Q: What makes a good adventure?
A: PLOT, Surprise, Mystery, Romance, Puzzles, Magic, Horror, Suspense, and characters with personalities.
/netbooks/Net Plots Book 1.html|Book 1,
/netbooks/Net Plots Book 2.html|Book 2,
/netbooks/Net Plots Book 3.html|Book 3,
/netbooks/Net Plots Book 4.html|Book 4,
/netbooks/Net Plots Book 5.html|Book 5
/downloads/The Big List of RPG Plots.pdf
===== Inspiration ===== By Thorsten Hunsicker rpgtips 362
When I feel I need a new twist of thoughts, I go to www.amazon.com and look up various books from my desired genre. All these authors have already done great work in figuring out some good stories, and you can built on that.
I open a Word document and start copy-pasting fragments of the summaries and reviews, that I like. When I am done, I go through the copied text, sort it out, and get a core story out of the heap of sentences. Then I connect them to my desired story / campaign / agenda / or band of characters.
To get the final touch done, I figure out a way to introduce the plotline and best include the characters.
===== The 9-Act Format ===== - Set the stage. Necessary Background Info. - Something Bad Happens - Meet the Heroes and Opposition - Establish Commitment of Heroes - Go forward towards Goal #1 - Realize Goal #1 is flawed, reverse to goal #2 - Go forward towards Goal #2 - Climax - Wrap-up (rewards and punishments)
===== Hooks =====
Players wake up to battle, all die badly then find out it was dream.
Players go to fight haunting, but find out there is an item there that makes you a ‘ghost’. They then have to solve the puzzle get there bodies back while intagible.
One of the Players see someone who looks like him, follows, and sees the look-alike get killed. The killers say “that’s three, two more to go.”
Players go to custume ball, people turn into whatever their costume is.
Dept. of Chrono Compliance: Paradox Rectification Corps. The Temporaly Aware League of Species have agreed to one specific timeline as detailed in the Concord of Chronometrical Events. The DCC is tasked with maintaining the agreed upon timeline. The PRC is the DCC’s enforcement arm. Admission is available to any League citizen that passes an entry level service exam. PRC operatives are dispatched to various key points in time where it is their job to tweak things until the correct timeline occurs. In order to minimize temporal pollution PRC operatives try to utilize local resources as much as possible. The last villain the player characters killed screwed up the timeline, a PRC operative drops in to convince them the villain needs to live for one more day. He’ll send the PC’s temporally back in time so that they can stop themselves.
==== Celebrations Are Great Places to Start Big Plots ==== Parties are fantastic places to kick off unusually high-epic or high-intensity plots. Who hasn’t read a book where the big event that starts off the adventure happens at a party? Everyone remember Bilbo’s disappearing trick at his birthday party in “Lord of the Rings”? What about your average dinner party murder mystery? I guess you could say that weird things like an audience!
==== Item Hook Categories ==== * Plot-relevant items, * Items once owned by a celebrity, * Historically relevant items, * Personally relevant items, * Unusual and unique items.
==== Instant Hooks ==== * Gifts, * Cases of mistaken identity, * Mis-deliveries and switched documents, * Muggings, thefts, and random combats, * Prophecies and visions, * Disasters and catastrophes, * Job offers, * Mysterious nonexistent relatives or friends, * Sudden trips.
==== Powerfull Hooks ==== http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue32.html
++ Grab The PCs’ Attention. Be direct. Get things moving * “You see a man across the street staring straight at you.” * “A messenger shoves an envelope in your hand, nods at you and runs off to his next delivery. You look down to find that the envelope has someone else’s name on it!” * “You are going to work when suddenly a car rams into the bus you’re on. The car’s driver crawls through the shattered windshield and flees.”
++ Clearly Tell What’s In It For The Characters
What is most interesting to PCs? Why, themselves, of course! So, the best hooks reveal a potential solution to a problem the PCs have, or they relate personally to the PCs in some way. Good hooks can also present mysteries that will catch the PCs’ curiosity and imaginations. * “You see a man across the street staring straight at you. You’ve never seen him before but he wears a lily on his coat–the same type of lily found near the victim last night.” * “A messenger shoves an envelope in your hand, nods at you and runs off to his next delivery. You look down to find that the envelope has someone else’s name on it! You notice that the envelope also bears the seal of your long-time enemy” * “You are going to work when suddenly a car rams into the bus you’re on. The car’s driver crawls through the shattered windshield and flees. You notice though, that the driver’s ear seems to have been ripped off and you see green blood running down the side of his face.”
++ Add A Call To Action
If the PCs do not immediately take action you may need to give them a little push. You can do this by making them react if they hesitate, or by providing a strong hint or suggestion.
