Framed for crimes they didn’t commit? And by last week’s evil twins no less? The injustice of it all!

I’m a particular fan of this trope. Not necessarily the wanted poster and the mistaken identity, but the sense of a pervasive antagonistic force arrayed against the party (in this case the city watch / mercenary companies / assorted bounty hunters). When you set up this kind of storyline, there’s always some kind of powerful organization or group opposing the Heroes, and they’ll have to band together to survive.

If you’ve ever done an escaped prisoners scenario, soldiers behind enemy lines, or an X-Men type superhero game (those mutant freaks have to be put down!) then you know how useful this kind of antagonist can be. It’s not just that something wants to murder the PCs. If an evil wizard is trying to kill you then you just kill him back, easy-peasy. But when it’s some large and amorphous force—a crime syndicate, the CIA, an entire hobgoblin army—then the PCs are facing more than a monster. They’re suddenly the underdogs fighting insurmountable odds. They’re desperate outcasts in a harsh and malevolent setting. The whole world is arrayed against them, and now they’ve got to defy that world. Sometimes, that is exactly what it takes to turn to PCs into heroes.

So how about it? Have you ever joined a gang of thieves trying to stay a step ahead of the watch? A pirate crew sailing against the whole of the royal navy? Perhaps a small band of resistance fighters pitted against a dystopian government? Sound off in the comments, and let’s hear about your favorite “pervasive antagonistic force.”