Category Archives: Get Yourself Adventure Hooked

Just imagine- the gang is all there, sitting around the table, looking at you to start the session. You have a great adventure, lots of cool NPCs, the whole nine. But you forgot one thing- a hook to get the ball rolling. Ask and ye shall receive.

Plots For Sale Or Rent

Well, hello and greetings, fair humanoids! And unfair, I’m not one to judge. It is your enlightening host, The Mysterious Dr. X, here to regale you with stories from the sci-fi side of the table!

You know, a lot of people here on Earth come up to me, and they’ll be like “Oh, Dr. X, I’m starting a new game tonight with my group, and I don’t know what the plot should be about, please help me!!”. After brandishing my Mysterious X-Ray at them for saying my name wrong, I usually manage to squeak out a few sentences before they disappear completely through the portal into The Mysterious Dimension X. And here they are!

  • Post-apocalypse
    • A few generations earlier, Odin had returned to Midgard (Earth) and sterilized it. However, some humans still survive in what has become the playground of the Old Gods.
    • A comet crash lands in the ocean, and upon breaking open, is revealed to be filled with a caustic black jelly. It swiftly spreads and kills all the sea creatures, then dissolves away, leaving no trace.
    • Robots! After they become self-aware and start building themselves, they- surprisingly enough- do not rebel, instead pampering us and taking care of our every whim. However, our eventual acceptance of the situation turns the entire culture into a completely sedentary lifestyle, and human production shuts down completely- food doesn’t get harvested, homes no longer get built, et cetera. After a while, the planet is devastated.
  • Star Wars
    • Old Republic: Czerka is up to their old tricks. This time, it’s believed they’re actually selling slaves on the black market. They’re weird slaves, though, unlike anything anyone has seen. They resemble wookiees, except they’re short- like two or three feet tall.
    • Rebellion: You uncover documentation that seems to imply Mon Mothma herself has been supplying information to Vader and his men.
    • Legacy: Krayt has initiated the next stage of his plan of utter domination, and all signs point to that plan being the complete destruction of the Mon Calamari race. It’s time to set up a raiding party and break into some Sith concentration camps.
  • Future
    • Animorphs, but with Dralasites and N’sss instead of andalites and yeerks. Oh, and it takes place like a thousand years in the future.
    • A sesheyan has been elected Prime Minister of the US. Immediately afterwards, he starts a war with the home planet of the Vrusk. No one has any idea why.
    • A yazirian has announced he has selected the entire ruling class of weren as his life enemy, attempting (and failing) an assassination attempt on one of them a few days later. Apparently, though, word has been made that he was forced to make that selection, but by who, no one knows.

Well, folks, I hope that was worth the time and effort! Make sure to mention my name to get 15% off your next order (not actually true- you’ll probably get banned)! I am your host, The Mysterious Dr. X, saying “every suggestion is an Officially Certified Mysterious Dr. X Stone Cold Classic©“!

The Mysterious Dr. X (seriously, don’t tell them I sent you. Bad things will happen)

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Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 10: The One Black Stain

It is January 28, 1596. You ship is anchored just off the shore of Panama, just like it has been for the last five days or so. But today, it’s for a very important occasion. Your captain, one Sir Francis Drake, died during the night from dysentery, and has requested a burial at sea. Dressed in his full armor, inside a lead coffin, his body goes overboard and promptly sinks into the depths. Seemingly forever- even four hundred years later, his body would still not be found.

Anyway, after the requisite time for mourning, the new captain raises anchor and flees, since the spot was the location of a complete rout of Drake’s forces. During the trip, Drake’s assistant comes up to you, telling you that Drake gave him a small chest right before his death. The things in it have writing on it, and unfortunately the assistant can’t read, and so he now requires the help of one of the only people in the crew he can completely trust.

Inside the chest is four things.

