100 Interesting Background Events for a Major City

One hundred urban events that might involve the players, or they might not. These events will happen within a major city regardless of player involvement. They could play an active roll in the event, or simply hear about it after it happens.

1An assassination plot is underway to take out the leader of the [City Guild]. It takes place in [1d10+2] days.
2The city's [Government Official] was just murdered by a political rival. This won't be discovered for [1d10+2] days.
3Goblins have been tunneling under the city walls for decades in preparation for a massive invasion. Nobody has noticed the sunken ground over their tunnels yet, but the invasion attempt is set to take place [3d20+10] days from now.
4The largest brothel in the city is currently holding a 'the best lover in the land' competition. It's the first one ever, and people are talking about it all around town.
5The city's annual combat tournament begins in [1d6+2] days. Anyone may enter, but no weapons of any kind or spells are allowed. It is held in a dirt floor arena behind the market square.
6The city economy is tanking. This is evidenced by more than the usual number of vagrants, and unhappy residents all around. A riot in the city center will take place in [1d4+2] days. Flyers for a 'demonstration' can be seen all around.
7Every Friday in the city merchants slash their prices by 25%. People who live in the city depend on this, and thus the only folks really shopping during the week are outsiders.
8The King will die from apparent natural causes in [1d6+3] days. The actual cause will be the effects of long term poisoning by his wife.
9The circus comes to town in [1d6+2] days. It will show up unannounced outside the city walls. The circus is going to use magic to pickpocket everyone who attends and then disappear into thin air.
10A building the players visit will burn to the ground in [1d3] days. [1d6+1] adjacent buildings will also perish in the towering inferno. Everyone burns to death unless the players intervene.
11The confirmation of the city's new Ambassador happens in [1d4+1] days. It will draw huge crowds, and pickpockets.
12A blood red moon will take place in [1d3+1] days.
13The Festival of [Noun] occurs in [1d20+2] days. The city is abuzz about it.
14A monthly group of traders are arriving in the city. They bring with them strange and exotic wares from surrounding cities and lands.
15A group of adventurers are causing chaos in the town. The guards are alert and put on edge due to them. The PCs can stop them for a hefty reward.
16Some miscreant has opened the city’s aviary, and now there’s a storm of birds all around the city so thick it is disturbing market business city-wide.
17A man proclaiming to be a prophet of a deity is going around the town doing “miracles.” In reality he’s just a powerful [mage/sorcerer/warlock] looking for a following, but his magic is having unintended consequences.
18A caravan heading for the city will be ambushed and robbed in [x] days. If it's not stopped, there will be various supply shortages within the city.
19A prisoner will break out of jail in [x] days. If not stopped or captured this criminal will go on a crime spree. 1-2 burglary / 3-4 mugging / 5-6 murder
20A related group of (guilds, merchants, nobles) will be robbed in [x] days
21A specific (guild, house, merchant, museum, noble) will be robbed in [x] days
22In [x] days, an estate auction takes place. The deceased was an (1. alchemist / 2. artificer / 3. collector of the unusual / 4. ex-adventurer / 5. explorer / 6. inventor, mage)
23In [x] days, a delegation of diplomats (nearby realm, distant realm, race) passes through the city on their way to the capital.
24In [x] days, a herd of animals (cows, goats, pigs, sheep) escapes from the market and runs amuck in the city. If not stopped, random animal event for 1d6 days, every few hours roll 1-2 amusing animal mischief, 3-4 injury caused by animal, 5-6 property damage caused by animal.
25In [x] days, pilgrims arrive in the city on their journey to 'x'
26In [x] days, a traveling merchant passes through the city. He or she sells things that are not commonly available in the city.
27There is billowing smoke in the distance, but if investigated, there is no fire. Instead, an alchemist has gotten a little too eager and mixed dangerous chemicals. He's still inside the shop where the smoke is billowing from, and will die if not rescued...
28The alleged leader of the local thieves' guild has finally been caught, and being made a public example of... though he insists it's a case of mistaken identity.
29There's a nasty illness going around the city. Lately, more and more are falling ill. It's nothing terrible, and few actually die, but there's murmurs of it having an unnatural source...
30An incredibly rich businessman is giving away all of his wealth. Citizens are wondering what could cause him to have such a change of heart.
31People are going missing in the poorer districts of the city. Whispers abound of a man-sized beast that drags people off in the night...
32The mayor has fallen quite ill. Crowds are leaving flowers at his home hoping for a healthy recovery, but the outlook is not great...
