From the year 2000 AD through 2013 AD, I attempted to develop story arcs for my campaigns. I was never happy with them. I seemed to either fail to foreshadow events well enough for my Players or I rushed to the climax of story. A couple of times the PCs had gone so far off on their own plot lines that I felt forced to shoehorn the arc into the game, so that I could fulfill the ground work which I had setup at the beginning of the game. They were not bad games, they just were not great games.
I run my best games and have my best campaigns, when I set up a culture or detail an area, then drop plot hooks into the setting. I design no more than I absolutely need, as Ray Winniger advised (see First Rule, third paragraph). I design the first adventure with the presumption that the Players will go along with it, since they’ve got no other options at this time. Ideally, the Players will create their PCs before the first game, so I have an idea of what hooks to drop. If they don’t create them early, I do my best to improvise hooks for the first game. Vague ideas for villains become defined, during the first games, and I set up their goals and plans. Future games will drop plot hooks about these villains and actions into the campaign. I like to have three or four plots boiling at one time that way, that way the action of the world is not dependent upon the PCs. If the Players are forced to choose between two different plot hooks, then one in which they don’t get involved moves forward without interference. A living world has changes and it grows. As the setting grows and changes, I get to add new plots and villains and the PCs always have new choices and new challenges.
I was going to describe the origins of my “Shadowfell Road” campaign and write out some ideas I have for other campaigns, but I don’t feel there is enough room to give more than one a fair shake. So, my next several posts may be about campaign ideas. As I complete each one, I will add a link here to the appropriate post.
Until next time, Game on!