If you have 60 seconds, you can come up with the plot for your next adventure.

First, let’s define three terms:

A is the party — your group’s PCs.

Z is one of the party’s adversaries (new or old, it doesn’t matter).

W is something either A or Z wants, and that is bad for the other group.

Here’s the formula — there are two ways you can express it:

(A + W) + Z = Plot


(Z + W) + A = Plot

In other words, the party (A) wants something (W) that, if they were to get it (if it’s an object) or achieve it (if it’s a goal), would harm one of their enemies (Z). The steps they undertake to get what they want — which are opposed by the bad guys, creating conflict — become the plot for your adventure.

You can also start from the other end: One of the party’s foes wants something that would be detrimental to the PCs, and the party’s efforts to stop them become the plot of the adventure.

If you know the PCs desperately want something, use the first version. If you’re not sure what the PCs want at the moment (you just began a new campaign, you run a reactive game, etc.), use the second version; you’ll always be able to find something the bad guys want.

When it comes to driving action, want is one of the most powerful and dynamic engines out there. By the time your adventure is written up, you might not be able to tell that this formula was its starting point — but it’s in there somewhere. In fact, if you look closely enough, it’s everywhere. Like dust mites. (Okay, bad example…)