Facts Versus Meaning
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0976
How do you create a great mid-adventure hook?
Most advice out there only talks about hooks that draw your players into the beginning of an adventure.
But once your adventure starts you want players to keep moving along your plot. You want players to trigger the encounters you’ve designed, go to the locations you’ve built, confront the NPCs you’ve created.
It’s easy to kick-off adventures….
“Here be treasure.”
“Find the kidnapped prince.”
“Spy on our foes and find out what they’re going to do next.”
But intra-adventure hooks are a bit harder to create. How do you pull players from one encounter to the next?
We have three awesome things going for us as GMs to help solve our problems.
Fog of War
Fog of War hides a lot of information from players that only you know. Don’t forget that players can only see a few inches in front of their noses.
They don’t know the true nature of the Danger.
They have no certainty of any facts not already gamed.
Even ideas they are 100% confident in are just predictions.
Therefore, any information you provide has inherent interest because it reveals a wee bit more of that curious, scary, and mysterious world behind your GM screen.
Facts Versus Meaning
The modern mind deconstructs everything. We think in terms of facts, properties, and behaviours.
Science makes us rational, analytical, strategic.
However, we humans are still wired with story.
Listen to your own thoughts for awhile. We don’t think in terms of pure facts. We don’t list the lengths, weights, and cold qualities of what we see or think about. Instead, we exist in another plane, another dimension most of the time.
And that place is the Plane of Meaning.
On the surface level we think scientifically. But deeper down always search for meaning. What do these facts mean?
Combo that with Fog of War and we have a wonderful way to hook our players for every encounter, event, and situation we want to lead them to.
For example, a trail of footprints.
Analytical players will want to learn what made those footprints. But eventually, after skill checks and a dozen questions to interrogate you, players will want to discover what those footprints mean.
Are they enemy footprints? Do the footprints represent a threat or an opportunity? Is there something exciting to discover at the end of the trail? Why is the being travelling in that direction?
We soon leave the world of footprint size, depth, and type, and delve into the world of possibilities and meaning. The players encounter your Fog of War and seek to push it back.
Our last awesome thing we have going for us to create mid-adventure hooks comes by way of descriptions.
I’ve talked a lot in the past about how to craft good descriptions.
Armed with Fog of War and Meaning, now is the time to pique curiosity and get players engaged with your next encounter via how you choose to frame and describe things.
For example, beside the footprints might be drops of blood or dropped feathers. Each a curious thing, yet one is more sinister and one more mysterious.
Frame it how you like.
And in the end, it doesn’t matter how many questions players ask. It’s the fact you’ve got them hooked to follow the trail to your next encounter.