TL;DR: establish plot hooks / plant seeds even if you don't know what they will turn into. You will be surprised what you can establish together with your players, and how it will make you look like some mastermind DM!
About 2 years ago, I started a new campaign with a new group. In session 2 or 3, the bard's player had to miss a session. The situation allowed for the bard just hanging out around town while the rest went adventuring.
The next session, the PC's discovered that the bard had been put into prison for "disturbing the local peace". The bard had no clue what he was charged for, since he was sure he did none of the things he had been accused of! The other PC's pulled some strings and used their charm to get the bard out of the cell and continued their adventures. Both PC's and players found it a strange incident, but had mostly forgotten about it a few sessions later.
Fast-forward to more than 2 years later to session 48. The PC's are caught up in a world-ending conflict against Orcus, and seek ways to stop the Blood Lord. They find out about a time-lost library in the Underdark, which apparently exists outside of any timeline and, theoretically, allows for time travel. The bard proposes to use it to travel back in time and use their knowledge to prevent Orcus' rise to power. He does ponder the possibility of meeting himself and what kind of consequences it might have. That's when it hit me!
"Bard," I say, "can you give me an Intelligence check? I just wanna see if you would recall something."
The bard's player rolls, gets a decent roll (I think it was a 16 or something).
"Right, remember that time back in session 2 or 3, when you were put in jail for things you don't remember doing? Things the guard was absolutely, 100% sure they saw you do? What if it was really you, but not the you from this timeline?"
I leave it at that, but the message is clear: they might have already encountered someone who did that and experienced a (albeit minor) complication caused by time travel. The party sees it as one more reason to not go down the temporal rabbit hole, and some players wonder if I had really seeded this plot almost 50 sessions ago.
Truth is, I didn't. Sure, I planted a seed for a plot, but I didn't know it would become this plot. At the time, I just needed something fun to happen during the bard's absence, but I didn't know it would become foreshadowing for time travel! It was one of the questions I as a DM had no answer to, but that scene did give me one. It made sense, was fun, and made me look like some mastermind DM who plans 50 sessions ahead (spoiler alert: I don't).
So, fellow DM's, plant those plot seeds even if you don't know what they will grow into! Create questions you don't have the answer to yet. You might be surprised how, many sessions later, you find the right answer together with your players 🙂
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