The “plot” of an event is much more than the story run by the directors and supporting cast. There are stories that emerge from character personalities playing off one another. You cannot write these stories, by their nature they emerge spontaneously from gameplay. You can, however, write scenarios which reward cooperation, competition, creativity, ingenuity, and initiative. This is the perfect backdrop for players to showcase their character concepts.
Here is one method to encourage emergent plot: create a resource that players will compete over to accomplish their goals.
Eyes on the Prize
Allow the players to choose their own goals. They should have a number of options. Participation in the plotline gives them clear steps they can take towards accomplishing those goals.
The plot should involve a resource that many people could use to accomplish their goals. This could be an item of power, access to a learned sage, command of a military force, the favor of a foreign ambassador, or ownership of a famous shield. Maybe if they succeed at the challenge, the players may choose their reward, negotiating it with an NPC. In any case, everybody wants it!
Players will be competing along a common axis. If they are competing over a scarce resource, working towards one goal may prevent other players from achieving their goals. This creates inter-player tension, strengthening the importance of in-game friendships and rivalries.
- A local lord is concerned with the goblin population feeding on his crops. He has offered a reward for whoever brings him the most goblin ears. The champion goblin slayer will be given a forge or laboratory of his choice.
- There is a shrine in the woods which is a focal point for the balance between order and chaos. When meditating there, you can sacrifice an elemental component or an elemental gemstone (a treasure that can be found throughout the adventure weekend) to slightly shift the balance. This changes the power level of certain creatures over the weekend and influences the behaviors of certain NPCs.
- A number of merchants come to town, each one representing a different cause or faction. Some are friends and some are rivals. They are taking donations for their cause, and specifically looking for certain items owned by other merchants, which can be bought and sold by players. Whichever faction has made the most money by the end of the weekend will become more powerful within the season plot. Factions may promise boons and favors in reward for help with their collections.