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  1. #11
    JohnD's Avatar
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    As Talyn says, prepare situations not an overall story. The overall story will develop itself as your players work through your initial situations.

    I remember the first time I ran a game on FG. I prepared a starting scenario I thought I might be lucky to have fill up one 3-4 hour game session. Imagine my surprise when the group was still finishing it up four game sessions later, after roughly 12-14 hours worth of play... all because I was able to adjust and roll with how they reacted to the situations I presented to them.

    I think a lot of people get caught up in thinking they have to have a grand overarching plot like the 5e hardcover adventures deliver. Most players that start those I suspect never finish them, either because real life happens, or the DM stops or the player drops out.

    Plan one, maybe two sessions ahead and build as you go.

    I will say that it also needs you to attract the "right" kind of players for the style and theme of game you want to deliver. Someone who is looking for waves of unending combat is less likely to be long term interested in a game where you need to RP with the locals to gain nuggets of potential adventuring location... and someone who is really looking to immerse themselves in their character may not be happy with one fight after another. In reality, I suspect the average game is a mixture of the two extremes and with many intermediary points of mix.

    Situations to start with are key. You can develop plot off the situations and how they work out (or don't...) - even then though you're still working with situations as the base.
    DMing since 1979. Ultimate License holder.

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  2. #12
    Also, don't be afraid to run a pre-written adventure - many of them offer opportunities for you to elaborate on what's already there - maybe flesh out the backstories of major NPCs (or create entirely new ones). Create side-quests and new obstacles - change the environment (destroy the local church - why is it in ruins? Why hasn't it been rebuilt? etc.)

    Get good at filling in the blanks in a pre-existing structure/narrative and you'll find it increasingly easy to do it in your own stories.

  3. #13
    Inspiration can be a tricky thing to draw out, and forcing it can have the opposite effect. Read books, watch movies, read adventure modules, play in other people's games, and watch online gaming streams. Expose yourself to as many different stories as you can so you have a lot to draw inspiration from.

    There are really no 100% original stories. Everyone pulls pieces and parts from other works to build their own thing, and this is ok, especially in the context of building an adventure for your group.

    Whatever sparks inspiration for you, start there and start small. For example, if you have an idea for a villain, start with them and flesh out small things about them, keeping the scope small. Don't try to write the Lord of the Rings, just cause you thought up Sauron.

  4. #14
    Googling for fantasy art and locations is a great source of inspiration. Also reading short adventure plot ideas and books in general.

    Start with a small idea or concept of something that excites you. Think of the story in plot points, or important moments and learn to think and improvise on the fly to fill in depth and story between those during play. You'd be surprised at how many great ideas come during play, spinning into their own tales along side the main story, or even taking over.

    Don't try to create a massive arc from the start, particularly if you're inexperienced. Plant seeds, and stories have a way of taking on a life of their own with good players. Events and roleplay beget ideas.

    As you start creating parts here and there, you'll start getting a sense of the place, people and story arc. More ideas will start coming to you.
    The mind works by association. If you have nothing but a void, there is little to spark or inspire the imagination.

    Also listening to thematic adventure music or ambience sounds on youtube while creating your tales. Of the tone and feel of the people, place or adventure you're trying to create, is great for getting those creative juices going.
    Last edited by Styrmir; December 7th, 2019 at 18:36.
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  5. #15
    Don't overthink it. Rip off a movie or a book or a tv show. Use the basic structure that a villain wants a THING for REASONS. The heroes want to keep the villain from getting the thing (or want it for themselves). The thing is something called a McGuffin because it doesn't matter what it is. The acquisition of it moves the plot forward. Examples are the ark of the covenant in Raiders, the NOC list in Mission: Impossible, and the suitcase in Pulp Fiction.

    Once you have that figured out, you can structure a campaign pulling dungeons and encounters from published adventures.

    Alternately, you could find a map, salt it with re-purposed dungeons and encounters from published adventures, give the players a home base like Phandelin or Waterdeep, share the map with the players, and ask them where do they want to go. (This is a pseudo Westward marches game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGAC-gBoX9k ).

    Good luck!

  6. #16
    Maybe you can start with published adventures and spare the struggle to come up with your own things, until you have your mojo back?
    The past is a rudder to guide us, not an anchor to hold us back.

  7. #17
    I think I'm going to run the Iron Gods AP next and let some other ideas come without trying to force it. Thanks for all the advice and links. I think I try too hard to create a structured story from start to finish which probably wouldn't be very fun to play since all the decisions are already made for the players. I have one I was working on for Beasts and Barbarians where the characters are imprisoned and I created about 5 scenes where there is literally nothing they can do but be spectators to the unfolding story. I love the story so far but the players would probably be bored to death..... Lol

  8. #18
    Since I make my own maps in Photoshop I sometime make a series of them that act as inspiration for a story. I just can't get too attached to a pretty map that players may never see.

  9. #19
    Do steal. Do steal good. Do good stealing. Mix things up.

    I run two kinds of adventures. Premade, aka Pathfinder Adventure Paths. And made-up ones.

    The latter ones are me gathering mounts of idea, throwing them in somewhat structures and then see what comes out of the grinder when the group is hit by them. From there on you don't so much need a good GM as a good group, with the GM mostly improvising stuff out of the mix. If the group cannot entertain themselves to some degree then your energy is wasted and you better keep running pre-made stuff and save the creativity for other things.
    Last edited by Weissrolf; December 8th, 2019 at 23:30.

  10. #20
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    Good call

    Remember, a good adventure is a story waiting to be written by the players. Not a story presented to the players.

    That said, if you have a good story to write, write it, just don't try to turn it into an adventure

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