How to outline your D&D campaign events

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Instant Campaign Builder Part IV: Campaign Outline

This article is part of the Instant Campaign Builder Project.

Railroad vs. Outline

I always want to plan badass campaigns and memorable scenes but I don’t want to force the players into a linear storyline. That’s where a good outline comes into play.

An outline defines major events in a campaign. A railroad determines how characters spend their time between major events in a campaign.

Outline graphic

When I plan my campaign I will outline the main events like this:


The PC party is loosely tied to the main quest. However if the players choose to be passive towards the main quest the antagonist still suffers a setback but to the hands of other characters, not the PCs. The PCs can be witness to these events and jump back in the adventure if the opportunity arises.

The PCs can also be active in 2 side quests. They might not be drawn into these side adventures but they might be around when these events unravel and they could end up taking an active part in them – willingly or not.

By having a loose campaign outline the world around the PCs comes to life. The players are free to jump from one storyline to another and the multiple stories could even culminate into one action-packed chaotic finale!

Do I have to prepare 3 adventures?

No! I think of these storylines in scenes. In my opinion it is the key to creating unforgettable games. And thinking in scenes will be the next installment of the Instant Campaign Builder Project.

This article is part of the Instant Campaign Builder Project.

5 thoughts on “How to outline your D&D campaign events”

  1. I might adopt your method of planning the story arc for my campaigns, very nice and orderly. I use google docs to write summaries about my upcoming sessions, what I would like to include, and such, but I do alot of improve to fill in the gaps that players seem to find/make. I also keep a google spread sheet list of all NPC’s that they meet along the way, with little discriptions and just, so later, if they revisit them, I am less likely to play this npc in a differant way

  2. You can always save a scene for a future game and tweak it a little to fit your future need.

    Sometimes DMs get too excited about what they planned and the players are not always pumped about the same thing.

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