Adventure hooks are indented as a way to get the PCs into the action quickly. Dangle something interesting in front of them and hope that they take the bait. It might be a greed trap where you offer them a pretty bauble or magical item, or it might be an interaction with a strange or unusual character. In most cases the adventure hook is simple and straight forward (which is not to say boring).
However, in some cases the adventure hook can be more than just a simple way to get the PCs interested in the next leg of the adventure. Every once in a while adventure hooks should be a little bit more complicated than the usual fare. DMs should provide the PCs with a dilemma in which they have to make a choice. Although there isn’t a clear-cut right or wrong answer, either outcome will have serious consequences.
Today we share four adventure hooks; each of which puts the PCs in situations where they have to make difficult moral choices. Listening to the PCs justify how and why they’re going to handle these situations will say a lot about the kind of characters that make up the adventuring party. In some cases the decision to act one way or the other may result in some in-party fighting. These are not easy choices to make and it could be very revealing once the PCs decide to act.
- A local baron or other minor noble hires the PCs to help him keep law and order in his growing town. The PCs swear loyalty to him and agree to do as he bids for the duration of their contract. Over time they realize that he’s corrupt and see first-hand that he’s a terrible leader. One day a relative of the baron shows up in town. Although he does have proper claim to the town’s highest office, he has no desire to rule or lead. What makes it even more difficult is that the visitor is an exceptionally popular and good-hearted man – the perfect leader. Do the PCs try to help the visiting noble take over or do they remain loyal to a man who doesn’t deserve their loyalty?
- The PCs are lost in a harsh environment (frozen tundra, arid desert, ocean, or underdark). They are getting to the point of desperation as their supplies are running dangerously low. They are already beginning to feel the effects of malnourishment and dehydration. They come across a group of people with supplies. Do the PCs try to take what they need or do they ask for assistance? If they ask for assistance the people will help. However, they demand that the PCs perform some service that is contradictory to the PCs sensibilities. Will they accept help under these terms? Alternatively the saviours are willing to provide aid, but the PCs recognize them as part of an extreme evil organization. Will they accept their help?
- The PCs are recruited by a frontier town to handle a local monster problem. The monsters (Orcs, Gobbling, Gnolls, etc.) have become more brazen and their attacks on the town have become more and more frequent. After the PCs eliminate the warriors in the raiding parties they follow their tracks to a hidden lair. Once there they discover women, children and elderly monsters. Do the PCs kill them or spare their lives? There is treasure in the lair but if the PCs take it the monsters will have nothing with which to trade and will surely face extreme hardship since the PCs killed their hunters and gathers. If the town that hired the PCs realizes that they helped the monsters or took pity on them, it could reflect poorly on the PCs’ reputation. What do the PCs do?
- The PCs witness a fight in which one man kills another. They don’t recognize the killer when the crime happens but eventually realize who he is. He’s famous – perhaps a popular politician or an up-and-coming noble. He’s also been a thorn in the side of the PCs recently. Before the PCs can report what they’ve seen, a reward is offered for information leading to the killer’s arrest. Any accusations made by the PCs may not be taken seriously given their ongoing issues with the killer. The killer secretly offers the PCs hush money, treasure or information they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Do they let his crime go unpunished? Do they turn him in or do they decide to take matters into their own hands? If caught they know they will certainly be prosecuted?
How often does your party find themselves faced with these kinds of moral dilemmas? If faced with one of these specific adventure hooks in your game, how would you react based on your character’s background and alignment?