What If?… Plot Seeds Generator

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0774

Last Musing I answered a question from Anon GM about what hooks are and why you want to use them. Today let’s dig into part two of their question: What are seeds?

In my lingo, a seed is an idea not fleshed out yet.

For example, good drow running from evil kin. Or, magic armour, with a slight flaw, perfect for the barbarian, buried in a crypt.

It’s an idea but not a plan.

Many game masters run with just a list of seeds. All they need are the sparks of ideas and they are set.

Alas, I’m not one of those GMs. I need to put a little sweat into the process to squeeze out great session prep.

So I create little recipes for myself and teach them to you in case you find them helpful too.

What If?… Seeds Work Great

One such recipe is the What If… method, inspired by Ray Bradbury. Find a bit of inspiration (the seed of an idea) and build it out by asking What If?

When prepping just about anything now, I start with a brainstorm list of ideas. It’s good exercise for thinking on the fly, and it gives me options. Brainstorming a list of ideas gives you lots of options to choose from, and hopefully, some are truly gold you can take to the XP bank.

So a seed is a tiny idea you can play to find out what happens. A seed is a possibility, not an ending. It’s a choice, not a directive. It’s incomplete. Whether you flesh your seed out during prep or play, it gives you great GMing direction.

Jochen and I built Campaign Logger specifically with hooks and seeds in mind. It’s an awesome brainstorming tool in addition to a fast prepping and session logging tool. Just start writing and use tags to instantly link and connect your seeds.

After even a single seed brainstorming session of five minutes in Logger, you could have the framework come together of several people, places, plots, and things ready for several sessions of adventure.

For example, we just added a Plot Seed Generator to Campaign Logger. Use this to get inspired, or to whip something up quick during the game sure to entertain your players.

The generator gives you a basic idea using the What If?… method. You decide where to take the idea next. This generator also makes a fantastic rumour generator, giving you instant news, gossip, and hooks to roleplay.

D20 Plot Seeds

Here’s d20 example seeds I generated in seconds with the Plot Seeds Generator:

  1. What if an ornate scarab suddenly appeared in the middle of the Village of Ladymere and opened a portal to Hades and began pulling people there?
  2. What if the water drawn from the well in the Village of Summerton began turning townsfolk into grimlocks?
  3. What if a cleric appealed to the characters to hide a shard of the Javelin of Shadows, claiming a powerful cult was trying to reassemble the pieces?
  4. What if a strange creature comprised entirely of opal gemstones found its way into town and exploded, harming or killing townsfolk but also leaving behind the valuable gems?
  5. What if the gravesite of Pasquale the Tranquil Hunter, in the Highlands of Threnendel, was discovered unearthed with tracks leading to a nearby necropolis?
  6. What if a small demonic or fey creature began tormenting the town mason and continually left messages behind about something called the Blue Spear?
  7. What if Bloodmarsh was built over an ancient goblin burial ground and their living descendants started trying to retake the land?
  8. What if an animated seat or throne that is discovered harbors the trapped soul of a red slaad that is desperate to be freed?
  9. What if creatures began suffering horrible mutations after an unusual flying vessel made of steel crash landed in the Uplands of Samertsi?
  10. What if overnight detailed paintings began appearing on the buildings in Holyfield, each depicting the grisly death of the first person to view them, who shortly thereafter dies as in the depiction?
  11. What if in the midst of summer large chunks of ice began flowing down the Cascading Rapids and began lowering the temperature in those regions bordering it?
  12. What if the water drawn from the well in the Village of Meadowbridge began turning townsfolk into fomorians?
  13. What if the characters awakened to the realization they were now in the stomach of some immense creature, along with the now ruined Foolish Barbarian Inn?
  14. What if the spinner and the barber began petitioning townsfolk for money to hire someone or something to rid them of the characters?
  15. What if a horribly wounded ettin stumbled into the Village of Cornlake and died, with a number of dolls in its possession that resemble some of the townsfolk and characters?
  16. What if the Brooch of Sevusa, destroyed years ago by Virgilis the Lucky Defender, suddenly reappeared in the Village of Goatford in the hands of a disreputable monk?
  17. What if two black pearl gemstones were recently recovered from a nearby spectral citadel and the Village of Lostcombe has been afflicted with unfortunate events ever since?
  18. What if a quartz statue appeared in the town square, crafted in the likeness of Kibidon the Silent Pilgrim, seemingly wounded and bound in chains?
  19. What if a water elemental suddenly appeared in the middle of drought-striken Broadisle offering water in its purest form in return for children?
  20. What if the march has decided to build a prison near the Village of Daggerlake, which itself is full of criminals and outcasts?

This is why I like seeds so much. Start with something small. Something unscary — just an incomplete idea or tiny ripple of a potential idea.

Then grow and nurture the seed over time, detailing and connecting other ideas and campaign pieces until ready to sail with it.

Hopefully that answers your questions, Anon GM. If not, let me know. Campaign Logger customers, you’ve got the Encounter Seeds Generator right now in the web app. You’ll find it under the Tools menu.

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