33A priest is trying to get a mob going by preaching loudly in the streets, but he keeps getting chased from one gathering to the next by the city guard. He preaches the power of the people and is aiming to cause a city wide riot. This will take [2d10] days to get going and the players will find his sermons a couple times as the crowds gradually grow in size and malcontent.
34The thieves guild is stealing from estate sales. They find rich, recently dead posh folks and drop by at auctions and property sales. They seem to be nabbing a lot of nick-knacks and low value magic items, but nobody can figure out why. In reality, they are searching for a puzzle cube that had been divided up long ago by a bunch of old society adventurers. When put together, it reveals a dungeon rumored to be rife with riches.
35An orb at the top of the mage's tower has begun to glow brightly. It seems harmless for now but people are beginning to get spooked. A mob will form and attack the tower in [x] days.
36The heir to the crown has been injured in a hunting accident and it is said that he may be near death.
37A local healer is suspected of consorting with demons. She is due to be burned at the stake in [x] days.
38A local priest has miraculously saved the life of a child. A feast is being held in his honor tomorrow night.
39Two rival thieves guilds are ramping up a dispute over territory and innocent shop owners are being squeezed by both sides.
40The Field-Marshall Captain of the Guard has just died. The position of the successor is unclear. Crime and Military Threats to the Peace are increasing in frequency by the day.
41The ruler has or will soon have an arranged marriage, the new spouse arrives in 1d4 days under a cloud of some controversy, but with much pomp and ceremony.
42A tax collector went rogue, and abused their power in a public fashion by killing a shop owner that failed to pay. The public is out looking for him seeking fevered vigilante justice.
43The price of grain is being manipulated by a consortium of importers. The poor suffer, and the hungry are swelling in the streets.
44A gate in the city wall has been poorly maintained for years. This failure in the kingdom's defenses has not gone unnoticed, and in 1d6+2 days raiders will arrive to take anything they can get their hands on. It will be bloody.
45A madman just claimed to have poisoned one or more of the wells in the city; Panic is beginning to grip the populace.
46A young ward of the [prominent noble] has developed an extreme interest in a fad that is gripping the youth recently. This public embarrassment has gone on long enough now that it has been decided: actions must be taken.
47A love triangle has gone awry amongst two members of the royal court. One of the lovers has secrets that could embarrass the monarchy at best, or be used for purposes of blackmail at worst. Some of those secrets have already been whispered in the streets, and it's only a short time before bigger ones leak out too. Dangerous ones.
48The King flagrantly wastes taxes in a visibly corrupt scheme to make the royal quarters even more lavish. The populace decides to do something about it over the coming week, and tensions are already starting to simmer in the streets.
49The Guards have been stopping and inspecting all outbound cargo, for some reason. It is putting a real strain on shipments and clogging up the traffic. In reality, the thieves guild managed to steal a precious magical artifact from the Supreme Wizard during an epic heist. Trouble is, they can't get it out of the city now with all the heat.
50A terrorist has unleashed a Discord Bottle in the middle of a local wedding. There were many casualties, and even the bride and groom both attempted to kill each other. This has happened at least once before, recently, and it has people on edge- leery of outsiders.
51There's a crazed monster on the loose, that likes to run across rooftops and jump on folks in the dead of night, or so the rumors say. Rumor or not- the city guard is imposing a curfew tonight: nobody in the streets after dark.
52A major counterfeiting operation gets uncovered in 1d4+1 days. There's a chance that it was operating undetected for months, and a significant amount of fools gold and silver coins entered the local economy. Penalties for re-circulating the fake money are very harsh. (10% of player gold gained in the last two sessions turns out to be phony).
53There's been a real crackdown on Vice in the city, and alcohol was outlawed last month! Bootleg can still be found, but only under heavy secrecy and for high dollar.
54Whispers are everywhere about an impending fisherman's strike. After a string of fatalities due to deliberately unsafe working conditions, the city's workers are fed up and are calling for economic democracy. If the players can't help somehow, rioting starts in 2d6+1 days.
55Tenants in the city's largest housing block are gathering together for a rent strike to oppose unsafe conditions and their landlord's continued abuse of power. The landlord owns a fleet of merchant ships and is threatening to not sell necessary medicine and food to renters who participate in the protest. It's getting ugly.
56A cave-in is about to occur in 1d8+2 days in the middle of the town’s market. The town has only the resources to begin picking up the pieces, not investigate the cave-in just yet, leaving the PCs free to explore.
57A royal child is about to be born in 1d20+5 days, and rumor has it the child is not the king’s...
58A ship arrives at port, but no one is on the ship...
59The firstborn children of each of the town’s council members show up dead in front of the temple in 1d6+3 days. The arraignment of the bodies appears to be a failed attempt at some kind of ritual.
