Wednesday, February 26, 2020

20 Roleplaying "Cold Opens"

[1] The accommodation ray is wearing off. You can feel the new skin membrane between your arms and legs getting thinner by the second; you will soon lose the ability to glide. You're at the top of a one hundred foot tree on the alien planet, and night is falling. You're over a mile away from your outpost, and on this planet the night gets so cold as to crystallize the trees here solid. Only through evolution have they survived this process each night. To a cold blooded reptiliod from a warm desert planet like yourself? Not a chance.

[2] The Undead are breaking through the windows. Gunshots ring out. The glass is cutting into your wrists, but you know the living are right on the other side. Just behind you in the midst of your hoard you can feel your undead queen; she's deeply pregnant with her next brood. You want to eat flesh, but giving the brains of your next victim to her will ensure her progny can read the chalk markings on the walls the survivors lead, they may learn to open doors and use firearms too. They are the next generation of the living dead. Fight and feed your queen.

[3] The Black-Iron Castle has been lost for centuries, and you are on its peak. You and your fellow treasure hunters are pinned down by a gattling gun fired from the blackhawk helicopter- the rival mercenaries seeking to take the castle's loot before you do. On the top of the castle is an iron ballista; it was good enough to kill dragon's in the middle ages, but can it pierce the metal skin of a blackhawk? You see three harpoons left; make them count.

[4] You're all on the back of an elephant, hunting religious extremists in rural India. You wade through 8 ft high grass, and see the rustling of movement below. You clutch your spear close; those shapes are too low to the ground and heavy to be humans. It can only mean one thing; Tigers. Man-Eaters.

[5] You are all men in your late teenage years. You are in a muddy trench, up to your knees in bloody mud shit-water. You hold identical rifles with silver runes on the side; you can only hope they are enchanted enough to harm your foes. You hear the sound of a machine roaring, and the screams of the innocent people trapped inside its broiler to power the infernal device. The tank is about to roll over your position- you can stay and be entombed, or go over and face the machine gun fire.

[6] Get every player around the table to say one “The Animal goes X” based on its sound. Cow goes moo, duck goes quack, cat goes meow, and so on. Once that is finished, everybody plays as the animal they impersonated wearing a cheap tie- all of you are on stage in front of a hundred microphones each; a flurry of questions are coming your way. Which one of you will win the election and become the next President of the United States?

[7] Select one player at random. They are currently holding a baby over the still water basin at the baptism. Tentacles slide from its fake skin and wrap around their arms and hands. The windows outside the church shift and show the sky as though a million miles from Earth. The civil war veterans in their chairs start to jump up and gyrate, calling upon their outsider god to devour your essence. You roll your eyes- this is the third time this has happened this year. Each player must roll to see how quickly they can pull out their Edison-Tech Volt Guns and vaporize these star spawn.

[8] Select one player at random. Their character's tongue is deep inside the mouth of a heavyset 6'3 fat guy wearing bright yellow spandex. They're the girlfriend character cheating on their “lover”, a separate wrestler, who is just now coming onto the stage. The other players are the girl's family members watching her performance up on stage. The twist is all of them know this is just an act, wrestling is just a reality show masquerading as a sport after all, but the wrestlers do not know that, and in fact they think it's very real. The spurned simpleton boyfriend is frothing at the mouth in rage, and he looks about ready to kill everyone up on that ring.

[9] Select one player at random. Their character just drank down a shot of the special purple ghost-liquor, which inflicts drunkenness instantly. Beyond flopping around in their chair, another character get slid a note from some faceless flapper in the crowd. Reading it makes their blood freeze; somebody in the speakeasy knows the party are federal agents.

[10] All of you are elves. You each carry a dying willow branch; you're hundreds of miles from the nearest sacred tree, much less entire grove, that could heal your injuries. Each player rolls a 1d6 to determine where and how severe they have a wound- 6 means the head and you're stumbling around. You each carry 2d4 White Arrows, after which you will be defenseless. All of you dying, and just as you cross over a red desert ridge you see an orc patrol headed your direction.

[11] All of you just died. You were on a bus headed to Toronto, and it had fallen off a bridge into the arctic ice. All of you are still freezing cold and scratched up, since you have no yet been given bodies by the Lord God himself to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You stand before Saint Peter, holder to the keys of the kingdom- who checks his records. Turns out, all of you got mixed up with a bus full of cartel members guilty of horrible crimes. You're destined for hell. You see the smug cartel guys just behind you in line, giddy to get let in the pearly gates.

