View Full Version : How to introduce a plot

2013-04-05, 11:20 AM
I'm looking to DM my first full campaign soon. I have a plot set up, I have the setting, NPCs, and twists... The only thing I'm having trouble with is how to introduce the players to the plot in a non-corny manner.

So what are your favorite ways to get the campaign rolling? The party I'll be playing with rarely side quests, so I just want to focus on the main story.

2013-04-05, 12:19 PM
Let's say the campaign is going to focus on slaying an evil dragon and his minions.

You could ease them into the main plot by having them go off on some mundane adventure that quickly leads into the main plot. So, Farmer Joe starts the adventure by hiring the PCs to go kill a mountain lion that's been stalking the hills near his farm. While in the hills, the PC's fight some of the Dragon's minions, which leads to a small dungeon where the minions are hiding out. After they clear the dungeon, they will go back to town and start asking questions, which can be answered by the town mayor who puts them on the main quest.

Or You could have the mayor ask the PCs to just go into the hills and root out the Dragon's Minions in the first place.

Or you could skip a lot of the intro and just put them into the dungeon and start from there. Leave the explanation for after they clear the dungeon.

2013-04-05, 02:50 PM
It takes a bit of work, but my favorite way to start things off is to have the characters not know each other, and through sheer coincidence, stumble upon one another in a situation where they need to work as a team. One of them could be picking flowers in the forest for his sweetheart, while one of them (druid? ranger?) lives in the forest itself. The third could have hired the fourth as a guide through the forest, because he/she is going to visit the next town over (which is where the plotplot starts anyhow).

The four of them bump into each other in the forest, and [plot hook happens], which could be anything from a cry for help, to the forest being burned down (thusly not allowing the ranger or druid, for this example, to stay home), or being attacked by creatures not indigenous to the forest (goblins, why not?).

Normally, the players will take the OOC hint and act like main characters in a story would: they would travel together either to the next town (where character 3 is going), or to check on character 1's sweetheart (maybe she's mysteriously vanished!?, or in the arms of another man!). Perfect Roleplay might dictate otherwise, but good story overshadows perfect Roleplay.

2013-04-05, 11:49 PM
The old standby: the PCs randomly come across the situation, and find it bears investigating. Tricky, because what if they don't feel like investigating it? (That's being a bit of a bad player, but it happens all the time.)

The other: the PCs are sent into the situation on a related errand. In the intro adventure in Artesia: Adventures in the Known World, the PCs are hired to take a package and a message to a knight. Turns out the knight is sick, and asks the PCs to run an errand for him. The errand turns complicated, and the PCs may get involved in high intrigue - the struggle between the heirs to the kingdom.

Generally, the easiest way is to drop clues that get bigger and bigger. Or, if you prefer a more linear path, to lead the PCs from situation to situation, with the stakes getting higher and their understanding of the context widening with each step, until they are deeply involved.

And maybe my favorite: the PCs have a stake in the situation by virtue of who they are. If the big story is about civil war, the PCs are vassals (or the men of a vassal) of a lord who is the vassal of a duke who is a big player in any national politics, like a civil war.

Specific background might beget specific answers.

2013-04-06, 07:13 AM
Have one player be the survivor of a dragon attack in their youth, unaware that another dragon is in the area you can post signs they recognise from their experience that bear the hallmarks of another dragon might be lairing nearby.

Might be not definitely and can have them encounter bandits or con artists using those fears to help them with their schemes and ambushes so when your group finally encounter the minions of the actual dragon it will be because the dragon is annoyed at the fakers and goes after them with the PC's witnessing this so know there is a dragon and have a reason to want to go after it that goes beyond a suspected dragon hoard since they should have people their characters want to protect or at the very least something that requires them to find the dragon's or its minions lairs to rescue or discover whats really going on...

2013-04-06, 11:05 AM
Have the players know bits and pieces of the plot before character creation, and design characters as a group. While talking backstory, try to steer everyone in the direction of having a backstory that involves the other characters and the plot. Have the characters be embroiled in the setting before the game even starts, and they'll be proactive heroes fighting a villain that everyone knows something about.