60The town’s water supply is draining slowly, and no one knows why. In 1d6+2 days, humongous roots sprout from the ground and twist through the buildings, causing havoc and massive infrastructure damage. In reality, this was caused by a local Secret Society, and only they can undo what they have unleashed.
61A druid wanders into the city every few days with his companion. He is convinced that someone is opening a portal to the abyss and bringing death to his nearby grove... but it's only being affected by actual pollution from the city itself.
62An arsonist is in town. The town guard is investigating but so far haven't let on that they have any leads. Every [1d6+2] days a new fire is started. (Amp this up by having the fires be places the PCs have visited...)
63The city's graveyard has a hidden cryptid, and if not found, an occultist group of merchants will make a citizen disappear every [1d4] days. After [1d10+10] people are missing, a bigger event happens. [1. Zombie outbreak 2. Ancient evil back to life 3. Random wild magic surges happens 4. Various people lose memory of the recent missing ones]
64The wishing ponds in the city overflow slightly every day, and in [1d4+2] days the coins that were there rain down in the city (causing some injuries and some lucky people getting some money).
65The town guard are busy putting around posters of a missing kid. If the PCs look into it [2d4] days, the child can be found alive, buried in the graveyard. Otherwise, the child is later found dead in the grave by the city guard with scratch marks on the inside of the coffin. In either case, suspicions arise over who deliberately buried this child, and why...
66All the cats in town start to use the market as a litter box. After [1d20] days, an epidemic of a strange disease starts that makes merchants get sick enough that they begin closing down the economy. After the disease spreads, the PCs will find no shops open.
67The Princess is facing an arranged marriage to a nearby kingdom's Prince, but it has been rumored she's been in a relationship with a local bard commoner for some time & some folks at Court & in the street are speculating that they plan to run away before the wedding, which is to happen in 1 week. That is EXACTLY what they plan to do. They want help getting out of town unseen, while the King would handsomely reward someone who stopped this plot.
68A local cult is sacrificing beggars in fiendish rituals down in the sewers at night, then by day is serving the flesh to the populace via a tavern they own. As the days go on, more and more people can be seen glassy-eyed and dreamy, with fresh tattoos depicting the cult's symbol. In 2d20 days, the cult's new army will make an attempt on the King's life.
69In 2d6 days, there will be an extravagant parade through the city. Everyone in the city seems bristling with anticipation!
70A dust storm is coming tomorrow that will last 1d4+1 days. It reduces visibility in the streets to 20 feet, and forces all the vendors outside to shut down.
71It becomes unseasonably cold tomorrow, and each day it just keeps. Getting. Colder. The wizard's tower is the first place to freeze solid with ice that seems to be emanating outward from it, and no-one has seen the wizard since the cold snap began...
72A royal baby was born just before the PCs arrived, and the town is decorated with millions of beautiful flowers. The public is antsy for news of the new arrival and hopes to see the little one soon.
73Tonight as the PCs sleep, the city guard will begin rounding up all [Background]s for interrogation. (Acolytes, sages, outlanders, soldiers, etc). They received intelligence that the local secret society has been using [Background]s to further their goals, and the King is ready to take drastic measures to ensure their plans fail.
74Rats are getting out of hand- they are EVERYWHERE. The people can hardly sleep with all the movement and scratching, and beggars in the streets are starting to look diseased. In 1d10 days, a druid shows up claiming to be able to rid the city of rats, but his true intentions are much more sinister.
75Another rich nobleman has turned up dead today and his young wife is inheriting all of his wealth. The odd thing is this is the third time she’s been widowed and always to wealthy men in the city. Her latest husband’s son is seeking to hire someone to search for evidence of foul play on her part.
76A famous healer is coming to town and the whole community is obsessed with him because of everyone he’s helped. He is only in it for the money, but nobody can convince the public of that- they absolutely love the guy.
77[1d6] days ago a meteorite hit just outside the city walls, and people have been trying hard to get valuable pieces of the meteorite to sell off but the biggest piece of all was mysteriously taken. Everyone in town is on the lookout for it, even the city guardsmen.
78The Prince is NOT the son of the King. This will come to light in [1d4] days, at which time the King will call for the public execution of the beloved Queen. The public will be devastated if she is actually killed.
79It's the day of the Inventor's Faire, which goes on for [2d4] days. Artificers will come from near and far to show off, win awards, and make some sales. Mishaps and explosions are discouraged, but expected by the public.
80It's the City-wide Bake off! Rival bakers come to test their baking skills. Cookies and sweets are abound.
