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Do You Plot Stories Or Dungeon Crawlers?


Game Master
Staff member
Adamantium WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Gamer Lifestyle
Demonplague Author
Borderland Explorer
Hello everyone! I'm back from vacation. I had a great time camping in beautiful British Columbia.

The weather was fantastic. Our campsite was at the water's edge.

So each morning I got to wake up, make a mug of green tea, and sit peacefully while gazing out at this view:


The campground is in a valley carved by glaciers. What you can't see to the left and right are amazing rock faces, mountains, and forest. Such an inspiring view. I wish I could wake up to this every day.

Recently, I was asked whether I plot stories or crawls.

I'm answering this question in tomorrow's Musing.

But I put the question to you.

Do you plot stories or dungeon crawlers?


Generator Sage
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Magnificent scenery! I would not mind waking up to that myself. (y)

Do you plot stories or dungeon crawlers?

I'm not sure if I understand the question.

I see story as something that emerges from the game, based on the actions of the characters and the reactions of the world around them, so in this sense I do not plot stories.

But I do not plot crawls (dungeon, hex, or point) either, as I prefer to have more story in the game.

I believe I plot webs of scenes - meaningful situations or events that the characters may find themselves in and move between them based on their decisions (with some randomness thrown in). Perhaps I could say that the story is built from the actions that take place in this web of possibilities, or would that be too pretentious? :geek:

Jeff G

New member
Silver WoA
There are places in my game worlds, and sometimes those places need maps to be explored, but generally I figure out who the protagonists and antagonists are, what groups or organizations might be involved, and then move to what broad locations are the "sets" for my "scenes" and what, in general terms, is supposed to happen there. Typically the physical map is the last thing I do, or towards the end, unless I am specifically building from, say, a cool premade map. I have built a dungeon-crawl around a cool map before, but fantasy is only a relatively small portion of my gaming, so dungeon crawls are not so common as they would be if that's all I did. Much of my gaming is Sci-Fi or Superhero, so while there are some "dungeon crawls" in the former, the very nature of the characters in the latter make "dungeon crawls" unlikely or even pointless. Also, when I am doing fantasy, it is quite often an adaptation of a premade module, so I don't build much there, either, other than adjusting and tweaking encounters to be more, well, "me" in design.

So to answer your overarching question, I don't really plot either, as the "story" is generally emergent from how the players react to the events that are in motion around them, and I very rarely create dungeon crawls.


New member
Wizard of Story
93.261% story. I like to make a dynamic setting full of stuff going down - 3 factions (plus a 4th wildcard) each with 3 groups (and a 4th wildcard) - each group has a 'leader' (a 3-line NPC) with a goal and a motive, so they are always on the move.

I also use Station53's "Campaign and adventure design using fronts and the 5x5 system" for longer campaign arcs - linked here: http://station53.blogspot.com/2014/10/campaign-and-adventure-design-using.html

I think I might have even got the link to Station53 from you Johnn? Can't remember. But I will often knock up a few 5RD for areas where the party might go and it feels appropriate.

We're currently playing a homebrew game where combat is preeeeeety deadly, so I have to plan encounters as though there won't be a fight. It's proving to be an amazing, fun challenge, and PCs being PCs, there's still a few scraps - the difference is, it is ALWAYS their fault as I've made sure they can move the plot forward without fighting.


New member
Johnn - good to hear you and yours are doing well. Where is this? I spent a summer in B.C. in '68. I went up there from California with someone who was from Prince George. I spent most of the summer about 60 miles west of Burns Lake on a ranch that belonged to his aunt and uncle - wow - what a good life experience.
While I don't get nearly as detailed as you, I guess I sort of end up doing the same thing.
My gaming group of almost 20 years had to stop meeting in-person at our local gaming store. I suggested Roll20 as I had experience with using it as a player, so we have been using it since the county went on shutdown/shelter-in-place.
The learning curve as the GM has been a lot steeper than just logging in as a player. I am not a techy sort of person and end up with having to conquer my "learning new things" trepidation every game session. Last week I manged to delete the map we were using from the module I had purchased from the Roll20 market place. I was deleting an monster icon and somehow deleted the map. Good thing was we were at the end of the session, so we stopped for the night. I ended up having to just reload the game - which, if this had been a couple of months ago, would have taken a lot of gut-wrenching, teeth-gnashing time spent trying to figure that out - how to load something I had purchased on site.
Otherwise, the site has been very fun and, while everyone purports to not to want to go back to in-person game sessions, I think everyone is very happy to be able to sit in the comfort of their own house, eat dinner, play with their animals, be warm, and not have to drive anywhere at the end of their week of work - I know I am happy as hell not to have to do that.
I offered to GM this time because I have the time and interest in using the online gaming site. The guy that has been running our games for the past couple of years was glad to have a break. I told everyone from the get-go I wasn't going to tolerate a bunch of B.S. from them when it came to using the site for gaming or during the game when it came to rules. I told them not to take advantage of obvious GM errors - they are always quick to point out something that benefits them, so it is only "fair" I get the same break - otherwise, someone else could GM.

I told them we were not going to be doing a "campaign" because we don't know how long this was all going to last, with the assumption being we would end up back at the game store with a resumption of the game we were playing.
I told them I was going to get a couple of modules that would be good for a couple of sessions, and then move on. We are just now getting to the second module because I keep coming up with stuff to add to the story being created.
We are playing a D&D 5e game, as it is the only system I can DM. I found a module that seemed sort of straight-forward. I had everyone come in at 3rd level to avoid that issue.
I didn't use a hook - I told them here is where you are starting and why - on a ship headed north, starting from a port city of my creation, to a port city of my creation, in a "world" that is unfolding as we go along.
I am using the meat of the modules - the story that is being told in them - and then add to it as we go along. I use the modules for the "dungeon crawl" part of the game and add to it's story line with the story we are creating as we play along.
I would say our gaming group is more of the "reactive" type then proactive. They all have their character backstories - some more developed than others. A player whose only backstory is "I'm a human fighter" isn't going to get a lot of attention story- wise because I am not going to do their work for them. If they give me something to work with, their character will become a more integral part of the story/game.
I stopped giving XP - too much work. We use the "milestone" method of leveling - I think we all have a decent idea of when that is appropriate.

So, I guess I am more of a story plotter than dungeon crawl plotter. If I am looking for a "dungeon crawl", I find a module that works or I find a module to create a story around so I am not just reading flavor text to players who could generally care less - unless it means treasure or monsters.
Stay safe - jerry.


New member
Wizard of Story
I usually have an overall arc, but have a series of smaller adventures designed to get me there. I visualise the game as a episodic series of television season, so the overall arc for the "season" has a backdrop, but each episode is standalone but works toward the overall end point. Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series is my model for this plan.
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Active member
Wizard of Story
Gamer Lifestyle
93.261% story. I like to make a dynamic setting full of stuff going down - 3 factions (plus a 4th wildcard) each with 3 groups (and a 4th wildcard) - each group has a 'leader' (a 3-line NPC) with a goal and a motive, so they are always on the move.

I also use Station53's "Campaign and adventure design using fronts and the 5x5 system" for longer campaign arcs - linked here: http://station53.blogspot.com/2014/10/campaign-and-adventure-design-using.html
I would love to dig through as many examples as you can muster :D