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How to create D&D plot twists

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

This blog post is dedicated to that most important of dungeon mastering arts, the plot twist. We've thrown in a couple of sample adventures for you at the end with some twists to give you some ideas to work with.

As a DM, you know that one of the best ways to keep your party members engaged and invested in your Dungeons & Dragons campaign is to incorporate plot twists that take the story in unexpected directions.

The art of crafting a good plot twist involves knowing how to keep players guessing, while still maintaining a compelling story and campaign world. In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about creating plot twists that will keep your players on the edge of their seats.

We'll explore the different types of plot twists you can use, the importance of timing and context, and how to create plot twists that fit your players' interests.

By the end of this article, you'll have all the tools you need to create the perfect plot twist for your D&D campaign, whether you're a seasoned game master or embarking on your first campaign. So grab your dice, and let's get started!

Why a story needs a twist

Plot twists are an essential component of storytelling, and D&D campaigns are no exception. A good plot twist can take a story from good to great, adding depth and complexity to the narrative and keeping the audience on the edge of their seat.

The purpose of a plot twist is to challenge the audience's expectations and assumptions, adding a layer of unpredictability to the story.

When done well, a plot twist can also reveal new information about characters, introduce new conflicts, and keep the story fresh and engaging.

As a Dungeon Master, your role is to create a compelling story that keeps your players invested in the world and its characters.

By incorporating plot twists into your campaign, you can keep your players guessing, add new dimensions to the story, and ultimately create a more memorable and satisfying experience for everyone involved.

Types of Plot Twists

There are many different ways to introduce plot twists into your D&D campaign, and understanding the different types of plot twists can help you choose the right one for your story. One common type of plot twist is the "red herring," where the players are led to believe that something is important or relevant to the plot, only to have it turn out to be a false lead.

This type of plot twist can be used to throw the players off track, create tension, or add an element of surprise to the story.

Another type of plot twist is the "unreliable narrator," where the players are presented with information that is later revealed to be false or misleading. This type of plot twist can be used to create confusion or doubt among the players, forcing them to question what they thought they knew about the story.

A third type of plot twist is the "big reveal," where a major secret or piece of information is unveiled, changing the players' understanding of the story and its characters. This type of plot twist can be used to create a dramatic moment, or to tie together seemingly unrelated plot threads.

Other types of plot twists include the "gm intrusion," where the DM intervenes in the story to change the course of events, the "endgame plot twist," where the final moments of the campaign reveal a surprising twist, and the "character twist," where a player's character is revealed to have a hidden agenda or past. By understanding the different types of plot twists, you can choose the one that best fits your story and players' interests, and create a compelling and memorable campaign.

The Importance of Timing and Context

One of the keys to creating a good plot twist is knowing when and how to introduce it into the story. A plot twist that comes out of nowhere or feels forced can undermine the story and leave players feeling unsatisfied.

The timing of a plot twist is critical, and it's important to build up to it slowly, dropping hints and clues along the way that hint at what's to come.

Context is also important when introducing a plot twist. A plot twist that doesn't fit with the established rules of the campaign world or feels out of character for the players can be jarring and take them out of the story.

Before introducing a plot twist, consider how it fits with the campaign world, the players' characters, and the overall theme and tone of the story.

A good way to introduce a plot twist is to use "plot hooks," which are small pieces of information or events that hint at what's to come.

These can be subtle or overt, and can help build anticipation for the big reveal. By carefully timing and contextualizing your plot twists, you can create a compelling and satisfying narrative that keeps players engaged and invested in the story.

Example: Using Timing and Context to Create a Compelling Plot Twist

Imagine you're running a D&D campaign set in a dark and foreboding fantasy world. The players are on a quest to find a powerful magic item that's been lost for centuries, and they've been pursuing leads and gathering information for several sessions.

You've been dropping hints and clues along the way, building up to the big reveal of where the magic item is hidden.

As the players delve deeper into the dungeon where the magic item is said to be located, they encounter a series of traps and obstacles that slow their progress.

They eventually come to a room with a locked door, and after searching for a key, they finally manage to unlock it. Inside, they find a dead body, which appears to have been there for a long time.

At this point, you could introduce a plot twist by having one of the players notice a secret door hidden behind some debris in the corner of the room. Inside, they find a journal that reveals that the magic item was moved years ago by a local lord who feared its power.

This revelation changes the players' understanding of the story and the dungeon they're in, and sets them on a new path to find the magic item.

