View Full Version : Adventure Hooks

2014-11-17, 04:21 AM
A while ago I started writing down interesting adventures/hooks that I either came by or thought of, but I haven't made much use of them since I haven't run any games for years now.
So I took some time to make most of them look readable and organize them into a list in case they're interesting to the forum.
Some of these should look familiar though, either because they're popular ideas or because they came from GitP originally.

They're mainly fantasy oriented (though not system specific), but since the concepts for them are so basic, they could easily be adapted for other settings as well.

There are a few others I'd like to post eventually, but they'd require some actually work to organize and writeup, since they're a little more complex.

Collegiate Exploration Program
The PCs are hired to explore uncharted territory (strange/alien/fantastical/extravagant environments). They are to catalog and report the new never-before-seen creatures and phenomena, as well as make peaceful and friendly contact with any natives they encounter. They'll encounter warring tribes, dangerous flora & fauna, tribal rituals & rites of passage, and eventually will have to come to terms with how the people who've hired them are using the information (for good, ill, or nothing at all).

Espionage Missions
The PCs arrive in town as relative unknowns. Perhaps they make a name for themselves, or maybe they just look capable and/or competent, either way they're offered jobs as under-cover operatives to go around spying on people and sabotaging their employer's opposition. This should establish the various factions' attitudes towards the PCs.
Perhaps the side the PCs initially choose turns out to be a bad choice, and the PCs actually prefer being on the other side, they could make a cold switch and abandon their previous employer, or they might become double-agents and start spying on and sabotaging their current employer.

The Broken Watch
The Broken Watch - Supply Sergeant's Missions (part 1)
The PCs are hired by a city's governing body to do some cleanup work and help take out the criminal trash and solve some local problems. To that end they end up under the supervision of the local watch captain who directs them to get some supplies from the supply sergeant. The sergeant herself feels the PCs are getting the worse end of the bargain and goes out of her way to give them a few extra supplies and a whatever advice she can offer.

The Broken Watch - Meeting the Locals (part 2)
After the PCs come back from their initial mission, the sergeant has them return any of the unused material they have left and then offers them some odd jobs for the locals. The jobs aren't from the Captain of that watch division, rather they are jobs that the sergeant herself has come across while getting to know the locals. These jobs are relatively tame at first before becoming increasingly dangerous, as the sergeant sends the PCs deeper into the underbelly of the city to help root out the criminal element.
If the PCs turn out to be less than well-meaning, she washes her hands of them and sends them on their way.
If the PCs failed their first mission, the sergeant will resupply them and then send them back out with a couple of her off-duty friends from the watch. The friends agreed to help because the job that needs doing is important enough to affect a lot of people if it's left unattended, and they're more than willing to take up the sword for a good cause even if it is on their own time.
If the PCs end up ticking off the locals, the sergeant will try and convince the PCs to make amends, as the antagonism of the locals can make life very hard on the PCs.

The Broken Watch - The City Watch Missions (part 3)
The supply sergeant is the one who signs off on nearly every resource the local watch chapter uses or requests. Lately the requests have been making her suspicious of illicit activity in the watch. Supplies are being requested for operations they are clearly not being used for, and she suspects that some officers are even going behind her back to get hold of illegal and unauthorized supplies.
The sergeant has had enough; she approaches the PCs and asks for their help in rooting out the corruption.
The PCs may have already encountered the illegal supply line from a previous mission.

The Broken Watch - The Blackmarket Sergeant (part 4)
The first thing the supply sergeant wants the PCs to go after is the illegal supply ring that corrupt officers are using to buy and sell illegal goods. She has a good idea of how and where it's operating, but not the exact location. She suggests that the PCs talk to the locals to try and find out more. Their search eventually leads them to a meeting between the Blackmarket Sergeant and some blackmarket sellers. Evidence is on the Blackmarket Sergeant that implicates one of the commanding officers of the local watch chapter.
If the PCs bring the corruption to the attention of the local watch captain, he'll wave it aside and/or make vague promises to begin an investigation when he has more time and resources (he's in on it).
If they try and go over the local captain's head, they are turned around and told to speak to ask the captain to handle the problem.
If the PCs let it slip that the sergeant is suspicious, then they find that the sergeant is quickly retired and replaced. Afterwards the sergeant will use her personal stash of supplies (which is much smaller than the watch's) to help arm the PCs.

