Populating the RPG Planning Grid, or Filling Your PANTS

Let's imagine I'm starting my new campaign, and to keep prep low and help tie all the emerging plotlines together I'm using my 5x5 grid of Places, Antagonists, NPC's, Things, and Scenes.

Image (cc) AsymmetricButterfly
I need something going on in the background, so I'm just going to roll up a random plot arc:

Crafted long ago by Lizardfolk, from the bones of a gargantuan beast to be wielded in a war against Undead, this is a spear of destiny. It makes the wielder speak in the language of the creator until attuned and is well balanced, or somehow blessed or guided, adding +1 to attack rolls. The wielder must avenge the death of the last hero who fell using it to awaken its powers, when it will become a +2 magic weapon that blazes on contact and deals an additional 3d6 damage to the intended enemies

This might be the main plot arc of the whole campaign, or it may never get any screen-time.  It doesn't matter, it matters that it gives me some elements and a vague idea for a story.  The story can (and will) change, but that's cool. That's the point of the grid.  Quickly I scribble some stuff in:

Places The graveyard of the Gargants
Antagonists The massing forces of the Undead
NPCs
Things The Gargantbone Spear
Scenes

Now what about our characters' stories?

Chatting with the players in the first session I find out:
  • The Dragonborn Barbarian seeks fame and glory, he seeks out a hermit who knows the whereabouts of the greatest beast in all the land...
  • The Halfling Paladin seeks to atone for his criminal past, and is drawn here to find and punish his estranged father for leading him astray from the path of righteousness...
  • The Human Bard seeks a piece of a legendary harp, broken in two. She was given the piece she currently has as a reward for saving a man's life.
  • The Elf Monk was exiled for leading a revolt and now must gain enough gold to pay off his dues and return home
I scribble some more notes in my table, which will eventually help tie everyone's stories together:

Places The graveyard of the Gargants
Antagonists The massing forces of the Undead Enemies of the Elf who would see him fail
NPCs The Hermit The Halfling's Father
Things The Gargantbone Spear The Sundered Harp The Beast
Scenes [use of the Bard's abilities] [use of Paladin powers]

In terms of scenes, all the players are interested in combat - so I haven't put anything specific in regarding that - but I have reminded myself that the Bard and Paladin have non-combat features that should get some spotlight every now and then.

At the end of the first session - which is a one-sheet adventure unrelated to any of this and intended to help set the tone, introduce the characters, learn the rules, and again not worry about prep - the goblins the party encountered are scattered but unbroken. The PCs recovered a silver key from the chief's corpse, and have decided to return to town to rest and resupply. Brilliant. I add:

Places The graveyard of the Gargants The Town of Fallowmarsh
Antagonists The massing forces of the Undead Enemies of the Elf who would see him fail The Goblins
NPCs The Hermit The Halfling's Father
Things The Gargantbone Spear The Sundered Harp The Beast The Silver Key
Scenes [use of the Bard's abilities] [use of Paladin powers]

I can already start defining these things if (and as) I want; the Spear is done, the Town is probably going to be needed next session. I can draw up a quick sheet of enemies, NPCs, encounters etc. for each of the Antagonists and build a conflict involving one (or more) of them into next session too.

How do they all fit together? I have more questions than answers at this point, but that's the point.  I let it all percolate in my head for a few days before I start connecting these elements in twos and threes to make some initial plot threads.  That's for next time, I'd be interested to hear your ideas in the comments!

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