By the law they froze
The characters have to be in a land far north where there is a harsh and cold winter. They are now wandering a region wich is controlled by local Lords wich each have their own piece of land.
Walking along the road they see men hanging by rope in the leafless trees. Their faces bear the sign of their last hours of pain and agony. They are covered in iced water that has obviously been poured on them. Ahead on the road the party locates the reason. The local Lords Guard are hanging them up, pouring buckets of water on them. Hour after hour, until the slowly freeze to death.
The guards greet the heroes, they don’t seem troubled at all by their appearance. They seem friendly, and if asked they explain what is going on.
A local village on their lords land has of late refused the taxes. The lord sent his soldiers with the taxmen to enforce the law. They were met by resistance and open battle. This apparently angered the Lord greatly. He sent soldiers and mercenaries to burn down the village and capture the farmers for execution.
The guards don’t seem to be troubled at this task at all. The moan of many half dead people fill the cold air. Many grown men beg and cry, even as their tears freeze.
*If the players at this point show obvious disgust the guards do not seem to care.
Then a soldier steps forward. He asks the party where they come from and what their purpose in on the Lords land is. He says also that mercenaries are needed.
*The players notice a suddenly hostile attitude amongst the soldiers.
They are told that many villagers have hidden in the forest to the east. “They are trying to get the other villages to rebel also”, says the head-guard, “and we can have nothing of that”.
As the players are at the top of a small height they can consider the situation. There are ten guards around them. Six are occupied with pouring water on the “convicts”. The rest are standing around them, the leader being the nearest one. Ahead the path they see the burnt ruins of a village and a large pen full of peasants. This is being guarded by twenty guards. It’s a mile away.
In the forest there is a small band of armed rebels from another village. They watch the scene with dismay, but dare not attack alone. If they see battle on the hill where the heroes are they will rush the pen. Also there are civilians from other towns which are walking around performing tasks or travelling trough. These might be convinced to fight on the spot if they think they will live trough it. Depending on what the heroes do.
This is a plot that will set your players to a hard test, if they do the right thing there may be no reward and probably failure. If they do the wrong thing there will be a reward and the friendship of a ruler. But still, can the heroes ever forget all those faces of agony?
~The Non-Violence way~
Non-violence doesn’t just mean not doing violence; it’s also a way of taking positive action to resist oppression or bring about change.
The aim of non-violent conflict is to convert your opponent; to win over their mind and heart and persuade them that your point of view is right. An important element is often to make sure that the opponent is given a face-saving way of changing their mind. this might be important since no feudal lord, depending on the respect of the people intact, wants to loose face.
Non-violence has great appeal because it removes the illogicality of trying to make the world a less violent and more just place by using violence as a tool. After all, on the top off the feudal system of this region there might be a tired old lord that does not know what his generals are doing in his name. Let the Heroes seek him out, they might be able to make him understand what’s going on. If they get him alone.
Believe it or not, seen trough the eyes of the lord this sort of example and punishment is just.
Five conditions must be satisfied for a punishment to be considered just. They might or might not convince the players.
*The punishment must be for a just cause.
The lord knows that during a rebel like this, nobody works and thus food is not supplied to the people. A whole empire may be torn to pieces during rebels.
*The punishment must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority.
The lord himself.
*The intention behind the punishment must be good.
It’s all done in the best interest of the people.
*All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried first.
A Herald was sent to warn them. When his horse returned with a headless rider the matter was pretty much settled.
*There must be a reasonable chance of success.
There is, even more so with the heroes helping out.
If the heroes join with the lord they might have problems serving him and his generals in the Non-Violence way. They might try, and who knows this might just be the ticket out for everyone. But most likely they will have to beat, whip and battle scared farmers with pitchforks and knives. They would be commanded to preform brutal acts for money and a friendship which might pay off later.
The Straight Choices
*Will the heroes sign on the task as mercenaries and hunt down the “rebels” for gold?
*Will they sign on as mercenaries and later on try to double cross the guards?
*Will they battle these guards on the spot and hope for the best?
*Will they join up with this ruthless lord so that they can save their own hides and make some gold as well?
The fundament of this plot is the encounter which instantly sets the heroes in a tight spot and a moral choice. You as the GM of this game will only need those basics to get started. I am sure that your game will run itself once you have triggered the basics. The rest is to provide you with some hooks and ideas around the subject on which the plot focus on. In addition there are some nice idea expanding comments below.
Good luck, Mike.