[RPG] How to tie episodic sessions together to make larger campaign arcs


My D&D group only plays perhaps once a month and occasionally one of them won't be able to make it. I (the DM) home-brewed our last campaign and, whilst fun, the big story arcs and multiple NPCs did not suit the infrequent meet ups of the players. Too much to remember from last time — they just wanted to have a bit of fun on that evening and then forget about it for a few weeks.

I have decided that each of our sessions will now be episodic, meaning they will still play their existing characters but the story will be over by the end of the session. That way there is little to remember after each session and it won't matter if a player is missing that week. They just 'weren't around' in that particular story.

However, my players have invested in their characters and would still like some sort of continuation or through line. One player in particular was keen we explored his character's backstory. I still plan to home brew all the adventures so won't be relying on published stuff.

How do I run episodic adventures but maintain a larger story arc to loosely connect them?

Best Answer

The easiest way to do this is to give the PCs a base. Whether it be a fortress or house they own or a village or town they are invested in. From this you can start building up a map around them. The quests could then range from setting up trade from a nearby city so the farmers can grow food more efficiently, to defending the village, to stopping a necromancer before he destroys the area, to a portal opening up and depositing the village in a plane of demons.

You can incorporate character backstories into missions the party are playing, the one thing a player will remember is when their own character's backstory is advanced. Again having a set location can aid in this as you can simply have a passerby be a link or have them find some trinket that's relevant while adventuring, maybe making them want to investigate a certain area nearby.

The main advantage is everyone can glean what happened in a missed or forgotten session by glancing at the map to see what new information is revealed. Eg. "Where did that Bandit Camp come from?" "Oh, last session when we rescued the farmer's daughter she told us the bandits were part of a larger camp over here, remember?"