Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Inspiration

It all began with this song.

I had not actually seen the video for the song yet, but the song itself became the seed for my current D&D campaign. I wanted a story that developed around a civil war between two factions of knights in a classic chivalric society. Rather than the classic good vs. evil, I wanted a story of good vs. good in which these knights were forced to choose between loyalty to their commander or to their king. In my game world, the kingdom where this takes place is called, Cydon. My game was a year old before I saw the video that went along with the song. And while the pseudo-western world and clear good vs. evil story of the video differ greatly from the driving force behind my game, I feel like the video's "cross-genre borrow everything that is awesome" spirit fits very well with my approach to creating my game world.

One of the best elements of running a game for my friends is that I do not need to worry about being original. When I was a kid, I did not suffer from an anxiety of influence. I didn't worry about whether or not an idea was my own, or if it had been done before. If I thought it was fun, or cool I would run with it. As I grew older and more aware of the world around me, I began to feel a self-imposed restriction on my creative pursuits. Whether I was writing, or drawing or creating in anyway, my creative self had to push back with increasing effort against a nagging inner-voice repeating, "it's been done", "it's not deep enough" or "it's just silly!"

I got back into gaming, in part to face that voice, which had almost completely quashed my creative self. When I began this game, I promised myself that I would not worry about originality. I told myself, "I am not writing these adventures to sell or to publish, I am writing them to entertain my friends. Original matters not, only fun!" This gave me the freedom to do away with self-censorship, to commandeer ideas from anything and everything that inspires me... beginning with the above song. Allowing my creative self the luxury and freedom to create without worry has given me a feeling I haven't experienced since I was a child... the experience of unquestioning play.

Keep reading for a sample of specific sources of inspiration that have made it into my game world.

Inspired by Shakespeare:
  • Mustardseed, the pixie who turns to highway robbery to feed his addiction for shiny things is named for the character from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Helena, the overly enthusiastic and long-winded acolyte of Pelor, the sun god, also takes her name and personality from a Midsummer character.
  • Carboni, the thief master is inspired by Jack Falstaff.

Inspired by Movies:
  • Ba'art, the  Drow (dark elf) sheriff of a small frontier town who wins the acceptance of its people by protecting them from a terrible threat is straight from Blazing Saddles.
  • Rhys, the jovial merchant who gave my players their very first quest is based on Sala from the Indiana Jones movies.
  • My players had an adventure that involved ridding a library of a mimic infestation (mimics = monsters that shapeshift into things like treasure chests to lure unsuspecting prey). In the library, they found the previous group of exterminators dead and rescued an awkward accountant stuck in the extra-dimensional trap they had set. All of these characters were ripped straight from Ghostbusters.
Inspired by Everywhere:
  • My game has a race of catfolk who essentially speak lolcats.
  • One of my player characters (a monk) is possessed by half the soul of a demon, an idea which came from the anime series, Naruto.
  • The dwarven culture in my game is roughly modeled on feudal Japan, with the person of the emperor replaced by a holy city thought to be the birthplace of their god. The clan that controls the city has the right to rule.
I pull names and ideas from any source that jumps to mind for a particular game element. One of my favorite things to do is to jot down an historical figure, celebrity or fictional character to serve as the basis for each NPC (Non-player character). This tells me exactly how to voice and play the character during the game, and it is much quicker to jot down a name like "Yosemite Sam" or "Captain Ahab" or "Teddy Roosevelt" or "Maggie Smith" than it is to annotate everything that encompasses that person's mannerisms.

I even included a wererat named Templeton.


  1. Sound awesome...and now am dead curious about the race of lolcat-speaking critters. LoL..too cool.

    Cool song and video...your post was pretty inspiring.

  2. Your creativity & wackiness make you an endless joy to be around and make you the BEST DM EVER!

  3. Varmit, my description of Catfolk can be found here:

    basically, I elaborated on a race of creatures described in the D&D book, Races of the Wild.


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