This week I thought I’d focus more on role play and story. One thing I’ve read over and over again is that when providing adventure hooks for your players, it’s best to give them multiple avenues to the information. That way if they some how miss the key NPC or important map in the hidden bottom of the chest they still can follow the story. Presented here are ten avenues to providing plot hooks to your players.
The Over-estimator – a few hours after defeating a major enemy or thwarting a villain’s machinations the players receive an audio or video message from the next big bad. The message is brief and threatening, likely hiding the identity of the sender, but most importantly, the big bad assumes the heroes already found the clues to the next adventure, and specifically warns them away from following said clues.
The Evil Morty – After an epic fight where the heroes emerge victorious, perhaps they miss the clues you have provided about a hidden mastermind guiding events. However, an autopsy of an enemy they just defeated reveals some kind of remote mind control device was steering their actions. Too subtle? Have the enemy not quite dead from their attacks and try to tell them about the evil mastermind making them do their dark deeds, only to have his head explode, heart stop, or some other gruesome remote death method.
The Slow Burn – This one takes planning. Early on in the adventure have the players receive some kind of fan mail. Emails, social media messages, whatever seems appropriate. At first these will be simple messages of praise, but make a note of mentioning them each session. By the third or forth message, include a tidbit about something they haven’t done yet, but are about to do. Keep it up, making it more and more overt until they pick up on it. When they do, you can reveal more about the admirer – perhaps a third party also opposed to the heroes enemies who has been following their progress, or possibly a member of the enemy organization who admires the heroes despite themselves, or even the evil mastermind themselves who was unable to resist the temptation to develop a relationship with the heroes opposing them.
The Space Oracle – If you remember Mass Effect 1, you know this one. Just like the Consort warned Shepard about the coming threat, include some sci-fi prognosticator that can sense the heroes special destiny and can warn them about what they are about to face. Maybe it’s a super advanced predictive AI, or powerful psychic floating jellyfish, whatever seems appropriate. Give them just enough divination (a kind of magic the players are NOT going to have if you are running core Starfinder) to get them on the right track. And if they ever become too dependent on the oracle for clues, have the big bad kidnap or kill the oracle.
Kylo-Ren Force Facetime – If you’ve seen Last Jedi, you know what I’m talking about here. Have one of the players, through no intention of their own, experience a psychic connection with one of your villains. It can be as simple as a brief glimpse through their eyes, or as complicated as some kind of forced remote conversation or thought sharing. You can provide your players with important clues via this connection, but for maximum fun, make sure to have the villain make special preparations based on the info they gleaned from their end.
The Harvey – You’ll need to work with one of your players for this one. Somewhere in their back story, or perhaps early on in the adventure, one of the players was captured, and unbeknownst to them, implanted with some kind of device or psychic signature that has lain dormant in their psyche. The first hints of this will show up as a helpful presence only that player can see and interact with, someone or something that has the knowledge they need to drive the story forward. Over time develop the psychic spy, providing hints that they are not entirely benign. Eventually, at a crucial moment, the psychic spy will assume control over that player’s character (make sure your player is ok with this! Nobody likes having their agency taken away.). Perhaps this leads to a heroic sacrifice, or a side plot to purge the spy from the player’s mind. Story potential abounds.
The Time Traveler’s Diary – add a little archeological intrigue to the game and give the player’s access to some old book or archive that seems remarkably prescient about their current circumstances. The origin of this important clue might be some time traveling historian’s lost notes, or even a player’s character from an alternate time line trying to guide events down a better path in this one. For added tension, make the clues provided not always reliable, as small changes in the current time line lead to alternate events.
The Artifact – in one of the early sessions have some or all of your players encounter an inscrutable alien device. Something mysterious and hyper-advanced beyond all modern science. Maybe they have a brief vision when they first encounter it of something that later becomes pertinent. The key is that the visions imparted by the artifact never have to stop. At any time, if your players seem to have lost the thread, or you want to impart an extra sense of importance to an event or foe, another vision from the artifact occurs. Works best if you never explain why or how this item provided them guidance. Use sparingly, to avoid it becoming tired and cliché.
The B Team – Obviously the players are going to be the heroes (or villains if that is your thing) of the story, but that doesn’t mean they have to be the only adventurers in the game. Create an alternate team of heroes, working in parallel to the players. While your group does one thing, the B team is off somewhere else working another thread. The important part is that they correspond somehow with your players. Maybe they report to the same quest giver, and from time to time the players overhear part of the reports, or perhaps they have a friendly rivalry with the players group and send regular communications. Whatever method you use, from time to time have their actions reveal something that will help the players onto the right track. Keep the B team around as long as you think they are adding to the game, but feel free to have them go down fighting some big bad if you ever find you need to ramp up the tension.
The Lensmen/Nova Corp/Green Lanterns – An old sci-fi trope is the idea of some kind of interstellar crime fighting organization, most notably popularized by E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensmen stories. You don’t have to make your players a part of this organization (though they may want to join) but you can hint at it, or have them show up in news blasts or web postings or some other modern form of communication. However it happens, the players should become aware of the organization, so that should the need arise you can bring them into the game to provide story hooks. Maybe the players encounter a solo agent of the organization and are asked to help them, or they are recruited in mass to fight some threat. Or even go full Thanos and have the organization wiped out at some point to establish your big bad’s bonafides. Whatever route you choose, they are a good story element to have in your pocket to give your players some extra guidance.
Artist and Writer