Do You Plot Stories Or Dungeon Crawlers?

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1122

I just came back from vacation. We camped out in beautiful British Columbia.

We have a camping trailer, so we were able to be self-sufficient and remain in isolation while enjoying nature and recouping our energy.

I read a bunch and otherwise just tried to sit around and resist the impulse to be productive.

While I was away, I received this question in my inbox: Do you plot stories or dungeon crawlers?

Interesting question.

If someone put a d20 to my head and said, “Plan a game now or I’ll melt all your minis!” I’d do the following:

  1. Mine characters for plot seeds.
  2. List out each potential plot seed in Campaign Logger and update as I perform subsequent steps below
  3. Envision the best possible end state for each plot seed — that’s my tentative goal line to work towards each session
  4. Review each plot seed. Is it worth of a Campaign Arc?
    No: Make a potential character side plot
    Yes: Use it as my Campaign Arc
  5. Create a villain
  6. Create three factions
  7. Create at least three milestones for the Campaign Arc and each Character Plot
  8. Make each Milestone an adventure Site or a Situation
  9. Draw maps
  10. Create tables of challenges (monsters and hazards tuned to characters and plots)
  11. Create a table of rewards
  12. Create a Knowledge Table
  13. Create several 3 Line NPCs that feed into one or more plots
  14. Build first encounter
  15. Build d3 back pocket encounters / 5RDs
  16. Improv the first session (a Session Zero as the kids call it these days) using the tables and lists and ideas logged for inspiration
  17. Do Loopy Planning between sessions to increment plot progress and identify new Sites and Situations for potential gaming next session

Did I save my minis there? Hard to say. But Step 9: Draw Maps is where I’d plot crawlers.

The rest would be story plotting.

Unless you are running a pure boot and loot campaign, you need a story to hang your sessions on.

You need a continual narrative to provide context and meaning.

Else, the game is a bunch of rando encounters.

In truth, without the harsh deadline and my minis at stake, I’d go deeper into creating a Campaign Outline and then dig into homebrewing adventures.

Even dungeon crawls would get factions, character hooks, and a campaign tie-in.

But overall, the list above reveals I’m a plotter. What about you? I posted this question at my forum. Drop by and share your approach.