Players plan and the Dungeon Master laughs.

Or something like that.

I’ve been running my games differently the last few months, trying some things that I haven’t done before. Among other things, our group has kind-of-but-not-quite started a new adventure about once every four weeks since December.

Something that really worked was encounter agendas.

Something that really didn’t was NPC encounters. I’m going to touch on the latter of these first (the NPC encounters), and as briefly as possible.

We try things. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they blow up in our faces. The NPC encounters seemed like a really good idea on paper but has been cumbersome in practice. The encounters are long and difficult, without any real benefit.

My hope had been to create a system that would give players incentive to investigate NPC groups, but my players just don’t care.

In fact, they don’t seem to care about any of the random encounters, even the ones they enjoy. Some things are flagged for follow-up.

I thought NPCs would be a great opportunity to provide the players with better treasure than a normal encounter might provide. But there just isn’t time to roll up the treasure after the encounter comes up.

And I don’t want to do more prep.

Agendas on the other hand, have gone over far better than I expected.

It can be difficult sometimes, to come up with a nonviolent encounter premise, and agendas have filled this role perfectly. I hope to use agendas to fill out dungeon encounters too, but I haven’t had the opportunity yet.

Something I have never found an opportunity for, is my Plot system.

It just hasn’t gelled. I can’t find ways to insert it because quests and plans and stuff seem to arise naturally through play, or not at all. Some PCs pop into existence with plans, and others develop plots through play.

Something none of my players seem to need however, is a plot generator.

So I had an idea, something I may use to salvage these two failed systems: my NPC tables and my plot generator. I alter the basic premise of the NPC table, and I change up plots to work exclusively with NPCs.

The two become reference sheets (like monster stat blocks) rather than my original intention to use them as mutable “character sheets.”

One problem I found was in determining when and how to escalate a plot.

When players are in control of the plot, they want it to escalate on their terms, and in some cases this goes entirely against the ideas or intentions of the Dungeon Master, who’s ostensibly responsible for deciding when the plot escalates.

So that needed to change.

Then there was all the “wasted space” that arose when a plot began in medias res: all the prior crossroads were rendered pointless because events had escalated.

So my thinking was along the lines of making every plot a mystery from the get-go: as the PCs “unravel” the plot, the DM can either roll up the previous stages (all the way up to the inciting event), one at a time.

Along the way, you can award XP to the players for completing plot points. Or something.

A lot of stuff will have to be re-purposed toward this end, maybe. Because on the other hand, most of these ideas didn’t go too far, so it might not be much work at all.

We’ll see.