327 Plot Coupons

Right? Plot coupon, where you have to go around and collect a plot point from NPC’s before you can move to the next step in an rpg scenario. It’s one of Brett’s favorite things to do in tabletop role-playing game!


Dropping later today!

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warning - I’m high on pain meds and I’m lucky that @Sean allowed me on the mics at all. As in worse than I usually am :slight_smile:

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After these last few announcements, it strikes me that this show has taken a turn to the hilarious.



Well, I bet you can still say Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea without getting lost in the verbal weeds…maybe…


Depends if I’m at the double or single dose stage of my day. Double dose day is kinda a crap shoot :stuck_out_tongue:

Either way, I hope you continue to improve. Be well!

If we ever get to shake hands in person, maybe I’ll tell you about the time I had a morphine drip and an antiquated hospital tv remote that only went up…so, if I missed something, which I did often, I had to circle all the way back around the full set of 87 channels. I was in so much pain-killer haze that I almost watched golf. Almost.

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Plot coupons???

It’s been awhile, but, I gotta say, on this one, I agree with Brett.

Brett, man, why did you let Sean talk you down so easy? Stay angry, man! Resist the meds!

Plot coupons are stupid! They are not the same thing as plot hooks! They are not just one, less-than-acceptable way to work through an adventure.

They are the worst kind of railroad, the worst kind because, if you happen to go down a certain track without the appropriate ticket, the conductor will send you back to talk to a simulacrum of that same conductor to get the very ticket that any conductor is perfectly authorized to administer to you at any time and place.

My distaste here results from larger issues concerning narrative in roleplaying games. I know, GMing can be scary, it takes practice. I know that a very specific flow chart for narrative movement can relax the potential cognitive load for GMs. But I believe that a good GM should be more reactive to player/PC actions than that GM should be in constructing narrative or laying down track. I know that this philosophy is fairly prevalent. I swear that I’ve heard it discussed on this very podcast.

Whether the rpg mode is sandbox/free form or adventure/structured, the GM has three broad jobs.

  1. Determine the starting or ongoing situation. Sketch out the most important NPCs, their goals and motivations.

  2. While the PCs go about their actions, most likely to address the most prevalent ongoing situations, secretly consider what the NPCs are doing at the same time.

  3. Be attentive to, cognizant of, or sensitive for possibilities of interjecting some dramatic, surprising, and satisfying fictive moments or elements as the PCs and NPCs go about their actions and agendas, ideally in ways that collide or interact.

I don’t believe that plot coupons are just one, less-than-satisfying way of accomplishing this end, because (and I need lean only on Brett’s many examples of plot coupons, as he describes them in the show) they defy the dictates of “reality” and common sense. No real person is going to withhold information just because some characters don’t talk to that person in the prescribed order. In fact, it cheats the players! More than likely, the players are doing what they are supposed to do—addressing and interacting with the problem to be solved—and, short of their requisite plot coupon, they implicitly are being told that they are “doing it wrong.” I.e., “Too bad. You get an A for effort, but, you see, you are supposed to address the question in a certain way, and this just isn’t it.” With such an answer, players would be justified in flipping the table, picking up their books, and going home. I can see how this mode can give the illusion of security to new GMs, but, more likely, these GMs are going to embarrass themselves, and their players are going to feel cheated or just confused.

In my view, plot coupons appear to serve no other purpose than to brutally ensure that no part of a published adventure is skipped or overlooked and therefore “wasted.”


It’s how I get Brett to do things. Dangle AD&D product in front of him or get him looped. I know the deal. :wink:


Huh, definitely gonna have to listen to this episode and come back. Never heard the term “plot coupons” before and am now intrigued.

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I have to agree with Brett on this one, I’m not a fan of plot coupons. I love improv ideas at my table and I feel like plot coupons are counter intuitive to that.

Maybe I am just salty because I have suffered at the hands of a GM who adamantly ran his game using plot coupons. He even went to the extreme that he wouldn’t give us what we needed unless we asked questions exactly as he scripted them. We wasted three hours one night on that crap. Is “plot coupon PTSD” a thing? That campaign didn’t last long, broke up a few sessions in after we expressed our concerns and the GM didn’t handle it well. I think he didn’t know any other way to run a game, not sure. He just wasn’t a good fit for us.


I like free range games. By that I mean I like the freedom of choice or the illusion of it. When I run, that is what I try to give. I probably, “say what do you want to do” too often. However, if things are slow I am only to happy to have to a part of the world show up pissed and ready for action.

Plot coupons and railroads are a drag. My buddy who runs most of the games I play in has recently taken a plot coupon and boarded the railroad. One reason for it, I think, is that he plunked down and invested time and money in published adventures. I am sure he must of ran published adventures before, but they were part of the world rather than the totality of it so I never noticed.

He ran that Cthulhu adventure which is often mentioned (the one with all the great props) and is running the Strad game now. Both had/have a constrained feel too me. I think that is because the sandbox is only for those adventures and nothing else and I sense it, when I didn’t before.