The Macaroni and Cheese Hook
The Gm’s Cookbook
I’ve talked a bit about adventure hooks and their importance in semi-linear and sandbox games, and waved my hand at “Part of doing this is knowing how to design a hook.” Well, time to put my money where my mouth is, and talk about some ways to design adventure hooks. There are a lot, but since it’s dinner time when I’m writing this, you get the macaroni and cheese method.
Creating a hook is a lot like cooking. You mix in some carefully prepared ingredients, but it doesn’t have to be the same way every time, even for the same recipe. There’s a certain fluidity to it. Today’s macaroni and cheese comes from allrecipes.com. I’m not going to provide all the details because it’s not my recipe, but if you want to give it a go, go check them out. It’s delicious, I promise.
- 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
- 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cups milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 pinch paprika
You start with the pasta, and bring it to a boil. Pasta is the heart of your adventure, the point of contact with your setting, and the characters involved. This is the adventure part, the situations that the players will have to find their way through. You want it to be soft enough that they can sink their teeth into it, but not so soft that it feels like there’s nothing there. Always keep the pasta in mind while designing the hook, and stir it as needed.
In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Maybe use a little more than necessary. the butter is the lure, the promise of treasure, influence, or any other gain from the adventure. They might not taste it, but it has to be in every bite. Add the flour for consistency. You want your sauce to be thick enough that it’s coming with your pasta, and not getting left behind on the plate. If the sauce comes loose, all they’re getting is noodles. It’s the same with a hook. It has to be consistent with current things in your setting, and bond with the adventure.
After that, add milk. I like to use a little less than the recipe calls for, in order to get a thicker sauce. This is the body of your sauce, the characters and situations that bring it to life, whether it’s a man who hands them a small marble crucible, or a waitress getting a hiding from a muleskinner. It’s going to lend weight to whatever is going on. Too little, and it’s dry. Too much, and it’s watery. Finally, add the cheese. Every hook needs a bit of cheese, and what makes the mac and cheese hook special is that it has a lot of it. Let people be heroes, pull in some tongue and cheek tropes. Cheese is fattening, but delicious. It’s your chance to wink a bit at the players.
Mix the sauce and the pasta and stir well, adding a it of spice. But before putting the dish into your oven, there’s one more important thing to add. Breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are what set mac and cheese apart from Kraft Dinner, and without some breadcrumbs to lead players deeper in, your adventure might as well be KD. Place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees, and bake for half an hour. Then, enjoy!