...for a Storyteller to do to Her Gamers.
Please, take into account that this means 'top ten things that would make the story THAT much juicier.' Or eve, 'top ten things that will really send the characters out of their element to see if they can adapt and change like real people.' These are not necessarily NICE things. Be warned.
Yes, I have been known to do these things on occasion.
10.) Dump a rediculous sum of money in their laps.
They will either a.) flaunt it, spend it everywhere, make bad decisions, drink ale, have sex, do illegal things and then eventually be broke, or; b.) they will be come the most frightening things int he game. Experienced, and well financed adventurers who can buy pretty much anything they want. Daunting and unfortunate. This can help to pull into focus the character's flaws - how greedy are they? Or perhaps, it can alight on how charitable they are. These small details make a character truly real.
9.) Introduce them to a really cool NPC [non-player character. i.e. one that I make up.]
This can go down any number of ways. I have experienced my players instant attachment to them, and I have also seen them immediately attempt to dispatch, destroy, lose, or ditch said character. In any case, t his character should be side-plot specific, with lots of fun history to explore, and really REALLY useful tricks up their sleeves. This will inevitably make them invaluable to the players, as well as endear the characters to them. It can also explore character development in regards to friendships.
8.) Give them a fun pet.
Most of the times this would be a horse - useful and practical, able to carry them and their scant belongings. it also increases their travel time, which is very important so as to keep the interest of your players. You can still keep the realism of travel time as long as you assure them that every moment of every day will NOT have to be played out. But back tot he point - give them a pet. How they treat that pet will also give the story teller a very good idea of what kind of character they are - and perhaps what soft spots they have.
7.) Make them stumble upon a curious item.
This can be used as a plot hook, a device to further your own storyline, or some sort of golden thread to lead the players to whichever direction you chose. This can be a golden scepter, a small wooden music box, a book, a quill set, a molten and damaged statuette, a cloak, a shoe, a cannonball, anything you can think of. Just give it a touch of significance, and they will take it and most likely run. (This is especially funny when you give them something sharp.) This will reveal to you some of their inner workings. Will they try to pawn it imemdiately? Will they ask others about it? Will they obssess about it? Will they totally ignore it?
6.) Introduce the misfortune of a Player's NPC.
many players will come up with their own back-story. This means they have created their own relationships between the character and their family and close friends. You, as the storyteller, can do with these as you will. One thing that will trigger a variety of juicy and heart-wrenching responses is to kill one of these side-characters off. And if you aren't as cold hearted as I, simply injur them. Perhaps kidknap them! Or have them run out of town! This can also spark a sense of obligation in your character, which can then be used to fuel the story-line you have taken ages to create.
5.) Introduce a Villain.
One would think this would have been earlier on - but I like to make my players wait for their villain. I let them hear snippets of them, sneak a bit of information in here and there, and then I like to slap it on them as hard as I can. it is this power of surprise that keeps your players interested! Anyway - Villains are delicate work. You must be very cautious to keep yourself as a person as far away from this character as possible. Not only may it effect your general mental health, having to pretend to be this raging psychotic - but you may lose a great deal of fun if you get too lost in those darker, mor eunfriendly urges. In other news, Villains can cause a group to band together - or split appart. This is a good time to see how united your players are, and how genuine it seems to be.
4.) Place restrictions on character creation. :)
This is not a frequent flier in my book, but I do like to tip the tables away from the players every now and again. Most recently, my stipulation was HUMANS ONLY. It strips away the possibiity for any one character to be more powerful than the other. It keeps them on level ground from the get go, at least in regards to getting struck by lightning or assassinated. This will also give the story teller a nice foreboding on the character's goals and ambitions. It will give the players the chance to build those as they explore the options of what they can become.
5.) Random Acts of Natural Catastrophe.
A tornado. Hurricane. Storm at sea. Flood. Drought. Famine. Earthquake. Hailstorm. Snow. Blizzards. Icey rain. Monsoon. Tidal waves! Your players will have no choice but to react - none can control the unadultered power of the Earth in all it's fury! This will give you a glimpse as to the player's panic-points. what happens to them if they have no options? How good of a sport ARE they in dire situations? And their characters?
4.) Take them to New Lands.
Pick them up and take them to a fresh page in your imagination. Draw up secret maps. Knock the characters unconscious, and have them wake up in the middle of no where, without a clue as to where they are going. See which one becomes the party leader, and pick out ways that you could bring him down. Does he care for his companions, or is he using them? Does he fear these circumstances or revel int he challenge? The barrier presented by language differences AND cultural differences is SO FUN to play. Nothing like yacking in gibbeldy-goop to your players and watching their faces screw up in confusion. Love it.
3.) Put them in a Risque Brothel.
...Oh come on, that's just funny.
2.) Kill the afore-mentioned Cool NPC.
This has to be done after a great deal of interaction, after the players have become accustomed to his/her presence. They must realize that the character is away, and when they discover what happened to said NPC... what happens next? Do they swear vengeance against the fiend that had slain them? Or do they hoold vigils all night without eating or sleeping? This can also let you see if they, the players, liked your character to begin with. it is inevitable - one cannot truly separate yourself from your character, and if the player liked him/her, then the character somewhere, will appreciate him/her.
1.) Whatever you gave them? Take it away.
This is where my players usually say I'm mean. In more colorful terms, hehehe. That large sum of money you had? Mine now. That item that glowed blue sometimes, that you were oments from figuring out? Oh, that's mine too. How about your pet? whoops, look at me taking your stuff! Fling them into action by a violent and abrupt means and it will force your players to react faster. Enforting turn length also helps, but don't be a pain. If they had a clever one liner ... lined up... they should be able to say it. But try to keep it fresh. Take the item/person/idea in a vio,lent means, and you will be met with violence. In a stealthy means, perhaps they will brood. But either way, the players may or may not reveal how comfortable they are with each other through out play.
My eyes are starting to close, unforutnately. My sincerest apologies.
I hope that was the tiniest bit entertaining! Adios amigos!
ps - spell check is So not happening right now.