I'm a bit of an "on the fly" GM: in terms of writing a story, I prefer to sketch out the skeleton, and add flesh as the players move along the limbs. The quest to find the Plot Device, at the skeleton level, is intended to crown the adventure. Having arrived at the final stages of enfleshment, I am noticing some connecting ligaments on this body are perhaps not where they should be.
In the adventure I am running, the players have known about the missing Plot Device for some time, but haven't looked into it much. I haven't dropped many clues about it, and I think they've picked up on the general late-gameness of the quest for the Device - and there's been a lot of other plot threads to deal with in the meantime. However, out-of-session a PC has just breached the subject of the quest, and this will obviously result in a renewed focus on the objective. I'm realizing that I would have preferred the group to have a bit more information about it this late in the adventure.
So far, they have received three main clues. Another source of info could be the three NPCs that know its location.
- It's common knowledge that the Plot Device was lost in a wide wasteland.
- The players have also (unknowingly) seen an image of the location of the Device, although the image has since been incidentally captured with a trove of other archives as part of a larger raid by a traitor PC-turned-NPC, who similarly does not yet understand its significance. The image depicts an exponentially powerful energy source (note: the energy source is not the Device).
- The players have picked up something like an aircraft's black box from a failed expedition to find the Device.
- The BBEG, his partner, and his henchman all know where it is, but they really want to keep it there, and don't need to use it or visit it, so long as it stays put (which could conceivably be a concern, granted).
The fact that the Plot Device has been missing for years is a vital aspect of the world, so it is difficult to justify handing out clues to players who simply decide to do a bit of research or asking around. What's worse, the in-game expeditions have failed to find the Device for years, so this thing needs to be extremely hidden in order to preserve suspension of disbelief. But with no idea of where to start aside from an extremely large area of inhospitable territory, I fear that they'll assume it's just lost for good, and lose out on what I intended to be the bookend on a so-far thrilling adventure.
So: next session is coming up. Generally speaking, what kind of new clues could they find, that would not end up violating the premise that the Plot Device is Hide and Seek Champion of the World?