Posted in Tools & Techniques

Generating Plot Hooks Through Play

Generating plot hooks through play is easy and makes the hooks relevant to the PCs. Any time you spot an interesting loose end or stone left unturned, make a note of it. Next time you need an adventure hook, look at your list for inspiration. You’ll spend less time working on hooks and the PCs will enjoy them more because they’ll be personally relevant.

Repercussions from play

Consider the repercussions of the PCs’ actions. While the adventure may seem like a success, there are bound to be people it hurt or disadvantaged, or some other potential adventure it set in motion. Think of the ripples coming from their actions. Follow them out. Who benefited? Who was hurt? Think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be something you’ve planned in advance, just something that makes sense now. Here are some examples:

  • The cult the PCs wiped out isn’t quite gone, and now its more subtle and slippery survivors are out for revenge and they know the PCs’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • After the PCs cleared the old keep of monsters, bandits took up residence there. They’ve fortified the place and are harassing the nearby roads and towns.
  • The youngest member of a group of thieves the PCs killed has a distraught mother seeking justice for her son’s death after he fell in with a bad crowd.

Repercussions from backstories

PCs’ can even be affected by the repercussions of things that happened before the game even began. Pay attention to their backstories for cues.

  • One of the PCs states they’re descended from a long line of human nobles. Now elves who were driven out of their homelands by her great-grandfather are out for revenge.
  • The party’s fighter wields an ancient dwarven sword. The rightful owner wants it back.
  • On the straight and narrow his whole life, the bard whose brother worked for the mob gets a visit from a few “friends of the family” who make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Using hooks to generate hooks

The more you look for hooks during play the more instinctive it becomes. You’ll eventually be able to notice them without actively trying and maybe even bring them into play on-the-fly. Once the PCs take the hook and start following it, they’ll begin generating more and more hooks as they go, giving you fodder for future adventures. Especially in sandbox settings, this gives the PCs’ some scope without limiting their actions.