whatever, just to get in on the act.

The tradesman wants the party to convince the child (a teenager or young adult) to return back to an honest, less dangerous life.

The child's girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever is encouraging them along the path of adventure, and seems to want to tag along too, or at least hero-worship!

But actually this girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever is hoping to get the child into a fix, where the girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever's real compatriots, a local gang, can abduct said child and hold for ransom.

The PCs are in the middle of all of this! If they join with the girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever in hoping to squeeze the tradesman for cash, make it a "Ransom of Red Chief Situation."

The local burgermeister thinks that someone in town is trying to sabotage the city's main local industry, so that it's rival/competitor city (whatever place is suitable here) can get a leg up in exporting said good.

He hires the PCs to track down the leads he has.

A band of thieves is squeezing the local merchants for "protection money," and the city watch/guard captain is in the gang's pockets, so the merchants can't turn to the authorities for help. They ask the PCs to "deal with" the gang on their behalf.

cch wrote:

Thanks for the ideas, everyone! :)

For those who asked - the background: all-human party, pretty standard composition - wizard(going for Loremaster), cleric (of Law, no Gods answer prayers in this campaign), a bard, and a fighter.

The city itself is run by mageocracy, and is a distant (but still large and quite developed) outpost of the most powerful in-world empire. It includes a college of physicians, a local university (more like old Greek academy, training lawyers, public speakers, and scribes), and the local chapters of most guilds. There is also a fire-damaged area around the spot where the Alchemist's guild is being rebuilt (with hat tip to Sir Terry, of course).

I think that "There is also a fire-damaged area around the spot where the Alchemist's guild is being rebuilt" could build itself into a few sidequests. I'm sure an alchemist guild building needs some fairly rare, unique and expensive items. Not too mention the problems caused by alchemists guild having to do their work somewhere that isn't built for them.

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How about... or more of the party passing by or walking through a public establishment when they notice a seemingly resigned and venerable-aged man sulking in the dappled light of a window, the light and shadow through the glass playing on his slightly insubstantial form just as surely as it casts fleeting blots of darkness on his fine and luxurious clothing. Blinking a double-take at the momentary glamer, the character sees with every certainty that it is not dappled light scattered on the mans trappings -- but a menagerie of stains and holes on the mans old and tattered rags. Catching the fleeting scrutiny and disbelief, he lurches to his feet and comes out to practically molest the heroes... Begging them to come to his house. If they hesitate he quickly becomes desperate, crying that "They are the only ones who can see him." The regulars at the establishment show their contempt, pity, and assuredness that he is crazy... and while he may very well be, they can be certain he is also sincere.

If they rebuff his invitation, he will skulk and beg after them wherever they go, trying to explain in broken blubbering that "You can see me!", "It can all be fixed! He just wasn't up to the task!",
and "My father was brave, but I couldn't be. I'd hope'd I would, but I couldn't!"

If they agree to follow him, he leads them to a place on the very edge of one of the richer neighborhoods in town. His house might have been grand long ago, but now it sags on it's foundation and it seems only the ivy keeps any paint on it. The gorgeous house beside it has built a high wall which casts much of the dilapidated house in shadow, and the wall seems very old. The house behind it is almost fully obscured by a high hedge-row, thick and impeccably maintained to hide the eyesore that is the old mans house. A dirty and nondescript gravestone is barely visible in a particularly overgrown part of the lawn, mostly obscured by a low stone wall separating the property from the street.

The inside of the house is caked with dust, almost threadbare, and it is obvious no-one has lived here for a very long time. Broken boxes and crates of mouldering linen and tarnished silver lay scattered along the walls, the panelling along the walls and above the fireplace dotted with bare spaces and empty moorings where trophies and coats of arms once hung.

And at the back of the room, beside the stair is one of the most spectacular and striking paintings -- at closest glance it seems to be a representation of the very room of this empty house, devoid of any light or life... but from the corner of one's eye the viewer can almost swear they see various figures swirl in the image -- at the window, atop a chandelier, in the foreground, on the stair... the paint on the walls seems of the image seem to flow from bright white to drab grey with the craning of the neck, and perhaps one can even see the room furnished, rearranged, and then bare again.

If the players reveal, or can be seen to respond to this -- The old man says: "My father had it made with the last of his fortune -- within the pigments of that painting is the entire history of our family line within this house... our once proud ancestral home. My father brought it home
and said that artist he contracted it from swore that brave, worthy, and truly noble people could use it to change their fates, to alter fortunes... My father hung the painting and regarded it on the wall, and he bid me follow him to it... I never saw him again. I needed a drink. Over the years, with liquid courage I've regarded the painting myself, but the image was always the same... but I saw you look at me, like he incredulously remarked the painting... and I knew what I needed to do..."

Upon hanging the painting and looking into it, the paint will immediately begin to swirl and draw any party members through a gate, beyond which is the pocket-dimension of within the painting. The players find themselves in a series of encounters within the confines of the 'footprint' (foundation) of the house, but at various points in time -- with the decor, state of repair, age of furnishings and their arrangement changing relative to the houses point in time -- different to each point in time the painting turns to, each relative to an unfortunate event in the history of the family. (the paint in the house may be fresh in one moment in time, the furniture may be all cracked and peeled in another. The house may be awash in finery in one point the painting takes the players, and half-looted and trashed in another. The party finds itself in that location in the house, at various critical and unfortunate events in their history.

For example (but not in this particular order)

1) the house is in fine repair, but white sheets are over everything as faceless figures carry various chests, furniture, and boxes out of the house. Bills of sale lay tagged to the drapes of various items, and a sobbing can be heard faintly from above. In the attic, a woman is in the process of slipping a noose around her neck and jumping out the window.

