D&D Campaign Building: The Hook

D&D Campaign Building: The Hook

Every D&D game that you’re going to run is going to have some sort of hook for the players. To me, this is a two part thing. The players have to be willing to invest in the story as it gets going, even if that takes a little bit of time, but as the DM, you also have to be able to build a hook that gets them involved in the game fast enough.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

In the story that I’m creating, I started talking about what is going to lead into the hook. That’s the two opposing factions, that of the state sanctioned noble and the wizard who lives in the tower. This doesn’t mean that this is the whole plot, that will probably be the next article on the big bad, but it’s going to start leading into that.

Now, I don’t know what my players are leaning towards playing yet, again this is a hypothetical gaming example to show how it could worked and how I go about my process. Let’s assume that I have a pretty standard group of four or five players. In a four player game they suggest you have a party of a fighter, rogue, wizard, cleric so you got your basis covered. That’s a bit boring but not that outside of the normal.

I’d also have used a session zero for the players to determine how they know each other and how they are tied into the town. Let’s assume that the fighter and rogue go to the cleric fairly often for healing and to pay their respects to the deity that the cleric follows. The Wizard has worked with the rogue and fighter on some odd jobs, and knows the cleric in passing but doesn’t really agree with her, but also doesn’t just follow what the powerful wizard wants.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

In the town there are tensions because the wizard has declared that people need to bring her gems and other items for some magical spell otherwise something bad will happen. The noble in the area is strongly disagreeing with that as that would cut into what the people would have to pay for taxes. So, what are the players going to do, a lot of the people in the town are not giving their gems tot he wizard who hasn’t said anything more than her vague threat. So now there’s a lot of struggles as to what is actually going to happen in the town, who will win out.

So how does this affect the players? Obviously there’s a line being drawn in the sand and riots happening and people are upset on both sides because some people don’t want the bad thing the wizard says is going to happen to happen, and others don’t want to lose their jewels. The temple itself has a number of jewels. The temple is now paying the fighter, rogue, wizard, and cleric to defend against the riots and those on the wizards side who might want to steal the jewels. The riots have come to the church doors with the wizards side certainly trying to get the jewels, but the other side worked up and looting as well.

Which side do the players help? They are getting paid to help one side, but that side seems better equipped. They can’t fend off both sides as they push against the door of the temple, they are going to have to try and divert the riot one way or the other away from the temple, but by doing so, they are going to have to either help those who are more supporting the noble or those who are more supporting the wizard, or they can let the gems be taken.

So there’s the hook, the players have been tasked with something before the game started that is now actively going on. Even though the fighter, rogue, and wizard might not be directly invested in the conflict, though I’d probably give the wizard a gem of some sort to start the game, because you know the player will be greedy as well, since they have a pre-existing relationship with the cleric, they will want to help them.

What happens with the different ways that the players can take the hooks?

If they join forces with the wizards side, the wizard or some emissary will definitely come knocking on the door, thanking them for the help and demanding the jewels. The noble will be annoyed as well, as that will mean that more people’s jewels are in the hands of the wizard.

Image Source: Encounter Roleplay

If they join forces with the nobles side, the wizard is going to be pissed off at them, but the noble would likely see that they are capable and level headed and give them more work.

If they decide to take on both, neither side is going to be all that happy with them, and the church won’t be happy with them, so they are going to have to figure out how to get back into the good graces of someone. In particular with the cleric, how is she going to get back into the good graces of the temple?

Now, I’ve given myself a whole lot more work now, because I don’t know what direction the players are going to go. I don’t think that this actually changes who the big bad will be in the story, but it will change up what sort of quests they have to go on surrounding that. And I haven’t actually changed up too much for the planning of the game. I’m mainly looking to create those big story points that are going to be consistent throughout the whole thing. It also works because the conflict and a little bit of immediate before and after makes up a solid first session. There’s going to be some fighting, there is going to be some role playing ahead of time, there is going to be some time for them to plan, and there is going to be that quick immediate fallout that happens in the game.

Alright, now we’re going to be moving onto the big bad. That’s probably going to be some of what is going on in the background, or maybe it is the wizard? We’ll find out in the next article.

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