Forget The Hook

I recently posted an idea about how you can use hooks to come up with cool ideas for your tabletop RPGs. Here's another quick-and-easy trick: You can still use those hooks even if you don't use those hooks.

No, this isn't some Yoda-esque Zen koan – although I wouldn't mind a cool cape-wearing action figure of me. Rather, it's an observation that the point of inspiration is the inspiration . . . and once you're inspired, you might no longer need the hook.

In the previous example, I developed the start of an encounter based on the hook: "What if the heroes are in disguise and combat breaks out?" I had a hypothetical GM contemplating how that might mean the heroes were given the idea by their supervisor to go in disguise to infiltrate the hidden base to retrieve vital plans. But what if the players hear the Commander's plan and decide, "That's a terrible idea! We're not gonna do that; you're probably only suggesting it because you want us to get in a combat while in disguise!" <looks pointedly at the GM>

No problem! The hook led you to the idea: "There's a secret base with plans that the heroes need to steal." The inspiration – heroes in disguise – isn't needed anymore! If the players have an idea that's cooler or they like better, let them do it!

In fact, it's almost certainly going to be a better encounter if the players use their own agency and creativity to overcome it. Now they're personally invested in the plan rather than having some NPC spoon-feed it to them.

Once the hook serves its purpose of creating a memorable encounter, feel free to discard it entirely if it no longer works for whatever reason. But keep my action-figure cape; those things are a pain to replace if they're accidentally vacuumed up in 1987.

-- Steven Marsh