  • An object in a strange shape you’ve never seen before. It looks like an oval with a line sticking out of its right side, with another line sticking out down from the midpoint of the first. It looks carved out of stone
  • A small metal cylinder, flat on one end and a rounded point on the other. The flat end has a bit of a lip, and on the underside of the edge, the message “9X19” is stamped into the metal
  • A sealed envelope, inside of which is a vaguely triangular piece of burlap, apparently looking like it was ripped directly from a bag. It has a crudely drawn compass pointing northwest on it and dated two days ago
  • An ornately designed hair comb, inlaid with ivory. Would not at all seem out of place in the personal bedchambers of a queen. When held under the sun, flecks of gold glint and catch the light

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 9: A Whole Bunch

1. A traveling magician is dogged by mysterious disappearances that seem to match up with stops in his tour.

2. Various media outlets claim subliminal messages in the new Corpsetec album is the cause of a recent rash of suicides.

3. Word starts filtering in of several homeless people reporting sightings of “some sort of demon” coming out of, or going into, the sewers.

4. A bank robber becomes the subject of intense public speculation when he is shown on camera not taking any money, instead seeming to meditate for approximately 45 seconds before leaving.

5. A wall underground collapses during a subway expansion, revealing a perfectly preserved, fully furnished house in an otherwise unused empty space.

6. Supposedly, someone is actually working on a real-life Jurassic Park.

7. An unusually large number of people were brought to the hospital with injuries consistent with massive electrical shock, and it is later discovered they were all present during an explosion at a bus station.

8. Someone makes grandiose claims about being able to perform apparently inhuman feats of strength, yet is able to follow through on their statements.

9. A gigantic dog is seen downtown literally appearing out of nowhere, running across the street, and immediately disappearing into thin air.

10.  Dozens of photographs surface seeming to depict modern-day people present during historical events.

11. Thirty two tourists all see the Lincoln Memorial move its head and start talking, but no one knows what it said.

12. A farmer in Germany claims that a hill near the edge of her farm split open and a giant stone person came out.

13. An underground comic made by someone known only as “Sketch” has gained a reputation for depicting events that, some time later, actually happen.

14. Someone bought a hat from the back of a comic book that they say will turn them into other people when they wear it.

15. After getting mugged the other night, a young woman now exhibits the classic, stereotypical signs of vampirism.

16. A recently declassified government document tells of a soldier during Desert Storm finding a strange glowing rock that prevented his gun from ever running out of ammunition when he kept it on his person.

17. A teenage boy in Turkey has been making waves recently, claiming he is the reincarnation of Alexander The Great.

18. A scientist has released a study claiming he has finally discovered rock solid, irrefutable, empirical evidence that ghosts exist.

19. So, uh… turns out Terminator was a documentary.

20. A follilized tyrannosaur egg at a natural history museum in Utah actually hatched- and the creature inside wasn’t a Rex, it was a dragon.

The Chief (I gotta say, these are a lot of fun to make)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 8: Forcewater

An ad in Soldier Of Fortune catches your eye- two people, using the obviously fake names of Crippler and Gravel, have asked for capable hunter/trackers, of course offering to pay for their services. Apparently, they’re searching for… something (they don’t specify in the ad) referred to in the local Native American tongue as “ím-kákya”- roughly translated, “giant-mouthed creature”. All applicants are asked to come find them in the forests of Oregon. The catch is, you have to find them before they know you’re there. Only the first person able to do so will be considered to employment. Understandably, the competition is expected to be fierce.

Characters can discover Crippler and Gravel were last seen about three weeks ago just outside a small town called Forcewater.

location_of_town
LOCATION OF FORCEWATER

The Chief (Forcewater is also the site of a long-abandoned roadside tourist trap, the Wonder Hut)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 7: Braindead

An old woman runs up to you from a nearby alley while you’re out on the street. An initial glance seems to suggest she is homeless. She adjusts her threadbare, ratty cap and, with a look of fear in her eyes, begs you to call an ambulance. After asking for elaboration, she leads you back through the alley she first appeared from, down to a small lean-to set up next to a small, crumbling, waist-high brick wall. Inside it is a body. It looks masculine, but you can’t tell for sure, since there’s no head.

