Impractical Applications (Plotting a Frame)

 My riffs on frame-up plots had their origin in some time I spent hanging out with one of my friends. He’d been looking for something to do with his players in the second arc of a somewhat political game, so I’d offered to play muse. All he had as the backbone of an idea was the noble house his PCs worked for being framed for collusion with enemies of the local government.

We discovered quickly that the problem would be finding something the characters could actually do something about, but that they wouldn’t be beaten to by the NPCs. Finding ways to blame the PCs’ employers for anything, or come up with things that they could be blamed for? Pretty easy. Avoiding the NPCs beating them to the conclusion also wasn’t quite as hard as it could have been, since most of the local law enforcement simply wouldn’t care, leaving only the House to compete with them in that respect. I’d toyed at one point with the idea of just being Material Witnesses That Had A Connection To The Local Law Enforcement, but that involved a convoluted run of people chasing each other out into the desert, so… not so much. We got about as far as a traitor in the group’s employers’ House, and then got stuck.

But then we looked at what this group was capable of. Most of the specifications were kind of vague, but one specialty stood out: research. Whatever we were to do, giving them the option to throw a night at the library at it might help. Obscure trivia would be a bonus.

Which, in turn, got us to “sneaking magic plants into the friendly NPC’s bags” as a framing device. It gave us something that the local law enforcement would consider suspicious (unauthorized magic being something of a legal kick me sign), and more importantly, we could come up with a way for the group to trace it backwards, should they want to. The party being an amoral group in an amoral universe, this was more a precaution than a requirement; we also set them up with options should they try to just bribe the issue into nonexistence.
The tracking means we chose was pollen, shed from the branch—and that was where the obscure trivia came in. The pollen, on its own, would look like any of a number of pollen-based spices. On the other hand, if it came in contact with blood of any sort, it would send up vines—an obscure fact, and thus one that played to the group’s unique strengths. They’d be on the traitor’s trail because they’d seen him, and the knowledge would let them prove that the dust in his drawer is pollen and not saffron or turmeric or any of a number of yellow powders.

Whether this will end up being used, players being players, I don’t know, but the design process was quite enjoyable.

Leave a Reply