Role Playing 101 #9: Use Story Hooks!

No matter how you structure your storyline, and no matter if it's linear or completely free, you have no game if your heroes do not participate. For some game masters I've met this may not seem a problem. In their adventures the heroes are no more than spectators anyway. Their players may watch, but not touch.

How to Draw Players IN? 
But I hope a no touch no go adventure is not what you are looking for. The heroes should participate. They should be able to act and to change things. To steer events. And naturally they should also be able to fail. Or succeed. And they should want to succeed, change and steer.

So how do you get your heroes to participate? You need something to draw them in. Something to make them care. You need story hooks.

A story hook somehow makes the story personal for the hero, and hopefully also personal for the player. Perhaps the stakes of the adventure are personal, because they are a family member, a family treasure, a home village, or a close friend. Perhaps a friend is in need, or a big reward is promised – and the hero badly needs money. Perhaps the hero has a particularly strong sense of justice, and a great injustice is done. Perhaps the employer of the hero wants him (or her) there. Or maybe it's just something strange and mysterious that draws the attention of the heroes.

Be Pragmatic with your Hooks
Whatever hooks you use, always make sure that they indeed work. See if your players indeed bite, and are entertained. If you find that the players are not drawn into your intended story, then maybe you need some other hooks. Think of a few new ones before you ditch your story, and see if you can find the right angle. If necessary, ask your players for help what might work. And reward them by using the suggestions.

Different players may need different hooks. And different characters in the same team may also need different hooks. You might even want to provide each player with their own reason – or story hook – to participate. Because in essence, a hook is part of the overall motivation of your characters – and players. And motivation is what you need.

And if you are a player reading this, remember that your character motivation is also very much your own responsibility. Don't try to be one of those guys who sits behind the telly during the game all the time complaining that there is no reason to join the adventure. And at the same time ignore each hook that is thrown at you. Be a bit cooperative too, or leave the room if you find you cannot manage.

1 comment:

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