member, 13 posts
Thu 13 Oct 2022
at 16:48
Advice on plotting out a game
Hello gaming friends.

I am interested in starting a game (H:tR) and I have a general concept in mind.

I am wondering what your successful actions are for a plot driven game, if you have GMed a long standing game successfully.

When creating your game do you have a plot fully outlined from beginning to end? Do you just have a general idea and wing it? What works for you to be able to keep a game rolling, handle the characters and not get overwhelmed by the tasks of GMing on a daily or weekly basis?

In past attempts I have gotten to the point where I wasn't sure how to proceed with my game and it faded out. I don't want that to happen this time.

This message was last updated by the user at 16:48, Thu 13 Oct 2022.

 member, 492 posts
Thu 13 Oct 2022
at 17:53
Advice on plotting out a game
Best advice I can give is to plan people, not plots. Flesh out your movers and shakers, your antagonists most of all. Know your setting, and build your characters' plans, rather than a metaplot that they play a role in. Then, build out from there.

For instance, Maestro McVillainous has a plan to Take Over The WorldTM through the use of an army of the undead. For that, he needs the Staff of McGuffin. You get the party involved by McVillainous harming someone they know in pursuit of the staff, then you just continue on with his plans. Until McVillainous either succeeds in getting the staff, at which point he takes the next step in his Grand Plan, or fails irreparably (maybe the characters throw the Staff of McGuffin into the fires of Mount Plotdevice), his plans will revolve around finding the staff and preventing interference.

The plot becomes action vs. reaction. The party goes after McVillainous on behalf of their friend, their actions or McVillainous's monologuing reveals part of his Grand Plan, and we're off to the races. In addition to being a whole lot easier to plan, it also feels more "real" and has a much lower chance of becoming a railroad, since the plot is character-driven, as there are no immutable story milestones to get in the way.
 member, 884 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 13 Oct 2022
at 18:01
Advice on plotting out a game
In reply to peloria (msg # 1):

Well, I don't plot out games and I've never seen a plotted out game work. There's too much chance of a player deciding to do something that ruins the plot for it to be worth me planning on very much.

This also helps me keep from getting overwhelmed, because I don't have much I have to keep track of, or overhaul due to player choices.

If my game stalls because I can't think of what should happen next, I ask the players what they think should or what they want to happen next.
 member, 279 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 13 Oct 2022
at 18:29
Advice on plotting out a game
NowhereMan's post above is very good advice!

Now, I run mostly horror/comedy, both of which need a fairly linear structure with reasonably tight pacing and range of action to land an atmosphere of unbearable dread/have any shape at all, but if you put a game on a railroad, it will get squished.

So I pretty much think video game: here is what it's about, you have X and Y story-integral NPC to point players at plot, this sub-plot/"mission" can be triggered here, that one there, this is the Good Ending, this is the Bad Ending. I recommend jotting this kind of story skeleton - - out in a notebook, but usually the above is all I start with.

Part of my secondary setup is adding player concepts/basic background into the plot: nothing so huge that the player vanishing will collapse the story, but motivation for them to see out the course/play the particular character they've chosen rather than a set of stats with a name slapped on. e.g. the person who ate [PC]'s dog in their backstory becomes a minion of the antagonist, protected by their schemes. Try to come up with creative slants on fairly generic hooks to keep them from staying generic, too, e.g. unknown to [PC], their dog is actually a vampire now.

Lastly, brutal realism is your friend if everyone somehow winds up in a corner with no NPC to lead them gently out. Hiding under a rock until the bad guys go away, for instance, becomes less of an attractive option and potential dead end if it happens to be November in pit viper country (note that this scenario also gives the PCs the opportunity to lead said bad guys into said viper pit if they're smart - that kind of thing should work both ways and reward engagement with the game world).

This message was last edited by the user at 18:30, Thu 13 Oct 2022.

 member, 14 posts
Sat 15 Oct 2022
at 01:56
Advice on plotting out a game
Thank you all for your help. This is great advice.
 member, 1749 posts
 Ocoee FL
 45 yrs of RPGs
Sat 15 Oct 2022
at 02:55
Advice on plotting out a game
Contrary to NowhereMan, I have always planned plots, as well as characters.

Rather than a railroad, I view my game as a roller-coaster. I'm most comfortable knowing what the plot beats are and where the ride is headed. This ensures I can provide entertaining thrills and spills, twists and turns, and an exciting conclusion. That doesn't mean that it's all mechanistic. If the players go off in an unexpected direction, I give them their head and often the story ends up in a place I never imagined. "Yes and..." is the best fun.

[Aside to NowhereMan: You just planned a plot.]
 member, 2692 posts
Sat 15 Oct 2022
at 04:30
Advice on plotting out a game
 railroad or  roller coaster. al thinks  like this   are better, if they are simple, especially in here.

 you have a main plot line, of course... which the game is based on. For me, there are several  sub plots. The players may trigger then or not, depend on their direction and  especially, their RP.

 other plots  arise  from the actions and reactions  of the players as they  follow  a plot. Mission, quest..whatever.

 The real neat thing, is when  the players , with out knowing it, can start a plot line. through their  actions and RP.

 I have plot lines that were  never triggered... some that  came out of nowhere, because of  players actions.

 This keeps the game fresh..foreveryone.

 a 'bad example'..years  and years ago, a DM ran us through a dungeon,at the time, I was  the 'caller' and  decided to take a 'round about path'..he  went nuts   complaining  about  2 days of planning for this  ect ect...