* “You see a man across the street staring straight at you. You’ve never seen him before but he wears a lily on his coat–the same type of lily found near the victim last night…after a few moments of glaring he starts walking purposefully towards you. But he doesn’t notice the van driving straight at him!” * “A messenger shoves an envelope in your hand, nods at you and runs off to his next delivery. You look down to find that the envelope has someone else’s name on it! You notice that the envelope also bears the seal of your long-time enemy…It looks like the seal was poorly done though. You could possibly open the envelope and re-seal it without anyone noticing” * “You are going to work when suddenly a car rams into the bus you’re on. The car’s driver crawls through the shattered windshield and flees. You notice though, that the driver’s ear seems to have been ripped off and you see green blood running down the side of his face…‘Stop him!’ someone yells.”
===== Creepy Plots =====
=== Blood === Blood is always a good sign that something isn’t right, particularly because GMs often neglect to describe PC (player character) injuries in terms of something other than hit points or health levels. Depending on your game and your GMing style, blood may be a relatively foreign thing to your players. Just the sound of the word can make them sit up and shiver. It can set them on their guard and worry them. Use that!
- The party finds a small pool of blood somewhere, preferably in one of two places: someplace creepy (a dark alley; an abandoned warehouse), or someplace very personal (their bedroom). There are smudges in the blood - a partial hand-print? A partially-formed word? A dragged heel? The party has to figure out who or what the blood belongs to, and how it was spilled.
- A PC’s wound just won’t heal quite right. Whenever he gets distracted or stressed it opens up again, leaving a trail of blood down his hand, staining his shirt, or pooling in his shoe. Why won’t it heal? Was it a combat injury, or did it come as mysteriously as it reopens?
- If you want to go all out, let the party find a room doused in blood. It’s splattered all over the place - over the windows, along the walls, up to the ceiling. It’s used to mark ornate occult symbols along the lintel. Where could the blood have come from, with no bodies to be seen? Who would do such a thing? What kind of ritual was performed here? What has it set in motion?
- The party finds a trail of blood. They keep losing it and then finding it again. No one else can see this trail. Where does it lead? How will they follow it to its end if it keeps disappearing? Is it just a symptom of something else, something stranger?
=== Things Aren’t Quite Right === One of the creepiest things for anyone is to have the world be not-quite-right at them, in either small or large ways. It leaves them scared, confused, paranoid. If the discrepancy is subtle then the idea that something’s wrong might nag at them for a while before they even figure out what it is, heightening the tension. Things being wrong could be due to a perfectly logical explanation. Or someone could have messed with reality. Maybe the party is hallucinating, dreaming or experiencing virtual reality, or they somehow ended up in an alternate reality.
- Everyone vanished. This can reveal itself in large or small ways. Your party is walking down a rural street, and it takes them a little while to realize that there’s anything strange about the fact that no one’s around. After all, there could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Mrs. Mavent isn’t sitting out on her porch today - she could have the flu. And almost anything could account for the mail being late.
- A PC’s body isn’t quite right. Her voice sounds wrong. She’s pretty sure her eyes were a darker shade of blue than that. It’s the sort of thing that friends can easily dismiss - “Your eyes look normal to me.” “Maybe you have a cold.” What happened to her? This can range from an alien abduction story to medical experimentation, spirit possession, insanity, hallucinations, and so on.
- Little details are wrong. The blue of the sky is a little too green. The shape of the clouds is slightly off. There are plenty of details that we note subconsciously every day. We probably don’t consciously note what color the sky is, but we might well note if it looked a little off. Why are things wrong? Is the party hallucinating? Has the party slipped into another world, or a shared dream or nightmare? What brought them here? Why does it want them to think that everything is normal?
- An NPC (non-player character) isn’t acting right. A PC’s little sister is less recalcitrant than usual, and she forgot that she has basketball practice every Thursday. The neighbor smiles a little too broadly, and he doesn’t seem to sleep any more. Has the NPC been replaced by something else, or taken over by something? Why? What does that thing want? Is it a clone, a demon or spirit, or an alien?
- Allegiances are all mixed up. Your friends are your enemies, and maybe vice-versa. The power structure of your city has entirely changed and the party needs to figure it out before they screw everything up. Has someone messed with everyone’s heads? Is the party hallucinating? Have they found their way into another reality? [Thanks to Andrew no-last-name-provided for the suggestion that spawned this item.]
=== Body Changes === Weird and unexplained changes to the human body freak everyone out. What’s going on? What’s causing it? If you can, start slow and draw the changes out a bit - it’ll really screw with the characters’ heads. Remember to figure out what’s behind the changes, how they can be stopped and/or reversed, and what happens if they aren’t (if you’re using these changes as a last-minute “instant plot hook” at the end of the night, you can figure all of that out during the week).