The Broken Watch - The Watch Captains (part 5)
Once the PCs and the sergeant know that commanding officers are involved, she asks them to check out the other local watch chapters for corruption while she checks out her own. She instructs them to try and gain the captainsí confidence by showing them their competence at solving problems. She also tells them to find a few people she is relatively sure they can trust with the matter.

The Broken Watch - Blackout & Martial Law (part 6)
When the PCs return to the sergeant with actual evidence or confirmed suspicions, the city is placed under martial law and a warrant for the sergeant's arrest is put out, as well as a warrant for the arrest of all her associates (which includes the PCs). The charge is the murder of the trustworthy officers with whom the PCs met. The charges have been trumped up (hopefully), and all guards are instructed to bring them in, or kill them if they resist. A few of the sergeantís friends find the PCs after their first couple of encounters with the new law and tell them where to find the sergeant.

A Dungeon Explored Backwards
The PCs enter a dungeon from a secret escape hatch the BBEG usually uses to escape from his lair. The PCs are then somehow forced to move backwards through the dungeon, being able to take the first few encounters (which would normally be some of the toughest) by surprise, but then the monsters near the entrance will have time to reorient themselves and put up a much more difficult fight. At the entrance to the tunnel is the BBEG having just returned to his lair. The PCs should get a fairly good haul of treasure at the beginning, and again at the end from the BBEG.
The PCs might accidentally activate the dungeon by pressing/pulling a button/lever that makes the dungeon come to life. Best used for wizard/mechanical/golem dungeons.

The Shadow Exchange Temple
The PCs find an abandoned temple. The temple has all sorts of strange objects and statues enshrined in it. Every object and statue in the temple casts a shadow that isn't its own. The differences are subtle enough that the PCs aren't supposed to notice at first. After the PCs have left they will find that all their shadows have been changed into different things. Their original shadows are still back at the temple. It turns out that the temple can be used to switch up the shadows an object can cast. Some careful searching of the temple will reveal some really strange shadows switches (e.g. a pebble that casts the shadow of a giant).
With a little trial and error, the PCs can learn to switch shadows around using the temple. Restrictions include, needing to bring the thing whose shadow you want to the temple for the ritual transference. This could also bring into question just how some of the shadows in the temple got there (an Elder Red Dragon's shadow, the shadow of a triple mast ship, a city wall?!). The temple itself is supposed to be relatively benign and uninteresting at first, as it is really simply to give the PCs a unique ability to use in different clever ways.

Amnesiac Villain
An amnesiac asks the PCs to help him recover his memories. Apparently he (or someone else) wiped out his memories, and in order to retrieve them he must recover certain items and visit certain locations. He has a detailed account (possibly from himself) of exactly what needs to be done and how, and hires the PCs to assist him. A minor hitch though, his true self is actually a villain. In fact the reason his memory was wiped was to prevent anybody from finding out he was a villain, and stop him from collecting all the items the PCs just handed over to him, cue climactic battle.
You could have the amnesiac actually be a good person, and the notes on how to return his memories were written by a villain, and if the amnesiac follows the notes, then the villainís memories usurp control of the amnesiac's body. Also, the PCs could encounter some disturbing clues as to the true nature of the note's author (who they assume to be the amnesiac himself).

A Teleport Gone Bad
The PCs accidentally teleport straight into the middle of some bad guys making some bad news, cue surprise round for everyone.
For some real fun, the PCs 'port into a very large group of bad guys (think 50+). Most of them should be caught completely unprepared for the PCs, taking a few rounds for the shock to ware off before they grab the nearest weapon available to them (which should give the PCs a fighting chance). In addition, most of the baddies should be of relatively low level. The key is making the encounter frantic and overwhelming to the PCs without actually making it downright impossible. A few of the bad guys will probably split the moment they realize the PCs are perfectly willing to kill anyone that threatens them (the job's not worth their lives after all). The bad guys should also be relatively spread out and away from the PCs initially, and in small clusters (they were dividing and splitting off into smaller groups to wreak more havoc, and are perfect for AoE spells). The scary part of the encounter should really be the sheer number of bad guys present that the PCs were completely not expecting to have to deal with.

