Now that I’m back in the saddle with my new Mage: the Awakening game set in Manila, my old GM brain has begun to work once more. And with that I think I’m in the proper frame of mind to actually get back to writing my usual advice posts again.
Today we look at running more than a single plot hook at once. I tend to do this in games where I know my players are going to do well with it. The fun part of having multiple ongoing plot hooks is that there’s a sense of the world moving, events grinding away even if the players aren’t there to mess with things, and the implication that if they don’t get involved, whatever it is will proceed to it’s desired conclusion.
But that said, it’s important to know when to pull it off. Here are a few signs that your campaign is ready to handle multiple hooks:
- Players have initiative – By initiative, I mean that players are go-getters, they don’t sit around waiting for some mysterious stranger to drop by and offer them a job for money. These are the ambitious sorts who don’t need much of a push to start their own avenues of investigation. This makes running multiple plot hooks so much easier since they can split up and pursue each plot hook on their own.
- Multiple villains – Multiple hooks work best when there’s more than one group out to push an agenda. Villains don’t always cooperate, and several dastardly activities can be running at the same time, each on their own timeline.
If both conditions are met, then you should be able to start kicking off various plot hooks that engage the players. That said introducing additional plot hooks in the midst of an existing investigation can be tricky, so it’s often best to split up when you introduce a new hook to when they’re obviously not looking into the previous case. This can be made easier by having it introduced by a third party, but it feels more rewarding when the new hook engages with another player in their daily life.
A good example of this is to have a theft happen in the character’s headquarters, but having the object stolen have nothing to do with that murder that they’re currently investigating. Both are important, and the respective culprits are working on their own timetables, and now the characters will have to find ways to split up and come up with a plan to pursue both.
This sort of pressure is actually a nice way to add realism to a scenario, with multiple ticking clocks running to force players to consider how efficient their actions are.