Causes of body changes can be many and varied: scientific experimentation. Alien abduction. Mystical effects. Supernatural contamination (the traditional contagious werewolf bite falls here). Spiritual contamination. The party has to figure out what’s happening and why, and how to reverse the effects! If it’s part of a wider plot, then they need to figure out how to keep the same thing from happening to others.
Caveat: keep in mind that not all players are comfortable with having their characters messed with. If your players get upset then back off. Make sure you have some idea of how the characters can get back to normal, unless you have the kind of players who really don’t mind having their characters messed with!
- One or more of the PCs are growing gills. Their skin itches; it’s becoming scaled in small patches, and it’s spreading. Maybe air-breathing is becoming a little difficult. - A PC was bitten by an animal and now she’s starting to take on some characteristics of that animal. She’s feeling a bit territorial, her fingernails are growing long and sharp, and her thinking isn’t so clear any more.
- A PC (or the entire party) is starting to disappear! Slowly, bit by bit, he is becoming incorporeal. He’s losing substance. It becomes harder and harder for him to affect the world around him, to move things, to be seen or heard.
- If the party is in a supernatural universe where they’re fighting some sort of monsters, then perhaps one or more of them start turning into the very monsters they’re fighting. It’s happening little bit by little bit. Why? How can they make it stop?
=== Mind Changes === Weird and unexplained changes to one’s mind can also be pretty darn freaky! Be careful playing with this one, as some players really don’t feel comfortable having the free will of their characters messed with. Others will take it as an exciting challenge. You might want to ask some cagey questions first, or start slowly and see how people react.
You don’t want this plot to leave the player sidelined for any real length of time. Either take him aside and explain things to him enough that he can play the “altered” character himself, or otherwise allow him to take the reins for the most part. I’ll put a few suggestions for how to do this in brackets, below.
- A character has short blackout periods. Eventually he starts meeting up with people who have memories of him doing things that he doesn’t remember doing. His neighbor says “hey, thanks for helping me move that sofa yesterday,” but that was during one of the blackout periods and he doesn’t remember it. Is someone or something taking him over, or simply distorting his memory? What else might he have done that he can’t remember?
- You can have most blackout periods happen during times that the party isn’t roleplaying. For example, the party goes off to sleep, and one player is told that he heads home, and then the next thing he remembers he’s getting up in the morning. This way the player isn’t made to sit and wait while the rest of the group gets to roleplay. Alternately, if you trust the player to treat the out-of-game information correctly, then you can give him some idea of how to roleplay the character during the blackout phases and let him do it. One possible advantage to this is that you could set things up such that the other players have no idea what’s going on, and only know that one moment the character is acting strange, and the next he seems to have no idea of what’s going on.
- A character starts experiencing emotions that don’t match what he’s used to. He gets inexplicably angry when someone asks him to help them, or he feels frightened of a large dog that didn’t bother him at all last week. Has he been drugged? Is he suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or some other psychological or psychiatric problem? Is someone trying to screw him over somehow?
- You could explain what is happening to the player and let him roleplay it as he sees fit. Or every now and then you could tell him/pass him a note that says something like, “that makes you really angry,” or “you feel very sad for the rest of this scene.”
- A character experiences episodes where he’s just a passenger, watching and listening to his own actions and words. Does he behave abnormally? Does he interact as friends with people the character doesn’t know? Does he rob a store or kill someone? Has he been hypnotized or drugged in some way, put under a spell, or taken over?
- This is a trickier one. In order to really make this one effective, it’s preferable to not have the player know what’s going on. So I’d recommend making the “passenger episodes” brief. Alternately, or additionally, you could allow the player to hold a conversation/argument with whatever entity is in control of him, or give him small ways in which to try to thwart it. This way he gets to do some roleplaying, even though he isn’t in control of his character’s body.
- A PC has thoughts that aren’t his own. To him it seems like he’s just thinking in new directions, or having odd hunches or intuitions, at least until things become more blatant and obvious. Whose thoughts are they? Are they helpful or dangerous? Is it a prelude to something worse?
- This is pretty easy. You just tell the player (or pass him a note that says) that he thinks thus-and-such. Before you play with this you might want to have a talk with the player, to make sure he understands whether these thoughts feel like hunches or intuition, or sound like a foreign voice in his head. Always be clear on the difference - PCs are likely to react very differently to these cases.
=== The Hunt === Everyone gets scared when they realize they’re being hunted. What’s doing the hunting? How dangerous is it? Why is it so difficult to get away from? How does it keep finding them anyway?
- The unseen (or invisible) hunter. The party hears it occasionally or sees signs of its passing. It pounds on walls or roars in the distance. It leaves deep scratch-marks on the door. But since the party doesn’t see it, they don’t know what it is. This tends to make party-members very paranoid!
