January was an excellent month for my imagination. I cranked out 25 hooks, almost one each day. With so much content to cover, I propose we dive straight into it.
I don’t really have something to say about all of these hooks; I’ll italicize the ones I comment on.
As always, follow me on @questscribe to receive my hooks in your feed as they are cast.
- For generations the mayors of a certain seaside city have been using the same giant crab claw to cut ribbons, but recently the ancient scissors finally broke. Ribbons now linger uncut, monuments ununveiled. Someone needs to get the mayor a new claw!
- A rich merchant who recently bought a mansion is worried about the gargoyles. You see, there weren’t any when he moved in, and now there’s a new one every night. They’re not doing anything, but the merchant wants them removed anyhow, by adventurers, just to be safe.
- Every night the Man-faced Mountain howls in pain, keeping the whole valley awake. Everybody knows what’s wrong with it: One of its teeth is rotten, but there is not a dentist in the land mighty enough to cleanse the wicked infection, let alone pull the tooth.
- For generations Fairspring Spa’s miraculous water were known to cure all diseases, until one day it couldn’t take anymore. The once pristine fountains now spew snot; rampaging phlegm monsters roam the streets while whooping cough-elementals terrorize the skies.
- The ‘Quip & Banter’ is looking for extra security for the annual College of Valor Congress. Last year the live-enactment of the Hundred Battles of Ulfric the Marrowdrinker got a little too realistic, and the disputes about the details a little too bloody.
- Devil monkeys are pick-pocketing tourists, pilfering their shinies and tossing them on a great pile. They make their base in a skull cave, where they dance to the four drums of the girallon.
- They say that for every snow sprite slain, winter will end a whole day sooner; the summer-loving king believes it, and pays handsomely for their souls. Adventurers should beware, however, as these shy spirits are protected by their much meaner siblings…
- The greatest dwarven kings are buried with an army of stone, so that they may continue their conquest in the next world. When such an army is uncovered by human archeologists, it rises to defend its monarch, marching forth from their tomb to wage war on the living.
- They say silk spun by dreamworms of the feywild can be woven into a fabric uniquely conductive of arcane energies, making it ideally suited for magical items. Sadly, the caterpillars can’t be bred in captivity, and the grown moths are known to be extremely dangerous.
- Heliophants, an imposing, yet pious elephantine people, journey to their ancestral burial ground when they sense death approaching. These graveyards are well-hidden, but an old cleric has learned that a nefarious necromancer has found one, hoping to raise an army…
- Some romantics believe a paper lantern filled with rose petals will lead you to your one true love when let up during the Wind God’s festival; his daughters will supposedly blow it there themselves. One wonders: Where will a lantern filled with coin take you?
- A baby baku has accidentally wandered into an insane asylum and has snacked on the inmates’ disturbing dreams, giving him a mean belly-ache…and causing the mad visions of the violently insane to spring to life.
- Earth dragons tunnel through the earth like their avian cousins soar through the sky, leaving trails of tunnels that linger for centuries. Bandits use them as secret smuggling routes and hide-outs. Perfectly safe; earthwyrms never take the same route twice, right?
- A dragon’s eggs were stolen from her and momma is terrorizing the countryside in her ire. Many a brave knight has died trying to slay her, but there might be another way; rumor has it an underground auction will be selling “dragon eggs” of the very same color…
- A mighty glacier stands in the middle of the desert. Some travelers say they see a face in the ice, frowning, right before the wall starts to weep, though this melt never seems to shrink the ice; if only it did, the desert might become fertile again.
- A new tea leaf is sweeping the shops, taking the city by storm. Everybody loves it, apart from a crazy vagrant protesting in the streets. He swears the leafs are “fey creatures,” or “forest sprites,” and that the “we shall call upon the ire of the spirits.” As if!
- The Storm Queen’s favorite concubine vanished overnight, leaving her too forlorn for her duties. She can’t manage as much as a sigh, let alone the winds on which sailors depend. Their lovers must share the Queen’s gloom, as the ships stuck at sea can’t return home.
- Investigating an unseasonal flood you follow the swollen river upstream, where you come across a bard singing underneath a waterfall. “Heroes, I no longer wish to play,” he sings as you approach, “but this rock giant is forcing me to stay.”
