View Full Version : Making a Plot

The Neoclassic
2009-01-08, 02:02 PM
So, I have a very general idea for my campaign: The party wants to find a lost holy text which has been stolen and traded and moved about over the course of the last century. I have all of the lovely fluff for the setting and culture which they are in (one that is LE and high-secrecy, I might add). However, I am looking to do a 75% roleplaying and 25% combat game- but I have no good idea for how precisely to give them clues to lead them from place to place and person to person to find this lost item. Any suggestions or general help at plot-designing? I can give more information about the setting if needed. Thanks in advance!

2009-01-08, 02:48 PM
Don't worry about how the players will find the item. That's up to the players. You need to figure out where the item has been, where it went, who moved it, and why. The more details you come up with the better. When the players go looking for it, feed them details as you feel is appropriate.

Let's say that the item was stolen from one of the churches it was in. Whomever stole it is still locked away in jail somewhere. It doesn't matter if the players approach the theives guild to ask if they knew what happened or the church it was stolen from. Either direction can lead to the same clue.

So just figure out what your clues are. You can't possibly guess what direction your players will take to arrive at those clues. Let the players figure out the direction they take and you figure out how that direction leads to the nearest clue.

2009-01-08, 02:52 PM
One way is for the PCs to follow the history of it's dispersion. For example, they come across pretty good evidence that the holy text existed at a certain time and place, under the possession of a certain person (for example, have the trusted elder family-related NPC tell them that he had seen it with his own eyes and that it is very important). Said historical person was dying, and he wanted to give it to someone he could trust which happens to be a civilization (we'll call it A) across the map. PCs follow his footsteps to that civilization A, through many terrain hazards, and subsequently find this civilization A in great need of aid. They come to civilization A's aid in a way that earns the trust of the civilization A. The leader informs them that the holy text never arrived at civilization A and that they had only been informed by the bearer of the holy text that he found out that he had been followed, and that he had to go into hiding before he could deposit it anywhere.

The PCs are then distracted by unrelated side-quests, when they meet an archeologist who believes that the mines run by evil civilization (of monsters probably) B may have uncovered the place where the bearer of the holy text died and hid the holy text with him (say, a wall magically sealed with the the symbol of the holy bearer). They have to go on a quest for a key to unlock the magically sealed wall (in the ruins of civilization C), than get clearance from evil civilization B (by fighting or diplomacy) to enter the mines, than they have to navigate the treacheries of the terrible working conditions of the mine, and open the sealed wall - only to find that it is completely empty. Retracing their steps back to the ruins of civilization C, they believe that they key was left there because it was no longer valuable (someone already opening the seal) but are unable to decide whether that civilization C managed to give it to good civilization D before evil civilization E rendered civilization C into the ruins we see today.

Fortunately, civilization D is more than helpful in telling the party about the lost holy text, but all they have is some of the writings from the original bearer of the holy text about the holy text. They also know that evil civilization E had the holy text, but civilization D says that civilization E didn't know what it had. Pulling some strings in civilization E reveals that the book was sold to a famous book collector and eccentric Wizard. The PC seeks out this wizard, gets past all his wards, alarms, constructs and summoned creatures. Finding him, he informs them that he is dead certain that the race of <insert random specific Outsider here> took it. These Outsiders don't have it at all, and the old Wizard is quite crazy. Talking with some other booksellers (likely from the earlier quest to seek out the Wizard starting from civilization E) they confirm that the Wizard is mad, but there are a couple other booksellers with the means and motive to steal the book from him. They have to tract down and interrogate these booksellers until they find that one had mysteriously disappeared and no one had heard of him. They also find out that one of the booksellers had seen much of the text, but doesn't have it.

Right about this time, in the background, you have dark and weird things happening and a discussion with a powerful cleric that the PCs befriended earlier in the campaign leads him to believe that this last bookseller had used the holy text the worse way imaginable - to summon an ancient force of evil. They have to combine the knowledge of this cleric, the bookseller who had seen the text, and the writings of the original bearer of the holy text to find the time and place that they evil bookseller is using and commanding the evil forces from. The PCs go there and have an epic battle in which they reclaim the book and stop the destruction of the world and half a second before it is too late.

Okay, so that was way to long for something that I was pulling off the top of my head. But you get the point: a wild goose chase based on what modern civilizations know about the historical passing of the holy text which gets to more and more recent history until you find the holy text right before it is too late. Notice each step is fragmented so that in the meantime you can make up the next part of the narrative or amend it as necessary (when the PCs do the unexpected, which they will). How to solve each step is up to the PCs, but the steps are pretty much straightforward quests (retrieve this, go here, find this information, do a favor for this person, possibly some divination). Notice also that you don't want the PCs to feel like they wasted their steps on the wild goose chase, and that they should pick up clues on the way that lead to the final location of the book, in addition to the intermediate location.

2009-01-08, 03:07 PM
-giant snip-

Hmm...somewhere there's a line between "neat story with lots of twists" and "needlessly complex". I think you discovered it soon after introducing the 4th civilization. :smalltongue:

2009-01-08, 04:12 PM
That's exactly the point. You can continue this convulted search as long or as short as you want to, because it is broken up into pieces that aren't really dependent on each other. If you want a long campaign but a less convulted search, you just have to throw in more side-quests along the way.

2009-01-08, 04:43 PM
My god. My difficulties with this forum lost me a good 1000-word post. I'm not retyping all that. I even did a select all - copy but it didn't take.

Simply: The book was split up into four parts because someone wanted the whole thing to do something nefarious. Four acolytes fled each with a part. The party finds one part and that leads them to the temple where it was split. The ghost of the high priest wants them to clear the ruined temple and establish new clerics there. If they do, he tells them which way the acolytes went. But their trails are at least a decade cold.

2009-01-08, 05:37 PM
Any suggestions or general help at plot-designing?Start asking yourself questions. Why does the party want the tome?* Who else wants it? What are they doing to prevent the party from finding it? Why is the tome located where it is? Who put it there? Did they want people to find it at some point in the future? If so, what clues did they leave and where did they leave them? If not, what protections and false leads have they put in place? All of those will help flesh out your adventure but the immediate questions you need to answer are: Who has the tome and what are they doing with it?
Who else wants the tome and what are they willing to do to ensure only they get it?
Who knows about the tome and what will it take to get them to talk?

*I generally start plots with what the NPCs' want and how the NPCs will interact with the PCs. Trying to predict what the PCs want is a path oft filled with frustration. :)

2009-01-08, 05:40 PM
*I generally start plots with what the NPCs' want and how the NPCs will interact with the PCs. Trying to predict what the PCs want is a path oft filled with frustration. :)

Good points, btw.

You can start predicting player behavior once you've known them for a while. But some good starts are:

1: What if they sell the MacGuffin?
2: What if they destroy it?
3: What if they don't find it?
4: What if they kill the villain early on?
5: What if they don't care enough the story?
6: What if they never get hooked into the story?
7: What if they miss this clue?
8: What if they're feeling very greedy and demand payment / reward?
9: What if the player whose character is necessary doesn't show up that session?
10: What if they alienate all the NPCs and get kicked out of town? Or kill everyone?

If you can think through and come up with a good plan for what comes next for all of these, you're golden. Most of a DM's job is answering the question "and then what happened?"