I love the way Hearts of Wulin players have generated cool and interesting characters. Sometimes it's easy to bring their stories together. But sometimes I need a little inspiration for that initial incident. I've assembled a list of 18 "starters" for Hearts of Wulin Stories. Most of these are shamelessly stolen from wuxia movies. All of these assume you’ll seed and connect the PC’s entanglement characters, friends, and family throughout.
MY RPG TOOLKIT LISTS
Someone Goes Missing: Random Journey Event List
Mutant: Year Zero: 36 Mood Elements for The Zone
Mutant: Year Zero: 36 Plots for Roles
150 Colorful NPCs for 7th Sea
150 Details for 7th Sea Scenes
The Fall of Summer: 36 Freehold Threats for Changeling the Lost
Stories from Iruvia: Plot Hooks for Blades in the Dark
333 Names for Blades in the Dark
500 Cyberpunkish Names
Shadowrun EZ-NPC Generator
Magic, Inc Departmental Listing: Office Spatial Distortion
13th Age: 101 Backgrounds
1. TRAITORS' PARTY
A famous family invites the PCs and many others to a celebration. But that’s a cover for a plot by one of the hosts. They want to identify someone as a lost heir, rival, or vengeance-seeking child. For example, they killed someone’s parent duplicitously and fear revelation. The killer hosts don’t know exactly who they’re looking for. This set up could connect to a PC or else someone has started a rumor to endanger them or create a distraction. Alternately, someone outside the hosts plans to take advantage of the gathering and frame the PCs.
2. TOURNAMENT OF ASSASSINS
A tournament has been announced. Is it a public one? Does it have a stated reward? Is the purpose to celebrate the skills of wulin masters or perhaps something more sinister? Perhaps a notable foe of the organizers will be expected to make an appearance—someone connected to the PCs? If the sponsors of the contest are themselves villainous, it may be a chance to show them up. Those villains may also act behind the scenes against righteous persons. Consider the pressure to win the PCs (or NPCs) face from entanglements. A variant is a secret or hidden tournament, perhaps even one the PCs have been entered into without their knowledge.
3. DEADLY WEDDING
One of the PCs’ factions is hosting a wedding. This may be the bride or groom's family or perhaps they're simply hosts. One of those being wed should be an entanglement NPC. Is this wedding a surprise or a long awaited event? What agendas do the families have in making this bond? Perhaps it’s a union with an enemy clan in order to gain a truce. Who besides the PCs might want this ceremony stopped? Who will lose face if that happens? Ideally, the PCs should be obliged to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
4. A LIFE LEFT BEHIND
An important faction leader prepares for his “washing of hands” ceremony. This will signal his retirement from the wulin world. Representatives have gathered from many clans. Who will succeed this elder or take advantage of the power vacuum? Why is this leader really removing themselves from the wulin world? What unfinished business and history might come back to roost?
5. SECRET DUEL
One or all of the PC receive letters challenging them to a duel with a rival (or a friend). Perhaps they receive challenges from one another. We open with them arriving at the chosen dueling ground, only to discover that neither party actually sent the message. Who did? Why were the characters chosen? What’s the mysterious organizer’s purpose: a bet, an ambush, drawing them away, engaging them for a mission, defeating them all at once? What’s unique and interesting about the location they’re called to?
An object of political, ceremonial, or historical importance must be protected—a weapon, a gift, a person. Many would love to obtain it. How is the item tied to an entanglement NPC? Is the object to be protected in place—like the household of one of the PCs factions? Or will it be transported, with the PCs among the escort? What rumors do they hear about gathering thieves?
7. THIEF OF VENGEANCE
A thief has struck throughout the wulin world, hitting at least one of the PC's faction. What makes this thief distinct and different? Do the robberies have another purpose: antagonizing someone, drawing out a target, exposing villainy? The PCs or someone close to them can be set to bringing the thief to justice. But what about hints or suggestions that this rogue may be someone they know and perhaps even love?
8. AGELESS SIN
Years ago, a coalition of heroes from several factions defeated and killed the legendary villain Ageless Sin. Now someone’s killing faction members and leaving signs pointing to this monster. Did Sin survive and if so, how? Or has someone else taken up the mantle for their own nefarious purposes? What do we really know about what Sin did and how they were defeated? What secrets have those involved kept hidden?
