30Days of GMing, Day Five

30 Days of Game Mastering continues!

Stealing like an artist: what inspiration have you drawn from other games, books, movies, etc?

It might be easier to list sources I haven’t used as inspiration. To the best of my knowledge I haven’t drawn on the Etruscans for anything, but I could be wrong. In seriousness, though, I’ll borrow ideas and inspiration from just about anywhere. I’m a sponge that way. But I do have a couple of favourite sources.

For a long time, National Geographic Magazine was my “go to” source for interesting ways to dress up the various races in my campaigns. It was an article on the Mongols, for instance, which led to my tribes of orcs being horse riding nomads. It added an interesting flavour to the game, and the only thing scarier than an angry orc with an axe is an angry orc with an axe on horseback. I’ve also used NatGeo to lend Elvish nations the feel of Imperial China, and to make the Halfling folk a bit more Romany.

Besides that, NatGeo is a great source for adding great details on all sorts of things. Articles on archaeological digs can help add verisimilitude to  your tomb and grave appearance and contents. You can snag plot inspiration from just about every article in an issue. And if you do base an adventure around something from the magazine, often there are excellent photos to help set the scene for your players.

Still a periodical, but not quite in National Geographic’s ballpark, is The Weekly World News. You’ve seen it on the check-out stand at your grocery or convenience store, even if you don’t realize it. But if you’ve been waiting in line and glanced at headlines like “Bat Boy Seeks Love Match”, or “Do Chupacabras Live Amongst Us? One Man’s Shocking Proof!”, then you’ve seen The Weekly World News, or a similar rag. Like NatGeo, I use WWN as inspiration for all sorts of stories, especially if I want an adventure with a touch of the ridiculous. WWN is especially perfect if you are running a game in a more modern setting, like Supernatural RPG, d20 Modern, or any Cthulhu game with a current-day setting. Heck, in one d20 Modern campaign I ran, WWN was the in-game source of information for my heroes; while everyone else assumed it was a terrible rag, my group new it printed the truth more often than people were ready to accept.

And then, yes, there are the usual sources: fantasy/sci-fi movies and books, comics, and TV shows. I’ll also cherry pick bits and pieces from other games and gaming books, if I see something I think would fit my current campaign. I think if I were to offer one piece of advice under this topic, it would be not to restrict yourself. Be a sponge. If you see something cool, something you like, make note of it. You may not know how or where to use it right now, but it may come to you later. Looked at the right way, anything can become part of your campaign, so don’t self-censor.

I put the question to you: what do you use as inspiration? Leave a note in the comments.

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