JP On Gaming

Monday, January 8, 2018

[Adventure Writing] The Employer

Every adventure has a point therein where the PCs meet with some type of employer. There are a wide variety of "employer" from the Mr Johnson to a man dying on your table with a dagger in the back.

There are a wide variety of these people. Their background change, their motivation change, their means change, but they are all the same under the mask: [someone] [asking] the PCs for [something].

Every adventure hook I ever wrote boils down the following five main questions.

- Who hires them? This one gives an overview of who the person is and comes first (usually) because it drives a lot of what comes next. A king or a local merchant or a street-side beggar.

- What does that person know about it? (publicly and secretly) Not every employer is forthcoming with the information they have. Perhaps there is a secret tied to the plot, perhaps the employer wants the affair put to rest, perhaps there are external pressures on him/her. What he is willing to share and what he wants to hide creates many possible plot twists.

- Why doesn't that person resolve the problem themselves? I was always amused how Elminster shows up all the time to ask PCs to do things that are completely trivial (one of the reason I'm not a fan of Forgotten Realms). If you are a super-powerful wizard, why don't you resolve this in the blink of an eye? It is a legitimate question in my mind. Plausible denyability, laziness, distaste for the affair as a whole.

- What is the preferred outcome for that person? Just because the person sends the PCs to resolve a situation doesn't mean they want things resolved the way they ask for. If the PCs and the dragons killed each other might be a great way to remove problems. A partial success may help the vizier more than a complete success. Failure may serve the king because he would rid himself of a troublesome step-daughter. This completes the motivation for the adventure.

- What is that person willing to offer to get it done? Very few PCs will ever do things without some form of compensation or reward. This is an opportunity for the PCs to gauge the importance of the task in the eyes of the employer and might get them to re-evaluate their involvement. From a previous 4e LFR special "So you want us to infiltrate Zhentil Keep for 25gp?" The adventure from there had an air of silliness to us. We fan-boys knew it would be really cool to do so, but there is no way our levels 1 and 2 characters would undertake such a voyage. On the other end of the spectrum an overly generous reward may hint that the employer has no interest in paying.

Using the questions above, sending your PCs against bandits in the Nearby Hills will be very different one way or another.

Try it with simple quest and you will see how your adventure quickly changes from one type to another.

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