I like the idea of letting carnage interested players feel like they're really wreaking havoc on their opponentís forces (especially right before a major encounter).

Strange Commodities
The PCs are hired to acquire some hard to obtain items (e.g. an orphan's smile, true love's first kiss, actual golden hair, a devil's advocate, something that's neither here nor there, a flower that has only he-loves-me-nots, etc ... ). At the same time they have to compete against a rival collection team.
Some fun can be had if the rival collection team is particularly alien in nature and mindset, giving them an edge in trying to "obtain" such abstract concepts.

Old Habits Die Hard
The PCs are joined by somebody (or multiple people) that was raised to believe they were the enemy (most likely raised to believe that the races of the PCs or the factions the PCs belong to were the enemy). The newcomer is friendly and will gladly help out the PCs however they can, but they always continually refer to the PCs as the enemy. Even if they try not to refer to the PCs as enemies they'll still slip back into the habit whenever they're distracted or not paying attention.

The Unwritten Diary of the First and Final King of the Mad Coffin
Relatively early in the PCs career they are given hold of a diary (full of something or nothing important depending on how you feel) that they are asked to keep safe until a man asks for it from them later on. The diary is virtually worthless and practically nobody has ever even heard of it. Several levels later (e.g. of the PCs were 2nd, now they're 6th), a man shows up out of nowhere and asks them for it specifically by name. If the PCs have kept is safe this entire time the man will reward them greatly.
It can really be any item that they're supposed to keep. Part of the idea is to make the item unique enough that the moment that its recipient mentions it the PCs will know exactly what they're talking about even if it's several sessions later.

An Adventurer's Guild
An Adventurer's Guild - The Beginning (part 1)
Three prominent adventurers create a guild. The first is a mercenary that people despise for his exploitative business ethics and the massive amount of wealth he's accumulated because of it, he's the Investor. The second is a dragonslaying champion of the people, teaching that a person is known to be good or bad by their actions. The third is a renowned hero who teaches that if the intent behind the action is good, then the person is good as well. As time passes, the champion and the hero start to disagree and argue vehemently about what system and manner of morality is acceptable. Their respective students become more aligned with one camp or the other, leaving few in the middle ground.

An Adventurer's Guild - Fractured (part 2)
The Champion and the Hero argue about what system of morality to teach their students and eventually come to mostly non-lethal blows. In the middle of their fight a group of assassins show up and slay both masters and a goodly portion of their students. While fighting against the assassins, the masters join forces to help ensure the safety of their students before being slain. Out of respect for the last act of their masters (joining forces against a common foe) the two groups of students agree to a (blood soaked) truce and go their separate ways with little love lost between them. The Investor who sees his investment going down in flames takes all the money from the guild's savings and bolts for the woods. A many people think the assassination was orchestrated by him, and his hasty departure with the entire guild's money doesn't do him any favors in that regard either.

An Adventurer's Guild - Vengeance (part 3)
Within the two groups of students (the Champion and Hero groups) are those that believe the Investor is the one who setup the assassin's and is responsible for the deaths of his two fellow masters. Though the vengeful student's don't like each other, under the protection of a very flimsy truce they've called for a hunt of the last remaining master.
At this point it might be interesting to setup the assassin's as having been paid off by an unknown party and the Investor was framed for the assassination. Since nobody likes him, he was made an easy scapegoat. Rather than fight back, the Investor feels perfectly comfortable not turning himself over to a whole bunch of people that had already hated him from before the assassination, and instead just took all the money and ran.
It should be stressed that the Investor is an incredibly dangerous enemy (he made his huge fortune out of being good at killing people). He's ruthless, cunning, and even in fair and open combat (something rare to catch him in) he's personally still an extremely lethal opponent. Every single previous hunting party or band of vengeance-bent warriors that have gone after him have never been heard from again (whether they were amateurs or veterans). This should be reflected in the strategy and tactics he uses against the PCs. The Investor spent decades successfully killing people while protecting himself from his numerous enemies, chances are that there's nothing the PCs can pull that he hasn't already seen before.