Over the next week or so, reports appear on the news of more bodies turning up, most with their heads missing- but a few of them weren’t. Instead, they were missing their brains. Specifically, ragged holes were found in the front of their skulls that looked like it was broken or shattered open, and the brain itself is nowhere to be found. There were also strange marks across the skin on the victim’s faces, like the head had been tied up or strapped into something.

Investigations have revealed all the victims have claimed to hear voices, or believe they can do magic “by thinking about it”.

Who’s killing these people? Why? What purpose could there be for the specific victims they choose? Why do some of them have their heads, and some of the do not? For that matter, are the headless victims and the brainless ones even victims of the same person/people?

The Chief (trust me, brains are pretty important)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 6: Just A Whisper

Back in the 1850’s, there was a small orphanage in the countryside, the Misty Hills Home For Youth. According to the urban legend- referred to around town as “The Misty Hill Slicer”- a few small children were out playing one day, when a “blinding fog, as if obscured by smoke” rolled into the area “with worrisome quickness”. As the story goes, the children heard their own name whispered on the wind- but each one of them only heard their own name, not the names of either of their companions. Almost immediately, they were “set upon by a terrible visage” that “expanded, unbidden, from the surrounding fog” and attacked them. They awoke in the hospital, where they discovered they all had identical injuries- one missing eye, one missing leg, and abdomen vertically sliced open. All three managed to survive.

A “breaking news” update appeared on the newspaper’s website earlier today that reported “three children, ages 6-8, were taken to hospital following attack by unknown assailant at Misty Hills Park.” The report also mentions the children insist it was the Slicer.

The Chief (some advice, folks- don’t try to hang out with someone called “the slicer”)

Ye Cewl Happinings Ov Advenchureniss

How’s it going guys, it’s your pal The Chief here! Today I’m gonna blab a bit about Past. So if you’ve heard this before, or already know this, I guess go grab a soda or something and come back when I’m done. I’ll let you know when that is.

d20 Past is a campaign setting for d20 Modern that was released in 2005. Unlike some of the other settings (namely Future, Urban Arcana, and Dark*Matter), it wasn’t released as a full-size hardcover book, but a softcover booklet (similar to Apocalypse), only clocking in at about 95 pages. But even with that seeming comparative drought of information, this book is practically bursting with cool stuff.

In the beginning, it talks a little bit about the point of the book- essentially, regular ol’ Modern is at PL5. (PL, or Progress Level, is a rating used to indicate the relative advancement of technology at that particular time period or society. We, right now, in real life, are at a point that the scale would consider PL5, so the default setting of Modern- i.e., right now- is PL5 as well.) Future covers PL6, PL7, and PL8. (It also talks a little about PL9- read this for more details on how to handle a PL9 game.) Past, meanwhile, is a set of rules geared toward the opposite end of the spectrum- it covers a five hundred year period from roughly 1450 to about 1950, which in Progress Level terms, would make it PL3 and PL4.

(In case anyone was wondering, the lowest on the scale is PL0, and the highest is PL9. Anything below PL3 isn’t covered in the Modern ruleset, and instead is handled by the regular Dungeons And Dragons game, which is PL2, and has its own internal rules for handling PL1 and PL0.)

My point is this- you have all of semi-recent history to play with. Past covers the entire period of time between the Gutenberg Bible and World War II. And seriously guys, so many cool things happened in this 500 year time span. Seriously.

  • Columbus landing in the New World.
  • The European renaissance (Copernicus, Galileo, Nostradamus, and such).
  • Roanoke, then 20 years later, Jamestown.
  • The Golden Age Of Piracy.
  • The Salem Witch Trials.
  • The foundation of the United States.
  • The rise of Napoleon.
  • The Industrial Revolution.
  • The American Civil War.
  • The invention of the airplane.
  • The first World War.
  • The Great Depression.
  • The second World War.

