How do you motivate the PCs to begin a new adventure? Meeting a guy in a tavern is old and overused. You want the PCs to go down the road you’ve paved with all your hard work. You’ve designed the campaign, chosen the adventure, drawn the maps, populated the dungeons, given stats to the important NPCs, balanced the encounters and planned your tactics. All you need now is a hook.
To begin the adventure you need to provide some reason the PCs to get engaged. There are as many ways to do this as there are adventures: from the dark stranger in the corner of the bar to the wisely sage living in the tower.
The Town Meeting (presented below) is an adventuring hook for PCs in the heroic tier. This is the first of a new ongoing series here at Dungeon’s Master. It presents a simple hook and looks at the many possibilities that it can spawn.
Baiting the Hook: The Town Meeting
Town meetings are meetings where the entire population of a certain geographical region is invited to attend. Usually these meetings have a purpose, be it political, religious or administrative in nature.
In a typical D&D hamlet or thorp, there are many reasons to call a town meeting: to elect civic officials (such as the mayor or sheriff), plan events (such as the harvest festival or end of winter celebrations) or some other mundane and uninteresting reason. What you need is an interesting reason for the meeting to be taking place and here are a few suggestions.
Concerns over safety
- People or livestock are disappearing and the townsfolk are scared.
- A strange sickness is spreading.
- Strange figures are seen or heard in the woods.
- Graves are found looted or empty.
- Villagers are getting turned into newts (but they’re getting better).
Concerns over trade
- Trade caravans are missing.
- Merchants are being robbed.
- Crops in the area are doing poorly.
- Stored food is spoiling.
- Sheep are balding, cows are producing curdled milk, chickens are laying eggs with no shells.
- Forged money or documents are being discovered.
Concerns over religion
- The sky is turning red and it’s raining blood.
- Offerings to the gods are missing or are showing signs of rejection.
- Statues in the church are bleeding, crying or broken.
- The church bell has cracked.
- An albino calf was born.
Once you’ve decided why the town meeting was called, you can determine the relationship the PCs have to the people gathered there. Perhaps the PCs are residents of the community and they have a personal interest in resolving this mystery. Perhaps they are just passing through town and they stumble upon the meeting as the congregation finishes a prayer for help.
Once the PCs have become part of the scene it’s important to ensure that they’re properly motivated, and the best way to do this is to offer some kind of reward. Since everyone in the area is present (or are they?) the town officials have the authority to enlist the PCs help in order to resolve whatever problem lead to the town meeting in the first place (major quest). Some of the townsfolk may offer the PCs an interesting treasure if they complete an unrelated task while they’re in the area (side quests). An elderly woman may ask the Druid to find her lost house cat or a farmer asks the Fighter to take his son on as a squire. The possibilities are endless. With everyone in one place it should be easy for the PCs to gather clues as well as dig up rumours and town legends. This may be a good time for the DM to employing a skill challenge.
Reeling Them In
No matter what purpose broght the town’s folk together or the direction you chose to launch the PCs in, a town hall meeting gives the PCs a sense of assisting a community and will likely be a lot more memorable than starting an adventure in a tavern.
What do you think of this adventuring hook? Is it something you are likely to use? Are you interested in seeing more article in this series? If you do use this hook, how did it turn out? We want to hear from you.