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NPC motivations

NPC motivations

Background: I having only been gaming for a year (D&D 4e) but am trying out things from the other side of the screen. I've run several practice games (printed adventures) with just me and my husband (bravely playing four characters, but he loves character creation, so it's no real burden). Now, I'm preparing to run my first "original" adventure, and I would appreciate some input from the vast experience represented here. [I'm sure my ideas aren't original, but they're new to me.]

I have a secret society called the Peacekeepers, who seek out and imprison anyone in the town who has anything at all magical about them. Any race other than human, dwarf, and halfling is suspect. The public display of any magical power or talent is cause for immediate arrest. Even owning a magic item of any sort will earn you a room in their special prison. It's been this way for as long as anyone native to the town can remember - it's just a part of life. Traders in the area have learned the hard way, so the most common victims are travelers and adventurers.

My husband was helping me brainstorm, and suggested that perhaps the prisoners get a chance to earn their freedom (a la "Running Man" - old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie). I liked the idea, and decided the prisoners would be chosen by a lottery system - completely random. This is where my ideas get a little foggy. Why would the Peacekeepers imprison these characters, only to later offer them a chance to earn their freedom? Is their quest some local menace? Or is there something even more devious? Could their perceived quest for freedom merely be a test to propel them into some further nefarious Peacekeeper plot?

Thanks in advance for any and all feedback.

I don't have much experience with 4e but here goes nothing:
The peacekeepers could, instead of deciding by lottery, release the people they suspect could lead them to others with magic or items in question, creating spies out of ex-prisoners instead without them even knowing.
Their main goal is to control all magic in the area, making them the most powerful force around and allowing them to do as they wish. They themselves use magic, but either in disguise or behind closed doors where there are little to no witnesses. They secretly wish to control the entire known world, choking out the other, more magic dependent cities and towns.
Fill the world with magic, make it more common than normal, and then make the Peacekeepers a massive organization that has multiple divisions across the world that the PCs (Player Characters) have to shut down somehow for fear of losing all freedom in the world. Start in a smaller area, like one of the divisions and plan some quests that allow the PCs to overthrow the Peacekeepers somehow; like being released, planning a coup d'etat and getting recaptured so that it becomes an inside job. Then work your way into a larger scale if you wish and give the PCs some options as to which place they go to next to try and stop these evil doers.
Another good thing you could do is have all the Peacekeepers be brainwashed into believing that they are actually doing good for the world accept the leaders, who all know that they intend to take over the world.

I know that 4e makes heroes out of PCs almost immediately, but hopefully you like the idea.

Being a naturally honest and forthright person, "devious-ness" is hard for me to envision convincingly. This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for, and I hope there will be more as people springboard off each other. Thank you SS for the ideas, especially for a longer story arc.

Firstly, please start with THIS. There are also several other GUIDES linked in my sig.

Also, single syllable has a great idea, imagine it as a prototype for what would later be the technocracy. They are exactly what you are trying to write but aren't aware of.

Thank you for pointing me to those excellent resources. Very true about the Technocracy, so thank you for that tip. (Kind of Orwellian, isn't it?)

I have an alternate take.

The Peacekeepers began for a good reason. A very long time ago, there was a terrible, tragic war between two rival factions, both led by mages. Each was righteous in his own way, each had armies of mages and magical creatures wielding tons of magic all over the place as they pursued their war. It was so long ago that no one really remembers it, except as a distant cautionary tale about the corruption of power and the reason why They (the people who now live in the part occupied by the other side) are bad. Maybe give them distinct physical characteristic differences to make discrimination easier.

The Peacekeepers were originally the people who stopped the war. They weren't for or against either side, they were a group of people, heroes who realized that neither side was in the right (or wrong, for that matter), and the only way to stop the war was to kill the two mage leaders. Which they did. Although this was a victory, they watched as others, corrupted by their own power (in the Peacekeepers' opinions), tried to step up and continue the War.

As something of an overreaction, they indiscriminately killed hundreds of mages and magical creatures to make them stop. This was extreme and caused a backlash, which forced them underground. Committed to their cause, though, they persevered, and kept on with their goal: controlling magic.

Over time, the Peacekeepers mutated into a kind of cult religion, unsanctioned by any government. Some are zealots, others are lenient, most are in between. They take people who use magic because they honestly believe, with every fiber of their beings, that magic is dangerous, that it is a corrupting force only the strongest and most pure can resist. They release the ones they think might be able to hack it as a sort of test, forcing them on a quest path to prove they can handle the power.

Of course, every Peacekeeper believes he, himself, is righteous and can handle the power. This is why many of them use magic, and hold onto magic items and such.

I don't think that has to be another take at all... I think that's a perfect backdrop the technocracy idea, just my thoughts. Just needs a little fusing at the seams is all

In a good twist of the "cyber real" plot devices you could have ulterior motives for the Peacekeepers...such as fighting fire with fire, with no intent of keeping the weapons (the captured agents out on lottery) alive. This is done by giving them nigh-impossible assignments where they are most certainly not to return from.

Another motive could be the manufacturing of weapon-like agents who have survived these awful tests of might, like a secret weapon under their sleeve.

Just my two cents...but I'm all about the espionage and disbelief twists with sinister plans.

Dauphinous, Ruckus, both of you hit on some things that I had vaguely imagined, but lacked the knowledge/experience to flesh out. Thank you for your suggestions! This is all so very helpful.

I was merely giving broad examples that I've used in campaigns before. If you want to talk on a deeper scale of what can be done (e.g. further examples) to flesh out a scenario like that simply PM me. Perhaps I could give you a better example when I'm not rushing it. :P

Unfortunately if you ask for my input...I will most likely make the Peacekeepers out to be an awful organization that preys on the weak and is opportunistic at best. At worst...liches come to mind.


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