That was only thirteen of the major events that happened during that time frame, and all thirteen are more than strong enough to support an entire campaign. (Okay, maybe not the plane one.) And that’s not even counting the things going on during the entire time, like the never-ending line of popes and kings. But this brings me to my real point- adventures. (Also, any of you soda-grabbing readers can come back now.)

History seemed to change by the month during this time. So much was happening, so much was about to happen, no one knew what was around the next metaphorical corner. Which means there’s plenty of room for cool plot hooks and adventures. Using this fantastic backdrop, here’s some of my favorites.

  • And Yet It Moves: In February 1633, Scientist Galileo Galilei is brought to Rome before the Inquisition to defend himself against charges of heresy, stemming from his scientific paper defending the writings of Copernicus, which stated the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around- as the then-current decree of the Church stated. History books state that he lost the trial, and was under house arrest until his death nine years later. But why DID he lose? Was he truly wrong, and the Earth WAS the center of the universe? Did key evidence “mysteriously disappear”? Was there a conspiracy to silence him no matter what may have happened? Who’s to say he even did lose? Maybe the “official” history is entirely a fabrication- what if he in fact did win the trial, and the records were altered by the Church after the fact to cover up that they got proven wrong? Maybe the trials themselves were just an irrelevant smokescreen, eating up time and diverting attention away from the real plan- an invasion by drow from across Shadow?
  • A Brief And True Report: On August 18, 1590, Governor John White landed on the island of Roanoke, Virginia, where an English colony had been set up five years before. However, to his surprise, the colony was gone- everyone was missing, the houses has been torn down- just a complete wipe. Governor White believed the scant amount of evidence they DID find indicated they had moved to nearby Croatoan Island, but he was never able to investigate, since a storm rolled in that prevented him from making the trip. Unfortunately, no meaningful search was mounted until over ten years later, which ended in failure when they went back to England without ever reaching either Croatoan or Roanoke. Ultimately, that meant there was no definitive proof of what happened to “The Lost Colony”, and their final fate is left for speculation to decide. And that’s where you come in. Why did they disappear? Did they merely move to another island and get forgotten? Were they killed by Native Americans in the area (although most contemporary reports state they had a positive relationship with the nearby natives)? Were they attacked by a raiding party- Spanish, maybe, or French- and then the attack covered up? Hell, who’s to say it wasn’t aliens? Acid rainers? Orc tribe?
  • The Nearest-Run Thing: Sunday, June 18, 1815, French Emperor Napoleon I was in central Belgium preparing for the Battle of Waterloo. It eventually started a bit before lunch- some sources say 10, some say 11:30. The battle eventually ended between 9 and 10 pm that same night. While records differ on both the start and the end time of the battle, all records agree that it ended with a near-complete rout of the French- of Napoleon’s 69,000 troops, he ended up with 25,000 dead, 6,500 captured, and 15,000 deserted. Six days later, Napoleon would abdicate the Emperor’s throne. On July 15, he officially surrenders. He would be sent into exile on Saint Helena, an island about one thousand miles from the west coast of Africa, in early October, and he would die there six years later, on May 5, 1821. There are several different theories as to why Napoleon lost the battle, the most famous of which was issued by a contemporary of his, essentially stating that a combination of the poor weather, the timely arrival of a skilled British general, and the incompetence of a French attack near the beginning of the fight made it impossible for Napoleon to win. But what if that’s not the whole story? What if the British army had super-advanced (for the time) tech- machine guns and tanks? What if they had a mob of werewolves on their side? What if the French troops were suffering from a localized spread of, say, mummy rot?
  • Seven Hungry Children: The stock market crash of Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, heralded the official beginning of the Great Depression. Over the next eight to ten years, the United States would hit an unemployment rate of 25%, watch the failure of over five thousand banks across the country, get crippled by a devastating drought known as the Dust Bowl, and cause the national debt to more than double in four years. And none of this is even taking into account the effect it had in other countries, most of which were equaled, and some even surpassed. In March 1936, a family of nine was in a smallish town in southwestern California, Nipomo. They had just been in Imperial Valley picking beets, and were on their way towards Watsonville to pick lettuce. Along the way, the timing chain in their car snapped, and they came to a stop inside a temporary camp set up for local migrant pea pickers. The father and two of the sons went into town to fix the radiator that had also been damaged, and the rest of the family was approached by a worker for the American Resettlement Administration. Dorothea Lange was there to take photos of the workers in an attempt to bring the plight of the poor to public attention. She saw this young family, and decided to take a few pictures of them to help her cause. But for about forty years, the identity of the woman in the photos was unknown. Why? Maybe she was a spy, working for some sort of rogue faction- maybe even a foreign power- who were the secret masterminds behind the economic collapse of the US. Maybe her information was purposely suppressed by the government, recognizing that an iconic image of sympathy would help them on the world stage. Maybe she was a member of the first race of men, the Hyperboreans, infiltrating the human race, using a poor migrant worker as a cover, and attempted to minimize the damage done to her mission by preventing her name from leaking, if not her image. (In actuality, a tip to a news reporter named Emmett Corrigan in 1978 eventually revealed her name to the world- Florence Owens Thompson- about five years before she died on Spetember 16, 1983.)
  • The Extream Cold: Between February 1692 and May 1693, several trials were held in colonial Massachusetts Bay, primarily in Danvers, Ipswitch, Andover, and- most famously- Salem Town. Mass hysteria had gripped the land, and by the end, twenty people had been executed- most of them found “guilty” of witchcraft- with another five dying in prison. But why? Why did this happen? What caused these people to unnecessarily condemn 25 people to death? Was it, as cited earlier, mass hysteria? Was is ergot poisoning, as someone has posited? Or infected rye bread? Was it something more simple- mere cases of spite, jealousy, and petty backstabbing? Was it a natural effect of what one author called “isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations and lapses in due process”? Or was it something more insidious- a government (not necessarily their own) conducting secret tests of a (to us) primitive mind-control apparatus? Maybe there was a lich or a vampire living in the woods outside the towns, attempting to keep the minds of the townsfolk occupied while he went ahead with his own inscrutable plans? Or perhaps a dragon demanding sacrifices?

