Storytelling, TTRPGs

The Best Subtle Ways to Drive Plot

It can be difficult to get your players going in the right direction. You may have built a fantastic quest that leads to an incredibly difficult fight, stunning rewards, or level up but somewhere along the way the players can get sidetracked and end up somewhere else. Here are a few subtle ways you can keep everyone on the correct path.

Tips & Tricks

Whether the party is exploring a vast dungeon, a wizards library, or a deep cavern system, they will need direction from time to time. Without outright saying, you should go check out this area, you can instead have them notice something amiss or use an NPC to delivery key information.

Using an NPC is a great way to move plot forward but the party won’t always be around someone. It doesn’t really make sense for a random NPC to show up when the party needs guidance, especially if they’re in the middle of a delve. Try shaking things up a bit by adding other natural ways to advance the narrative.

By perceiving something a character may notice an open book on a table. The book can be surrounded by other ruined or destroyed books to drive the point across that the open book is rather important.


The book doesn’t have to go into great detail either. This is a great way the Game Master can push the story forward without arising suspicion that they’re guiding the characters. Whether they prepare the information that’s in the book ahead of time or adlib it on the spot, having it there will help the party understand what to do.

The book can also take the form of notes, a ledger, or a journal. This also makes your world feel more alive and realistic. The concept is used rather well in Skyrim. Oftentimes when you’re exploring mines, dungeons, or ruins there are notes and journals that contain information about the area. Everyone is written by a former explorer and adds new little details to the world that can be pulled from later as needed.

If the DM is feeling especially creative they can print out physical versions – or create digital documents for virtual games. Having handouts for the players really makes everything come alive.

Lightning Round

Other ways to advance the plot

  • Voice of a god
  • Mysterious message
    • From a ghost, spirit, or magical spell
  • Blood trail
  • Doors lead to one area
  • Mysterious noise

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