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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Sources do You use for Inspiration When Writing Adventures?

Over the next few days I hope to dig into the research material my sister loaned me about Pennsylvania coal mines and their dangers (and still burning fires). I find the whole thing very intriguing and inspirational, and I expect it to translate well to a gaming scenario.

In the past I've drawn inspiration from books, movies, nature walks and occasionally, the dark corners of my mind ;)

Where do you draw your inspiration when writing adventures?


  1. The mutant humans who have turned themselves into troglodytes in Challenge of the Frog Idol are based on a spoken word recording of William S Burroughs that I have... "Spare Ass Annie".

    From the module:

    The truly disturbing thing to the observant human is that most of the female troglodytes resemble slimy, stinking human women more than actual troglodytes. In fact, the whole village is mutated, debased humans lead by the frog cult. They purposefully have their children mutated up on the hill north of town to show that they are not trying to elevate themselves to a higher station than their forgotten deity.

    From Spare Ass Annie:

    These creatures had developed in a region where the priests carried out strange rites. They built boxes from the moist, fresh bones of healthy youths, captives from neighboring tribes.

    Pregnant women were placed in the boxes and left on the peak for a period of three hours. Often the women died, but those who survived usually produced monsters. The priests considered these monstrosities a way of humiliating the human race before the gods, in the hope of diverting their anger.

    These horrible freaks were highly prized, and they lived in the temple. The women who gave birth to the most monsters received gold stars, which they were authorized to wear on ceremonial occasions.

    Once a month they held a great festival at which everyone gathered in a round stone temple, open at the top, and prostrated themselves on the floor, assuming the most disgusting and degraded positions possible, so that the gods would see they were not attempting to elevate themselves above their station.

  2. Books, especially Burroughs and Howard and 80s cartoon shows for the most part. Irish and Celtic myth and local folklore (PA has an interesting history).

  3. Non-fantasy TV, half-forgotten comics and modern concepts - here's an example:

  4. It's great to find a good inspirational point.

  5. I of course steal ideas from Howard and like but my dirty secret when it comes to harvesting ideas for D&D and like it's westerns where you get the best ideas, especially Brisco County Junior.

    1. Stepping over genre boundaries is always fun. I do have to bury my transhumanist elves pretty deep though...

  6. Sounds like a fantastic source of inspiration. I can pretty much glean some sort of inspiration from anything I read, watch and especially things I misheard. For some reason my mind goes to weird things when I hear something incorrectly.

    The person might say, "I went fishing and caught a large mouth bass."

    I hear, "I went itching and bought a frog mouth brass."

    While it makes no sense I get a gaming idea from it. I might need hearing aids.

    1. No, no, no! Don't change a thing! LOL In fact, here's some more "ideas:"

      Kicking your cat all over the place (Queen)

      If there's a buzzard in your bedroom (Led Zeppelin)

      They won't get food again (The Who)

  7. I usually get inspired by a little bit of research, not too much though. As Bizet was asked when he was writing the opera, Carmen, "Are you going to Spain to research it?" "No," he answered, "that would only confuse me." Mythology reading is also a good general inspiration.

  8. A variety of stuff, books, comics, TV and movies. Generally, I don't get inspired by (or ideas from) fantasy stuff for game ideas, at least most often not from fantasy of the high fantasy, fairytale, nor sword and sorcery stripe. (Occasionally sure, but more often the things come from non-fantasy sources.)

    Generally though, the ideas come from genre stuff, usually SF, westerns, horror, mystery, superheroes or sometimes some of the modern-day setting SF/fantasy hybrids that are a bit hard (for me) to categorize with traditional genre descriptions. There are also always inspirations from online fantasy gaming sources too, some of it (but not all) mechanical. (Such as in Places Deep, Nine and Thirty Kingdoms, Playing D&D with Pornstars, Sham's Grog and Blog, Dyson's Dodecahedron, Tony Dowler's "How to Host a Dungeon", Land of NOD, etc etc.)

    As an example, my current fantasy campaign ideas are most inspired by the following:

    Highlander (the first movie)
    LOST (The TV Series)
    Eternals (Jack Kirby's '70s Marvel comic)
    Nine Princes in Amber (Zelazny's novel series, especially the first two or three books)
    Chariots of the Gods (the Erich von Daniken "non-fiction" book)
    MYST (the computer game)
    Twin Peaks (the TV series)

  9. Old sword & sorcery/weird fiction, random generators and boys and pieces from modules. I don't really write adventures so much as seed sandboxes, though.