Saturday, October 9, 2021

Coincidences & Plots - thoughts on Doug's post

Douglas Cole posted a really good post over at Gaming Ballistic:

Not all Conspiracies are related to the plot

It's a valid and interesting idea.

As Evileeyore says in the comments, though, Know Thy Group. If your group tends to hone in on the main plot, throwing a few red herrings in is a great idea. Make them work for it. Give them chaff to sort the wheat out from.

But if they're bound and determined to connect everything to the plot, know any red herring will slow the game down.

And know if they're likely to grab the first thread and pull on it until it leads somewhere, any false threads will also derail the game.

This might be fun, of course, but it's not necessarily what you are aiming for.

From a megadungeon perspective, at some point - even I can't remember when - I said something like, have everything connect to the megadungeon. There are side quests but they lead back to the megadungeon. Have side dungeons but themes, knowledge, items, and even gates link back to the megadungeon.

That is quite the opposite approach.

That said, I do tend to throw in a lot of little details that aren't part of the plot. Extraneous stuff that comes from . . . nothing . . . just coincidence and random occurance, which isn't part of the plot or connected to anything at all.

Inevitably, that's the stuff my players fixate on to the exclusion of anything like a plot or a goal. So it's a tool, and a good one, but remember a tool can turn on its creator faster than you can say "Skynet."


  1. "Inevitably, that's the stuff my players fixate on to the exclusion of anything like a plot or a goal. So it's a tool, and a good one, but remember a tool can turn on its creator faster than you can say "Skynet.""

    Exactly, and that's where my 'advice', back when I used to plot out campaigns completely, I had many a campaign go completely "off the rails" and even get scuttled by the PCs grabbing an irrelevant piece of datum tossed in for flavor or dreaded verisimilitude.

    If you don't know your Players, make sure you Know Thyself. If you're the type of GM that can stop after a session and say "Hey guys, I know y'all are super interested in that [SIDE COLOR/CLUE] you found, but it's not part of the main plot. It was just an interesting piece of the world, a bit of 'there is more going on than what involves your party', and you've exhausted all the leads forit, next session let's get back on the main focus okay?" than hey, go wild with the side color. If you aren't, or if that sort of meta-game would frustrate you, maybe consider making sure your 'side color' is always Main Plot related.

  2. I think the more tightly defined a campaign is, like "the megadungeon campaign," the less you need to worry about that. The conspiracy thing really speaks to the motivations of folks - that merchant you are dealing with always has X/never sells Y, and that's part of reason Z which is [1] orthogonal to anything that appears to be the main conflict.

    I just thought the story related to me was really interesting. The main interlocutor was looking to get books printed, and managed to innocently walk in on someone whose behavior was at first questionable, then unseemly, then outright criminal (only to be found out later). Struck me as a good way to have a dynamic world.

    [1] Of course, using the Ken Hite Conspyramid, what you might do with this is not have it connect immediately to the plot, but it IS on the path to the main conspiracy/big-bad-conflict-site but several levels removed, and the players in the mini-conflict don't even know they're connected to the main, because they're head-down in their own interests. That kills two birds with one stone if the PCs drop everything and go haring down in pursuit of someone who's not acting fishy because he's neck deep in a demon cult, but because he's secretly forging coins in the back of his bellfoundry.

  3. I have one player who fixates upon every ounce of flavor text to an absolute gazebo level. Conspiracies are lost on that one.


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