81The annual lantern festival, 'Night of a Thousand Lights', is happening! At midnight, citizens gather to light mini lanterns that float up into the sky. The old timers recant how the lanterns are to lead missing travelers and long lost loved ones home.
82It's the annual Mimic festival! This city actually enjoys Mimics for their versatility and celebrates by letting them be in their natural form and feed them a feast!
83Holes (5-10 ft radius, 3-6 ft deep) have been appearing around the city since [1d6+2] days ago, causing traffic problems and some house damage. There’s a 10% chance that a hole will appear below where the party is resting, waking them up.
84A clear Druid message has appeared in the sky, something all people can see, but no one knows its meaning. The message disappears after [1d4] days, when the secret battle between two different druid circles ends, leaving only neutral sentient plants outside the city.
85Somebody has written and spread around the city a harsh truth about some guards who failed in protecting the people a long time ago. The people are furious and want justice, but in [1d8+1] days someone will discover it was fake information used as a cover for a prison break.
86Something strange is happening in the city: people claim to become lost when walking down the street, but reach their destination [1d12] hours later, which is extremely confusing. There’s a 20% chance of this happening to one or more players. This is the effect of a powerful mage trying to learn how to manipulate time in secret, but in [1d4+3] days she will be stuck in a reverse time-stop spell of her own creation (only she is frozen in time), and the effects on the public will end.
87A cheerful Halfling is giving lucky coins to everyone who listens to its story. The story changes for everyone, since the Halfling is a deity trying to inspire and help people who will need it to survive a future tragedy.
88The prince is marrying a Medusa, something no one expected and is causing confusion among the population. Days later, the princess reveals she has married a weretiger instead of a Tabaxi. No one is sure how to react.
89A long famous restaurant is closing since the owner “has no more inspiration.” It'll be selling food one last time in [1d4] days, and some lucky customers will receive one of its secret famous recipes! The lines are expected to be ridiculous.
90The city's water source becomes tainted. By deliberate poison, accidental pollution, or (some speculate) a possible ooze infestation, no one is quite sure yet what the cause is exactly yet.
91A merchant cart carrying various goods was too heavy for a bridge and collapsed into the river below. Traffic is being rerouted, but travel times through the city are doubled for [1d10+3] days due to the extra congestion while the bridge is repaired. The merchant lost something of great value downstream and wishes to have it returned, but it may have traveled into the sewers...
92A very bad blight has spread through the city seeming to emanate from the nicer side of town. Sick people begin filling the streets more and more each day. In [1d20+5] days all the businesses will close as the workers are too sick. The source of this affliction is irrelevant at this point- what the city NEEDS is a cure!
93The town guards are intentionally allowing crime to run rampant in certain areas which is giving the King a bad reputation. Is this a matter of principle to protest a refused pay raise? Perhaps a personal vendetta between the guard captain and the leader? Has some kind of payoff occurred, funded by an unknown third party? Or are they just bad at their jobs, but because [PLOT_REASON] there isn't anyone better to take their place?
94Members of a [secret society/Thieves/Assassins guild] receive instructions encoded in prayer material that's distributed during regular religious services on where to meet in secret, information on missions/targets, illicit materials/substances, or other intel of value that cannot be exchanged in public. Are the priests/clerics in on it? Or are they being unknowingly manipulated by an unseen hand?
95The local blacksmith disappeared overnight. Not even his family has any clue about his whereabouts. Although the locals suspect it has something to do with the large quantity of [insert rare material] he acquired- because there's no way he could've afforded it.
96A poster campaign critical of the monarchy has been rather more successful than is comfortable for some of the upper crust. This is leading to raids, arrests and increased patrols by the already overworked night watch.
97A strange black mold is spreading through the city, popping up in isolated spaces. A cult of mad druids are to blame, as over the last few weeks they've planted strategically placed cultures of the fungus. The cult intends to chain together several rituals of the Plant Growth spell to turn the city into a forest of deadly fungus.
98A prankster has started throwing illusions all over the city. Doors, manholes, and other such items are turning out to be illusory quite often as a result. The city watch is on constant guard for the perpetrator and will often poke and touch objects they're suspicious of while on duty.
99A local elderly priest died in the middle of a special ceremony. The gathered crowd is awestruck as a brilliant light descended on his body, exploding in a harmless but temporarily blinding flash, and the body was gone. Even more mysteriously, now a handful of citizens have an invisible mark on their right cheek that glows whenever they near or enter the temple/holy site where it happened. The Royal Wizard wants a formal investigation, but the city guard doesn't have the manning.
100The King's wife/daughter is having an affair with a notorious villain in the city. It gets discovered in [2d8] days.