I confess: I’ve often thought that in both professional adventure design and for GMs bringing a game to their home table — too much hand-wringing and navel gazing has accompanied the presentation of “adventure hooks.”
Why is your character going on an adventure? It is a responsibility that, strangely, both published adventures and most rule sets hoist upon the GM.
Why is it up to the GM to dangle an enticement in front of the players? Why must the GM be the one who concocts the motivations that will snare the players’ interest?
Provide the adventure? Yes, the GM does that. Provide the “hook”? Uh-uh.
I’ve heard that “adventure hooks” are akin to a film or stage director providing a motivation to an actor for a given scene.
In my experience, however, most directors provide but an outline, sketching in broadest terms their perspective on a given scene. But they still rely on the cast members themselves to develop their assigned character. A studious actor usually finds their own motivation, rather than relying on someone else to interpret things.
Should such a task befall a GM, then I say, let that hook be a quest. Now and forever, from this point forward. If any player comes to the table needing a “hook”, then I say: make it a quest.
“Ah, Lady Aethelflaed, no one but you and your friends are suited for this task. Please, go forth, and see that it is done. For the glory of our kingdom and our god.”
If a player can’t get jazzed about embarking on a quest — then why on earth have we gathered at this table, character sheets in hand? Our time might be better spent playing Parcheesi.
Come ready to play. Be willing to let imagination take hold. Be the hero — do the deed — return with the treasure.
By all means, feel free to negotiate with the quest giver. Suggest a quest of your own to the GM. Even better. There comes a time when players are ready to move on from their quest-giver, especially if it is a king. (Kings expect to be obeyed, and admittedly, the imbalance of that interpersonal dynamic may wear thin after a while.) That’s understood. And such initiative should be rewarded.
But none of these players need “adventure hooks.” They are engaged. They are part of the conversation.
Now, I get it. Novice players may need to be instructed. But honestly, most new players don’t need help with “adventure hooks.” They probably need help deciphering their character sheet or understanding when it is “their turn.” But are they lacking zeal for adventure? Hardly.
So, go forth! And don’t forget to close the dungeon door on your way out.