I'm considering (first time) DM'ing "The Silvyr Tower" for a group. However I am not sure how to sell the starting situation to my players.
Summarizing the starting situation: the group is sent on a quest to retrieve a powerful staff. This staff can make the one that holds it wealthy and powerful. Upon completion of this quest, the party will be paid... 200GP.
200GP to stop yourself from becoming wealthy and powerful is not a good trade for even lawfully good adventures. (Consider how much good you could spread with that power!!!)
What stops the party from just taking the staff and becoming wealthy and powerful, essentially backstabbing the entity that sent them on the quest? Also in the context of the party being level 3, so not particularly noteworthy nor trustworthy. I can think of three reasons but I'm not very convinced by them:
The information the quest giver has about the possible location of the artefact is very untrustworthy, unlikely, possibly a trap, etc. So they dispatch a low-level team to investigate, with a very small chance that they will actually bring the artefact back. Low cost, high reward. Makes some sense, however if this really an all-powerful artefact, this might still be too high a risk: even if there's only a 1% chance of finding the artefact, you still don't want it to end up in some random adventurer's hands anyway.
One of the party members is somehow guaranteed to be honourable, e.g. the quest giver is a secret society of honourable wizards, and one of the party members is such a wizards. Feels unbelievable for a random adventurer to be in league with a secret society of wizards, but as unbelievable as fantasy stories can get, I guess this isn't too bad?
Family connection: one of the party members is a family member of the quest giver. E.g. the quest giver is a king or high-level wizard, and one of the party members is a sibling/niece/nephew/bastard/etc. Given that the relation between the two is not too sour (which could be a nice angle to shape the story anyhow) this could work well. But again it just feels a bit too unlikely.
Leave it unaddressed, and have the party running of with the artefact and wreaking havoc open as an actual direction for the story to go? I like this one the most, but then the quest giver looks a bit stupid. Surely they have thought about this?
The staff is not actually that powerful? Then why retrieve it?
My current favourite: the legends say the staff is not that powerful, but sufficiently powerful that a quest giver should dispatch a low-level team to try and acquire it. Then when the party finds it, it turns out to be (far?) more powerful. This makes it fun for the party, while also saving the quest giver's face for letting something so powerful fall in the hands of the adventurers.
So, while I see some solutions, 1 & 4 feels like a decision a smart & large organization wouldn't make, 2 & 3 feel too unlikely for me for a random adventuring party, and 5 is maybe a tad disappointing. Probably 5 & 6 are the way to go? Are there any reasons that I'm missing that feel less artificial and still provide an in-world reason for the party not to run off with the artefact?
FWIW, we're playing DND 5e in a vanilla fantasy world, but I'm happy to make big adjustments to that if it makes it more believable/consistent.