That’s no waterfall.
- The poor old postmaster died in a letterslide and now lies buried underneath a mound of unsend mail. His ghost haunts the abandoned post office, unable to find rest until the last of the mortal letters that slew him have been delivered.
- The Hyperbolic Time Prison, where time flows slower, allowing inmates to sit out years-long sentences in mere days, seemed like a good idea… Until the prisoners stopped leaving, as did the guards send to retrieve them. The outer-warden fears a riot.
- Firefighting in the City of Mages isn’t just a dangerous job, it’s the prestigious duty of the elite; only the most powerful wizards and the best spellsword are capable of quenching magical fires and sealing the elemental that cause them.
- A hole appears. Nobody knows how it got there, how deep it is or what’s at the bottom, or if it even has one. How exciting!
- A local park is expanding violently, uprooting whole blocks and reclaiming most of the city. The trees are growing faster than the lumberjacks can cut them down. Is nature finally rising to reclaim lands long lost?
- Some say arrows fletched with cockatrice feathers can pierce stone as easily as if it were flesh. Others swear it turns skin to stone instead. One thing is for certain: they fetch a handsome price on the right market.
- The Empire is the healthiest place to live in the world, but only because they quarantine their sick in a walled-off city. A nobleman needs your help smuggling his supposedly healthy daughter out. Getting in is easy, but getting out might prove more difficult…
3. Remind me I need to make an appointment with the dentist.
4. The inspiration for this one is fairly droll: I got hit by the flu pretty bad this month. Snot haunting your throat and lungs truly is monstrous; wouldn’t it be convenient if you could actually slay these monsters like you would any elemental? If only we could externalize all of our problems and defeat them with the roll of a dice…
5. The ‘Quip & Banter’ is a reference to an exchange I had with @PaterVoss. I tweeted that, since talking is a free action and all, players shouldn’t be afraid to whip out a quip and a banter in between rounds. The Pun Bard said that sounded like the name of a tavern, and one thing lead to another.
I think this one of those hooks that works really well if the group actually has a (preferably Valor) Bard on board. Instead of being asked for security by the tavern, the bard might be invited himself, making the hook much more personal. It would make for a great opportunity to put the Bard of the party in the spot-light…not that most Bards need more of that.
6. I improvised this one together with my players. When one member of the party wandered off on his own, I wanted to reward him for his initiative; since we were in a jungle, I figured it would be funny to have a monkey pick his pockets. One might expect one’s pockets to be picked in a bustling city, but on a deserted island? That’s novel.
The player chased the monkey for a bit, getting to tarzan around with vines, hollering all the while; a hootin’ good time, but I knew that I had to chase him back to the rest of the players at some point, so I had him run into an obstacle that would take the entire team to clear: A whole army of monkeys, dancing around the obligatory skull cave.
While the robbed player gathered the party, I frantically flipped through the books and whipped up an encounter with a girallon and two gorilla’s. When they entered the cave, they encountered a rave; the four-armed ape was banging on drums and the rest of the monkeys were dancing to the beat. The ensuing fight had a frantic edge to it; the smaller monkeys evacuated the cave as soon as the fighting started, taking all the treasure with them, so the longer they took to slay the apes, the less loot there would be. Some bastards even stopped mid-fight to scoop up some coins for themselves… All in all, it was a fantastic encounter, and the highlight of the session. It just goes to show that sometimes, the best moments are completely improvised.
7. This one is just straight from the anime Konosuba, seventh episode of the first season. Not much else to say about it, besides the fact that it’s a pretty fun show that parodies RPG’s, and if you’re both into role-playing games and anime you’ll probably get a few laughs out of it.
8. This one is inspired by the Terracotta Army and the tomb of Emperor Qin Shua Huang. I’m using this one with my Trailblazers group; at the time of writing we are about halfway through the tomb. The short adventure I plotted out for my group roughly consists out of five phases:
(1) Introduction. The group is asked to investigate an attack at a border town. They find the village abandoned, save for mysterious terracotta shards lttered around everywhere. At some point the group runs into a terracotta patrol, which will breadcrumb them to the tomb. They must head inside to undo the magic that has stirred up the Empress’ guardians.
