Dungeons & Dragons Online

How to do Foreshadowing on the Fly with a Two-Point Trick

So, recently I've been teaching the basics of DMing to player of mine. This particular trick blew his mind hard enough when he realized how much I used it on his party that I though it might be worth doing a quick explanation here. Bear in mind, this trick is not mine. I learned it from someone else that was into writing and applied it to DMing. The goal here is to create foreshadowing without any prep, by planting a "first point" on the fly and then connecting it to a planned second point many sessions later. If done correctly, it will create the illusion that you planned the whole plot point from the start. If done incorrectly or discarded middle way, it becomes a piece of world building to fill your world with.

The first step is to identify a "first point" candidate. You know when your players are slightly bored with a place or event and are ready to move on, but one of them muster just enough interest to ask something they believe is gonna be inconsequential? This is usually a good candidate. The thing you are looking for here is something your players have barely enough interest to ask about.

Examples include "DM? Before we leave the castle, do I recognize any symbols on the palace's decor". Or "Hey, before we leave, are there any sconces on the walls? I'm out of torches".

The second step is to actually plant the "first point". This is done by adding a "micro mystery", a small detail that feels out of place but inconsequential and mundane. You want something interesting enough that it will stick on your players memory, but not interesting enough to become a chekhov's gun. You don't need to expand on it or have an answer to what it means immediately. Just leave the "first point" behind you and move on.

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Following the examples above, you could say: "Yes, most if not all of the symbols on the decor are the king's crest as you would expect. Although you notice a curious small banner on the corner, out of the way and just big enough for the symbol. It has the usual crest, but the dragon in the middle is drawn under the sword instead of holding it. You suppose it might be an early version of it".

And "Yes, you've noticed a few sconces ever since you entered the sewers. Backtracking a couple meters you find one with a torch. You retrieve it, but you notice something off. The sconce is clean. This much is to be expect since the city is very clean and has dedicated crews to tend to the sewers but this one looks a little too clean. Maybe they cleaned this one last?"

Now, your job is to dissuade further inquiry without looking like you are. Ask if anyone else has anything they want to do before moving on. If someone insists on the point, answer as if you don't get why they are insisting, but are happy to play along. If they want to take whatever it is with them, just let them if feasible. Then after the session is over, the fun starts. Make sure to have a list of any points you planted as you go so you don't leave them behind for good when you could be using them. The goal here is to use your downtime to take those hastily planted points and polish them into actual foreshadowing or lore pieces. You can do this by, when prepping for later sessions, see if you can create connections by fitting "second points" on your plans in the late game.

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Again, following the examples above, perhaps there was an ancient scandal that was kept secret for generations and the only clue left behind was the change of the banner and only by mentioning it the players might convince the wise old man to tell the tale. Or maybe you could give the king a magic heirloom. A sword-shaped pendant that invokes a wyrm or dragon spiritual mount when it is held on high.

As for the Sconces, maybe there is one NPC among the sewer cleaning crew that for some reason (maybe fey touched?) has access to the cleaning version of prestidigitation once a day. Or maybe there is a monster lurking in the deeper parts of the sewer that feeds off of fire and rust that they might have to face long after leaving the sewers for the first time.

You don't need to force yourself to expand on any or your first points. Done in moderation they bring extra detailing to your world just by existing, and leaving a handful of them behind will not feel cheap or derail the flow of the game. But if you manage to create a second point that feels natural weeks or months later, the resulting connection can either be an amazing piece of foreshadowing or a detail that makes the places and NPCs feels like they exist outside of the gaze of the players, giving your world permanence.

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But yea. This is my "this is just doing foreshadowing with extra steps". Hopefully my ramblings are clear enough to be usable.

Source: reddit.com

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