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The PCs are offered some land to build on/mine in for a high price, but in fact they lack the permit to do anything with it, as it's National Parkland/ royal land /owned by someone else/too close to where a fully grown dragon lives.
I have to second axlerowes. An absolute must-have go-to resource for the ol' GM's binder.
We've all been there. The PCs finally approach that giant super-city, and the GM can't wait to rob them blind. But which scam? That is the question. This here list offers 30 good ones!
43. I'm Not Sure How It's Done
This con usually involves a laborer who deliberately is doing a shoddy job at a task, making an obvious display of frustration and struggling to get it "right." Upon noticing their plight a sympathetic mark will usually be eager to show them how to "get it right the first time" and start doing the job for them.
The con itself comes when the trainee pretends to continually struggle at the task still not grasping the instruction, hoping for the "skilled teacher" to either finish the task while trying to show them how to do it, or getting fed up and doing it themselves as an example of "how easy this is."
When confronted with someone who seems as if they are about to walk away from assisting the con will often beg for help and site the painful unjust punishments that will await them if they don't finish the task on time in the correct manner.
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When done right this con can get an otherwise difficult (or boring) task done by another saving them the labor, while letting them keep the profit and gain the praise for doing the job. A skilled con will offer up a small portion of copper, (usually a fraction for the jobs actual pay) as "thanks" for saving from unemployment often claiming it to be the full payment for the job itself.
This is an incredibly useful 30s list. In fact, it will be my go-to resource as both a DM and as a player (when I want to earn a little extra dough as a rogue). The only suggestion I have for improvement would be to tack on a few more one-man cons, as most of these require several people to pull off. The added ideas by rwg are neat, and I hope to add to this list sometime in the future. Well done!
An expansion of #27 "Salting the Mine". See the the use of gemstones (link: The Great Diamond Hoax" of 1872.
An expansion of #20 "Prize Package Soap Sell Swindle". The well known swindler that made this con famous is known as link: Soapy Smith. Additionally, when brought up on charges (as related to me by my father) Mr. Smith offered to show the judge how his business worked and that it was legit. He produced a bar of his famous soap and when the judge, tearing open the wrapper, noticed it contained a $100 bill(a large sum at the time), he gaveled yelling, "case dismissed", while pocketing the bill and returning the soap.
An expansion of #6 "Horse Hustler". This could be done with any store owner that goes to his backroom, falls asleep, has to attend to a real or con emergency. Additionally, products for display outside of the store can be quickly 'sold' for dirt cheap by the con. A bit embarrassing when the proprietor demands to know why they are hauling off that piece of fine furniture.
An expansion of #18 "Melon Drop". Instead of an item it's a double jointed street urchin and your wagons wheels or horse just broke a child's leg or arm. The guardian is noticeably upset and demands money for medical, and to avoid calling the guards. Perhaps the boy or guardian is dressed in such a manner to indicate he is of nobility or of a fearsome religion, cult, clan or guild.
Some additional entries (with made up names)
32. Twice robbed
The PCs horse or vehicle is stolen during the night. The next morning it is returned with a note, or a street urchin relates the following but denies knowing the identity of who instructed him. The theft was unfortunately required due to the circumstances(GM can embellish with particulars such as wife fell suddenly ill as they were walking) as it was a life or death emergency. Profuse apologies as they have never had to do anything of this nature before and are too fearful, ashamed, or too high status to personally apologize. To offset the inconvenience, attached are valuable tickets(possibly forgeries?) for a grand ball, private showing of rare item, whorehouse event, or audience with nobility at a particular time. While the PCs are enjoying the free entertainment their place of stay is ransacked. Suspicious PCs may wonder how this individual knew how many tickets to proffer, assuming that was the case.
33. Shame on me (Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me)
A valuable item is stolen from the PCs. When word gets out that the PCS are looking to recover it a man appears offering information as to it’s whereabouts in exchange for monies. The man says he has handled the item and can detail features not described by the PCs to others. The fellow does not want to get involved and his identity must be kept secret. In addition for extra monies perhaps he reveals where the thief keeps his other bounty. He could further embellish his trustworthiness by adding how much he loathes or fears the thief, or how that thief is cutting into his territory, or not a guild member and if the PCs maim him or end his life he will reward them. Of course this fellow is the very same thief or an accomplice who slips away…again.
34. An antidote for your ills
A poison is introduced to one or all of the PCs perhaps the meals got switched and it was meant for another or it was intentional. None other near enough have the antidote except the one that offers it in exchange for your prize magical item. The poison could be real (causing death, strange ailments, simply an stomach upset or perhaps it's a placebo). Alternately, the PCs have a perceived limited time window in which to reclaim the antidote by other means leading to an adventure. An additional possibility is there are two providers of the antidote in town in collusion. The players are initially approached by a seedy individual who will sell then the antidote for a unreasonable sum or prized PC item. The players learn of the local friendly alchemist and pay a visit only to find his price is far more outrageous. He gives greater worry to the PCs verifying ‘independently’ that the poison is real and the PC indeed is affected and further refines the hideous effects it will have. Discouraged the PCs head back to the first contact only to discover he has apparently fled town. The clock is ticking…
35. The plant
An item be it playing cards, crooked dice, a money pouch, jewelry, scroll or whatnot is planted on the person or their effects and is soon discovered to the shock of all (some may be in on it and some are unaffiliated witnesses). A return of the ‘stolen’ item and a payoff to all so wronged is required or bodily harm/jail time shall ensue. Note that generally the con artists really won’t want guards or the authorities involved as they might be recognized or at least remembered limiting further opportunities in the town.
36. Sticky fingers
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A con artist my father related to me (no reference found on the web): A fellow who would rub a bit of honey in his reddish hair in the morning before setting out to work…as a gold assayer. As he handled the gold to be weighed from the miners he would slick back his hair or sooth the occasional itch on his scalp. Each night he would rinse out his golden locks.