7 Adventure Hooks for Making the Loot Part of the Plot: RPG Blog Carnival

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on October 4, 2011

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Campaign Mastery is “Making the Loot Part of the Plot.” As they describe in their overview article, this topic can be applied broadly to a lot of games in a lot of ways.

It’s been my experience that most D&D games revolve around items and loot. They may not always be at the heart of the adventure, but they are usually a significant part of the plot. If you’re looking for a way to kick-start your next campaign may we suggest you use one of the adventure hooks provided below. All of them involve making the loot part of the plot in one way or anther.

7 Adventure Hooks

  1. The PCs are hired to travel the realm and collect many strange and rare rocks, minerals, plants and other substances. What they don’t realize is that these are all components required to create a powerful magical item. By the time they learn the truth the item is complete. Its owner is wreaking havoc and in the name of evil. Do the PCs feel responsible? It was they who put all the materials in the hands of the item’s creator. Without their help he could never have acquired all of those rare components. Perhaps they feel that the item should be theirs.
  2. When the PCs are accused of stealing an item they face imprisonment or even execution for their crime. The only problem is that they didn’t steal the item, they’re being set up. In order to clear their name they have to find the item and prove they didn’t steal it in the first place.
  3. The PCs are hired to recover a small, ornamental box from an abandoned cottage in an area now overwrought with monsters. The employer explained that the box was a gift from her deceased husband and its sentimental value far outweighs its material value. When the PCs find the box it opens easily enough. Inside they find letters; correspondence between their employer and a man clearly not her husband. The man named in the letters is the town magistrate and he’s married to another woman. This particular magistrate has caused the PCs and other honest adventurers a lot of unnecessary grief lately. If the letters are made public they would expose the affair and cause the magistrate great embarrassment, possibly costing him his job and certainly his marriage. Do the PCs pretend that they never opened the box and deliver it as commissioned? What about the letters?
  4. In a low-magic setting any magical item can sway the balance of power. When the PCs learn that one of their enemies has such an item they may feel that relieving him of this item is their duty. But are the doing it because they don’t want their enemy to have the item or because they truly want it for themselves. Once they have the item how does the party decide who will keep it?
  5. A seemingly regular item awakens and reveals itself to the PC who owns it that it’s an intelligent artifact. How does the PC react? Does he share this information with the rest of the party? Maybe the item is malevolent and exerts enough control over the PCs to force his silence. How long can the item, through the PC, influence the party’s decisions?
  6. After killing a particularly nasty creature, the PCs rummage through its treasure horde and find all kinds of interesting and possibly valuable knick-knacks. One item in particular gets their attention. It’s unlike anything they’ve seen before and must certainly be valuable. However, no one can identify its purpose. Shortly after this victory a series of brutal attacks happen in the town where the PCs are staying. As the PCs travel, the rash of violent attacks seems to follow them. It turns out he bauble they found and could not identify is the equivalent of a child’s pacifier. With the parent monster slain, its offspring seeks the one item that will comfort them, the item the PCs have in their possession.
  7. The PCs are hired to deliver a sealed box. Along the way to their destination they are constantly beset upon by others who try to take the box from them. However, no one, not even the PCs, know what’s really inside the box. The rationale among those trying to steal it is that if someone is willing to hire guards to protect it then it must be valuable. The more enemies the PCs defeat the more the stories of the box’s value grow and the more often they have to fight to protect it. The box is in fact empty. The employer is flat broke. Before hiring the adventurers he took out a sizable insurance policy on the box, claiming something valuable was within. He then spread rumours of the box’s value himself, expecting that it would eventually be stolen from the heroes. With their testimony that the box was stolen, the employer collects on his insurance and is flush again.

Remember that any item can seem valuable if you pay attention to the little details and make it seem important. Keep that in mind when describing everyday, mundane items. By taking the time to add this level of detail to the regular stuff, you can more easily slip in something important without drawing unnecessary attention to it.

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1 Taed October 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

# 7 is a pretty good hook in my opinion and one that I’d surely use if I were currently DMing. You’d need to flesh it out with warnings from the owner to not look inside and not try to divine the contents, and make the PCs promise not to do so. Assuming that the PCs are honorable, they’ll be tempted to figure out what’s inside once they keep running into trouble over the box. Even the most lawful good party will probably have a serious discussion about how to open the box without being detected when it’s delivered. And for those who do look inside, they’d just be all the more confused, figuring that the contents must be magically hidden or that the value is the box itself somehow. With a party of scallywags, the hook doesn’t work, of course.

2 Sunyaku October 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I’ve always been a fan of including plot arc items in monster loot. Lately I’ve also been trying to make a point of including more mundane items in the mix as well, and not necessarily telling players the details of what they received until they make a point of examining the items further.

3 mbeacom October 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm

All very good thanks!

4 RPG GM March 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Great hooks! Loot and items are great because they can be the story and the reward. We play https://fyxtrpg.com/ and the item generator in there is awesome. You can add tons of effects, character bonuses, spells and powers, and then make the items whatever you want. The open way the Fyxt RPG is allows GMs to really create whatever they want. This really does help to create hooks for items because you don’t have to spend hours searching for something that might work. All you have to do is create it and you are GTG to game!

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