[RPG] How to make finding an NPC interesting?


In my low-magic Pathfinder campaign, my players will be looking for a wizard who managed to teleport and escape from them. However, the wizard will be on hostile territory and he will have to hide his magical talents from the public while he will be looking for someone.

My players, have very good resources economically and politically. I really don't want them to find this powerful and clever wizard through a couple of Survival or Gather Information checks.

My objective is to avoid a simple dice rolling mechanic as the set up for the adventure where the goal is to find this NPC wizard.

How can I make it interesting for my players to find a renegade wizard who is on the run, without simply rolling the dice and "Ok, you found him"?

I'm not asking anyone to write me a story. The wizard's escape was an unexpected turn of events and something I wasn't prepared for. Since my players are determined to chase this wizard, I want to make it more interesting.

This is less about getting ideas for the story, and more how to make survival or diplomacy checks something more immersive and interesting.

Best Answer

You can run it like a chase storyline

Either the players hunt for the Wizard, or they hunt for the person the wizard is looking for; the latter is probably more interesting as it will have an element of a chase to it that you can work in.

But that's not what you need to know; what you need is how to use the dice rolls to advance the plot without actually having them solve everything with a single d20 bounce.

Each dice roll just gives you a bit of information, but it shouldn't be the be-all and end all, dice rolls should have meaning rather than just keep going until you make it, so failure should have consequences and using dice rolls for searching and information gathering is pretty dull - so use them to get to places and people where the information is, rather than getting the information itself. Each step will link the players along a chain where the ultimate goal is either the Wizard or who the Wizard is looking for.

Dice rolls should also be part of a process; you're meant to be role-playing not roll-playing here, so if the player wants to intimidate a guard to get information from them with an intimidate check then ask them how they're doing that, react as the guard, if they do a good job then give them bonuses; so the goal gets pushed forwards more easily by play rather than bouncing a d20.

Example start of a chain

  • Find where the wizard went, stories and rumours about someone appearing from nowhere; players go to location X and find a farmhand who has been bribed/charmed/whatever by the wizard to give him horses to escape. Players either talk their way to the information or get sent to a nearby bear cave where they get attacked, where they can then work out that the farmhand double crossed them and go back.
  • Onto City Y. Players bribe/charm/RP etc guards, good reaction gets players to the tavern where the wizard went, bad reaction gets the players locked out of city and have to sneak in instead.
  • And so on...
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