Enjoy it or not, grizzly tense drama can be exciting, and you might want to create some exciting drama to put your character through. Here’s some ideas, feel free to add your own ideas in the comments at the bottom.
Your family/friends have been kidnapped and you have to get them back
Not original, but pretty gripping stuff. It gives your character a clear goal, and some baddies to fight. You might have multiple layers of baddies, from the mindless foot soldiers, to the middlemen, then the people (or person) in charge of the evil kidnapping operation (see the article “Pyramids of power” for more info on that). It gets most interesting though when you think about the kidnapper’s goal. Maybe they want your character’s wife/husband for something. Genetic experimentation? Slave labour? Some perverse sexual fetish?
Be careful when using this story with roleplay player-characters though, because the action will be unbalanced. The kidnapped characters will have much less to do, they’re likely tied up in a basement, so will have a boring story, unless they make a daring escape. See the section further below – Horrible things happen to your character.
Your family has been kidnapped and you’re being coerced to keep them alive
Scenarios where your character is being coercerd by people who’ve kidnapped their family have been done before a million times in TV and movies. But, it’s still a great plot point, and can be done a million times more, in a million different ways and still be done in a way that’s fresh and dramatic.
So your character’s family has been kidnapped, perhaps wife, daughter, husband, friend, someone your character loves. This allows you to show how far they’ll go to get them back. The baddie that’s kidnapped them wants something, and will use your character to get it.
I said above this shows how far the character will go to get them back, will they work against the other characters in the game? Here’s some ideas:
Let the baddies in – Under coercion, your character is told to give the baddies the key to your secret base, or open the drawbridge for them, or deactivate your spaceship’s shields. Knowing that they might kill or hurt the hostage, and also that if you help them they’ll put your friends/colleagues in danger, your character has to make a tough decision – them live with that decision for the rest of their life.
Horrible things happen to YOUR character
We saw above that your character’s family could be kidnapped, but what if it’s YOUR character that’s kidnapped? They’re tied up, thrown to the floor, forced to live in a grotty cell, starved, beaten, abused, mutilated, and maybe experimented on in horrible ways.
Make sure you show how bad the situation is, so keep adding worse and worse things to happen to your character. What if they’re tortured? What if their fingers are cut off? Think about the person who’s kidnapped them, and what their motivations are. Do they want information? (secret plans? details for a new weapon? The location of your Headquarters?) Or are they just kidnapping them to coerce someone else? (see above)
Your character gets a horrible terminal disease or illness. The doctor gives them only a few weeks left to live, so they have to say goodbye to their freinds and family. It’d be a depressing storyline, but would be emotional drama.
Maybe add a spin on this and make your character’s illness infectious, so they’ve got to be isolated. Imagine, they’re facing imminent death but can’t see their family, or hug or touch them. Heartbreaking!
Failure to save someone
Your character is put into a situation where they’ve got the power to save someone, maybe to save a whole bunch of people. But they fail. Something goes wrong, maybe they make a mistake, they screw up in some way that could have been avoided and someone gets killed. It’s their fault, and they have to live with the thought that they’ve failed. How would this affect them? A spiral of depression maybe?