Every adventure begins with a subtle or not-so-subtle hook—that carrot or stick which motivates the characters to risk their lives for gold, glory, or the greater good. Some hooks are instantaneous and unavoidable. When a dragon drops from the sky into a screaming dive straight toward you, the adventure is on whether you like it or not. Most adventures, though, benefit from having some groundwork laid before the main structure gets built. Clues need to be sprinkled in the characters' paths, rumors whispered in their ears, unsigned notes left in their saddlebags, or magic relics of unknown origin discovered in a forgotten tomb or delivered to their rooms in the dead of night. These types of hooks are most effective when players have time to wonder about them for a few game sessions before their meaning becomes clear.
That's the purpose of this article. At the beginning of each month (or the end), we'll outline the hooks that DMs can sprinkle into a campaign weeks before an adventure is released. You DMs will get a taste of what's coming up and some rumors to spread around the inn. If you inadvertently insert a few leads into the game which never pan out, you've still made the world feel like a bigger place than your dining room table.
Temple of the Radiant Morn
“Temple of the Radiant Morn” is a short adventure for characters of levels 6-8. The temple is placed in the Chaos Scar, but it's suitable for any area of any campaign with minimal adjustment.
During the course of the adventure, the characters explore the Temple of the Radiant Morn, experience firsthand the terrible truth that festers behind the sympathetic façade, and have the opportunity to foil an archdevil's secret cult.
What Anyone Can Learn
A few months ago, a priest who is a stranger to this region arrived with a small band of followers. They found a cave a few miles from the nearest settlement, cleaned it out, and set up the Temple of the Radiant Morn. They spread a message of salvation and relief from burdens of the world which appeals to the grief-stricken, the suffering, the outcasts, and those with nothing to lose.
After some resistance, the locals have grown accustomed to the presence of the temple and its disciples. Its message is non-threatening, even comforting.
(If you aren't placing this adventure in the Chaos Scar, change the place and character names below to something more suitable for your campaign.)
Rumors: Limping Johann, a local beggar, approaches the characters to barter something he heard on the street that might be of interest to the adventurers for a stiff drink, a bite to eat, or a few copper coins. If the characters oblige, Johann tells them that “the boys from the temple” have been letting drop that they might know something about ancient treasures lost within the Chaos Scar. If the characters ask him about the temple, Johann refers to them as a bunch of naïve do-gooders, but he can give accurate directions to the Temple of the Radiant Morn in exchange for another small gift. (The rumors of treasure are false. This is a ruse the cultists use to draw victims to the temple.)
An Unknown Quantity: A local priest (if your characters are using Restwell Keep as a base for exploring the Scar, this priest could be Chendera, or even Benwick) is unsettled by the rumors he has heard of a “Temple of the Radiant Morn” springing up within the Chaos Scar. He has never before heard of any such religious group and fears that it could be up to no good, despite its message of charity and brotherly love. What's more, he has heard from beggars in town that some of their friends who went to the temple "just for a look" have never come back. That could be nothing—but if the characters find themselves traveling near the temple and have a chance to look into it, he would like to know what's really going on. (This becomes a 1,500 XP quest if the characters take it upon themselves.) Optionally, characters might themselves overhear beggars discussing this situation and swapping theories about the disappearances.
The Missing Merchant: A local trader who fancies himself something of an amateur adventurer approaches the characters and tries to hire them as muscle for his "big score." (This may be Bosco Heldam in a Chaos Scar campaign.) He confides in them that there's treasure to be had out at the Temple of the Radiant Morn, and he intends to have it. This information came to him through "reliable channels" which he refuses to share. Don't make the offer too attractive; it should be clear that he's an amateur who has fallen for a hoax and now has the fever of easy gold. A bit of asking around reveals that this trader has disappeared on similar wild-goose chases before only to come home a few days later, hungry and mud-smeared and vowing never to go adventuring again. Alternatively, the characters might overhear him making the same offer to some other group of bravos or toughs, accompanied by much whispering and looking over his shoulder. A week or more after the characters turn him down, his friends or wife approach the characters to ask for help because the merchant has never been gone this long before. (This turns into a 1,500 XP quest if characters agree to find the merchant and bring him home.)
Characters might try to dig up their own information on the Temple of the Radiant Morn by making Religion and Streetwise checks. Although the name implies some connection to Pelor, no player character trying a Religion check recalls ever hearing of another temple calling itself the Radiant Morn (but be sure to purse your lips and think about this for a moment before announcing the result of the roll). A DC 11 Streetwise check, however, finds plenty of locals willing to confirm that the temple's disciples work to relieve the suffering of the worst off, and a DC 23 check finds one who can give reasonably clear directions to its location.
Revenge of the Marauders
"Revenge of the Marauders" is an adventure for characters of levels 5-7. It is set on the Dark Sun world of Athas. Although there are many characteristically Athasian features in the adventure, it could be relocated to other campaign settings with adjustments. The monstrous, crawling citadel where most of the adventure takes place, for example, would be nearly as at home on Eberron. This adventure is also a sequel to the published adventure "Marauders of the Dune Sea," but it's not necessary to have played that adventure to send characters on this one.
The raider lord Yarnath prowls the wastelands in his crawling citadel called Slither. Not long ago, Yarnath put all his energy into recovering an artifact fragment known as the Crown of Dust. Someone beat him to it. His raiders did manage, however, to locate the crown jewel of the ancient artifact. This red stone, the Blood Jewel, is the crystallized blood of a primordial. With it, Yarnath might unlock the might of an unimaginably powerful being.
What Anyone Can Learn
A raider lord called Yarnath the Skull has unleashed his forces to harass and disrupt merchant caravans operating near Tyr. The Revolutionary Council is stretched too thin to offer aid, and merchant lords are forced to hire mercenaries to protect their shipments against Yarnath. As the adventure's opening events draw near, these attacks drop off and then stop completely; apparently the mercenaries were successful at stopping Yarnath’s raids.
DC 15 History or Streetwise: Yarnath seeks a shrine dedicated to an entity called the Dust Kraken, which is some kind of sand monster.
DC 15 Streetwise: Rumor has it that Yarnath ceased his raids not because the merchants fought him off but because he unearthed a powerful relic in the desert, the Blood Jewel. It's not known what this relic is capable of, but it's well known what Yarnath is capable of: murder and mayhem. He may even be plotting to topple one of the city-states.
Among Yarnath's warriors was an elf named Kivrin; she is a spy for the Veiled Alliance. After Yarnath found the Blood Jewel, Kivrin slipped away with that news for the Alliance. She could simply approach the characters and ask for their help. This is appropriate if the characters have had earlier dealings with the Veiled Alliance or if they played a role in the fight against Yarnath. Alternatively, Kivrin could blunder into the characters as she races to evade Templars. A third option would be to send them on an unrelated trek across the desert, where they find Kivrin dying—or already dead—but bearing a message which must reach the Veiled Alliance in a nearby city. You can then use the "Find the Veiled Alliance" skill challenge (Dark Sun Campaign Setting page 204) to pull the characters into events and set them on Yarnath's trail.