On Megadungeon Hooks

As part of my series on mega-dungeons today we are going to talk about hooks.

First my rockin' table.  Roll a d100. Divide by 2
  1. You'll find his daughter. She's probably a princess anyway.
  2. Magical Glyphs? In my hovel?
  3. The moon talks to you and it told you to go into the dungeon. You do what you're told.
  4. By the gods, the legendary pewter mug of epic drinking is said to be down those stairs!
  5. Tonight's the night. You can always satisfy your need for murder within the ancient halls beneath the earth.
  6. You hunt vampires, and vampires live underground, right? It's your calling.
  7. It was a stupid bet, but it shouldn't be too hard to reach the Ghashghaei Paisley stone, acquire a rubbing of it, and return, should it?
  8. Stupid ghost won't stop haunting you. Let's see how well that goes for him in the Eradicator Of The Dead. What level was that on again?
  9. You are a dragon-slayer, and within the depths lies a dragon. Probably.
  10. A powerful sword can resurrect a legendary paladin? You're just the guy to fall for tha-I mean go find it!
  11. A reporter is paying good coin for a 'tour' of this fabled underground realm.
  12. A young councilman is concerned about a prophecy that he will find his destiny inside the dungeon. You'll take him down with you. You might not even rob him, if he's worth as much as he says he will be.
  13. An alchemist is asking for rare components found in a specific dangerous area in the dungeon.
  14. They said you were the only one who could perform the holy rite at a lost site within the great dungeon. Yet you still wonder if it was your cooking that made them send you.
  15. You are looking for a lost family member. Now if you could only remember which one. . .
  16. A lycanthrope has escaped into the dungeon, you know her and seek to rescue her.And possibly continue your relationship. Is that possible without a cure? It should be!
  17. You seek the secret to controlling magical iron men, rumored to lie deep within the dungeon. Then you'll show them who's a 90 lb. weakling!
  18. An evil cult lurks in the dungeon and must be joined! Or maybe eliminated! Or you've heard they have good drugs. Maybe you'll just buy some and leave them alone.
  19. You are fleeing a forced marriage, and falling in with a group of adventurers is a great way to hide.
  20. A powerful wizard in town is rumored to have allies within the depths. Is this true, and if so is there a way to turn it to your advantage?
  21. A rare cure to a nasty disease is said to exist in the depths.
  22. Your ancestors may have been royalty. Proof of your heritage in the form of a ring or deed is said to lie within the underground expanse.
  23. The players have visions of a trapped spirit or deity inside the dungeon.
  24. Stars are disappearing (or constellations are changing) and there is rumored to be a way to control the paths of the stars deep within the dungeon.
  25. A secret gateway is said to lie deep within the nether-realms and must be reached for some important purpose (to return home or to destroy an artifact.)
  26. Undead are seen around a forgotten entrance, and you have been sent to find the source of the dead and eradicate it.
  27. A specific race (gnomes, say) continues to disappear into the depths. Rumors of them changing into other creatures (perhaps giants) run rampant.
  28. You have been hired to retrieve an object from the depths. You're sure whatever you bring back will be close enough.
  29. Illness pours from the dungeon and you seek the source.
  30. Strange eerie figures are seen entering and leaving the dungeon. What's up with them?
  31. Crops have failed. Clearly it is the fault of something within the underdark.
  32. The moon has turned to blood, and the gods must be appeased by a sacrifice deep within the dungeon.
  33. Statues around town are weeping a strange black substance, and sometimes they are said to move. The cause is rumored to be in the dungeon.
  34. People and animals are being born mutated, and the fear is that some sort of radiation from the underground is causing it.
  35. You were digging for treasure on your property when you found a hole to the dungeon. Some monster stole your treasure!
  36. You were drunk. Real drunk. You ended up in the dungeon and saw something while you were there that was amazing. You've got to get back to see it again.
  37. Someone is selling a map to treasure down in the dungeon. They are looking for help, and you have an in with them. Is there anything to the map?
  38. The squire of a legendary fighter has escaped the dungeon and says that he's lost his master, but has seen fabulous treasure within the dungeon. Is he full of s*&t?
  39. Humanoids are using another entrance of the megadungeon to infiltrate the city. They must be stopped. . . or bargained with. . . perhaps joined.
  40. There's a slave underground that runs right through this dungeon. And you're going to put a stop to it.
  41. You're a prisoner, and in exchange for your freedom, you've agreed to serve as champion and retrieve a translucent black rose from the dungeon. Or escape to freedom. You forget.
  42. He was your best friend of your whole long life. Why did he ask to be buried in the depths of this hellhole? 
  43. Elope with him, will she? Stupid girl, running off to this pit. You'll find 'em, and you'll kill 'em again if they already died!
  44. You really want to be a member of the council, but to prove yourself, you have to gain the wisdom from the crystal brains! They should be easy to find!
  45. There is a new standard of beauty. And rumor has it, it can be found within the depths. You're sure the price will be. . . reasonable.
  46. It will be the best party ever! And we'll have it, oh, on level three sounds swell. Go on, get it ready for us!
  47. Evil Unicorns. I s&*t you not.
  48. You've had dreams of the old realm. But these new ones say, though it is long gone, it might be found underneath the ground. 
  49. They sent you down into the dungeon. But they don't understand. You're not trapped in there with them. They're trapped in here with you.
  50. I luuuuvvvvvvvv to kill 'em rats! sooo many rats down below. They are good f'r eaten. You can fry 'em, boil 'em, scallop 'em, roast 'em, broil 'em. . .
I haven't combined these into 1 table, so you may roll d100, and if it's over 50, subtract 50 and use that value here. Or use either table and divide by 2. Or pick.

