The Hook – World Building Guides by Knight Vision Creative Part 1

The Hook – World Building Guides by Knight Vision Creative Part 1

World Building Guide Part 1 : The Hook

We’re going to keep this simple and go through the necessary steps to build the framework for a world worth exploring. The most critical step of world building in my experience is the hook.

What is it that makes this world unique?

What motivated you to think about turning it into a world in the first place?

Why do you want to share it?

How to Start

If you’re coming into this with a need to build a world and don’t yet have your hook, we’ll walk through the process.

My hooks often start with a concept for an encounter or story element. I have an ongoing list of encounter ideas I’ve recorded down for Dungeons and Dragons. Some of these are very simplistic concepts (create an army of low level casters that only know magic missile), some of them are more nuanced (what if we create some sort of mash up of humanity’s last strongholds being overrun by creatures of the dark, but there are artifacts that can bestow extra abilities abilities on certain individuals that could make them the heroes the land needs, but they have to survive long enough to get this strength, and surprise there is a traitor in their midst, run-on thought continues). If you’re struggling coming up with a hook, I have a few examples below how to pull these from other sources you know and adapt them to your own needs. Pull up a clip of your favorite movie, reread the synopsis of a great book, etc. Combining a couple of different key plot points, change the setting, and that’s often enough to create an engaging adventure.

 

Once you’ve identified a hook you build on it to see what would make this world unique. Using the last example, I decided to give out a legendary ring to each of the players that would grow in power with them. If an enemy hit them with a 17 or higher on the die, or they hit an enemy with a 17 or higher on the die, it would trigger a wonder table effect which was full of all sorts of random effects such as casting a level 9 thunderwave centered on yourself, throwing your nearest ally at the furthest enemy within 150ft., and believing your teeth were now sentient.

 

The rest of the story evolved as the players explored. Overbuilding and never actually starting to explore the world is where everything can fall apart. Most of your time should be spent developing the hook, then use that to help provide some structure.

Developing your Hook

A fun example of this is Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera:

 “The inspiration for the series came from a bet Butcher was challenged to by a member of the Del Rey Online Writer’s Workshop. The challenger bet that Butcher could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and he countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger’s choosing. The “lame” ideas given were “Lost Roman Legion“, and “Pokémon“.

Hook Examples

Hooks are in every sort of media and adapting them to Dungeons and Dragons (or any other medium) is usually pretty straight forward. Here are a few examples:

  • The scene in the witcher where they start a fight with the Leshy, which by the connotation given is supposed to be extremely strong, only to have a different monster tear it in half partway through the fight clearly indicating the strength of the new monster.
    • You could have the main villain show up right at the beginning in the first few sessions and utterly destroy an enemy that the party were struggling against. Perhaps the villain takes an item they wanted, or usurping the reward of an arena, etc. which kickstarts the adventure.
  • There are a fair number of movies that have some sort of plotline where one of the party members gets replaced by a doppelganger (Mission Impossible, The Prestige, etc.)
    • This could be something where one of the party members is in on the deception and plays the part of the doppleganger, including backstabbing the party only to have them find out that the real player has been captured and held hostage somewhere.
  • The building gets taken over by hostile forces (Die Hard)
    • The party now has an infiltration/stealth mission on their hands. Provides a wide range of opportunities here:
      • The objective could be getting out of the building
      • There may be hostages that need saving
      • Perhaps the hostile forces are after something inside the building that the party is also after
  • Attributes from individuals are stolen to enhance a particularly evil opressor (Runelords)
    • Could be a heavy role-play adventure where the party has to determine what to do about rulers that are perpetrating these acts to protect their people, or you could go the alternate route where the players are the chosen defenders of the people and are each offered one rune to enhance their capabilities to fight the antagonist who has hundreds.
  • Fire fighters are putting out a house
    • The players could be caught in a city that is burning down and they have to use their skills, creativity, and imagination to come up with a plan to save some portions of the town. The buildings/people they lose could have a huge impact on the rest of the story and drive the direction the adventure takes.

Expanding from Hook to World

Once you have your hook, it’s time to develop it further and determine how it fits into your world. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, know all the pieces that fall into place in your world from the start. If you build too much structure I find that makes me rigid and challenged when changing to adapt to new information.

  • Is your hook going to be the introduction to the world and then fade away such as an introduction to the BBEG?
  • Is your hook going to be a central characteristic of the world and guide the players throughout the campaign such as being trapped inside a building for the entirety of the story arc?
  • Is your hook going to be the climax, what the players are building towards, such as the 7 legendary artifacts holding the key to salvation?
  • Is it something that shapes the world such as a unique power that only a few have such as a superhero movie?

Planning the Next Steps

Once you have your hook, you can start building out your world. The two critical pieces remaining are the general world and staying two steps ahead of the players which we’ll cover in the next guides.

Knight Vision Creative

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