10 Instant Holiday Plot Hooks
First published 12/30/2002; last edited 1/12/2005
It's the time of the year when lots of holidays happen. Even for people who aren't religious it can be a time of beauty and terrible shopping conditions. So, in the spirit of the season, here are a handful of instant plot hooks designed to bring a touch of holiday cheer (or madness) to your game. Enjoy, and happy holidays!
Everyone in the party gets a gift. Each gift is elaborately wrapped; each card says something mysterious, or simply has a recipient's name on it. Each gift is tailored specifically to its recipient's interests. These aren't powerful things, but they are meaningful things.
Who sent the gifts? Was it someone the party helped? Is it someone who wants to start an alliance with them who can't afford to reveal his interest yet? How did the mysterious ally find out exactly what gifts to give? How can the party find out who sent the gifts - and why were they sent anonymously?
A gloom-and-doom cult predicts the end of the world at the end of the year. Are they lunatics or prophets? How can the party find out? And what can they do about the situation? (What if the cult is partially right? The end of the world isn't coming, but something horrible is.)
Plenty of companies hold end-of-the-year contests and sweepstakes. Have a player character (PC) win a trip to an exotic locale for [the number of people in the group, plus or minus one or two]. The whole thing could be a set-up and trap. It could be an attempt by someone distant to get help from the PCs in solving their problems. Fate could be leading the party to something it needs. Or the party could simply encounter some unusual things while on vacation.
The Charity Drive
A local organization collected toys for orphans and poor families. Someone stole those toys, or they vanished mysteriously. Can the party find the presents and retrieve them before the holiday? [Hint: don't use this one on a party that's wealthy enough to buy all-new toys.]
In a second version of this plot hook, an organization collected money with which to buy food for needy families. Then the guy running the show skipped off with the money. Can the party find him and recover the holiday for all those families?
The Charity Drive: Aftermath
A charitable organization gave lots of toys to needy children; now those children are disappearing. Where did the children go? Is there a link to the toys, and if so, what is it? Can the party figure out what's going on before all the children disappear? And can they find the children who have already vanished?
'Tis the Season
An apparent rash of suicides hits the news. Everyone thinks it's just the holiday blues, but there's a clue that makes the PCs think that something's going on. Perhaps they knew one of the people who died, and just know he wouldn't have killed himself.
Are the deaths really suicides? If not, what's the connection between the deceased? Does the party have a serial killer on its hands, a dastardly cover-up, or something more bizarre?
It's a Miracle!
Many TV shows and movies center around the traditional holiday miracle. Create a miracle of your own - then twist it. The "miracle" was arranged by someone, who wants payment now. The source of the miracle was supernatural, alien, or demonic rather than celestial and the recipient has become tainted in some way. Is there a way to fix things? Does the cure require giving up the miracle, or can there be a happy ending after all?
Cancel the Holidays
The holidays are fast approaching, but a mysterious illness results in quarantine and widespread panic. Can the party figure out what's going on and find a cure (or help someone else to do so) in time to keep the holidays from getting canceled? Even more importantly - can they do it in time for people to get a few shopping days in?!
Only 5 Shopping Days Left...
The party needs to impress a potential ally. Can they find out what the perfect gift would be? Can they get their hands on it once they know what it is? And what do they have to do or pay to get it?
An ally sends the party on a wild chase for a mysterious, important item. He won't tell them what it is, but he can describe the distinctive package it's wrapped up in. The party finds this task surprisingly difficult. The bad guys seek to take the same item. Other good guys seem desperate to obtain it. What could it be?
Finally the party gets the package [or they fail and have to tell their ally of their failure]. That's when they find out what the whole thing was about: the latest, greatest holiday toy that all the parents want. It's a present for their ally's son.
I hope you've enjoyed our little spread of twisted holiday plots, and even more - I hope you're enjoying the holidays! Best wishes for a happy new year from the Burning Void!