Plot Hooks Gleaned From Watching Cartoons With A Toddler

Just a short update today, even though I’ve fallen behind schedule again. There are a lot of things going on now and over the next several months that are going to take precedence over blogging, but I’m really going to try to keep the site updated with some measure of consistency. Wish me luck.

Today I just wanted to share a few plot ideas that I jotted down while watching some cartoons with my toddler. Children’s cartoons hold a wealth of plot ideas for us to plunder, so grab a notebook and jot some things down the next time you’re watching television with your future role-players.

I had actually planned to put this post off until I had collected some more ideas, but things happen. So there could very well be a follow-up to this post sometime in the future.  In the meantime, here are three interesting things I wanted to share with you that I wrote down while watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, a show that’s actually chock full of good ideas for you to steal for your game.

Valley of the Lost

This episode was about the place where the things we lose end up, things like missing socks, eyeglasses – you get the picture. This isn’t really a new idea, but it still got me thinking about possible plot hooks. It got me thinking about a race of mischievous, dimension hopping creatures who take “lost” items away to some vast, extra-dimensional scrap heap. Of course you could have them steal something from the party, but I was thinking perhaps a valuable artifact – lost for centuries – was actually hidden in plain sight in this valley of the lost. The guardians of the valley don’t part with their treasures easily though, so you could send your adventurers on a quest for literally anything you can imagine that these guardians have demanded in trade. Or, for a more mundane twist on the valley of the lost, perhaps the adventurers could be commissioned by a merchant or noble in a large city to find a lost ring or some such trinket, only to discover a secret community of mongrelmen or some such who are living in some abandoned caverns beneath the city, subsisting on the scraps that they scavenge from the surface. Does the party expose the secret enclave? Work to integrate them into the society above? Keep their secret? Again, this isn’t a wholly unique idea, but I think it’s one that is rich with possibility and thus worth mentioning.

Message in a Bottle

This episode featured the classic “message in a bottle” trope, where a bottle containing a plea for help washes up on the beach for our heroes to find. The twist, though, was that instead of containing a note the bottle itself simply spoke the message out loud. That by itself is still kind of boring, but it got me to thinking about Magic Mouth spells, and how the trigger conditions can be “as general or as detailed” as the caster likes. So I started thinking about how it would be cool for an object to have a trigger condition that was somehow specifically linked to a player character. Furthermore, this wouldn’t be an object found in some dungeon somewhere. This would be an item that perhaps hundreds of people had interacted with – without ever triggering the spell. This could still be an actual glass bottle in a curio shop, or perhaps a mug at the tavern? It could be the masthead of a ship that the party is about to seek passage on or a statue in the town square; whatever. The main thing is that it has to be something that has been handled, passed by, or otherwise interacted with but that has never spoken to anyone previously. Is the message a cry for help? A cryptic riddle? How old is the message? And of course the most immediate question: why is this thing saying whatever it’s saying to the person it’s saying it to? Maybe one of the characters recently found a trinket, broach, or weapon that use to belong to a specific person, and the message was triggered to go off when the bearer of that item approached. I think this is a really cool idea and can’t wait to think of a way to incorporate it into a game.

X Marks the Spot

This is a pretty simple one, but I still thought it was cool. There is a treasure map of course, but the X that marks the spot is the shadow of two trees, which forms a literal “X” on the spot where the digging should take place at a certain time of day (In the cartoon, the X appeared over a lagoon, and showed where to dive to retrieve the treasure, which was also pretty cool). Maybe instead of trees the X could be formed by a rock formation, or by poles or other objects that the players first had to place as part of the riddle of the treasure map. Maybe once they placed these totems or whatever on the correct hillside at the correct time of day, an X or some such would appear in the valley below. Neat, eh?


So that’s all I have for now, but I’ll try to keep a notepad handy while I’m watching My Little Pony (I wish we were still watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates!) and see if anything jumps out at me that seems adventure worthy.


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