Building a Zoo
The PCs are tasked with tracking down and capturing several different animals and monsters for the zoo. The PCs must track down and bring back the creatures in as pristine a condition as possible. A bonus reward is offered if they also bring back newborn creatures.
The reward value is dependant upon the amount of lethal damage dealt to the creature between the PCs encountering it and them bringing it back to the zoo. If the creature has 100 hit points and is dealt 50 HP of lethal damage, then the PCs will only receive 50% of the reward money (even if the creature is healed it'll still have scars and whatnot that detract from its value). The PCs could make a heal check against the creature's Hit Die to see if they can treat its value as though it hadn't suffered as much lethal damage.

I personally have always felt this was a neat idea, to have players go through a list of all the monsters they've faced and try and capture them. While the monsters themselves might not be as threatening anymore, the added difficulty in their safe capture, containment (both temporary and permanent), and transport should make the encounter fairly challenging.

They Really Want Him Dead
The PCs are hired by multiple different parties to extract some sort of payment all from the same person, a nobleman who exemplifies a donkey's rear. Some people want him to pay for stuff he's taken on credit and hasn't paid for yet, others want him to pay for items he's simply taken without paying for, and there are a few that just want him to pay in general. The PCs mission of extracting any sort of payment from this fellow is doomed to failure; he has no intention of paying anything to anyone, and will throw down the challenge of single combat to anyone that would dare to challenge that authority. Even if a PC accepts such a challenge, his honesty will last only until it looks like he's losing, upon which he'll instruct his guards to attack the PCs. During the course of trying to approach him initially, the nobleman will make it a hobby of his to make the PCs life as difficult as he can, and even if the PCs agree to leave him alone he won't stop (he enjoys screwing around with other peoples' lives).
This quest is to get the PCs familiar with the concept of being paid multiple times by different people all for the same end result.

Twilight ... the Musical
A new play is in town, and it has all the teenage girls going crazy over it. The play is all about sparkly vampires, and the new vampire craze has swept through the town, particularly the commercial portion of it. The marketplace is flooded with vampire-y items as shopkeepers try to capitalize on the fad. In the darker parts of town though, some of the teenage girls are being found dead with all signs pointing to the killer being a vampire. The PCs are hired to root out the killer(s) behind the attacks, and to try and not to disrupt the festive atmosphere the popular play has brought to the town.
The creature doing the killing needn't actually be a vampire. The central theme of the adventure doesn't have to be about vampires, it can be about anything really (sparkly mindflayers and beholders ftw!).

Festival of Appeasement
The PCs come across a town in the middle of (or just preparing for) a festival in which they seek to appease a spirit animal. Every year a giant snake (or some other animal) rampages across their land, destroying and eating everything it can find. So the townsfolk hold a festival in its honor to placate it. The festival actually does seem to work, and shortly afterwards the animal usually does disappear for year. The PCs can help with the festival, fight the snake, or just move on.
If the PCs find the snake, the first thing they should notice is just how much bigger the snake is then its festival costume counterparts.
The snake going away after the festival is a complete coincidence (at your choosing). The snake is just really big, and hibernates for most of the year, only coming awake in order gorge itself on anything it can find.
The attacks made by the snake don't need to always be bite attacks. The snake is massive enough that its sheer size can enable it to just smash someone into the ground if it tries to strike them.

The Eternal Lord's Book of Madness
The Eternal Lord discovered the key to eternal life, but not eternal youth. He slowly grew into a withered old husk of a living creature and was driven mad. His madness spread from him and brought darkness over the land in which he reigned. A prison and tomb to contain a living immortal was built just for him, and he was buried alive. Alone in his coffin, he continually scribes his madness into his book. His book is filled several times over with his madness, as he simply writes over his previous writings time and time again.
The Eternal Lord wasn't killed because it's simply too damaging to a person to take such direct action against him (ranged characters are equally affected as melee characters). Even indirect action is difficult, as it usually requires too much setup and the tendency for the Eternal Lord's madness to permeate the plan and screw it up is so great. In short, he's hard to kill either because characters break when facing him directly or the world breaks when plans are drawn against him indirectly. His imprisonment was a special effort that caused the collapse of a nation, an entire religious organization, and their supporting deity (affiliated deities in the pantheon were severely hurt as well).