  1.  There's a slave underground that runs right through this dungeon. And you're going to get your property back.
  2. Give up immortality for eternal love they said. It seemed worth it at the time, but after the divorce, they can burn in hell for all you care. Only one way to get your immortality back, and maybe send them to hell to boot.
  3. So, you've got the information your demon master needed, but those jerks burnt down your lab. You've heard there's a way to reach him down below, so off you go
  4. Ah, Monday, time to beat back the endless hordes of the damned. Hours could be better, but, eh, it's a living.
  5. Where else am I supposed to collect my spiders?!
  6. Elves ruin everything. Surely their won't be any down below.
  7. And they said you'd never collect a gold coin from every empire in the tolemic era! Why you know for sure this hole in the ground goes through the ruins of the previous five cities before this. Five! You shouldn't have to go any deeper than level 7.
  8. It's not your fault you didn't want to join the church like daddy. You'll just go and bring back the largest gem he's ever seen and he'll eat his words then.
  9. You thought it was so cool that his job was 'ancient artifact negotiation and acquisition'. You didn't realize that meant murdering things in decrepit holes in the ground. Since your husband hasn't come back, you're going to go find him and rescue him, or maybe kill him. You haven't decided yet.
  10. You'll avenge your brothers and sisters! All 12 of them!
  11. He wants me to collect what before he'll let me marry his daughter?
  12. You weren't no goods with numbas or maths before yu mama dropped you on your head anyways. And they needs the monies so your gonna go get them sums from that hole people keep coming out of with the monies.
  13. I have this deed for property here, and I was wonder- You mean down that stairway?
  14. You're best friends with a goblin, it's true. And now he's disappeared. It's likely he's in trouble. Probably something to do with the trolls on level 3.
  15. Every single member of your tribe dead. Only below can you achieve the means of revenge.
  16. If I hadn't lost so much money on dog racing, I wouldn't be messing around trying to steal a dog from The Kennel of Gold Tales!
  17. Killing your sister was an accident. The only way to cleanse your soul is to reach the Mural of Judgment.
  18. You only need one Arcanite stone, but as long as you're there, nothing stopping you from getting more. Other than the curse, and who believes in those.
  19. My god can only be worshiped in the Abolished Dark Iron Church. He's the god of, uh, . . . clowns and sunshine. Why do you ask?
  20. All we have to do is to find the Golden Mud Sleep, bottle it up, and sell it for riches! Let me see that map again.
  21. It was this or become the Baron. 
  22. I mean, you liked the guy, and it's true his murderer is down there. Just a shame the will said you had to avenge his death. Note to self: a diviner for a mentor is not the best plan.
  23. They'll never find me in here!
  24. The church will never look for me in here!
  25. They'll never assassinate me in her- oh, wait, I'll probably die anyway. Screw it, lets go.
  26. Yes my brother is a paladin. No, it never struck me as a particularly bad idea to rob his church of a holy artifact.
  27. You'll find your cousin who disappeared thirty years ago.
  28. Wait, Who am I? Who are you? Where am I? Why am I in this room!?
  29. I mean it was bad enough that your uncle murdered your father to marry your mother. But then to hunt you because he's worried you're gonna try to take the throne? Nonsense!
  30. I really like hats. Yes. Hats. Yes. No I'm not. The best hats are the old ones!
  31. Well, at least in this career no one will find out about your killing and eating your family.
  32. It's not really the money, though that's nice. It's just nice to see the look in their eyes when you betray them. It's worth it just for that.
  33. Secretly? I almost have a complete kobold suit. Just a few more trips.
  34. Nope, I'm just gonna hold this torch and your gear. No need to worry about me. No Sir.
  35. I didn't set nothing on fire.
  36. You just really like dungeon fungus. Well, and the poison it makes also.
  37. The drow are a beautiful people, and they'll understand me!
  38. My dog likes to hunt, see?
  39. Gold. I like Gold. Gooooooollllllldd-aaahhum. gold. Just like it is all.
  40. Ancient knowledge in ancient places I always like to say!
  41. The best spells (weapons etc.) are always the ancient ones.
  42. They speak, so they must have a culture, see? I'm just going to go set up an embassy, and we'll use discussion to solve our problems.
  43. o/~One, two, three, four, that's the way we count the hoard, when we lift the bloody corpse, after slaying Mr. Orc.o/~
  44. Sure, it looks like Bob, but something seems off. He wants you to go with him, so why not?
  45. You know what's delicious? Ogre brains. Also, candy.
  46. I need yarn from the reclusive dungeon ox.
  47. I can reach the bottom.
  48. I can kill 100 foes.
  49. To win the legendary challenge, you must head down to qualify.
  50. hate the outdoors!
There are some general assumptions in play about mega-dungeons. Because they aren't clearable, what is the point of adventurer's going down into the dungeon?

