How-To DM: Adventure Outlining

Dear Readers, I have a confession to make: I don’t usually write out the adventures that I run with regards to my homebrew stuff. Not even a little bit. I don’t usually pre-plan the interactions, per se, I don’t have “read aloud” text, but what I do do (hehe, insert 12-year old joke), is outline! Here’s my rough outline that I used for the beginning of the Ingrates:

  1. Treasure Hunt
  2. War
    1. Rumors of war everywhere
      1. A goblin tribe has declared war on the village the party is resting in
        1. Party must defeat the invading goblins
          1. First set are terrorizing the local town
            1. Gets party involved
            1. Mayor asks party to help defend town
          1. Second set scheduled to attack/take crops and livestock
        1. Party must go to lair of goblins and defeat goblin boss and shaman
          1. Backed up by twig blights
            1. Where did they come from?
            1. See Section III
      1. Party finds sigil of a skull in a circle on the shaman with a sword through the skull

See what I mean? I put down what sort of things are going to happen and when. Did I know how it was going to go with regards to them getting captured by goblins at the end of the “Treasure Hunt” adventure? NO!

And I’m sorry if you aren’t caught up on the Ingrates this early, I’m trying to avoid any major spoilers.

Did I know exactly how the party was planning on going about freeing the town?


But notice what I did do: I put the general idea of what was going to happen when and let my players take the story where it will.

Like…I didn’t even do much outlining for Dacyria’s story arc in Red Fern (if you aren’t there, it’s after the party leaves the town of Borest). I had a rough idea of who the baddie for that arc was, what his plans were, some future plot hooks to throw in, and what it would take for the party to win the day.

Now, I don’t recomend this for every DM out there, although it’s a good habit to get into, as this method requires a considerable amount of note taking and a whole lot of improvisation (both of which I am fairly good at doing). In fact, the whole Dacyria story arc was LARGELY improvised without an outline, and only hastily written notes so that I could refer back to important (or even minor) NPCs and events that may or may not come up later. Holy crap did I take a bunch of notes. Like…pages and pages. And unless you are REALLY good at improvisation and already have at least an idea where the story is going and supposed to go. This usually works best for event driven adventures, and location based adventures. For this one (trying really hard here to avoid spoilers for any new readers out there), I did it (some say successfully) with a political intrigue adventure arc. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

But I wish I had done more outlining. Things would have gone a LOT smoother had I done that.

Oh, well.

I learned my lesson and did a rather extensive story arc outline for one of the characters (I won’t say which one; spoilers), that has gone up to…let me check…2 1/2 pages. And it’s going to get longer the more I expound on certain sections, throw in monsters and random encounter tables, etc…



That’s all I got for today, Dear Readers. How do you plan your adventures? Do you write them out? Do you outline? Do you totally make it up as you go alone? Let me know in the comments section below. As always, please like and subscribe!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Published by The Daily DM

I'm just a DM telling the stories of my tables.

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