If you’re sitting in a tavern and a mysterious Wizard with grey robes and a pointy hat approaches and starts talking about a job offer don’t accept. You should ignore him and curse your DM. This is one of the most boring and overused ways to begin an adventure. Unless your DM is running his very first game, this should never be an acceptable adventure hook. In D&D, a tavern is a social place full of activity and interesting characters. Relying on this kind of boring stereotype is completely unacceptable.
While rummaging through an old stack of papers I stumbled across notes from an old campaign. As I looked them over a series of adventure hooks caught my attention. The notes were in my printing but I had no memory of writing them (probably because they were at least 15 years old). Although the ideas were from a previous edition of D&D many of the adventuring hooks still held a lot of promise. I realized that with just a little bit of editing these hooks would work in 4e D&D (and make a great blog post). After all, the last Adventuring Hooks article we ran was called The Town Meeting and that was over a year ago.
Before I get into the adventuring hooks themselves I think a little bit of context is required. Some of these hooks are likely to work just fine on their own, but a few make more sense with background information.
The campaign was to take place almost exclusively in one setting – a tavern called the Sun & Moon. But it was so much more than just a tavern. I envisioned it as a resort-like property inspired by Las Vegas casinos. The Sun & Moon offered rooms for rent ranging from very small to the lavishly palatial. The sizable taproom was always filled with memorable barflies. There was also a small theater that served as a proving ground for new talent and a place for established performers to try out new material. The inner courtyard offered a green retreat within a bustling city.
The level 1 PCs began the adventure as servants at the Sun & Moon. My intention was to make the tavern such an interesting place that the PCs wouldn’t feel obligated or even interested in leaving. So with a cast of established characters in place (the twins who just purchased the run down tavern and are struggling to fix it up, the Wizard who agrees to provide financial backing in exchange for a place to teach his students, and a large family of Halflings who manage the servants) the campaign was ready to begin. All that we needed now was some adventure, and that where these hooks start to pay off.
- Three Drow on the run stop at the Sun & Moon. They have disguised themselves through magical and mundane means. However, something about their gear or equipment was overlooked allowing a truly observant PC to notice something’s amiss.
- A noble has taken up permanent residence in one of the more lavish rooms. However, he is rarely (perhaps never?) seen coming or going. Yet the cleaning staff insists that he sleeps in his room every night since the bed is always disturbed.
- One of the servants is having a love affair with a married guild master. The servant secretly secures a room once a week so that they can meet privately.
- Two adventurers, a Wizard and a Ranger, get a room for the night and make a big deal about how they have to leave early in the morning because of some pressing matter. They decide to catch the show since they’re stuck here for the evening. The next morning they declare that they’ve decided to stay indefinitely and forget mentioning any other urgent matters. They do, however, insist on purchasing tickets to the show every night for the rest of its three-week run.
[They were hypnotized during the show and must continue seeing it as often as possible.]
- A singer who, until recently, had no singing voice suddenly becomes the star attraction.
[In the shadows, a spellcaster with a beautiful voice and absolutely no Charisma or stage presence uses a ventriloquism spell to sing through the beautiful girl.]
- A Dwarven comic seeks employment and is willing to work for free until he’s proven his ability as a performer.
[He’s a hardened criminal recently released from prison and trying to change his ways. This is his way of giving back to the community.]
- A Bard and former student of the Wizard-in-Residence is booked to perform. His stories are full of adventure and supported by his magical flare. However, the hotel patrons are offended and refuse to let the Bard back on stage without explanation.
[The characters in the Bard’s stories are actually the twins themselves and everything the Bard said on stage was 100% true, including some sordid details.]
- A young Rogue is picking pockets in the tavern and is not very good at it. However, when caught the victims and the tavern owner refuse to press charges. He’s back in the tavern again every few nights try to steal and keeps getting caught.
[The Rogue’s father is trying to discourage his son from becoming a thief. He’s made an arrangement with the twins and some of the local barflies not to press charges. He hopes that his son will realize being a thief is not easy and he should just keep up with his studies.]
- A troupe of Bards is offended when a seasoned Warlord checks in and attends the show. They are under contract to perform, and risk a huge penalty clause if they don’t. They simply refuse and offer no explanation.
[This is truly just a case of mistaken identity.]
- A young teen arrives at the inn and claims to be the twin’s old uncle reincarnated. At first his story is dismissed because he’s a different race. His true identity is unknown but he does have a vast knowledge about the family including many of their dark secrets.
[If this sounds familiar you must have read The Secrets of Eberron Revealed (Part 6).]
- A Halfling arrives at the Inn making wild claims that he’s immune to fire. He’s got a whole show in mind to exploit this phenomenon. He explains that his immunity comes from drinking a special potion he created himself.
[In truth he found the formula for the potion while exploring an old Wizard’s laboratory. After each show he sells draughts of his potion. What he does not know is that the potion will only work for the same person a specific number of times. He ultimately dies in a fire while saving people.]
- A high and mighty Wizard with ties to the local nobility claims that the Wizard-in-Residence is making a mockery of the Arts because of his school’s connection to such a lowly place as this run-down tavern. He begins petitioning the local Wizard’s guild and nobility to have the school shut down.
- While searching the store room one morning, someone discovers numerous crates marked “Foreign plants, spices and herbs.” No one knows how the crates got into the store room or what’s inside of them.
- A troupe of Dwarven acrobats arrange to put on a show for a very short-run. They are remarkably agile for Dwarves.
[They are members of an assassin’s guild from a far-off city. Although not here on business they will stir the pot and cause trouble if given the opportunity.]
- A master of disguise keeps returning to the tavern in different disguises. He’s been out of the game for a while and wants to practice before taking on any new assignments. Over the years he has developed some “tells” that although subtle are quite characteristic. After a few interactions an observant PC may notice these tells.
Visit Dungeon’s Master next week when we run more hooks featuring interesting characters and situations in Adventure Hooks: Welcome to the Sun & Moon Tavern (Part 2).