The mega-dungeon isn't the adventure, it's the locale for adventure. It is no different than a wilderness, or a city. It is a place for adventure. The general thrust of plot hooks for mega-dungeons is that the players are poor and the dungeon is there. The secondary hooks should come from within the dungeon itself, as they become familiar with it's mysteries. Each discovery they make should cause them to ask additional questions.

Because the goal isn't clearing the dungeon, it has to explicitly be something else.  Each character should have their own motivations, and through exposure to the dungeon more should be generated. First we're going to talk about motivations that come from within the dungeon itself, then we will provide a table with a ready to go listing of pre-existing motivations.

The dungeon should be designed with several secrets in play. These do not have to be earth-shattering secrets, but should be logical conclusions from the histories of certain areas or zones within the mega-dungeon. These mysteries can become driving forces for the campaign. Is there some strange sign? A symbol repeated throughout the dungeon? These types of goals are the most engaging, because they develop organically through play.

You will not (or will rarely) have the opportunity to tell the players plot points or mysteries within the dungeon.  Therefore it is in your best interest to let the clues and information come from the environment and construction itself. Weird objects, repeated symbols, strange sights, ancient tomes, unusual opponents and general dungeon weirdness can create a very dynamic environment full of goals for the players to investigate.

A second source of goals consists of interactions with the inhabitants of the dungeon, both random and planned. One of the advantages of a closed environment like a mega-dungeon is that you are likely to encounter any nemesis you create again and again. These can create exciting rivalries, and many opportunities for engaging role play.

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