D&D 5E Making Better "Plot Points"

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I've been thinking a lot about Plot Points, a House Rule in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Here's a quick summary of the DMG's version of Plot Points:

  • Each player gets 1 Plot Point, and may spend 1 Plot Point per session
  • Once all players use their Plot Points, all players regain 1 Plot Point
  • Option 1: Plot Points can be spent to add a true element to a plot or setting (such as a secret door or NPC)
  • Option 2: When a player uses a Plot Point, another player adds a complication (that secret door had a magical trap)
  • Option 3: Whoever spends a Plot Point becomes the DM until another player spends a Plot Point

In my continual efforts to increase player involvement in narration, I want to use Plot Points in my campaign. However, for my particular players, they could use a more discreet and codified list of things to use Plot Points for. I also would like to expand Plot Points to be useable in combat.

Here are my goals for Plot Points:

  1. Plot Points should encourage players to add to the setting and narrative.
  2. Plot Points should help characters feel connected to the world.
  3. Plot Points should add fun elements to battles and adventuring environments.

So here's what I'm thinking. I would love some ideas from you as well!

Plot Points: Each player (and the DM) gain 1 Plot Point as the start of a session. A player (and the DM) may have no more than 3 Plot Points at any time.

Spending Plot Points:

A player may spend a plot point to:

Add to a Settlement
  • A special shop (magic smithy, library, etc)
  • A training school
  • An allied institution (a temple, a barracks, etc)
  • Etc.
Create an NPC
  • A helpful expert
  • A family member
  • An easily-captured enemy
  • Etc.
Add to the Battlefield
  • Create cover (large tombstones, fallen tree, etc)
  • Create helpful elements (a blazing fire, a pool of water, etc)
  • Create a distraction (a storm, a stampede, etc)
  • Etc.
Create a Truth About the Setting
  • Add to an environment (the forest has deer with golden antlers, the desert has naturally-occurring gems, etc)
  • Create an organization (an order of knights, a merchant's guild, etc)
  • Establish historical lore
  • Etc.
Using Plot Points

Sometimes Plot Points are used when players come up with the idea; other times, they can be activated by DM Prompts. Plot Points should always be resolved through collaboration: other players and even the DM should offer up ideas.

Here are some examples:

DM: As you step into Wheatfield, you see the town is made up of a large meeting hall surrounded by farms and golden fields of wheat.
Player 1: I'd like to spend a Plot Point to add a Temple of Gond.
DM: Great! Tell me more about this temple.
Player 1: It's on the opposite side of the main square from the Hall. In fact, the Master of the Hall and the Head Priest of Gond compete for control of the town.
Player 2: I like the idea that it's got a market in front of it, displaying the crafts that members of the temple make.
DM: Sounds good. You see across from the Great Hall a large Temple to Gond, a craft market spread out in front of its doors...

DM: The path through the Webwood is lined by thick trees, the branches heavy with the abandoned webs of spiders.
Player 2: My ranger wants to look for tracks. What kinds of animals are here?
DM: Go ahead and make a Survival Check. [Sees results.] Okay, you see there are giant spiders as well as the small boot tracks of goblins.
Player 3: Does it look like there are any predators that hunt the giant spiders?
DM: If you spend a Plot Point, absolutely!
Player 3: Okay, what if there are ankhegs that come up and grab the spiders when they touch the ground?
DM: You see the burrow marks of ankhegs.

The DM's Plot Points

One idea I have is that the DM has Plot Points too. However, the DM can only spend Plot Points to add complications to a truth established by another player's Plot Point. Furthermore, when the DM spends Plot Points, they give the Plot Point to one of the players (either the player spending a Plot Point, or another player who comes up with an idea).

For example:

DM: More orcs pour into the temple's atrium, charging with a thunderous war cry.
Player 4: I'd like to spend a Plot Point to have one of those columns crack and fall across their path, creating a barrier.
DM: Absolutely, very cool. The column, holding the ceiling up for centuries, suddenly fractures at the rumbling of this stampede, and falls across the floor, cracking the massive tiles. I'm going to spend a Plot Point as well and say these other columns aren't going to last long! In fact, at the top of each round of combat there's a 25% chance of another column falling! [Hands a Plot Point to Player 4]

Player 1: I'd like to spend a Plot Point to say that my cleric has a brother who lives in town.
DM: Great! I want to spend a Plot Point to add some complication to this relationship... Anyone have an idea?
Player 2: Oh, what if your brother worships a different god, and you've never really gotten along?
DM: I love it. [Hands Plot Point to Player 2]
Player 1: The last thing my mama said to me was, "Make peace with your brother..."

So those are my ideas. Here are things I would love to get feedback on:

Have you ever used Plot Points (or something similar)?

Do you have any more ideas for how players could spend Plot Points?

Do you feel like a list like this would help players use Plot Points in productive ways?

What other ideas do you have?
 

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aco175

Legend
Sounds like a good set of rules. I would be concerned that the amount of effort may be for diminishing returns though and the effort may not be worth it. It also could be swingy with them sounding a bit like wishes. I would like to hear how they go in actual play.

"You are all captured and in prison"
I want to use a plot point to have a NPC be a secret spy and free us.

