A plot hook designed for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons but adaptable to other systems.
By Mark-Alexander Cross
I love playing level 1 because it can be a great challenge and it introduces you to the game.
The Urban Riot hook is designed to teach different system aspects while providing a branching path to be taken in numerous directions.
Number of Players: 3-6
The Beginning without a Tavern
Read this aloud to your players changing names and locations to fit your setting:
“You are all walking through the centre of the city of Marina, whatever reasons you have for being here are your own but as you walk around the city taking in the sights, smells and wonders heading towards your destination; I would like you all to make a perception check.”
First roll and introduction to the skills list. Set the DC to 12 and mention passive perception for the first time if players beat the target number. They will hear the sounds of chaos, confusion and anger for a riot breaks out in the city and heads towards the players. Those who pass the perception check have an action before they get caught up, those who fail gets introduced to the saving throws; a DC 10 dexterity save to not get caught in the wave of people and violence. The goal here is not to harm the characters but throw them into a situation to resolve.
Lead your players to a safe house from the riot, those who fail the saving throw can be pulled here or if they make the save point out the house to them (even utilise another perception check).
Once inside the players will have time to roleplay and work out their next move, which is a great opportunity to lead the hook in numerous ways. I shall present a couple that I have used myself at home:
- The Defense: Have the players meet NPC’s who live in the safe house you’ve entered. Set them up however you wish (even make them bad guys if you want) and offer reward to the players to barricade the house and stop the riot getting in. You can use checks and combat encounters to fight off the horde as you protect the house, with the DM making a D6+1 roll to see how long this encounter will last.
- Escape: You are safe from the riot for a moment, giving the players time before the house assault. Present an opportunity, via a skill check or open in plain sight, access to the basement and sewer system. This can lead the game into an opening dungeon crawl to escape the riot or find out what is going on around the city.
Will the players be heroes who try to save the day, or look after themselves and run? What caused the riot and why is it happening in the first place? That I shall leave open to you and hope this crazy situation can give you a few ideas.