- The party is hunted by something or someone slow-yet-inexorable. They can outrun it. They can flee it. But slowly, somehow, it always catches up with them again.
- The party is kidnapped and dumped somewhere that confines them to an area. They are told that if they live through the night, they’ll be set free. The hunt commences. Why are they being hunted? Is it someone with a grudge? Is it someone who’s impressed with them and testing their abilities? Is it a cover for something else entirely? (Note: this plot on its lonesome is a bit tired and overused. But if you give it some interesting motives or an interesting spin, or make it a lead-in to or cover for something more fascinating, you can take advantage of that. Precisely because it feels so cliche, the players are likely to be very surprised when the plot turns out to be something unexpected.)
=== Mysterious Disappearances === People and objects disappear all the time. This plot can range from the small (hey, where’s my gun?), to the huge (so what happened to the Empire State Building last night anyway?), to the macabre (as you’ll see in example number one, below). Sometimes these disappearances turn out to be misunderstandings, hallucinations, dreams, or something even stranger. They might be kidnappings, thefts, or something much more nefarious. Let your imagination run a little wild.
- Someone (a party member, friend or ally) ends up in the hospital, where he discovers that patients are disappearing. Not slowly and carefully, but in a real hurry! Perhaps every five or ten minutes, or under circumstances that should really have left evidence behind. Who’s doing it? Is there a supernatural explanation? Why doesn’t the staff seem to notice (or do they)? Are the missing people dead? Were they drugged and kidnapped for some horrifying purpose? Is an NPC who works at the hospital trying to screw with the party in some way? Will the party get implicated in the disappearances, or do the authorities seem to think that nothing’s wrong?
- This idea provided by Patrick Anderson; his suggestion inspired the creation of the entire “mysterious disappearances” category.
- A party member’s weapon is stolen and used to commit a crime. How will the party convince the authorities that the party member didn’t do it? This is a good one to start when there’s only a half-hour or less left; the party can start looking into things, and then you’ll have a whole week to figure out what evidence they can find to clear their friend.
- The entire city disappears from around the party while they’re asleep. So where’d it go, anyway? And why weren’t they taken with it?
- A friend of the party disappears (screams & vanishes; melts away; sucked into a vortex…) in front of the party’s eyes. What happened to them? Where’d they go? Are they okay?
===== Something Else Plots ===== === Disasters and Catastrophes, Natural or Otherwise === Disasters and catastrophes can take up a remaining hour nicely. The party might need to avert the catastrophe, save someone from the disaster, or prevent the disaster from becoming worse.
Several possible catastrophes and disasters: * An earthquake happens. The party spends the rest of the night helping to dig survivors out of the rubble, digging themselves out from under a collapsed building, helping to care for the injured, and so on. * A fire starts at a chemical plant or pharmaceutical company (arson) and something has gone wrong with the fire suppression system (sabotage). The party has to help stop the fire and/or get some of the chemicals out of there before the fire spreads far enough to ignite the potentially explosive ones, or burn toxic fumes into the air. This is a good one if you have a lot of time to fill, as they can investigate the arson afterward. * A riot starts. The party has to hide from rioters, prevent looting,$1alm people down, or help someone being hurt by the crowds. * A hurricane is coming through the area. The party has to help getthe word out to people who haven’t been listening to the radio, help toevacuate people, make their own preparations, and rescue people once thedevastation starts or after it’s over.
=== The Gift === Pick an unlikely NPC and have him give a party-member an unusual giftwith minimal explanation. Or maybe the gift comes through the mail withno return address, so there’s no way of knowing who sent it.
The plan here is to get the party to spend a good part of the rest ofthe night investigating the gift: what it might be or do, who sent it,where it came from, and why. Thus the more mystery that surrounds thegift, the better. The more unusual it is, the more they’ll want tofigure it out. The weirder its origins, the more they’ll feel a need toinvestigate it. Drop weird clues here and there. Let them spend timecasting spells on it, fingerprinting it, or questioning anyone whosehands it might have gone through. Maybe the item even comes with amysterious or cryptic message.
You can use this as a one-time thing to take up a half-hour. Or if youwant plot fodder for the next run, allow yourself to drop hints withoutgiving everything away - you don’t have to know exactly where you’regoing with those hints. Just make sure you write them down so you don’tforget them! Then, during the following week, you can come up with thedetails of any strange powers the item might have, or perhaps itsconvoluted history. Use the details you dropped during the game and keepthings consistent. If you decide you don’t like any of the hints youdropped, figure out a way to turn them into red herrings.
