I have found that the best way to get players to round out their characters with hobbies, is to include these hobbies in the other reward scheme. These can also become further plot hooks, but are useful just as an aid to roleplaying.
A necromancer loved books, not just spellbooks, but classics of literature, juicy diaries, histories, cypher workbooks, everything. Eventually his collection became large enough to be used as a library. This is due in no small part to my adding a book here and there, or a shelf full, as part of the loot. The character was happy, the player was happy, and I got a nifty new library added to the game world.
Another character had an interest in art history. This alone was used as a plothook on a few occasions. At various times he was an art dealer, part-owner of a gallery, and a fence for stolen paintings.
A third character liked adding to his armour. This Shadow Lord was almost constantly adding a new spike or three, adding bits of skull or other bone, or looking for new ways to keep his armour in good repair (and appearance) while in the field.
One apprentice wizard collected knowledge. This isn't the typical "arcane lore" stuff; he just loved trivia. My adding informative bits of dialogue from an NPC about a culture, or an historic era, or just about anything, was enough to keep this pc from whining about insufficient funds.
A teenaged alchemist loved animals. These weren't really "monstrous," with the possible exception of the mountain lion she rescued as a kitten, and it wasn't used as a combat aide, being kept only as a pet. Over time, various other animals slowly were added to the mix, before it was apparent that she would need special travel and sleeping accomodations for her growing menagerie. Go to Comment
The Warlord Octavius first discovered his door during his younger, adventurous days. It now forms the surface of the upper floor of his tower, from which he unleashes his bandit hordes.
The stone is far stronger than what it should be, and holds up the strain of the walls & roof quite well. However, it is still very heavy, and those mercenary bandits that live within the floor beneath it worry about the supports collapsing down upon them. If only they knew that not all of the creaking & soft moans late at night were from material stress alone...
For the past few years, Warlord Octavius has had vivid nightmares about riding a cresting wave of Demons, surging out from his tower. He considers this only to be inspired by his unique decorative floor of his throne room & personal chambers, and caused by too much spicy food before bed-time. However, unbeknownst to him, most of the other inhabitants have also been having these same nightmares for the past few months.
Though he is a capable and charismatic leader, not all of the new additions to Warlord Octavius's army may be the result of his leadership and fame. Lately, the numbers have swelled, with ever more vile and depraved rogues.
Just last week, Warlord Octavius noticed a scaly rash on the backs of his shoulders. This he associates to the increasingly crowded tower, and increasingly dirty new troops, bringing in new diseases and vermin. He also considers the pain in his shoulders to be either an early sign of age, or difficulty sleeping properly because of the rash.
Are these signs innocent, as the Warlord and his men are not? Do they bode ill for the surrounding countryside? What if the rash spreads, becoming true armoured scales, or even sprouts wings... as they did in Octavius's most recent dream? What happens when the other bandits also start exhibiting signs that their close proximity to a gateway to Hell is affecting them physically?
Perhaps death and destruction will be unleashed from the door afterall, but perhaps not in the way Caedmon originally envisioned. Go to Comment
It seems I am the lone voice of dissension. This jerky has too much D&D flavour: namely in that a vague species-based pantheon of pc-style deities grant plentiful healing magic (and by not being on-tap, some quick-fix is then needed), and that trolls not only regenerate, but do so even after death. I'm just glad that this isn't used as a never-ending food supply as well. I suppose that maybe something could be made from this submission--it does use the Law of Alchemy--but it has too much salt for my taste. Go to Comment
Though incredibly useful, this item is only mystically powerful in the lowest of low-magic settings. In higher magic settings--or even moderate ones--the staff's representation as a symbol of office & position could spread rumours about other abilities. This could be the reason why it would be stolen.
The power of the staff not only takes away paying jobs from living servants, but could drive them away as well. That is, the rest of the staff quits--and no one else can be hired--because of the creepiness of the unseen servants going about their work. Unless this sort of magic is common (such as in D&D where it is a first-level wizard's spell) the manor could gain a reputation as haunted, or the major domo (or even the prince himself) could get a reputation as a witch or demon-summoner.
Personally, I would darken this up a little, but that's just my sick imagination. I would have the staff powered (or rumoured to be) by the spirits of slain servants, or perhaps by the psychokinetic talents of an emotionally troubled teenaged spirit. Go to Comment
There indeed needs to be some reason why the Undead don't just attack whatever is causing them problems. After all, they're a town of Undead, some of which can be quite powerful. Perhaps the church is shielded by an old protection circle. Also, this needs to be scripted so that the pc's don't just come in with swords swinging and guns blazing. If the pc's just wander into a town filled with Undead, few--if any--will stop to ask the zombies if the pc's can help them...
Is there some connection to the mysterious evil and the Undead's state? That is, if it's vanquished, do they just drop and rot away, or is it a completely separate problem?
If it is possible to rescue the town, is that something they would desire? That is, if solving the problem means that the Undead become just plain dead, the townsfolk may not want that. After all, isn't that the same as if the pc's just went on a killing rampage? One other possible complication is that some of the Undead hate their plight, and would welcome any painless end, but some may prefer their new status, and a few might even want greater power... Go to Comment
This works well as a proto-plot hook, as Strolen said. The players trying to make sense of the random nonsense can provide their own adventure hooks this way, and congratulate themselves on "figuring out" the GM's strategy.
It also works well just to keep the pc's shaken and confused--they're more pliable that way. Go to Comment
Consider the idea of spontaneous genesis of life, as used to be belived. What strange kinds of life might arise from modern substances? What kind of vermin would a landfill produce, or an oil spill on the ocean?