An adventure hook for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons but adaptable to other systems.
By Mark-Alexander Cross
Players: 3-6 Recommended Level: 1 Focus: Adjustable Adventure / Session 0
Now this hook can be boosted up for higher levels and be used as a good opening dungeon run but I recommend this for level 1. It will give the players something to do, a goal to achieve, earning enough XP or story markers to advance through that potentially killer first level.
Read this to your players, adjusting names and places to suit your setting:
“A simple run this was all supposed to be: go to the underground village of Cowstock, help deliver the supplies and protect the wagons from harm. Basic 101 work for this time and place, even a first job for many like yourselves but when you were scouting ahead on the underground road, the fissures opened. The earth itself shakes and swallows you, causing a fall of several hundred feet.
A fatal landing seemed inevitable but you are all saved by Feather Fall spells. As you come to your senses, you see a tiny village by an underground lake and a group of rock gnomes before you. It becomes clear that they are the saviours of your fall but the timing of their save is a little too convenient.
So what do you do?”
Well… Whaddya Gnome!
Your players are saved by a group of gnomes, one for each member of the party, and they share the Mage stat block from the Monster Manual but with these following spells prepared:
Cantrips (at will): fire bolt, mage hand, prestidigitation, message
1st level (4 slots): detect magic, feather fall, mage armor, shield
2nd level (3 slots): invisibility, suggestion
3rd level (3 slots): bestow curse, feign death, slow
4th level (3 slots): confusion, hallucinatory terrain
5th level (1 slot): dominate person
They are very tribal in nature and wear appropriate clothing that match a crazy but highly intelligent demeanour. They have gone crazy in order to survive isolated underground but it is by choice and the whole village was expecting company, so ask the question “why?” Are they the cause of the fissures above and is it for good reasons or bad? Also consider the fact that the tribe are innocent and drive your players nuts with suspicion over them. Making a mountain out of a small hill, instead of some devious plot the gnomes are honestly just in the right place at the right time and want to help.
The long way round
You still have a job to do, or did the wagons come down with you? You can change the hook into a search for survivors, maybe even a favour quest for the tribal gnomes who will show you the way back up and out of the hole if you do something for them. A personal favourite of mine is to try and have the tribe indoctrinate the players, or any other potential fall survivors, to their way of life.
And just maybe there is no way out and you are trapped down the hole for seemingly good? A little tribe and their village could make a great home hub for an underground or underdark campaign where your players can literally… drop in…