Do prep plotlines

For the last campaign I played, I tried a different adventure and campaign writing method to take the next step from the mystery and intrigue play style I’ve been playing for the last twenty years.

Instead of writing unquestionable facts that the players need to discover by looking at the right place, I created character templates and bits of information that I could give the players whenever or however they took action. I’m sure we all had the experience of prepping countless NPCs and locations that were never used. I kind of got around that problem by breaking down the components of the people and setting material I use during a session into smaller lists that I could pick and choose from whenever I wanted: name lists, rumors, ongoing plotlines, character templates (a purpose for one character). OSR already uses lists for random encounters, for example. I wrote an article that talks about this standpoint:

The article indirectly presents an adventure idea, and what I’m after is a) what kind of atmosphere you get from reading the examples and 2) how (or if) your brain started to play around with the ideas from reading the plotlines. If you don’t think the information given is enough, what is missing?


That’s a good article and has got me thinking. I run a lot of Dungeon World and it seems to me a very good way for me to prep for that (i.e abstract information on people and places, plus plotlines running through the world). Although DW is often played with a “collaborative world-building” angle, my players and I prefer it when the GM does most of the world-building. What you are describing in this articles is, I think, and handy skeleton for my prep (so thanks!).

In fact, your article reminded me of DW’s “Dungeon Starters”, which have a section called Sights & Sounds – basically your “abstract information” – along with DW’s Grim Portents – basically your “plotlines”.

What your article is adding, it seems to me, is that the GM can hold off attributing information and probably even plotlines (or “occurrences”) to any particular people or places. I like that.

BTW, what do you mean when you say Neutral Player Characters?

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Eh, I meant “non-player”. Changed that in the article. Thanks.

There are a lot of similarities with Powered by the Apocalypse games, enough to consider it as the same thing from a different perspective. When I tried this out, my game even had a clock mechanic. :smiley:

Reading the following about Agents from a PbtA game was spot on as well:

Interesting article. It reminded me of something. I had been thinking about a campaign in the Moonshaes for the dragon game where, in addition to the factions sketched out in the 3e supplement book, I’d add some of the factions from my own overarching narrative. That got me thinking again of the possibility of sketching out a mechanic where one could track a ‘living world’, so to speak - somewhere we could define factions, with their goals and obstacles, and track their progress. I myself don’t have the geopolitics knowledge necessary to sketch out possible goals, trials and tribulations related to those goals, but I feel like it could be an interesting way to build a world that exists despite the characters and in which the characters have to work for information on which side they wanna join - if at all.

Does that even have to do with your post? I think it does? Sorry for rambling.

It absolutely does, as in creating “a world in motion”. A couple of things that had me thinking during the years that I played roleplaying games. How to a) “show, don’t tell”, b) “peel the layers”, c) create intrigues, and c) make the sensation of a world in motion. I thought I solved the last three with the fishtank writing technique, but this way of preparing seems … I dunno, more “to the point” in how it should be used during a session. The downside is that the article is too abstract because you can use the material in so many different ways.

The article is mainly a way of combining setting material with campaign playing by ripping out pieces of information, mainly the plotlines, and letting the game master put them to use however they want. I guess the target audience are those who write campaign for others, but on the other hand: the game master is usually(?) the one who writes the campaign.