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During our regular game session, everyone keeps saying,"We need to find the mcguffin!". Is this a new sandwich or something?

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Please consider checking wikipedia etc. first when seeking definitions of common terms. –  mxyzplk Aug 21 '10 at 14:12
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up vote 15 down vote accepted

A MacGuffin is a device, object, or abstract need whose finding or obtainment is the force that pushes characters and evildoers into action.

While MacGuffins is a typical plot device to push a story forward, in D&D is rather typical (I would say almost cliched) to use a broken MacGuffin, where the single pieces must be found and assembled. This allows you to carry long campaigns with different settings easily.

I strongly advise against the use of the so called Red Herrings (which are false MacGuffins that divert the attention from the actual plot/MacGuffin) in roleplaying. Players generally don't expect their attention to be diverted or the plot to be too intertwined. If they hunt a red herring and find out it is indeed a red herring, they could consider the DM wrong or accountable for having changed the story under their feet.

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"It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?', and the other answers 'Oh that's a McGuffin'. The first one asks 'What's a McGuffin?'. 'Well', the other man says, 'It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands'. The first man says 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands', and the other one answers 'Well, then that's no McGuffin!'." - Alfred Hitchcock –  Logan MacRae Sep 7 '10 at 16:07
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