Some possible gifts: * A pair of antique, curved blades with Arabic script on each side ofeach blade; they’re incredibly sharp. Anyone with a sense of thesupernatural gets a weird shiver when they touch these blades. They weredelivered by a dark-skinned man of few words; perhaps he didn’t speakEnglish. A particularly good antique dealer might be able to tell theparty that the blades are traditionally passed down from father to sonwithin a family, and that most such knives are ornamental rather thanfunctional. * A book on Native American Ceremonial Magic. It is well-worn. Pagesare dog-eared and passages underlined. There are notes in the margins ina script the party cannot identify or read. * Stolen jewels or jewelry with mystical powers. Not only does theparty have to figure out what these are and what they do, but they’llneed to contend with the original owners, who will undoubtedly comelooking for them. * A cat with a voracious appetite and an attraction to anythingdangerous. It can do a surprising amount of damage with its claws andteeth! Perhaps it decides to protect a member of the party, whether thatperson wants it to or not.
=== A Case of Mistaken Identity === One of the party is mistaken for someone else. Confusion (and probablydanger) ensue. You could use this to get the party caught up insomething strange. Or you could set it up to simply send them searchingfor the mystery-person or people they were confused with.
Some people they could be mistaken for: * A local politician or police officer who’s been making deals withand taking bribes from organized crime figures. One of those peoplecould try to hand money off to a party-member and remind them of somedeal they have going. This could send the party off to look into thedeal, it could send them after the organized crime figure when herealizes his mistake and takes off, or it could send them after thecrooked politician or cop. * A hit man. Someone could hand a party-member an envelope and takeoff. In that envelope is half of the payment, and lots of information onsome unlucky person. * A criminal. The police or a bounty hunter gives chase, and the partyneeds to avoid capture and find the real criminal, or clear their ownnames. * Someone’s blind date. Just make sure the date has something to dragthe party into. Perhaps she has enemies who are about to catch up toher, or her “blind date” was supposed to help her steal something.
=== Mis-deliveries and Switched Documents === This could be a variation on the “mistaken identity” theme, in whichsomeone sends something meant for someone else to a member of the party.Or documents or items get accidentally switched when sent, or intransit, and the party ends up with a message, file or other item meantfor someone else. (It’s easy enough for the wrong label to end up on apackage or letter.)
Some things they might be sent: * A body part. This leaves them to find out whose it is, what happenedto them, who was supposed to receive it and why. * A map with several buildings circled on it. This leaves them to runaround to those locations trying to figure out what they have in commonor what’s going on there. These could all be safe-houses for a witnessor criminal, they could be places that are about to get broken into,they could be targets of terrorist activity, they could be sites ofmagical power, and so on. * The address of an apartment or house and a key to the front door.Inside the house they could find almost anything: A man tied to a chairand gagged. Weapons and blueprints to a bank vault. A hole down intoHell itself. Or someone could try to shoot at them through a window. * A computer diskette, tape, or CD with an encrypted file on it(alternatively, a coded letter). The file or letter could be almostanything once decrypted: mysterious numbers, a list of names, or exactinstructions for performing a ritual, with a cryptic or incompletedescription of what the ritual does.
===== Plots by Benjamin Jud Quinton ===== mailto://email@example.com
A wizard accidentaly opens a gate to a plane of magic eating creatures, and the PCs are hired to close it, possibly involving a long and difficult process or a series of quests.
A civil war erupts in a supposedly peaceful realm. A dabbling nobility has run across an ancient evil that is now running him like a puppet. After raising an army of humanoids and worse, the PCs are sent to investigate.
A different party of adventurers destroyed a horrible evil years ago, or at least thought they did. It has managed to return again much weaker, but is gaining power quickly.
An evil artifact has escaped its imprisonment and is causing problems again, and must be recovered and re-imprisoned or destroyed while it still can.
Dwarves have found an ancient wealth… And an ancient evil as well. Blinded by their new treasures, they don’t realize they are becoming servants. Rescuers are needed before it is too late.
PCs are sent to search for the one man who can help with a problem.
A mage once invented a powerful item that is now needed badly. The PCs are hired to track it down and retrieve it.
An army descends on a nation at nearly the same time the court magician grabs power. The PCs must rescue the heir, dispose of the wizard, and then defeat the invading army.
A wizard forces PCs to retrieve a magical item that he cannot get to. However, he doesn’t realize that this item will break his control over them. Once free, the PCs must work to stop his evil schemes.
The bad guys have discovered a powerful magic item, and the PCs are sent to recover it. Unfortunately they find that it has already been appropriated by the other bad guys.
Forces of evil are searching to release an ancient evil power. The PCs must beat them to the locations of the hidden keys and/or recover the hidden keys already found.
PCs are made nobility, but with the catch that they must first clear the land they have been granted.