2013-04-06, 05:53 PM
It takes a bit of work, but my favorite way to start things off is to have the characters not know each other, and through sheer coincidence, stumble upon one another in a situation where they need to work as a team.

This is how I try to start campaigns. My last long-running campaign started with the forest around a small elven village becoming animated; the trees closed off the path out of the village and started killing anyone who left the clearing.

Two of the PCs were guards on a river barge that was due to trade with the village; when they found the village's jetty and the nearby buildings deserted, they decided to try and find the survivors. Another had gotten thrown off of a riverboat the previous evening for being drunk; the elves stuck him in a storage shed to sober up, and he slept through the trees' awakening. The first two PCs ran into him as they were searching the buildings near the water. The final PC was an elven ranger who was trying to get through the trees to find help; the other three found her as she was being attacked by a bunch of creeper vines.

As a side note, it seems to work best if there's some sort of enigma when you introduce the first characters; you can then provide additional information or clues with each subsequent character.

Jay R
2013-04-07, 12:17 AM
In the ideal situation, they each get led of the same plot from a different angle.

To Player 1: You hear a woman scream. Running around a corner, you see a large building on fire.
To player 2: On a boring afternoon with nothing to do, you see smoke rising a few blocks away.
To player 3: The city guard presses you into service for a water brigade.
To player 4: Sitting at home, you think, "It certainly is warm here."

2013-04-07, 02:15 AM
1: Don't be afraid to just start in the middle of the action. You don't have to worry about a convoluted start if they start after the awkward introductions. Backgrounds and introductions can be hashed out and retconned in later on, but if you start them in the heat of a moment, you won't have to worry too much about the rest.

2: Don't worry about things being "corny." Simply put, the group meeting/finding quests in a tavern is an old trope because it works. In the real world, people go to bars to meet people and make connections; why avoid it in-game if it would make sense and if that's what your players would expect? Twists and turns are great, but if you try to hard to actively avoid falling into certain expectations, you're going to give yourself a headache.

2013-04-07, 04:48 AM
Have the plot come to them.

The BBEG's armies attack the town they are in. He sends an assassin against them, or against someone else but hew has the wrong address. the first signs of his world-ending ritual are rising into he skies, and the players are sent to find the reason why.

Also, three-clue rule. (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1118/roleplaying-games/three-clue-rule)

2013-04-07, 08:52 AM
One way is to just drop them into heading to the quest. In mine, the player were just finishing a 3 day trek to reach the goblin lair, having been given an assignment beforehand by the Earl of FallCreast. I printed a scroll as well, and I think they were happy.

However, most of my playes were new and unaccustomed to RPing, which was why i didn't want them messing about in town first. It depends on your group i suppose.

2013-04-07, 11:28 AM
I like to work with my players so that they start as a cohesive group, if someone joins the gaming group later i introduce them, and usually the rest of the group is suspicious of the newcomer.

I think introduction is contingent on the actual plot you are introducing. If you are going into political intrigue than a random fight in the forest might be a very non-corny manner as it would be the least likely outcome for that sort of campaign. I imagine even the most cliche beginning could have twists that could make it unique to the campaign plot.

Besides cliched intros are cliches across the board, maybe your group has never started an adventure in a bar fight.... Sometimes you just want a low budget action movie.

That kind of intro could lead to a beleaguered constable exhausted from dealing with underemployed mercenary types causing trouble, without the budget to deal with the ever growing problem. He could simply direct the PCs out of town to not have to deal with them. Maybe he even becomes someone they feel sorry for and return to help out him and his town from time to time.

It also ties into the background of the kingdom and region, why are there so many unemployed soldiers? how many other mercenary types did the constable send on this quest or give this lead to... Let the players ask them and maybe come up with some intriguing answers or tie it directly into your plot.

2013-04-07, 10:44 PM
I had one Star Trek game begin "In Medias Res" where we started off at the very beginning of a fire fight with our employer yelling at us through the communicator to not screw up our job. It was quite effective as it dropped us straight into things.