GM Tips: Plot planning – Excel method

Here is a simple way of laying out and tracking plot, based on a post I saw on a Facebook group about writing and planning out structure for novels.

Essential you use Excel or your choice of spreadsheet package and lay it out as follows:

  • Create a series of columns with each one representing a session or a period of time that you feel comfortable with.
  • At the side of each row put the name and a description of the plotline.
  • Break each row down into chunks and roughly how long they are going to take (in the example below the orc chief defeating other tribe leaders takes three days).


The advantage of this type of planning are:

  • It’s easy to do.
  • Most people have access to a spreadsheet package.
  • It doesn’t take up a lot of harddrive space.
  • It’s very visual, you can look at the chart and see what is going on (in our example, if we are on session 5 I can see that the area is suffering from random orc attacks due to the displaced, defeated tribes and that the sympathy of the public in the city has begun to turn against the government), what has already occurred in the past and what might happen in the future.
  • It is easy to make alterations to take into account the actions of your PCs.
  • It helps you to plan ahead and think about the future goals and structure of your game.




2 thoughts on “GM Tips: Plot planning – Excel method”

  1. I don’t think this would work for me. A lot of quests don’t run continually, but might start and stop throughout a campaign. Sometimes, I’ll introduce a sidequest without premeditation, and just take advantage of a lull or appropriate moment. I see this as a bit too rigid for a planning tool.

    I think a better use for it might simply to enter information after a session, to help the GM keep track of what’s going on.

    1. Oh yes most definitely, a plot doesn’t have to run continually, it can easily stop and pick up again using the system, that’s simply a matter of leaving some cells blank and picking up when the plot starts again. Plots made up on the fly can easily be entered when you have your spreadsheet set up either during the game (if you’re quick at typing) or after the game.

We love hearing what you think, however any spam or abusive posts will be ruthlessly removed and deleted, as will those that ramble off topic.