Plot Point Skeleton

Hey everybody!  It’s GMG’s first downloadable resource: the Plot Point Skeleton!

As the GM, you’re there to help the players’ ideas and fantasies come to life.  But you’re also there to direct the campaign.  And when you’re trying to include every player idea that comes along, it’s easy to lose sight of where this campaign was originally going.  Your players like this scenario, so you expand it.  They want to follow up on that thing that one NPC said, so you expand that.  Suddenly, you’ve been playing for 10 weeks and you still haven’t gotten to the main conflict you’d all discussed when you started.  

If everyone’s happy with that, great.  But if your players start getting restless, it’s a problem.

I’ve gone too far with the “create it as you go” mindset in the past, and it’s gotten my campaigns into trouble.  There has to be a balance between the realms of strict, lawful railroading, and free, chaotic ad-lib.  I believe the key is this: writing down the big points of your campaign during the planning stage, so you can “steer” the players’ ad-lib toward them (or, vice versa, flex your outline to fit the players’ decisions).  

That’s why I started using the Plot Point Skeleton.  Now, when my group’s planning a new campaign, I have a place to write down the major plot points the discussion inspires for me.  

It also helps you keep your notes more organized than John Nash keeps his

Let’s say my group wants to play something where they’re sky pirates getting even with a rival thieves’ guild.  I sense right away that the confrontation with the guild will only be the first part of the campaign, and then (if the group is still  up for it) they’ll find a much bigger objective to pursue for the campaign’s second half.  

Now I just write down “confrontation with thieves’ guild” as the First Culmination on the Plot Point Skeleton, and make a note at “Main Culmination” that I want something else big to happen.  And so on.  I have a map of the Big Moments of the campaign, but all the little stuff in between can be ad-libbed by the players. [click here to see a sample filled-in copy]

That’s the best way I have found to run an “ad-libbed” campaign.  My version of the plot point skeleton may not be the perfect one for you, but it’s here if you want it.

Download Plot Point Skeleton.

Download Plot Point Skeleton Example.

NOTE: the Plot Point Skeleton tool is partly inspired by this video about how every movie has the same five plot points.  Check it out for some great insights into campaign story structure!

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