A magical curse that affects only certain good guys appears, and the PCs must find the source and stop it before the balance is upset.
At a costume party there is an assassin, and the party must find him/her before the baron arrives at midnight.
The PCs are the possible fulfillment of an ancient prophesy. However, there are many who do not wish this prophesy to come true.
The PCs are being chased through the wilderness when they come upon an old wizard’s tower. Their only chance at escape is to enter the tower and try to survive it.
Something is massing the humanoids for an attack. The PCs are sent as either spies to find out what, or to try to stop this opponent before another goblin war occurs.
A third religion is trying to start a religious war between two others. The PCs are the only ones in the position to recover stolen property and practice diplomacy to prevent this.
The PCs are requested for an army’s special strike team.
An evil archmage has fled through time to escape punishment, and the PCs must track him down for justice.
A huge underworld crime war is brewing, and the PCs cannot help but choose sides when they see the damage being done.
PCs are captured by the bad guys, but manage to escape. In their escape, they picked up something very important to the bad guys, who will stop at nothing to recover it.
The king has passed on with no clear successor, and factions strive to fill the throne with friends. Meanwhile, outside forces threaten, and it is up to the PCs to fix things up.
The ancient dragon has once again stirred, and it falls to the PCs to lay it to rest for once and for all. They are sent on a quest for a mighty artifact to destroy the beast, and then must use it on the dragon.
An extraplanar being needs help on this plane, and since he cannot manifest, he sends the PCs to do the job.
===== Twists ===== http://www.io.com/~sjohn/plots.htm
Another source of plot twists is writers’ prompts–they’re meant to inspire ideas, after all. Again, print out lists and cut them into scraps, or open a book of prompts at random, or number them and roll dice. Here are a few online sources for writers’ prompts (we also have a small handful in the writers’ resources section of the Burning Void site); you can find more with a google search for “writer” and “prompt” (it also helps to add something like “spark,” I found, to make the results more relevant):
Writer’s Digest’s daily prompt: http://www.writersdigest.com/writingprompts.asp
Writing Fix’s Random Daily Prompt Generator: http://writingfix.com/dailypromptgenerator.htm
FictionAddiction.Net’s daily writing prompt: http://www.fictionaddiction.net/prompt.html
=== A Quick List To Get You Started === This is the quick list I put together for myself recently when I wanted it. It’s skewed for a mission-oriented science-fiction game and for some of my plot preferences, but it’s adaptable; change plot points and percentages as desired. It comes with numbers for a percentile (or d100) die-roll in case you want some randomly-gerated inspiration:
[1-2] The PCs’ destination (planet, dimension, country, whatever) possesses exotic conditions that could make life complicated or interesting (exotic plant life, animal life, atmosphere, gravity, temperature, weather conditions, past man-made disasters such as extreme pollution or nuclear war, etc.).
[3-5] The population at the PCs’ destination has been affected by unexpected conditions (religious wars, political upheaval, seclusion or segregation, invasion by outside forces, disease, starvation, etc.).
[6-15] Something happens to change the mission into a totally different type of mission. Choose a new plot. If you use a standard plot generation chart, use it again to determine the new mission. Otherwise, print out a plot list, cut it up or number it, and choose a plot at random.
[16-24] Something happens to add a new mission onto the characters’ responsibilities. See the previous item for methods to determine this new mission.
[25-26] The enemy has fewer or greater resources than expected.
 A non-player character (NPC) expected to be absent is present, or vice versa.
[28-29] An unexpected sacrifice must be made in order for the mission to succeed, or for the characters to survive or return home.
[30-32] The characters find their way home barred, removed, destroyed or otherwise compromised.
[33-34] The characters lose communication with their forces, allies or commanders.
[35-43] The characters come across someone (individual, group or civilization) in need of rescue or aid.
 The characters stumble across a situation that is easy to misunderstand, and thus they may act inappropriately to the circumstances.
[45-47] The characters’ headquarters, home base, families, or whatever are under attack, taken over or otherwise placed in danger.
 The characters’ forces have been infiltrated.
[49-52] The characters are exposed to something dangerous–radiation, poison, disease, a drug, etc.
[53-57] The team is stalked or attacked (this could be the equivalent of a random encounter, or it could be a part of the plot).
 The characters stumble across unexpected guards or sentries and stand a chance of alerting them.
 A player character (PC) or major NPC ends up in a hallucinatory, hypnotic, feverish, or similarly altered state of mind.
[60-64] Equipment or information important to the mission is destroyed, stolen, or captured.
[65-68] A location important to the mission has been overrun or occupied by hostile forces or dangerous creatures.
 A natural cataclysm has changed the landscape and somehow interfered with the planned mission.
[70-74] Someone important to the mission dies, gets captured, or becomes injured.