In this example, the plot twist is introduced at a critical moment in the story, when the players have been searching for the magic item for several sessions.

The context is also important, as the revelation of the magic item's location fits with the established rules of the campaign world and ties together previous plot threads.

By using timing and context effectively, you can create a plot twist that feels natural and satisfying, and keeps players invested in the story.

Types of Plot Twists

There are many different types of plot twists that you can use in your D&D campaign, depending on the type of story you want to tell and the play style of your group. Some plot twists are small and subtle, while others are major and game-changing.

One common type of plot twist is the "red herring," which is a false lead that leads the players in the wrong direction. Red herrings can add complexity and depth to a story, and can keep players guessing about what's really going on.

Another type of plot twist is the "unreliable narrator," where a character or source of information that the players have trusted turns out to be lying or mistaken. This can create tension and drama, as the players try to figure out who to trust and what's really going on.

Other types of plot twists include the "big reveal," where a major secret or piece of information is revealed that changes the players' understanding of the story, and the "endgame plot twist," where the players discover that the true enemy or objective is something they never suspected.

By using different types of plot twists, you can keep your campaign fresh and exciting, and keep players engaged in the story. The key is to use them in a way that feels natural and fits with the context of the campaign world and the players' characters.

The plot twist examples

  1. Red Herring: Imagine the players are hired by a quest giver to track down a group of bounty hunters who have been causing trouble in the region. The players investigate and eventually discover that the bounty hunters are actually trying to stop a horrible monster that's been terrorizing nearby villages. The real bad guys are actually the local lord and his corrupt guards, who have been trying to cover up the monster's existence to protect their own interests.

  2. Unreliable Narrator: Imagine the players are hired by an old man to retrieve a magic item from a nearby dungeon. The old man seems trustworthy and tells the players that the item is important for stopping a looming threat. As the players delve into the dungeon, they encounter strange creatures and puzzles that seem to have no rhyme or reason. Eventually, they discover that the old man is actually a follower of the dead god that the players have been trying to stop, and the magic item is actually a key to summoning the god back to life.

  3. Big Reveal: Imagine the players are hired to investigate a curse that's been plaguing a small village. They discover that the curse is actually being caused by a powerful curse magic item that's been hidden in the basement of the local lord's manor. However, when they finally find the item and destroy it, they discover that the curse was actually a cover-up for the lord's drug dealing operation, and that the curse magic item was just a plot device to distract and discourage any would-be heroes from investigating the lord's illegal activities.

How to Create a Good Plot Twist

Creating a good plot twist in your D&D campaign requires careful planning and consideration.

First, you need to have a good understanding of your campaign world and the story you want to tell. Think about the themes and motifs that you want to explore, and how you want to challenge your players' expectations.

Next, think about the different NPCs and potential adventures that you've introduced so far in the campaign. Are there any characters or storylines that could benefit from a plot twist? Are there any potential twists that would fit well with your players' interests and play style?

Once you have some ideas, think about the best way to introduce the plot twist. Timing and context are key here - you want to introduce the twist at the right time, when the players are engaged and invested in the story. You also want to make sure that the twist fits with the ground rules of your campaign world and doesn't feel like a cheap "gotcha" moment.

Finally, make sure that the plot twist serves a narrative purpose. A good plot twist should add depth and complexity to the story, challenge the players' expectations, and create tension and drama. It should also fit with the overall campaign theme and the players' own purposes and goals.

By following these guidelines, you can create a compelling story that will keep your players engaged and excited to see what happens next.

Tools to Help Create Plot Twists

If you're struggling to come up with good plot twists for your D&D campaign, there are a few tools and resources that can help. One popular option is the use of plot twist cards, which provide random ideas and prompts for twists that you can use in your campaign.

Another option is to draw inspiration from TV shows, movies, and other media that you enjoy - look for examples of good plot twists and see if you can adapt them to fit your own campaign.

You can also look to published adventures and campaign modules for inspiration.

Many popular D&D writers, such as M.T. Black, include plot twists and unexpected turns in their adventure designs that you can borrow or adapt for your own campaign.

Additionally, many published adventures include plot hooks and potential adventures that can be used as a jumping-off point for your own twists and turns.

Finally, don't be afraid to brainstorm new ideas and try out different ways of creating plot twists. D&D is a game of infinite possibilities, and the only limit is your own imagination. With some creativity and planning, you can create a campaign that's full of memorable plot twists and compelling stories.


In conclusion, plot twists are an essential tool in any DM's arsenal for creating a compelling and engaging D&D campaign.