"The evil necromancer laughs at you from behind his sacrificial table as his minsions come toward you and he presses a secret button to open an secret escape door behind him."
I want to use a plot point to have a large chandelier fall on him to restrain him.
"OK, but I will use one as well to have it restrain him for only a couple rounds."
I want to use a plot point to have my god boost my turn undead power to destroy all of these undead so we can get to him before he can escape.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Sounds like a good set of rules. I would be concerned that the amount of effort may be for diminishing returns though and the effort may not be worth it. It also could be swingy with them sounding a bit like wishes. I would like to hear how they go in actual play.

"You are all captured and in prison"
I want to use a plot point to have a NPC be a secret spy and free us.

"The evil necromancer laughs at you from behind his sacrificial table as his minsions come toward you and he presses a secret button to open an secret escape door behind him."
I want to use a plot point to have a large chandelier fall on him to restrain him.
"OK, but I will use one as well to have it restrain him for only a couple rounds."
I want to use a plot point to have my god boost my turn undead power to destroy all of these undead so we can get to him before he can escape.
First off, I love these examples.

There would probably need to be a guideline like "Plot Points add to the narrative, but don't solve problems."

Here's how I could see Plot Points being used in your examples:

DM: You awaken behind bars in a prison.
Player 1: Could I spent a Plot Point to have one of the guards be a spy?
DM: Absolutely. Let's do a flashback, how did your characters recruit this spy?

Now there's an interesting NPC, but the characters still have to get in contact with the spy, and figure out how to escape!

DM: The necromancer stands up from the organ bench, the remains of the music still echoing in this great hall. "Now you will die!"
Player 2: I'd like to spend a Plot Point to have big hanging chandeliers that can be knocked down.
DM: Absolutely! There are three large chandeliers covered in dripping candles, held by thick chains.
Player 2: On my turn, I cast Firebolt at the chain. I deal 8 fire damage.
DM marks off 8 HP for the chain: The chain glows hot and weakens. It looks like one more blow will destroy it.
Player 3: I shove the necromancer below it!

And so on. The Plot Points add to the narrative, but don't solve the problems.
 

Baba

Explorer
I like player narration like this! I am not to fond of very involved economy systems, though.

Everything in the player list sounds fun. I like when my players do stuff like this, but we do it with two key differences: They can do it whenever they want, without points, and it is subject to dm approval/modification (though I seldom veto anything). But the way you describe it looks good, too. Maybe making it a limited resource will make it more engaging for the players.

The list seems like a good tool to give them ideas.

I also like the dm building on the players input, but I would perhaps reconcider tracking points for the dm - it seems like an unnecesary complication to me.

For a somewhat related mechanic - have you seen the chance cards from Itras By? A lot of them may be a bit too weird for some d&d games, but they are fun: Sjansekort
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I like player narration like this! I am not to fond of very involved economy systems, though.

Everything in the player list sounds fun. I like when my players do stuff like this, but we do it with two key differences: They can do it whenever they want, without points, and it is subject to dm approval/modification (though I seldom veto anything). But the way you describe it looks good, too. Maybe making it a limited resource will make it more engaging for the players.

The list seems like a good tool to give them ideas.

I also like the dm building on the players input, but I would perhaps reconcider tracking points for the dm - it seems like an unnecesary complication to me.

For a somewhat related mechanic - have you seen the chance cards from Itras By? A lot of them may be a bit too weird for some d&d games, but they are fun: Sjansekort
I think you are right about the DM Points, especially since they can only be used in reaction to Players spending Plot Points, tracking them isn't necessary.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
In my continual efforts to increase player involvement in narration, I want to use Plot Points in my campaign. However, for my particular players, they could use a more discreet and codified list of things to use Plot Points for. I also would like to expand Plot Points to be useable in combat.

Thanks for this, it looks like good ideas overall. Although, for myself, codifying them seems a bit like defeating the purpose of really opening the game to players, and for combat and technicalities we are rather using hero/fate points.

As for the DM, as you have pointed out, they are reactive, and the DM always has the final say anyway, so counting them seems a bit superfluous.
 

payn

Legend
There is a hang-up some folks like myself might have with the name "plot" points. I think that's where you get the necromancer chandelier example from. I could see players at my table using it in other ways to toss wrenches into my plots. I'd rather it be tied to PC backgrounds to involve the character more into the setting.
 


payn

Legend
I read this wrong when first reading and thought that my players may indeed toss wenches into the plot, especially the bard and fighter.
Oh I wouldnt put it past my players to literally toss a wrench into the plot with their points. :ROFLMAO:
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I use a similar mechanics in my « Blades in Waterdeep » game (as you surely guessed, it’s a D&D/Blades in the Dark mashup).

In my case, story points allow players to create an opportunity, not a solution.

So, not so much like « I spend a plot point to have the chandelier fall on the villain », but more like « I spend a plot point; there is a huge chandelier in the room, and the villain is right under it… » or « I spend a plot point; the prison guard falls asleep » or « the prison guard is a childhood friend of mine » or « the alarm bell rings, the guard leaves its station to see what going on », etc

but the plot point won’t disable the villain or open the jail cell in itself
 

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