Anatomy of a Good Plot Hook

I’m not producing much for my dedicated projects because this Awaken Online thing kind of caught me off guard so I’ve written up like eight posts of that. On the one hand, I feel like I should probably have more discipline and focus on finishing up the old projects, seeing as that’s my current goal. On the other hand, my Awaken Online blind read and review is way more popular than my other content, and while I do want to have a corpus of completed content to point at and say “look, guys, I finish things,” it also has to be acknowledged that the audience for those things I’m finishing is very small and it’s much more sensible to invest time and energy into something that is not only easier, but also has broader appeal (if only just).

But all those Awaken Online posts were scheduled under the assumption that I’d still be making regular Vestitas content, and I don’t want to futz around with the scheduling on all those posts now, so instead I’ll throw something out about the anatomy of a plot hook, because this is something that RPG books get wrong surprisingly often.

A plot hook has two vital components: The plot and the hook. For the past like ten or twenty years, RPG books have been weirdly unable to grasp this concept and instead deliver only one of the two. In the drow book for 3e, there’s a “plothook” that’s just one of the PCs growing four extra limbs because they’ve been chosen by Lolth for an unspecified mission. That’s the hook, but what’s the plot? Like, I don’t need a fully written encounter or anything, just say “chosen by Lolth to retrieve her kidnapped high priestess” or “chosen by Lolth to slay a champion of the high elves” or something, rather than having them chosen by Lolth for a completely unspecified mission.

In one of the nWoD books, and this isn’t surprising because nWoD is awful, but it happens elsewhere, too, a bunch of different hitchhikers have all disappeared in multiple different states because someone is tracking their movements through the internet and abducting travelers. It’s fine that the reason for abducting travelers is unspecified (again, you don’t have to write the whole adventure or anything), but where exactly is the hook in this plot hook? How do the players get involved? How do they even know it’s happening, when it’s spread out across multiple states?

A plot hook needs to have both a plot and a hook, and it’s not hard to have both of those elements in a one or two sentence entry on a bullet pointed list. One or the other doesn’t cut it.

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