Well, guys, I hope you enjoyed that one, because I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it! What I’m trying to say is, play some Past- you’ll have oodles and oodles of perfect opportunities for every situation you can think of. Just remember these two things-

  1. History is a playground.
  2. History is written by the winners.

In other words, what we know as “the past” is only “what happened” because we were TOLD that’s what happened. Who’s to say it didn’t play out some other way? Or for some other reason? And even if it is true, so what? That doesn’t mean it still needs to be true for your game. Players will assume everything that happened before the start of your game happened as commonly known- and any good DM has already thought of several different ways to exploit that by the time I get to the end of this sentence.

My point is (I have a lot of points- I think this is the third one so far in this article, though in my defense, they’re all basically restatements of the same idea), it’s all about playing with history- and that sentence is perfectly summed up with d20 Past. That’s literally the whole purpose. The book even contains a section, prominently displayed, right in the front of the book, detailing ways you may want to approach the usage of history. It also, uniquely among the campaign settings, contains a bibliography detailing books you can read to get a better understanding of the time, culture, and world of the period you choose. (For those of you looking for it and insisting it’s not in the book, you’re correct- it was released as an online only errata/web enhancement on the website.)

And that’ll be it for me, dear friends! This is The Chief once more, wishing you luck in your gaming career, and your life career Please join us next week- I’m planning a writeup on my favorite monster in Modern! Who or what, you ask? Find out next Sunday!

