CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hook Line and Sinker

Reeling in the Players for Your Campaign

Earlier this week I had an interesting back and forth on twitter about different ways to start a game. Someone asked about how I liked to begin a campaign. I guess what the question really was, “What is your hook”? This person was fond of the someone runs into town asking for help method, but we came up with quite a few more ideas. This article is probably more for new GMs looking for hooks, but it might spark some ideas in veterans as well.

Before I even get into some of the hooks, let me speak for a moment to the players. When a game starts sometimes you have to just bite the hook to get things going. I don’t tend to complain about players too much – I’m a fan of them they make my games what they are – but in this instance I need to say it: Don’t be that guy. On occasion I get that one player who just sits there and says, “But my character wouldn’t care about that”. You need to make a character that will care.  Take a look at these five characters we should stop playing and pay careful attention to number five.

One of my favorite standard beginnings is “You all meet in a tavern”. Now don’t get me wrong, I know this is the most tropey of tropes on the planet, but really to this day local eating and drinking establishments are common communal gathering places and it was even more true in the times generally represented in most fantasy RPGs. But I’ve spoken extensively on this subject so you can check out my four-part series on really making the tavern the place to be.

The tavern, though, is really just the backdrop to the plot hook. And probably one of the most used plot hooks is “the event.” As the person on twitter mentioned, a person running into town begging for help is one way to drag people in. It is an event that requires immediate attention. Many adventures begin with an attack, the players just being near each other are thrust into combat and must fight together to survive. This is another event.

I’ve also spoken before about having your PCs connected to each other right from the get go. One of the ways I mentioned is perfect for plot hooks. Characters that are all part of the same organization put on the same mission together. It allows for disparate characters to be thrust into the one situation and it gives you a means to hand the players their quest. No one says no to the boss.

Another way to give everyone a connection is having the players all linked to a single NPC. Both the Curse of the Crimson Throne and the Carrion Crown adventure paths do this. Whether they are all hunting the same enemy, or they were all friends with the same ally, this gives the character a reason to be together and a hook to become embroiled in the adventure you have set before them.

Some adventures have the players forced into a situation. You wake up naked on an island, in a prison, in an empty room. The players don’t have to know why they’re there in the beginning but they’re all together and they have to figure out why and how they got where they are. A play on this is to have them all start as captives, say being taken in by slavers or pirates.

One of the other methods of just having them all be together is to begin the adventure past the beginning. Start literally in the middle of a big combat. Now this honestly works better in books than it does in games but I had one amazing GM at a con I went to pull this off. If you can do it right, it starts the game off with action and then allows the players to build the hows and whys of getting to that point as they move forward.

There are one thousand and one other ways to hook your players into an adventure. Most of them are variations on the common themes I’ve presented. One of my last homebrew games all the players were from the same little hamlet. They were eating at the only inn when a woman came in saying her son was missing. So I mixed the ideas of ‘ everyone’s connected,’ ‘you meet in a tavern,’ and  ‘event that needs immediate attention.’ Think about what will motivate your characters to be involved, and work with your players to make characters that might follow the hooks you give.

What are some of your favorite ways to start an adventure? As a player how do you expect the GM to hook you in? As a GM how do you help your players want to follow your lead? What tropes do you use and which do you let fall by the wayside?

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