Awesome, free adventure hooks from the Monster Manual

Have you ever read the Monster Manual? From cover to cover? If not, you really should. It’s a gold mine of inspiration and ideas, easily my favourite of the core rulebooks.

Something I’m trying to do more and more with my adventures is start with the fiction. It’s easy to get into rut with D&D where you start to see monsters as stat blocks and game mechanics, not characters. Taking the time to revisit the Monster Manual is an excellent refresher course.

As such, I went through the Monster Manual and pulled out 64 mini adventure hooks. Feel free to use them. To determine one randomly, roll 1d8 twice: once for the tens, once for the units. (This is a trick I picked up from Forbidden Lands, where d66 tables are common.) Enjoy!

11. A community of aarakocra guards a planar portal from a mountain eyrie.

12. At the bottom of the ocean lies a ruined aboleth city.

13. The queen’s advisor is an arcanaloth in disguise.

14. Deep beneath the frigid hills, a network of vertical passages connect a beholder’s treasure chambers.

15. A bronze dragon makes its lair in a salvaged shipwreck in a nearby sea cave.

16. Frogs of the swamp act as an alarm system for a bullywug village.

17. The local crime boss is a cambion or ultroloth, protected by a shield guardian.

18. A carrion crawler eats its way through a graveyard.

21. While roaming the wilds, the party witness the thundering migration of centaurs across a continent.

22. An ‘abandoned’ hillside cave is filled with worthless junk, but narrow tunnels lead to the real lair, that of a copper dragon.

23. A pack of death dogs roam the desert.

The local hermit is really a deva.

24. That merchant you’re speaking to? A doppelganger.

25. A local tribe of sahuagin have allied with a dragon turtle.

26. Mad driders roam the edges of a drow city.

27. Dust mephits flit through the city catacombs.

28. A far-off kingdom is ruled by one of the god children: an empyrean.

31. An ettercap shepherds spiders through a maze of gloomy forest choked with webs and bones.

32. Vast swathes of woodland have been felled for fuel at a neighbouring fire giant outpost.

33. Cultists send a flying snake to deliver a note.

34. A raiding party of githyanki on red dragons teleports in from the Astral Plane.

35. There is a hidden githzerai monastery in the mountains.

36. Trampled forest trails and splintered trees mean only one thing: gorgons.

37. An idyllic isle shrouded in mist is the secret lair of a gold dragon.

38. On the edges of a green hag’s territory, trees stir, bedecked in strange ragdolls and twig fetishes.

41. A path through the mines is sealed off due to gricks.

42. As the party follow the trail of the abducted villagers into the Underdark, they stumble through piles of dung and viscera: a grimlock cave. (Shameless plug: if this sounds fun to you – and it probably shouldn’t – I made an adventure about grimlocks for the DMs Guild.)

43. Travellers riding through the mountain pass must beware the griffons.

44. Hobgoblin cavalry ride worgs into battle.

45. A mage sends a homunculus to spy on the party.

46. The local thieves’ guild employs kenku to do their business.

47. Sea trade between two major cities has halted. Are the rumours of a kraken attack true?

48. The gardens of the lamia are legendary, but none of it is real.

51. There are whispers of an academy for black magic, run by a lich. (Speaking of liches, is there anything more metal than a lich on a nightmare?)

52. A mage conducts unspeakable experiments from a tower in the wilderness.

53. Who said mammoths only live in the arctic? This herd roams the vast steppes of the east.

54. On the Elemental Plane of Water, marids rule from majestic coral fortresses.

55. In the deepest merfolk sea caves, strange glowing sea creatures serve as street lights.

56. Not far from the coast, merrow mark their territory with rotting corpses strung up with kelp.

57. On edge of civilization, an isolated farmhouse has been taken over by ogres.

58. The woodcutter who passed through town yesterday is an oni.

61. An evil wizard has hired a band of orog mercenaries.

62. An otyugh lives in the village rubbish dump.

63. The local hill giant has a pet owlbear. Aww.

64. Travelling through the mountains, the party spot a pegasus drinking from a pristine spring.

65. The mountains rumble as a purple worm tunnels underneath.

66. The cardinal? A rakshasa.

67. The door mat? A rug of smothering.

68. A rival adventuring party have made friends with a rust monster and consider it their pet.

71. Salamanders slide down the mountain while the volcano erupts.

72. A much loved minstrel has been abducted. Could a satyr be responsible?

73. A tribe of sea elves has been infiltrated by sahuagin spies: malenti.

74. Have you ever seen a whole forest of shriekers?

75. A silver dragon tends its hoard in an abandoned mountain citadel.

76. Sprites have made a little village in the branches of a great treant.

77. The stone giants’ cavern home is as quiet as a cathedral.

78. Two great ornamental jaguars guarding the gates of a lost city are actually stone golems.

81. The oracle, a storm giant, makes his or her lair from a grim fortress on the ocean floor.

82. The tarrasque awakens to answer a cosmic call.

83. Bones, dung, and crude pictograms in bloodmark the borders of a troglodyte lair.

84. A blessed paladin riders a unicorn.

85. A walled abbey surrounded by withered plants is home to a vampire.

86. Wights serve as shock troops in the wraiths’ legions.

87. Yuan-ti don’t just live in the jungle. A ruined desert city was once the heart of their ancient fallen empire.

88. Dead men rise from the marshes and shamble through the wilderness (zombies).

Which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

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