Adventure Hooks

by Mike Shea on 24 December 2018

In an interview on D&D Beyond, legendary adventure writer Chris Perkins describes the requirements for a solid adventure:

It's this last one we're going to talk about today. Getting the characters involved in the adventure is likely the most important part. Why do they care? Why put themselves at risk? When running Tomb of Annihilation recently, I threw in a dream sequence so horrible that the whole group nearly abandoned the idea of stopping the death curse to return to the safety of Port Nyanzaru and leave the world's woes to someone else. That's not a great way to motivate them.

There are many possible motivations that drive characters to adventure. Chapter 3 of the Dungeon Master's Guide includes three tables full of adventure hooks for both overland adventures, dungeon adventures, and general adventures as well. They're worth a read. In fact, I'd recommend going back and flipping through the Dungeon Master's Guide every couple of months just to remember all of the awesome stuff that's in it.

I also culled a number of potential motivations from a Twitter discussion on the topic which you can see below.

These are all just models for the motivation an adventure might contain. We'll have to tune these for our particuar adventure and the characters within it. In fact, let's talk about characters for a moment.

Character-Driven Adventure Hooks

One of the easiest ways to sink in an adventure hook is to make it part of the character. There are a couple of ways to do this. The easiest is to tie in the hook during character creation. For single-session D&D games, like convention games, we can tie in adventure hooks right into the pregenerated characters. If players are making their own characters, we can give them a list of potential character hooks that tie them into the adventure or campaign as well. The earlier we tie in these hooks into character creation, the more these hooks will matter to the players.

We need look no further than the pregenerated characters for the D&D Starter Set. These characters have ties right into Lost Mine of Phandelver that give each of them a reason to care about what is going on in the town of Phandalin.

We can also flip this whole idea around and build an adventure from the backgrounds of the characters. Likely you'll still want to bring up a theme from your campaign's session zero but the players might build in interesting hooks into their characters that you didn't expect. You can use these hooks to build out connections to existing adventures or build entirely new adventures from those hooks alone.

The important part is ensuring that the characters have a reason to go on this adventure.

Anytime you're pondering the adventure you're going to run, ask yourself "why the characters care?"

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