Over the last 6-8 months I've killed about 3-4 different "big" writing projects because they stalled out. They all stalled out for different specific reason, but when I looked back at them recently I noticed that they also all stalled out for the same generic reason. Namely, that despite the planning and outlining that I'd done, I had missed to plan for something which made everything feel off and like it was going to fall apart. I figure that thing could also apply to gaming, so I wanted to talk about it today.
The problem in all four cases was that for all the story and plot work I did, I didn't plot out the villains plan properly. Basically, I knew what happened and had a general idea of who was doing it and why, but I hadn't put the hard tests to the villain's plan that I had done to other aspects of the story. What this lead to was me not really knowing how to portray the characters, or what specific move/reaction should happen at a certain time because the villains plan - aside from the pieces that showed up in the book - simply hadn't been thoroughly sketched out.
Really basic, I know, but also fairly illusive. You don't want to over plan after all, because then you can run into other issues, but missing this can really leave you feeling lost and adrift in your own story, which is a problem.
How it Applies To Gaming
So how does this apply to your campaign? Well, think about it. How often do you actually ask yourself what the villain is up to and why? How often do you know what their plan is in exact detail? Do you know what would happen if the PCs didn't get involved? And I don't mean "the villain would win" I mean how would things play out without the PCs their? What part of the villain's plan is bringing it into the realm where it affects the PCs? This last question is very important, because if you answer it you can very organically wrap the PCs up in your plot just because it keeps sidling up next to them and going "hey, sup?"
This also includes knowing the villain's motivation. Why are they doing this thing? Why are they doing this thing this way? Is it just to rule the world? If so, why did they choose this method to take over? These are the things you want to have planned, because if you know the motivation then you can respond to player hijinks on the fly.
For example, in a hero game I was running one of the PCs offered his life in exchange for the current big fight to stop. The villain's motivation was that she wanted to remind people that this was a world with heroes, sometimes tragic and sometimes noble and heroic, but one with heroes. This meant that the villain was perfectly fine with taking the offer, because why not? It gets her point across (heroic sacrifice and all that) and saves some cash plus she gets all her people out, guaranteed. Totally a win/win/win. However, if her motivation had been to sew chaos and destruction, or to take over by force, than continuing the brawl and establishing dominance that way would've been the order.
That is really all I have on this. Your thoughts? Do you do similar things? Have you stumbled over this before?
Oh, I almost forgot. When making your plan don't forget the 5 year old rule. If a 5 year old kid could see a flaw in the plan, fix the plan.
My hands feel unnaturally tight/restricted while writing this. Sorry if I have more typoes/grammatical mistakes than normal.