[12] You're all working at the Twinkie factory. Each player has a different job- there is a line worker filling pastries with custard, an accountant walking past with a clipboard, a janitor, an engineer fixing a machine. Each of you lock eyes for a moment- you know the Worker's Revolution begins now. The DM will describe the surroundings around each character round robin style, detailing the possible weapons. The Line-Worker has a pastry filler that could fill a punctured lung with white cream; the janitor has access to chemicals that could burn off a face; etc. As soon as one is used, all hell breaks loose.

[13] You're all tweakers in a seedy apartment complex. Each of you is addicted to a different drug; when you're on your drug, you get super human abilities in that aspect. The adderal pill-popper can think through complex math and technical problems in seconds, the cocaine addict moves hyper fast, the heroine junkie can ignore pain and tank blows, etc. You just shot and killed your dealer, and each gains 1d4+1 doses of your favorite drug. After you each roll your new finds, you hear a groan as he starts getting up, the aching hole in his head where you can see through his brain not slowing him down in the slightest.

[14] Each player picks their favorite color. If two players have the same favorite color, get specific with the shades and tones of the color so each has a distinct one. Then, each player-character finds themselves trapped in a box of that color, they are all ghosts trapped in paintings of solid color of their favorite color- the anchor that binds you to his realm. Each one feels what the painting feels. The last guests trickle in at 10 minutes until closing and all of you know that the fire that's about to engulf this place tonight will rend your souls to ash.

[15] Everybody is lost up in the mountains, climbing on slippery footfalls and precarious ledges. Each character is holding one ancient Mesopotamian artifact, which buzz with ancient energies. The first one to get broken will bring the wrath of that God upon the party- a swarm of locusts or blood drinking bats, an eclipse to hide your path, fires rising from the Earth, such punishments will befall you depending on which God is broken. The other God statues can be sated to give their protection from the curses or to bypass gaps too big to jump safely, but only by giving up 1d6 hit points worth of blood. Everyone in the party is a healthy adult with 2d6 hit points. Good luck.

[16] You're all lost in a hedge maze. Each of you holds a small remote control with a big red button, all identical. Pressing the buttons makes some walls sink, some walls rise, some make mechanical clicks that activate or turn off the traps around the place. You know what each one of yours does- you've experimented with them and know about the 30 second delay between each remote working to allow another one to be pressed. It's just then you hear the Minotaur coming. You trip and fall on each other, and your remotes all end up in an identical pile at your feet, scrambled together.

[17] The fire snaps at your heels. Each player rolls a 1d8 to determine what floor of the hotel they are on. Everyone above the first floor must try to get to a clear stairway, go to the roof to wait for rescue, or jump out a window to get safe. Each player also rolls a 1d8 to determine how powerful their psionic abilities are; with an 8 being able to beat back the fire for a moment, and a 1 only giving vague hints of future events not relevant to this situation. Everyone with a psychic power rating of at least 4 can communicate with each other. The faces in the fires snap and cackle at you, jumping from furniture to carpet to door, trying to cut off your escape routes.

[18] Each player takes control of a single girl in the sultan's grand harem. You have weapons stowed away in the rare occasions they are necessary; one has a shiv, the other a blackjack, the third a poison berry, the fourth a wand with one charge, the fifth a hidden mini-crossbow with a single bolt, etc. One night while preparing to kill the brutish sultan, you hear a window of the palace get knocked open. The guard in the room is dead. Somebody else is creeping through the halls.

[19] You're a group of hikers in the woods. You hear the cube before you see it, the dull hum like a jet engine through one hundred thousand layers of fabric. The muffled noise can be heard clearer when you step to the edge of the pond. Each character sees it as a different color. It's slowly spinning in place, and when the angles are right in all directions the cube stops rotating and starts moving towards the shoreline. The side of it closest to you all starts to open up.

[20] You're all detectives. Roll up your characters be deciding what donuts you eat from an assorted box. You're investigating a murder scene when the corpse's dismembered head starts rolling on the ground. Before any of you can react, it rolls down the stairs into the dark basement.


  1. came here from Galisant, excellent list. got to lol at addicts shooting their dealer, very much not junkie behavior