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  • Writer's pictureDanny McKeever

The Art of Campaign Creation: Adapting the Story Spine Structure to D&D Using ChatGPT

Updated: Sep 10, 2023


The Art of Campaign Creation: Adapting the Story Spine Structure to D&D Using ChatGPT
The Art of Campaign Creation: Adapting the Story Spine Structure to D&D Using ChatGPT

Introduction: Understanding D&D's Narrative Layers

Much like an epic fantasy novel, a D&D campaign tells a grand tale. Think of the campaign as the entire book – it's the overarching narrative that your players will engage with. Within this book are modules, which serve as chapters, each offering its own segment of the adventure. And these chapters aren’t just about moving from Point A to Point B; they're underpinned by a deeper narrative structure, acting as your story spine. Delving deeper, within these modules are the encounters, the pivotal moments or conflicts that challenge your players and drive the narrative forward.


To craft such an intricate and engaging narrative, Dungeon Masters (DMs) can benefit from structured narrative tools like the Story Spine Structure and ChatGPT to guide your campaigns.


What is the Story Spine Structure?

Originally used in traditional narratives, the Story Spine offers a foundational blueprint for tales that captivate. It starts with an introduction, proceeds through a series of events and consequences, and culminates in a climax and resolution. The addition of an optional moral provides a thoughtful takeaway.



The original Story Spine structure goes something like this:

  1. Once upon a time... – This sets up the world and introduces the main characters.

  2. Every day... – This describes the routine or status quo of the world you've established.

  3. But one day... – This is the inciting incident that disrupts the status quo.

  4. Because of that... – This represents the consequences of the inciting incident.

  5. Because of that... – This continues the chain of events. Depending on the complexity of the story, there can be multiple "because of that" elements.

  6. Until finally... – This brings about the story's climax.

  7. And ever since then... – This describes the new status quo, how things have changed as a result of the story's events.

  8. The moral of the story is... (optional) – If you wish, you can conclude with a lesson or take away from the story.


Adapting the Story Spine for D&D Campaigns


Once upon a time...

Introduce the campaign: Describe the major cities, landscapes, political structures, and cultures. Introduce NPCs that the party might interact with frequently.


Every day...

Describe the status quo: What's the daily life for an average citizen? What are the current political and social dynamics? This establishes what's "normal" in your world.


But one day...

Inciting incident: Perhaps a king is assassinated, a dark portal opens, or a precious artifact is stolen. This event pulls the adventurers into the story and sets them on their path.


Because of that...

Initial consequences: Towns might be in turmoil, creatures could spill from the portal, or factions might vie for the stolen artifact's power. The adventurers must navigate these immediate effects.


Because of that...

Escalating challenges: As the adventurers seek to address the inciting incident, they face increasing threats, complex moral choices, and challenges that test their abilities and wits.


Until finally...

Climax: The adventurers confront the main antagonist, close the dark portal, or decide the artifact's fate. This is the campaign's most challenging and epic moment.


And ever since then...

Resolution: Detail the world's state after the climax. How have towns and cities changed? What's the political landscape? This sets up potential for future campaigns or epilogues for character stories.


Optional: The moral of the story is...


Prompts for a Campaign Story Spine

Step 1: Prompt: Generating Campaign Ideas

Step 2: Prompt: Creating Campaign Story Spine Concepts

Example of a Campaign Story Spine


Benefits of Using the Story Spine in D&D

By channeling the Story Spine, DMs can create more organized and fluid narratives, offer players clearer character development paths, and ensure a progressive and coherent storyline that immerses and thrills.



I will use this campaign backbone as an example to train the AI. In the future, this structure will be the foundation for developing my campaign, modules, encounters, PCs, and NPCs. The AI will retain and learn from the content within the campaign.


By channeling the Story Spine, DMs can create more organized and fluid narratives, offer players clearer character development paths, and ensure a progressive and coherent storyline that immerses and thrills.
Story Spines to Generate a Campaign Backbone


Conclusion While D&D’s beauty lies in its vastness and unpredictability, a structured narrative approach like the Story Spine offers a trusted foundation. I urge fellow DMs to consider it as a guiding light, not a binding chain, and let your creativity soar.


Reach out to me for more information on The Game Masters Platform.


Happy adventuring and may your tales be legendary!

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