[75-77] The team stumbles into someone else’s problems and gets caught up in them.
[78-83] The team uncovers evidence of hostile activity beyond the scope of their original mission. (For additional complication: due to lack of communication, other events or time pressures they cannot call home to get new orders or aid and must act on their own.)
[84-85] Someone isn’t who or what he says he is.
 An NPC disappears or leaves without explanation.
 Someone is being coerced or co-opted (blackmail, threats, seduction, mind-control, etc.).
 Exotic plot twist–a one-of-a-kind alien encounter, a major character develops amnesia, the team finds out they’re trapped in a virtual reality device, a major character disappears or retires, or something of that level. This slot is reserved for those plot twists you can probably use only once.
 The team discovers that missing or presumed dead allies are being held captive.
[90-91] The characters were misled about details of the mission.
[92-93] A supposedly safe or innocuous location has been compromised. Its location is known, it’s been bugged, there are troops waiting in ambush there, etc.
 The mission (or some portion thereof) is a ruse intended to capture the characters, get information from them, or something similar.
[95-96] Someone is attempting to use the characters for their own ends.
 Someone believed dead turns out to be alive. (This might deserve a second complication layered on top, such as that person having new allegiances, not remembering who they are, being captured by the enemy, having new resources if they’re a villain, having been off doing something interesting, etc.)
 A natural disaster occurs, is about to occur, or has just occurred (volcano, flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake…).
 Someone ambushes, betrays, or gives away the characters (intentionally or by accident).
 An enemy turns out to be an ally (or at least a potential partner), or vice versa, either temporarily due to specific circumstances or more permanently.
===== 36 Plots ===== Georges Polti’s “36 Dramatic Situations”. 1- supplication: supplicant asks powerful one to stop persecutor 2- deliverance: rescuer rescues unfortunate one from threatener 3- crime pursued by vengeance: avenger pursues criminal 4- vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred 5- pursuit: punishment pursues fugitive 6- disaster: enemy vanquishes old regime 7- falling prey to cruelty or misfortune 8- revolt: conspirator tries to vanquish tyrant 9- daring enterprise: bold leader achieves object despite adversary 10- abduction: abductor abducts abducted from guardian 11- the enigma: “interrogator, seeker, and problem” (??) 12- obtaining: solicitor and adversary who is refusing 13- enmity of kinsmen 14- rivalry of kinsmen: object prefers one, rejects other 15- murderous adultery: love-triangle + murder of any one (see 25) 16- madness: madman hurts victim 17- fatal imprudence: imprudent one hurts victim 18- involuntary crimes of love: unknowing incest, etc. (see 26) 19- slaying of a kinsman unrecognized 20-23: “the four themes of immolation”: ideals (?), gods, kindred, desires 20- self-sacrificing for an ideal: hero, ideal, [creditor or sacrificial victim] 21- self-sacrifice for kindred 22- all sacrificed for a passion: lover, object of passion, sacrifice 23- necessity of sacrificing loved ones: hero, beloved victim, cause 24- rivalry of superior and inferior: two rivals and object of rivalry 25- adultery 26- crimes of love: knowing incest, etc. 27- discovery of the dishonor of a loved one 28- obstacles to love: lovers, obstacle 29- an enemy loved: enemy, lover, hater 30- ambition: ambitious person, thing coveted, adversary 31- conflict with a god 32- mistaken jealousy 33- erroneous judgment 34- remorse 35- recovery of a lost one: seeker, one found 36- loss of loved ones: kinsman sees kinsman slain
===== Generation ===== mailto://firstname.lastname@example.org|“John McMullen” mailto://email@example.com|“(personal)”
I’ve been GMing for over a decade now. Every once in a while, people ask me how I come up with plots. I’m not entirely sure, except that I look for problems and then complicate them. The two most useful questions in plotting are “Why?” and “How?” (“Who?” “Where?” “What?” and “When?” also get a workout.)
Anyway, I thought I’d share a technique that I use when I’m absolutely tapped out or when I can’t seem to come up with anything original. You know the times – all you can come up with is cliche material you’ve done a hundred times in the past. The first idea that comes to mind establishes squatter’s rights on your frontal lobes.
(I want to emphasize that this isn’t the only technique, or the best technique. It’s simply a technique that I find useful.)
The technique is to limit yourself. When you’ve got the whole wideuniverse to work with, then you have too many possibilities. By setting arbitrary restrictions, you remove things from considerationand narrow your focus.
You’ve already got a bunch of stuff established which placesrestrictions on you. You know what genre you’re working in – that gives you a bunch of genre conventions you can choose to work with oragainst. You know what your player characters are (usually), and you probably have some sense of location and season. All of these things are restrictions. If you’re doing a sword and sorcery campaign, the question of aliens doesn’t come up.
