Help The Characters Get Into Trouble

Want to make life even more interesting for your players? Follow these three simple steps.

Step 1: Pick Your Hook

Grab a hook from your Loopy Plans.

I don’t know your plot, so let’s use five random plot hooks quickly generated from Campaign Logger’s Town Rumours generator:

Recently a scarred traveler came to visit the clothier, who has been introverted ever since.

A large block of limestone sits in the town square. The sculptor’s name is engraved in it, but it mysteriously changes each year and nobody knows why.

The ghost of the maniacal Overseer of Argir has been spotted wandering the streets late at night.

The body of a male human was found near the rat catcher’s shop.

A descendent of the Knight Errant of Widrotia has been hiding in town as an innkeeper for many years.

These are great as-is for town flavour.

You can spin them into plot hooks too. Cool beans.

But let’s take this further.

Step 2. Make It Relevant

For any hook you drop, make it personal to the PCs.

This gets you the big win of relevance. Players love it when the game becomes personal. Who wouldn’t?

Let’s rewrite these hooks so they’re personal:

Recently a scarred traveler came to visit the clothier, who has been introverted ever since. The clothier, a cousin of a PC, has information the party wants and now it’s tough getting the merchant to open up.

A large block of limestone sits in the town square. The sculptor’s name is engraved in it, but it mysteriously changes each year and nobody knows why. This year a PC’s name shows on the rock. And there’s additional text underneath providing both a clue and a warning.

The ghost of the maniacal Overseer of Argir has been spotted wandering the streets late at night. A character’s home was haunted — it didn’t end well. The ghost scares NPCs away from the party with dire warnings about their murder hobo actions.

The body of a male human was found near the rat catcher’s shop. The body is covered in spiders, making the PC with a spider phobia recoil. The body has parchment in its mouth.

A descendent of the Knight Errant of Widrotia has been hiding in town as an innkeeper for many years. The innkeeper comes from the same culture or tribe as a PC. He shares interesting rumours of recent town events.

I added two elements to each hook.

First was personalization. The hook somehow related to a specific PC. A background connection, something on the character sheet, a personality tie-in.

Second was making the hook relevant to the party. A way to keep the adventure going or start a new one.

This gives us a cool three-punch combo:

  • Something intrinsically interesting happening
  • A character tie-in
  • A plot tie-in

But let’s take this further.

Step 3. Tie It To Gameplay

The knockout punch comes when you make hooks a consequence of previous character actions.

This is quite powerful. And so engaging.

Let’s rewrite these hooks so they’re of consequence:

A scarred traveler visited the clothier, who has been introverted ever since. The clothier, a cousin of a PC, has information the party wants and now it’s tough getting the merchant to open up. The traveler was scarred by a PC last session. The traveler wants to scoop the PCs’ quest.

A large block of limestone sits in the town square. The sculptor’s name is engraved in it, but it mysteriously changes each year and nobody knows why. Last night a PC’s name showed on the rock. And there’s additional text underneath providing both a clue and a warning. The PC acquired a magic stone as loot. That stone was a shard of the limestone block. The sculptor created it for a loved one and now needs help.

The ghost of the maniacal Overseer of Argir has been spotted wandering the streets late at night. A character’s home was haunted — it didn’t end well. The ghost scares NPCs away from the party with dire warnings about their murder hobo actions. The Overseer was killed by the PCs near the start of the campaign and won’t rest until the party has paid for its crime.

The body of a male human was found near the rat catcher’s shop. The body is covered in spiders, making the PC with a spider phobia recoil. The body has parchment in its mouth. The body was a foe killed by the PCs. The victim’s faction has just served warning.

A Knight of the Last Bastion has been hiding in town as a stablehand for several weeks. She comes from the same culture or tribe as a PC and shares rumours of recent town events. The PCs made enemies of the Last Bastion in their previous adventure, and the spy will send a pigeon immediately to her superiors with news.

I tweaked some hooks so I could connect them the campaign log.

For example, the limestone hook timeline changed to the previous night to synch with the treasure find. And the knight’s order and timeline changed because of PC history with a group of knights.

We now have some pretty wicked calls to adventure.

Apply this three step process to any hooks you plan on dropping soon to increase their relevance, engagement, and effectiveness:

  • Pick Your Hook
  • Make It Relevant
  • Tie It To Past and Present Gameplay