 Forced marched plots , only work if they are  few and far between, and   get over with quickly...My players understand they  can do  something   that may not be a 'normal' move. But they all understand , actions have reactions.

you have all heard me say before.. the best motto  for a GM is to "run the game, how you would like it run for yourself"'ll find  that it works  better for everyone else in the game.
 member, 493 posts
Sat 15 Oct 2022
at 05:45
Advice on plotting out a game
[Aside to NowhereMan: You just planned a plot.]

Respectfully, I did not. What I planned was a worst case scenario. The only thing I ever plan (outside of con games, which are an exception to most rules, really), in cases where my games even have planned villains, is what happens if the players do nothing. Which, I will concede, is technically a plot, but a very bad one. Essentially, it amounts to McVillainous wants staff > McVillainous does Bad Thing to get staff > McVillainous uses staff and Takes Over the WorldTM. At best, it's an outline that might get a D- from a very generous 9th-grade Literature teacher.

I would assume that your roller-coasters have more to them than that, in order to reliably hit the beats you mentioned. I don't do any of that. That's not an admonishment of your style, by any means. In fact, my life as a GM would be much easier if I did things the way you've described, and my games would be more reliably fun, but it just doesn't jive with the way I want to do things, and it wouldn't work out as well for my home group's players.
 member, 2 posts
Fri 28 Oct 2022
at 20:08
Advice on plotting out a game
My advice is read all the advice you can, then ignore it.  Advice is a tool - see how other people do things, learn what works for them, then see how you want to apply that to your game.  The more you know the more you'll be ready to adapt.

That being said, my style of running is definitely in the 'plan people, not plots' category.

I write down what's happening in the world, who the major players are and what they want and how they're going to get it.  I write down what they're planning - in character.  I mull over that the week before the game.

At the table, everything is pretty sandboxy.  Lots of shenanigans and ad-libbing, but because I have a good handle on what people and things want and what they're willing to do to get it, it all ends up trending the right direction.

That said, learn your player's motivations.  Not what they say their characters motivations are, but what the player wants.  Some want to fight with big numbers, some what to explore the setting, some want Shakespearean drama, some want to create something in the world, some just want to pet cute animals.  It takes time, but the better you know your players, the better the game will be if you gear it towards what they want.

That's what works for me, there's also plenty of advice on YouTube from some excellent players and game runners.  It's also good to remind everyone during session zero that you're human, and they're human, but everyone is there to have fun.

This message was last edited by the user at 20:09, Fri 28 Oct 2022.

 member, 178 posts
 The horn that wakes
 the sleepers
Sun 30 Oct 2022
at 02:02
Advice on plotting out a game
I aspire not to prep plots at all, as advised here:

When I run published material I try to reverse engineer the content to be less plot driven, and it's liberating.
 member, 702 posts
 Be excellent
 to each other.
Wed 2 Nov 2022
at 09:08
Advice on plotting out a game
In my dayjob, you Measure what you want you to Perform well.

Maybe an unpopular opinion, but plotting out a game is like measuring the game's value on Plot.

Actually, what I think most GMs & players alike actually want to achieve, and therfore value, is Progression, and Meaningful Choices & Outcomes.

So let's review the OP question, reframed to look at these factors.

Progression > What is the character's short term goals, work jobs, side quests, family quests? What are their Dreams for when they Make It Big?

Choices & Outcomes > Players want to impact the world. So let them?

My point is, Plot comes easy in game from a collaborative standpoint. Clarify a few things OOC if you need to, then Play To Find Out What Happens Next...

If you put your energy into finding a way that works for you to track your Progress, and your Impact in the world (like a Resume or CV, a summary of events)

I think that's where the dopamine really kicks in

This message was last edited by the user at 09:30, Wed 02 Nov 2022.

 member, 703 posts
 Be excellent
 to each other.
Wed 2 Nov 2022
at 09:28
Advice on plotting out a game
Also, it pays to have a good wealth of ideas to draw from, when you're preparing for the next encounter.

Horror Tropes

Scifi Tropes

Vampire Tropes

Mystery Tropes

I also use the wealth of content from the LCG cards listed on for free. Plenty of Prompts/Ideas in amongst the thousands of cards listed here.

So really - there's an oversupply of plotting options available to you :D

Set the scene, roleplay the interactions, roll some dice to see if it's a Good or Bad outcome (& by what factor), and then take a moment to craft What Happens Next (using all the plot options at your disposal)! :)

This message was last edited by the user at 02:09, Thu 03 Nov 2022.

 member, 704 posts
 Be excellent
 to each other.
Thu 3 Nov 2022
at 02:08
Advice on plotting out a game
Oh and another great place for seeding ideas is Deviantart!


The navigation on the site is a bit clunky, but the calibre of art is pretty good.

I like to throw in search keywords, and then pull out an Image, and use that for a Location, or Enemy, or you know, whatever!

I find using DeviantArt as a prompt is a really awesome launchpad into your own creativity!

For eg,

Need a Scifi Location? Try,
<img src="">

Or need a Warlock Elf?
<img scr="">

If you DO use someone else's art in your game or post, PLEASE go to the effort to attribute the DeviantArt page itself, because that's the right thing to do :)

EDIT: Looks like inline images aren't allowed in this forum, but they are allowed in-game.

This message was last edited by the user at 02:09, Thu 03 Nov 2022.