The Chief (everything is awesome)

GMing For Star Wars? BAM

Hello, it is I, The Mysterious Dr. X! By my count, it’s Friday (as you call it here on Earth- we call it “Friday” on my home planet of Earth), so I’m here to regale you with another Mysterious Column X! For once, we’re gonna be talking about Star Wars. I know it’s a topic you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath. I was searching through my triple-encrypted Dread Supercomputer, and I happened to stumble across a folder (cleverly titled “Boring School Stuff” to throw off potential snoops) containing, among other things, some adventure hooks for an old game of mine. I present them to you, and maybe you can get as much use out of them as I did. I can personally guarantee all of these work like gangbusters.

  • A large, powerful droid has assumed control of a planet rightly under banking clan jurisdiction. His name is Oxys, and he is prepared to go to war with two divisions of state-of-the-art battle droids. His forces are already fortified planetside. Banking clan officials lobby for New Republic support of sustained orbital bombardment and blockade. With the impoverished New Republic’s hands tied by banking clan debts, the refugees caught in the middle turn to the Jedi for help. Sneak onto the planet and lead the refugees to safety.
  • Imperial infighting has spilled onto the mining operations of Mustafar. The contractors there don’t care how, they just want them gone. The two warring factions, Admiral Meeks and Admiral Syraam, have enough between them to become a serious long-term problem planetside if not addressed soon- each of them have a light frigate and one thousand stormtroopers at their disposal.
  • A courageous and (mostly) good-hearted pirate crew has captured and is openly flying an Imperial Star Destroyer. The captain- Neezum- and his mostly Gran crew have offered to fight under the banner of any faction that can return to them their original ship, the Cestus- a very special, heavily modified bulk freighter. It was overtaken and captured by Nezzum’s mutant Neimoidian rival, Captain Fieffey. His crew of cut-throats and last-chance spacers refuse to give it up without a fight.

And so, another Mysterious Column X comes to an end! make sure to put these to good use, because it’s some quality material I’m handing over, just out of the goodness of my Mysterious Heart X! I am your host, The Mysterious Dr. X, saying “five bucks says Han shot third”!

The Mysterious Dr. X (MUAHAHAHAHA)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 5: “No Definite Shape Or Form”

Rockton, Illinois has been experiencing some problems. Skeletons have been turning up on their streets. Not “Clash Of The Titans”-style skeletons- they don’t come to life or anything. But there they sit- on front porches, in the middle of the street, inside cars, at the park. The locations are seemingly random. No one knows where they come from, no one knows how they got there.

And it happens so quickly, too- some of the skeletons had formerly been people that had been seen alive only two or three hours before their remains were found, in a few cases.

So far, seven bodies have been found. There have been some vague mentions of some “eyewitnesses”- if you can call it that- hearing something that may have resembled muffled talking or yelling in the hours before the discoveries of some of the bodies. And one person who had seen one of the bodies underneath a street lamp from down the road, said she saw “a pink cloud or mist hovering over the bones for a few seconds, before floating up into the sky”.

Interestingly, DNA results on three of the skeletons showed they were all friends that grew up there, and had gone to Wabash College in Indiana together. They were apparently in town to visit relatives on some time away from school.

The Chief (just bought another island, if anyone wants one)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 4: The Pride Of Noble’s Isle

The reports started filtering in a few weeks ago, but only within the last three or four days did they really start to get noticed- apparently someone has been committing a string of bank robberies. These are particularly notable, though, since witnesses reported the thief growing wings and flying away after the crime.

All the reports follow a similar pattern: a young, attractive woman walks into a bank and threatens the teller with a knife or knives (reports vary), who gives the woman money, which she puts into a backpack. She leaves the bank, and as soon as she’s back outside, her arms turn into wings and she flies off.

It is believed the culprit is an “Amy Rowe”, due to the statements of two individuals who both stated they heard her refer to herself with that name. However, no known woman with that name currently matches her description, so it is assumed to be an alias.

The Chief (he’s got your GMing back)