Last weekend, I had the honor and privilege of being one of the groomsmen in my cousin's wedding. What a grand event it was, too! Plenty of new faces to get acquainted with. Myriad handshakes. Great food. Good booze. Loud music. A general party atmosphere, and at the end of it all I have a much larger family!
I also got a little behind the scenes view of the planning and pitfalls leading up to the event. Coordination. Timing. Scheduling. Human error. It all played out like a train wreck all the way up until 'go' time. While I was meandering about the location for this joyous event, the nerd in me decided to do what I do best; take an innocuous event and turn it into an exercise in absurdity. To all you GMs out there, I started thinking about how I could turn this into event at a game table.
Yes, that's right. I'm enough of a nerd to turn an event like this into a scene in a tabletop RPG, or a movie, or whatever media I think would fit. Doesn't take much for me to brainstorm. How could you not? It's a large location, with numerous rooms. There are plenty of people milling about. There's a lot of stuff going on. Tons of room for things to go on amidst the confusion. Add in a pinch of imagination and you have a scene building itself in no time.
Let's take a look at this as an encounter from the ground up. As I said previously, there are a lot of people running around and it's easy to bluff your way around the place. Half of the people don't know the other half. Lots of people are scrambling around making sure things are the way they should be, or trying to find out what way that is. There are flocks of staffers who don't know who to be taking orders from. Good use of social skills can get you anywhere. A little bit of Disguise or Bluff and you're golden.
What about violence? Almost every game has that one guy who wants a fight, right? Not hard to deal with. If you check the weapons at the door, and emphasize the non-lethal-ness of the situation, you can set yourself up for a decent brawl. How? Every family has it's feuds. There's more than likely a bar. There's your gas can and matches right there. That's just the invited guests. Not to mention people who got snubbed on the guest list. Party-crashers can always be used to liven up a dull event. Maybe you're saving the happy couple from bandits or assassins, or maybe the cake is a mimic. (Oh, what a lie!)
What about objectives? What are the PCs here to do? As stated already, maybe the bride and groom are VIPs the group is bodyguarding. What about another important guest? Or maybe the opposite: the PCs are the assassins. The father of the bride may be the Big Bad Evil Guy, or even the groom. Maybe the marriage is politically driven and may end up tearing up other alliances. Heck, there might just be a bomb or something set to go off once the wedding march hit's the last three notes. There's no end to the scenarios that could be done with an event like this.
Don't get me wrong. I love action scenes in games. I love my big action set pieces. I love grand adventure. On the other hand, some people like the more social climate and can't get enough intrigue. Making encounters out of simple (or elaborate) social events can give the action a break, and allow for the socially inclined characters to show their moves. It doesn't even have to be as grand as a wedding. Any social event, for any reason, works. Thieves also may find plenty of marks amongst the crowd or even back in the kitchens. Bards and Wizards may even be able to garner some tips while amusing the guests.
If you are feeling especially brave and want to provide a breather between epic quests, go comedic. Spend a session detailing the pratfalls of your PCs having a good ol' time at some poor noble's expense. Who wouldn't want to see the PCs stir up some trouble and end up with the ruling class dueling with fish over some imagined slight against their daughter's honor? All the while the bad guy slips out of sight after poisoning a key official... Just because the tone went silly for a session doesn't mean the plot doesn't move. Have fun with it!
As the title states, art imitates life. I thought of most of this just wandering around with nothing better to do while the bride got dressed and the wedding coordinator ran around in circles. You can likely turn any boring, ordinary day into fodder for adventure. Your extraordinary, once in a blue moon days work even better. If you keep brainstorming, plot just happens.
Party on, and Stay Classy!