Behind the Screen: Writing episodic content…

2007 September 5
by Dante

Last year, I began co-DMing with my good buddy Eric. He introduced me to the world of writing episodic content, which is content that can be dropped in anywhere along the line in the campaign and may or may not be relevant to the storyline.

The method is very simple:

  1. Create a hook – this can be as simple as making a spot check or as complex and multiple NPC interaction. Simply put, this hook should be somewhat generic and simple to incorporate into normal campaign scenarios such as travelling on the road, drinking at the tavern, crawling a dungeon, etc.
  2. Create the Good Stuff – From this hook, you can then shunt off into whatever side quest or event that you want to have happen. In our last campaign, we took these opportunities to throw puzzles at our players, give them money or treasure, or further the grand storyline.
  3. Gracefully return them to normalcy – When planning episodic content, try to have each one resolve in a way that it can be gracefully re-incorporated into whatever was going on before the episode. Unless you intend to do so, try not to strand your players in a location that they don’t want to be in.

There are many benefits to this method. I’ve found that the flexibility and richness that episodic content can bring is very refreshing to both my players and to me as DM. So long as I can craft a feasible generic hook to get them headed in a new direction, I can take my players somewhere that I want them to go for awhile.

There is an art to creating hooks that aren’t obvious, but I’ve found that a little practice, confidence, and conviction won’t make these episodes appear “tacked on.” I’ve had much success with this approach and have Eric to thank, I hope everyone will give this a try and see how it works!

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    September 6, 2007

    Good Stuff! I’ll go even a bit farther and say that when your group has frequent missing players (as mine does, Damn you, Real Life!) an episodic campaign, where sessions start and end within one evening make it easier to deal with ‘contiunity’ issues raised by players not showing up.

  2. Dr-Rotwang permalink
    September 6, 2007

    I endorse this post and manner of thinking. I’m Dr Rotwang! and I am an (occasionally) Episodic GM.

  3. kanati permalink
    September 9, 2007

    Eric blushes… Aw shucks…

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