By carefully planning and executing plot twists that challenge the players' expectations, you can create a story that's full of tension, drama, and excitement.

Remember to consider timing and context, and to make sure that the twist serves a narrative purpose.

And if you're ever stuck for ideas, don't hesitate to turn to the many resources available to you, from plot twist cards to published adventures and more.

With some creativity and a willingness to take risks, you can create a campaign that will keep your players on the edge of their seats and eager to see what happens next.

Sample Adventure

Title: The Curse of the Dead God (railroad)

Overview: The local lord has put out a call for bounty hunters to investigate a strange curse that has befallen his land. Rumors say that a powerful god has died in the area, and its death has caused a plague of undead monsters to rise up and terrorize the people. The party must investigate the curse, uncover its source, and put an end to it before it's too late.

  • First Step: The party meets the quest giver, the local lord, who provides them with information about the curse and its effects on the land. He warns them that the situation is dire, and that time is running out.

  • PLOT TWIST: After the party has spent some time investigating the curse and battling undead monsters, they discover a secret door that leads to an ancient tomb. Inside, they find the remains of the dead god - but they also discover that the god was killed by the party's own patron deity, who was jealous of its power. The deity has been manipulating events to make it look like the dead god's curse was the cause of the undead plague, when in fact it was the deity's own actions that caused it. The party must now decide whether to side with their patron deity or to try to stop them and save the land.

  • Enemy Force: The party faces off against the deity's minions, who are trying to stop them from uncovering the truth and putting a stop to their plans.

  • Endgame Plot Twist: After the party has defeated the deity's minions and confronted their patron deity, they discover that the entire situation was a test of their loyalty and dedication. The deity wanted to see if the party was willing to stand up to them and fight for what they believed in, and they passed the test with flying colors. As a reward, the deity grants the party powerful magic items and experience points.

  • Good News: With the curse lifted and the undead monsters vanquished, the land begins to recover. The local lord thanks the party for their service and rewards them with a bounty of gold.

  • Inspiration Points: Throughout the adventure, the party earns inspiration points for their bravery, cleverness, and willingness to think outside the box.

  • Play Style: This adventure can be played in a variety of different ways, depending on the preferences of the players and the DM. It can be focused on combat, exploration, or roleplaying, or a combination of all three.

  • Ground Rules: The DM should establish ground rules for the adventure, such as how to handle player disagreements and what actions are allowed and not allowed in the game.

  • Potential Adventures: The adventure can be expanded into a larger campaign, with the party taking on other quests and challenges in the region. They may encounter other powerful deities, horrible monsters, and challenging situations as they explore the world and uncover its secrets.

Title: The Mysteries of the Abandoned Mine (sandbox)

Overview: The party is hired by a local lord to investigate an abandoned mine that is rumored to be cursed. The lord suspects that the curse might be related to the disappearance of a group of bounty hunters who went there in search of a valuable artifact. The party is tasked with finding out what happened to the bounty hunters and retrieving the artifact.

Setting: The abandoned mine is located in a remote area of the campaign world. The mine was once a rich source of precious metals and gems, but it was abandoned many years ago after a horrible monster was discovered deep in its depths. The mine has been largely forgotten and is now overrun by goblins and other dangerous creatures.

Characters: The main NPC in this adventure is the local lord who hires the party. He is a powerful and wealthy man who is worried about the curse on the mine and the disappearance of the bounty hunters. The party will also encounter goblins, other monsters, and potentially other NPCs who may be interested in the artifact.

PLOT TWIST: As the party investigates the mine, they discover that the curse is not related to any supernatural force, but rather to the greed and betrayal of the bounty hunters themselves. The party finds evidence that the bounty hunters found the artifact, but instead of turning it over to their quest giver, they decided to keep it for themselves. This led to infighting and ultimately the death of several of the bounty hunters. The remaining members of the group fled the mine with the artifact, but were later killed by a group of bounty hunters hired to retrieve it.

Final Encounter: The final encounter takes place outside the mine, where the party is confronted by the group of bounty hunters who were hired to retrieve the artifact. They are led by a powerful fighter who is the main bad guy of the adventure. The party must defeat the bounty hunters to retrieve the artifact and return it to the local lord.

Rewards: The party will receive experience points for defeating the monsters and bounty hunters, as well as a reward from the local lord for retrieving the artifact. The artifact itself could be a magic item or valuable treasure that can be used in future adventures. The party may also earn inspiration points for uncovering the plot twist and solving the mystery of the curse.

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