Problems with the Locals
The PCs become involved in a conflict between 3 different factions. They initially encounter a settlement of villagers that complain of raids and attacks by a group of lizard folk that are angry at their presence. If they investigate the lizard folk, they find that a small band of lizard folk have decided to use any and all means to remove the new humans. The PCs can ignore the problem and move on, they can kill all the lizard folk and give a now peaceful countryside to the humans, they can kill the anti-human resistance and broker a supportive treaty and trade agreement between the human settlers and the lizard folk community, and they can side with the lizard folk by either destroying the human settlement.
Some of the humans have been offered deals by both the lizard folk resistance to betray the rest of the humans, and they can be used to orchestrate a double-crossing of the PCs.
The lizard folk in general aren't ecstatic about the new humans, but they aren't going to let the opportunity go to waste either. The lizard folk of the town by and large welcome the opportunity to trade with the humans.
The resistance effort of the anti-human lizard folk focuses not only on the humans, but also any and all human-sympathizers among the larger lizard folk community.

Gravewater Cave
Gravewater Cave - Trapped (part 1)
The PCs find out about a partially submerged cave that is largely unexplored, that's also said to hold great treasure for the courageous and daring (or foolhardy). The entrance to the cave is a fair ways below the surface of the water, but on the inside near the entrance of the cave is some dry land (a nice little place for the PCs to rest and regroup). Further into the cave they find a series of streams and underground pools and lakes of water, some of them even have treasure in them (though not very much, just enough to wet their appetite). After exploring into to the cave to some depth, an event (likely an earthquake) collapses the passageways back to the entrance of the cave.
The reason for not collapsing the passageways at the very start is to give the PCs a taste of the environment that they're going into, and give them a chance to prepare for it (possibly even going back to town to acquire appropriate gear).

Gravewater Cave - The Dead (part 2)
Moving further into the cave system, the PCs start encountering creatures. The denizens appear agitated and are hostile to the PCs, but shouldn't pose very much of a threat to them. Just past the riled creatures are numerous person sized holes in the walls, floor, and ceiling of the tunnels, these were the final resting places of dead treasure hunters and pirates. After a short while, the PCs encounter some undead soldiers. These monsters aren't pushovers, but they shouldn't tax the PCs very much, they're just the rearguard to a larger attack force. Past the rearguard, the PCs find some deceased pirates (only 2 or 3), that have a partially prepared report to their captain of some undead advancing on their position. Past the dead pirates the PCs will come across the main force of the restless dead finally breaching the rear entrance of a castle carved straight into the back of one of the cave system's rooms.
After the cave-in, the PCs should not really have much choice but to advance further into the caves. In addition to this limitation of options, it should be made clear that there is a good chance of finding an alternate exit (otherwise why waste resources exploring), or that it would be even more costly (in terms of dangerous risks taken and resources consumed) to stay in one place and not explore.

Gravewater Cave - Rearguard (part 3)
As soon as the PCs arrive on the scene, the undead overcome the castle's defenses and surge forwards in the breach. Guarding rear of the advancing undead are more undead soldiers that turn to face the PCs. By the time the PCs are finished with them, the undead forces should be relatively entrenched in the castle. They aren't necessarily in the PCs way if the PCs want to just move past them, but trying to attack their positions would be a difficult task to pull off. From these fortified positions, the undead commanders are raising newly dead pirates, as well as calling to life the long dead corpses buried in the ground just outside the rear entrance to the castle. When they're done raising their new reinforcements, they'll start advancing again. The pirates, meanwhile have starting boarding up and barricading the passageways behind them as they start retreating. The shifting earth uncovers more undead in the ground right outside the castle, who start to claw their way to the surface. At this point the already unstable caverns (proving how they earned their name) start to collapse in on themselves, cutting off the PCs retreat, as well as drawing the attention of the undead.
In very little time, it should be apparent that the outside caverns will quickly start swarming with the undead. If the PCs can handle this, then that's OK, just let them.
There are several rear entrances in the castle wall; the undead have only breached one of them, leaving the others relatively intact. When the undead breach the walls, the other entrances are abandoned and rendered defenseless. This could be an option to PCs who aren't keen on diving through the undead, or staying where they are.
The undead outside the castle walls aren't meant to overwhelm the PCs, the real fight is going to be on the inside of the castle walls. So it's OK if the PCs crush the rearguard undead. At this point in the adventure, the PCs should be feeling wary but not drained of resources. This entire adventure is meant to take place over a relatively short time frame.

