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Think about story hooks like pieces of a puzzle. As a GM, you're trying to make these pieces fit together meaningfully. When you come into session zero, the first piece you put on the table is the premise. And if you went so far as to write a setting overview for the players to consider prior to session zero, you might also have a good corner of the puzzle pieced together already (factions, a world map, archetypes, some fun facts about the setting, etc).

Even so, session zero is a process of discovery. You should be as excited as your players to discover what the game will be about. And part of the process of discovery is developing these puzzle pieces—story hooks—that function as a means for you to tie your PCs into the fiction.

Story Hooks Are Ways In

As it says in the core rules, story hooks are ways in. You take the hooks your players create in session zero and use them as a basis for developing the adventure.

During session zero, you'll give each player five story hooks: a bond, person, place, thing, and group. You always want to establish the bond first, but the order after that doesn't matter. You might consider assigning the thing second, because it tends to be the easiest for players to brainstorm. After discussing bonds, let them talk about their thing (round-robin style), then assign all the other story hooks at once so that they can think about how each other puzzle piece fits together in their PC's backstory.

Below are tables for each type of story hook.


1A magical artifact or dangerous machine of great power
2An emblem, crest, or insignia of your people or country
3A book you read, tale you were told, or law you are subject to
4A tattoo, scar, or mark on your body
5A calling card such as a distinctive attire, flourish, or social tick
6An armament, tool, or instrument of your craft
7Something beautiful or priceless
8A fear, debt, or burden you carry
9A vice or addiction that you can’t escape
10An irreplaceable artwork from your past
11A song or poem that haunts you
12A dear pet, magic familiar, or strange homunculus


1A fortress or great city
2A tower or prison
3A festival or celebration
4Part of the wilds (desert, forest, jungle, plain, sea, wasteland)
5A sacred place
6A ruin
7A font of magic or power
8A site of death and evil
9A distant land or trade route
10A hidden place
11A forgotten village
12A site of industry


1A monastic order or secret society
2A dangerous cult or hermetic commune
3A noble house or ancient lineage
4A military branch or command structure
5A thieves guild or criminal syndicate
6An academy or magical school
7A religious sect
8A rebel bloc
9A merchant company
10A political lobby
11A itinerant circus or art troupe
12An immense bureaucracy


1A family member
2A lover, ex-lover, or crush
3A mentor or authority figure
4A hero or celebrity
5A best friend or business partner
6An enemy or rival
7A beast
8A student or mentee
9Someone who died
10A master or servant
11A supernatural patron
12A missing person

Setting-Specific Hooks

If you're playing a full campaign, you might consider introducing setting-specific story hooks. This will help tailor the ideas coming out of session zero.

Each world of OSR+ offers an additional, unique table of story hooks specific to its setting, and may also give you a slightly modified set of tables that better suit the setting.

For example, here is the additional table offered by The God Beyond the Portal, which requires each PC to have some connection to the Church of Illumination. Players are instructed to use these story hooks to A) build the Church of Illumination and B) describe their personal connection to the Church.

1A unique trait of the Church's leader
2A secret ritual
3A telltale sign (attire, a secret handshake, tattoos)
4A secret power
5A fear or weakness
6A sacrilege or profanity
7A prohibition
8A reification (statue, relic, wafer, scepter)
9An act of kindness
10A place of worship
11An impossible secret
12A core teaching

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