2) The house is dark and quiet, and all looks peaceful though seems amiss -- a perceptive eye can see various items missing or out of place, only the finest taken, gaps where things should be become apparent... the house is being robbed, and the walls and high windows have become the parade ground of some very agile thieves -- who want to leave no witnesses.

3) The house is not very lavishly decorated in this instance -- the wood is new but there is no coat of paint, and most of the furniture is not familiar to the painting or other instances, though a few antique pieces are seen here as new. The door crashes open and the faceless/not-fully-substantial forms of military men are assembled outside and storming through the recently smashed open door -- "they howl in a timeless voice that the sons of this house are to be press-ganged into a vanguard to save the city... the insubstantial forms of young men of the house retort that the town has already surrendered, and that they refuse to martyr for pride... and a battle is joined...

4) In this instance there isn't even a house here... high grass grows outside the footprint of the house, telling the players where the boundary of this dimension is. Before them is the shifting mirage of a desperate but determined battle-line, at the center of which a vaguely familiar looking man, perhaps a distant ancestor of the madman, stands bracing his spear -- for a charge coming right behind the players! A huge battle unfurls here, much xp to be had potentially if the party is willing to stay in the fight -- though after the initial charge is broken a whirling hole in the instance beckons to take the party elsewhere.

5) The party finds itself at a more opulent point in the houses' history, the quasi-substantial form of a little girl in a fancy night-dress standing on a stack of pots and cookbooks, about to fall backward just after opening the latch on a high window. The party must catch the little girl from a good distance across the room, then deal with the Vampire she's welcomed inside...

6) Finally the players find themselves at the top of the stairs in a by far more-recent incarnation of the house -- as threadbare, and run down, but without all the dust. The lord of the house, the old madman's father, stands with his back to the players, brandishing a weapon at a party of professional-looking mercenaries decked in impeccably clean armor and heraldry -- as a strangely familiar young man slips past them, shamefully, like a cowardly dog.

The father screams past them at his son -- "BRAVE, WORTHY *PEOPLE* son! I can't do it alone! PEOPLE! PEOPLE!!" -- with that the point-man of the mercenaries explains: "It was a bold gambit putting all you had on a merchant caravel to Tien, but we hear tell it has sunk and the Count has a reputation to uphold as a creditor, let's make this quick, shall we?"

With the conclusion of this event, the party is ejected from the painting into a house of wealth and affluence relative to how well the party performed at righting or preventing the tragedies in the history of the house, from dramatically more wealthy if they did well, to even burned out and collapses if they did poorly. Above the fireplace (which is intact regardless of the houses condition) will be a painting that instead of the initial shifting image, a family portrait from the same perspective with any of the people who the party managed to change the fate of, the lord, his wife, his other sons, the lords father who won the land in battle (or a portrait of him somewhere in the painting, etc.) -- if the lord was saved his grave has been replaced by a monument or statue in the front yard -- the house (hopefully) far more lovely than when first seen. The old man, who if all is well looks far more advanced in station, gives the party a magical item and something valuable off a table or shelf in the house... Mouthing "thank you" as he closes the door to the onrushing shouts of ridicule from any newly redeemed relatives, convinced he's "once again giving away valuables for bar tabs or gambling debts."

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A total eclipse of the sun suddenly coincides with the magical lenses sliding loose from a nearby wizard's astronomical observatory telescope -- one landing on a manor rooftop and the other in a graveyard across the street -- both are now channeling concentrated negative energy into the graveyard, but it's pitch dark, the negative energy is completely invisible unless you are directly in line with the beam(s) -- which makes locating both their origins difficult without exposure. On top of that, it is rapidly beginning to generate a plague of undead -- which look like for the first time in history, that they finally have more healing than the party...

Any episode from the Cadfael series, tailored to the characters. Murder mysteries can be great!

"To Be the Man" - the characters are invited to participate in a local pit fighting tournament. Of course it's rigged, so to come out on top they've got to thwart cheating by the current, and flamboyant, pit champion and his manager, valet, allies, and even the chairman of the pit fighting league.


Similar to 3.5 Loyalist's suggestion "Dinner at [FILL IN THE BLANK's]" - the party is invited to be guests of honor at the party of the season hosted by some prominent local who just absolutely adores adventurers and is facinated by their oh so exciting tales. At the party, the host dies, and the PCs are framed for a crime they didn't commit. They must prove their innocence and find out who the guilty party is.

The Bard wakes up and his prized Lute has been stolen, or the clerics holy symbol, or even better the wizards spell book gets snagged. It was originally just stolen by a new thief as an initiation.

Gang leader randomly chose the character in the pub one night and told the thief to steal said item. Getting it back leads the party to discover something larger beginning to brew.

Find the best bakery! Have samples for the players! Delicious!

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therealthom wrote:
Find the best bakery! Have samples for the players! Delicious!

find the best bakery and the baker is running out of secret ingredient x, the local mob is strong arming him into selling the place to them for way less than it is worth. But now since he won't sell the mob is cutting off his supplies, and if he doesn't get access to supplies soon he will lose the place anyway

save the cakes!!

you could have them witness a crime and have to tell the town magistrate...

you could have them act as body guards too...

Thanks again - esp. to Vicon. That's a really cool scenario! :)

Thanks friend! Glad to be a help.

Grand Lodge

Did you come up with that yourself Vicon? If so, MAJOR kudos to you.

Certainly did. The idea is sort of blunted from the vividness in my head, but I try to give credit to the forum in that we're almost always one the most creative demographics going. The idea could be fleshed out to be a little adventure all its own, start a character who is down on his luck from his ancestors fortunes, and he goes on an adventure to right all the wrongs and wake up rich so that his REAL adventures can begin.

Thanks for giving me the nod, as I was saying -- any praise here is no faint praise at all.


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