Personal Growth in RPGs Part 3, Sample Plots

Phil Nicholls blogs at Tales of a GM, where he writes about narrative gaming, faster prep and more story. He is currently running a HeroQuest Glorantha campaign in a home-brew setting. Phil has written for Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips newsletter and has a selection of self-published pdfs.

This essay is taken from the archives at Tales of a GM.

This article is something of a departure from the normal guest posts. The text here was written as part of my hosting of the January 2016 RPG Blog Carnival. My chosen theme was Gates and Portals, but I broadened out the topic in later essays.

This third part is composed of extracts from the original texts of the previous two essays. I am always conscious of the length of my posts, and prefer to keep them close to the 1,000 word mark. When I revisited parts one and two, it was clear they went way beyond this self-imposed limit. Thus, to bring those essay closer to my goal, I cut out the sample plots tied to the categories of RPG growth. Part three unites these plots, and offers you six sample plots for developing the growth of Heroes in your game. Thus, this guest post is not the usual reprint of an article from Tales of a GM.

Positive Growth

Here are three plots featuring positive personal growth for the Heroes in your game:

  • As a reward for thwarting a kingdom-wide quest, the Queen inducts the Heroes into the Order of the Silver Shield, a famous group of questing knights. Alongside rank and privilege within the kingdom, this appointment requires the Heroes to dispense local justice and take an active role in defending the realm. Slaying rampaging monsters, holding monthly court and securing the borders are now part of the Heroes’ duties. While serving the Queen in this manner, each Hero has the opportunity to gain levels in the Knight prestige class, or a similar package of skills.
  • The Heroes are approached by a famous Sage, who is concerned for the safety of his most promising pupil. She vanished into the wilderness in search of forgotten lore. If the Heroes can find the student, and bring her safely back to civilization, then the Sage will agree to teach them all manner of ancient lore, or perhaps forgotten spells, over the coming winter months.
  •  A rampaging Dragon attacks the Heroes’ town, stealing the sacred artefacts from the Temple to the Bright God. The High Priest promises the gratitude of his deity if the Heroes can bring back the lost treasures. The subsequent divine gratitude for their safe return can lead to the transformation of a troubled Hero.

Negative Growth

Likewise, here are three plots featuring negative growth to run in your game:

  • As a result of a vicious combat, a Hero looses one of their fingers. Minor healing magic can staunch the flow of blood, but will not re-grow the missing digit. A local temple could help, but requires a divine quest in return. Do the Heroes want to take this challenge, just to soothe the vanity of the Player missing a finger?
  • During the course of an adventure, the Heroes kill a warrior. This could be any type of warrior: human, goblin, or dragon. The species is not important, what matters is that the deceased had an extended family, and they want revenge. As the Heroes relax in town, a messenger arrives to announce the existence of a blood feud between the Heroes, and the family of the slain warrior. Cue bounty hunters, lone warriors, waves of frenzied cousins and all manner of legal complications. Such a feud can run for years, as the family grow ever-more fanatical for every cousin slain by the Heroes.
  • One Hero has a near-death experience with an exotic creature. Once healed, the Hero finds themselves fixated in that creature type. They see the machinations of their “nemesis” everywhere, believe their “nemesis”  is behind every plot and urge the other Heroes to hunt down these creatures. Even just the name of their “nemesis” is enough to unsettle them and goad them into action. Only a successful duel with their “nemesis” will overcome this fixation.



The order in which you run these plots, or similar opportunities for change, creates an interesting arc for the Hero. Match the trajectory of the Hero to what the Player wants from the game. Just as one Player wants a story of redemption, another is happy to play a doomed Hero. Enjoy using these sample plots to build a story where the Heroes change through the course of your campaign.

How would you use personal growth plots in your campaign? What combination of plots work best for your Players? What story arc are you hoping to produce? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Gaming


For more essays from Phil, and updates about his latest campaign, visit Tales of a GM.

Get a compiled pdf of Tales of the GM best articles of 2016 here


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