That set of restrictions presumably isn’t enough (or you wouldn’t need this technique). The next thing to do is set some arbitrary restriction: the entire adventure takes place in a single room, for example, or the entire adventure is built around what you did last weekend. Other possibilities include story anthologies and (ahem) a dictionary of cliches or quotations. The technique really relies on forcing the juxtaposition of unusual elements.
Here’s a (lengthy) example. I have a Dark Champions campaign. I know the characters, I know the time of year, I know the city (none of which tells me what the next story is). So I’m sitting here listening to the soundtrack album for “Dumb and Dumber” and I decide that I’ll create a plot that incorporates something from each song on the album.
Here are the songs on the album: * The Ballad of Peter PumpkinHead - Crash Test Dummies * New Age Girl - Deadeye Dick * Insomniac - Echobelly * If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself) - Pete Droge * Crash - The Primitives * Whiney, Whiney (What Really Drives Me Crazy) - Willi One Blood * Too Much Of A Good Thing - The Sons * You Sexy Thing - Deee-Lite * Where I Find My Heaven - Gigolo Aunts * Hurdy Gurdy Man - Butthole Surfers * Take - The Lupins * The Bear Song - Green Jelly * Get Ready - The Proclaimers
Hmm. Peter Pumpkinhead and The Bear Song suggest some kind of kid song/nursery rhyme feel. Get Ready supports that with lines like “Fee Fi Fo Fum.” You Sexy Thing, Too Much of a Good Thing, and If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself) all suggest some kind of excess, perhaps emotional overdrive – maybe a mind control plot? Somebody discovers a real aphrodisiac and starts dumping it in the water? Someone is infatuated with another person, makes the threats to suicide if he or she doesn’t return the affection, but the other person’s attitude could be described as Whiney, Whiney (What Really Drives Me Crazy).
New Age Girl is a sort-of love song to someone named Mary Moon who is (in fact) a New Age Girl. She’s now an NPC in the adventure.
First plot that comes to mind with this: take the lowest charisma hero who often complains he doesn’t have a love relationship and give him a groupie (Mary Moon) who follows him around as the group tries to track down someone who’s committing a series of thefts (Take) based on nursery rhymes. That leaves me with Hurdy Gurdy Man, Crash, Insomniac, and Where I Find My Heaven as plot elements to incorporate.
I don’t like it. So we’ll try again. Instead, let’s start with the insomniac. Suppose someone has the oft-used psionic power of tangible hallucinations and dreams. He or she knows it and has started trying to stay awake (Insomniac). It’s not easy to make a living if you have this kind of disability, so he or she is living as a street musician (Hurdy Gurdy Man). That also gives us the street-level feel and makes the psionic harder to track down. He or she has a tremendous crush on Mary Moon (we’re back to her again).
The first hallucination is Peter Pumpkinhead, a reasonably nice fellow. Freaked, she leaves and is pursued by other nursery-rhyme characters. Although Peter is quite likeable, but the others (the Bear that went over the mountain, for instance) don’t have to be. Not knowing what’s going on, Mary seeks out the PCs; if the PCs are too hard to find, they’ll enounter her, trapped by the Bear. This leads to both Mary and the PCs trapped in the psionic’s ideal world (Where I Find My Heaven). It’s not pleasant for the PCs, because he regards them as competition (Too Much of a Good Thing). This is obvious because Mary has a crush on one of the PCs (You Sexy Thing). This environment, combined with Mary’s information, lets them know who they’re looking for. The PCs can get out by moving fast enough and far enough – the psionic’s powers aren’t all-encompassing, after all.
This, with the uppers, unhinges the psionic (If You Don’t Love Me, Whiney Whiney). The first evidence is when Peter Pumpkinhead (trustworthy up until now) turns psychotic.
In the meantime, (1) the psionic, worried, has been awake on uppers long enough for hallucinations to start anyway, and (2) our villain of the piece has figured out where these nursery-rhyme apparations are coming from, and is also searching for the psionic.
Still to include: Take (a robbery of some kind?) and Crash.
The bad guy catches the psionic, uses hypnosis or mind control to generate some truly unpleasant hallucinations to perform robberies (Take), including running an armoured car off the road (Crash) and picking up the money.
The good guys catch up, there is a fight and the problem of what to do with the psionic. I leave that up to the players.
Now, a lot of the details still need to be worked out, but there’s a basic setup, antagonist, and conflict.
Not entirely without cliches (to really eliminate cliches, you’d have to know the characters better), but it’s certainly different than what I would have come up with otherwise.
Anyway, it’s a technique I find useful, so I thought I’d share it for those who are having trouble jump-starting their plots.