(2) The tomb itself was created by the Empress’ three closest advisors and friends. First up: Sigrid Helsdottir, the court sorceress and spy-mistress, who designed a labyrinth of traps to test the party’s resourcefulness and determination.
(3) Next we have Sonya Battleborn, the commander of the Empress’ armies, who offers a simple gauntlet of four increasingly difficult encounters based on the fabled adventures she had with her friends.
(4) Lastly we have the trials of Gunnar the Beardless Boy, who tests the party’s character. Here the party must endure a series of moral problems, including a banquet they’re not supposed to eat from, a treasure mound they’re not allowed to touch and a variation on the prisoner’s dilemma.
(5) And finally, on the lowest floor where the Empress herself lies bared inside of her sarcophagus, the party must fight animated statues of her three advisors. If they manage win, the Empress will accept their audience.
Let me know if you guys want to know more about this dungeon; after I finish running my group through it I might write the whole thing out.
12. This one is based on a dungeon I prepared for my Whitehorn group. The party is exploring an abandoned warlock coven in search of a dream-eating baku that is turning the town’s nightmares into reality. Of course they had to face their own fears as well, and we had fantastic encounters against two villain dads. A whole party wailing on the representation of one’s daddy issues has proven to be strangely therapeutic. Nothing quite bonds like slaying fake dads together!
14. This hook is based on a one-shot I ran for a colleague’s friends. By the time I arrived there, everybody was already really, really drunk. I never drink while DM’ing, and I was having a pretty bad time herding cats, until I succumbed and drowned myself in a sixpack. When I sank down to the party’s level we ended up having lots of fun. The one-shot was incredibly chaotic; this hook is my attempt to distill a single motif from the whole experience.
My unruly patrons demanded on seeing a dragon – not that strange when you’re trying out a game called ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ – even though the characters I made for them were only level 3, so I had them meet a dragon…as a quest-giver. The ensuing raid on a bandit lair was a lot of fun, especially when the shy rogue player suprised everyone by literally backstabbing the party in the middle of an encounter.
We never got to finish the scenario – we ended the session in the middle of the fight – so I’m still hoping to see how this hook plays out with a sober group, because I think there’s still something fun in there to explore. If I have time to properly prepare, I’ll create a fancy underground auction, with a casino that has blackjack, poker and roulette, and give it an espionage flavor. Should be fun!
18. I did this hook with the Whitehorn group recently as a fun diversion on the way to a more dramatic story beat. The party followed a salty creek uphill, where they swapped the bard for an illusion. That trick only lasted for a minute, though, giving them a small head start, which they thought would be enough to guarantee them to safety – after all, how fast can a sluggish rock monster be?
Very fast, as it turns out, as I had the rock creature surf down the hill in a landslide. The ensuing fight, where the players tried to get back to the main river while being chased by an avalanche, was a lot of fun, and reminded me that I need to mess with terrain more often.
19. This hook is a fairly straightforward reference to a Terry Pratchett novel: ‘Going Postal’. I plan on using this hook if as a way to exposit information on a new urban setting. Delivering mail should prove to be a fun and engaging way to get to learn the most important players in a city, while also picking up on some of the intrigue between them.
21. People on Twitter pointed out this hook reminded them of Pratchett, but I was really inspired by a manga by Ōkubo Atsushi, Fire Force. It’s your standard shōnen romp, only with a fire department instead of a high school. Most of the fire fighters have magical fire powers, which they use to fight anthropomorphized fires; they literally fight fire with fire. It got boring pretty fast, but I still think the premise is interesting, and the art is gorgeous.
23. This is another hook cast in the Whitehorn group. The main conflict of that setting is ‘cilivization versus nature,’ with fey forces representing the worst of nature and polluting industrialists the worst of civilization. The party is currently investigating a case of lycanthropy – in this world a fey phenomenon – while the situation in their home town has been getting worse, with the park expanding. As this story finishes its introduction, the time will soon come when the players will have to choose to side with either the forces of civilization or the forces of reclemation. At this point they seem to favor civilization, but that’s probably because they haven’t been inside of Coco Flamel’s Magic Potion Factory yet, where they literally grind the horns off of unicorns to power their alchemy.
That’s it for this month!
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