Sunday 1 October 2023

Three-point plot clocks

 Now say that twice as fast.

In OSR games we often talk about prepping situations, not plots, which means having a bunch of locations, NPCs, motivations and hooks ready. 

This is half right, since plots should totally be part of your game - just the plots of NPCs rather than one to lead the PCs by. This simply means knowing that over time your voidcalling necromancer is always hard at work in the background fulfilling her ungodly ritual and will complete it if the players don't intervene. 

Too many modern modules are like the observer effect in quantum physics - if the players aren't interacting with a part of the world then it just remains static. In my mind, your campaign world should be in full bloom - a rainforest eco-system of cause and effect. 

This brings me onto three point plot clocks.

The idea is that you have three plots running at once. Raiders are sweeping in from the mountains looking to torch three named villages and kidnap the mayor for random. A wizard is looking for the ancient orb of Garnash to open a portal to the nether realm, unleashing the Beast Who Walks in Dreams. A queen is mustering an army of volunteers to make a last stand against the red orc army.

For each plot there are three points (based on three story acts): activation, escalation and fruition. 

Activation is the plot's beginning - its first act. The raiders are seen on the mountain pass. The wizard hires a band of miscreants to steal a map from a noble.

Escalation is the middle. There's a problem that needs to be solved or a change in situation, or things simply heat up. The wizard gains the help of a bronze dragon in exchange for a sacrifice.

Fruition is the end. This is what happens when the plot resolves without intervention. The red orcs overrun the queen's forces. The raiders are paid the random and the mayor becomes both destitute and wildly unpopular. The key here is that things should change drastically but it should never preclude adventure. 

Each point should have a hook for the PCs. The wizard can't spend a point just researching the orb in their tower since that has no impact on the game and no visible threat for the PCs. They should always be doing something that constitutes an adventure hook.

Now, for each plot assign a die type. For a short plot a d6 or d8 would work, or for a longer plot use a d20 or even d100. You will want a mix of die types across plots. 

Write the three parts to each plot on cue cards and put the die on Activation at 1. Each number on the die represents a day by default. For each day increase the die by 1. Once the die reaches the halfway mark move it onto Escalation. Continue doing this until it reaches the highest value and move to Fruition. 

So for my raider plot, I might make it a d10, the wizard a d12 and the red orcs a d20. 

This is just a simple way of tracking the dynamic plots happening in your campaign at any given time. Once a plot has come to Fruition just create a new plot. This might be a follow on from a previous one - the destitute mayor is exiled from his village and now needs help securing money.

Of course there's no reason not to have two plots rather than three (it's just a good number), or add in more plots. Obviously the more you have the

 more complex things become. 


  1. Thanks, that is a good idea: simple and effective. I'll integrate that into my next campaign!

  2. Scott I had a recorded interview with Jason's Nerd Variety podcast. He wanted to talk about USR, how I came across it and how I was using it to make genre-specific games. I will let you know when it drops.

  3. So... why exactly do we gave dice in this system? You aren't actually rolling them anywhere from what I can see.
    I mean, it's an interesting system, I just am missing how it actually works.

    1. You don't have to use dice - you could just write the numbers down. I just like to use my dice