It's time I upped my game. Here are three ideas written with the intention to be useful for any system imaginable. Impossible, I know, but I'd still love to hear the exceptions.
Needle in the Haystack
The villain you've been chasing down slips on his mask, hiding a grin, and scurries into a gang of twelve similarly masked prisoners he has under mind-control. They surround you and draw their weapons. Killing the prisoners is ideally avoided but this villain needs to be stopped! Lay out a thirteen coins to represent the prisoners and the villain, one of which you will mark with a sticker or ink. Force the players to turn over a coin for anyone they try and kill randomly, watching them (hopefully) recoil in guilt as their hand ends the life of a helpless prisoner.
There should be an opportunity for the players to draw the villain out somehow. Perhaps there's a way they can taunt him into showing anger or a way they can recognise his fighting style.
Escape from the Unstoppable
Many players will assume an enemy you throw at them will be a suitable challenge for them. This has to stop. Throw something really dangerous at them but give them a very specific means of escape. It might be a large dragon, beyond their combat abilities, at the end of a dungeon with multiple paths. Can the players remember the quickest way out? Do they know a way out that will prevent the dragon from following them? Another obvious example is being trapped in a pit with some huge beast. You could probably climb out given the time but not while something is trying to eat you. Does one of the characters distract it while the others escape and lower a rope? Does one character have the means to at least stun the creature for long enough to scramble out? In a more contemporary setting the threat could be an armoured vehicle or even a tank division. The PCs might be trapped in a ruined building while the enemy patrol the streets, needing to get safely out of the city. Do you take out one tank and risk being spotted? Carry out extended guerrilla warfare against them? I think I'd just want to get out of there alive.
Just make sure the players are given the hint to flee. Perhaps have the enemy demonstrate its power on someone or something more disposable than the PCs. It would be interesting to know how many players would try and take the threat head on. More interesting than that would be how many were successful!
Brain in a Jar
I mean, seriously. Is there any genre not improved by adding a brain in a jar?
This post is also my first since joining the RPG Bloggers Network, so if this is your first visit I hope you find something you can use!