9. THREE EAGLES STRIVE
Leadership of one of the factions comes into question—through stepping down, illness, or death. Now several notable figures vie to take over. Alliances and betrayals abound—with the PCs drawn into the battle via their entanglements. Will some of the candidates stoop to nefarious tactics to assume this mantle? Why is the leadership changing hands? Was one of the hopefuls involved in pushing this forward? What will a PC do if they find an entangled NPC has acted less than righteously.
The characters arrive to find a friend or lover has been arrested for a serious crime. They’ve been linked to a notorious thief, legendary bandit, or deadly killer. The Magistrates found convenient written evidence implicating them. Who stands to benefit from their friend taking the fall? How badly will their associate suffer if their innocence is not proven quickly? Did the criminal have anything to do with framing them? Did the friend actually do this, but someone still faked the evidence?
11. ALLIANCE OF BETRAYAL
Tensions have long simmered between two wulin factions, but now they have come to an accommodation. One or more PCs should be tied to these factions. How and why have they settled these matters? Was the split a friendly rivalry between orthodox factions or between righteous and unrighteous? Who believes this alliance of friendship is dangerous or foolhardy? Representatives from one of the clans come to call on the other. These representatives must be protected and honored. At the same time, they must be observed. As well, notable gifts will be exchanged—things of value whose loss could bring embarrassment to many people.
12. THE MISSING MASTER
The head of one of the factions has vanished, leaving his group in disarray. Did they leave deliberately, has someone taken them, or is the evidence ambiguous? Who will step into their position? How will this change cause problems for the characters and their entanglements? Is the vanishing part of a larger plot, perhaps even orchestrated by the clan leader? Who has been acting strangely since the disappearance?
13. TANGLED HEARTS
Two lovers have run off together, causing disruption and dismay within a PC faction. How are one or both connected lovers entangled with the PCs? Perhaps this incident has hurt an entanglement NPC (object of affection, sibling, loyal friend). Did they have cause to go? What secrets might be revealed by their departure and who would want this kept quiet? Will the families hunt them down and will the PCs be called on? Are the pair truly in love or is there something more sinister at work?
14. REVENGE OF THE YUN
While the Yun Clan was destroyed some time ago, some have spoken of a secret or true reason for their vanishing. Recently, wulin have turned up dead, with marks that suggest a master of the Yun’s deepest arts. Few will talk about it, but someone connected to the PCs lives in fear. Perhaps a parent, a master of an entanglement NPC, or even one of the PCs. Did someone from the Yan survive, is someone trying to frame the Yan, or both?
15. HIDDEN MESSENGERS
Our characters come across a dying wulin, clearly struck down by expert hands after a beating. They speak of someone hunting for a secret message. This victim was only one among many suspected of carrying the secret. Were they messengers? Members of some secret group? Agents of the government? Who hunts this message and what is it? Details of a conspiracy, a lost manual, location of a treasure? What tells the characters that they have now come into the sights of these killers?
Word has come out that a legendary lost scroll of a powerful or forbidden technique has surfaced. Now every faction and clan openly seeks it, though some claim to want to destroy it. How has it been hidden? Who is reputed to have it? What drastic lengths will factions go to in order to obtain it? Who has already betrayed someone in their quest to obtain the lost secrets? Is there really such a manual or is this a plot to sow discord within the wulin world? If it does exist, what forbidden powers does it contain?
17. CONSPIRACY WITHIN
Only the eldest child of a small wulin faction survives a mysterious attack. Which faction did the victims belong to? Some say that the family was destroyed to gain a legendary secret technique or item. What other rumors have spread about the attackers? The surviving child is caught in between multiple factions seeking to protect them and perhaps gain an advantage. What do the PCs want from them? What will the killers do to get what they want?
18. IRON JUSTICE
A wicked governor oppresses the people. They raise taxes, draft farmers as labor, and preemptively suppress sedition. They have a cadre of loyal magistrates. One or more wulin factions have allied with the governor to help to enforce his rule. Now they persecute and eliminate other groups. What will the PCs do if their own faction refuses to act against this? Go into rebellion? Ally with the villain? They have no good options, as fighting the governor is the same as fighting the Emperor. It’s a vast distance to the nearest impartial authority and the Governor closely monitors for those attempting the trek. (This one depends on how you’ve positioned authority and the Emperor).
Do you have particular story starter resources? Tell me in the comments.
For the full backlog of Age of Ravens posts on Blogger see here.