When designing/GMing an urban quest, it is easy to limit PC actions or access to specific areas or buildings. City guards, bandits, heavy locked doors and so on represent relevant obstacles to their actions, almost like other citizens. Therefore, in order to pursue some goal (obtain information, access a very restricted place, obtain a meeting with important authorities...) they have to be creative and face several problems.

However, when PCs reach high levels they have several means to easily overcome any common hindrance. What are the typical ways of managing high level PCs and prevent them from doing whatever they want without introducing too many high level NPCs (which are not ubiquitous and would seem out of context in some situations)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You ask "how", I ask "why"? The point of being high level is that you are powerful and are able to do stuff normal people are not. Why would you expect a dragonslayer to face the same problems than someone fresh out of the town guard? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega May 5 '17 at 10:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems too broad to me. What adventure/course/goal are you trying to obstruct them with, and why is it important that it's in an urban setting as opposed to any setting? Do you have a specific course in mind for this? \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 May 5 '17 at 10:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can this question be simplified to something like How can civilized folks inexpensively and reliably protect themselves from home invasions by high-level characters? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 5 '17 at 10:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd vote to re-open it phrased like that. Yes it is broad, but can also be answered in the same broad sense. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 5 '17 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain I am referring to an urban setting because it is a type of setting where you have a lot of interaction with people/institutions/laws. In general, my concern is the possibility that PCs can obtain what they want too easily, by overcoming the city rules and balance, and do whatever they want \$\endgroup\$ – firion May 5 '17 at 14:40

Witnesses ;)

Some PC barge into a house and takes whatever he wants, the man inside could try to stop him (but if the PC is well equipped, the guy may flee to the street requesting the guards to help him), the PCs can take whatever they want in the house, but they won't find much in the house of a commoner), they leave without hindrance.

Then you may put a lot in motion.

  • the guards may stop the PCs in the street asking them to follow them - they look like the described suspects
  • a bounty may be put on them, a bounty hunter usually strikes when least expected
  • the victim may recognise them later in the street crying "Guard! Guard!"
  • he may also recognise them in the tavern, creating a big brawl requiring the local guard to stop it, then... they have to defend themselves against the law

If the PCs hide behind their status, they may be warned that their behaviour may lead to dire consequences, or they may simply be sent on a very dangerous quest, hoping that they will never come back.

If your PCs kill the man right away, you may have other witness like children upstairs, a wife, some teens in the next room, in medieval times, family tends to have several offspring. Children run into streets disappearing rapidly, passing where a full armoured PC can't.

Even if the PCs leave no witnesses, even the beggar facing the house or at the corner in the street, the murder of an entire family is bound to attract attention and investigation.

They may have the means to wipe out the city, but there you can have a NPC teleport out to next city, warning them of their incoming doom. Congratulations, the PCs are persona non gratta in each city of the country.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Or, in more general terms - there is a "police force" that even the high-level characters have to respect, and therefore, leaving witnesses are a problem. The "police force" can be some national security organization that only ever manifests as a threat in your story, but never appears in person, which means you do not need to develop any NPCs for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonas May 5 '17 at 12:38

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