Gravewater Cave - Counterattacks and Reinforcements (part 4)
If the PCs press past the fortified undead positions, they'll come up against the barricades put in place by the pirates. The pirates, despite what it may look like, have no intention of abandoning their castle, and plan on retaking it by killing everything inside that moves. The pirates might negotiate with the PCs to kill off the undead, but they're not interested in providing either aid or safe passage, and as soon as the PCs are done with the undead, the pirates will come after them. With the pirates regrouping to mount a counter-offensive, and the undead calling of reinforcements to press forward with their attack, the PCs should be caught between a rock and a hard place. Thankfully, the undead and pirates will also attack each other, so if the PCs can rig it up that right way, they may well be able to sit back and relax as all the hard work is done for them. Otherwise life is going to get difficult (and sometimes life just is difficult). If the PCs ever get to the front of the castle, they'll find that is comes out on the surface, and off in the distance is the remainder of the pirate group setting sail with whatever treasures they could swipe on their way out. A considerable amount of pirate loot is still going to be left behind.
The PCs having to fight on two fronts is why it's important to keep from draining or exhausting the PCs too early. The real fight, the challenging battle, is the one that takes place inside the castle, when the PCs realize they're trapped between two hostile foes.

Hide and Seek
This adventure is exactly what it sounds like.
Choose a location with some interesting terrain (a farm possibly), and task one or more of the PCs to find a group of individuals that have hidden around inside it. The rules are simple; a person isn't caught unless you tag them (physically). So if someone's found, they still have a chance to escape and hide somewhere else. A character in the game can't leave material plane while playing the game. If any of the characters have access to magic, they can use to help them hide, or hinder the seeker's snooping (i.e. Darkness, etc...). Offensive spells (Curse, Fireball, Feeblemind, etc...) are looked down upon if not outright banned. The point of the game is for each character to use their abilities to help them do whatever it is that they do best, but all geared towards the goal of playing hide and seek.
A hider could use illusion magic to disguise their presence.
A seeker could use Detect Magic to reveal an area that's been concealed with magic.
A hider could use illusion magic to point out someone else's hiding spot to distract the seeker from finding their hiding spot.
A teleporter could easily 'port somewhere out of reach of the seeker (to the top of a roof perhaps) to evade being tagged.
A seeker with a climb speed could move directly over buildings to cut off a hider that they're chasing.
An aquatic hider could hide themselves at the bottom of a nearby pond or lake.
Even someone without any special abilities could conceal themselves simply by preventing any direct line of sight to a seeker (hide underneath a pile of dirt), to avoid being spotted by someone with a high spot check.
A hider with a high survival check could create false tracks to confuse someone relying on their survival skill.
Even something as simple as a thrown rock could be used to distract a seeker.
The Detect Evil and Detect Good spells reveal only the presence or absence of those alignments. So a seeker couldnít use it to pinpoint a Neutral person.

Guards on Strike
All or most of the guards in a city go on strike for better wages (or something), and as such, every criminal in the city decides to take advantage. The PCs are offered a job as temporary protection for the city and its citizens while the strike is resolved. The PCs could help negotiate on the guards' behalf, they could sabotage the union's attempts to strike, or they could even try to supplant the striking guards with another force (themselves maybe, or perhaps a group that they train).
You can have the strike motivated for any number of reasons. The strike could be due to horrible working conditions that the city has forced the guard into, or it could be a scheme by criminal bosses to take the city's protection out of the picture for short time to pull off high profile crime (stealing an artifact, assassinating an individual, all of the above, etc), or all of the above plus extra.

This sort of encounter is really better tailored for newer/lower-level characters. The idea is to introduce a lot of the city's major figures and get the players involved/invested in the city's protection. This would be a lead-up to the players using the city as a base of operations, and eventually as a jumping point for a larger-scale campaign adventure.

Take Your Chances
Players approach a run down outpost during an intense blizzard. Huddled just outside the safety of the compound are the bodies of several people who apparently chose to die of exposure rather than stay inside the "safety" of the compound. They were so afraid of something inside the compound that they chose to die of exposure from the blizzard rather than risk staying inside with it.
Hope you guys have fun with these! :smallsmile: