I’ve been writing campaign arcs and outlines based on the premise that a group of four to six heroes have individual motivations but ultimately work together to overcome some common threat. Out of bewilderment and frustration, I’m wondering how I can devise a plot that is wholly character-centric.

I’m imagining this spectrum, I guess I could describe it like the alignment spectrum of Good/Evil plus Law/Chaos axes of 3e, where you have games that fall along the axes of Character and Narrative. I guess you could call them the axes of plus-Character/minus-Character and plus-Narrative/minus-Narrative.

If we go along with this idea then, there’s a corner that has me super curious — the bottom-right corner that is “plus-Character, minus-Narrative.” What on earth does a campaign arc that is wholly driven by the characters look like?

I figure that in a cumulative, level-based system, it’s pretty much the same as a normal campaign arc — steadily increasing toward the campaign’s conclusion.

But when the actions of the characters in a given week determine how the game’s story goes… I mean, how do you even plan for that? You know, I think I already know the answer to that, and I’m just letting my frustration cloud my vision.

The answer is straightforward — since the resolution of a Character-driven plot is decided entirely by the characters on a week-by-week basis, the answer is simply to keep planning straight forward. A character-driven plot focuses on the struggles of the individuals, yes. But the rest of the world keeps happening.

I think the goal then is to treat your campaign arc as a character unto itself — there are characters, events, revelations, and such that become necessary to understand what is going to happen next, and if the characters can overcome their temporal struggles, they can seize upon those clues which the story gives them.

The story is a character too. Just have to keep that in mind.